Breakfast really should be eaten later than 4:30AM! These early hours were kind of taking a toll. We dragged into the dining room about 10 minutes late, after several false starts. After Martin made one more trip back to the Cabana for sunscreen, we made for the boat. Our plan was a short trip to one of the lodge trails that can only be reached by water.
On the way down river a juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron was foraging on the river bank. I really like tiger-herons and this one completed the set! Other river birds included Striated Heron, Green Ibis, Anhinga and Neo-tropical Cormorant. Band-breasted and Whit-winged Swallows skimmed the surface. I commented to Martin that the White-winged Swallows reminded me of the flying fish we see on pelagic trips in the gulf.
We left the boat and started down the trail. There was major movement in the trees above us. Several large dark birds flew from tree to tree, Spix Guans. Brad started whistling the call of the Pavonine Quetzel, but got no response. He had been working on finding this bird ever since we arrived at Rio Azul. We did hear a Paradise Jacamar calling. We had already seen several, so we didn't work too hard to find it.
To be honest, birding was a little slow. We heard a lot more than we saw. Despite this, it was an enjoyable walk. Then things got very exciting. Brad spotted movement deep in a tangled thicket. A very large bird was displaying by raising its wings and quivering them. It was a Dark-winged Trumpeter. Trumpeters are notoriously shy and difficult to see. We froze and watched as a group of four or five walked through the thicket. My hands were trembling as I switched my camera to video and shot some brief footage. Here is the URL http://www.flickr.com/photos/sngcanary/3091955754/. As I said, my hands were shaking a bit, so its a little jittery! It was one of the biggest highlights of our trip.
AWe were still glowing when another very wanted bird showed up, a Flame-crested Manakin. I am very fond of manakins. They are tiny birds with great calls and wonderful lekking behavior. You might have seen the video clip of one the manakins "moon walking". The Flame-crested is particularly beautiful and has a very limited range. We also found Band-tailed, Red-headed, Snow-capped and Dwarf Tyrant-manakin. This little flurry of birds made the morning more than worthwhile.
We went back to the lodge for lunch and afterwards I learned an important lesson about siesta. Latin Americans know what they are doing taking them! Instead of resting I spent the middle part of the afternoon hiking around the lodge grounds photographing butterflies. I also found and photographed a Drab Water-tyrant. This was not exactly a flashy bird, but it's rather rare in that area, so I was pleased. That afternoon was particularly hot and muggy. I got back to the cabana just in time to leave to go back out with Brad. I paid for this later.
Brad took us down a trail behind the cabanas with stands of native bamboo. There are a number of birds that are bamboo specialists. The trail was not difficult at all, but I was hot, tired and a little dehydrated. Its easy to forget to drink when its humid and I had made this mistake, too. Despite my discomfort I was still enjoying the walk.
One of the first "major" birds we found was an adult Ornate Hawk-eagle. This is a gorgeous hawk with a black and white breast and an orange crested head. We had seen a Black-and-white Oranate Hawk-eagle on our last trip to Ecuador. I was really pleased to pick up this one! Unfortunately I saw it mostly in pieces as it moved in the tree above us, first the breast, then the head. Then it flew off, leaving us to look for more birds.
Rose-breasted Chats came into the top of a tree. They are a gorgeous pink, grey, black and white bird. They are rather hard to see, as they stick to the tops of the trees, but we were happy. We found another specialty bird of the area, a Large-headed Flatbill, a type of flycatcher. We finally came to a small creek, where we planned to wait for birds to come in to drink before they went to roost for the night.
I have some problems with my knees. I can walk all day, but standing still for any length of time is difficult if not down right painful. The humidity wasn't doing them any good, either. To see the things we hoped for at the creek, it was necessary to stand very still for a long period of time. With already being a bit down physically, I was struggling. Brad suggested we sit down. I laid my rain jacket down and tried settling in. This was in deep leaf litter where a lot of little life forms were dwelling quite happily without a large human sitting on them. Some of these life forms started objecting and I was not happy. I got a number of ant bites and I was not thrilled with some of the things crawling up my arms. I became more and more miserable. I think if I had felt more rested I would have been ok, but I wasn't. Martin could see that I wasn't well and insisted that we go back. I felt badly as I thought I was costing us birds, but it was the best decision.
We went back to the cabana. I took a cool shower and Martin went up to the lodge and got me some sparkling mineral water and a large chocolate bar. I laid down for a half hour or so until it was time for dinner. Its amazing how much better some good chocolate can make one feel! It was rather dark by the time we walked up to dinner. I almost walked into a Capybara who was standing on the trail. It scooted off, followed by another adult and two youngsters. As neat as it was to be so close to them, I did make a discovery; Capybaras stink!
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Red-billed Pied Tanager