Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Moving on to Villa Tunari

We left Cochabamba and headed up into the hills and over a high pass, and the road then dropped steeply until we reached a narrow track that led through the cloud forest. We picked up a number of new birds beginning with Scarlet-bellied and the rather more uncommon Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanager. A Bolivian Tyrannulet quickly followed, as did Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Spectacled Redstart, Montane Woodcreeper, and an untypically obliging Maroon-breasted Chat-tyrant

Maroon-breasted or Maroon-belted Chat-tyrant

Beside a fast flowing river we had a Golden-crowned Flycatcher, followed a little later by Streak-necked Flycatcher, Glossy-black Thrush, Dusky-green Oropendola and a brief Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. After a picnic lunch we drove back up to the main road and spent the rest of the afternoon driving down into the valley, making frequent stops. A huge Black-and-chestnut Eagle was a bonus, as was a Sunbittern seen on yet another tumbling mountain stream. Other goodies included a pair of Saffron-crowned Tanagers, brief Blue-banded Toucanet, Western Wood Pewee, Chestnut-collared Swift, White-throated Kingbird and finishing off with a Fasciated Tiger-heron.

Bolivian Brush-finch

The day was all about quality and good views of most things, but there was also a fine supporting cast and other highlights included Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Light-crowned Spinetail, Red-crested Cotinga, Tyrian Metaltail, Bolivian Brush-finch, White-winged and Fawn-breasted Tanagers. It was a pleasant surprise to find our accommodation at Villa Tunari was amongst the best of the whole tour and even came complete with Russet-backed Oropendolas nesting in the garden.

Siberia to Cochabamba

It was amazing how much more activity there was in Siberia forest this morning, compared to yesterday afternoon and we soon started notching up new birds. No sooner had we jumped out of the bus than a Great Thrush and Red-crested Cotinga were teed up in the scope. A Tyrian Metaltail perched just long enough for us to get on to and a pair of Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrants were rather cooperative. We spent most of the morning walking along a trail into the cloud forest and were accompanied by flocks of Scaly-naped Parrots frequently flying over. 

Trilling Tapaculo

At the first corner a Trilling Tapaculo showed incredibly well, Bolivian Brush-finch appeared, a beautiful Spotted Nightingale-thrush was seen by a few of us and an Andean Tyrant appeared. Moving on we had Speckled Hummingbird, Variable Antshrike and a Light-crowned Spinetail along the trail. Then, a random bit of owl call from the ipod resulted in a few birds coming in to check us out, with 3 Blue-winged Mountain-tanagers, Masked Flowerpiercer and Fawn-breasted Tanager being the pick of the bunch. 

Blue-winged Mountain-tanager

But when a Yungas Pygmy-owl began calling back from the nearby moss-encrusted trees we spent an age trying to find it but eventually succeeded in getting this little beauty perched on a number of occasions. A Blue-backed Conebill also flew in to check out all of the commotion, as did both White-crested and Highland Elaenias, and a Bar-bellied Woodpecker was seen by just a few lucky group members. 

Wedge-tailed Hillstar

With time running out we walked on a bit further and had a fine Blue-and-black Tanager and a pair of Andean Slaty-thrushes as well before it was time to leave and set out on the long journey to Cochabamba. The road passed through several more arid inter-Andean valleys and we made a few stops along the way. The first notable one produced a Rock Earthcreeper calling away from the top of a cliff and we were also privileged to see the endemic Wedge-tailed Hillstar perched in a small bush. Miguel picked up a Creamy-breasted Canastero, whilst White-backed Chat-tyrant, Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant, Bronze-winged Cowbird, Plumbeous Sierra-finch, Chiguanco Thrush and Giant Hummingbird were all new additions to our list here. A little later an Andean Flicker caused a quick stop and at our final stop a pair of superb Black-headed Sierra-finches were seen, along with Ash-breasted Sierra-finch and a few flyby Andean Gulls.

Saipina Valley to Siberia Cloud Forest

Early this morning we visited the rather picturesque Saipina valley which entailed an hour and a half's drive along a bumpy dirt road. As the road finally dropped down lower we pulled over to look at a couple of Andean Guans, and a little further along at a river crossing a flock of Puna Ibis were feeding in the shallows. 

Saipina Valley

After passing through the village we began walking along the road and had a few very colourful Red-fronted Macaws flying over, as well as Black-capped Warbling-finch, White-tipped Plantcutter, Golden-billed Saltator and Grey-crested Finch amongst others. We then drove a short distance to a lovely canyon with a river running through it, where we discovered a small colony of endemic Cliff Parakeets. We watched them taking nesting material up onto the cliff face and flying down into the bushes to collect more for quite some time. It was a lovely spot with Southern Martin flying around in front of us, Great Kiskadees and a Spotted Sandpiper on the river, and a close Cliff Flycatcher beside the coach. 

Cliff Flycatcher

A distant Blue-tufted Starthroat was scoped before we had a close encounter with a Sooty-fronted Spinetail in the bushes below us. Leaving here we drove back along the dirt road and found a superb Spot-backed Puffbird on some telegraph wires which also allowed a close approach. 

Spot-backed Puffbird

So with things going well this morning we continued in fine form just a few kilometres drive away, as we searched for the endemic Bolivian Earthcreeper on an arid hillside. Sure enough we heard one calling in response to the tape and after a few false starts we had amazing views of a very aggressive individual. In fact we had the bird for half an hour in the low thorn scrub below us and had amazing views. 

Bolivian Earthcreeper

During the course of our search for the earthcreeper we had a little flurry of birds coming in to the pygmy-owl imitation by Miguel comprising Chaco Suiriri, Fuscous Flycatcher, Southern Beardless-tyrannulet, Chivi Vireo, Tropical Parula, and other common species. 

Chaco Suiriri Flycatcher

Chivi Vireo

We also had a pair of Spot-backed Puffbirds perched in a bush giving a much better photo opportunity than the one on the wire from earlier in the day. 

Spot-backed Puffbirds

From here we returned to the hotel for a quick cup of coffee before driving up into the hills to Siberia cloud forest. It turned out to be pretty quiet up here as it was sunny and a blustery wind but we still picked up a number of new birds. 

White-throated Tyrannulet

A White-crested Elaenia got the ball rolling for some of the group, followed by White-throated Tyrannulet, the endemic Bolivian Brush-finch, Mountain Wren, Pearled Treerunner, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Blue-capped Tanager, Pale-legged Warbler and Brown-capped Redstart. A Violet-throated Starfrontlet put in a very quick appearance, and was followed by Purple Honeycreeper and Azara’s Spinetail

Mountain Wren

Just then, a Rufous-faced Antpitta began calling and we tried in vain to call it in. But a calling Brown Tinamou made its way onto our life list despite the raucous chatter, leaf crunching and a pair of bright white disco trousers that were probably stone coloured in a former life! But it did take a long, long time to show but the wait was definitely worth it. So after a protracted stake-out we began driving back to the hotel, passing a Mountain Caracara along the way and sat down to a mountain of food for dinner!

Bolivia Day 5

We had to leave the wonderful Los Volcanes this morning and head to Comorapa, but not before a couple of hours birding in the forest. We managed to pick up some good birds such as Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, both Cinnamon-throated and Ocellated Woodcreepers, Moustached Wren and finally getting tickable views of Green-cheeked Parakeet. We then had to get relayed back up to the top of the hill in the jeeps and begin our long journey across some fabulous scenery. We got delayed by an overturned car but picked up a Blue-throated Piping-guan whilst waiting and also had Blue-crowned Trogon along the way as well. During lunch we had White-tipped Swift and Purple-throated Euphonia flying over the restaurant in Samaipata and then birded a totally different habitat as we reached arid hillsides dotted with cacti. New birds were everywhere and we had great fun picking up species such as Masked Gnatcatcher, Southern Scrub Flycatcher, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Glittering-bellied Emerald and Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant

Blue-crowned Parakeet

At the next stop a pair of Blue-crowned Parakeets showed well perched on top of a bush, Yellow-browed Tyrant appeared briefly, an Andean Condor soared overhead, the first of many Golden-billed Saltators appeared and our first White-tipped Plantcutter was scoped, although we’d get much better views a little later in the afternoon. 

Golden-billed Saltator

We finished along a quiet lane with a scrub-covered hillside above us and scored with some more great birds. Stunning Blue-and-yellow Tanagers flew around, but we were more interested in White-fronted Woodpecker, stunning Ultramarine Grosbeaks, and cute little Ringed Warbling-finches

White-fronted Woodpecker

A Variable (Epaulet) Oriole also posed nicely, Small-billed Elaenia and Narrow-billed Woodcreeper also appeared and a Hepatic Tanager was also seen. The undoubted highlight of the day was the pair of Red-fronted Macaws flying overhead calling in the beautiful early evening sunshine. 

Red-fronted Macaw
Crowned Slaty-flycatcher

White-tipped Plantcutter

We ended the day with a Crowned Slaty-flycatcher posing nicely on telegraph wires, a stunning male White-tipped Plantcutter and Stripe-crowned Spinetail