Another 4.30am breakfast and drive back to Santa Cruz airport this morning, but we weren’t flying. Instead we patrolled the surrounding area from the coach in search of Red-winged Tinamou, which sometimes feeds out in the open along the approach road. After a few minutes we picked up a bird feeding at the edge of some tall grass and on closer inspection it turned out to be a Darwin’s Nothura, a most unexpected bonus!
In fact we found another couple in the same area as well, as we continued our tinamou search. With nothing much happening we decided to head out into the vast expanse of grassland, and this proved to be a very good move as a number of good birds were discovered. A Great Pampa-finch was perched up in a spindly bush despite the near gale-force winds, Upland Sandpiper, Nacunda Nighthawk, Buff-necked Ibis, White-tailed Hawk and Red-breasted Blackbird also put in an appearance as well. Eventually, after a longish walk across the grassland we had several flight views of at least 4 Red-winged Tinamous before leaving and driving to the Botanical Gardens.
Upon arrival a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth was found walking across a flower bed and we had the most amazing views, but it was only when it began climbing a nearby tree did we realise it was carrying a baby which was clinging to its belly! At the lake we saw Anhinga, Amazon Kingfisher, Green-backed Heron and Black-crowned Night-heron. Whist nearby, Red-crested Finch, Crested Oropendola, Variegated Flycatcher, Black-backed Grosbeak and Picui Ground-dove were found. The trail then took us into some decent gallery forest and then more drier thorn scrub where we finally found a Bolivian Slaty-Antshrike that performed very well for several minutes at point-blank range. A nearby Plain Tyrannulet was less appealing and a Fawn-breasted Wren only slightly better!
The walk out produced Red-crested Cardinal, Creamy-bellied Thrush and the rather incongruous sighting of a Thrush-like Wren feeding a young Shiny Cowbird in its nest. From here we drove towards our next base at Los Volcanes, stopping en-route for some cold drinks and to eat our picnic lunch. But I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the amazing view as we approached the turn off to the lodge.
Huge sandstone pillars surrounded a small grassy area far below us in the valley where we could just see the lodge – such an impressive sight. So we loaded our luggage into two jeeps and set off walking down the very steep dirt track, leaving our coach behind and birded the first section of hillside. It was admittedly quiet but we picked up Mitred Parakeet, Slaty Elaenia, Swainson’s Thrush, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Two-banded Warbler and Plush-crested Jay. Once down at the lodge we had some time to take in the scenery and enjoyed a superb Military Macaw flying around us, as well as a huge Andean Condor soaring over majestically.
A few Blue-fronted Parrots posed nicely for us in the treetops, a group of at least 8 Toco Toucans moved through the trees nearby, several Black-chested Buzzard-eagles soared around the cliffs and were mobbed at one point by a Cliff Flycatcher. A little later a White-tipped Swift flew over, as did a King Vulture to end the day nicely….....
Well until a Rufescent Scops-owl was called in and landed right in front of us after our excellent pizza dinner!