Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The pitta patter

Another hike up onto the volcano required a 5.30am departure from the homestay in order to be in the forest at daybreak. Was feeling the pressure as there were no pittas calling at all, so I decided to hang around the lower slope and see what happened. The theory is that you can bump into a pitta by walking the trail quietly, just be patient and hold your nerve – oh and throw in a few days worth of waiting and watching. So I waited and stalked the trail, peering around every corner and scanning the longer, straighter stretches of path. Nothing. So I went higher up and just as the trail gets a little steeper, BANG! Out hops a freakin male Schneider’s Pitta after just 2 hours of trying this morning. It scuttles across the path and away, pauses briefly at the edge for another view and then simply melts away into the forest. No amount of searching could find it again - magic! No photos though as our brief liaison lasted shorter than Luis Suarez manages without making a tit of himself – and that’s saying something.

I couldn’t believe my luck but then had to decide if it was worth yomping up the mountain for another attempt at the cochoa….. My legs were aching after yesterday and the wet boots had given me the first stages of trench foot but I didn’t have to think too long. At ‘Air Minum’, the camp below Camp Cochoa, I needed a rest and during this time was entertained with a search for a calling Sumatran Owlet high in the canopy overhead. It's not a widely recognised split just yet, although it is vocally distinctive from the Collared Owlet call i'm used to. Eventually I found it looking down at me and it seemed to be fascinated with the laser pen dot my local guide Dewie was toying with!

Sumatran Owlet

 The trail from here up to Camp Cochoa gets quite steep but it isn’t too far and we hadn’t even reached our destination when a flurry of activity around a fruiting tree some 200 yards into the forest got my pulse racing. There were several birds acting like crazy amidst the foliage, but never coming out to the side of the tree where I could get a clear view. After a few frustrating minutes one of the birds finally landed in view, and I found myself looking at a Sumatran Cochoa. Holy cow!

Sumatran Cochoa

There were at least 4 birds present (maybe 6) unbelievably and I spent quite some time watching these rare beauties. I was obviously on a run of good luck following the pitta and cochoa, as a stonking Pink-headed Fruit-dove flew in and began to feed on the fruit as well. Wow! A rubbish photo, but it’s the bird!

Pink-headed Fruit-dove

Heading back I finally tracked down a pair of Sunda Blue Robins feeding quietly by the trail and the male made for an obliging subject.

Sunda Blue Robin

There were plenty of other commoner birds around today as the weather was much better than yesterday, with this fine male Snowy-browed Flycatcher showing nicely.

Snowy-browed Flycatcher

So that was it and an early night was called for as we leave at 2.30am for some night birding… 

1 comment:

  1. The way you have described the last two days doesn't exactly warm me towards the November encounter. I have set up a program of exercise called 'From couch potato to Marathon runner in 3 weeks' consisting of two injections of steroids a day, 4 litres of Protein supplement and a 2 hr liposuction procedure.