Sunday, 14 October 2018

Coroico Road

Left the lodge at 5.45am and headed to the start of the Old Coroico road some 30 minutes away and began the ascent. It was an incredibly slow and quiet start enlivened only by a displaying Plumbeous Kite and a singing Southern Beardless Tyrannulet. A little higher up we found a Rusty Flowerpiercer and shortly afterwards a pair of Upland Antshrikes were called in to give great views. Nearby a Yungas Dove walked across a branch of a Cecropia tree and a Small-billed Elaenia appeared. We kept driving up a couple of hundred metres in elevation before walking a long transect and repeating the process over and over. 

Variable Antshrike
In this way we covered a lot of ground quite quickly and easily and around our lunch stop we saw White-necked Thrush, a cracking Variable Antshrike that came in quite close and a pair of Spotted Tanagers showed well, along with Blue-and-black Tanager, Slate-throated Whitestart, and both Golden-rumped and Orange-bellied Euphonia.

Orange-bellied Euphonia
Walking on and Cinnamon Flycatcher became quite common, a few Andean Solitaires were seen, followed by Blue-banded Toucanet, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden-crowned and Streaked Flycatchers, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Mountain Wrenand Red-eyed (Chivi) Vireo. 

Andean Solitaire
And then the forest became silent. We birded from 2500m up to the top at 3000m and it was dead. I mean dead. 

Amethyst-throated Sunangel
We saw a couple of Amethyst-throated Sunangels, a brief Streak-necked Flycatcher, Masked Flowerpiercer, a pair of Barred Fruiteaters, had decent looks at Slaty-backed (Maroon-belted) Chat-Tyrant, Gould’s Inca and that was it. So we cut our losses and headed back to La Paz, stopping at Pongo where a pair of Plain-coloured Seedeaters were seen.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

La Cumbre - Coroico Road

Headed up to La Cumbre at 4450m and made our first stop at a lake surrounded by some of the best scenery of the our to date complete with a flock of Andean GooseCrested Ducks, and flocks of Baird’s Sandpipers

Great scenery up here...
Andean Goose
We drove along a side track and came across a Slender-billed Miner, followed by a pair of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe that we watched feeding below us for quite some time. Amazingly a flock of Grey-breasted Seedsnipe were then found, followed by Puna Ground-Tyrant, and White-winged Diuca-Finch. We returned to the lake where a flock of Andean Gulls were in the parking area, and we also picked up a nest-building Giant Coot and a flock of Andean Swallows.

Andean Gull

Great scenery at La Cumbre to watch seed snipe in...

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe
Driving on we took another side track where a Streak-throated Canastero was found, along with Andean Ibis, Cinereous Ground-Tyrant, Black SiskinPeruvian, Plumbeous and Ash-breasted Sierra-Finches. Next up was a bird I’ve dipped four times on - Scribble-tailed Canastero. But it’s a bogey bird no longer as we had great views of a singing bird in the high-altitude grassland today! Wow!  A few Mourning Sierra-Finches at the same locality hardly got a look in!

Cinereous Ground-Tyrant
Scribble-tailed Canastero
And more great scenery...
Moving on to the Pongo valley the rain came in making things tricky for us, but we had Cinereous Conebill, Black-throated Flowerpiercerand Spot-winged Pigeon.

Our picnic lunch was consumed on the bus as it was still raining and then we drove to another site where Diademed Tapaculo was well and truly nailed with views on the ground as expected followed by views of it in a bush overhead…! I know right…! A flock was then discovered with Citrine WarblerViolet-throated StarfrontletBolivian Brush-Finch,  Moustached Flowerpiercer and a pair of Rufous-bellied Bush-tyrants.

The famous Coroico Road.... Also known as The Road of Death...
Eventually by early afternoon we arrived at the famous Coroico Road, also called more ominously ‘The Road of Death’. Well it was dead this afternoon, save for a splendid pair of Barred Fruiteaters and a confiding Yungas Pygmy Owl

Barred Fruiteater
So at 4pm we decided to head to the fantastic Rio Selva Resort way below us at 1140m. It took a while to get there but it was worth it, as Torrent Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, Pale-breasted Thrush, Swallow Tanager, Mottle-backed Elaenia, and both Social and Dusky-capped Flycatchers were all new additions to our list.

Pale-breasted Thrush

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Laguna Alalay - La Paz

We visited Laguna Alalay this morning and spent a very pleasant couple of hours birding around this huge lake. 

Laguna Alalay
At our first spot we saw several Rosy-billed Pochard, Red Shoveller, Puna TealAndean Duck,Yellow-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, White-cheeked Pintail, White-tufted and Silvery Grebes, Andean CootSpotted Sandpiper, several Wilson’s PhalaropesPuna Ibis and in the sedges were quite a few Wren-like Rushbirds. A Giant Hummingbird hovered right in front of us and a couple white-morph Little Blue Herons were a surprise.

Andean Duck

Giant Hummingbird

Plumbeous Rail

Wilson's Phalaropes

Wren-like Rushbird

We drove up into the hills and saw Brown-backed Mockingbird, Glittering-bellied Emerald and a few Grey-crested Finches but it was pretty quiet, so we dropped back down to a different viewpoint at the lake. Here there were numerous White-backed Stilts, Pectoral Sandpipers,Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Andean Lapwing and a Collared Plover

White-backed Stilt
In the reeds a flock of Yellow-winged Blackbirds showed well, whilst a flock of Grassland Yellow-Finches were present. From our vantage point in the hills we also we scoped 3 Fulvous Whistling-Ducks– a scarce Bolivian bird.

After lunch in a restaurant we drove to Cochabamba airport and took the short flight to La Paz where our bus met us, complete with luggage.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Mountain Toucans and Sunbeams.....

We birded Tablas Montes again this morning, leaving the hotel early doors as usual but this time took a new side track that led us into some fantastic habitat. 

There was a beautiful sunrise today....
Our search for Hooded Mountain-Toucan to-date had been frustrating to say the least and everyone scanned the hillsides intently for any signs. Walking along the track produced flyover Scaly-naped Parrots and 3 Barred Parakeets, this latter species very tricky to find anywhere. 

Scaly-naped Parrots
An Amethyst-throated Sunangel perched up nicely for us, and Black-throated Thistletail once again showed very well. 

Black-throated Thistletail
We had our usual field breakfast before continuing walking further along the track and eventually we heard the distinctive sound of a Hooded Mountain-Toucan calling close by. Sure enough there it was, moving around a large tree behind us and we enjoyed fine views of a pair before they flew off downhill. 

Hooded Mountain-Toucan at last....!!!
We dallied a little while at the same spot, watching some Pale-footed Swallows flying around and perching on a tall snag above us, before another Hooded Mountain-Toucan was spotted and this one gave even better views. Walking back to the coach a Maroon-belted Chat-Tyrant was only seen by me but an Orange-browed Hemispingus was seen by several of the group. And that was our cue to leave and head down to the Miguelito Track once again.

Upon arrival we hadn’t walked very far when a pair of Andean Guans appeared beside the track. We then spent quite some time trying to obtain views of Bolivian Tapaculo, which never really showed satisfactorily but there were several glimpses of a constantly calling individual. A Yellow-whiskered Bush-Tanager was something of a surprise, as was a pair of high flying Solitary Eagles. Lunch was enlivened by a few Greater Yellow-headed Vultures flying up through the valley and a cracking Versicolored Barbet appeared close by.

From here we drove back up to the higher areas and almost immediately on leaving the coach nailed the endemic Black-hooded Sunbeam, which appeared three times giving great views. At the same spot a Great Sapphirewing fed around some flowers in front of us, Grey-bellied Flowerpiercers fed unobtrusively and a few other common species were seen.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Tablas Montes - Miguelito Road

Left at 4am and drove a couple of hours back up to Tablas Montes where we took a different side track and enjoyed another field breakfast. A calling Rufous-faced Antpitta was ‘encouraged’ to cross the track in front of us, whilst Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers fed around us. The key species here was the endemic Black-throated Thistletail and we nailed this sucker pretty quickly thanks to some good spotting by The Dungeonmaster! 

Black-throated Thistletail
The open area held the rare Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant, as well as Sierran Elaenia, several Red-crested Cotingas, White-browed Brush-finch,Citrine Warbler, Masked Tityra, and Hooded Mountain Tanager.

Then we drove lower to about 1650m approx. and followed another side track that led us to many new species. First up was some Russet-backed Oropendolas nesting beside Dusky-green Oropendolas, a Grey-breasted Wood-Wren was watched building its nest and a Golden-crowned Flycatcher adorned a nearby treetop. Then a Slaty-capped Flycatcher flicked along the track in front of us and a singing Yungas Warbler was tracked down and showed very well. We followed this with decent views of Andean Solitaire and finally a Blue-banded Toucanet just wanted to be seen by our appreciative group! 

Blue-banded Toucanet
The forest opened out from here and became quite degraded but in one small pocket of habitat a Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher had taken up residence and was reasonably confiding. So we drove to the next patch of good forest where a flyover Plum-crowned Parrot was followed a little later by a Red-billed Parrot scoped at the top of a tree. A Crested Quetzal was called in and we had eye-level views of this stunning bird, and we followed this with a diminutive Hazel-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant flicking around a bank right in front of us. 

Crested Quetzal
Hazel-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant
Our great morning continued when we walked up a steep incline and could scan the treetops and found a Saffron-crowned Tanager, quickly followed by some treetop hugging and exceedingly rare Straw-backed (Green-throated) Tanagers– what a bird! Behind us a Versicolored Barbet came in to take a look at us, but it was just a  shame the calling Bolivian Tapaculo wouldn’t play ball. However, we then had a close Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, followed by a pair of close Chestnut-tipped Toucanets, which was very pleasing considering the poor views we had at Los Volcanes some time ago.

Versicolored Barbet
Lunch was taken in the field where a calling Yungas Tody-Tyrant called invisibly from a dense area of bushes and bamboo. So we drove out of here and birded the noisy main road back up to the pass, but Lady Luck was on our side today as we called in a rufous-morph Yungas Pygmy Owl that gave fine scope views. 

Yungas Pygmy Owl
There was a distant calling Hooded Mountain Toucan that some of the group saw in flight, several Hooded and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers around as well, and a flyby Southern Mountain Cacique to round off a great day. 

Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager
We headed back to the hotel at a little after 4pm for an early dinner.