Monday, December 8, 2014

Take a Break from the City

Peruvian Pelicans
Lima (Pantanos de Villa)
(including extracts from my diary for the day - 10 June 2014) Trip organised and guided by Gunnar of Kolibri Expeditions

Just after 7am we headed off from the backpackers I was staying at in Miraflores area, to Pantanos de Villa, stopping along the way at a spot along the malacon where the most obvious birds were the pelicans and gulls. The Peruvian Pelicans were very clearly not bothered about the proximity of humans, not that the gulls and terns were! Very excitedly Gunnar points out a Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, and then move over to get a better look at the different age Belcher’s and Grey Gulls. I went on high alert when an Inca Tern was pointed out, a bird I’ve been gagging to see for a very long time now. Trying to get a shot of one flying, Gunnar points one out perched a few metres away from us. This is just such a stunning looking bird! Luckily it was obliging and I managed to get some good shots.
Inca Tern
**Pantanos de Villa
Off we went again to Pantanos de Villa, a 263 hectare protected area with wetlands and along the beach in the district of Churrillos - south out of  main Lima. A brief stop on the way at a service station got me some food - my first empanada and a large baguette-like roll with cold meats and cheese. Seriously delicious, or maybe just starving too, I was now ready for some serious birding!
Horses exercising on the beach at Pantanos de Villa
(not a disturbance generally when birding)
The next few hours was a flurry of birds, all bar one or two, brand new species for me! On the water /dams and in adjacent reeds were Grey, Franklin’s, Grey-hooded, and Belcher’s Gulls, a couple of Puno Ibis, Neotropic Cormorants, Little Blue Heron, Great White Heron, Moorhens (Common Gallinule) and Cinnamon Teals. A couple of Pied-billed Grebes were around with some Snowy Egret around the edges.

The beach-side had a lot of American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers (100+) and the odd Elegant Tern. Flying over and along the huge shore-break, were Peruvian Boobies, Peruvian Pelicans, Kelp Gulls with guest appearances by Red-legged and Guanay Cormorants

Part of the Black Skimmer flock

Wandering back past the reeds and toward the more open grassy areas and wader territory, we got Black-crowned Night Herons, Plumbeous Rail (looks like a Black Crake in Africa) and then also Wren-like Rushbird (after me asking what the warbler in the reeds was!) and a Grassland Yellow Finch. The large distinct outline of a raptor turned out to be a Turkey Vulture also making it’s way up and down the “avenues” between the reeds hunting. 

Black-necked Stilts
The wader area was great with a lot of Black-necked Stilts, Western Cattle Egrets, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel and quite a few Killdeer. The star of this area, Wilson’s Phalarope, was spotted by Angelina. We spent some good time here looking what we could find and started making our way back to the road whilst getting great views of Chestnut-throated Seedeater, Striated Heron and a Vermillion Flycatcher. Close to the road I spotted a little owl on some piles of sand; turns out to be a Burrowing Owl - I was well chuffed with my little contribution to the day’s birding! 
Burrowing Owl sighting
Vermillion Flycatcher

We stopped briefly at the reserve ‘office’ to pay our entry, the very reasonable price of S/-8 per person. Driving back we stopped next tot the road to check out some more waterfowl and found Andean Coot, Great & White-tufted Grebes, Andean Duck and White-cheeked Pintail
A good day’s birding with the majority being new species for me - I was loving being on a new continent again!

**evening in Miraflores

After buying  some roasted chicken and empinada at the nearby supermarket, I worked through my photos of the day but was soon nodding off. So I relented and ended my great day out of the city and went to sleep.

Beach with a Twitch

Stretch of beach south of the point
(Punta Negra)
South of Lima, Peru you’ll find some holiday communities spread out along miles and miles of lovely beaches, interspersed only with large rock outcrops and points. Although some beaches are a higher risk for swimmers, it’s extremely tranquil albeit if out of season. I visited this area during mid-October 2014, in particular the beaches of Punta Negra. During this visit I got the opportunity to see this area  from San Bartolo (further south - some gardens here where we found Amazilia Hummingbird) to Punta Negra from the air during a flight with an ultra-light. This gave me an even better view of how expansive the beaches really are, over and above finding where 100’s of Peruvian Pelicans and Grey Gulls roost - at times probably well over a 1,000 birds.
Day roost: Peruvian Pelicans in the foreground &
Grey Gulls further back.

Without much difficulty it’s possible to pick up around 25-30 species of birds in a day including the town “locals” like Long-tailed Mockingbird, West Peruvian Dove, House Sparrow (the default sparrow here) and then the ever present Scrub Blackbirds. Not overly common here, the Vermillion Flycatcher also showed itself a couple of times. The beaches teem with birdlife though; seeing Grey Gulls relaxing on a remote part of beach in their 100’s is not uncommon.
Gulls and terns at the southern beach of Punta Negra.
They are usually joined by Belcher’s Gulls and the odd tern like Royal and/or Elegant Terns.  Whilst there are many Inca Terns, (probably one of the most beautiful terns!), the more uncommon Peruvian Tern also graced us with its presence for a few minutes the one day, just enough to get a record shot to confirm for ID. 
Elegant Terns in flight over beach; some Grey Gulls in the background.
Photogenic Grey Gulls
The beaches north of Punta Negra town stretch out far and this where early morning I found some large groups of waders dominated by Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones. Between them there might be some Sanderlings on occasion with the lonely Whimbrel passing by. One morning though there were about 6 Whimbrel on this stretch. Along here is where the Red-legged  and Neotropical Cormorants seem to prefer fishing with Peruvian Boobies and Pelicans flying and in the water further offshore. One day we had a massive continuous flock of Guaynay Cormorants flying south very low above the water - at times it was almost like clouds of birds as they came around the point north of Punta Negra.
Blackish Oystercatcher

The large point at Punta Negra is where the Peruvian Boobies, Neotropical and Red-legged Cormorants have their roost. My friend showed me that contrary to what some sources may say about Red-legged Cormorants being solitary, here it’s possible to find them roosting in groups of 10 or more. The American Oystercatchers are very common here with fair numbers of Blackish Oystercatchers at times but don’t seem to reach the numbers of the American species. Keep a lookout for the Peruvian Surf Cinclodes which will very likely be hopping around on some beachside rocks.

American Oystercatcher

All in all some good birding to be had along the beach and in the area plus then if you prefer, some relaxing time along deserted beaches and catching some sun if you’re so inclined. Sunset is a must along this beach with breath-taking colours as the birds settle in for their roost.

For more photos from Punta Negra, view my album on Flickr here.

For more about my travels, also see my main blog EXPEDEVAC
Sunset over the rocks at Punta Negra

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beach Birding in Mozambique

Mozambique is an incredible country with a very long coastline which is also renowned for its beaches, marine fauna and scuba diving. Over the years it has also come to the fore on the birding front with many specials and endemics/near-endemics occurring. During my stay in Praia do Tofo so far, I haven't really had much birding time but when I do get the chance, I'm out with the camera and seeing what I can find.

I won't bore the reader with long lists of birds without any descriptions and/or photos, so I'll be posting some of the photos I've managed to capture over the last 2-3months (out of the 6 I've been here so far).
Wire-tailed Swallow

White-fronted Plover, Praia do Tofo
White-fronted Plover
Greater Frigatebird
Greater Frigatebird (record shot)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Photo blog on the other wildlife of Kibale & Semuliki Forests (Aug 2010)

Grasshopper in Sebitoli area

Butterfly at Kihingami Wetland

Red Colobus

Black & White Colobus

Red-legged Sun Squirrel

Spider species

Charaxes butterfly

Bigodi Swamp, (Kibale Forest, Aug 2010)

11 Aug: Birding Bigodi (Wetland Sanctuary) Swamp with local guide Julius 15:25 - 18:30

Boardwalk in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

We started the walk down the main road to start of the actual trail and got pleasantly distracted by some White-throated Bee-eaters with an immature, a new addition to our trip list. There was also the obligatory Vieillot's Black Weaver colony and Speckled Mousebirds with young, Red-billed Firefinches, Yellow-backed Weavers (P. melanocephalus), Common Bulbul, Grey-headed Sparrows, Red-faced Cisticola and a couple of White-headed Saw-wings.

Onto the trail and along the forest we also encountered our 1st primates for the walk, Black & White Colobus and a little further on some Grey-cheeked Mangabey. The birds were oddly only showing themselves in singles this time and we got Green-headed and Olive-bellied Sunbirds, African Thrush, African Shrike Flycatcher (female), Green Pigeon, Great Blue Turaco, Little Greenbul, Purple-headed Starling and a flyover by an African Grey Parrot.

Great Blue Turaco

Into the more forested areas Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher turned up, Black-necked Weaver, African Blue Flycatcher and we heard Grey-crowned Crane (in the distance over the open areas), Papyrus Gonolek (an individual revealed itself later), Green-backed Camaroptera and Tambourine Dove. With open areas on our left and forest and swamp on the right we had a good array of species although flycatcher species were plentiful with Dusky Blue and Cassin's Grey Flycatchers alternating with the African Blue and Red-bellied Paradise Flycatchers. Great Blue Turaco and Black & White Casqued Hornbills were suddenly all over the shop but Buff-throated Apalis, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat and Brown-crowned Tchagra did get their moment on stage.

Wetland view from viewing platform

The area around the viewing platform wasn't overly active but we added Double-toothed Barbet, Pied Wagtail and Bronze Mannikins. From here we went onto the boardwalk that leads through the swampy areas, also where we eventually got a view of Papyrus Gonolek and an even better close view of Yellow-billed Barbet. White-spotted Flufftails were calling but eluded us - this is fast becoming my bogey bird.

On the far side as we made our way back to the sanctuary office, there was Woodland Kingfisher, more Great Blue Turaco, Eastern Grey Plantain-eater and Western Nicator. A pair of Crowned Hornbills was our last sighting although a Red-chested Cuckoo was still calling its heart out. I would love to come back to Bigodi again but do a long morning walk starting just before first light - there just has to be some awesome birds hiding in here.

Black & White Casqued Hornbills

Green-breasted Pitta found! Kanyanchu, Kibale Forest (Day 2)

11 Aug: Birding from Kanyanchu UWA office, Kibale Forest with UWA guide Gerald T. 06:00 - 11:00

Once again we started off our morning hearing the Wood Owl calling as we left Chimp's Nest, the lodge where we were staying. At Kanyanchu, we set off 6am with Gerald and our head torches to the area where we were hoping to hear (and see!) the Green-breasted Pitta. The waiting was a bit nerve racking as this was our last chance during this visit to find the bird - no pressure! The first forest calls we heard were the Black & White Colobus followed by the Great Blue Turaco and Red-chested Cuckoo.

Green-breasted Pitta
At 6:55 we heard the 1st "prrrrp" of the Green-breasted Pitta's display followed a couple of minutes by a second, although by the second display we were already moving and Gerald was homing in on the display area. It was the 3rd or 4th "prrrrp" when we saw the bird displaying on a branch, doing it's hop into the air and creating the "prrrrp" sound with its wings. This was followed by a second softer version and a few metres away there was another GB Pitta, also displaying in response!! This Gerald explained was most likely the female.

Green-breasted Pitta
There were a few more displays, gradually lower eventually, till the displays stopped and the 2 birds met up on the ground and started moving around foraging for food. Now the challenge was for me to try and get some photos - with some sneaking and staying still alternately, the birds became reasonably relaxed and I managed to get some photos. They seemed to have a knack of finding centipedes under the leaf litter and at times turned the heads like they're listening before a quick move and dart and lifting the head with a centipede in the bill.

My second species of Pitta but by no means a lesser experience. Being able to watch this pair move around and forage was just simply put - amazing! Eventually we left the pair on their own and we walked back to the main trail with huge smiles. Other birds were now heard calling as well and included Yellow-billed and Yellow-spotted Barbets, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Speckled and Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds, and Red-capped Robin-chat; also a great view of a pair of African Shrike Flycatchers. A troop of Baboons moved past and some Grey-cheeked Mangabeys were calling further away.

Butterfly hovering at Kanyanchu, Kibal Forest

Back at the UWA office, a quick coffee and tea and then moved on to some birding down the road. Pied Wagtail, Little Greenbul, Vieillot's Black and Black-necked Weavers, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds and an immature Green Crombec were the first batch of sightings from here. Further down onto the main forest road we found Cameroon Sombre Greenbul, Afep Pigeon, Little Green and Collared Sunbird. A White-breasted Nigrita immature was begging food from a parent and was size-wise in stark contrast the large Yellowbill nearby. A pair of White-tailed Ant-thrushes seemed to be nesting.

Two Green Hylia made an appearance followed by Slender-billed Greenbul, Chestnut-fronted Wattle-eye, Speckled, Yellow-throated and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds, Purple-headed Starling and good views of Buff-throated Apalis and Cassin's Grey Flycatcher. Moving further along the road the bird traffic continued with White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Green-backed Camaroptera, Black & White Casqued Hornbill and a cracking view of Great Sparrowhawk. A few Red-tailed Monkeys were trying to entertain us nearby.

Epiphytes in Kibale Forest

The final birds were hardly "lesser" species as we ended with brilliant views of a pair of Brown-chested Alethes. I missed out on a Velvet-mantled Drongo but considering the above sightings, there was hardly reason to be complaining - I would just have to come back again.

Around lunchtime back at the lodge, I saw two White-thighed Hornbills flying over the canopy of the forest adjacent to the lodge property.

Both the Green-breasted Pittas

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Search for Green-breasted Pitta, Kanyanchu, Kibale Forest (day 1)

10 Aug: Birding from Kanyanchu UWA office in Kibale Forest with UWA guide Gerald T 06:00 - 12:20

Red-capped Robin-chat
As we were leaving Chimp's Nest to go to Kanyanchu, a Wood Owl was calling but there wasn't time to look around for it, the hunt for the Green-breasted Pitta had to get underway. We set off at 6am from the UWA office with head torches into the forest to get to the location where we'll be hoping to hear the display of the Pitta and then find it from there. 20min into the walk a soft rain started coming down and when we reached the spot where we would wait, there was a good shower underway.

By 7:30 we still hadn't heard any Pitta displaying and started searching on the ground in the areas that Gerald knew as their territories. The rain eventually let up but the forest was still dripping from the rain and it was also strong dusk-type light inside the forest, not making it any easier to find this lovely yet cryptically plumaged bird. Other birds were waking up and the first calls were that of Red-chested Cuckoo, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Rufous Flycatcher Thrush and White-tailed Ant-thrush.

Luckily we also eventually started seeing some other birds as well whilst the Pitta eluded us; White-throated Greenbul, Crested Guineafowl, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Western Black-headed Oriole, Purple-headed Starling and an immature Narina Trogon were the first sightings.

We slowly worked our way back to the main trail where we encountered a Red-capped Robin-chat busy with its morning song. Perfectly posing, it was ideal (other than the light) for some good photos and I gradually crept closer getting better shots. One moment I paused, shocked/surprised/amazed - the bird had just mimicked my camera shutter! Big smiles all round at this amazing mimic and songster. Still no Pitta yet though - luckily we had booked an extra night at the lodge, so we'll try tomorrow again.

Narina Trogon immature
We reached the office at 10:40 where there was time for a quick coffee and tea. Whilst chatting and seeing what birds were around the UWA office area, 2 large Hornbills flew in rather quietly which seemed a bit odd considering we just randomly put them down to B&W Casqued. Having a closer look with the binoculars though revealed a pair of White-thighed Hornbills! What a bonus - totally an unexpected species here, for us anyway. Gerald then tells us that they haven't been noted there for quite a few years and that it was also his 1st sighting of them there in 7 years!

Little Green Sunbird at nest

Other birds were quite active and Little Green and Collared Sunbirds were nesting and Gerald found us a pair of Buff-spotted Woodpeckers. A Yellowbill also made a brief appearance. Wandering through the campsite and the office approach road, we also found Bronze Mannikin, Olive-bellied (nesting) and Green Sunbirds, Lizard Buzzard and rounded off very nicely with excellent views of a pair of Yellow-billed Barbets (the species I'd missed out on in Semuliki Forest).

Collared Sunbird with nesting material

As we were leaving the office, we found a pair of Little Green Sunbirds with a juvenile, Black-necked Weaver and White-winged Widow, the latter being as we left the main Kibale Forest along the road to the lodge.

Other species heard (some seen) included; Blue-spotted Wood Dove and Tambourine Dove (seen), Yellow-throated and Speckled Tinkerbirds (both only heard), Yellow-crested Woodpecker (heard), Black & White Casqued Hornbill (heard).