We're about halfway through my tour of Bolivia titled Peak of Diversity. With no internet at our first four hotels, I've been kept away from my blogging duties. So here's some catch-up.
What makes this particular tour itinerary special is that we visit the three major South American ecoregions that straddle across Bolivia's borders – the Chaco, the Amazon Basin, and the Andes Mountains.
Day three saw us having breakfast in the Chaco of southern Bolivia.
It was a fun, birdy morning, and after having seen Red-legged Seriema yesterday morning near Santa Cruz, we cleaned up the family and order with the Black-legged Seriema. This species eludes many birders looking for it in Argentina, but few have looked in Bolivia. It's actually quite common in this area, and we heard several pairs with one running across the road in front of the bus at one point. We then got glimpses of it with its mate as they began singing up the hill from the road, and I got this recording of their duet.
I didn't get a photo of this this time, so I'll insert one that I got a year ago while birding south of here with my friends Keith Kamper and Dylan Radin.
Another one of the great birds we had this morning was Great Rufous Woodcreeper.
On our way back north we made a detour through the Lagunillas area. I had hoped to spot a Southern Screamer in the marshes here, but they were all dry until we got to what had been a large lake when I was last here in April 2007. It's been a very dry winter in Bolivia, and only a few shallow pools remained. But in these pools and in the moist field nearby were about 260 Southern Screamers, a sight I had never seen before.
Our next three nights were spent at the idyllic Refugio Los Volcanes in the foothills of the Andes with an interesting mix of birds from wet Amazonian forests and drier southern forests. We saw Chestnut-tipped Toucanet and Plush-crested Jay, for example. Or Ochre-cheeked Spinetail and Sclater's Tyrannulet for another.
White the birding was fun here (and seeing the Bolivian Recurvebill will surely be one of the avian highlights from the tour), we took time to casually wade down the small river here one afternoon. There were few orchids blooming this time of year, but we found one flower among the many plants of this lady's slipper, Phragmipedium caricinum.
We've now just come from the part of Bolivia's Andes to the west of Refugio Los Volcanes. Two days ago we worked our way from there up valleys in the rainshadow of higher ridges to the the north and east.
It required a very early start to get to the Rio Mizque valley for yesterday's birding, but it was worth it. Our primary target, because it's endemic to this river system of central Bolivia, because it's endangered, and because it's simply quite fabulous is the Red-fronted Macaw. We visited the Red-fronted Macaw lodge, supported by Armonía, to have views directly below their nesting cliffs.
We also saw a few from a distance from the roadside a few miles away, probably from the same breeding population.
Also endemic to the same areas is what the South American Classification Committee still currently considers a subspecies of the Monk Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus luchsi. But it's really distinctive enough, being paler, less blue in the wings, and with a higher voice. They both come quite close to each other southeast of here with no chance for them to interbreed. So it's only a matter of time before they are split and recognized as the Cliff Parakeet.
Interestingly, the Blue-crowned Parakeet subspecies in the Valle Zone is also endemic here, and it may also be splittable. We saw lots of the Chaco birds earlier in the tour.
Our picnic lunch was in a birdy little valley where two pairs of Andean Tinamous were being strangely confiding. I managed to get a digiscoped image of just one, still a very lucky shot, despite the sticks.
We finished this day with Bolivian Earthcreeper, our fifth species with "Bolivian" in the name. (There are eight total: the others we've seen are Slaty-Antshrike, Tapaculo, Blackbird, and Recurvebill. We won't have a chance for the Spinetail, but we still have a chance for the Tyrannulet and the Warbling-Finch). Tomorrow we're headed for the Amazonian region near Villa Tunari, followed by some birding in a very wet area of the Andes, the Chapare Road.