Monday, October 18, 2010

Laguna Volcan, Bolivia – Best Masked Ducks...and what is that on your plate?

Despite the ongoing vegetation control, Laguna Volcan near Bermejo, Bolivia – just a couple hours west of Santa Cruz – continues to be one of the most reliable places for Masked Duck in Bolivia, and perhaps all of South America. And not a bad place to have lunch.

Once an untamed, lovely, overgrown lake, Laguna Volcan attracted only a few birders. I camped there with my friends Dave Lauten and Cathy Castelein in Feburary 2001. By August 2002, efforts were underway to build an "ecolodge," the first steps being to clear the area of "unsightly" marsh vegetation. In my private tour in August 2002, no Masked Ducks were to be seen.

Now there is a fancy hotel and cabins on site, even some golf holes. The Santa Cruz ultra-wealthy now come here for brunch and weddings. And it seems that the ducks have gotten somewhat used to the disturbance, though the continuation of vegetation control has eliminated the Black-capped Donacobius breeding habitat.

We ended up having lunch here on my recent Peak of Diversity tour, after having seen several Masked Ducks and amazing views of Rufous-sided Crake on the far side of the lake. I had lunch here just last year, but I had forgotten that the chef had attended some "food presentation" school. On the right are medallions of fish, in some dark sauce. The rest – well, you can use your imagination.

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