Thursday, October 8, 2015

Peak of Diversity WINGS Bolivia Tour: Starting in Santa Cruz

September 12, 2015

To the south of the city of Santa Cruz in the center of Bolivia is Lomas de Arena regional park, a perfect place to see some interesting birds at the start of our tour. The dregs of a late cold front that passed through yesterday (windy and hours of drizzle) persist this morning as a light overcast and delightfully cool temperatures. It can be really sunny and hot here, and bird activity remained high.

This White-banded Mockingbird just barely shows its namesake in this frontal shot.

It didn’t seem warm enough for butterflies, but this metalmark Melanis aegates, the White-spotted Pixie, was abundant on road, getting moisture and minerals from fresh cow dung.

This is Danaus erippus, the Southern Monarch, formerly considered the same species as our migratory one. It appeared to be warming up in the mid-morning sun.

A few participants were lucky to see a pair of Red-winged Tinamous cross the sandy road, but I think everyone saw this small deer Mazama gouazoubira, the South American Brown Brocket, before it dashed away.

It had clearly been a wet dry season. It can be rather parched and dry this time of year – early spring, but well before the summer rains start. A sign of the wet winter was this blooming Aristolochia sp., a pipevine or dutchman’s pipe – the host plant for some species of Battus swallowtail.

We only heard distant Red-legged Seriema and saw a White-bellied Nothura in flight, but it was already time to leave for lunch in the city. This Whistling Heron was seen from the bus as we left the area.

We spent a rather quiet afternoon at the Santa Cruz Botanical Gardens just east of the city. It was once a rather quiet place, little visited, and overgrown with great birding trails. Things have “improved” over the years, and we actually had to pay an entrance fee and share a parking lot with many others, then walk the opposite direction of a wedding party.

One of the highlights from the day was this Buff-throated Woodcreeper, which at this moment had just finished swallowing a lizard that it had been whacking to death against the tree trunk.

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