Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Peak of Diversity WINGS Bolivia Tour: The Foothills and Valley of Lagunillas

September 15, 2015

For this year’s tour I had added a day to the old itinerary so we could bird the foothills and interior valley of Lagunillas, a sleepy little town visited by few people other than travelers interested in the story of Che Guevara. This is where he formed his band and began his final journey before being killed in Vallegrande northwest of here.

The northern road into the valley crosses some hills still covered in intact forest, a rarity in much of Latin America, but not uncommon in sparsely-populated Bolivia.

It was a beautiful setting for another wonderful picnic breakfast prepared by Benita and her brother Carlos.

This odd fly of an unknown family visited my dish while we were having breakfast, before whish we had seen Sclater’s Tyrannulet, Dot-fronted Woodpecker, and Crimson-crested Woodpecker.

After breakfast we continued to bird along the road, where I heard and finally recognized the song of Southern Antpipit. No published information I had ever read gave me a clue that this species would be remotely possible here; I hadn’t heard one in two years, and I’ve only ever seen it twice, so it was quite a surprise for me. A bit of playback worked wonders, and everyone got great views of it.

Soon butterflies became active. This is Mechanitis lysimnia, a widespread and variable species.
Mechanitis lysimnia

I haven’t yet been able to identify this Parides sp. cattleheart swallowtail.

This metalmark appears to be Emesis ocypore.
Emesis ocypore

And despite nearly lacking any blue, this is Quadrus cerialis, Common Blue-Skipper.
Quadrus cerialis

We continued into the valley of Lagunillas, the northern end of which is a huge cattail marsh and lake just starting to come alive in the early spring. We saw several Southern Screamers and many ducks and shorebirds. The forest is a bit drier here, blocked by the ridge to the east, and bromeliads are abundant. This giant bromeliad somehow managed to find a foothold on the side of a very straight trunk. The smaller bromeliads in the background are various species of Tillandsia.

This orchid appears to be an Oncidium species.

This is a Brunfelsia sp., a common genus as an ornamental (often called “yesterday-today-and-tommorow”), but most are just showy; this native one is intensely and delightfully fragrant.

At our picnic lunch spot we flushed a flock of Grayish Baywings (a recent name change with the Bay-winged Cowbird being split into two species) with two black cowbirds. Up until now we had seen plenty of Shiny Cowbirds, but I had a hunch, and with some brief playback I confirmed they were Screaming Cowbirds, very similar visually as adults. Their primary host is this Grayish Baywing, and the juvenile Screaming Cowbirds look nearly identical to this species.. Should I ever get a good photo of a Screaming Cowbird juvenile in profile, the proportions and size of the bill will be good to compare.
Grayish Baywing

We have one more night here in Camiri before we head back north for a couple of nights at Refugio Los Volcanes.

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