Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Peak of Diversity WINGS Bolivia Tour: Refugio Los Volcanes

September 18, 2015

Our time at Los Volcanes has been delightful. There are few lodges in Bolivia located right in the middle of fabulous habitat, and none that are so scenic. These aren’t really volcanoes but rather sandstone domes; I know nothing of their geologic origin, other than that they are now higher than the surrounding area due to the same uplift that created the Andes 2-3 million years ago. These are the outermost foothills.

Refugio Los Volcanes

There is a Crested Oropendola colony in an isolated tree right next to our rooms. Oropendolas like to use isolated trees for safety from predators such as monkeys, and you’ll often find them built around wasp nests for the same reason.

We birded a few trails, seeing such fine birds as Slaty Gnateater and Bolivian Tapaculo, but the wind kept flock activity down, and we never did connect with a good mixed flock with tanagers. Perhaps our best find here, as there are few places it can be seen, was this Subtropical Pygmy-Owl, which I whistled in from hundreds of meters away.
Subtropical Pygmy-Owl

The open areas and the road were good places to bird as well. We saw Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and Andean Condor overhead. Plush-crested Jay was common around the buildings, this one taking a drink by the outdoor sink.
Plush-crested Jay

The characteristic sound in the early morning and afternoon is flocks of Mitred Parakeets, which we eventually got to see perched.
Mitred Parakeet

Another walk we did was down a loop of the stream. A recent high water event had deposited copious amounts of the reddish sand throughout, and walking was a bit difficult with patches of quicksand  here and there. One of our group took a wrong turn and was stuck up to her knee for the better part of a half hour before we got the local staff to bring a shovel.

From the stream one can sometimes find good mixed flocks, but our one prize from here was this Sunbittern.

There were lots of butterflies; this is perhaps the best place in central Bolivia for butterflies year round. I took photos of very few, such as this Marpesia livius, Dark-banded Daggerwing.
Marpesia livius

Tomorrow is largely a travel day, from here to the small town of Comarapa, a perfect base for exploring the Valle Zone – rainshadowed valleys full of endemic biota.

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