Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Blog Backlog Catch-up: Bolivia I in September 2018

I had just one night back at home in Arizona and made my way to Bolivia for two back-to-back trips. These photos are from the first tour that starts in Santa Cruz and ends in Cochabamba, covering a wonderful variety of habitats.

On our first day we drove south on the highway to Argentina, making it as far as Camiri. We made several stops for birds, including these Ringed Teal and Brazilian Teal in a roadside farm pond.
Ringed Teal and Brazilian Teal

At our breakfast stop on a traffic-free side road, I noticed this Brown Vine Snake, Oxybelis aeneus, not quite motionless on the side of the road. Watch the video here:
Brown Vine Snake, Oxybelis aeneus

There are lots of Chaco specialties on our birding hit list, top among them this Black-legged Seriema. We actually saw our first ones in a corn field before we got to Camiri, but the back roads south of there have to be the one of the best places for this super cool bird.
Black-legged Seriema

We had a stellar morning for water birds on our day in the Lagunillas area lakes and wetlands. Red-fronted Coot is a major rarity in Bolivia.
Red-fronted Coot

There aren’t many records of Spot-flanked Gallinule for the country either.
Spot-flanked Gallinule

We saw quite a few Silver Teal as well, a scarce bird in Bolivia and a lifer for me.
Silver Teal

Our next stop was Refugio Los Volcanes, boasting a transition habitat between Amazonian rainforest, moist Andean foothills, and the seasonally very dry intermontane Valle Zone unique to Bolivia. This metalmark appears to be the widespread but rarely photographed Pheles atricolor.
Pheles atricolor

We took a short night walk just down the driveway from our rooms finding this Red-rimmed Monkey Treefrog, Phyllomedusa boliviana.
Phyllomedusa boliviana

Another exciting find was this young lancehead on some rather unattractive construction material for a background, but I wasn’t about to pick it up to relocate it, and I didn’t have a snake hook. This snake was an undescribed species when we saw it, but just this past week the paper was published giving it a new name: Bothrops monsignifer.
Bothrops monsignifer

We stopped for lunch at Luna Verde in Samaipata, a surprisingly civilized small town in the Bolivian Valle Zone.
Luna Verde in Samaipata

One of the main birds to look for in these dry valleys is Red-fronted Macaw, one of the world’s rarest and most beautiful parrots.
Red-fronted Macaw

Another target here is Bolivian Earthcreeper, which is easier to find in several locations with the right habitat, including washes with dense patches of terrestrial bromeliads. One such spot had water in the stream, which is where we found this fantastic dancer damselfly, Argia joergenseni.
Argia joergenseni

Then just over halfway through the tour my second camera battery ran out of juice, and I discovered that I had forgotten to bring one of the six or seven rechargers I have back at home. I still managed a few photos with my iPhone 8 plus, but they weren’t as good as with my Canon PowerShot SX60 HS. Higher into the Andean cloud forest we made a birding stop for the endemic Black-hooded Sunbeam and I spotted this passionflower Passiflora pilosicorona.
Passiflora pilosicorona

The final birding of the tour is in the higher Andes near Cochabamba. This lizard Liolaemus lenzi, was out sunning in the rocks on Cerro Tunari at 14484 feet elevation. That’s just higher than any of Colorado’s famous 14,000+ peaks (where you won’t find any lizards), and there were still mountains towering over us.
Liolaemus lenzi

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