Thursday, August 15, 2019

Blog Backlog Catch-up: Bolivia II in October 2018

While some of my participants flew from Cochabamba back to Santa Cruz and then had flights homeward, three of us flew to La Paz in order to do my brand new tour to three great birding areas of northern Bolivia. We met up with several participants arriving for just this tour, including Scott Marshall who brought me a battery charger for my camera. Back in business!

Our first birding was at lake Titicaca, where of course we hoped to see Titicaca Grebe. Finding them wasn't a problem at all, and we really enjoyed watching a family at close range.
Titicaca Grebe

This Plumbeous Rail was super cooperative.
Plumbeous Rail

Lake Titicaca was just a stopover point on our way to the Apolo Valley, which involved two days of driving over a high Andean pass not far from the Peruvian border. The birding and scenery were exhilarating, and we saw some nice animals too, including these Vicuña, Vicugna vicugna.
Vicuña, Vicugna vicugna

I was amazed to find this lizard under a rock. Closely related to the one we had at Cerro Tunari, it can probably be identified by distribution as Liolaemus signifer.
Liolaemus signifer

Also a cool find at these super high elevations was this frog Pleurodema marmoratum.
Pleurodema marmoratum

It’s a long, slow road, and we had a planned overnight in the town of Charazani.

The next day involved dropping down through some nice patches of cloud forest with some very nice birds, such as Amazonian Umbrellabird. This terrestrial orchid on the roadside is Epistephium duckei.
Epistephium duckei

The road finally drops down into a broad bowl in the rainshadow of the outermost ridges of the Andes, referred to as the Apolo Valley.
Apolo Valley

This isolated valley is home to a very isolated and very small population of Swallow-tailed Cotinga. It’s different enough from the Brazilian population to be considered by some a separate species, Palkachupa Cotinga.
Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Palkachupa Cotinga

This bird doesn’t have an official name at the moment, but it should soon. We’re calling it the “San Pedro Tanager” after the town in Peru along the Kosñipata Road where Dan Lane, Gary Rosenberg, and a WINGS tour first spotted one almost 20 years ago. The use of specimen data to officially describe the species has been tied up in stupid Peruvian and Bolivian red tape. It was known from only a very few sightings of probable migrants in Peru until just a few years ago when the core of its breeding range was discovered in the uppermost reaches of the Tuichi Valley in Madidi National Park, downriver from Apolo.
 “San Pedro Tanager”

This migrant American Golden-Plover was fun to find in the Apolo Valley.
American Golden-Plover

The insects are barely studied in this area, and there are surely some undescribed species. We all thought this cricket, probably a nymph, was spectacular, but I don’t have a name for it yet.

This moth of the Dioptine subfamily of Notodontidae is Erbessa cingulina.
Erbessa cingulina

This satyr appears to be Godartiana astronesthes, a new species described in a paper just 3 months earlier, and known only from specimens in the Pampas del Heath just across the border in Peru.
Godartiana astronesthes

It took us two days to exit the Apolo Valley by road to return to La Paz, but it was a short flight down to Rurrenabaque and then a late morning drive to arrive at Sadiri Lodge, at the opposite end of Madidi National Park on the outermost ridge of the Andean foothills. The lush forests here are full of exciting biodiversity.
Sadiri Lodge

Sadiri Lodge

We had two local guides while here, the wonderful Raul Navi and Ricardo Cuqui.

We saw almost all of the local specialties here, as well as more widespread species such as this very confiding Common Scale-backed Antbird.
Common Scale-backed Antbird

Raul pointed out this family of Great Potoos, which we would have never seen without him.
Great Potoo

It’s not typical to be able to identify beetles to species here, but thanks to iNaturalist, this appears to be the weevil Marshallius multiguttatus.
Marshallius multiguttatus

And thanks to my passionflower contacts, I found this to be Passiflora cayaponioides, blooming one day only right next to the main lodge building.
Passiflora cayaponioides

This small frog is Pristimantis ventrimarmoratus.
Pristimantis ventrimarmoratus

Our final main destination on this itinerary was the exciting Barba Azul Nature Reserve, which involved a longish drive to the small outpost town of Santa Rosa de Yacuma and a chartered flight to the reserve out in the middle of the Llanos de Moxos.

We arrived at Barba Azul at the end of the dry season, but some recent rains had already begun flooding some of the very flat, extensive grasslands.
Barba Azul Nature Reserve

We quickly found our primary target, Blue-throated Macaw, for which this reserve was created and named. This is one of the rarest and most endangered parrots in the world, and a large group gathers here in the non-breeding season. We arrived just in time, while some were still around but after the bulk had already dispersed north to breed.
Blue-throated Macaw

The rich grasslands here have several specialties such as Black-masked Finch.
Black-masked Finch

Sharp-tailed Tyrant
Sharp-tailed Tyrant

Cock-tailed Tyrant
Cock-tailed Tyrant

Long-winged Harrier being harassed by a Tropical Kingbird.
Long-winged Harrier

These grasslands are also an exciting place to search for mammals. We were hoping to see Maned Wolf by the runway one evening, but an approaching thunderstorm drove us back to the lodge buildings. We did see two Six-banded Armadillos, Euphractus sexcinctus, and I just barely managed to get a photo of one.
Six-banded Armadillos, Euphractus sexcinctus

While we were birding the far eastern edge of the reserve, one of the participants spotted this Giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla, loping across the flats.
Giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla

We finished the tour with a day of birding around Trinidad, where we saw this enigmatic Gray-eyed Greenlet, a recently discovered disjunct population, and possibly an undescribed taxon. It sounds like Gray-eyed Greenlet, but notice that it has dark brown eyes.
Gray-eyed Greenlet

Scarlet-headed Blackbird was on the power lines south of town.
Scarlet-headed Blackbird

Here’s our group, with guides and drivers, at Rurrenabaque. I look forward to doing this tour again in 2020.

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