Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pittafully Easy Birding

Well, OK, at least two of these birds were easy. The first one below is an Undulated Antpitta, coming into its daily breakfast of washed and cut-up earthworms right outside our lodge at 6:30 am. The lodge is Casa Simpson at Jocotoco Foundation's Tapichalaca Reserve.

Then next bird is the star of the lodge -- the Jocotoco Antpitta, the largest member of the family and one of the most range restricted, discovered here south of Loja only 14 years ago. It's a good 45 minute walk up one of the trails (1.5 hours with birding), and two to three birds come for their worms at 8:30. Though they are habituated to the feeding, they are totally wild birds. This technique of making antpittas easier for birding tourists to see is becoming more widespread but stems very recently from the pioneer Angel Paz and his Giant Antpitta near Mindo. But the concept is much older, with feeder birds being trained to even land on your hand probably a centuries-old practice. I remember reading a book from my high school library on how to hand tame your feeder birds. I was excited to try it, but the author of the book had the advantage of snow-bound Massachusetts and hopelessly dependent birds which he worked with. My feeder birds in mild northern California had too much wild food to care about what was on my hand. But it seems the conditioning method used for these antpittas is the same, and indeed, food in the tropics can be quite a scarce resource.

Here's the setup, with a Jocotoco Antpitta on the rock just below center.

These next two weren't so easy, requiring some patience, playback, and luck. This one is a Slate-crowned Antpitta.

And this is a Barred Antthrush, usually a very hard bird to see. We got lucky that this one was right next to the trail.

I'll end this post from Ecuador with this spectacular day-flying moth (Geometridae?) just down the road from the lodge. We had a dry, almost sunny morning, a rarity in this place of nearly perpetual fog, mist, and rain. Butterflies and many other insects came out in force, frantically mating, pollinating, and thermoregulating.

We have two more days in Ecuador, then I continue on to Peru for a fam trip to visit some new lodges on the Manu circuit. Thanks to Jon Feenstra for uploading and emailing my photos so I could post to this blog. I may have text-only updates from now on.

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