Wednesday, 30 January 2013

One Long-tailed Duck or two?

We were still in the UK following our tour in Colombia when we received a message through our website from Peter & Sally Hudson telling us that on 18th January they had seen a Long-tailed Duck near Odiáxere.  They are not birders but clearly knew enough to recognise that it was something unusual and they took a photograph with the intention of identifying the bird when they had access to a book or the internet.  

Although we quickly alerted birders in the Algarve about the Long-tailed Duck there have been no reports of anyone going to look for it let alone anyone seeing it.  Considering that this is the first of this species in the Algarve since the one that we found at Castro Marim in 2007, this is a bit surprising but it is an indication of the level of birding activity here, particularly in the winter.

Long-tailed Duck, Odiáxere, Algarve, 18/01/2013 (P & S Hudson)

When we returned here a week ago we had more than enough to see and do without making a 200km round trip to Odiáxere on the off chance of finding a Long-tailed Duck which was last reported 12 days ago!  We did wonder though and we still do!
This morning while we were out surveying one of our squares for SPEA's Atlas of Wintering and Migratory Birds, we received a call from our friend Filipe Moniz to say that there was a Long-tailed Duck at Castro Marim, close to the Visitor Centre.  We were a half hour’s walk away from the car but then only a 7km drive away from where he was watching the bird so, of course, we went.

Long-tailed Duck, Castro Marim, Algarve, 30/01/2013 (Algarve Birders)

So now we’re wondering whether this is the same bird seen by the Hudsons that has moved along the coast or whether it’s a second one.  Looking at the two photographs, we’re inclined to think that two birds are involved.  What do you think?  It’s just possible that someone could settle the issue by going to Odiáxere!  

Monday, 28 January 2013

BGBW Colombian Style

Sales of wild bird food will presumably have received a boost last week as Britain’s birdwatchers stocked their feeders with fat balls, peanuts, sunflower hearts and nyjer seed in preparation for the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch.

We’re betting that few of them tried attracting birds by putting out bananas!  But then, who would be expecting tanagers, euphonias and chachalacas?

These photographs from our recent Avian Adventures tour in Colombia are all of birds that were looking to feed on Peter’s favourite fruit!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


We’ve just returned from Colombia where we were leading a 12-night birding tour for Avian Adventures.  Arrangements for the tour were made through ProAves/EcoTurs and we worked alongside their local guide, Juan Carlos Luna.

Although the weather was pretty good throughout the tour and we experienced very little rain or wind, light conditions for photography were often very poor, a common problem, of course, in rainforests.  A few images are included here but lots more remain to be processed.

We flew from London, via Miami, to the country’s second largest city, Medellín and our itinerary took us from there by road to four ProAves reserves - El Paujil, Arrierito Antioqueño, Las Tangaras and  Loro Orejiamarillo.  On our first morning we also stopped for a couple of hours at Rio Claro Reserva Natural.

Rufescent Tiger-Heron

El Paujil reserve was created in 2003 to protect the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow, a species which we unfortunately didn’t manage to see except in temporary captivity - three birds waiting to be re-located.  The huge reserve also contains some of the last intact humid forest in the middle Magdalena valley.

El Paujil

Arrierito Antioqueño protects forests that are home to several Colombian endemic species that we did manage to see including Colombian Chachalaca, White-mantled Barbet, Parker’s Antbird, Black-and-gold Tanager and Red-bellied Grackle.

Cinnamon Flycatcher

Our favourite amongst the reserves we visited was Las Tangaras, described by ProAves as one of the most diverse and important tropical forest sites on earth.  The reserve has an area of 7,076 acres that lie between altitudes of 1,250 and 3,400 metres above sea level.  Golden-ringed Tanager and Black-and-gold Tanager, both Colombian endemics, were among the highlights but the reserve lived up to its name by producing a total of around 20 tanager species during our two days there.
Bay-headed Tanager

 Flame-rumped Tanager

Loro Orejiamarillo is the local name for the Yellow-eared Parrot, a Critically Endangered Colombian endemic.  Yellow-eared Parrots live among wax palms (Ceroxylon quindiuense), the national tree of Colombia, a species which itself is threatened. They nest in the hollow trunks of the palm trees. The story of their decline is a familiar one, involving hunting and habitat destruction, particularly the harvesting of wax palms, which are traditionally cut down and used each year on Palm Sunday.  We blogged here about this bird and the reserve following Peter’s previous visit in 2011.

One of the undoubted highlights of the tour was our visit to an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek on the outskirts of the town of Jardín.  Previous experiences at such leks has involved watching birds in fading evening light with little chance of photography but this was very different.  At least six birds were displaying and although we were often watching them through fairly dense vegetation, sometimes they came close and occasionally sat in the open.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock

Almost everywhere we went there were hummingbird feeders and as a result we were able to get good views of many of the 31 species that were recorded.  They certainly provided a few identification challenges!

Violet-tailed Sylph

Purple-throated Woodstar

June’s enthusiasm for the Picidae was well satisfied with 10 species of the woodpecker family, including the endemic Greyish Piculet.  For Peter, there were just two waders, Spotted Sandpiper and Southern Lapwing.

Lineated Woodpecker

We have another tour in Colombia scheduled for September when our itinerary again includes Las Tangaras, Loro Orejiamarillo and the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek.  That tour will also take us to Rio Blanco Forest Reserve and El Dorado Bird Reserve, the crown jewel of Colombian birding.