December 21, 2009
Silanche Bird Sanctuary, Sachatamia Lodge
We had an early start this morning with breakfast at 05:15h. How great to be at a lodge that caters to birders! The food offered was quite splendid - a large glass of pineapple juice, a bowl of assorted fresh fruit, lots of delicious breads and fried eggs. By 06:00h we were on the road in dense fog.
This morning we were headed to a lower elevation of about 500 metres, travelling through the village of Los Bancos. Despite the name, there is no bank in town!
By 07:00h we had turned onto the "Red Highway" and headed on through a rock quarry. The fog had lifted by now but we still faced heavy overcast. The road was lined with palmito and yucca and we passed a grove of balsa wood which had replaced African oil palms formerly growing there.
We entered the Silanche Bird Sanctuary and climbed the canopy tower. A light rain was falling but this quickly yielded to sunlight interspersed with intermittent cloud cover. It was both hot and humid but delightful nonetheless. The birding was utterly thrilling. I have ascended many canopy level towers throughout the years but never have I experienced the sheer numbers and ever-changing variety of species encountered there. We were fortunate to have Alejandro’s superb recognition of bird song and his keen eyes to help us sort through the myriad species flitting to and fro. I should acknowledge at this point the fact that Alejandro, without ever being asked to do so, always (and I mean always) set his scope at a level where Miriam who is barely 155cm tall could look through it without so much as standing on tip toe. This young man was polite and considerate from the moment we first met and we very much appreciated being with him.
Among the first birds that we saw was a small group of Pale-mandibled Aracaris sharing a tree. All seemed peaceful except for two members of the group who seemed bent on sparring with each other, and continued to do so until one forced the other right off the end of a snag. Chestnut-mandibled and Choco Toucans were also seen, all I might add, in great light with leisurely views through the scope, really enabling us to examine the exquisiteness of both their plumage and their bill colours. Just a sample of the other species that seemed to come to see us were Red-headed Barbet, Lineated and Black-cheeked Woodpeckers, Wedge-billed, Spotted and Streak-headed Woodcreepers, numerous antshrikes and antwrens, Cinnamon Becard, Black-and-White Becard, One-coloured Becard, Masked Tityra, Choco and Western White-tailed Trogon, a stunning array of tanagers, and many others.
We spent most of the morning on the tower and then left to walk one of the trails. Perhaps the highlight of this promenade through the forest was the largest procession of leaf cutter ants I have ever seen. We learned from Alejandro that battalions of leaf cutter ants are made up of three distinct functionaries: the cutters which are equipped with the largest mandibles, the carriers which are most conspicuous and the smallest of all, checkers, who act as quality control officers, ensuring that the right kind of leaves in the correct proportions are transported underground to decompose into the exact type of fungus required. These small ants sometimes ride on the cut leaves borne by the carriers.
We rejoined Augusto for lunch and even though it was a delicious box prepared by the lodge, containing chicken, a salad of palmito heart, apples and corn; cooked carrots and broccoli, a Chilean apple, a couple of sweets and a box of juice, I passed it up. My stomach was a little upset and I had the feeling that Montezuma was trying to break down my defences! I have noticed that over the past two or three years I seem to get this problem on the second or third day, wherever I go, even close to home where there is no significant change in diet. As soon as we returned to the lodge that evening I started on the Ciprofloxacin medication we had both brought with us, and as always the problem started to clear up almost instantly.
After lunch we walked along a road for quite a distance under the hot sun searching for grassland birds and also saw a pair of Guayaquil Woodpeckers at a nest hole in a stump. We boarded the van at about 16:00h to head back to the lodge. On the way we stopped to look at a nine-banded armadillo, the first armadillo I have ever seen alive. All of the previous sightings were of road kill!
We were back at Sachatamia by 18:00h and went down for dinner at 19:00h. It started with cream of celery soup, then spaghetti and meat sauce and a flan for dessert. I ate the soup and a little of the pasta since I didn’t want to tax my stomach too much.
After doing our list with Alejandro we went back to our room to relax for a while, and I was happy that my stomach appeared to be settling down already. We turned in early to get ready for the early departure for Angel Paz’s farm the next morning, one of the most anticipated highlights of the entire trip.
All species December 21 - Little Tinamou (heard), Western Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Bat Falcon, Swallow-tailed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Roadside Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Ruddy Pigeon, Dusky Pigeon, Pallid Dove, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Rose-faced Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Bronze-winged Parrot, Smooth-billed Ani, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, White-collared Swift, Grey-rumped Swift, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Sparkling Violetear, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Purple-chested Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Booted Racket-tail, Purple-crowned Fairy, Western White-tailed Trogon, Choco Trogon, Ringed Kingfisher, Rufous Motmot, Broad-billed Motmot, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Choco Toucan Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Red-headed Barbet, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Choco Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Guyaquil Woodpecker, White-bearded Manakin, Masked Tityra, Cinnamon Becard, Black-and-white Becard, One-coloured Becard, Black-tipped Cotinga, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Choco Tyrannulet, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Black-tailed Myiobius, Western Wood Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Masked Water Tyrant, Piratic Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Western Slaty Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Checker-throated Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Pacific Hornero, Slaty Spinetail, Red-faced Spinetail, Western Woodhaunter, Plain Xenops, Spotted Woodcreeper, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Lesser Greenlet, Grey-breasted Martin, Blue-and-white Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Band-backed Wren, Bay Wren, Southern House Wren, Southern Nightingale Wren (heard), Swainson’s Thrush, Great Thrush, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Tropical Parula, Buff-rumped Warbler, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Shiny Cowbird, Bananaquit, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Dusky-faced Tanager, Ochre-breasted Tanager, White-shouldered Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Lemon-rumped Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Grey and Gold Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Blue Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper, Green Honeycreeper, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Guira Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Variable Seedeater, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Chestnut-throated Seedeater, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Summer Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, Black-winged Saltator.