It's fair to say this was the most anticipated few days of the trip. Where else are five species of antpitta on order? Add to this a fantastic supporting cast and a few surprises ensured my 2-night stay at the lodge was some of the best birding one could hope for.
I left Bella Vista late morning and descended to the main road, via a stop at some hummingbird feeders where at least three new hummers for me were present: Purple-bibbed White-tip, Booted Racket-tail and Sparkling Violetear. It was only a short drive to the entrance to Refugio, so I retraced my steps and found lunch and fuel. I then made the journey up the rough track and after 5km arrived at the lower part of Refugio Paz de Las Aves. There was no one around so I spent some time at the feeders and walked a trail into a small wood finding Crested Guans, a Swainson's Thrush and Golden-headed Quetzals.
I got concerned my message of staying hadn't made it through, so I contacted both Dave Cooper and the organiser to find out if I was in the correct spot. It turned out I wasn't and the accommodation was just up the road, which is where I soon found myself, with my guide for the afternoon. He asked me if I wanted to look at some tanagers or go a see the Cock-of-the-rocks... silly question and the Cocks it was to be. Despite seeing them on the other consecutive days, this afternoon they showed at their best and what a spectacle it was! Also here was a Hook-billed Kite and Fawn-breasted Tanager!
Later that evening Angel took me out for some unsuccessful owling, which was a shame but is typical for me. However, watching flying Lyre-tailed Nightjars was a life ambition complete!
On Tuesday 15th March, I spent the day with Angel and his team and had them all to myself! First stop again were the Cocks which were awesome, and then, Angel called in his good friend, this being a Dark-backed Wood Quail. Next on order (it felt like this) was Maria. Roughly two weeks before I left for Ecuador, I saw that Maria (the Giant Antpitta) was on a nest... this is when I stepped into action and booked myself with Angel as the sighting of this mythical beast was almost guaranteed. Thankfully, this stayed true and right next to the path, there Maria was on her nest. However, it soon scarpered and unbeknown to me this was the first time in 10 days Maria had left the nest, and she performed superbly for five minutes before we left her... I felt very lucky! Next up were two obliging species of antpittas with both Yellow-breasted (slightly underwhelming if I'm honest) and Ochre-breasted Antpittas responding well, but no Moustached. Another notable sighting was a stunning Lyre-tailed Nightjar!
The day got even better with some absolutely class birds on offer: Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Powerful Woodpecker, both Scaled and Orange-breasted Fruiteaters, Toucan Barbet, Golden-winged Manakin, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, Yellow-vented Woodpecker and Common Potoo.
The next day, I only had the morning with Angel and Moustached Antpitta was the only bird I wanted. However, a young Swiss couple had also booked Angel and so we met again at the Cocks. The young couple (Mikael & Annie) were spending six months travelling/birding in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and were a joy to be with. Mikael had actually been in contact with me last year asking for PNG details, so we had spoken before. It was great meeting them and hopefully we will reconvene in the future somewhere.
Anyway, after re-visiting Maria it was time to try for the final time at the Moustached Antpitta site. We had just about given up and resorted to observing some Uniform Antshrikes, when out of nowhere Angel starting waving frantically, so we rushed down and metres away stood a blooming Moustached Antpitta! It was a class bird, hopping furiously across the opening area and collecting its reward for performing, before melting away back into the forest.
That was about it for my time with Angel, and I left with a further five antpittas under my belt than before I had arrived.
|Andean Cock of the Rock|