Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Monday 18 April 2022

Easter Weekend 2022

Certainly my favourite weekend of the year; four days off combined with freshly arrived migrants always bodes well. Despite being absent from the coast, it turns out this wasn't an issue as little was found over the four days. 

I only birded on the Saturday and Sunday, with the former mostly taken up with my Heathland Bird Survey on Stanley and Lynchmere Commons. It was great to see most of the species present (no Redstarts yet) with the highlight being a vocal Cuckoo and four displaying Tree Pipits. The abundance of Willow Warblers and my first pair of Dartford Warblers here were also welcome. 

Totals for the survey:

Cuckoo - 1
Tree Pipit - 4
Dartford Warbler - 2
Willow Warbler - 11
Firecrest - 12
Stock Dove - 6

On Sunday, with a south-easterly wind forecast, I oddly decided to hit Church Norton early knowing that all of the regulars would be at Selsey, potentially allowing me to find a goodie. Sadly this wasn't to be and it was frustratingly quiet. All I could muster were six Little Terns, a few Bar-tailed Godwits in the harbour, and whilst chilling at the car park, a Little Ringed Plover flew over calling. I left earlier than anticipated so I nipped into Ivy Lake and two Arctic Terns were briefly present before flying off high to the north (or Westhampnett).

On the way back to Alton, a stop at Noar Hill produced only one butterfly on the reserve itself, which thankfully was a fresh Duke of Burgundy!


Dartford Warbler

Willow Warbler

Tree Pipit

Speckled Wood at Ivy Lake

Arctic Tern at Ivy Lake

Duke of Burgundy

Tuesday 12 April 2022

Splash Point – 12 April 2022

Another seawatch this morning that started slowly, but soon gathered pace as it wore on. The unexpected highlight was an inbound bat, which initially landed on the 'basket', then continued inland via a crash-landing into the cliff. I managed to get some shots but with my limited skills in identifying bats, this one remains a mystery for now.

A flock of 15 Eider were very impressive, but a close-in Pomarine Skua was a true delight as it casually sailed eastwards. 

Afterwards, I quickly nipped up High and Over as Dad had found a Whitethroat.

I'm back to birdless north Hampshire this evening. Thankfully my time in Sussex the last five days coincided with a nice arrival of migrants and some excellent seawatching.

Totals between 06:00 to 08:30

Common Scoter - 422
Mediterranean Gull - 11
Sandwich Tern - 229
Sanderling - 1
Red-breasted Merganser - 3
Red-throated Diver - 37
Black-throated Diver - 1
Brent Geese - 30
Arctic Skua - 11
Pomarine Skua - 1
Little Gull - 4
Arctic Tern - 1
Eider - 15
Shoveler - 10
Velvet Scoter - 4
Common Tern - 7
Shelduck - 3

Eider and Shoveler

Mediterranean Gulls

An un-identified bat, although
smaller than Noctule!

Whitethroat at High and Over

Monday 11 April 2022

Splash Point – 11 April 2022

A superb day for seawatching for all concerned along the coast of Sussex. Unfortunately I only had limited hours today, but these thankfully coincided with some excellent movement, and then, two Pomarine Skuas at the end of the day. 

The highlight from this morning was a top drawer summer-plumaged Red-necked Grebe flying east close-in. Five Pochard were just as impressive (very rare on a seawatch) and three Garganey, a Little Ringed Plover (rare on a seawatch) and an early Arctic Tern, plus a continuous Sandwich Tern procession ensured a highly enjoyable seawatch!

Totals 05:50 to 09:30

Sandwich Tern - 458
Whimbrel - 20
Common Scoter - 483
Gadwall - 17
Common Tern - 12
Commic Tern - 28
Arctic Tern - 1
Teal - 82
Mediterranean Gull - 13
Red-breasted Merganser - 6
Shoveler - 69
Red-throated Diver - 7
Red-necked Grebe - 1
Pochard - 5
Arctic Skua - 12
Mallard - 5
Pintail - 3
Slavonian Grebe - 1 s/p offshore
Shelduck - 37
Garganey - 3
Sanderling - 4
Avocet - 3
Velvet Scoter - 20
Wigeon - 13
Little Gull - 6
Dunlin - 3
Little Ringed Plover- 1

Later this afternoon, it felt Pommy and low and behold as soon as I set myself up, a report of two Poms filtered through from Selsey.

16:00 to 17:45

Pomarine Skua - 2
Whimbrel - 83
Sandwich Tern - 75
Common Tern - 12
Arctic Skua - 4
Shoveler - 6
Teal - 4
Pintail - 7
Common Scoter - 37
Dunlin - 1
Sanderling - 2

Pomarine Skuas

Sunday 10 April 2022

Seaford Head & Splash Point – 10/04/2022

After a lovely, but birdless, walk yesterday morning, today dawned warmer with light winds and it was with some relief that migrants had finally arrived. Albeit comprising only Wheatear and Willow Warbler, they were both in relative abundance, with 12 and 11 respectively. 

Afterwards, I drove over to Ovingdean to then spend most of the day watching the Brighton Marathon and a Wheatear flew across the road in Peacehaven, and then, above Ovingdean Beach, three more Wheatears were present. 

This afternoon with a south-easterly breeze blowing, I went down Splash Point between 3.30 and 5.30pm and recorded the following:

Arctic Skua - 2
Whimbrel - 28
Sandwich Tern - 19
Common Tern - 16
Red-throated Diver - 26
Common Scoter - 46
Bar-tailed Godwit - 4
Grey Plover - 2

Wheatears at Seaford Head

Sunday 3 April 2022

Ecuador – Milpe & return to Quito

18th March 2022

I arrived into Milpe and grabbed a few supplies before heading for Milpe Bird Sanctuary. I didn't park in the main area as you had to pay a small fee so I drove a short distance to a lay-by and walked back. The place was devoid of anyone so it wouldn't have been an issue. Anyway, it was clear from the off that this area was excellent for birding. I was pleased to see more Choco Toucans and some Collared Aracaris. In the car park, and as I was watching these two species, chaos unfolded as a sublime Ornate Hawk-eagle flew in and landed in plain sight and stayed for about five minutes. An amazing encounter and certainly a highlight of the trip!

After this excitement, it was just a matter of filtering through the tanager flocks, but no new additions here. Just as I was starting to enjoy myself, a lengthy rain shower arrived so I decided to drive back into Los Bancos and find my very nice, and cheap, hotel. I had two days to cover Milpe so it wasn't a hard to decision to stay dry. The rain continued to late afternoon so I called it a day and had another relaxation session, but after an ultimate day, I think it was deserved. 

The next morning I arrived at first light and decided to park in the car park this time. I took the long circuit which takes you all the way down to the river – part of this trail involved a pure balancing act over a slippery log above a mini canyon... certainly the most adrenaline-fueled moment of the trip. The walk however was excellent with a wealth of new birds seen and some class ones at that.

The hummingbird feeders attracted a few new ones, with White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail and Crowned Woodnymth, while on the trail a White-tipped Sicklebill hovered around my head as I encroached its presumed territory... amazing moment! The trail was alive with birds and at times it was hard to know where to look, there were either flocks high above, myriad woodcreeper/foliage-gleaner flocks, or the odd antwren which are always a joy to see. The trail kept descending and eventually I reached the river and spent a lengthy time here chilling and watching the world go by. It was a stunning place and with no-one around it was even more special. 

Anyway, afterwards I hiked back up on a different section and this time I put more effort in going through certain recordings of birds I still needed to see. One bird in a dense valley was giving off a lovely song, and I just happened to have Esmeraldas Antbird on my phone ready to hit play, and by jingo, it was the bird! It wasn't long before this cracker came in close, and as antbirds are always in mixed flocks, further psshing resulted in a superb Zeledon's Antbird too.

The walk sadly came to an end, so I quickly headed back to Luis and picked up my number plate (ten dollars for the privilege of some dude holding onto it for me!), but along the way were two Hook-billed Kites and a Laughing Falcon.

Upon returning to Milpe, I again parked up and this time walked the upper trail to the northern car park. It was excellent but rain showers had me scarpering a few times. I assume the rain had prompted several Speckled Nightingale-thrush to sing and one fortunately showed well. Tanager flocks held some Dusky-capped Flycatchers and Sooty-headed Tyrannulets amongst many other species, and when the rain absolutely lashed down, I had thankfully arrived at the northern headquarters, and being sheltered, I put my feet up and watched the hummingbirds only metres away! A Tayra also came in for some seed that two Orange-billed Sparrows were munching on. That was about it for today and I walked back to the car via the road and got soaked for it.

This unbeknown to me at the time was to be my last effort of birding, as sadly that night, I stupidly had a chinese meal and some re-heated rice caused a major night of chucking up. This meant the next day I was absolutely out of it. I did attempt Milpe, but all I succeeded in was getting a flat tyre, and fixing it nearly made me faint two or three times. I did eventually get it sorted but gave up on birding and decided to return to Quito early. 

However, I had fortuitously looked on e-bird during my spell of non-vomiting and found a semi-reliable location on the return for Torrent Duck. This was at Alambi Lodge and after a refreshment stop and a blackberry smoothie, I arrived but felt proper grim. I had a nap and felt better so I drove down to the lodge and asked whether I could go for a walk. The owner was brilliant and very accommodating and after paying a small fee I was trundling down to the river. I looked upstream and nothing, looked downstream, and balancing on a rock amongst the white-water rapids, was a stunning drake Torrent Duck! I suddenly felt on top of the world and I enjoyed half-hour with a pair of these incredible ducks; watching them swimming in the rapids was mind-blowing and they came so close to me... I couldn't have asked for better views. I walked a short way downstream but failed on finding any dippers, so I returned to the lodge and spent an hour at the hummingbird feeders, with new birds here including the following: Purple-throated Woodstar, White-lined Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Rufous Motmot, Black-capped Tanager and Western Emerald. A young lad there even made me a coffee and this was my final bit of birding of the trip.

So, other than a few Tropical Mockingbirds and a Vermilion Flycatcher on the way to the Holiday Inn at Quito Airport, there was no more birding to be had. I just needed some rest and recovery before my long flight back. It had obviously been an amazing first visit to Ecuador and I can't wait to go back and do the east slope and the south. 

My flight back the next day went via Panama, which resulted in me seeing a Magnificent Frigatebird on the final descent and some Greater Antillean Grackles around the terminal. 

Milpe Highlights:

White-whiskered Hermit - 3
White-tipped Sicklebill - 1
Green-crowned Brilliant - 5
Ruddy Pigeon - 1
Hook-billed Kite - 2
Ornate Hawk-eagle - 1
Laughing Falcon - 1
Smoky-brown Woodpecker - 1
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper - 1
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner - 5
Spotted Barbtail - 1
Slaty Antwren - 4
Zeledon's Antbird - 1
Esmeraldas Antbird - 1
Sooty-headed Tyrannulet - 4
Dusky-capped Fluycatcher - 3
Club-winged Manakin - 2
Bay Wren - 2
Orange-billed Sparrow - 2

Collared Aracari

Choco Toucan

Ornate Hawk-eagle

Club-winged Manakin

Golden-winged Manakin

Slaty Antwren

Crowned Woodnymth

Green-crowned Brilliant

Hook-billed Kite

Laughing Falcon

Speckled Nightingale-thrush

Spotted Barbtail

White-whiskered Hermit

Torrent Duck

Rhodirphia carminata

Milpe Bird Sanctuary... I wonder
if a Banded Ground-cuckoo is in that view

Breakfast stop at Milpe

It wouldn't be an Eade tour without...

River Alambi

Friday 1 April 2022

Ecuador – Recinto de 23 Junio

16 March 2022

After leaving Angel Paz, I made my way westwards towards Milpe and to the town of Los Bancos. Here, I descended down to the river and as I had much spare time, I worked the tracks both up and downstream to find as many low altitude species as possible. 

I was surprised by how many birds I found and this turned out to be a worthwhile couple of hours. Sadly no Torrent Ducks along the river, but the likes of Tyrant Tyrannulet, Black-winged Saltator, Western Wood Pewees, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker and Pale-legged Hornero made up for it. 

I then drove the bumpy track to Recinto de 23 Junio, or otherwise known as, the place to see Long-wattled Umbrellabird! I had made contact with Luis (the only guide in the tiny village) the day before by using Spanish translate and hoping he had availability, both successful and the realisation of seeing an umbrellabird had increased dramatically. The bumpy road meant slow progress, but this meant plenty of birding and I was pleased to find Chestnut-collared Swift, Choco Toucan, Bronze-winged Parrot, Slaty Spinetail and Band-backed Wren.

I eventually arrived in the village but with no clue as to where to go, so it was a good job a young lady came out and greeted me. It's fair to say, conversation was limited to awkward laughs and much pointing, but it was fine. Unfortunately, despite wanting to bird, a huge storm came in and it was straight away game over, so I out my feet up and read my book with the background noise of torrential rainfall on the metal roof!

Luis later joined me for more non-conversation and a lovely dinner was had, before settling to bed and praying tomorrow went well.

17th March 2022

Up nice and early, the night before Luis told me I was to drive to the high point, which was slightly annoying as he's the guide. Another thing he failed to mention were the two streams I had to drive through! The first I actually got stuck and thankfully the reverse worked allowing me to tentatively try again. The second stream was fine, but after this and the uphill struggle, once parked up, the car was smoking well and truly! A couple of Pauraque on the way up were in no way compensation.

A sweaty uphill walk had us at the viewpoint. Bless Luis, he wasn't an amazing guide and it turned out I found all of the birds. Whilst he walked off, some movement in the tree in front soon had me looking at the mind-boggling Yellow-collared Chlorophonia... what a bird and initial thoughts had me thinking Pygmy-Parrot! This was completely unexpected and lots of other goodies were arriving (Rufous-throated and Bay-headed Tanagers), that was until my main quarry, as three Long-wattled Umbrellabirds flew past and landed out of sight. I called Luis over (how did he miss them) and we went in hot pursuit under the canopy. Views remained brief but after maybe an hour of trapesing through, a young male showed well... just a shame it wasn't an adult male! 

On the return, I spotted some tanagers at the top of a leafless tree, and one caught my eye hiding behind a Golden Tanager, which revealed itself to be a Moss-backed Tanager

A tiny breakfast, again at the viewpoint, was nice, watching displaying Roadside Hawks and a fly-past of Maroon-tailed Parakeets, while the hummingbird feeders attracted Velvet-purple Coronets and other commoner species. It had been a good morning, but the drive down it got a little better. Whilst crawling along, out in front ran a crake. Epic scenes and poor Luis thought it was an antpitta, but soon a pair emerged from the long grass and were Rufous-sided Crakes (typical I thought as I had seen one in Argentina). They were very nosy and showed brilliantly, just a shame the camera was in the boot but what a treat to see this seldom-seen species.

So that was it for my time here, or so I thought. This annoyingly turned out to be my first of three visits to the village as my number plate had fallen off halfway up the hill and past the two streams. I had noticed this earlier and kept an eye out for it on the descent, but with no sign I wasn't too fussed and carried on back to Los Bancos. That was until two young lads on mopeds stopped and pointed back up the hill for the number plate. To cut a long story short, a return up the hill and through the two streams failed to find it, so I gave up and returned to Los Bancos. Along the return journey, I found Dusky Pigeon, One-colored Becard, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Buff-throated Saltator and a superb Glistening-green Tanager

The visit to Recinto had been very much worth it and a complete fluke that there was availability at such short notice. I continued to Los Bancos and my final few days was spent birding at Milpe Bird Sanctuary, which will be the final blog post of my time in Ecuador. (I made a return visit to Recinto the following day as my number plate had been handed in to Luis, so this was my third visit but thankfully meant I didn't need to go through those dreaded streams again).

Masked Water Tyrant

Western Wood Pewee

Spotted Sandpiper

Band-backed Wren

Long-wattled Umbrellabird

Moss-backed Tanager

One-colored Becard

Ornate Flycatcher

Rio Blanco

Recinto de 23 Junio

Umbrellabird location

The smaller of the two streams!!

A shy Rufous-sided Crake

My accommodation at Recinto