Archive for the ‘nightjar’ Tag

Ringing and birding Summer 2017- plus an unexpected bonus in October.   Leave a comment

This post covers a few of the ringing and birding activities during the summer of 2017 plus a post script about a Dorset Mega in October.


Most of the birds we ring at Durlston and beyond are small passerines so I felt it would be useful for my trainees to get some experience in handling larger birds such as geese or swans. Fortunately we were all free to join the annual Canada Goose ringing session at Chew Valley Lake in Somerset.


Margaret, my trainees Ginny and Chris, Olly, another ringer from our group and I drove up to Chew Valley. Most of us went out on the boats to round the geese up. Unfortunately for the ringing program many of the geese were feeding in a shallow, weed filled area where the boats couldn’t get so the total number ringed/processed was smaller than usual.


As they moult most of their flight feathers simultaneously the geese are flightless in early July so using some well-practiced boat maneuvers, the flock was shepherded ashore and into a corral.


Each of us was handed a goose and we proceeded to the a table where the ‘scribe’, ably assisted by Margaret, handed out the rings and recorded the details.


Although they had never held such a large bird before Ginny and Chris managed very well and were able to close the large ‘L’ rings around the goose’s tarsus.


Chris enjoying his visit to Chew Valley. This may be a rather inelegant view of a Canada Goose but it is the safest and easiest way to carry one.


Closing a large ring on a large bird involves a very different technique to say ringing warblers or garden birds. Although an introduced bird, the monitoring the movement and population growth of alien species like Canada Geese is very important, so ringing these birds is so much more than just an outing for trainees.


In the end the ringers compared their ‘war wounds’, a torn t-shirt, a few scratches and a bit of (human) blood on your sleeve.


A Collared Dove was an unusual bird ringed in my garden this summer. This species naturally colonised the UK from the 1950s onwards and now is an established breeder throughout the country. However they were introduced to the Caribbean from where they have spread to the USA and in a very short period colonised much of North America.


Our ringing at Durlston commenced on the 19th July with local breeders like this  Common Whitethroat (note the grey head and pale eye of an adult)  ….


…. but the highlight was this 1st year Nightingale. As we also trapped an adult in the spring it is likely that the species has bred locally. Like many woodland birds Nightingales have declined markedly. Our ringing group had ringed 99 Nightingales prior to 2017 but none of those were after 1994 showing the scale of the decline.


Details of wing length, weight and moult status are recorded. This year a few Willow Warblers must have bred near or at Durlston as we trapped a few adults in moult as well as juveniles. Willow Warblers used to be common breeders but with climate change their range has shifted northwards. This bird is missing its 6th primary, a little tricky, as the exact shape of this feather is what proves categorically that it not a Chiffchaff. However there were enough other features to prove its identity beyond doubt.


One feature that is sometimes seen on young birds is ‘growth bars’. As a bird is growing its remiges and retrices (primaries, secondaries and tail feathers) in the nest, the quantity and quality of food delivered to it will vary depending on the weather. This can affect the growth of the feathers and as the feathers are grown simultaneously appear as a bar across the tail. Growth bars across the primaries and secondaries are usually much less obvious than across the tail. This Reed Warbler is notable because of the strength of the growth bars across all the flight feathers. It must pointed out that this is not a plumage characteristic of the species but an anomaly in this particular bird.


Of the more unusual captures, this Northern Wheatear was notable.


One of the features of ringing this summer/autumn was the capture of nine Nightjars, seven in August and two in September . All were juveniles and presumably were on migration, or at least undergoing making postnatal dispersal prior to migration as the species is not known to breed on the limestone grasslands and scrub at Durlston. Most likely we only discovered their occurrence in the park because this year we took to arriving on site that bit earlier, typically about 0430 in August.


On one occasion a Nightjar was trapped just on dawn so we were able to photograph it in what appears to be daylight. In fact it was still quite gloomy, I was just using a very slow shutter speed!


Another benefit of getting the nets up before dawn has been the capture of a record number of Grasshopper Warblers. Most years we ringed 10-30 of these skulky little warblers, last year that rose to over 100, this year to over 200 with 65 on a single day. This huge increase cannot just be attributed to earlier starts, the species must have had a very good breeding season. We also had our first Grasshopper Warbler ‘control’, a bird ringed last autumn in Hampshire. We also ‘controlled’ a Tree Pipit, a Willow Warbler and two Reed Warblers, all ringed in various parts of the UK but our only Bullfinch recovery was a bird we ringed in the spring that was found killed by a Sparrowhawk in a garden less than a mile away.


I mentioned in my previous st that we visited London for the day. On our way from Victoria coach station to Trafalgar Square we passed through St Jame’s Park.


Many people think the only ‘wildlife’ in London parks are the pigeons but in fact a lot of wildlife lives there.


That said many of the wildfowl are introduced, if this female Smew had been seen on a reservoir in the east of the UK in winter it would unhesitatingly be treated as wild but in St Jame’s Park in July – no way.


The existence of free flying birds like this White-headed Duck (WHD) in ornamental collections confuses the true status of any potential vagrants to the UK. Before Ruddy Ducks escaped from captivity and became established in the UK, WHDs (away from collections) were very rare. The commoner Ruddy Ducks became the more vagrant WHDs were seen. Logic was that British Ruddy Ducks wintering in Spain were pairing up with WHDs and returning to the UK with them in tow. Of course it was this interbreeding with Spanish native WHDs that forced the UK authorities to eliminate the Ruddy Duck, but guess what once the UK Ruddy Ducks were gone then so were apparently wild WHDs as well. Clear evidence that those WHDs away from collections in parks etc were genuine vagrants from Spain.


Whatever you think of the status of wildfowl, there is no doubt that this Grey Heron was wild even if it was walking around on well used public footpaths.


Although I continued my ‘New Year Resolution’ to go ringing or birding every day, July wasn’t a great time for rare birds. A few nice waders were seen at Lytchett Bay but a highlight of early August was this American Bonaparte’s Gull that pitched up on Brownsea Island. Bonaparte’s Gull was not named after Emperor Napoleon but after his ornithologist nephew Charles.


Several weeks later, on 22nd August to be precise, we had a most unexpected treat when an another American bird, a Yellow Warbler turned up on Portland. This is migrates relatively early in North America and so seldom gets caught up in the severe weather systems that propel migrant New World warblers all the way across the Atlantic. However the remnants of a hurricane reached the UK just the day before and was undoubtedly the reason why the lovely bird graced our shores. Photo by Chris Minvalla.


Nothing to do with summer 2017 but yesterday (17/10/17), only minutes after I had returned from a very busy morning’s ringing at Durlston I heard that a warbler first seen two days ago at St Aldhelm’s Head had been identified as a Two-barred Warbler (formerly known as Two-barred Greenish Warbler). So it was an immediate turn round and a quick return to Purbeck, the site is just 4 miles west of Durlston. The weather by this time had deteriorated, but in spite of the rain I had nice views but got no photographs. I left about 4pm by which time less than 20 birders had seen the bird. Along with the Yellow Warbler above this was a new species for my British and of course Dorset, Lists. Fortunately for twitchers across the UK it remained overnight and was seen by hundreds today. Fortunately my ringing colleague Chris and his father Tony saw the bird well and Tony has given me permission to use his excellent photo.


Two-barred (Greenish) Warbler – formerly treated as a race of Greenish Warbler, hence the inclusion of ‘greenish’ in its former name, breeds no closer than central Siberia from the upper Tungusta/Lower Yenisey rivers east to Sakhalin, northern China and North Korea. Although formerly lumped with the more westerly cousin it has been shown to act as a separate species in the area of overlap. This is about the 6th record for the UK but the first for Dorset. This ends a 30 year bugbear, I ignored reports of a ‘funny Yellow-browed Warbler’ on the island of Gugh, Scilly in 1987 only to find the day after I returned home that it was the UK’s first Two-barred! So it wasn’t just hurricane strength winds that occurred in mid-October 1987 and mid-October 2017. Photo by Tony Minvalla.


Paraguay: Part one – the Chaco, 19th – 25th September 2015   Leave a comment

The post covers the first part of my recent trip to Paraguay and covers the areas to the north and west of the capital Asunción.

Apologies for not updating the blog for over a month. As we are still in the peak of autumn migration, after my return I have been ringing at Durlston as often as the weather would allow and have spent the remainder of my free time keeping the ringing paperwork up to date.

The trip to Paraguay was a collaboration between Birdquest and the Neotropical Bird Club designed to raise funds for the NBC conservation fund. There were ten participants and three leaders (two of which gave their services for free) which made it somewhat congested on narrow forest trails, but these numbers were needed to raise sufficient funds.

I arrived early and spent a relaxing day in Asunción, getting over jet lag and doing a little birding in the hotel garden. Our first destination was the ‘humid chaco’ a seasonally flooded area to the west of the Paraguay River.

IMG_9420 Chaco

To the north and west of Asunción lies the humid chaco, a region of seasonally flooded scrub, marshes and lakes interspersed with strange Bottle Trees. During our drive to Laguna Capitan we stopped many times along the main route to Bolivia for birding.

IMG_9137 Rufous-sided Crake

Among the many birds we saw was this Rufous-sided Crake ….

IMG_9152 Donocobious

…. and several Donocobious, a bird that has been moved from one family to another over the last 30 years before finally being put in a family of its own.

IMG_9277 Buff-necked Ibis

Roadside pools held the elegant Buff-necked Ibis ….

IMG_9862 Plumbeous Ibis

…. the much rarer Plumbeous Ibis ….

IMG_9201 Ibis

…. and huge numbers of Bare-faced Ibis.

IMG_9812 Jabirus

Three species of stork occurred, Maguari, Wood and the rarer Jabiru (above).

IMG_9825 Jabiru

Jabirus must be the largest and most spectacular stork in the world.

IMG_9858 imm Snail Kite

Snail Kites, which feed almost exclusively on the apple snail were abundant in some areas.

IMG_9345 Flamingos, Black Skimmer, LB Tern_edited-1

On the largest lagoons Chilean Flamingos were common ….

IMG_9348 Black Skimmer, LB Tern

…. along with Black Skimmers and Large-billed Terns. I have nicknamed the tern ‘Sabine’s Tern’ due to the similarity of their upperwing pattern to that enigmatic arctic gull. I hadn’t realised until this trip how different the skimmers from Amazonia (which winter in Paraguay) were. We saw some later near Asunción and they differed more from the regular Black Skimmer than the Indian or African Skimmers do. Time to get the DNA test kit our methinks.

IMG_9330 Chilean Flamingos

Chilean Flamingos are the most widespread of the four New World species and can be easily identified by their red ‘knees’ (actually the tibio-tarsal joint or ankle).

IMG_9258 Chilean Flamingos

Chilean Flamingos in flight.

IMG_9323 Gtr Legs

There were a number of Nearctic shorebirds wintering in the area such as this Greater Yellowlegs (the last time I saw this American species was in Hampshire this summer) ….

IMG_9272 Wilson's Phal

…. the elegant Wilson’s Phalarope. Scottish born Alexander Wilson (1779 – 1813) is considered the father of American Ornithology and his name is commemorated by a storm-petrel, snipe, plover and warbler as well as a journal of ornithology and an orthitholgical society.

IMG_9300 Collared Plover

In contrast to the shorebirds above, this Collared Plover is a Neotropical resident and was exhibiting clear territorial behaviour on the shoreline.

IMG_9437 main road to Boliviar

North of Laguna Capitan the main road deteriorated badly. Although paved, the thin veneer of tarmac had eroded away and we bumped and grinded from one pot hole to the next over a period of six or seven hours.

IMG_6470 driving in dust

Unless you were in the front vehicle (we were in four 4x4s) this was your view for much of the day. Fortunately it was my turn to be in the front on the return journey, so I had an unobstructed view for part of the time.

IMG_9472 BL Seriema

The highlight of the day, indeed one of the highlights of the trip, was great views of Black-legged Seriema. Unlike it’s red-legged cousin, this is a hard bird to see. I have heard it on two previous trips, so was very glad to get such good views. A pair strode along the roadside ….

IMG_9488 BL Seriema

…. and even stopped and displayed, uttering their unearthly wails and showing off their orange gapes. The two seriemas species are the ecological equivalent of the Secretary Bird of Africa (snake predators) but are unrelated. It is thought the seriemas are more closely related to falcons than other raptors and are the closest living relatives of the 3m tall ‘terror birds’ which were apex predators in South America until felines and canines colonised from North America after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama 2.5 million years ago.

IMG_9543 Chaco accomodation

Now in the thorny ‘dry chaco’, we stayed in basic accommodation in Enciso National Park, not far from the Bolivian border. This tree ouside our rooms was full of Monk Parakeet nests, which are made of sticks from thorn bushes. As a result it was impossible to walk anywhere without getting thorns stuck in your boots.

IMG_9513 a night in the museum

‘A night in the museum’. Temperatures were much higher than expected, reaching at least 42 and not dropping below 30 at night. When we found the rooms had no AC, some of us opted to sleep in this small museum which did. However there weren’t enough beds so I slept on a mattress on the floor trying my best to avoid the big spiders and other bugs. We stayed there two nights, so we had ‘A night in the museum 2’ as well.

IMG_9359 sunset

The high temperatures whipped up a strong breeze, which in turn lifted a lot of dust into the atmosphere. At dusk the sun glowed a lurid red in all the haze.

IMG_6461 moth in chaco

The entire trip was full of invertabrates, whether it be the unwelcome biting mosquitos, sand flies, ticks and chiggers or elegant moths, butterflies and preying mantis.

IMG_9564 Little Nightjar

Night-time birding was succesful with lovely species like Little Nightjar ….

IMG_9388 Tropical Screech Owl

…. Tropical Screech Owl ….

IMG_9376 Chaco Owl

…. and best, of all my lifer Chaco Owl.

IMG_9585 Rob Rococo Toad

Here leader and Paraguayan resident Robb Clay holds an enormous Rococco Toad.

IMG_9399 Lark-like Bushrunner

It is interested to speculate why so many Chaco birds have crests. Here are three crested furnarids – Lark-like Bushrunner ….

IMG_9520 Brown Cacholote

…. Brown Cachalote ….

IMG_9604 Crested Hornero_edited-2

…. and Crested Hornero. Hornero is derived from the Spanish for oven because of their oven-shaped mud nests and the family name the Furnariidae or ovenbirds share this derivation.

IMG_9530 chaco rd

We did a lot of driving on the chaco’s dirt roads both by day and by night looking for mammals and nightbirds. We packed into the front vehicles, either inside or on the flat-bed, and then drove two-a-breast on the deserted roads. Once another car came the other way and flashed his lights at us, our driver responded by briefly putting on the mounted searchlight, which was followed by blue-and red flashing lights from the other car – yes, it was the police! Fortunately they passed us without issuing a ticket.

IMG_9440 Pampas Fox

The tour had been advertised as one of the best in South America for mammals but this aspect of the tour proved disappointing. Our night drives failed to deliver the hoped for Tapir, Puma, Ocelot, Jagurundi, Jaguar, Geoffrey’s Cat, Maned Wolf or Chaco Peccary. Instead we had to console ourselves with views of a rather tatty Pampas Fox ….

IMG_9428 Grey Brocket Deer

….and a fleeting glimpse of a Grey Brocket Deer.

IMG_9506 Turquoise-fronted Amazon

Birds did not disappoint however. Here is a selection of Chaco specialities: Turquoise-fronted Amazon ….

IMG_9547 Green-barred Pecker

…. Green-barred Woodpecker ….

IMG_9268 RB Peppershrike

…. a relative of the vireos, the Rufous-browed Peppershrike ….

IMG_9427 Woodcreeper sunbathing

…. a sunbathing Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper ….

IMG_9610 FT Fly

…. the ubiquitous, yet beautiful Fork-tailed Flycatcher. This species is an inter-tropical migrant and sometimes overshoots and turns up in North America, having got as far north as Canada and once reached El Rocio in Spain!

IMG_9198 White Monjita

Another beautiful tyrant flycatcher was the White Monjita

IMG_9185 Guira Cuckoo

The ‘punk-crested’ Guira Cuckoo was common. Apparently the original collector asked the indigenous Guanari what they called it, they replied ‘Guira’ which is guanari for ‘bird’ So really its a ‘bird cuckoo’.

IMG_6478 tropical rattlesnake

A Tropical Rattlesnake provided some entertainment.

IMG_9635 Crowned Eagle

We had a distant view of a pair of raptors that might have been the huge Crowned Solitary Eagle (that’s almost an oxymoron), so we were delighted when on our way back south we had cracking views of one on a roadside post.

IMG_9851 Rally

The area was gearing up for a major car rally and we met processions of super-chargers racers going in the opposite direction.

IMG_6479 3x4

Our Paraguayan drivers, Toni, Dani and Franci were all ex-rally drivers but it wasn’t their driving, but the appalling state of the road that cause this wheel to fall off. Incredibly a part was sent out from Asunción, the drive shaft and brake lines were fixed by the driver at the roadside and the car was with us the following day! We started with four 4×4 but had to put up with three 4x4s and a 3×4 for 24 hours.

IMG_9433 4 pack bottle tree

On the way north we detoured to a spot where our local leaders knew of a nest hole of the huge yet rare and elusive Black-bodied Woodpecker. The nest hole was easy to find – adjacent to this four-pack Bottle Tree.

IMG_9412 White Pecker

However the large hole had been taken over by a pair of much smaller but more aggressive White Woodpeckers. We headed north knowing that our best chance to see the rare Black-bodied had been lost.

IMG_9710 BB Woodpecker

But on our way south we gave it another go and after about an hour the Black-bodied arrived and was promptly chased off by the White Woodpeckers. However it settled down not far away and we go some great views.

IMG_9722 Chaco Peccaries

There had only been a brief sighting of peccaries by a couple of the group at dawn. So we took a chance to visit a centre where the endangered Chaco Peccary is being bred for release in the wild. Unusually this species forms a defensive formation when threatened, which means that if one is shot by poachers then they can all be easily shot. Hopefully education will teach the hunters how endangered this species of wild pig really is.

IMG_9732 Collared Peccary

Also held captive was the much more widespread Collard Peccary, an animal I have seen as far north as Texas.

IMG_9744 White-lipped Peccary

But the White-lipped Peccaries amazed us. Far more aggressive than the other species Whitelips have been known to kill dogs and even people. The males would rush at the fence that separated us from them, baring their teeth, making a loud clicking sound and releasing a pungent scent. As in the wild they can go round in herds as big as 150 individuals, they are clearly not to be messed with.

From here we overnighted in a town originally established by Mennonites of central European descent before returning to Asunción. The second part of the trip to areas east and south of Asunción will appear as soon as I have edited the photos.

Late May to late June 2015: miscellaneous bird news   Leave a comment

We have been back from our trip to the Alps for nearly five weeks now. After a very hectic schedule earlier this year I have been taking it easy and been catching up with things at home, but there has been time for some birding and ringing, something that is covered in this post.

I have already uploaded accounts of us seeing the Red-footed Falcon, White-winged Tern and Greater Yellowlegs in Dorset or Hampshire, here are a few photos of much commoner birds.

IMG_8430 Lodmoor

Back in late May we headed to Lodmoor near Weymouth in the hope of seeing a Purple Heron that was hanging about there. Not surprisingly we dipped, as the best time of day to see it was about 9pm as it flew to roost.

IMG_8409 Common Terns and a Dunlin

We did get to see the local breeding Common Terns and to the lower right of the photo, a summer plumaged Dunlin. The tunnels in the picture are to help protect the tern chicks from attack by aerial predators such as Kestrels. However news received today told that all the chicks on this island have been predated, possibly by a fox or perhaps gulls.

IMG_8424 Grey Heron Lodmoor

No Purple Heron but plenty of Grey ones. This bird looked particularly ragged around the neck.

IMG_8414 Grey Heron Lodmoor

With some blood at the base of the bill I wondered if the heron had been in a fight with a large eel which had wrapped its body around the heron’s neck.

IMG_8574 Mordon Bog

I have made a number of visits to Wareham Forest, especially the area around Mordon Bog. I didn’t get any photos of the local Spotted Flycatchers ….

IMG_8576 Siskin male

…. but this male Siskin preened on a branch just in front of me.

IMG_8587 Mordon Bog

A drake Teal was flushed from this area, unusual record in June – I wonder if they are breeding?


With breeding Little Grebes and possibly Tufted Duck on Decoy Pond, which is part of a National Nature Reserve, it seems regretable that this guy has chosen to take his dog for a swim.

IMG_8447 Yellowhammer Wareham Forest

Other birds seen in the Wareham Forest area included this Yellowhammer ….

IMG_8450 Stonechat Wareham Forest

…. good numbers of Stonechats ….

IMG_8588 Mistle Thrush

…. and on adjacent farmland, this Mistle Thrush.

IMG_8691 Wareham Forest

In early June several birders had distant views of what looked to be a Short-toed Eagle. I was in America last year when a Short-toed Eagle was found and extensively twitched in Wareham Forst, then later in the New Forest. Had it returned for a second summer and was I to get a second chance?

IMG_8692 Charborough Park

Well, I did see a large raptor along side a Buzzard briefly appear over the tree line in the photo, which is in the privately owned Charborough Park about three miles away to the north-east, but again there was nothing conclusive.

IMG_8687 Common Buzzard

After some nine hours of scanning from various vantage points over four days the only raptors conclusively identified were Common Buzzards (above), Kestrels, Hobbies and a single Red Kite.

IMG_8745 Martin Down

We recently spent one morning on Martin Down, just over the border in Hampshire.

IMG_8744 orchid

This wonderful reserve is famed for its chalk downland flora (such as this Fragrant Orchid) and butterflies but along with so many other places much of its bird life has declined in recent years. Nightingales, Willow Warblers, Grey and Red-legged Partridges and even Stone Curlew used to be common or at least regular ….

IMG_8761 Turtle Dove

…. but at least there are still several pairs of Turtle Doves.

IMG_8728 Turtle Dove

This species has undergone a precipitous decline, the result of agricultural intensification here in the UK and on their wintering grounds in Africa and wholesale slaughter on spring and autumn migration in some areas around the Mediterranean.

IMG_8130 Red Kite

Though in many ways its ‘all swings and roundabouts’. Although some of the farmland birds have declined, others such as the beautiful Red Kite are increasing in numbers and I have recently seen two in North Dorset, one over Corfe Mullen and one near Wareham Forest. Don’t pay any attention to those misguided individuals who tell you that the increase in raptors numbers are the cause of songbird decline. It simply can’t be, under that scenario if their prey was declining then raptors would decline too. Also Nightingales and Turtle Doves declined in this area long before Red Kites made a welcome reappearance and Willow Warblers have merely moved their breeding range northwards as a result of climate change (something that others who can’t understand the principle of cause and effect choose to deny). Photo taken recently in Austria.

IMG_8736 corvids

Perhaps less welcome is the large increase in corvids in the Martin Down area. Rooks, Carrion Crows, Jackdaws and even Ravens were regularly encountered, often in large flocks.


Over the last few weeks I have been doing some ringing, but for the type of ringing I usually do, migrants at a coastal locality, it is definitely the quiet period. However I have ringed at several sites, usually with trainee ringers and caught a series of juvenile birds such as this Nuthatch. I have had some interesting retraps including a Chiffchaff hatched at our Fleets Lane site last year that returned there this year to breed.


Something that we have been involved in during the winter months is the ringing of wintering Chiffchaffs. We recently sent off some feathers for DNA analysis on this bird which looked like race tristis,  the so-called Siberian Chiffchaff and on another which was nowhere near as striking and indeed had lots of green tones in the upperparts. To our surprise both came back with a mitochondrial DNA sequence indicating they were tristis. The individual above had a sequence identical to those Chiffchaffs that breed in the Yenesei Basin in central Siberia. I would like to revisit this subject in a future post as I have been writing an article on it for the Dorset Bird Club newsletter, but for now I can suggest that if you find a Chiffchaff looking like the one above in the winter months then it is almost certainly a tristis. This bird was ringed by Paul Morton in January of this year and photographed by Ian Ballam in February.


Recently I have been asked if I would like to participate in an exciting project on Nightjars on one of the heathland areas in East Dorset. Researchers want ten electronic GPS tags attaching to Nightjars, which will then recaptured a few days later, the tags removed and their movements downloaded. Our ringing group, which has a lot of expertise in catching and ringing Nightjars, has been asked to help. The tags are attached to the tail feathers, so if any bird avoids recapture the tag will be shed at the next moult.


Last night we trapped a female Nightjar, which had been initially trapped on the far side of the heathland area the week before, and the tag was removed. It will be very interesting to see what it reveals. So far we have deployed nine of the ten tags and have recovered one, more will follow in subsequent weeks.

Brazil part 4 – Boa Nova, Bahia – 23rd – 25th January 2015   2 comments

Continuing the journey south through north-east Brazil, our group arrived at Boa Nova in Bahia State on the afternoon of the 23rd.

IMG_1421 Boa Nova hotel entrance

Although I have stayed in worse, the accommodation in Boa Nova was clearly the least luxurious of the trip. Entrance to our rooms was through a padlocked gate in the street. I understand that a new hotel has been opened recently so this shouldn’t put others off visiting.

IMG_1416 room at Boa Nova

Rooms were a bit dingy, there was a lot of noise from the street and I was plagued by mosquitoes in the night. There was even the legendary chewing gum on the bedstead (from 1950’s Lonnie Donegon song for those too young to remember).

IMG_1486 BB Scythebill

The birding however was outstanding. This Black-billed Scythebill, a rare relative of the woodcreepers, gave reasonable views.

IMG_1609 Pink-legged Graveteiro

Several Pink-legged Graveteiro’s, showed in the canopy. This species of furnarid was only described in 1996.

IMG_1501 Sharpbill

Sharpbills gave their falling bomb whistles from the trees. This species has been considered to be a cotinga or has been placed in a family of its own, but has now ended up in the Tityridae along with such other neotropical oddballs as the tityras, royal flycatchers, schiffornis, myobious, purpletufts (see below), xenopsaris (see below), becards and some of the mourners.

IMG_1528 Ochre-rumped AB

As usual ant-thingies were a regular feature. This is an Ochre-rumped Antbird ….

IMG_1411 Slender AB

…. a male Slender Antbird ….

IMG_1698 Slender Antbird f

…. and here the even more elusive female Slender Antbird.

IMG_1738 Buff-throated Purpletuft

One of the cutest birds of the trip was the diminutive Buff-throated Purpletuft. Now, as I said above, a member of the Tityridae.

IMG_1478 Weid's Black-tufted eared Marmoset

Mammals even got a look in. This is the rare Weid’s Black-tufted-ear Marmoset.

IMG_1546 White-naped Xenopsaris

In a drier, more open area we saw a pair of White-naped Xenopsaris. This species occurs over a wide area but is always scarce. This is the fourth South American trip I have seen this bird on, but up to now it’s just been one per trip.

IMG_1426 Steve Lowe at Boa Nova

Part of two afternoons were spent searching a rocky outcrop ….

IMG_1431 Boa Nova

… it was covered in cacti so you had to watch your step.

IMG_1540 WT Seedeater

We had great views of several seedeaters including this White-throated and the rarer Dubois’ ….

IMG_1457 Pygmy Nightjar

… but our main target was Pygmy Nightjar which we found just before dusk, perfectly camouflaged on the rock.

IMG_1581 Hummer and cacti

The flowers of the cacti attracted many hummingbirds ….

IMG_1567 Ruby-topaz Hummer

…. a female Ruby Topaz Hummingbird ….

IMG_1579Ruby-topaz Hummer

…. and the brighter male. Hummingbirds have feathers that shine iridescent from certain angles. The entire bird will never glow at the same time. As this bird turns its ruby crown will turn black but its gorget will light up a bright orange.

IMG_1576 Glittering-bellied Emerald

Similarly this Glittering-bellied Emerald will only live up to its name when viewed from a certain angle.

IMG_1594 Giant Snipe

But the bird of the day, no, the bird of the trip, was seen at a nearby marsh after dark. We had fantastic views of a Giant Snipe by torchlight. Almost half as big again as a Eurasian Woodcock, this monster of the marshes showed well for several minutes. OK the photos aren’t brilliant but it was some way away and lit just by the torch beam. Araripe Manakin and Lear’s Macaws were expected highlights of the trip, this wasn’t, hence my decision to give it the honour of  ‘bird of the trip’.