Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Gracias Ecuador Part 4

03 October 2014

Las Penas - Playa de Oro

A long uneventful drive brought us to the small village of Selva Alegre located on the banks of the Rio Santiago, a major river, as wide as the Thames but much shallower and on our arrival particularly low due to a lack of recent rain. 


Selva Alegre stores - Anything you want in here even a ladies hairdresser!

Selva Alegre landing stage where we embarked for Tigrillo Lodge
Rolando left us here and would return in three days to collect us. Ahead we had an hour and half motorised canoe trip in prospect, upriver to Tigrillo Lodge, making a stop off after an hour at the village of Playa de Oro to pick up supplies. From Playa de Oro there is no road and the only way to the Lodge is by canoe up the river which takes another thirty minutes. There are quite a number of villages along the river leading up to Playa de Oro which is the last village before the forest takes control and they all at one time owned their particular area of tropical rain forest but all of them either through poverty or lack of foresight sold out to the logging companies who promptly ripped them off by paying them the pitiful sum of $20.00 for one huge tree. The villages in their naivety accepted this as they knew no better and now they have no natural resources and are even poorer. The only village to reject the advances of the logging companies was Playa de Oro which through some luck and some skillful negotiation  managed to retain its forest intact stimulated by an American lady who for five years crossed ocelots with cats at Tigrillo Lodge (Tigrillo translates into Ocelot) and then sold the hybrids at vast profit to rich Americans or anyone else who wanted to buy one. After she left, the village kept their faith in the untouched tropical rain forest of over 1000 hectares, aided by Government grants and now make a rudimentary living through getting tourists, birders, botanists etc to pay to visit and stay there. It is an all too rare, stimulating and refreshing example of sensible planning and foresight.  The villagers have also recently built tourist cabins at the edge of their village as they see that this is the way to go forward rather than sell their resources for a quick profit and then find themselves with no resources to exploit. All they need now is to be connected by road, which will happen in one year I am told but Tigrillo Lodge will hopefully remain only accessible by the river

Tigrillo Lodge is looked after by a cool African dude called Julio who is of an indeterminate age but has a physique from his hard life that would cost thousands to acquire in a gym, wears a diverse array of religious bling around his neck and huge rings on every finger and was sporting a natty pair of bright yellow wellingtons. He cannot read or write but has an air of authority you naturally respect and a sometimes severe demeanour, possibly through shyness, that is instantly banished when he smiles.

When there are no visitors to the Lodge Julio and his wife Mercedes live in Playa de Oro but they stay at the Lodge when they have visitors and Mercedes does the cooking. They are virtually self sufficient and live off the forest without killing any birds but eating pecarys and armadillos. They also have chickens for eggs and additional protein, and go fishing the river for freshwater prawns and fish and use the forest trees to make a canoe when required.  They can fashion a canoe from a felled tree in the astonishingly short time of three days.

Tigrillo Lodge was originally built by the Colombians as it was thought there were commercial amounts of gold in the river and the Lodge was originally the old mining station where the miners stayed but it soon became a doomed venture and the Colombians abandoned it long ago, although the local villagers still pan for gold in the river using boats but making only about $8.00 a day for a huge amount of effort. It is fair to say Tigrillo Lodge has seen better days but my room, although very basic did have an en suite bathroom of sorts and was perfectly adequate for my needs. 




Tigrillo Lodge
Electricity was provided by a generator that brought light at night but not in our rooms and allowed Julio, Mercedes and the couple of staff with them to watch a TV rigged up on the stairs and cook an evening meal for us. Our meals were simple, two courses for dinner with homemade soups and then something with rice and fried plantains. For breakfast it was fruit such as papaya or bananas and then scrambled eggs for me.

Back to Selva Alegre

We bundled all our gear underneath a plastic sheet to keep out the spray, sat down in the long yellow wooden canoe and Julio opened up the powerful Yamaha outboard engine and we headed off upriver. 

Julio and canoe in preparation for our trip to Tigrillo Lodge

Julio's canoe on the Rio Santiago
I  was so close to the water as I sat in the canoe, balancing my body on the low bench seat, it was an exhilarating experience, as every so often I would receive a faceful of river water which was very welcome as the water and the  rushing air cooled me in the oppressive heat of the day. The forested banks rose high on each side and the steamy heat from the grey, green, greasy waters as Rudyard Kipling would have it, and yes they really were, permeated my senses. The water seemed to be scented with the pungent decay of the forest, a not unpleasant  rich earthy smell. All the villages along the river are populated by Africans and I could easily convince myself I was back on the Dark Continent so similar were the sights and sounds

As we passed each village on our way upstream, without fail there were women doing the washing in the river and beating the clothes dry on the stones while their children swam and played in the river. 


Going up the Rio Santiago
Further on some men had slaughtered a pig and were washing it out in the river. We also came across gold prospectors sat in the shade of overhanging trees in their boats, filtering the river water to make their few dollars a day. As we progressed to where the road ran out the forest then took over and the last village, before Playa de Oro, was left behind. Everything became a bit wilder and more natural and, as we came round another bend in the river, there was Playa de Oro on the right bank - a row of colourful shanty buildings and long yellow canoes moored to the steep concrete wall reinforcing the river bank.


Playa de Oro
We turned for the bank and glided into the wall with expert timing and gentle precision, guided by Julio who has done this hundred's of times before. Dusan leapt out of the canoe and up the steep concrete retaining wall. He leant down to pull me up and at that moment turned his ankle and with a cry of pain collapsed on the ground. He lay there and it did not look good but thankfully he managed to rise but his ankle was badly sprained.This was a bit of a disaster as we were due to be walking in the rain forest for the next three days. There was nothing we could do but agree to attend to it when we got to Tigrillo Lodge and see if anything could be done. After Dusan finished greeting old friends who he had not seen for some years we got back into the canoe and were soon off upstream again.

Civilisation retreated in our wake. Now everything was natural and untainted. The rain forest towered above us  in awful splendour on the steep, hundred foot high banks, the trees almost cowing my spirit with their immensity as they rose hundreds of feet to the sky  up the almost perpendicular natural walls of earth, carved over millenia by the Rio Santiago. A Fasciated Tiger Heron fished in the shallows as we passed by and an Osprey flew upriver. Snowy Egrets, Spotted Sandpipers and Neotropical Cormorants shared the river with us. We were the only canoe on the river now, all signs of human life stopped with us.





Rio Santiago and the Tigrillo Lodge landing stage
We drew in to the naturally shelving rock landing stage and Dusan gingerly made his way up the path to the Lodge. It was only an hour now to dark so we attended to his foot with Mercedes placing special leaves with healing properties on his ankle to bring out the bruising whilst I tightly bound Dusan's ankle and foot with a supporting crepe bandage from my First Aid kit, having learnt the hard way from my footballing days that this would help Dusan to walk. Tomorrow we were due to walk the Paila Trail but now we would have to see how Dusan's foot was in the morning. Julio showed us two Crested Guans he had rescued from the forest and was rearing in a cage. Night fell and fireflies like miniature mobile lighthouses flashed  pinpricks of light as they flew in and out on the edge of the deep dark forest. I retired to bed sweating and uncomfortable in the heat. The room being wood retained the heat of the day and I lay on top of my bed trying not to move as every movement started me sweating again. The mosquito net effectively blocked any passage of air around me but it was necessary to keep the mosquitos at bay so I just had to get on with it.

I went to sleep with the frog chorus competing with the football commentary from Julio's television. Every time someone scored the commentator went into a wild shout of Gooooaaaaallll. Such a contrast to the natural sounds of the forest.

04 October 2014 

Tigrillo Lodge 

This morning Dusan could move, albeit painfully but insisted on us walking the trail. Santos came along to keep an eye on us and guide us through the forest. He cut two sturdy sticks for Dusan to aid him in walking and one for me also, as well as carrying my backpack made heavy by the amount of water I needed to bring with me. 


Santos on the Paila Trail
Tropical Rain Forest - Paila Trail
The air was foetid and still, a humid heat that sapped your energy and set you pouring sweat at the slightest exertion. We found a male Stub Tailed Antbird in the forest that responded very well to our tape and perched singing in clear view which for antbirds is unusual, trust me ! 


Stub tailed Antbird - endemic to the Choco Forest
We also came across another Barred Puffbird but this was much shyer than the one we had seen on the Bodrosa Road, hiding in the foliage and only just showing its huge reptilian head before flying off.



Barred Puffbird
Santos alerted us to the presence of a highly venomous snake, no more than a foot long, coiled slap bang in our path. I would never have seen it. We walked around it and took its picture and when we touched it with a stick it pretended to be dead. 


Twelve inches of deadly poison
We wandered slowly around the forest but had to concede defeat after this early flurry as the birds were just not around. We headed back to the Lodge for lunch and near to the Lodge Dusan heard the call and song of a very scarce bird indeed, a Lanceolated Monklet, a member of the Puffbird family but much smaller than the Barred Puffbird we had seen earlier. However, although it called constantly we could not get it to come to a tape nor find exactly where it was, so in the end gave up and continued on to the Lodge for lunch and a siesta afterwards. It was just too hot.

Siesta awaits!
Mad dogs and Englishmen according to Noel Coward go out in the midday sun, so unable to get comfortable in my room with its oven like temperature I tried to get some pictures of  White Bearded Manakins that were lekking and whip cracking away for all they were worth in some nearby bushes. I failed miserably so turned my attention to a very colourful lizard and some dragonflies hanging around some puddles by a small pineapple plot. 






Santos told us these pineapples were the white variety which I had never heard of and in his opinion were far superior to the usual sort. We had some of their juice that night with our meal and I have to agree with Santos and say it is infinitely superior in taste to the usual golden variety we have here in the UK.  I gave up with the lizards and dragonflies and tried to sleep away the heat of the day in my room. I must have dozed off despite the heat as Dusan was waking me, after what seemed only a short while, to go back into the forest. I now know why snakes get so annoyed at being roused from their torpor as I was in a similar soporific mode. However birding is birding so off we went and just as with this morning we immediately started to encounter 'good' birds.

A Griscom's Antwren went into the book even before we got into the forest proper but we wanted to try and get the Lanceolated Monklet. We returned to the area where we had heard it in the morning and on playing the tape it called back but again we just could not locate it. According to the book they usually inhabit the mid to lower storey of the forest but we looked everywhere and could not see it. It kept calling and Dusan walked off further down the trail looking for it. Out of sheer lethargy I stayed where I was. I was hot and frustrated and could not be bothered to move. I thought I detected a brief movement high above me but put it down to yet another falling leaf. Nonetheless I looked up into the top of an enormous tree and at a long branch that passed horizontally under the canopy of the tree. As I said before, you need to constantly check everything, so I wearily raised my bins and there, was not the expected leaf or butterfly but the Lanceolated Monklet, miles up a tree and nowhere near the mid or lower storey it should be frequenting. Mind you I hardly cared as this was a truly outstanding find. Tiny in comparison to a Barred Puffbird it still had the same disproportionately large head of its kind with a lot of white around the stout bill and underneath it was all white with broad streaks of black. I called Dusan and he hurried back but it was only on view for twenty seconds and had gone by the time he got to my side.

I was overjoyed at this, especially finding it myself and identifying it, having revised its image from Birds of Ecuador during my siesta.

We walked back along the  trail in the late afternoon turning off onto a little side trail and stopped. I was looking one way on the trail and Dusan the other. Suddenly Dusan hissed excitedly 'A tinamou just crossed the track. It's all black. It's a Berlepsch's!' Now to see a tinamou, they look something like a miniature guinea fowl in shape, be it Great or Little, is getting towards miracle status but a Berlepsch's Tinamou is touching the realms of fantasy. It just does not happen but it had and by sheer bad luck I had been looking the wrong way! I cannot describe the anguish that hit me at the realisation that this near but oh so far, once in a life time chance had passed me by.

I looked up the track to where Dusan said it had crossed just in case. I knew in my heart it was a lost cause. I looked and looked again wishing I could turn back time. I looked longingly at where it had crossed and detected another black shape walking out onto the edge of the trail. I invoked the gods and quietly said, although my heart was pounding, 'Dusan, Dusan there's another one. Look, look!!' 

The Berlepsch's Tinamou seemed in a quandary, as it walked over the trail to the other side and into the green gloom but then had second thoughts and dithered back over the trail only to then change its mind again and wander back across the trail for a third and final time, before disappearing forever. We even had time to remark on its black plumage, red legs and the pink on its bill, it was on view for such a comparatively long time, well, all of forty five seconds which for tinamou viewing is good believe me.

Dusan reckoned I was the first British birder to have seen one in Equador. An extravagant claim that I was not going to argue with but far more important I had seen one and only by incredible good fortune.

The light was now beginning to fade so we made our way back to the landing rocks to sit by the river and just contemplate the day and what it had brought. Fireflies blinking their lights on and off moved like low flying satellites along the forest edge and over the grass in front of the Lodge. There is something so soothing in sitting by a river such as the Santiago, the sound of the pure uncontaminated water rushing in constant swirling movement through myriad currents and waves is both fascinating and soothing. Birds were flying late to their roost in the vast trees and a late butterfly still flying in the humid heat of dusk settled for the night on a tree root. Dusan said he always hoped on evenings like this a Jaguar would come down to the river to drink but it never has. I can imagine it doing so as there are Jaguars in the forest but to see one is nigh on impossible.

I stood and walked to the river's edge and promptly slipped on the flat rocks, made ice like by water and algae, landing heavily on the small of my back. No major damage but I was badly winded and knew a sore bruise would be there in the morning. Then there was blood streaming from my right hand and I found a major cut on my palm where the rock had sliced my flesh as I tried to break my fall. I washed the cut in the river and put back the flap of skin.  My turn for the sick bay. Mercedes poured pure alcohol on the cut when we got back to the Lodge. Ouch! I cried in anguish at the pain but it would kill any possible infection. Then she put some powdered leaf on the wound and I put some band aid over it from the now well used First Aid Kit. I thanked my stars for its presence as I had packed it almost as an afterthought in England.

To celebrate my success with the Lanceolated Monklet and Berlepsch's Tinamou I treated myself to a beer that night, served up by Mercedes in an unlabelled bottle but whatever it was it tasted good.

It rained heavily all night. the rain beating out a constant tattoo on the wooden roof and thankfully cooling the night air so I slept soundly through the night.

05 October 2014

Tigrillo Lodge

Today Dusan's ankle was much less painful and I had a breakfast of Papaya followed by scrambled eggs, the golden yellow yolks from the free range hens making the eggs on the plate almost glow. Julio ferried Dusan, myself and Santos on a rain free early morning across the now swollen river where we would walk a long trail that would bring us back to Tigrillo Lodge. It would take most of the day. The long climb from the river's edge up to the plateau was arduous and treacherous, slip sliding on wet leaves and mud it was hardly fun but eventually we made it to the top and stopped, gasping for air and already drinking water as fast as possible. The forest was wringing wet from the previous night's rain, a constant patter of falling rain drops from the millions of leaves above our heads made it seem like it was still raining and it was only around lunchtime that the forest seemed to dry out. Steaming, as the heat and humidity took over, we followed the narrow trail through the rain forest





Santos and yours truly by the Mirador Trail
The walk was frankly a disappointment as there seemed to be very little birdlife active. The one highlight was finding a really rare bird in one of the few canopy flocks we encountered - a Double banded Graytail no less. Dusan, as always, heard it singing before we saw it. There then followed a needle in a haystack session as we strained our necks skyward to look at a flock of silhouettes in the canopy of an enormous tree. It was full of birds and I had no idea what I was looking for until Dusan described it to me. Apparently the bird in question was the size of a small warbler and did not look too dis-similar, being grey above and whitish below with a white supercilium and black line through its eye and two white bars on its wing. There were so many birds up there I just randomly selected whatever one came into my view with no real expectation of seeing the rare one. On about the third or fourth go I latched onto a small bird but could see no detail as there was clear sky behind it, until that is, it moved under a leaf and there it was, the graytail, clear as anything, showing a white supercilium, black line through the eye and grey upperparts. It was very small as predicted, warbler sized and very active. I followed it as best I could but Dusan only saw it briefly before one of the other birds in the flock distracted him and caused him to follow the wrong one. I hung on, more by luck than judgement and watched it for another minute before it flew to another tree and was gone. My neck muscles were by now screaming at me. As if to confirm the sighting the graytail gave a long and protracted rendition of its song before disappearing through the tree tops along with the rest of the flock. 

That was about the only real highlight of the day and we slogged on through the forest stopping at frequent intervals for water and to allow Dusan to play a tape of the call of a Rufous crowned Antpitta - to try and find this most elusive and enigmatic member of the antpitta family. There is absolutely no way of being certain where to find one, their appearances being infrequent and totally random and with no obvious pattern to their behaviour. As a consequence they are the most desired and least seen of the antpitta family

We had one possible response but it was so brief, never repeated and came to nothing despite us waiting patiently for an hour.

We stopped for lunch at the Mirador, looking out over the vast forest spread out below us. Dusan found an immature King Vulture high in the sky, stooging around and then gliding slowly out of sight, lost where the clouds met the forest. We were now at such an elevation that we encountered a flock of birds actually in the tree tops below us. This gave us a magical twenty minutes identifying the various species as they flitted, never still for more than a few seconds, at eye level or below, through the trees. A frenzy of action, very exciting and granting me one wonderful view of a beautifully grey and white barred, male Fasciated Antshrike, its red eye regarding me dispassionately before it was gone, following the rest of the vociferous flock on their endless quest for sustenance.

A Dagua Thrush sang some random, wandering notes in what passes for its song, the notes loud in the stillness of the forest but very reminiscent of the tuneless noise people sometimes whistle to themselves when nervous or doing some menial job  

As usual butterflies were everywhere and two in particular caught my eye. As Ecuadorian butterflies go they were not especially eye catching although reasonably large. One, whenever I came across it was always just a foot or so above the ground and on settling would close its wings and tilt sideways until it resembled the brown fallen leaves it rested amongst.



The other was completely without any pigmentation on the wings.They were completely transparent and brought an appealing, delicate and defined ethereal elegance to the insect as it flew amongst the leaves in the diffuse light of the forest.


We slogged on and back near the river tried to entice some Uniform Crakes to show themselves but despite responding to the tape we never persuaded them to come into the open. Then a Streak chested Antpitta started calling which was much more exciting. I have always wanted to see any antpitta and hoped we could get to grips with this elusive forest dweller. We were however running out of time and dusk was coming rapidly so we never got near to seeing it and in truth it stopped calling soon after and that signalled the end of our birding day

We returned to the river's edge where Julio collected and ferried us back to the Lodge. Everyone has a bad day on birding trips like this and today was ours. In truth it was not that bad but maybe I was just not in the right frame of mind nor was Dusan but being birders we looked forward to tomorrow with the usual eternal optimism. That night a touch of Montezuma's revenge was fended off with the indispensable Immodium. I never venture anywhere abroad without it but in the forest there is no real problem, apart from snakes, if you are caught short. Dusan and myself used to laugh about announcing we were just stepping off the trail for a Banyo uno or a Banyo dos.


6th October 2014

Tigrillo Lodge and Playa de Oro




Captive Crested Guans -they are going to be released when they are fully grown
After another reasonable night's sleep and then feeding the two Crested Guans some cooked rice in the early morning Julio took us downriver to Playa de Oro. As we went downstream a small bird perched at the very tip of a tall tree, on the bank, looked interesting and Julio slowed the canoe and circled it round so we could have a good look. It was a Fork tailed Flycatcher, a migrant and rare in western Ecuador, showing its incredibly long split tail to good effect as it hunted insects from the tree top. 

Our main reason for heading to Playa de Oro was that Dusan wanted to see if he could find some Colombian Crakes which had been found some time ago inhabiting the riparian vegetation around the village. We had no tape of their call as they have never been recorded and Dusan hoped to record them if we could find any by playing a tape of a closely similar species in the hope of getting them to respond. Despite the early hour it was already very hot and there was quite a commotion up one of the village streets when we arrived. We learned that there had been a party last night to celebrate some sort of anniversary and the party had carried on all night and was still going strong that morning.


Playa de Oro village square

All quiet on this street
But on this street the party continues!
We headed for the swamps but comprehensively failed to find the elusive Colombian Crakes although trying mightily. Butterflies and birds were in profusion along the margins of the swamps and the riverside. 




Butterflies and moths seen around Playa de Oro
North American migrants in the form of a Yellow Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo were  good to see and I amused myself by watching the different butterflies sunning themselves on the profuse vegetation. A pair of Gray breasted Martins perched conspicuously in a dead tree and were probably nesting under the eaves of one of the tourist cabins. 

Gray breasted Martin
We admired the cabins located discreetly on the outskirts of the village, very modern but sadly looking somewhat neglected from lack of use and in marked contrast to the well worn rudimentary wooden shacks that the villagers lived in. Maybe when the road comes the cabins will prove more popular and desirable. Dusan renewed some old acquaintances with villager friends he had not seen for quite some time, many of them tired and emotional but still partying hard.

We left them to their revelry and walked part of the Village Trail out of the village but nothing much was in evidence so it was back in the canoe to Tigrillo Lodge for the novelty of eating our lunch from a table rather than balanced on our laps in the depths of the rain forest. Replete, it was then siesta time and as I lay on my bed, sweat pouring from me the skies darkened and the rain came down as it always does here in a steady relentless downpour. It was welcome as it brought some relief from the heat and I put out some socks and tee shirts to allow the rain to soak out the sweat and mud from my forest adventures.The rain's steady rhythm lulled me into sleep and it seemed in no time that Dusan was shouting across to me from his room at the other side of The Lodge to wake up and get ready to go looking for a Streak chested Antpitta.

I needed no second bidding on this one as an antpitta, any antpitta is a bird you do not get to see very easily and it was a bird I really wanted to see above all others. They are forest floor dwellers and we have nothing like them in Europe. Dumpy, secretive birds, some thrush sized, others smaller, they all have a characteristically round shape with long legs, large eyes, big heads and very short tails giving them a very distinctive profile and they are heard far more often than seen. This was my first chance of an antpitta.

Julio ferried us across the river to the other side before he and Santos went fishing. He would come back for us in an hour or so. It started to rain again but we thought it would pass fairly soon and I stood in my rain poncho under a huge tree and waited for it to pass.The rain relented after about thirty minutes so we decided to have another go at enticing out the Uniform Crakes we had taped yesterday afternoon with little success. They responded immediately and were within inches of coming out on the trail we stood on but must have seen us at the last moment as eventually their responses indicated they had retreated back into the impenetrable vegetation of their swampy home.

Of the antpitta there was not a sound. Dusan played the tape. Nothing. The forest dripped rain drops and was gloomy and still. We waited and then a slow melancholy song of single notes, rising and then falling away to silence indicated there was a Streak chested Antpitta nearby. We followed a side trail that would bring us nearer to it. It sang again, now much nearer. Careful not to step on any twig or fallen branch we moved closer and stood in the deep gloom of the forest peering into the leafy depths on either side of the trail trying to find a more open patch that would give us a better sightline. The song, absolutely in harmony with the spiritual soul of the forest drifted away once more on a mournful descending cadence of liquid notes.We stood, silent and then whispering, frustrated we could not see it. I had no idea of its size or shape. I had never seen one. Would it be singing on a branch or on the forest floor?  'Where do I look Dusan?' 'It will be on a branch just a metre or so above the forest floor' he whispered.

But still we could not see it.  It was so close. 'Please - where are you?' I said to myself under my breath. Then Dusan excitedly hissed, 'There! Over there - see the shape? It's a few feet above the ground facing away from us. You can see its body!' He had just started to point it out to me when it flew. 'Damn!'  Dusan swore too but in the next moment a brown bird hurtled past us at head height and appeared to land back on the main trail through the forest, about twenty metres away from where we were standing. 'Quick follow it, its come down on the trail over there,' Dusan instructed. We silently sped towards the trail. Arriving there in seconds, our anticipation was sky rocketing but we could see nothing. We stood confounded, 'I am sure it landed here somewhere'  Dusan said, looking at me quizzically. I looked across the trail rather than up it to a slightly open area criss crossed with leafy stems and small branches. I could see nothing but then a bird flew up from the forest floor onto one of the low branches about three or four feet above the ground. It was facing me. Plump and with its streaked white breast looking for all the world like a Song Thrush. Indeed for one moment forgetting where I was and over excited I almost dismissed it as one. Then a sense of reality told me it couldn't be. I had never seen any antpitta let alone a Streak chested Antpitta but this unbelievably was an antpitta. The very Streak chested Antpitta we had been stalking. Its white underparts with black streaks down the breast and flanks faced me, not twenty feet away.  'Dusan, Dusan, I've got it. Its over there on that small branch. Look at it!!! Dusan got on to it too. The antpitta turned sideways and I could see its long pink legs, miniscule tail and its olive upperparts. Its large, lustrous black eye seemed to look straight at me. 'Oh no, its seen me and its going to fly' but no, it remained where it was and then it began singing. 

I was now watching a Streak chested Antpitta delivering its haunting notes from deep in a tropical rain forest. It does not get better than this believe me.  Its whole body seemed to fluff up and its throat and breast swelled as it delivered  the notes of its song, raising its head at an angle of forty five degrees, bill wide open and standing almost on tiptoe. Another antpitta answered from deep in the forest and then another. Dusan and myself were overjoyed to see it like this. Rare, shy, hard to see at the best of times and not often observed so clearly, we were now in ecstacies. It sang again, swelling up, its throat and breast feathers sticking out with the effort. It moved perches but still remained in view. It sang yet again and the distant males answered as before. We watched it for all of five or six minutes, it seemed a lifetime and then with a flick it was gone down onto the forest floor and lost in its ever darkening forest home.

Tomorrow we would be leaving Tigrillo Lodge for the Yalare Highway but Mercedes had a nice cold beer waiting for me on this last evening at Tigrillo Lodge.
                                                                                                                                 
Birds seen and heard over the four days
h = heard only
ch= Choco Endemic

Great Tinamou (h); Little Tinamou (h); Neotropic Cormorant; Fasciated Tiger Heron; Snowy Egret; Little Blue Heron; Black Vulture; Turkey Vulture; King Vulture; Osprey; Swallow tailed Kite; Roadside Hawk; Laughing Falcon (h); Rufous headed Chachalaca (h); Crested Guan; Gray breasted Crake (h); White throated Crake (h); Uniform Crake (h); Spotted Sandpiper; Pale vented Pigeon; Dusky Pigeon (ec); Ecuadorian Ground Dove; White tipped Dove; Pacific Parrotlet; Rose faced Parrot (ec); Bronze winged Parrot; Red lored Amazon; Mealy Amazon; Squirrel Cuckoo; Smooth billed Ani; White collared Swift; White whiskered Hermit (ec); Tooth billed Hummingbird(h); White necked Jacobin;  Green crowned Woodnymph; Rufous tailed Hummingbird; Choco Trogon (h/ec); Western White tailed Trogon (h); Black throated Trogon; Ringed Kingfisher; Green Kingfisher; Broad billed Motmot (h); Barred Puffbird; White whiskered Puffbird; Lanceolated Monklet; Stripe billed Aracari (h/ec); Choco Toucan (ec); Chestnut mandibled Toucan (h); Lita Woodpecker (h); Cinnamon Woodpecker; Black cheeked Woodpecker; Pacific Hornero; Double banded Graytail (ec); Western Woodhunter; Plain Xenops; Wedge billed Woodcreeper; Black striped Woodcreeper; Streak headed Woodcreeper; Red billed Scythebill (h); Fasciated Antshrike; Spot crowned Antvireo; Moustached Antwren; Pacific Antwren (h); Checker throated Antwren; White flanked Antwren; Dot winged Antwren; Dusky Antbird (h); Spotted Antbird; Immaculate Antbird (h); Chestnut backed Antbird (h); Stub tailed Antbird (ec); Bicolored Antbird; Ocellated Antbird (h); Streak chested Antpitta; Gray Elaenia (h); Yellow bellied Elaenia; Olive striped Flycatcher (h); Black capped Pygmy Tyrant (h); Scale crested Pygmy Tyrant; Black headed Tody Flycatcher (h); Common Tody Flycatcher; Yellow margined Flatbill (h); Ruddy tailed Flycatcher; Sulphur rumped Flycatcher; Northern tufted Flycatcher; Black Phoebe; Long tailed Tyrant; Masked Water Tyrant; Bright rumped Attila (h); Rufous Mourner; Social Flycatcher (h); Rusty margined Flycatcher; Gray capped Flycatcher (h); White ringed Flycatcher; Tropical Kingbird; Fork tailed Flycatcher; Cinnamon Becard; Masked Tityra; Black crowned Tityra; Rufous Piha; Red capped Manakin (h); Blue crowned Manakin; White bearded Manakin; Broad billed Sapayoa (h); Red eyed Vireo; Lesser Greenlet; Tawny crowned Greenlet; Ecuadorian Thrush (h); Dagua Thrush; Gray breasted Martin; Blue and White Swallow; Southern Rough winged Swallow; Bay Wren (h); Stripe throated Wren; House Wren; White breasted Wood Wren; Song Wren; Southern Nightingale Wren (h); Tawny faced Gnatwren; Tropical Gnatcatcher; Slate throated Gnatcatcher (h); Yellow Warbler; Olive crowned Yellowthroat; Buff rumped Warbler (h); Bananaquit; Red legged Honeycreeper; Scarlet breasted Dacnis (ec); Scarlet and White Tanager(h/ec); Thick billed Euphonia; Orange bellied Euphonia; Fulvous vented Euphonia; Rufous winged Tanager; Blue gray Tanager; Palm Tanager; Lemon rumped Tanager; Lemon spectacled Tanager (ec); Dusky faced Tanager (h); Tawny crested Tanager; Scarlet browed Tanager (ec); Slate colored Grosbeak; Variable Seedeater; Chestnut throated Seedeater; Scarlet rumped Cacique; House Sparrow.












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