Thursday, April 12, 2012

Birding Laguna La Maria

It was our last day in Guaviare department (Colombia), and already spend half-morning admiring the fantastic rocky formations at Sendero Puentes Naturales.  For the rest of the morning, our guides Luis Fernando ("Lucho") Galindez and Derly Blandon suggested to visit a trail known as Sendero Laguna La Maria, starting at San José del Guaviare, which passes through several habitats, including the shores of the mighty Guaviare river, and eventually reaching a tall forest.  We (Rafael Cortes, Mauricio Rueda and me) agreed, despite it was still an eight-hours drive back to Bogotá.
The crossed the first part of the trail with the car, inspecting the sand bars of the Guaviare river, seeing both Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, many herons, Yellow-hooded Blackbirds and a target bird for Rafael, a nicely patterned Pied Lapwing.  My photo is only for record purposes because the bird was quite distant.
We began to walk, watching several new birds for our lists (including my life list of course): Slate-headed and Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatchers, Turquoise Tanagers, Yellow-bellied Dacnis, many Great-crested Flycatchers, Red-stained Woodpecker, Gray Hawk and many more.  One of the birds we saw was a species that have eluded me so far in Panama (and elsewhere): a Little Cuckoo.  We saw at least two individuals of this smaller version of the common and widespread Squirrel Cuckoo (thought not so closely related).  In the photos you can see its red eyering.
Once in the forest, the activity was low... but the forest was very impressive and we only regret about not having enough time to explore it adequately.  
Mauricio and Rafael entering the forest
Anyway, we found a mixed flock with White-flanked Antwrens, Gray-headed Tanagers, a Chestnut-winged Foliage-Gleaner and a beautiful male Pink-throated Becard... however, it was the impressive Long-billed Woodcreeper who stole the show!  An individual stayed more than 15 minutes, allowing many photos.  This species is half-way between the scythebills and the more "normal" woodcreepers.
We got a nice surprise during the return journey along the same trail.  At a bridge, we stopped to watch some mixed activity, when Lucho noticed that something was watching us... a sleepy Prehensile-tailed Porcupine was no more than three meters above our heads!  It is unusual to find one of these during a birding trip (actually, during ANY trip).
We still had a date in downtown San José del Guaviare: Lucho's wife invited us to have lunch in their house... and it was simply excellent.  After a wonderful extended weekend in Guaviare, we had to say good-bye to our new friends, with the promise that we will return... and I'm looking forward to it!  In the long way back to Bogota, I kept inspecting the fields (we were crossing the llanos after all), resulting in my last lifer of the trip: a magnificent Buff-necked Ibis standing right next to the road (compare with the Black-faced Ibis we saw in Ecuador).  What a great bird to close my huge list... and what a GREAT TRIP!!!  

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