Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finding "El Payaso"

The group of birders conformed by Rafael Cortes, Mauricio Rueda and your blogger host were already taking a well deserved rest at our cabin in Playa Guio (Guaviare department, Colombia), after an intense walk through a variety of habitats in the morning.  I decided to spent the rest of the afternoon birding close to the cabins, along with Mauricio and our guide Luis Fernando ("Lucho") Galindez.  The strategy was to take some chairs of the dinning hall and to wait in a nearby patch of forest.  This turned out to be a good choice since we spied many species of birds just standing quiet and waiting.  Again, a two Black-fronted Nunbirds appeared from nowhere, very close to our feet... I think they had a nest close... but we didn't look for it.
While seeing a flock with antwrens and woodcreepers passing by, we started to hear soft blows against a trunk... surely some kind of woodpecker.  Mauricio moved slowly, trying to find the source of the sound, while Lucho and me stayed watching the flock.  Then, Mauricio desperately tried to gain our attention, whispering our names as loud as a whisper can let you (surely he didn't want to scare whatever he was trying to show us) while taking photos.  We hurried to reach him... and there it was: a glorious Cream-colored Woodpecker above our heads!  First we saw its back... but then the bird turned its head almost 180º, showing its conspicuous red cheeks!
This bird was the main reason why Rafael wanted to visit this place... our main target, the créme de la créme... but wait a second... Rafael was not with us... he was taking a nap at the cabin, some 50 mts away!  I ran to the cabin, crossing a field while yelling his name (certainly I looked like a mad man).  Rafael hurried to dress up and ran to the site I was pointing to him... however, once there, the bird was gone (as usual).  A pair of Purple-throated Fruitcrow was a consolation prize... but you know that feeling of frustration when you see a MEGA bird and your friends do not?
We returned to the cabin, while Lucho returned to San José del Guaviare.  We were seated in the balcony of the cabin when two birds landed on the tree right in front of us... two Cream-colored Woodpeckers!!!  And this time, Rafael was with us... watching, enjoying, photographing the birds!  Both male and female were feeding with fruits... the female (without red in the head) was more confiding, letting us to approach quite close in order to take more photos.
The excitement was so that nobody cared about the Spot-breasted Woodpecker, nor about the male Scarlet-crowned Barbet that were feeding close to the woodpeckers tree.
The male Cream-colored Woodpecker was a little more shy than the female, always staying high, always in the move and in the shade... however, I managed a couple of good shots.  Those red cheeks are the reason why the locals call him "payaso", meaning clown.
I can't imagine a better way to call a day... not only we saw a spectacular bird, but also my frustration became joy because Rafael saw his dreamed bird! 

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