Report 12. Friday, September 14, 2007. Birding Day 11. Angel Paz.

Note: Sharon's notes are in {green curly brackets}. Information added to the original reports will be in [red].

Reminder: New life birds for us will be in UPPER CASE. New trip birds, but not life birds will be in Initial Caps. Birds in neither category (we've seen them on the trip already, or just talking about them) will be in lower case.

Today is the day we've been looking forward to. This morning we hope to see Andean cock-of-the-rock males in full display. We are also going to watch their antpitta feedings.

The alarm fires off at 415 am. We have breakfast at 430, then begin the 40 minute drive to Angel Paz. I finally learn that Angel Paz is a man's name. He's the owner of the cock-of-the-rock lek property, which is on his farm. And he's the first person, the way I understand it, to lure forest antpittas to come to daily feedings of worms, with a reliability high enough to charge birders to come and see these phenomena. {The story we were told is that Angel has this farm property and several years ago, birders asked to come onto the property as they could hear the "cock-of-the-rock" males displaying. The word spread and the birders encouraged Angel to improve the path and charge people to come onto the property. It wasn't clear when or how he got the idea to also attract the antpittas with worms but about 5 years ago they were coming regularly and the word spread to birders that you could see difficult birds here. Now other lodges in the area are also using worms to attract the antpittas but Angel was the first.}

By the way, "Angel" is pronounced AHN-hell, where "AHN" rhymes with "Ron", as in Ron White. And his last name rhymes with "Oz."

Jump forward to just before sunup. We are walking down the trail, about 7 of us, plus Angel. We are being very quiet. Sharon has a flashlight, and I'm following her.

We can hear the squeal of the cocks and calls of antpittas. Pretty eerie but cool. We come to a viewing structure, and go in, to watch the cock-of-the-rock displays. It's the males, battling it out, for the attention of the females.

I must say I am grossly disappointed. I was expecting an open expanse on the side of a mountain, a sort of a king-of-the-rock thing. Instead it's a very thick forest, with lots of vines, and I never get a full view of any bird doing its display. I get lots of rear views of about 70%, lots of 30% views, but I need to be David Attenborough and get myself down there in the lek. But I'm not David and I don't ask. I nevertheless get some video.

Cock-of-the-Rock male on its display lek. Rear view. Lifted from Video.

Angel finally says OK the lek display is done. It's getting quiet. I'm the last one out, but just as I'm leaving (No one is in view right now), I hear a bird fly in, so I wait to see if I can get a good shot of it. But it's not to be, and I catch up with the others, heading for the next part of the morning.

Steven hears a call, which he points out to us, and starts into the bush, hoping to drive the RUFOUS-BREASTED ANTTHRUSH towards us, but this is unsuccessful. Wilson gets a black-chinned tanager, but it flew before any of the rest of us could see it.

We come to a spot in the trail where Angel stops us. He opens his container, and puts a glob of worms onto a big leaf, then holds it up to the slanting bluff above us. We wait. He calls "Willie, Willie" one of the names he has given to the birds, and we get a fleeting glimpse of a YELLOW-BREASTED ANTPITTA, but just enough to say we saw it, see?

He is going back and forth between the antpitta and a small group of dark-backed wood-quail. The wood-quail are very cooperative, and we get great photos and video of them.

Angel, feeding the wood-quail

After watching this attractive group, Angel has us move to another viewing hut. He calls, "Maria! Maria! Venga, venga," which means come, come.

A GIANT ANTPITTA hops onto a stump, where Angel proceeds to hand-feed her some of the worms.

We continue on to the next display area, and hear, but never get a look at, a powerful woodpecker. {Here, Angel knocks on a plank of wood we noticed on the way down with a plastic container, mimicking the knocking of the woodpecker. It clearly responds and comes closer, It is also clear that Angel is trying to get this type of bird to come to be seen as it is a hard one to get usually.} Some saw it fly, but it will remain in the heard-only category for us. It's about 815 am. As we continue on, some get uniform treehunter, but not us. When you're walking single file, and someone at the front sees a bird, by the time each person ahead of us gets a look, and we get there, inevitably, sometimes, the bird will be gone. Such is life.

We finally come to the area of the antpitta which is supposedly the hardest to get to come, but the MUSTACHED ANTPITTA seems to have no fear. The worm-feeder, not Angel, calls "Susan? Susan?" But the bird is already here, so we're not sure why he's calling.

Stephen points into the air and says, of the call we're hearing, "UNIFORM ANTSHRIKE." He tries to anticipate where he's going and get us there, but we never get a look.

We go back up the trail to its beginning, where we get two new hummingbirds: EMPRESS BRILLIANT and a young male VIOLET-TAILED SYLPH. We also get purple-throated woodstar -- the hummingbird with the low rumbling motor sound. It sort of tickles my insides.

Young Violet-tailed Sylph, lifted from video

We see green violeater, and we're hoping for another couple of lifers, and we get one. A BROWN INCA is very handsome. We get quite a few more common fawn-breasted brilliants and buff-tailed coronets, then a speckled hummingbird.

We continue all the way up to the main building -- I guess it's Angel's home. What this is is a huge farm or ranch. It's perhaps several hundred acres, and I'd estimate maybe three of the acres are level ground. There are crops on most of the steep hillsides.

View from Angel Paz's Mountain Farm

It's 9 am, and breakfast is included in the price of admission to the tour we've just completed. There is a little covered eating area, and you can see forever from here.

Sharon asks Angel about a feather she found on the trail (see photo below), and he says it's from a parauque, a type of nightjar.

I make friends with a small boy here, maybe Angel's son. We are members of the missing tooth club.

After breakfast, we walk Angel's property and get GOLDEN-HEADED QUETZAL AND Yellow-faced Grassquit, then Lineated Foliage-gleaner.

Video shot through Wilson's scope, then photo lifted from video.

Plus we get the most beautiful bug. Which we can't identify, being birders and not, uh, bug people.

Bug

A small flock comes through and it includes white-winged brush-finch and Lineated Foliage Gleaner. We van up and go back to the hotel to watch the hummingbird feeders for a while.

At last a Brown Violetear shows himself. Magda points out a White-necked Jacobin, then a female PURPLE-BIBBED WHITE-TIP perches on Feeder 1B. Steve says Magda likes the empress brilliant hummingbird, and calls it the impressive brilliant. They are beautiful.

A gorgeous male purple-bibbed white-tip turns up, and he is so easy to follow as he flies, with that white spot in the tip of his tail. "Oh, Daddy!" - Fargo

Male Purple-bibbed Whitetip

We have a late lunch, agree to meet at 3 pm, then Sharon and I go down for a nap. I tell her I left my cell phone in the van. Sharon says to set my wristwatch, but it never wakes me up. It'll wake me up, Sharon says. So I set it and off to sleep we go.

At 310 there's a knock on the door and it's Steven. "Your alarm never went off," says Sharon. Well, it doesn't matter, but it did go off and it didn't wake either one of us. "Maybe that's what woke me earlier," Sharon says thoughtfully.

Now the funny thing about this is Steven said in a recent trip with British birders, a couple of the Brits were ALWAYS late, and Steven scolded them time and again.

Then one morning, his alarm didn't go off. He woke up naturally, but was about twenty minutes late. He got his stuff together, stormed onto the bus and said in a loud voice (as if he was teaching them a lesson), "Now YOU know how it feels!"

Nice recovery.

Anyway, we're off, and we drive to a well-known location that feeds hummingbirds as well as tanagers and other birds (with bananas). The place is called Mindo Loma.

Some of the feeders need refilling, and Sharon gets to put one of them up. The hummingbirds are eager, and don't wait.

A spectacular VELVET-PURPLE CORONET shows an unbelievable color, as it perches in the forest, keeping an eye on "its" feeder, so it can drive off intruders.

Golden-crowned tanagers enjoy the bananas, then the western race of white-tailed hillstar puts in its appearance. We don't get any new birds for a while, and Steven takes a separation. We are on the second floor of the structure.

He comes up after a bit and tells us he saw a fairly rare wedge-billed hummingbird, then suddenly, "There he is now!" he says. It's tiny and we all get on the little WEDGE-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD. Like flowerpiercers, these little hummers also puncture flowers at the base, rather than inserting their bills into the opening of the flower.

When we go back to our lodge, I start getting a dizziness, similar to car sickness. I get this periodically for no apparent reason (I personally think it's polio), and the usual cure for it is to go to sleep for the night. I take a nap and tell Sharon to wake me just before dinner, which is to be at 7. My dizziness is almost totally gone, and I'm delighted.

When we get to the dinner table, Pablo's wife says that Wilson will not be eating with us tonight. He's going somewhere else. Well this is a bit mysterious, but ok.

We have a delicious chicken with a mushroom sauce drizzled over it, some kind of quiche and tomatoes. But we have potato vegetable soup first. Rolls accompany the meal, and dessert is a cake roll with chocolate drizzled over it. I ask if they have strawberry ice cream and I get two thumbs up and a dish with two scoops of strawberry to match. {Oh, my God, didn't I tell you about all the food they make for us?}

We talk with the owner's wife quite a while, and she has lots of good stories. We finish up and go to our room. My cell phone rings! It's Sharon's son Matt in California, returning our call from -- when was it -- a couple of days ago now, I reckon.

Sharon talks about eight minutes, then the call fails. We'll have fun looking at the phone bill to see what this call costs us. One theory says it won't cost any more than if we were in California. That's Sharon's thinking positive theory. My theory goes in the other direction.

 

DAY 11 TOTALS

Trip Birds Seen Today (First Time on the Trip): 18
Total Trip Birds to Date: 373

Life Birds Seen Today: 13
Total Life Birds to Date: 274

Best Birds: White-throated Quail-dove, Giant Antpitta, Empress Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph, Golden-headed Quetzal, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Velvet-purple Coronet, Wedgebilled Hummingbird.

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