Monday, 8 July 2019

Playa de Oro then drive to Silanche (NW Ecuador) – 1st May (Day 7)

This morning was to be our last at Playa de Oro and we still had a fair bit to see. First, we were up pre-dawn and birded the forest in the dark trying for Choco Poorwill. We came to a small clearing where Gabo had previously seen the bird and played a recording- we listened but there was silence, just like our previous attempts at this bird. We played again and then a response but not in the clearing but by the lodge and so we retraced our steps and the bird was calling loudly from the clearing behind the lodge. A quick scan with the torches and some gleaming eyes, and there at last was a Choco Poorwill, rather a featureless dark Poorwill but a highly localised one.

After a quick breakfast we headed out onto the trail behind the lodge, at last it was dry and we were hopeful of seeing our last few target species for Playa de Oro. Walking the trail behind the lodge we very quickly came across one of our targets, a pair of Short-tailed Antbird which gave us prolonged views as they skulked in the undergrowth. Further along the trail we encountered Slaty-tailed Trogon and White-tailed Trogon, Spotted Antbird, Ocellated Antbird, a very confiding juvenile White-whiskered Puffbird and two Lemon-spectacled Tanager. A calling raptor was quickly identified by Gabo as a Plumbeous Hawk and after a quick blast of playback the bird appeared in the sub-canopy and showed well. This left just one bird, a bird that is perhaps easiest to see at Playa de Oro than anywhere else and one which we had trawled for almost from our first day at the reserve. Time was running short and Gabo suggested we walk another 10 minutes before we needed to turn back. A final blast on the tape and at last a response and before long we were watching our target, the rather drab Sapayoa. Dull in plumage, the Sapayoa is a taxonomic anomaly having been classified variously with Manakins and Tyrant Flycatchers of the New World, the Asity's of Madagascar and more recently Broadbills of Asia and Africa. The species is now considered to be in a monotypic family placed between the African and Asian Broadbills - a rather remarkable species. After watching this bird for ten minutes or so it was time to turn back, on the way back to the lodge we had good views of another Sapayoa, quite remarkable given that we had spent three days here without seeing one.

Slaty-tailed Trogon - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Slaty-tailed Trogon - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Red-capped Manakin - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Red-capped Manakin - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

White-whiskered Puffbird - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Spotted Antbird - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Plumbeous Hawk - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Plumbeous Hawk - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Sapayoa - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Sapayoa - Playa de Oro, Ecuador

The village of Playa de Oro, Ecuador

Back at the lodge we packed and loaded the boats before heading off at just gone 11:00 and were back to Selva Alegre at just gone 12:00. We headed to a nearby forest patch where we birded the busy road where the key bird was Choco Trogon and after getting good views we commenced our four hour drive to Silanche - it was good to leave this rather noisy stop after the tranquility of Playa de Oro.

Capuchin Monkey - Near to Selva Alegre, Ecuador

Darter species - Near to Selva Alegre, Ecuador

Palm Oil being transported to factory, one of the biggest threats to the existence of rainforests in Ecuador - Near to Selva Alegre, Ecuador

Choco Trogon  - Near to Selva Alegre, Ecuador

En-route to Silanche we stopped for a massive fish lunch on the beach at Playa las Penas  and watched Magnificent Frigatebird and Royal Tern cruise by. After lunch we birded the marshes behind the town seeing a range of new trip birds including Yellow-crowned Night-heron, Ringed Kingfisher, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Fulvous Whistling-duck, Striped Cuckoo, Purple Gallinule, Cocoi Heron, Hook-billed Kite, Pacific Parrotlet, Peruvian Meadowlark and the highlight, a stunning Pinnated Bittern. However, there was no sign of our main target, Masked Duck.

We then headed west following the Pacific coastline before heading inland on the E20 at Esmeraldas. We arrived at the Hotel Apollo in Pendro Bicente Maldonado at 19:00 and after dinner in a neighbouring restaurant we crashed at around 22:00 to a rather sleepless night awoken constantly by barking dogs - one of the blights of the modern world.

The town of Playa las Penas, Ecuador

Magnificent Frigatebird - Playa las Penas, Ecuador

Yellow-crowned Night-heron - Playa las Penas, Ecuador

Ringed Kingfisher - Playa las Penas, Ecuador

Chestnut-throated Seedeater - Playa las Penas, Ecuador

Striped Cuckoo - Playa las Penas, Ecuador

Peruvian Meadowlark - Playa las Penas, Ecuador

Pacific Hornero - Playa las Penas, Ecuador

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Titchfield Haven, Rough Bank and Chappetts Copse - 26th-29th May

A much needed free weekend after a very busy period at work saw Tobias and I venturing to Posbrook Flood and Titchfield Haven on 26th May. A Squacco Heron has been presented at Posbrook Flood since 24th May and as this was a British tick for me I was keen to try for it. Parking at the Bridge Street car park we walked south along the canal path to the main viewing area looking east to the rather obscured floods. A Treecreeper showed well as it fed its chicks in a hole in an oak at a height of only 1.5m, this entertained Tobias for a while. We eventually had rather brief views of the Squacco Heron as it fed in the reeds and grasses of the flood and a brief view as it took flight and flew to the back of the flood and into deep vegetation. Tobias was bored and wanted to go and look for Terns at Titchfield Haven and so we drove round to the coastline. It was extremely windy and the wind and kite surfers were out in force and after watching them for a while we wandered onto the reserve. From the Meon Shore hide we watched around 15 Common Tern at close range but the numbers of Black-headed Gull in the colony seemed very low. There was little else to be seen but we enjoyed a couple of Avocet and an Oystercatcher incubating its single egg. We decided it was time to head home.

Treecreeper -  Canal Path, Posford Flood

Common Tern - Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve

Oystercatcher - Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve

On 29th May I had a survey to do in the Cotswolds and after this was completed I popped to Rough Bank, a Butterfly Conservation Reserve. The weather was pretty dreadful and I only stayed a short while but it is a superb site. Highlights were Lesser Butterfly Orchid, White Helleborine, Small Blue and Adonis Blue. The butterflies were all sheltering atop of grass blades in the cold and windy conditions.


Rough Bank Butterfly Conservation Reserve

Greater Butterfly Orchid - Rough Bank, Gloucestershire

Greater Butterfly Orchid - Rough Bank, Gloucestershire

Another day, another survey and another bit of Orchid twitching. Firstly, I popped to a site on the outskirts of Guildford where at least 30 Man Orchid were at their peak of flowering, a species of Orchid that I had not seen before. Their stunning stiff flower heads topping the surrounding vegetation and making them conspicuous in the sward.

Man Orchid - Guildford

Man Orchid - Guildford

Man Orchid - Guildford

Sainfoin - Guildford

View from the downland at Guildford

I then went to the Hampshire Wildlife Trust Reserve of Chappetts Copse where adjacent to the small car park were two Bird's-nest Orchids. A short way along the main ride were half a dozen tiny Fly Orchid. The star here is Sword-leaved Helleborine, a rare and declining species in the UK which has one of its strongholds in the copse. The white flowers of the plant speckle the otherwise dark floor of the beech woodland in profuse numbers. I wandered amongst the plants for a short while before heading back to the office.

Bird's-nest Orchid - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Bird's-nest Orchid - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Fly Orchid - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Sword-leaved Helleborine - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Sword-leaved Helleborine - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Sword-leaved Helleborine - Chappetts Copse, Hampshire

Chappetts Copse

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Martin Down and Bentley Wood - 23rd May

On a beautiful sunny morning I visited Martin Down National Nature Reserve primarily to see Burnt Orchid, now in its peak flowering period. Parking in the car park off the A354, on opening the car door I immediately heard the beautiful soft purring of a Turtle Dove, the bird showed well in the scrub adjacent to the car park as it sat atop a Hawthorn and undertook frequent display flights. From the car park I headed directly to the Bockerly Dyke and walked southwards. The sound of Corn Bunting, Sky Lark and Yellowhammer filled the air and my first Cuckoo called distantly. Butterflies were abundant with good numbers of Small Blue, Common Blue and Dingy Skipper and smaller numbers of Adonis Blue, Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak. I soon reached the area for the Burnt Orchid and found around 10 nearly pristine examples. Wandering back towards the car I spent some time with the small colony of Marsh Fritillary that occur just north of the main mound of the firing range. I came across around 10 males and a freshly emerged female, these are stunning butterflies and one of my favourite British species.

Burnt Orchid - Martin Down NNR

Burnt Orchid - Martin Down NNR

Burnt Orchid - Martin Down NNR

Field Fleawort - Martin Down NNR

Crosswort - Martin Down NNR

 Grizzled Skipper - Martin Down NNR

Adonis Blue - Martin Down NNR

Green Hairstreak - Martin Down NNR

Marsh Fritillary - Martin Down NNR

Marsh Fritillary - Martin Down NNR

Turtle Dove - Martin Down NNR

Yellowhammer - Martin Down NNR

Yellowhammer - Martin Down NNR

Corn Bunting - Martin Down NNR

I then headed the short distance to Bentley Wood where I spent an hour or so in the Eastern Clearing. Here a very obliging and freshly emerged Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary was conspicuous amongst the more worn and more abundant (c.15) Pearl-bordered Fritillary. A couple of rather tatty Marsh Fritillary and a Grizzled Skipper were also present. However, the highlight was a stunning fresh Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk which showed very well, it appeared to have just emerged and spent some time perched low in the vegetation before vanishing at high speed and with a deep humming sound.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Eastern Clearing, Bentley Wood

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Eastern Clearing, Bentley Wood

Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Eastern Clearing, Bentley Wood

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk - Eastern Clearing, Bentley Wood