Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Splashes of Colour in the Cloud Forest

In my last post I featured the hummingbirds of the cloud forest in and around Bellavista but hummingbirds are only one highlight of this forest. It seems that every colour of the rainbow, and some that appear to be beyond the rainbow, appear among many of the other birds of the cloud forest.

Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers and Masked Flowerpiercers were frequent (disruptive) visitors to the hummingbird feeders at the lodge.

Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Bellavista Lodge
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/4 1/250
Masked Flowerpiercer, Bellavista Lodge
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1000, f/2.8 1/800

while Turquoise Jays hung around in the background.

Turquoise Jay, Bellavista Lodge
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1000, f/2.8 1/500

A pair of Masked Trogons was resident around the cafe

Masked Trogon (female), Bellavista Lodge
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1250, f/2.8 1/640

Masked Trogon (male), Bellavista Lodge
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/2.8 1/200

and this Crimson-mantled Woodpecker was found doing its thing behind one of the cabins.

Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Bellavista Lodge
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 1600, f/4 1/60

A few of the morning walkers (including my wife, Jo) found a toucan while on one of the many trails (I was back at the lodge with the hummingbirds) so Jo and I went out in the afternoon to see if we could find it again. We found a small flock of them (at least 10 birds) feeding high in some distant palms (this shot is heavily cropped).

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Bellavista Lodge
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 1600, f/5.6 1/320

Fortunately, one bird was much more photographically cooperative and perched in a low branch right beside the track.

Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Bellavista Lodge
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 1600, f/7.1 1/200

Having ticked off a toucan in the wild from our lifetime wish list, we couldn't resist the early morning option on day 2 of visiting an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek. This meant another early morning start (4:50am) to drive for an hour along bumpy mountain tracks (which we later realised were marked highways on the map!) to get Paz Refugia before sunrise and wait for the birds to arrive.

Track to the Cock-of-the-Rock lek, Paz Refugia
Pentax K-3, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 16mm, ISO 6400, f/2.8, 1/125

This is a privately owned property previously used for logging and cattle grazing. When the owner, Angel Paz, discovered a Cock-of-the-Rock lek on the property, he set aside a significant proportion of the land as a conservation refuge and now allows guided walks in to view the lek.

Leks are mating systems where males gather at a given location to display to females. The location of these leks becomes part of the culture of each population of birds and is used on a regular basis for years. The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is a well studied example of a bird species that features such a mating system. I remember studying them, in theory, way back in the 70s, so it was with excited anticipation that we stood waiting to see them in action. We were lucky enough to meet with Angel, who guided us into the viewing site and told us that three or four birds would arrive just after 6:00 am.

Location of the Cock-of-the-Rock lek, Paz Refugia
Pentax K-3, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 16mm, ISO 2000, f/2.8, 1/250

Just after sunrise, four birds showed up making an incredible cacophony of screeching sounds accompanied by lots of head-bobbing and waving, all of which occurred deep within the foliage in such dark conditions that photography was all but impossible so we just enjoyed the experience. The display lasted for about thirty minutes with birds coming and going but calling all the time from around the valley, after which they flew away down the valley. Angel had to leave but he advised us to stay saying that at least one bird would come back at 7:30 and, pointing, "perch on that branch"(yes, he specified the branch!). Sure enough, at 7:24, one bird came back and sat on exactly the branch Angel had indicated and posed for photographs while calling loudly on and off for about 45 minutes.

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Paz Refugia
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/125
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Paz Refugia
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8 (x2 adapter), ISO 2000, f/5.6, 1/200

Tomorrow, Cotopaxi National Park in the high Andes.

2 comments:

  1. These are all fabulous coloured birds and must have been wonderful to see and photograph. Excellent post as was the last one.

    ReplyDelete

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