Saturday (Day 4)
After a couple of days on the road to various sites, the absence of our guide meant that some more local birding in the vicinity of the lodge was in order. A lot of the day’s birding today was to be spent in the lodge grounds, broken over midday by a short ride to the Cedae Trail up the road. This meant that we spent four hours within the grounds to start with, which seemed to fly over. As yesterday, we wolfed breakfast to get to the hide as early as possible, and were again rewarded with the presence of the Blond-crested Woodpecker, which unfortunately chose a fruit feeder out of view from the hide. However, a pair of Golden-chevroned Tanagers and an Chestnut-bellied Euphonia did grace “our” table with their presence. For some reason, we then made our way down to the bridge over the stream, and were nicely surprised by the presence of a Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, calling as loudly now as it had done before first light (it could clearly be heard from my bedroom). The hummingbirds seem to be active early here, with the Sombre Hummingbirds leading the way. They remained the dominant species both in terms of numbers and aggression, again followed by Violet-capped Woodnymph. Only a single male Brazilian Ruby was seen, although it made up for its lack of congeners by being very showy. A Swallow-tailed Hummingbird also made an appearance. The variety of other birds seemed a little low, although numbers of Plain & Maroon-bellied Parakeets tried to boost numbers. Even the Great Kiskadees and Social Flycatchers were absent, although a Chestnut-capped Becard passing through more than made up for this. Even Spot-billed Toucanets were represented by just one diner at the fruit table. However, this still made for an interesting morning, which still seemed to fly by.
Our driver from the organised tours was enlisted to ferry us to this nearby trail, which also meant that the cost could be kept down (when compared to drafting in a local taxi, as if often the case when more guests are present). As we were about to climb into the van, a Black-and-White Hawk Eagle was spotted overhead – hopefully a sign of good birding ahead. The Cedae Trail is only 10 minutes drive uphill from the lodge, and we were dropped off at the entrance, which clearly stated there should be no entry. So we entered and spent just short of 2 hours descending the trail as far as we could, and then doubled back to fill in the next two hours. Most of the trail is through thick forest, with only irregular views of the sky, and our walk started off slowly bird wise, becoming increasingly better as we progressed. Walking along a mud and cobble track, we were a little surprised to be passed by an old VW, but these must have been workers from the processing plant at the end of the road. A Rufous-bellied Thrush greeted us almost as we entered the trail, and we thought that would be it for the first twenty minutes, until a White-barred Piculet and Olivaceous Woodcreeper gave us heart. Then, after crossing a stream and rounding a sharp bend, we doubled our Woodcreepers with a Plain-winged congener. A little further, and a Yellow-eared Woodpecker was seen briefly. The fun began when a pair of Red-crowned Ant Tanagers was picked out of the dense vegetation. Knowing that they are regularly to be found in company, we searched the area until we unearthed singles of Olive-green Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia, Bananaquit, and another unidentified Woodcreeper in close attendance.
Our time in the forest was almost half way spent, when we reached the terminus of the walk in the form of the works (in reality a small house), but had been forewarned of the presence of dogs, so turned around and started our ascent of the trail. Not much happened, apart from a small group of Green-headed Tanagers in the canopy, until we reached the corner with the stream running under the track again. A Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and Streak-capped Antwren signalled the start of a bird wave. As we slowly ascended the trail, a Black-capped Foliage-gleaner preceded a group of Red-necked Tanagers and another 2 White-barred Piculets. These were again in the canopy, but lying on my back made watching them so much easier! A couple of calling birds deep in the undergrowth were tantalisingly hidden, despite making us aware of their presence for some time. We reached the entrance bang on time for the return journey, but only after finding a (relatively) very confiding White-throated Spadebill at eye level near to the exit of the trail.
After lunch at the lodge, we headed back to the gardens again, where the amount and variety of birds seemed to have increased. There was even a pair of Common Marmosets on one of the fruit feeders. A pair of Masked Water Tyrants had appeared for the first time, totally unconcerned of our presence on the lawns. The nectar feeders again had Saw-billed Hummingbird which had been absent during the morning. Green-headed Tanagers were supposed to be easy to see on the feeders, but had waited until now to put in appearance – they remained in the grounds of the garden for the rest of the afternoon. The afternoon was broken by a cup of coffee watching the feeders from the veranda, where small wars seemed to be continuously at play amongst the hummers. Chief agitators were the Sombre Hummingbirds, which seemed to lap up a scrap with either their own, or preferably Saw-billed Hermit and an ill at ease Brazilian Ruby. Some time was spent watching the forest from the vantage point beside the swimming pool, and this turned up Olivaceous Woodcreeper, White-barred Piculet, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Long-billed & Southern House Wrens, and a pair of very confiding juvenile Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatchers. Great Kiskadees and Social Flycatchers had reappeared, with Blue Dacnis once again gracing the feeders. Sayaca Tanager was finally seen in the garden, with a male Blue-naped Chlorophonia in close attendance. The rounds of the garden included regular visits to the stream without luck, until the light had started to fade and we once again picked out the Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper. We watched this to-ing and fro-ing under the bridge until the light was almost gone.