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Day 3 (Saturday, 14th February)

The target for today was to be walking the forest to the Aripo Caves for the Oilbirds. Any significant fall of rain tends to curtail these trips, presumably due to the type of steep muddy terrain that made up part of the route, so the sound of rain lashing on the roof over our heads through the night did nothing to endear the spirits. By the time we arose just after 6am, a lot of the standing water had dried up, and the rain clouds were lifting, and we were happily informed by Gary that Mervyn would be able to take us to the caves. The superb breakfast was all but finished by 7:30, but only after another hours birding beforehand. I took a small path to the rear of the premises through the gardens to a small stream. Hiking boots were a definite advantage here, tackling the combination of slope, mud and water admirably. In addition to the now usual species, there were also a few new species down here. Bare-eyed Thrushes continued to be unapproachable, disappearing from view almost as soon as they were picked up, but a Cocoa Thrush later was more accommodating. Nearby, a rather large hummingbird turned out to be Green Hermit, and one or two of these seemed to be hanging around the buildings on return. At the stream running at the base of the gardens, a Black-throated Mango was catching the light beautifully, and seemed to be doing more dancing in the air than feeding.

Smooth-billed Ani

Copper-rumped Hummingbird

Smooth-billed Ani

Copper-rumped Hummingbird

Forest

Walking the forest


 
The walk to the Aripo Caves is not for the feint hearted. The first half an hour covered the track walked yesterday, up towards Aripo Heights, but as we turned up the steeper track towards the large house, we cut straight into the adjoining rainforest. The walk from there must have been about 2 hours, and it was obvious in some sections why rain would stop play Ė some almost vertical ascents (and descents) were on mud and slippery rocks. It is difficult enough even when dry! The path goes through some very steep, rocky cuts, and up some dry river beds (ie, streamless, but still wet and muddy). Added to this were the heat and humidity (not in themselves high, until after exertion). Birds could certainly be heard along the way, and were sporadically seen, but the most productive times were when we stopped for a rest. The first such break found 3 Bright-rumped Attilas, and a pair of Long-billed Gnatwrens nearby, chasing through the undergrowth. While trying to track down what turned out to be another Bananaquit, a Plain-brown Woodcreeper landed upside down on one of the higher branches, only to leave about 10 seconds later.

The second stop was even better. Perhaps in a little more enclosed part of the forest, we quickly saw Ochre-bellied Flycatcher and White-necked Thrush. After only a couple of minutes sitting, a female Collared Trogon appeared and landed on a branch in front of us. This was followed a couple of minutes later by a male White-bearded Manakin. We had already seen one or two female manakins, but we werenít familiar enough with them for identification. This sighting made up for that. Another Plain-brown Woodcreeper was also seen here, with Chestnut Woodpecker flying through.

Plain-brown Woodcreeper

Ochre-bellied Flycatcher

Plain-brown Woodcreeper

Ochre-bellied Flycatcher

The Oilbird caves themselves are in the depths of the jungle, at a height of over 500m. How on earth they were found in the first place is anybodyís guess, but once in the caves proper, one of the strangest birds is found. The noise given off by them is very raucous, and they are surprisingly large. We descended the slippery rocks past the mouth of the cave, to within about 10-20m of the nearest Oilbirds. When our eyes had adjusted to the lower light levels, we had some good views of flying and perching birds, with some seen through binoculars eventually in almost half light. It had been a very long and difficult walk, but worth it for the experience alone, as well as seeing the Oilbirds, and some other species that were only found in this part of the rain forest. This outing had a sense of achievement surrounding it.

Oilbirds

Golden-crowned Warbler

Oilbirds on the nest (showing egg)

Golden-crowned Warbler

The trudge back to the main track didnít seem to take nearly as long as the ascent, although we didnít emerge out of the rain forest until about 14:30. More birds were added on the return, including Blue Dacnis and close Bay-headed Tanager. Once we had had a short sit down, we turned the corner to the favoured Immortelle tree, which seemed to have less birds than the previous day. However, it did hold White-lined Tanager, Blue-chinned Sapphire, White-chested Emerald, Green & Red-legged Woodcreeper. After about 20 minutes of watching, it also threw in Southern Beardless-tyrannulet for the trip. More sensibly than yesterday, we found that lying on our backs in the road, with heads propped up on bags, made much more comfortable and practical watching.

Bay-headed Tanager

Track

Bay-headed Tanager

The lazy way to watch!

When we left the flowering Immortelle, steady progress was made to where we had seen the Ruby-topaz Hummingbird female the previous day. It reappeared in no time, which was no great surprise, since we found that it was actually tending a nest in the bush where it had been first located, right next to the track.

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird

Female Ruby-topaz Hummingbird

Ruby-topaz Hummingbird on the nest

Home

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Introduction

Day 1

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Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8

Species list

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