Saturday, 31 December 2011

It's time to remember the Highlights of 2011

My trip to Venezuela in February was certainly one never to forget. I have been to South America before, but only briefly in the much more temperate areas of Argentina, on the way to and from Antarctica. This time it was full blown tropical South America with all that that entails in diversity of species and habitats. It was a great trip, led by my eldest son Pete, and I've used a three of his photos below.

Manakin's are an extraordinary family of quixotic birds and this Crimson-hooded Manakin (Pete's photo) was one of the most stunning. The males form leks to display to their females and move with a speed that almost defies belief. But even these bright colours can be difficult to find in the forest.
Hummingbirds were well represented, and certainly the smaller ones gave my eyes some problems in following their erratic flights. The large Crimson Topaz coming to feed in the garden of one of the Lodges we staying in was somewhat easier, and a stunning bird to see.

For many of the group, the bird at the top of their want list was the fabulous Harpy Eagle, and very impressive it was too. This nineteen month old immature was near it's nest in the Sierra de Imataca. A fabulous encounter, but as it was a stake out it didn't give the adrenaline rush to me that the next two species did.

Birds that run round the forest floor calling are always going to be exciting, and when it is the fabulous Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo (Pete's photo), a member of a select South American genus of four. At nearly two feet long this was one of the magic moments of the trip.

Another bird that enchanted us as it spent much of the time on the ground singing, was this Ferruginous-backed Antbird (Pete's photo). It was a bird full of character and attitude and one of my trip favourites.

At the moment I'm reliving the trip, in preparation for a talk I'm giving at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory on Jan 26th. It's always a great place to go, a good and knowledgeable audience, full of enthusiasm.

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