11 July: Last update for a while as I am leaving for a month in Brazil, and I just have time to add a Rufous Motmot from western Ecuador. I'll be spending a lot of time in that region in the next two years as I have agreed to a deal to produce a book tentatively titled Birds of Western Ecuador. A Photographic Field Guide. I'll have three coauthors: Paul Greenfield, Iain Campbell, and Pablo Cervantes. We intend to have it finished in two years, with publication about a year later. It will have around 950 species with species accounts and brand new range maps. Assuming it goes well, we'll also write one for eastern Ecuador.
7 July: Some rainforest interior species today. Many of them are very shy and extremely hard to photograph. I love getting shots of birds like this; they often aren't technically great shots, but can be rare photos, and they show the birds in their natural environment. Dusky-faced Tanager and Wing-banded Wren are my favorites for today. The other ones are Scaly-breasted Wren, Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Gray-throated Leaftosser, White-streaked Antvireo, and Yellow-throated Spadebill.
5 July: I've finished adding my hummer shots from WildSumaco with Violet-headed Hummingbird, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Napo Sabrewing, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Fork-tailed Woodnymph.
4 July: Got some shots at Rio Palenque, though it was rather disappointing overall. I hadn't been there in about ten years, and while even then it was just a small island of forest surrounded by farmland, I used to have amazing days of birding with well over 100 species including some quite scarce ones. This time, we saw far less; flocks were few and small, we saw no big toucans, no chachalacas, no Ochraceous Attilas, no White-backed Fire-eyes, no Slaty-winged Foliage-gleaners, and a lot of the birds seemed especially shy. I also saw two guys with shotguns, which was really disappointing for a supposedly protected area. Perhaps my best photos is below, a Plain-brown Woodcreeper that was feeding off moths near the accommodation early in the morning.
29 June: Just changed the featured photo this morning. I'll be off taking photos at Rio Palenque over the weekend. Looks like I've going to be doing some books on Ecuadorian birds - exciting news! I'll give more details when the deal is signed.
28 June: I added more hummer shots this morning: Gorgeted Woodstar, Wire-crested Thorntail, Booted Racket-tail, Brown Violetear, and Buff-winged Starfrontlet.
23 June: A few non-hummer shots from WildSumaco - I'll get to more hummers soon! I liked this Montane Foliage-gleaner feasting on moth bits, and the White-shouldered Tanager.
22 June: I hadn't been to WildSumaco for a couple of years, and the hummers have just gotten insane there during that time. I saw 19 species at the feeders near the lodge during my stay, and got photos of most of them. Today I started working on those shots - check out the Blue-fronted Lancebill below. Other additions today include Many-spotted Hummingbird, Thrush-like Wren, Turquoise Tanager, and Common Ground-Dove.
20 June: I went up to Yanacocha yesterday where the activity was terrible. Wind, rain, then strong sunlight, all in a shor tyime, didn't help either. I did spend time getting shots of the habituated Rufous Antpitta. Even though no one was feeding it worms, it still came in and hopped around hopefully. I've also added a nice shot of Black-billed Treehunter I got at WildSumaco last week.
18 June: A few updates today including several woodpeckers, like the Lafresnaye's Piculet and below as well as Cinnamon WoodpeckerYellow-vented Woodpecker. Other good shots are White-collared Swift (my best swift flight shot yet) and Pacific Antwren.
17 June: Getting good shots of Synallaxis spinetails is a pain; this Rufous Spinetail may be my best one yet.
16 June: Just a quick upload today of a nice shot of Ornate Flycatcher.
8 June: Purplish-mantled Tanager is today's highlight, though I also added a rare shot of Star-chested Treerunner as well as Subtropical Doradito, Virginia (Ecuadorian) Rail, and Torrent Tyrannulet.
2 June: Here are a couple more photos from last weekend at Tandayapa. I was really happy with the Scaled Antpitta shots (one featured below). What a difference an f/2.8 lens made with this! It was pretty much dark when I was taking these shots, but they came out as if in broad daylight. Very cool. The fruit feeders at Tandayapa have gotten amazing, considering for years absolutely nothing was coming. Just shows that some birds are slow learners, and persistence with putting out fruit can pay of in the end. Ten species were coming in including the Golden Tanager below. I'll put more on a future post.
28 May: I was having fun with my new lens on a trip out to Tandayapa this weekend. It was also a long weekend in Ecuador, but not for Memorial Day - they were celebrating the Battle of Pichincha, a key victory in the war for independence against Spain in 1822. Below are the very two first birds I photographed with the lens, and it's hard to complain about the results. I bit later on I also nailed nice shots of Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, White-tailed Tyrannulet, and Black-crested Warbler. Others coming soon.
22 May: Finally finished working on all my shots from Peru and Argentina, with a few of my favorites showcased below.
20 May: I still have some photos from my trips to Peru and Argentina from several months ago, and today I started working on them. Hopefully everything will be up soon. Some of the best photography on my Peru trip was on short boat trip off the coast of Pucusana, a fishing village an hour south of Lima. While I have done this trip a few times between June and September, this time in March it was far, far better. There were a lot more birds, and the cliffs were absolutely covered with Peruvian Boobies and Inca Terns, with lesser numbers of Blackish Oystercatchers, Red-legged Cormorant, Guanay Cormorant, and more.
25 April: Many new updates the last few days, mainly from Peru and Argentina. There are some great new finch shots as well as some cormorants and gulls from a surprisingly good boat trip off the coast of Pucusana in Peru. I've highlighted some of my favorites below.
22 April: Plenty more today, highlighted by this Three-banded Warbler, one of my favorite shots so far this year.
15 April: Road trip! April is a slow month for me, so I took some time off and drove off into some remote corners of Ecuador, accompanied by my friend and fellow TB guide Andrew Spencer. I clocked about 3000 km and my poor car came back so covered with mud you could hardly tell the original color! First stop was some foothill forest near Lumbaquí, though we mostly got washed out there and missed a lot of the birds we were looking for. Did find Fiery-throated Fruiteater but it did not cooperate for photos. We drove south along the foothills of the eastern Andes, eventually reaching the small town of Paquisha on the edge of the Cordillera del Condor, a wonderfully remote and still largely pristine mountain range on the border with Peru. We birded various trails and roads based from Paquisha, and the first of several landslides added 10 km to one of our hikes. I finally founded a couple of long overdue lifers, Spectacled Prickletail and Roraiman Flycatcher, though only got a very poor photos of the prickletail. Photography on the narrow, dark, and muddy trails was a challenge with my current lens (an upgrade may be in my near future!), and this Brown-billed Scythebill may be the best I got there.
Leaving Zumba behind, we headed up into the remote and spectacular Cordillera de Lagunillas. The lower slopes are mostly deforested, though we lucked into a beautiful pair of Chestnut-crested Cotingas, with the best views I've ever had of this scarce species, and the first photos.
As we continued upslope, the forest got better, but we were disappointed to find that the road was blocked by multiple landslides. We hiked 30 km in two days so that we could bird the beautiful forest and the edge of the páramo and were lucky to have great weather, but we never did make it to the highest elevations, and were forced to retrace our route back through Zumba instead of being able to go down the west slope and leave on a different road. It was still worth going and I will try to go back someday. There were some nice photo ops in the mountains, like the Black-headed Hemispingus below, as well as others like Mouse-colored Thistletail, Orange-banded Flycatcher, Rufous Wren, and others I have not yet uploaded. A highlight of the trip was seeing a territorial display between two pairs of Torrent Ducks. I had been lucky enough to see this display once in Argentina, and this time I decided to concentrate on videoing it instead of photographing it, getting some fantastic HD footage. I uploaded it to Youtube, but had to lower the quality as the video file was several GB in size.
I also uploaded a few more photos from Argentina just before leaving, including an entire gallery devoted to Magellanic Penguin.
31 March: The waterfowl gallery got a total overhaul today, with many new photos added and some reprocessed. I've also split the gallery into two parts since the single gallery was quite slow to load. The first gallery goes from whistling-ducks to Spectacled Duck, and the second gallery starts with dabbling ducks and goes through to ruddy-ducks.
23 March: I've still got a big backlog of photos from an Argentina trip late last year, and today I created a special photo gallery for a single species, the Burrowing Parakeet, a beautiful fascinating parrot of southern South America. There were six photos that I wanted to use, but did not want to add them all to the main parrot gallery which was already getting quite large. I may start doing more of that in the future when I have multiple photos worth sharing. I also added a couple of photos of the distinctive form of Collared Inca known as "Gould's Inca", from southern Peru. SACC did not accept the split (Proposal 140) because of insufficient published evidence.
19 March: Back from a three week Peru tour that visited a selection of sites in both northern and southern Peru including the deciduous forests and deserts of the Northwest, Abra Patricia, the upper parts of Manú NP, Machu Picchu, and the high mountains nearby. It was a fairly relaxed pace trip, and also the first time I had been to Peru in the rainy season. The deserts of the Northwest were a beautiful emerald green color like I had never seen before. We got a serious amount of rain at Abra Patricia that cost us quote a bit of field time, but we managed to dodge most of the rain in Manú, and Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga were absolutely gorgeous. My first two new photos come from Abra Malaga: two very scarce tit-tyrants. Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant is a very local Peruvian endemic found in high elevation bamboo patches, and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant is an endangered species restricted to Polylepis woodland in just a few sites from central Peru to western Bolivia. I have no major trips planned for a while so intend to spend more time adding and updating photos in the next few months.
25 February: One last update before heading off to Peru for three weeks. I've changed the "featured photo" to yet another hummer, a Black-backed Thornbill. It's not a terrific shot, but until recently there were no photos of a male in the wild, and it was species I had long been waiting to see. Other new shots include Blossomcrown , White-tailed Starfrontlet, Band-tailed Guan, Sierra Nevada Brush-Finch, and a White-sided Flowerpiercer piercing a flower.
20 February: More photos from Colombia this morning, including some "record shots" of the very rare Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird. Or is it? Click the link and read about it. My favorites of today's bunch include the Blue-naped Chlorophonia below and a couple of other hummers, Buffy Hummingbird and Pale-bellied Hermit. The other new additions are: White-browed Spinetail, Olivaceous Flatbill, Chestnut-capped Piha, and Sooty Ant-Tanager.
15 January: Just a small update today, with the Rusty Flowerpiercer below, four photos of Brown Skua, and single photos of Santa Marta races of Cinnamon Flycatcher and Gray-breasted Wood-Wren.
11 January: Today's update includes a bunch of hummers from northern Colombia, including this White-vented Plumeleteer. I know of three places in the Santa Marta mountains now that have hummer feeders, and combined they bring in over fifteen species. It makes seeing and especially photographing them now compared to a few years ago! Other uploads today include Brown Violetear, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Lazuline Sabrewing, Red-billed Emerald, Shining-green Hummingbird, and Santa Marta Woodstar.
7 January: I've been adding various shots from Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, as well as a nice shot of a Common Miner from Argentina. That's probably the best of the bunch, though other decent ones include Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Black-fronted Wood-Quail, Laughing Falcon, Russet-throated Puffbird, and White-bellied Antbird.
3 January: Here's an update for all you owl-lovers out there. Hey, who doesn't love owls? All these photos come from my North Peru trip in October, probably my best trip ever for owls. My favorite shot is probably this Yungas Pygmy-Owl featured here, from near the northern limit of its range at Abra Barra Negro. I've also got a poor photo of the near-mythical Long-whiskered Owlet. Other new additions are Cinnamon Screech-Owl, Peruvian Screech-Owl, Koepcke's Screech-Owl, and Burrowing Owl.
2 January: A huge update today, this time focusing on hummers! Apart from this Emerald-bellied Puffleg, there are nice shots of Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Green Violetear, Shining Sunbeam, Speckled Hummingbird, and Long-tailed Sylph, among others. I've also added other odds and ends from northern Peru like Gray-and-white Tyrannulet, also featured below, and Long-tailed Mockingbird, White-tailed Jay, and Johnson's Tody-Flycatcher.
1 January: Happy new year! I've added a dozen or so new shots today, including the Tumbes Hummingbird that is now the new "featured photo" as well as the Black-hooded Antwren below.
31 December: As another year comes to a close, I finally have some time to add some more photos. I spent Xmas with my brother Steve, sister-in-law Karin, and incredibly cute nephew Caleb, and really didn't do much of anything other than relax, have some fun, and wind down after a very busy six months. My Xmas present to myself was a brand-new blazingly fast PC that will help me work through the daunting backlog of photos. I'm starting with a set mostly from Southeast Brazil - my favorites are the pair of Spot-billed Toucanets and the male Festive Coquette below.
18 December: I spent the past month in Argentina, first doing a short "recce" to Chubut province in northern Patagonia, then leading a three week photo tour. Luck was not with me for the recce as the ash from the erupting Puyehue volcano in Chile cancelled all flights to and from Trelew exactly during the time I was there. I had no choice but to take the bus - an 18 hour trip each way! Luckily buses in Argentina are superb, almost like traveling in first class on an airliner, and I still had just enough time to check out the key sites, so it all worked out in the end. Bird photography in Patagonia can be challenging due to the low diversity and the frequent strong winds, but there were some good opportunities, and the mammal watching was superb. The tour was a private tour for Jean and Denise Leveille from Montreal. Jean writes a weekly newspaper article on birds in the Journal de Móntreal, and his primary goal was to get material that he could use in his article. We did a "typical" circuit in the NW part of the country in the provinces of Salta, Jujuy, and Tucumán, then headed to Trelew to spend the last few days in Patagonia. Fortunately by then the ash was no longer affecting the flights. Below are a couple of shots from the trip (the first of many), Elegant Crested-Tinamou and Red-backed Sierra-Finch. I also uploaded photos of Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, and a pair of Orange-chinned Parakeet from my previous trip in Colombia. A lot more to come as I work through the backlog.
18 November: A small update of finches before I head off into the field again. I'm off to Argentina to guide a photo tour to the northwestern Andes and the Valdés Peninsula, should be a great opportunity to get some nice new photos. The best photo of todays set is the Plain-tailed Warbling-Finch below; others include Collared Warbling-Finch, Gray-winged Inca-Finch, Buff-bridled Inca-Finch, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Tocuyo Sparrow, Double-collared Seedeater, and Parrot-billed Seedeater.
15 November: Back in Quito for a few days after a short Northern Colombia trip. I'm not sure how much time I will have to upload photos, but I've at least added a couple of the better ones here, Paramo Seedeater and Streak-capped Spinetail.
2 November: Quite a big update today, focusing on the Furnariids (Ovenbirds). I've added eleven new species including a rare photo of a Russet-mantled Softtail; I also completed the thornbird genus Phacellodomus - check the full list here. In addition, I reprocessed quite a few of the photos in the furnariid galleries, and added a few more tanager shots.
31 October: I've updated one of the tanager galleries with some new shots and a few replacements of older shots.
30 October: I add another shot today from northern Peru, of the Undulated Antpitta that is coming in to a worm feeder at the lodge at Abra Patricia. The bird comes in only right at dawn when there is almost no light. I photographed this on a tripod and only had a speed of 1/8 of a second at 3200 ISO.
28 October: It's my busiest time of the year, with almost non-stop trips in South America. I'm just finished a great trip to northern Peru, and before that another tour in Southeast Brazil. I've got a huge backlog of photos that I will slowly start working on. I really enjoyed northern Peru. I hadn't been there for several years, and many sites I had not visited since 2005. It's come a long way since then with a much improved infrastructure, though sadly there has also been a significant loss in accessible birding habitat in a few areas. We still managed to get almost all of our targets, though it is getting harder. Hopefully there will be more conservation projects like the very successful ones at Chaparrí and Abra Patricia. I've changed the headline photo to a Royal Sunangel, one of the most handsome hummers in the area, and also added the Sulphur-throated Finch shown below. It is an odd, monotypic finch found in very arid areas of NW Peru and SW Ecuador.
16 September: I'm about to leave for another tour in Brazil, but I couldn't resist adding this Jaguar photo to the blog at the last minute. As obsessed as I am about birds, seeing a wild Jaguar like this in the Pantanal was better than any bird I have ever seen. Truly awesome! This last set also features nice photos Rufous-sided Pygmy-Tyrant, the caatinga race of Spot-backed Puffbird, and a dozen more.
13 September: Today's update features blue macaws, parakeets, hawks, and various other miscellaneous species.
11 September: Gilt-edged Tanager is one of those classic Neotropical tanagers with such gaudy colors that it almost seems to glow in the dark. It's endemic to Brazil, where it can be found in montane Atlantic Rainforest in the Southeast, but it also occurs in drier, scrubbier forest in the interior, such as where this photo was taken. Other new photos today are a rare Banded Cotinga, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Stripe-breasted Starthroat, Long-tailed Woodnymph, Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, an active nest of a Blue-gray Tanager, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Turquoise (White-bellied) Tanager, Slender-footed Tyrannulet, and Nacunda Nighthawk.
8 September: The Sincora Antwren was one of my favorites of my trip to northeastern Brazil, party because it is a newly described species, but also because I spend ages looking for it on my previous trip in 2007 without success. One shot of the male is shown here, and two more can be found in the gallery page. Other new photos for today are Black-bellied Antwren, Stripe-backed Antbird, Red-shouldered Spinetail, Alagoas Tyrannulet, and White-naped Jay.
5 September: No new species today, but I've replaced some older photos with some much better ones, especially the Rufous-winged Antshrike that is now the "featured photo" and the Silvery-cheeked Antshrike below. Neither of these antshrikes are particularly shy, frequently sitting in the open to the gratification of photographers! I've also added new subspecies from NE Brazil of Barred Antshrike and Long-billed Wren and uploaded a mediocre shot of São Francisco Sparrow, which is marginally better than the one I had.
1 September: I've finished uploading my photos from Iguazú falls this morning. My favorite of this set is the female Yellow-fronted Woodpecker below. Other additions include Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Magpie Tanager, Saffron Finch, Green-winged Saltator, Band-tailed Manakin, and Variable Oriole.
30 August: Eight weeks away, including six weeks straight of leading three tours in Brazil. Quite a marathon stretch even by my standards. It's nice to have a break, if only for a few days! All but one day of that was in Brazil, when I raced across the border into Argentina for a day at Iguazú falls. I don't have huge numbers of photos this time; a lot of that was due to the difficulty of getting photos while leading tours. Still, I got some very nice ones. My favorite photo wasn't even a bird, but I might upload it anyway because it was so breathtaking. That's for later... I'll start with my photos from Iguaçu Falls (Brazil) and Iguazú Falls (Argentina). I timed my trip to the Falls with a frigid cold front that brought early morning temperatures down to near the freezing mark, and the birding (and me...) certainly suffered for it, but I did see a few nice things. I had two lifers, Creamy-bellied Gnatcatcher (no photos unfortunately) and this rather scruffy juvenile male Glaucous-blue Grosbeak. Other photos I'm uploading today include Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Southern Lapwing, Ochre-collared Piculet, Plain-brown (Plain-winged) Woodcreeper, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, and White-bearded Manakin.
25 June: I've got a large update today, finishing all of my Mitú photos. I've also written a detailed trip report of our Mitú trip, that should be useful to anyone planning a visit there, which I highly recommend as long as you understand what it involves. Photography in Mitú, like everywhere else in the Amazon, is very challenging, and my favorite shots of this last batch are of some quite common species; see below. Other species for today include Azure-naped Jay, Red-throated Caracara, Ringed Antpipit, Drab Water Tyrant, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Yellow-crowned Manakin, Spot-backed Antbird, Imeri Warbling-Antbird, Amazonian Antshrike, Dark-billed Cuckoo, White-banded Swallow, and Bar-bellied Woodcreeper.
Silver-beaked Tanager from Mitú, Colombia
Yellow-bellied Tanager from Mitú, Colombia
Swallow-winged Puffbird from Mitú, Colombia
22 June: A few more photos from Mitú today, including the neat shot below of a Lettered Aracari drinking out of a hollow in a tree. Others new for today include Striped Woodcreeper, Tawny-tufted Toucanet, and Yellow-tufted Woodpecker.
20 June: One reason why Mitú is such an intesting place to bird is that there is a lot of white-sand forest nearby. A few species specialize in this very localized habitat, such as the Black Manakin and Gray-bellied Anbird that I uploaded two days ago. Another neat bird that likes this habitat is the monotypic White-naped Seedeater featured below; while it is currently classified in the monotypic finch genus Dolospingus, it is quite similar in many ways to some members of the tanager genus Conothraupis, especially the rare Cone-billed Tanager. It wouldn't surprise me if further research showed that the two genera should be merged. I've also uploaded shots of a pair of Cherrie's Antwren, a species that likes the white-sand forests but does not seem to be restricted to them, as well as a poor shot of the rare Black Bushbird, and a record shot of a Black-tailed Flycatcher that appears to represent a significant range extension.
18 June: I spent a week around Mitú in eastern Colombia with Andrew Spencer and Ian Davies. Amazing trip! We saw virtually all of our targets including rarities like Gray-bellied and Chestnut-crested Antbirds, Orinoco Piculet, Tawny-tufted Toucanet, and Bar-bellied Woodcreeper. It was somewhat of a challenge logistically, but ended up being easier than I thought, and I am working on writing a detailed report about the trip which should be useful to independent birders planning a visit. I'll be uploading photos from this trip over the next two weeks; apart from the ones below, today I have added Black Manakin , Black-headed Antbird, and Spot-winged Antshrike.
5 June: The Passerines gallery for my Colorado trip is now ready. There's some nice stuff in there like lots of rosy-finches, American Dipper, and Chestnut-collared Longspur, but my favorite shot is the Canyon Wren here; but then I have a thing for wrens. There will be no more non-neotropical distractions for me for quite a while; I will be "stranded" in the Neotropics for the next nine months with many trips planned, the first one starting next week to a remote part of the Colombian Amazon.
28 May: I've finished the first of two photo galleries from my Colorado trip, which I have added into the page of non-neotropical galleries. It includes photos of displaying grouse and prairie-chickens as well as links to short video clips. Check it out! One of my favorite shots is the lekking Greater Sage-Grouse below.
5 May: I spent about five days in Colorado doing a whirlwhing trip around the state with Andrew Spencer and Sam Woods. All I can say is Holy Crap! The lekking displays of the grouse and prairie-chickens are as amazing as anything I have ever seen in my birding career. While the birds may not be as colorful, their displays might even be better than those of the birds-of-paradise I saw in New Guinea, and I never thought I would say that. I've got chips full of photos to go through before uploading anything from the leks, but here's one I have ready now, a White-tailed Ptarmigan at Loveland Pass, crossed buy one of the highest paved roads in the US... still snowing in early May and there were skiers everywhere. This bird was fearless, allowing us to approach within a foot or two without so so much as blinking.
28 April: My last update for a while, since I'm off to the States for some birding and to see my family. I'll be at the Biggest Week in American Birding for the last weekend, where I'll give a presentation on birding in Brazil. I've updated the featured photo with the Plushcap I got a few weeks ago, and also added two more very nice shots from Papallacta, including the Rainbow-bearded Thornbill below. This Cinereous Conebill may actually be a better photo, but it just lacks that "wow" factor, so I didn't put it on the front page.
17 April: I've got a few new species today, but nothing that can match some of the shots from last weekend; the best one is this Stripe-headed Brush-Finch. I have also finished "renovating" most of the photos in the Puffbirds gallery with larger shots and better image processing. It's one of my best covered families on antpitta.com with 80% of all species represented.
14 April: A few more shots from Papallacta: Black-backed Bush Tanager and Agile Tit-Tyrant. I've also added one more, but I'm keeping it secret for now, since it will be the next "featured photo". It's in the galleries somewhere, so you might stumble upon it.
13 April: A few more from Papallacta today: this Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant as well as Sedge Wren and Blue-backed Conebill.
12 April: Another nice photo from my morning at Papallacta on Sunday, a Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager that was following a thrilling mixed species flock in the elfin forest. I've also added a shot of Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant. More soon!
11 April: It was still raining Sunday morning, but I went for it anyway; amazingly the weather cleared up as I drive up the steep road to Papallacta, and it was a truly fantastic morning. I nearly filled a chip in just a few hours and nailed some shots of some species I had been trying to get for years. I'll work on processing them this week, but her's the first one, a singing Glossy Flowerpiercer.
9 April: I was planning on getting out of the city and spending the day photographing up in the high Andes, but I awoke to heavy rain and fog so called it off. Maybe tomorrow? Today I'm featuring a Scarlet-headed Blackbird, one of my favorite icterids, but I've also uploaded some odds and ends like Flavescent Flycatcher, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Mottle-backed Elaenia, White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, and Epaulet (Moriche) Oriole. I'm pretty much totally caught up on all my recent photos, but I've started to upgrade some of the photo galleries with larger shots and better image processing, starting with the heron gallery.
7 April: I've finished uploading by Costa Rica photos. There's nothing spectacular in this final set, though there are some shots of a number of "Chiriquí endemics", species restricted to the high mountains of Costa Rica and western Panama. I've featured the Fiery-throated Hummingbird below, but other shots include Flame-throated Warbler, Black-cheeked Warbler, Collared Redstart, and Black-billed Nightingale-Thrush.
5 April: No new photos today, but I have updated the taxonomy to reflect the latest SACC and NACC changes, fixed a lot of inconsistencies, corrected a few mistakes, and finally fixed a few browser display glitches that had been bothering me for years.
2 April: antpitta.com is nearly four years old now, and I look back at some of the first photos I put on and think, jeez, I can do a lot better than that now. The technology has improved so much in that short amount of time, plus I am a better photographer, and know a lot more about image processing. With faster internet I can also get away with posting larger images. In the last few days I've been replacing various older photos with some better ones, like this Volcano Junco, but I have a long way to go. I'd like to reprocess hundreds of images too. I've also added some brand-new species in this latest batch, including Hepatic Tanager, Black-crested Coquette, and Stripe-headed Sparrow.
28 March: Just a small update today, featuring the uncommon Nicaraguan Seed-Finch pictured below. I saw this at a "traditional" site near Tigre in Costa Rica, though the land that it occurs on is now part of a pineapple farm and closed to the public. While trying to get it in, I ran into one of the property's administrators, who gave me permission to go in that time, but told me future visits would require advance permission, which would not be easy to get. If you want to try, the contact person is Michael (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), though it may prove to be easier to just find another site for this bird. Other new uploads today include a decent White-fronted Parrot, a pair of Great Green Macaws, a Double-striped Thick-knee (my best shot so far of a member of that family), Great Curassow, and Brown Pelican.
24 March: I've got a great set today headlined by this Golden-hooded Tanager. A juvenile Bare-necked Umbrellabird that was hanging out at La Selva is one of the rarer photos I've gotten recently. I like this shot of Paltry Tyrannulet - not a very colorful bird, but no bird deserves the name it was given! Other new additions today include Passerini's Tanager, Band-tailed Barbthroat, White-collared Manakin, Palm Tanager, Great Tinamou, Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, and Buff-throated and Black-headed Saltators.
21 March: Happy spring to all of you from northern climates! I'm now ploughing though photos from my Costa Rica trip in January and February, where many of my best photos seemed to come from the La Selva Science Station. It might be my favorite birding site in Costa Rica. The clearing around the main HQ can be just swarming with birds, even in the middle of the day, allowing for some great photo ops. Cinnamon Becard was a new one for me and a great portrait of a common but hard to photograph species. I also really liked the Band-backed Wren below, an improvement on a previous shot. Other addtions include American Pygmy-Kingfisher and Gray-capped Flycatcher. More coming soon!
17 March: I have now uploaded the gallery for my Philippines trip, with nearly 50 photos. Apart from the pheasant below, some of the better ones are White-browed Crake, Philippine Frogmouth, Silvery Kingfisher, Azure-breasted Pitta, Mountain Warbler, Chestnut-faced Babbler, and Mountain White-eye. I'll start working on adding Costa Rica photos soon.
14 March: Last week I returned from a two and a half week stint in the Philippines with fellow Tropical Birder Keith Barnes. It was basically a "recce" (scouting trip) for future tours, and the trip went well. I had heard horror stories about the habitat destruction in the Philippines and was expecting the worse, though it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, and some sites and quite significant stands of forest remaining. I was not prepared for how difficult the photography would be! The birds are scarce, shy, and not very approachable. My 400mm lens was usually not enough and often I felt myself longing for my old digiscoping setup, which I didn't bring because it's not working very well any more. I got a few good shots and a good number of mediocre ones, which I will be uploading as a single gallery later this week. Below is one of my favorite shots, and one of the most beautiful birds in the Philippines, the Palawan Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron napoleonis. It's endemic to the island of Palawan and generally a very scarce birds. Over the last several years, one wild male has become habituated and visits the ranger station at Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park every morning to eat rice. If this bird didn't come in, almost no one would ever see this gorgeous bird in the wild.
11 February: In the last few weeks I have led a short tour to northern Colombia and a longer one to Costa Rica for a group of 19 Taiwanese birders and bird photographers. Taiwan has a fairly sizable birding community, and it's not the first time I've guided a group from there - in 2005 I took a group to Brazil, and some of my colleagues have led trips for Taiwanese to Australia and Africa. They do like to travel in large groups! That can make it challenging for the birding, but what usually happens is that the photographers go off and do their own thing, and the birders go with the bird guides. I had a co-leader, Michael Retter, so we could split the group when birding on narrow trails. We made it work! So far this week, I've only had time to upload photos from the Colombia trip. I've got some great ones from Costa Rica that will have to wait until I get back from a trip to the Philippines which starts on Monday. My favorite of the Colombia set is definitely the one below, since it's the first species of wood-quail (Odontophorus) that I've ever been able to photograph.
9 January: Well, rather than do more "productive" things, like prepare for my next trips, I've spent the last few hours getting most of my remaining photos uploaded. There aren't really any killer shots there, but the best one may be this nice portrait of a Violet-capped Woodnymph. This might be my last updated for quite a while. I have a million things to do next week and then leave for consecutive trips to Colombia and Costa Rica.
8 January: Too busy lately to do much here, but this morning I took some time to upload a few more shots from last year, like this young Boat-billed Heron from the Pantanal. I've added some nice tanager shots like Blue-necked Tanager and Yellow-rumped Tanager, and a neat shot of a Thick-billed Euphonia feeding a fledgling.
1 January: And a Happy New Year! I'l finally getting back "on-topic" with neotropical bird photos, starting with this White Hawk from Southeast Ecuador, but there will be more distractions coming in a few months when I visit the Philippines in February.
25 December: Merry Christmas everyone! Here's one last Madagascar gallery featuring many of the beautiful mammals found on the islands. It's well worth a look.
23 December: Another first for antpitta.com - a gallery of reptiles and amphibians (plus one random insect) from my trip to Madagascar. Mammals coming soon!
16 December: The fourth and final Madagascar bird gallery is online, featuring some of the less colorful families like the jeries and Malagasy warblers. This Sakalava Weaver is one of the more interesting photos.
11 December: I continue my break from the Neotropics with a third Madagacsar bird gallery. This one has some of the most amazing birds in Madagascar - and that also means some of the most amazing in the world! It also has many of my best shots from the trip, including this very cool shot of two Dark Newtonias.
5 December: A second Madagacar gallery is now live, featuring cuckoos (including Madagascar's amazing couas), nightbirds, kingfishers, and more. My favorite might be the Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher below.
3 December: I've added the first Madagascar gallery. I'm working though them taxonomically, so there is still plenty to come. My favorite shots from this first batch are probably the Red-tailed Tropicbirds, a Banded Kestrel having lunch (photo below), and a Subdesert Mesite, the only one of this endemic family I managed to photograph.
30 November: A month of Madagascar was like being in another world with the fantastically unique wildlife. The birds are fantastic, but it was impossible to not get caught up in everything else from the enchanting lemurs, bizarre and beautiful chameleons, and everything else. Opportunities for photography were excellent, and I got shots of birds and other animals on this trip than on any other I've ever done, so over the next few weeks I will be taking a break from uploading neotropical species and add several new galleries (in a separate section) to display them. One of my favorites is below, a Rufous-headed Ground-Roller, a member of what was my favorite family of birds in the country. I highly recommend a visit to Madagascar, and sadly I got the feeling that this should be done sooner rather than later. While there are numerous national parks and reserves, the ousting of President Ravalomanana in 2009 has caused a regression in the conservation, which had been vastly improved during his tenure. One gets the feeling that many of these protected areas, some of which are the last bastions of critically endangered species, could be at risk of disappearing if the political climate takes a turn for the worse, which would be a global tragefy. Most governments do not recognize the new regime and cut off all foreign aid to Madagascar, so a small number of privately-funded NGO's are now the only source of funding for much of the ongoing conservation work. Best to be optimistic though! Hopefully things will improve, and the more ecotourists that visit, the more likely this will happen.
27 October: I'm leaving tomorrow for a nearly month-long trip to Madagascar - a dream destination I've been hoping to go to for years now. Hopefully antpitta.com has room for a few photos of ground-rollers and vangas, maybe even a lemur or two! Fortunately, I've had time to get most of my best photos from Brazil uploaded in the last week. It's hard to pick a favorite, but here is a nice shot of a Black-masked Finch from the grasslands of Serra da Canastra National Park. This might be one of the last shots I'll ever take with my ancient Samsung V70 digiscoping camera, which is near death and desperately needs to be replaced. It's hard to find decent new digiscoping cameras that fit onto compact digiscoping mounts, so I really don't know what I'm going to replace it with!
25 October: I've uploaded a (mostly!) great set 15 flycatchers today. My favorite is probably the Crested Black-Tyrant below, but check out these Cock-tailed Tyrant, Yellow Tyrannulet, and Southern Antpipit.
22 October: I'm back home for a week after a couple of fantastic tours to Southeast Brazil. Next stop is Madagascar, and there is no way I will have time to upload all the photos I got over the last month. I'll start with some of the amazing antshrikes that the Atlantic Forest is famous for like the Large-tailed Antshrike shown below, Tufted Antshrike (a rare shot of a female), and a much improved shot of White-bearded Antshrike, though still not great. Also, I finally managed some decent shots of some of the coolest tapaculos in the world, Spotted Bamboowren, Slaty Bristlefront - these are not just little gray things! Rounding out this first batch is a nice Chestnut-backed Tanager.
12 September: It's been a rush to get caught up, since I leave for another Brazil trip in a few days, but I've mostly managed. My favorite from this bunch might be the female White Woodpecker over to the right here. It's one of the most striking woodpeckers in all of South America and I always love seeing them. They're bigger than you expect, too, and are often in quite large flocks which makes them even more fun. The only plumage difference between the male and female is that that the male has some yellow feathers on the hindneck and sometimes the breast. Some of the other good ones are Common Tody-Flycatcher, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Grayish Mourner, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Olive Oropendola, Opal-rumped Tanager, Agami Heron, Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, Brown Nunlet, and White-fronted Nunbird. The tyrant flycatchers galleries were getting cumbersom, so I've expanded them to seven galleries and separated the tityras and becards into a new gallery for the Tityridae, following SACC. There a few other birds to be transferred into there which I haven't gotten around to doing yet. I've updated the species index to discover that the total number of species on antpitta.com, including birds out of the Neotropics, is exactly 2000. Pretty neat, a nice stopping place.
7 September: Over the last week, I've been adding more photos from my trips in Brazil and Ecuador, mostly wrens, furnariids and antbirds. Haven't had as much time as I'd like to work on antpitta.com since we'd been working like crazy to get the new Tropical Birding website launched. That's finally done and it looks really nice. In any case, my favorite photo of this bunch is probably the Moustached wren below, though there are some other nice ones like a terrific Barred Antshrike, a singing female White-shouldered Antbird, a White-plumed Antbird (not a great shot but it's a beautiful bird), and a nice male White-browed Purpletuft.
30 August: I added some more photos from Ecuador and Brazil, like this roosting Great Tinamou that we found in Yasuní National Park while we were checking a roosting location for Ochre-striped Antpitta that one of the researchers told us about. For a large photo on the tinamou, go here . Other new shots include Sunbittern, Great Potoo, Greater Rhea, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Jabiru, and Large-billed Tern.
27 August: Check out a neat photo of a bold Purple Gallinule. I've also added some mediocre shots of some scarce and/or tough to photograph species, Ochre-striped Antpitta, Ash-throated Gnateater, and Gray-breasted Crake.
26 August: A week in Yasuní National Park at the Yasuní Research Station with Andrew Spencer, Nick Leseberg, and Simon Mitchell was a vacation more than anything else. It's not often I get to bird the Amazon without guiding a tour. Weather was hot and insanely humid, but it did not rain more than about 10 drops during the whole week. Great birds there, though it was quite slow at times, perhaps due to the stifling humidity. The normally quiet research station got very crowded for a couple of days when the vice president came in and gave a speech on the Ecuadorian government's proposal to not drill the oil reserves in the national park if wealthy countries pay them not to. An interesting proposal, but it almost sounds like ransoming the Amazon. My best shot is the nesting Lanceolated Monklet that's now the featured photo. Photography in the dark Amazon rainforest is a challenge, but I managed some shots of some rarely photographed species, such as the Chestnut-winged Hookbill below. I haven't had time to add more species to the gallery yet, but hopefully will get a few hours this weekend.
13 August: I'm beginning to work through my recent photos, though it's a slow process, hampered by a horrendous cold I picked up on the airplane. I kind of randomly started with cracids and vultures. I've managed to replace some poor shots of Razor-billed and Bare-faced Curassows, though they certainly can still be improved on, and added a shot of Black Guan from Costa Rica that I overlooked a few months back. I had great luck with both of the yellow-headed vultures, getting decent shots of each both perched and in flight. The photo to the right (Greater) was a rare opportunity as the bird came down the river to drink.
10 August: Just back from a month in Brazil. I started with a soggy recce in the Northeast, then guided two great tours in a row, one was a short trip to the Southeast Atlantic Rainforest, and the other was my yearly trip to the Pantanal and southern Amazon. My recce was a bit frustrating due to rain. With the help of Steve Jones, a British expat living in Recife and also an amateur bird photographer (see hisexcellentwork on WikiAves), I had arranged a trip to RPPN Frei Caneca and the nearby Fazenda Pedra D'Anta, two of the best remaining forest reserves in the region. A couple of weeks before I arrived, the region was afflicted by terrible floods, killing hundreds and washing away large parts of some of the towns near the reserves. It was a very sombre experience to drive through a town where most of the residents had lost everything. I did make it up to the reserves, staying in a park ranger's house with steve, but it rained much of the time we were there, and not only did I not see a lot of what I hoped for, by camera lens got wet and fogged up, drying out only on the day we had to leave, when the weather was of course fantastic! However, on that morning I was treated to the sight of a soaring White-collared Kite, one of the rarest and most endangered raptors in the entire world, which definitely put a smile on my face even if I couldn't photograph it. Thanks to the rain, we did get to watch the last few matches of the World Cup, but I would much preferred to have been out birding I have to admit. Below is my best shot of one of the regional endemics, a Pinto's Spinetail. I've got many new shots to add for the month, which I'll start doing as time permits.
4 July: This will be my last update for a while, since I'm about to head for Brazil to lead a couple of tours and to do a recce in the Northeast. Not much to add other than a few photos that I hadn't uploaded yet. I had a disasterous road trip with Iain Campbell to what we thought was remote area of Southeast Ecuador. A few years ago it would have been great, but somehow Ecuador has gotten funding to widen and pave roads that go absolutely nowhere, destroying all the forest next to the road in the process. There were thousands of hectares of forest not far from the road, but absolutely no way of getting into it - at least until the inevitable logging trails go in. Then we had a day from hell - first it rained all day, then the car broke down for inexplicable reasons. It started up again an hour later, and almost immediately we had a flat. We watched the US lose to Ghana over lunch, got the tire fixed which took forever, then the car stopped again. The mechanics had no idea what it was. We decided to try to make it to Macas, and the car died for good a couple miles from the town of Logroño. We pushed it most of the way and then had someone pull us into town where there was a hostal and a dodgy bar that we immediately went to. I ended up having to get the car towed back to Quito at great expense, hassle and time. It turns out the security system had broke and was preventing the car from starting. Not something you can get fixed in the middle of nowhere. I hate security systems, but you can't insure new cars here without them. There is something to be said for beat-up second-hand cars... Anyway, we birded in trashed east-slope woodland for a few hours around Logroño, hardly managing to photograph anything except vultures - which seemed appropriate under the circumstances!
20 June: Coming off my antpitta failure of a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to finally get some decent shots of antpittas with my new 7D. I took it down to Angel Paz's bird sanctuary over the weekend and put it to the test. Things didn't start when I accidentally left my tripod at Tandayapa, and then this little kid scared away a cock-of-the-rock some of us were trying to photograph because he wanted to touch it. Well, I have to admit, the little kid was my godson, so I couldn't get too upset about that. Gabriel's dad Iain decided it wasn't a great idea to take him down after the antpittas, so they stayed up top and hand-fed Toucan Barbets while the rest of us went down. José lent me his tripod, and I got some shots of "Maria" and "Willy" coming into the worms. I was shooting at 1600 ISO and 1/20th of a second (flash is not allowed), and was pretty happy with the results. It's always a great day when I add new shots of antpittas, so I decided to take the opportunity to embed sounds recordings that I've uploaded to xeno-canto into the gallery page. I've got recordings of everything there except for the newly-described Fenwick's Antpitta, and it adds a nice new dimension to the page. I got a few other shots from the banana feeders at Paz de las Aves, including Blue-winged and Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, and Sickle-winged Guan.
8 June: A few nice new hummer shots today from Mirador Rio Blanco. Again the 7D impresses, as I got some super sharp and nicely lit shots handholding the 400m lens at 800 ISO. Check out the Green-crowned Brilliant and Green Thorntails. Also, I have updated the photo index, this time adding in quality ratings for each species.
7 June: Once again I failed to find Rufous-crowned Antpitta, this time at the Mangaloma reserve. It's becoming a habit. I did get to try out the Canon 7D in the dark rainforest understory. Working without flash and at high ISO levels, I was able to get some surprisingly good shots under the circumstances. This juvenile Barred Forest-Falcon was shot at 3200 ISO with a 1/50th of a second exposure. Noise is certainly obvious in the shot, but it looks decent if not blown up too much. A had a rare opportunity to shoot two Golden-crowned Spadebills in the same frame. This was at 1600 ISO and also 1/50th of a second. Noise is even less of an issue, but the shot was not 100% sharp, probably due to camera shake at the slow speed. Still, it sharpens up reasonably nicely and I was pretty happy to get something like that under the difficult circumstances. There were a few more shots - see the list below.
30 May: The Biggest Week was a big hit, drawing an estimated 15,000 birders to the migration hotspot of Ohio's Lake Erie coast. I've added a gallery of photos I took while there. Definitely the biggest moment of the week happened when a Kirtland's Warbler turned up on Friday, May 14th, causing the biggest "twitch" I've ever experienced in the US. An estimated 2500-3000 birders saw it in a single day. It was a lifer for me, and I got there within minutes of hearing the news on the Twitter feed. Sadly, the week ended with a minor disaster, when the trailer that I was staying in, along with two other owners of TB, burned to thr ground, destroying a frightening amount of cameras, bins, scopes, laptops, documents, etc, including my SLR camera that I had been using for the last year and a half. I've replaced it now with the newer 7D, and yesterday had a chance to try it out in the field for the first time. It's very impressive, especially in low-light conditions. The photo above of a Crowned Chat-Tyrant was taken at 800 ISO, but shows no significant noise, and it does reasonably well even at 1600 ISO. I'm looking forward to trying it out in lowland rainforest.
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