Day 4, October 15, 2006 Oct 12—24, 2006

Posted by Peter English


Peter English

Peter English became interested in birds while in the fourth grade. He graduated from Williams College in 1988 and received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Texa...

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We disembarked at dawn in nine groups, each with a maximum of nine participants and a VENT leader. Some groups spent the morning birding from a zodiac traveling up the Rio Toro, a small forest-lined tributary of the Orinoco. Other groups walked trails. After lunch back on the ship and a midday break, we disembarked and groups switched areas.

One of the many delightful aspects of a cruise such as this one is returning to the ship and hearing about everyone's sightings. Every group had a phenomenal day. Everyone saw two of the rarest birds in the world: a Softtail that is a new, undescribed species that was discovered new to science on our 2004 cruise, and a rare flycatcher, the Black-chested Tyrant, that is known only from a few locations. Each of these species has been seen by fewer than 200 birders, most of them on our 2004 Jungle Rivers Cruise and on this cruise.

Besides the rare and special birds, we saw a fantastic variety of other birds including tanagers, flycatchers, hummingbirds, manakins, woodcreepers, and puffbirds. Several groups enjoyed very special natural history sightings including:

Crane Hawk preparing to raid a flycatcher nest

Crane Hawk preparing to raid a flycatcher nest — Photo: Peter English

— Watching a Crane Hawk very close for 15 minutes as it raided a flycatcher nest and then proceeded to eat its quarry on an exposed branch.

Crane Hawk in flight

Crane Hawk in flight — Photo: Peter English

— A party of small birds of several species mobbing a large rusty brown moth that they mistook for an owl.

— A sleeping silky anteater, a rarely seen small mammal that was a lifer for several VENT leaders.

— Over 20 species of birds bathing in a sunlit forest pool including Crimson-hooded Manakins, a spectacularly-colored species.

Crimson-hooded Manakin male on the trail at Rio Toro

Crimson-hooded Manakin male on the trail at Rio Toro — Photo: Peter English

— A Zigzag Heron in the late morning, one of the smallest and most enigmatic herons in the world.

We could not have asked for a better first day. It was filled with the richness that makes the tropics so alluring to so many birders. We are all looking forward to the wonders that await us tomorrow as we spend another day birding the Orinoco Delta.