Posts in Category: nature

Violet-fronted Brilliant Hummingbird

Of course I prefer not to photograph hummingbirds at feeders, but sometimes, in the limited time available in some exotic location, that is all you can get. I had only one afternoon, a few hours really, overlooking the gardens at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge on the Manu Road in the Andes of Peru, between lunch and our appointment at the Cock-of-the-Rock lek, so I took what I could get. This is the Violet-fronted Brilliant and I never caught it perched away from the feeders. I think I have two males (or the same male twice) and a female. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. If I were to do this trip again, I would want at least 2 nights at Cock-of-the-Rock, as well as time at both at the lodges at Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station higher up and Villa Carmin Biological Station lower down. But then I am greedy! 🙂

Booted Racket-tail Hummingbird

Almost the first hummingbird I saw at the Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge feeders, on the Manu Road in southern Peru, and certainly the first hummingbird I really looked at that afternoon, was the Booted Racket-tail. It is, of course, a hummingbird I have wanted to see for years, spectacular in every way, but I was really surprised by how small it is. In the guides you see that great long tail and I somehow assumed that it was a much bigger bird. Without the tail it is not much bigger than a Ruby-throat and certainly not as big as an Annas, at least by impression. I did not have one in the hand to measure. It was certainly small compared to many of the other hummers at Cock-of-the-Rock, including the dominant Sparkling Violetear. After my first shots of the bird at the feeder, showing off both its color and its booties very nicely, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to catch one away from the feeders. Not easy! Wherever they perched when not feeding, it was well out of sight from the porch of the lodge, and they only came swooping in for seconds at a time. Pepe, my guide on the Amazon Journeys Birding the Manu Road adventure, said that they are “submissive at the feeders.” Only when we were leaving, waiting up by the road for our driver to finish a pick-up soccer match at the staff quarters up the hill, did I find a Booted Racket-tail feeding in the flowers of the upper garden, and managed a decent set of shots. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird

On our way down from Wayqecha Lodge at 9500 feet on the Manu Road on the eastern slopes of the Andes in southern Peru, we stopped at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge at 5200 feet for lunch, and to wait out the afternoon until our 4PM appointment at the Cock-of-the-Rock lek just up the road. Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge and the lek there are currently THE place to go to see Andean Cock-of-the-Rock along the Manu Road, but more on that when I post my Cock-of-the-Rock photos 🙂 Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge also has a well established garden with lots of hummingbird plants and feeders, so it is a great place to spend an afternoon. The Sparkling Violetear Hummingbird tends to dominate feeders, and each feeder at Cock-of-the-Rock had it’s own guardian Violetear. They perch away from the feeder and swoop in whenever another hummer approaches. The beginning of the afternoon was sunny, though clouds came in before our Cock-of-the-Rock appointment, and I caught this Sparkling Violetear in all its glory as it guarded its feeder. This is one showy bird! Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Blue-banded Toucanet

There are only a few possible Toucans at the elevations where we spent most of our time on the Manu Road on the eastern slope of the Andes in Peru. This is, in my experience, the most common of them. We had 4 separate encounters with Blue-banded Toucanets. According to The Birds of Peru, the blue band is hard to see in the field, and we certainly never saw one like the band in the illustrations, but we did pick up hints. These birds were all between Wayqecha Lodge (9500 feet) and Cock-of-the-Rock (5200 feet), seen from the Manu Road. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Rufous-capped Thronbill

The Rufous-capped Thornbill is listed as uncommon and rare over its whole range on the east slopes of the Andes from Columbia to Bolivia, but it is probably not so much rare as “rarely seen”. Pepe Rojas-Moscoso, my guide to Birding the Manu Road with Amazon Journeys, was certainly surprised to see both a female, on the trail out from the Wayqecha Cloud-Forest Biological Station’s Canopy Bridge, and, the next day and further down the road, a male sitting up and posing nicely for us. The female only sat for the 30 seconds it took me to fire off a burst, but the male sat long enough for me to get a whole sequence of poses. These kinds of hummingbird experiences, well away from any feeders, are rare enough in themselves to be pretty special, but on the Manu Road we had several every day. Not as rare as the Rufous-capped Thornbill, but each one special in its own way. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.

Long-tailed Sylth and Tyrain Metaltail, Wayqecha Lodge, Peru

One last shot of the “star of the show” at Wayqecha Lodge’s feeders: the Long-tailed Sylth. The Swordbilled Hummingbird that was coming to flowers near the feeders might have been the star, or at least shared top billing, but it never showed up while I was watching. Not that I was not delighted to see the Long-tailed Sylth, a truly impressive hummer! And I was very happy that it favored a perch away from the feeders. And while I am finishing up with Wayqecha hummingbirds, I will share a really not to great photo of a Tyrain Metaltail…the only shot I got of this bird…taken after supper as the light failed and after the clouds had begun to roll in over Wayqecha.

Still, it is the bird, and you can tell it is the bird, so I am not totally complaining.

Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2x Clear Image Zoom). The Tyrain Metaltail is also at ISO 2500, which explains somewhat the quality of the shot…but the light we have is the light we have. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Gould’s Inca (Collared Inca)

The Collared Inca is one of the most variable species of hummingbirds that I am aware of. Within Peru it has at least 5 color variations, each of which is distinct enough so that the uninformed birder might be forgiven for thinking each was a separate species. But no, the taxonomists say they are all the same species. This one, photographed at Wayqecha Biological Station and Birding Lodge high on the eastern slopes of the Andes on the Manu Road is distinct enough to have its own name: Gould’s Inca. But it is still, apparently, a Collard Inca. Go figure. I would have loved to have a day just to sit and watch the few feeders at Wayqecha, and to take a lot more photographs. As it was I only got to photograph hummingbirds on my way to and from meals at the dinning hall…I think I may have gotten photographs of all but one species that was being seen in July, but I would have loved to have gotten them in better light and better poses…etc…if you photograph birds, especially hummingbirds, you know what I mean. 🙂 And the bird I missed was the Swordbill…one of my most wanted hummers! (I did see one in flight from the Manu Road while walking, but no photograph!) Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Cedar Waxwing

We interrupt this parade of Peruvian birds to bring you an update from closer to home. I rode my ebike out to the Kennebunk Plains yesterday to check on this year’s bloom of Northern Blazing Star and found a small flock of Cedar Waxwings hunting dragonflies over Day Brook Pond. Cedar Waxwings tend to pose nicely and these were no exception. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. The Blazing Star was indeed in full bloom. More on that in another post.

The Generous Eye: wiñaywayna: always young. Happy Sunday!

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

I spent the better part of 6 days walking down the Manu Road in Peru. To get to the Manu Road you drive across the high passes of the western slope of the Andes, between Cusco and Paucartambo, mostly above 11,000 feet. The Manu Road itself begins in the Puma, among dry grasslands and stunted trees, and then winds down through the Elfin Forest into Cloud Forest and and then on down into the Foothills and the beginnings of Rainforest. There is a lot to see. So many birds. So many butterflies. So many flowers. I was especially taken by the orchids. I will not be able, I am sure, to identify half of what I photographed, but I found some information on this one…common along the road in both Elfin and Cloud Forest. It is epidendum, a terrestrial orchid and it apparently blooms all year long, which is way it is called, locally, wiñaywayna, or “always young”.

I am pretty sure no one who has survived their youth would, when all is said and done, wish to be “always young” but amid the aches and pains and bother of getting old, it is easy to develop at least some nostalgia for the physical vigor of youth. I am certain that in many ways I would have enjoyed the trek down the Manu road more 50, or even 40, years ago when I was in better shape physically. At 71, the daily hike along the road took a tole on my feet, legs, knees and lower back, and I would not have made it far at all if we had had to walk UP the road…not without frequent rest stops to catch my breath. The best investment I made for the trip was a pair of orthopedic insoles for my new boots. Still, there is a part of me that has remained “always young” and is, if anything, younger now than 40 years ago…and that is my capacity for wonder…for being awed and delighted with the things God puts in front of me in this world. I mean, look at that orchid! I am certain my eye is more generous today than it has ever been, and in that way I am not “always young” but growing younger every day. Age has its compensations…at least it does if you practice a generous eye.

I revel in the beauty of the wiñaywayna, the always young orchid on the roadside in the Elfin Forest of the Andes of Peru. God is good. God’s goodness is always young! Happy Sunday!

Amethyst-throated Sunangel

Moving on from the road-side stop between Cusco and Paucartambo, we arrived at Wayqecha Biological Station and Birding Lodge, at the upper edge of the cloud forest zone on my Birding the Manu Road adventure with Amazon Journeys late in the day. Photographing hummingbirds (or any birds) by natural light in the cloud forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes of Peru is not easy. Light levels are often low. There is often a lot of mist (not to say cloud…but it often amounts to to what you would have to call “cloud”) between you and the bird. And, of course, the birds do not sit still. This is, I am pretty sure, an Amethyst-throated Sunangel, seen around the feeders at Wayqecha. The clouds were moving in, and I don’t use flash for birds, so this is the best shot I could have hoped for. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. (ISO 2000 by the way.)