Dec 13: Cerrito Verde
The main target of this morning's outing was Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. There appear to be several options for seeing this species, but we went to Cerrito Verde, which I took to be the name of both the indigenous village signed from the main road and the name of the actual hill. Entry to the trail was from the village and required a $40,000 peso entry fee per person (not including Miguel). The trail meanders through the village and then through a patchwork of clearings and forest. In one clearing, we watched an incredible group of ~60 raptors flying overhead, investigation of photos later revealed them to be Snail Kites
Eventually the trail entered a more continuous section of forest and then started climbing steeply. Here, a pair of Black-headed Antbirds
came out for good views. Shortly afterward, Miguel came to an abrupt halt and whispered "hormigas!" (ants). Right by the trail was an army ant swarm, attended by antbirds and other species. White-plumed Antbirds
were the first detected, though they played hard to get with the camera. We maneuvered to a spot in front of the advancing ant swarm to wait for the antbird attendants. Soon, not one, not two, but three Chestnut-crested Antbirds
were in view, some incredibly close as they focused their attention on capturing insects fleeing the marauding ants. A pair of White-cheeked Antbirds
were also in attendance, and a few others popped in here and there, including Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
. We sat on the forest floor for about a half hour, watching the show and taking photos, occasionally moving as the ants got too close or the birds moved to a different area, taking in the sounds - you could hear the ants moving in the dry leaf litter, and the antbirds gave frequent growling contact calls. A proper rainforest birding experience and one of the highlights of the whole trip (but oh the chiggers later from sitting in the leaf litter!).
Satisfied with our ant swarm encounter, we continued up the trail, and then took an inconspicuous side trail that led steeply back down into an area of large boulders. Here was the cock of the rock area. We climbed around, visiting their lek site but finding it empty, eventually circling the whole area without a sniff of the birds. Oh no! I asked Miguel if they're ever just gone, he said yes but very rarely. We played some calls, waited a bit, played some more. Just as I was beginning to think we'd miss this bird entirely, one answered from the forest upslope. Back in business! After a bit of back and forth and moving around a bit, I spotted the bird as it flew in behind us. There, glowing impossibly orange, a Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock,
surely high on anybody's wish list. The bird moved on, and we walked around a bit, re-finding it and a second male. Success!
We weren't quite done with this trail yet - after returning to the main trail, we continued uphill a bit farther to the top of the cerro, where there was a clear overlook into the surrounding forest. The highlight here was a distant yet unmistakable Paradise Jacamar,
a much-wanted bird for this area and one I had expected would be easier to pick up based on ebird frequency metrics. On our way back down, we flushed a Collared Puffbird
The afternoon trip was a return to the main road, we went a bit farther down than our previous turnoffs and walked the road for a bit (location in the linked ebird checklist). This was another fruitless search for Red-fan Parrot, but it was birdy and enjoyable nonetheless, with White-bearded Manakin, Lettered Aracari,
and Rufous-crowned Elaenia