Sunday, February 24, 2019

All the screaming and Gathering of Firewood

On January 27, 2013, the black-bellied whistling duck became the number one bird on my life list, as I flushed a flock in Santa Ana NWR (Texas).  It was the top bird as it was the top bird in taxonomic order.   It replaced a Fulvous whistling duck I had seen 49 days earlier in Florida.  This duck began my list every time I looked at it for a total of 2218 straight days until yesterday.
      We were driving to a place called Laguna Rocha and the ladies needed to find a bush as we were out on a dirt road about 60 miles west of Brazil and both bushes and bathrooms were in short supply.  I scanned a field and out there was this huge bird, I had no idea what it was and then, there was another in the pasture on the other side.  It was kind of a big and ugly bird and then I looked it up. The name-- southern screamer jumped out at me as an odd name and then it saw me, and I learned why it had earned its name. It sounds like a goose got stepped on by a very large foot.   I took pictures and I added it to my list and guess what, this species comes before waterfowl.  The event made me smile.  It is an event that no one cares about including most birders but there I was, with a new leading bird.
      Southern screamer is a name that would be better put to be the title of a Faulkner novel.  It would be about some terrible Mississippi family that killed college students at Oxford area near where Faulkner taught....or it could be a bird in South America....
      There are lots of birds down here with very cool or odd names.  The screamer is great but what about the FIREWOOD GATHERER?  Don't you picture and even bigger, more fierce looking bird?
In reality....
Kind of an unimpressive bird with a big sounding name, firewood gatherer, it looks like a small meadowlark

Then we got the wren-like rushbird, this acts like a very shy marsh wren, sounds like a rail, and it was an act of courage from snake attacks to even get this one out

All and all, despite the new language and names, we've been behaving ourselves.  After getting in the middle of a TV episode, and then today getting in the middle of a fashion shoot at a arboretum, we even photographed a streaked flycatcher, well I did as my other two photographers were setting up their tripods as the bird flew back into the tree deep in cover.

As we watched (again the ladies were in the bathroom), the fashion photographer photoed pretty girls in a doorway with revealing clothing.  We were standing 20 feet away.  The ladies changed behind a bush, and had on nothing else underneath.   Leave men alone and stuff like this happens.  When Don Harrington suggested if he could photo the ladies with his large 600 mm lens on a tripod, using hand motions, they shook their heads and everybody went to shoot at another location, quite quickly I may add.
"Just asking." he said to me, but we got two birds there so all was well.
     Uruguay has some of the worst marked roads anywhere and in Punta del Este even with Siri, we got really lost.  It kept wanting to take us back to where we started, and then today, while in a small park, maybe 500 acres with a hotel in the middle and with a map, we ended up lost and going the wrong way on one way roads and on roads that were only for pedestrians.  We came up to find rheas, but I was following an ebird post that was an errant or miss entered post, we could not find any open ground, unless we could find the top of a tree and scan the horizons.
      Don was using his translator program to translate, "help, I'm held captive against my will."  He kept threatening to play it to anyone passing by or standing outside, luckily, the program uses a different dialect of Spanish.
      It was a waste of a day so I amused myself looking at bees and rhinoceros beetles

Then dejected, I drove us all home.  Somewhere south of where there had ever been any ebird posts for rheas my wife in the back seat yelled, "stop!  BACK UP!  Olaf's side."
    I'm perplexed as to what she had seen.  I asked but she couldn't spit it out. The last cry for stop was for a house cat.  She is keeping a mammal list to spite us.  we'd already had a sheep call so I was hesitating.  But then, I could not believe my eyes, right next to the road was a flock of greater rhea.
    My heart nearly stopped, as we had given up on this bird, my wife got a kudos, a big kudos, we got the bird and she saved the day.  The getting lost and the 100 mile wild rhea chase was now forgotten.
I looked to the other side and got a bonus bird...
a grayish baywing on a weed, you got to like two-fer stops and bonus birds.  

         The rheas ran off after everyone got photos, well my wife doesn't carry a camera but the Harringtons and I did.  Then I entered the birds to my list, the greater rhea jumps to first on my list, sorry screamer, your stint on the top...only for one single day is over.  We'll see if I can get something higher on this trip, but as only two species higher, both types of ostrich, it won't happen tomorrow, that I can guarantee.
Besides trouble finding lunch stops, we've had a marvelous bbq, and good food.  It is very safe here despite the unmarked roads, as luckily the traffic is light.  Like everywhere, guys on motorcycles yell things at us as we look funny to people, what sane person birds?   It cooled off today, so no more 90s, just 70s, and in three days as we begin our journey into Argentina, its going to get colder, much colder.
      We have seen a slew of good and new birds, exciting and beautiful birds and enjoyed a wonderful country, one few from the US ever get to see.   It is rolling hills and mixed fields and scrub.

Here are a few of the last two days birds:

fork-tailed flycatcher, showy here or at home somewhere as a vagrant

giant wood-rail, these things....I almost hit one with a car today

More giant things...the Giant Tegu lizard, which can be house broken, they say, I wasn't inviting this one in to find out

Maguari stork, which most closely related to the white storks of Europe, ones in cartoons and seen by me on roof tops in Germany.  Their common ancestor was a now extinct stork from North America they say that got a round during the ice age and then led to these two species

great Pampa finch

plumbeous ibis, what a mean looking ibis

white monjica, how is that coloring help with anything besides breeding?

Don taking photos of black-necked swans

Nancy taking a photo of white monjita in a tree

I take a random shot at a swallow to test the focus and it is a white rumped swallow, a lifer bird

white spotted woodpecker in almost no light

We've found a great place, but our time here is running short, tomorrow a last big push birding and then we go to Montevideo, a town I've always wanted to see, and then we take a ship across the River Platte to Argentina.  More as I see fit to post it. got a lot of birds and great stories and to be honest, we haven't really got anywhere "great" yet, as who would have visiting Uruguay on a bucket list for 35 years?

Only Olaf

I'm off to gather firewood for a BBQ, I here some birds around here can help and then I need to scream for some matches...or something like that



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