The Eastern Llanos at Hato La Aurora (January 11 – 13, 2018).

15 - 01 - 2018

Crestless Curassow is an uncommon and elusive bird that can defeat many birder´s intention to register the species. Having seasonal behaviors marked by rainfalls, water levels and availability of food resources, the bird is unreliable and somewhat unpredictable. During some months of the year, the bird might attend certain sites & gallery forests, disappearing for the rest of the year. In this case, the bird had eluded Hans Jornvall several times before, gradually becoming a highly desirable target.

Hato La Aurora is a birder´s paradise harboring a huge collection of Eastern Llanos species, some restricted to the Orinoco region, such as Pale-headed Jacamar, Orinoco Goose, Purple-throated Euphonia and White-bearded Flycatcher. Amazing lowland birds are present at Hato La Aurora, like the Jabiru, Maguari Stork, Horned Screamer, Sunbittern, Scarlet Ibis, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Hoatzin, Dwarf Cuckoo, Great Horned Owl, Black-and-white Owl, Burrowing Owl, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Russet-throated Puffbird, Wire-tailed Manakin, Orange-crowned Oriole and many, many more.

With a lifelist over 9200 species seen, it was not surprising that Hans had already bagged all birds listed in the ranch´s inventory, except for two: Crestless Curassow & Masked Cardinal. Therefore, this short visit to Hato La Aurora had the sole intention of finding and seeing these two birds.

We flew from Bogota to Yopal early morning on January 11 (2018) with Avianca Airlines. We met our driver at Yopal´s airport and drove 4 hours to the ranch. Two local guides at the ranch had seen the Curassow in previous days, so we immediately went to the exact location, but we had to return to the lodge without seeing the bird, before the night settled in. However, highlights of this day included 2 Brazilian Teals, 2 Speckled Chachalacas, 2 Woodstorks, 4 Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, 1 Crane Hawk, 1 Pied Lapwing, 2 Double-striped Thicknees, 2 Orange-winged Parrots, 8 Nacunda Nighthawks, 1 White-bearded Hermit, 2 Blue-tailed Emeralds, 4 Pale-headed Jacamars, 1 Chestnut-eared Aracari, 2 White-bearded Flycatchers, 2 Black-faced Tanagers, 1 Orange-crowned Oriole and 2 Purple-throated Euphonias.

The next day we decided to visit a second site where the bird was seen visiting a plantain crop, apparently attracted by fallen fruit. There was a small stream running nearby and a thin but dense gallery forest covering the edge of the stream. Next to the forest was a narrow belt of high pasture with scattered trees and bushes, followed by the plantain plants growing in dense clumps. We waited silently for about 1 hour, and certainly a beautiful male show up, walking slowly between the forest and the plantation, almost leisurely. For some moments, the bird will stand still, nervously looking around, and for some other moments, it will calmly smooth the tail feathers with the bill, almost as if taking a sun bath. The situation went on for about 30 minutes, and it gave us plenty of time for great scope views.

After seeing our main and most difficult target, we used the rest of the day for finding the Masked Cardinal, which quickly showed up near the lodge. Special birds for the day included 5 Horned Screamers, 3 Orinoco Geese, 2 Rufous-vented Chachalacas, 1 Rufescent Tiger-Heron, 4 Whistling Herons, 6 Scarlet Ibises, 2 Sharp-tailed Ibises, 7 Buff-necked Ibises, 1 Roseate Spoonbill, 3 Jabirus, 1 Aplomado Falcon, 1 Sunbittern, 10 Chestnut-fronted Macaws, 4 Hoatzins, 1 Glittering-throated Emerald, 2 Pale-headed Jacamars, 2 Crimson-crested Woodpeckers and 1 Purple-throated Euphonia.

In this short visit, we registered 131 species (127 species seen, plus 4 species heard-only).