Recently the Rufous - breasted Hermit (Glaucis hirsutus) joined the elite club, the club that is attracted by the hummingbird feeders.
The Rufous - breasted Hermit was one of the hummingbirds that first refused to sip from the feeder. For years I've always seen it near blossoming flowers, especially palulu plants, or I've seen it hawking for insects.
What I like about this hermit is that it has a significant trademark: its tail will automatically move up and down when its resting on a branch. Almost like the little fellow is cooling down via its tail feathers.
The Rufous - breasted Hermit was also difficult to photograph: fast, restless and agile .... until now. On July the second 2014, I was minding my own business doing some paperwork in the lodge. As the lodge is an open space there are some feeders hanging everywhere. Also near the desk, where out of nowhere the Rufous-breasted Hermit appeared. Shocked, disorientated and bewildered are the right words to describe how the hummingbird looked like at that moment. It wasn't sipping the sugar water just like the others, no ... instead it was drinking like crazy. It looked like it was starving and had no energy left in its tiny body.
At first I didn't understand the situation at all, but after doing some research it became clear why it behaved like that. It appears that hummingbirds use a lot of energy, even during the night when resting. When day breaks they are starving and need to energize, explaining why I see the hummingbirds a lot during the mornings and late afternoons near the feeders.
The reason why the Rufous - breasted Hermit looked so bewildered, was that the night before we experienced heavy rainfall with strong wind. It was possible that the Rufous-breasted Hermit had a rough difficult night, forcing him to use his reserve during the night. This explains why he was drinking the sugar water like his life depended on it.
The good news however is that the Rufous-breasted Hermit was so grateful that since that day it also comes by regularly to the feeders.
Trying to attract more hummingbirds closer to the lodge, was one of my first projects in Kabalebo. The main reason was, and still is, to observe these tiny energetic creatures. Getting to know them much better and of course getting used to them. It wasn't an easy project for me by the way, had to overcome some obstacles along the way:
But after weeks of mistrials and failures, I finally found the right measurement and spot. Of course I felt uncertain if the hummingbirds would appear, but as many of you already know, it takes time to make a project work. My patience was put to the test and it was rewarded, I managed to attract the first hummer to the feeder:
Fork - tailed woodnymph (Thalurania furcata)
I guess he appreciated the extra treat, because afterwards he never left. A few months later these hummingbirds also enjoyed the sugar water:
Everyday is a celebration day for me, seeing the hummingbirds enjoy their treat. And of course the possibility to observe them at a closer level is something that I didn't expect at all. Of course it is extra work for me now to clean and refill the feeders, but seeing the hummers enjoy the treat is the best reward I can ever get.
Recently, on the third of July, the Rufous - breasted Hermit (Glaucis hirsutus) finally joined this elite club. In my next post I will tell you more about it. But for now, I am very glad that my hummingbird project is slowly progressing. And who knows who's next.
A couple of months ago I introduced the ocelots of Kabalebo. Beautiful wild cats who are now part of the big family of Kabalebo.
In the beginning many of the co-workers were against the feeding of the ocelots. Most of them were afraid that the ocelot might want to attack and devour them. Others told me that these cats are actually small jaguars and still need to grow. But the more they warned me, the more I got curious of knowing the ocelots a bit better. Setting up trophy cams was the start of my ocelot observation. It appeared that the lodge area was already a part of their territory. Every night they walk by behind the staff houses or on the hiking trails.
Now that we know there are 3 noticeable territorial ocelots (Lotje, Katja and Boyke) near the lodge, it is now easy to predict how often they appear at the feeder. All thanks to the trophy cams it is now clear that Katja visits the feeder 3 - 4 times a week. Lotje comes by twice a week and Boyke 2 - 3 times a week. Sometimes they meet each other at the feeder, but the confrontation never ends into a fight. As they know that they might get badly injured during the fight which none of them really want to happen.
Even though I put food for them every night, they still are wild cats and from time to time they like to hunt on live prey (egrets, lizards, iguana's or small birds)
As Kabalebo can be seen as a transit place for most of our feathered friends, I can say that some even decide to stay a little bit longer. Amongst the long - stay term birds we can include tanagers as one of them. And under the tanager family 3 members stand out:
- Silver - beaked tanagers
- Palm tanagers
- Blue - grey tanagers
They are so frequently seen and heard that they are rather part of the Kabalebo family than they are seen as a visitor.
Silver - beaked tanager (Ramphocelus carbo)
Dominant, noisy and always seen in groups. They are one of the first birds, visitors can easily see and identify. Huge variety in their menu such like fruit, rice, bread, nectar and insects ..... surely no shortage in food for them.
Palm tanager (Thraupis palmarum)
Sometimes they join the Silver - beaked group, but I've also seen them foraging in pairs. They share the same variety in food just like the Silver - beaked. Palm tanagers re - use the same nest previous pairs had used before. I've often seen palm tanagers foraging for insects between leaves or in small corners, working as a team.
Blue - grey tanager (Thraupis episcopus)
They are not represented in abundance, but they often join the Silver - beaked and the Palm tanagers when foraging for food.
As they are part of the Kabalebo family, these birds are at ease and feel so safe that they even decide to make the next generation here in Kabalebo. Even though they are common tanagers, it is a privilege for me to meet them everyday.
In Kabalebo there are 8 different kind of monkeys:
- Golden handed Tamarin
- Common Squirrel Monkey
- Brown - Capuchin Monkey
- Wedge - Capped Capuchin
- Howler Monkey
- White - faced Saki
- Bearded Saki
- Black Spider Monkey
The Howler Monkey (Alouatta seniculus) stands out from the group of monkeys thanks to:
- their fur; when fully exposed under direct sunlight, a bright red-brown color is noticeable
- their trademark howl; when you hear their howling for the first time it sounds a bit scary
Howler Monkeys are terrestrial social animals living in small groups of at least 6 - 8. In Kabalebo I've seen them at different locations. As they have a slow digestion system it is not necessary for them to cover large distances. Near the lodge I've seen a group of Howler Monkeys since I just started working here, in 2009. Over the past years I've noticed that their territory covers the area near the lodge. The group consist of 6 - 7 members (both adults and young ones) During the years some members left the group to join other Howler groups.
Their menu consists out of young leaves. Once I've witnessed that the group near the lodge was drinking rainwater out of a tree hole.
Their trade mark howl is to let intruders know that they entered their territory. I've experienced this unique moment when I was guiding tourists near the lodge. We heard and then saw them moving above us. The moment they noticed us, they stopped their journey and the leader started to growl. Then a soft low howl followed. Seconds later the group split up and soon we were surrounded (from above). What followed was unbelievable:
In unity they started to howl and because they had us surrounded, the sound was immense. Even a chain saw sound couldn't reach that kind of level. For 5 minutes we were treated with this special show. And just how the howling had started that's how it suddenly ended. The leader thought that he made his point loud and clear and gave the signal to stop..... and continued his journey with his family.
In Kabalebo I've been hiking for many years, I walked both short and long trails. While trying to reach my destinations I often have a 'meet & greet' with the trail guards. They are all members of the Fauna world. No special skills are required to take in this position. It makes my journey more adventurous and exciting.
Here are some trail guards I've met during the past few years:
- Three - striped Poison Frog - Ameerega trivittata (most of the time I meet the male next to a puddle, sometimes carrying the next generation of trail guards)
- Common Squirrel Monkey - Saimiri sciureus (one of the cutest under the trail guards, sometimes they 'accompany' you through your jungle hike)
- Screaming Piha - Lipaugus vociferans (he'll let you know that he's present and is on the look - out)
- Red - footed tortoise - Chelonoidis carbonaria (a shy trail guard, the moment it's noticing you, it goes straight into its home)
- South American Lancehead - Botrox atrox (this is one guard that makes sure your heart rate goes up in a beat)
- Tarantula (hairy and scary looking guard but harmless when left alone)
- Black - faced hawk - Leucopternis melanops (the 'ghost' trail guard or 'sniper' guard, it flies silently through the forest)
- Emerald tree boa - Corallus caninus (when you are aware where it's guarding then you're mentally prepared. If not then your heart starts to beat like a hummingbird)
- Black Curassow - Crax alector (a trail guard that sports the best hairstyle so far)
- Red - rumped Agouti - Dasyprocta agouti (often found off guard when it's taking a break ..... eating)
- Pauraque - Nyctidromus albicollis (a trail guard who is perfectly camouflaged, sitting most of the time on the ground)
- White - tailed trogon - Trogon viridis (when it notices you this guard will always turns it's back to you)
Even though we don't speak the same language, it is always a pleasure for me to meet them in person.
Small, agile, colorful and beautiful. Words that best describe hummingbirds. They are also known as the jewels of the jungle. Their colorful feathers are best displayed when fully exposed under direct sunlight. No wonder that they also top the list of one of the most photographed wild birds. Tiny wonders that are able to bring joy to every bird or nature lover. Amazingly they use a lot more energy then other animals, energy that they constantly refill by sipping nectar and sugar water.
In one of my previous hummingbird posts I already introduced the smallest hummingbird: the Amethyst Woodstar. Exciting as always it is my privilege to introduce the second smallest hummingbird of Kabalebo: the Reddish Hermit.
Both the Amethyst Woodstar and the Reddish Hermit share some similarities:
- they're both smaller then a cigarette pack
- both weigh less then 3 grams
- both make bumblebee sounds with their wings
Unlike the Amethyst Woodstar the Reddish Hermit is more common in Kabalebo, but still difficult to spot .... let alone photograph. Most of the times I spotted the Reddish Hermits on Inga trees, attracted by the blossoming flowers ..... along side the river. Because of its bumblebee size and sound I always needed a second good look to spot it. By the time you noticed it, it was always too late. Either the hummingbird took off or the boat just passed by too fast.
They say patience is a virtue and mine was finally rewarded on July 2, 2014. The Reddish Hermit was attracted by the blossoming flowers near the lodge. Just like the other hummingbirds it got closer and closer, not bothered by human presence. The only thing the Reddish hermit was so focused on was to get as close as possible to the nectar.
Harpy Eagles (Harpia Harpyja) are amongst the world's largest and powerful eagles. They live in the rainforest of Central- and South-America, preferring large areas of uninterrupted forest. But due to habitat loss and slow reproduction we can classify this powerful and beautiful bird as near threatened.
Luckily there are still places where we can enjoy seeing the Harpy Eagle. Kabalebo is one of these places where I've seen these beauties countless times, sometimes even 3 times in one week. As Kabalebo is an area surrounded by mostly primary forest, it is no wonder that we can see this bird quite often.
The last time that I've seen this large bird of prey, before writing this article, was on July 2, 2014 near the lodge. Just across the Kabalebo river I've noticed a strange looking silhouette in one of the trees. My first thought was that it was a Black Spider Monkey (Ateles paniscus), but seconds later it started to shake it's head sideways. No doubt about it .... it was the Harpy Eagle as they always shake their heads sideways when they are looking at us.
I don't know how long it was there sitting in that tree, but that didn't matter. It stayed for at least 35 minutes before moving on.
Harpy Eagles are hunting carnivores and because they prefer forest canopies they more likely hunt on tree dwelling animals. Sloths, opossums, monkeys, macaws and iguanas are mostly favorite on their menu list.
Being feared by many makes that the Harpy Eagle is also on top of the food chain.
Even though they can be easily spotted in Kabalebo, I still haven't seen a Harpy Eagle nest nearby. I guess that they have their nest in huge trees (Kapok trees) growing in mountain areas as they prefer forest canopies.
I've been observing the Fork - tailed Woodnymphs' nest for quite a while now. I've taken many pictures of the female during incubation time. They say that behind every picture there lies a story, but not all of them have a happy ending. But still .... they all are interesting enough to tell. Sadly to say, this is my last article about her nesting.
For those who read all of my previous articles about the Fork - tailed Woodnymphs' nesting would have noticed that for me everyday was an exciting day. It felt like I got closer to the answer to that one particular question: When are the eggs going to hatch? It was also a joy to see her in action (gathering nest material, doing some wiggling in her nest and drinking from the feeder)
Everybody here got used to the hummingbird and her nesting. After observing her for more then a week now, I reduced my time from 60 minutes to 30 minutes and then 15 minutes. Everyday I noticed a certain system in her routine: for 20 - 35 minutes she sat in her nest, when there was no heavy wind and rain. She usually took a break for about 8 - 14 minutes. I also saw her visiting the other feeders and flowers, spread at different locations near the lodge. Quite understandable as she is also a territorial hummingbird and needs to make her round.
As usual I always check from a safe distance if she is in her nest. On June 26 2014, I did the same. She wasn't in her nest that morning so I decided to take a quick look inside her nest. And guess what .... no eggs inside. I immediately looked everywhere on the ground to see if they fell out of the nest. Nothing nearby, not even a little scattered egg shell. The nest was left undamaged. I guess that she had a surprise visit the night before from an unwelcoming guest. Surely I felt really sad that day as I got used to her and her eggs. But that's how nature works ...... some survive the ordeal some not. I can't really blame the culprit for it has to survive too.
The good news however is that the female Fork - tailed Woodnymph is still alive and well. I still see her everyday at the feeders, like nothing ever happened. Well who knows ......