|Americas | Asia | Australasia & Pacific | Africa & Middle East | Optics | Books||
The Birds of Pantiacolla Lodge, Peru
25 July - 16 August 2001
By Mike Catsis and Juvenal Ccahuana
This is an account of 24 days work at Pantiacolla Lodge in Madre de Dios, SE Peru between 25 July and 16 August 2001.
Methods included sight observation, tape recording and opportunistic netting. One of the aims of this work was to investigate the upper tropical zone of the area between 900-1000m which previously had received scant attention. A total of 5 days was spent camping in this area at 2 sites; one day was lost to rain here and 4 days in the study in total.
In summary roughly 300 species were recorded. The activity levels were variable during this time with some trails yielding consistently higher diversity than others; this being attributable to greater habitat diversity. The presence of many patches of Guadua bamboo stands within the forest, particularly at the edge grading into secondary forest was responsible for the presence of most of the mainly bamboo dependent species characteristic of the forests of SE Peru, and indeed Pantiacolla proves to be an outstanding location for observing these species and therefore of important conservation significance for the near-threatened White-cheeked Tody Flycatcher (Poecilotriccus albifacies) and Peruvian Recurvebill (Simoxenops ucayalae); the threatened Buckley's Forest Falcon (Micrastur buckleyi) was recorded at 450m as was the near-threatened, Koepcke's Hermit (Phaethornis koepckeae) which was observed infrequently in various habitat types and Scarlet-hooded Barbet (Eubucco tucinkae) found only in secondary forest mainly in Cecropia dominated woodland. Although activity levels were very low in the upper tropical zone nearly 20% of the species recorded proved to be new records for the lodge and it is to be predicted that further new records will be noted with more extensive coverage and at different times of year. The presence of the threatened Black Tinamou (Tinamus osgoodi) makes this zone of even greater conservation significance.
Pantiacolla Lodge is situated on the banks of the River Madre de Dios at S12 39.383' W071 13.883' and 450m (±50m) above sea level. The area is characterised by mainly terra firma forest rising to around 1000m on ridge tops above the camp. Habitat types within the boundaries of the lodge include river island and river edge successional vegetation, Cecropia dominated secondary woodland forming an intergrading zone between the river-edge and main terra firma block this latter varying topographically with numerous quebradas coming down from ridges in the main elevational plateau of 450m and rising up to virtually flat topped small peaks at 900-1000m. The lodge and the surrounding terrain lie within the Endemic Bird Area EBA 068 (Stattersfield et al 1998) and of the 12 bird species characteristic of this EBA 5 have been recorded at Pantiacolla and all 5 of those were recorded in this study, these being; Semicollared Puffbird (Malacoptila semicincta), Scarlet-hooded Barbet (Eubucco tucinkae), White-lined Antbird (Percnostola lophotes), Goeldi's Antbird (Myrmeciza goeldi) and White-cheeked Tody-flycatcher (Poecilotriccus albifacies).
Access to the different habitats at Pantiacolla is facilitated by a series of excellent trails of varying length which run through most if not all of the varied habitat types; while access to the river edge is somewhat dependent on the height of the river itself although it is easy to access river edge and river island vegetation from one of the trails (the Tinamou Trail).
The trails are named and a short description of each is given below; all are directly accessible from the camp.
Tinamou Trail This trail is short but extremely productive and is characterised by a mixture of vegetational types ranging from bamboo forest through Heliconia thickets and Cecropia woodland at its edge with river island successional vegetation and at its end where it links with another trail (the Capybara Trail) into mature terra firma forest. Many emergent trees interdigitate with the secondary and bamboo forest to provide a rich variety of habitats and levels which account for an ease of observation and hence a high species count. Many birds were recorded only from this trail, including Scarlet-hooded Barbet, White-throated Jacamar (Brachygalba albgularis), Buckley's Forest Falcon (Micrastur buckleyi), Rufous-headed Woodpecker (Celeus spectabilis) and Peruvian Recurvebill. All the bamboo dependent species were also found along this trail with the exception of Ihering's Antwren (Myrmotherula iheringi) which was not recorded in this study but has been recorded from the area (Wim ten Have pers.comm.).
Capybara Trail A loop trail which links at both ends with the Tinamou trail and which is mainly mature terra firma forest punctuated by areas of bamboo dominated understory in which nearly all the bamboo dependent species were found as above with the exception of Peruvian Recurvebill.
At the end nearest to camp there are Heliconia thickets and secondary woodland which increases diversity.
Monk Saki Trail This long loop trail is almost entirely mature terra firma forest which is topographically varied and rises on its eastern side to a ridge crest before leading back to camp. Two smaller trails of similar habitat type link the camp to the Monk Saki trail cutting through this forest to the latter's western boundary; these being the Oropendola Trail and the Araçari Trail. Several species were recorded only from this trail such as Grey-bellied Hawk (Accipiter poliogaster), White-browed Hawk (Leucopternis kuhli), Pavonine Quetzal (Pharomachrus pavoninus), Semicollared Puffbird (Malacoptila semicincta) and White-crested Spadebill (Platyrhynchus platyrhynchos).
Mirador Trail This long trail leads from camp west and parallel to the river before turning north and then climbing steadily up to an altitude of 900m to a look-out point (Mirador) from which a truly magnificent panorama unfolds with forest spreading to the horizon along the Rio Madre de Dios into Manu National Park. From this site a further trail leads around this ridge crest and onto the plateau of a small hill which attains 1000m at its highest point. This trail proved to have the lowest activity levels of all even at the lower elevations although the paucity of records also reflects less time spent here; nonetheless large species such as Pale-winged Trumpeter (Psophia leucoptera) and Spix's Guan (Penelope spixii) were recorded and Razor-billed Curassow (Crax mitu) has been recorded along this trail (Wim ten Have pers.comm.) although it was not found in this study.
The study site at 1000m (S 12 38.186' W 071 17.231') and the Mirador study site (near S12 38.511' W 071 17.235') yielded these species which were new for the lodge; Vermiculated Screech Owl (Otus vermiculatus) tape-recorded; Green-fronted Lancebill (Doryfera johannae).. sight record; Rufous-crested Coquette (Lophornis delattrei).. sight record; Andean Cock of the Rock (Rupicola peruviana).. tape-recorded; Sharpbill (Oxyruncus cristatus)..tape recorded; Buff-throated Tody Tyrant (Hemitriccus rufigularis).. netted; Slaty-capped Flycatcher (Leptopogon superciliaris).. netted and photographed; Rufous-tailed Tyrant (Knipolegus poecilurus).. sight record; Andean Slaty Thrush (Turdus nigriceps).. netted and photographed; Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava).. sight record.
The majority of these species are not usually found below 700m in this region (Walker; Birdlist of Manu National Park) and indicate some altitudinal segregation from the lower elevation avifauna; other notable examples of this include the presence of Band-bellied Owl (Pulsatrix melanota) above 800m and Spectacled Owl (Pulsatrix perspicillata) found only at 450m and Streak-necked Flycactcher (Mionectes striaticollis) above 700m and Olive-striped Flycatcher (Mionectes olivaceus) found only at 450m. This is to be expected and with further work in the upper tropical zone more species will doubtless be found which have previously been unrecorded.
Click here for a list of the birds recorded in this study. Abundance codes follow those used by Parker et al (1982) and reflect overall abundance throughout the whole study area whereas birds recorded are listed for each trail.
FC Fairly common
T Tinamou Trail and link to Capybara trail
C Capybara trail
MS Monk Saki trail including Oropendola and Araçari trail
M Mirador trail including trail onto upper plateau
R River, beach and river edge habitat
G Camp garden; open area bordered by both mature and secondary forest
1) Pantiacolla Lodge harbours an exceptional diversity of bird species; the current birdlist for the lodge includes well over 500 species (Wim ten Have pers.comm.) and some 60% of those were recorded during this short study.
2) The presence of many patches of bamboo forest within the area accounts for the good numbers and ease of observation of many entirely or partially bamboo-dependent species, these being: Rufous-breasted Piculet (Picumnus rufiventris); Rufous-headed Woodpecker (Celeus spectabilis); Rufous-capped Nunlet (Nonnula ruficapilla); Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner (Automolus dorsalis); Brown-rumped Foliage-gleaner (Automolus melanopezus); Bamboo Antshrike (Cymbilaimus sanctaemariae); Ihering's Antwren (Myrmotherula iheringi); Striated Antbird (Drymophila devillei); Manu Antbird (Cercomacra manu); White-lined Antbird (Percnostola lophotes); White-cheeked Tody-flycatcher (Poecilotriccus albifacies); Flammulated Bamboo-tyrant (Hemitriccus flammulatus); Large-headed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon megacephala) and Dusky-tailed Flatbill (Ramphotrigon fuscicauda). All of these species were recorded in the present study with the exception of Myrmotherula iheringi.
3) The high diversity of bird species results from a large diversity of habitat types and all of these should be studied in order to record a wide range of species. The trail with highest diversity, because of the range of habitat types there, is the so-called 'Tinamou Trail'.
4) A short study of the Upper Tropical zone of the area, between 900-1000m, revealed a severe decline in activity levels and therefore the number of species recorded. However of those species recorded in this zone some 20% were new for the lodge and were those species mainly, but not exclusively, characteristic of this zone. With further study this zone will doubtless reveal other new species for the area; however given the distance between this site and the main Andean chain rising above Atalaya the diversity in this zone may not be as great as comparable sites closer to that chain.
5) Many common species, particularly characteristic of secondary or edge habitats, which are listed from the site (Wim ten Have pers.comm.) were not found in this study such as several euphonias, tanagers and flycatchers. This may be due to seasonal factors or perhaps these species are actually rare at this site. Further studies may determine the reasons for their scarcity.
6) The presence of several threatened and near-threatened species at this site (see above) makes the site of some conservation significance.
1) To allow greater accessibility for the observer to the many canopy flocks, soaring raptors and passing parrots it is recommended that a canopy tower be built at a location already higher than the main 450m plateau. A suitable location could be on the ridge top on the eastern side of the Monk Saki trail. Many lodges now have such a feature and it would considerably add to the prestige and attractiveness of the lodge to all visitors, not just birdwatchers.
2) The current lodge birdlist, once it has been updated, should be added to the Pantiacolla Tours web-site. As the lodge becomes more well known among birdwatchers, and with the dissemination of reports on the Internet such as the above it will do, they will want to know just which species are present and how many. Similar species lists for mammals and other groups should also be included.
3) The new trail from the first mirador to the end of the plateau at 1000m, the second study site in this report, should be regularly maintained and improved. It is suggested that a new trail should be cut from the North-West corner of the Monk Saki trail to the area below this site through what appears from the mirador to be exceptionally interesting forest at the lower slopes of this hill; to the east of which there is a smaller forested 'hillock' over which several large unidentified eagles were observed.
4) More research should be carried out in the Upper Tropical zone and this could be facilitated by the setting up of established camp-sites, perhaps the building of small rustic shelters to allow tourists the opportunity of, at least, spending one night at the first mirador site (a real asset to the lodge) and at best to allow future researchers to spend longer in the zone and perhaps to explore even higher elevations.
5) An effort should be made to resurrect and maintain the hummingbird feeders
at the lodge clearing as there was a surprising lack of hummingbird activity in
this area a situation which was not always the case (Wim ten Have pers.comm.)