We returned to La Selva mid afternoon and immediately crossed the suspension bridge. Leo clearly had something on his mind. He had exchanged some gen with another guide just before, and the imparted news was obviously rather good. All the guides did this frequently actually, and whilst my spanish is only so so, I usually got the gist. Generally these were more pointed versions of the classic "anything about?" lines that all birders will be familiar with. So it was the we passed the Broad-billed Motmot with barely a glance, went past the White-collared Manakin that would not stay still, ignored the roosting Crested Guan and headed into the forest on a new path we had not seen before.
The call Leo had been listening out for stopped us in our tracks and using his tape he brought the bird in. At first it was invisible in the darkness, but eventually it popped out in the clear, calling away in response. A Spotted Antbird, a tiny ball of excitement. But the light, goodness me. The understorey of the rainforest is so dim it is nearly impossible to get a proper photo. The 1dX however does an admirable job. The below photo is taken at ISO 3200, and at 1/50th of a second. That shutter speed may sound like the fraction of a second that it is to non-photographers, but photographers will recognise that it is very slow indeed, especially with a long lens. My monopod that habitually hangs off my waist came good in this situation and I can scarely believe what I got - many of course are somewhat impressionistic, but a few seem just fine.
Shortly after this a lady came jogging down the path ahead of us. She stopped, breathlessly exchanging words with Leo. She was quite excited as she passed on news of a bird a bit further up the path. We quickened our pace, and there around the corner a few minutes later I came face to face with probably my bird of the trip. In the trees ahead of us was a huge King Vulture. It was majestic, regal and prehistoric. With the stench of an ex-something invading my nostrils I raised my camera and fired off a record shot in the semi-darkness before the bird flew. It landed briefly on a better lit perch before heading further into the forest. Wow, just wow. What a bird! One of the best birds I have seen anywhere and the photos don't do it justice.
|A rather full King Vulture|
We returned down the path in semi-darkness, with Short-tailed Nighthawk in a clearing and a pair of Green Ibis coming to roost. Back over the bridge in darkness we tried one last time for the Vermiculated Screech Owl and remarkably we heard it. Even more remarkably we then tracked it down and got a spot-lit view - how these guides do it is anyone's guess - they are exceptionally skilled. We drove back to the hotel for dinner elated at a spectacular day in which we had seen 114 species. We could probably have seen many more but Leo was taking time to ensure that we got good views of all the near-endemics.
|Common Parauque in the car headlights|