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BOLIVIA

Sunday 4th October - Tuesday 27th October 2015

Eustace Barnes

Blue-throated Macaw (Eustace Barnes)

Blue-throated Macaw (Eustace Barnes)

Bolivia, the land of parrots! As usual, we found both spectacular endangered endemic Macaws but we also had great views of Titicaca Grebe, the rarely seen Ocellated Crake, Black-winged Parrot, Black-hooded Sunbeam, Hooded Mountain Toucan, Bolivian Recurvebill, Masked Antpitta, Scimitar-winged Piha, Unicoloured Thrush and a good number of mammals including Giant Anteater and Lesser Grison.

How has such a country escaped the attention of so many one might ask or, maybe, why it is that the most diverse land locked country on earth is so far from so many birders minds? When I say most diverse I am not talking of a marginal difference. You need to think of twice the diversity of the next such country with several biogeographical regions that each house as many species as many African or Asian countries and indeed the entirety of Europe! As if that were not enough, it has two large brightly coloured endemic Macaws not just a series of dubiously distinctive subfusc ex-subspecies. Where ever you turn there are birds. What a country to have the privilege of birding its pristine habitats, enjoying an astonishing variety of birds in the most stunning landscapes anywhere on earth while being treated to the hospitality of the most pleasant of people. It is surely, an essential destination for any world birder and what a trip we had; almost certainly the most successful to date.

Highlights, generally too many to easily recount in Bolivia, kicked off just outside the arrivals lounge at Santa Cruz airport with a family of Greater Rheas quietly feeding just minutes after picking up our bags. That takes some beating! A quite exceptional morning in the Chaco followed, producing a continuous procession of species including Ringed Teal and a family party of Black-legged Seriemas that circled us. At Los Volcanes we enjoyed lengthy point blank views of Bolivian Recurvebill and Slaty Gnateater while Military Macaws flew along the towering red sandstone cliffs above. A magical place that just gets better and better. The sight of thirty Andean Condors at a carcass was something of a treat as we travelled the dry Valles. Bolivia is the country to see this mighty icon of Andean birding bar none. Watching dozens of Red-fronted Macaws flying around us along the Rio Mizque with hundreds of Cliff Parakeets was another very memorable morning. We must not forget our successes in the cloud forests at Siberia and on both the Chapare and Coroico roads where we had outstanding views of a superb Hooded Mountain Toucan and numerous Black-winged Parrots. However, our most memorable morning was walking the icy tops above La Paz with a pair of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. The combination of breath taking scenery (quite literally) with such confiding birds is a memory that will stay with all of us. That same day we watched the rather infrequently seen, shall we say, Scimitar-winged Piha at our stakeout which gave repeated good looks as it fed young nearby.

The virtually unknown Unicoloured Thrush (Ed Wilson)

The virtually unknown Unicoloured Thrush (Ed Wilson)