Argentina

Spot the beast 66

Aware that this can be difficult, I give you two different views of the beast in the first two pictures. Below you will find it enlarged in both.

Have a good look and you will find it.

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View 2

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Here are the enlarged views:

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View 2

Two more pictures to show it over a black background and give you an idea of size.

Spot the beast 65

With the warmer weather small beasts started appearing and you get surprised by them more often. This is the case of this one I found on the ground this morning that was very well camouflaged. Can you spot it?

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At 12 cm wingspan this is a rather large moth of a species unknown to me but not less beautiful! A couple of other pictures for you to admire.

Spot the beast 64

Now that the winter is over, things start to happen at the farm in Salta, Argentina. The following “Spot” is difficult, perhaps too difficult but what follows I believe it is interesting. Here there are two pictures for you to look at and try to find the hidden “beasts”.

Here you can see our finding:

Well, in reality there were “future beasts”. It is a nest of the Southern lapwing (Vanellus chilensis). This bird is common throughout the southern part of Latin America. The nest with two to four eggs looks like if the eggs were dropped anywhere as nests go. The idea of “egg incontinence” came to mind…

Meet the birds known locally as “Tero” or “Teru-teru”, because of their calls, that happens to be the national bird of Uruguay:

As much as the nest looks like a careless affair, its defense by the birds is not. Apart from their loud screams, they go through a routine that I can prove is a good deterrent to anyone approaching the nest.

First they try to attract you to a spot far from the nest by pretending to be sitting on it. If this fails, one or both start behaving weirdly, showing signs of being wounded or just trying to distract you, staying quite close to you.

If the above noisy diverting tactics fail, the birds go into the next line of defense that is quite aggressive. The screaming goes up a few decibels while taking off and flying low directly towards you until veering off at the last second! When close, you can hear a clicking noise that I believe they make with their beaks as well as the spurs in their wings.

Although I have being mobbed many times I can assure you that they can be extremely intimidating as the following sequence of images show.

More info on the species can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_lapwing

To hear their calls:

Spot the beast 63

I have not been able to continue with “Spots” as we are not travelling and we had gone through our winter in our farm in Salta where we focussed on looking after ourselves in isolation.

The arrival of the spring brought nicer temperatures and things started to change and liven up. Plants and trees started to flower and, because it is dry now, lots of birds have arrived to drink at our water baths.

So, while doing general maintenance preparing for the summer that it seems we would need to spend here, I found this object that, although it is not a usual “beast” it is somehow challenging. Would you guess what it is and what happened here?

I am aware that it is not straight forward… but it gets better if we remove the white cover.

Just in case you did not get what had happened I will explain.

I use the tins of preserve to build bird nests. To this particular one I added the white foam for warmth and used the same material to close it, leaving the round hole for the birds to get in (see first picture, above). They did and you can see their nest at the bottom of the tin. That happened during year one.

The following year a colony of wasps found the tin suitable for their purposes and decided to build their nest inside, on top of the birds’ nest. The birds did not come back again for obvious reasons as these are large and aggressive wasps.

So, removing the wasp’s nest you can actually see the bird’s nest and a few wasp bodies.

Two more pictures to show you the removed wasp’s nest.

The removed wasp comb .
Another view of the wasp comb.









Siesta with a Tataupa Tinamou

Like every year we spend a few summer months of the Southern hemisphere at our small farm in the region known as “El Gallinato” in Salta Province, Argentina [1]. The area belongs to the Yungas ecosystem that is still rich in vegetation and wildlife.

There are over 216 species of birds that inhabit or have been seen in the area of our farm and we are lucky to have some real special birds, some of them even come to feed at our bird table. Unfortunately we cannot boast the presence of hummingbirds in large numbers although they do live and we see them often. However, there are other interesting species of larger size.

Being here only during a few months does not enable us to observe all possible birds and we are away during the dry winter months when there is less vegetation and the birds become more obvious.

This year has been especially good for some of the birds at our farm. Among these, the rather abundant plush-crested jays (Cyanocorax chrysops) adds lots of colour to our front garden where they congregate to feed on the cracked maize and seeds we offer.

We had also a good sighting of the elusive and colourful cream-backed woodpecker (Campephilus leucopogon).

The large dusky-legged guans (Penelope obscura), however, are the real attraction at the moment as, somehow, they have decided to come close to the house and they also  starting feeding on the bird tables for the first time since we bought the farm about 13 years ago.

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Our neighbour, himself an ornithologist, mentioned that this winter there had been two families that raised their young around our farms and they have decided to stay around.

We had over the years watched toucans (Ramphastos toco) a couple of times before. Our quince (Cydonia spp.) and kaki (Diospyros kaki) trees had produced a god crop of fruits the latter appear irresistible to toucans. So, three of them have been busy finishing all the kakis at a really fast rate and there will be nothing left very soon. Luckily, we are not kaki fans!

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Today, while entering the house after taking some of the above pictures, I saw something scurrying under a table. At first I thought it to be a rat or a guinea pig although the latter rarely enter houses. I followed it and it was a running like a dwarf version of a New Zealand kiwi.

It entered the house and I lost it. Thinking that it would go out the way it came in, I left it alone and forgot it. We had lunch and I went for my siesta a very civilized activity, essential at my age and in tropical situations.

This particular siesta ended up abruptly when I woke up startled by an unfamiliar noise. The bird visitor was flying about my siesta quarters, trying to leave through closed windows! I got up fast and managed to net it and keep it quiet while Mabel was calling our neighbor for identification purposes before release.

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Tataupa tinamou. My siesta foe. Credit: Dreamstime.com.

The small beast, the size of a partridge, was a Tataupá Tinamou (Crypturellus tataupa) a bird that prefers to walk or run rather than fly but that it had been seen around frequently.

 

[1] See: https://bushsnob.com/2014/12/30/at-the-foothills-of-the-andes/

Spot the beast 58

I saw this beast flying off from our verandah when I turned the light off early morning.

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Here it is. Just visible even when I cropped the picture.

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The moment the moth gets ready to fly, it is a different story! Quite beautiful.

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Spot the beast 55

The setting makes spotting this -rather delicate- beast difficult. However, I am sure you will find it…

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Here it is, probably not what you expected? I was pretty sure that you would check the sticks thoroughly and probably (at least at first) miss it.

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It is a rather delicate moth that does not visit us very often.

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Rescue!

While in Salta I got an invitation to join a group of friends on a fishing trip near a place called Goya, in the mighty Paraná River, the same river where we have spent some great days fishing in the eighties (See: https://bushsnob.com/2015/01/28/a-fishing-expedition/).

This time the fishing was not memorable as there seems that the river is suffering from too much fishing pressure and the large fish are disappearing.

At one stage during the fishing we were traversing a smaller tributary known as the Santa Lucía River when I spotted three large birds of prey circling a floating object. I kept watching their activity from about one hundred metres away and saw that one of them landed in the water and started to peck the object.

I realised that the birds were three Caranchos or Caracara (Caracara plancus) and I was surprised to see one landing in the water. Then, the bird lifted the object in its paws and started to fly away but dropped it. At that time, I saw that what they were mobbing was a smaller bird so we went to have a look.

While moving towards the spot, there was a second attempt at lifting the bird again and, again it was dropped.

Our approach scared the predators and we found the prey to be a Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata), a rather unusual target for the Caracaras that, although known as opportunistic, I did not think capable of going for a rather large kingfisher!

When we approached the bird, it swam with the aid of its wings towards us.

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A “rushed” picture of the kingfisher “swimming” towards us seconds before I lifted it.

I lifted the bird, risking its rather strong beak. Soon I managed to close it with a sticking plaster to avoid becoming a victim myself! I checked the bird and, fortunately, it did not show any visible injuries.

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Bushsnob and soaked wet rescued bird with its beak closed by the plaster!

I kept the bird on the boat for about two hours, waiting for it to dry and to keep it from struggling I covered it with my hat, burning my bald head in the process!

Eventually, it got dry and became rather active so I judged that it was as ready for release. As soon as I removed the plaster and held it in my hand for a few seconds, it flew away strongly.

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Waiting for the now dry kingfisher to fly off.

Unfortunately I can only speculate as to how the kingfisher ended in such a tight spot that, surely, would have cost it its life if we would not have come to look. In my view, the most probable scenario is that it was a young and inexperienced bird that had recently left the nest and, being still insecure, made a mistake spotted by the caracaras that took advantage of the situation. However, I could well be wrong.

Spot the beast 54

Another beast to test your observation powers. Not too difficult this time but good camouflage nevertheless…

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Good dress to deceive in Autumn!

Rococo

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A rococo is a large toad as you would expect with such spectacular name! It has been classified as Rhinella schneideri and it is also known as cururú toad in other parts of South America. In English it goes under the much less spectacular name of Schneider’s toad.

As toads go, a rococo is a large one: the males can measure between 15-17cm and the females between 18-25cm with a maximum weight of  2kg of weight! Pretty sizable if you ask me.

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Rhinella schneideri is a widespread and very common species that occurs in a variety of habitats but most commonly in open and urban ones. It breeds in permanent and temporary ponds.They are found in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Brazil where they are sometimes kept as pets. I remember my aunt in Salto, Uruguay that used to have one in her garden that would come every evening from the cover of the plants to get its mince meat!

Luckily, at Salta, although we are at about 1,500 m above sea level we do get rococos and we see them sometimes around the house, feeding on the insects attracted to the outside lights. They are fierce predators feeding not only on invertebrates but they have been seen feeding on rodents, snakes, small birds and even fish and other amphibians.

Despite this, it a a shy animal that itself falls prey to snakes and birds of prey.  In fact, just a few days ago we saw a roadside hawk (Rupornis magnirostris) catching one on the road but our approach by car scared the bird that -luckily for the toad- dropped it unharmed (as we stopped to check it). They are able to pump themselves up to avoid being swallowed by snakes but this is clearly no defense against birds.

They are mainly nocturnal and very imposing creatures with a rather large body but rather weak hind legs that makes rather slow. They are distinguished by their supraorbital crests and their pupils are large and slit-shaped. Apart from their size they also have tibial glands located in their hind legs that secrete a milky bufotoxin. The later causes nausea, vomiting, and even paralysis and death in potential predators.

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Luckily, they are not threatened despite being collected for the pet trade.