When going on a birding trip to a foreign country, it is standard practice to study up and get a tad familiar with the birds one is likely to see. How much studying, of course, depends on time and how much of a twitcher one is (where Twitcher = a single-minded, often totally anal and obsessive birdwatcher).
I claim not to be much of a twitcher, and here at home, I'm not. Yet, there's something about spending a great lot of $$, several months preparing and planning, and logging long airplane and airport time to reach the destination where the tour will begin. So, yes, I become a twitcher when I travel. And being a female birder, often travelling solo, I have got shunted to the back, as it were, along with the wives of the 'serious' (men) birders also on whatever tour. Do you see my right eyebrow leaping up to my hairline?
So...I tend to study my birds a lot. There's a group of birds, The Flycatchers, that causes me sharp, hot pains behind the above mentioned right eye. So many types of flycatchers and in each group, most look much alike, some virtually the same, identified only by voice. Oy.
Last June I was in Ecuador. I had studied my birds fairly religiously, flycatchers not so much. First day out we stopped at small marshy Lake Colta. Our guide whispered "Subtropical Doradito". I had honestly never heard of this bird before - was this a big, or small bird; brown, red, green, blue, yellow? Deep breath - I had to admit my ignorance and ask "what am I looking for?". It turned out to be a lovely yellow unders and olive-brown uppers flycatcher.
Lesson learned. I now I become very familiar with the names etc of the flycatchers we are at all likely to see. So, I was somewhat prepared when we went out to the savanna at Karanambu for a couple hours of power birding before transferring to Surama. Richard excitedly said "Bearded Tachuri", and happily, I knew what to scan for. Yes, Got It! This bird doesn't sit long; it's like a grasslands sparrow flitting up for a brief perch on a tall grass spike then back down into the long grass.
Bearded Tachuri Polystictus pectoralis
Photo by permission of Jorge Martin Spinuzza at www.avespampa.com.ar
The Bearded Tachuri is one of the rarer birds we found this trip. It has Near Threatened status. It's a grassy savanna bird. As with open prairie everywhere else in the world, this habitat is either being over-grazed by livestock or plowed up for annual crops.
The above photo is from the collection of Birds of the Pampas Plain of Argentina
http://www.avespampa.com.ar/Home_i.htm Good stuff here. I'll be using a few more to perk up future blogs - I/we didn't get too many photos of birds, what with us being twitchers and not photographers, after all!
By the way, if you are going to Guyana or anywhere else in Northern South America, get Birds of Northern South America by Robin Restall et al. The Bearded Tachuri is in Plate 192, page 400 - right beside the Subtropical Doradito and Crested Doradito (which I haven't seen - yet).