Andean Motmot at the nest in Tunquini Field Station

Hochlandmotmot oder AndenmotmotAfter a successful morning, I try my luck as a photographer with the Nikon Nikkor AF-I 4.0/ 600 on the Nikon F 5 on another slope. First I try to photograph a few birds with the 600 set up directly at the houses of the Tunquini Biological Station. I do see a Andean Motmot or Highland Motmot (Momotus aequatorialis) and a few Spotted Tanager (Tangara punctata), Buff-throated Saltator (Saltator maximus), Orange-bellied Euphonia (Euphonia xanthogaster), Slaty-capped Flycatcher (Leptopogon superciliaris), Yellow-headed Tanager (Tangara xanthocephala), and a beautiful Blue-browed Tanager (Tangara cyanotis), but that’s about it.

I then walk up the mountain towards the mine with my companion, Francoise. It’s a steep climb. Me with my 2.8/300 and the Mezt MZ-1i in the backpack on my back. Francoise once again sets a decent pace. At one point – below the bamboo forest that is now beginning – we see – or first hear – a pair of highland motmot. One has a giant earthworm – Francoise thinks it’s an earthworm – in its beak. The earthworm hangs down on both sides like a mustache. The highland motmot is easy to photograph; he stays still the whole time. I take several photos in normal mode without correction, one without flash at 1/50th of a second. I took the last two pictures in rear flash mode (2nd shutter curtain) with -1.0 correction. The Metz MZ-1i actually always shows “ok”. At 1,750 m above sea level we reach the Bamboo Forest and see a mixed flock with tanagers. But somehow I have no peace. We run back. We then come to a place again where a highland motmot is calling all the time. And indeed. There he sits, also with his loot; this time with a fat caterpillar in its beak. I’m just going to blast the rest of my 100 film first. Then I put in 100/1000 film and expose it at 400 ASA. Unfortunately my camera shows a problem (ERR(or)) on the 24th image. So I rewind. Because of the darkness under the canopy, I shoot with flash in normal mode without correction, in rear flash mode (2nd shutter curtain) with -1.0 correction. In bracketing I expose with -1.0 to compensate for any possible overexposure due to the dark background. The highland motmot is very patient with me and I am very persistent when taking photos. So I can still insert a 100mm and also take photos with a flash. But this time it’s higher, so I assume I’m underexposed because it was taken against the sky. So I expose in bracketing with +1.0 correction. After the Andean cliff bird (Rupicola peruviana), this is the second bird that really needs to be photographed extensively. Every now and then with my Metz MZ-5 and the telephoto flash attachment. A little later I realize why the Motmot is so persistent. The nest tube is less than 5m away from us. We can collect lots of beetle corpses from the bird’s favorite perch. There are great beetle specimens. The place is great for a photo opportunity.

The Highland Motmot or Andean Motmot is, as the English name suggests, the Andean representative of the widespread “Blue-crowned Motmot” complex. For many years all members of this group were considered conspecific, but today this group is divided into five different species. The Highland Motmot is found in moist mountain forests of the Andes of South America, from Colombia south to Bolivia. In most of its range it is replaced at lower elevations by the similar but smaller Amazonian Motmot (Momotus momota). The Andean Motmot has many features in common with other “Blue-crowned Motmots”, such as the black center of the crown, which is bordered at the bottom by a broad blue band, the broad black line (or “mask”) through the eye; and the long tail with its “ racquet” tips shaped like spoons. The Highland Motmot is very green on the underside, but – as can be seen in the blog photo – it lacks the yellow-brown tones found in other “Blue-crowned Motmots” and also differs in some details of the facial pattern and color the racquet. As with other Motmots, the nest is at the end of a long tunnel in the forest – preferably on a cliff edge.

Tunquini Biological Station is – or was – a scientific research station in the Cotapata National Park in the province of La Paz in Bolivia. There is currently no entry for this area on eBird. The next hotspot is Coroico. And Coroico is more of a town, the edges of which extend into open country – with some recommended lodges. In any case, the area above Chailo was an excellent area of the relatively low Yungas forest (approx. 1600 m), which could be accessed with the Tunquini Biological Station. The biological research station has a large bedroom, spacious lounges and cooking facilities, which were available during our stay. I might remember that we followed the sign from the road to Rio Selva Resort. 11 km after the junction we passed Rio Selva and soon reached the small village of Chairo. The new main road now runs very close to Chairo (we were there in 2000). From there you follow the path described. The only path through the forest is the continuation of the Chairo path, but it is good for bird watching in both directions. I almost couldn’t believe that this station – as I was assured many times – had electricity. It later turns out how justified my disbelief was. At some point during our stay, four men come and actually install a hydroelectric power plant that actually supplies a lot of electricity. This meant that both the camera battery and the flash could be charged.

To meet the growing demand for top-of-the-line images of the rarer Palaearctic species, strives to expand the range of images of Western Palaearctic birds. Trips to many locations to take pictures of rare western Palearctic birds have been very successful. This nice picture of the blog is just a first impression of what you can find in the gallery in the “Picture Shop” very soon. Please leave a message if can provide a picture.

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