My very first photographs of Rusty-tinged Antpitta
By Wilson Díaz
Some birds are easy to see because they’re quite common, some others are not so easy to see because they’re uncommon on rare….. but when talking Antpittas things are different. Most species are common, you can hear them every day, but their shy nature make them extremely difficult to see. For instance, Rusty-tinged Antpitta is a fairly common bird of the humid mountain forest of northeast Peru (it is a Peruvian endemic actually !), its calls can be heard on a daily basis if you’re in the right habitat, but the bird have been seen only very few times, and almost never have been photographed.
I’ve been visiting the Alto Mayo and Abra Patricia forests for more than 15 years now and never had the chance to even have a glance of a Rusty-tinged Antpitta, all my trip reports mentioned this Antpitta as “heard only” until this last April that I went to Fundo Alto Nieva
(http://www.perubirds.org/rutas_fundo_alto_nieva_en.shtml) with a group of friends, including Carlos Calle, photographer and owner of Fundo Alto Nieva. Carlos organized the trip intending to photograph as many bird species as possible and wanting to share his photography knowledge with friends, so as you can imagine, I was quite excited about this trip and dreaming about photographing hummingbirds, tanagers, owls, and all those colourful birds of the mountains forests, but didn’t really expected things like Antpittas. The first day of the trip Carlos gave us a briefing about what to expect for the next days, and he mentioned something I’ll never forget: “high chances to photograph Rusty-tinged Antpittas”…… Really?- I asked..... Well, it happens that Kenny Rodriguez, resident manager of Fundo Alto Nieva, had been working on making the antpittas to come out in the open to feed on worms, and after three months he succeeded and the birds lost their natural shyness and began to come out on the open trail as soon as they hear Kenny’s calls for food.
The first day at Fundo Alto Nieva we walked up the Owlet trail early in the morning to get to the Antpitta site as early as possible. Once there we set up the tripods and all photo stuff, light is dim in the forest so we had to high up the ISO settings of the cameras, lowered the f-stop and pray to have a clear shot at a slow shutter speed. We didn’t want to spoil Kenny’s hard work by using the flashes on these birds, the risk of frighten the birds was too high, so we decided not to use them, instead we put a led flashlight in front of us hoping it would help increasing the available light. Our technique didn’t really help much, that’s why the images you see here are not very sharp, but I’m happy with them. The bird really didn’t care about our presence, he was focused on getting the worms, and at a certain moment he got as close as two meters away from me and it was hard to keep it in the frame. After all that excitement all we had to do was to walk back to the Fundo’s house and have breakfast to regain energy to keep on with bird photography during the rest of the day.
All birders visiting Fundo Alto Nieva these last two months have had the chance to see this endemic Antpitta, and I hope the sightings will keep going on for a while.