The purpose of my entire trip to Peru was to see a Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird with my own eyes. I fell in love with this tiny bird with the exquisite tail when I first saw the BBC video featuring David Attenborough. All of us who watched the video were cheering the little guy on as he desperately tried to impress the female with his exhausting dance.
We had originally planned to stay at the Owlet Lodge for an additional day, but at dinner we met a gentleman who had spent the day at Huembo and informed us that the Spatuletail was there and feeding on flowers around the feeder area. We decided then and there that we needed to go to Huembo immediately.
Huembo Reserve is an ecological easement near the town of Pomacochas in the Department of Amazonas. The property is owned by The Association Ecosistemas Andinos ECOAN which was purchased with private donations through ECOAN and the American Bird Conservancy. The mission of ECOAN is to preserve and protect species of flora and fauna in danger of extinction. Habitat loss is a major threat to birds and other animals of the region, as logging and agriculture claim more and more land in the Andes. The Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird is the star of Huembo and this little bird now has its territory protected so it can thrive and reproduce.
We got up very early and had a picnic breakfast outside the gates to the reserve while we waited for Mr. Santos Montenegro Tantajulca to open up for us.
Santos was a farmer in the area who has become a bird expert and is the Coordinator for Huembo Lodge. He lives on the property. I call him "Mr. Marvelous Spatuletail" as he knows everything that is currently known about this bird.
We entered the property and hiked along the trail to a place with a platform and benches set up to observe five hummingbird feeders where the Marvelous Spatuletail comes to feed.
I personally know someone who was here for an entire day and the bird did not make an appearance. There are no guarantees that the bird is going to show up, so we planned to be here for three days.
We were here about three minutes when Steve exclaimed "It's there!" I looked up from the task of unpacking my camera equipment and took my first glimpse of a Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird. I got tears in my eyes. No lie. I remember thinking "Well, that didn't take long!"
Over the three day period spent here at Huembo I had the opportunity to photograph two different males. I never saw a female. One had his tail feathers completely grown in and one was in the process. His long tail feathers were about 3/4 grown in with pristine spatules at the end, as they were new and not yet beat up by the foliage. His two central tail feathers were pins.
The other male had his four tail feathers completely grown.
These birds are very difficult to photograph and I now understand why there are are so few really good pictures of them. First of all, they live in the cloud forest where the lighting is not optimal. They are shy, twitchy and very fast. They don't sit in one place for long and they are very small when you don't count their long tail, so they tend to be bullied by the other hummingbirds. The territory is filled with Chestnut-breasted Coronets, an extremely territorial bully species.
Check out this video we filmed in the lek of the Marvelous Spatuletail
Other hummingbirds that frequented the feeders here are the Andean Emerald, Bronzy Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Sparkling Violetear and the Violet-fronted Brilliant. Another species that did not come to the feeders is a Green-tailed Trainbearer, and thanks to William's keen eye I was able to photograph both the male and female of this species.
FEMALE GREEN-TAILED TRAINBEARER
MALE GREEN-TAILED TRAINBEARER
Well, I accomplished my mission in coming to Peru. I did get to see and photograph a Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird. Did it satisfy me? No. It only managed to get me further obsessed with this species.
We're coming back here to Huembo in January, 2019. Now I want to see, photograph and video the mating ritual. We will sit in the lek for four days to try and witness this wondrous event (minus David Attenborough).
And next time we're staying at the Huembo Lodge rather than in town. We don't want to have to wait for Santos to come and open the gate in the morning!