Oh it was all so easy with our Wilito for about three weeks. The bivouac of the ants was about 5o meters behind our house and Wilito showed up in the same spot every morning, at different times though. But still, it was so easy. We even had some “prominent” visitors to see our little baby. Robert Ridgely visited and fed it a grasshopper and Paul Greenfield came a few days later.
Since monday, Nov. 12 th, the ants are moving again. I was actually expecting them to move even a bit earlier, as I could already see the shells of pupaes on the floor below the bivouac. So new ants were hatching. Monday night then the colony started to move to another spot and we followed. For the first few days/nights, we could easily track the ants and it was still possible to find Wilito somewhere around the old or new bivouac site. But then the ants moved downwards on a steep slope and the Cuckoo-feeding got almost impossible. At least we could not take any more visitors. Of course, we were still trying our best to keep track.
Now the ants have moved onto our neighbor´s land. So we went to talk to our neighbor. It is not easy to convince somebody of conservation work who shoots an Ornate Hawk-Eagle because it ate his chickens. But in the end he gave us his permission to access his forest to search the ants and the Cuckoo. It is still very tricky to follow and observe the ant swarms during the day, as the vegetation has a lot undergrowth and there are no trails.
This monday then I observed an adult BGC next to the ants swarm again. It walked around me but wouldn´t accept any grasshopper.Because of my allergy to the army ant bites, normally Wilo goes out to track the ants at night time. It is too dangerous for me. But on Tuesday, I had to go because Wilo had to repair our pick-up. When I was crawling back up the slope late afternoon from tracking the ants, I encountered two Cuckoos hopping up some branches. It was already too dark to see well, but one bird was definitely an adult. Yesterday morning we found the two Cuckoos again in the same spot. They were vocalizing. Then I noticed that one of the birds was Wilito. I called him and he came to take a grasshopper. But instead of eating it, he raised his crest and tail, opened up all this blue skin around the eye and walked towards the other Cuckoo moving up and down its head. The adult cuckoo followed it and they both disappeared into the vegetation.I am not sure what we observed there, but to me it looked like some kind of courtship behavior. The big question is, if the adult bird is a fourth individual or if it is Wilito´s mother, but then where is the other adult??
Today we observed exactly the same behavior again. We found the Cuckoos again in the same spot, at the same time and Wilito showed the same behavior like the day before, only longer this time.So now we have decided that we cannot continue the Cuckoo-show, as long as we don´t know what the Cuckoos are up to. We don´t want to disturb them if they are really wanting to breed in that area.
Something very important for us and for the Banded Ground-Cuckoo is saving the habitat around here. Both our neighbors would sell their land, but we don´t have the money to purchase. We would be very happy about any help we can get to protect a little bit more of the Chocó. And even smaller contributions would help us to continue our conservation work here. Contributions can be made through our website or please contact us!