Scaled Antpitta at Xenornis Trail, a report by Bill Adsett

Bill Adsett sent a report of a Scaled Antpitta seen briefly on Xenornis trail at Cerro Vistamares.
I have not reported sightings for a while. Some of the following may be of interest. The last one definitely will be!
While at Nusagandi on Carnival weekend, ........... reported a Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo sitting in a tree just below the kitchen area, moaning! By the time we got there, it had gone (of course). We (Geoff ...., Jim White and myself) also found a male American Kestrel on the last big finca past Nusagandi, and apparently it is of the isabellinus race from Colombia (like the ones on Cerro Azul). We had very few other sightings worth reporting, although we flushed a pair of Great Curassows close to the Headquarters and the male stayed for several minutes in full view in a tree.
On the trip to Cana with Donal and Katie O'Brien, Maria Allen and Ida Herrera, on ...........we saw many of the good species one expects there.
Its difficult to pick out what might be of interest, but Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Pirre Bush-Tanager, Pirre Warbler and Varied Solitaire were all seen on Cerro Pirre (and Beautiful Treerunner was seen by Ed and Natasha Smith at the same time). No Quetzal - apparently too early in the year. Dusky Pigeon was identified both by call and fieldmarks, on the way up to Cerro Pirre. One Lesson's Seedeater was found at the top of the landing strip, but there probably others around. Other birds were Double-banded Graytail,
Black-Tipped Cotinga (at the camp), a pair of Crested Eagles and Viridian Dacnis (Ed and Natasha). An unusual sighting was a Yellow-throated Warbler in a mixed flock.
The Xenornis have been regular on the Xenornis Trail at Cerro Vistamares for a full 12 months, and I think that this is an indication that the species does not migrate altitudinally as we once suspected. Ed Smith video-ed the pair on ...... Another bird we now know is regular here is the Striped Woodhaunter. On the other hand, the Black-headed Brush-Finch and Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner, formerly fairly regular, seemed to disappear in last year's El Niño, and have not reappeared.
The really surprising sighting came on April 25 when Jared Wilson, Matt Denton and José Tejada all saw a Scaled Antpitta at about 800 mts elevation on the trail (exactly where we usually see the Xenornis). It appeared to react (but did NOT respond) to a tape of the scold of the Black-crowned Antpitta, which I played by mistake while looking for the call of another bird. It appeared from a dense tangle of vegetation and stood on a rock for a few seconds looking agitated. This was when Jared and Matt first saw it and identified it. It was subsequently seen twice - once quite well - by José Tejada. If you want more details to confirm the sighting I suggest you ask Jared, Matt and José BECAUSE I DID NOT SEE THE BLOODY THING!
Apart from coming out briefly onto the rock, the bird apparently kept to thick tangled growth. It did not respond (by voice) to tapes of either of the large antpittas. According to Matt, who knows the Scaled from Costa Rica, it is vocal only in the very early morning. Despite the number of hours spent by many birders on this trail, this bird has gone unrecorded until now, but given its apparently very shy habits and silent behaviour, I suppose it could have been there all along and we just did not notice it. By the way, Dodge always thought that this bird would be a possibility on the Xenornis Trail. Presumably it is most likely to be of the chocoensis race. Maybe its worth trying to get hold of it (mist net?) to check it out better.

Matt Denton wrote:
It appeared that our bird was "coming out" to see what would have alarmed a Pittasoma, and afterwards was scared off by our presence. I can ask a friend from Costa Rica who has experience with Scaled AP how they usually respond to playbacks. He is coming to Panama this week.
I am as sure as possible that it was Scaled Antpitta without having it in the hand. The size was definitely larger than the Streak-chested Antpitta, practically the same size of Pittasoma. I had never seen Scaled Antpitta before. Field marks I saw without binoculars when the bird first flushed was an antpitta (long legs, almost tail-less) with a deep chestnut brown chest and belly. My look with binoculars moments later was from behind, but it was definitely an antpitta and not a wood-quail or other terrestrial bird. I saw a definite gray crown and nape, deep brown shoulders and back with distinct "scaling" from the nape (back of head) down onto back.
No, I can think of no other possibilities, quail-dove- no, wood-quail-no, antthrush-no, leaftosser-no, other antipitta-no.
Matt Denton
Smithsonian Tropical Research Inst.
Box 2072
Balboa, Republic of Panama


Thanks for your honest and accurate appraisal. As you know, the Scaled Antpitta is (according to Ridgely) not recorded between Darien and Western Panama, so we can expect some scepticism from some quarters (not me, I might add- I've wished it there for years!)
I'll try to get down the trail early on Saturday and hope against hope to see the bird. One thing of interest is to determine the race (again, see Ridgely)