Carefully we cross the forest's stream over two long wooden rails and exit into open grassland, a wet savannah, as is underlined by the smacking of our wellies. We pass several "matapalos", strangler figs hugging palm trees. The grass is lush and high, the distant noise of the howler monkeys travels far across the prairie, a noisy group of smooth-billed ani releases several whining sounds from inside the undergrowth, ooo-leeek - ooo-leeek - ooo-leeek. From across the wet savanna from yet another forest a group of chachalacas joins in with their ear-piercing chatter.
It's seven o'clock in the morning and the Llanos' inhabitants are wide awake. The sun's out, too. "Perfect day for sighting the manakin", assures Andrés, who guides both die-hard birders and amateur bird lovers through the manakin forest regularly.
The "manakin forest" is a particularly long and wide stretch of moist tropical lowland forest, which turns into swamps in rain season. The sunlight reaches the muddy floor here and there, large and expansive palm trees form natural bridges and aerial paths for capuchins and howlers. Then, suddenly, there it is: a high-pitched sharp note. "Once you know it, you know it!", says Andrés about the wire-tailed manakin's sound. >> Listen to it here
In the next half an hour we are mesmerized by the sight of several male wire-tailed manakins, some sitting, some flying from branch to branch, others doing the "moonwalk" to intimidate competitors.
We only spot males on this occasion. One reason possibly being that the males have the vibrant colours, bright lemon yellow belly and chest with a fire-red head, and are just more obvious. The female manakins look 'dirty-greenish' with the same large eyes. Here's a fantastic photo for comparison.
There are no particular seasons when it's easier to see the wire-tailed manakin in Colombia, it's an all-year round bird across the Llanos and sighting the pipra filicauda can almost be guaranteed in our own 'manakin forest' just 30 minutes from Yopal.
Have you seen it? Have you seen the wire-tailed manakin in Colombia yet? Share your experience with us in the comments.
>> Visit the Manakin Forest near Yopal, Casanare, Colombia