Sunday, September 13, 2009

Colombia Day 7 Aug. 29. It had to be Paramo...

We got up and started preparing for the day. As I mentioned before the paramo is cold, so layers are really important. Its also wet, so waterproof is good. I waddled out to the minivan Pablo hired for the day and we took off. I was happy to hear that we actually would be birding a wetland area outside of Bogota and some upland forest along the road to Chingaza National Park before we did the actual paramo. Unfortunately the weather was already acting like paramo, cold and wet.

Our first stop was brief at some ponds along the road where we quickly picked up Spot-flanked Gallinule. We tried for Bogota Rail with no luck. There was heavy traffic on the road, so sound didn’t carry far. We then drove to Guasca, a small nearby town and had a great breakfast at an amazing bakery. We actually picked up a trip bird in town, Giant Cowbird! Yea! The rain continued.

The road to the forest was lined with picturesque farms. Even the simplest homes had beautiful flowers and well kept yards. When we entered the entrance road to the forest there was a definite increase in steepness. It was a really beautiful area. Our first stop produced a Black-billed Mountain Toucan, a bird I had only seen silhouetted in deep fog in Ecuador. Martin got a great photo. This bird was also of a different race, the near endemic all black-billed race. It was a good start. Unfortunately the rain was still coming down pretty hard.

We made a couple of other short stops with very few birds. I have to admit thinking “I could just as easily not see birds someplace warm and dry”. I also noticed Pablo was not looking very well. I pulled him aside and he admitted to being ill, but he wanted to continue. We encouraged him to stay in the van and rest whenever possible, and we would bird on our own. He was rather chilled, so we bundled him up and went on. The cold rain was certainly not doing him any good.

Then things started changing for the better. Hummingbirds were showing up everywhere! There were a lot of flowering shrubs in the forest, which was becoming more stunted as we gained altitude. We saw species that were not new to us, like Tyrian Metaltail and Glowing Puffleg,, but then we started picking up some new ones. Martin found a Coppery-bellied Puffleg. Then we had a Blue-throated Starfront. Both of these birds are near endemics, only being found in Venezuela near the border in an area that is rather risky. Dan saw a hummingbird with a thin white collar under the throat, it was a Longuemare's Sunangel, another target bird. The rest of us caught up with this species a bit later.

Hummingbirds were not the only stars of the show. Rufous-browed Conebills showed well. Matorral Tapaculo, an endemic, actually flew back and forth across the road in front of us, very atypical for a Tapaculo! We had both Hooded and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanagers. A Rufous Wren put on a good show. Several of the common species of flowerpiercers were working the same flowers as the hummingbirds. We got great looks at the local race of Golden-fronted Whitestart, with is very white face.

There was a possibility of seeing a pyrrhura parakeet that goes by two different names, Brown-chested and Flame-winged. We laughed about the totally different impression these two names give. Brown-chested Parakeet, yawn, or FLAME-WINGED PARAKEET! Ta da! This is another difficult bird to find, but we had done well with some others in this category, so we kept up hope. As we were heading back down we heard parakeets calling and there they were! A small flock flew over us and a couple landed in a distant tree, where we scoped them. That was great. We played the i-Pod, trying to get them to return. Our luck was even better when several flew by very close and perched! They really deserve the name Flame-winged, as you can see from Martin’s photo.

We left the woods after lunch and headed to the paramo. As we were driving we passed another army check point. The soldiers were super friendly, reaching in and shaking our hands saying “Mucho gusto!” We gave them some of our left over pastries from the bakery, which certainly didn’t hurt. Even better, the weather had cleared some and it was actually not too uncomfortable. Pablo was definitely better, which was a big relief.

We looked for the small flowers that hummingbirds like and found a patch. We got out and searched, but didn’t see our target. We moved on a little farther and tried again. We walked up a little way into the stunted bushes that cover the paramo and I saw a hummingbird shoot overhead. I called out and everyone got on it as it dove into a shrub not far from Martin. We got an ok look at it and it was a Bronze-tailed Thornbill. Of course we wanted more. We tried for quite a while to find it, but it must have shot out the back of the bush to another area. It was our final life bird of the trip! We headed back to Bogota and Crepes and Waffles for a celebratory dinner.

Colombia exceeded all of our expectations. It’s spectacularly beautiful. The people are among the most friendly I have met anywhere in Latin America, which is saying a lot. Most of the roads are very good and all are amazingly clean. There was almost no litter at all. One thing that really impressed me was the condition of the animals there. I never saw unhealthy stray dogs, which are unfortunately common in most other areas south of the border. The food is very good, even in the small towns. The water is very clean in the cities, though as in any country, its better to be safe than sorry. And then there are the birds…I highly recommend birding here. As I said in my first day report, it’s safe now.

Here are links to Martin and my photos
My birds
If for some reason the links don’t work, Martin’s photos can be found at under places.
My photos are at

Here is our total trip list, thanks to Martin Reid

Bird List:
ROM = La Romera on the southeast side of Medellin.
BOL = roadside stops near Bolombolo part-way between Medellin and Jardin.
JAL = above Jardin.
RBL = Rio Blanco.
RUI = Nevado del Ruiz.
OTU = Otun (i.e. La Suiza – El Cedral).
FLO = stops below La Florida (close to Otun), above Pereira.
GAL = Galapagos Road (i.e. San Jose – El Palmar road) near El Cairo
CAR = stops in the lowlands just west of Cartago.
GUA = Paramo Guasca (i.e. paramo prior to Chingaza NP, plus nearby treeline forests).

Endemics and Near-Endemics (including subspecies) are in bold type. Other birds of interest are underlined.

Torrent Duck Merganetta armata 2 adults + 3 ducklings, FLO
Speckled Teal Anas flavirostris 2 RUI, 3 GUA
Masked Duck Nomonyx dominicus 1 CAR
Colombian/Ruddy Duck Oxyura andina/jamaicensis 3 RUI, 1 GUA
Sickle-winged Guan Chamaepetes goudotii 1 ROM (Sheridan and Dan)
Andean Guan Penelope montagnii 4 GUA
Cauca Guan Penelope perspicax 2 OTU
[Chestnut Wood-Quail Odontophorus hyperythrus] heard only at RBL, OTU, and GAL
Pied-billed Grebe Podylimbus podiceps 1 GUA
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1 CAR, 1 GUA
Striated Heron Butorides striata 1 BOL, 3+ CAR
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis fairly common throughout
Great Egret Ardea alba 1 CAR
Snowy Egret Egretta thula a few BOL
Green Ibis Mesembrinibis cayennensis a pair flew over the Cauca River bridge, CAR
Bare-faced Ibis Phimosus infuscatus 12+ FLO, 4 CAR
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura daily
Black Vulture Coragyps stratus daily
Swallow-tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus singles, plus flock of 65 GAL
Pearl Kite Gampsonyx swainsonii 1 on drive from Jardin to Rio Blanco
Snail Kite Rostrhamus sociabilis 3 CAR
Plumbeous Kite Ictinia plumbea 12 in loose group migrating through RBL
Barred Hawk Leucopternis princeps 1 GAL
Roadside Hawk Buteo magnirostris singles at five locations
Ornate Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus ornatus a pair display-fighting GAL
Yellow-headed Caracara Milvago chimachima a few on drive from Jardin to Rio Blanco
American Kestrel Falco sparverius 1 GUA
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus a few GUA
Spot-flanked Gallinule Gallinula melanops bogotensis 4 GUA
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinica a few CAR
American Coot Fulica americana a few GUA
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis common in human-altered habitats
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus 2 CAR
Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana 10+ CAR
Ruddy Ground-Dove Columbina talpacoti common throughout
Rock Pigeon Columba livia common in towns
Band-tailed Pigeon Patagioenas fasciata common in temperate area
Ruddy Pigeon Patagioenas subvinacea 1 BOL
Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata common
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verrauxi 2 GAL
Yellow-eared Parrot Ognorhynchus icterotis 16 in four groups, all in flight JAR
[Scarlet-fronted Parakeet Aratinga wagleri] heard only BOL (oddly scarce, apparently)
Golden-plumed Parakeet Leptosittaca branickii 4 flew in and landed OTU
Flame-winged Parakeet Pyrrhura calliptera 16 in two groups, some perched GUA
Barred Parakeet Bolborhynchus lineola 12 in flock high over JAR
Rufous-fronted Parakeet Bolborhynchus ferrungineifrons 8 in flock RUI
Spectacled Parrotlet Forpus conspicillatus 1 in flight CAR (Martin & Pablo)
Orange-chinned Parakeet Brotogeris jugularis small group in Manizales; heard in Medellin
Blue-headed Parrot Pionus menstruus a few BOL and CAR
Speckle-faced/White-crowned Parrot Pionus tumultuosus 2 RBL
Bronze-winged Parrot Pionus chalcopterus a few BOL and OTU
Scaly-naped Parrot Amazona mercenaria a few RBL
Squirrel Cuckoo Paiya cayana 1 BOL (Sheridan), 1 CAR (Sheridan, Dan)
Smooth -billed Ani Crotophaga ani fairly common in farmland
[Tropical Screech-Owl Megascops choliba] heard only, at hotel in El Cairo (Martin)
White-throated Screech-Owl Megascops albogularis 1 seen, five heard RBL
[Rufous-banded Owl Ciccaba albitarsus] 1 heard only RBL
[Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl Gaucidium nubicola] heard only by Sheridan and Dan, GAL
Band-winged Nightjar Caprimulgus longirostris singles at dawn/dusk on road JAR, OTU, GAL
Lyre-tailed Nightjar Uropsalis lyra a male JAR; a female GAL
Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutila small flock ROM
White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris small numbers ROM and GAL
Band-rumped Swift Chaetura spinicaudus two of the western form GAL
?Sick’s Swift Chaetura meridionalis? While hiding from a shower at lunch at La Suiza we saw four Chaetura swifts fairly close that looked very like meridionalis to me (shortish-tailed, long pale rear-end from above; very dark below with very pale throat and slightly paler ventral area) – I saw meridionalis in Brazil the previous November.
Tawny-bellied Hermit Phaethornis syrmatophorus a couple at OTU and GAL
Wedge-billed Hummingbird Schistes geoffroyi 1 GAL (Sheridan and Dan)
Green Violetear Colibri thalassinus a few RBL
Sparkling Violetear Colibri coruscans 1 RBL, 1 GUA
Longuemare’s Sunangel Heliangelus clarisse 3 GUA
Tourmaline Sunangel Heliangelus exortis a few JAR and RBL
Speckled Hummingbird Adelomyia melanogenys a couple RBL
Long-tailed Sylph Aglaiocercus kingi a couple RBL
Violet-tailed Sylph Aglaiocercus coelestis a few GAL
Bronze-tailed Thornbill Chalcostigma heteropogon 1 GUA
Bearded Helmetcrest Oxypogon guerinii two males and a female RUI
Tyrian Metaltail Metallura tyrianthina uncommon RBL, RUI and GUA
Viridian Metaltail Metallura williami 1 RUI
Greenish Puffleg Halpophaedia aureliae 1 ROM, 3 GAL
Glowing Puffleg Eriocnemis vestita 3 GUA
Black-thighed Puffleg Eriocnemis derbyi 1 RUI
Coppery-bellied Puffleg Eriocnemis cupreoventris 2 GUA
Shining Sunbeam Aglaeactis cupripennis 1 RUI
Bronzy Inca Coeligena coeligena 1 ROM, 1 OTU
Brown Inca Coeligena wilsoni 3 GAL
Collared Inca Coeligena torquata fairly common RBL
Blue-throated Starfrontlet Coeligena helianthea 3 GUA
Mountain Velvetbreast Lafresnaya lafresnayi 1 JAR
Sword-billed Hummingbird Ensifera ensifera 1 JAR
Buff-tailed Coronet Boissonneaua flavescens common RBL
Velvet-purple Coronet Boissonneaua jardini common GAL
Booted Racket-tail Ocreatus underwoodi 3 GAL
White-tailed Hillstar Urochroa bougeri fairly common GAL (western form with tawny malar)
Fawn-breasted Brilliant Heliodoxa rubinoides a few at feeders, RBL
Empress Brilliant Heliodoxa imperatrix a few GAL
White-bellied Woodstar Chaetocercus mulsant a couple at feeders RBL
Purple-throated Woodstar Calliphlox mitchellii a few GAL
Western Emerald Chlorostilbon melanorhynchus 1 OTU
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Amazilia tzacatl 1 BOL, 1 road from Jardin to Rio Blanco
Andean Emerald Amazilia franciae 1 GAL
Steely-vented Hummingbird Amazilia saucerrottei 1 GAL
[Golden-headed Quetzal Pharomachrus auriceps] Heard only at GAL
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata 1 FLO, 1 CAR
Highland Motmot Momotus aequatorialis 1 RBL, 3 OTU, 2 GAL
Red-headed Barbet Eubucco bourcierii 1 BOL, 2 OTU
[Toucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus] heard only GAL
Emerald Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus griseigularis 3 ROM
Black-billed Mountain-Toucan Andigena nigrirostris nigrirostris 1 GUA
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus 1 Medellin, 1 Pereira
Golden-green Woodpecker Piculus chrysochloros 1 OTU (Sheridan and Dan)
Golden-olive Woodpecker Colaptes rubiginosus 1 GAL (Sheridan and Dan)
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker Colaptes rivoli 1 RBL, 2 GUA
Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus 1 ROM (Martin)
[Powerful Woodpecker Campephilus pollens] heard only RBL
Stout-billed Cinclodes Cinclodes excelsior 1 RUI
Bar-winged Cinclodes Cinclodes fuscus fairly common RUI
Andean Tit-Spintetail Leptasthenura andicola 1 RUI (Dan)
White-chinned Thistletail Schizoeaca fuliginosa 1 RUI (Dan)
Azara’s Spinetail Synallaxis azarae heard and/or seen at most mid-elevation locations
[Pale-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis albescens] heard only BOL
Red-faced Spinetail Cranioleuca erythrops 2 GAL
Spotted Barbtail Premnoplex brunnescens 2 ROM
Fulvous-dotted/Star-chested Treerunner Margarornis stellatus 5 GAL
Pearled Treerunner Margarornis squamiger a few ROM, RBL
[Striped Woodhaunter Hyloctistes subulatus] heard only RBL
Streak-capped Treehunter Thripadectes virgaticeps 1 RBL
Streaked Xenops Xenops rutilans 1 OTU (Sheridan)
Strong-billed Woodcreeper Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus 1 RBL, 1 OTU
Montane Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger 1 OTU
Bar-crested Antshrike Thamnophilus multistriatus 1 BOL
Uniform Antshrike Thamnophilus unicolor 1 GAL (Sheridan and Dan)
Bicolored Antvireo Dysithamnus occidentalis 1 female GAL
[Long-tailed Antbird Drymophila caudata] heard only RBL
[Moustached Antpitta Grallaria alleni] heard only OTU
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta Grallaria ruficapilla 2 RBL, heard OTU, GUA
Bicolored Antpitta Grallaria rufocinerea 1 RBL
[Chestnut-naped Antpitta Grallaria nuchalis] heard only at RBL
Yellow-breasted Antpitta Grallaria flavotincta 1 GAL (common by voice)
Rufous Antpitta Grallaria rufula 1 GUA (Martin and Pablo), heard RUI
Tawny Antpitta Grallaria quitensis 1 RUI
Brown-banded Antpitta Grallaria milleri 2 RBL
Slate-crowned Antpitta Grallicula nana 1 RBL
Ash-colored Tapaculo Myornis senilis 1 RBL, heard ROM
[Blackish Tapaculo Scytalopus latrans] heard only ROM, RBL
[Choco Tapaculo Scytalopus chocoensis] heard only GAL
Stiles’s Tapaculo Scytalopus stilesi 1 ROM
Narino Tapaculo Scytalopus vicinor 1 GAL
[Spillmann’s Tapaculo Scytalopus spillmanni] heard only RBL
Matorral Tapaculo Scytalopus griseicollis 1 GUA
[Paramo Tapaculo Scytalopus canus] heard only RBL, RUI
[Ocellated Tapaculo Acropternis orthonyx] heard only RBL
Black-capped Tyrannulet Phyllomyias nigrocapillus 2 RUI, 1 GUA
Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet Phyllomias plumbeiceps 1 FLO
Mountain Elaenia Elaenia frantzii 2 above ROM
White-tailed Tyrannulet Mecocerculus poecilocercus 1 GUA
White-throated Tyrannulet Mecocerculus leucophrys common GUA
Torrent Tyrannulet Serpophaga cinerea 2 FLO, 1 GUA
Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant Pseudotriccus pelzelni 3 GAL
Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant Pseudotriccus ruficeps 2 RBL
Golden-faced Tyrannulet Zimmerius chrysops fairly common mid elevations
[Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant Phylloscartes opthalmicus] heard only ROM, OTU
Streak-necked Flycatcher Mionectes striaticollis 1 RBL, 1 GAL
[Slaty-capped Flycatcher leptopogon amaurocephalus] heard only BOL
Sepia-capped Flycatcher leptopogon superciliaris 1 BOL
Rufous-breasted Flycatcher Leptopogon rufipectus 2 OTU, heard ROM
Ornate Flycatcher Myiotriccus ornatus 2 GAL
Common Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum 3 CAR
Yellow-olive Flycatcher Tolmomyias sulphurescens 1 OTU
Handsome Flycatcher Myiophobus pulcher common GAL
Cinnamon Flycatcher Pyrrhomyias cinnamomeus common JAR, RBL, GAL
Smoke-colored Pewee Contopus fumigatus 1 GAL (Martin)
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans seen on most rivers and streams
Vermilion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus rubinus 1 BOL, 1 between Jardin and Rio Blanco
Streak-throated Bush-tyrant Myiotheretes striaticollis 1 RBL
Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant Ochthoeca rufipectoralis 1 GUA
Brown-backed Chat-tyrant Ochthoeca fumicolor fairly common RUI and GUA
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis a few BOL, CAR
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus 1 BOL, 3 CAR
Golden-crowned Flycatcher Myiodynastes chrysocephalus 2 ROM, a few OTU
Streaked Flycatcher Myiodynastes maculatus 1 juvenile BOL
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus ubiquitous
Pale-edged Flycatcher Myiarchus cephalotes 1 OTU
Red-crested Cotinga Ampelion rubrocristatus 1 RUI, 1 GUA
Chestnut-crested Cotinga Ampelion rufaxilla 1 adult and 1 juvenile JAR
Green-and-black Fruiteater Pipreola riefferii 1 ROM, 3 GAL, 1 GUA
[Barred Fruiteater Pipreola arcuata] heard only JAR
Orange-breasted Fruiteater Pipreola jucunda 3 GAL
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock Rupicola rupicola 1 GAL
Olivaceous Piha Snowornis cryptolophus 2 GAL
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow Pyroderus scutatus 8 OTU
Golden-winged Manakin Masius chrysopterus 1 female GAL
Barred Becard Pachyramphus versicolor 1 GAL
Cinereous Becord Pachyramphus rufus 1 BOL
White-winged Becard Pachyramphus polychopterus 2 FLO
[Black-billed Peppershrike Cyclarhis nigrirostris] heard only at ROM, RBL
Brown-capped Vireo Vireo leucophrys 1 FLO
Red-eyed Vireo Vireo philadelphicus a few BOL, CAR
Rufous-naped Greenlet Hylophilus semibrunneus 2 ROM, 1 OTU
Black-collared Jay Cyanolyca armillata 4 RBL, heard JAR, GUA
Beautiful Jay Cyanolyca pulchra 1 GAL (Martin and Pablo)
Green/Inca Jay Cyanocorax yncas small numbers ROM, OTU
Blue-and-white Swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca fairly common in a variety of habitats
Brown-bellied Swallow Orochelidon murina fairly common in temperate areas
White-thighed Swallow Atticora tibialis a few OTU
Southern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopterytx ruficollis BOL, between Jardin and Rio Blanco, CAR
House Wren Troglodytes aedon 1 above ROM, heard GUA
Sedge Wren Cistothorus platensis 2 RUI, heard GUA
Whiskered Wren Pheugopedius mystacalis 1 above ROM, 1 OTU
[Rufous-and-white Wren Pheugopedius rufalbus] heard only BOL
Rufous Wren Cinnycerthia unirufa 3 GUA
Sharpe’s Wren Cinnycerthia olivascens 1 JAR
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren Henichorina leucophrys seen a few times, heard often in mid-elevation forests
Munchique Wood-Wren Henichorina negreti 2 seen at GAL, heard JAR
Chestnut-breasted Wren Cyphorinus thoracicus 2 OTU
Tropical Gnatcatcher Polioptila plumbea BOL
Andean Solitaire Myadestes ralloides 1 ROM, 1 OTU
[Black Solitaire Entomodestes coracinus] heard only, GAL (apparently Aug is not the best time to see them there)
Black-billed Thrush Turdus ignobilis common in middle/lower elevations
Great Thrush Turdus fuscater common in temperate areas
Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus common CAR
White-capped Tanager Sericossypha albocristata 4 RBL
Black-capped Hemispingus Hemispingus atropileus 2 RBL
Superciliated Hemispingus Hemispingus superciliaris 1 JAR
Oleaginous Hemispingus Hemispingus frontalis a few JAR, OTU
Gray-hooded Bush-Tanger Cnemoscopus rubirostris small group JAR
Crimson-backed Tanager Ramphocelus dimidiatus 2 BOL
Flame-rumped Tanager Ramphocelus flammigerus 1 BOL, 1 near Pereira
Lemon-Rumped Tanager Ramphocelus icteronotus 1 CAR
Blue-gray Tanager Thraupis episcopus a few in lower elevations
Palm Tanager Thraupis palmarum a couple at lower elevations
Blue-capped Tanager Thraupis cyanocephala 1 GAL
Black-and-gold Tanager Bangsia melanochlamys 1 lower GAL
Gold-ringed Tanager Bangsia aureocincta 20+ GAL
Hooded Mountain-Tanager Buthraupis Montana 4 GUA
Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager Anisognathus lacrymosus 3 JAR
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager Anisognathus igniventris 1 RBL, 3 GUA
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager Anisognathus somptuosus 6 GAL
Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager Anisognathus notabilis 3 GAL
Grass-green Tanager Chlorornis riefferii 1 JAR
Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager Dubusia taeniata 1 JAR
Purplish-mantled Tanager Iridosornis porphyrocephalus 25+ GAL
Glistening-green Tanager Chlorochrysa phoenicotis 8 GAL
Multicolored Tanager Chlorochrysa nitidissima 2 OTU
Scrub Tanager Tangara vitriolina 1 ROM, 1 OTU
Blue-necked Tanager Tangara cyanocollis 1 FLO
Rufous-throated Tanager Tangara rufigula 1 lower GAL
Blue-and-black Tanager Tangara vassorii a couple RBL
Beryl-spangled Tanager Tangara nigroviridis a few RBL, GAL
Metallic-green Tanager Tangara labradorides 1 ROM (Sheridan)
Bay-headed Tanager Tangara gyrola 1 FLO (Martin)
Saffron-crowned Tanager Tangara xanthocephala 1 OTU
Flame-faced Tanager Tangara parzudakii 2 GAL
Golden Tanager Tangara arthus fairly common at mid-elevations
Silver-throated Tanager Tangara icterocephala 3 lower GAL
Blue Dacnis Dacnis cayana 2 BOL
Blue-backed Conebill Conirostrum sitticolor 1 RBL
Rufous-browed Conebill Conirostrum rufum 6 GUA
Black Flowerpiercer Diglossa humeralis 2 RUI, fairly common GUA
White-sided Flowerpiercer Diglossa albilatera fairly common in temperate areas
Indigo Flowerpiercer Diglossa indigotica 8+ GAL
Bluish Flowerpiercer Diglossa caerulescens 1 GAL, a few GUA
Masked Flowerpiercer Diglossa cyanea fairly common in most montane areas
Black-backed Bush-Tanager Urothraupis stolzmanni 1 RUI
Black-winged Saltator Saltator atripennis 1 FLO
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola a few at lower elevations
Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivaceus fairly common GAL
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis ubiquitous
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch Phrygilus unicolor common RUI
Saffron Finch Sicalis flaveola 2 Pereira
Gray Seedeater Sporophila intermedia 3 of the darker western form CAR
Yellow-bellied Seedeater Sporophila nigricollis common FLO, GAL
Plain-colored Seedeater Catamenia inornata fairly common RUI
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch Arremon brunninucha 1 OTU
Yellow-throated/White-naped Brush-Finch Atlapetes gutteralis 2 ROM, 2 OTU
Pale-naped Brush-Finch Atlapetes pallidinucha 2 GUA
Tricolored Brush-Finch Atlapetes tricolor fairly common GAL
Rufous-naped Brush-finch Atlapetes latinuchus 1 ROM
Slaty Brush-Finch Atlapetes schistaceus a few JAR, OTU, GUA
Crested Ant-Tanager Habia cristata 2 OTU, heard GAL
Common Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus opthalmicus singles ROM, JAR, OTU
Dusky Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus semifuscus a few GAL
Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus canigularis 2 OTU (Martin, Pablo)
Slate-throated Whitestart Myioborus miniatus most mid/upper elevations
Golden-fronted Whitestart Myioborus ornatus a few chrysops JAR, RBL; a few ornatus GUA
Black-crested Warbler Basileuterus nigrocristatus 1 GUA
[Russet-crowned Warbler Basileuterus coronatus] heard only JAR
Golden-crowned Warbler Basileuterus culcivorus 1 ROM
Three-striped Warbler Basileuterus tristriatus 2 ROM, 1 GAL
Mountain Cacique Cacicus chrysonotus a few JAR, 1 GUA
[Yellow-billed Cacique Amblycercus holosericeus] heard only at RBL
Red-bellied Grackle Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster 15 ROM
Giant Cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus 1 between Bogota and GUA
Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis 2 between Jardin and Rio Blanco
Red-breasted Blackbird sturnella militaris 2 CAR
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna 2 GUA
Andean Siskin Carduelis spinescens 3 RBL
[Lesser Goldfinch Carduelis psaltria] heard only GAL
Orange-bellied Euphonia Euphonia xanthogaster common FLO, GAL
Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia Chlorophonia pyrrhophrys GAL
Yellow-collared Chlorophonia Chlorophonia flavirostris 1 lower GAL (Martin)

I saw 259 species, of which 36 were lifers (in addition, 24 species identified by voice)

Jaguarundi (dark morph) 1 ran across the road above Jardin (Sheridan and Martin)
Red Howler Monkey 4 OTU (Sheridan)
Possum GAL
small squirrels ROM, OTU (pics)
2 small weasel-types (one dark, one pale) ran across the road above Jardin
a large bat feeding pre-dawn by our hotel in Medellin

Good birding!
Sheridan Coffey and Martin Reid

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Colombia Day 6 Aug. 28 Farwell Edwin

We got up early in El Cairo, because we had to pack up everything for our trip up to Bogota that evening. But first we got another shot at the birds of Galapagos Road. Edwin did a great repeat performance on the horrid roads. There had been some rain, so I was a bit nervous about landslides, which are a frequent occurrence in the Andes. We arrived at the bridge where we had heard Beautiful Jays the day before and stopped. Edwin then alerted us to a red and black bird shaped like a football sitting near by in a tree. Andean Cock-of-the-Rock! Pablo had told us they were present in that area, but they are very shy and usually difficult to see. I even managed a very poor photo before it flew down into the creek bed and out of sight. It wasn’t a life bird, but still a bit of a thrill. Unfortunately the Beautiful Jays didn’t respond.

We had limited time to spend because we had to get to Pereira for an evening flight to Bogota. We decided to head over the pass and try for some of the lower elevation birds. We again saw many Purplish-mantled and Gold-ringed Tanagers. One of my favorite birds was a repeat from the day before, Glistening Green Tanager. We also added Rufous-throated Tanager, which is a real looker. The best tanager though was one we had held little hope for, Black-and-Gold. It’s another difficult bird to get. Jhonier had seen one earlier at the spot where we found it a few days earlier. It made the day!

The Munchique Wren serenaded us again. We had two different fruit-eaters, Orange-breasted and Black-and-green. Pablo played the Tanager Finch and Olive Finch tape at the stream crossings. We were on a small bridge and he caught a glimpse of a bird that might have been an Olive Finch, but it never responded further. It was a really good spot for butterflies, though. I think I was driving everyone crazy with my photographing them.

We stopped at the spot where we had the Barred Hawk and Ornate Hawk-eagles the day before. They didn’t show up again, but we did have a large flight of Swallow-tailed Kites. Jhonier knew I was in butterfly mode and he was kind enough to point out a gorgeous clear-winged Satyr. Flycatchers were putting on a good show, with Cinnamon and Ornate being extremely cooperative. We had a long drive to the airport so we reluctantly left.

We made our way back, dropping quite low in the Cauca River valley. We had a little time so we stopped at a fish hatchery. A Gray Seedeater was perched on the chain link fence, very close. A dark raptor was perched on a pole overlooking the ponds. It was a Snail Kite. There were Wattled Jacanas, Purple Gallinules and a Black-necked Stilt working the water. Dan spotted a beautiful male Masked Duck. We walked along the road and found a Common Tody-flycatcher, which I have seen many times, but I just like them! Red-breasted Blackbirds were in the surrounding fields.

We arrived in Pereira with plenty of time to spare for our flight to Bogota, where we were to spend our last day. We bid Edwin a found farewell. He was such a pleasure to be around. I don't think anyone laughed more on the trip than Edwin. I was really sorry that we would not have his company in Bogota.

The airport was rather small, but with modern shops and facilities. What was really odd were the security procedures. There were no x-ray machines before you went into the waiting area. We asked about boarding and got a rather vague answer and were told to listen for our flight. We had some juice and I did some brief souvenir shopping. Finally our flight was called and we looked up to see a huge line at the gate. We jumped up and waited, and waited, and waited. The line was barely moving and it was almost time for the flight to leave. We realized that there was no way that all of these people could be for one flight. When we finally got close enough to see what was going on, they were doing the security check as people entered the gate and it was much slower than any check I had ever been through. Sure enough there were two flights. We got through and got on the plane. Our flight was delayed, but eventually we took off and made the short hop to Bogota.

We had a great dinner at place called Waffles and Crepes. It’s a chain and is not typical Colombian food, but it was so good! One of the things I appreciated about all the food in Colombia is the quality and freshness. This was no exception. Pablo wanted to discuss our last day birding. We had originally planned to go to a lower elevation, but he had visited the spot recently and didn’t think it was worth our time. He suggested another option, the paramo. Sigh.

Bird List:
Speckled Teal
Masked Duck
Andean Guan
Black-crowned Night-heron
Striated Heron
Cattle Egret
Great Egret
Bare-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Swallow-tailed Kite
Snail Kite
Roadside Hawk
Purple Gallinule
Southern Lapwing
Black-necked Stilt
Wattled Jacana
Ruddy Ground-dove
Eared Dove
Spectacled Parrotlet-heard
Blue-headed Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Cloud-forest Pygmy-owl
White-collared Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Tawny-bellied Hermit
Violet-tailed Sylph
Greenish Puffleg
Velvet-purple Coronet
Booted Racket-tail
White-tailed Hillstar
Empress Brilliant
Purple-throated Woodstar
Andean Emerald
Ringed Kingfisher
Red-headed Barbet-heard
Emerald Toucanet
Acorn Woodpecker
Azara’s Spinetail
Red-faced Spinetail
Yellow-breasted Antpitta
Choco Tapaculo-heard
Narino Tapaculo-heard
Bronze-olive Pygmy-tyrant
Ornate Flycatcher
Common Tody-flycatcher
Handsome Flycatcher
Cinnamon Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Orange-breasted Fruiteater
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Golden-winged Manakin
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue-and-white Swallow
Grey-breasted Woodwren
Munchique Woodwren
Andean Solitaire
Black-billed Thrush
Great Thrush
Tropical Mockingbird
Blue-grey Tanager
Black-and-gold Tanager
Gold-ringed Tanager
Blue-winged Mountain-tanager
Purplish Mountain-tanager
Glistening Green Tanager
Rufous-throated Tanager
Beryl-spangled Tanager
Lemon-rumped Tanager
Golden Tanager
Silver-throated Tanager
Indigo Flowerpiercer
Bluish Flowerpiercer
Masked Flowerpiercer
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Saffron Finch
Gray Seedeater
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Tricolored Brush-finch
Crested Ant-tanager
Dusky Bush-tanager
Slate-throated Whitestart
Red-breasted Blackbird
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Chestnut-bellied Clorophonia

Friday, September 11, 2009

Colombia Day 5, Aug. 27. El Cairo, HOLY COW!

We got up early, as usual and got our stuff together. We had the luxury of two nights at the same hotel, so we only had to pack our birding and camera gear. With as much stuff as we were carrying we might as well have brought it all! I was a bit pokey, so Martin stepped out on the porch, where he heard a Tropical Screech-owl. By the time I got out the door, it shut up, of course.

The night before at dinner we had met Jhonier, a local guide that would be accompanying us both days that we birded this area. We were going into a protected watershed and the cooperative that manages it requires this. Jhonier was a great addition to our party. He is enthusiastic, speaks English and is good at finding birds. He also checked Edwin’s vehicle and determined that it could make it into the area. Usually its necessary to hire a local driver who has a less than comfortable vehicle. The first part of the road is brutal. We were really happy to keep Edwin. He was so much fun and a very good driver. Edwin is not a birder, but he had a keen interest in the places we went to and took more photos with his cell phone than I thought possible.

The area we were going to is called “Galapagos Road” or more properly the San Jose-El Palmer Road. It has varied elevation from the pass at 2,100 meters to a low point on the other side of 1,350. Technically the road drops even further, but the forest becomes fragmented and Jhonier had not birded below this. Its only been birded in the last couple of years and it continues to produce great surprises. In the Choco region, it has birds that are present in parts of Ecuador, but can be very difficult to find. Martin and I both feel that this road could become one of the premier birding sites in South America.

We maneuvered the first 5 kilometers, which consists of deep extremely slick mud and terrifying drop offs. Edwin breezed through like it was no big deal, though we did fish tail a tiny bit at one particularly nasty spot. The first birding spot is a beautiful rushing stream where we heard Beautiful Jays. Jhonier told me it was a great spot for butterflies later in the day when the sun was up. We wanted to get up to the pass fairly early, so we pushed on.

We did make a couple of quick stops on the way up. At the first spot a female Bicolored Antvireo came into the tape. This was one of our targets, so we felt encouraged. Dan and I spotted a Tawny-bellied Hermit, which is pretty common, but I like hermits. Pablo began his “trolling” with his i-Pod for Tanager Finch, which has seen there in the past. Unfortunately there was no response. He also tried for Olive Finch, which is found in the area. No luck with that one either.

There were two tanagers we were really hoping to see, Purplish-mantled and Gold-ringed. Purplish-mantled has a much larger range, all on the west slope of the Andes in Colombia and a piece of Ecuador. It is a spectacular looking bird, with a brilliant yellow throat contrasting with the purple and blue on its head and back. Gold-ringed has a tiny range and is also a very attractive bird. Both of these were much wanted additions to our life lists. We found the Purplish-mantled rather quickly, soon to be followed by the Gold-ringed. We ended up seeing more than 20 of each. It’s an odd feeling to say “Oh, its just another Gold-ringed Tanager.

We got to the pass. It was a bit cold because of the altitude, but the morning sun soon warmed it up and the vista was breathtaking. The mountains that spread out around us were covered in almost totally unbroken forest. In Ecuador we had seen nice tracts of forest, but never this large and so seemingly untouched by man. It was more than impressive. We ate a light breakfast and began working the area for birds. A White-tailed Hillstar perched nicely for photos. Birding was a bit slow at this location, so we decided to move down the other side to the lower elevations, where most of the prize birds are found. Weather can change very rapidly so it’s important to take advantage of the good times.

We parked near a small religious shrine and scanned some trees with tiny white flowers. Indigo Flowerpiercer loves feeding on these. Sure enough, within a few minutes we saw a flash of blue. This bird has an unusually shaped bill that it inserts into the base of flowers, feeding on the nectar. There are several varieties of flowerpiercer. We had actually seen some of them on this trip, but this one is a near endemic, and difficult to find. Its deep blue body and bright red eyes make it one of the most attractive ones, as far as I am concerned.

I fell in love with the song of a small bird, a Munchique Wood-wren. This is a bird that was only described as new for science in 2003, though Steve Hilty observed them in the 80s. This bird has one of the best bird songs ever! Typical of wrens, its very loud. It has almost a goofy cadence. Dan said he could just picture some 9-year-old boy walking down the street whistling it. He said they should replace the Andy Griffith theme song with it. I am working on downloading it for a mobile phone ringer. We did see the bird, but the song was the killer part of it all.

We dropped a little further down the road to another shrine and parked again. There was a beautiful overlook. Dan said “You know it’s funny, we haven’t seen any hawks or eagles yet”. Seconds later Pablo spotted a bird soaring far below us in the valley. Initially he thought it was a Solitary Eagle, but we finally got enough detail to see it was a Barred Hawk. I turned to Dan and laughingly said “We haven’t seen any eagles or hawks.” And probably a minute later we heard a scream. A pair of large raptors flew up over us, sparring. It was extremely difficult to get much detail on them. Martin got some distant photographs. We discussed the ID of these birds on and off for the rest of our time there. We actually thought they were two different species, as one was obviously larger and appeared to be shaped differently. When we got home Martin sent the photos to Bill Clark, the noted hawk expert. He said they were a pair of Ornate Hawk-eagles, the female being the larger bird.

Fog started closing in, so we decided to see if it was clearer on the other side of the pass, where we had come up. We did stop at the pass where Pablo played the tape again for the Tanager Finch. A mixed flock was working the area and despite the extremely poor visibility due to fog, we found several Fulvous-dotted/Star-chested Treerunners, a bird that Martin desperately wanted to photograph. Unfortunately the conditions didn’t allow this. We continued birding down the road towards El Cairo, stopping again to try for Beautiful Jay, without success at the stream crossing. We arrived back in El Cairo anxious to return for a half day of birding in the morning. It was great to sleep in the same bed that I had the night before.

Species seen:
Chestnut Wood-quail-heard
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Swallow-tailed Kite
Barred Hawk
Ornate Hawk-eagle
Roadside Hawk
Band-tailed Pigeon
White-tipped Dove
Band-winged Nightjar
Lyre-tailed Nightjar
Tawny-bellied Hermit
Wedge-billed Hummingbird
Violet-tailed Sylph
Greenish Puffleg
Brown Inca
Velvet-purple Coronet
Booted Racket-tail
White-tailed Hillstar
Empress Brilliant
Purple-throated Woodstar
Steely-vented Hummingbird
Golden-headed Quetzel-heard
Highland Motmot
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Fulvous-dotted/Star-chested Treerunner
Uniform Antshrike
Bicolored Antvireo
Yellow-breasted Antpitta
Choco Tapaculo-heard
Narino Tapaculo
Bronze-olive Pygmy Tyrant
Golden-faced Tyrannulet
Streak-necked Flycatcher
Handsome Flycatcher
Cinnamon Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Green-and-black Fruiteater
Orange-breasted Fruiteater
Olivaceous Piha
Beautiful Jay-heard
Grey-breasted Wood-wren
Munchique Wood-wren
Andean Solitaire
Black Solitaire-heard
Black-billed Thrush
Great Thrush
Blue-capped Tanager
Gold-ringed Tanager
Blue-winged Mountain Tanager
Black-chinned Mountain Tanager
Purplish-mantled Tanager
Glistening Green Tanager
Beryl-spangled Tanager
Flame-faced Tanager
Golden Tanager
White-sided Flowerpiercer
Indigo Flowerpiercer
Bluish Flowerpiercer
Masked Flowerpiercer
Yellow-faced Grassquit
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Tricolored Brush-finch
Dusky Bush-tanager
Slate-throated Whitestart
Three-striped Warbler
Lesser Goldfinch
Chestnut-breasted Clorophonia

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Colombia Day 4, Aug. 26. That's not one of our Crows!

Colombia Day 4, Aug. 26.

Our main destination for this day was UcumarĂ­ Nature Reserve. Driving up from La Florida we saw a rushing river with a Torrent Tyranulet sitting on a rock. We did a cursory search for Torrent Ducks, but didn’t see any. We began our birding at El Cedral, a mule staging station, in the park, where the drivable road ends, and worked our way back down to La Suiza. As a side note, it is possible to hike up to the paramo for some “mega” species like Crescent-faced Antpitta and Indigo-winged Parakeet, but it’s a long difficult hike, and our time was limited, so we declined. (Yes! No paramo!)

We walked the road at a leisurely pace, while Edwin followed with the car. It was an easy walk. Other than dodging the occasional chiva, the colorful local buses, we pretty much had it to ourselves. The forest surrounding the woods was beautiful. There were numerous small streams crossing the road and we could hear a rushing creek from time to time to our right. Many butterflies were “puddling” in the wet mud wherever the sun shone through. Wild ginger scented the air. Even if there had been no birds it would have been a fabulous walk.

Luckily that was not the case. Not long after we started our walk we found a mixed flock working high above the road. The light was difficult. Most of the birds just looked like silhouettes. I was straining my eyes, trying to get some detail on a tanager, when I realized it had a bright yellow head. Then I saw the dark spot on the cheek and the incredible blue body. It was the bird I most wanted at this location, Multicolored Tanager. We knew they were found in the park, but they can be difficult to find. The flock actually had two! Unfortunately neither of us got usable photographs, but I was more than happy.

A little later we saw a dark shape fly across the road in front of us. It was our second goal bird, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. In spite of its name, it’s not a crow at all, but a cotinga. It’s a large dark bird with a red breast and most amazing red ruff around the neck. Martin did get a good photograph.
We ended up seeing several on our walk. This is probably one of the most reliable spots in Colombia to get it.

We also found a Cauca Guan, another endemic and were able to get some photos. A Crested Ant-Tanager played hide and seek with us. Martin and I both got poor, but recognizable photos. (Though I have to say mine looks like a Cardinal!) The incredible butterflies along the way constantly distracted me. I definitely took more butterfly photos in this park than any other place we visited. I also got pulled away from the birds when Edwin called on his mobile and told Pablo there was a troop of Red Howler Monkeys back by the car. I left Martin, Dan and Pablo and limped as fast as I could back about a quarter mile. I expected them to be gone, but they were still there. I tried to photograph them, but the only recognizable shot was less than flattering to the monkey.

We arrived at the community center, where we had lunch, just as a torrential rain began. It was perfect timing! Lunch was great, the rain stopped and we moved on back towards La Florida, birding along the way. We paused at the river, where we had checked for Torrent Duck earlier in the day. This time we had better luck. Martin spotted a male sitting on a rock. We moved down to get a better view and discovered a female and some ducklings in a small backwater pool. The black and white striped ducklings were really cute.

We had another long drive ahead of us, so we took off. We had to pass through Pereira, a fairly large city. It was not my favorite place in Colombia. The Lonely Planet book had little good to say about it and I concur. It was rushed and confusing. We took a wrong turn and ended up way out of our way. Finally we made our way out. We passed the Cauca River on our way and two Green Ibis flew over the car. Unfortunately Dan missed them. Dan and I spotted a dark raptor sitting on a fence that puzzled us. Martin suggested it might have been a Snail Kite.

We arrived in El Cairo after dark. The hotel we stayed at was on the edge of town and quite comfortable. The family that owns it has two great sons, one about 5 and the other 8. Sebastian, the younger boy, was delightful, very friendly and open. I did not try my poor Spanish on him, as I didn’t think he could bring me a beer either. We had dinner in a nice little restaurant off of the city square and then retired for the night.

Bird List-
Torrent Duck
Cauca Guan
Chestnut Wood-quail- heard
Cattle Egret
Snowy Egret
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Roadside Hawk
Southern Lapwing
Rock Pigeon
Eared Pigeon
Golden-plumed Parakeet
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Bronze-winged Parrot
Smooth-billed Ani
Tawny-bellied Hermit
Bronzy Inca
White-bellied Woodstar
Western Emerald
Highland Motmot
Red-headed Barbet
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Streaked Xenops
Strong-billed Woodcreeper
Montane Woodcreeper
Moustached Antpitta-heard
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta-heard
Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet
Torrent Tyannulet
Golden-faced Tyrannulet
Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant-heard
Rufous-breasted Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Golden-crowned Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Pale-edged Flycatcher
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow
White-winged Becard
Brown-capped Vireo
Rufous-naped Greenlet
Inca Jay
Blue-and-white Swallow
White-thighed Swallow
House Wren
Whiskered Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-wren-heard
Chestnut-breasted Wren
Andean Solitaire
Black-billed Thrush
Great Thrush
Oleaginous Hemispingus
Flame-rumped Tanager
Blue-grey Tanager
Palm Tanager
Multicolored Tanager
Scrub Tanager
Golden Tanager
Masked Flowerpiercer
Black-winged Saltator
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Chestnut-capped Brushfinch
White-naped Brushfinch
Crested Ant-tanager
Common Bush-tanager
Ashy-throated Bush-tanager
Golden-fronted Whitestart
Orange-bellied Euphonia

Sorry I haven’t been signing these!
Sheridan Coffey

Colombia Day 3, August 25. The Paramo, oh boy....

Colombia Day 3. The Paramo, oh boy….

Despite the Spartan accommodations at Rio Blanco, I woke up refreshed and ready to go. We had a great breakfast and headed back up the hill where we had finished the day before. We parked at a site where workers maintain a water distribution system. Pablo played a tape and a small flock of one of my favorite birds flew in, White-capped Tanagers. These are really spectacular looking birds! Unfortunately my photos were probably the worst I took on the trip, which is saying a lot! Here is a link to a couple of Martin’s photos from my first trip to Ecuador. While in this clearing we also had a flock of migrating Plumbeous Kites go by almost on eye level. Beryl-spangled Tanagers (my favorite tangara!) were working the trees on the edge. Some Andean Siskins flew over.

We walked a beautiful forest trail along a ridge. The trail was level, well maintained and quite easy. We heard one of our target birds, Chestnut Wood-quail, but never got even a brief look. Antpittas and tapaculos were calling from every side. We finally saw a Slate-crowned Antpitta, which we had only heard the day before. We had killer looks at Black-collared Jays. While looking at the jays a gorgeous Crimson-mantled Woodpecker flew distracting us with his antics on a hanging vine.

We drove down to the building where we stayed the night. I was able to take a little time to photograph the hummingbirds while Pablo and Edwin packed the car. The hummers we saw were all widespread species, but it was fun photographing them. We witnessed a bizarre interaction between two Collared Incas. They were obviously fighting. One bird flew to the ground and lay there with his wings and tail spread out. I thought he was injured or possibly dead. The victorious bird sat for a while on a stick above him. When the dominant bird flew off, the loser got up and started to fly away. The other bird came back and the submissive bird went down on the driveway. He eventually flew off, appearing perfectly well.

About 11AM we departed for our next stop, the paramo on Nevado del Ruiz. When someone says “tropical birding” I think of steamy rain forests full of palms, tree ferns, orchids and twining vines. The paramo is not that. Paramo is the area above the tree line. It is full of stunted bushes and plants. It is always cold and usually foggy and rainy. I get chilled even thinking about it. Its one of Martin’s favorite habitats, probably because its just like England! Not so much for me… It does have a very interesting avian community, including many hummingbirds. It’s hard to think of something as seemingly fragile as a hummingbird thriving in this harsh environment!

We drove up to a weather station/cafĂ© to look for our target bird, Bearded Helmetcrest. It had started to rain, of course and I wasn’t looking forward to trudging around in it. Despite wearing long underwear, a turtleneck, a wool sweater and a rain jacket I was still cold. Luckily the weather station had a covered porch where we sipped coffee and watched the flowering bushes for movements. A female helmetcrest flew in within a few minutes! As we were watching her, a Tawny Antpitta strolled around, allowing me to take my best antpitta shots ever! We eventually saw a really nice male helmetcrest. Martin got some great photos!

We left the weather station and drove on to look for our other target, Rufous-fronted Parakeets. We grabbed lunch at a hotel where they have hot springs. (Nevada del Ruiz is a volcano, which erupted in 1985, killing 23,000 people in the village of Armero) We were driving along some farmland, looking at old lava flows when we heard the unmistakable sound of parakeets. A flock of eight Rufous-fronted flew by! This is an extremely range restricted bird, so we were more than happy. We also picked up Black-thighed Puffleg, another high altitude hummingbird.

We left the paramo (yea!) to start the drive to our next destination. It was a long drive on winding mountain roads. We soon lost the light and were in fog off and on. It was pretty nerve wracking. The roads are narrow and muddy. There are no guard rails and steep drop offs are common. We came to a village and were stopped by a group of soldiers. They asked the men to get out of the car, but I was allowed to stay. One soldier came over to my open window and said something in Spanish. I became flustered and started babbling “Estoy una Americana aqui por parajos y mariposas. Photography!”, lifting up my camera. The only other Spanish I could think of was to order two beers and ask for a bathroom. Somehow I didn’t think he would be impressed. He looked unamused, shook his head and walked away. The men got back in the car and we progressed.

We were supposed to have stayed at a lodge in La Suiza, which is in a state run park. Unfortunately the concession for the lodge had run out. Pablo secured a small guesthouse for us in the town of La Florida. The accommodations were not what we expected. Pablo did find some other rooms, but we were too tired to move, so we settled in. I will say that the food the owner of the house prepared for us was some of the best food of the trip!

The bird list:
Speckled Teal
Andean (Ruddy) Duck
Chestnut Wood-quail-heard
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Plumbeous Kite
Ruddy Ground-dove
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Eared Dove
Rufous-fronted Parakeet
Speckle-faced Parrot
Scaly-naped Parrot
Green Violetear
Sparkling Violetear
Speckled Hummingbird
Tourmaline Sunangel
Long-tailed Sylph
Bearded Helmetcrest
Tyrian Metaltail
Viridian Metaltail
Black-thighed Puffleg
Shining Sunbeam
Buff-tailed Coronet
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
White-bellied Woodstar
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker
Powerful Woodpecker-heard
Stout-billed Cinclodes
Bar-winged Cinclodes
Azara’s Spinetail
Pearled Treerunner
Striped Woodhaunter-heard
Streak-capped Treehunter
Strong-billed Woodcreeper
Long-tailed Antbird-heard
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta-heard
Bicolored Antpitta-heard
Chestnut-naped Antpitta-heard
Rufous Antpitta-heard
Tawny Antpitta
Brown-banded Antpitta-heard
Slate-crowned Antpitta
Ash-colored Tapaculo
Blackish Tapaculo-heard
Spillman’s Tapaculo-heard
Paramo Tapaculo-heard
Ocellated Tapaculo-heard
Black-capped Tyrannulet
Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant
Cinnamon Flycatcher
Brown-backed Chat-tyrant
Tropical Kingbird
Red-crested Cotinga
Black-billed Peppershrike-heard
Black-collared Jay
Brown-bellied Swallow
Sedge Wren
Rufous Wren
Sharpe’s Wren-heard
Great Thrush
White-capped Tanager
Blue-and-black Tanager
Beryl-spangled Tanager
Blue-backed Conebill
Black Flowerpiercer
Black-backed Bush-tanager
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Plumbeous Sierra-finch
Plain-colored Seedeater
Slaty Brush-finch
Golden-fronted Whitestart
Andean Siskin

Colombia Day 2. August 24 Things aren’t always as you hope.

We left the hotel in Jardin well before dawn, as we had to arrive at our first birding spot before sunrise. Edwin drove the narrow muddy roads with great finesse. (We would appreciate this skill greatly later in the trip!) Martin was in the front seat and spotted a bird flying up from the road, a Band-winged Nightjar. Unfortunately I was dozing so I missed it. Obviously I started paying attention and a few minutes later was thrilled to see a Lyre-tailed Nightjar fly straight up. I had missed this bird in Ecuador and really wanted to see one.

Our first goal bird of the day was Yellow-eared Parrot, a bird with a very restricted range. They roost at night in the farmland we were heading for. Pablo had seen them along the road only five days before. We parked the car and started scanning the palm trees. Nothing. They had used a different site. Then we heard Barred Parakeet and saw a bird fly over. Then a louder parrot sound, and there they were! A small group flew over, but very high above us. Then another group flew by, still very high. We ended up seeing about 16 birds, but with little detail and no opportunity to photograph them. It was a bit of a let down, but we were glad to have seen them at all.

We started back to the hotel to grab a hot shower and pick up our gear. We birded several spots and got a bird that made up for the poor parrot sightings. We stopped at an open spot with a good view of surrounding hills. Chestnut-crested Cotingas were known to be in this area. This is a bird we had tried very hard for in Ecuador without success. These birds perch in the tops of trees, so we started scanning. At best I hoped for a distant view. I finished one hill and turned to do another. I spotted a bird in the top of a bare tree directly behind us. There it was! A juvenile was showing extremely well and then swa an adult. We got amazing views and I got some poor photos. Martin’s are much better.

We got back in the car and continued down hill. A low-slung black cat with a very long tail darted in front of the car. It took a couple of seconds before it registered, a Jagarundi!!! My life list of wild cats was particularly short: 1. Bobcat. I had ached to see one of the tropical cats, so this sighting made my day! I was sad though that Dan had missed it. It always knocks the thrill down a notch when someone misses something good. We arrived at the hotel and ran in to take a hot shower, since we wouldn’t have another chance for a couple of days. To say the shower was hot was a total understatement. For once there was no cold water!

We drove into Jardin, grabbed a snack and a couple of photos of the town square and were off to our next destination, Rio Blanco Reserve. Rio Blanco is situated in the hills above the city of Manizales. It was a long drive. We arrived at about 4:30 PM. The ranger at Rio Blanco has learned the fine art of antpitta feeding, developed by Angel Paz in Ecuador. (I wrote about Angel in my trip reports from my first trip to Ecuador) Pablo had called the ranger and asked him to hold off the feeding until we arrived.

Hummingbird feeders line the porch of the building and they were packed. It was tough tearing myself away! We walked a short wooded trail and the ranger put some large cut up earthworms in a bowl and whistled. Almost immediately a Brown-banded Antpitta hopped in. She looked a little peeved that her dinner was late. Shortly after she arrived a second bird showed up, a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. Pablo mentioned that the Chestnut-crowned was a bit of a bully. The Brown-banded scooted off and he came in. We got amazing looks and decent photos of both, which is normally very difficult with antpittas.

We decided to try for a third antpitta, a Bicolored, which was often found further up the hill. We drove up and spent the remaining light playing a tape for it. It did respond, but we only got a very brief look. Several varieties of tapaculos were calling nearby, including my nemesis, Ocellated Tapaculo. Unfortunately they did what tapaculos do so well, they stayed hidden. As we were getting ready to leave I saw something that to me really captured the dichotomy of South America. A farm worker was riding down the hill on a mule taking on a cell phone. It just made me smile!

We had an excellent dinner at the reserve building. It’s not a lodge by any standards. There are two rooms with two triple sets of bunk beds, no heat and a communal bathroom that you have to go outside to get to. Martin swears there is hot water, but I don’t think there was and I was chilled and didn’t want to find out. I was really exhausted and chose to go to bed. Martin, Dan and Pablo went out with a tape and had five White-throated Screech-owls calling and saw one very well. They came back to get me and of course all five were silent as the dead. Oh well. I was still happy with our day.

Here is our list:

Cattle Egret
Pearl Kite
Roadside Hawk
Yellow-headed Caracara
Southern Lapwing
Ruddy Ground Dove
Rock Pigeon
Band-tailed Pigeon
Eared Dove
Yellow-eared Parrot
Barred Parakeet
Scaly-naped Parrot
Smooth-billed Ani
White-throated Screech Owl
Rufous-banded Owl
Lyre-tailed Nightjar
Band-tailed Nightjar
Green Violetear
Sparkling Violetear
Tourmaline Sunangel
Speckled Hummingbird
Tyrian Metaltail
Collared Inca
Mountain Velvetbreast
Sword-billed Hummingbird
Buff-tailed Coronet
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Azara’s Spinetail
Pearled Treerunner
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
Bicolored Antpitta
Chestnut-naped Antpitta-heard
Brown-banded Antpitta
Slate-crowned Antpitta-heard
Ash-colored Tapaculo-heard
Blackish Tapaculo-heard
Spillman’s Tapaculo-heard
Paramo Tapaculo-heard
Ocellated Tapaculo-heard
Vermillion Flycatcher
Streak-throated Bush-tyrant
Tropical Kingbird
Chestnut-crested Cotinga
Black-collared Jay
Blue-and-white Swallow
Brown-bellied Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Sharpe’s Wren
Munchique Wood-Wren
Great Thrush
Supercilliared Hemisphingus
Oleaginous Hemisphingus
Gray-hooded Bush-tanager
Blue-grey Tanager
Lachrymose Mountain-tanager
Buff-breasted Mountain-tanager
White-sided Flowerpiercer
Masked Flowerpiercer
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Slaty Brush-finch
Common Bush-tanager
Slate-throated Whitestart
Golden-fronted Whitestart
Russet-crowned Warbler
Mountain Cacique
Yellow-billed Cacique-heard
Shiny Cowbird

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Colmbia, Its Safe Now! Introduction and Day 1 August 22 and 23 2009

I am giving this title to my trip blogs because almost every single person I told that we were going to Colombia had the same reaction, “Really? Is it safe?” usually given with a horrified look that suggested I was telling them that I was going to rappel down the inside of an active volcano. Yes, Colombia is safe. Gun battles between cocaine cartels no longer echo in the streets of Medallin. FARC rebels are confined to a few small areas, mostly on the borders of Ecuador and Venezuela. We felt safer than we do on the south-side of San Antonio. I hope I can impart just a little of the amazing character of this wonderful country.

We arrived in Bogota on August 22 at 9:00PM, two hours late due to weather delays in Miami. The flights were pretty stressful, inspiring Martin to say, “That’s it! We are going to think long and hard before we do another flight. I have had it!” (The last several trips we have done have had glitches, some pretty serious) We were also upset to find out that our good friend Dan Peak, who was supposed to join us in Miami for the last flight had been bumped and wouldn’t be arriving until the following afternoon at the earliest.

We were met at the airport by a cab driver that our guide for the week, Pablo Florez Valencia, had arranged. Hector, the driver was great! He and Martin chatted on the ride into town in both English and Spanish. We felt much better. The drive into Medallin is spectacular. Set in a bowl on the western slope of the central Andes, the city with thousands of lights is spread out below you as you come over a mountain pass. Pablo met us at our hotel and despite the late hour, took us to a fabulous Italian restaurant a couple of blocks away.

After a few hours sleep we got up at 5AM to start out birding. Right outside the hotel a Black-billed Thrush was singing. Of more interest to me was a huge bat hawking insects in the street light. We met our driver, Edwin, who has a great 4x4 6 seat SUV. We took off for La Romera, a protected watershed on the south east side of Medallin, pausing for a quick breakfast at a nearby bakery. (I could easily blog about the food in Colombia! Its fabulous!) Our target bird was, believe it or not, a grackle. But this is no ordinary grackle. We were looking for Red-bellied Grackles, a Colombian endemic and a very attractive bird!

The road into La Romera is steep and winding. We were there on a Sunday and it was fairly busy with recreational walkers and cyclists, but that was no problem. We parked on a slope and I spotted a Sickle-winged Guan in a tree across the valley, my first life bird of the trip! Pablo played a tape of the Grackles and to our delight they quickly responded. We saw at least 15 in our time there. We searched long and hard without success for Yellow-headed Manakin. We were still very happy, as the grackle is not an easy bird to get. I was also pleased to get an Emerald Toucanet almost on eye level and a Rufous-naped Greenlet, two other life birds.

Dan was arriving at 2PM so we headed out towards the airport after a snack at the same bakery where we had breakfast. We did a little birding near the airport with some success. The elevation was rather high so we moved slowly. My ankle, which I broke in Panama in March, was bothering me some, as it did through out the trip, but it was more a nuisance than anything else. Probably the best birds we had there were Whiskered Wren and our first Golden-fronted Whitestarts.

We got to the airport, where we were relieved to see Dan arrive. He cleared customs easily and we took off for the town of Jardin. Our original plan was to bird around Jardin, looking for the rare Yellow-eared Parrot, but we realized we couldn’t make it by dusk as its about a 3 hour drive. We birded some along the way, picking up Bar-crested Antshrike and a few other birds. We arrived after dark at a really lovely resort hotel on the outskirts of the town. After dinner on the patio, we retired, ready for an early start.

Here is my list for the day:
Snowy Egret
Cattle Egret
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Roadside Hawk
Sickle-winged Guan
Southern Lapwing
Ruddy Pigeon
Eared Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Scarlet-fronted Parakeet
Orange-chinned Parakeet
Blue-headed Parrot
Bronze-winged Parrot
Squirrel Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Chestnut-collared Swift
White-collared Swift
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Greenish Puffleg
Highland Motmot
Red-headed Barbet
Emerald Toucanet
Azara's Spinetail
Spotted Barbtail
Bar-crested Antshrike
Ash-colored Tapaculo
Rufous-breasted Flycatcher
Sepia-capped Flycatcher
Slaty-capped Flycatcher
Mountain Elaenia
Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant
Black Phoebe
Tropical Kingbird
Golden-crowned Flycatcher
Streaked Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Cinereous Becard
Inca Jay
Black-billed Peppershrike
Red-eyed Vireo
Rufous-naped Greenlet
Andean Solitaire
Great Thrush
Black-billed Thrush
Whiskered Wren
Rufous-and-white Wren
House Wren
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
Tropical Gnatcatcher
Blue-and-white Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Slate-throated Redstart
Golden-crowned Warbler
Three-striped Warbler
Common Bush-Tanager
Crimson-backed Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Golden Tanager
Scrub Tanager
Metallic-green Tanager
Blue Dacnis
White-sided Flower-piercer
Red-bellied Grackle