Saturday, January 9, 2010

Colombia Day Day 10, December 16

On our second morning at El Dorado we got our driver back! We ate a quick breakfast and started up hill in the dark. We flushed a White-tailed Nightjar off of the road, which was a good beginning! We were heading towards Kennedy Peak, the top of the mountain that El Dorado is located on. The peak is the site of several radio towers, as I mentioned previously. There are a number of birds found at the higher elevations, including a hummingbird, Black-back Thornbill that Martin was really aching for. In fact, it was one of his two most wanted birds of the trip, along with Blossomcrown. Pablo knew a place where he had seen them fairly reliably. Its a bird that most people miss, so we were trying not to get our hopes up too much.

To say the road up is rough is more than an understatement. Its very rocky and even in a high clearance vehicle, its difficult. We were bouncing all over the place. I felt like I had been beat up by the time we got up there. I felt like I had bruises all over. Despite that, the drive up was gorgeous. The vistas were amazing. We had the Caribbean on one side of the road and were getting great looks at snow-capped peaks on the other side. We passed through forest with large stands of red blooming plants that looked custom made for hummingbirds. Several times we passed cliffs blanketed in a pink moss. It was worth the battering! Flocks of Scarlet-fronted Parakeets flew over calling loudly. Red-billed Parrots and Scaly-naped Amazons added to the noise. We stopped at place with a great view, and were rewarded with a flock of Santa Marta Parakeets quite close in. It was a good day for parrots, if nothing else.

We then stopped at a grove of flowering trees. High up in the tops of trees were a bunch of hummingbirds feeding. At first glance all I saw were Sparkling and Green Violetears, who as I have mentioned before, bully all the other hummers. There were a scattering of Tyrian Metaltails and a Mountain Velvetbreast. It was hard to keep looking up. My neck was beginning to ache. It reminded me of spring warbler migration. Then I spotted a bird at the very top of one the trees. It had very tiny short bill and I could just make out the throat color, the thorn bill! I called for Martin, but before he could get on it, the violetears struck and it flew off. Shades of the Blossomcrown. I figured we would re-find it quickly. I figured wrong. Martin and I looked and looked. I even scanned all the flowering shrubs on a lower level across the road, but there was no sign of it. This was not good. It was bad enough that I had the Blossomcrown and he didn't, but this was unbearable. We finally decided to move on and then come back.

The road further up had a huge grove of endemic palm trees, leading up to the towers. The road was lined with low trees and shrubs. We had several mixed flocks, including Santa Marta Warblers and Brush-finches, more Mountain-tanagers, Blue-capped Tanagers, White-sided Flower-piercers and various flycatchers. We found a just fledged Tyrian Metaltail being fed by its mother. She took off, but I was able to get a couple of shots of the baby. We worked back down and checked the grove again and were discouraged to see no hummingbirds at all! It was rather glum. We decided to go down slope to look for Santa Marta Bush-tyrant and then maybe come back. There is a spot with severalsmaller antennae that can be good for them. Pablo walked up a small trail playing the call on his iPod. We heard a bird respond and found it sitting up on one of the antennas. Clouds had moved in, so it was difficult to get a good look, but it appeared to be our target. The problem is there is another bush-tyrant in the area that looks very similar, Streak-throated Bush-tyrant. They are larger than the Santa Martas and they have heavier streaking on the throat. From the silhouette we thought it was a Santa Marta, but Martin made the mistake of photographing it. When we looked on the camera we could see it was a Streak-throated, which we had seen before on previous trips. It did seem smaller than the ones we had seen before, but it definitely was a Streak-throated. We walked back up to the car and heard a bird call that sounded like the tape. There it was, a real Santa Marta Bush-tyrant! It was much closer and the sky had cleared, so we weren't in the fog.

We ate lunch and looked for the Santa Marta Antpitta again. We heard it calling, never saw it. This was getting old! So we decided to go back up to the place where I saw the thorn-bill. The hummingbirds were back in force! This time things were much better. Martin finally spotted a likely suspect. He saw enough to ID it, but as he will say "better view desired!" He asked Pablo if he had the thornbill on his iPod. Pablo did, but hummingbirds rarely respond to tapes in our experience. Pablo went ahead any way and were we surprised by what happened! Immediately a thornbill flew up in a very agitated manner and called back very strongly. We saw where he landed and Martin even got him in the scope. Whew. I was really relieved. I was worried that I was going to have to call Willie Sekula, who was watching our cat for us, to go over and pack my things if Martin didn't get the bird. (They know I am kidding, Martin!) Anyway, we were feeling very full of ourselves! We worked back down, hoping to see more hummingbirds in some good flowers, but we didn't have much success. We did hear Slaty-backed Nightingale Thush which has a fabulous call. It was getting close to sunset, when we decided to head back to the lodge. A Barred Forest-falcon started calling and we tried to get him to come in with a tape, but had no success. Despite that, it had been a great day! After dinner I went straight to bed, but Martin and Pablo tried again for the Screech Owl, with the same results. Martin was so happy with the thornbill, I don't think he really cared!

Photos from the day:

Bird List:
1 Turkey Vulture
2 Black Vulture
3 White-rumped Hawk
4 Broad-winged Hawk
5 Band-tailed Guan
6 Black-fronted Woodquail
7 Red-fronted Conure
8 Santa Marta Parakeet
9 Red-billed Parrot
10 Scaly-naped Amazon
11 White-tailed Nightjar
12 Green Violet-ear
13 Sparkling Violetear
14 Violet-crowned Woodnymph
15 Mountain Velvetbreast
16 White-tailed Starfrontlet
17 Black-backed Thornbill
18 Tyrian Metaltail
19 Rusty-headed Spinetail
20 Streak-capped Spinetail
21 Santa Marta Antpitta
22 Rufous Antpitta
23 Brown-rumped Tapaculo
24 White-throated Tyrannulet
25 Black-throated Tody-Tyrant
26 Cinnamon Flycatcher
27 Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant
28 Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant
29 Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant
30 Golden-breasted Fruiteater
31 Grey-breasted Wood-Wren
32 Great Thrush
33 Black-hooded Thrush
34 Black-chested Jay
35 Rufous-collared Sparrow
36 Paramo Seedeater
37 Santa Marta Brushfinch
38 Southern Yellow Grosbeak
39 Blue-capped Tanager
40 Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager
41 Blue-and-black Tanager
42 White-sided Flowerpiercer
43 Blackburnian Warbler
44 Slate-throated Redstart
45 Golden-fronted Whitestart
46 Santa Marta Warbler
47 Andean Siskin
Sheridan Coffey
San Antonio, Tx

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