Saturday, August 17, 2019

Colombia Day 2 - KM4 (29Jul2019)

As became the norm on this trip, we woke very early and left way before the hotel could offer any food.  However, thanks to our early departure we got to our first birding spot early while bird activity was at its highest and ended up with over 70 species in just a couple hours.  The spot known simply as km 4 is coincidentally about 4 kms outside of Barranquilla, or maybe it's not a coincidence.  It is a wetland and farming area which accounts for the nice diversity of birds.


Yellow-headed Caracara - a nice young bird.


Unfortunately Large-billed Terns never came very close so I had to settle for poor pics.



Carib Grackles were mixed in with Great-tailed Grackles.  The above was a Carib.


Cattle Tyrants ended up being a pretty common bird and easy to ID once you saw a few.


Bicolored Wrens were gregarious and loud.


Southern Lapwings were once again ignored by most the group.


Brown-chested Martins were abundant with one tree containing a couple hundred.


Red-crowned Woodpeckers resemble our Red-bellied Woodpeckers.


Wattled Jacanas are also common.


Rufescent Tiger Herons are not common so we spent a good bit of time admiring this one.


Bare-faced Ibis


Snail Kite with a snail.


Yellow-chinned Spinetail




Brown-chested Martins are similar to Bank Swallows in the chest pattern with a nice neat band separating the chin and lower breast.


Snail Kite


Amazon Kingfisher


Crested Caracara


White-winged Swallows - a snazzier version of the Mangrove Swallow.


Cocoi Heron - very similar to GBHs.


Pied Water-tyrant



Striated Heron


When this Yellow-hooded Blackbird was called out, I almost dismissed it as a Yellow-headed BB.  You have to stay on your toes when almost every species you see is probably a new one and resist the urge to lump the birds with birds you are familiar with.


These Northern Screamers were over a mile away so I will anxiously await another trip to get a better look.


Amazon Kingfisher and Brown-chested Martins.


Spot-breasted Woodpecker


Brown-throated Parakeet.



Russet-throated Puffbird!


The puffbird was a nice way to end the morning's session.  Virgilio was waiting for us in the shade with some snacks and coffee.  It was blazing hot and I realized that my supply of shirts was probably going to get soiled pretty quick.  We visited several more spots on Day 2, but I will cover those in a separate post.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Colombia Day 1 (28Jul2019)

Ahhhhh.... so nice to be in a place where almost everything is new!  My flight arrived a little after noon in Barranquilla, Colombia and I was picked up by Virgilio our driver extraordinaire to join the group at the hotel.  I had about 15 minutes to get settled and then we were off for an afternoon session at the local University grounds where the group had birded the previous afternoon.


Grayish Saltators turned out to be a common bird most of the trip.


But I didn't know that so I snapped a bunch of pics.




Southern Lapwings blew my mind but everyone else acted like they were a trash bird.  The rest of the group had already been in Colombia for over a week so I was able to understand which birds were common by observing the group's attentiveness.



Brown-throated Parakeets were the default parakeet the whole trip at lower elevations.



Straight-billed Woodcreepers also turned out to be the most common Woodcreeper for the trip.


Northern Scrub Flycatcher


Same bird with the crest down.



Yellow Orioles were also the default Oriole.  This particular bird initially threw us off because the white in the tertials were not showing well but you can just see a hint there on the wing.  The facial mask and throat patch also is quite restricted on this species.


We had our only Mouse-colored Tyrannulets of the trip at this spot.



A quick fly-by from a Crane Hawk caused a commotion and turned out to be one of the handful of raptor sightings for the whole trip.  If you look closely you can see a mouse or something dangling under the hawk's tail.


Yellow-headed Caracaras were abundant but I was in awe.


Bare-faced Ibis was also a new species for me.


The specialty bird for this spot is the Chestnut-winged Chachalaca which we heard plenty of but had only a few fleeting glimpses.  I managed this poor record shot of the key field mark (chestnut on wing).


And chestnut head...


I had seen Yellow-bellied Elaenias in Mexico previously but this one was much more obliging.



The Glaucous Tanager is similar to the Blue-gray Tanager but has a more gray colored head and is much more restricted in range.  Many of the specialty birds we saw were termed "near endemic" because they can be found only in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela.  However with the situation the way it is in Venezuela, they might as well be endemic from a practical standpoint.


I won't bore you with statements about how many lifers I picked up at each spot, but needless to say I was racking up the lifers every time we stopped.

That night we enjoyed an excellent dinner at a Cuban themed restaurant.  I have to say that Otus Asio tours did not skimp on food and we had very good quality food throughout the trip.  The trip leader was excellent at finding birds and kept us on schedule without feeling rushed.  This was only my second organized tour (after Cuba) as I usually favor going on trips with my family and finding birds on my own.  Admittedly the tours find many more birds, but I always feel a bit like I am cheating by relying on the guides to ID and find the birds.  Some locations you really should have a guide for safety reasons and I thought Colombia was one of those places.  However, I have to say after spending 9 days in Colombia, I never felt unsafe and I think doing a solo trip there would probably be ok especially if you hire a driver.  Finding the specialty birds would be tough as some of them are very restricted in location and require a good ear.

More posts incoming....