Monday, October 14, 2019

The Grand Finale - Colombia Day 8-9 (04-05Oct2019)

I could easily write two more posts based on volume of pictures and new species from my last two days in Colombia, but most of the photos stink.  The last days were cloudy and photos were mostly under dense canopy or really badly backlit.  My wise dad reminded me that not everything is about birds, so here are a couple scenery pics from my iPhone.

This is actually from 03Aug on the San Lorenzo Ridge.  You can barely see some snow capped mountains in the distance.  One day I would like to hike some of those.

August 4th on the Ridge.

We went up to the ridge a second time on the 4th which was fine by me as the scenery was insane and the photography way better than down low.

Black-cheeked Mountain-Tanager

Our fearless leader Jan was really excited about this Plushcap.  Apparently they are not so easy to get.

Record shot of a Yellow-crowned Redstart.

Strong-billed Woodcreeper

Paramo Seedeater

Santa Marta Warbler

BC Mountain-Tanager again.

Santa Marta Bush-tyrant.

Streak-capped Spinetail

Probably one of my favorites of the whole trip - Flammulated Treehunter.  It had an amazing call/song and caused quite a stir.

A little farther down slope, I had this Great Thrush.

Back at the Lodge, Black-chested Jays were partaking in some seed.

A solo hike down a trail had me on a Sierra Nevada Brushfinch.  Flash was used judiciously and he/she did not seem to mind.

Crested Oropendola

Slaty-backed Nightingale-thrush.

The group reconvened for a little birding near the Lodge to look for White-tipped Quetzal which is a regional endemic that is declining rapidly due to habitat loss.   There was an old lookout tower which our leader scaled but advised us to stay down as the first 4-5 steps were missing and the other steps were a little rickety as well.  When he called out that he was on a Quetzal, I practically pole-vaulted myself up the gap and was up top in time to photograph it before the Quetzal flew.  The trip leader said he never saw someone spring into action so fast.

White-tipped Quetzal

Masked Trogon

I think I was the only one to see this Lined Quail-Dove skulking back at the Lodge.  Usually they are only heard.

That evening a beautiful sunset over Santa Marta finished a perfect day.

I had a bad case of Montezuma's that night (or whatever you call it in Colombia) but it did not keep me from joining the group for a try at the elusive Santa Marta Screech-Owl.  It was a good thing too because I was the one that noticed it swoop down onto a nearby limb.

In the morning I was still not feeling great and was really worried I would have to stop the caravan to poo on the side of the road, but luckily it never happened and I was ok.  This was our last day and unfortunately we had to get the cars to Santa Marta for another group in the early afternoon which meant we did not have many stops on the way down slope.  It was quite rushed and the birds we did get were fleeting glimpses in thick underbrush.  So will skip the first few stops and spare you the horrible photos.

Red-billed Parrots

Lineated Woodpecker

Rusty-breasted Antpitta! Not an easy bird to see.  This was through some serious undergrowth.

Scaled Pigeon

Hmm, not sure what species...

Collared Aracari

Crimson-backed Tanager

And finally the last decent photo of the trip...

White-shouldered Tanager.

Overall this trip was super fun.  I do think the use of playback is a little too much.  I know our tour guides felt pressured to get all the endemics so understand why they would do it.   I don't mind using playback here and there but I definitely like just birding and waiting for good birds to come naturally. Especially in exotic places where any birds are good birds.  That's why I like to do trips with my brothers instead of organized tours.  Colombia seemed pretty safe to me but I was with a group so perhaps that is why.  Our leader told me I would probably be fine exploring alone and he has done it with his wife.  I am looking forward to going back some day, perhaps just with Melissa and targeting more of the pretty locations instead of just targeting where the endemics are.

My next trip is Thanksgiving in California.  I have a huge backlog of local NC pics to post too and most of them with the new Canon 7D!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Colombia Day 7 (03Aug2019)

Day 7 started bright and early so we could make the treacherous journey to the San Lorenzo Ridge.  The trip requires some hard core 4x4 slow crawl up a couple thousand feet.  We had a fleet of three Toyota Land Cruisers bring us high on the ridge and started birding just after sunrise.  All the birds with Santa Marta in the name are endemics.

Santa Marta Brushfinch

Black-cheeked Mountain-tanager

Santa Marta Bush-tyrant

White-sided Flowerpiercer

Santa Marta Parakeet

Andean Siskins

Rusty-headed Spinetail - a skulky little guy...

Hermit Wood-wren

Tyrian Metaltail

Suppose this is why they call it a metal tail...

Someday I will identify this butterfly....

Tyrian Metaltail female.

On the way down the mountain we stopped for a drink and snack at the research station.  The lady that works there has trained an antpitta to come out of the woods and eat worms.  The pioneer of this method of luring the ultra secretive antpittas out was a guy named Angel in Ecuador.

Santa Marta Antpitta

Golden Grosbeak

Band-tailed Pigeon

We decided to hike down the rest of the way to El Dorado which was a couple miles downslope and probably easier than riding in the Land Cruisers.

White-throated Tyrannulet

Montane Woodcreeper

Golden-breasted Fruiteater

Masked Trogon female

Crimson-crested Woodpecker

Montane Foliage-gleaner

Back at El Dorado it was more geri-birding and I loved every minute of it.

Brown Violetear

Sparkling Violetear - note the purple belly.

Lesser Violetear

Lazuline Saberwing

Saberwing female

Blue-naped Chlorophonia

Lesser Violetear flaring its "ears".

I saw several White-lored Warblers but only managed a horrible shot in the understory.

The White-tipped Doves on the other hand were obliging.

In the evening we headed downslope for another specialty bird.  Hummingbirds are usually not pegged to a specific location unless there is a special flower or something.  However, our guide was able to find this next hummer at a random spot in the jungle with no flowers in sight.

Santa Marta Blossomcrown

Gray-breasted Wood-wren is another understory skulker.

Finally our last stop for the evening was a nice montane farmstead.

White-lined Tanager - the white line is not usually visible.

Yellow-backed Orioles are the high elevation species of Oriole.

Rusty Flowerpiercer

Pale-breasted Thrush

Bay-headed Tanager

Swallow Tanager - a great bird to end the day on.

I neglected to take pictures of El Dorado the lodge itself, but I can describe it here.  The Lodge is perched with a nice view overlooking the valley and at night the lights of Santa Marta twinkle in the distance.  There is a nice deck overlooking hummingbird feeders, regular bird feeders and the compost pile.  Best of all are the dinners which are not fancy, but delicious and indicative of local fare.  There is no choice on the menu, but that suited me fine as the meals were all good and a nice little dessert always capped off the night nicely.

The next morning we decided to go back up to the ridge so more eye-candy incoming.