19 Feb 2019

17 Feb 18 - Colombian Solid Gold

After an overnight flight from Heathrow, Brian Field & I arrived into Bogota just as it was getting light. Having collected the bags & cleared passport control, we were pleased to get to the arrivals area & find somebody waiting for us to take us to the hotel. I hadn't slept for more than an hour or two on the plane, so was looking forward to some sleep. But about three hours after closing my eyes, the alarm was going off to wake up again, having left just had enough time to race down for the complimentary breakfast. Whilst enjoying breakfast, I had time to consider the early starts & insufficient sleep that were going to be a feature for the next few weeks. Therefore, I might as well get used to it straight away. At least I would be feeling tired by mid evening when an early night would be helpful. The next item on the plan was to change some money & head down to the city centre. We had the rest of the day to ourselves, before we had to meet the rest of the Birdquest group for dinner. Brian had said there was an excellent gold museum in Bogota, the Museo del Oro & he thought it would be worth a visit. After a fifteen minute taxi ride, we were dropped at the museum. It looked like a dull office block, but with few windows. Perhaps not surprising giving the amount of gold inside the building. Apparently, it houses over 34,000 separate gold items. The museum was dedicated to the history of pre-Colombian gold by the many different indigenous cultures and regions within the modern Colombia. Many of the items dated from a few hundred years BC to about 1000 AD. The quality of the workmanship was impressive & seemed comparable to similar gold jewellery and objects I've seen at the British museum or on archaeological programs on TV from the UK & Europe. The Colombian items were largely pure gold, whereas similar aged items from the UK were often gold with inlaid precious stones. In hindsight, I didn't photograph as many of the labels as I should have done & so the captions are not as detailed as I would now have liked.
This was probably a ceremonial gold breast band
This looks like a gold breast band to indicate the owner's importance: Note, the Monkey imagery. A lot of the items featured wildlife in the designs
This was from the Yotoco-Malagana culture close to the modern city of Cali: It dates from 200 BC to 1300 AD (or in Spanish 200 AC to 1300 DC)
I really like these fine figures
Looks like a shark symbol
There aren't many people who get to go fishing with gold hooks
Gold Lizard pendant: Although it looks like a crocodile, the translation confirms it is a Lizard pendant dated to 970 AD
This is a Guan pendant dated to 240 BC & it was part of a burial item
In addition to over 34,000 gold items, the museum is home to over 20,000 bone & stone items
Frigatebird pendants
Burial goods
The burial practices in some parts of South America were very different to Europe with people buried sitting up: This individual must have been found in a very arid location given the excellent preservation
Colibri or Hummingbird: I saw 64 species of Hummingbird including 23 Ticks in Colombia
This item is believed to have been on the end of a cane or stick & dates to 490 AD
I'm assuming this was an elaborate headdress with a a religious or ceremonial use
Gold band
Gold pins
Gold figurine: This is thought to be an important female chieftain. Chieftains and shamans performed important rituals to ensure that life would continue normally. This is from Quimbaya and dates from 500 BC to 700 AD. It is close to the Hotel Thermales del Ruiz where we stayed a week later
Will this be the next dancing craze: This Jaguar breastplate was made between 1 and 700 AD
Golden earrings
One of the earrings
Conch shell: Conch shells were often of great value to pre-Colombian Andean cultures as they would have had to have been traded over hundreds of miles to get into Andes. This one was covered in gold leaf as well
We declined a chance of a photo with this local
Or a photo with these ladies
After leaving the gold museum, we had a wander around the centre in search of a cafe.
This cafe had been well decorated: The coffee & cake were equally well made
Old church: This looks like it was one of the early Spanish churches in Bogota
Modern Bogota
It was now late afternoon & time to get a taxi back to the hotel & sort our gear out for the morning. We were due to meet the rest of the Birdquest group & leader Janos Olah that evening for dinner in the hotel. All the group had arrived during the day, apart from one of the American Birders, Doug, who wasn't due in to Bogota till the early hours of the following morning. He made it in time for the 04:30 meeting the following morning for our departure in search of some real Colibri & lots of other goodies. At least we were staying in the same hotel for the next couple of nights so didn't have to worry about packing the bags.

1 Feb 2019

16 Feb 18 - The Start Of The South American Adventure

Back to early Feb 18, I left the UK for the start of three months travelling in Colombia and Chile, followed by the Atlantic Odyssey & West African Pelagic back from Ushuaia to Holland. The first part of the trip was a Birdquest tour to Colombia with my good mate, the late Brian Field, who sadly & unexpectedly died a few months later. Although I've travelled widely abroad, virtually all my trips have been travelling with mates or sometimes on my own on self-organised trips. I've done three trips on expedition ships which are obviously organised tours, but they are to places that obviously can't been reached by other means. The only organised tour I've booked on up to this point was a week's trip to Turkey in 2015. That was initially arranged by one of my mates, Nigel Jones & several friends were booked on the trip, before it was handed back to Birdwatch magazine to fill the remaining spaces. This was a trip I could easily have self-organised, but given Nigel had already sorted quite a bit of the organisation, I was happy to go along for the plans, rather than sort something out myself.
Horned Lark: There have only been a couple of previous accepted records of Horned Larks in the UK. Subsequent DNA analysis has confirmed this is one of the North American subspecies, hoyti, praticola or nominate alpestris, from the Arctic coast of North America or Canada
Back to Colombia, the previous summer, Brian had mentioned he was booked on the Birdquest tour to Northern Colombia. I have wanted to visit Colombia for a number of years since it's settled down. It was a country I wasn't confident I wanted to do on my own & I've half-looked for mates who might be interested in teaming up. But as a number of friends had already visited on organised trips, it wasn't looking hopeful for a self-organised trip. Even then, other independent Birders who have visited in recent years have still ended up with self-organised trips using local Birding tour companies to get around & provide guides, so will have paid a hefty price for their trips. By autumn 17, it was looking like my work was going to dry up later that year, so I decided to join Brian on the tour as the start of a longer time abroad. I wasn't overly sure I wanted to go on an organised tour, but figured I might have a long wait before I could find some mates who wanted to go. At least, I would know Brian & he said Janos Olah who was leading the tour was an excellent leader & good company.
Horned Lark: I've heard there are suggestions that the Shorelark complex (which the Yanks insist on called Horned Lark), is in flux at the moment with the potential for future splits. Being a Brit, I stick to Shorelarks for the species name, but will use Horned Lark for the North American subspecies
Brian & I decided to fly out early compared to the rest of the group so that we would have a day in Bogota to rest before the trip got going. Kindly, Brian agreed to pick me up on his way from West Cornwall to Heathrow. It was an mid morning & early pickup, considering the flight wasn't until the mid evening, but we wanted to do some Birding en route. Back in Nov 17, a Horned Lark had turned up at Staines Reservoir just outside Heathrow, having previous been seen & kept quite at one of the other local reservoirs. I saw it a few days after it moved to Staines Reservoir, where it could be seen from a public path. But it was too far for any worthwhile photos. Brian left it for longer before he made the journey, by which time it had disappeared. In the end, it did reappear & settle down for the winter at Staines Reservoir, but Brian didn't make the effort again. Given we were going to pass within a mile or two of the site, it was worth another look. We arrived in the early afternoon & Brian headed off to look for it, while I stayed to keep an eye on the car & bags. Normally, I would have been happy to leave the car locked up, but with everything for a three months trip in the car, I wasn't going to take that risk. Within an hour later Brian reappeared, having had good views & with directions on where to look for it. Fortunately, it was feeding on the bank of the main causeway & only twenty metres from the path. My camera was ready & I headed off for the ten minute walk.
Horned Lark: Whether this eventually gets split only time will tell, but I suspect it may be a long wait. At least it it does, I won't have to make a long journey for the next one. The two previous records have been on Scilly & South Uist, but I don't believe either have been accepted. With the DNA evidence this record should at least get accepted and may help a review of the previous records
Horned Lark
The trip was off to a good, but cold, start. But cold was something I was going to get use to in Colombia on a number of days & was warmly kitted out for. We checked in with plenty of time for some food before the flight to Bogota.