18 Feb 2018

18 Feb 18 - Colombia: Afternoon Coffee With Extra Hummers

After a two & a half hour journey in the minibus from the upper slopes of Sumapaz National Park, we finally reached our destination for the afternoon: Chicaque Park. We were quickly to discover that it was never quick travelling between sites in Colombia, even though the destinations weren't always far apart. This was partly due to travelling in a minibus on roads with few opportunities for overtaking. Chicaque Park looks to be a large national park, although we spend most of our time drinking coffee whilst photographing the Hummers coming into the feeders by the cafe. I normally find it takes a while getting my eye at a new place with Hummer feeders. This isn't helped by my normal pattern of travelling around in the Neotropics. No sooner than I get familiar with the typical Hummer species at one site, then I'm moving onto a new elevation or Andean slope & have to start working out & learning the regular species again. Additionally, many species have overlapping features & I can't remember all the features in my head. Seeing 64 species in three & a half weeks didn't help either. The best way to start is to find a species that looks obvious & familiar. Collared Incas are fairly obvious to pick out, as they are distinctive and have a large range from Colombia & Venezuela to Peru & Bolivia, which means that I've bumped into them on a few occasions in Ecuador.
Collared Inca: I was happy with this photo considering it was an overcast & damp afternoon & the light wasn't great
Collared Inca: They are a fairly large Hummingbird with this distinctive large white collar & a lot of white in both the undertail & the outer tail feathers on the upper side of the tail and a long straight bill
This Hummingbird looks superficially similar to a Collared Inca, but is a female Tourmaline Sunangel.
Tourmaline Sunangel: Female. This has an obvious white throat, but the white doesn't extend around the sides of the neck. Additionally, it doesn't have the white in the tail & is noticeably shorter-billed
Tourmaline Sunangel: Male. The males are more non-descript, especially when the light doesn't catch the purple throat
The next easy identification was a Woodstar. Woodstars are one of my favour groups of Hummingbirds as they are small & hyperactive. Most of the Woodstars I've seen hover while feeding, so it was good to see one which was happy to come in & perch up: making it easier to photograph them. A check of the excellent Pro Aves field guide & it was confirmed as a female Gorgeted Woodstar. At just over 2 inches long, it one of the world's smallest Birds.
Gorgeted Woodstar: The small size, pale underparts & pale collar suggest this is a Woodstar. The buff underparts & rufous uppertail & the Eastern Andes location indicates this is a female Gorgeted Woodstar
The next species to get my eye in on was a Puffleg. Pufflegs are less obvious, but have noticeable white feathering around the legs. This is a very useful feature as it helps to narrow the range of pages to check down from thirty two, to just two.
Glowing Puffleg: This individual is starting to develop its shiny purple gorget which is surrounded by a narrow buffy border on the Eastern Andes vestita subspecies
Another of the more subtle Hummingbirds was this Lesser Green Violet-ear. A few years ago, this species was known as Green Violet-ear. When the Northern subspecies was split as Mexican Violet-ear, the remaining subspecies from Costa Rica to Peru, Bolivia & extreme NW Argentina was renamed Lesser Violet-ear. Rather than lose all links to the original name, I often try to keep a reference in the English name to the original name.
Lesser Green Violet-ear: This is an all green Hummingbird with a noticeable purple lower face and ear coverts
Finally, we saw our main target species for Chicaque Park: a Golden-bellied Starfrontlet. No amount of sharpening will cover up that this photo wasn't in focus: but it's the best I have of this near endemic Hummer.
Golden-bellied Starfrontlet: This species occurs in the Eastern Andes & just over the border into Venezuela
Brian was using the same camera & lens as I was: a Canon 7D Mark II with the Mark II 100 - 400 mm lens. I was disappointed for the few days with my photographs compared to what Brian was getting. Finally, I realised the image stabilisation wasn't enabled on the lens & that made a big difference, especially on days when we were in the forests & the light wasn't great. We had a short walk along the entrance track, before the minibus caught us up & we returned to our hotel in Bogota. it had been a long day, but good with ten Ticks. I was glad we had arrived early the previous day so that we had had chance to start getting over the jetlag & used to the altitude.