18 Feb 2018

18 Feb 18 - Colombia: A Cold Misty Start To The Colombia Trip

It was the first morning of the Birdquest tour & it was a good introduction to the Colombian Eastern Andes with a pre-dawn arrival at the Paramo at over 3200 metres. We had the chance of a quick bite of some breakfast in the half light. Although the light levels started to increase, it was fairly misty. But it wasn't too misty & we quickly realised there was a large marshy area close to the road.
The marsh later in the morning after we had returned to the road
Another habitat shot
As we got closer, we found this superb looking pool
We were hoping for a Bogota Rail or two. None were seen, although Janos heard one call briefly. Scanning the marsh, we could make out the shapes of a few more distant Ducks & Waders, but too far to figure out them in the mist with the bins. I was only travelling for the next three months with a small spotting scope, due to weight restrictions & I left the scope in the hotel anyway. But others had scopes & somebody fairly quickly picked up a couple of Noble Snipe around the edge of the marsh. This was really good news as far as most of the South American Snipe species were Ticks. We followed a small path down to the marsh & although the original individuals had disappeared, several more were found. It's a shame that the light wasn't great, when they were at their most approachable. However, I'm not going to complain, especially as they weren't seen at this marsh on the 2017 tour.
Noble Snipe: There were at least a dozen Noble Snipe in the boggy edges of the marsh. Generally, individuals didn't show for long, before moving into cover or flying to another part of the marsh
Noble Snipe: Like all Snipe species, they were remarkably well camouflaged
Noble Snipe: Finally, the mist started to clear
Andean Teal: There were a few out in the open water pools in the marsh. This is the andium subspecies which occurs on the slopes of the Central & East Andes from Central Colombia down to Ecuador
Greater Yellowlegs: The first site of several where we saw Greater Yellowlegs
As we were walking down to the marsh, we saw the first of several Apolinar's Wren. This is a high-altitude Wren & the first endemic of the trip.
Apolinar's Wren: This small endemic Wren has a limited range in the Paramo on the Eastern Andes
Apolinar's Wren
Tawny Antpitta: There were a few Tawny Antpittas around in this amazing habitat. This is the alticola subspecies which is restricted to the Colombian Eastern Andes
Tawny Antpitta: I've found they are one of the easiest Antpittas to see as they frequently & relatively tamely hop around in the open in high altitude habitats, but I still struggled to get close to one
 Tawny Antpitta: Another Tawny Antpitta singing from the bizarre vegetation in the area
Great Thrush: This is the largest of the Colombian Thrushes & was commonly seen in the higher elevation sites we visited
Forest Rabbit: This diminutive Rabbit is only 13 inches long when fully grown
Brazilian Guinea Pig: They were almost as large as the Forest Rabbit
Brazilian Guinea Pig: Another photo in better light
Eventually, with the sun briefly appearing it started to get a little bit warmer & we started to see some Hummingbirds. This was good as one of our targets for this site was the endemic Green-bearded Helmetcrest: another Eastern Andes Paramo specialist.
Green-bearded Helmetcrest: I saw at least ten, but this was the only worthwhile photograph
Tyrian Metaltail: They are really well camouflaged
Tyrian Metaltail: This individual had a small shiny throat patch providing it turned its head in the right direction
Tyrian Metaltail: This was another common Hummingbird at this site. The white post-ocular spot, short, thin bill & long tail help to confirm the identification
Walking along the road produced a couple of gorgeous Rufous-browed Conebills.
Rufous-browed Conebill: This is a near endemic Eastern Andes species which also occurs just over the border into Venezuela
Having seen the majority of the expected specialities in the Paramo area, we got back into the minibus & dropped down in elevation to around 3100 metres. A suitable spot was found with taller trees where we could pull the minibus off the road for some lunch. There wasn't a lot of activity, but there were a few White-throated Tyrannulets present.
White-throated Tyrannulet: This is one of the common Tyrant Flycatchers & worth getting you eye in, given it would be a regular species that we were to see throughout the trip
After some lunch, it was back in the minibus for a lengthy drive to our afternoon Birding site: Chicaque Park.