20 Feb 2018

20 Feb 18 - Colombia: A Turquoise Morning

I've never been very good at early starts, so the two hour plus alarm call before dawn wasn't welcome. At least there was some coffee in the hotel reception as we loaded the bags into the minibus. After three nights in the hotel, we were moving on to a hotel in Ibague on the West slope of the Central Andes for one night. Birders visiting Ecuador quickly get use to the idea of the Andes running down the country and there is a difference in species which occur on the East slope compared to the West slope. The middle of Colombia (from North to South), has the infamous cities of Cali & Medellin for anybody who can remember back to the news of the bad old days of the 1980s drug trafficking era. Less well known is that there are three Andean mountain ranges in this part of Colombia: The Eastern Andes, the Central Andes and the Western Andes. The Magdalena River separates the Eastern and Central Andes and the Caura River separates the Western Andes from the Central Andes. Our first stop of the day was Laguna Pedropalo on the Western slope of the Eastern Andes for the endemic Turquoise Dacnis. The last stretch of the road is a dirt track & after a while of slowly bumping along, we pulled in. There was time for a quick snack of breakfast as it was getting light. As the light improved, we could see the Laguna was a few hundred metres away in the valley bottom. Ignoring the obvious difference in wildlife and trees, the scenery wasn't unlike the rolling grass fields with patches of trees in Southern Devon. We walked back down the track for a short distance, before heading along a track leading towards the lake. There were some large trees with open canopies which had a good selection of species in them.
Red-headed Barbet: Male. Unfortunately, not in focus, but it gives a good idea how it got its name
Red-headed Barbet: Female. This is the bourcierii subspecies which occurs from the Andes of Central Colombia to Western Venezuela
Fairly quickly we started to see a few wintering North American Warblers. There were one or two Black-and-white Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, Cerulean Warblers, Canada Warblers & Tropical Parulas and around ten Blackburnian Warblers.
Cerulean Warbler: I only saw three on the whole trip
Cerulean Warbler: One of these in Cornwall would be appreciated
Blackburnian Warbler: They were probably the commonest of the migrant New World Warblers on the trip
Another species that would have been familiar to most of the group was this Acorn Woodpecker.
Acorn Woodpecker: This is the flavigula subspecies which is the local subspecies. The Colombian Andes are the South most part of the Acorn Woodpecker's range
There were other more Neotropical species. We had seen Southern Emerald Toucanet on the first afternoon near to Bogota and we now had the chance for better views.
Southern Emerald Toucanet: This is the albivitta subspecies. We were to see different subspecies of this species later in the trip. Southern Emerald Toucanet is a recent split from Northern Emerald Toucanet (which occurs from Mexico to the Darren Gap on the Panamanian Colombian border). It was well worth seeing the different subspecies, in case there are further revisions to the Emerald Toucanet taxonomy
Ash-browed Spinetail: Spinetails can be tricky to identify in the Neotropics, as they generally like to skulk in vegetation & rarely give clear views. This one is no exception. This is an Ash-browed Spinetail as there is no sign of a black throat patch & paler upper throat (which the similar looking Azara's Spinetail should show)
Yellow-backed Oriole: This drawback of having open trees in fields is sometimes you get a chance at a distant photo, which wouldn't be possible in forest. This Yellow-backed Oriole is a good example & this is a harsh crop
There was a selection of Tanagers coming & going through the trees including Fawn-breasted Tanagers, Scrub Tanagers, Metallic-green Tanagers, Blue-necked Tanagers & Palm Tanagers. Finally, a lone Turquoise Dacnis was spotted within one of the Tanager groups.
Fawn-breasted Tanager
Turquoise Dacnis: Unfortunately, it was never close, but at least it sat in the open. It is being photo-bombed by a Social Flycatcher (or is that an Anti-Social Flycatcher)
Sometimes, I come across a photo that looks like I should be able to figure it out, but I just fail. Here is one photo. If anybody has any suggests, please leave a comment on the blog.
Unknown species: It looks like it should be a Tyrant Flycatcher or a Becard
We had enjoyed a good morning, but there was still some time for a bit more Birding as we walked back along the main track for another hour. But I'll cover that in the next Post.