29 Apr 2019

23 Feb 18 - Colombia: An Afternoon At Rio Blanco

After an hour & a half of driving from Santa Rosa, we arrived at the gates to the Rio Blanco reserve. This is an excellent area of woodland which has been protected as is a water catchment area by the local water company.
The entrance sign: I wouldn't recommend shorts in the tropics, as they result in a much higher chance of insect bites
There is a small accommodation building inside the reserve that would have been great to stay in, but we stayed in the nearby city of Manizales: it was about a thirty minute drive to the entrance. It was a real pity that we couldn't stay in the reserve, as it would have been great place to stay. I don't remember hearing whether there wasn't enough accommodation for the group or there was another reason. While we had a decent hotel in Manizales for a couple of nights, we found we weren't able to get into the reserve on the following morning until after it had got light. We had a few hours of Birding in this excellent reserve before it got dark.
Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Black-billed Mountain Toucan: This was our second Mountain Toucan of the day & even better this was a Tick
Powerful Woodpecker: Female. A record shot of my first Powerful Woodpecker. Females have a predominantly black head, while the males have a bright crimson crest
Golden-fronted Whitestart: This is the chrysops subspecies of Golden-fronted Whitestart. We saw the white-faced ornatus subspecies at Cerro Guadalupe on 19 Feb 18
Grass-green Tanager: This distinctive Tanager occurs from Colombia to Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia. It's a pity it is in the shade as the chestnut-red face isn't as clear as it was in the forest
Beryl-spangled Tanager: This is a relatively widespread Tanager which occurs from Colombia & Venezuela to Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia
Slaty Brush-finch: This species occurs from Colombia & W Venezuela to Ecuador & Peru
I think we were all looking forward to returning the following morning, especially as we knew there were some treats on the menu: breakfast was to include some worms. More in the next Post.

27 Apr 2019

23 Feb 18 - Colombia: Looking For Fuertes's Parrot (One Of The Rarest Colombian Birds)

This morning was another two hours before dawn start. We met the local guides who were going to be with us for the morning & we were quickly loaded into jeeps. No sooner than we left Santa Rosa we were on a very bumpy track. After a good hour & a half of bumping up & down on this very poor track, we were all thankful to come to a stop. I suspect it was primarily the poor quality of the jeeps, rather than the track, that made it an unpleasant ride. As it started to get light, we could see that we were on an open area of hillside, with trees within a few hundred metres away.
The Fuertes's Parrot site
Waiting in the light drizzle on another cold morning over 3000 metres: The Fuertes's Parrot landed in the trees at the back of the photo
The first Parrots to fly over were a pair of distant Scaly-naped Parrots. They kept flying & didn't linger. Then a different Parrot call was heard. Janos & the guides confirmed it was a Critically Endangered Fuertes's Parrot. The world population is restricted to the West slope of the Central Andes & thought to be only around 160 - 250 individuals. The species was only rediscovered in 2002 after a gap of 91 years of not being seen. I guess the combination of the major drug problems & the many years of civil war were the reasons for it being lost of science for so long. Fortunately, we picked the Fuertes's Parrot up in flight & saw it land somewhere in the trees. After a couple of minutes of searching, one of the group saw it perched up & we had reasonable scope views in the early morning light. The fields were private & walking along the road wouldn't have allowed a closer view. I wouldn't have been in favour of risking disturbing it, by trying to get much closer.
Fuertes's Parrot: Showing why it look a few minutes to locate it
Fuertes's Parrot: This is one of the rarest endemics in Colombia
After about twenty minutes, the Fuertes's Parrot flew again & disappeared from sight. We didn't see any more. We did see another pair of the larger Scaly-naped Parrots & one perched up for some distant photos.
Scaly-naped Parrot: This species occurs from Colombia & NW Venezuela to Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia
Having seen the main target species for the day, we walked further along the track away from the Santa Rosa.
The main track continued through patches of woodland & open rough grass fields
There was a reasonable selection of Hummingbirds, including two Tourmaline Sunangels, two Mountain Avocetbills, three Purple-backed Thornbills, four Tyrian Metaltails and singles of Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast & Sword-billed Hummingbird.
Purple-backed Thornbill: Juv. The adults have a deep purple back wings, crown & nape. The juveniles are more subtle
Buff-winged Starfrontlet: This is a larger Hummingbird with a noticeably longer bill & a pale buff panel
Buff-winged Starfrontlet: They occur from the Central Colombian Andes through Ecuador to extreme NW Peru
Black-capped Tyrannulet: Another species which occurs from Colombia & Venezuela South to Ecuador & Peru
Cinnamon Flycatcher: This is a widespread species which occurs from Colombia to Peru & NW Argentina
Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant: This looks more like a Flycatcher you could see in China or SE Asia than a Neotropical Tyrant-flycatcher
We quickly started to run into small parties of Mountain-tanagers. First up was a small party of Hooded Mountain-tanagers, followed by Lacrimose Mountain-tanagers & Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanagers.
Hooded Mountain-tanager: The black head without any yellow and blue band across the belly separates Hooded Mountain-tanagers from the other similar-looking species
Hooded Mountain-tanager: This species occurs from Colombia & West Venezuela and South to Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia
We stopped again a bit closer to Santa Rosa for another stretch of roadside track Birding, which was productive.
Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan: Another species of the Central Andes of Colombia, Ecuador & Peru. This individual was very dexterous in being able to select & eat single berries
Great Thrush
Pale-naped Brush-finch: We saw a couple of these cracking Brush-finches
Pale-naped Brush-finch
We arrived back at the hotel as had chance to look at a few garden species, whilst packing the minibus & having a quick cup of coffee.
Blue-and-white Swallow: A fairly common species which occurs from Costa Rica as far South as Chile and Argentina
We only drove for a few minutes from the hotel before pulling into a restaurant for lunch.

25 Apr 2019

22 Feb 18 - Colombia: Walking Out Of The Otun-Quinbaya Reserve

After lunch at the Otun-Quinbaya Reserve, we loaded up the minibus & started walking out along the entrance track. At one point, we got back in the minibus & drove further along the track, before disembarking again. There was a good selection of species along the entrance track, but overall not the same quality as during the morning. This was especially true as the further we went from the reserve accommodation, the more the habitat was broken up with small farms, between the wooded areas.
Initially, the track went through reasonable habitat: Janos, Brian & Pirjo (left to right)
Collared Trogon
Acorn Woodpeckers
Strong-billed Woodcreeper
Acadian Flycatcher: The last one I saw was the Dungeness individual (the first UK record)
Acadian Flycatcher
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow: This species has an interesting distribution and occurs in parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela & Guyana. There is a separate population in SE Brazil, Paraguay & NE Argentina
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow: This is the granadensis subspecies which occurs in the Eastern & Central Andes of Colombia and Western Venezuela
Bright-rumped Tanager: Male. The taxonomy of this species is debated & it is sometimes split into Flame-rumped Tanager and Lemon-rumped Tanager by some authorities including IOC
Golden Tanager: A widespread Tanager which occurs from Colombia & Venezuela, to Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia
Slowly, the habitat opened up as we reached a number of small farms & open fields.
Rich trying to blend in with the locals
Cattle Egret
Southern Lapwing
Shiny Cowbird
A few butterflies put in an appearance.
Butterfly sp.
Butterfly sp.
Butterfly sp.
Finally, we reached a bridge over a fast-flying river which added a few new species for the trip.
The river
Torrent Duck: Male. It's always worth checking these fast-flowing rivers in South America
Broad-winged Hawk
White-capped Dipper
Finally, it was time to get into the minibus as we an hour & a half drive to our next hotel in Santa Rosa. This proved to be a surprisingly pleasant new hotel set in pretty grounds. They weren't serving food, but just after dark, we walked for about ten minutes to a fast food restaurant where they were cooking a pre-booked meal for us.
The Hotel Matisses: Photo taken the following lunchtime
The first Owl of the trip: but not tickable