28 Jun 2019

2 Mar 18 - Colombia: Parrots In The Mist

Obviously, the alarms went off well before dawn so we could get into some jeeps for a slow & bouncy ride up into the hills above Jardin. Our main target species for the day was the endangered Yellow-eared Parrot. This was a species that was thought to be extinct up until 1999 when around eighty individuals were discovered in the Colombia Andes. Thanks to good campaigns to raise its plight with local communities & also to protect its habitat, the population has grown. One of the problems is its main tree, the Quindio Wax Palm is also a threatened tree. The tree used to be used for Palm Sunday processions, but part of the work with local communities & the church, has greatly improved protection for the trees, with alternatives being used for the processions. The main Colombian Bird NGO, ProAves, has created a couple of reserves & put up nest boxes on the Palms to help provide additional nesting holes. This has been a successful campaign and the population is now around 1500 individuals.
A lone Quindio Wax Palm
It was a cold wait in the mist for the first sighting
It was very misty at first light, but slowly the mist started to clear. We saw a couple of Yellow-eared Parrots flying towards our viewing point on a small ridge. Fortunately, they landed, but not particularly close. Soon after a few more flew in & landed in a bit closer in some of the Palms. They were followed by others until we had seen around twenty of these lovely Parrots.
Yellow-eared Parrot: The light wasn't great as they were flying in
Yellow-eared Parrot: Most settled in these trees
Yellow-eared Parrot: A great looking Parrot
Yellow-eared Parrot: They are a near endemic as there is a small population in Northern Ecuador
We saw a reasonable selection of other species as we walked down the main track towards the town. However, it was a morning when few species were photogenic.
Walking back down the main track: It's clear why we used jeeps, rather than taking the bus
Black-billed Mountain Toucan: This species occurs from Colombia & W Venezuela to NE Ecuador
Streak-throated Bush-tyrant: This species occurs from Colombia & Venezuela to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia & NW Argentina
Golden-fronted Whitestart: This is the yellow-faced chrysops subspecies
Slaty Brush-finch
Montbretia: This looks similar to the Montbretias that grow in my garden. The family is native to East & Southern Africa & therefore these must have been introduced into South America
These flowers look like they will be popular with the local Hummingbirds
After a good morning's Birding despite the mist, we returned to the hotel in Jardin to collect our bags. The rest of the day was spent on a long & slow drive to the Rio Claro reserve.
Green Iguana: It was a largely uneventful drive, with this Green Iguana being the highlight
Medellin: There were a number of hillsides around the city that were as packed as this hillside
No surprise, that we were stuck in a few traffic jams in the Medellin area
We didn't arrive until after it was dark. As we stepped out of the bus, it was distinctly warm & humid. Having spent most of the trip at altitude, the next couple of days were going to be a big shock as we were only around 350 metres asl.

25 Jun 2019

1 Mar 18 - Colombia: Punk Extroverts

The final stop of the day was at the edge of the small town of Jardin, where the river has cut a fairly deep path through the surrounding countryside. We walked down the road leading to a bridge across the river, before stopping at the gate to a small private reserve.
One of the roads in the old quarter of Jardin
The trees of the Cock-of-the-rock reserve
The gate was locked, but eventually somebody appeared to let us in. This was the Jardin Cock-of-the-rock reserve. There were already a few other tourists enjoying the spectacle of the Andean Cock-of-the-rocks in their communal lek. They are part of the Cotinga family and are one of the most ostentatious in the family & their leks remind me of seeing Bird-of-Paradise leks in Irian Jaya (or West Papua as it is now called). I've seen a few Cock-of-the-rock leks, but this was the most impressive.
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock: I spent a lot of time trying to catch the light coming through the crest
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock: They make Trump's comb over look like that of an amateur & unlike Trump, this is all natural
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock
As the light levels were falling under the trees, I headed into the garden where they had stashed bananas in a number of places to attract some of the local Tanagers.
Blue-necked Tanager: Another psychedelic Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager: This must be an immature as it hasn't developed a full chestnut head
As a rare treat, we only had a five minute drive to the hotel in the old quarter of the town.
Sunset over the surrounding hills
There was time for a quick walk before we headed out for dinner. Close to the hotel was a small park in front of the main church, which has been upgraded to a basilica by a previous pope.
The basilica: I'm impressed how well this photo came out given how dark it was
The park in front of the church
Finally, a couple of photos from the following morning after we returned from the morning's Birding.
The basilica
The park

23 Jun 2019

1 Mar 18 - Colombia: An Endemic Wren

After an early pre-dawn walk at Montezuma, we loaded the jeeps & headed back to the nearest town where our bus driver had been taking it easy for the last two days. He was probably glad of the break, given the early starts, long drives & after dark driving. We spent most of the day driving, although there was a nice lunch stop in a restaurant next to a deep gorge. This allowed a little bit of Birding.
American Black Vulture: There were around a hundred around
American Black Vulture: Many were constantly flying over the gorge, but few were particularly close
Red-crowned Woodpecker: This species occurs from Costa Rica to Colombia, Venezuela & the Guianas
 Tropical Kingbird: The occur from Arizona to central Argentina
Palm Tanager
We had a mid afternoon roadside stop near Bolombolo to look for the endemic & recently described Antioquia Wren. It was only found in 2010 and described in 2012. They have a restricted range in the dry forest of the Northern Cauca valley. Like many Wrens, it is loud & vocal and it just goes to show that stops away from the traditional Birding sites in a country like Colombia can occasionally be exceptional. As usual, Janos was precisely aware of previous sightings from Birdquest trips, but we drew a blank where they had been seen the previous year. Consequently, we walked down the road about a half mile to where Janos had seen then on a previous trip he had led. We tried a few suitable points in between the two sites. While they didn't produce the hoped for Antioquia Wren, we did see a few other species that were new for the trip.
Western Slaty Antshrike: Female
Grey-cheeked Thrush: They are winter visitors from the US & Canada
Black-striped Sparrow: They have an extensive range from Honduras to Colombia, Venezuela & Ecuador
Antioquia Wren: We were more successful at the second site where a pair were seen
Antioquia Wren
With the target Wren seen, we were quickly back in the bus as we still had an hour & a half of driving to get to the final stop of the day to allow a bit of Birding on the edge of the picturesque town of Jardin.

21 Jun 2019

28 Apr 19 - Dotted Bee Fly

I can still remember being shown my first Bee Fly (or Dark-edged Bee Fly to be more precise) at Farley Mount, Hampshire back in late May 1984. It was an excellent looking Insect. In those days, I was doing a lot of Birding, as well as, looking at Butterflies & Moths when the Birding turned quiet with my good mate John Chainey. More recently I've become aware there are three other species of Bee Flies that occur in the UK: Dotted Bee Fly, Heath Bee Fly and Western Bee Fly. I've only seen Bee Fly and Dotted Bee Fly, but I've normally seen them when I've not had a camera with me. Finally, I was pleased to see a Bee Fly sp. in my garden for the first time on 22 Apr 19. But it had disappeared by the time I grabbed the camera from the house. At the time, I thought it Bee Fly. Just under a week later, I saw another Bee Fly sp. & this time, it was still there when I grabbed the camera. This turned out to be a Dotted Bee Fly. As it was only the second garden record of the genus & only a few days after the initial sighting, then the first sighting had to be downgraded to Bee Fly sp.
Dotted Bee Fly: All four species have this excellent proboscis. The chestnut and black body and the dark spots on the views identify as a Dotted Bee Fly and the line of white spots on the abdomen indicates it's a female
There is an excellent short identification paper on the four Bee Fly species here.

18 Jun 2019

28 Feb 18 - Colombia: The Final Afternoon At Montezuma

The final afternoon at Montezuma was spent walking down the lower parts of the Montezuma trail after a good morning in the mid section of the track. The first highlight of the afternoon was a Choco Vireo that was singing near the track. Fortunately, we found a small track where we could walk in & within a few minutes, found it singing in the trees. Choco Vireo was only described in the mid 1990s & in a progressive approach to conservation, the scientific name was put up for auction. The result was it was named after Dr Bernard Master who donated over US $100,000 in the auction to set up the Rio Nambi Community National Reserve, the first ProAves Bird Reserve in Colombia.
Choco Vireo: This was thought to be a Colombian Choco endemic, but more recently it has been found in NW Ecuador
Choco Vireo
Nearby a small family party of Olive Finches were hanging around. One of the local guides put down some food & they immediately came down to feed. It looks like this was something the guides had done before.
Olive Finch: The occur in the Andes from Colombia to Peru
Olive Finch: Given their wide range, I was surprised this was a Tick
Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant: This is another of those widespread South American species which is worth learning as they occur from Colombia & Venezuela to Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia
Ornate Flycatcher: This is a West Andes specialist of Colombia & Ecuador
Another species I hadn't since trips to Ecuador & Peru in the early 2000s was Russet-backed Oropendola. We saw a small group of at least ten individuals. However, none were particularly photogenic.
Russet-backed Oropendola: They occur from Colombia & Venezuela to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia & Amazonian Brazil
Oropendola nest: These nests were nearby & presumably were Russet-backed Oropendola nests
Rich, Sally, Janos & Rob
To prove the Montezuma track is in the Tatama National Park: A pity we didn't see an Oso
At one point, the track passed over a small bridge. Looking down from the bridge, we found a Green-fronted Lancebill. It wasn't particularly close, but it kept returning to the same perch after feeding.
Green-fronted Lancebill: This was only my second Green-fronted Lancebill, with the first at Mindo, Ecuador
The Birding slowed down in the warmth of the early afternoon. This gave a few opportunities to photo some of the other wildlife along the track. We saw a good selection of Butterflies during the afternoon, especially when we found an area where there must have been a build up of salt.
Colombian Butterfly sp.
Colombian Butterfly sp.
Colombian Butterfly sp.
Colombian Butterfly sp.
Colombian Butterfly sp.
Colombian Butterfly sp.: I've not got a Colombian Butterfly guide, so all these species will remain unnamed, except this stunning Butterfly which I will call the 89
Colombian Butterfly sp.: The upperwing of the 89 was not what I was expecting
The Grasshoppers were pretty amazing to look as well.
Opaon varicolor: This is an endemic wingless Grasshopper which is restricted to the Chaco parts of Colombia
Colombian Grasshopper sp.
Colombian Grasshopper sp.
Centipede sp.: It looks like it has survived a nasty injury
Colombia Orchid sp.
After another long day in the field, we walked around a bend & could see the Ecolodge at the bottom of the slope. We had just about left the forest & were in more secondary habitat. So, it was no surprise to see this Black Phoebe.
Black Phoebe: A sign that the habitat was getting more secondary
However, I was more surprised when somebody found this endemic Greyish Piculet next to the trail: the last Tick at Montezuma.
Greyish Piculet: Not as sharp as I would like, but I'm always pleased to see Piculets. These small Woodpeckers are often tricky to see & I wonder how many I've walked past & missed in my many foreign trips
We had a brief opportunity to look for Nightbirds the following morning before it got light, but only ended with a Paraque on the track. There was also a few of the local Hummingbirds & Tanagers as it was getting light as we walked back to the Ecolodge. We then loaded everything into the jeeps to take us back to the nearest village, where our driver had spent the last two days. It would be a long drive to our next hotel in the picturesque town of Jardin.