27 Feb 2018

27 Feb 18 - Colombia: Early Morning At Montezuma

We had time for a quick pre-dawn coffee before jumping into the jeeps for a long & slow bumpy hour along the track to the top of the Montezuma trail in the Tatuma National Park. We arrived just before first light on a forested ridge. There was a small army camp on the hill to our right. We were told, that the army is tolerant of Birders visiting the trail, especially as most who visit are staying at the Montezuma Rainforest Lodge & going up with their guides & jeeps. However, we were also told to avoid pointing cameras in the direction of the base. The guides also told us that the camp had been attacked on more than one occasion during the civil war by members of the FARC, so the lack of photos rule was understandable. Soon after we arrived, we saw our first goodie for the day: a pair of Chestnut-bellied Flower-piercers.
First light: It looked like it was going to be good weather
Chestnut-bellied Flower-piercer: They weren't close & the light wasn't great, but this was the only occasion we saw this local Colombian endemic
Looking across to the distant mountain ridge
Having seen the Chestnut-bellied Flower-piercers, we dropped back down the trail a bit to an area where a few Hummingbird feeders had been hung in the forest, to allow us to have breakfast with the local Hummers. The guides visited the area frequently enough to keep the feeders topped up to attract the Hummers.
Collared Inca: I'm always happy to see an easy to identify Hummingbird
Dusky Starfrontlet: This species was a real bonus species. It is a tricky endemic that is restricted to a few Choco sites. Fortunately, a couple had recently started appearing at these forest feeders
Dusky Starfrontlet
We also saw our first Purplish-mantled Tanagers around the same area. Initially, they were quite skulky.
Purplish-mantled Tanager: A tantalising view of  this Choco forest species from Colombia & NW Ecuador
Purplish-mantled Tanager: Fortunately, they became more confiding
Purplish-mantled Tanager: Absolutely gorgeous
Another species that was good to see again was this Black-throated Tody-tyrant, which I had only seen once before in Ecuador in 2002.
Black-throated Tody-tyrant
Studies of the Grey-breasted Wood-wrens in Colombia in the early 2000s revealed that there was more than one species involved. One of the splits was Muchique Wood-wren which was described from the Choco forests on the Pacific slope of the Colombian Western Andes. Obviously, this was another target species & one that we saw close to the Hummer feeders.
Munchique Wood-wren: It's fairly easy to see how this species was overlooked as a Grey-breasted Wood-wren
Munchique Wood-wren: This species is restricted to a few locations on the Pacific slope of the Colombian Western Andes
Buffy Tuftedcheek: A record shot of the johnsoni subspecies which is sometimes split as Pacific Tuftedcheek
American Swallow-tailed Kite: One of the most distinctive Birds of Prey in the World
As always, Rainforests are great places to explore for the vast number of less obvious species. The problem is I generally don't have a look of time to start looking at the ground & it's even harder on an organised tour.
Centipede sp.: I always given Centipedes a wide berth in the Tropics as I've heard too many stories of people handling them & later finding they have tropical skin infections from chemicals they have released that take a long time to clear up
I generally find small Rainforest flowers are hard to find, but they can be very rewarding to look at.
Orchid sp.
Flower sp.
Flower sp.
It was only mid morning & we had most of the day to head back down the mountain track to the lodge. I'll cover the rest of the day in the next Post.