8 Mar 2018

8 Mar 18 - Colombia: Down To The Foothills

We had spent most of the Colombian trip at a significant elevation in the Andes & more recently in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. Many of the days had been over 3,000 metres & we had been staying at the El Dorado Lodge at 2,300 metres for the previous three nights. We dropped a long way down the dirt road to the coast, before we stopped for the roadside scrub Birding. It was mixture of degraded forest with some low-key agricultural areas. We were probably around 800 metres which was why it as feeling so warm. The highlight was seeing my first Rosy Thrush-tanager, which unfortunately, I spent too long watching, before raising the camera. The result was only photos of the bushes it was in about twenty seconds earlier. It disappeared & didn't want to reappear.
Roadside View
Why the excitement? 1987 was my first Birding trip outside of the Western Palearctic. I visited Kenya with three mates, Keith Turner, John Chainey & Dave Unsworth. Keith & John were already keen world Birders & were trying to see all the Bird families the hard way. That is by organising their own foreign trips. It seemed a good target to go for. Ten years later, in 1997, Keith & I visited Cameroon where we saw a Grey-necked Picathartes. This was Keith's last Bird family. I believe Keith was the first independent travelling Brit to see all of the Bird families. It's possible that another Brit might have pipped him to all the families, but it they had it would have been because they were tour company junkies: as the Bird tour companies were starting to use that as a selling-point to their tours. Personally, I tend to discount the big lists of Birders who have got their big lists by only Birding abroad with tour companies: most punters of that category that I've run into, don't have great Birding skills, just large bank balances. In 1998, two more Brits succeeded in seeing all the Bird families & in a year, mainly as one guy paid Bird tour leader Derek Scott to take him around the world to see all the families. Finally, in Sept 2004, I saw my final family, Sharpbill in Brazil. I think I was the fourth independent Brit to see all the families (including Scott & punter). Unfortunately, in recent years, changes in taxonomy & DNA studies have resulted in quite a few new families being added. Many of these I had already seen, but when I left for Colombia, there were eight recently split families I hadn't seen. One of these was Rosy Thrush-tanager. Hence the reason I was keen to see it. We had a chance, but it wasn't certain & I was pleased to have seen it. Just seven families left to get me back to where I was in 2005: five new families in Papua New Guinea, Cuban Warblers & Spotted Wren-babbler (AKA Spotted Elachura) in North East India & neighbouring China. A few countries that I need to try fitting in at some point. Anyway, back to Colombia. There were some more showy species in the trees, to make up for the lack of Rosy Thrush-tanager photos.
Whooping Blue-crowned Motmot: A few years ago this was called Blue-crowned Motmot. It was then split into Lesson's, Whooping, Amazonian & Trinidad Motmot. Whooping Blue-crowned Motmot occurs from Panama to Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador & Northern Peru
Rufous-tailed Jacamar: This is a widespread Neotropical species which occurs from SE Mexico to Bolivia & NE Argentina
Rufous-tailed Jacamar: Despite its widespread range, I'm always happy to see Jacamars as they are a great family
Swallow-tanager: Another sign we were dropping down in elevation & entering more open habitat
Rufous-capped Warbler: Another lower & moderate elevation species
We then got back into the 4WDs & dropped further in elevation until we were around 650 metres & just above the small town of Minca, where our hotel was. We stopped by an average looking track on the left hand side of the road & walked down the track for the last hour of the day. It provided to be better than its average appearance. There were several parties of Scarlet-fronted Parakeets feeding close to the track.
Scarlet-fronted Parakeet
Scarlet-fronted Parakeet
Northern Oriole (AKA Baltimore Oriole): Immature. As the name suggest this species was on its wintering grounds in Northern South America. Looks like a more sensible habitat than the one I saw on St Agnes, Scillies in 1983
It was time to head off to the hotel in the nearby town of Minca. There were a few Hummingbird feeders on the veranda which looked promising. I also discovered a swimming pool, which looked interesting until I realised there was a strong green hue to the pool. I decided that was one pool best avoided. A pity as it would have been a good way to cool down after dinner.