Sunday, May 23, 2010

Birding the higher slopes of Cerro Montezuma. Part II

The second day of our trip to Cerro Montezuma in Tatamá NP in Colombia began succesfully! We (Rafael, Luis Francisco, Sergio, Jaime and your blogger host) were at the half of the way down and we already had recorded most of the targets we were looking for. We continue the descend, finding new birds with each step, and I'm not exaggerating. We began to see species more typical of lower altitudes, starting with a Buffy Tuftedcheek. Some time ago, the SACC proposal to split this form (johnsoni) from the nominate of Panama and Costa Rica didn't pass because published data are insufficient. Now that I have seen all the three forms (that is, including the Streaked Tuftedcheek that I saw several times in central Perú) I agree with Schulenberg in that our lawrenceii looks more like the Streaked Tuftedcheek than does johnsoni. A pair of Powerful Woodpeckers showed well, while we crossed another mixed flock, this time with Blue-winged and Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers, more Beryl-spangled Tanagers and Slate-throated Whitestarts. We still were seeing Gold-ringed Tanagers, but we were entering the domains of other range-restricted ENDEMIC Bangsia, the Black-and-gold Tanager, other one of our main targets for that part of the trip. The forest was changing in the measure that we were getting down. It looked taller and wetter than in Los Chorros. The birds also changed. We found in one stretch of forest a female Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Glossy-black Thrush, Chestnut-breasted Wren (only heard), Sickle-winged Guan and a pair of beautiful Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonias. Both male and female were cute, the male with its contrasting yellow belly with chestnut central stripe and the female with its blue crown and chestnut eyebrow. Then, Luis Francisco heard and correctly recognized the calls of a Club-winged Manakin. We already saw a male within the first hours of our walk, but only for few seconds. We wanted to see a displaying male in a lek, and it seemed to be our opportunity to do so. We followed the noise, getting closer and closer, when suddenly we were surrounded by several individuals. What a nice bird, and what a great show! The male does its London police whistle-like call while inclining in its perch towards ahead and below, simultaneously raising both wings over its back, showing the pure white inner wings from behind. The only photo I got of this display have a branch in front of it, but anyways you can get the idea. Shortly after seeing the manakins, a mixed flock appeared, with a male Uniform Antshrike, Saffron-crowned and Flame-faced Tanagers, two females Yellow-collared Cholorophonias, a Bluish Flowerpiercer, many Dusky Bush-Tanagers and a well-named Glistening-green Tanager. Its green was as bright as Sergio's green laser-pointer! Then, Sergio shouted Bangsia! and there it was, a Black-and-gold Tanager accompanying the mixed flock. It perched nicely in a Cecropia tree, allowing great views. It reminded me our own Bangsia tanager (yes, we have a Bangsia tanager in Panama and Costa Rica). The Blue-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia arcaei) share a similar plumage, except by its mostly blue (not black) back and contrasting red eyes. They even have similar names! It was time for our last target: Toucan-Barbet. We played a tape-recording in one of its favorite spot (close to a creek), without answer. Then, a little farther, we got a responsive individual hidden in the canopy. After playing again the tape, the bird threw itself (accompanied with other two individuals) towards a deep precipice, not returning to answer us. I was the only one of the group that have not seen the bird before and the only thing I managed to see was a little red dot quickly disappearing in the foliage. A little dissapointed for missing the mega target of the trip, a long desired life bird, I started to descend while the rest of the group waited for the horses there. Realizing how much I drifted apart from the group, I decided to wait them in a totally random spot where, after five minutes, I detected a light movement in a Cecropia at the hillside. I proved to be incredulous when I found with my bins the culprit of such activity: a TOUCAN-BARBET!!! Imagine the scene. I, completely alone, seeing THE bird for which I had expressly showed my resignation for missing it just some minutes before! With my tremolous hands, I grabbed my camera and started shooting despite the distance while shouting TOUCAN-BARBET, TOUCAN-BARBET! with no response. When they finally arrived, I was able to show them a photographic evidence of its ocurrence (and also the evidence that I was not hallucinating or turning a madman). If you enlarge the photo pictured here, you will recognize the multicoloured bird nicely perched in the Cecropia! A great final for the day, we got ALL the proposed targets!!! Back in Finca Montezuma we celebrated with cold beers and decided the plans for the next day while having dinner. What a great day!
My hosts, Rafael and Luis Francisco Cortés.


  1. ;-) ... we also have now your Bangsia in Colombia!!... not yet published, but the Blue-and-gold Tanager (Bangsia arcaei) was recorded in N Colombian Choco along with some other species recently...
    GREAT birding you got here,., thanks for the report!

  2. It was just matter of time. We have really little information about that general area in Panama. Now Colombia have ALL the Bangsias!