Sunday, May 23, 2010

More life birds in Colombia!

After two terrific days birding Cerro Montezuma in Tatama NP, Colombia; Rafael, Luis Francisco, Jaime, Sergio and me were deciding the plans for our last morning. Taken into account that we wiped out ALL our targets in Cerro Montezuma, Sergio kindly proposed to bird the next morning in his workplace, four hours away. For most of you, it doesn't sound like an attractive alternative but trust me... most of you don't work in the Río Blanco Hydrological Reserve, above the city of Manizales. Sergio is a researcher for the company Aguas de Manizales S.A. E.S.P. which administers the reserve through the Fundación Ecológica Gabriel Arango Restrepo (FUNDEGAR). This is one of the best places in Colombia for birdwatching, due to its impressive list of birds (over 360), pristine and varied habitats, its feeding stations and great installations with hummingbird feeders (Casa Viveros) attracting more than twenty species. Of course we all agreed to visit that magical place. After an early 4:00 AM start, we left Finca Montezuma been grateful by all the given attentions. We headed to the east, passing by the city of Pereira. We had a tasty breakfast by the road and then we arrived to the busy city of Manizales. When we got there, it was hot and sunny, maybe too sunny for the birds. Before even entering the reserve we found a mixed flock with Oleaginous and Black-eared Hemispingus, Montane Woodcreeper, Rufous Wren, Barred Becard and the only Bronzy Inca of the day. We passed the entrance and drive all the way to the 2600 meters above sea level, having a spectacular view of the city below. Despite the sun, we were able to find some birds, including my life Blue-and-black Tanager, plus Golden-faced Tyrannulets, tons of Great Thrushes, Brown-bellied and Blue-and-white Swallows and a soaring Broad-winged Hawk. Sergio took us to one of the Grallaria (Antpitta) feeding stations where, confortable seated, we waited for the Grallarias to show up while he started to whistle one of their calls. An Stripe-headed Brush-Finch gave us a false alarm but then, one absolutely magnificent Chestnut-crowned Antpitta appeared, allowing great, close and prolonged views. What a glorious bird! It hopped around for a while, occasionally feeding with an insect that it catched from the leaves. Then, a second individual appeared... incredibly. In the meanwhile, we heard others antpittas in the surroundings, including the very rare Brown-banded Antpitta. It is a range-restricted ENDEMIC for Colombia, one so rare and little known that even Steven Hilty, the author of the Birds of Colombia fieldguide, was startled when he saw it in that same place some time ago. We saw an Emerald Toucanet feeding on some fruits while seated in the station (I'm not sure about the specific sub-species found there). We were about to leave the station when Sergio noted that other antpitta species was showing up: a Brown-banded Antpitta!!! The rare bird hopped in the open and catched an earthworm in front of us... wordless!! It maybe is not as colourful like others antpittas (including the Chestnut-crowned), but it ranks high among all the birds watched during those days in Colombia because of its genuine rarity. We left the station still impressed just to find more birds. An Azara's Spinetail was working the bushes along the road and a mixed flock contained several Golden-fronted Whitestarts, a Superciliared Hemispingus and a very nice Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager. The whitestarts were of the chrysops sub-species, with all yellow (not white) faces. It was getting late for our lunch in the Casa Viveros where, apart of the nine hummingbirds species recorded (and theme of other post), we saw such beauties like Masked Flowerpiercer, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher and Blue-capped Tanagers. The last surprise was a flock of twenty+ Golden-plumed Parakeets that stopped by the fruiting trees close to us. A great final for our birding trip. It was great to share all these experiences with such keen birders. The only treasure of Colombia aren't its birds... but its people too!! I hope to return soon.


  1. very good fotos!

  2. Love the beautiful bird pictures. Don't ever stop taking pictures of them.

    Wherever you go there once was a forest.
    Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
    Trees are the lungs of the earth.