Thursday, March 22, 2012

Birding the eastern slope

After my quick introduction the previous day to the birds of the Bogota savanna (Colombia), Rafael took me to the eastern slope

of the eastern cordillera, picking up Oswaldo Cortes in the way. I knew about Osvaldo and his birding skills time before meeting him, thanks to the technology (facebook), and it was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to bird with him in one of his area of expertise. Our main destination was Monterredondo, the type site of the near-mythical Cundinamarca Antpitta, described in 1992 by G. Stiles. We quickly left Bogota behind and started the winding road descending the eastern cordillera, passing at first the entrance to Monterredondo in order to have a tinto (black coffee) in the town of Guayabetal. Of course, we did bird in Guayabetal, waiting for the weather to improve in the higher slopes, and the birding was very good. Oswaldo showed us a reliably spot for Green-bellied Hummingbird, which we saw, right by a pristine creek and a flowering tree that was attracting tons of birds, including my life Silver-beaked Tanager (female in the photo), Bananaquits, Spectacled Parrotlets, and so on. An important note, that area was severely affected by the insecurity some years ago, and rapidly, a pair of cops asked for our ids cards when they noticed our cameras and binoculars; however, as soon as they realized we were birders, they wished us good luck!

In the way to Monterredondo, a short stop to appreciate a pair of Cliff Flycatchers resulted in a myriad of birds, including Swallow, Fawn-breasted and Blue-necked Tanagers, Purple Honeycreepers, Golden-faced Tyrannulet and a very cooperative Crested Oropendola (again on a flowering tree).

The way up to the right habitat for the Cundinamarca Antpitta was long and slow, and the weather was not improving... it was very cloudy, with occasional showers. However, in the first stop we made to check, we heard a Cundinamarca Antpita quite close! The bird didn't respond to playback and it slowly walked away. Considering that it didn't make the alarm/aggression call, it probably was a female or a young bird. In any case, I was happy with simply hearing it... since I read Stiles' article,

always I have wanted to have the opportunity of experiencing this enigmatic bird! The site was also very good for mixed flocks, but the mist sometimes prevented us from identifying its members. A pair of Ochre-breasted Brush-Finches showed well... they were gorgeous... no illustration in any guide match its colors! Above our heads, a Stygian Owl was quietly following our movements... the mist only add a mysterious touch to its presence. We tried other spots for the antpitta, without answers, so we decided to go down, to the entrance of Monterredondo where the flowering trees were alive with birds, and we quickly add more and more species to our growing list. One of the main targets, the Magpie Tanager, was pointed out by Oswaldo... in the photo you can see the beautiful jay-like tanager with a Spectacled Thrush, which was also a life bird for me.
The place was also extremely good for migrants, with American Redstart (a female), Tennesee, Blackpoll, Black-and-white and Blackburnian Warblers showing very well.
More color was added in the form of Inca (Green) Jay, an absolutely gorgeous Red-headed Barbet (can you find it in the photo?), and very vocal Russet-backed Oropendola of the pale-billed sub-species (next to the bromeliad in the photo).

It was an excellent morning birding the eastern slope, the company of Rafael and Oswaldo was simply incomparable, and the birds, exceptional! A short stop in the way to Bogota produced some more species, but we (Rafael and me) were in a hurry in order to prepare ourselves for our next day's flight to our first international birding destination: eastern Venezuela!

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