Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Land of Contrasts

Our duties in Bolivia were not over.  After completing successfully the first part of the XII International Course on Advances in Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy in La Paz, it was time for the 40 of us participants from 18 Latin American countries to take a 1-hour flight to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in the Amazonian lowlands.  It was a drastic change: Santa Cruz was hot, flat and green... nothing to do with La Paz.  After arrival, we had little time to visit the main plaza, including the impressive Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo and the surroundings.
Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo, Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Again, the activities of the course demanded all our time and concentration.  We had talks to attend, topics to discuss and workshops to get done at the Hospital Universitario Japones.  Every participant prepared topics in advance concerning common gastrointestinal diseases in their countries and, at the end, we presented a set of conclusions and recommendations to implement back in home.
My working group at Montero
Then it was time for the social projection of the course, we left behind the busy Santa Cruz city and moved to the town of Montero, some 50 km to the north.  There we performed endoscopic studies to the population in two intense journeys.  We stayed out of town, in a immense resort with wooded areas, a natural lagoon and lots of facilities.  My own cabin was pretty close to the lagoon and to a jogging track rich in wildlife.
I did early morning walks along this track, and the number of species was quite impressive. Not only birds, but also some mammals, like White-tailed Deers for example.
White-tailed Deer female
I got some new species for my life list of birds.  Some where straightforward, but others were more difficult to ID... for example those Thrush-like Wrens... I was not aware that the subspecies present there was essentially unspotted!  I also photographed some common species in the ground of the resort, check them out:
Rufous Hornero 
Burrowing Owl
Some of the new ones were quite common too, like these Velvet-fronted Grackles that I thought first were cowbirds until I heard them, or the Red-crested Cardinals that were everywhere.  These cardinals (two species in the resort) are not related to the northern cardinals nor to the grosbeaks, but to the colorful tanagers.
Velvet-fronted Grackles
Red-crested Cardinal
And talking about colorfulness.... one of my last lifers in Santa Cruz was a famous bird, icon of the tropics and probably the most common one in advertisements concerning paradisiacal beaches and lush forests, even in countries were this bird is not found (like Panama): Toco Toucan:
Ooops, wrong photo!
Toco Toucan
Yes, I know... is a terrible photo, but I got great views through my bins.  The bird stayed just few seconds, but it was enough to see every detail.  After all, I spend 10 days in Bolivia, a country full of contrasts, new friends and exuberant wildlife... and I hope to be back soon!

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