Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Post #59 - Colombia, part 2

Well, I am back in Los Estados Unidos after 9 days in Colombia! This trip was just fantastic, introducing me to many new birds, places, and people. Recall that I was part of a press trip designed to highlight the birding opportunities along the Northern Colombia Birding Trail, a multilateral venture designed to boost the economic standing of the the region through ecotourism, specifically birdwatching. Anyway, I can report that the project looks like it has a ton of potential, both for visiting birders and the residents of Caribbean Colombia. I will actually be writing a series of in-depth blog posts about our time in the region for the National Audubon Society website in the next few weeks. As a result, I am going to keep this update rather brief so as to avoid double-posting, self-plagiarizing, or violating some otherwise obscure aspect of copyright law should I write the same thing both on this blog and the Audubon blog. Also, the Audubon Society has kindly requested that I save what photos I took on the trip for their website. The plan is to cross link what blogging I do for them here so that my regular readers won't miss anything. There is a nice photo teaser at the end of this post to set the stage though!

Area around Santa Marta, days 3-5
(days 1 and 2 were spent slightly farther east,

map on previous post)

We spent a total of 5 days in Caribbean Colombia. These were split between coastal estuaries, dry forest, lowland forest, and higher elevation cloud forest. Briefly, I will say that the geography of the Santa Marta area and adjacent Guajira Peninsula is particularly interesting. Pico Cristobal Colon (bottom right in above picture) is roughly 19,000 feet high. As the peak is located just 30 miles from the coast, nowhere else in the world can such a high peak be found in such close proximity to the ocean. What this means for birders is that a large number of habitats can be experienced in a very small area. Waterbirds were present in large numbers along the coast, and hummingbirds, trogons, tanagers, hummingbirds, woodcreepers, and parrots were expectedly in great supply in more forested areas. We put much effort into finding species endemic (restricted) to the region and were largely successful on that front. A notable find were 3 Blue-billed Currasows at Tayrona. With a population estimated between 200 and 500 birds, it is certainly one of the rarest birds on the planet. We otherwise recorded in excess of 200 species, all of which but the water birds (shorebirds, herons) were life birds for me.

My lodgings at El Dorado Lodge in the El Dorado cloud forest

After 5 days on the Caribbean Coast, we flew south to Cali where we attended the Colombian Bird Fair for the final 3 days of our trip. Styled much like and American birding festival with field trips during the days and talks at night, it was a huge success. Colombia is really doing its best to sell itself as the next big ecotourism destination, and the fair did a great job of doing exactly this. With 1,900 species of birds found within the country, it shouldn't be tough to lure birders to Colombia!

Collared Trogon - Trogon collaris
Canon 500mm f/4 IS on EOS 7D2
1/200 at f/7.1, ISO 1600
(f/7.1 to get whole bird in focus, 1600 since light was quite bad)

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