Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Post #161 - Recap of my Colombia Photobirding tour for Alvaro's Adventures

My inaugural Colombian Photobirding Adventure for Alvaro's Adventures was an unbelievable success! We found 376 species in 11 days and experienced no logistical snafus save for a local protest blocking one of the main inter-Andean arteries. That impromptu rock-and-log blockade forced an hour detour, but understanding participants absorbed the delay without grumbling. Driving in Colombia - as in much of Latin America - is notoriously inefficient, and roadside drama is par for the course. Whether it's cows crossing the road, an overturned sugarcane truck, or a dancing mob of soccer fans, Colombian travel is always an adventure!

The intrepid octet with Howler Monkey accompaniment at 
Otún Quimbaya (Colombian co-leader Andrea Beltrán at far right)

As for birds, our incredible total featured 46 species of hummingbirds, 9 species of parrots/parakeets, 11 species of antpitta (9 seen), 8 species of tapaculos, 24 species of furnarids, 44 species of flycatchers, 7 species of cotingas, and too many colorful tanagers to count. Notably, we tallied 18 Colombian endemics, 15 seen and 3 heard-only.

***all photos taken at sites visited during the tour***

Sword-billed Hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera) against cloud
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/250 at f/7.1, ISO 500, fill flash at 1/16

Green-and-black Fruiteater - Pipreola riefferii
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II on EOS 1DX2
1/100 at f/7.1, ISO 2000

Our tour started in Cali and visited a wide array of elevational habitats between 3,000 and 13,655 feet in the Western and Central (930 to 4,138 meters) before terminating around Manizales and Pereira. For those unfamiliar with South American topography, it is vital to understand that the Andes trifurcate into three discrete ranges in Colombia. Species have evolved independently in each branch, and most of Colombia's endemics are found in and between the three ranges (all but one of the rest - Chiribiquet Emerald - evolved in the isolated Santa Marta Mountains on the Caribbean Coast). With time in both the Western and Central Andes, we were afforded a very wide sample of Colombia's diverse and highly-specialized avifauna.

Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer - Diglossa gloriosissima
Colombian endemic found only in the Western Andes
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II on EOS 5D4
1/320 at f/5.6, ISO 1600

Video at Tatamá National Park where we saw Chestnut-bellied
Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-Wren, and Gold-ringed Tanager

We designed this tour with photographers in mind, and clients had fabulous photo opportunities at many of the sites we visited. All participants birded together in the mornings, and the two die-hard photographers usually split off to do their thing at lodge feeders in the afternoon. The balance worked really well, and even self-described 'hardcore' birders had their cameras glued to their faces for much of the trip. With point-black views of so many incredible birds, everyone went home happy!

Crescent-faced Antpitta - Grallaricula lineifrons
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 1DX2
1/80 at f/5.6, ISO 2000

Thick-billed Euphonia - Euphonia laniirostris
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II +1.4x II on EOS 1DX2
1/200 at f/8, ISO 1600

So, that's a very cursory overview of what transpired on our tour, none of which would have been possible without our wonderful ground operator Andre Beltrán of Birding and Herping. She was brilliant with the birds and a master of logistics, and I cannot praise her personality and professionalism enough. Andrea, Alvaro, and I are already planning next year's iteration; it will run late-June into early-July and probably be a day longer than this first run. Please contact me if you are interested in securing a spot. We only took 8 clients this year, so book early to make sure you aren't left behind!

It doesn't get any better than Termales del Ruiz!

Birders enjoying dinner at Tinamu Lodge.
Spectacled Owl flew in while we were eating!

You get the idea. Colombia is awesome. Come with us next year. And in case you're still waffling, here are a few more shots to convince you!

Rufous Antpitta - Grallaria rufula
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 1DX2
1/80 at f/5.6, ISO 2000

Andean Motmot - Motmot aequatorialis
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III on EOS 1DX2
1/200 at f/7.1, ISO 1600

Buff-tailed Coronets - Boissonneaua flavescens
Canon 600mm f/4 IS II on EOS 1DX2
1/100 at f/9, ISO 1600, fill flash

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