Thursday, 21 July 2016

Summer odds and ends - butterflies, shorebirding in Niagara, etc

It has been another busy summer for me. Unlike recent years where my work has brought me to a variety of locations in northern Ontario, this spring and summer I have been restricted to job sites throughout southern Ontario. While racking up the mileage cheques has been nice, I certainly miss the vast expanses of forests and the accompanying birds, herps, mammals and insects found throughout the boreal forest, especially since most of my job sites this year have been in less than pristine locations, often within cities or agricultural areas.

While I have observed a good variety of wildlife including a few new ode and lep species for me, I have often left my camera at home. That being said, I have photographed the odd thing here and there. Below are a couple of my better photos from the summer, though most of these are very common species. Often my "best" sightings have occurred during the middle of the day when the harsh lighting does not lend itself well to photography, or they have happened when I was without my camera (far too common of an occurrence, unfortunately). There are still a bunch of photos I need to edit from the last month - these are just the ones I have looked at recently.

Northern Pearly-eye - Cambridge, Waterloo Region

Little Glassywing - Cambridge, Waterloo Region

Long Dash - Huntsville, Nipissing District

In October of last year I moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Aurora, a location which had been my home for over two years. Since arriving in Niagara I have been working on building my Niagara Region bird list, though that took a bit of a hiatus over the winter since I was rarely in the province. But I have tried to ramp it up in recent months. The month of May is always the busiest for a birder and like usual I devoted most of my time to birding in one of the province's hotspots - Point Pelee. However I still managed to check some local spots in St Catharines here and there and slowly added new Niagara "ticks", most of them being relatively common migrants such as Solitary Sandpiper, Rusty Blackbird, Common Nighthawk and a variety of warblers such as Northern Parula, Blackburnian, Pine and Cape May. I did not find any notable rarities in Niagara this spring, however I was content to bird some of the local hotspots and slowly come across some relatively common species that I was missing for the county. Finding a Fish Crow at Port Weller was certainly a highlight, and given other sightings from the usually inaccessible west pier, it is a species that just may be breeding here.

As spring morphed into summer I have been focused on finding breeding birds, hoping to fill in some of the gaping holes in my list. I have been somewhat successful in that regard, adding Hooded Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker, Common Gallinule, American Woodcock, Black-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Whip-poor-will and Marsh Wren.

Now that we are in mid-summer my focus has shifted to one of my favorite groups of birds - shorebirds. Here in Niagara we are not blessed with an abundance of good locations to find this group of highly migratory birds, and as I am located in Niagara-on-the-Lake it is nearly an hour drive to access the Lake Erie shoreline which is often the best location to find shorebirds. This year has also been a bit of a down year as the water levels of Lake Erie seem unusually high, hiding much of the available shoreline habitat.

However, the dry weather we are currently experiencing is beneficial in lowering water levels at a few select places, including the Avondale Ponds near Niagara-on-the-Lake and Mud Lake Conservation Area near Port Colborne. While action at Avondale has been pretty slow and the location does not provide a ton of habitat, I was pleased to encounter an adult Baird's Sandpiper there the other day - the first Baird's to be reported in Ontario so far this year. As I was without my camera these digiscoped photos will have to do.

Baird's Sandpiper - Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Region

Baird's Sandpiper (left) - Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Region

Baird's Sandpiper - Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Region

Mud Lake CA has become a favorite of mine to check in the last week or so. It is only a half hour from my office, and on recent visits I have been surprised to encounter quite a few shorebirds here, a location  that is usually devoid of those species in typical years. Mudflats have appeared this year, and of course shorebirds and herons have dropped in to take advantage of the feeding opportunities. Along with over a dozen Great Blue Herons, up to 35 Great Egrets have been seen here in recent days, picking off the numerous frogs and small fish that have congregated in the shallows. I would not be surprised if a rare heron drops in eventually - the question is whether it will hang around long enough to be found! I would be happy with Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, or White-faced Ibis, though I certainly wouldn't turn down a Glossy Ibis or Snowy Egret....heck even whistling-ducks should be looked for since Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks seem to be on the move during this dry summer.

Mud Lake CA, Niagara Region (photo taken in May when water levels were still high)

Several new additions to my Niagara list have occurred here recently including Sora, Virginia Rail and Least Bittern. Of course Mud Lake was also the location where Blayne and Jean Farnan discovered the Mississippi Kite back in May that hung around long enough to delight many birders.

Mississippi Kite - Mud Lake CA, Niagara Region

Two days ago I encountered an adult Stilt Sandpiper that was mostly in breeding plumage at the site - a big highlight for me since Stilt Sandpiper is one of my favorite shorebird species. I am not sure why it is a favorite - perhaps because it has a very distinctive posture and feeding technique visible from a great distance, or because it has a very distinctive breeding plumage that isn't seen in its entirety too often in Ontario, or because it is a somewhat rare migrant in the province that is often only seen during autumn migration. My apologies for the quality of the photo - it was taken with my phone through my scope zoomed in at 60x from a decent distance. It can be aged as an adult bird (as expected this time of year - juvenile Stilt Sandpipers usually appear in September) as it is retaining much of its breeding plumage, including barring on its underparts and an orange cheek patch. While some of our shorebird species begin molting once arriving on a majority staging area or their wintering grounds (i.e. Short-billed Dowitcher), others including Stilt Sandpiper actively molt during their migration through Ontario. Often, new individuals can be identified at a location by comparing their degree of molt.

Stilt Sandpiper - Mud Lake CA, Niagara Region

Other shorebirds at Mud Lake in recent days include Semipalmated Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper (including a high count of 18 recently) and Greater Yellowlegs among the numerous Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers. The diversity and numbers change frequently and this location should be checked daily. It is only a matter of time before a Ruff or something even rarer decides to drop in. The nice thing about Mud Lake is that it provides so much suitable habitat that a wayward shorebird may be enticed to hang around for a few days or weeks. If we continue to have a dry summer and the water levels at the lake remain low it will be an excellent birding location throughout the autumn - I know I will be checking it every couple of days from here on out.

Coming soon?

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Colombia - Day 17 (February 2, 2015): Páramo del Ruiz near PNN Los Nevados

Introduction
January 17, 2015 - Isla de Salamanca, Minca, El Dorado lodge
January 18, 2015 - Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, El Dorado lodge
January 19, 2015 - Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, El Dorado lodge
January 20 and 21, 2015 - El Dorado lodge to Minca
January 22, 2015 - Minca, drive to La Guajira Desert
January 23, 2015 - La Guajira Desert
January 24, 2015 - PNN Tayrona, fly to Andes
January 25, 2015 - Bogotá area: PNN Chingaza, Siecha wetlands
January 26, 2015 - Laguna de Pedro Palo, Payande area
January 27, 2015 - Cañón del Río Combeima, SFF Otún Quimbaya
January 28, 2015 - SFF Otún Quimbaya, drive to Montezuma Road
January 29, 2015 - Montezuma Road
January 30, 2015 - Montezuma Road, drive to Jardín
January 31, 2015 - Jardín area, Cauca Valley
February 1, 2015 - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco
February 2, 2015 - Páramo del Ruiz near PNN Los Nevados

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Páramo is name given to a variety of high alpine ecosystems, but the term usually refers to tropical, montane vegetation above the treeline but below the continuous snowline, particularly that which is present in the northern Andes of South America and adjacent Central America. Páramo del Ruiz is a large expanse of páramo located within and surrounding Parque National Natural Los Nevados, and it was to be our destination. It would be the last full day in Colombia for Steve, Dan and I, while Dave and Adam would be continuing on for another month and a half in this beautiful country.

Leaving in the dark, William drove us towards PNN Los Nevados, named due to the snow-capped volcanoes found in this protected area within the central Andes. Eight volcanoes can be found within PNN Los Nevados, including Nevado del Ruiz, looming 5,300 m above sea level. As dawn broke we were well on our way towards the park, stopping periodically to photograph our first volcanoes of the day!

Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Páramo del Ruiz is home to a number of interesting species, the most interesting to us being the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest - a plump little hummingbird that survives year round in the cold temperatures of the páramo, feeding on a few species of flowering plants that bloom at different times of the year. The Buffy Helmetcrest has a population estimate of less than 1000 individuals, found almost entirely within PNN Los Nevados and the surrounding area. Coming into the trip the Buffy Helmetcrest was one of my most wanted species - partly due to its rarity, but also its unique habitat requirements and unmistakable appearance, complete with a large crest and colourful "beard".

Dan (left) and Steve exploring the Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

We arrived at the entrance gate to PNN Los Nevados not long after sunrise and began to explore the páramo while the car's thermometer read in the low single digits. I was doing the trip with just a single carry on bag - my 38L pack - and thus had to pack judiciously. For this part of the trip, easily the coldest, I was wearing practically all my clothes - long johns, long-sleeved shirt, fleece, field pants, and rain coat, along with a toque and gloves. This was just enough to cut down some of the cold, especially during brief periods of sun whenever the low, misty clouds cleared out.

Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

It is possible to see all the bird specialties of the area without accessing the park. The gates are only open from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM, a guide is mandatory for your visit and combined with the entrance fees we decided that it was not worth it. The only really interesting bird to us that is located within the park boundaries but not outside is Andean Condor - a widespread species throughout the entire length of the Andes, particularly in the higher elevations.

We were at an elevation of 4,100 m which was the highest that I had ever been. Due to the low oxygen levels it did not take much walking to be out of breath, even when walking on even terrain or heading downhill.

We slowly discovered the birds of this habitat, watching our first Stout-billed Cinclodes as well as our first Plain-colored Seedeaters and Plumbeous Sierra-Finches, while Sedge Wrens sang away from all around us (somehow this alpine subspecies is considered the same species as our marsh and field-dwelling Sedge Wrens from Ontario). Tawny Antpittas are common in this habitat, and unlike most species in this family Tawny Antpittas readily perch out in the open and are generally not very shy. It was very strange to us observing these antpittas in this habitat as opposed to the dense, lush tropical forests from the previous day in Río Blanco.

Tawny Antpitta - Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

We staked out a nice patch of flowers, hoping for our target species. It wasn't a particularly long search until a chunky hummingbird buzzed by, eventually perching on some nearby bushes. Even when backlit the silhouette was unmistakable - Buffy Helmetcrest!

Buffy Helmetcrest - Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

We had a lot of fun with them over the next 20 minutes or so as at least 6 individuals made the rounds.

Buffy Helmetcrest - Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Buffy Helmetcrest - Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Buffy Helmetcrest - Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

It was an unforgettable experience with an iconic species, one that I will certainly never forget!

Continuing on, we slowly walked down the road to search for other specialty birds, as the fog rolled back in. It was a hauntingly beautiful habitat with the tall frailejones (Espeletia sp.) dominating the landscape.
 Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

We slowly added a few new species, finding several seedeaters along the roadside (including Páramo Seedeaters), while a Páramo Pipit was heard as it flew over in the fog. A few Andean Tit-Spinetails flew across the road, but that was it for new bird species. Our checklist from the Páramo del Ruiz held only 13 species, though almost all of them were new to us!

Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Having seen our main target species we continued down towards the lower elevations, hoping to come across Rufous-fronted Parakeets - another endemic parrot found in Colombia and limited to just the central Andes. Unfortunately this would be a big miss for us - guess you can't get them all.

Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

William taking in the landscape

Our next stop was a set of hot springs known as Termales del Ruiz, a hotel undergoing renovations that also happens to have an excellent hummingbird feeder setup. We paid our entrance fees (about 10$ CAD each) and quickly walked towards the hummingbird feeders, as this held more interest to us than the hot springs. Quite a diversity of hummingbirds can be regularly found here, most which would be new to us.

It was a very productive couple of hours for us and we turned up 8 hummingbirds including five new ones for us.

Male Rainbow-bearded Thornbills rival the Buffy Helmetcrests in appearance, but unfortunately we were only able to find one of the less-vivid females. Trust me, its worth the few seconds to see a google image search of the males...
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia
Viridian Metaltail was a common species in the area - in fact they were the only hummingbird species in addition to Buffy Helmetcrest that we encountered in the páramo near the entrance gates to PNN Los Nevados. The feeders at Termales del Ruiz also attracted a bunch of them, providing a nice study of this species limited to the Andes of Ecuador and south central Colombia.
Viridian Metaltail - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Mountain Velvetbreast is a fairly widespread Andean species, but easily identifiable with a slightly downcurved bill and dark front.

Mountain Velvetbreast - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Both Golden-breasted and Black-thighed Pufflegs were coming to the feeders. We had observed our first Golden-breasted Puffleg on the previous day at Río Blanco, but this was our first chance at extended views and photos.

Golden-breasted Puffleg - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Black-thighed Puffleg is practically a Colombian endemic, though there are small numbers in extreme northern Ecuador. Termales del Ruiz is one of the best places to find this species, and we observed at least three making the rounds of the feeders.

Black-thighed Puffleg - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Hummingbirds really do have the best names, and one of my favorite hummingbird names is Shining Sunbeam of which several were at the feeders. While not as brightly colored as some of the others they are still almost completely orange, somewhat of a rarity in the hummingbird world.
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Shining Sunbeam - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Starfrontlets are one of my favorite genera of hummingbirds, and here we were treated to our first Buff-winged Starfrontlets, an Andean species ranging from central Colombia to extreme northern Peru.

Buff-winged Starfrontlet - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Buff-winged Starfrontlet - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Great Sapphirewing is a large and distinctive hummingbird species that when perching on the feeders would flash the fluorescent blue colour of their wings - unfortunately I never captured that in the photos, however! The hummingbird diversity in Colombia is just incredible and at this point we had observed 64 species in the country. It sure beats our one, lonely species that is native to Ontario.

Great Sapphirewing - Termales del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

We stopped in to have breakfast at the restaurant, then birded the area for another hour or so before we had to depart. Our last new birds were Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan and Black-chested Mountain-Tanager before we dropped Dave and Adam off on the side of the road, said our goodbyes, and made the long drive back to Bogotá. It was a little sad to say goodbye to this country, but I am sure that it will not be my last trip. There is just so much more to see, and two and a half weeks barely even scratches the surface. Til next time...

Frailejones (Espeletia sp.) - Páramo del Ruiz, Caldas Province, Colombia

Monday, 18 July 2016

Colombia - Day 16 (February 1, 2015): Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco

Introduction
January 17, 2015 - Isla de Salamanca, Minca, El Dorado lodge
January 18, 2015 - Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, El Dorado lodge
January 19, 2015 - Cuchilla de San Lorenzo, El Dorado lodge
January 20 and 21, 2015 - El Dorado lodge to Minca
January 22, 2015 - Minca, drive to La Guajira Desert
January 23, 2015 - La Guajira Desert
January 24, 2015 - PNN Tayrona, fly to Andes
January 25, 2015 - Bogotá area: PNN Chingaza, Siecha wetlands
January 26, 2015 - Laguna de Pedro Palo, Payande area
January 27, 2015 - Cañón del Río Combeima, SFF Otún Quimbaya
January 28, 2015 - SFF Otún Quimbaya, drive to Montezuma Road
January 29, 2015 - Montezuma Road
January 30, 2015 - Montezuma Road, drive to Jardín
January 31, 2015 - Jardín area, Cauca Valley
February 1, 2015 - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco
February 2, 2015 - Páramo del Ruiz near PNN Los Nevados

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We were nearing the end of our whirlwind Andean adventure, but not before a full day at one of the more famous reserves among birdwatchers - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco.

The reserve, located just a few kilometers from the bustling city of Manizales, was originally created to protect the water supply of Manizales - a fantastic idea that is not only good for the citizens of Manizales but also for the environment. All told, just under 5,000 hectares are protected at Río Blanco within the central cordillera of the Andes. A large altitudinal gradient is covered by the reserve, protecting a variety of different ecosystems. Despite its close proximity to Manizales it sure felt like we were hundreds of kilometers from civilization, surrounded by rich tropical forests and an abundance of bird life. 

Río Blanco is best known for its diversity of antpittas, a family of birds highly coveted by neotropical birders, though most species are much easier to hear than see. At least 10 species of antpittas have been recorded within the reserve, but more interestingly, four different species regularly come in to eat worms at various feeding stations located within walking distance from the main lodge! This is one of very few places in South America where antpitta feeding stations can be found, thanks to the dedicated work of Albeiro, the excellent birder and guide who lives at the reserve and who knows the individual antpittas by name. 

lodge at Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

It is easy to find birds at Río Blanco, particularly because it is mandatory to have Albeiro accompany you when walking on the trails. Normally when on birding trips I like to bird without the assistance of a guide, but it was a real treat to have Albeiro along as his knowledge of the birdlife in the reserve was extraordinary. He was in tune to every movement and vocalization - a keen student of nature, and an excellent birdwatcher. 

Shortly after dawn, Albeiro led us up the gravel road into the reserve and towards the lower antpitta feeding station. While walking we added a few new birds, including a few heard-only Ash-colored Tapaculos, a Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher and a couple of vibrant Red-hooded Tanagers - it was a good start!

Antpitta feeding station - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

We arrived at the feeding station - a small clearing with a bench set up at one end. Albeiro began talking to his friends, no doubt announcing the arrival of breakfast, and placed a few live earthworms at the edge of the clearing. Almost immediately, we had our first two antpitta species of the day - Chestnut-crowned and the endemic Brown-banded! They were shy at first, but once noticing the worms they did not hesitate to quickly run in and grab breakfast. They repeated this several times, giving us phenomenal views and photo opportunities. The lighting was rather dark, so I removed my teleconverter for an extra stop of light (they were so close that the extra magnification was not necessary) and fiddled with the ISO and aperture to get just enough of a shutter speed. 

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia
The above Chestnut-crowned Antpitta was the easiest to photograph while the Brown-banded was rather skittish and preferred to hang out just out of view, occasionally running in to nab a worm. Brown-banded Antpitta only occurs in the central Andes of Colombia and has an estimated population of 1500-7000 mature individuals. 

Brown-banded Antpitta - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

While some question the ethics of antpitta feeding stations, I do not see how it is a problem - much better to have one or two "habituated" individuals that all the birders can see, as opposed to having the entire antpitta population in the area subject to incessant playback by birding group after birding group almost every day. Plus it prevents the need to trample through the thick forest after a distant calling bird that will not come in to playback. 

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Gray-browed Brushfinch was a new species for us, and a few of them were easily seen at the first antpitta feeding station. Even with the teleconverter off it was difficult to fit one in the frame!

Gray-browed Brushfinch - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Once Albeiro had handed out breakfast and we were all satiated with our photos we continued up the road to the next feeding station. Other than antpittas, Río Blanco is also well-known for its mixed flocks, so we had heard. We ran into our first sizable mixed flock on our way to the next feeding station, and in a few minutes dozens of species appeared, many of them new for us. A Masked Saltator, one of the specialties of Río Blanco and a notoriously difficult species throughout its range, was found near the edge of the flock. Among the flurry of activity, other new species for us included Black-eared Hemispingus, Mountain Wren, Grass-green Tanager and Capped Conebill. 

Montane Woodcreeper - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

This Black-billed Mountain-Toucan was just one of many species to feast the eyes on.

Black-billed Mountain-Toucan - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

The next feeding station was the go-to spot for the diminutive Slate-crowned Antpitta. It was a little shier than the other species, but eventually came in for its breakfast as well, probably wondering why it was a bit later this morning than usual (I blame it on the Grass-green Tanagers and Masked Saltators). 

Slate-crowned Antpitta - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Green-and-Black Fruiteaters it turns out also deviate from their fruitarian ways, enjoying earthworms as well!

Green-and-Black Fruiteater - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

The third feeding station was for Bicolored Antpitta, another range-restricted species that is practically a Colombian endemic (a new population was discovered in northeastern Ecuador recently). While the other antpittas would pause for a second before or after grabbing a worm, this little guy would sprint in, grab the worm and sprint out in nearly one fluid motion, making it quite difficult to capture photos! It would however pause at the edge of the clearing every now and then.

Bicolored Antpitta - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Bicolored Antpitta - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

With our antpitta need fully satisfied, we continued on to see what other birds we could find throughout the reserve (we did hear a fifth antpitta species - Chestnut-naped, but this species does not regularly come in to the feeding stations). The birding was just incredible - Golden-plumed Parakeets were winging by one minute, than we were neck-deep in a feeding flock of tanagers, flycatchers, and furnariids the next. Albeiro was constantly picking up on the slightest contact calls of distant songbirds - his knowledge of the birds here was remarkable. Before heading back to the reserve for lunch we had a whole new suite of lifers under our belts, including Slaty Finch, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Streaked Tuftedcheek and Barred Becard. 

Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

birding (and facebooking) in Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia


Gray-hooded Bush Tanagers were also new - this one obliged us by foraging at eye level at the side of the trail. 

Gray-hooded Bush Tanager - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Gray-hooded Bush Tanager - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Back at the lodge for lunch and a quick siesta, Dave and I entertained ourselves by photographing some of the numerous Buff-winged Coronets terrorizing the feeders, while also keeping an eye on the banana feeders sometimes frequented by tanagers and finches. Several species of mountain-tanagers and some Slaty Brushfinches were the highlights for me!

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Slaty Brushfinch - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Blue-capped Tanager - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

Buff-winged Coronet - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

We all went back out in the mid afternoon to see what else we could find. I finally managed some serviceable photographs of a Crimson-mantled Woodpecker - certainly one of the most visually pleasing woodpeckers I've ever seen!

Crimson-mantled Woodpecker - Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas Province, Colombia

But the main woodpecker highlight was a species a little larger. We heard some distant drumming which we figured must be from a Powerful Woodpecker - a massive, beautiful Campephilus woodpecker restricted to the Andes of Colombia south through central Peru. It took some stalking and quite a bit of patience but we were rewarded with half-decent views!

As afternoon turned into evening we stopped at a small building along the gravel road - they were selling beer so we made full use and had a few, toasting to the excellent day of birding that we had. Our day concluded with listening for nocturnal birds just up the road from the refreshment stand and we were thrilled to encounter a Swallow-tailed Nightjar perching on a dead snag! It was a female and so it lacked the long tail, but a cool bird to see nonetheless.

We finally walked back down to the lodge afterwards for a hearty dinner and a few more refreshments - it had been a perfect day wandering around the reserve and our final tally was 114 bird species. Albeiro was a huge help in locating many of these birds.

Our final day of birding before flying back to cold, snowy Canada was a day planned high up in the paramo habitat of Los Nevados, home of the Buffy Helmetcrest and many other incredible species, which I will cover in the next post.