Whos keeping an eye on me....

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Colombia 2015 - Pt 4 Los Nevados National Park (Central Andes)

After we had finilised our logistics back in late summer 2014, Chris emailed me to ask if I had any problem with a change of hotel which would enable us to make a good start to a days birding on the Paramo.... 3500 mtrs! "No problem" I said.

We drove high up the central Andes to hotel Del Ruiz on the evening of day 6 and I had started to feel a little sick in the vehicle as we gained altitude, I couldn't wait to get straight off to bed to sleep it off. I struggled to sleep with breathing problems I was definitely feeling altitude sickness.

Again we were up early which wasn't a problem this time as I was awake, breakfast cheered me up a little and the excitement kicked in as to what today could hold. We were in the Los Nevados National Park where we would drive to the Paramo at 4138 mtrs, the Nevado Del Ruiz Volcano still sends smoke plumes into the atmosphere and this morning was no different. I still felt proper poorly, Jose, Noah and Jeff all seemed Ok! Grin and bare it was the only option, afterall were going to see some stunning birds....... well at least I hoped.

It was bitterly cold, as cold as I can remember, maybe it was just me feeling sorry for myself..... or maybe it was just bloody cold. Anyway new birds started to arrive with Strong Billed Cinclodes perched on a fence, Sedge Wrens hunkered down in the thicket and gave fleeting glimpses as they foraged, a Brown backed Chat-Tyrant, and a Plain Collared Seedeater gave fantastic close views while 3 Black Chested Buzzard-Eagles soared across the valley.. what a great start.

We drove a little higher and parked up at a car park, the volcanic plumes of smoke passed us and drifted in to the valley below, the sign below reminds us of the area that we are in. There is a sad story of recent history attached to this Volcano. A reminder that we arnt always in control when nature roars.
...... always check your escape route

At the end of the road we parked up at 4138mtrs .... or in our money 13,576 ft

We picked up more good birds, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Veridian Metalail and White Chinned Thistle-Tail, while a Tawny Antpitta do what most Antpittas don't do, showed well and hung around for photos. This was an amazing trip for Antpittas.

....... then bang on queue we had the mega! It was easy, we didn't even have to search. Jose had a spot where they are fairly reliable and today they didn't disappoint, well one individual didn't.
I had been really laid back about what I wanted or expected to see in Colombia but I have secretly craved seeing the Buffy Helmetcrest! Today we got it, Jeff, Noah and myself were on top of the world, quite literally. If you are a bird watcher you will know that moment that will be remembered for ever.

not only did we get it in sight it flew straight at us and directly over Noah's head and perched a few feet away just above our heads.

I would have left Colombia pleased to just get one in the scope, but this was such a thrill. Normality set in as after it had checked us out it retreated to 40ft or so away and continued to feed at a safer distance. This was definitely proof of my theory that birds are generally inquisitive and often come over to have a look before retreating.....

I didn't feel so sick now....... beaming from ear to ear, I also realised it wasn't so cold, the sun had come out and warmed us a little. Today would surely be a let down after this high, not a bit of it, the day just got better and better.
We were lucky enough to be able to spend 30 minutes or so with the Buffy Helmetcrest but we needed to catch up on a few other species and first on the list were Rufous Fronted Parakeets. We drove to a 2km section of road at a slightly lower elevation. We easily picked up a Sharp Shinned Hawk and a Scarlet Bellied Mountain Tanager and more Viridian Metaltails

Brown Backed Chat-Tyrant

A Paramo Tapaculo gave us the run around, it came to within 2 meters and continuously called but failed to show itself, I saw plenty of foliage movement but no bird, a little disappointed we walked a little further up the road. Jose heard Parakeets high up in a large wooded hillside. he played the tape in hope rather than expectation and Wow after a few minutes 7 birds came steaming down the hillside and over our heads. They landed somewhere in front of us just out of sight and Jose ran the other way to get his camera from the vehicle while Noah, Jeff and myself ran downhill to find them. It didn't take long to see them all sat on a farm building roof. This was a brilliant chance for images, but Jose missed it all by a few seconds as they continued on, he would get another chance as we caught up with them a short while later in the same vicinity .

Rufous Fronted Parakeets

A long the same stretch of road we picked up some tricky characters with a White-Chinned Thistletail and this White Browed Spinetail that looked far better than my blurred image shows.

 Golden Fronted Redstarts, Paramo Seedeaters and Plain Colored Seedaeaters vied for the same bushes and followed each other around.
Plain Colored Seedeater in full song

After a stop for breakfast we take a stroll to admire the Paramo scenery

and its unique Flora

We still had some amazing birds to find and were especially on the lookout for Black Backed Bush-Tanager. We hit a small mixed flock that were foraging in the roadside bushes which included Shining Sunbeam, Black Flowerpiecer and our target......

Black Backed Bush-Tanager

A return to the vehicle we moved to a small glacial lake (Laguna Negra) whivch gave me more life birds with an Andean Teal (the only one of the trip) and a half a dozen Andean Tit-Spinetails while more of the rare Black Chested Buzzard -Eagles soared past. Another stop close by allowed us great prolonged views of a showy Many Striped Canestero that posed in the sunshine although the unfortunate heat haze spoilt the photography a little....... ( I wasn't thinking that an hour or two before as I shivered at 4138mtrs!)..... its certainly a very smart bird

 It had been a brilliant morning with all the targets achieved We spent the rest of the morning birding the grounds of the hotel where we picked up Mountain Velvetbreast, Andean Siskin,  Glossy Flowerpiecer, more Paramo Seedeaters, Blue Backed Conebill, White Throated Tyrannulet,  White Banded Tyrannulet and in the hotel garden a bonus with a Paramo Tapaculo..... having spent the best part of forty minutes this morning being teased by a singing individual this almost showy bird was rather easy, isn't it brilliant when things fall into place after you think things got away.

Paramo Tapaculo

White Throated Tyrannulet

Blue Backed Conebill

Before we departed for the drive to Pereira airport we had a fantastic lunch back at Hotel Del Ruiz and made sure we had time to spend an hour or so at the amazing feeders. What a selection of Hummingbirds, Buff winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Golden Breasted Puffleg, Great Saphirewing, one that pleased everyone including Noah for his world record was the Black Thighed Puffleg, and the rather beautiful Rainbow Bearded Thorntail.

Black-Thighed Puffleg

Golden Breasted Puffleg

Buff Winged Starfrontlet

Great Saphirewing female

Great Saphirewing  male

Shinning Sunbeam

Mountain Velvetbreast female

Tyrian Metaltail

To end an incredible day we got this Sword-billed Hummingbird in the garden at Hotel Del Ruiz..... Flippin eck if it wasn't for the Buffy Helmetcrest this would have been the bird of the day. It came to the feeders within 10ft of us. Another incredible bird, and so privileged to see it so well.

Sword-Billed Hummingbird

Just before we left for the airport we picked up a pair of Grey Breasted Mountain-Toucans both perched and in flight, a lifer for Jose too.

Sadly this was to be our last day birding with Noah Stryker. He was to spend one last day in Colombia while Jeff and myself would fly on to Barranquilla on the northern coast of Colombia. We would meet up with Jose in 6 days time when we visit the Amazon region, but for now we head for the very dry Guajira region and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

1 comment:

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

What an amazing day's birding with such a wonderful variety of birds. great that you got to see adn photograph the Buffy Helmetcrest but for me the Sword billed Hummingbird is fantastic. Tat bill is amazingly long. A great trip.