We repeated the process of yesterday taking our breakfast with us but in a different, slightly less rugged 4x4 and with another driver. We stopped at roughly the same place as yesterday and commenced birding the road with the vehicle catching us up every so often as it had the breakfast and other provisions on board.
Today there was sunshine and no sign of any cloud coming up the mountains to envelop us which made a great difference.
Our first test was finding a Spotted Barbtail which we heard and taped in up a steep gulley off the road. This required us 'going in' and perched precariously amongst sundry creepers and vines on a slippery rock at a crazy angle I managed to see it without falling over as it hopped around in the undergrowth above us.
Back on the road and two Cinnamon Flycatchers were hawking flies on a slope above me. These looked different to the one I saw in El Dorado which was much more uniform in its plumage and without the dark markings on the wings and upperparts that these birds displayed.
There were some other definite highlights as we walked along the road, which for me were my first ever Cerulean Warbler, a male no less and uncommon here, displaying an appealing combination of grey, blue and white plumage as it roved through the trees with a feeding flock of assorted birds. Then my hopes of getting close to a Beautiful Jay were more than realised as one of these spectacular birds landed on a branch overhanging the road, totally engrossed in dealing with a caterpillar, softening it up by whacking it on a branch, and seemingly unworried by our close proximity. Usually they are very shy birds but I was not complaining!
We were discussing another target bird we wanted to see, a Yellow vented Woodpecker when, after playing a tape in the vague hope of attracting one we were surprised and delighted to hear one unexpectedly call from above our heads and there on a thin dead branch at the top of a tree was the woodpecker which must have flown in unseen by any of us in response to the tape. An instant and pleasing result. Finally another of those big, chunky, colourful mountain tanagers put in an appearance - this one was a Blue winged Mountain Tanager.
Blue winged Mountain Tanager
We then stopped for a break, having some breakfast and coffee high up on the mountain road overlooking the forest below us and stretching away to the horizon.
The sun was still warming the forest and the early golden light had not become the dazzling hard light of later in the day. We carried on down the road and came to the Lyre tailed Nightjar location and there was the female, as before, fast asleep on her favoured perch.
Lyre tailed Nightjar-female
The others walked round a bend in the road to where the trees ended on the right hand side and opened onto a broad vista across a wooded valley to the forested mountainside beyond. I remained taking some more images of the nightjar so did not hear their call and on rejoining them could have kicked myself as I had missed a very uncommon raptor in the form of a Collared Forest Falcon which had just been circling above the hillside behind my colleagues.
It was now getting hot and scanning the sky in the vague hope that the falcon might just appear again I noted hundreds of White collared Swifts hawking insects above the hillside over which the falcon had disappeared. Seconds later I latched onto a large dark raptor thermalling high above the same hillside and alerting the others we found ourselves watching a Solitary Eagle which in turn was joined by two smaller raptors which were Broad winged Hawks.
This was obviously an opportune moment when the sun's heat was creating the ideal conditions for raptors to take to the air and we were in the right place at the right time. Then to cap it all another huge eagle appeared and we found ourselves looking at an impressive and totally unexpected Ornate Hawk Eagle. As Paul remarked, it was a veritable raptor fest. We waited to see if anymore raptors would take to the air but there was no sign of this happening. We then heard another raptor calling out of sight from over a ridge and which sounded very like another Ornate Hawk Eagle. The calls went on for some time and then, fairly low in the valley, the eagle appeared, flying past us and with the backdrop of the forested mountainside we could see some of its spectacular plumage. I recall noting its heavily barred underparts, barred tail, dark brown upperparts and a large area of chestnut on its head. It flew past us and then was gone further down the valley and out of sight. We waited for more raptors to come but none did, we had however, done very well.
We walked back up the road to the vehicle and then drove to the hummingbird feeders.
As the sun was still shining we now had an opportunity to take some photos in good light rather than cloud shrouded conditions. As before we sat on the benches and waited for photo opportunities as the hummingbirds zipped around, quarreling and feeding in equal measure
Velvet Purple Coronet
Booted Racket Tail
Violet tailed Sylph male - their tails can vary greatly in length
Long tailed Sylph -female
Easily one of the prettiest of the female hummingbirds
A pleasant hour passed in no time and then we left and walked a bit of the road again, finding a nice Purplish mantled Tanager which looked like it was feeding young as it had a large beetle in its beak and seemed very reluctant to leave.
By mid afternoon the cloud was again coming up from below us to envelop the forest so we decided to return to the Lodge early as we had been told that there was a really good chance of seeing a Crested Ant Tanager, a very good bird to see and often very difficult to find, that came to roost every evening in the bushes in the Lodge's garden by the river. In fact we were told it was almost guaranteed we would see it and it usually arrived around 6pm! Now where have I heard similar before?
Back at the Lodge it was still sunny at our lower elevation and I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the comings and goings of birds at the feeders. Various tanagers came to feast on the bananas plus a Red crowned Woodpecker and a Yellow backed Oriole whilst a Northern Waterthrush hopped around in and out of the bushes but strangest of all a large unidentified brown bat suddenly flew low from a nearby bush and landed on one of the bananas and commenced eating it after just hanging there for some time. This was in broad daylight. The others thought it was unwell but it seemed fine to me and eventually flew off although its behaviour was decidedly unusual.
Crimson headed Woodpecker
Flame rumped Tanager male - note the orange rump compared to the red of the
individual in the previous image
Flame rumped Tanager - female
Blue Gray Tanager
Summer Tanager -female
Yellow backed Oriole
Bat - species unknown
The lady chef went up leaps and bounds in my estimation as she brought us, as a treat, some delicious empinadas to stave off any hunger pangs before dinner, as well as some delicious papya juice in a large jug.
Juan was now leaving us to return to his proper job, running his IT company in Medellin and tomorrow Pablo Florez, the owner of Multicolorbirding and who had organised the whole trip for us and another driver would be here to greet us and take us onwards to our next destination. Pablo would be our guide for the next week. We said a fond farewell to Juan, wished him all the best and he headed off on his long drive to Medellin.
The time drew near for the Crested Ant Tanager to come to roost and we moved to the bushes by the river in anticipation but as you may have guessed it did not go well. There was absolutely no sign of it, just a pre-roost gathering of twenty or so Russet backed Orependolas. Never mind we were told that there was a good chance of seeing it at first light tomorrow as it often came to take insects attracted during the night to the lights in the garden. So we had dinner and resolved to get up early next morning to try and see the tanager.
Birds seen on Day Sixteen
(h) heard only
Sickle winged Guan; Cattle Egret; Black Vulture; Ornate Hawk Eagle; Solitary Eagle; Broad winged Hawk; Short tailed Hawk; Southern Lapwing (h); Band tailed Pigeon; Ruddy Pigeon; Common Pauraque; Lyre tailed Nightjar; White collared Swift; Tourmaline Sunangel; Violet tailed Sylph; Greenish Puffleg; Brown Inca; Velvet Purple Coronet; Booted Racket Tail; Purple bibbed Whitetip; Empress Brilliant; Purple throated Woodstar; Andean Emerald; Steely vented Hummingbird; Rufous tailed Hummingbird; Andean Motmot; Red headed Barbet(h); Toucan Barbet( h); Black billed Mountain Toucan (h); Red crowned Woodpecker; Yellow vented Woodpecker; Golden olive Woodpecker; Northern Crested Caracara; Barred Parakeet (h); Rufous rumped Antwren; Uniform Antshrike; Yellow breasted Antpitta (h); Nariño Tapaculo (h); Alto Pisone's Tapaculo (h); Spotted Barbtail; Buff fronted Foliage Gleaner; Marble faced Bristle Tyrant; Golden faced Tyrannnulet; Ornate Flycatcher; Bronze olive Pygmy Tyrant; Cinnamon Flycatcher; Handsome Flycatcher; Black Phoebe; Rusty margined Flycatcher; Golden winged Manakin (h); Black billed Peppershrike; Beautiful Jay; Blue and White Swallow; Southern Rough winged Swallow; House Wren; Andean Solitaire; Cerulean Warbler; Blackburnian Warbler; Three striped Warbler; Canada Warbler; Slate throated Whitestart; Flame rumped Tanager; Black and Gold Tanager; Blue winged Mountain Tanager; Purplish mantled Tanager; Blue Gray Tanager; Palm Tanager; Rufous throated Tanager; Bay headed Tanager; Golden Tanager; White sided Flowerpiercer; Indigo Flowerpiercer; Yellow bellied Seedeater; Olive Finch; Rufous collared Sparrow; Summer Tanager; Yellow backed Oriole; Russet backed Orependola; Orange bellied Chlorophonia; Chestnut breasted Chlorophonia.
to be continued