Archive for February 2013

27th February – Broadstone, Poole and 5th February – La Florida & Soata, Colombia.   Leave a comment

I returned from Colombia late on the 24th February. As I hurt my foot during he latter part of the trip I have been more or less confined to home since then. I did go to the inaugural meeting of the Dorset Mammal Group in Dorchester on the 27th with Margaret and fellow birder Richard Webb and I managed to catch up with the Common Rosefinch which a friend of mine has seen visiting his garden in recent weeks earlier that day.


DSC_5766+500 NH Ewan's rosefinch

Common Rosefinch are usually scarce visitors to the Northern Isles in autumn so the occurence of one in a Dorset garden in winter is remarkable. Photo by Nick Hopper.

Returning to the Colombia trip, I take up the story on the 5th February. Leaving Bogotá pre-dawn we stop at the La Florida marsh for a few hours.


A pre-dawn breakfast out of the back of the van.


Early morning at the marsh, this area was once nearly destroyed but has recently been renovated and has become a nice visitor attraction.



An Andean Cavy (a sort of guinea pig) was feeding on the edge of the marsh


We saw an interesting selection of rallids: this is an immature Purple Gallinule.


A Sora Rail, a migrant from North America


Bogotá Rail, a rare endemic found only in the Bogotá area.


Green Heron, unlike the related Striated Heron is a rare visitor from North America.


Bare-faced Rail is common at the marsh


Flocks of Yellow-hooded Blackbirds fed in the reed beds.


The last time I saw a Solitary Sandpiper was on the Isles of Scilly


The endemic Apolinar’s Marsh Wren


After the marsh we made the long drive north to Soata. As we climbed up onto the paramo the clouds rolled in. We wished to see two special hummers, Bronze-tailed Thornbill and Bearded Helmetcrest but heavy rain destroyed any hopes. We arrived at our hotel in the early evening



The treeless paramo at 33500m asl. The plants in the foreground are espelitas, which have specially evolved furry leaves to cope with the extreme cold. Note the rain clouds rolling.


Posted February 28, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

17th February – Medellin   Leave a comment

The Colombia trip continues to go well, but a lack of internet connection has meant I have been unable to post any updates. We are now at Medellin, the counties second city and tomorrow we fly to the Pacific coast.

Birding has been successful and I have added some 34 species to my world list so far, at times it has been slow at other times very exciting. Some of the slogs uphill have been arduous but well worthwhile. Unfortunately illness in one of the other participants has created some difficulties and delays. He is flying home tomorrow instead of continuing with the tour. I wish him a speedy recovery.

I have taken quite a few pictures, some of which I will post as soon as I return to the UK.



Posted February 18, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

February 4th – Chingaza National Park again   Leave a comment

Today we visited an area on the far side of Chingaza. This meant we would have to take the main road out of Bogotá towards the Llanos and Venezuela which is descends some 1700m to our turn off, and is full of hairpin bends and crawling lorries. Even leaving at 0345 didn’t spare us from the lorry jam and it took three hours to reach our destination.

Birding, if measured by the number of forest species seen, was very good but we didn’t see any birds that were lifers for me. Three or four fast-moving flocks tested our identification skills (mine were certainly found wanting) as we picked up birds with wonderful names like Oleagenous Hemispingus and Montane Foliage-gleaner.

Surprises came in the form of the tree-dwelling Masked Trogon picking up gravel off the track and the skulking, ground dwelling Lined Quail-dove walking out in open in front of us. The bird we really wanted to see was the Cundinammarca Antpitta, a species only discovered in the late 80’s and then not seen for many years as this area was in Fark guerillas hands. We heard several, one very close to the road, attempts to tape it in brought it to within a few feet of our group, yet it remained invisible, you could even hear the leaves rustle as it moved !

Much of the rest of the morning was spent trying to find another more responsive bird but to no avail. It has been very dry in this area recently and perhaps they are not breeding, or perhaps too many birders have tried to tape out the same few birds and they won’t play ball anymore.



We were most surprised to see this Masked Trogon on the road ……


… but not as surprised as we were to see the mega-skulking Lined Quail-dove striding up the path.


An Andean Toucanet seen plucking a fruit and catching it in its bill. I only took my pocket camera and my ageing Lumix camera on this trip. I think the Lumix will be retired on my return.



Posted February 5, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

February 3rd – Chingaza Narional Park, Colombia   Leave a comment

With the whole group now assembled we left Bogota at 0445 local time for the two-and-half hour drive to Chingaza NP. It’s not very far as the Mountain Cacique flies but it’s a long way by road.

We had a lot of success, my key birds were Flame-winged (or Brown-breasted Parakeet) which showed very well, Blue-throated Starfrontlet and Pale-bellied Tapaculo which weren’t quite so co-operative. We also saw another good hummer Longuemare’s Sunangel but it is usually lumped in Amythest-throated Sunangel these days.

There are only four punters on the trip and all are Birdquest regulars, between us we have done at least 210 tours, so although we saw plenty of other nice birds during the day it was these four endemics that drew most attention.


The hillsides near Bogotá are largely deforested …..



The Chingaza NP protects a large area of montane forest but it is very difficult to access.


I’m no botanist so I can’t tell you the name of these red flowers but they were attractive to several species of hummingbird.

Many of the people from Bogotá drive out of the town on Sunday afternoon for a meal in the countryside, but this leads to dreadful congestion when they return about five pm so we left quite early and got back to the hotel by four. We have an even earlier start tomorrow so we were glad of the time to unwind.


Posted February 4, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

2nd February – from a hotel in Bogota   Leave a comment

I planned to start my Colombia trip 24 hours early. This was partly to get over the jet lag (I got up at 0200 BST on the 1st and arrived at 0300 BST on the 2nd at the hotel) but mainly to meet up with my former colleague from the lab; Maria Ospina. Maria and I must have worked together for about ten years but she decided to return to Colombia about a year after I retired.

After a much-needed, deep and very long period asleep I found out mid morning from Maria that a friend of hers had suddenly died and she would not be able to meet up with me. There’s not a lot to do around here, I’ve been for a short walk but it’s just offices and flyovers, so I’m killing time reading, checking e-mails and trying to get my trip list over its current low value of five. The rest of the group will arrive at 10 tonight and I’m sure that over the next few days I will long for a chance to snooze or read in the afternoon as we will undoubtedly be burning the candle at both ends.

Colombia has undergone a great transformation in the last decade or so. Formerly infamous for the cocaine cartels and guerilla warfare, it has emerged as modern, affluent and efficient country, the new airport terminal, clean, efficient and welcoming, is testament to that.

Colombia, of course is best known in birding circles for having more species than any other country in the world. The fact that it has a Pacific and a Caribbean coastline, lowlands in the Orinoco and Amazon drainage and extensive wetlands known as the Llanos all contribute, but more than any other reason, the fact that the Andes divides into three discrete ranges in Colombia, each with its own avifauna adds huge numbers of species to the national bird list. I first visited Colombia in 2007 and saw lots of great birds but a series of mishaps varying from a knackered bus to an impromptu roadblock by over zealous youths prevented me from seeing all that I wanted to. Hopefully this trip will be hassle free.


We had to change planes at Madrid, whilst this is far preferable to flying to Miami and then having to sit in their dreadful transit lounge and be treated like cattle, Madrid is not the most organised airport in the world. Eventually after a couple of hours I found where to get my new boarding card. Having been on over 20 trips to Spanish-speaking countries you would think I would be able to speak Spanish by now!


From a pedestrian bridge in Bogotá, they have introduced a central bus only lane with all the bus stops on the central reservation to try to avoid congestion.


A street view near my hotel. Really looking forwards to meeting the other participants, all of whom I know from previous trip and starting birding in the the most bird-rich country on Earth.

Posted February 2, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized