18th – 21st February – The Choco, Colombia   Leave a comment

With Roger now in hospital, it was a small group of three punters and the leader that flew from Medellin to Bahia Solano on the Pacific coast, just south of the border with Panama. On arrival we waited at the little airport whilst a rather ancient vehicle with dodgy brakes arrived. We drove the 12km, the last mile of which was along along the beach, to the lodge where we were made very welcome. This area is quite unlike the rest of Colombia, very laid back with a predominately black rather than hispanic population, indeed the vilage of El Valle near the lodge reminded us of an African rather than a Colombian village. We did some birding on route and again along the road in the evening. One of our main targets was the little known Baudo Oropendola which is occasionally seen in the area, we had unprecedented success with a total of 22 that day.

Much has been made of the Birdquest Life List recently. This, the total number of species recorded on all Birdquests combined, has to be the biggest list of all (except of course the list of all the birds in the world) and currently stands at 9910 out of a total of 10466. We added at least six birds to this during the trip and Baudo Oropendola was one of them.

The following day we set out at dawn in a boat to bird in the Utria National Park. It was a very dull and grey day and as we entered the forest it seemed almost like nighttime. We were crossing a narrow peninsula and eventually we arrived at the narrow inlet on the other side, which strongly reminded me of a Scottish loch on a winter’s day. The boat had gone round the peninsula to meet us and transferred us across the loch to the park HQ.


On arrival at the coast we soon found some extraordinary large insects, this cricket was seen whilst we relaxed with a coffee by the airport.


Locals realised these weird foreigners were interested in bugs as well as birds and soon rustled up this giant beetle for us.


Eventually our transport arrived, it had virtually no brakes but then there was virtually no traffic on the single road and we only had to travel 12kms.


Although it was hot with 95% humidity on the coast, our stay at the lodge was very pleasant. This coastal area known as the Choco has one of the highest rainfalls on the planet, between 8 and 13 meters per year! Fortunately it was mainly dry, albeit cloudy during our stay.


Our tour leader, Eustace braving the surf in the bow of the boat.


Once ashore we crossed the peninsula on narrow forest trails. On such a dull day there was little bird activity.


A Colombian sea inlet or a Scottish loch in winter, the presence of palm fronds in the upper left gives away the true identity (as did the 30 degree heat).


As we ate our lunch it poured with rain but then the skies cleared. This impressive boardwalk through the mangroves has just been completed and allowed easy viewing of Sapphire-throated Hummingbird which is normally a sod to see. We really could have done with a dawn visit to the boardwalk, accommodation at the park HQ is currently being built and it is likely that future tours will spend at least one night there.


This large spotted ray could be seen swimming under the boardwalk.


Beyond the boardwalk progress though the mangroves was slow, hot and muddy.

Unfortunately before we left the following morning I stumbled into a concreted drainage ditch in the dark and hurt my foot which remains swollen to this day. This was tricky as we had a 9km walk along a trail to the National Park which proved to be a very uncomfortable experience. Again birding was fairly quiet but we scored with the beautiful Scarlet-and-white Tanager and elusive Spot-crowned Antvireo, but that taxonomic anomaly, the Sapayoa was only heard. There were at least 35 life birds for me in the area but I only saw 15 but everyone finds birding the Choco tough.  Fortunately we didn’t have to walk all the way back as the boat picked us up from the head of the sea loch.


The view from the lodge in the evening.


The final morning was pretty wet and we didn’t see much but the little plane arrived on time to take us back to Medellin.

Posted March 6, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: