Thursday, 19 September 2019

Rio Blanco and Antpitta Madness!

When a day you have looked forward to for so long finally arrives, you do wonder if it will live up to expectations. Well, I needn’t have worried on that front as this turned out to be the best day of the tour so far. So we began at the main house, which is surrounded by great forest and has hummer feeders that attracted Long-tailed SylphFawn-breasted BrilliantBuff-tailed Coronet and Bronzy Inca. More birds kept appearing and before we’d eaten our breakfast we’d seen Grey-browed BrushfinchMountain WrenBuff-breasted Mountain-Tanager,Capped ConebillBlack-eared HemispingusBar-bellied Woodpecker, a pair of Barred Becards all passing through the bushes and trees at the edge of the garden and seen from the veranda. There were even some Scaly-naped Amazonsflying over as well. After a great breakfast it was time for the first feeding station, which was just adjacent to the garden. Here we sat on a bench and waited while our local guide, John, threw some worms down and whistled. We waited and waited. And waited some more. Stomachs tightening all the while. Would the bird show? Well, yes it did. An absolutely fantastic Bicoloured Antpitta suddenly emerged from the dense undergrowth and just stood there a few seconds before eating the worms. Wow! It remained on view for several minutes before returning to the gloom. Smiles all round after antpitta no 1. 

Bicoloured Antpitta

We then birded around the gardens for a little while longer before heading uphill to the next feeding station. A row of seats confronted us and no sooner had we sat down and the worms thrown onto the ground than a Green-and-black Fruiteater appeared and promptly began eating all the worms. It flew onto the handrail next to us and even fed from the group’s hand. Outrageous! 

Green-and-black Fruiteater

But just then a Brown-banded Antpitta appeared right beside us, no more than 3 feet away. OMG! And it just stood there, fed a bit, hopped around, fed some more… And just stood there, way too close to get a decent photo. 

Brown-banded Antpitta

This was utterly mind-blowing. As if that wasn’t enough a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta appeared on the other side, and although a little shy it too eventually gave crippling views out in the open some 10 feet away from us. 

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta

And then a male Golden-headed Quetzal put in an appearance in the nearby trees. This was all getting utterly surreal.

We then followed the road along for a bit and bumped into numerous flocks. This was far and away the ‘birdiest’ site we had visited in Colombia so far. We saw a lot of birds very quickly as we jammed into these mixed feeding flocks with species such as the very common Blue-and-black TanagerBeryl-spangled TanagerHooded Siskin, a group of Sharpe’s WrensGolden-fronted WhitestartPale-edged FlycatcherMontane Woodcreeper,Lacrimose and Blue-winged Mountain-TanagersPearled TreerunnerStreaked Xenops, and even the rare Slaty Finch. Another male Golden-headed Quetzal was seen, before reaching the next and final feeding station. From a wooden bench we could look down the slope and this time a cool looking Slate-crowned Antpitta was the star of the show, along with another Brown-banded Antpitta. Words fail me!

Slate-crowned Antpitta

 Continuing along the track we had more flocks with Masked Trogon, stunning Powerful and Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Black-capped TyrannuletBlack-eared and Black-capped Hemispingus, and a Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant amongst others. But our local guide had one more trick up his sleeve as we returned to the first feeding station and took positions along the trail nearby. After what seemed like an eternity a huge Undulated Antpitta appeared and I cannot express the feeling of awe I felt. This bird has only been seen at this site for a couple of weeks here but it was extremely bold and I even went back for seconds over lunch.

Undulated Antpitta

It needed great fieldcraft skills to catch a glimpse of this antpitta!

 After that we returned to the main house for lunch and to watch the hummer feeders where Bronzy Inca showed well. A quick check of the trail led us to a pair of Rufous-crowned Tody-tyrants that performed outrageously. 

Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrant

After lunch we saw Grey-headed Bush-Tanager, Slaty Brushfinch, Andean Motmot, Oleaginous and Superciliaried Hemispingus, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Golden-plumed ParakeetBlackish Tapaculo, Glossy-black Thrush, Metallic-green Tanager, Black-banded Woodcreeper, White-capped Dipper, Choco Daggerbill (split from Wedge-billed Hummer), and a Speckled Hummingbird. 

Black-banded Woodcreeper

Speckled Hummingbird

Wedge-billed Hummingbird now split as White-throated Wedgebill

White-capped Dipper

We had dinner back at the main house but before that we saw a Band-winged Nightjar, but failed at owling with White-throated Screech-Owl and Rufous-banded Owl heard. What an amazing day.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Monklets Galore!

We birded the lower elevation of Tatama National Park this morning in beautiful sunny weather. After a 5.30am breakfast we started walking along the forest track seeing a few Spot-fronted Swifts flying over, as well as Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant and Slaty Spinetail beside the track. And then a Lanceolated Monklet began responding to the iPod and after a nervous wait if flew in and landed above us. This is still one of the most-wanted Neotropical birds and it’s a real privilege to see one and this beauty just stayed on its perch above us for ages, calling away and we lapped up the views. 

Lanceolated Monklet

Just around the corner we spent a while getting a decent look at Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner but we did eventually, and just before laying eyes on Slaty Antwren, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Red-headed Barbet, Red-faced Spinetail, a group of Ochre-breasted Tanagers and amazingly a pair of Lanceolated Monklets - making it a 3 monklet day!  Walking on, an obliging Sooty-headed Wren showed really well and sang from several perches around us but then we had  difficult spell with Parker’s and Zeledon’s Antbirds just heard and unresponding and also a Golden-collared Manakin proved really tricky to see - this species is a recent split from White-collared Manakin. 

Broad-billed Motmot
Lemon-browed Flycatcher

Moving on we saw a flyover Black Hawk-Eagle, Andean Solitaire, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, 4 Lemon-browed Flycatchers, Broad-billed Motmot and ended the morning session with a superb Moustached Puffbird perched in a  dense patch of forest. 

Moustached Puffbird

By 11.30am we drove back to the wonderful Montezuma Eco-Lodge and packed up our belongings, ate lunch and bid our goodbyes to the excellent staff. This was one of my favourite places throughout the tour and it really was a bit sad to leave as you always felt there were new birds to find here. We then set out on the long drive of 5 hours to Manizales and the next exciting stage of our Colombian adventure.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Montezuma Keeps Rockin'!

We birded the mid-elevations of Tatama NP this morning in beautiful clear blue skies and found the beautiful forest much busier than yesterday. 

Dusky Chlorospingus (Bush-Tanager)

We spent the first hour of the day at an overlook where we took our field breakfast and birds kept appearing. Beginning with several close Dusky Bush-Tanagers, there was also a pair of Orange-breasted Fruiteaters, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, several groups of Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers, a pair of Rufous-crested Tanagers, Gold-ringed Tanager, Handsome Flycatcher, a family of Yellow-collared Chlorophonias, a pair of Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonias, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Grey-throated Toucanet, and we even tracked down a feeding group of stunning Black Solitaires

The fabulous forest of Montezuma

Black Solitaire

Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager

We began walking down from here and found several feeding flocks which added species such as Pacific Tuftedcheek, White-winged Becard, Choco Vireo, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Yellow-breasted Antwren, and Indigo Flowerpiercerto our ever growing list. There was also some scope views of a displaying Club-winged Manakin too. We also had further views of previously seen species such as Glistening-green Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Golden-crowned and Ornate Flycatchers, Rufous-throated, Black-and-gold and Gold-ringed Tanagers etc. Just before jumping into the cars and returning to the lodge for lunch we came across a group of stunning Crested Ant-Tanagers and a couple Olive Finches. I think everyone agreed it had been a good morning.

Olive Finch

At the lodge feeders we added Green Thorntail, Slaty Spinetail and Bar-crested Antshrike as well.

Bar-crested Antshrike

Green Thorntail

Our late afternoon session was a bit on the slow side but we still saw the endemic Tatama Tapaculo, which showed a couple of times and a brief Parker’s Antbird. A flock along the river held more Crested Ant-Tanagers, Olive Finch, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Choco Brushfinch and other previously seen species.  After dinner a Tropical Screech-Owl was seen beside the restaurant.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Montezuma - Tatama National Park

We left in a couple of four-wheel drive vehicles and headed up to the top of the mountain (2500m) early this morning. The weather was good and the views were pretty spectacular as we got our kit together and staked out the hummer feeder just below the army camp. 

View from the top of Tatama NP

Tourmaline SunangelBuff-tailed CoronetMasked Flowerpiercer and Collared Incacame in just before the hoped for endemic Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, which promptly gave outstanding views. 

Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer

Looking down the slope a pair of Grass-green Tanagers could be seen at the top of a moss-covered tree, whilst Beryl-spangled and Blue-capped Tanagers and Bluish Flowerpiercer also appeared. 

Grass-green Tanagers

Walking down the road to the next hummer feeder produced Tawny-bellied Hermit, a group of Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers and a showy Streak-headed Antbird

Streak-headed Antbird

At the feeders we enjoyed a good picnic breakfast along with several Velvet-purple Coronets, Speckled Hummingbird, Violet-tailed Sylph and Purple-bibbed Whitetip. We also had great scope views of the endemic Gold-ringed Tanager perched above us on a mossy stump and a few stunning Purplish-mantled Tanagers. What a result! 

Gold-ringed Tanager

Purplish-mantled Tanager

Walking lower Spillman’s Tapaculo showed, an obliging Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher appeared, a group of Dusky Bush-Tanagers crossed the hillside above us and an endemic Munchique Wood-Wren gave great views to everyone. At the next feeders Empress Brilliant and Greenish Puffleg showed well. 

Greenish Puffleg

Munchique Wood-Wren

Narino Tapaculo

We spent some time getting to grips with a Narino Tapaculo that called incessantly from the dense vegetation beside the track but our persistence paid off and everyone saw it well. We drove a little lower and at a bend in the road had a magic half an hour with Sharpe’s Wren, a pair of Glistening-green Tanagers, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner and a pair of Saffron-crowned Tanagers.

After a hot picnic lunch brought to us on a motorbike the mist began to bug us and hindered our birding for large chunks of the afternoon. Despite this and with much perseverance we saw a pair of Golden-collared Honeycreepers, more Glistening-green Tanagers, and a Bronzy Inca trying its hardest to escape the bullying attentions of a pair of Velvet-purple Coronets at another feeder. 

Bronzy Inca

Velvet-purple Coronet

In the thick mist it was really, really frustrating looking at Orange-breasted Fruiteater and Golden-headed Quetzal. However when birds were closer it was ok and we saw Silvery-throated Tanager, Handsome FlycatcherandRed-faced Spinetail. Another magic half an hour bonanza resulted in Flame-faced Tanager, a group of Choco Brushfinch, a skulking Tawny-throated Leaftosser, and then a flock paused near us with the mega pair of Rufous-throatedTanager and Black-and-gold Tanager

Rufous-throated Tanager

There was also several Golden Tanagers, Flame-faced, Beryl-spangled and Glistening-green Tanagers, Rufous-rumped AntwrenMarble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, and a pair of cracking Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia. After that excitement we walked a bit lower seeing some Yellow-throated Bush-Tanagers and another Handsome Flycatcher. Walking back the last 4 kms with Neil & Rob wasn’t my greatest idea but it was a good workout!