Monthly Archives: February 2013

Images of Colombia – Part 2

We’re back in the US of A but often think about our time in Colombia.  Our thanks and our love to Maria and Jorge Martinez for showing us Colombia and going birding with us.  We couldn’t have done this without their hospitality and the itinerary they managed to produce for us.  We will remember all the friendly people we met, the wonderful new foods we sampled, the rural and city views, the way things work in Colombia and the great birding.  It’s no wonder birders like us (or should I say….world-class birders) like to spend weeks on giant birding tours.  Colombia is beginning to be a birding destination again after years of turmoil.  There’s nothing like a professional bird guide to help adventurers like us to find the birds, which many times seem few and far between.  We like to go our on our own if we can but it’s harder.  We grab as many photos as we can and use our computers to sort out who’s who.  I know that many would call us bird-getters instead of bird watchers but we do both.  We love to get our favorite birds in great new photos.  We met two very accomplished bird photographers in Texas (father and son) when we volunteered at a nature center.  They both had websites.  I asked them what they did with their pictures.  The answer surprised me.  The father said “I look at ’em.”  That’s a description of what we do, for the most part.

We literally stumbled on a small bird on our last day birding in Colombia.  We wandered around the grounds of a small house near Bogota (owned by Maria’s sister-in-law) and spotted the yellow-backed oriole for one.  With only a short time left, we spotted a small flock of birds flitting around some bushes on a hill and shot two dozen photos, trying to freeze one of them on camera.  Virtually without knowing it, I managed to get two pretty good shots.  The bird is shown on my blog but doesn’t have a title because we just couldn’t determine what it was.  We emailed the picture to our guide when we got back to Texas and waited for him to get back to town.  He answered us with the improbable name of “superciliaried hemispingus.”  Not one to take this laying down, I looked in my field guide and on the web for the common name, only to find that this IS the common name.  There are several hemi’s in that part of the world, as my bird expert friend (Dick Griebe) just informed me.  I found this little hemi mixed in with the tanagers in my field guide.  When I looked on several birding websites, I found that my photos were the best of the many pics I saw of this bird.  I intend to upload my two photos to a number of sites to see if they’ll accept them.  Please scroll down to my blog entry called “Dairy Visit and Another Farm” and you’ll see him as the fifth picture…………yellow body, huge white eyebrow.  Very cute bird.

Check out a few more images from our Colombia trip, including samples of good Colombian food and very old gold figures from the Museo de Oro in Bogota.  Thank you Maria and Jorge.  We’ll see you in Costa Rica!!

We start with the famous little Colombian potatos……………..










Posted by on February 17, 2013 in Bird Lover


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Images of Colombia – Part 1

We thought we would post a few more pictures of our Colombia trip.  We’re back in the US of A but our adventure in South America is very fresh in minds.  I just read a blog about a group that went to a park in Colombia that we were very close to visiting ourselves.  It’s called Iguaque and is famous for it’s beautiful lakes.  A visit here calls for some fairly serious hiking but is usually rewarded by spectacular views and great birding.  Our plans changed and we were not able to go.  The other group went in December of last year and didn’t see even one bird!  I think in desperation they took a picture of an insect.  At least it flies!

We would have been disappointed of course but would have loved the hiking.

I love this picture of the tropical mockingbirds!  We tried for one picture and three showed up.Image 







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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Bird Lover


Chingaza National Park

Our big birding day in Colombia finally arrived.  Our guide, Oscar Laverde, picked us up at 5:30 am at the apartment.  Oscar is a professor at a university in Bogota and studies and teaches ornithology.  It was fortunate for us (and him) that we had a native of Costa Rica with us……Arlyne of course.  Oscar’s English was rudimentary but then my Spanish is just OK.  We took a bit of a shortcut to Chingaza but it still took two hours to get to the main entrance.  As with many of Colombia’s national sites and important structures, there were security guards at the entrance.  We saw several government and private security guards nearly every place we went.  For example, on the way to Chingaza, we passed by a major electrical substation that was guarded by armed soldiers in sandbagged bunkers and shelters.  In effect, the Colombian guerillas are terrorists and even though the country is fairly peaceful now, the guerillas of the FARC (fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia) or Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia could presumably become a problem again.  Many of the young men who were guerillas only know how to do one thing and seem to be forming paramilitary gangs.  We didn’t see any evidence of them.

Chingaza is an enormous, mountainous park.  About 70% of the water for the city of Bogota is stored in large reservoirs.  These resources must be guarded.  As a side benefit, I suppose the birds are also somewhat protected.  The Colombian spectacled bear (I believe endangered) lives in these mountains as well.

We were treated to a short orientation video of Chingaza NP but we were eager to start.  Actually, we had already started on the road leading up to the entrance.  We stopped along the gravel road whenever we heard bird sounds.  Our first bird of the day was a black flowerpiercer but we didn’t get a photo.  I heard the bird clearly say “no pictures please” in bird talk.  Oscar specializes in bird songs and calls and of course identified it for us.  Very soon we spotted three rufous wrens and they were nice enough to let us see them briefly.  Very cute birds.  We then (Oscar, actually) saw a masked flowerpiercer fly back and forth across the road before it let Arlyne get a photo.  Next was a beautiful scarlet-bellied mountain tanager.

We rose above the clouds on our route into the mountains.  Because of the altitude of 10,000 to 11,000 feet, the flowers in these eastern Andes are quite small.  We found it interesting that many, many hummingbirds live here.  Oscar pointed out a green trainbearer hummingbird against the overcast sky.  We could only see the silhouette but the long tail was distinctive.  As most birders and photographers will agree, in conditions where we were, usually at some distance from the birdlife and with poor lighting, our photos are not National Geographic quality.  I remarked to Oscar that the birds seemed very cautious and wondered what predators they were worried about.  He told us that forest falcons roamed these hills and even a little golf ball-sized bird is prey for these raptors.  We did see a white-rumped hawk in flight and I’m sure the small birds knew about this guy too.

By the time we pulled up at the entrance, we had also seen several Great Thrushes.  We had seen these birds in Bogota and thought they were yellow-legged thrushes.  I love these quite common birds with their prominent eye ring, orange bill and orange feet.

Our strategy was to drive slowly along the road to Oscar’s favorite sites, where he knew birds hung out.  We also stopped whenever we heard any calls and walked along the roadside, looking for flickers of movement.

On a small side road, we spotted three Andean guans.  They are large birds but quite shy.  When the guans stopped briefly to check us out, we got some pretty good photos.  These birds are similar to the big guans we have seen in Costa Rica that “fly” through thick jungle and sound like they’re crash-landing.

Our best sighting was two (maybe three) white-capped tanagers.  They were noisy and seemed angry or excited.  Oscar thought this was probably because one of them was a juvenile.  He said these were the first white-capped tanagers he had personally seen in Chingaza.  He pulled out his shotgun microphone and small recorder and he (and I) both recorded them.  I had a small video camera that we borrowed from our daughter and managed to catch one flying past us.

There were several cattle wandering along the road throughout the park.  I’m not sure who they belong to.  One of our favorite birds was a white-chinned thistle tail.  He hopped around quite a bit, watching us.  It almost never let us see all of him but he had a cute face and wonderful eyes.

We spotted 14 new birds for our list during the half-day we spent in Chingaza.  There were all quite different and I wonder why natural selection created birds that all lived in the same environment but were blue, black, brown, green, red, yellow and multi-colored.  I’ll bet no one knows the answer.

On the way back to Bogota, we stopped at a small wetlands, oddly called Laguna Seca, which means “dry lagoon.”  This location is known for a perennial birder’s favorite, the Bogota rail.  This bird is declining as the city encroaches.  Here we saw several southern lapwings, a few purple gallinules, the spot-flanked gallinule, a white-tailed kite and wonderfully, the Bogota rail.  We saw only parts of the rail at any one time, but the whole day was exciting for us.  When we’re birding we’re easily pleased just to get photos and see a new bird or two.

I’ll be adding a few more photos in the next posts.Chingaza NP from 11,000 feet great things these avacados DSC_0143 streak-throated bush-tyrant DSC_0089 rufous wren DSC_0199 white-chinned thistletail DSC_0124 Andean guan-1 Colombian mangos southern lapwing DSC_0036 cattle tyrant spot-flanked gallinule scarlet-bellied mountain tanager DSC_0069 masked flower-piercer

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Posted by on February 2, 2013 in Bird Lover