Day Two Birdwatching in Colombia

Our second full day of birdwatching on our special ladies-only press trip to Colombia saw us up and out early to take advantage of the morning cool and to pack as much as possible into our day.

Russet-throated Puffbird

We started by walking along the track at the exotic-sounding ‘KM4’ near Palermo, an area of mixed habitat with small allotments, secondary growth and water channels. One of the first birds we saw, and saw really well, were Chestnut-winged Chachalacas, birds that had given us the run-around the evening before. Both Russet-throated Puffbirds (lifer!) and Pied Puffbirds perched on the wires over our heads, a Black-crested Antshrike hopped through the vegetation of a small bush, while Stripe-backed Wrens scolded us from the top of a tree. Birds came thick and fast here as we strolled along the track, including Northern Screamer, Smooth-billed Ani, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, Greyish Saltator and many more, such brilliant birding.

Red-crowned Woodpecker spreads its wings

But no time to linger on this special birdwatching and cultural press trip; all too soon we had to move on to our next destination, once a large bovine roadblock had moved out of the way. Next stop, the superb Isla de Salamanca National Park. This is an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) as well as being declared a globally important Ramsar Site, a UNESCO Biosphere, so we knew we were in for a treat. Our specialist local guide, Omar, an expert on this site and blessed with incredibly sharp eyesight, led us down trails that bordered swampy pools overhung with trees and along sturdy boardwalks that meandered through the mangroves. The bare soil under our feet was sandy, while here and there, a sharp-thorned cactus lurked to catch unwary ankles. This was a weird mix of habitats, but it was teeming with birds: Yellow-throated Spinetail, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Pied Water Tyrant, Bare-throated Tiger-Heron, Black-and-white Warbler and Prothonotary Warbler to name a few. This reserve is particularly noted for the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird, but patience is needed to connect with this delightful gem, and sadly we were on a tight schedule on this trip. My next visit here will definitely be for the whole day!

Yellow-chinned Spinetail

From here we drove on to La Minca, a bustling mecca for travellers and backpackers with plenty of tempting bars and cafes offering Colombian coffee. We headed for Hotel Minca where we were served with a delicious meal, but how could we concentrate on food when there were hummingbird feeders stationed all around the balcony and a steady stream of visitors to the sweet nectar. White-necked Jacobins, Steely-vented Hummingbirds, White-vented Plumeleteers and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds whizzed and buzzed all around us as they refuelled at the feeders and chased off the competition at every opportunity. My camera clicked and buzzed likewise as I tried to keep up with these incredible aerial acrobats.

White-vented Plumeleteer

In the afternoon, we explored the grounds of the hotel and wandered up a narrow lane at the back of the town. Blue-grey Tanagers, Boat-billed Flycatchers, Rusty-margined Flycatcher and Crested Oropendola were just a few of the birds that entertained us on our walk. It was soon time to jump into our vehicles, now we had switched to a small convoy of extremely robust 4x4 vehicles to handle the steep terrain and rough track that was to take us up in altitude to our next accommodation, an eco-hotel nestling deep in its own reserve. By the time we had unpacked ourselves and our luggage and sorted out our rooms darkness had fallen, so we could only imagine our setting and look forward to daylight to explore our surroundings the next day.

Steely-vented Hummingbird

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