By Aleksandar Topalov
An extended-distance transfer and a go to to a picturesque little seaside city on New Zealand’s east coast awoke a deep ardour that lasts to at the present time. Aleksandar began birdwatching when he was 10, after a face-to-face encounter with an Erect-crested penguin. Since then he has traveled the globe, his ardour for birds rising with every new encounter. A birder by day and astrophotographer by evening his exploration of the close to and much actually by no means stops.
Don’t you simply love getting up on the witching hour to catch a 3 a.m. flight? Going to mattress at 9 solely to stand up at midnight so as to hurry to the airport on time feeling misplaced in time and area, forgetting which metropolis, nation, and even planet you’re on. One cause that I can consider for subjecting myself to such a torturous expertise is that if I’m going birdwatching. Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. I caught traveler’s diarrhea 4 days in the past within the jungle (Imodium to the rescue, however simply barely).
I had simply ended my ten-day birding journey in Ecuador (which is a narrative for an additional time) once I determined, since I had a tremendous time, to extend my journey a bit longer earlier than heading again to Europe. So I figured why not make a stop-over in Bogota since that was my finest and logical reference to my flight again house. I had by no means been to Colombia earlier than so didn’t know the most effective birding spots within the neighborhood of the capital. I contacted Luis Garcia, my guide-to-be, from Mutar ECO Environmental who was really helpful to me earlier to my journey and he agreed to choose me up on the airport at 5 a.m. I requested him if there have been any good half/one-day places near town and he replied that Bogota is one in all THE capitals of the world for such quick excursions. There have been actually loads of wonderful choices to select from however since I had spent the final week wandering by means of the new and humid Amazon jungle he prompt we go as much as Sumapaz, the most important paramo on this planet. I fancied a little bit of chilly and recent air after the scorching and at occasions suffocating warmth of the lowlands. In order that was that and simply earlier than I used to be to board my airplane he despatched me a textual content saying that there was a shock ready for us on the Reserva Chiguaza, their hub so to say the place we might have our breakfast and from the place we might head as much as the paramo. So a bonus on my one-day journey. I like bonuses.
As agreed, Luis picked me up at 5 and we began down Avenida El Dorado. It was raining. I used to be very drained and nonetheless a bit nauseous from the abdomen ailment. For only a break up second I felt down and gloomy and didn’t take care of birding one bit. I simply wished to lie down and if potential fully blackout. However fortunately that didn’t occur as a result of as quickly as we climbed as much as Chiguaza the rain stopped. My abdomen was nonetheless cursing and growling however the prompt I acquired out of the automotive and noticed my first fowl I didn’t care anymore; it must wait till at the present time was over. Perched on high of a close-by slender tree was a Black-backed Grosbeak (Pheucticus aureoventris).
With my first Colombian fowl secured in my pocket, I used to be able to eat. As we entered the frequent room Luis pointed to a desk the place numerous folks had been already having their breakfast and mentioned: “There’s your shock”. Sitting amongst them was none aside from the legend of Colombian birding, Diego Calderon.
After a hearty and welcoming breakfast ready by Luis’s mother and a brief chat with Diego, we began once more, driving larger and better towards the paramo.
A Colombian paramo is principally a high-altitude moorland nestled in mountains between the treeline and glaciers. Broadly, the time period could check with quite a lot of alpine tundra ecosystems. The Sumapaz paramo has a very inhospitable chilly and moist local weather with very fast adjustments from quick durations of heat local weather to freezing chilly. It nearly jogged my memory of southern Patagonia minus the sturdy winds. Fortunate for me it was not chilly that day and the climate was typically calm and never threatening. Trying over the tundra with its green-grey stunted vegetation I requested Luis why didn’t folks hike throughout the moor?
“For an inexperienced customer, there’s a hazard of falling into chupaderos (drainages) and drowning. Due to the excessive humidity, the bottom stays soaked and lined by our bodies of water and sticky mud all year long. They’re troublesome to identify as they’re typically lined with dense, flat vegetation. And there are additionally antipersonnel mines from the conflict in some areas of the park however these areas are closed to guests.”
As my ideas lingered on Luis’s reply he slowly tapped me on the shoulder and pointed his finger to a cluster of bushes not removed from us. A curious Tawny Antpitta (Galleria quitensis) confirmed itself on a horizontal department …
… and a weird-looking White chinned Thistletail (Asthenes fuliginosa) landed on a tree simply subsequent to our automotive offering nice views.
The identical tree additionally hosted a fairly shy Plumbeous Sierra Finch (Phrygilis unicolor), one of many featureless South American birds. The antpitta then hopped on high of a useless Espeletia subshrub and simply stood there. An antpitta out within the open! After Ecuador’s many eye-straining moments at midnight to get a glimpse of them, this was one thing else. An unimaginable sight. A pair extra had been later seen like this so this was not an exception. On a hill slope behind us, a leucistic Nice Thrush (Turdus fuscater) perched proudly on a lichen-covered department. For me, the sensation you get when seeing a leucistic fowl is sort of like seeing a lifer.
A number of Shiny Flower Piercers (Diglossa lafresnayii) had been flying from side to side the entire time. The paramo was beginning to reveal its curiosities.
Though paramos can’t boast of getting a excessive species rely, nonetheless they simply compensate for that with very singular and most fascinating species. What’s extra, they host fairly numerous endemics, each animal and plant. As we handed by a small physique of water a few Apolinar’s Wrens (Cistothorus apolinari) skittered in between the stalks of grass and one in all them even kind of displayed on high of a small plant with its tail raised excessive up.
We had been continuously looking out for the elusive and skulking Bogota Rail however sadly, none had been to be seen that day. To compensate for that loss we had been rewarded with gorgeous sights of the well-known Inexperienced Bearded Helmetcrest (Oxypogon guerini), one other Colombian endemic with a really restricted vary. With their pointed inexperienced strip on the throat bordered by a spiky black and white crest, the extraordinary males had been seen foraging at flowering paramo shrubs, preferring the espeletia subshrubs.
Accompanying them had been Shining Sunbeams (Aglaeactis cupripennis) and Bronze-tailed Thornbills (Chalcostigma heteropogon).
Our subsequent cease was on the Laguna de Los Tunjos, one in all many freshwater lakes within the park. We had been greeted by an attractive view of the lake and attribute Andean waterfowl, particularly Andean teals and geese, together with a dozen or so American coots. Two park rangers had been to be our guides as we left the street and began on foot up a winding slim path that took us to the highest of one of many many rocky hills within the park. The entire panorama appeared like one thing from a Jules Verne novel with weird-looking crops and unknown creatures by no means gazed upon by human eyes. As we walked parallel to a rock face on the left, a suspicious set of eyes adopted us from the precipice above. It was a Plain-capped Floor Tyrant (Muscisaxicola alpines). We noticed one other particular person on a lichen-covered rock someday later.
A Black-chested Buzzard Eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus) circled above us and numerous Brown-bellied Swallows (Notiochelidon murina) had been seen. From the windy hilltop, the view opened on wild rolling hills all dotted with whitish-looking shrubs which at a distance resembled small patches of snow. A solitary Black-tailed Trainbearer (Lesbia victoria) flew from flower to flower in the hunt for nectar. One fascinating factor in regards to the paramos is that though they may appear an easy birding location missing dense lowland vegetation, you’ll be able to nonetheless simply miss many species if you’re not alert. I observed that on our method downhill when our tempo slowed. All of a sudden I observed new birds. Many Striped Canasteros (Asthenes flammulata), Brown-backed Chat-Tyrants (Ochthoeca fumicolor), Pale-naped Brushfinches (Atlapetes pallidinucha), and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers (Anisognathus igniventris) had been throughout us perched or foraging. Luis mentioned they had been all there on the way in which up, he simply saved them for later.
Navy checkpoints exterior of cities are a typical factor in Colombia. One among them was very particular to me. On our method again we had been stopped at one such checkpoint by three totally armed troopers. As they mentioned one thing with Luis I seemed out the automotive window and noticed a spectacular sight, not ten meters from the place we had been stopped. Perched on high of a leafless low tree was a Pink-crested Cotinga (Ampelion rubrocristatus). To see any cotinga perched this shut and within the open is an unimaginable expertise. Instinctively and with lightning pace I raised the digicam lens however paused considering my hasty motion may trigger alarm with the troopers. Ah, what the heck! What’s the worst that may occur? So I opened fireplace silently. With a foolish extensive smile on my face, I used to be one completely happy birder as we continued our method slowly downhill and again in direction of the capital.