Thursday, 18 December 2014

Santa Marta Mountains

We flew into Baranquilla late afternoon on 13th December. We were birding the Isla Salamanca National Park mangroves at first light. It was a very pleasant environment & although birds were not plentiful, we saw some good local species: Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird; Panamanian Flycatcher & Bicolored Conebill.
In the afternoon, we drove along the coast, making several stops at coastal lagoons which were teeming with terns & wading birds. It was here that I found what I believe to be the first documented record of Long-billed Dowitcher for Colombia! It really did stand out from among the abundant Short-billed Dowitchers.
Minca is a very plesant little town at the foothills of the Santa Marta Mountains. We arrived at the nice Minca Hotel (complete with yet more hummingbird feeders) & enjoyed a wonderful afternoon watching them & drinking a few beers. It was nice to have a relaxing afternoon & catch up on birding notes etc.
First light saw us birding the lower elevations on the road up the Santa Marta Mountains. These mountains which rise to over 6,000 metres are completely isolated from the Andes & host to around 25 endemic species!
Birding was fast & furious & everytime we moved higher up the road (track really) we encountered new species.
We had lunch at a little shop with several feeders. Birds were everywhere & included the rare endemic Blossomcrown!
We arrived at El Dorado Lodge in late afternoon & spent the rest of the time birding the gardens: Band-tailed Guans were common; 2 Black-fronted Woodquails came to the grain feeder & the very localised Santa Marta Woodstar put in an appearance on the hummingbird feeders. That evening we went Owling and eventaully saw the Santa Marta Screech Owl after a fair bit of effort!
We were up very early driving up the rapidly deterioating track to the higher eloevations of the mountain, arriving at our destination just as dawn was breaking. The views were stupendous! New birds came thick & fast & it turned out to be one of the bet mornings birding of the entire trip.
After another night at the El Dorado Lodge we birding down the road towards the town of Minca, netting some species that had hitherto eluded us:
A quick lunch at the hotel & then we were off again for  three hour drive with several stops for birding towards the ever increasingly dry north of the country.

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