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Colombia - Central Andes and Mitu, Dec 2022 (1 Viewer)

With no reception I couldn't type the GPS coordinates into my phone, but I decided to walk a bit down the road.
A great read, if only for the misty pictures reminding me of how much I miss the Colombian Andes!

About the above, pro tip: install map.me on your phone and either at home (.kml or .kmz, easy to make in google maps) or in the field, you can just look up GPS and navigate, while your phone is on plane mode (no need for any reception).
Excellent report. Well done on the Crescent faced Antpitta.
Interestingly we also saw Mountain Tapir when going early for the Hooded Antpitta
Here are a couple of habitat shots, one from the upper elevations of Otun-Quimbaya, the other from the back porch of our cabin
Many thanks for these.

Thanks also for labelling the shots directly. I hope you find that as helpful as doing it myself helped me.

Thanks also for a great report, which strongly encourages me to go back to Colombia.

A great read, if only for the misty pictures reminding me of how much I miss the Colombian Andes!

About the above, pro tip: install map.me on your phone and either at home (.kml or .kmz, easy to make in google maps) or in the field, you can just look up GPS and navigate, while your phone is on plane mode (no need for any reception).
Thanks! I wonder if that's the app my husband was using on his phone - he had something installed that worked very well just with GPS, no service needed.
Dec 10: Travel to Mitu

Our flight was set to depart Bogota at 10:50, but that left a little bit of time for some local birding in the morning. Hoping to squeeze in two more species, we walked from our hotel (Expo Inn Embajada) to the Parque Metropolitano Simon Bolivar. Not an especially diverse spot, but one we could easily access. A short walk around produced large numbers of Great Thrushes and Eared Doves, a singing Yellow-backed Oriole, but little else. A couple of quiet birds foraging high in some trees caught my attention, and after peering up for a bit they revealed themselves as Bay-breasted Warblers, species #299. Woo hoo! But we were running out of time and had to leave the park without finding another species. But the challenge was met on our way to the airport, when I spotted a White-tailed Kite above the city from our taxi window. Score, 300 species, with the Amazonian lowlands yet to come!

We checked in at the airport, again a swift process at the small second terminal, and even got to board our plane this time. We almost left without a hitch, but just as the plane was revving up at the start of the runway, it slowed back down and turned off the runway, taxiing back to the gate. The announcement from the pilot said something about maintenance needed all of a sudden. Drat! We were all ushered off the plane and back into the waiting area. We watched the crew work under the nose of the plane for a while, and then watched our plane depart, giving us a sense of deja-vu after our experience with our flight to Manizales. I was beginning to hate terminal 2! Fortunately, not too long afterward an identical but different plane pulled in to the gate, we were swiftly boarded, and this time made it off the runway and into the air. Finally on our way!

We flew over the expansive rainforest of the eastern lowlands, unbroken forest just as far as the eye can see, punctuated occasionally by rivers or low rocky cerros. Landing at the small Mitu airport, the pilot having to brake hard for the relatively short runway, I spotted a Red-breasted Meadowlark. We stepped off the plane and into the tropical lowland heat, entered the terminal, where the municipal police quickly found us and ushered us through the check in process. Non-residents have to pay an entry fee of 33,000 Colombian pesos (per person I think? But they only collected that much for both Tom and I so I don't know). Tourists are an uncommon sight here and almost exclusively limited to birders - while signing in and paying the entry fee, I noticed one of the policeman taking a cell phone photo of us, much to my amusement. We were then taken to the police counter, where they examined our passports, asked if we had a guide, and asked where we were staying. Eventually, we got our luggage and were sent on our way. We took a 3-wheeled motocar (tuk tuk? or whatever you want to call it) to Carayuru, our hotel for the next 6 nights. Our guide Miguel was waiting for us there, and once we had checked in we discussed my targets and he made a plan for the next day.

By this time, given the delay in our flight, dusk was falling and there was no time for any birding, so beyond my meadowlark sighting, lowland birds would have to wait until tomorrow! We wandered the town looking for dinner, settling on a dimly-lit fried chicken establishment, with excitement in the form of a large rat that ran right across Tom's foot during dinner. Ah well!

Metropolitan Park ebird checklist:
Dec 11: Mitu, Senda Bocotoma in the a.m.

We had our hotel breakfast at 5:00 a.m. and Miguel met us at 5:30 to take us to our first spot, the nearby Senda Bocotoma (Pipeline Trail). Today was the only day that any of our transport was late - perhaps a misunderstanding, but our ride arrived about 20 minutes late to take us to the start of the trail. We were dropped off, no entry fee or special permissions needed for this spot. First up was a calling pair of Black-throated Antbirds, which was to be one of the more common antbird species here, and which came in briefly to playback. We walked through some secondary forest before reaching some nice white sand forest, my first experience with this habitat type. We took several trails off the main trail, each leading to a clearing, in search of one of one of the day's targets: Pompadour Cotinga. This area is evidently the easiest place to get this species around Mitu. One particularly productive clearing had a female Spangled Cotinga, a White-browed Purpletuft, several Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatchers, a nice group of Azure-naped Jays, my first Versicolored Emerald, and then we were rewarded with a group of 3 Pompadour Cotingas high at the edge of the clearing. All females though - so while it "counted", I continued to hope for a male later in the trip.

We encountered a few different mixed-species flocks in the area, many of the birds remaining unidentified (or uncounted by me, if I didn't see it well enough or didn't recognize the call), but we netted 5 species of woodcreepers, Cherrie's Antwren, Plain Xenops, Cinereous Antshrike, and Long-winged Antwren. We called in a pair each of Spot-backed Antwrens and Amazonian Antshrikes. A pair of Pectoral Sparrows provided decent views and was our only encounter with this species around Mitu. We heard the classic, ringing calls of Screaming Piha and the beautiful whistling of Rufous-winged Schiffornis. We heard/saw 4 species of manakin, heard Thrush-like Antpitta and Ringed Antpipit, and got a good handful of other widespread species. A couple of the day's targets, including Collared Gnatwren and Gray-bellied Antbird, remained elusive.

As we walked back toward the entrance in late morning, birds were quiet, but it was time for insects - interesting butterflies and especially odonates. This was one of the most diverse odonate spots we visited, including my most-wanted non-bird of the trip: Clearspot Bluewing! I also photographed what I later identified as a female/immature Fylgia amazonica, the male of which would have been spectacular to see. I got 8 species of dragonflies plus a handful more that I haven't been able to ID. I took a lot more dragonfly photos than bird photos on this morning!



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Dec 11 p.m.: Urania bridge (Mituseno)

We were dropped off for lunch and a siesta after the morning's birding, with plans to go back out at 2:30 p.m. The afternoon itinerary was to bird the area around the bridge to the nearby village of Urania, about 6 km east of Mitu. Our driver dropped us off a bit short of the bridge so we could bird the main road on the way there. The habitat here was open secondary forest, and one of my next targets, Bronzy Jacamar, showed quickly here. We watched a very obliging family of Moustached Antwrens at eye level, normally these guys are high in the canopy and difficult to see well, let alone photograph. At the bridge were a couple of Amazonian Scrub-Flycatchers.

Once at the bridge, Miguel led me into the riparian forest on the north side of the road to search for some riparian specialties. We played Blackish-gray Antshrike and Amazonian Tyrannulet at a few spots with no luck. However, one of the other main targets, Black-chinned Antbird, came in silently to playback to investigate and afforded good views. We walked back to the road and waited for a bit, hoping for Red-fan Parrot, but no dice there either. Plenty of other bird life though, including Masked Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, and Sulphury Flycatcher. Our ride picked us up at 5:00 pm to take us back to our hotel.

Here I will say that I don't think our schedule was always ideal, but I think that could be up for negotiation with Miguel if one wanted. I would have been happy to leave earlier in the mornings (we always left at 5:30, when it is already getting light, even for some of the more distant sites), and I would have preferred the afternoon sessions to be later - ending later at least, if not also starting later. There is a lot of bird activity between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. when it gets dark, and especially a lot of parrot movement.



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Dec 12: Cruce Bocotoma

This morning's site was an area known as Cruce Bocotoma, about a 30 minute's ride south of Mitu along the main road, not far past the turnoff signed Cerrito Verde. Just before our turnoff, we stopped briefly for a pair of Burrowing Owls. We took a rough dirt road off the main highway, and the driver dropped us off once we started to enter forested habitat. We then walked this road for the morning, passing first through secondary forest and then into mature terra firme forest.

Birds were quite active early on, and we bagged 3 major targets before 7:30 a.m. First up, within a mixed-species flock, was an Orinoco Piculet - piculets are great, tiny woodpeckers with large feet for clinging to vines, and a short tail not used as a prop as in other woodpeckers. Then we found a pair of Tawny-tufted Toucanets right overhead. Then Miguel heard the call of Chestnut-crested Antbird, and some playback brought them in for a couple of quick views. Mixed-species flocks contained a host of other species, some of the highlights being Short-billed Honeycreeper, Pearly Antshrike, Paradise Tanager, and Pink-throated Becard. A Pavonine Quetzal remained frustratingly heard-only in some of the flock commotion. At an overlook, we watched a few Greater Yellow-headed Vultures soaring over the forest, and a small flock of flyby Scarlet Macaws. A couple of Back-headed Antbirds rounded out the lifers for the morning, and we finished this area with 68 species.

In the afternoon, we returned to the same general area but turned toward Ceima Cachivera, exploring some of the backroads in search of Red-fan Parrot. A lot of this afternoon was quite dead, although Plumbeous and Swallow-tailed Kites were nice. A final stop had Black Caracara, Short-crested Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Seedfinch, and Plain-breasted Ground-Dove. No Red-fan Parrot though.

After we returned to the hotel, we decided to try somewhere else for dinner. We went to Beiju Fusion Amazonica. They serve beijus, which is evidently a local ethnic dish a bit like a burrito, with the wrap made from ground yuca, forming a delightfully crunchy exterior. It was served with a delicious spicy sauce and I can highly recommend giving it a try. For the especially adventurous, their menu features mojojoy as an optional beiju filling - roasted grubs! (I went with the pork and Tom had the veggie lol)

My bird photos from this day range from bad to worse, so here are some special insects and food pics:


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I'm happy to read all of this and see you paid some attention to smaller critters!
When I was in Mitu back in 2011, I only remember one hotel and one restaurant in town, and when I look at google maps, I see dozens of restaurants and almost as many hotels... I probably didn't pay enough attention, would like to re-visit!:)
Triggered by your Periander Metalmark, I'd like to temporarily hijack your thread to ask if you could confirm this is a another metalmark, namely Rhetus dysonii? I saw this one in Moyobamba, Peru...


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I'm happy to read all of this and see you paid some attention to smaller critters!
When I was in Mitu back in 2011, I only remember one hotel and one restaurant in town, and when I look at google maps, I see dozens of restaurants and almost as many hotels... I probably didn't pay enough attention, would like to re-visit!:)
Triggered by your Periander Metalmark, I'd like to temporarily hijack your thread to ask if you could confirm this is a another metalmark, namely Rhetus dysonii? I saw this one in Moyobamba, Peru...

Hi Temmie,

I don't have any references on hand or much knowledge of South American butterflies to be honest - I used iNaturalist to identify my metalmark. Yours sure looks related, though I couldn't confirm the species.
Excellent stuff. I remember you commenting on my Mitu thread from just over a decade ago. You were in Ecuador iirc and promised to go to Mitu.
Dec 13: Cerrito Verde

The main target of this morning's outing was Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock. There appear to be several options for seeing this species, but we went to Cerrito Verde, which I took to be the name of both the indigenous village signed from the main road and the name of the actual hill. Entry to the trail was from the village and required a $40,000 peso entry fee per person (not including Miguel). The trail meanders through the village and then through a patchwork of clearings and forest. In one clearing, we watched an incredible group of ~60 raptors flying overhead, investigation of photos later revealed them to be Snail Kites.

Eventually the trail entered a more continuous section of forest and then started climbing steeply. Here, a pair of Black-headed Antbirds came out for good views. Shortly afterward, Miguel came to an abrupt halt and whispered "hormigas!" (ants). Right by the trail was an army ant swarm, attended by antbirds and other species. White-plumed Antbirds were the first detected, though they played hard to get with the camera. We maneuvered to a spot in front of the advancing ant swarm to wait for the antbird attendants. Soon, not one, not two, but three Chestnut-crested Antbirds were in view, some incredibly close as they focused their attention on capturing insects fleeing the marauding ants. A pair of White-cheeked Antbirds were also in attendance, and a few others popped in here and there, including Ochre-bellied Flycatcher. We sat on the forest floor for about a half hour, watching the show and taking photos, occasionally moving as the ants got too close or the birds moved to a different area, taking in the sounds - you could hear the ants moving in the dry leaf litter, and the antbirds gave frequent growling contact calls. A proper rainforest birding experience and one of the highlights of the whole trip (but oh the chiggers later from sitting in the leaf litter!).

Satisfied with our ant swarm encounter, we continued up the trail, and then took an inconspicuous side trail that led steeply back down into an area of large boulders. Here was the cock of the rock area. We climbed around, visiting their lek site but finding it empty, eventually circling the whole area without a sniff of the birds. Oh no! I asked Miguel if they're ever just gone, he said yes but very rarely. We played some calls, waited a bit, played some more. Just as I was beginning to think we'd miss this bird entirely, one answered from the forest upslope. Back in business! After a bit of back and forth and moving around a bit, I spotted the bird as it flew in behind us. There, glowing impossibly orange, a Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, surely high on anybody's wish list. The bird moved on, and we walked around a bit, re-finding it and a second male. Success!

We weren't quite done with this trail yet - after returning to the main trail, we continued uphill a bit farther to the top of the cerro, where there was a clear overlook into the surrounding forest. The highlight here was a distant yet unmistakable Paradise Jacamar, a much-wanted bird for this area and one I had expected would be easier to pick up based on ebird frequency metrics. On our way back down, we flushed a Collared Puffbird.

The afternoon trip was a return to the main road, we went a bit farther down than our previous turnoffs and walked the road for a bit (location in the linked ebird checklist). This was another fruitless search for Red-fan Parrot, but it was birdy and enjoyable nonetheless, with White-bearded Manakin, Lettered Aracari, and Rufous-crowned Elaenia.



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Dec 14: Senda Mitu Cachivera and Rio Vaupes

In the morning, we returned to white sand forest habitat, visiting Senda Mitu Cachivera, a trail very close to the one we visited the first morning and running through more or less the same tract of forest. However, a large number of my remaining targets were white sand specialists, and today did not disappoint.

This trail, like Cerrito Verde, starts within an indigenous community and required a per-person fee to enter. The trail wandered through the village, across a stream, and then into white sand forest. Here we came across a large flock of Amazona parrots, mostly Mealy Parrots but at least two Kawall's Parrots, a bird that had not even been on my radar. Evidently this is a recent addition to Colombia's bird list, this species being otherwise endemic to Brazil but was discovered in the Mitu area within the last five years. Next up was Collared Gnatwren, a calling individual that came in to playback. Then Gray-bellied Antbird, a pair of which came in silently to playback, quite close although remaining obscured most of the time on the forest floor. We tracked down calling Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Yellow-crowned Manakin, and with a lot of effort, Brown-banded Puffbird. Miguel searched the clearings for Blackish Nightjar, it commonly roosts here but he came up empty - though in the same area he found a Plumbeous Euphonia. A small ant swarm held both White-chinned and Plain-brown Woodcreepers. In a clearing, I finally got my male Pompadour Cotinga, two shining wine-red in the tropical sun. On the way back, a perched White-chinned Sapphire rounded out a lifer-packed morning.

In the afternoon, we took a boat from the Mitu boat launch to explore some riparian habitat upstream in search of specialties we had missed at the Urania bridge. The fare for the outing was $40 per person. We boated to a stream outlet and called in a pair of Blackish-gray Antshrikes, who came quite close. White watching the antshrikes, an Amazonian Tyrannulet called, and with a bit of searching we were able to spot it foraging actively at the edge of stream. Two missing riparian specialties in the bag, I also picked up Drab Water Tyrant for the trip. Out over the rapids, there were a few White-banded Swallows and a single Black-collared Swallow.



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Dec 15: Senda Cachiveira

This is one day that I wish we had done differently. We visited Senda Chachiveira, about an hour's drive from Mitu, though we still did not leave until 5:30 a.m. As a result, by the time we got to the village, paid the entrance fee, and walked through the village to the start of the primary forest, it was already 7:00, leaving rather little prime time left for birding. After the morning's birding, we sat at the bleachers in the village for over an hour for a lunchtime siesta before resuming our birding by walking along the main road. This plan seemed designed to maximize our time during the hottest, slowest hours of the day, and it was a bit of a drag, especially for my non-birding husband (though I had suggested he stay behind for this day). I was surprised in retrospect that we racked up 73 species for the morning (the majority were heard-only), but the last few hours on the trail consisted of occasional ineffective playback for remaining targets and long birdless stretches. The main highlight of the day was Pavonine Quetzal, a pair that obliged us with views this time, I was happy to get that one off the heard-only list. We also managed to call in Yellow-throated Antwren, though it remained quite high in the canopy. Our post-siesta walk along the main road produced a decent number of common edge/open habitat birds, but once again not the target Red-fan Parrot. Some invertebrate highlights of the morning included one of the spectacularly large damselflies known as "Helicopters", this one is in the genus Microstigma (if I'm right!), and the butterfly Blue-frosted Banner.



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Dec 16: Final morning in Mitu

Miguel had offered to take me back to the Urania bridge this morning, but as much as I had appreciated his services, I was quite ready to return to birding on my own. So, at 4:30 a.m. I set off on foot to walk to the bridge, listening for night birds on the way, picking up Striped Owl heard from the direction of the airport, and Tropical Screech-Owl at first light. It was great to be out so early, with birds calling everywhere and parrots flying back and forth overhead. I thought surely this would finally get me Red-fan Parrot! I picked out plenty of Mealy Parrots, Red-bellied Macaws, Orange-cheeked, Black-headed, and Blue-headed Parrots... but no Red-fan. That one will just have to wait for another trip! A few other nice birds though were eye-level views of Cherrie's Antwrens at the bridge, and a Ladder-tailed Nightjar flushed from the trees below the bridge.

We arrived at the airport two hours before our flight as recommended by the hotel staff, though check in was pretty quick. Once boarded, we sat in the plane for a good 20-30 minutes in the sweltering heat before they turned the plane on and started running the A/C, but otherwise our flight to Bogota went off without a hitch. We checked back in to Hotel Expo Inn Embajada and took it easy for the rest of the afternoon/evening, first visiting a nearby bar that had an impressive selection of imported beer, and then dinner at a taco place.

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