Deep in Colombia’s rainforests

Do you really know what mud is? I did not know. I am a “desert man” – I have visited North Africa, the Maghreb, the Sahara and many other deserts as Sinai and the Negev many times. I truly love the desert.

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So I was actually not ready to be completely overwhelmed by this colourful, crawling biodiversity I encountered when I came to Colombia. I walked in deep mud for 10 hours a day, in the dense Amazonian and Andean forests of this beautiful country. There, along the narrow tracks among a massively tangled jumble of trees, ferns and lianas I experienced the real mud.

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In the jungle, the imitation game is everything. A dead leaf transmformed into a butterfly or a frog, while a dead branch suddenly became a motionless lizard. Almost every creature pretended to be something else. Do you think you are a keen birder? Are you capable of identifying most birds you watch?

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Well, then you have to go to the Neotropic forest just to make sure. There, and only there, your binoculars are raised so often for nothing, simply to watch branches and ferns and empty spaces. Your ears are the best companion for birding in the jungle.

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The undergrowth is so dark that you have to use a top binocular – an instrument that will give you the crispiest and sharpest image possible. Which is why I took my new Leica Noctivid 10×42.

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They are great, even when the light was still poor, the bird far on top of the canopy or too deep into the dense bushes.

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Until recently, Colombia was considered a dangerous place to visit and few European birders and zoologist in general have visited it. But only last year, the government signed a peace treaty with the FARC, and Juan Manuel Santos, the president of Colombia, and the country, won the Nobel Prize for Peace. Since then it has become much easier and less risky to travel around, even in the Amazonian part.

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Colombia has the most species of birds (more than 1800) in the world  For that reason, we decided to spend almost two months traveling around Colombia. During our trip we wanted to study the avifauna of some remote areas, find new species and subspecies of birds and broaden the knowledge on the distribution of some taxa.

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We recorded 650+ bird species, including 30 raptors and the very rare Micrastur mirandollei and Micrastur gilvicollis as well as Accipiter collaris, 45 species of hummingbirds (including some rarely observed and even more rarely sound recorded or photographed), 60 antbirds, 60+ tanagers.

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We confirmed the first record for Colombia and its range expansion of Cocha’s Antshrike (already documented by Ottavio last year), several new breeding range expansions, new taxa for Colombia, we documented the first record ever for the whole Amazonia of Western Sandpiper, the second or third Sora rail for the Amazonas area, the first record of Scarlet Ibis for Peru and many more. The rarest birds were both photographed and sound-recorded, all sounds being available now on Xeno Canto.

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It’s been two memorable months. No wonder that this special trip will stay in my memory forever.

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Contact
Many local people are investing great efforts in making birdwatching in Colombia easier. We suggest the following ones:

Jurgen Beckers, Nature Reserve La Isla Encantada, Orito, Putumayo
Alexis Antonio Ruiz Burbano, field guide at Miraflor, Piamonte
Flor Peňa, field guide at Puerto Leghizamo, Putumayo
Mauricio Florez Pai and Cristian Florez Pai, founder of the environmental and zoological association FELCA
Nature Reserve La Palanada

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