Friday, July 14, 2023

Tinamu Reserve - Near Manizales, Caldas, Colombia

 Birding Hotspots:

Cornell University, an Ivy League school in Ithaca, NY has a birding program that is one of the best in the world. We visited their building in Ithaca with Andrew and Michaela a few years ago.  My post on it is here. They sponsor the Merlin birding app that helps identify birds and eBird which allows people all over the world to identify birds in the field and electronically have their birding lists recorded. Areas with lots of bird species are called “hotspots” and you can find them on the internet. The hotspots identify the bird seen, the date and who saw it.

Birding Hotspots in the U.S.:

The top birding hotspot in the United States is Southeast Farallon Island, about 30 miles off San Francisco, which has recorded 436 bird species this year (it is closed to the public, so it is probably rangers that record them as it is a national wildlife refuge). No. 2 is Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico that we visited relatively recently, with 379 species. No. 8 is Aransas NWR in Texas that we visited a few years ago, with 366 birds (that’s where we saw whooping cranes). Nos. 14 and 15 are Laguna Atascosa NWR and South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center in Texas that I visited with John Pedrosa several years ago with 363 and 362 birds species respectively.

The best birding hotspot near us in Southern California is the Irvine Water District San Joaquin Marsh, with 333 bird species seen in the last year. It is no. 56 in the U.S.

The top hotspot in Utah is Fish Springs NWR, which I visited earlier this year, with 293 species. Antelope Island SP is no. 3 in Utah with 262 species and Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge Auto Tour Loop is no. 5 with 257 bird species, both of which I’ve also visited this year.

Birding Hotspots in the World:

When compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. is only no. 20 in terms of species of birds with 860. The no. 1 country in the world is Colombia with 1,878 species and Colombia is only the size of California and Texas combined.

Colombia        1,878                1
Peru                 1,858               2
Brazil              1,813               3
Indonesia        1,711               4
Ecuador           1,622              5
Bolivia            1,438              6
Venezuela       1,394              7
China              1,288              8
India                1,211              9
Congo –          1,107              10
Democratic Republic of
Mexico            1,104             11
Tanzania         1,075              12
Kenya              1,058             13
Argentina        1,004             14
Uganda            999               15
Thailand          934               16
Angola            915               17
Cameroon       885               18
Panama           884               19
USA                860               20
Costa Rica      857               21

 Birding Hotspots in Colombia:

We visited Colombia in March of this year and went to two areas to do birding. First we stayed at Hotel Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve. It is no. 23 in Colombia with 448 bird species seen there in the last year, more than the top birding spot in the USA.

I found a post on Tinamu Reserve titled, “The Nicest Bird-lodge of Colombia: Tinamu Birding Nature Reserve,” posted October 7, 2020 by Frank59872 on the website of Sula Colombia Birding and Nature Tours. The following information is from that post:

In 2014 Mauricio Londoño made the decision to build a bird lodge. He named it after the little tinamou, a species of bird. There are now about 60 bird species that can be seen around the lodge. It has became a successful and unique project in Colombia, competing internationally with eco-lodges and bird-lodges in Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Costa Rica, which have more experience with birding and nature tourism.

Initially the bird lodge received hardcore birders. As time went by it took steps to discourage budget conscious birders, like forbidding camping and tourist buses with more than ten passengers. It now caters to bird photographers, a segment of bird watchers who generally carry heavy photographic equipment and don’t walk much. Bird photographers generally sit and wait for the perfect conditions to photograph birds. The facilities are designed to attract birds for the photographers, with native plant gardens, bird feeders, waterers, natural perches and hides to aid photography. It also has created artificial nests for birds and mammals. This requires a daily commitment to maintenance, to ensure the presence and health of the birds. It also has 3 km of private paths.

The lodge has large rooms of between 82 and 98 square feet, with comfortable beds and spacious bathrooms with hot water.

Its 311 acres protect the bird habitat for 227 resident and 33 migratory bird species (as of 2019) in the middle of an agricultural zone. But the reserve has retained some coffee and bananas trees (for bird food) to grow along with the reforested native species, but maintains the coffee and banana trees naturally, not agriculturally. Some species, like the tinamou and grallarias are attracted by the mixed covers of coffee and forest. It also has mammals, reptiles, insects, butterflies, moths, plants and fungi. A gallery of wildlife photographed at Tinamu, included with the article, includes: [birds] a blue-headed parrot, white-bearded manakin, western emerald hummingbird, spectacled owl, mustached puffbird, gray-headed dove, bay-headed tanager, [plants] zingiberaceae plant, passion fruit flower, water lily, bamboo mushroom, earthstar mushroom, [insects] scarabeidae, pieridae butterfly, [mammals] kinkajou, long-tailed weasel, nine-banded armadillo, agouti, stump-tailed porcupine, Hoffmann’s two-toed sloth, crab-eating fox, tent-making bat, [reptiles] Berthold’s bush anole and western basilisk lizard. 
We (Judy and my granddaughter who goes by the on-line moniker of Squirrel) flew from Bogota to Pereira and were driven to Tinamu Reserve, which took about 1.5 hours. We arrived about 11:30 a.m., checked into our room with three beds and then had lunch. 

Squirrel by the side of our room.

3 beds, a cement floor and a fan.

Bathroom: pumice sink, no hot water. 

Lunch: chicken, etc. wrapped in banana leaf.
We had an English speaking guide that afternoon.
Golden collared manakin (this and next)

Green hermit hummingbird (this and next)

Spectacled parrotlet

A tree with wicked spikes.

Taking photos of the golden-collared manakins.

Hairy-headed leaf cutter ants.

I leaf that has been cut up by leaf cutter ants. 

He eventually drifted off to a guided group that had hired him for a future gig elsewhere and played with the other guide's new camera. I spent most of the afternoon in the main yard at various spots watching for hummingbirds and other birds. I did see some pretty spectacular birds. The next photos are from around the grounds, not only that afternoon, but other down-times this and the next day.
Black-billed thrush

Andean Motmot (this and the next two)

Saffron finch (this and the next)

Crimson-backed tanager - male

Crimson-backed tanager - female

Eared dove (this and the next)

Red-crowned woodpecker (this and the next)

Flame-rumped tanager - male

Flame-rumped tanager - female

Common tody flycatcher and nest (this and the next)

Palm tanager (this and the next)

Black vulture

Summer tanager - male

Summer tanager - female

Summer tanager - juvenile
Clay-colored thrush (this and next)

Shiny cowbird - juvenile and female

Ruddy ground dove - female

Ruddy ground dove - male

Gray-headed dove. I saw this the next morning when we were gathered to see the little tinamou, for which the reserve is named. It didn't show. This did.

White-necked Jacobin - female

White-necked Jacobin - male

Black-throated mango (this and next)

Steely-vented hummingbird

White-vented plumeleteer (this and next)

Rufous-tailed hummingbird (this and next)

Rusty-margined flycatcher

Great kiskadee (this and next)

Scrub tanager

Blue-gray tanager (this and next)

We did not have a lot of interaction with our guide and I was quite disappointed. That night our room had cement floors and a very cold shower, but we slept fine.  

Our experience that first day was that Tinamu is geared to groups with outside guides that come back and back with different clients. I talked with one guide from the U.S. who had been back with groups 17 straight years. The guides know the staff, the staff know the guides, and the guides stay with their groups. When we arrived we were not given any kind of orientation or explanation of how things worked. We were pointed to our sleeping quarters and not notified when meals were given or when any special activities took place, like the visit to try and see the little tinamou in the morning. I saw everyone in camp heading out in a line and just joined in. We felt like outsiders crashing someone else's party. We had the whole next day with a Spanish speaking guide and I tried to figure out how to have a better experience, how to get him to focus on helping us when all around him were people he knew from prior years of interaction. So I decided to offer my Spanish speaking guide $2.00 USD for each new species of bird I photographed that I'd not seen before. Pretty soon he disappeared and when I asked about him a guide from an outside group told me they were short and he'd gone to get another guide that was needed. I thought he was going to get another guide to give to us so that he could go with this other group. However, he eventually came back with a female guide who could speak English and both went with us. I started to think that my incentive was working. 

I was having a hard time seeing the birds. One eye had cataracts and my eyesight in that eye was about 20/30. The other eye had previously had cataract surgery but had recently gone cloudy and I could hardly even read with that eye (I've since had laser surgery to correct it). So it was frustrating for the guides because I had a hard time seeing the birds they were pointing out. However, this day turned out wonderfully. The English guide helped with the communication and both were patient helping me to try and see the birds with a laser pointer. First we went down into a canyon next to the lodge and spent most of the morning there. 
The first bird we saw was a common potoo, high up in a distant tree. I was excited about it as I'd just seen my first potoo, a northern potoo, in Jamaica a month earlier. 

Thick jungle.

Very tall trees.

Bird spotting

Eastern wood pewee (this and next)

Tropical screech-owl. Another guided group ahead of us saw it and we went back to find it with their directions. It was very difficult to see. 

Acadian flycatcher

Plain-brown woodcreeper

Black-chested jay

House wren

Lemurine night monkey or Colombian night monkey. It was asleep in a tree and very difficult to see. 
The birds were much more difficult to find and see in the canyon. There were others I saw and did not get photos of, or which I got very poor photos of. We returned for lunch, then went on a walk down the road we drove in on from the main highway into Tinamu. We saw lots of wonderful birds and Judy and Squirrel focused on plants and flowers. 
Tropical kingbird (this and next)

Red tower ginger

Julia heliconian

Moustached puffbird, one of my favorite birds from our stay. It was on an open branch in easy sight and let me photograph away. 

Brown-throated parakeet

Blue-headed parrot (this and next)

Mexican sunflower

Golden shrimp plant

Matchstick bromeliad

Brazilan red-cloak

Heliconia wagneriana

Lobster claw heliconia

Views from the road (this and next two)

At the end of the day I figured I owed them about $40.00, but I was so happy with how it turned out so I gave them $60.00 and our guides appeared quite pleased. 

We spent the night at Tinamu and were being picked up the next morning at 6:30 a.m. to go to Montezuma Rainforest Lodge. That morning our Spanish guide invited us to have breakfast on him, a very nice gesture. The day before and that morning I told him I really wanted to see a Colombian chachalaca, a bird endemic to that area. He came rushing up to me during breakfast and said that Colombian chachalacas were on a feeder. I was excited to see them. 
Colombian chachalaca

Then someone exclaimed that a blue-necked tanager was on the same feeder and I rushed back over to get a photo.
Blue-necked tanager
Our Spanish guide offered our driver breakfast because we were late to get off, with breakfast and all of the bird activity. The second day and our second morning were a complete different experience.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely a Birding Bonanza for you. I'm glad you had the opportunity.