Not much chance to work on the sleep deficit as once again we made a 4.30am start taking breakfast with us.
Our destination this morning was the Reserva del Loro Orejiamarillo. It was a sign of things to come that in place of yesterday’s minibus we were now using two Jeeps. Our journey in the dark on a rough winding road was punctuated by mudslides and rockslides which soon began to present something of a challenge even to these tough 4 x 4 vehicles. Eventually we reached a huge mudslide that had completely destroyed the road. It was time to start walking!
Once we had negotiated the mudslide and set off uphill, it took an hour or so to reach the reserve, an hour during which we were, of course, stopping regularly to look for birds. Species seen included Collared Inca, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed Coronet and Tyrian Metaltail (all hummingbirds) plus Ocellated Tapaculo, Blue-capped Tanager, Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager, Tanager-Finch, Stripe-headed Brush-Finch, Slaty Brush-Finch, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Golden-fronted Whitestart and Citrine Warbler. What wonderful names some of these birds have!
We had climbed to about 2,900 metres above sea level. We positioned ourselves where we could see over a wide area of the reserve and then waited for our target birds to appear. Loro Orejiamarillo is Spanish for Yellow-eared Parrot and the reserve is part of the remarkable conservation success story that surrounds this species which for many years was thought to be extinct.
Yellow-eared Parrots live among wax palms (Ceroxylon quindiuense), the national tree of Colombia, a species which itself is threatened. They nest in the hollow trunks of the palm trees. The story of their decline is a familiar one, involving hunting and habitat destruction, particularly the harvesting of wax palms, which are traditionally cut down and used each year on Palm Sunday.
Following the rediscovery of a small population of Yellow-eared Parrots in 1998, a combination of measures has seen the population increase significantly to the point where the species is no longer considered Critically Endangered, simply Endangered! These measures included habitat protection, a nest box scheme and a campaign to reduce the use of the wax palm for Palm Sunday celebrations.
We didn’t have to wait too long. First, five birds were seen at quite some distance but they dropped into the forest and promptly disappeared. Then two birds flew more or less over our heads and landed on a bare snag, again some way off but allowing reasonable views through a telescope. And then another bird flew by not too far away. It had been a struggle to get there and see the birds but eventually they were seen well, it had been a worthwhile climb; we called it a “landslide victory”!
We also saw three other Psittacids here: Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot and Speckle-faced Parrot.
After lunch back in Jardín we set off on the long road trip to the Reserva Natural Rio Branco, located near Manizales. That we arrived there later than planned was due in part to a small diversion along the way to look for Greyish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher, two more endemic species. It wasn’t that it took a long time to find them, it was the fact that we also found many more birds in the same area and stayed much longer than we had intended. Amongst them were Scrub Tanager, Moustached Puffbird, Bar-crested Antshrike and the more familiar Bay-breasted Warbler, a migrant that I’ve seen often in the USA.
It had been another long day. I didn’t need much rocking, as they say.
More to come…
2 weeks ago