Saturday, April 8, 2017

8 April 2017 - Zombie carpocalpyse

It is here, and coming to a state near you soon. How do I know? 

Stage 1. The ranchers are getting restless

Wondering who is behind the control panel? Yep this would be the rancher. 

Stage 2. Farmers. Not quite sure why this is happening but it seems to affect farmers the most. Maybe because they are out on their tractors. 

Stage 3. Future victims.  Then there are those that you just know are going to end up zombies, mostly due to recklessness. 

It is a very strange world out there. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

6 March 2017 - Playing in the snow

Typical March weather going on. Last week we had temps reaching the high 50's, even into the 60s. Saturday the wind hit. Freight train wind all day and night Saturday and Sunday. Sunday evening the wind let up and it snowed.  This morning I had a fresh eight inches of pretty good packing snow. 

There were so many things I needed to do that have been put off for too long. Surprise, procrastination crept in.  Here is the sum total of my accomplishments today.  If things are spiraling out of control, make a spiral. When is the last time you played in the snow? And used food coloring? 

If you can't remember, maybe you should put your galoshes on, go out and have some fun. 

Right after I posted this, I looked out the window to see my lovely neighbor Allison, with snow boots, walking the spiral. How perfect!

My brother always makes me laugh. I sent him a photo of my efforts and his text back was:
"Little bit of nervous energy today, Calvin?"

Pretty much. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

4 March 2017 - Cartagena

On our last day in Colombia, we had a few hours to actually play tourist before we left for the airport. We decided on history and went to Old Town, the historic walled city of Cartegena. In the late 1600s, the wall was begun as a defense against pirates. Completed in 1786, it took almost 200 years to build the walls around the city. It is a massive fortification complete with bastions. 

Lynn, in one of the tiny bastions which stand at all the corners in the wall, so the guards could keep watch in multiple directions. You can see how close the city is to the edge of the ocean, making it easy pray for the French and Spanish corsairs. 

Here's a view of the wall from  inside the city. The wall is two times or more taller from the outside. 

Inside the walls, the city is a riot of color. Two story buildings feature balconies overhanging the narrow sidewalks and streets. Most of the balconies are also covered in flowering plants. 

Adding to the color were the street signs made of tile work affixed onto the sides of the buildings.

The city also boasts plazas, fountains, cathedrals and clock towers, but my favorite part?  The door knockers. First, the doors were huge. Almost every one was a double door, but there was usually a much smaller door set inside one of the larger doors. 

Here you can see the large set of double doors and the smaller, head-banger door. Most of these doors had me coveting their very whimsical door knockers. If I had found any for sale, they would have come back with me. 

The Octopus was my favorite. The leg over my finger is the one used as a knocker--it thunks down on the starfish. 

These are not dainty little adornments, but fairly massive metal fixtures. Here you can get an idea of the scale. This lovely lizard is attached to one of the over-sized double doors. You can see the smaller door inside the right hand door. 

There were many more but you get the idea of how much fun these are. 

Even though we were exploring the history and culture of the city, we were looking at all the birds as well, ending our time in the city with a magnificent frigatebird and a yellow-bellied elaenia. 

Needless to say, this was a wonderful trip and I look forward to visiting Colombia again. 


Friday, March 3, 2017

3 March 2017 - Colombia - The Santa Martas and El Dorado

Our next stop on the way to El Dorado took us to the town of Minca, which is the start of the Santa Marta mountains. Our lodging had wonderful areas to sit and relax or lounge in hammocks. Not that we ever had the time for it. 

But outside of the dining room, a balcony boasted both panoramic views across the valley and hummingbird feeders that compelled us to grab coffee and sit among the birds. 

Rufous-tailed hummingbirds (note pink bill)

White-vented plumeleteer (female) on right and rufous-tailed on left.

Steely-vented humingbird

White-necked Jacobin

We also had a Keel-billed Toucan come in for some mango. He's a regular visitor and is used to all the clicking of cameras and oohs and aahs of birders. He is sitting on the top edge of an open window. 

We had an early morning walk through Minca up into the jungle, back for lunch, then climbed into the 4x4s to get to El Dorado, much higher in the mountains. 

It took us several hours to get there as we stopped and birded several locations on the way. Some of the amazing birds on the way included:

Lineated Woodpecker. Serious fun watching
 a pair working on a nest in a hole of a dead tree. 

A Swallow tanager

This next Rufous-capped warbler was a surprise. The birds are often so high in the canopy, not to mention well camouflauged that sometimes getting a picture was point and pray. I was so happy to discover that the camera actually found this little guy.

Masked Trogan                 Broad-winged hawk

 Double-toothed kite             Black and white owl

Finally arrived at El Dorado, a private bird reserve run by ProAves whose mission is to protect birds and their habitats, especially now as only 15% of the Sierra Nevada's original vegetation remains after years of deforestation and agricultural assaults. 

El Dorado has been likened to the Holy Grail and as a Mecca for birders. In this 1800 acre reserve alone, just under 400 species have been identified. Birders say there are more, they just haven't been found yet. 

The preserve has wonderful lodging. It is a series of outbuildings each with four to six rooms.  They are not very close together and are tucked away in the trees. The rooms are beautiful with big windows for viewing. The main building (registration, dining and library)has decks that also provide up-close experiences with many birds. We also saw a kinkajou, crab-eating foxes, an agouti and red-tailed squirrels here in addition to the bird life.

The food was exquisite, and they even provide great breakfasts at four in the morning for early birders. 

You really know you are in a jungle forest when you can't see further than 5 to 10 feet, at most, off the side of the road. The trees are covered with bromeliads which further obstruct the view. All I could think of was Lewis Carroll's "dark and tulgey" wood and wonder when the bandersnatches were going to show up. 

We abandoned our luggage on the way to the rooms as the lodge had hummingbird and fruit feeders.  Oh boy. 

The fruit feeder was occupied by a female Black-capped tanager, a Bay-headed tanager and a small flock of Blue-naped chlorophonias.

I have mentioned how hard it is to see the birds. Here is a good example. The bird is first spotted with most of us looking up wondering what? where? Then you find it in the binos and realize it isn't a leaf. 

In this case, the sun actually illuminated our Groove-billed toucanet for just a minute. What a difference!

Later we saw an Emerald toucanet, which made it a two-toucanet day. 

But back to the feeders, the hummingbirds were swarming around them and squabbling over the perches. Quite a sight. 

White-tailed starfrontlet

Brown violetear     Violet-crowned woodnymph

Our next morning began with breakfast at 4am then taking 4x4s for the journey up to Cuchilla San Lorenzo. This took us to an elevation of 10,000 feet, high in the cloud forest. The sun would be shining, then the mist-filled fog would roll up the valley to the peak. It was an amazing thing to see. Even though the highest peaks still towered above us, it felt like we were on the top of the world. 

And here comes the fog.

We were really lucky that it cleared up and we were able to look across the valley and see  Pico Colon and Pico Bolivar, the highest peaks in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. At 18,942' they are still topped in glaciers. Since they are most often hidden by clouds, it was a treat to see them above the cloud layer. 

The goal for this area was to find Santa Marta endemics, or those birds only found in this one habitat. Here are a few:
Santa Marta parakeet

Santa Marta tanager

Santa Marta Brush-finch

One of my favorite birds from this day was a Cinnamon flycatcher. 

And so ends another day in Colombia.

I saw 308 species during our eleven-day sojourn.  It seems like I have inundated you with way too many pictures of birds, but compared to what we saw, it really is just a drop in the bucket.