Nature Conservancy Trip to Colombia

A Delightful Surprise
It's tough to figure out where I should start. During late afternoon on Wednesday, February 1st, I received a phone call from my Chapter Director inviting me to join 9 intrepid travelers on a trip to Colombia. The catch was that the trip's departure was on Saturday, February 4th! Can I really be ready to leave for Colombia in two days? Excited and speechless, I made a few phone calls and quickly firmed my eligibility for this excursion. I spent most of Thursday and Friday making phone calls, booking flights and car rides, and most importantly, trying to find any decent guide to the birds of Columbia. I could not locate one online seller that would overnight me a book. Frantic, I finally realized that I should call Michael Scheibel, friend and colleague at The Nature Conservancy. Of course Mike had the exact book that I was targeting, "A Guide to The Birds of Colombia," by Steven Hilty and William L. Brown. The majority of the book was illustrated by Long Island's very own Guy Tudor, who is a masterful illustrator of neotropical birds. I met Mike on Friday afternoon to receive the book. We met at the Town boat slips at the end of Bayport Lane for a gull sunset session. We were able to see a previously reported Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, and at least one Lesser Black-backed Gull. Saturday morning hit quickly and so did reality. I am on a plane heading to Colombia.

Cartagena, Saturday, January 4th - Day 1
Street in Cartagena
Exhausted from waking up at 4:00 AM and cramming the Colombia bird book, we arrived in Cartagena at around 3:00 PM. I was traveling with TNC Colleague Marci Bortman, as the rest of the crew arrived on Friday and were out and about exploring the area. When I mention the "crew" I am referring to 8 of The Nature Conservancy's dedicated Trustees, two of whom I have travelled with before on an adventure to Honduras almost exactly 1 year ago, Polly Bruckman and Barbara Slifka, both from the Long Island Chapter. There was quite an energetic group on this trip which added to the experience. Among these folks were John and Susan Ulfelder from the Virgina Chapter, Arch and Laura Brown along with Dick and Jo Hayslip both from The Arizona Chapter. It's always comforting knowing that you are traveling with folks that share the same view and appreciation of life and nature. The company was great. Warm, jovial and enthusiastic about the adventures that lay ahead. It would be an iniquity not to mention our accommodating and knowledgeable TNC leaders from Colombia. Heading up the program was Julio Carcamo who was accompanied by Ivan Gil, and Eduardo Ariza. Finally, we had a trip Tour and Logistics guide named Fernando Rivera who was excellent at his job. Our trip leaders and Tour Guides were perhaps the best hosts I have ever encountered. They were cheerful, courteous and accommodating.

Canal del Dique & Isla Grande
In an effort to prevent myself from turning my blog post into a novel, I have decided to focus on three of the natural areas in Colombia that we visited. These are the areas that gripped my interest. This is most likely attributed to the stunning landscapes and their inhabitants. I will write about the Magdalena River/Canal del Dique, Isla Grande and Tayrona National Forest.

Cruising through the Canal del Dique
The Magdalena River is gigantic. The drainage basin alone covers nearly 25% of the country's area. The River's headwaters originate in the Andes toward the south end of the Country where it travels about 950 miles north to it's mouth in Barranquilla. On 2/5/12, We traveled by boat through the Canal del Dique, a mangrove lined canal that connects Cartagena Bay eventually to the Magdalena. The Nature Conservancy in Colombia is currently working to protect the Magdalena River through a concept called a Water Fund. The idea of the Water Fund is to reduce negative development impacts on the rivers upper and lower reaches so that it can provide clean water to its eventual recipients. The Water Fund concept has gained a ton of support in Countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia and several working funds have been established as a result of private, citizen and federal support. The cutting of the Canal del Dique has resulted in increased sediment loads from the Magdelana River into the Caribbean Sea. The cutting of the canal has also, by itself, caused increased sedimentation into the system . The Conservancy's dedicated Colombia staff is working toward mitigating the effects of sedimentation into this complex by way of the water fund. 

Cattle Tyrant

The boat ride took us through a meandering mangrove system with our end goal being the destination of Isla Grande, an island located within the Islas del Rosario Complex. The complex is an archipelago system that was declared a National Park in an effort to protect one of Colombia's most important coral reefs on its Caribbean coast. Both the Canal del Dique and Isla Grande produced some excellent bird viewing. Among my personal highlights were yellow-backed oriole, cocoi heron, northern screamer, white-winged swallow, white-crowned pigeon, cattle tyrant, long-tailed tyrant, black-collared hawk, pearl kite and violet-bellied hummingbird and many more!

Tayrona National Forest
Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona quickly became one of my favorite places on planet earth. It's safe to say that this place is "magical." The park comprises about 70 square miles of land and protected maritime reserve. It is part of the Sierra Neveda Range which rolls into the Caribbean Sea. Large, carved out, moss covered boulders line the shores Tayrona. Above the dry coastline lies a humid, higher-elevation forest where 400 bird species have been recorded. Myself, Arch & Laura Brown, Dick Hayslip and our guides, Fernando and David, all embarked on an 8-hour trek through this system.

Sanderlings Escape the Surf at Tayrona
The List
SpeciesDate Location
Blue-winged Teal2/5/2012Isla Grande
Common Gallinule2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Northern Screamer2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Chesnut-winged Chachalaca2/7/2012Aquarium
American Flamingo2/9/2012Salamanca Wetlands
Brown Booby 2/6/2012Isla Grande
Maginifcant Frigatebird2/4-2/12/2012Various 
Neotropical Cormorant2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Anhinga2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Brown Pelican2/4-2/12/2012Various 
Black Vulture2/4-2/12/2012Various 
Turkey Vulture2/4-2/12/2012Various 
Capped Heron2/9 & 2/10/12Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Tri-colored Heron2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Cocoi Heron2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Green Heron2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Little-blue Heron2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Great-blue Heron2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Bare-throated Tiger Heron2/7/2012Aquarium
Snowy Egret2/4-2/12/2012Various 
Great Egret2/4-2/12/2012Various 
Cattle Egret2/4-2/12/2012Various 
White Ibis2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Bare-faced Ibis2/9/2012Palmarito - En route to Tayrona
Yellow-headed Caracara2/4/-2/12/2012Various 
Great Blackhawk2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Common Blackhawk2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Broad-winged Hawk2/6/2012Isla Grande
Pearl Kite2/6/2012Isla Grande
Black-collared Hawk2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Roadside Hawk2/5/2012Isla Grande
Osprey2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Laughing Falcon2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Sanderling2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Ruddy Turnstone2/7/2012Aquarium
Whimbrel2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Solitary Sandpiper2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Royal Tern2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Lauging Gull2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Eared Dove2/5/2012Cartagena de Indias Rooftop
White-tipped Dove2/5/2012Isla Grande
Common Ground Dove2/5/2012Isla Grande
Ruddy Ground Dove2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Rock Pigeon2/7/2012Cartagena de Indias Rooftop
White-crowned Pigeon2/5 - 2/7/2012Isla Grande
Yellow-crowned Parrot2/4-2/8/2012Cartagena de Indias Rooftop
Blue-headed Parrot2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Orange-chinned Parakeet2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Brown-throated Parakeet2/7/2012Isla Grande
Squirrel Cuckoo2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Long-billed Hermit2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Violet-bellied Hummingbird2/6/2012Isla Grande
Blue-crowned Motmot2/11/2012Quebrada Valencia
Rufous-tailed Jacamar2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Green Kingfisher2/11/2012Quebrada Valencia
Ringed Kingfisher2/5/2012Magdelena River/Canal de Dique
Crimson-crested Woodpecker2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Red-crowned Woodpecker2/8/2012Cartagena de Indias Rooftop
Straight-billed Woodcreeper2/11/2012Quebrada Valencia
Long-tailed Tyrant2/7/2012Isla Grande
Cattle Tyrant2/6/2012Isla Grande
Boat-billed Flycatcher2/6/2012Isla Grande
Social Flycatcher2/6/2012Isla Grande
Great Kiskadee2/6/2012Isla Grande
Tropical Kingbird2/5 - 2/7/2012Isla Grande
Gray Kingbird2/8/2012Cartagena de Indias Rooftop
Dusky-capped Flycatcher2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Venezuelan Flycatcher2/6/2012Isla Grande
Streaked Flycatcher2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Western-slaty Antshrike2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Greater Ani2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Great-tailed Grackle2/4-2/12/2012Various 
White-winged Swallow2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Southern Rough-winged Swallow2/12/2012Barranquilla Airport Runways
Gray-breasted Martin2/5-2/10/2012Various 
Brown-chested Martin2/5-2/10/2012Various 
Black-capped Danocobius2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
House Wren2/7/2012Isla Grande
Rufous and White Wren2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Bicolored Wren2/10-2/11/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Long-billed Gnatwren2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Yellow-tailed Oriole2/5/2012Canal del Dique
Yellow Oriole2/9/2012Palmarito - En route to Tayrona
Yellow-backed Oriole2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Palm Tanager2/9/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Blue-gray Tanager2/8-2/11/2012Various 
Crimson-backed Tanager2/10-2/11/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Grayish Salator2/6/2012Isla Grande
Pale-breasted Thrush2/11/2012Quebrada Valencia
Yellow-legged Thrush2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Bananquit2/10/2012Cartagena de Indias Rooftop
Prothonotary Warbler2/6/2012Isla Grande
Black & White Warbler2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Red-capped Manakin2/11/2012Quebrada Valencia
White-bearded Manakin2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Trinidad Euphonia2/10/2012Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona
Saffron Finch2/5/2012Cartagena de Indias Rooftop

Thanks for checking out the Colombia Trip! You can click on the Flickr link on the right side of the page to view more photos from the trip. Once you are in Flickr, click on the Colombia 2012 set. The first two images are actually videos of ants. Enjoy and until next time!

Snorkeling the reef at Isla Grande

Derek Rogers Gainer Off Falls                                                                                                                            Photo:Dick Hayslip


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