Montezuma’s gold

pink orchidsmelastoma flowerTiliaceae?Smooth-billed Ani, GarapateroSilver-throated TanagerCrimson-backed Tanager
Blackish RailWhite-tailed HillstarBlue-winged TanagerViolet-tailed Sylph, maleFlame-rumped Tanager, maleRed-headed Barbet, male
Scrub TanagerParque Nacional Sierra de Tatamá, Western Cordillera, Chocó/ RisaraldaOrnate FlycatcherGrasshopper 2Grasshopper 1Heliconia spp ?
Fern crozierStill life with petalcloud forestcloud forest forms b&wcloud forest formsfleshy flowers

Colombia-Risaralda-Montezuma, a set on Flickr.

It hardly seemed possible, but if anything the abundance and diversity of the avifauna increased at our next destination. The second of three landscapes in the system under study as part of our project, Montezuma sits adjacent to the Tatamá National Park and is well known as a Colombian birding destination for its easy access to a high concentration of rare and endemic species.

After another day of driving through the warmer inter-Andean valleys, we arrived at Pueblo Rico and swapped again to a local 4×4 to take us up to the highlands, but this time on the western flank of the Cordillera. The road wound for an hour or so through steep-sided valleys, and was in many places under construction for an expansion that will eventually carry a widened road through to Qibdo, the capital of the Chocó department. At 1400 m asl, the ecolodge at Montezuma lies lower than that at La Mesenia, and noticeably warmer conditions prevail, but it is also much wetter, and most of the four days we stayed here were cloudy, if not actually raining gently.

The fruit in feeders at the lodge hosted a constantly changing array of species, including Vitrioline, Silver Throated, Flame-rumped, Summer and Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers, as well as the occasional Orange-bellied Euphonia or Red-headed barbet, While hummingbird feeders attracted Collared Inca, Violet-tailed Sylph, and White-tailed Hillstar.

Further afield, the road above the lodge offers good access to primary and secondary forests at higher elevations, (important for our project) and opportunities to see Montezuma’s gold: the endemic Gold-ringed and Black-and-Gold Tanagers, two attractive and endemic species in the genus Bangsia. Understandably, the owner of the lodge is concerned at the fate these high elevation specialist species may face due to anthopogenic global warming, and monitoring these species seems a must. Other birding highlights here included Crested Ant-tanager, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Olivaceous Piha, Masked Trogon, and glimpses of two more elusive understorey birds: Rufous-breasted Antthrush and Yellow-breasted Antpitta. All this, combined with friendly and knowledgeable staff, comfortable accomodation, and excellent fresh and local vegetarian food, and I look forward to returning to Montezuma in the near future.

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