April 13, 2015, Torti, Panama — Diego Calderon, a birder in Medellin, picked me up at 4:30 a.m. so we could squeeze in a half-day of local birding around the city before I left Colombia this afternoon. Our first target, at a patch of dusty, dry forest outside town, was a bird called the Antioquia Wren, a species which was discovered (or noticed) here in 2010 and first officially recognized in 2013. Diego was an author on the paper describing the Antioquia Wren to the scientific community, so he knew the stakeout! The little, rufous-and-white bird started singing a few minutes after dawn, and we soon tracked it to a vine-draped, twiggy tree. A Clay-colored Thrush, new for my year but common as dishwater in Central America (where I’m heading next), sat mostly disregarded nearby.
With the minutes ticking away, Diego and I continued to La Romera, a small reserve protecting a local watershed, where we zeroed in on three more birds: Stiles’ Tapaculo, Yellow-headed Manakin, and Red-bellied Grackle. Again, Diego knew the precise points where each one preferred to perch, and we had the trio cleaned up in an hour. He even pointed out a Red-bellied Grackle crouched in a nest, with just the top of its head and eyeball visible.
In the past three weeks, I’ve seen 749 species of birds in Colombia, 260 of which were new additions for my year—without even touching the Amazon, Llanos, or Pacific lowlands! Birding has found a renaissance here in the past ten years, not only for visitors like me but for locals like Diego and the others I’ve spent time with. It is inspiring to soak up the culture in a place where birders of all kinds are contributing to knowledge and conservation. Chris Calonje (who birded with me earlier this week) helped organize Colombia’s first-ever Birdfair this February, with plans for making it an annual event. (If you’re a festival-goer, the Birdfair might be a good excuse to plan a trip next year: colombiabirdfair.org)
And, just like that, South America is done! I landed in Panama late this evening. Four days in Chile, a week and a half in Argentina, three weeks in Brazil, three weeks in Peru, 12 days in Ecuador, and three weeks in Colombia have flashed past. If the rest of this year goes as quickly, December will arrive in a hurry. And I still have 3,000+ birds to find…
New birds today: 5
Year list: 1977