Birding Without Borders

Day 79: Scouting Local Parrots

When hunting for regional specialties, nothing beats a local’s knowledge.

March 20, 2015, San Vicente, Colombia — This morning at breakfast, Arturo started talking (in Spanish) about something to do with parrots with yellow heads. Could he mean Saffron-headed Parrots, endemic to this part of Colombia? I probed a bit, and he said that these yellow-headed parrots often come to sit in a bush next to a neighbor’s house in the early morning. Jim, Bruce, Ryan and I looked at each other and said yes, let’s go look for them!

After breakfast, Arturo led us up a trail to meet the neighbors. We arrived at their house at about 6:30 a.m.—no parrots in sight. Yesterday, Arturo said, the birds were right here (an all-too-familiar phrase for birders!), in this little bush in front of the laundry-drying line, but they didn’t show up until 7 a.m. Dogs, horses, and people were running around the house and the yard, which overlooked a spectacular forested valley. We waited, somewhat skeptically.

At exactly 6:43 a.m., 13 Saffron-headed Parrots suddenly swooped out of nowhere and landed in the exact bush Arturo had pointed out, 15 feet in front of us. Whoa! Ryan “crushed” them (in the lingo of today’s young nature photographers) with his super-telephoto lens at point-blank range, and I got some nice shots, too. What a cool bird, and a fun way to see it—there is no replacement for local knowledge!

The rest of the day was a repeat of yesterday: Jim, Bruce, Ryan, Arturo and I walked the same steep, muddy trail deeper into the Pauxi Pauxi Reserve, hiking slowly and pausing frequently to scan for bird movement. We had another 100-species morning, and found some goodies: Sooty Ant-Tanager, Magdalena Antbird, a lovely Beautiful Woodpecker, and a Buff-rumped Warbler nest with chicks. The weather kindly held off until after dinner, when lightning split open the sky and rain came pouring through.

New birds today: 12

Year list: 1762

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