Day 87: Of Birds and Bats

A cave exploration brings a chance encounter with some other winged creatures.

March 28, 2015, Bogota, Colombia — Up at 3:30 a.m. to beat the Bogota traffic. Juan Pablo, Giovanni and I decided on a longer day trip to a place called Mana Dulce, in the lowlands of the Magdalena Valley. A new driver named Juan Carlos swapped in today, and we arrived at Mana Dulce (so named because it was once thought to have healing waters, and became a longstanding leper colony) just after dawn.

The forest in the Magdalena Valley is much different than what I’ve experienced over the past several days. It is dry, hot, dusty, and thorny, and there is a type of vine-like cactus that climbs trees. The birds are different, too: I had my first taste of lowland species in this region, with my inaugural Crested Caracaras, Whooping (Blue-crowned) Motmots, Lance-tailed Manakins, and Jet Antbirds, which will stay with me through Central America. We spent the morning at a small private reserve, sweating in 85-degree heat.

When we happened across a small cave next to a stream in the forest, Giovanni went in to explore. “There’s bats in here!” he called out, and Juan Pablo and I stepped inside. Clumps of fruit bats were dangling upside-down from the walls, and, in a crevice overhead, Giovanni found a sizable colony of vampire bats (recognizable by their piglike noses and impressively sharp teeth). The bats screamed and grimaced at us like little trolls as we snapped a few photos.

In the evening, with well-wishes, the Bogota birders dropped me at a hotel near the airport, where I met up with Jim, Ryan, and Bruce again. We had time to swap a few stories from the past several days (they’ve been at a reserve called El Paujil while I’ve been birding around Bogota) before Ryan and Bruce took a late flight to the U.S. Jim and I are splitting a room tonight before we fly our separate ways in the morning. For me, the endemic-rich Santa Marta range awaits tomorrow!

New birds today: 9

Year list: 1821

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