Day 88: Chance Encounters

On Colombia’s Caribbean coast Noah realizes he's become a minor celebrity.

March 29, 2015, Minca, Colombia — A quick morning flight lifted me from the crowded streets of Bogota and touched down in the Caribbean beach town of Santa Marta, on Colombia’s northeast seashore. As the plane landed, Santa Marta’s palm trees, sunshine, and blue coastline beckoned like a tropical paradise—at least compared to the wet cloud forest where I have spent so much time lately!

A local birder named Lorenzo Bautista met me, and I liked him instantly: He’s soft-spoken, passionate about birds, and comes from a farm near Santa Marta. Lorenzo got interested in birds a few years ago while working as a park guard at the El Dorado reserve (where we will go tomorrow), and now spends his time watching birds and visiting local schools to educate kids about conservation. I’ll hang out with him for a couple of days on his home turf, which happens to be one of the most endemic-rich areas in the world.

We drove to the tiny village of Minca today, in the dry, bamboo-shrouded foothills above Santa Marta, and spent the afternoon birding on foot around town (my highlight was an endemic Golden-winged Sparrow on a fruit feeder). When Lorenzo and I arrived at the Minca Hotel, there were five people in the lobby and, weirdly, four of them independently recognized me: A woman named Lisa who saw me give a talk last year in Alaska; her bird guide named Gustavo who I met a couple of years ago at an event in Peru; a birder named Juan who lives in Cali (and works with The Colombian Project) who helped me plan my stay in Bogota last week; and a local birder named Ricardo with whom I will spend a couple of days later this week. They knew about this blog and have been following the adventure. It’s a small world!

New birds today: 12

Year list: 1835

Editor's Note: Noah is at the San Lorenzo Biological Station for the next few nights, without Internet. We'll update the blog as soon as we hear from him!

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