Day 94: Birding at the Country Club

Noah falls in with the Cali birding crowd.

April 4, 2015, Cali, Colombia — A birder in Cali named Chris Calonje picked me up at the airport last night and I crashed on his apartment floor. Early today, we met up with Jose Luna, another local bird lover. The three of us will spend the next nine days birding in Colombia’s west Andes, accompanied by various others as the week progresses.

We were joined today by a couple of keen birders also from Cali, a retired cardiologist named Juan Jose and his wife, Anabel, who is a transplant surgeon. Juan Jose has an interesting story: Several years ago, he was kidnapped with some friends during an ultralight aircraft expedition (one of his many hobbies) and spent five months as a prisoner of the guerrillas before negotiating a ransom. Around the same time, he survived a bout with cancer. These things helped him decide to retire from cardiology, after writing a successful textbook and online instruction series, and focus on bird photography. Juan Jose now has one of the best collections of Colombian bird photographs available (check ‘em out at

The five of us spent the morning at a forest near Cali called “kilometer 18,” doing some target birding for my big year. We found some good stuff: Crested Quetzal, Blue-headed Sapphire, and the beautiful, endemic Multicolored Tanager. For lunch, Juan Jose and Anabel treated us at the sprawling Cali Country Club, then we spent the afternoon birding a private forest on the club’s property. Pretty swanky! It’s oddly natural on this adventure to go from bare-mattress digs to four-star meals and back. Birds certainly unite all kinds of people.

New birds today: 9

Year list: 1924

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