Day 98: Old Man of the Cerro

Birding in the West Andes.

April 8, 2015, Montezuma Reserve, Colombia — Among birders, Montezuma has become famous in the past several years as one Colombia’s best birding spots, mostly because of a dirt road that ascends through Tatama National Park. This road starts at 1200 meters and ends 12 kilometers later at a radio tower just above treeline, at 2500 meters, passing through pristine cloud forest along the way. 

The road is quite rough, and, to be at its upper end at dawn, Chris, Jose, Dave, Jeff, and I, along with a local guide named Fernando, left Montezuma Lodge just after 4:00 this morning, packed into the back of an open-air modified Land Cruiser. Shortly after we set off, the skies opened and our predawn ride was kind of wild with rain, wind, and lightning flashes. When we arrived at the radio tower, a steady, cold drizzle had set in and the mountain was socked in mist—not exactly an auspicious sunrise.

Nevertheless, fortified by umbrellas, we soon found some good birds in the rain: Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercers, Munchique Wood-Wrens, and Purplish-mantled Tanagers. The drizzle eventually slacked off around 10:00 a.m., exposing the surrounding peaks of Cerro Tatama which, according to Chris, have never been climbed. Who knows what might be up there? From a distance, the Cerro resembles an old man lying comfortably on his back with hands folded over his stomach; he is said to protect the surrounding watersheds, so maybe it’s best to let him sleep.

New birds today: 6

Year list: 1952

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