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DAYS 7 to 10 - PARQUE


We spent the night in Manzinales and left early in the morning for the long drive to Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá where we would stay inside the park at the Eco Lodge Montezuma.  


The park is 519 square km in the western Andes located within the Chocó department.  It is an area of unspoiled biodiversity and one of the greatest birding destinations in the world.  More than 500 species of birds call this area home, as well as more than 700 species of butterflies.  Numerous endemics can be found on Montezuma Road, the only road in and out of the park.

Photo from Eco Lodge Montezuma's website
Juvenile Male Violet-tailed Sylph

Eco Lodge Montezuma has so many hummingbirds feeding on their flowers and at their feeders that you almost don't know where to point your camera.  We starting photographing, but soon the skies opened up and it began raining heavily.

The area with the hummingbird feeders is next to a covered porch where the meals are served at the lodge.  In this area we were protected from the rain and we had a wonderful view of many of the hummers taking advantage of the downpour to bathe.

Rufous-gaped Hillstar
William Orellana's video of the bathing hummers
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The next morning we found an area where a little Western Emerald was feeding and perching.  We also photographed more of the hummers that frequented the area around the patio.

Western Emerald
Purple-throated Woodstar
tawny-bellied hermit
Purple-bibbed Whitetip
Rufous-Gaped Hillstar
Empress Brilliant Female
Andean Emerald

After lunch we set up a feeder in an area away from the others and surrounded it by flowers that we picked and mounted nearby.  Then we used a needle and syringe to fill the flowers with sugar water.  This photography trick is known as "flower-doping" and is often used to photograph the birds feeding against better backgrounds.  We got pretty good results, as you can see.

Juvenile Male Green-crowned Brilliant
Brown Inca
Green-crowned Brilliant
Juvenile Male Violet-tailed Sylph

Because of the different elevations in Tatáma National Park, the variety of birds that live here here is incredible.  Montezuma Road is the only road up to Cerro Montezuma.  This road is famous as a place where birders can easily see 100 different species in a day including eleven endemics.  And that merely scratches the surface of what is there.  

The road is quite rough and portions of it frequently wash away in the rains.  The road climbs in elevation from the Lodge at 1300 meters up to a small military base at the top of Cerro Montezuma at 2300 meters.

Did I say the road was rough?  I couldn't resist taking a video of what itis like to travel ten km all the way to the top. 

Collared Inca

Next morning we drove to the top of Cerro Montezuma to search for our main target, the Dusky Starfrontlet.  This hummingbird is on the IUCN Red List as a Critically Endangered species, and this is one of only two tiny areas where it can be seen.  We spent two days up here.

Gleison Fernando Guarin Largo maintains some feeders in this area for the various hummingbirds and the Dusky Starfrontlet has been known to visit them.  We thought one appeared very briefly but did not come to a feeder.

The Collared Incas, Empress Brilliants, Tourmaline Sunangels, Buff-tailed Coronets and Violet-tailed Sylphs were numerous.

Empress Brilliant

Even though we did not get to photograph a Dusky Starfrontlet, we did find a rather unusual "one-of-a-kind" hummer.  We knew something was different about this bird, and the more pictures we took of it and the more we studied it, we knew it had to be a hybrid.  I sent pictures to Sheri L. Williamson, an ornithologist and the author of the Pederson Guide to Hummingbirds of North America.  She helped us ID it as a probable Buff-tailed Coronet x Empress Brilliant hybrid. 

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The clouds lifted at the top of Montezuma Road for a brief period so we could see the incredible view.
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They shoot with guns and I shoot with a camera.  Two men from the Colombian military stopped for a picture.
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