Sunday, July 5, 2020

Tweets for Tweets (2): My Favorite Bird Photos of H1 2020

I managed to sneak three birding adventures in the first half of 2020 before the Coronavirus lockdown in March.  Two were wintertime trips in New England and the third included ten days in Colombia, traveling along the Andes from Cali to Medellin.  We visited the Anchicaya Valley, the Sonso wetlands, Otun Quimbaya, Los Nevados National Park (13,500' elevation), the Reserva Ecologica Rio Blanco, Cuidad Bolivar (for a pair of Speckled Owls), Las Tangaras, and beautiful Jardin.

In all, we saw more than 400 species, most new to me. My head exploded sometime between days 6 and 7 but my fellow birders propped me up and down the mountains, clicking away.  I needed three months, our nightly bird lists, and Merlin Bird ID to identify everything stuffed into my camera.  

Below, I've chosen my favorites pictures from the Colombia trip, preceded by a handful from my H1 local activities.  (Here are my favorite bird photos from 2019.) It's worth saying that North America is down 3 billion birds since 1970, much of the loss due to habitat destruction. Two-thirds of the remaining species are threatened by climate change. Industry manages to kill more than a billion birds annually.  To add to these human-made catastrophes, the Trump administration is working to gut the100-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. If this treaty is reinterpreted as the Department of Interior would like, industry would be "freed from legal liability even if their actions result in the predictable, avoidable, and massive killing of birds." I'm hoping the string runs out before this reinterpretation is approved. 

Anyway, from New England:

It wasn't a big winter in New England for Snowy Owls, but a few graced our presence. Snowy Owls are the Beyoncé of the local birding kingdom; when one is spotted, an adoring crowd quickly assembles. 

With the exception of one good citizen, these Purple Sandpipers failed monumentally at social distancing.

This Rose-breasted Grosbeak, arrived recently from Central or South America, landed 15 feet away and posed. Very kind.

Indigo Buntings also winter in Central America and are another prize of the New England spring.

The Red-breasted Merganser must have been one of the inspirations for Dr. Suess.

This rather lean and buff Eastern Bluebird sat nicely while I walked a very long semicircle around him to get the red-leafed maple in the background.  My thanks.

A hungry Northern Harrier, suspended in mid-air.  Under such circumstances, it's good not to be a vole.

I was lucky to get a picture of this Barn Owl with daylight remaining.  I don't expect another opportunity like this, ever.

This is a Long-tailed Duck, which I included more for its story than this sighting in Boston Harbor.  The traditional name for this species is Oldsquaw. "What a marvelously insensitive, splendidly politically incorrect name," the Chicago Ornithological Society notes. "In just eight letters, it manages to insult women, the elderly, and Native Americans." So, when the "New York Times" crossword asks for an eight-letter word that is ageist, sexist, and racist--you'll know. Except for the occasional unreconstructed hunter, this species is now universally referred to as "Long-tailed Duck."

And from March 2020 in Colombia:

Usually found high in the canopy, this Rose-faced Parrot descended for a moment in search of fruit.

Smooth-billed Anis. Maybe my favorite picture of the trip.

White-whiskered Puffbird.  It's nice when a bird occasionally looks like its name.

A Masked Flowerpiercer, which I will be sure to feature in my next horror movie.

Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant. Big name, tiny bird.

Here I am at Los Nevados National Park, nearly three miles high, pretending I'm happy, cool and collected but mostly just gasping for air.  Talk less, smile more.

Plumbeous Sierra-Finch

A Shining Sunbeam.  Best name ever.

This Black-billed Mountain-Toucan was feeding her young. I got exactly one opportunity--one click--and managed to focus on the tree in front of the bird.  So, I ended up with a stuffed, plush Black-billed Mountain-Toucan.

This is a Common Potoo, a cross between an owl, a Nightjar, and a stump. Our leader, Pablo, got a tip from a friend and knew where to look; otherwise, we would never have found this perfectly disguised bird.

This Chestnut-naped Antpitta is trained to visit a feeding station.  Otherwise, this is another species nearly impossible to spot in the wild.

This is a beautiful Andean Motmot.  He landed near our jeeps and hung with us for a while.

This mighty Torrent Duck planted himself on a rock in the middle of a river and looked like he owned it all.

Green-and-black Fruiteater

Here is our Spectacled Owl.  Ebird says, "uncommon but unmistakable."

Safron-crowned Tanager. The Tanagers of Colombia are many and spectacular.

This is an Andean Cock-of-the-rock.  The name, the color, the look.  What's not to like?

A Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.  Another lucky and uncommon sighting.

Purple-bibbed Whitetip. Scarce but will visit feeders.

To close, just a few pictures of Jardin, a lovely Andean town known for its floral displays and neo-Gothic Basilica.  Rainbow included.

Our final meal in Jardin was at an excellent restaurant that specialized in Italian and Thai food.  Called Bon Appetit. Why not?


  1. What an astonishing collection of beautiful bird photos! I think you should send the Smooth-billed Anis to Hallmark to use on an Anniversary card:)

  2. I'm late coming to this, but what a treat. Plato would probably have approved of the restaurant.


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