Saturday, 31 March 2012

More creepy crawlies

Here's the gecko. He's very quick and he eats mosquitoes, so I'm happy he's around.

This moth flew into the apartment. It looked more like a bat because of its size.

This cricket was in the reception of the hotel in San Gil we stayed in one night. His body looks like a leaf which would normally be good camouflage, but not here!

A stick insect Horse head Grasshopper (Pseudoproscopia latirostris) at the viewpoint of the Chicamocha Canyon National Park. I wish I'd had a decent close-up of the strange head. It's easy to miss interesting creatures here as they can often, at first glance, appear like something else.

Finally a colourful butterfly on a door of a colonial-style house in historic Barichara.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Colombian creepy crawlies

Moving to a tropical country brings a few surprises. Our first night in our apartment, there was a gecko above the bed. I've seen a few lizards, the best one being a green basilisk or Jesus Christ lizard about 2 feet long doing what he's famous for and walking, or rather running, across water.

On the wall outside our door was a terrific preying mantis.

Of course there are plenty of cicadas ("chicharras" in Spanish) adding to the atmosphere in the evening, but some are a little too loud!

There are some unwelcome visitors which I've not had to deal with before. Dry-wood termites have set-up a home in the bathroom door frame. They've hatched a few queens so we need to spray the other wood to prevent them spreading. We're changing the door frame of course. This is just one of the white workers.

There are an enormous number of other insect types - ants, colorful butterflies both large and small, moths including some giants with at least 25cm wingspan, plenty of large beetles, some strange bees, some small variety of which took a liking to Elena's hair in the La Flora Park which had her not a little worried!

There are not too many flies here, but sadly a few mosquitoes ("zancudos" in Spanish, not to be confused with "mosquitos" which are midges, I think). I was getting bitten at night and two of the bites reacted by swelling up. Now I'm keeping windows closed and using a mild repellent every night and that is working.

Every evening large numbers of insect-eating bats set out to feed in the surrounding trees to help clear the mosquitoes! I don't know what species they are, but I brought my bat-detector, so if I can record a sono-gram, I might have a chance to identify them. They also come to drink in the swimming-pool in the evening, and I managed a blurry shot. Being swooped-on by bats makes swimming at that time a little more interesting! I did see a huge fruit-bat too briefly. Vampire bats do live around Bucaramanga and since they spread Rabies, it pays to be a little careful.

I haven't seen any other mammals yet, except for red-tailed squirrels. Best to end with something fluffy ;-)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Birding in Bucaramanga

You might not know that Colombia has more bird species than any other country - more than 1800. Many are very colourful, but it's quite a challenge to identify them when you've never seen them before. I'm trying to take a few pictures to help. I've not really had a chance to get out of the city yet, but there's plenty to see from our apartment and in the city's parks such as Parque La Flora.

Forgive the poor image quality. I'm not much of a photographer and they were all taken with a cheap compact camera through the telescope.

These are a pair of Spectacled Parrotlets (Forpus conspicillatus). They're noisy but seem to be a very close couple.

This is a Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) a large flycatcher. There are also similar Great Kiskadees nesting nearby and making a racket - their distinctive call is "Bien-te-veo" which means "I see you well".

This is a Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus). Very bright and approachable.

And this one is one of our pair of Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima). They are also nesting in one of the palm trees near our apartment.

All the birds have names in Spanish of course, but there are many names used in different parts of Colombia for the same species, so it can be useful to know the latin versions!

I've seen plenty more birds, some of which like the Black & Turkey Vultures are very common, easy to see and simple to identify. Others like the flycatchers & swifts are harder because there are several similar ones. It seems even a small trip to somewhere new brings something different.

Will blog about the other animals I've seen later.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

View points

The mountains in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes in Colombia offer some spectacular views. On the bus from Bogotá to Bucaramanga, the Cañon del Chicamocha appeared enormous, but there was no time to stop and appreciate the full scale.

The views from our 5th floor apartment are also amazing. It's often misty so the big mountains in the background are hard to make out. I'm guessing we can see about 20km plus to the north west.

The other side looks towards the East. We can't see so far up the slope of the mountains, which I think go up about 800m, but the road to Cúcuta climbs to over 3400m within about 50km of here.

On Sunday, we went for a day out to La Mesa de Los Santos , and the Salto del Duende (Elf's waterfall). The falls didn't have much water since it's "Summer" here, but again the views were incredible. An electrical storm in the evening was also something impressive but I guess not unusual here. No doubt Colombia is rich in impressive views and I hope to get out and see more soon.