We took a trip to the excellent Proaves Reserva Reinita Cielo Azul near San Vincente de Chucuri in Santander. The drive from Bucaramanga to San Vincente (3 hours) is long and tiring but the scenery is very interesting. On the way we saw some kind of stoat or weasel (probably a Long-tailed Weasel) and what I think was a Grey Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) also crossing the road.
Proaves is a Colombian NGO dedicated to the study and conservation of birds. They set up this reserve to help protect the migrant Cerulean Warbler (Reinita Cielo Azul, Setophaga cerulea) a bird of the Andes which breeds in Eastern North America. The reserves visitor's centre is a 5km drive up a very rough, and in parts very steep, track from San Vincente, but it was worth the drive.
The vistor's centre is surrounded by coffee, cocao and banana plantations and has many feeders, including numerous hummingbird and fruit feeders. They attract orioles & lots of tanagers including this Lemon-rumped Tanager (Ramphocelus icteronotus).
Although I didn't see any of the real rarities of the reserve, I did see two new species here including Yellow-backed Oriole (Icterus chrysater) and Green Hermit (Phaethornis guy). The hummingbird feeders attract many Indigo-capped, Rufous-tailed, Black-throated Mango and White-necked Jacobins all of which are frequent on our balcony feeder at home. They also get Brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae) like this one below.
There are many Andean Emerald (Amazilia franciae) which seem to be very common in parts of Santander, but I've never seen one at our home feeder.
There was also this superb little lizard posing on the Proaves sign.
The walk up from the visitors centre to the forest reserve follows the old Lenguerke trail which leads to Zapatoca. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the reserve with not so much to see as it is mostly open grazing. I did notice these Cattle Tyrants (Machetornis rixosa). They're common but I've not seen them doing this before!
The reserve is thickly forested and, except for the birds, it is
very quiet. There reserve is inside the Yariguíes National Park. It seems to be alive with the buzzing of hummingbirds. Elena and I were both delighted to see a Black Inca (Coeligena prunellei) at very close quarters. This vulnerable but distinctive hummer is endemic to Colombia and restricted to the Eastern Andes (and Yariguíes). We were told that a few years ago they were not often seen, but now, with feeders placed at lower part of the reserve, they are seen quite frequently here.
I'm not used to neotropical birding in such a place and without knowing many of the bird calls, it is tough to identify species I've not seen before. I did manage to add distinctive Green Jay (Cyanocorax yncas) and Ornate Flycatcher (Myiotriccus ornatus) to my list. There were many other probables / possibles too, but I don't like to add things to my list until I can be sure I can ID them correctly myself.
In the forest are many butterflies, grasshoppers and this dragonfly/large damselfly.
Sadly we had all to little time in the reserve and we had to go before dusk at 5.30 pm. On our way out, Carlos, one of the guides from San Vincente, kindly showed us a nearby location for the endangered endemic Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia castaneiventris). Apparently there are only 3 or so around this area, and as they are much easier to see in the morning, we'll have to return another day for this one.