Day 5

Today was a travell day as we left El Paujil for Medellin. Departure was after breakfast, with us back onto the boat. The recent rain had swollen the river and the silt payed havoc with the outboard motor - it kept cutting out - not ideal as we had to avoid low overhanging branches and we need to turn against the current to pull up to the bank. We were safely unloaded and had travelled about 200m in the minibus before we found our first tick of the day - a Bicoloured Wren. The journey back to the main road took longer than the trip in as we had a number of stops to pick up a number of ticks, Rufescent Tiger Heron; Little Blue Heron; Amazon Kingfisher; Black-capped Donna Kebab (OK, it Donacobius); Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant; Pied Water Tyrant; Pale-legged Hornero; Bat Falcon, Grey-headed Kite; Orange-winged Parrot and Crested Bobwhites.

Onto the main road and we carried on until we crossed the Rio Magdalena. A roadside stopp just after crossing the river produced a number of new birds. White-cheeked Conebill (a much smarter looking bird in the flesh compared to the drawings in the field guides); Blue-black Grassquits, pogo'ing out of the grasses; Common Tody-Flycatcher; Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns; White-winged Swallows and Grey-breasted Martin.

The next stop was to visit the Gato del Condor caves. Yellow-rumped Caciques and Yellow-rumped Tanagers were fliting around near the parking lot as we headed down the valley. Further new birds included Lesser Kiskadee; Band-backed Wren and Wing-barred Piprites before we eventually made it to the cavern (a wrong turn set us up a different valley). Torches out and several Oilbirds were located.

The temperature had risen under clear blue skies and we were all in need of refreshment when we returned to the minibus. Beers all round at the cafe, followed by a dip in the swimming pool, much to the amusement of some local boys, helped to cool us off before we headed off for lunch just outside the Rio Clara reserve.

After lunch we avoided the Rio Clara reserve and took a side road a few hundered meter further along the main road. Two main targets were at this site, White-mantled Barbet and Beautiful Woodpecker. We had only been out of the bus for a couple minutes when we found a troop of White-handed Tamarins. Shortly afterwards a trio of the Barbets flew into a nearby tree and provided some good views. The woodpecker, however, was not as co-operative. One was calling but it took quite a bit of tracking before it was eventually found on a clear snag and proceeded to show well.

Another stop further along the road didn't produce anything new, but did provide excellent views of a trio of White-mantled Barbets excavating a nest hole. There had been some reports that this species may employ co-operative breeding, with young birds helping their parents rear the next generation. Our observation clearly showed two different birds taking turns to excavate the nest hole with a third watching.

From then it was down into Medellin, picking up Diego Calderon, head honcho at Pro Aves, Colombia's equivillant of the RSPB, who was to join us for dinner that evening.

The days total of 129 species was the highest day total of the trip and reflects the variety of habitats and altitudes visited during the transfer.

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