As I type this, I am recovering from a long and arduous weekend. What was meant to be a college kid run for delicious burritos just off campus ended eight hours later after our car was in a wreck and we had to deal with everything associated therein. Luckily, all of the members of both cars were fine, and I am nothing but a little sore. Of course, the anxiety and stress that always accompanies these events is getting to me now, but when I close my eyes I can think back to my my first day in South America, and think back to another time in which I was in shock and disbelief, but for much better reasons.
It all started when Andrew and I headed to one of the nearby squares for breakfast. I quickly saw my first South American species of bird: the Rufous-collared Sparrow. This ubiquitous bird was utterly fascinating to me, the lone member of its genus found south of the Mexico. Even though they were by many standards 'trash birds,' I never tired of watching these cool little sparrows hopping about the streets and yards.
Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis), El Parque La Florida, Bogota, Colombia
As we continued onward towards our destination, every bird that crossed our path was a life bird! A flock of Brown-bellied Swallows cruising overhead, a Great Thrush darting through the trees, and a dumpy Eared Dove sitting on the wire. Andrew and I soon decided to head out to one of the city parks to bird for a bit: El Parque La Florida.
After an extremely long taxi ride across the city, we finally arrived at the wastewater reclamation area and city park known as La Florida. This place seemed amazingly mediocre to me, just like a North American city park to me at first, but the birdlife did not disappoint. American Coots and Spot-flanked Gallinules cruised the lake, while Common Moorhens, Eared Doves, and Rufous-collared Sparrows made themselves known. As we walked along the marsh grasses unsuccessfully trying to find a close Apolinar's Wren I spotted my first ever neotropical tanager - a Rufous-browed Conebill, a near endemic bird to Colombia! Even Andrew got a life bird (spotted by yours truly) that day - a Subtropical Doradito skulking in the bullrush. However, my most wanted bird of the day did not appear until the very end: the rare, endangered, and localized Bogota Rail. As we walked out of the park (having only heard the rail), we found one last patch of rush to try for the rail. Yellow-hooded Blackbird and Spot-flanked Gallinule quickly vacated the area, and not long after out came a Bogota Rail!
Bogota Rail (Rallus semiplumbeus), El Parque La Florida, Bogota, Colombia.
Overall, it was an amazing introduction to the neotropics, and an excellent start at that! In fact, I never saw another rail on the entire trip. Now, armed with my very first neotropical bird experiences, I began to gear up for the rest of my Colombian adventure, and wondered just what lay ahead of me.