Colombia July-September 2010

Colombia Aug/Sept 2010

This trip is going to be split into 2 parts w/2 sets of participants.

The 1st part is mostly in the eastern andes with Mike Chapman, Deborah Galloway and Sherry Nelson.

The 2nd part is out of Medellin and the central andes w/Richard Lindstrom, Shirley Sekarajasingham and Fred Heath.

Guide – Pablo Florez

Fri July 30 – I flew to Miami, spent the night at the Comfort Inn and Suites near the airport, $98

Sat July 31 – met Mike Chapman at the airport and we flew to Bogota, 2 nights at Casona del Patio, $58/single

Sun Aug 1 – day trip to La Vega, Laguna de Tabacal 1400m & hummingbird garden 1500m

Mon Aug 2 – drive to El Silencio 3 nights 2700m

Tues/Wed Aug 3/4 – walk trails at El Silencio

Thur Aug 5 – drive to La Mesa and walk road at Pedro Palo 2100m, 1 night in La Mesa

Fri Aug 6 – work Pedro Palo road again and lower part 1600m, drive back to Bogota 2 nights

Sat Aug 7 – day trip to Bio Andino 3000m east slope and 3500m pass paramo

Sun Aug 8 – drive to Monterredondo for the day, 1900-2100m, and onto Villavicencio for 2 nights at the Travel Blue hotel.

Mon Aug 9 – Bosque Bavaria 10 minutes outside Villavicencio, 1100m walk down to 750m

Tue Aug 10 – fly to Macarena for 4 nights at La Cascada Hotel, Cano Cristales, 500 meters

Wed/Thur/Fri Aug 11/12/13 – explore Cano Cristales

Sat Aug 14 – fly back to Villavicencio for 3 nights

Sun Aug 15 – Buenavista at 1400-1500m, change hotels for next 2 nights

Mon Aug 16 – Buenavista in the morning, then lower Bosque Bavaria in the afternoon

Tue Aug 17 – leave Villavicencio, stop at Monterredondo for the day, then onto Bogota 1 night

Wed Aug 18 – take the bus to Rogitama for 3 nights w/Mike, Deb & Sherry fly back to the US

Thu/Fri Aug 19/20 – explore Rogitama gardens and trails, 2600 meters

Sat Aug 21 – get a ride to Tunja, catch the bus back to Bogota, I fly to Medellin to the Casa Asturias, Mike goes back to the US after a night in Bogota. This is the end of the first trip.

Sun Aug 22 – Richard and Shirley join me go to La Romera, road above Medellin, w/Juan Guillermo

Mon Aug 23 – drive to Piha reserve at 1400m for 4 nights, stop at Oficina de Tablon 850m

Tue/Wed/Thur Aug 24/25/26 – explore trails and road at ProAves Piha reserve

Fri Aug 27 – driver takes us back to Medellin, 4 hours, to Hotel Casa Asturias for 3 nights

Sat Aug 28 – day trip to Humidal de Bramadora, 500 meters near Sopetran northwest of Medellin w/Juan G and friends

Sun Aug 29 – day trip to La Romera

Mon Aug 30 – early departure to Rio Claro for 3 nights, walk road to Cocorna

Tue/Wed Aug 31/Sep 1 – trails at Rio Claro

Thur Sep 2 –  6 hour drive to Jardin for 3 nights at Hacienda Balendu, eastern slope of western andes, cross the cauca river. 1750 meters, José Castaño as guide in Jardin

Fri Sep 3 – go up the mountain to 2900 meters

Sat Sep 4 – down to Monserrate Road below Jardin, 1700 meters

Sun Sep 5 – leave at 6am, meet Pablo at Jerico, 2 nights in Manizales at Casa Galvez

Mon Sep 6 – to the high paramo for bearded helmetcrest hummer at Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados above Manizales, 4000m
Tue/Wed Sep 7/8 – drive to Rio Blanco for 2 nights, cool and rainy 2400-2700m

Thu Sep 9 – drive to Montezuma for 3 nights, 1400m, western slope western andes

Fri/Sat Sep 10/11 – explore road and trails at Montezuma, 1400-2000m

Sun Sep 12 – morning at Montezuma below the farmhouse, then drive to Otun above Pereira for 3 nights, 1900m back to the central andes, west slope

Mon/Tue Sep 13/14 – walk the road and trails at Otun

Wed Sep 15 – morning at Otun, then fly from Pereira to Bogota to Santa Marta, 1 night at Minca at Sierra’s Sound Hostal

Thur Sep 16 – drive up the rough road to El Dorado, ProAves reserve for 3 nights, 1900m

Fri Sep 17 – drive up to 2600 meters for the morning

Sat Sep 18 – walk the road and gardens around lodge

Sun Sep 19 – morning at El Dorado, drive back to Minca for the night

Mon Sep 20 – drive to Guiara Pennisula for the night in Riohacha at Barbocoa Hotel

Tue Sep 21 – back to Santa Marta, fly to Bogota for last night in Casona del Patio

Wed Sep 22 – fly back to the US

Sat July 31 – arrived in Bogota about 1pm, Pablo’s ‘trusted driver’ was waiting for us outside with our names on a sign. We hit the Davivienda atm right in front of the airport and got 720,000 Colombian pesos, about $350. There’s also Bancolombia, but it only gives 400,000 COP, while Davivienda gives 720,000. The current exchange is about 1850 pesos/$1, so I use 2000/1 in my head. 35,000 for the transfer, or about $17.

We’re staying at a nice little hotel, Casona del Patio, in a pretty yellow building around a little patio. Mike took off for the Gold Museum, which is well worth your time, but I’m staying in the room.

We didn’t get into our rooms until 2:30pm, and I didn’t feel like fighting the traffic. Plus it’s raining and quite cool, only about 55F. We see the standard rufous-collared sparrows and some great thrushes on the rooftops.

Sun Aug 1 – 6am pickup by Manuel, a bird guide friend of Pablo’s, who’s taking us to La Vega for the day. It’s about an hour and a half drive, and we stop for breakfast at a little roadside restaurant for coffee and arepas, tasty corn fat sweet tortillas.

We turn off the main road at La Vega on a sort of paved 7 km steep road signed to Laguna de Tabacal. Up at the top we park, pay our entrance fee and walk in.

Almost immediately we see some Sarota metalmarks chasing each other and landing on big heliconia leaves. Unfortunately the leaves are above our heads, so it’s impossible to see the undersides of the butterflies. It’s cool and cloudy, about 8am, and they are spreading out to bask, in between attacking each other.

Tromping around in the wet grass stirs up lots of very fresh Trailside Skippers and a few other goodies. We finally head up the trail which looks great for butterflies. Lots of flowers and open areas but nice trees and bamboo along a stream. As usual on a cool wet morning we don’t see tons of stuff, but what we see is more concerned with warming up, so they’re basking and posing for photos. We get several satyrs, good dorsals of Pareuptychia ocirrhoe and others, Eresia polina found by Mike, one of the purple Eyemarks, several red Rayed Longwings and a great Dismorphia. We chase some birds, getting nice looks at velvet-fronted euphonia.

As we walked to the end of the trail that overlooks the lake, we found several bushes that were attracting clearwings, and there were at least 4 species, 2 clear ones and 2 tigerwings, 1 was Ithomia iphanassa and the other 1 similar but a different black pattern on the forewing.

As we were photographing them, it started to rain, and got steadily harder, until we had to quit. By the time we made it back to the car it was really starting to come down, and it just got heavier the rest of the day, so it was a good thing we left.

We then drove to San Francisco, where we had lunch at a new Spanish restaurant and had good paella, then went to the Jardin Encantado,

This is a private home where they have been feeding hummingbirds for 11 years, but only in the last year opened it to the public. It cost 12,000 COP/person, or about $US6. In a small space, about 10-12’wide and maybe 50’ long, they had over 30 hummingbird feeders overlooking a ravine, and there must have been a couple of zillion hummers.

I’ve never seen so many black-throated mangos, males and females, as well as at least a dozen more species. The woman told us she had had 26 species in total. Some of them were white-bellied and gorgeted woodstars, several violetears, indigo-capped hummers (an endemic), lots of rufous-tailed, green hermit, white-necked Jacobin, and a lifer for me – Lazuline Saberwing.

We finally left, drove back to Bogota and met Debbie and Sherry for dinner at Crepes y Wafles. This is a great chain restaurant found in major Latin cities that I highly recommend. They have both savory (meat, chicken, veggie, cheese) crepes and killer dessert crepes, so go hungry.

Later that night we met Pablo Flores, who has organized the trip for us and will be traveling w/us most of the time. He lives in Medellin and had just flown in for our trip. This is my 3rd trip using Pablo, and he’s a great birding guide, and very patient w/our hunting for butterflies. The advantage of being w/a birder is when we get cloudy drizzly weather, which is common in the andes, we can always look for birds. He has tapes and knows most of the calls, and is a very good bird guide, plus he’s a really nice guy.

Mon Aug 2 – after breakfast at the hotel we drive to El Silencio for the next 3 nights. We head northwest on the main road to Medellin, then turn off to Subachoque, where Claudia the owner meets us to lead us in. This is a private dairy farm about 2700 meters on the east slope of the Magdalena Valley, or the west slope of the eastern andes.

The andes split into 3 chains in Colombia, with 2 major valleys in between, which is what leads to the tremendous diversity in Colombia. When we get to El Silencio, only about 1.5 hours from Bogota, we find a charming simple little place that has 3 rooms in a row and a kitchen w/a dining table, and 2 women who will be cooking for us.

Lunch is tasty, chicken in rice w/lots of vegetables, great fresh tomatoes in herbs, much more than we can eat but we manage. We walk down the road which turns into forest very quickly. It is a somewhat steep muddy rocky road, and we spend several hours going slowly downhill, from about 9:30am to 1pm when we get back for lunch. We see several satyrs, lots of Pedaliodes and an obliging Manerebia rubescens.

We see some great birds, starting w/chestnut-crowned antpitta that Pablo tapes in very close, posing and singing nicely. We find a couple of flocks with flowerpiercers, scarlet-bellied mountain-tanagers, white-throated tyrannulets, and my favorite, a brilliant grass-green tanager right in front of us.

After lunch we walk the opposite direction, back the way we drove in, to the owner’s beautiful home, which they use as a weekend place. We spend time on their back porch which has a wonderful view and a nice garden with some fuschias flowering that the hummers are coming to. Woodstars and violetears back there, then Pablo sees a black-tailed trainbearer in the front of the house, where there is a big hedge of small pink flowers that the hummers like. We spend time hanging around and see tyrian metaltail coming in several times.

We take a different way back which is more in forest and see more flocks, including one of my favorites, pearled treerunner, plus a nice selection of high elevation birds. Back for complimentary malbac wine while we sit outside doing our bird list, then a tasty dinner in the cozy kitchen heated by a wood burning stove. Life is good. We even have very hot water showers.

Tues Aug 3 – We planned to get out early and hike down the steep road, but it was raining after breakfast and quite chilly, so we got the people to give us a ride to another family house a couple of miles down the valley, about 150 meters lower. This is next to an old oak forest w/beautiful trees, and the family there has collected about 80+ species of orchids. Unfortunately not many of them were blooming, but it was fun to explore around there, and we saw a few new birds. Great looks at long-tailed sylph and golden-bellied starfrontlet, a new one for me.

Sherry had one of the stinging bright green io moth caterpillars fall on her from a tree and stung her arm. It swelled up immediately but then fortunately backed off, and after a couple of hours you couldn’t even see it. The forest looked really good, but we didn’t see much, and almost no butterflies. This could have been because it stayed cold all morning, in the 50’s, and frequent drizzles.

It finally warmed up a bit by lunch, and afterwards we went back down the steep trail and saw several new satyrs. At least 2 new Pedaliodes and the very pretty rufous Lymanopoda obsolete w/pinkish bands on the ventral. I’ve seen this one before in Colombia at Rio Blanco. We came back about 5pm, but Pablo stayed out and saw black-billed mountain toucan and red-crested cotinga, so we’re heading back down tomorrow morning.

Wed Aug 4 – more drizzles this morning, but looking out from the porch we can see across to the central andes and snow covered peaks. The central andes are the highest of the 3 chains. It’s sunny out there, so hopefully our clouds will move away later today.

After breakfast we head back down the steep trail, and the sun comes out and it’s a beautiful morning, and there are lots of butterflies. Mostly high elevation satyrs, but a great selection, and we take tons of photos. We walk down maybe 200 meters in elevation, and find more stuff as we get a bit lower, and it gets warmer.

Mid morning we have to step aside for a herd of cows being moved to a lower pasture, and they don’t want to pass us, so a few stragglers get left behind. One cow in particular hangs back and keeps sneaking up on us, then turns and runs back. We finally get her to pass us, so we can go back and forth on the trail chasing butterflies. We have many new satyrs for our trip, and most are quite fresh. Mike finds a couple of different skippers, and there are many that get away. None of the Leptophobia will stop for pictures, but due to all the fresh cow poop on the trail many of the satyrs are at our feet and happy to pose. At least 4 species of Pedalioides, Corades chelonis, Lasiophila prosymna, Lymanopoda obsoleta – with the pink bands below, Pronophila orcus, and several others we’ll have to figure out later.

The sun comes and goes all day, but stays out until 5 or later, so it’s a wonderful day. Because we’re on the west side of the mountain it takes longer for the sun to get on the trail, but once it’s out for a while, even if the fog comes in again (which it does several times) the butterflies stay active. I think if it’s cool and drizzly all morning the butterflies don’t ever come up from where they’ve snugged in for the previous night.

Thur Aug 5 – our driver comes for us and we leave at 7am to drive back towards Bogota and to the southwest, to La Mesa. We are stuck in heavy traffic w/lots of trucks, and realize we should have left earlier, maybe at 5am, to avoid some of the traffic. Pablo usually leaves early, but he has bird groups, and our butterfly group isn’t as hard core. Anyway, what normally takes him an hour and a half takes us over 2 hours, but we’re still in the field walking the road by 9:30 or so.

We turn off the main road up to the right on a paved cement road, right past a tasty restaurant El Rancho de Jario, where we have a late lunch afterward.  We get out of the van after driving up 10-15 minutes and immediately see new butterflies. Marpesia corinna males and a white banded female are nectaring on a nearby bush, similar to cordia flowers, along w/waiter daggerwings, M.zernythia.

As we walk the road we see lots of new stuff. One of the most exciting is one we don’t get shots of, Cybdelis mnasylus, a beautiful purple spotted nymphalid. We walk in about a km and find some great stands of white flowers that the clearwings are coming to, and get many new species. The common pattern here seems to be the transparent amber ones, like Dircenna, and we get probably half a dozen variations. We get good shots of our first hairstreak, Theritas mavors, in the parking lot of the restaurant after lunch.

We also see a bunch of birds, everyone’s favorite is the black inca.

After lunch we drive down to through the small town of Tena, to a bridge and an old trail paved w/large stones that goes up to the left, about 1600-1700 meters. This is called Salto de Tambo, and we find out from a local the road is from colonial times, probably 150 years ago. Here we find lots of a new dartwhite or Catasticta, and Deb gets some shots of it. I try to catch it to shoot the dorsal, but no luck. This looks like a good butterfly spot, but it’s now 4:30pm and overcast, so we don’t see much, but some new sulphurs.

More new birds, as I find Colombian wren.

We drive on to the town of La Mesa where there are a couple of hotels. Pablo has reservations at one but we don’t like it and go to another. His original is El Recreo, but it is dark, smelly and has a noisy barking dog in the courtyard. We find the Santa Barbara Hotel which is new and much nicer, even if it is on the street. I have a room overlooking the street, but it quiets down nicely about 8:30pm. No a/c or hot water, but they do have a nice fan, and it’s fine.

Fri Aug 6 – back to El Rancho de Jairo for breakfast, they open at 7am, then back up the road towards the laguna at Pedro Palo. We have to hunt for the turquoise dacnis, the speciality bird here, but we manage to see it several times, always at the top of the tree so we don’t get killer views. This is a good birding place, we’re constantly serenaded by yellow-backed orioles and lots of black-capped tanagers.

Today we walk in another km past the white flowers, where the road gets too muddy and we leave the van. We walk down towards the laguna seeing many birds in the melastoma which are fruiting, but few butterflies because it’s overcast. Nothing on the white flowers today.

After several hours we decide to go back to Salto de Dambo, as it might be warmer lower down, and we strike it rich there. The sun comes out and we spend another several hours chasing bugs, skipping lunch and starving poor Pablo and the driver. We need to carry lunch stuff w/us, even tuna or peanut butter and crackers, because when the sun does come out you don’t want to waste prime butterfly time sitting in a restaurant somewhere.

We see many hairstreaks, Mike seems to have a knack for finding them. He gets the big damo, silver-banded, fine-lined stripestreak, and lots of garden skippers, like glassy-winged, Xenophanes tryxus and Pompeius pompeius. I catch a new Mimoides swallowtail, our first swallowtail, and there are Pink-checked Cattlehearts, Parides xxx. Lots of butterflies, totally different range of species than the higher spot just 400-500 meters higher up the hill.

Interesting that yesterday the higher spot was better, and today the lower spot was the hot location. We then drive 2 hours back to our hotel in Bogota. We can’t get a taxi for Crepes y Wafles, it’s Friday night and it looks like everyone is out on the streets as we drive in through horrendous traffic. Even the hotel desk can’t get through to the taxi place, so we walk to Wok where we get delicious sandwiches and stir fry.

Sat Aug 7 – 5:30am departure for an hour drive east to Guasca for breakfast at a simple bakery, then an hour more towards Chingaza National Park up at 3000 meters. We turn off to yet another slow dirt road and walk along, finding 3 great birds right away. Mattoral tapaculo responds to Pablo’s tape and we get to see a mythical tapaculo actually singing not 5’ from us. Then we find a pair of black-billed mountain-tanagers that pose nicely for photos, and then several groups of brown-breasted or flame-winged parakeets fly around and perch several times for more photos.

Then the sun breaks through briefly and we see lots of 2 new species of satyrs, probably both Pedaliodes. One with beautiful orange bands on the dorsals of both wings, and a bigger one with bright rufous on the ventral hindwing. I chase them back and forth through a barbwire fence, becoming adept at slithering through the strands, and Mike gets good shots from the road. We eventually get good shots, and the bigger one poses nicely on Mike’s camera and his hand, sucking up sweat. We also see a big Lasiophila, which I get to shoot in the hand when it tries to hide in some bamboo when it starts to rain.

So we have a great day in the higher elevations, also finding a few new hummers including coppery-breasted puffleg and amethyst-throated sunangel, both new for me. Pablo was hoping for blue-throated starfrontlet, but the flowers weren’t right.

On our way back we stop at a high pass about 3500 meters and get out to look for hummers coming to the special Espeletia plant, an amazing composite that looks like an agave. It only grows in the paramo, above the tree line, in Colombia and a bit of Venezuela. It’s taller than Pablo, and the hummers love it. I’ve never seen hummers come to composites before, but many things are new here. Pablo has seen the bronze-tailed thornbill here, but not today.

We finish our day by stopping at a marsh near Bogota where Pablo finds us Bogota rail, and noble snipe, 2 more new ones for me. Not bad for a butterfly trip.

Sun Aug 8 – we leave Bogota and drive east again 2 hours to Monterredondo for the day then another hour to Villavicencio for 2 nights. This is on the eastern slope at a lower elevation about 600-700 meters.  We turn off the main highway at the small town of Monterredondo about 1400 meters then climb a steep rocky road to about 1900, where we have to park and walk from there.

We climb another 200 meters slowly over the morning, seeing lots of new butterflies who are zipping by up and down the hill and not stopping at all. There are 2 species of Panacea, the one I know with the bright red ventral hindwing, Panacea prola, and a new one that is dark below. It’s frustrating as they don’t even perch anywhere to allow you to check them out w/your binos, but finally Pablo scores with a great dorsal, and Deb gets a good ventral. That’s why it’s nice to have a number of photographers along. I never even get a look at one. More different satyrs, a couple more new Pedaliodes and a darker Pronophila that Deb gets good shots of. We get a fabulous new brushfinch, the Ochre-breasted, bright orange head and breast, a truly beautiful bird, probably the prettiest brushfinch I’ve ever seen. Pablo is looking for Cundinamarca antpitta, which they usually find a bit higher on this road, but he only hears it distantly.

We’re probably going to stop here on our way back to Bogota next week and rent a jeep to drive us higher up on the road. There is a major landslide between here and Bogota, which has been opened a bit for one lane traffic. It just happened about 2 weeks ago, good thing we’re here in August and not July. Apparently the rains were very heavy this July.

We get to Villavicencio about 5pm, which is kind of a grotty lowland town, and find our hotel the Travel Blue. Our rooms are right over the noisy street, and seeing as the hotel is empty we bitch and snivel and finally get the clerk to let us switch to the back side of the hotel. I don’t know why she was giving us those not nice rooms, when much better ones were open. But we get rooms at last where we can get a decent night’s sleep. She was telling us the rooms on the back side were all 3 and 4 beds, so more expensive, but when we got her to open them for our inspection, surprise only 1 bed. We eat dinner at the Chinese restaurant right next door which is a bit pricey but very tasty.

Mon Aug 9 – take a jeep about 10 minutes to the good birding habitat, where we have the jeep driver take us up about 400 meters on a steep rocky road to the Orange-breasted Falcon reserve by ProAves. ProAves has bought land and set up about a dozen reserves around Colombia, and they are doing a fabulous job of conservation. Several of their reserves now have simple lodges where you can stay, we will be visiting a couple of them on the 2nd trip. This reserve doesn’t have any place to stay, it’s just land they have set aside.

We get out of the jeep about 1100-1150 meters and start exploring. This area is called Bosque Bavaria. The name Bosque Bavaria means the forest next to the beer distillery, which owns a big chunk of forest for their water supply. We spend several hours just at this spot and a couple of hundred meters up the road before slowly walking back down the road, photographing all the way.

We see lots of butterflies, including lots of the Panacea prola but none of the new Panacea from yesterday. Lots of Heliconius and lower elevation satyrs and some new Riodinids, including the great Lyropteryx apollonia metalmark. There were also lots of Ithomiinae, mostly tigerwings. I shot several new species, big ones like Melinaea and little Hypothyris, and several in between. The pattern here appears to be much blacker than in other places I’ve seen. The hindwings are often almost all black, maybe an orange trim, very beautiful. It will be fun sorting them all out when I get home. We don’t see tons of birds as we’re concentrating on butterflies, but a moustached puffbird can’t be ignored, and paradise tanagers are always appreciated.

Tue Aug 10 – we spend a few hours back at the lower part of the Bosque Bavaria road, then fly to  Macarena to the south, about an hour on a great old DC3. It has jump seats on the sides and is carrying mostly freight, including a motocycle right in front of Sherry and me.

The plane must be older than I am, but lots of fun. Then they unload the luggage using a horse drawn wagon, great for photos. The guy from the hotel meets us at the airport and we walk a couple of blocks to our home for the next 4 nights, the simple but friendly Las Cascades.

We’re going to be exploring Cano Cristales, a beautiful clear stream that is lined with colorful mosses. The first afternoon we take a ride on an open narrow wooden boat on the good sized river, Rio Guayabero. We get caught in a good squall, so we dash upriver to a house we hide out in while the storm blows over. In an hour we’re back on the river, seeing all sorts of gallery forest birds like hoatzin, capped heron, great ani and several macaws. Tomorrow we’re off to Cristales.

Wed Aug 11 – We take the boat again for about 10 minutes upriver, then take a great old Toyota land cruiser, made in 1982, across about 8 km of very bad road, through stream beds and over rocks. The driver is very good and obviously knows the road extremely well, because he takes that car places I would never think of driving, but we get there in one piece.

Pablo has gotten us special permission to drive in the last 2 km, to save us the walk. We first think it’s because he tells the military that we’re doing scientific research on butterflies, but then we find out it’s because he told them we were old and needed the extra transport. Whatever works, it saves us several km of walking. So we make it to the river, where we have to show our passports and check in again. We had to show them at the boat landing in town as well.

This area was until very recently quite dangerous and tourists couldn’t come here, but the military has moved in with a very large presence, and all movement is strictly controlled. This is the base for all the amazon military operations, so there are lots of trucks and tons of soldiers. But, as always in Colombia, they are extremely polite and friendly and very professional, and it makes you feel safe to have them around. At the river they even happily pose for our cameras, smiling like the nice young men they are.

The river is amazing, words can not describe it. It is filled with soft flowing puffy pink and purple plants that look like moss but they are soft to the touch, truly magical stuff. The water is clear and just the right temperature, and the rocks are carved into fantastical shapes and holes. The pink plant only grows at a certain depth, close to the sun and the surface, so the deeper pools are lined w/pink and then clear and green in the center. We take a couple of million photos trying to capture it, and I’m sure we fail utterly. You have to see it to believe it.

Pablo tells us the pink stuff is endemic to the Macarena Mountains, which go up to about 2000 meters. There is another ancient endemic plant, Bellasia macarenensis, and many weird looking plants all over. And we see good butterflies, even though it is a overcast, dark day. I hope we get some sun in the next couple of days, because I think the butterflies will be great, and Pablo also says the pink plant gets even more gorgeous in the sun.

This is the lowest elevation of our trip, and we see a number of metalmark species, many of them in our southern Amazonia book. Alesa amesis, several Nymphidium, and Mike finds a very fresh cassiope owl, Selenophanes cassiope. I catch it to shoot the dorsal, and when Mike comes out of the bushes to see it he runs into a wasp nest and is attacked, so we all have to run. Fortunately I hang onto the owl, so we can stop and take our photos a 100 meters or so down the trail.

Thur Aug 12 – back to the boat/land cruiser transport, and to the pink river. Today we cross the river, having to wade, then go a couple of km up the road. This is an illegal road made by the guerillas about 10 years ago. It goes up a small hill, maybe 75 meters or so, then down into taller forest.

The morning is again overcast and dark, sprinkles of rain on and off, and it’s very quiet for birds and not too many butterflies either. But after lunch the sun comes out and we find several new goodies. My favorite is a large brown and orange Myscelus that is hilltopping on our way back. This turns out to be Azonax typhaon, a new genus for me. We keep trying to get his picture when he lands on a couple of bushes above our heads, but he always quickly moves and orients towards us. We can’t run him off, but we can’t get the definitive photo either, though we get shots good enough to id it, hopefully.

More new riodinids, and big sulphurs start to come out. We make it back to the river and spend an hour or more in the water, which feels fabulous. This is probably the best swimming hole I’ve ever been in, in any country. The guys lead us to a large pool, a couple of hundred feet long w/a waterfall coming into the upper end. Yerlis the local guide has a mask so you can swim upstream, close to the waterfall, exploring underwater, then let the current take you down into the pool over long areas of pink moss, which is luxuriously soft to the touch, then out over the dropoff into the cool green water, truly magical.

This is a unique place, and we have it all to ourselves. Don’t come on the weekend, as they tell me there can be 50-100+ visitors. You can walk upstream for 10-20 miles, so you can always walk a long way and get away from the crowd, but now we only see a few people all day, and have the whole enormous pool to ourselves, except for the occasional soldier who strolls by w/his rifle.

Fri Aug 13 – our last day at the pink river. We have to choose whether to go back through the pasture to the edge of the woods, where we went the first day, or back up the hill across the river from the second day. Or we can rock jump upstream and bushwhack up the river. The guys tells us there are beautiful cascades about 15-30 minutes upstream, but we’re more interested in butterflies and birds. Not enough time to fully explore this exceptional area.

Last time Pablo camped at the river, w/the solders, but our group preferred to stay in the small friendly town in a nice simple hotel La Cascada, email, and eat our meals at the restaurant Fondo Azul they sent us to. The food is tasty, the dorado fish is excellent, they get up early to have our breakfast waiting, preordered the night before, when we get there at 6am, and the owner personally serves us. Eggs scrambled with onions and tomato is called perichos, and served with arepas this is a tasty breakfast.

This town has only recently started seeing international visitors, so we’re happy to spend money around the town w/different stores. Of course we have to check out the different panadarias near by, the turnovers w/areiquipe (caramel) are good.  All in all a very comfortable place to spend several days.

For our last day we choose to go back and work the forest trail, through the pasture, where we were the first day. This turns out to be a good choice, as the sun comes out and it is nice and sunny all day long, after morning drizzles. The difference between today w/sun and 2 days ago w/overcast is very interesting, as we see almost all different species. Before we had many riodinids, now we get the big nymphalids or brushfoots. Many typical Amazonian lowland species like Dirce Beauty or Colobura dirce, 2 species of Catonephele, and we start to see some leafwings, both Memphis and Zaretis. Also a goodly selection of Adelpha or Sisters.

We stay busy most of the day and make it back to the river by mid afternoon, where Debbie and Sherry go to the lower big pool and the others hike up to a higher pool, where we find the soldiers. I go across the river and behind a big rock to change clothes and find another soldier, who graciously offers his hand and helps me jump across some rocks, his rifle in his other hand. I change and come back to the lovely big pool, where again it is delightful. This place looks like it was designed as a movie set, it doesn’t look real.

I’ve never swum w/soldiers before, who leave their rifles on the bank, across the water from us, some of them using their vests because I don’t think they can swim. This pool is deeper then yesterday’s, maybe 10-20’, gloriously clear and cool. Then Pablo and Yerlis take me upstream to the cascade, about a 20 minute rock scramble along a small trail. The river is quite low for this time of the year, normally this is the rainy season but not too heavy. The heaviest months are May and November, and the dry season is late December, January and February. But the river is a couple of feet below normal for this time of the year. I highly recommend this trip, as the river is truly unique and the people here are very friendly and happy to see tourists.

The soldiers make you feel safe, and they are also very welcoming. Yerlis is a great local guide, always attentive and jumping in to help, he carries our bolsas de agua (you have to buy plastic bags of water 5 liters for 3000 pesos about $1.50) and he develops an excellent eye for finding butterflies, especially under leaves.

And there are good butterflies. The 2 trails we worked had almost completely different fauna, you could probably assemble an impressive anazonian list here, with some input from the llanos and some Andean species as well. Today on the way out we had 3 new species, Mimoides pausanias, a new Memphis and a great skipper, the black with blue spots Mictris crispus, and Yerlis found me a new Nascus, a big orange spreadwing skipper.

Sat Aug 14 – we have a couple of hours to bird and butterfly on a road out of town, then catch our flight at 11:15am back to Villavicencio. Apparently all the flights to Macarena come from Villavicencio.  We take a couple of motos, which are 3 wheel motocycles that work as taxis, out of town on the dirt road to Cachicamo, stopping at La Balastrera.

After passing through another inspection point where we have to show passports to soldiers, we get out and walk a mile or so along a very promising looking road, forest on one side and more open shrubby stuff on the other. Even though it is drizzling, we find some pale yellow clearwings coming to yellow flowers on small trees, probably Callithomis of some sort, but we can’t get any photos. We do see great looks at yellow-bellied dacnis.

Sun Aug 15 – today is our first real rainy day. We go up to Buenavista, about 1400-1500 meters above Villavicencio, and get dropped off by taxis at La Piedra del Amor, a mirador turistico which is closed. Unfortunately it’s raining by 9am. We hang around in a few different shelters waiting for it to clear, but it just continues to get heavier, so finally we throw in the towel, call the taxis and head back to the Travel Blue hotel.

We’re changing hotels, as we aren’t thrilled with the Travel Blue. Pablo has found us a nice place a few steps up in quality, which should be much quieter, cleaner, and hopefully friendlier, for $14/person/night more. It’s a deal, at the Hotel El Caimito, near a big shopping center so we have more choice in restaurants as well.

We have a late lunch at the fish restaurant across the street on the corner, and the fish soup is delicious. 8000 pesos for a big bowl of soup and fried fish with rice, so it’s cheap too. Good thing we came back, as it rains heavily all the rest of the afternoon. For dinner we go to the Unicenter giant mall right down the street, the hotel has recommended Oliva in the food court, and it is a great recommendation. Delicious pizzas, great maracuya con leche drinks (passion fruit w/milk) and tasty bruschetta, plus we pig out on ice cream at Polys on the floor below. If you can’t chase butterfies, might as well eat, that’s my motto. We also hit the atm here, a safe place to get more money.

Mon Aug 16 – We decide to try Buenavista again, as the day looks a bit brighter than yesterday though still overcast. This turns out to work well, as the sun comes out by mid morning and pretty soon we have tons of bugs.

This road has people living along it in places and there are several simple wood frame structures being built where small clearings have been made. This means lots of weedy open areas, and lots of the small white flowers the clearwings like, so we’re busy photographing a variety of small tigerwings, satyrs, and several new species for our trip. By noon we decide to get taxis and head over to Bosque Bavaria, which is about 600-700 meters lower, so it’s a quite different mix of species.

Bosque Bavaria is much better forest, no people living there, but it’s a very steep road. After yesterday’s heavy rains even a jeep is going to have trouble getting up the road, so we just take taxis and have them drop us at the bottom, then walk up the lower part of the road. There are lots of butterflies here, such a difference some sun makes. So we have a great afternoon there, and come home w/lots of photos to keep us busy. Villavicencio is a good base to work out of with these 2 locations near town. It’s a good sized city, maybe 500,000 people, so it’s crowded, noisy and not quaint, but a good variety of butterflies near town.

Bosque Bavaria is maybe 10 minutes by car, and Buenavista is maybe 20-25. You can move easily between the 2, as we did today. You do need a cell phone to call a taxi from Buenavista, but from Bosque Bavaria we just walked to the bottom of the road and flagged one down to head back to town. Taxis are inexpensive, we paid 5000 COP to come back from Bosque Bavaria, maybe 15 minutes to our hotel. That’s $2.50 for 3-4 of us.

Tue Aug 17 – we leave Villavicencio and drive back towards Bogota, stopping again at Monterredondo. This time Pablo has hired a jeep to take us up the steep rocky road, so we can get higher than we could get w/our van. The van driver wasn’t too happy about going back up that road anyway. The jeep wasn’t in our budget, so it costs an additional $11/person, so jeeps aren’t cheap.

But he gets us up quite high, about 2400-2500 meters, and leaves us so we start walking down. He’ll be back about 2:30pm and find us along the road. It’s nice and sunny when he leaves us, about 10:30am (there was lots of road construction between here and Villavicencio, which added at least an hour to what should have been only an hour trip) and we see some new Pedaliodes, but then it clouds up and by 12:30 we’re worried about rain.

It looks very threatening, so Pablo calls the jeep guy and begs him to come back early. One of the amazing things about Colombia is Pablo has cell coverage almost everywhere. So he can call up a taxi or his driver at any time, even when you’re out in the boonies and haven’t seen a soul all day. Very convenient.

We’re looking for Cundinamarca Antpitta, this road is the place for them. Pablo tapes one in, but I miss it, I’m behind the wrong tree and can’t see it. The others get decent looks, just another reason to come back. Of course, now it clears up by 2pm and is sunny again, and suddenly we get several new butterflies. The most spectacular is a very cooperative Elzunia xxx, which after much patience on our part decides to sit on the road, and eventually even on Mike’s finger. This is a fabulous black, yellow and dark orange ithomiinae, found in cloud forest. A very different genus from the other Ithomiinae. We also get a Potomanaxas skipper, a fresh female Catonephele chromis, and we find a tree that is full of the dark Panaceas, plus a couple of big leafwings, Archaeoprepona meander. They’re clustering around the main trunk of a 6” diameter tree with lots of lichen on it.

There’s at least a dozen butterflies up about 20’, so we play w/digiscoping them. We can’t figure out what they’re eating, if it’s the sap or something in the lichen. It’s odd, as there are many similar trees, but they’re only on this one. We can’t see any sap wounds on the tree, but it’s fun to watch so many fighting and interacting together.

We finally make it back to Bogota and Casona del Patio for our last night together, and our final Crepes y Waffles dinner. Tomorrow Debbie and Sherry fly back to the States, Pablo flies back to Medellin (his home town) while Mike and I head to Rogitama near Arcabuco off the main highway to Bucaramanga, on the east side of the eastern andes about 2600 meters. This place has been regenerated in only 20 years from an open paddock to a great hummingbird garden and some forest by Robert and Ginette Chavarro, and it’s a particularly good spot for black inca, which is their star hummer.

Wed Aug 18 – Mike and I take a bus from the huge bus station in Bogota heading northeast to Bucaramanga for 27,000 pesos (about $14-15) and get off at a restaurant in Arcabuco, where the bus stops for a rest break.

There are many bus lines to choose from, but Pablo recommends Berlinas. You have to ask the taxi driver to take you to the terminal for buses going to the north, terminal 3. Biggest bus station I’ve ever seen, very clean and lots of security. We need to show passports to get our tickets, then again to get into the waiting area.

A driver is waiting for us in Arcabuco, and takes us the 10 minutes to Rogitama, where we’ll be for the next 3 nights. They have nice, simple rooms, hot water which is critical at this elevation, and very tasty food. And a garden full of hummers.

It’s cold and rainy when we arrive, and stays that way most of the afternoon, so we don’t do too much exploring today. The wife of the caretaker, our cook, is very accommodating, and brings me delicious hot herbal tree from leaves in their garden. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be sunny, and we can look for butterflies.

Thur Aug 19 – We wake early to fog at dawn, but by breakfast it’s clearing off, and the morning gets nice and sunny. We explore up a trail off the right side of the house, as you face it, and come to some old fields where they have a few horses who are happy to see us because they think we bring food. When they realize we don’t have any, they go away, and we chase butterflies all morning.

There are gorgeous Colias sulphurs where the front wing is bright orange and the hindwing paler yellow, several new satyrs including a Pedaliodes with bright rufous on the trailing edge of the dorsal hind wing, and many different species that get away. I find out later from Hannier this is an undescribed species of Pedaliodes. One I really wanted is a new crescent with dark orange on the fw and white on the hw, it looks like a small Adelpha or sister on the wing.

We bushwhack above the paddocks up to a ridge, then work out way back down to more meadows out north of the house which are full of clover, and many more Colias sulphurs. After lunch Yinette the cook takes us and shows us roosting tropical screech-owls. Not a bad day, except for our shoes are soaked walking through tall wet grass everywhere. We get more heavy rain late in the afternoon about 4:30pm, but we’re in by then so no problem.

Fri Aug 20 – After talking to Roberto last night, we go up through the right hand horse pasture, fighting off the aggressive colt who’s starting to feel his oats and is possessive about ‘his’ field. There are several pastures above, steeply climbing (we can feel the elevation) and lots of flowering shrubs. They have a maze of small pastures, divided by hedgerows and mora or blackberry lines. Many of the pastures have tall wet grasses w/lots of small flowers, so it’s a good habitat to wander around in.

Lots of satyrs come out of the shrubby bits and bask in the grasses. Probably 5-6 species of Pedaliodes, Lymanopoda obsoleta (which seems to be common at elevation), a couple of Catastictas or Dartwhites, and we finally see Morpho sulkowski sailing through like a glowing lavender lantern. There are lots of Vettius coryna, more than I’ve ever seen before.

Today Yinette gives me a pair of rubber boots to use, which saves me from wet shoes. I wear a woman’s size 9, which is a metric 42. This is about as big as boots get here in South America, so if you have larger feet than that, as many guys do, you’re out of luck. I often buy a pair in country and leave them at the end of my trip, so I don’t have to haul them along on the international flight. This place is a good place for boots, not that it’s terribly muddy but you’re walking through tall wet grasses a lot, as they don’t have wide trails, just paths or often we just wander around in the pastures/meadows.

Up higher, above the pastures into the woods, we have a batch of pine trees where everything is covered w/needles and no butterflies. We continue on up and find a small path off to the right into oaks, a very quick habitat change. Into the oaks we find clearwings, at least 2 species – Oleria makrena and a Greta with a lovely peachy band on the fw. They’re coming to small white flowers growing on shrubs that reach about 10-12’ high, difficult to pull down for photos. Most of the flowers are past blooming, it would be great to see them when the flowers were fresh.

After lunch the driver comes and takes us to see the tourist town of Villa de Leyva, where I thought the Instituto Humboldt was located, but I’m wrong. It’s nearby in another town, so we just drive around the clean, uniformly built colonial town, all buildings are white w/red tile roofs. Many foreigners are building houses up in the hills nearby, it’s become another retirement destination. Seems somewhat Disneyland-ish to me, a bit artificial, but I’m glad to see it. Lots of tourists and students on the streets, which are old cobblestone and tough on cars, not to mention walking. We’re glad to get back to Rogitama, where it’s quiet and peaceful.

Sat Aug 21 – the last morning, and we decide to wander the pastures around the house instead of hiking back up the hill. We kick up several new satyrs and manage to catch a Lasiophila and shoot it in the hand, which will help w/identification.

We have an early lunch and Ginette takes us out their bad road to meet a taxi on the main highway, who takes us an hour to Tunja where we catch an immediate bus back to Bogota for 17,000 COP. It takes about 2 hours to the edge of Bogota, then another hour+ to get to the bus terminal, in what seems to be a perpetual traffic jam.

Traffic is horrendous in Bogota, I’m glad I don’t live here. At the bus terminal you stand in line for a taxi, tell the woman where you’re going and get a piece of paper w/your cost, then go outside and take the first taxi and give him the paper. It’s organized so you know you’re getting a regular taxi and you know the cost. Dash to the local El Puente Aereo (air bridge) for my Avianca flight to Medellin, about an hour flight. I make it to the Casa Asturias by 9:30pm, after leaving Rogitama at noon.

Sun Aug 22 – Richard and Shirley flew in yesterday, but their luggage didn’t make it. So today they have to go back to the airport, 45 minutes away, and pick up their luggage, check it through the x-ray, and bring it back to the hotel. This is the only country where I’ve had lost luggage not be delivered to your hotel. At least American Airlines provided the taxi to pick them up and take them back, but it’s a waste of a couple of hours of their time.

We’re told by Colombian friends this has happened to them as well. But Juan G. meets us at noon at the Carrefour de Las Vegas, a big shopping center, where we ride in his car up to La Romera road, about 1900 meters. Medellin is about 1500 meters, so we have nice views over the city.

One nice thing that happens to me at the shopping center is I leave my binoculars in the taxi that drops us off to meet w/Juan (like a peabrain), and don’t realize it until we’re pulling away from the pickup spot. Juan is trying to call our hotel, as they ordered the taxi, when we see our taxi driver across the big street, across the median. He’s waving my binoculars, he’s found them, circled back and found us, and brings my binos back to me. What a nice guy! So we’re off to La Romera, binos in hand. This is a good road near town for birds and butterflies, and we have a great sunny afternoon.

Juan has some rotten fish bait, and it works like a magnet. Very fresh Rhetus dysoni, Napaea, several species of crescents including a new white banded Anthanassa, and a cooperative Heliconius. Juan gives us a bottle of his fish bait to use at the next location, and we buy a small batch of shrimp at the store and talk the hotel into letting us use their blender to liquefy them with water. Talk about strange looks. When we explain it’s for butterflies, they really think we’ve lost it.

Mon Aug 23 – off to ProAve’a Piha reserve, or Arrierito Antioquenuo, for 4 nights about 4 hours north of Medellin. This is where the central andes come to their end in the north, and is a great area for endemism.

We stop at a road to the offices and some brick houses for the large dam they’ve built at the river at the bottom of the valley before climbing up to the Piha reserve. There is a road to the right, just before the major bridge across the river, where you see a sign Oficinas de Tablon a bit up the hill. We continue up the paved road until it turns to dirt, past the brick houses on your right, and get out and walk a bit. The dirt road Y’s, we go down to the left and cross a small stream. This place is loaded with butterflies.

Of course it’s the middle of the day and sunny, but it is a good place to explore. It’s about 850 meters. We only walk a couple of hundred meters to the stream, Pablo arranges some rocks so we can hop across, and up to a large gate to a big field. There are lots of new species for our trip, several leafwings (a new Memphis and Archaeoprepona amphimachus, both of which are coming to some poop so I get good shots) and lots of skippers coming to the flowers. Some beautiful Callicore pitheas, the pink one with 2 big circles, and another Callicore I’m not sure of. Wish we had more time here, lots of stuff flies by, tigerwings and other Nymphalids and Skippers.

At the stream we see out first Gorgopas chlorocephalas, a black skipper with a stunning green head. We finally make it on up to the Piha reserve, one of the great ProAve reserves. This has 4 nice rooms, and they’ve added hummingbird feeders in the last 6 months, so it’s buzzing w/hummers. We see western emerald, Andean emerald, green-crowned woodnymph, green-crowned brilliant, a nice mix of Andean and a few choco species.

The choco wraps around the northern end of the central andes here, so it’s a transition zone. Lower down, about 1100 meters on our way up the hill, we stopped and looked for scarlet and white tanagers, a choco speciality which Pablo has seen here. It was hot and about 1pm, so not a good time for birds. The reserve is in cool often foggy cloud forest, but when the sun comes out there can be lots of butterflies. We walk up the road after lunch for maybe a km and find purplish-mantled tanager, one of my favorites, and later Shirley and Pablo get great looks at the chestnut-capped piha, the namesake and reason for this preserve.

Tue/Wed/Thur Aug 24/25/26 – We walk the road and explore the trails here at Piha reserve. It’s nice not to have to use a vehicle. The dirt road is good to work in both directions. To the left there is a big left hand turn over a creek and a ravine, and we make this an official pee spot, maybe 5-10 minutes away. Butterflies often like to use these ravines and seem to like curves.

A bit past this curve are the steep stairs leading up to the start of the trail system, good thing they’ve got study handrails.  At the top of the stairs there is a ‘Y’, the left hand trail is new to me. It goes more through second growth and is more open. Shirley goes up there one day and gets a number of different species, a lovely Oxeoshistus that poses well, and some different Ithomiinae.

One morning I go up and flush a white-tailed nightjar from the start of this trail. The main trail goes to the right paralleling the small stream, and it goes for miles. Most people spend a full day up this trail, it climbs quite a bit to some ridges and is in good, dark, wet forest. Jose the ranger even brings you a hot lunch at noon, so you can spend the entire day on the trail.

Shirley spends the first day up here w/Pablo, looking for birds, and they get good looks at multicolored tanager, one of the specialities here, plus lots of purplish-mantled tanagers and more pihas. Richard and I work the lower parts of the trail, before it starts to climb so steeply. He puts out tons of spitwads, using salt water instead of spit. This way he can refresh them a couple of times/day w/a spray bottle.

Some of the best bait to use is human urine and feces, we call it poop. The leafwings and owls in particular come to the poop. Richard gets shots of one I’ve never seen, Consul panariste. I go back and hang around some the next 2 days, but no luck. A very fresh Caligo atreus is so engrossed that I pick him up and shoot him in the hand, showing his beautiful creamy band around the hindwings and the rich purple on the forewing. I have to use 2 fingers to hold his wings open, he’s so large.

We have 1 fairly nice, sunny day, but the other 2 days are more fog and cool overcast than sun. We find some butterflies everyday, but on the overcast days it’s more walking than photographing. On the sunny day we see a number of species we don’t see again. To the right, from the reserve, you can walk a km or so through increasingly better habitat, past another big curve this time to the right where there is another good ravine. It can be productive to walk this way on the road, to the right, for birding as well. I’ve seen several good flocks on this part of the road, and easy looks at the piha, plus brown-billed scythebill, a real stunner.

Pablo had pavonine cuckoo here in January at one of the overlooks. One day I go quite a ways to the right on the road, and find different species, including a new gorgeous satyr that keeps landing too high up the fern covered bank, then is scared off by a bus and comes back low down so I can photograph it. It looks like a cross between Pareuptychia metaleuca and a Splendeuptychia species, I’ll have to figure it out when I get back to my books. It’s one I’ve never seen. It’s nice to have several days to work the area, as the weather is so changeable it’s impossible to predict. We have rain everyday, but not hours of it. It would have been nice to have more sun, but that’s why it’s a cloud forest.

Fri Aug 27 – After our last morning here, our driver shows up after lunch and takes us the 4 hours back to Medellin, to the Casa Asturias. Juan Guillermo has us to his home for dinner w/his wife and a few friends, Martin Moreno and Luis Alvardo, both butterfly photographers.

Sat Aug 28 – Juan, Martin and Luis take us to their new favorite place, Humidal de Bramadora near Sopetran to the northwest of Medellin. This is through the tunnel and to a much drier habitat, with cactus.

Many of the butterflies we see are from Mexico and Central America, but either are different subspecies than I’m familiar with, or at least new to my Colombian list. I get great photos of a new skipper for me, Aethilla lavochrea, the Yellow-rimmed Skipper. We have a great day, as it’s sunny but with some high clouds so it’s not too hot. They tell me this place can be really hot, and I believe them.

Sun Aug 29 – Pablo takes Shirley and me back to La Romera, but it’s a rainy, cool day and we only see a few butterflies. We do get killer shots of a fresh Marpesia corinna, one of the orange and purple daggerwings. We also have a gold Perisama that likes my sweat and spends time on my hand for photos. Fred flies in tonight, so we’re all together for the rest of the trip.

Mon Aug 30 – 6am departure for breakfast on the road and a butterfly stop on the way to Rio Claro. We have breakfast at Palacio de los Frijoles, a tasty restaurant about 1.5 hours from Medellin.

Afterwards we wander down the dirt road just a few 100 meters from the restaurant, the old road to Corcona. At first it’s slow, but then we find some good butterflies, including a fresh Pyrrhopyge phidias (probably) that lets me lift his wing to shoot the ventral with the thinner white section and several other grass skippers w/white below coming to poop.

We get great shots of Panoquina evadnes and a Niconiades, probably N.nikko. We get all the way down to the big bridge over the river and go to a beach a bit beyond where we see, and photograph, my first Cunizza hirlandiaXXX a spectacular yellow and orange Pierid.

Shirley finds her life beautiful woodpecker on the way back to the car, so a good day is had by all. Then we drive about another 1.5-2 hours to Rio Claro for the next 3 nights, arriving late afternoon. We are in Cabanas La Mulata, the new cabins before you get to the restaurant. There are some old dorm type places behind the restaurant, where Pablo stays, and another dorm set several hundred meters up river. There is a trail that runs along the river for a long way. This is a favorite swimming retreat on the weekends for folks from Medellin.

Tue/Wed Aug 31/Sep 1 – The first night we have a tremendous thunder and lightning storm, it must last 3-4 hours and makes it difficult to sleep. The cabins are open windows so you really get to experience the storm, even though we’re on the bottom floor.

There is a 2nd floor of rooms above, where I was the first time I was here, and the walls are only waist high, so the rain blows in. At first I’m disappointed we’re not on the top floor, and they tell us we can move the 2nd day, but after the previous night we all vote to stay where we are. We must have gotten 6” or more of rain, I’ve never been in a storm that intense. It knocks out the power which takes 2 days to restore, so we have to be judicious w/batteries. Pablo even takes Richard and Shirley’s batteries into town the 2nd night to recharge them. We get power back the afternoon of our 3rd day, so we can look at our photos.

And we have lots of photos. Richard puts out his salt water spitwads, and the skippers come out in droves after the heavy rain. It will be interesting to get our final count, but we have many species. Just working the road from our cabins to the restaurant, maybe a 5-10 minute walk, can take an hour or more w/all the skippers to shoot. We see lots of different species from when I was here before in July 2008, so I’m very glad we’ve come back. There is also a trail that heads up to the ridge that is very productive, though it gets steep and muddy. All in all we wish we had more time here.

The last night we walk about 20 minutes up river from the restaurant and come to the oilbird cave, where we sit on the beach and wait for them to come out at dusk from the cave across the river from us. The river is high, due to the rains, and there is a small waterfall pouring out of the cave where they nest, but it doesn’t seem to bother them. At dark they start to come out, making all their weird squawks and squeals. Then we have to walk back in the dark w/headlamps, but well worth doing.

Another possibility we didn’t have time to do is to go to the Condor Cave, where you walk up a shallow stream and can see oilbirds in another cave. Last time my friends went here and had a number of different species of butterflies as well.

Thur Sep 2 – drive back to Medellin, about 3 hours, drop Pablo off at a bus stop, and head onto the west, crossing the Cauca river, to Jardin, a lovely little coffee town about 1750-1800 meters.

We stay at the nicest hotel around, about a km beyond the town, the Hotel Hacienda Balendu. This is an upscale resort place that pretends it’s a farm, so they have horses and chickens, etc. The food is fine, the rooms are nice, and it’s a good location to take a jeep up the rocky road to the ProAves reserve on top for the yellow-eared parrots. Pablo and Jose, his friend who is our guide for the couple of days we’re here, studied the parrots 10 years ago, so they’re the experts.

Fri Sep 3 – We decide to try it up the mountain. It’s always a gamble, because you don’t want to go up if it’s going to be bad weather, but the weather changes so quickly in the mountains you never know. We luck out and get some sun, not lots but enough to get several good species of high elevation satyrs, and we get good photos of almost everything we see. We don’t see the parrots, however, so Fred and Shirley opt to leave very early on Sat, at 4:30am, to try again for the parrots at their roosting site.

Sat Sep 4 – Fred and Shirley take off early w/Jose and Jorge, the driver, then Jose comes back and gets myself and Richard, who have a civilized breakfast and see them about 9:30. Then we all go back through town, after stopping for tasty strong coffee at one of the many cafes lining the square, and drive back towards the small town of Andes. We turn down to the left at Fondo Monserrate, a steep road w/2 tracks of lined cement that takes us down towards the river, through coffee fincas.

We get out and walk until about 2:30pm and see many butterflies. The track is lined w/flowers and weedy patches and is crescent heaven. We also chase the gorgeous Heliconius erato chesterXXX, a beautiful blue endemic subspecies w/a yellow horizontal stripe. I get lots of shots down by the river of 2 species of Tegosa for comparison.

Then we stop in town at Dulces de Jardin, a nice little handmade candy shop, and get back to the hotel late in the afternoon. And F&S did manage to see the parrots!

Sun Sep 5 – 6am departure to meet Pablo at a restaurant for breakfast, then butterflying at a private reserve near Jericó about 1600 meters. This finca has been working with macaw restoration and houses a number of macaws being rehabilitated to be released in the wild, plus Pablo did some studies here for the cerulean warbler. The warblers like shade grown coffee, and this place used to grow shade grown cardamom. Pablo thought it might be good for butterflies, and he was right, it’s great! We can barely get past the farm house, a huge tree has dropped small fruits and there are many butterflies all over the ground in front of the house.

We spend a couple of hours until it starts to rain about 1:30pm, and get tons of shots of many species. Lots of tigerwings on the wide track, big enough to drive on, that slowly goes up the hill next to a stream and is lined with ornamental bananas. The ithomiinae are eating small piles of dark stuff that are on top of the banana leaves, and we see quite a few different species. R&S start putting out spitwads and immediately get lots of skippers as well, many new for our trip. They pose nicely for photos, so we’ll have lots of work sorting them all out.

Pablo says there is a nice hotel in Jericó, about 20 minutes away, and the owners of the finca are thinking of starting an eco lodge, which I think would be a good idea. I hope to come back here and spend at least a full day, maybe 2. The track goes for several kms, per Pablo, and there is much to explore.

Then we drive about 3.5 hours south along the Cauca river, a beautiful drive, then cross back to the central andes to spend the next 2 nights in Manizales in town at the very pleasant Casa Galvez, a brand new hotel that is reasonably quiet even though it’s in the middle of the bustling city of 400,000. They even have menus from some restaurants that will deliver to the hotel, so we don’t have to go out.

Mon Sep 6 – 6am departure to head up to the National Park Los Nevados above Manizales, around the Volcano del Ruiz which is snow covered all year. My target is bearded helmetcrest, a hummingbird I’ve wanted to see for years. Pablo has almost promised it to me if I go here, we’ve talked about this hummer a couple of times. Apparently they live at the visitor center at 4,050 meters, over 13,000’. They nectar on the strange flowers around the center, including a different species of Espeletia that we saw in the eastern andes.

Unfortunately it is a cold and foggy day, and much of the morning it’s hard to see much of anything. But the paramo, above tree line, is always fascinating and fun to visit. The flowers and plants and mosses are different and great to photograph. A bold tawny antpitta strolls across the road at the visitor center, right in front of us. We go down to an older hotel, the Hotel Termales del Ruiz, that is being refurbished to look for black-thighed pufflegs, another very rare hummer. This is about 3500 meters, and there is hot water running along the rough road for the hot springs.

We finally find the puffleg after the fog lifts a bit, they’re coming to the dark red flowers of the melastoma, similar to one we saw above Jardin. We even find a new butterfly, one of the high elevation Lymanopoda white species, which poses nicely for lots of photos.

The sun has come out briefly, so we decide to head back up to the visitor center for a last minute try for the helmetcrest, and get great looks at a feeding female. She hangs from the flowers and walks across the stiff plants, doing very little flying, weird looking behavior for a hummingbird. So the day ends well.

Tue Sep 7 – drive 30 minutes to Rio Blanco, our home for the next 2 nights. We arrive fairly early and it’s raining, but we go up the road about 10 minutes or so to their relatively new antpitta feeding station. The caretaker puts out earthworms every morning about 7:30am, and he has 3 species of antpittas coming: brown-banded, chestnut-crowned and slate-crowned, a small one. The chestnut-crowned is the biggest and the most aggressive, and chases the others off. She must have a nest, because she stuffs as many as 10 worms in her beak and takes off to the bushes, then comes back shortly for more.

These worm feeding stations are a fabulous way to see antpittas, started in Ecuador by Angel Paz outside Mindo, and they’re spreading through the andes at birding lodges. The real excitement for me is they also have ocellated tapaculo coming in here sometimes. The caretaker says more birds come when it’s not raining, as the rain brings out the worms, so when it’s dry the birds are hungrier. We have a lot of rain most of the day, and finally get a bit of sun mid afternoon and then see a few species of Pedaliodes.

At the research station they have a pretty good butterfly collection, inside a room from the dining room where they keep a heater and a dehumidifier going all the time. I photograph their drawers and note down the names. They claim to have 350 species of butteflies here, I would love to get the list. After dinner we go owling, as it’s not raining, and Pablo manages to bring in white-throated screech-owl in the woods behind the lodge.

Then later, back up at our higher rooms across the road he hears, and finds, rufous-banded owl as well. They only have 2 rooms in the main building, where we eat and where the hummingbird feeders are all around the porch. There are a few more rooms w/3 or 4 beds, for students, in the higher building across the road. Pablo and I take 2 of the student rooms, so we have to walk down for our meals, and to watch the hummers.

We find 9 species of hummers at the feeders, and Pablo tells me their total list is 12 species. We also luck out and have a large fruiting tree in the clearing, and get both rusty-faced parrots and golden-plumed parakeets flying around and feeding in the trees. Rio Blano is actually owned by the water company, and they keep the forest as a watershed for Manizales. It’s gated, and you have to get permission to get in, but Pablo knows the right people and brings groups here for birding. The road is steep but the birding is great, and if we just had some sun the butterflies are good too.

Wed Sep 8 – We start w/a not rainy day, which is a plus, and at 7:30 we get all 3 antpittas plus my life look at the ocellated tapaculo, finally. I’ve chased this bird several times, but usually by myself w/out a tape, and could never see it. What a great way to start the day!

We then walk on up to the top where you can go either left or right. Left leads to open pasture after several hundred meters, but the first part along the ridge can be good. To the right you pass a house then a construction site w/lots of bags of gravel, then get to good forest. The right trail goes a long way, far longer than I’ve been. They tell me January is the best month for butterflies, they have the most sun then. Guess I’ll be coming back in January.

Thu Sep 9 – We decide to leave right after breakfast and drive the 5 hours to Montezuma where we stay w/a simple farm family for 3 nights. This is our western most location on this trip. We had planned to spend the morning down at the river below the lodge at Rio Blanco, but w/the poor weather we figure it’s better to move on. When I was here before in July 2008 I spent 2 days photographing down along the river, the butterflies were quite good there, but I had sun.

We drive to Parque Nacional Tatama, crossing back over the Cauca river and back to the west slope of the western andes. We’re staying at a very simple farm house, but the food is quite tasty and the family very friendly, and they’re into birds as well.

We have to take a jeep down from Rio Blanco to Manizales, where we change to a van and drive to Virginia, then change back to another jeep to get up the dirt road to the farmhouse. Walking to the bridge, going on up the hill to the left from the entrance to the farmhouse you come to a bridge that looks great for butterflies, but it’s drizzly and cool. We do get killer shots of an Oleria with bright orange edges at the back of the hindwing which poses nicely.

Fri Sep 10 – Fred and I ride horses 2 hours to about 2,000 meters from 1400 at the house, about 7-8 km, while Pablo and Shirley walk, then we all walk back down for the day. It takes us about 2 hours to get to where we leave the horses, and P&S take about an extra hour to join us. I’m amazed, because on our way back down we find lots of spitwads that Shirley put out on her way up, and managed to do the climb. I couldn’t have done it. The spitwads turn out to work great here, we find lots and lots of skippers on them, as well as a few Heliconius and Dismorphia.

We eat lunch, brought to us on horseback, at the top in one of their little plastic shelters, and get great shots of a friendly Elzunia humboldt who thinks this is his place. We have fog for our walk back down the hill, but see many new birds. This is a wonderful spot for birds, we get Buffy Tuftedcheck, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner (my favorite), Beautiful Jay (in heavy fog, good thing they come close), and killer looks at Black Solitaire, several feeding in a fruiting tree, flying back and forth and flashing their white tails, as well as a whole slew of higher elevation tanagers. I love purplish-mantled, but we also get black-chinned mountain-tanager and the spectacular gold-ringed tanager.

The next day Pablo and Shirley perservere in the rain and also get black-and-gold tanager. This is the same set of birds they used to get at El Cairo, where I went last time and is a bit further south. But the local birders are using this farmhouse now, above Pueblo Rico and La Virginia, and it’s much less driving from the house to the habitat. Good forest is only about 10 minutes walk from the house.

We go up this first day, past a few houses with horses, then up through a gate and down to the first major bridge, about 45 minutes walk. This bridge becomes a magnet for butterflies, as everyone pees here and the horses tend to leave their dropping both up and down. From the bridge it’s a steady climb up at least 600-700 meters, for 4-5 kms. On our way back down this day we find many skippers on the spitwads Shirley put out in the morning. As it gets later in the afternoon, and dark and foggy, we keep finding skippers, many new ones, and even some of the Dyscophyllus and others that like it dark, like Lychnuchus basta. We finally make it back to the house at dark, after a very long day as we left at 6am. We all fall asleep tired but happy.

Sat Sep 11 – Today we have a more leaisurely breakfast at 7am, then walk back to the good bridge. This morning is brilliant and sunny, lots of blue sky, so we have tons of butterflies. This is a great spot, I’m definitely coming back for more time. We keep finding new species all day long, including 7 species of Adelpha or Sisters, 3 of which are new for me. Pablo shows us a sunning White-tailed Hillstar from the bridge, where Fred and I spend an hour or more, and Fred gets a great shot, it’s so close. 2 species of Morphos, 2 species of Owls, lots of crescents, a new Myscelus and several riodinids, it keeps going all morning.

Lunch is again brought to us in the field, a brother finds us on the trail and the lunch is hot from the kitchen. Life is good. But early, right after lunch, it starts to darken, we hear thunder, and by noon it is pouring. Fred and I go back to the bridge and up the hill towards the house and stop in one of their plastic shelters, where we’re joined by Richard and Leo, the woman who owns the place. She’s walked w/us both days, and led Fred’s horse the day before. It was Fred’s first time on a horse, pretty gutsy on his part.

We decide to make a dash for home from the shelter, which turns out to not be such a good idea, as the heavens open and we’re all drenched, even w/umbrellas, by the time we get back. The road turns into a river, and we end up wading through 6” to a foot of running water, so we’re soaked to the knees. Yesterday I borrowed a pair of rubber boots, but didn’t really need them, so today I wore tennis, which are now completely wet. Oh well, they will dry. We had a fabulous morning, it was well worth it.

Sun Sep 12 – This morning is overcast and drizzly, so we work on photos for an hour or so after breakfast. P&S go birding, back up the road, but the other 3, Fred, Richard and me, go down the road to the right, instead of up to the left, and find a whole new set of butterflies as it brightens a bit.

We leave after our last delicious lunch, planning to definitely return for more time. We take a jeep back to our transfer point, load up the van and drive back over the cauca river to the central andes, through Pereira for atm’s, then up to Otun, a regular hotel/lodge about 45 minutes east of Pereira at 1800 meters. This is a reserve, Otun Quimbaxxxx of about 500 hectares, and they have great birds. You wake up every morning hearing red-ruffed fruit crows making their low, blowing across a bottle sound, and we see them daily, a wonderful bird. They also have lots of cauca guans. But we concentrate on the butterflies, and they have tons of those.

Mon/Tue Sep 13/14 – I take over 900 photos in our 2 days here, and we only butterfly until lunch each day. We walk up the road, to the right from the entrance, a nice gradually climbing dirt and gravel road w/secondary forest on both sides. R&S put out lots of spitwads, and they work wonderfully here. This is the highest I’ve ever had the spitwads work. We get lots of skippers, but also Heliconius and Ithomiinae. A number of new species for me, one of the fanciest is Sacrator sacrator, a big dark skipper w/the back third of the forewings yellow with several brilliant silver spots at the edge of the yellow, a real killer.

On the 2nd day we find a couple of poop spots which prove to be magnets for the leafwings, and we get lots of Memphis and several different Adelpha and a zillion Fountainea nessus, the beautiful pink and purple banded leafwing. I’ve never seen as many as they have here of this species, they like to fly around us on the road, probably attracted to our sweaty bodies.

Another place you could spend a lot of time. I was here in July 2008, and we’re seeing more butterflies now, even though we get heavy rain both afternoons by lunch. This is typical rainy season weather, sunny mornings then the clouds build up and it rains in the middle of the day. When it’s sunny there are lots of butterflies.

Wed Sep 15 – we have a final morning at Otun, and I check out the trail through the forest. Richard has spent some time here putting out spitwads, and I’m hoping for clearwings. I’ve id’ed 4 species so far, but some have not posed for photos, and I particularly want Patricia dercylidas which I’ve seen both days but it’s never stopped. One can dream.

We leave Otun about 11am for the hour drive to the airport at Pereira, where we fly to Bogota and connect on to Santa Marta for our last week. We spend the night in Minca at a new hotel Pablo has found, Sierra’s Sound right on the river. You can hear the white water loudly, which I guess is the sound in the name of the place. They have a nice restaurant on the river and the rooms are fine, this will be a pleasant place to come back to after our time up at El Dorado. We even see a few birds and butterflies early the next morning.

Thur Sep 16 – We spend the morning driving up the bad road to El Dorado after stopping and birding/butterflying for an hour or so at Pozo Azul about 750 meters. We find a few specialities and several new butterflies, then head up to higher elevations.

There is a small tienda that everyone stops at to buy a coke and look for blossomcrown hummer at their flowers, about 1600 meters. We get good shots of an orange banded Pedaliodes that is common there, as well as several other butterfly species coming to the blooming mora or blackberry bushes. We finally get to El Dorado, the ProAves comfortable lodge, for a late lunch. They have nice gardens and lots of hummingbird feeders, but unfortunately we get rain all afternoon. It knocks out the power, which turns out to the common state of affairs for the next 3 days. We are without power most of the time. P&S go looking for the newly described Colombian screech owl that night, don’t find it but they do get good looks at night monkeys in the cecropia trees right near the lodge. So we all go out the 2nd night but aren’t as lucky, even though it’s clear and moonlit.

Fri Sep 17 – our driver spent the night, and we head up to the top of the road early in the morning. The road is terrible, we drive up many places that don’t look passable to us, but the driver is experienced w/this road and calmly, slowly coaxes the car over all sorts of rocks and giant washouts.

We luck out today and have sunshine changing w/clouds, but some nice sunny moments. The sun brings out the butterflies, and we get lots of shots of several Pedaliodes species, not sure of how many different ones there are. This is an extremely tough genus, I’m hoping my friend Hannier who’s working on this genus can help me out w/some id’s. We also get a ton of photos of a very friendly Adelpha corcyra salazari which is all over us, a beautiful endemic subspecies of sister. We stop at the national park lodge, San Lorenzo, on the way back down, about 2200 or 2300 meters, to check their flowers but don’t see anything. Back to El Dorado for another late lunch, and more rain that afternoon.

Sat Sep 18 – we wake to fog and rain, and it stays that way all day. It lightens a few times, but shortly returns to heavy fog. I walk the road a bit, find a few hardy butterflies and see several flocks in the trees, but the fog is too heavy to id any birds. We hang around the hummingbird feeders and enjoy the common violet-crowned woodnymphs and the speciality, the white-tailed starfrontlet, which likes the feeders in front of our rooms.

Sun Sep 19 – we have our last morning here at El Dorado, then the driver comes back to get us and take us down to Minca. As we’re driving away from the lodge we spot an Adelpha sitting on a leaf, and we pile out and get great shots of a very fresh Adelpha zunia inachia, a rare subspecies.

We spend the day working our way back down the road, stopping at the tienda again for an extended lunch, but the rain stays w/us most of the day. We get back to Sierra’s Sounds Hostal and another tasty dinner on the river.

Mon Sep 20 – We go back up the road a few kms on a bright sunny morning and see a goodly number of butterflies, then drive to the east along the coast to Riohacha for 1 night. We go out to the supposedly desert, but it’s raining here as well, and we end up sitting under a palapa on the beach drinking beers and soft drinks and watching it pour. We do manage to get 3 or 4 life birds before the skies open. There are about 15-20 specialities in this area, so hopefully tomorrow will be sunny.

We get very close to a flamingo, first one I’ve seen this close. Usually they’re pink dots across the marsh in a scope. We spend the night at the Barbacoa Hotel which is fine. Pablo had originally had us in another hotel, closer to downtown and restaurants, but when he called this morning to confirm our reservations, they had lost them, so he had to scramble and find us another place. This is not uncommon in Colombia, so you have to confirm and reconfirm, and still reservations aren’t always there. So don’t arrive at your rooms late.

Tues Sep 21 – We wake to a spectacular clear day and head back out to the peninsula. We drive back towards Santa Marta about 20 km and turn off to Camarones, an indigenous village. Pablo gets a local guide, always a good idea in indigenous areas, who’s quite knowledgeable about the bigger birds.

We see lots of wet birds preening on top of the bushes, and get great looks at one lifer after the other. Everyone’s favorite is the vermillion cardinal, but we have lots of bare-eyed pigeons, green-rumped parrotlets, buffy hummingbird, russet-throated puffbird,and lots of shorebirds. We’re in migration, so the flats are teeming w/a great mix of shorebirds. This would be a good spot to come if you were from Europe and wanted to see lots of the American shorebirds, at least at this time of the year.

In the trees we have lots of North American warblers as well, prothonotory and chestmut-sided warblers plus others. We even get a few skippers, our first elves and Erichson’s white-skipper who poses nicely. Very different birding from the rest of our trip. Late in the morning they go to a very wet area and I head back to the car, not having rubber boots. I get the driver to go back to Camarones and we visit a panaderia or bakery in town, at the farm supply store, and stock up on Arequipa cake and cookies for everyone.

Then we go back to the beach palapa and have cold drinks and pastries. It gets very hot here when the sun’s out, and you wouldn’t want to bird, or butterfly, through the hot part of the day. About 11 we head back to Santa Marta, about a 3.5 – 4 hour drive, stop for a nice fish lunch on the river and head straight to the airport where we catch our 5:15pm flight back to Bogota on Avianca.

It’s back to Casona del Patio for our last night in Colombia. Shirley and Richard go do dinner w/a friend, and Fred and I hit the Wok restaurant, 2 blocks from the hotel, and have a great meal. They have killer desserts, try the lemon and grapefruit tart, and Fred swooned over the chocolate and more cake, more like fudge.

Wed Sep 22 – We go our separate ways back to the US. I fly to Miami and spend the night, then back to Texas tomorrow. A great trip, lots of new species photographed and lots of Colombia seen. It’s a wonderful country, I notice the improvements just in the last 3 years. More peaceful, less military, the hotels and food are getting better. Pablo is a wonderful guide, I highly recommend him for birds and butterflies. He’s learning more and more about traveling around the country, and his English is much improved. All in all, what’s not to like? I’ll be back many more times.

US – Seattle, WA July 2010

Trip Report Washington State July 2010 LepSoc Meeting and afterwards

Participants: Kristine Wallstrom, Shirley Sekarajasingham, Richard Lindstrom and Kim Garwood

Tues July 6 – fly to Seattle

Wed July 7 – drive to Leavenworth for LepSoc, 4 nights at Enzian Inn

Thur/Fri July 8/9 – meetings

Sat July 10 – field trip up Chumstick Mountain

Sun July 11 – Reecer Creek, night in Soap Lake

Mon July 12 – Moses Meadow, night in Tonasket, Red Apple Motel

Tues July 13 – drive through the burn to Mazama, 2 nights North Cascades Lodge

Wed July 14 – Harts Pass

Thur July 15 – drive back to Seattle

Fri July 16 – fly to Dallas

Tues July 6 – Kristine and I fly into Seattle from different cities and Richard picks us up at the airport. Richard and Shirley live on Bainbridge Island, a beautiful peaceful place in the Puget Sound. We get to take a ferry for about 35 minutes across to their island for the night.

Wed July 7 – The next morning Shirley, Kristine and I take off and drive, back across the ferry and east across Washington to Leavenworth, the site of the Lepidopterists’ Society meeting for the next 5 days.

We take Highway 2 over Stevens Pass about 4,000’, and stop and explore a couple of different trails. We hike a bit at Wallace Falls State Park and also along the Pacific Crest Trail, which crosses the highway at the top of the pass.  It’s a beautiful clear blue sky day in the low 80’s, but not many butterflies. The weather here in Washington has been quite cool, everyone is saying summer has just arrived.

The trails are nice, through dark woods and lots of shade, with bits of open meadow and lovely views. Up on top, on the PCT, we see lots of Parnassus clodius, but they rarely stop for photos. I do get a few shots of a Comma, we think it’s Oreas Comma, but we need to get someone who knows to verify that. The next 4 nights are in Leavenworth at the Enzian Inn for the LepSoc meeting. Leavenworth is a funny place, sort of a Disneyland in a Bavarian theme. Even the banks look Bavarian.

There are dozens of restaurants, many of course with a German theme. Our favorite is South, with food from South American, worth going back to. The Enzian Inn is not cheap at $140/night, but a great breakfast and snazzy rooms. There are many places to stay in town, and several people are at cheaper motels closer to $50-75/room.

Thur/Fri July 8/9 – I’m in meetings all day, but Shirley and Kristine go out and have a great time.

Sat July 10 – I finally get to go on a field trip, and we go w/Bob Hardwick who leads our group up Chumstick Mountain, up Derby Canyon road to about 5,000’. It’s hot, bright and sunny, and the sky is so blue it hurts your eyes. We don’t see much at first, but as it gets warmer we gradually see more butterflies.

We look for seeps, where water is on the road, and we get to see some different blues and a couple of the difficult fritillaries. The checkerspots and crescents are also a tough group here. One of the more exciting moments is when Shirley and Kristine find a rare endemic plant they have been looking for. Lewisia tweedyi is a low ground hugging plant with large beautiful peachy salmon colored blooms, and when we accidentally find them on the drive up there is much gnashing of teeth because we can’t stop, being in a caravan of cars. But later they find the plants right at the summit, so many photos are taken.

We end up almost on top of the mountain, but there is a forest fire on the other side of the ridge, so we decide not to go that close. We go to Eagle Creek road, up about 2 miles past where the pavement ends, and there is a nice seep with the best selection of butterflies we’ve seen all day.

That’s a nice way to end a lovely day, except coming back down we get a flat tire in Shirley’s car, so we have to unload everything, change the tire, put on the donut and make it back to town. But it’s Saturday after 5pm, and they can’t get it changed until tomorrow.

Sun July 11 – R&S get the tire fixed, then we leave Leavenworth and head south on Highway 97 and took Old Bluett Road, stopping several places. Then we went to Reecer Creek, near Ellensberg.

We see several new trip species, starting with Greenish Blues on clover, both males and a wonderful female who I first think is a copper, and a nice mudpuddling group of swallowtails, mostly Pale and Western Tiger. Reecer Creek proves to be good, with lots of confusing checkerspots and some blues. Shirley and Kristine had come here on one of their days, and liked it. On the way up to Reecer Creek there is a big patch of white daisies which had been great for hairstreaks and fritillaries, but today it’s very windy so there are fewer butterflies around. We still manage to photograph a couple of skippers, probably Common Branded Skippers but maybe a 2nd species as well, but you have to carefully hold the flower stem to even have a chance of taking the photo.

Up Reecer Creek there is a big left hand turn where many people have camped and left charcoal rings, and the butterflies are coming to the charcoal. Mostly dozens of checkerspots, and we try to sort them out. I think they are mostly variable checkerspots, but there may well be edith’s also. We see more Parnassius butterflies, and this time we get some shots.  After leaving Reecer Creek we drive for an hour or two east and north past Soap Lake and up to Dry Falls State Park, where we look for Yuma Skipper but fail to find any.

Spectacular scenery heading up Lower Coulee where we find out about the great floods back in the ice ages, where the ice would block the river then eventually break loose in massive floods.

We end up at back south about 20 miles at Soap Lake for the night at the surprisingly nice little motel on the lake called Masters Inn & Healing Resort, . It costs about $75 for a double, and our room is much more than a room, but an apartment, with a full kitchen, wifi, table for 4, a nice living room and separate bedroom w/2 queen beds, very comfortable.

There’s only 1 restaurant in town, so we eat at Don’s, where Richard has eaten many times before over the years. R&S split a salmon dinner that they are very happy with. We enjoy ourselves too long, and just miss getting to the grocery store before it closes at 8pm, so we don’t have breakfast makings and it doesn’t look like there are many restaurants open for breakfast.

Don’s doesn’t open until 11am. Asking the hotel manager, she says there is a place that opens at 7am, so we’ll try and find it. Shouldn’t be too hard, as town is small, along the lake.

Mon July 12 – Couldn’t find an open place for breakfast, so we bought over priced snacks at the gas station. Next time, be sure to bring your own breakfast stuff. Amazing, the town has 3 motels but no breakfast places, or bakeries. Or coffee drive throughs, it doesn’t even look like Washington.

So we finally get on our way up to Moses Meadow, after driving by Grand Coulee Dam and up Hwy 155. Moses Meadow is great. It’s about 10 miles in on a dirt road signed towards Lyman Lake/Moses Meadow, then you drive a large loop around the huge meadow, stopping frequently to walk the roads and the beautiful flowering meadows.

The flowers are fabulous, and we find a goodly number of butterflies. I take more photos than the previous couple of days. One of the most common is the Chryxus Arctic, which are all over the road. We get to compare them to the Great Arctics which we photographed the day of the field trip. Lots more checkerspots, both field and northern crescents, some new blues, and good looks at arctic skippers, which is new for us. Wonderful flowers across the meadow, we’re doing some botanizing as well so there’s lots to see.

Tues July 13 – the drive through the massive burn. We go up to Oroville then west to Palmer Lake, south to Long Swamp and over the hills to Winthrop. This is mostly dirt roads at about 2000 meters. We were hoping to find some higher elevation butterflies, but we didn’t know there had been a couple of monster fires through the whole area, and we spend most of the day driving through burnt, dead trees as far as we can see.

It was an amazing sight, endless grey and black spires over the mountains to the horizon, and very few butterflies. Plus it was overcast and cold, in the 40’s, so we didn’t do a lot of walking around. But it was a very interesting drive, far and away the largest burn I’ve ever seen. It would have been faster to drive back to Omak and to Winthrop on paved roads, but we wanted to explore.  We did have some interesting birds, at Long Swamp we find breeding spotted sandpipers w/newly hatched young, which I had never seen before. And Townsend’s Solitaires also w/young.

We made it to Winthrop and went to our lodge, North Cascades Base Camp Lodge about 2 miles west of Mazama, which is about 14 miles west of Winthrop. We’re staying here for 2 nights so we can spend the next day at Hart’s Pass. It’s about $90/room. It’s like staying in someone’s house, there are 3 bedrooms on the 2nd floor that share 1 bathroom. The rooms include 1 queen bed and a set of bunk beds, so it’s more for families rather than 2 adults, as 1 of us in each room has to sleep in the bunk bed.

We have the full run of the house, which includes a complete kitchen which we can use to cook our meals. But you have to bring all your own food, which requires more planning.

The nice young couple, Steve and Kim, have just bought it 5 weeks ago, so they’re not doing meals yet, but they plan to in the future. It would be nice w/a large group of family and friends, but if you were just a couple it might be a bit more intimate than you would like w/strangers.

Wed July 14 – Drive up Hart’s Pass, about 20 miles to 2100 meters. Fortunately the weather goes back to bright sunny skies today, after the overcast and cold of yesterday. The road is closed by a snow bank, so we can’t go all the way to the top. We could have walked, it was another couple of miles, but we just wandered around some at that elevation and slowly worked our way back down hill.

Richard conveniently moved the car down as the rest of us walked most of the way, finding a good variety of butterflies, many of them new for our trip. The scenery was breathtaking, surrounded by peaks still with lots of snow, and magnificent fields of wildflowers.

We got pacific fritillary, sheridan’s green hairstreak, two-banded checkered-skipper, and many crescents and checkerspots, plus lots of new flowers. At the snow melt we had fields of yellow glacier lilies. This spring has been very late due to cold weather, so many things are blooming about 3-4 weeks behind ‘normal’. This has also impacted the butterflies, and we see some spring species flying late, mixed in with summer flyers. We have orangetips everywhere.

We get some nice birds, a female spruce grouse and young slowing walking across the road in front of the car, very slowly so we won’t see her right in front of us. I see evening grosbeaks, unfortunately the others miss them as we’re spread out along the road.

This is a beautiful drive, well worth spending the day here. I’m glad we planned 2 nights at the base. There is a nice country store in Mazama, very upscale and full of yuppie goodies, plus a café that looks quite good. We get the best ginger snaps I’ve ever had, wish we had bought more. They’re $1 each but they’re huge and full of pieces of ginger, so very strong.

Thur July 15 – Unfortunately we have to head back to Seattle. We go over the North Cascades on Highway 20, a spectacular drive with vistas everywhere. We stop at Rainy Pass and hike the mile trail to the lake, which is also spectacular, well worth the walk.

Wonderful waterfalls coming down from the cirque above which surrounds the lake, very isolated. It’s much cooler and wetter here, so few butterflies, even though we’re only about 1500 meters. Totally different from yesterday at Hart’s Pass, which was more open meadows and flowers. We do see a new species, Common Alpine, but it doesn’t stop for photos.

We also find a great flock of evening grosbeaks at one of our stops, eating seeds from the grass by the outhouse, and we all get killer looks. Such a beautiful bird, I haven’t seen them in years. We stop at Cascadia Farms, a little store that sells U-pick raspberries and blueberries, and of course ice cream. Home made blueberry ice cream, plus all the great coffee drinks. A good place to stop.

We get back to Seattle, take the ferry across to Bainbridge island for the night, and Richard takes me to the airport the next morning.

Mexico – Oaxaca/Chiapas July 2010

Trip Report Oaxaca/Chiapas, Mexico

Participants:Judi Ross, our fearless driver, Bill Berthet, Fred Heath, and myself, Kim Garwood

Author: Kim Garwood

Wed May 5 – Bill and I fly to Oaxaca, 2 nights in Villa del Campo, 380 pesos/single

Thur May 6 – Gucamaya Road and 5 km spot

Fri May 7 – drive to Pluma Hidalgo, 1 night in Posada Isabel, 300/double, 400/fancy single

Sat May 8 – drive to Finca Monte Carlo for 3 nights, 600 pesos/person/night w/3 meals

Sun/Mon May 9/10 – walk the trails at Finca Monte Carlo

Tue May 11 – drive to Tuxtla Gutierrez, 2 nights at Palmareca Best Western, 950 pesos/night/double

Wed May 12 – butterfly Canyon de Sumidero

Thur May 13 – drive to Palenque, 2 nights at Chan-Kah, 999/double/night

Fri May 14 – explore waterfalls around Palenque, Agua Azul & Misol-Ha

Sat May 15 – drive to Lacanja and Bonampak, 2 nights at Campamento Rio Lajanja, 490/double

Sun May 16 – worked the road and went to Bonampak

Mon May 17 – drive to Las Guacamayas, 1 night, 780/double

Tue May 18 – drive to Comitan, explore Lagos de Montebello, 1 night El Castellano, 490/double

Wed May 19 – drive to Tapachula, 2 nights Hotel Loma Real, 2014/4

Thur May 20 – explore Volcano Tacana, up to about 1800 meters

Fri May 21 – transfer to Finca Hamburgo 1300 meters, 2 nights, 710/double

Sat May 22 – walk trails at Finca Hamburgo

Sun May 23 – get driven to Finca Argovia for the day, 700 meters, then back to Loma Real

Mon May 24 – drive to Tuxtepec, 1 night 580/double Villa Esmeralda

Tue May 25 – to Valle Nacional, 1 night 380/double, and work Hwy 175 up the hill to 1700m.

Wed May 26 – work back up Hwy 175, 1 night at Ixtlan Ecoturixtlan Center, 550/double

Thur May 27 – work road off about Km 138, drive to Oaxaca for last 3 nights, Andrium Hotel 550/single, 700/double

Fri May 28 – Guacamaya Road north of Oaxaca

Sat May 29 – Valle del Teotitlan

Sun May 30 – fly back to Texas

Expenses – The 3 of us paid for all gas and tolls, which was about 6400 pesos for the entire trip. The current conversion rate is about 12 pesos/1 US$. So our gas and tolls were about $530 for the 3 of us, not bad considering how much driving we did.

Our hotels ran from the cheapest at 300 pesos/double to the Loma Real in Tapachula, which was 2014 for a 2 bedroom suite for the 4 of us, so about 1000/double. Most of them were around 490 to 700/double. My total was 9300 pesos, or about $775 for 25 nights. Our food was reasonable, and we ate in nicer restaurants, not the cheap roadside places.

It ran between 100 to 200 pesos each for breakfast and dinner, and we usually only ate 2 meals/day. And we were generous tippers, as Judi’s family runs a restaurant and like most folks in the business, they appreciate the waitpeople’s efforts. So if we estimate 200-250/day for food, that’s about $20 x 25 = $500.

I don’t think it was that much, but I didn’t keep track of food. This gives us a total budget of about $180 for the gas, say $800 for hotels and $500 for food, or $1500, plus snacks and cokes (and Bill’s shopping!) I had estimated $100/day as a budget, and we were well under that, more about $60-70/day. Of course we didn’t have to rent a car, which would have added considerable to the cost, as cars are about $100/day.

Wed May 5 – We fly Continental nonstop from Houston, about $400. Judi meets us at the airport and takes us to Villa del Campo, a simple but perfectly acceptable hotel in town.

Oaxaca has tons of places to stay in every price range, but this is ok w/me. Inexpensive and close enough to town so you can walk to the center and lots of restaurants, quiet and safe.

Thur May 6 – We spend the morning at Gucamaya Road, north of town. It’s very dry, as we expected, the rains haven’t started yet. But we have a surprisingly good day, lots of crescents, patches, both blue and white morphos, several species of swallowtails and some very fresh skippers.

Then we go to the famous 5 km trash pullout just up Highway 175 east, where we have lots of Mylitta Crescents, which we didn’t see up at Gucamaya. Oaxaca is about 1500 meters, the wet turn in the road at Guacamaya is a bit over 1900m. It’s very hot in Oaxaca, much more than usual, so we’re happy to get up the next morning to drive up 175 west of town.

Fri May 7 – Drive west to Pluma Hidalgo and look for a hotel Judi has been told is in town. You take a dirt road off Hwy 175 about km 200 or 202, it’s signed 12 km to Pluma Hidalgo if you’re coming from Oaxaca, not if you’re coming up from the coast.

This can be an excellent road to butterfly. But they’re doing lots of construction, so there are guys everywhere working, and lots of traffic. Everything is very dusty, so we don’t spend much time on the road, though we do stop a few places and see several species of crescents. Most of what we’re seeing is very fresh, I think everything is ready for the rains to hit.

We find the Posada Isabel, a large bright green building w/out any signs behind the church on the centro. We have to ask to find it, but once we get there, after parking Judi’s monster car in the square and walking around, we find our gracious host who welcomes us to very nice rooms, especially the fancy matrimonial suite on the 2nd floor which Bill takes for 400 pesos.

Judi and I get one of the 6 2 bed doubles on the ground floor for 300 for the 2 of us, hard to beat. We walk back for dinner at the very simple little restaurant for 135 pesos for the 3 of us, black beans, mystery meat and onions, but ok. Except we have slight diarrhea the next day, but we recover quickly. I would go back to Posada Isabel, it’s a great location for working the road there. The butterflies are much better between the Hwy175 turnoff and Pluma Hidalgo, once you get below PH the habitat deteriorates quickly.

We check out another potential place to stay, if Posada Isabel is full. A ways south of Pluma Hidalgo, continuing on the dirt road, you see a regular green street sign for El Refugio, pointing to a dirt road off to the left. It’s quite steep, and looks a bit intimidating if you’re not in a truck, but we made it in the intrepid van.

El Refugio has 26 rooms, some w/nice windows and views over the pool, some musty and dark w/out any windows. They all seemed to be about the same price, based on the number of beds. 1 bed was 300 pesos for single or double, 2 beds was 450 or 500 pesos. I would get the 300 as a single, much nicer rooms.

Sat/Sun/Mon May 8/9/10 – drive on through Santa Maria Huatulco to Hwy 200, near the airport, and turn left, east, for about 40km and turn left just before the Puente Zimatan (bridge) about km 274 or 275 and drive about 27 km on a dirt road that gets progressively worse, especially past the village of Xabani or Xadani.

Be sure to fill up w/gas at the gas station on 200 just east of where you join, as there aren’t any more gas stations until you get quite a ways east of the turn off for Finca Monte Carlo. The last several km up is steep with tight switchbacks. Judi got stuck on the last one in her Ford van and almost shredded one of her new Michelin $200 tires, and then we had to get pulled out by some friendly locals who just happened to have a nice Toyota truck. She had driven here twice before and made it in her car, even when it was wet. She thought it would be easier when it was dry, but no. I would suggest 4 wheel drive in the future.

We finally made it to Finca Monte Carlo,, a lovely old coffee finca run by Efren and Anna. Efren’s email is

They’re located at the end of the road, up against a hill of great looking habitat about 900 meters.  There is a sign in the village saying Finca Monte Carlo 9 km, then a second sign saying 3 km to the left at a small bridge, but it’s more like a good 3 miles from the second sign, and took 30 minutes. Anna is a great cook, so it’s a wonderful place to spend some time. The cost is 600 pesos/person/night w/all meals, hard to beat.  We’re here for 3 nights, fortunately, as there’s lots to explore.

The rains should have started here, but they haven’t, so it’s dry but there’s still a good selection of butterflies flying. Judi says there are many more on the wing if you come in the wet season, probably best in November after the rains. She’s been here in October and November. Efren will pick you up at the airport in Huatulco, if you want to fly down, or you can drive and he will arrange for you to leave your car lower down at a friend’s and come get you in his jeep, or arrange a transfer.  Efren tells us the best time for butterflies is August and September, in the wettest time of the year. He says it’s typical rainy season, with clear sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons w/rain most afternoons/evenings.

We have 2 full days to explore the trails, and find lots of stuff. They have irrigation canals running down the valley surrounded by all sorts of plants and bamboo, and it’s very pretty.  You can walk on the edge of the canal up the ravine and there are large limestone cliffs We find the best places are down by the stream where they’re building a new irrigation canal, and probably the workers have peed.

You have to ford a small stream (could be bigger in the wet season) w/your car about 200 meters before you arrive, and this is where you walk back down and cross over the rocks then go right, paralleling the stream. We found several places where lots of species were mudpuddling at the edge of the stream. Lots of crescents, one of my favorites, 2 new species of Dalla, lots of spreadwing skippers, sulphurs, even the white morphos were coming to the mud.

The 2nd day unfortunately some campasino came down from the hills and was hanging around the stream crossing, waiting for a friend in his truck. The only problem is he had 4 mean dogs who attack Bill while he’s kneeling down photographing by the stream and he was bitten 3 times. This is unusual in Mexico, but that doesn’t do Bill any good. The bites aren’t bad, but they do break the skin and bleed. We’ll just assume none of the dogs are rabid.

Efren shows us his butterfly photos, and he has a huge cycad in his front stone garden area that is the host plant for Superb Cycadians. He has shots of all the stages, and we look the next morning and find egg casings and a big batch of larvae, plus empty pupa cases. The cats are bright red w/raised white stripes, they look like pieces of candy. They must taste bad, to be so brightly colored.

Tue May 11 – drive 400+ km to Tuxtla Gutierrez. It takes about 6 hours, with a few toilet stops. Bill has a newer map which shows a new cuota (toll road) from Arriaga up to Tuxtla, so we drive an extra 40 km or so to get to Arriaga rather than go our original planned route up from Tapanatepec. This turns out to be a wise decision, as it’s a nice new road and the old road is steep and twisty through the mountains.

We still need to get a new tire, after shredding one of Judi’s on the way up to Finca Monte Carlo. Judi had planned to go Wed morning to find a Goodyear/Michelin shop, but eagle eyed Bill spots one as we drive in on the main road. Fortunately they have it in stock and do the swap in about 30 minutes, a world class record for Mexico tire shops. This frees us up to do Sumidero Canyon as planned Wednesday morning. Fred flies into Tuxtla Gutierrez and joins us at the Best Western hotel that night, so he’s ready to go the next morning.

Wed May 12 – We spend most of the day on the 22 km road inside the National Park at Sumidero Canyon and exploring the 5 miradores (viewpoints).  It costs 25 pesos/person, well worth it. It’s still very dry, so we don’t see lots of butterflies, but some real goodies.

We have 2 new species of Codatractus flying around, C. uvydixa, which Bill gets some good shots of, and C. cyledis, which gets away. The cyledis has a bright white area on the edge of the hindwing which looks like it’s been painted or enameled on, very striking. There are lots of fresh blue morphos flying around, but not a single white one.

The day ends with huge thunderheads towering over the sunset on our way back from dinner at Appleby’s, first clouds we’ve seen on this trip, so maybe the rains are coming.

Thur May 13 – another driving day, as we take the cuota to San Cristobal de las Casas then wind through the mountains through Ocosingo to Palenque, only about 300 km but it takes a good 6 hours and is a tough road to drive. Judi does yeoman duty, avoiding big trucks and doing death defying passes, and we make it to Palenque just fine. We turn left and head to the ruins, and check out the fancy hotel Chan-Kah, about 3 km below the ruins.

This is a snazzy place to stay, w/nice rock cabanas scattered around in the jungle. The guide book says $145, they ask for 1400 pesos, and we negotiate them down to 999/double.   Bill and Fred take off to go up to the ruins, while Judi and I check in. We wander around the grounds a bit, take a swim in the fancy pools, and enjoy our large shared porch. We get 2 rooms connected w/a porch that look out into the jungle, very nice. Bill comes back w/some good photos from the ruins, while Fred was exploring the temples. Bill got some good shots of Red-spotted Firetip and our first Mexican Cycadian.

Fri May 14 – we backtrack on Hwy 186 (or 199, depending on which map you use) towards Ocosingo to visit a couple of the famous waterfall spots, hoping for butterflies by the river. We don’t have much luck, as there are lots of people at both Agua Azul and Misol-Ha, but they are beautiful spots.

The local ejidos, or communities, have learned to ask for money from the flow of tourists coming to the waterfalls, and we repeatedly run into groups holding a string across the road, blocking our way. Some are on the main highway back to the turnoff to the falls, but these we just say no to, and eventually they let us through.

Once we turn off to Agua Azul, which we do first as it’s the furthest back on the road away from Palenque, we have to pay 10 pesos/person at the first stop, then 25 pesos each at the second stop. They’re all ‘official’ and you must pay to gain entrance. I would pass on Agua Azul in the future, as it’s mostly lined with vendors selling clothing which mostly looks like it’s from Guatemala and snacky things to eat. The vendors are pleasant, they don’t hound you to buy, but it’s not exactly a nature experience.

The falls and the water are beautiful, but they’re full of folks swimming, and not a butterfly to be seen. Judi was here in August, in the rainy season, and she says then the water was mud colored. Now it’s the beautiful turquoise color you see on the posters, so it is very pretty and we take lots of photos.

This is about 60 km from Palenque, and on this twisty road, behind slow trucks, that can take considerable time. On our way back we stop at Agua Clara, 10 km closer to Palenque from Agua Azul, and they want another 20 pesos/person, and tell us there are more toll stops on our way in, and it’s only 2 km in, so we turn around.

We get to Misol-Ha, about 18 km from Palenque, and again have to pay twice, 5 pesos/person at the first stop, then 15 pesos/person at the waterfall. This one is beautiful, and a lot less people and no vendors. I would recommend you skip Agua Azul and just do Misol-Ha, plus it’s only 18 km from Palenque as compared to 60+.

Bill gets a few good bugs here, several new for our trip: Euptychia westwoodi, and Red Rim.  That night as we eat dinner at the open air restaurant the dark clouds build up, and just as we get back to our rooms the skies open up and there is a lovely thunderstorm w/lots of rain.

The next morning is much cooler and fresher, and everyone is happy, the first rain of the season.

Sat May 15 – we depart Palenque and head south towards Bonampak, stopping at a couple of balnearios (swimming holes) and taking a few dirt roads off to the side looking for butterflies. We pay more cuotas to get to the river, find a beautiful spot but very few butterflies, and continue to Lacanja, where I’ve been told is a nice place to stay w/the Indians in the forest. Campamento Rio Lacanja is simple but nice, and the people are helpful. 490 pesos for a double room w/a fan, no a/c but lots of very hot water, and they cook a tasty chicken soup w/all the rice and tortillas we can eat, plus good lemonade. They have a trail through nice forest, mostly second growth but it gets into some taller old trees as well.

As we drive in, after turning off the main highway towards Bonampak, then turning off again to the right at the well signed intersection and driving over the bridge onto the caliche road, we start seeing lots of dark kite-swallowtails flying up and down the road, dozens and dozens of them. We drop off Fred and Bill and then Judi and I continue on to find the place and see if they have rooms.

We have been told by 2 people, oh don’t worry, you don’t need reservations for this place. I had emailed them a few times and they had first said ok, then it was full for Sun and Mon night, but they had rooms for Saturday. So we decide to show up and see what happens. Now they only have 1 room in the ‘upscale’ enclosed rooms (of which they have 3 in 1 building) and only 1 of their rustic cabins, which are pretty rustic. Shared toilets/showers quite a ways along rocky paths from the cabins, and the cabin is a small wooden hut on the river w/a small mattress in an open door.

These are very trusting folk, as even in our room, which has 2 doors and a deck, and push in locks on the doors, there are no keys. So everything is left open all the time. Anyway, we take the 1 enclosed room and walk to the next place right up the road and get a 2nd room there for Fred and Bill. Same architect, basic design, and theirs is only 325 pesos/double.

So the guys stay up the road and come eat meals w/us, as our kitchen looks much better. The best butterflies we see are 2 Eurtyides salvini, or beautiful Salvin’s Kite-swallowtails, hanging out at the steps to our cabin. Judi scores and gets some great shots, life bug for both of us. I’m hoping to find some of the yellow and orange kites on this trip, as well as the Salvin’s, so I’m happy.  Bill scores with a great Historis archeronta that he finds outside the shared toilets, always good places to check out. We have rain again that evening, right after dinner, it’s nice to sit in the room w/the windows open and listen to the rain.

Sun May 16 – we walk back along the caliche road this morning, before it gets too hot, but we don’t find tons of stuff. It looks good, puddles on the road, lots of snow square stem blooming, but not large numbers of butterflies. As the day gets hotter more start to appear, and in the hot afternoon there are quite a few, mainly pierids and kite-swallowtails, flying up and down the road. The problem is they rarely stop. I don’t know why they’re not mudpuddling, lots of puddles to choose from, but we only find a few puddle parties, and they scatter once and don’t come back. So photography is tough.

Judi, Fred and Bill go down to Bonampak in the middle of the day and see some stuff, but not great numbers. They visit the ruins, while I stay at the camp and work the forest, but don’t see much that we didn’t see yesterday. I do get a fresh Carrhenes calidius that poses nicely, and the others manage to get some good shots of dark kite-swallowtails, but overall it’s not as good as we hoped.

The people at the lodge (the Indian family that runs it) look through our butterfly books at dinner and point out lots of goodies, including some of the orange kites, and say June is the month to come, they’re everywhere. They point out crackers and make crack-crack noises. It appears that we’re a bit early coming in May. We’re seeing a lot of 1’s of each species, so the numbers should go up over the next several weeks.

The locals say this is the start of the time of butterflies. Some friends have told me they have stayed at Frontera Corozal, where there are 2 simple hotels. Some people use Escudo Jaguar, and others have used Nueva Allianza, but we decided to move on. The only down side to these is they are in town, so you have to drive to get to the forest, while at Rio Lacanja you’re in the trees and can walk roads. Most people who stay at Frontera Corozal are taking the boat trip to Yaxchilan.

Mon May 17 – drive to Las Guacamayas, about 4-5 hours from Lacanja. Be sure to gas up at Benemerito de las Americas, the only official Pemex station between Palenque and Comitan.

There are lots of folks selling gas in little containers along the roads, and this gas station was only recently built. We are all amazed by how badly cut over the entire area is, nothing by cattle pasture, and not even many cows, all along the road. We take the smaller road just south of Benemerito de las Americans that cuts west, thus avoiding the longer road that hugs the border.

Las Guacamayas is well signed, official green road signs, and when we get there, about a km off the highway on the right, we find it hard to believe there’s much here as decent habitat. They have lots of signs about preserving the selva, but few trees. We do see a small family of howler monkeys on the grounds, eating mangos, and across the river, where the reserve is, we see some spider monkeys in the trees. But the grounds themselves are very manicured, the rooms are on wooden platforms connected by walkways, 2 rooms sharing a porch.

We watch rufous tailed and green sided hummers fight over heliconias in front of our shared 2 room cabin. We get a cabin that does not have a river view for 780/double, the river view cabins are 900/double.

The restaurant is very tasty, and it’s a beautiful view over the river, but not many butterflies in this sanitized area. The reserve is across the river and it looks beautiful, tall trees and wild looking, but no access. They do offer a boat trip for almost 1500 pesos (!) for 2 to 3 hours, where they take you up a tributary and maybe let you out to walk around for a short while. But they have no trails, and they don’t appear to want you to wander around much by yourself. They have a couple of guided walks, for ridiculous prices of 600 pesos for 2 hours, so we just explore along the river, looking for mudpuddling parties. We don’t find much, but we do see a very fresh whitened bluewing that Fred and Bill get some nice shots of. There are some things flying, kites going by and common pierids, but nothing worth getting excited about. They have some macaws in a small cage, and some deer in a bigger cage, but it feels very much like a zoo, and a not well run one at that. We do see a pair of wild scarlet macaws fly over from the restaurant at breakfast, they head across the river and disappear into the reserve, so at least there are some macaws there. I wouldn’t go back.

Tues May 18 – We depart and drive west to Tziscao and Lagunas de Montebello. We pay 10 pesos/person to enter the town of Tziscao, and be sure to keep your ticket as we use it to get into all the other string of lakes as we proceed westward. We were thinking of staying at Tziscao for the night, the town is full of cabanas, but we checked out a few of the ‘nicer’ ones by the lake and were not impressed. We had hot chocolate at the 2nd one, where the guy proudly told me he learned English when he spent 3 years in jail in Atlanta, Georgia for robbery, which didn’t lead to much confidence in staying at his establishment.

So we moved on, pulling into each of the following lake spots along the road, and butterflying the short roads off the main highway. We found a number of bugs, but not big numbers. Got good shots of Hedemman’s Satyr and cooperative Crimson Patches and a few other fairly common species. A beautiful day and we were up at elevation in the pines about 1500 meters+, so much more pleasant temperatures.

We drove onto Comitan, 1900 meters, where we looked for an inexpensive hotel mentioned in the Moon handbook, Posada El Castellano. We hadn’t realized that Comitan has small narrow cobblestone streets, much like San Cristobal, and in Judi’s large van it was a challenge. Glad she was driving and not me.

Fred navigated the streets and she drove, then we realized the street our hotel was on was being rebuilt and we couldn’t get there. So we decided to try the nicer hotel where other tour groups stay, Hacienda de las Angels. They were almost full, and only had a double for 1000 pesos and a junior suite for 1400, so we kept looking. We managed to find our original goal, got some rooms, and even found a place to park.

Nice little hotel, tasty restaurant, splashing fountain in the courtyard, I would go back to this place. If I did a trip again I would probably come stay at Comitan from Tuxtla Gutierrez and work the lake area as day trips. Then drive across to Bonampak and stay at Rio Lacanja, where there’s decent forest. I wouldn’t bother w/Palenque, probably turn around and drive back to the west.

Wed May 19 – Drove back past our turn from Lagunas de Montebello and headed south over the mountains to Tapachula, on the Pacific coast near Guatemala. This was a beautiful drive, about 5 hours on some twisty mountain roads, lots of gas stations.

Got to our hotel, the Loma Real, just off the main highway 200 up on a hilltop overlooking the city in nice gardens w/a good restaurant, and found out they were full due to a convention. Fortunately they had some 2 bedroom suites, so we get to live together for the next couple of nights, at 2014/4, including their snazzy breakfast buffet.

We watched giant wrens from the restaurant w/our large pizzas, way too much for one person, and Fred found white-bellied chachalacas later on the grounds, while Bill got nice shots of Cissia themis. Some nice stuff, in spite of being mostly a travel day. Plus we were able to get hold of the folks at Finca Hamburgo, one of the coffee fincas up above Tapachula, and they’re picking us up Friday morning for 2 nights at their place.

The road up is bad and requires 4 wheel drive, and after our experience w/tire eating roads going to Finca Monte Carlo, Judi is a bit cautious w/bad mountain roads.

Thur May 20 – We’re off to explore the Volcano Tacana. The road is very well signed to Union Juarez and Santo Domingo, and it takes an hour or two to get there. We drive paved roads all the way above Union Juarez, steeper and steeper, to another small pueblo of Txxx, find a place to park the car and walk down a trail into the woods.

Unfortunately it’s quite cloudy, with fog right over our heads rolling up the valley at 10:30am. It doesn’t get any lighter as the morning wears on, so we don’t walk in too far. We do see golden-banded dartwhites and mountain whites, and Judi gets a shot of our first Consul excellens or Black-veined Leafwing, which then sails down the trail in front of the rest of us.

Then a school group comes up of teenagers, who are amazed to find gringos up the trail, and have to stop and talk and get their pictures taken with us. We talk to their guide, who lives in Union Juarez, and who also says the verano (summer) or time of no rain is much better for butterflies. That would be Dec/Jan/Feb, maybe to March. It would be very interesting to come back here after a trip to El Triunfo in March, as that trips ends in Tapachula. You could come up and check it out for a day, see if what they say is true.

We head back down, check out Santo Domingo but don’t find much, stop a few places along the road but there are few places to pull off the twisty road, and no dirt side roads to explore. Crimson Patches are the most common bug of the day, they’re everywhere. We stop closer to Tapachula at INIFAP (Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestal, Agricolas y Pecuarias), talk our way past the guard at the gate (Judi has to leave her identification) and ask for someone who knows something about mariposas (butterflies) in our limited Spanish.

They’re very helpful, and get us a woman who is an expert in ornamental flowers, like heliconias. Aida Olivera de los Satos spends quite a bit of time with us, graciously taking us out and showing us her test plots of cacao, orchids and many types of heliconias. She also says come back in Dec to March, not many butterflies now. Maybe they’re right, as we don’t see many, or maybe they just don’t notice them.

Fri May 21 – Pablo, the driver from Finca Hamburgo, picks us up at our hotel at 9am. The Loma Real hotel lets Judi leave her car in their parking lot for 150 pesos/day, or 300, about the same it would cost her to leave it in a parking lot in town. We had hoped they would let us leave it here for nothing, as we’re staying a couple of nights before, then 1 more afterwards, but they don’t like the idea, and we’re lucky they let us leave it at all.

So we head up to Finca Hamburgo, about a 2 hour drive. We pass Finca Argovia after about 50 minutes, which is where the paved road ends. You can drive a regular car to Argovia, but they recommend 4 wheel drive beyond that.

The Hamburgo van isn’t 4 wheel drive, but the driver is very experienced on this road. These 2 fincas work together, and are on La Ruta del Café, which is their attempt to draw tourists. We get to Hamburgo about 11am and immediately wander around their manicured garden at the top. Bill finds the bug of the place as he finds a lek of Symmachia probetor, a different subspecies than the one in Boquete, Panama in Dan and Kay’s backyard. We all get great shots, as they are low and cooperative, a beautiful bluish/green riodinid w/red edges on the hindwing. We even see a female later that day, very different looking, but she just pops in and pops out, so no photos.  This is at the far edge of their garden near the restaurant, at the top of the stairs in the dirt. Bill also finds another great riodinid at this same location later in the day, Mesene crocella. It’s overcast and the fog comes and goes all afternoon, but we manage to scrounge up some goodies. There is a flat area down the road a bit where several species of swallowtails are hilltopping, so some of us spend time there.  The Polydamas Swallowtail is landing on bushes and spreading flat, which they almost never do, and Bill and I both get decent dorsal shots, one I’ve tried to get for a long time. There are also Orions, Variable Crackers, and our first Archaeoprepona, A. demophoon.

Our rooms are up on a higher hill top, so we have some stuff up there as well. This is a very well maintained coffee finca, and the rooms, 3 to a building with 3 buildings, have nice porches from which you can enjoy the view. At night we can see the lights of the town down below, when the fog lifts. There are fireflies and lightning and thunder, so it makes for a spectacular evening.

The restaurant is also very nice here, someone has spent a lot of money developing this finca for tourism. Some of the fincas are more homegrown, where you stay in somebody’s bedroom and feel like you’re part of the family, but this is an actual lodge.

We wander the trails Saturday, looking for bugs. That morning when we woke up there was heavy fog, we could only see about 10’ off our porch, but after breakfast it broke up, the sun came out, and there were butterflies flying. The weather seems to change here every 10 minutes, as the clouds move up and down the foothills. We kick up some new ones, but it seems slow, though this would be a lovely spot to come back to.

We see the Broad-banded Page flying around, sometimes briefly landing on the coffee flowers, but none of us manage to get a photo. The coffee flowers smell wonderful and are a beautiful white cluster. Bill scores w/several new bugs, he gets Theritas mavors and our first Theope. We’re going to try and leave early tomorrow, about 9am, and have them drop us at Finca Argovia, the one closer to town. So we can explore there, then get a lift back to the Loma Real in Tapachula. That way we can compare the 2 fincas. You can stay at both of them. This one the owner, who we talked to ahead of time, offered us a ‘Texas’ discount and charged us only 710 pesos/double, while he said the normal price is 1000 pesos/double. This would be a nice place to bring a group, as they have 18 beds in 9 rooms, in groups of 3, plus you pay for your food at the restaurant. He included the roundtrip transfers, which the Moon book says is $12.50/person.

Everyone here only speaks Spanish, and they seem to have a tough time understanding Judi’s and my Spanish, but we manage. The trails are just the farm roads through the coffee, with red clay dirt, the kind that gets very slippery when wet, especially when the moss grows on it. So you have to watch your step.

Sun May 23 – for an additional 450 pesos for our group, Finca Hamburgo takes us down to Finca Argovia in their safari truck, an experience in itself, about an hour trip, then the Argovia people will take us back to Tapachula. If we had gone straight to Tapachula, there would not have been any extra charge. The folks there are waiting for us and seem quite eager to see what we’re doing w/the butterflies, and a young biologist from Mexico City, who is there for a month studying birds, comes along. He gets pretty bored watching us photograph a bunch of swallowtails we find at a mud puddle, several Polydamas and a big Ruby-spotted Swallowtail. We also find a beautiful Eunica mygdonia, and all of us get great shots, after being patient w/it.

This is another fancy finca, about an hour from Tapachula, and the 2 fincas compliment each other, as Argovia is about 700 meters and Hamburgo is higher, about 1300 meters.

We eat lunch at Argovia, and it is delicious, if not very cheap. We check out a room, and it is very romantic, w/a beautiful private porch, for 1250 pesos. They might be open to a discount if you’re not on a weekend, which is when they get most of their visitors.

There are several species of tigerwings flying in the shaded ravines, and Bill also finds several new hairstreaks for our trip. We also see, and photograph, Iaspis castitas. There are 2 of them, and 1 lets Fred and Bill get some good shots. Then their driver takes us onto Tapachula, about another hour, where our Hotel Loma Real is waiting for us, our 2 bedroom bungalow, and Judi’s car is safe and secure. The next 2 days will be travel days, first to Juchitan, about 400 km, then up to Tuxtepec and west to Valle Nacional, about another 250 km.

Mon May 24 – Judi drives like a demon, 250 km from Tapachula to Arriaga in 3 hours, a great 4 lane divided highway. Then about another 1.5 hours to the turnoff at La Ventosa, so we were there shortly after 1pm, and we’re making such great time we decided to head on to Tuxtepec, another 250 km.

It was funny, today several times we were pulled over at the military checkpoints and questioned, especially coming out of Tapachula. They thought we had been in Guatemala, and were very confused by Judi’s Missouri plates on her car. But she convinced them we weren’t doing anything sneaky, and we continue on.

The 2nd part was on more windy, slower roads, but we still made it to Tuxtepec and were in the Villa Esmeralda by 5:30pm, 9 long hours on the road but now we’re in good position to hit Valle Nacional tomorrow, only about an hour away. We’ll snag the hotel rooms in town, then head up the mountain on Hwy 175. From Valle Nacional it’s about 6-7 hours to Oaxaca, but we’ll spend probably the next 2 days walking the roads and photographing. This stretch goes through great habitat which changes quickly as it climbs steeply.

Tue May 25 – drove to Valle Nacional, got our hotel rooms at the simple hotel right off the zocalo (the rates have increased from 280/double to 380, still a good deal), then headed up Highway 175 to km 74 and km 84, where I had good luck 2 years ago when I worked this road. We went to the higher location first, and were fogged out, but we did see our first purple and orange daggerwing, Marpesia corita. We had much better luck at the lower elevation, about 1400 meters. Km 84 is about 1700, where a small waterfall comes down the cliff, and I have seen Cloud-forest King in the past, but not this time. So we return to Km 74, which keeps us busy for several hours chasing a good variety of nymphalids, 3 species of Mapwings and our first Pedaliodes, big dark higher elevation satyrs.

We finally head back down the mountain and stop at the dirt road off to the left, or north, about Km 55 or 56. This is about 600 meters, so we had tons of Crimson Patches and several species of crescents and other lowland things.

Wed May 26 – after a tasty breakfast at the big palapa restaurant across from the Pemex, the only place to eat in town, we check out and head back up the hill. This time we stop at the 600 meter spot first, before it get too warm. We had rain when we woke up, but it clears by mid morning. We get great looks at One-banded or White-banded Satyr, Pareuptychia metaleuca, which are chasing each other vigorously and fortunately we find a shrub where they like to pose with wings open. Interesting, as we didn’t see any late yesterday at this spot.

We continue on up the hill, stopping at the same couple of spots, and get several new goodies at Km 74. Great shots of a very obliging Turquoise Emperor, both open and closed, and Godman’s Mapwing, plus a constant stream of 88’s, mostly Anna’s but a few Faded, with their glorious dark blue above. Today we continue up to the pass, and visit another dirt road off to the left, or south, as we’re climbing, just before Km 103. It’s easy to miss, as it drops off the main highway, but is a well maintained road down to a waterfall that’s no longer visited much, it appears. We don’t see a soul, and it’s quite cool and dark, we’re about 2400 meters. But we find a couple of species, a strongly marked Cyllopsis and Blazing Skipper, or Vinpeius tinga. Unfortunately later John Kemner corrects this to just a female Fiery Skipper, oh well. This looks like a great spot, good high elevation habitat in the pines. We were told there were 2 species of Dalla here, but didn’t see either.

It’s about an hour + to Itzlan, where we spend the night in their ecotourism cabins, very nice for 550 pesos/double. It’s in the pines about 2100 meters, so it’s cool and you can enjoy the wind in the pines. Not easy to find, as you have to drive through the town and up a paved road about another 3.5 km. We eat pizza in town before driving out, as we think we have to check in at the office in town, which is closed until 5pm. But it turns out that’s not true, we can drive directly to the cabins and pay there. They have a huge restaurant there, but it’s only open when there is a large group staying. So it’s a good thing we had the pizza, which was right to your left as you came into the square. Our cheapest meal yet, 200 pesos for all of us, and we couldn’t eat it all.

Thu May 27 – John Kemner drove up from Oaxaca, about 2 hours, and met us in town at Itzlan, after we had a tasty breakfast at Jemina’s. Then we drove back up Highway 175 to a dirt road off to the right, about Km 138, that was signed for 2 villages and goes in for 60km or more.

We drove in about 15-20 minutes to a wet meadow on the left filled w/yellow composites, about 9,500’ or 2800 meters. It was only about 9:30am, which was too early for this high elevation, so we drove on. We didn’t see much, as it was still too dry and we had overcast and cool weather, but it was beautiful habitat. John was full of nuggets of info, and was fascinating to spend time with in the field. At one spot we had Cloud-forest King flying overhead, but it never stopped for photos.

We finally turned around and went back to the meadow, where there was now some sun and it had warmed up, and we spent a couple of hours chasing Poanes monticola and some dark frosted females which could be Poanes taxiles or Poanes zabulon or maybe Poanes melane. Interesting that we didn’t see any males. We also got good shots of Piruna ceracates and a different looking crescent, Phyciodes mylitta mexicana, much darker than the Mylittas I’m used to.

This would be a great spot to come back to in the rainy season, if you were lucky and could hit a sunny day. The problem is once the rains start, it’s overcast and cool up here, so John says it’s almost impossible to hit the few sunny days this high. He feels the better time is Feb through May, but you just know if you could time it right you might find all sorts of goodies at a place like this.

Fri May 28 – John joins us again for a day up at Guacamaya road north of Oaxaca, after we drive on into town and get rooms at the Anturium Hotel, across the street from the new first class bus station. This is a nice hotel, 550/single and 700/double, that has a very nice restaurant in the courtyard for breakfast, very pleasant, and they take credit cards, which is a plus for us at the end of our trip and cash is running low. It doesn’t have air conditioning, as only the really upscale hotels in Oaxaca have that luxury. Usually the weather doesn’t need it, but it’s been very hot, in the 90’s. The rooms do have nice ceiling fans, and you can open the window, and we sleep fine.

So Friday morning Judi picks us up, after reuniting w/her dogs the previous night, then we stop at John’s house and head up to Guacamaya. This is off the libre or free road to Mexico City, you take the libre to the right where the cuota starts heading to Mexico City, then turn right on a signed road to Guacamaya and ecoturismo. It’s very dry up the canyon, but the mala mujer is blooming and this is a magnet for butterflies.

We find the special hairstreak again that Judi and I photographed here last July, and John collects several of them. It’s close to Satyrium favonius/ Oak Hairstreak or Poling’s Hairstreak, but this is a large range extension for either species, and Bob Robbins suspects this is an undescribed species. I had sent him our photos from last year, and he needs some specimens to determine the species for sure.  So we’re happy to find the same species flying a bit earlier. We also have a good selection of other skippers coming to the white flowers of the mala mujer. This is a plant that you need to know in Mexico, as it’s a nasty painful nettle that likes blooming alongside roadways, and the hairs can go right through pants and socks. I speak from personal experience, be wary of this plant. But it has large white clusters of flowers that stick up, and butterflies of many types seem to really like it. Or it blooms when not much else is blooming, but it’s always worth checking out.

We see White-crescent and Pipevine Swallowtails on the mala, Mexican Silverspots and Gulf Fritillaries, and lots of big skippers, Gold-costa Skippers are abundant, 1 fresh Valeriana Skipper, plus some Roadside Skippers and some fresh Codatractus that I think are Codatractus bryaxis or Tawny Mottled-Skipper, but John tells us that species flies more in the east, where it’s wetter, and here it’s what used to be called Arizona Mottled-Skipper but it’s not that either. Andy Warren has named it Sally’s or Confused Mottled-Skipper, Codatractus sallyae. This is a new one for me, but John says it’s common in the Oaxaca valley. It’s very bright rufous above, we watch them flying around, much brighter than Arizona.  We also have a good study of Banded-skippers, as we have both Chisos Banded-Skipper, Autochton cincta with the white fringe and narrow gold band, and Autochton cellus, Golden Banded-Skipper.  John points out some of the differences with Sonoran Banded-Skipper, Autochton pseudocellus, which is a confusing pair to me. He says pseudocellus is smaller, and the ventrals are different. 2 years ago we had good looks at pseudocellus up higher, at El Cumbre up Highway 175 from Oaxaca.

There is a 2nd place a bit up the road, where the water runs over the road from some drainage pipes and the road makes a big right hand turn, maybe 5 km up from the highway. This is a great spot for butterflies, as many species come to the water, especially now when it’s so dry.

We have Pallid Tilewhites, lots of blues of several species, more hairstreaks, lots of sulphurs – mostly Mexican. One of the interesting aspects is how different the 2 spots are in the species composition, even though they are very close. There are Red Satyrs patrolling the road, and Red-spotted Patches posing for photos.  The water spot is a great place for Checkered Scallopwings, I almost always see them here, and today is no exception.

We head back to town about 3pm for a late lunch/early dinner at my favorite pizza spot in Oaxaca, Mezzaluna. They have a thin crust, crispy pizza which I really like, however Fred, being from New York, turns up his nose at it. He does enjoy his shrimp risotta, so all is not lost. Mezzaluna just happens to be next store to a fabulous bakery, Pan & More, which is European style croissants and artisanal breads, another nice place to visit here in Oaxaca.

Then we wander around downtown, visiting several of the fabulous old churches and hit a few of the many art galleries and shops. You could spend a lot of time, and money, exploring Oaxaca, a fascinating and unique city.

Sat May 29 – Our last day in the field, and we go east on Highway 190 about an hour to Valle del Teotitlan, a Zapotec village and a great valley on a dirt road where there are many places to explore for butterflies. This is the weaving village where many tours go, everyone here makes their living weaving fabulous rugs, and you can see big looms in every house. More shopping, if you’re into that this is the place to do it.

We work our way up the dirt road that winds its way up the valley, gradually gaining altitude until we’re about 2300 meters. John notices the blooming acacia trees with white spikes of flowers, so we stop, and hit it big time with hairstreaks. They love this plant, it is the same flower that Judi had the mystery Satyrium hairstreak on a little lower down last July, on Guacamaya Road.

We have lots of butterflies, more hairstreaks today then we’ve had the entire trip. Unfortunately the trees are downslope from the road, so you can watch the butterflies easily w/binoculars, but it’s a bit far for photographs. Certainly not w/my camera, but Bill and Judi take some shots w/their longer lenses. Probably the best one we find is Atlides carpasia, a beautiful one similar to Great Purple but with red at the base of the wings and big white spots, very dramatic. We also have lots of Ziegleria and maybe some Electrostrymon, and several green species: quite a few Telea Hairstreaks, Clench’s Greenstreak, even an Erora or two.  It’s a great way to end our trip.

Sun May 30 – Judi graciously takes us to the airport for an early departure, and we all make it home fine. Thanks to Judi for doing all the driving and, and to John for the 3 days he spent with us, I’ll definitely look forward to going back to Oaxaca, probably next summer a bit later in the year. Give the rains a chance to get going, maybe in June or July. But if you want the higher elevation species, you should probably plan on March/April.