Mexico – El Triunfo, Chiapas, Mar 2010

Trip Report for El Triunfo, Chiapas, Mexico March 2010

Participants: Kim Garwood

Author: Kim Garwood

The trip was arranged by my friends Will and Gill Carter. There were 7 of us plus our Canadian guide, a knowledgeable young bird guide named Amy McAndrews, The regular guide is a Mexican called Jorge who leads birding trips all over Mexico and is also Amy’s partner. But due to conflicts in scheduling, Jorge wasn’t available and Amy, who had met Will and Gill last year, was able to help out. She was very good, knew all the bird calls, and was interested in butterflies as well.

The prime time for the horned guan is the spring before the rains, in Feb/March. Then the guans are calling, a low humming, blowing over a bottle noise, and when they’re not calling they’re much more difficult to find. Amazing how such a large bird can hide in the trees, but they do. Several bird tour companies run tours, VENT has done it the longest, since the late 70’s, and Legacy Tours also does trips every spring, but Will and Gill have done it several times and they arranged it directly with the Mexican foundation that runs the reserve.

Claudia Virgen is the director of Ecobiosfera, the NGO in charge of tourism. Her email is My understanding is that Ecobiosfera doesn’t want tours in after March, because that’s when the guans are nesting and they don’t want to disturb them. I’m thinking of trying to do a trip in the late fall, after the rains, maybe November, as the butterflies might be quite good then. Vamos a ver.

Wed Mar 10 We flew to Tuxtla Gutierrez from Reynosa through Mexico City, which was cheaper than going through Houston if you live in the Rio Grande Valley. We went one way on Mexicana and the return from Tapachula was on Aeromexico, for about $500 total. The flights were fine and relatively on time.

The Reynosa airport is easy to get to from the Pharr bridge, it took about 45 minutes-an hour from Mission, including crossing the bridge. It takes longer coming back, as entering the US is slower. You could leave your car at the airport for about $10/day, but my friends preferred to drop their cars at my place and John dropped us off and came back and got us when we returned.  Mexicana charged me 440 pesos for my 2nd bag, which just had my sleeping bag and a pad. Fortunately Aeromexico was more relaxed and I didn’t have to pay it on the way back, even though their sign said only 1 piece of luggage.

We spent the first night in Tuxtla Gutierrez at the Best Western Palmareca, cost about 1,000 pesos or about $75 for a room. Nice hotel, very comfortable and they have a great brunch which is included.

Thur Mar 11 We went to Sumidero Canyon for the morning and the Tuxtla zoo in the afternoon. It was very dry and not too many butterflies on the canyon. Compared to last July when I was there before, there were much fewer butterflies to be seen. Good birds, however. We were there early, and Amy had arranged permission so we could go in before the normal opening time of 7am.

We heard buff-collared nightjar calling before dawn, unfortunately it didn’t come in. This is still one of my jinx species. Good looks at belted flycatcher, one of the specialties there. The zoo is good for the great currasows wandering around, we had males calling and walking right up to us. There were also some tigerwing butterflies hanging out near some water. After a late brunch (it goes to noon) we did the zoo, then drove to our basic hotel for the night at Jaltenango, about 4 hours. This is quite cheap, 200 pesos/double, 150/single, but it was fairly quiet and it had hot water.

Fri Mar 12 an early 5:30am breakfast, which we had ordered the night before, and we load all our luggage into the heavy truck and we’re off. It’s about 3-4 hours drive on dusty bad roads to where we start walking, and of course we birded along the way, so we didn’t start the hike until just after noon.  We had white-faced ground-sparrows, a beautiful sparrow.

The horse guys are there waiting for us at Finca Prusia, an old coffee finca that they tell me was who originally created this trail over to the Pacific; they load all our gear and luggage on horseback and we start off. They have a guy w/a mule carrying water who stays w/us, so you don’t need to carry all the water for the entire hike.

It’s about 12 km, or 7 miles, and you gain about 1,000 meters, starting about 1,200 and ending around 2,200 meters. The trail is wide and not too steep, so it’s a fairly easy hike, just long and uphill. We made it to camp just at dark, about 6:30pm. We had our headlamps but we didn’t turn them on. You come to a crest about 9 km up, then the last 3 km is slightly downhill or level.

The camp is about 1900 meters. They have 2 large rooms w/mattresses on the floor, we had the bigger room. We also had 2 smaller rooms off our big room, and 2 of the couples took those. Will put up his tent outside, so there were just 3 of us in the big room on the mattresses.

We had 2 communal toilets and showers, which worked out fine. They even have hot water, not a large quantity of it so you wet up, shut off the water and soap up, then turn it on again to rinse. The first night or two it wasn’t very warm, then Lico, the camp guy in charge, managed to fix something on the boiler and we had hot water for the last couple of nights, enough to wash my hair which was great.

There are 3 main trails from the base camp: the one we came up on, the one we left on for the Pacific, and the one that runs up the valley, crossing the stream several times. This is where we found the horned guans our first full day, but we heard them several times in our 3 days/4 nights at the base camp. We found a fruiting tree a half a km or so back on the trail we had hiked in on, and that was a magical spot.

Watching highland guans eating in the trees, a stunning male quetzal swooped in and posed perfectly, taking everyone’s breath away, then a horned quan walked out on a branch. We went back to this tree several times, and there was always something fantastic there.

One of the most memorable aspects of this trip are the sounds. You are surrounded by brown-backed solitaires singing constantly, quetzals calling in the morning, yellow grosbeaks, blue and white mockingbirds, the songs never seem to stop. I had heard that this was a magical trip, and it lived up to all my expectations and more.

The butterflies weren’t abundant, but I saw several species I had never seen before. One of my favorites was the stunning red w/black veins Fountainea noblis, or Noble Leafwing. I only saw it once, after flushing it up from the trail (probably on a pee spot) but it landed about 10’ up in the tree in the sun and let me watch it for a while. Not close enough for a photo (if only one of my friends w/a longer lens had been there!) but a great look. We did see Abderus or Magnificant Swallowtails frequently floating through the canopy, and another Leafwing, Consul excellens, were common when the sun was out and it warmed up. Last July I had seen these for the first time at Sumidero Canyon, this year not one because it was so dry, but they were up here at El Triunfo.

One of the local guides told me the rainy season is much better for butterflies, as I would expect, but getting up slick, muddy trails wouldn’t be much fun. I’m thinking of trying to come back right after the rains, in November. The guide said it doesn’t get cold until December, and November is usually the best time for butterflies in northeast Mexico and south Texas, so it probably is the same here.

After 4 nights at base camp, with very tasty food, we woke up to rain on our departure morning. Our only rain the whole trip, and it had rained fairly heavily all night, lots of standing water on our way to breakfast. They had tarps for our luggage to go on the horses, and we put on our rain gear and took off about 6:30am. We had to climb a km or so out of the bowl and over the continental divide, where we walked out from under the clouds into the dry, just as Lico had said we would.

Then we wind our way down to 3 nights of camping at various elevations as we work out way down the pacific slope to the lowlands on the coast. The first camp is Canada Honda, home of the azure-rumped tanager. We had 10 people supporting our group of 8, so we had lots of horses and helpers. They went on ahead and pitched our tents and had food ready when we showed up, after birding our way down slope all day.

The camp is about 1400 meters, and it’s interesting as you cross through different habitats on the way down. We had solitaires nesting in the banks next to the trail, and they would bomb out as we passed, almost running in to folks a few times. We found the nest w/the white and brown speckled eggs, very nice.

About 1500 meters, an hour or so above the camp, we started seeing lots of butterflies, including our first morphos. We had stopped for lunch at a creek where we had my first Anthanassa drymaea or Weak-banded Crescent, one of the last Mexican crescents I hadn’t seen. If I was to do the hike again I would let the others go on to camp and spend a couple of hours stalking butterflies on this last part. It drops fairly steeply, so you don’t want to hike back up once you’re in camp. It crosses several ravines, and if there was water there could be butterflies everywhere.

The bird specialities of this camp are the azure-rumped tanagers, which we had come right into camp to bath in the stream. Due to the dryness, probably some of the only water around, and we watched 5 or 6 birds for quite a while, the Carters getting stunning photos. This is a bird that looks better from the back, and we got lots of wonderful looks. Watching a wet tanager preen and organize it’s feathers was great.

The next morning we get up to a hot breakfast and head off on a shorter hike, about 4 km to the 2nd camp, Limonal. The day before we had hiked about  9 km, so this is the easiest day. We found a blooming tree, or a tree covered in vines, and there were lots of hummingbirds coming. We must have spent an hour or two at this vine, saw 9 species of hummers, and killer looks at both sparkling tailed woodstars and a fabulous male black-crested coquette. Both posed very obligingly on favorite perches, so we could set up the scope and get more killer photos. Best look I’ve ever seen at a coquette, you could see the tan and black individual feathers around his face.

The 2nd camp was my favorite, more spread out w/lots of room for the tents. They have 2 outhouses, very clean and not odiferous, and a shower using stream water. A bit chilly but very refreshing. You could have used stream water at the 1st camp, but it was still cool and the water was cold, so I passed. The 2nd camp is about 1100 meters high, so it was getting a bit warmer, but my sleeping bag still felt good at night.

The 3rd camp is in the lowlands, about 500 meters and 10 km away, so we didn’t have as much time to dawdle and look at birds. The day before we took 6 hours to do 4 km, so we had to move a bit faster today. It was overcast, fortunately, so it wasn’t as hot as it could have been. We dropped down through oak forests, where along a ridge we had lots of butterflies. Some coming to the sapsucker holes in the oaks, we had 5 orions on one tree, plus crackers and blomfild beauties.

We had several species of our first metalmarks on a particular bush on the ridge, including Hades noctula or White-rayed Metalmark. The trail was steeper with lots of rolling rocks, like walking on ball bearings buried under 6 inches of dry leaves, so you had to pay attention to where you were walking. Tough on older knees and toes, but we all made it. We were tired by the time we reached camp, and it was hot and dry, not particularly pleasant. But they had a small river, and some of us went swimming. It felt great to just sit in the water, even though you had to look to find a spot deep enough to cover yourself.

The last morning we birding a couple of hours, seeing lots of great birds in the dry brush. Here’s where we got our last 2 species of motmot, for a total of 5 for the trip, and we had been surrounded by the ‘to-le-do’ calls of long-tailed mannakins the last 2 days, some folks even saw their bouncing, whirling display. We had to cross our swimming creek and walk the final 400 meters to the waiting trucks, where we said goodbye to our faithful support crew, horsemen and cooks.

We were driven in 2 small pickups an hour or so to the main highway at Mapastepec, where we had a cold drink and changed to an air conditioned van for the hour or so drive south to Tapachula. Before they had eaten lunch at the simple restaurant where we met the van, but Will suggested waiting until we got to our snazzy hotel in Tapachula, much better food, so we did.

We stayed at the Loma Real right outside Tapachula for the last night, very nice.
About 1100 pesos including breakfast, and the food was tasty. Plus they have giant wrens on the extensive grounds, and white-bellied chacalacas, which we saw easily wandering around that afternoon. We also had turquoise browed motmots in the trees and scrub right in back of the hotel.

It’s a bit outside of town, so it’s quiet, and they also have a nice pool. I would definitely use this hotel again if I go back. We got taxis to the airport the next morning and flew back to Reynosa, where our friend met us and brought us back across the border to Texas. No problems

All in all a great trip to some fabulous isolated mountains in Mexico. We went through lots of beautiful scenery, it was nice to know there are still areas like this left. One of the nicer hikes I’ve done in a long time, well worth doing. The people work hard to take care of you, and it’s quite comfortable for camping.

Brazil (Southeast) Jan-Feb 2010

Trip Report for Southeast Brazil 2010

Participants: Kim Garwood

Author: Kim Garwood

Southeast Brazil January/February 2010

2 weeks taking Portuguese classes in Rio de Janeiro

3 weeks photographing butterflies around Rio and Sao Paulo with friends

Sat Jan 9 overnight flight to Rio from Miami

Sun Jan 10 arrive 9am in Rio

Mon Jan 11 start 2 weeks of classes at BridgeBrazil

Sat Jan 23 6 friends fly down and we meet at the airport in Rio, head to Serra dos Tucanos for 3 nights

Jan 23/24/25 walk the trails at Serra dos Tucanos,, RS197.50/person/night including meals, RS230 airport transfer from Rio for up to 3

Tue Jan 26 Richard Raby, picks us up for 2 weeks, we head to Marica for the night, stop and see golden lion tamarinds behind restaurant, great shrimp in sauce over rice for lunch. He’s charging us US$175/person/day, plus 4 dinners we pay for.

Wed Jan 27 find Parides ascanius in am, drive to Itatiaia to Hotel Donati for 3 nights

Jan 27/28/29 at Hotel Donati, explore trails at Itatiaia National Park, 950 meters

Sat Jan 30 drive to Ubatuba on the coast for 3 nights at Pousada Recanto das Palmeiras, stop at the pass through Serra do Bocaina about 600 meters at the microwave towers, not good, 2nd stop about 450 meters has lots of clearwings at white flowers

Sun Jan 31 visit 2 fazendas (private reserves) Angelim and Capricornis

Mon Feb 1 visit Folha Seca hummingbird feeders and walk roads

Tues Feb 2 drive to Intervales State Park for 4 nights, 850-900 meters, (probably in Portuguese), reservations email

Feb 3/4/5 explore trails at Intervales

Sat Feb 6 drive to Serra da Bocaina for 2 nights, drop off Rick & Emily at Sao Paulo airport

Sun Feb 7 explore the roads around Estalagem da Bocaina, 1100 meters

Mon Feb 8 drive to Regua for 6 nights, contact Nicholas at, or the Guapi Assu Birding Lodge,, cost was $100/person/night including meals, airport transfer from Rio $150 up to 8 people

Sun Feb 14 fly Rio to Sao Paulo, then international departures around midnight

Jan 23/24/25 – Serra dos Tucanos picked us up at the Rio airport for $200 for 5 of us, about a 2.5 – 3 hour transfer north of the city. The lodge is about 400 meters and cool and wet, it feels quite a bit higher than only 400 meters. I had been there before and know how comfortable it is, a good place to start the trip and let everybody recover from the overnight flights.

Last time I was here in late November, and was curious to see how different the butterflies would be now, 2 months later in late January. Many of the species flying were ones I had not seen on the earlier trip, especially the morphos. We had the gorgeous white Morpho laertes, which posed very obligingly on the banana feeders so we all got our fill of photos. The blue morphos, which I think were M. helenor, only rarely came to the banana feeders at the lodge, but we found clumps of bananas in the forest from the old banana plantation and they were feeding there.

We had 2 full days to explore the trails. If I was to stay longer I would be interested in checking out some of the nearby trails, but you need a car or a taxi to get there and back. It’s only about 20-30 minutes from the lodge, but it would cost about 60 reais or so each way, which is about US$36, or 72 round trip, a bit expensive.

So I have not done any of the trails away from the lodge. But the trails around the lodge are nice. Our favorite was the close short trail to the stream, where each day we had a different swallowtail. I was surprised we didn’t have more species mudpuddling here. I got great shots of Eurytides dolicaon one day, and the 2nd day there was an enormous fresh thoas planted on the wet sand. One big difference was in November there were many clearwings, and now there were much less. Probably because the white flowering shrub they were coming to in November was past blooming now and had small fruits, so we didn’t find anything to lure the clearwings in.

Jan 26 – our bird guide Richard Raby picks us up about 7:30am and we’re off for 2 weeks with him. I had met him in Itatiaia on my previous trip, and he takes butterfly photos and seemed a good choice. He appears to be more of a general naturalist rather than a strict birder, which is fine with me. He knows a lot about the plants, and has reared many species of butterflies. He takes us to his home town of Marica for the night, in a simple little pousada near the sea. On our way there we stop at a roadside restaurant Richard knows about, and get permission from the owner to walk up the trail behind it into his forest, where golden lion tamarinds live. We find a troop twice, and the 2nd time a few of us get very satisfying looks as 7 of them cross the road up above us. Beautiful creatures, like orange puffballs moving through the trees, looking down at us and whistling. We then go to another patch of forest where there are several stream crossings.

By then it is getting later in the afternoon, but we find a few butterflies still flying, including a fresh Starry Night Cracker, Hamadryas laodamia, and a different looking Mapwing or Hypanartia, and what Richard recognizes as Hypanartia larvae.

The next morning our plan is to go to a colony of Parides ascanius that Richard knows of nearby. The cattleheart is very restricted in locations, though he says it flies all year. However it only flies for a few hours in the morning, and usually stops by 10 or so, so we’ve planned to be there shortly after 7 or 7:30am. We get some photos, but unfortunately they stay mostly high and aren’t very cooperative, so none of us get really spectacular shots, though they will be usable. It’s great fun to watch this lovely butterfly fly up and down the paths and over the tree tops.

Jan 27/28/29 – after watching the Parides for a couple of hours we drive to Itatiaia National Park, the first national park in Brazil. I have been here twice before and always stayed at the Hotel do Ype, the highest hotel, which is a great place to stay and has killer bird feeders, and delicious food. But this time I opted to try the Hotel Donati, which is 4 to 5 km lower on the winding road up the mountain, and it has more roadside areas with lots of flowers, therefore more butterflies.

We decided this was a good decision, and next time I will stay at the Donati again. One big advantage is you can walk easily to the road and wander around without using a car, so people can move independently and not all have to stay together. At the Ype you can only go down, which means you then have to come back up the steep road, and there aren’t near as many possibilities for butterflies. We did go up one rainy afternoon and watch the feeders at the Ype, which are fabulous for photography. The Ype hotel graciously allows visitors to spend some time at their feeders, then we went back down for the butterflies.

At the Donati we ended up spending much of our 2 full days on what we called the chain road, a cut through that has been blocked off by a chain on both ends. In November 2008, when I was last here, we drove through from the Ype to the Donati, and it was very good for both birds and butterflies, but now they have closed it off to vehicles, so it is even better for butterflies. Maybe a mile or a bit less through good forest, lots of puddles and flowers, when the sun comes out there was a particular stretch with a big opening below over the canopy and lots of butterflies, especially crescents, probably 4 or 5 species to sort out. It cuts off from the road up to the Donati about 800 meters below the hotel, heading off to the left to met up with the main road up the mountain and up to the Ype. This intersection is a good place to leave the car and explore in all 3 directions.

We had several different swallowtails landing on the road, plus the fabulous Brazilian bluewing, Myscelia orsis, both males and females which look very much like bluish catonepheles.

Sat Jan 30 – a long driving day over the Serra do Bocaina mountains and down to the coast where we turn right and head west for Ubatuba in Sao Paulo state. We stop twice coming over the low pass for butterflies. The first time just before a tunnel on a road up to microwave towers on the left which isn’t very productive, mostly tall grass, though we do find our first Ancyluris metalmark. Then a short way further down, after the pass, we pull off to the right and take a small trail which has lots of the white flowers the clearwings are after, and there are quite a few active tigerwings, so we take lots of photos there.

Then it’s on to Ubatuba, where we stay at the very comfortable Pousada Recanto das Palmeiras. This is a tourist beach town, so there are many hotels and pousadas to choose from, but we all like our place very much. It’s comfortable, very secure, and has tasty breakfast, plus lots of lights and electrical outlets. Most of the older hotels in the parks have few lights and almost no outlets.

The next day when we come back the windows are all wide open on our rooms, where they open out to a secure walkway in the back, which takes us a bit aback, as we left all our valuable stuff in the rooms, but apparently the hotel airs out the rooms like this and there isn’t any problem. It’s very humid, but the air conditioners are great and they have ceiling fans as well, so it’s quite comfortable. You can walk to the beach if you want, or lots of restaurants, but this place is very quiet, and we are here through the weekend. I would stay here again, and they even have wifi in the lobby. My only internet on this trip.  I was concerned about the rain, because Ubatuba is known for being very rainy, and we have been hearing on the news about all the rains and flooding in Sao Paulo, but we have 2 beautiful sunny hot days, no rain at all. Brazilians call it Uba-chuva, and chuva means rain, so that is a subtle hint about the frequent rains here, but we have perfect weather, if a bit hot and sweaty.

Sun Jan 31 – visit Reserva Angelim in the morning and Reserva Capricornis in the afternoon. Both are off the same turnoff from the main highway east of Ubatuba, the roundabout east of the big covered sport area. Angelim is the first right after the main turnoff, while the 2nd reserve is straight in further. Angelim was the much better place. This is where the bird tours go to find purpletufts.

You walk in up a dirt track big enough to drive a van with nice forest on both sides. You come to a clearing where the caretaker lives. There are a number of trees in the clearing where people look for the purpletuft, but you can continue a long way up into the forest. There are a couple of routes or trails into the woods where you cross some streams. I spent most of my time past the clearing but before it got into dark woods. It was about 10 am when butterflies became more active. We didn’t get good numbers, in fact it seemed quite slow around Ubatuba both days. It was much better up at Itatiaia. I was told late Jan/early Feb is the best time for the highlands, but apparently not so good for the lowlands. Brazil may be the sort of place where you can’t time it so it’s good everywhere.

In the next 2 days we went to several patches of forest that looked quite good but overall saw few butterflies. But of course we got some good ones, just not much in the way of numbers. On my next trip I would bring a sack lunch, maybe some rolls and cheese snitched from the hotel breakfast, and plan to spend the day in the field. In the afternoon we went to visit Carlos Rizzo at Capricornis, where there aren’t any signs at all so you have to know where you’re going. Carlos also works as a bird guide and speaks some English. His website is and he takes lots of bird photos. I think he is the caretaker of this property, which is up the canyon and is basically an overgrown cacao plantation with a river down one side. We were surprised not to find more stuff there, even the river bed didn’t have anything. I suspect a different time of the year both of these reserves could be good places, but not now.

This has been the wettest January in a decade or more, so that could be impacting things. Richard thinks December would be better here in the lowlands. I’ll just have to come back at another time of the year and see.

Mon Feb 1 – went to Folha Seca, on the way to Corcovado, west of Ubatuba. Jonas has set up private hummingbird feeders at his house in the woods, and you can walk a mile or so up the road in the woods past his house. It looks very nice habitat, but again not many butterflies. We actually had better luck, at least Rick and Emily did, working the road back from Jonas’s house to the right, the way we drove in.

There were many shampoo ginger flowers lining the road that were blooming, and most of the butterflies they saw were coming to those. They got good shots of our first Eurybia and several other metalmarks, plus there were several Saliana skippers and 4 or 5 different hairstreaks. The only other butterflies I saw were some tigerwings coming to the white flowers, and they seemed to only like certain patches. I had at least 3 species of tigerwings and Lycoria halia.

We ate a late lunch at Restaurant Tropical, also west of town about 10 or 15 km, a little west of the road to Folha Seca. This is where they have fruit feeders for tanagers, and we had a few red-necked tanagers come in, plus lots of hummers. We were so full some of us just had ice cream for dinner that night at 7pm, we went to a sorveteria where you dish up your own ice cream and then weigh it, you pay by the weight. A great way to serve ice cream.

Tues Feb 2 – another long driving day to get through Sao Paulo and southwest to Intervales State Park, about 4-5 hours south of Sao Paulo. We are back up at elevation, about 900 meters, so we’re in much more pleasant temperatures, and hopefully better butterflies. At least we had thought we would be at cooler temperatures, but the first afternoon when we arrive it’s boiling, much hotter than they’re used to here. They have several large old big houses scattered around the park where people stay, and our group gets Pica-Pau (which means woodpecker). I’ve stayed in this one before, and it’s my favorite, plus it has the only swimming pool.

We get the 4 rooms on the 2nd story of a large old wooden building with little balconies off the rooms, beautiful views over the hills. The down side is the heat gets trapped on the 2nd floor and we all swelter in our stuffy little rooms under the eaves. We can’t open the French doors to our balconies due to biting insects, and there aren’t any fans or screens, so we just whine and sweat. It’s not as bad the next day, or maybe we’re more used to it.

The 2 previous times I’ve been to Intervales it was cool, not hot, so I think this is quite unusual for here. But we have some good butterflies. We get several special owls or Brassolidae, and lots of gorgeous small bamboo Morpho aega are flying. This is the species they use to make the plates with the wings, a brilliant metallic sight sparkling in the bamboo on the trails. Often you watch 3 or 4 chasing each other. Of course they don’t stop for photos, but maybe one of us will get lucky.

We spend the next 3 days rambling around, sometimes in the van, sometimes on foot. Before when I’ve been here we did the dirt roads, but this time I spend 1 day hiking on a narrow forest trail that takes off right from the pool area, where you park the cars by Pica-Pau. It looks like it goes up the hill through open pasture and grass, so it doesn’t look very promising to start, but Hank and Richard did it late in the afternoon one day and came back with some good stuff, 2 new owls, so I try it the next morning right after breakfast.

After climbing a bit you join up with a main trail they’ve mowed called Mirante da Anta, turn left at the top of the hill and in a few hundred feet you get into forest. The further you go the better it gets. I think on the map it says this trail goes for 6 km, so you can go as long as you want. There are lots of grass skippers, many of whom don’t pose for photos, but I chase and get a bunch of shots of a fabulous ruby-eye, dark veins with 2 big white bands. He jumps my flash at first, which I meant to turn off, but I luck out and find a 2nd individual who is more obliging. He’s in a very dark part of the trail, and likes to hide in the dark plants next to a wet mossy wall, so he prefers it dark, but after I mess with him a while without the flash he seems to get comfortable with my sticking my camera up next to him, and when I go for the flash he tolerates it.

Many of the dark skippers who live in the dark forest won’t let you flash them, but sometimes you get lucky, or with patience they get used to it. There are white flowers for clearwings, Parides flying overhead, and tons of the Morpho aega. I finally get one sitting on the wet trail, get some shots, then catch it and shoot it in the hand. Dan also gets a female, one of the orange ones. Apparently the females come in blue or orange. I had not even seen a female, so that’s a major score.

1 day we drive up one of the tracks, get out of the van when we see butterflies flying, and walk up the road. We get good shots of Lychnuchus celsus, a beautiful dark grass skipper with big bright orange patches on the forewings, plus a green thorax, smashing. We keep kicking up things as we walk, never large numbers but a steady stream of different species.

One of everybody’s favorite is the fresh Mimoides lysithous we find drinking at an area the local guide takes us to where there is water crossing the road. Louise, the local ranger, is a bird guide and is very knowledgeable with the birds, but knows zip about the butterflies. But when we ask him if there is a place with water on the road, he takes us right to a good spot. This Mimoides is black with a bright white stripe and red on the hindwing, very delicate and graceful. This pattern seems to be a common one here in southeast Brazil, the female hectorides swallowtail is very similar as are several others. It’s interesting to compare this location to Itatiaia, as they’re roughly the same elevation. This is much scrubbier, more 2nd growth, but there is darker forest in on the trails. I think Itatiaia is wetter and cooler, at least this time. There is more open woods here, therefore more sunny places. Both places are well worth spending quite a bit of time at.

I think it would take you a long time to explore all the trails here. You could probably easily spend a week or 2, especially if you have a vehicle. Some of the tracks go 20-30 km! I’ll be back. One unexpected bonus is we have crab-eating foxes coming around our house several evenings right at dusk. Once we have at least 3 of them. I’ve never seen them before, but they seem to be looking for food.

2 other close tracks we enjoy walking are Hank’s track, to the right below our house about a mile or so, and Dan’s loop that goes to the left past the nursery, or viveiro, to the research station. I had walked this loop last time I was here. There are 2 roads that head west from the main road, signed for Seco de Paseido, or something close to that. It’s a one way loop for vehicles, and there are several roads that take off from the station area. This is where the nightjar sits in the road at night.

This is a nice couple of km loop for walking, except they have whacked the bushes along the road on the first part of the loop. So we walk the return part, the road that takes off closer to our Pica-pau residence that goes in past the nursery, and the undergrowth is much better for butterflies. Dan and Rick and Emily get some good stuff along this part. Hank’s track to the right has tons of Morphos, I’ve never seen so many, plus I find a new Vettius and a different Hypanartia or Mapwing.

Every track seems worth exploring, it’s just a matter of time as to how many you can go down. There are very few cars, even on the main tracks maybe only 3 or 4 a morning, and the tracks are weedy and often damp with dappled sunny spots or more full sun, so it’s a great environment for butterflies. The main problem is getting distracted by all the birds, this is a very birdy place.

One place in the forest, for example, I’m working on a satyr and look up to find a pair of saffron toucanets squawking at me.
Our 3rd day we take the van and drive in a ways, then get dropped off at a gate and walk from there.  Again, different butterflies even though it looks similar habitat. Lots of white flowers, so lots of clearwings, we find several new ones for us.
You could probably spend a week here without any trouble.

My only suggestion is to bring a fan, if you’re coming in the hot months. It cools off nicely outside, to about 70 or so, but the buildings don’t breathe very well and you can’t leave the doors open due to the gnats and mosquitoes. The bugs may be worse now due to the heavy rains they’ve had, I did not have any trouble with biting insects on my previous trips.

Directions to Intervales – west of Sao Paulo on SP280 to SP127 towards Itapetininga, then on to Capao Bonito, small road to Riberiao Grande, then 25 km dirt road to the park. Takes about 5 hours from Sao Paulo, including about an hour to get through SP from the international airport on the east side of town.

Sat Feb 6 – We head out for the drive to the Sao Paulo airport (4-5 hours away) to drop off Rick and Emily with some concern about our van, which has been stalling frequently since getting a load of bad gas at Capao Bonito, where we had filled up at a truck stop on the outskirts of town as we arrived.

We may have clogged injectors, so plan B is to have it checked in town and worse case put Rick and Emily in a taxi to the airport. They have plenty of time, as the international flights all seem to leave about 11 pm or 12 in the middle of the night. However, the van seems to improve as we limp along the 25 km of rutted dirt road, and by the time we make it to Capao Bonito it’s running ok, so we continue. We make it through SP, leave them at the airport, and continue on east back to the turnoff to Itatiaia, then the van starts stalling again.

As we turn off the main highway to the right and head to Bananao, it gets worse. We continue the final 35 km up steep, progressively worsening rocky road, and finally make it to Estalagem de Bocaina, a simple hotel of about 7 or 8 rooms mostly for hikers, jeep clubs, and used by Brazilian special forces for training. It’s clean and very friendly and they’re thrilled to have butterfliers for the first time. The owner has even found a dead swallowtail and saved it for us in an envelope.

The food is wonderful, and they serve huge amounts, guess they’re used to serving young hungry hikers. Richard had originally used the more upscale hotel in the area, but on a previous trip they dropped his reservation, even though he had paid in advance, so he prefers this simpler, very welcoming place.

There are 2 rooms for the 2 couples that include bathrooms, but I get a room where the toilet is shared down the hall. They have male and female toilets, so basically the toilet is all mine, as the only other guests are a jeep club of a bunch of guys.

The 2nd night, Sunday, we have the place to ourselves. We walk the roads, as Louise our driver has taken the van back home to Marica, about 3 hours away, where he takes it to the mechanic and will return for us Monday morning with another vehicle. So we have to walk a mile or so through the open valley roads to get to forest, but we find some goodies along the water by the side of the dirt road. We find at least 4 and maybe 5 fabulous big firetips, 2 yellow and black striped ones, a gorgeous rainbow red, yellow and blue striped one that is truly spectacular, Mimoniades veriscolor, and another mostly black with some yellow, plus the typical Pyrrhopyge black with white trim and a red head. And they’re fairly obliging and pose for photos! Dan and Kay and Richard find a communal group of the yellow and black striped firetips, Saripa damippe, roosting in the grass early in the morning, when they go birding, and get photos of them crawling up out of the wet grass. Interesting, I didn’t know they roosted together like that.

I walk to the left of the hotel, the take the road to the right and go up the hill into forest. There are more white morphos than I have ever seen, sometimes 8 or 10 in sight chasing each other. They are sitting on the road, so I get photos of several individuals. We may have 2 species here, I will have to check the books when I get home. Or it may be the 2 sexes, but there are a few with different markings. There is a fabulous huge dark canopy flying morpho sailing along overhead with some light blue/greenish color on the dorsal, but these don’t come down for photos, unfortunately. Lots of action with species perching up in the canopy and chasing each other.

I do get photos of several new grass skippers, so there’s lots of keep us busy. And there are lots of good birds, swallow-tailed cotingas coming to a fruiting tree and lots of other goodies. I would suggest staying for 3 nights instead of just 2 as we are doing, as you could spend a day in each direction from the lodge. You drive over a pass of about 1300 meters, and the road up higher could be excellent to work as well. We didn’t have the time on our way in, due to the car problems, and it would be better to do it in the morning, but we choose to spend our 2nd morning in the roads around the lodge and get lunch here, instead of leaving after breakfast and eating in one of the roadside cafes.

We’ve eaten in Frango Assado cafes on the long drives, where we get mostly chicken fried on a stick or various puff pastries that are fairly heavy. Another chain that looks interesting is Graal, but Richard says it’s too expensive, however I may try it on a future trip. With a car I would spend a day here up at the higher elevation on the pass, I’ll bet you find some different butterflies with a couple of hundred more meters of elevation. They have not had any rain here in over a week, so it is quite dry, which is unusual. Everywhere seems to be having unusual weather on this trip, and it’s hotter here than normal.

Mon Feb 8 – we spend the morning on the roads around the lodge, some going one way and some of us going the other. This morning I head up the road to the right, and we find more groups of the Sarbia firetips crawling up out of the wet grass and basking together in groups of 4 and 5, a truly remarkable sight.

Then after lunch we pack up for our 4 hour drive to Regua, where we say good bye to Richard. We have some driver problems, as he was supposed to be back at 8am, then Richard told him he could come at 10am, and now we’re waiting and it’s 12:30pm. But finally he shows up, with a new van and another driver, and we finally get underway.

We don’t like the new driver, as he drives too fast and doesn’t seem to pay any attention to Richard, who repeatedly tells him to slow down. So we’re all very glad to make it to Regua in one piece and say goodbye to the 2 drivers. Richard is furious with them as well, and won’t be using them again. Too bad, but you only expect a few things from a driver, and driving safely and being on time are the 2 most critical.

I did enjoy Richard as a guide, his suggestion to include Serra do Bocaina was very good, and I will be using him again for future butterfly trips. He’s quite into butterflies, and knows quite a bit about them, and takes photos of them as well. I will probably do it in a smaller group, maybe 3 or 4 max, so we can just use Richard’s car and eliminate the potential driver problem.

So we’re at Regua, where the meals are killer and the rooms are very comfortable, in a small lodge on top of a small hill with a pool, hummingbird feeders, and pretty views of the mountains in back of us, and air conditioning! Good thing, as we’re in the lowlands, about 55 meters, and it’s seriously hot and sticky.

The next morning we explore around the lagoons Nicholas has built and work our way into the forest. They have lots of trails here, and we spend a few days exploring, plus the owners, Nicholas and Raquel, provide a range rover and driver to take you to several more distant trails.

This land has been in Nicholas’ family for several generations, and they’re involved in all sorts of conservation/education projects, so it’s quite interesting to hear what they’re working on.  Plus my friend Jorge Bizarro has come to talk with Nicholas about a job, and to also spend some time guiding us around. He knows a tremendous amount about hostplants and caterpillars, and is very gracious and always willing to share his knowledge. It’s nice to have someone along who is very familiar with many of the southeastern Brazil species.

Tues Feb 9 – after exploring forest trails around the lodge, Nicholas drives us up to some new land they recently purchases from an old man called Vortemer, or something close to that. You turn to the right out of the entrance to Regua and drive 30-45 minutes, as the road gets steeper and rockier.

We hike up a couple of hundred meters in elevation to about 400 meters, to a beautiful setting up against the steep hills of the mountains, in a nice overgrown garden with lots of citrus. We collect limes for our nightly caparinhas, which Nicholas provides for free, a very nice touch. We start back down a different trail, and Dan and Kay find a citrus tree oozing sap that has attracted some Opsiphanes owl butterflies and an amazing beetle. Then we come to a dark ravine with a small creek that is full of Ithomniine or clearwings, including some I don’t know. Especially a yellow and black Napeogenes. We also get good shots of Pierella nereis, with the stunning orange on the dorsal hindwing.

Wed Feb 10 – we hike up to the waterfall, after being driven in 6 km past Nicholas’ house. Their trails mostly have meter markers every 50 meters, and on this one we get dropped off about 1000 meters, then hike to 2500 meters where the trail splits into red to the left and blue to the right. We take the right fork, which is the correct one for the waterfall, and the easier way to go. It’s a tall, dark forest and a narrow trail, so we don’t see many butterflies, but it’s a very pretty hike. When we get to the waterfall it’s spectacular, and you can go swimming.

We eat lunch and sit on the rocks and watch several species of morphos sailing through the chasm and into the spray of the falls, a magical place, well worth the hike.

Thur Feb 11 – more exploring on the trails near the lodge on foot. We figure out you can take a loop trail over to the vista intersection, a couple of kms away, through nice forest with lots of butterflies. Then in the afternoon we go to the Black Trail, again by range rover, which Nicholas suggests as a good trail with afternoon sun.  Probably the most exciting is a fabulous metalmark or riodinid that gets away, half cream and half dark, split horizontally. Plus lots of small hairstreaks or lycaenids.

Fri Feb 12 - In the morning we’re driven to yet another trail, the 4×4 trail, which takes almost an hour to slowly scramble up the rough road, then we walk further into the forest. This turns out to be our favorite for butterflies, as we get some goodies here, especially very obliging Arcas imperialis, the stunning sparkly green hairstreak with long curly tails. Dan and Hank also score big time with great shots of the mystery riodinid we saw yesterday, and this time they nail him, so I’ll be able to id it once I get home. We have several other new riodinds, brilliant blue/purple Menanders and a small black and orange Pterographium, maybe P. sagaris satnius.

In the afternoon Dan, Kay and I go back to the lime tree trail, and we manage to get some decent shots of the yellow Napeogenes, but much fewer butterflies than a couple of days earlier.

Sat Feb 13 – Our last full day in the field, we go back to the 4×4 trail, as that is where we have the best butterflies.  This 2nd day I walk downhill from where the range rover drops us off, for several kms. I’ve never seen so many hairstreaks anywhere.

The road, big enough for the car and basically 2 ruts through the vegetation, has a mossy dark bank on the uphill side about 1 to 3 meters tall, and the hairstreaks seem to really like this. You keep kicking up many, probably quite a few different species. Many are Calycopis, probably C. caulonia, which were studied here by one of Jorge’s friends. But there are several other Calycopis type hairstreaks, and quite a few other genera. Lots of Strephonota, a few Janthecla, at least one Lamprospilus, some Tmolus, Iaspis, and more. It would be productive to catch some and photograph the dorsals as well, to make sure of the id’s.  this is definitely a place to come back to, probably several times throughout the year. Jorge says May is good for several species of Parides, including P. ascanius. Maybe I’ll just have to spend several months.

One very useful book I find here, pointed out to me by Jorge, is Historia Natural da Serra do Japi, by L.Patricia C.Morrellato, published in 1992 in Sao Paulo. It covers many types of living things, but it includes a chapter on butterflies, and it includes skippers. They illustrate almost 700 species, done by Keith Brown, and it’s extremely useful. I photograph the entire chapter for future reference, as I am told it is out of print, of course. Nice to know Nicholas has it here for our use in his library. He also has Butterflies of Misiones (Argentina) by Canals, which is quite helpful.

One thing I’ve learned on this trip is how similar many of the species are to Iguazu Falls, so I should have brought my Argentina butterfly books. Next time I will.  I hadn’t realized that the Mata Atlantica goes down to Iguazu, duh.

The last afternoon Nicholas and Raquel come and take us to an old swimming hole, as the electricity goes out and it’s hot. We drive to the old ranch house, which is now owned by the brewery, and walk in across a pasture. By the time we get to the river we’re definitely ready to jump in, and it’s a perfect temperature. A beautiful spot, hidden away and very private.

The guys scramble up the boulders and head upstream, but I just float in the fabulous pool and enjoy the spectacular tangerine colored bromiliads hanging over the mossy rocks. We hang out for an hour or so, until we all have goosebumps from the cool water, something we haven’t felt in quite a while. A lovely way to end our fabulous trip to Guapi Assu Lodge, and our spectacular trip to southeast Brazil. I’ll be back, hopefully many times!

Future trips – schedule some time to visit Campos do Jordao, about 2 hours from the airport at Sao Paulo, east of town about 1500-1600 meters. Richard says it’s good for higher elevations, mountain tourist town with lots of hotels, good habitat.  He suggests on his website some hotels to use, Vista Verde is nice. I would not include the lowland locations in a summer trip, I would skip Ubatuba when I come back in Jan/Feb/March.

I need to figure out the better times for the lowlands, maybe their spring like Sept/Oct/Nov/early Dec. So a future highland trip might be a bit later, like Feb/Mar instead of Jan/Feb, but pay attention to when carnival is. I would maybe fly into Sao Paulo and drive to Intervales, then work my way back to the east and do Campos do Jordao, which would be a closer drive from Intervales. Then do Itatiaia, then Serra do Bocaina, then back to Rio and maybe Serra dos Tucanos and maybe around Teresopolis. Add more days at Itatiaia and Intervales and Bocaina.

One thing the Serra do Japi book talks about is the Ithomiinae are more common in the dry winter months, and they make large congregations then, probably in September before the rains start. That would be something to try and find, a reason to come at the end of their winter. Nicholas says the bird tours come to Regua mostly June/July, when it’s cooler, so that might be a time to avoid. It was very nice having the lodge at Guapi Assu mostly to ourselves.

Ecuador Oct-Nov 2009

Trip Report for Ecuador Oct. – Nov. 2009

Participants: Kim Garwood

Author: Kim Garwood

Ecuador October/November 2009

Ecuador is a very difficult country to figure out the weather, as many regions of this small country have very different weather patterns. The west slope, especially Mindo and the Tandayapa Valley area, are much drier than the east slope, and it has distinct wet and dry seasons.  The rains ‘usually’ start in Oct and run to April/May, with the heaviest rains Jan to March. But this year the rains were late, and I was at Tandayapa Nov 4 to 9 with not a drop of rain, and the forest was parched. This negatively impacted the butterflies, I suspect. The guys at Tandayapa say they had heavy rains several weeks ago in Oct, about 10 days of solid rain, then it stopped and nothing since. The east slope, on the other hand, is more of a wet and wetter climate, with the heavier rains in May/June/July, and Sept/Oct being drier, relatively. At the Rio Bigal reserve, above Loreto, we wore rubber boots all the time and had lots of overcast and drizzle. But at WildSumaco, just an hour closer to the Andes and 500 meters higher, the trails were dry and I only wore rubber boots 1 day, on the hike w/Jonas on the mule trail. We had rains most afternoon and evenings, but the forest was drier than normal. In the south, at Loja and Zamora, it was also very dry, much more so then usual. At Cajanuma entrance to Podacarpus NP, they hadn’t had any rain in 3 or 4 weeks, and all the mosses and ferns on the side of the hill were shriveled. You could sit on the mossy sides of the trail and it was dry. There were much fewer butterflies than on the same trip in November 2008, according to Chris who had been on that trip.

First 2 weeks w/Thierry Garcia of Fundacion Sumac Muyu at his Rio Bigal Reserve, near  Loreto on the east slope, He’s asked me to come down and help w/a butterfly list for his reserve, plus he’s offered to take me to a couple of other places, so we’ll be spending the 1st week on the west slope near Santo Domingo, then Banos down to Tena, and the 2nd week at his reserve.
Then I spent 6 nights at WildSumaco, a new lodge an hour west of Loreto, then to Quito, then to Tandayapa lodge for 5 nights, back to Quito where I met a group of moth & butterfly collectors from Expedition Travel through the McGuire Center in Gainesville, FL. We fly to Loja for the last 2 weeks at Podacarpus NP and Zamora in the south.

Mon Oct 12 fly to Quito, night at Hotel Hothello, $28/room single, $40/double

Tues Oct 13 – Thur Oct 15, 3 nights La Esperanza reserve, 1500m west slope, $10/night

Fri Oct 16 drive to Banos for 1 night, Villa Santa Clara, 1800m $10/person, 2 rooms

Sat Oct 17 –Sun Oct 18 spend 2 more nights in Banos, work Rio Zunac 1300m

Mon Oct 19 drive to Puyo, stopped by landslide, night Safari Hosteria 1100m, $24/room

Tues Oct 20 drive to Loreto, spend 1 night in town, $10 Monte Azul

Tues Oct 20 –Sun Oct 25 5 nights to Rio Bigal Reserve

Mon Oct 26 1 night in Loreto, Monte Azul again

Tues Oct 27 – Mon Nov 2 to Wildsumaco for 6 nights,, 1400 mtrs, $120/person double, $134/single w/meals

Mon Nov 2 transfer to Quito for 2 nights, Hotel Sebastian through Tropical Birding, $87/single

Wed Nov 4 – Sun Nov 8 transfer to Tandayapa Birding Lodge, west slope for 5 nights, 1750 meters, $109/single, $185/double

Mon Nov 9 back to Quito after Aves de la Paz’ antpittas, meet Expedition Travel group, spent the night at Hotel Quito

Tues Nov 10 flew to Loja then drove to Copalinga Lodge outside Zamora, 950 meters for 4 nights, Nov 10-13, near the Bombuscaro entrance to Podacarpus National Park. $60/person/night double including meals.

Sat Nov 14-19 drove to Malacatos to spend 6 nights at Hosteria Las Lagunas, 1500 meters, and work the higher elevations at Cajanuma ranger station of Podacarpus NP, 2750 meters and up. $45/person/night I think, including meals.

Fri Nov 20 move to Catamayo to be near the airport for an early am flight to Quito.

Sat Nov 21 fly back to Quito, spend the night at the Hotel Quito.

Sun Nov 22 fly back to the US.

Mon Oct 12 fly to Quito on AA, arrive about 7pm and Thierry is there to meet me. He takes me to the Hotel Hothello on Av. Amazonas N 20-20 y 18 de Septiembre, a $5 cab ride from the airport, half a block from the hotel Hilton Colon, as they say on their card.
It’s $28/single, $40/double, simple but functional, feels safe, plenty of hot water. Quito has a zillion hotels with prices all over the map, from dirt cheap sleazy hostels to $250/night and up. Quito is at 9,200’, so it takes a bit of getting used to the altitude the first few days. It’s in the 50’s, and everyone is wearing these lovely wool sweaters. Quite a shock coming from the Rio Grande Valley, where it hasn’t been under 80 degrees in many months.

Tues Oct 13 we meet for breakfast in the ‘cozy and elegant café’ downstairs, then go to the grocery store to stock up for the next 3 days, and we’re off to La Esperanza, a preserve owned by friends of Thierry over by Santo Domingo on the west slope.  The Supermaxi doesn’t open until 10am, so we lurk on the sidewalk w/Thierry’s giant blue Ford Crown Victoria until the guards will let us into the downtown parking lot for the grocery store. $70 later and an hour later, we’re on our way. Thierry’s wife has made him a shopping list w/menus for our 3 days at the preserve, where it turns out he will cook for us. He’s French, and claims not to be a cook, but he makes some pretty tasty scrambled eggs & ham for lunch, and nice pork chops w/potatoes, onions and garlic for dinner. An unexpected bonus for me, I was prepared for peanut butter sandwiches and canned veggies, what we would be eating if it was my job to cook.

The preserve is nice, wattled guans are calling from the wooded valley right below the house and we wake up the next morning to motmots. And chickens, but hey, the caretakers have to eat. No hot water, and it’s a bit brisk for my cold shower. But the cost is only $10/night/person, and you have to bring and cook your own food. Tomorrow I’ll shower a little earlier in the day. But the rooms are nice, we each have our own room, and the upstairs where the kitchen is is huge. They have electricity, including a nice plug and little desk to work on in each room, so we can use laptops and recharge batteries, and lots of windows. Great for birdwatching, as you look out into the trees. Except they’ve painted a big white streak on each window due to lots of bird strikes. Ornate flycatchers hang out in the clearing, and there is a noisy tanager flock moving through frequently.

The house is on top of a hill w/trees coming up all around. The first butterfly I photograph is a very cooperative Archaeoprepona amphimachus, coming to some sap on a small tree at the edge of the clearing. The only problem is it’s heavily overcast and drizzly, so not many butterflies. We go down the trail a bit to explore and find a couple of clearwings, 2 different species, coming to some almost finished eupatorium.

Wed Oct 14 we wake up to light rain, hopefully it will lighten up as the day goes on. We walked back down the dirt track towards the main road, and saw lots and lots of grass skippers. The road gets more jungley in places and we get Oxeoschistus and some other higher elevation satyrs, even though we start out in mostly pasture.

Thur Oct 15 Today we go into the forest, as it’s brighter w/more sun today. More bugs, and different species. Lots of clearwings, including some I haven’t seen before. Along the trail there are places w/large stands of eupatorium, unfortunately almost bloomed out, and the white flowers the clearwings like, so in places we have lots to chase. The trail is narrow and on a steep hillside, so we can’t get off it, but Thierry gets some nice shots w/a longer zoom.

We head down towards the river, but after dropping steeply a way, we decide it’s not worth going all the way down, as we will then have to come all the way back up the steep trail. The best area is up on the top, a bit below the house, along the ridge w/pasture on one side and forest on the other. There are lots of satyrs, many of the high elevation genera – Pedaliodes, Lasiophila, Pronophila, Corades. We also get 2 species of Actinote and my favorite, a beautiful Symmachia accusatrix on territory, chasing everything that moves. We get back to the house mid afternoon, as it clouds up, cools down and starts to drizzle.

Fri Oct 16 our last morning at La Esperanza, so we go back to the ridge area that was so good yesterday. It’s bright and sunny, the nicest morning we’ve had, and there are lots of new butterflies flying high over the canopy. Mexican Silverspots/Dione moneta, four species of Sisters, and several new spreadwing skippers, including one I’ve never seen, dark with a white band on the hw, maybe a Mylon or Potamanaxas. Plus we get good shots of a different Astraptes, one w/a white tip on the tail, as well as one w/blue above and yellow below, either A. latimargo or A. chiriquinsis.

Then we head out to Banos for a night, then downhill towards Tena.  I’ve been told by collectors this is a great area, but that was a while ago, before they paved the road. Now it’s a major highway, so we’ll have to look for places away from the traffic.  The drive back to the Pan American Highway takes a while due to very heavy truck traffic. They’re widening the road to 4 lanes, which will make it much quicker. Finally we turn south to Banos, then find a sign just before Ambato pointing to Banos and we take what looks like a nice new road. It leads up into the hills, winding between a series of small villages where we get lost a couple of times. It doesn’t seem to be much of a shortcut, it would probably have been better to stay on the main road and take the cutoff from Ambato over to Banos that Thierry has used before. But it’s very scenic.

We get to Banos, a popular tourist town with hot springs, and check a couple of hotels. We find prices from $20/room w/3 beds, to $40/room, and end up w/$10/room at the Villa Santa Clara, up next to the hot springs. Quite nice rooms on a little courtyard, a place to park the car off the street, no internet but there are tons of internet cafes for $1/hour.

Sat Oct 17 We head down the hill towards Puyo, amazing gorge with lots of long DARK tunnels, and unfortunately the lights on Thierry’s blue bomber don’t work very well. So a couple of times it’s pretty scary in the tunnels, black as pitch. We start taking the old side roads,used mainly now by bicycles, and we manage to survive.

We get to Rio Zunac, off to the left about 30 km from Banos. The turn off is marked El Tope, a big arch on the left, drive up a short distance to a few houses, park and walk to the right, paralleling the river. Thierry explored here a few years ago, looking for land, and remembers many butterflies. However, this morning it’s raining, just after we start walking up the dirt road next to the river, so we go back to the car. It keeps raining, on and off all morning. We drive up the dirt road towards the national park, but there aren’t any signs at all, just one for Colonia Azul. We get in 30 minutes or so, park when the road gets bad and walk a couple of kms, still having cool intermittent rains, never get to the park and finally head back to get some lunch.

We go back to Rio Negro on the main highway, a little ways back uphill towards Banos, and eat a tasty lunch at Los Abuelos, very good pollo a la plancha, and they have fresh trout. All of a sudden, about 1pm, the sun comes out, we dash back to Rio Zunac, and have a fabulous afternoon. There is a sandy area next to the river a ways up the dirt road, and we have 5 species of firetips/Pyrrhopyge all of whom pose nicely, plus lots of other bugs, including Eurytides dioxippus. We’re swamped for several hours, almost everything is new and different from the west slope, a great afternoon.

We decide to spent the next 2 nights back at Villa Santa Clara, so we risk the black tunnels and drive back to Banos, have a very nice Italian dinner in a restaurant on main street, and hit the sack.

Sun Oct 18 back to Rio Zunac, after rain at dawn. We plan to eat breakfast at some place near Rio Zunac and hopefully get more sun.  We make it to Rio Zunac about 9:30, and it’s sunny! We have a great morning, finding a number of new species and getting better shots of some of the same ones as yesterday. We walk to the end of the road you can drive on, and there are several fabulous puddle parties there, full of Actinotes, Firetips, 2 new species of Emperors, and a few metalmarks.

We walk up the muddy trail a bit, it goes for several kms according to Thierry paralleling the river, but it’s dark and muddy, and I vote to go back to the more open dirt road. I chase a different looking Tegosa here, I think it’s Tegosa claudina, much blacker edges than the common T. anieta, but we can’t get good dorsal shots. There are a number of different clearwings in one spot along the road, coming to their favorite little white flowers, so we spend some time there as well, getting a big Melinaea and a yellow banded Pteronymia, plus a few others. About 1pm folks start showing up for swimming and barbeque, it is Sunday after all, and it starts clouding up by 1:30 and raining by 2, so we head back to Banos.

Mon Oct 19 drive to Loreto, spend the night in town and get ready to head for Thierry’s preserve the next morning. At least, this was the plan. However, between Puyo and Tena there was a small landslide that closed the road. It must have happened shortly before we got there, as there were only about 5 or 6 cars waiting when we came around the corner. We hung around an hour or so, but there wasn’t any sign of earth moving equipment showing up, and we were still about 3 hours from Loreto, and Thierry’s car doesn’t have lights, so we decided to go back to Puyo and find a place for the night.

We had noticed the Safari Hosteria on the way, about 3 km north of Puyo, so we went back there. $24 each for our own room, including dinner and breakfast, and they have some trails through second growth habitat, so we took it.  We even found a number of different butterflies in their small patch of forest. Good shots of Lysippus Metalmark in the garden, several species of Nymphidium, which seem to like second growth, and lots of satyrs, mostly the confusing Pareuptychia ocirrhoe, those these have only one white band but they don’t look like metaleuca. But a few other nice satyrs, a lovely Lamia Pierella, but it’s very rusty on the dorsal hw. Can’t get a photo, but will try again in the morning. And my first Tolumnia Satyr, very fresh and beautiful bluish with orange. Tomorrow we’ll see if the road is open, keeping our fingers crossed.

Tues Oct 20 After a couple of hours on the trails behind the Safari Hosteria, getting good shots of the Pierella, the landslide is still closed, bummer. But we wait an hour or so, and it finally opens. Good thing we didn’t race to get there first thing in the morning.

We finally get to Loreto about 3:30pm, where Thierry’s wife, Marion is awaiting us at their office. After lunch, chicken and French fries for $2.25 each, they drop me at the hotel, simple but fine (for $10 you can’t complain), and they go shopping. We have to bring all our own food and everything we might need for the next 5 nights/6 days, plus they’re bringing a cook.

We’ll be staying in a ranger cabin for the Sumaco National Park. They’re charging me $10/night for the reserve, $10/night for the cook, and the groceries, about $100, plus $20 each way for the truck to take us there. Not bad, and it would be cheaper/person if there were more than just me.  I spend the night in Loreto at the Monte Azul, $10, no hot water but it’s warm so you don’t need it. A decent simple hotel, but people get up early and start their cars, which are in the courtyard right next to the rooms, but I sleep ok.

Wed Oct 21-Sun Oct 25 5 nights at the Rio Bigal Biological Reserve (RBR).  We hire a small truck for $15-20 to take the 4 of us in, plus our ton of food. There is Thierry and Marion, plus Nati the cook, plus her pet chick, the pollito. The truck takes us about 1 and a half hours up a progressively worse gravel road, then drops us off and we have to schlep the last half a km or so. We’re staying in the guard house, no electricity or running water, but we have beds and a roof and a kitchen, no refrigeration. Marion does a great job of feeding us for the next 6 days, w/help from Nati. She’s training Nati to get her used to tourists and to learn about cooking something besides chicken and French fries. The night before we ate at Nati’s restaurant in town, and she made spaghetti for the first time. People were stopping to ask, what is that stuff? Hard to imagine there are people in this world who have never seen spaghetti, but that’s the case in Loreto.

The next 6 days we tromp up and down the wide dirt road, looking for butterflies. We have quite a bit of overcast and rain, which negatively impacts us, but we still get about 175 species. Many clearwings and tigerwings and satyrs. There is a school about 15 minutes up the road that they never used, and the clearing around it is full of the white flowers the clearwings like, so we spend lots of time there. We probably have at least 20 species of Ithomiinae, hard to tell at this point as many are very similar. We’re staying about 900 meters.

One day we hike into the Rio Bigal Biological Reserve, the place Thierry and Marion are working on, about 1100 meters. They’ve built a structure where you can pitch your tents and be out of the rain, plus a cooking area. It’s 7 km each way, and we do the hike in and back in the same day, so we’re pretty tired that night. They plan to build a more elaborate structure out of bamboo for people to stay in this coming January. It will be interesting to see how it develops over the years.  Next time I plan to spend a few nights in the reserve, but this trip we couldn’t haul all the needed stuff in w/us, being 3 women and Thierry.

Mon Oct 26 the cab is there to meet us 5 minutes early, what a shock, and we get back to Loreto by 3pm. The shower at the hotel feels great, even w/cold water, having unlimited water and not having to haul it by bucket is a treat. We had a 55 gallon drum that collected rainwater, but 4 people use a lot of water for 6 days.

Tues Oct 27 Thierry and Marion take me to WildSumaco Lodge for the next 6 nights, and I say goodbye to them. WildSumaco is about 1500 meters, half way between Loreto and the main highway, up another gravel road where there’s a big sign for Ministerio del Ambiente center about 10 km or so, almost to Paco Sumaco, a small community. It rains right after we get there, and I get to eat snazzy food and watch hummers at their feeders for lunch. Life is good.

Tues Oct 27 – Mon Nov 2 I explore the trails at WildSumaco. The road is very good for Nymphalids the first morning, lots of sun, 4 species of Marpesia/Daggerwings, 3 species of Eunica/Purplewings, about 50 species all together. No swallowtails or hairstreaks, not many Pierids, lots of satyrs, including several new ones for me.

It clouds up about 12:30, just in time for lunch at 1pm, and is much cooler in the afternoon, very pleasant temperatures but not many bugs after lunch.

One day Jonas, the bird guide/owner at WildSumaco, invites me to come along w/him on a hike from the village Paco Sumaco, a km up the road and back into the mountains. He’s going to check out a ridge above the river w/some locals, and I come along and stay by one of the small creeks/quebradas to chase butterflies. We get there about 7:15 on a beautiful clear sunny morning, good butterflies for a couple of hours, but it clouds up by 9:30 and is pouring by 10:30 for our hike back out. Amazing how quickly the weather can change, so always carry your umbrella. I find a number of different species, several crescents and a gorgeous fresh new skipper for me, Mnestheus ittona, with a beautiful white swirly pattern on the ventral.
Karen and Mark Pretti show up at the lodge for 3 nights, and I get to enjoy talking and sharing notes with them. They come back one morning with photos of one of the spectacular clearwings I’m looking for, and tell me they found a blooming tree with flowers all over the ground, and the clearwings were feeding on the flowers on the ground. I can’t find the tree on the trail they mentioned, so Mark goes back to find it, then tells me the tree is way down the trail (of course) at the bottom of the stairs. The trails here are very good, especially for Ecuador, where the trails are often extremely slippery and tough to walk. The people at WildSumaco have spent a lot of time on their trails, nice wood steps w/screen over them to give you something to grip.

You have to walk about a km down the road to get to the main set of trails, where they have a couple of resident houses for the staff, and they have more hummingbird feeders there. They tell me people have counted 18 species of hummers at their feeders, and I see 14 or 15 just casually watching.  There is also a trail that goes along the power lines (electricity has just been brought in to the community in the last few months) and power line cuts are often good for butterflies, so I lurk there one day and get a beautiful fresh blue skipper, a new Sostrata for me that poses for shots.

Interesting how different the butterflies are here at WildSumaco from Thierry’s reserve above Loreto. Yes, the elevation is a bit higher, 1400 meters compared to 900-1100, but almost everything I’m seeing is different. A nice comparision. Not as many clearwings here as above Loreto, but I think that’s because I’m not finding many of the white flowers to lure them in. The flowers were common at RBR (Rio Bigal Reserve) but I’ve only seen one bush here. Jonas gallantly scrambled into where the bush was, in mud almost up to the tops of his boots, and got me some photos of the 1 species on the flowers, about 5-6 individuals, different from any I saw before.

Today, Oct 31, I hit the mother lode on Ithomiinae/Clearwings. Went looking for Mark and Karen’s mystery clearwing spot, down the F.A.C.E. trail, which is down the main road to the right from the lodge about 15 minutes walk, then the trail takes off on the left side of the road. This is a very nice trail, runs along next to the pasture for a ways, than goes down a bunch of stairs, steps of wood w/wire on many of them so you can get a grip. Go down past where the boards end and you’re walking on dirt/leaf litter, continue through a few low places where they have put a few more boards, duck under a big fallen tree that’s broken off over the trail, about another 5-10 minutes to a large tree on the left of the trail, sort of along a ridge. It sounds like a long way but it’s probably less than a mile.

All of a sudden there were clearwings everywhere, fluttering along the trail and the ground. They were eating the sap from flowers fallen on the ground. I thought at first they were coming to the flowers for nectar, but I put some on leaves and watched the clearwings suck from the broken stem end, not the flower end. They were also coming to some broken sticks on a vine. I couldn’t tell where the flowers were coming from, whether a big tree or a vine. I’ve never seen clearwings come to this type of flower before, and there were lots of them. The most common was the gorgeous Godyris duillia, a big gaudy clearwing with lots of rufous on the edges of the hindwing. There were several other species as well, all large ones coming to the flowers, 2 species of Melinaea and a couple of Olyra types I wasn’t familiar with. There were smaller clearwings around, but they didn’t seem to be eating the sap like the big ones. I walked 50-100 meters either side of the congregation and found other species sitting around on the leaves, but not coming to the flowers. All together probably a dozen species, maybe more once I sort them all out.

A great morning, and it was probably the sunniest morning I’ve had here. No thunder until about 12:30. I stayed at the area from about 8-11am, and the clearwings kept coming. They slowed down a bit after the first couple of hours, but there were still plenty of them there when I left. I would love to know the type of plant these flowers came from, and which months of the year the flowers are there, and the clearwings.

Mon Nov 1 Jonas took me down to the lower part of the road, near to the highway about 1100-1200 meters. We had seen tons of butterflies flying all along the dirt road on our way in, but then it was the middle of the day and sunny. Jonas also had many butterflies yesterday, when he drove back from Quito. Today unfortunately was early in the morning and cool and overcast, so there were very few butterflies.

I wandered around for a few hours, but eventually got a ride back up the hill to the residence house trails. It was interesting that I did see a few of the same common edge satyrs from RBR that I have not seen up at WildSumaco, 300 meters higher.  Later that morning, near the entrance to the manakin trail on the main dirt road I got great shots of 2 species I had been chasing, the Callicore eunomia and a very fresh Necyria duellona.

One advantage of cloudy cool weather, you may not see much but sometimes what you see is more cooperative for photography. I also got good shots of a fresh cracker that has been puzzling me. It looks like Variable Cracker/Hamadryas feronia above, but below it is a bright peachy color, not clear white like I’m used to. Nice to get a fresh one to pose.

After lunch I went back to the clearwing feeding spot on the FACE trail, but there were only a few around. It was about 2pm, and still somewhat cloudy, so that’s probably not surprising.
Rainy season in Mindo = Dec/Jan/Feb/Mar, dry season is May/June/July. Opposite from here at WildSumaco, where the rainiest time in 2009 has been June/July.  The guys who climb the mountain, Sumaco, say Nov to April is the driest time.

Tues Nov 2 WildSumaco takes me back to Quito for $200, about a 6 hour drive over the Papallacta Pass, a famous birding location. Supposedly the road is all paved now and much faster than it used to be. I moved my departure up a day to coordinate the trip w/another client, so they gave me a $75 credit. I’m spending the next 2 nights at the Hotel Sebastian in Quito, recommended by Tropical Birding. We had tremendous rain going over the Andes, I thought we were going to wash off the mountains, but the driver was good and we got through w/out any problems.

Wed Nov 3 in Quito, I wake up w/a blinding headache which just gets worse when I take aspirin on an empty stomache than throw it up. Fortunately for me, 2 friends happen coincidentally to be staying in the same hotel, and Richard and Shirley take care of me, get me some coca tea and come pester me to drink a cup every half an hour, and I survive. So I spend that day in bed in the hotel.  I think the problem was I was dehydrated and didn’t eat any dinner the night before, so remember to drink lots of water at higher elevations, especially when you fly in to Quito at 9,200’.

Thur Nov 4 the driver from Tropical Birding is here early to pick me up by 9am, $75 for the transfer of 1-3 people from Quito, and we’re off to Tandayapa Lodge at 1750 meters, about 1.5-2 hours from Quito on the west slope, just above Tandayapa Village on the old Nolo-Mindo Road. Bellavista Lodge is 6 km further up the dirt road up the valley, about 600 meters higher. I’ve been there a couple of times, but this time I wanted to try Tandayapa Lodge. Tropical Birding now owns Tandayapa, and the hummingbird feeders are famous to birders. Both are excellent birding lodges, but Bellavista gets more non-birders, and younger backpacker types. One down side to Tandayapa is the steep hike up a paved trail to get to the lodge. They had a big landslide in March 2009, which cut off their usual carpark, and that made the hike up longer and steeper. They have a guy who comes and carries your luggage, but it’s still a drag. They obviously know this, as they have decided to put in some sort of lift that will get the clients up to the lodge, at least the older lazy ones like me. The problem is this caused them to chop down a wide swath of trees to put in the lift, and this has exposed a bunch of forest and opened it up, which caused a noticeable dropoff in the tanagers and toucans coming to the fruit feeders at the lodge. Also it was extremely dry at Tandayapa, leaves cracking underfoot and everything that moves in the forest crunches loudly. There were still lots of hummers at the feeders, I had 18 species in the first 2 days. A tree is fruiting right over the porch, and the red-headed barbets are there much of the day, plus 3 species of brush-finch, so it’s not too bad. I think once the lift is done and plants grow up again, it will probably make the lodge more comfortable for older tourists, but right now it’s unsightly and somewhat impacting the birds. A year or 2 from now it will probably be much better.

However, the best part of Tandayapa for me is the fabulous wonderful clearwing lek right down the trail towards the hide, maybe a couple of hundred meters from the lodge. When I arrive there is a group of photographers working the hummers, and they show me some of their photos of clearwings/Ithomiinae and tell me where there is the big concentration. I spend the next couple of days photographing about 14-15 species of clearwings, the biggest group I’ve ever seen anywhere. Within 100 to 150 meters along the trail there must be hundreds of butterflies, sitting in groups of 10-20 clustered on bushes or floating through the air. I go early the 2nd morning, about 7:30am, and by 8 to 8:30 they start floating down the hillside in numbers, like snowflakes. They’re active all day long, but more active in the morning after it warms up, about 9-noon. I went back at 4pm and they were still hanging around. Mostly clear ones w/a white band, but a few yellowish species and a few larger ones, but all different species from the group at WildSumaco. 7 species of Ithomia, 4 of Pteronymia, several Oleria and Greta, an amazing collection. They’re hanging out on a steep hillside where the trail cuts across relatively flat, so I can watch them both above and below me.

The trail is narrow and it’s impossible to scramble up or down, so I have to get them on the trail. But they seem to like gathering right next to the trail, so when you walk down the trail through their area, they rise up around you like a cloud, a truly unique experience for me. One afternoon I went to the hide at 5pm to watch for white-throated quail-dove, which comes in late, saw the dove at 5:40 and returned to the lodge after 6pm, almost dusk, and there were still a few clearwings around.  I’ve seen a similar gathering in southeast Brazil at Serra dos Tucanos Lodge above Rio, not these numbers but the trail was in very similar terrain. A steep hillside, 2nd growth and some dappled sun, a narrow trail that goes relatively flat around the hillside, and clearwings drifting past, floating up and down the hillside. Wonder why they pick that particular stretch of trail?

One day I walk down to Tandayapa Village, maybe a km downhill, then over the bridge and go a couple of kms back on the Nolo-Mindo road. It’s a beautiful sunny day, but I see almost no butterflies. Some standard Daggerwings/Marpesia and Banded Mapwing/ Hypanartia dione in the small village on wet areas, but nothing on the road except the common Harmonia Satyr/Hermeuptychia harmonia which has been abundant almost everywhere.  One exception was the very obliging Noreppa chromus on poop on the road, a fabulous leafwing very close to Archaeopreponas.  First time I’ve shot this species live. He also came to the fruit feeders at the lodge. I plan to come back either later in the rainy season, or maybe April/May, hopefully at the end of the rains. The forest looks very good, and this is birder heaven, so there should be lots of butterflies.

Another day I hike in on the potoo trail, up past their water cisterns for the lodge and to the antpitta trail. Another nice sunny day, gorgeous weather, and I get some excellent looks at dark-backed wood-quail, one of the real skulkers. I’m by myself and being very quiet on the trail, and the birds don’t even know I’m there, so I get to watch them scratch around for quite a while. On the way back I watch several groups of butterflies chasing each other and posing on top of broadleafed plants growing up in the steep ravines. Way too far for photos, but it’s interesting to watch their behavior. Several species of Leptophobia or Mountain Whites and the first Leodonta dysoni/Dyson’s White I’ve seen on this trip. I do get killer shots of a beautiful blue/green Mesosemia.

On the way back by the water tank I’m kneeling to shoot an Adelpha or Sister on the ground when I flush a female cock of the rock off her nest, right on the trail. She startles me so I almost fall off the steep trail, exploding right in my face, then I go back and find her nest, a lovely mossy cup w/2 eggs. She must have sat still when I passed her earlier in the morning, and only flew because I was crawling around right next to her. The nest is only about waist high on the rock wall. Right after that I run into another batch of clearwings, almost all Ithomia terra, again clustering on the hanging ferns and plants on the trail. This is the abundant species in these gatherings, probably more than half of the individuals are I. terra. The 2nd most common species is the Greta with 2 clear spots in the apex, plus there is at least one each of Pteronymia, Oleria and Ithomia with a very similar pattern of the white band half way across the forewing. I don’t even realize these others are here until I start looking very closely at my photos. There are even more of them here than on the lower trail, I can count 20-30 easily in a few feet, plus quite a few more I don’t see until they fly up in a swarm.  Does this go on all year? Or which months? Depending on the rains? Lots of questions, few answers.

Sun Nov 8 my last day at Tandayapa, and I find 3 more new species of clearwings on both the trail to the hide and the higher potoo trail to the water tank.  Watching the butterflies fighting over the leaves in the ravine, today I finally get some to sit and see they are brilliant blue/violet Mesosemias w/white bands on the dfw. I didn’t know Mesosemias did that displaying on the tops of trees, I always see them skulking near the ground. And the cock of the rock eggs have hatched! Tiny pink babies, which I photograph after noticing the female flying back and forth to the nest. I wait until she’s gone to check them out briefly.

Mon Nov 9 my driver comes to pick me up at 4:45am to take me to the antpitta place, Paz de las Aves, where a local farmer has trained 3 or 4 species of almost mythical antpittas to come to his call for earthworms. For $15 entrance I get to watch the whole show, plus lunch. Such a deal. Then I’m taken back to the Hotel Quito where I meet up w/the group of collectors for the last 2 weeks of my trip.  I always enjoy the Hotel Quito, even though it’s a bit old, but the location is great. Up high on the ridge looking down both sides, very quiet away from the noise in gringolandia, and the restaurant up on the 7th floor is tasty and a fabulous place to watch the sunset and the lights come on over Quito.

Tues Nov 10 the Expedition Travel group meets in the lobby at 4:45am, 2 days in a row! to catch the early flight to Loja. We make it just in time, then drive from the airport to the town of Loja, where we get caught in the taxi drivers strike. They have shut down the entire city of Loja, blocking all the roads in and out w/their taxis, something about they don’t want any more taxis allowed. It’s a royal pain in the ass, as we can’t get through town, and we can’t even get to a good restaurant to wait it out. We weasel through one blockade after another, but keep running in to another one. We must hit at least 5 different blockages. Sometimes the police come along and make them break it up, we whiz along for a short distance then run into another one. All in all it probably ties us up for 3-4 hours, so what should have been a 3 hour trip to Copalinga Lodge turns into more like 6, but we finally make it by the afternoon. I have heard this is a great birding lodge, and get to see a spangled coquette hummingbird at lunch, not a bad way to start. This is 950 meters on the east slope, and they tell us they have also been very dry. But it’s better than the west slope.

I find 5 species of Actinote on the road, plus a new pierid, Perrhybris lorena.
Copalinga is about 2 miles/3 km down the road from the Bombuscaro entrance to Podacarpus National Park. It’s an easy walk on a nice dirt road surrounded by good forest, and when it’s sunny it can be very good for butterflies. We find the favorite spot, a bunch of mud puddles only about 5 minutes up the road from the lodge, and we have to share it between the photographers and the collectors. There’s only 5 other guys along, and some of them are more into moths and beetles, so we work it out. There’s also a black phoebe who sits on the road in the middle of the puddles, catching all the butterflies he can, so we have to compete w/him as well. He’s not too happy to have us hanging around ‘his’ fishing hole.

One day I hike the forest trails, and they have a lot of them, mostly steep and narrow and dark, so there are more butterflies on the road. But of course there are some you only find in the forest. I see a gorgeous new satyr, probably Splendeuptychia toynei, and finally get some decent shots of it. Also the same rusty Pierella I had at Safari which I think is P. hyceta, and a number of other satyrs. However the guys who worked the road that day, a nice sunny day, get lots of goodies, several species of firetips and the first Dalla of the trip. They share their photos and let me shoot their specimens, which is very generous of them.

Another day we get a cab to take us to the park entrance and drop us off. Unfortunately, this day turns out to be rainy and cool, so not a good day for bugs. It rains almost all day, so I watch some birds instead. This is a good place for umbrellabird, but I miss it. I do get a close small flock of paradise tanagers, so things could be worse, and lots of ornate flycatchers. One of my favorite flycatchers because they’re easy to id, and colorful. Hopefully we’ll have another sunny morning, and I can walk back up to the park, only about 50 meters higher than the lodge.  Good thing I brought my umbrella, as I walk all the way back in the rain.

The gardens around the lodge are crawling w/birds, especially in the morning, lots of calls. This has been the birdiest and noisiest place I’ve been on this trip. Green and gold tanagers nesting right next to the cabins, and coppery-chested jacamars nesting in the bank just up the blue trail. It’s an interesting location, as they get a combination of higher and lower elevation stuff, both birds and butterflies. We have lots of Actinotes, several of which I’m more used to finding at 1800 meters and higher. And I find one of the white ring Mesosemias in the forest, what I think of as a lowland species. But no blue Mesosemias, which are higher elevation. Last month they had cock of the rock coming to fruiting melastoma right below their deck. Catherine, the Belgium owner, says the rainiest time is May/June/July, and the driest time is now, Oct/Nov/Dec. We suspect April/early May might be a good time to come back for butterflies, though Patricio who is our Ecuadorian leader, suggests Feb/March. Catherine says mid Sept to mid Oct this year was great for birds, much more around then right now, hard to imagine. She has a small butterfly collection, plus a database of butterfly sightings, and she lets me photograph her specimens and gives me a copy of her list. They have a beautiful pale Morpho fustrofori, which I’m not at all familiar with. They also have been invaded by the sparkling violetears, same as WildSumaco, and they’re so aggressive they drive away most of the other hummers. But here they have huge hedges of porterweed, the purple flower the hummers love, so the little hummers have lots to choose from.

I haven’t found the magic clearwing spot here, even though I’ve been looking. None of the white flowers the clearwings like, and I don’t find any gathering spot in the forest. We don’t see many clearwings flying around either, just the same Melinaea w/the yellow band from WildSumaco.  This is also an interesting location to compare to the Rio Bigal Reserve above Loreto, as they are at almost the identical elevation. They have better forest here, being close to Podacarpus, but it’s not near as wet. I get shots of several species I missed at RBR, like the Claudina Crescent, and some of the firetips are the same.
The next two days we have lots of sunshine, and I walk the road back to the park, seeing lots of Doxocopa and tons of Marpesia.

We continue to see new species on the road, and we’re sorry to leave the comfortable Copalinga Lodge the afternoon of  Nov 14 to drive back to Loja and about 45 minutes on to Malacatos for the next 6 nights. This is back to the dry west slope, and it’s much much drier.

Sat Nov 14 – Fri Nov 19 at Hosteria Las Lagunas, a weekend resort place with swimming pools and a million Ecuadorians on Sunday. But they all leave at dark, and we have the place to ourselves the rest of the week. The food is ok, the rooms are cavernous and a bit grotty but there’s lots of hot water and the people work hard to please us.

Sun & Mon Nov 15/16 – we drive back up to the Cajanuma ranger station of Podacarpus NP and pay the entrance fee of $10/person/day at the bottom, where you have to stop at the chained entrance and pay your money. Then you drive up the 8.5 km dirt road to the ranger station at 2,750 meters, where the truck from the hosteria drops us off and comes back to get us at 3pm. Patricio likes to use a small truck, as he has been stuck a couple of times before in a van, but now the road is dry.

We have brilliant sunshine all day, both days, which is extremely unusual for this place. Usually it’s cool and cloudy, and butterflies are over by 1 or 2pm, if you’re lucky. It can easily drizzle all day, with patches of sun here and there. They don’t really start flying until almost 10am, so it makes for short days in the field. But because it’s so dry, there are many fewer butterflies. The first afternoon I walk several kms back down the road and see almost nothing, even at the couple of seeps and wet spots. I was hoping for Catastictas in the streams, but nada. Chris and Ian, the stronger members of our group, hike up both days to the higher elevations, and Ian makes it to the top on the 2nd day, 12,000+’, where he collects a number of real high elevation goodies, 3 species of reddish hairstreaks and different satyrs. Both Chris and Ian get a spectacular reddish Catasticta, along w/several other species, but they are few and far between. Ian is looking for Leptophobia, but doesn’t see one in two days. I suspect both Leptophobia and Catasticta like it a lot wetter.

Charlie works the road below the ranger station and gets totally different species, several fabulous big satyrs including Apexacuta orsedice and Junea whitelyi, which I shot here in August 2003. D’Abrera says this is rarely encountered, interesting we find it in the same location 6 years apart. It’s nice the guys are willing to share their specimens w/me, and it’s nice they’re working different elevations, as they collect quite different species. Charlie gets a different Catasticta too.

It’s tough for photography, because many of these satyrs rarely seem to land, so I watch in frustration as one after the other sail by into the bamboo. Walking the trails you keep flushing them up, but it’s impossible to see them before you step on them. I spend lots of time waiting for them to return, but they usually don’t. I do get some good shots, but it takes lots of patience.
The 2nd day it’s much windier, and 3 of us head up the mirador trail, to the left from the station. This trail is much shorter, therefore steeper, then the trail to the right, but it gets you to paramo in about a forth the time, if you can scramble like a goat.

I’m going slowly up the trail when I meet Chris and Ian charging back down, saying the gale force winds up on top make it impossible to collect, so they’re going to use the longer right hand trail, which is more on the lee of the mountain. So I turn around and follow them back down to the ranger station, then up the right hand trail, where I spend the rest of the morning. On Wednesday Ian is going to hike in 14 km to the lagunas, where he’s going to camp for 2 nights. Hopefully it won’t be as windy that day.  I only make it to about 3000 meters/10,000’ and get high enough to get into some different Pedaliodes than the common ones around the ranger station. You could spend a lot of time working the different elevational bands on this mountain, and they tell me there are many special species found only here around Loja.

Tues Nov 17 – we go to a location Keith Willmott has recommended to Ian, who works w/Keith at the McGuire Center. We drive up a dirt road to Charlie’s cabanas, which are closed, from Vilcabamba south of Malacatos along the Rio Yambala, where the driver drops us off and we walk up along the river from the end of the road.

There are people living all along here, growing shade grown coffee about 1700-1800 meters, with the river running down the middle of the small valley, and we find lots of Ithomiinae/clearwings in the coffee. We first start seeing the big red and yellow Elzunia perching on leaves next to the river, then a bit up the trail Ian comes back to tell me about a fabulous patch of clearwings he’s found. He takes me up and shows me several coffee bushes covered w/clearwings on the other side of a fence, then we go back a bit and find the owner who’s working his crops. Miguel Leon graciously lets us onto his land, and we hotfoot it into the coffee and spend a while photographing an amazing collection of clearwings.

There must be hundreds of individuals, and we end up w/10 species when we go through our photos and specimens that night. A few of them are the same species I had in Tandayapa, but most of them are different. There are 3 species of yellow and black ones, at least 2 look like Napeogenes, and 2 larger clear ones w/rufous edges, an Ithomia and a Pteronymia. Amazing how similar they appear in the field, you have to study them very closely to separate them out.

Away from the river it’s extremely dry, parched brown hills and no butterflies, so we spend all our time down in the coffee near the running water. Again, the rains should have started but not this year. We’re having scheduled power outages at the hosteria both in the morning and the evening, from 7-9am and again from 6-7pm, due to the power shortages due to the lack of water for hydroelectric plants. It’s actually very pleasant to sit outside our rooms by the pool and watch the fireflies come out in the evening w/out any lights, waiting for dinner.  We’re usually sorry to see the power come back on after a peaceful hour watching the skies darken.

Wed Nov 18 – we go back up to Cajanuma to drop off Ian for his backpacking adventure. Better him than me.  That morning the mountains are shrouded in clouds and it’s cool and drizzly, so I decide to stay at the hotel and work on the computer. Poor Ian gets up the mountain and reconsiders, as it’s almost freezing and very windy, plus he’s carrying a huge pack, so he calls for a ride back to the hotel that afternoon. The rest of us just hang out at the hotel for the day. That evening it is beautifully clear and the stars are brilliant, so we’ll see about tomorrow.

Thur Nov 19 – we go to the old Loja/Zamora road.  You have to drive back to Loja, where we drop off Ian to pick up a rental car at the Hotel Bombuscara, then on to Zamora. Unfortunately it’s another very windy, overcast morning, and when we get to the turnoff we decide it’s too cold for butterflies. The dirt turnoff to the old road is at the top of the pass between Loja and Zamora, about 2800 meters, so the start of the walk would be chilly. We’re there about 10:30am, and it’s still way too cold for butterflies, so maybe another time. It would make more sense to spend a couple of nights in Loja and work this track. This is a well known track for birding. I believe you walk down a ways and the car can pick you up after half a day of walking, but I’m not sure where. So we head back to the hotel for an early lunch, where it’s much warmer and sunny and the Sulphurs are flying in numbers.

Charlie catches several species at the bouganvilla, including a small female I’m not sure of, plus lots of Statira flying all over for the first time. The light rains we had yesterday must have brought them out. He also gets a couple of different Strymon hairstreaks. Then we go back to Rio Yambala, where the Ithomiinae are still flying in Miguel Leon’s coffee patch. We find several new skippers and some hairstreaks. I get a beautiful green Cyanophrys at the stream edge, maybe C. amyntor, as it’s brown above when it flies, and Charlie catches a couple of different Cyanophrys, w/a large dark patch next to the body.

Fri Nov 20 – our last day in the field, que lastima. It’s too cloudy to go up the mountain, so we head back to Miguel’s coffee patch for a couple of hours in the morning. We find a number of new skippers and lots of hairstreaks for the first time. There is a weedy bush coming into bloom the hairstreaks seem to like, so we see quite a few. Mostly Ministrymon azia or Grey Ministreak, I think. It has the thin red edge to the wings, but it seems cleaner than the ones we usually see in Mexico. I get great shots of a fresh swallowtail that looks similar to Thoas but different, turns out to be Heraclides paeon , and lots of sulphurs. Charlie gets a nice Aquamarine Hairstreak/Oenomaus ortygnus that I thought was the larger Damo Hairstreak/Pseudolycaena damo but once we see it in the hand we realize it’s the smaller species, with fewer black spots. Interesting how many new species we find here on our third visit, but this is the sunniest and the earliest we’ve been here. It’s also interesting how many of the species are the ones found in Mexico and Central America.

We are on the west slope, and many species come down, hit the Andes and turn to the right around the west slope of Ecuador. Then we drive to Catamayo to the Gran Hotel Marcjohn’s, probably the best place in town. This is close to the airport for our early departure, so we can sleep an extra hour rather than spending the night in Loja.

Sat Nov 21 – fly back to Quito, spend the night at the Hotel Quito. People do some Christmas shopping at the markets, and stock up on chocolate (Ecuador makes great dark chocolate) and coffee at the SuperMaxi. I get my favorite manzilla con miel (chamomile with honey) tea there to take back home.

Sun Nov 22 – fly back on American Airlines, takes about 12 hours w/3 flights through Miami.


Guatemala August 2009

Trip Report for Guatemala

Participants: Kim Garwood, Bill Berthet, Sherry Nelson, Deborah Galloway

Author: Kim Garwood

Details follow:

Guatemala August 3 — August 17, 2009

Monday Aug 3 – fly to Guatemala City, 1 night Posada Belen,

Tuesday Aug 4 – drive to Rio Dulce w/Jose, 2 nights Hacienda Tijal, sea level Caribbean

Wednesday Aug 5 – at reserve al day

Thursday Aug 6 – drive to Los Tarrales, 5 nights, 750 – 1400 meters Atitlan Volcano

Tuesday Aug 11 – drive to Los Andes, 5 nights

Sunday Aug 16 – drive back to Guatemala City, last night Posada Belen

Monday Aug 17 – fly back to Texas

Monday Aug 3 – flew into Guatemala City, spent the night at Posada Belen. A nice small place, seems more like staying in someone’s old home, lots of antique-y looking things and funky rooms around a small interior courtyard but enjoyable. You pay ahead of time online, $45 for a single w/breakfast, a little more for a double. They also serve a tasty dinner for $15/person.

Tuesday Aug 4 – Jose Monzon,,
picked us up for a couple of days. He lives in Guatemala City and guides people looking for insects, mostly collectors, but he takes great photos as well. He’s mostly into moths and beetles, and has a generator with black lights and sheets, everything the collector needs, but I had met him a couple of times before so he graciously took us out for a few days before he started another larger group. He usually charges about $200/day plus expenses, and he’s lots of fun and very knowledgeable about many natural things in Guatemala, and speaks excellent english. We went to Rio Dulce on the Caribbean side, about 4-5 hours east and north of Guatemala City, over a big bridge where we stayed at Hacienda Tijax, deep in the swamp right on the river. The entrance is a very precarious looking sets of shakey bridges that sway and make you think you’re going to end up in the swamp, quite a challenge to navigate w/your luggage, but we managed. The little bungalows are fine, 2 beds and a bath w/air conditioning and mosquitoe nets, plus the even have wifi! Sort of, not quite working from the room, but it worked from the bar. The food was tasty, Bill had a grilled snook that was delicious, and they have several types of pasta w/a variety of sauces. Good thing we’re here for 2 nights, there’s lots that looks good on the menu. Plus they take credit cards and have nice hot water, so all the comforts of home. It cost about 350 quetzales for a single and 400 for a double with air conditioning, plus meals in the restaurant. Jose took us up to a private reserve, Montana Chiclera, where you had to call ahead and arrange to get the key to open the front gate, then you drive through several more gates and cattle until you get up to the edge of the forest. It’s preserved for the watershed for the town, and some very nice trails. It’s back about a 45 minutes – an hour from Rio Dulce, the turnoff is at a ranch called Rancho 3-S that sells bulls. We didn’t get there until mid afternoon, after our drive, and it started to pour just as we got up to the trailhead, so we waited a bit in the truck and fortunately it passed on, so we hit the trail. Not large numbers of species but some very interesting new ones for me. My favorite was a great skipper Bill got a killer shot of, Drephalys oria, a new genus for me and a beautiful bug. We also got very fresh Perophthalma lasus that actually perched on Bill’s long lens and let the rest of us shot away. Jose scored with a fresh female Nascus salon, which I hadn’t seen before. Seeing as it was late in the afternoon after a heavy rain, it was surprising we saw as much as we did. Tomorrow we spend the whole day there, so it should be good.

Wednesday Aug 5 – lots of rain during the night, and it’s still coming down heavy at breakfast, so we hang out a while until it starts to brighten up about 9:30am, then back to the reserve.  Unfortunately Sherry and Debbie’s lock on their door jammed and they couldn’t get into their room, (after Bill showed them how to lock it) so the guys had to take off the window to get in and open the door so they could get their cameras and stuff. But it was finally resolved and we made it to the reserve about when the sun came out.  We hiked into the devil’s pool, looking for bugs all the way. Most of what we saw was different than the day before. Lots of Dynamine Artemisia females, which I hadn’t seen before, and we got lots of shots. I was confused at first, because they acted more like metalmarks, and it seemed odd to see only females. We didn’t see a single male. Just a short way down the trail there was a large bush of the hotlips plant and several Heliconius sapho were all over it, every time we went by both days. Interesting, as further into the forest we found a single Heliconius cydno both days. I’ve been told that’s one way to separate these 2 similar species, one likes the edges and one is found more in the forest. I was surprised we didn’t see more satyrs, as the forest looked really good. We did see lots of Euptychia jesia and one really fresh Cepheuptychia glaucina with bright orange rings around the eyes, much brighter then the ones I see in NE Mexico. I thought it was another species, but that’s the only possibility here. On our way back out Jose found a perfect Morpho theseus female very recently dead, just lying in the trail, so we all took good shots of that hard to get Morpho, as it likes to fly high in the canopy most of the time. There were a couple of species of Parides chasing each other in some sunny patches, and a very fresh Parphorus decora that was most obliging for photos, so a good day was had by all. When we drove back to the last gate, about 5, the ranchers had locked us in, but Jose found another gate out through the cattle yard. A bit of a tight squeeze for his truck, good thing he doesn’t drive a big one.

Thursday Aug 6 – today was a travel day, back to Guatemala City then about 2 hours on to the west to Los Tarrales. We were caught in an accident, where a tanker truck spilled his load all over the road, but they had it under control and it didn’t hold us up too long. We made it to Tarrales just before the rain, so we could relax on the screened porch and watch cinnamon hummingbirds at the feeders.

Friday Aug 7 – walking the trails at Los Tarrales. I was here in May 2007, so I’m looking forward to comparing how the butterflies are from that time. Tarrales is a wonderful place, an old coffee finca and ornamental plant nursery, about US$60/person/night, including 3 meals. Tons of little trails all over, a great mix of habitats, the ornamental plants being grown in big patches, ginger and heliconians, then up through forest into coffee and futher up into tall forest. This is the place for the horned guan, if you’re up for the death march. None of us are going to do it, besides I think this isn’t the right time of the year. The guan like to eat a particular berry that fruits in Feb/March, so that’s the best chance to see them.  Today we just explore and I show the others around some. The best place for butterflies is one of the river crossings with sandbars of black volcanic sand and lots of butterflies. There are a couple of road crossings, all on their land, but the higher one is much better. We see lots of many species, some of the more common being Rusty-tipped Page which are everywhere at the river. I’ve never seen them so common and fresh. Both Anna’s and Astarte Eighty-eights as well, many posing beautifully. 3 species of clearwings, 2 Greta and 1 Ithomia, and many Mechanitis polymnia all over in the ornamental plantings.

Saturday Aug 8 – we get Jose the local bird guide to drive us up to Vesubius at 1400 meters and drop us off so we can walk back downhill. This is the higher small village of coffee pickers and the launch spot for the hike for the horned guan, but we just slowly walk back downhill. It’s 6 km, and the habitat changes as you come down. They grow coffee here and there, but there is a lot of forest. Jose is very familiar with all the birds of Tarrales and knows their calls and habits. He shows us some hummingbird feeders they’ve added up at Vesuius at an overlook right next to where he parks the car, and says they sometimes see the Azure-rumped Tanager from there as well. We watch Rufous and Violet Saberwings for a while before starting our return. It takes us all morning, we get back in time for our late lunch at 2pm. We get great photographs of Star Satyr, which likes the bamboo, and lots of Tithorea tarricina and Heliconius hortense. We surprise an anteater on our way up, and Jose says it is a lifer for him as well. The road is fairly steep with crumbly rocks, so you have to watch your footing, and we’re tired by the time we make it back, just before the rains.

Sunday Aug 9 – spent the day on the trails around the ornamental plantings and the river. There are 2 main river crossings, 1 straight down the road to the right from the dining area and 1 higher upstream. The higher one is the better one, more productive for butterflies, more sandbars and places for bugs to be by the water. It’s fascinating how the species at the river change in the last 2 days. The first day we had tons of Rusty-tipped Page and both species of 88’s, especially lots of Astala 88. I’ve never seen so many, and very fresh. But now, 2 days later, we see very few of either and now there are many Patches, especially Crimson Patch but also 2 new Patches, Gaudy and Guatemalan. My theory is when they first hatch out the males need minerals so they come to the river. After a day or so they have enough and can spend their time hunting females, while new species are hatching out and then they take their turn at the sandbars. It would be great to spent a month or 2 at a place like this, monitoring what shows up everyday and seeing how the species mix changes. In the afternoon I go looking for tigerwings, of which there are many here. There are more Mechanitis at Tarrales than almost any place I’ve been. The roads and trails are often lined with these very large tall plants with long droppy leaves, and we’re told they are a type of agave. The ithomiinae seem to like sitting on these leaves, hanging out over the roads and trails, and in some areas there appear to be clusters of them. I find some narrow trails where it’s darker, and it’s a good place to work on photographing the ithomiinae. Deb actually gets some shots the first day of the hair pencils being displayed by one of the Greta morgane. Most of the time I don’t see the hair pencils, but the bugs are sitting around on the leaves watching each other and the trail. I find 4 species of clearwings and quite a few species of tigerwings. 2 Mechanitis, lots of Lycorea halia, Tithorea harmonia, Melinaea lilis, and Heliconius ismenius. Deb gets a shot of another species as well, maybe Eueides isabella but it looks different then the normal isabella. A good place to work on separating out a confusing bunch.

Monday Aug 10 – today we head up to the Sendero del Pavos, but we’re going to try and find the bottom of it. It’s starts about half way up the mountain off the road to Vesubius, but I did it 2 years ago and it was steep and dark. Good for birds, we saw lots of mannakins, but this time I want to work the bottom part by the river. Well, it worked out great. We walked up the main farm road about a mile or so and took the truck road to the left which wound back down towards the river through coffee. We found 2 small stream crossings, and the 2nd one was fabulous. Consul electra, Marpesia zerynthia/Waiter Daggerwing, Pyrrhogyra edocla, Adelpha pithys, a different Anthanassa, lots to keep us busy all morning. Walking back for a late lunch about 1:30 we have a 5’ Central American rattlesnake almost fall at our feet. He’s trying to climb the steep wall they have running next to the truck road and was hiding from us but slipped down the slippery bamboo leaf covered wall. We stand back and let him struggle to find his way up the hill and get some nice shots. We’re worried some of the workers will come along, and they’ll chop him up immediately, but fortunately the snake makes it up the hill just before a couple of the guys come down the road. We then find a very fresh Heliconius hecalesia who’s resting on the wall and poses very nicely. Wonderful morning.

Tuesday Aug 11 – our last morning here at Tarrales, then our transfer comes after lunch to take us to Los Andes. 350 quetzales for the transfer, about US$45. This driver was arranged by Andy at Tarrales, and will also come back for us on the 16th to take us from Los Andes to Guatemala City for 850 quetzales.  Los Andes is another coffee finca, only located higher up the Atitlan volcano. Their land actually borders that of Tarrales, but you have to drive back out to the main highway and go west to another road heading back up the volcano. It takes about 1.5 – 2 hours. Once you get to Los Andes land, which took us a bit as we took a wrong turn, you drive on old cobblestone roads that are rough on a car but better than mud. They built all these roads by hand, hauling the rocks up from the river, an unimaginable amount of work. Los Andes is a beautiful old farm house w/a number of rooms, high ceilings and a gorgeous large garden, about 1200 meters. Very nice, they even have a pool.

Wednesday Aug 12 – We go out w/Jesus, the local guide who patiently shows us around some of the trails. We head down the ravine to their hydrological/electrical generating plant and see many clearwings and tigerwings. It clouds up by late morning and Jesus calls for a truck to haul us back up to the house for a late lunch. That afternoon we have a tremendous thunder and lightening storm, fabulous lightening strikes from the dining room table which looks down the valley.

Thursday Aug 13 – We go up to the quetzals home, about 1500 meters, by truck. On the way Jesus has us stop at a row of eucalyptus trees where he knows stygian owl roost, and he finds 2 of them! Great for photographs, the best look I’ve had at stygian owl. One opens his eyes and glares at us, a spectacular bird. Then we bounce our way on up to the forest and walk a large loop trail up past quetzal nesting boxes, but we don’t find any quetzals. Jesus tells us the best time is March/April, when they are calling. Now they are finished with nesting and are quiet. We see very few butterflies but a few new ones, including Oleria zea, a different clearwing. We climb about 250 meters, to 1750, then start down the other side. The truck comes to get us in a quinine plantation, which are flowering and smell wonderful. They cut the quinine trees every 10 years or so, and they regrow new shoots into good sized trees. More heavy rain in the afternoon.

Friday Aug 14 – Jesus takes us down to Santa Ana, a trail that runs along the side of the forested hills that looks very good. Not many butterflies, but great potential. We do find several leks of clearwings and get to sort out Ithomia patilla and I. Leila, plus watch them laying eggs. This has been a good trip for Ithomiinae/Clearwings, 7 species of clearwings and 8 species of tigerwings, plus 8 species of Heliconius. So we’ve had lots of opportunity to work on some of the puzzling and similar groups. On the trail to Santa Ana we walk downhill all morning, crossing a couple of great looking wet spots, in and out of coffee plantations and finally around a corner where the patient truck waits to haul us back uphill for lunch. Life is good.

Saturday Aug 15 – We go up the cobblestone road from the house, past the school and up to the nacimiento, or spring. Lots of weedy flowers all along the road, and we concentrate on the crescents. There are several species of Anthanassa here, some new ones for me, so we try to get dorsals and ventrals of everything. Not easy, but it helps having Deb and Bill’s long lenses. Bill catches a Battus ingenuus female by hand, so we get good shots of that one too. These are usually up in the canopy, so it’s one of the first I’ve even seen close enough to photograph. There are a number of Battus polydamas flying around, but they never give us a chance. This is the first cloudy morning, and the rains start before lunch, but the butterflies we see are slower moving, good for photos.

Sunday Aug 16 – our last morning, que lastima. Deb and Sherry have run their moth light the last 2 nights and have brought in some gorgeous big moths, which has been of great interest to the lodge owners who are here for the weekend. Hymie and Olga, and their 2 sons, are amazed to see some of the big silk moths that are in their garden. They have been very gracious and friendly to us, eating meals with us when they’re here, and their father, Jim, has told us many stories and patiently answered our many questions about running a farm here and his history. Very interesting, and a wonderful experience. Again, not like a lodge but more like visiting friends in their lovely country home. For our last morning we’re just going to hike down to the dam, not too far, and hopefully look for more crescents. I’m trying to sort out the differences between Anthanassa ptolyca/Black Crescent and Anthanassa dracaena/Notched Crescent, plus several other species. My first looks at Anthanassa nebulosa/Blurry Crescent, and we get males and females of these. One sits on Bill’s boot for great photos, then gets on Jesus’ hand which thrills him. All in all, it’s been a good trip. I’ll be back, maybe in November. It would be very interesting to compare the times of the year. I was at Tarrales in May, and it seemed a bit dry, at the end of the dry season before the rains had really come. This time July has also been very dry, but it’s better than it was in May. However, I suspect Oct/Nov may be a good time, after the rains. That’s the best time in northern Mexico and south Texas, so maybe it’s the same for here. We’ll have to come back and see.
Our driver comes at 1pm and we drive back to the city, stay the night at Posada Belen and fly out to Texas early Monday morning.

Mexico – Oaxaca-Chiapas July 2009

Trip Report for Oaxaca and Chiapas

Participants: Kim Garwood

Author: Kim Garwood

Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico July 1 – 26, 2009

This trip is timed to be in the rainy season, which is the same as the hurricane season, rains start in May and go through October. One interesting comparision w/my trip here last year in May/June is I expected to see more butterflies than in 2008, but that turns out to not be the case. I see fewer species and fewer individuals, but some different ones. I now suspect that the fall may be the better time for butterflies here, same as in Tamaulipas and Texas. Guess I’ll just have to come back in Oct/Nov and see. The best butterfly locations turn out to be Sumidero Canyon outside Tuxtla Gutierrez, Ruiz Cortines road from San Andres Tuxtla and Vega del So road below Valle Nacional. El Ocote above Tuxtla Gutierrez also looks very promising.

I spent the first 10 days of July in Oaxaca with Judi Ross, a friend who lives there who’s into butterflies, then met up with Michael Carmody from Legacy Tours for his birding trip for the next 2 weeks. Michael’s trip specializes in Mexican endemics, and we see all of my target birds. 10 species of jays, which I didn’t even know one could do in Mexico(including white-throated and black-throated), plus Pink-headed Warbler and Rosita’s Bunting, plus both Nava’s and Sumichrast Wrens. Judi likes taking visitors around to photograph butterflies, so if you’re interested in doing a butterfly trip to Oaxaca, you can contact her at I also spent a day with Roque Antonio Santiago, who’s a very nice and knowledgeable Oaxacan bird guide. Peter, one of the birding guys on the tour, had hired Roque for a day before the tour began to find beautiful hummingbird, and I joined in for the day. Roque knows all the local birds and where to find them, you can reach him at He charges US$200/day, using his vehicle.

For the first 8 nights I stayed at Villa de Campo, recommended by Judi, a quiet pleasant little hotel close to the center of town. Their regular price is 580 pesos/night for 1 or 2 people in a studio unit with a simple kitchen that includes a refrigerator and stove and a small sitting room, they have cheaper rooms w/out the kitchen. They gave me a 15% discount for a week, would have been 30% off for 2 weeks. Nice garden where they had wireless internet if you had a laptop.  They have secure parking for cars, and it’s close enough to walk to many restaurants. I would stay here again. Another nice little hotel that Judi also recommends is Las Golondrinas, about the same rate but it includes breakfast. A more upscale hotel, where we ate delicious breakfasts most mornings, is Casa Vertiz Hotel for about 950 pesos/night, with air conditioning. Most hotels here in Oaxaca don’t have it, and I didn’t need it when I was here.  One tasty bakery we frequented was Pan & Co., up a block to the west from the main Santo Domingo church. They had fabulous chocolate pastries, not croissants but close, and they did have very flaky croissants, plus wonderful crusty breads and many muffins, including a chocolate one that was more like a fudge cake than a muffin. They run out of the good stuff early, so we would buy here for the following morning, if we were leaving early. Right next door is an excellent Italian place, Mezzaluna, where I had the best pizza I’ve had in Mexico, crispy thin crust, good cheese, simple and elegant. Get the chica, or small size, perfect for one.

I move to the Hotel Anturios to meet the birding group, just up the street from the main bus station on the main highway north of town. I was concerned hearing that it was by the bus station, but it turns out to be a very pleasant small hotel. It serves killer breakfasts, which are not included, with fancy crepes and waffles and excellent coffee, and good wireless internet in the rooms. Too bad we don’t have many opportunites to eat breakfast here! The cost is 55 pesos for a single and 700 for a double, all rooms appear to have 2 beds. It’s too far from the center of town to walk to the zocalo and see the tourist sights, but there is a good restaurant, El Colibri, only a few blocks away. Plus they take credit cards, which many of the small hotels here don’t.

July 2 – went to Etla, Guacamaya Road

July 3 – Mount Alban

July 4 – Teotitlan del Valle, the weaver town, then the trash pullout 5 km from Oaxaca

July 5 – up Highway 175 to the east to Iztlan

July 6 – back to Etla

July 7 – drove west on Hwy175 to Finca El Pacifico for the night

July 8 – worked Pluma Hidalgo road, then back to Oaxaca

July 9 – 5 km trashy pullout

July 10 – birding w/Roque Antonio, Teotitlan

July 11 – Legacy Tours starts, Teotitlan, 2 nights at Hotel Anturios in Oaxaca near bus station

July 12 – Guacamaya Road up high, 3000 meters

July 13 – drove to San Jose del Pacifico, Puesto del Sol 1 night

July 14 – drove to Huatulco, Hotel Flamboyant 1 night

July 15 – drove to Arriaga, Hotel IK-Lumal 2 nights

July 16 – rosita’s bunting! & fish lunch on coast

July 17 – Bocaa del Cielo am on the coast, pm drove to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Best Western Pamareca Hotel 1 night

July 18 – pm drove to San Cristobal de las Casas, Hotel Mansion del Valle 2 nights

July 19 – birded 2 Lagunas in the mountains nearby, and thistle meadows near town pm

July 20 – pm drove to Tuxtla, did El Ocote then back to Best Western Pamareca 1 night

July 21 – El Ocote am, pm drove to Coatzacoalcos/Minatitlan, Los Andes 1 night

July 22 – am drove to Sierra los tuxtlas/Ruiz Cortines, Hotel del Parque 1 night

July 23 – am Ruiz Corintes, pm drove to Tuxtepec, Gran Tuxtepec Plaza 2 nights

July 24 – worked lower elevations below Valle Nacional, dirt road to Vega del Sol

July 25 – pm drove to Oaxaca city, Hotel Anturios

July 26 – flew back to Texas

The first 2 days we had cool overcast weather. Judi told me they have had lots of rain, so it took a few days to dry out. We went up to the Guayamaca road out of Etla, which is about the best spot near Oaxaca for butterflies. Oaxaca is in a bowl about 5,000’, 1400-1500 meters, with mountains all around. There are several roads in and out. Highway 175 comes in from Tuxtepec in Veracruz in the east and continues on to the pacific coast to the west, 190 goes to Teotitlan and Mitla, and there is a cuota towards Mexico City. Etla is towards the cuota, you take the free road off to the right (coming from Oaxaca heading north out of town) instead of getting on the cuota. About 15 km from Oaxaca there is a sign for Guayamaca up to the right, and the road soon turns to dirt. You can take this road quite a ways up into the hills, plus you can turn off it down to the right several places. Nice habitat, weedy overgrown fields, grazing horses, people live all around, lots of flowers. Keep climbing until you come to a good sized stream crossing about 30 minutes from Oaxaca, a big right hand turn, this is often a great spot. Up here there aren’t any houses, just hills covered with good habitat. We had Hesperocharis here, Orange-banded Eighty-eights, lots of blues and patches, a various mix coming to the water. The road continues up to Benito Juarez, but I’ve never been much beyond the stream crossing, as it gets drier as it climbs away from the water.

Mount Alban is the big archeological ruin south of town. Not very good for butterflies, but very interesting and worth seeing. Good for birding around the entrance if you go early. Lots of vendors selling trinkets, 51 pesos entrance fee. Gorgeous views of the valley, gives you a good feel for the area.

Teotitlan is great. This is the weaving town, where everybody has looms in front of their place and beautiful rugs for sale. Drive on through and up to the reservoir, dirt road outside of town, and up into the hills. You can park anywhere you see blooms. One spot I like is up by another stream crossing, a bridge you drive over and small picnic spots on either side. I was here in late May in 2008 and we followed the stream both up and down, but now in early July the water was running quite high and we couldn’t get down to the streamside. Cordia blooms up here, a small white flower on delicate racimes of blooms, the hairstreaks love it. It wasn’t blooming in May, but just starting to bloom now. We had Calycopis clarina/White streaked Groundstreak, several green hairstreaks, some Strymons and lots of Gray Ministreaks. There were lots of Phoebis neocypris/Tailed Sulphurs, and we got photos of the beautiful greenish white females, which I had not seen well before.

One day we went up 175 to Itzlan, into the pine oak forests about 2100 meters +, but there were very few butterflies even though it was a spectacular clear day. Very twisty steep mountain road, watch for slow trucks, can be dangerous to pass. There are a number of dirt roads off to the side, Judi took me to Latuvi about km 150, down to the south side to a stream crossing. There were people camping here, which was the first time she had seen that. But we were on a Sunday, which is family day, so people were at most of the water spots for picnics. Difficult to photograph butterflies in the mud when people are around.

A great spot very close to Oaxaca City is just a short way out of town up 175 east, at a trashy pullout about km 205. There’s room for a couple of cars here on the right on your way out of town, and there is a short road down to the stream. For some reason this spot is always good. We had 4 species of Piruna here, plus 1 the day before at Etla made 5. Oaxaca is Piruna central.

One day we went west on Highway 175 to Finca El Pacifico between km 203 and 202, about 600 meters on the west slope. This is a coffee finca that has been in the family since about 1880, very interesting historically. You can email Antonio Gomez Schmerbitz at or, or call him at 045 958 58 4-60-94, or 045 958 100-40-25. These are cell phones, and he can be difficult to get hold of. They don’t have email at the finca, so they only answer it every so often when they go into town, and the phones don’t work there either. You should contact them at least a week before going, preferably 2 or 3 weeks before. I enjoy visiting these old fincas, it’s like being a member of the family, very unique, often like staying in a museum. We just showed up, because Judi hadn’t been able to get hold of him, but they graciously took us in, put us in the sister’s room and fed us lots of food. Antonio showed us all his old coffee processing machinery, brought in by his grandfather on mule back. Plus they have beautiful habitat and good butterflies. They only speak Spanish, but Antonio loves to talk and show off his place. It cost 250 pesos/person to stay the night, plus 100 pesos/meal/person, so we paid 450 each including dinner and breakfast. They have a lovely stream you drive across about half a mile off the highway, and that can be great for bugs. I think the fall, after the rains, is best, in October/November. Judi plans to come back this fall and let me know how it is. You can hike a ways up their canyon to a nice waterfall, good for birds as well.

The morning after El Pacifico we worked the dirt road to Pluma Hidalgo, turnoff from 175 about km 210-212, so it’s higher than El Pacifico back up the hill. This turnoff is not marked when you’re coming uphill from the coast, or El Pacifico, but there is a nice sign when driving from Oaxaca. So if you drive in from Oaxaca to El Pacifico, look for the sign and notice the turnoff, as you can miss it when coming up from the west. Once you turn off the highway take the lower road to the right, 12 km to Pluma Hidalgo. This is a good road until you get to the washed out big bridge, where they are working on it, and the detour is a bit scary, but that’s in quite a ways. We stopped several places to photograph butterflies along the road. This is a popular collecting spot that the folks from UNAM have used for years, about 1000 to 1200 meters, little traffic, streams crossing the dirt road, good habitat, all the ingredients for a great butterfly day. The white morphos fly here, and many crescents and nymphalids. I don’t think there is any place to stay in Pluma Hidalgo, but maybe you could rent a room somewhere. I would probably stay at El Pacifico and come up, it’s not far.

There are a couple of other fincas I know of I would like to visit on a future trip. Finca Monte Carlo looks good, over near Huatulco, and La Gloria which is in the same area. They take some advance planning, as they are difficult to contact, and you have to make sure someone is going to be there to take care of you. Maybe next time.

Friday July 10 went birding for the day w/Peter, one of the guys on the Legacy trip, and Roque Antonio Santiago, a local Zapoteco bird guide we hired for US$200, recommended by Michael Carmody from Legacy. Roque was very friendly and knowledgeable; he took us up Teotitlan del Valle. He was born and raised in Teotitlan, so he knows the hills there very well. You can contact him at, or see his website at He showed us Oaxaca sparrow, after much hunting, then took us to Mitla, one of the more interested ruins near by. I always like to use local guides when possible, and it was most interesting to hear about things from a local perspective, plus he knows the birds! He took us on a different road, off from the main dirt road a short distance above the bridge Judi and I had parked at, off to the left. It got into great habitat w/almost no traffic, and lots of cordia

July 11, started the tour w/Michael Carmody of Legacy Tours, and we went back up to Teotitlan, but much higher. This day we had Oaxaca sparrow as soon as we stepped out of the car, funny how it changes from day to day. Both days were cool, overcast, and drizzly, so not much for butterflies.

July 12 – up to Guacamaya Road, same road I took w/Judi but again we went much higher. Today was the hunt for the dwarf jay, which took us over 3000 meters and into cold pine forests, but we got great looks thanks to Michael’s persistent playing of the calls. The village of Guacamaya has lots of fruit trees with lots of apples and cherries, and it was thrush heaven, including a few female Aztec thrush stuffing their beaks, plus black, white-throated and American robin.

Monday July 13 – drove west on Highway 175 to San Jose del Pacifico, km 131, and spent the night at 2500 meters at Puesto del Sol, a nice mountain hotel just before the town. It has comfortable cabins with wood burning fireplaces where I’ve stayed before several times. Boring food, but a good location for the upper elevations. They have nice gardens, if very steep trails down to the cabins, where you can get great looks at white-eared hummers and a number of other high elevation birds, often right from your porch. We had bumblebee hummingbirds as well, a few gorgeous males. Plus Michael knew where to find hooded yellowthroat and the special bird, white-throated jay. We got killer looks the next morning.

Tuesday July 14 – after the jay we drove on to the west on Hwy 175 and took the turnoff to Pluma Hidalgo, the same dirt road Judi and I had worked a week before. But we went on to the right instead of going into the town of Pluma Hidalgo, towards Santa Maria Hidalgo, which turned out to be a quite nice paved road, once we got past the scary detour around the broken bridge. There seemed to be a few more butterflies this time, at least 3 or 4 species of dark crescents. Difficult to get both top and bottom shots of the same individual. Then we continued on down the hill to Huatulco, where we spent the night in the old Hotel Flamboyant right on the zocalo. Not a good idea, as Mexican kids get out of school from the 2nd week in July, so everybody and his mother were at the beach. The hotel was completely booked, and they had ‘upgraded’ us to suites, which unfortunately only had 1 matrimonial bed each. Seeing as we were all not couples and required 2 beds/room, that was a hassle, but Michael finally got them sorted out. Unfortunately Helen and I ended up w/a regular room right across from the (very loud) bar on the zocalo which blasted music until 4am, plus loud drunks, fights, traffic and generally plenty of folk having a good time. Not a good plan for us birders getting up at 5am, so we had almost no sleep. So the 2 of us catnapped in the van the next day.

Wednesday July 15 – birded around Huatulco for a few hours in the early morning before it got too hot, which was a great place to find many of the used to be common west coast birds. We were out before dawn and heard 3 species of owls, but could only actually see pacific screech owl, and then only when it flew overhead. Great interactions with collared forest falcons, a pair responded very aggressively to Michael’s tape, plus they were being chased by the white-throated magpie-jays, quite a show. Then we drove to Arriaga, but first stopped about 40km east at a simple beach with an old guy and a little palapa where Michael called in the sumicrest or cinnamon-tailed sparrow after watching boobies on the rocks offshore. Tomorrow morning we go for one of my target birds of the trip, rosita’s bunting. Michael seems to know where each of the endemics hides out and is determined to show them to the whole group, which isn’t easy, but he does a very good job.

Thursday July 16 – rosita’s in the bag! Piece of cake, just drove up the road to the foothills, played the tape at an old bridge spot over a gully, and viola, great looks at an unbelievable bird. It looks better than the field guides. Afterwards we got a few other goodies, then headed to the coast to Puerto Arrista for a tasty fish lunch on the beach and more booby watching. We have definitely not gone hungry on this trip. I went swimming in the waves, had brought along some shorts, and it was very refreshing. Giant wren, rufous breasted seedeater and other lowland species on the open marshy road to the coast, plus some shorebirds coming back from migration already, terns, godwits, whimbrels, etc. The butterflies for the last several days have been all common lowland species, lots of sulphurs and whites mostly. Waiter daggerwings and a few different skippers up on the Pluma Hidalgo road, including crystal winged skipper, one of my favorites. I didn’t see this w/Judi, but saw it there a week later.

Friday July 17 – drove early to Boca del Cielo south of Puerto Arrista to look for owls, then on to Tuxtla Gutierrez and Sumidero Canyon, or Canyon de Sumidero, a fabulous huge canyon that drains the Chiapas plateau to the Caribbean. We went up for a few hours in the afternoon, and again early the following morning. A 22 km road goes up past 5 miradors, or overlooks, where you can park and walk around, getting killer looks over the canyon. The town of Tuxtla is about 700 meters, and the top of the canyon is a bit over 1,400 meters.

Saturday July 18 – Sumidero opens at 7am, and we were there right at the start. Traffic doesn’t start to show up until mid morning, so we just stopped our 2 vehicles wherever we heard birds. About 8:30am butterflies started showing up, and by 10 we were at the 4th mirador, and I just stayed by the cars while the others birding down the road. There were lots of good butterflies, my favorite was black-veined leafwing, of which there were many. This was a new species for me, and I got lots of nice shots, no good open ones unfortunately, but many opportunities. The previous afternoon we had a thunderstorm blow in and it rained suddenly, and the leafwings were landing on some rocky walls next to the road, so I got some good shots. More different crescents, sisters, more species than I could photograph in the limited amount of time before the birders came back. Definitely a place worth coming back to.  After lunch we went to the zoo, where we found crested guan and currasows wandering around, plus tons of plain chacalacas, and saw horned guans in the cage. In the afternoon we drove to San Cristobal de las Casas, about 2,200 meters at Mansion del Valle, in the historical center for 2 nights. Very pretty inside, lovely courtyard.  We went up to the microwave towers above town for black-capped swallows.

Sunday July 19 – Before dawn hunt for owls, not much luck but got black-throated jays and blue-throated motmot, and my favorite bird, pink-headed warbler. Much better looking than the guides, a real stunner, and very cooperative. Almost no butterflies, as it’s cool and high, a Vanessa and a few grass skippers, looked like fiery.  San Cristobal de las Casas is a very pretty town, many Europeans go there so there are many nice little restaurants and cafes. But it’s high and cool, even in July.

Monday July 20 – more early owling, then back to Tuxtla Gutierrez. We went north 30 minutes or so to the unmarked turnoff to El Ocote, just past lots of construction. This was a very interesting road, a good dirt road with good forest on both sides.

Tuesday July 21 – early departure and back to El Ocote for Nava’s Wren, where we had splendid up close looks at it. Plus a pretty good selection of butterflies. Then we drove, a long drive, up to Coatzacoalcos, where there was some confusion w/our hotel rooms at the Best Western Brisas. Even though Michael had prepaid, somehow our reservations had disappeared. Fortunately the hotel took responsibility for it, and found us some replacement rooms that were quite acceptable at Los Andes. They even sent the desk manager and a bellhop w/us to the new hotel, where we finally got into our rooms.

Wednedsay July 22 – drive to Catemaco, had lunch at La Finca, a very nice hotel I’ve used before, just south of town on the main highway over looking the lake. We did some birding/butterflying around the lake before lunch, then afterwards went to San Andres Tuxtla where we were in the Hotel del Parque, right on the zocalo downtown. But it was quiet and ok, if a bit small. After we got our rooms we went up the Ruiz Cortines road, which takes off from the main highway towards the south end of town, across from the Goodyear tire shop and the Pemex. Another unmarked road, but it is a regular paved road that goes up to the ejido Ruiz Cortines. It’s only about 16 km to the ejido, and the habitat changes dramatically as you climb to about 1200 meters. This is a great road with lots of cordia blooming along the sides once you get up past all the agriculture and pastures. I’ve been here before in August and seen lots of hairstreaks on the cordia. Last year I was here in May/early June, and the cordia wasn’t blooming yet, but this year it’s going great.

Thursday July 23 – back to Ruiz Cortines early am. I bird w/the group until about 8:30, then start walking back down the hill looking for butterflies. Up at the top you suddently get into tall trees and lovely cloud forest, where the white morphos gracefully float amongst the canopy. This is preserved by a government program that pays the ejido to preserve the forest as a watershed, so they don’t cut it down. It appears to be working well here. The cordia grows below the cloud forest, so I walk back downhill slowly seeing all kinds of goodies. The group picks me up several hours later about 12:30 on their way back down.  Then we drive to Tuxtepec for 2 nights at Gran Tuxtepec Plaza, on the edge of town and very quiet.

Friday July 24 – predawn departure to look for Slender-billed or Sumichrast Wren below Valley Nacional, off Highway 175. This is the highway that goes over the mountains back to Oaxaca, and is famous amongst naturalists, both birders and butterfly collectors, as a great road. Up about km 74 is the town of Esperanza (not much of a town) which is the home of Esperanza Swallowtail. I’ve not seen it, but they even have signs posted saying no collecting of insects. I think many collectors have come here over the years from many countries looking for the swallowtail, and the local people feel protective of their animal and plants, so collectors aren’t appreciated. Before we get to Valle Nacional Michael turns off to the left, or south, over a good sized bridge to a dirt road and knows exactly where to get out and look for the wren. Some of the area has been cleared since he was here a year ago, but he finds a big rock wall buried in the vegatation, we whack a way into it, he plays the tape and presto, wren singing over our heads. This just happens to be a great patch of flowers where I find many new butterflies for the trip right where we park the cars. Many photos of Glorious Blue-Skippers/Paches loxus, first time I’ve seen them in Mexico. This has all the ingredients of a great butterfly spot, dirt road/good forest/flowers, just missing a stream crossing the road. We have light rain in the morning, but it quits about 9 or 10, and the butterflies come out before the sun breaks through. One nice thing about butterflies after a rainy morning is they’re trying to bask and dry out, so they’re very cooperative for photos.  This road continues to Vega del Sol, where it crosses another large, new bridge back to the main highway 175, about km 37. Valle Nacional is about km 45, a little further up the hill. Coming back in the afternoon, we take the same road, turning right towards Vega del Sol and Balneario Rio Zuzul. The road is dirt, but they are surveying, and I suspect it will be paved soon. We turn left to the bridge before the balneario, cross the bridge and take an immediate left again to wind our way back to the wren (and butterfly) spot, then back to the highway. No signs at the lower turnoff from the highway.

Saturday July 25 – Leave Tuxtepec for the drive to Oaxaca. Today we go past Valle Nacional and head up to the higher elevations, where I see another subspecies of White Morpho flying. Beautiful drive, about 6 hours to Oaxaca, but we stop many times and walk parts of the road. We finally make it back to Oaxaca late in the afternoon, back to the Hotel Anturias for our final night, then early am departures back to the US on the 26th.

A good trip, lots of speciality birds, and some new butterflies and a chance to check out some new locations. Several places I’ll want to return to at a different time of the year.


Colombia January 2009

Trip Report Colombia, January 2009

Kim Garwood, Dan and Kay Wade, Willie Sekula, Hank and Priscilla Brodkin

Author: Kim Garwood

Colombia trip report January-February 2009

I have spent 2 months in Colombia now, in July 2008 and January/February 2009, and have not once felt threatened or in danger. Much of the country is safe to travel in, the people are extremely welcoming and happy to see us, and if you have any doubts about coming I can say you don’t need to worry. I have felt more welcomed and at home here than in Ecuador or Peru. I do strongly recommend you use one of the people I talk about in these reports to organize your trip, as it would not be safe to come down, rent a car and take off on your own. You need local expertise to know where it is safe to go and where it is not, and that changes frequently.

The locals all share information with each other, and they want to keep all visitors safe. If one birder gets in trouble it will negatively impact all of them, so their primary concern is safety. In some places there is a strong military presence, but the soldiers have always been very courteous and professional to all of us. And the birding is fabulous! Willie got 137 lifers on this last trip, and he has birded in the Andes in other countries a number of times, and this was not a hardcore birding trip. We were looking to photograph butterflies.

Participants: Hank and Priscilla Brodkin, Nancy and Larry Simkins, Dan and Kay Wade, Willie Sekula, and Kim Garwood. Trip report written by Kim Garwood, See butterfly photos at plus other trip reports. At the time of this trip the currency exchange was about 2,200-2,400 pesos to 1 dollar. In July of 2008 it was about 1,800 pesos to the dollar. We obtained pesos using atm cards, plus it was easy to convert dollars for pesos at the international airport in Bogota when we first arrived. After that it would have been time consuming to have to wait in line at banks, so atm’s are much easier in country.

Organizers: Kim made all arrangements by email, first part organized with EcoTurs using the ProAves reserves, see, or write to All 3 ProAves reserves were US$65/night/person, including 3 meals and water. Transportation for 8 people in a van was US$2,200 from Day 1 through Day 17 to our hotel in Medellin. We traveled without a guide for this part, just used the local guys who lived at each reserve.

Additional information on ProAves reserves at the end of this report. Second part organized with Pablo Flores who lives in Medellin, and Jose Castaño who lives in Jardin, Pablo and Jose are bird guides and also 2 of the original 10 people who created ProAves back in 2001. They charge US$70/day, or 140,000 pesos, for guiding and logistical support, and they spent each day with us in the field, Jose for the Jardin part and Pablo flew w/us to the Choco. Pablo speaks a bit of english, but spanish is much more comfortable for them. They can read english ok in emails but prefer to respond in spanish, so I did all email communications in spanish. 2 other options, especially for non-spanish speakers, are Diego Calderon at and Jurgen Beckers at Trogon Trips, see Diego is Colombian and speaks excellent english, Jurgen is Belgium, married to a Colombian and lives in Europe, but spends much of each year in Colombia. They both have good websites on birding in Colombia with lots of information. I used Jurgen in July 2008, and he set me up with Pablo as our guide for that trip. They’re all bird bums and love to show visitors the birds, and they all know each other well. Jurgen and Pablo are working on a book on where to find birds in Colombia, so they’re exploring the whole country and can help with suggestions for almost everywhere.

Day 1 – Jan 8/9: 1 night in Bogota after overnight flight from Houston, Hotel Chico Suites, 175,000 pesos/double.

Day 2 – Jan 10: drove to Mariquita, Tolima to Hotel San Felipe, 2 nights, 80,000/double/night.

Day 3 – Jan 11: drove 3 hours (each way!) to Golden Poison Frog Reserve at Falan, 1600-1700 meters

Day 4 – Jan 12: drove 5-6 hours to El Paujil Reserve for 5 nights, 300 meters

Day 5/6/7/8 – Jan 13/14/15/16: trails at El Paujil

Day 9 – Jan 17: drove to Cerulean Warbler Reserve for 4 nights, 1400 meters.

Day 10/11/12 – Jan 18/19/20: trails at Cerulean Warbler Reserve.

Day 13 – Jan 21: drove to Bucaramanga, fly to Medellin, drove to Piha Reserve for 4 nights

Day 14/15/16 – Jan 22/23/24: trails at Piha Reserve

Day 17 – Jan 25: drove to Medellin, end of ProAves part of the trip. Balance of the trip arranged with Pablo Flores, contact him at In Medellin we used Hotel Casa Asturias, about 152,000/double w/breakfast. Larry and Nancy left us in Medellin and flew back to the US.

Day 18 – Jan 26: took 2 taxis to Jardin, 3 hours sw of Medellin, to the Hotel Hacienda Balendú for 4 nights, guided by Jose Castaño, Pablo’s friend who lives in Jardin, contact him at The hotel cost about 2,400,000 pesos for 6 people for 4 nights, so about 100,000 pesos/night/person, or roughly US$50, including meals.

Day 19 – Jan 27: go down to 1,500 meters in the am, up to 2,000 meters to Alto de Ventanas (antennaes) for pm.

Day 20 – Jan 28: yellow eared parrot trip all day up the mountain.

Day 21 – Jan 29: we choose to go back up the mountain, best forest.

Day 22 – Jan 30: drove back from Jardin to Medellin for 2 nights, back to Casa Asturias. Spent several hours at Amaga, ‘the mud farm’, on the way, 1,600 meters about 1 hour from Medellin.

Day 23 – Jan 31: went to La Romera outside Medellin w/Pablo, 1900-2000 meters.

Day 24 – Feb 1: flew to Bahia-Solana and drove to El Almejal for 5 nights in the Choco. 180,000/person/night w/3 meals.

Day 25 – Feb 2: drove back 2-3 km past El Valle to a side road, walked to the river in the am, birded the trails around El Amejal in the pm.

Day 26 – Feb 3: hiked the long trail towards National Park Natural Utria, 4 km to Baudo Oropendola nesting tree.

Day 27 – Feb 4: boat trip to National Park Natural Utria

Day 28 – Feb 5: walked the side road again

Day 29 – Feb 6: flew back to Medellin, then to Bogota, night in Hotel Siar, 120,000 pesos/double, 80,000 pesos/single. The others flew back home either the night of the 6th or the 7th, while I stayed another 5 days in Bogota to work at the University collection. End of report.

Day 1 – Jan 8/9: flew in on a red-eye flight from Houston, arrived 5am, went to Chico Suites for the night. Then 4 of us had Angela Reyes as a guide for the day, arranged by ProAves. The others went to the gold museum, Museo del Oro, that afternoon; they really enjoyed it. It’s free if you’re over 60, and only 2,500 pesos otherwise. I think it’s closed on Mondays.

Day 2 – Jan 10: drove to Hotel San Felipe about 300 meters outside Mariquita, Tolima, northwest of Bogota about a 4 hour drive. This was the closest hotel to the Golden Frog Reserve, a new reserve for ProAves for 2 species of poison dart frogs, Ranitomeya doriswainsonae and R. tolimense. Bad traffic up and over several ridges, lots of large very slow trucks and tons of small cars doing death defying passes, including our driver. Best to just not look. It was a holiday weekend, Epiphany, so lots of people were out. Got to our hotel, dumped our luggage and drove a short distance further outside of town to a dirt road through corn fields off to our left. We got a km or so down the road and found an impassible stream that had overflowed the banks and was about waist deep, so we weren’t going any further that way. We parked and found another road to the left that paralleled the stream, where we found some nice lowland stuff. Several species of Dynamine or Sailors, including a beautiful Tithia Sailor.

Day 3 – Jan 11: some confusion, as we thought we were going back to the same road as yesterday, but instead our driver heads up the hills off the right side of the highway. We had talked to Oscar last night, who is the guide for the Golden Frog reserve, and had arranged for him to have a 4 wheel drive truck to take us, we thought, over the flooded river and into the reserve.

Well, surprise, we went way up the hills, about an hour, to his house in Falan, then a lot further up hill to another town where we got into a toyota jeep type vehicle, 6 stuffed in the back, 2 up w/the driver, and Oscar hanging off the back. 2 hours later, after much banging around on bad muddy roads, we finally made it to the reserve, picking up and dropping off locals all the way. At one point there were 15 people in the small toyota, 4 or 5 hanging off the back and 1 on the roof, plus bags of stuff.

Finally the truck drops us off and goes back down, we walk uphill and immediately start seeing lots of butterflies. The sides of the road are full of flowering shrubs and weeds, and in between the showers we see lots of bugs. Lots of new species, so we run around like chickens with their heads chopped off. Lots of skippers, a number of them new to me, including a large pale brown one similar to Pale Sicklewing only with a black spot in the middle of the fw, which turned out to be a Mimia, probably Mimia phydile. Also a couple of new Adelpha/Sisters, some lovely Riodinids/Metalmarks like Necryia and some new Ithomiinae/Clearwings.

One of the last species we saw, as it got foggy mid afternoon, was a very fresh Tithorea tarrcina /Tigerwing that was very cooperatively feeding on some tropical milkweed. Oscar scrambled up a very steep hillside and disappeared for a while, then came back down with a few frogs in a baggie to show us. Beautiful red and yellow spotted frogs, which we pose nicely on some leaves.

This reserve doesn’t have any infrastructure yet, just forest on the side of the hill that goes up steeply. It’s about 120 hectares, but I think it’s in patches. There is lots of coffee being grown and Oscar takes us to meet one family, who graciously offer us drinks of lulu, very tasty. We’re a bit concerned drinking it, but bravely go ahead, and no problems. The family lives in a very basic hut on top of a hill w/a million dollar view. Apparently they planned to cook us lunch, but we ungraciously want to go back to photographing butterflies. This is often a problem, where local people want to meet and talk, sometimes mayors and dignitaries or sometimes as in this case local campesinos, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time chit chating when I came here to photograph butterflies and I only have this one day in this area. One of the problems is that we usually have a limited amount of time during the day when butterflies are flying. Anyway, we managed to escape spending another hour or so with these nice people for lunch, and went back on the road.

Day 4 – Jan 12: We’re driving north, crossing the Rio Magdalena and zigzagging our way up the southern Magdalena Valley towards Puerto Boyaca, then off to the right to Puerto Ponzon. In Mariquita we were on the east slope of the central andes, and now we will be on the west slope of the eastern andes, on the eastern side of the Magdalena Valley, in the departamento de Boyaca.

We planned to leave at 7:30 for a 4 hour drive to El Paujil, but things don’t quite work out that way. First it took forever for the 4 couples to get checked out and pay at the hotel, so we didn’t actually depart until closer to 8:30. This is not uncommon, as none of the hotels we use seem to deal well with checkout. Be prepared to spend considerable time especially if you’re using a credit card. One advantage to staying at ProAves’ reserves, you’ve paid in advance.

Then we got lost a few times and had to backtrack, then we were on a dirt road running through open pasture, came around a corner and find a huge earth moving bulldozer stuck on a small bridge. He’s working on fixing the road and has fallen in a hole. Traffic is plugged from both directions, so we get out and add to the confusion, looking at parrots in the trees while waiting. They manage to get the bulldozer out in half an hour or so, much quicker than I originally thought. But when we continue, our van is now stuck in first gear, which makes for slow going.

We finally get to Puerto Ponzon where we meet w/Hubert, the guide to El Paujil. We change to a big stake bed truck w/all our luggage, pile in the back and chug a short distance, 10-15 minutes, then unload the truck at the entrance where we have to walk into the lodge, about 20-30 minutes down some slippery hills. They have a horse to carry our mountain of luggage, poor horse has to make at least 3 trips. But we’re finally here! Very interesting looking place. Only 6 rooms, 2 in the main building, 2 nearby and the 2 new ones several 100 yards into the forest. Willie and I get one of the forest rooms, which also have air conditioning, big surprise. I wasn’t even sure they had electricity all day, let alone a/c. The rooms are quite nice w/porches on both sides, a double bed and a set of bunk beds.

We have Colombian Chachalaca from our porch, as well as Starry Night Cracker/Hamadryas laodamia, one of the Ectima crackers or banners, and Little Banner/Nica flavilla coming to my socks drying on the railing. Only problem w/the rooms is our toilet doesn’t flush, so that occupies most of the afternoon w/several of the guys working hard to fix it. Dinner time they tell us to not use it until tomorrow, so I guess we’ll be using the bushes tonight. No problem it will be good to attract the bugs. Also there are fairly steep stairs up to the forest cabin, and in the rain they can be extremely slippery. They need to put in some sort of hand rails here.

Day 5/6/7/8 – Jan 13-16: walk the trails here at El Paujil, lots and lots of trails. One thing about Colombia, most of the trails seem to be quite vertical. Probably because most of the flat land, of which there isn’t a lot to begin with, has been cleared for agriculture, so the good habitat tends to be fairly steep up and down. So you get your exercise climbing hills here.

We have another guide today, a young volunteer here at the lodge who sort of knows the birds, Camillo. He’s very nice and speaks fairly good english, but is more comfortable w/spanish so we mostly use that. He takes us over hill and dale to the spot where they have been seeing the blue-billed curassow, which is the main reason the reserve is here.

The local name of the curassow is El Paujil. We strike out, but we’re stopping to chase frogs and of course butterflies, so we’re not exactly sneaking through the forest. Plus slipping and sliding. 3 days ago there was a huge rise in the height of the rivers, and they flooded their banks by about 15′ or more in some places. Good thing we weren’t here, as the bridge to our 2 forest rooms was under a couple feet of water. This is the dry season, so it’s very unusual to get that kind of rain in January.

We hike back along the stream bed, which is fascinating. Looks like a great place for butterflies. We see a frog nest, which none of us had ever seen before. Made in the mud and built up to a circle about 15″ across, it holds a bunch of eggs in the shallow stream. Camillo tells us there were many a few days ago, then the flood washed them all away, so this one was just built yesterday. The weather here is quite variable, which they tell us is unusual for this time of year.

The first morning is gorgeous, hot and sunny and we sweat to death but by dinner we’re hearing thunder, the 2nd morning we have heavy rain, 3rd morning overcast w/rain about 10am, then the sun comes out and the butterflies are great from about 10:30 to 1 then clear and sunny the rest of the day, and the 4th morning starts sunny, clouds up early, but no rain. The 2nd night we have fairly good thunderstorms most of the night, and when we get up the water has risen to w/in about 2′ of our little bridge. Then it drops quickly, and by lunch that ravine is almost empty of water.

The river here runs milk chocolate all the time, doesn’t look very attractive for swimming. The reserve is in a valley or more of a bowl, so all the trails lead upward from the lodge and spread out like a fan. There is a caliche road that runs around the top of the ridge that vehicles used to use, doesn’t look like they go on it much anymore past the entrance to the lodge where we get dropped off. This is a good road to walk for butterflies, as it’s open with lots of flowering plants on the edge. The only problem is it’s steeply uphill from where we’re staying. The only relatively flat trail is from our forest cabins back along the river, which floods frequently when the river rises. We see mud up quite high on many plants. This area is full of riodinids, satyrs and skippers, but you have to have sun or it’s very quiet.

There are many trails that cut up then down through the forest, and of course it is dark in there, so many fewer species of butterflies. But some goodies. This is a very interesting place, due to the mix of habitats. The riverside trail turns out to be the most productive, especially for metalmarks/riodinids. We find a number of new species right next to the river, but they often don’t pose. We do get a number of gorgeous ones, Willie scores w/a lovely shot of Nymphidium mantus, a brilliant blue sparkly one, and we have 3 species of Anteros and Sarotas, or Jewelmarks. The trail is in the area that floods frequently, so it’s very wet and muddy.

Day 9 – Jan 17: On our 5th and final morning we were going to have to hike out the 1-2 kms of uphill trail, using the horse to haul all our luggage, but plans changed, as they have a tendency to do here. In the night it started to rain lightly, and about 5 am, when we got up, it was pouring. We waited in our cabin, at the top of some very slippery, muddy stairs, but the rain didn’t let up, so we started to haul stuff down. Good thing we came down when we did, as w/in half an hour the water had risen so quickly our bridge became impassible. Fortunately the guys have helped schlep the luggage, but now it’s too slippery to walk out, plus the rising water even cuts off the main trail, and the river’s too high to bring a boat.

When we came in the river was too low for a boat, so I guess there’s a fairly narrow window when it is possible for one of the open water taxis to make it to the lodge. So we wait….and wait….and wait some more. It quits raining about 10am, and the river starts to drop about 11:30, but it has come up maybe 15-20 feet! An amazing rise in a very short time. It drops quickly, but now it is up to the boatman from town to decide when it is safe to take us.

About 4pm, the people at the lodge decide we should start hauling out luggage w/the horse, but the horse has other ideas. He runs away and slips on the mud and falls into the river, where he barely manages to swim across, against the raging current, to the other side in the forest and takes off. So no luggage carrier. We finally get to town about 6pm, by boat for 30,000 pesos, where our faithful driver has been waiting since 6am, our originally scheduled departure. Cell phone service doesn’t work in the riverside town, so he’s had no way of knowing our plans. But now we’re all together and take off, for our “6-7 hour drive” to the Cerulean Warbler reserve. Of course, this turns into another adventure, where we are directed to the wrong road by the police at a checkpoint, and we end up driving down an interminable rocky road in the mountains from midnight to 3am, no one to ask for directions and can’t even use the phone.

Finally we’re able to get hold of the guy from the reserve who is meeting us at San Vincente to take us the final 5 km uphill, and find out we have taken the long scenic roundabout approach. But we finally make it and get into bed about 4am, 23 hours after we got up that morning. Driving around Colombia isn’t for the faint of heart. There are almost no signs, and even the driver often has no idea where to go. So you use Colombia mapquest and stop and ask the next guy on the street. Of course you have no idea if he tells you accurate information or not, so it’s a roll of the dice.

Day 10 – Jan 18: at Cerulean Warbler Reserve, in the Departamento de Santander at 1400 meters, above the town of San Vicente de Chucuri. Another lodge where you have to drive to the nearest little town then transfer to a jeep to pull the last 5-10 km steep uphill road. A very pleasant and airy little lodge, a comfortable row of 4 rooms w/a shared balcony overlooking a nice garden and hillside, w/a great view across to the central andes to the west. It’s wonderful to be out of the killer humidity of the lowlands, and we all enjoy it. Plus the food is much better here, don’t know why as it’s much the same. Eggs w/tomatoes and onions, melba toast and white goat cheese, but it tastes really good here. Maybe we’re just hungry, as we missed dinner the long night before. And they have fresh papaya! The first fresh fruit we’ve seen in many days.

For some weird reason Colombia seems to be the only latin country that doesn’t serve lots of fruit. We live on mystery meat and starches, which get very boring very quickly. No desserts, no fruit, very few vegetable, not much chicken, but all the rice, lentils, yucca, potatoes you can eat, and a bit of not very good meat. We all lost weight on our July trip here, and hopefully that will be the same now. But it would be nice if they could upgrade the meals a bit.

We spend most of the day, when we finally get up, around the gardens and on the balcony, and get lots of very nice birds. They have a hummingbird feeder here, which is great, we have indigo-capped and steely vented hummers, plus our big score is found by Dan, who has turquoise dacnis in a fruiting right in front of the balcony, male and female. Fog rolls in by mid morning, so we don’t have many butterflies, and what we do have is common, open pasture stuff, like white and red peacocks, but we enjoy the restful day and recover from the day before.

Day 11 – Jan 19: We plan to hike uphill (of course) to the forest reserve. Breakfast at 5:30, leave at 6am. Unfortunately there is more heavy rain throughout the night, and it’s raining when we get up. The local guide, Me-shal (maybe Michael?) at the reserve doesn’t want to take us up to the high forest, as the trail is very rocky and slippery, covered w/moss. He recommends going on a drier day, hopefully tomorrow. So he takes us on another dirt track through shade grown coffee, much of it being planted by ProAves. There are many flowering plants on the road, which looks very good for butterflies if we had some sun. But the rain comes back as we get to a small patch of forest about a mile up the road, and decide to return to the lodge.

The trail cuts down into the forest and it gets very steep quickly, and is extremely slippery in the rain. You need to have the legs of a mountain goat to walk these trails. The locals who have grown up here do it a lot better than out of shape older gringos, it would be very easy to fall and seriously hurt yourself. So another late morning on the porch, hoping it clears this afternoon. We do get a couple of good shots of some satyrs and dismorphia. One advantage of bad weather is you don’t see much, but what you find often sits still for photos, as they don’t want to fly from their shelter. But sun would be much better. Michael, the guide, says this is the sunny time of the year, in January and February, and this is unusual (of course) but there’s not much we can do about the rain.

We have an early lunch, and then miraculously it starts to clear, so some of us wander out. I go back up to the small patch of forest we went to this morning and get lots of good photos all along the road. The sun breaks through about 1pm, and suddenly there are butterflies everywhere. Not a huge number of different species, but lots of individuals. Many different satyrs, including a beautiful fresh Pronophila which we catch and shoot in the hand, so we can see the dorsal. Mexican silverspots hilltopping over the coffee, my first Memphis on the trip, almost everything I see is quite fresh. Lots and lots of the small Apaustus gracilis, or Delicate Skipper, a very striking skipper that is half bright white on the ventral hindwing, so when it flies it seems to flicker off and on.

I’ve never seen as many as we have here, they are all over the flowers on the roadside. ProAves is planting many trees around here and over the coffee, so this will be a great spot in a few years as all the plants grow up. There is a good sized nursery here, with racks and racks of seedlings growing. ProAves bought this land only 3 years ago, and it is amazing what they have accomplished in such a short time. Right now the lodge is in mostly open pasture and the forest is visible a few hill tops away, but I think that will change as time goes by. Shade grown coffee is very good for birds, and butterflies too. In this preserve Michael tells me they have 200 hectares of bosque, or forest, and 26 hectares of coffee. Plus ProAves has purchased a much larger chunk of forest on the nearby ridge, over 3600 hectares, where they have the big cats and spectacled bear. They have many long term plans. They are just starting to get into ecotourism, where they have paying visitors to their reserves and are building accomodations, so they are still on a learning curve as to what visitors want. But they are all eager to please. Almost all of the people we have met working at the lodges are from the local towns, so ProAves is obviously trying hard to involve the local people and show them some of the advantages of conservation. No one at the lodges speaks english, so usually ProAves sends a bilingual guide w/a group, but several of us speak enough survival spanish to go without.

Day 12 – Jan 20: Another rainy night and morning, so we put off the hike to the forest yet again. This is the weirdest weather I’ve ever seen, with heavy rains at night and into the morning, then it usually clears about 11 or 12 and the afternoons can be very sunny and beautiful. As soon as it brightens up the butterflies are out, as they seem to know they only have a few hours to do what needs to be done. I’m much more used to clear sunny mornings, with a build up of clouds in the afternoon and heavy rains late in the day, but this seems backwards. But then, it’s not supposed to be the rainy season!

Today we have an early lunch, at 11am, and it lightens up a bit, so we set off after lunch for the hike up to the forest. You go down to the main road, around the farm at the corner and up through a gate on an old stone road. Michael tells us this road was built by the Germans 180 years ago, and was the only road connecting these towns, from the lowlands to the highlands. The rocks have spread apart and can be quite slippery, so you have to pay attention to where you put your feet.

We climb about 250 meters in an hour, from 1400 at the lodge to 1650 where the forest starts. It’s amazing how the woods just start in a line of tree ferns, w/pasture right up to the edge. The rocky road continues into the forest, where the rocks are all covered w/moss. We learn to step in between the stones, or to walk on stones that have moss. The most slippery ones are where the moss has been scraped off the stones, then it’s like walking on glass. You can rent horses or mules to ride up to the forest, but we decide to walk. It takes us about an hour, though the guide says 40 minutes, not bad for us.

We climb in the forest up another 100-200 meters, to a bit over 1800 meters, finding several flocks. Our best bird is great looks at white-mantled barbet, 4 of them in a fruiting tree right over the path. Lots of North American warblers, and some nice cloud forest neotropic warblers as well. You could easily spend the entire day here in the forest. The normal plan is to leave the lodge at 6am so you’re in the forest by 7, and you would see lots of birds then, assuming it’s not pouring with rain. We also find some nice butterflies, but it is cool and foggy most of the afternoon, so butterflies are limited. We get good shots of a beautiful clearwinged satyr, Pseudohaetera hypaesia, and see some Necryia metalmarks and another black and red metalmark, maybe an Ancyluris, though they are perching on top of the bushes so we can’t get good looks at them.

This is a lovely piece of forest. I will have to come back and hopefully get some sunny days, maybe in February. The guys tell us this is the wettest January they can remember, this is supposed to be their summer. Maybe another year.

Day 13 – Jan 21: 6:30am departure for our 3 hour drive to Bucaramanga for our 11am flight to Medellin, then 4-5 hour drive to the Chestnut-capped Piha reserve, or Arrierito Antioqueño. All connections work like clockwork, drivers are waiting even though our driver to the Piha reserve doesn’t know where it is, but she only gets lost once. There aren’t any signs, so you need to know which turns to make, and we finally get here about 6pm. Delicious food, we’ve heard this reserve has the best cook, and dinner seems to support that. The Cerulean reserve had quite good food, but this is even better.

They have recently redone the rooms, and there are 4 doubles, very spacious w/lots of shelves. They usually have one double bed and a set of bunk beds. We have a tropical screech owl calling during dinner, and Carlos, the guide here, tells us they have lyre-tailed nightjar in the road early in the morning.

Day 14 – Jan 22: 5:30am breakfast so we can look for birds from their clearing, w/bananas stuck on the branches. There are a number of tanagers and saltators who come in for bananas, one new for all of us is black-winged saltator.

After breakfast we head up into the forest, a short distance down the road up to the right. The trail climbs steeply at first, then it’s not so bad, but you continue to climb more gradually. Lots of stairs, with a number of very sturdy handrails and bridges. Carlos, the guide, is the one who has built and maintains these trails, and has done a bangup job. These are some of the nicest trails I’ve been on, with rich heavy spongy detritous under foot which makes for comfortable walking, in spite of the up and downs. He also knows the birds and can whistle many of their calls, and knows the rarities that visitors are most interested in. He finds us a quiet, steathily feeding flock of red-bellied grackles and we get killer looks, plus chestnut crowned pihas and several of the spectacular tangers, like black and gold tanager and purple-mantled tanager. He also shows us a nest of colombian screech owl which is right next to the trail, w/in inches.

I’ve never been so close to an owl nest before, and the beautiful rufous female glares back at us from inches, about 2 feet off the ground inside a hollow trunk. Very few butterflies, as it’s cool and overcast, but it doesn’t rain until just before we get back to the lodge for a late lunch. We do find a wonderful clearwing with a yellow band and some yellow spots, maybe Greta ochretis, certainly one I’ve never seen. It poses for many photos, most cooperative.

Day 15 – Jan 23: Nancy and I luck out and see lyre-tailed nightjar fly overhead before 6am, while sitting out on their back clearing after Carlos whistles it in. Mucho suerte! We also hear wattled guan giving their weird metallic call from up on the hill, and Carlos says he knows a fruiting tree they like, so we may try to see them late this afternoon. He says 5 am or 6 pm.

After breakfast we walk up the road to the cienega or lake about 30 minutes, of course we take a few hours as we’re birding all the way. Several nice flocks, and one big one with dozens and dozens of birds, all apparently different, so it’s mad chaos while we follow the flock down the road and everyone seems to look at a different bird. Very little traffic, which is great, and good views of the trees, so we have a blast. Tons of tanagers, lots of north american warblers, white crowned manakin, brown-billed scythbill responding to Carlos’ whistle, more good looks at a piha, lots of fun.

Like the other lodges, Carlos and his wife Luz only speak spanish, but he’s very imaginative with showing the birds to my friends who don’t speak spanish, drawing little maps or sketches in his book. Dan and I speak enough spanish to get by and to communicate our needs and wants, but the others speak very little.

We continue on up the road to another batch of forest owned by ProAves, about 250 hectares more along the road, so you’re walking through decent habitat. Around the lodge, which is an old farmhouse, they have about 150 hectares. There is another trail about 10 minutes beyond the lake, but it’s steep and goes through pasture for a ways before you get to forest, so we stay on the road and get more tanager flocks, including some eye level views of spectacled tanagers very close. Plus we even get a few nice butterflies when the sun peaks out here and there. Dappled Daggerwing/Marpesia merops, White-spotted Metalmark/Ithomiola theages and Clean Mimic-white/Pseudopieris nehemia, all very fresh.

This road looks like it could be great with sunny weather. Carlos says August is the best time for butterflies. They get heavy rains then, but also bright sun after the rains, and lots of butterflies. Looks like I’ll be coming back in August. Late afternoon we hiked up w/Carlos to find the fruiting tree where the wattled guans like to eat. He led us right to it, and there were 3 guans high up. 2 of them flew off as we slid across the hill to where we had a good view, but one stayed. It’s a huge bird. Unfortunately it started to rain, again, and became a fairly heavy rain, and some of us had not brought umbrellas so we were soaked. Carlos says they come every afternoon to this tree, and there were gold-headed quetzals there as well.

Day 16 – Jan 24: I went back up the hill into the forest today, while the others walked the road. Very few butterflies, but some good birds. I got sooty-headed wren and moustached puffbird. When I came back for lunch the others had photographed some good butterflies on the road, a new Mylon and a fresh Oxeoschistus satyr. This place has had the fewest butterflies, which seems odd as the forest looks quite good. They must be better at another time of the year. I’m wondering if Aug/Sept/Oct might be a better time, as that can be very good at Cock of the Rock lodge on the Cusco-Manu road in southeast Peru. Late in the afternoon we went back to see the wattled guans again, and got good looks at a male. Plus we saw lanceolated monklet and white whiskered puffbird, so the birding was great.

Day 17 – Jan 25: our driver comes back to get us about 9:30am, then we drive back to Medellin for the night. We’ll stop at the same tasty restaurant for a late lunch. The drive should take about 5 hours. Our driver is right on time, amazing as she drove from Medellin.

We get to our hotel in town, Hotel Casa Asturias, which is nice and quiet. It’s in an upscale part of town, and there is a fabulous grocery store only a couple of blocks away called Pomona. It seems like a Central Market from Austin or San Antonio, and we buy wine and cheese and lots of goodies. Plus they have a Crepes y Waffles right next door, so guess where we go for dinner? More pigging out.

Another very tasty restaurant near by is an italian place called Pastaizzita?, both restaurants recommended by Pablo. The salads are ok to eat at both, and the vegetarian pizza is one of the best I’ve ever had. For the italian place go to Pomona and turn left, while Crepes y Waffles is next to the store to the right. Crepes y Waffles is a Colombian chain I’ve eaten at in Ecuador and Panama, I wish they would come to the US.

Day 18 – Jan 26: our 2 taxis show up at 7:30am to take us the 3 hours to Jardin, where we meet our guide for the next 4 days, Jose. We have arranged the rest of the trip with Pablo Flores, the great guy who we used in July 2008. He does a lot of work for different conservation organizations on cerulean warbler in Venezuela and Peru, as well as Colombia. His friend Jose lives in Jardin, so he meets us at the hotel there, Hotel Hacienda Balandú, about 2 km outside of town.

This is an old coffee and cattle ranch, and they have all sorts of old equipment and animals around. It’s a popular weekend retreat for folks from Medellin, which is why we’re here Monday to Friday. It includes 3 meals/day, and our lunch is quite tasty, including coffee flan, which is a life flan for all of us. Delicious! The butterflies are great too, the best we’ve had this trip. There is a good dirt road running along the back of the hacienda, and we go out through a locked gate the guard opens for us, and find tons of bugs flying. It stays sunny all day, which is a miracle, and we photograph lots of things. We’re at 1800 meters, so we have a very interesting mix of lowland crescents, 5-6 species, and highland dismorphia and satyrs.

Day 19 - Jan 27: Jose and his wife, Savina, are here to get us in a jeep at 8am, after the 7:30 breakfast, and we head back down the valley and take a dirt road down to the river, left off the main paved road. This cuts down through coffee and small fincas, where we park and walk the rest of the morning. We work our way all the way down to 1500 meters, from 1800 in town, to a stone bridge over the water, then up the muddy other side. There are lots of butterflies all morning long, many skippers including some new ones I don’t know, plus lots of pierids and 2 beautiful Colombian heliconius, the blue and yellow Heliconius erato chestertonii and H. cydno cydnides.

Up the other slope we find a nice clearwing lek, where there are many tigerwings chasing each other and perching on the coffee in the shade. The coffee pickers must think we’re nuts as we try to get photos, and their little dog keeps lurking around and barking, even though the guys keep calling it away. Guess he’s never seen anything like gringos photographing butterflies.

There are also lots of Melanis metalmarks and a few other new ones, so we have a great morning.

Back to the hotel for lunch, then we go out again in the jeep, this time we go up to about 2000 meters and walk another nice dirt road that leads to microwave antennae towers, called Alto de Ventanas. This ends up on a spectacular ridge where we can see down both sides, to Jardin on our right nestled in the valley below and the San Bartolo valley to our left, where we can see ridge after ridge leading up the peaks of the western andes, truly a magnificent vista.

We watch the sun gradually set and the light changes constantly as the afternoon goes on, it feels as if we’re walking through a painting, with white collared swifts bombing over our heads so close you can hear them cut through the air. Jose says in late February/early March you can see the yellow eared parrots here, as there are croton trees with fruits that they like. What a spot for a B and B!

The trail cuts around to the left across the hills, and you could keep walking to more forest, but we run out of time and have to turn around and head back to town. Past the towers, we go through a gate at a farm, owned by Hymie’s parents, and get far enough out to see many bushes of red flowering plants that the hummingbirds are fighting over, and sort out several species of hummers. Mostly green violetears ticking from every bush, but violet throated woodstar and speckled hummer as well.

Day 20 – Jan 28: today we go for the yellow-eared parrot, in another ProAves reserve up the mountain about 2,800 meters, 1,000 meters above Jardin. We spend all day, taking a pack lunch from the hotel, working the dirt road up in our jeep, walking a lot. This is nice cloud forest, and we find some flocks of tanagers and other goodies. We get to the parrot roosting area late in the afternoon and have to slog through a high elevation palm swamp to get into the parrot spot. 3 of them fly around and we get good looks, a spectacular large parrot more like a macaw. ProAves has put up nesting boxes in some palms and the birds like to sleep inside them. Dan even gets some decent digiscope shots of parrots in the box w/their heads sticking out, but they don’t come in until 6pm, so it is getting dark then. Of course then we have to ride back down the hill an hour and a half or more, so we’re late getting back to the hotel, but we see a red brocket deer on the road in the headlights and get great looks at it.

Day 21 - Jan 29: We decide to go back up the mountain, as that was the best habitat and our only chance this trip for higher elevations. This time we drive to the top, to the parrot reserve, where a parrot flies overhead as we arrive. Then we spend the day slowly working our way back downhill, walking much of the 20 km or so with the jeep following behind. We get some rain, but more nice birds, including close looks at white-capped tanagers below us. This would be a fabulous spot for some hummingbird feeders, like Yanocoche outside of Quito. Very little sun but as soon as it lightens up butterflies show up. We get good shots of some Corades and lots of Pedaliodes, along with several species of Leptophobia, all high elevations genera. We end the afternoon at the plaza in town having an excellent cappuchino, this traveling is rough.

Day 22 – Jan 30: 2 taxis pick us up at 7:30 for our drive back to Medellin, but Jose has told us about a chocolate shop Dulces de Jardin. He has arranged for the owner to meet us there early, so we direct the taxis to the store, first left past the stadium on our way into town from the hotel. The owner is there waiting, and it’s a lovely little shop with all sorts of truffles and fruit candies. We buy lots, 4-5,000 pesos a box, about $2-2.50, such a deal! My favorite is the piña y mango, but the chocolate con almendras (nuts and coffee) is a big hit as well.

Then it’s off to Amaga, a private finca where the guys from Medellin often go birding. We went here in July and it was a great butterfly spot, but extremely wet as it’s cattle pasture with forest in between the pasture parts. Now it’s much drier and there are fewer butterflies, but some different species. Still a good spot for rubber boots, as drier just means the mud only goes to your ankles instead of your knees.

There are cattle in the fields now, and the grass and flowers are chewed down as compared to July, but there are still several species of clearwings down in the darker ravines and in the forest. Juan Guillermo, a butterfly photographer who lives in Medellin and has sent me some wonderful photos, tells me he has 170 species photographed from this location. We find 3 new species he has not seen there, so it shows how varied the population can be week to week. He was just here 2 weeks ago.

Then we have our favorite arepas con chocolo, w/high elevation corn, and good café con leche at the little restaurant back up on the highway at Paso Nivel and head into Medellin to the Casa Asturias. The taxis cost about 250,000 pesos roundtrip Medellin to Jardin for both of them, plus an additional 100,000 pesos to wait 3-4 hours while we tromp around in the mud butterflying.

Day 23 – Jan 31: We go to La Romera road with Pablo, Juan G. and Luis, another Medellin birder. This is another spot we went in July, unfortunately it’s cool and wet this morning. This is the locals’ favorite spot for red-bellied grackles, which we missed in July, but we get very close looks this time. Plus most of us get good looks at yellow-headed manakin, unfortunately not me as I was shooting a fabulous bronzy purplewing/Eunica carias.

The sun finally starts to show up about noon, and we start seeing butterflies. We get some great shots of our first leafwings of the trip, beautiful spread Fountainea nessus and some nice Actinotes, as well as 2 species of Pyrrhopyge/Firetips. The guys take us to their favorite grill restaurant nearby, and we pig out once again, good steaks and ribs. We’ve had better food on this trip than in July, I’m afraid we’re not losing any weight this time.

Day 24 – Feb 1: our 1 hour flight from Medellin to Bahia-Solana which was supposed to take off at 8am had a 6 hour delay, so we didn’t leave until after 2pm. We flew Satena, and apparently this isn’t uncommon for them, as when we finally boarded they handed out preprinted cards saying please excuse the delay. It will be interesting to see what happens on our way back, as we only have an hour layover in Medellin to catch our flight onto Bogota. Satena had already cancelled our original return flight for Feb 5 a few weeks before, so we had a choice of returning on the 4th or the 6th, and we chose the 6th. We shall see.

Arriving in Bahia-Solana was interesting, as there was a heavy military presence and they inspected all our luggage, both carry on and checked. Of course this took a lot of time, so hours later we were finally ready to get in our toyota for the slow bouncy ride to the hotel, an hour away. The luggage was all piled on top, none of it fell off amazingly, and it didn’t rain until after we were in our cabanas, a true blessing as the driver didn’t have a tarp. He seemed amazed when we asked. What’s a little rain?

So what should have been a short hop turned into an all day marathon. But the simple hotel seems very nice and is right on the beach, with 5 or 6 cabanas, each with 2 bedrooms and a shared bath between the bedrooms, nice porches and lots of electrical outlets, more by far than any other place we’ve stayed. Funny the things you pay attention to. We get a 2 bedroom cabana for each couple, so we have plenty of room. It’s warm and humid, but they have 2 strong portable fans in each cabana, mosquito nets over the beds, and the cold water shower feels refreshing and the food, mostly fish, is fresh and quite tasty.

Day 25 – Feb 2: we explore the trails at El Almejal, then take a truck back through the town of El Valle and a couple of kms to a side road, where we hike along looking for bugs. This is all second growth and fairly open, with standing water next to the road. Kay finds a great bright orange and black riodinid, Symmachia xypete, which hides under the leaves but lets us shoot it to our hearts content. Willie sees baudo oropendola fly over, and we get a couple of good flocks with becards, tanagers and black cheeked woodpeckers. Slaty antthrush is singing from the bushes but we can’t see it, even though it is very close. We walk to the river, which has big mud flats that should have butterflies but don’t. Weird how few bugs are here.

Day 26 – Feb 3: the death march to the baudo oropendola nest. It was ‘only’ 4 km to the nest tree, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you do it in thick gooey mud which sucks at every step it’s pretty tiring. Of course we had to do 4 km each way.

We did make it to the nests and got great looks at the birds, and it was nice secondary forest once we got past the chopped parts near the town, but we were pooped at the end of the day. It didn’t help that the jeep that was supposed to pick us up at our hotel and take us a couple of km to the footbridge where the trail started first was late, then stopped a few hundred yards from the hotel (probably out of gas) so we had to walk the extra couple of km to start. The surprising thing was that we saw very few butterflies, even though we had a nice sunny day. It was good looking forest, sun, just not many butterflies. We did get some, and a few new metalmarks for me, but I would have expected lots more in such habitat.

I suspect this area is so wet there aren’t large numbers of butterflies here. We weren’t even seeing many red peacocks or hermes satyrs in the open areas. Pablo had hired a local guide, Carlos, who was probably an ex hunter, and he had fabulous eyes for anything that moved. He found us black-tipped or white cotinga, oropendolas, stripe-throated wren, killer looks at rose-faced parrot very close to town, plus he carried a 5 liter plastic jug of water so we could refill our water bottles. I drank 3 bottles of water and was still dehydrated, it was hot and sweaty work.

Carlos cost 60,000 pesos, and was well worth it, plus 10,000 to hire another truck to bring us home from the bridge. We rebelled, and declared we couldn’t walk the couple of km back through the village and on the beach to our hotel. We would probably have paid 10,000 each for the ride.

Day 27 – Feb 4: woke up to heavy rains, so we waited a while for it to stop before taking our small open wooden boat on a 45 minute ride around the point and into the ensenada or bay up to the National Park Natural Utria. We lucked out on the rains stopping, as it would have been most uncomfortable in rain, and we would have been soaked. It rains so much here the local people can’t imagine not doing something because it’s raining, as they would never do anything if they let the rain stop them, but we’re wimps and don’t want to be wet all day, plus we’re carrying lots of optics and cameras.

The boat trip was 440,000 pesos for 9 people, and the 2 boatmen waited with us all day. They came and picked us up in the ocean right in front of our hotel, and launched us into the waves, but they knew what they were doing and it went just fine. It would have been more expensive if we had hired the boat through the hotel, which wanted 650,000. Pablo arranged our boat through the National Park people. They took us to the headquarters up the bay, where they had built a very nice new building in August 2008, where they served us a delicious fish (big surprise) lunch freshly caught for 15,000 pesos/person.

The entrance fee to the park is $US14, or 30,000 pesos each. This is good for several days, so if you stay a few nights you only have to pay it once. We were just doing a day trip. You can stay in some simple but quite adequate accommodations there, 2 beds/room w/a private shower/toilet for 95,000 pesos/person, which includes 3 meals. You had better like fish, as we didn’t see many cows or chickens.

There are 3 trails and we walked 2 of them. The best was the short trail to the mangroves, which were at extreme low tide. I’ve never seen mangroves without any water around them, and we walked in amongst the exposed roots with our heads below where the high tide mark was. The mangroves were blooming and they were filled with hummingbirds fighting. We had sapphire-throated and blue-headed hummers, plus lots of rufous-tailed. There was a great lek of golden-collared manakins on the way to the mangrove, which was very active, must have had a dozen males zipping around and cracking and popping like crazy. We also walked part of another trail, which goes down the beach and up a stream that comes out on the end of the beach. This was dark, slippery, and required wading up through the water, and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it was beautiful.

The 3rd trail requires taking a boat across the bay to the other small building, where you walk into the forest and over a small pass to the beach on the other side. Pablo says it takes 45 minutes to walk it, I would guess quite a bit more for out of shape gringos, but he says it’s not a tough trail. This one has the best birds, but it was so dark and muddy we decided to pass. On the way back Willie spotted a close king vulture perched, and the boatmen went close to the tree covered cliff and we got excellent looks, the best I’ve ever had of this species. Then he took off from his perch and soared around the bay against the dark green forest, it was a killer look.

The scenery on the boat trip was spectacular, tall steep mountains of wonderful forest right down to the water’s edge. Very few people live here, except in the small Caribbean style town of El Valle, about 10-15 minutes from our hotel. The El Almejal, where we stayed, is the best in the area, according to Pablo, and we didn’t see anything to make us doubt him.

Day 28 – Feb 5: our last day in the Choco, and of course it rains until about 10am. Then we spend some time up the hill above the hotel cabanas, where they have several lookouts, thatched palapas with good views for whale watching. In September to December they have humpbacked whales here, and are trying to promote it as an ecotourism venture. Their busy season is December over the holidays, but the rest of the year it’s pretty quiet. The lookouts are good for raptors as well. We see white hawk and crested eagle, the eagles almost every day, which is not an easy bird to see. Lots of honeycreepers and dusky-faced tanagers and other tanager flocks, so it’s always worth it to spend some time at the lookouts. Besides the scenery is very enjoyable.

Day 29 – Feb 6: we have to be at the airport at 11 for our 1pm departure. I see why they want us there so early for a short domestic flight when it takes forever to check in. 3 women spend 10 minutes on each passenger, but we manage to get it done. They have a strict weight limit on this flight of 15 kilos, or about 33 pounds, so we stuff all our heavy items, like optics and books, in our carryon backpacks and stagger on board. There is also a 7,000 pesos departure fee you have to pay.

The plane coming from Medellin never arrives by 1pm, but fortunately for us, not for the other passengers, another plane has come in and is supposed to go to another destination. However that airport is on strike for some reason, so they divert that plane to the Medellin flight, and we get out relatively on time. We make our short connection to the Bogota flight, and the Hotel Siar is there waiting to pick us up, so all works well.

The airport pickup is 30,000, whether it is for 1 person or 8, in cash, but you can use credit cards for the hotel. Next time I would not plan to have an ongoing flight, but would stay in Medellin. With the undependability of the flights it makes things easier to have more of a fudge factor built into your travel plans. My friends are all heading back home either tonight or tomorrow, while I’m staying on in Bogota to spend a few days at the National University collection working with specimens.

Additional information on ProAves reserves:
We have visited 5 of them on this trip, and stayed at 3, plus seen the one in the Santa Marta Mountains. Here’s more details on each one. One thing to be aware of is they don’t seem to stock any alcohol, beer or soft drinks at any of the reserves we have been to, so if you want something to drink aside from bottled water or the juice they serve at meals, or coffee/tea, plan to stop at a market on your way and stock up.

ProAves is doing great work in Colombia, buying lots of land for conservation, and staying with them helps them raise money for important work, as well as showing locals the importance of ecotourism. They have the common problem of difficult access to get to good habitat. If ecotourists have easy access, so do others who can chop and clear the land. So most of the reserves are up at the end of difficult steep muddy roads that take time, and usually a serious jeep type vehicle, to get to. The trails are often also steep and muddy and not easy to watch birds from. You’re often hiking up trails at altitude, sometimes 2,000 to 2,500 meters or higher, so if high elevation bothers you don’t come to Colombia. And we were only at mid elevations.

El Dorado, Santa Marta Mountains, 1900 meters up a bad 4 wheel drive road, about 2 hours from Santa Marta. I think it’s $85-100/night/person, includes all meals. This is a lovely place, nice sized rooms with big picture windows looking down the valley, hot water by propane so even if you lose electricity you still have hot water. An important point, as the national park lodge up the road, San Lorenzo, (where we stayed in July 2008) only had electrical showers, and as we lost power every day due to thunderstorms, it made for freezing showers. I have not stayed at El Dorado, but will be using this lodge on my next trip to Colombia.

The birders here tell me the higher lodge is closer to the great birds, as there are about 13 endemics here in the Santa Martas, but with a truck you can get dropped off at the top, about 2600 meters, and walk down. Or you can walk up as well, but it will take a few hours, more than I would want to do. We walked up from the higher lodge, starting at 2200 meters, and it was more than enough for us. There is lots of good habitat below the lodge as well, in slightly lower elevations, so you could easily spend several days here. There are few trails off the road, but just walking the road up or down takes you through great habitat.

Golden Frog reserve at Falan, in Tolima, about 4-5 hours west of Bogota. There isn’t any infrastructure at this reserve yet, as it’s very new. You just walk the dirt road that goes through the middle of it, and it’s about a 3 hour drive from the San Felipe Hotel, down on the main highway from Mariquita. There is another hotel up in Falan, but for some reason we didn’t stay there. They may not have had enough rooms, as we were a group of 8. 3 hours each way is a long day for walking along a road a mile or so, but the forest was quite good there, lots of blooming shrubs on the road and lots of butterflies. I don’t think this would be very good for birds however. Very steep hills up and down from the road, so we didn’t get off the road at all.

El Paujil reserve, outside Puerto Ponzon about 2 hours from Puerto Boyaca. This is a lowland location, very hot and humid, about 250 meters at the lodge. The access is difficult here. You have to drive about 1.5 hours on a dirt road once you get off the paved highway, and it’s through open cattle pasture, so it’s boring. Depending on the rains the road can be bad. Once you get to Puerto Ponzon you have to either take a boat, if the river is not too low or too high, or transfer to a truck or jeep for the 15 minute ride. The boat cost 30,000 pesos, the truck is included I think. The problem is the rains can raise the river very quickly. We were stuck 12 hours before we could get out, due to heavy rains starting 5 am on our departure day. Everything flooded, and we couldn’t walk out to the truck either.

If you come by truck you have to walk about a kilometer or so downhill on a slippery trail. This means that you have to walk up if you have to leave this way. They have 1 horse to carry the baggage, but if you’re a larger group this can mean several trips by horse. Fairly time consuming. The rooms are right next to the river where it floods, it is a wet varzia forest, and full of riodinids/metalmarks. Also the 2 newer rooms are built on a separate hill, with very steep muddy steps, and when the river rises it can cut off the bamboo bridge to them, so the rooms must be inaccesible much of the year.

There are many trails, mostly leading up away from the rooms. The trails seem to fan out from the lodge up the valley, so the lodge is at the bottom of a bowl. We did not see the blue-billed curassow, and we were told they can be difficult. This is probably the best reserve for butterflies, because it is low and tropical. But that also means it is hot and uncomfortable, with everything wet all the time. The food was the least interesting here, compared to the other reserves, and the staff seemed the youngest and least knowledgeable. No one knew diddly squat about the birds, while the other 2 reserves we stayed at had a guide who was very familiar with the local birds. They were very friendly and willing to try and help, but you had to ask for everything, and maintenance seemed to be a problem. I probably won’t go back to this reserve, as there are other places to see lowland stuff more easily.

Cerulean Warbler Reserve, above San Vicente de Chucuri, about 3 hours from Bucaramanga. You can fly to Bucaramanga, which avoids a long all day drive from Bogota, 12 hours +. From El Paujil, which is what we did, it was about 8-9 hours drive. Maybe shorter, because we got lost in the middle of the night. But it’s much more comfortable, because it’s about 1400 meters and has a very pretty view down the valley. There are 4 good sized rooms with a shared porch, plus some other rooms inside the main building.

The very nice couple, Michael and Isabel, who do the cooking and guiding were friendly and helpful. Tasty food! Jose was there as well, as the manager, and everything was well run. Michael led us on hikes, and was familiar with the birds. The main dirt road that leads on up the hill from the lodge is good for butterflies, through shade grown coffee so there’s lots of flowers alongside the road. You get some higher elevation satyrs, like Pronophila, and a good mix of second growth species. The main trail is up to the right, behind the farm below the lodge, about 250 meters climb to the patch of forest. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to get up to the forest, through cattle pasture. You hike an old rocky road built 180 years ago, which can be very slippery and mossy, especially once you get into the forest. The forest was quite interesting, unfortunately we had a cool wet day and went in the afternoon, after a morning of heavy rain. On a sunny day I suspect this could be great for wet, cloud forest butterflies that like darker forest. Good birds here, you could easily spend a day or two up in the forest. This one is worth going back to.

Chestnut capped Piha reserve, 4-5 hours north of Medellin. We flew from Bucaramanga to Medellin, avoiding an 18 hour, 2 day, drive. 259,000 pesos on Aires, about $115 one way. This reserve had the best birding of the ones we visited, and the couple who runs it, Carlos and Luz Marina, were fabulous. The best food, and Carlos is a whiz at finding birds. He knows all the calls, and can whistle them in. Plus you have decent habitat right around the rooms, and the road is very good to work. He has built the trails up and down steep hills, which were extremely well maintained.

The best trails we saw, an amazing amount of work. He seemed to know every inch of the trails, where birds were nesting, where the fruiting trees were, he obviously spends lots of time out on the trails. He showed us wattled guan easily because he knew the trees they were eating in. He told us we could go at 5 am or 6 pm, and the birds were there 2 days in a row. There are a couple of trails, the main one is quite long, or you can walk the dirt road which is easier to see birds on. Very little traffic, so walking the road is a good option. There is another patch of forest owned by ProAves a little ways up the road, maybe 30-40 minutes, which is also good for roadside birding. There is a trail that goes off road into this patch, which we did not take as Carlos said it was about a 30 minute hike to get into the forest. We stayed on the road which had forest alongside, and saw tanager flocks and butterflies.

We had cool rainy foggy weather, the fog seemd to roll in and out every 10 minutes, so it rarely was warm and sunny enough for butterflies, but with some sun I suspect there are lots of good cloud forest butterflies there. I’ll definitely be back. This was our best birding of the reserves.

Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve, above Jardin, about 3 hours sw of Medellin. I think you can stay at simple accomodations here, but we stayed in Jardin and made an all day trip of it up the mountain. The reserve is at 2,800 meters, 1,000 meters above Jardin, which is a lovely little coffee town of about 8,000 people with a great plaza lined with coffee shops where the locals appear to spend much of their time just hanging out.

Staying in Jardin seems much more comfortable than staying at the reserve, but it could be interesting to stay a night up on the mountain. The road was very interesting to work, several good tanager flocks. We spent 2 days on it and saw different birds each day, as much of it is good cloud forest. Of course doing it the way we did takes more money, as you have to have the jeep and driver with you for the day. The parrots themselves are away from the road and you have to slog through muddy grass and palm swamp. ProAves has a number of nesting boxes up for them, and Jose, our guide, has worked with the parrots for quite a few years.


Brazil (Southeast), December 2008

Trip Report for Southeast Brazil – December 2008
Participants: Kim Garwood

Author: Kim Garwood


Southeast Brazil October 26 to December 15, 2008

First part is a trip to SE Brazil w/Field Guides, led by Bret Whitney, so it was mostly birding w/my doing butterflies on the side. My itinerary will be brief for this part.

Oct 26 fly overnight to Rio, spend 2nd night in the hotel ar the airport, met the group Oct 28, fly to Vitoria, then drive to Cachoeiro do Itapemirim, Espirto Santo for 1 night. The next day we went to a very nice private forest, Cafundo Reserve, where they also served us a fabulous lunch spread at the hacienda. Not very many butterflies but a few good ones. This was the pattern for most of this part of the trip. We were at the end of the dry season, so butterflies were low. I think it would be noticeably better in a few months, probably January/February.

Oct 29 Drove to Venda Nova do Immigrante, Espirito Santo to Monte Verde Resort for 2 nights to work Caetes, looking for Cherry-throated Tanager. A very nice dirt road, fairly rough, up through unprotected forest. One day we had quite a bit of sun, and some very good butterflies.

Oct 31 Drove to Linhares Natural Reserve, a huge reserve about 23,000 hectares! Spent 3 nights, which gave us 2 full days to drive around the dirt roads through the reserve. We had a forest guide with us at all times, which is required, and a good thing, as I would have been hopelessly lost on the endless roads that all looked the same. Very dry, I will definitely have come back here in the wetter time of the year. Still got some new bugs. Most of what I’m seeing are unknown species to me, which is not surprising as this is such an area rich in endemic bird species. Many of the butterfly species must be endemic as well.

Nov 3 Fly to Sao Paulo then drive to Intervales State Park in Sao Paulo for 3 nights. Another great spot that deserves to be revisited, probably several times. Not a lot of sun, but when it poked out there were new butterflies everywhere. This is a very nice spot as you can walk right from the house. There are several large houses scattered around, each of which hold 4 to 8 rooms. Simple, lots of bunk beds, 1 light hanging from the middle of the room, but functional. I could spend lots of time here.

Nov 6 Drove to Cananeia, Sao Paulo, for 1 night in the Costa Azul hotel on the water, poised for an early morning assault on the barrier island offshore for special parrots.

Nov 7 Got the parrots, and lots of other goodies, including a new Euselasia and great shots of a Cattleheart-mimic displaying and posing nicely. Then drove to Curitiba, Parana where we have 3 nights in the Roochelle Park Hotel in downtown Curitiba w/day trips out to surrounding spots.

Nov 8 up northeast from Curitiba to the mountains to Corvo Road at the start of Graciola forest, in a lovely bamboo forest, too dark and rainy for bugs, another spot to come back to.

Nov 9 drive to the southeast to Garuva in Santa Catarina, then cross back to Parana, to Guaratuba, where we take small boats out on Guaratuba Bay looking for rare marsh birds. After lunch we take a ferry to Caioba, then visit Rio Onces State Park, then drive back to Curitiba.

Nov 10 fly to Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, then drive to SanFrancisco de Paula for 3 nights in hotel Veraneio Hampel, right outside town. A very charming, old hacienda type place, the sign says from 1899. Creaky old wooden floors, big windows that fold back and open, great food, lovely gardens, and some good birds right on the grounds. It’s cool and windy, so we don’t have hardly any butterflies for the next couple of days, but very interesting mossy forest w/lots of bromeliads.

Nov 11 drive to the Sao Francisco do Paula National Forest, do a great trail loop through the woods. At the pond in back of the visitor center we find a fabulous display by whistling herons up in one of the big aracuari trees, crests standing up and whooping and hollering, raising their necks up and down at each other, pretty bizarre to watch. Very chilly morning, I was wearing my fleece every morning here for the first time. The sun came out briefly between drizzle, and at lunch time I had some satyrs in a clearing in the woods. At least 3 types of smallish satyrs, maybe Yphthmoides, bigger than Hermeuptychia, and Vanessa/Painted ladies coming to the purple verbena on the forest floor. In the afternoon we go to a large tract of houses, called the Alps of San Francisco, built in between patches of forest, looking for parrots, and find another batch of Morpho caterpillars hanging from a silken thread in a ball, this time only about 15′ off the ground in an inga tree. The first batch we saw was in Caetes, Espirto Santo, at the Cherry-throated Tanager spot, about 1100 meters, up high in a tree. Later we find a 3rd ball at Hotel Do Ypé, right outside the reception in Itatiaia Park on Nov 19, so they must be widespread throughout southeast Brazil around 1000-1200 meters, probably higher as well.

Nov 12 drive to Aparados da Sierra National Park, which is an amazing cliff edge where a huge volcanic basalt plateau comes to an end and drops off several thousand feet. This is the state boundary between Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, all sorts of canyons cut by rivers into the plateau. We spend a lot of time rambling around open marshes and wet swales in the hollows between the hills looking for rare marsh birds, no butterflies to be found at all. I would love to come back ro Rio Grande do Sul in their summer, maybe January/February. Lovely wildflowers, but it feels like late March in New York, with summer a couple of months away.

Nov 13 fly back to Sao Paulo, but before the flight we cruise some marshes and rice fields close to the airport where we add a number of wading birds and rails. From Sao Paulo city we drive to Ubatuba, after a too many hour detour looking for another recently discovered marsh antbird. Ubatuba is on the coast in Sao Paulo state, a famous surfing spot where we stay for 3 nights at the Pousada Mar Azul, a very quiet, small hotel several blocks off the beach. Good thing too, as this is one of the big Brazilian holiday weekends on Nov 15, their declaration of independence, and all Brazilians by law have to go to the beach. Or so it seems. One night we drive into town for a great dinner at a nice place right on the beach, open air where we sit outside and pig out on fish and crab, and the traffic to get there is almost a parking lot.

Nov 14 drive to Fazenda Angelim in the morning, a private reserve 15-20 minutes from the hotel. A very nice trail up through good secondary forest, another great spot to come back to at another time. There are a few butterflies, not as many as I would expect. In the afternoon we go to Jonas’ home, Fazenda Folha Seca, where he has a dozen hummingbird feeders out in the woods and a couple of million hummers. Fabulous, up close looks at some beautiful hummers, tons of black jacobins, brazilian rubies, and a number of others. Then we go back towards Caraquatatuba (where we had Stygian Owl the night before in the middle of town, hawking from the big tree on the plaza right in front of the little place we ate dinner on the late drive to Ubatuba) to km 73, for another great feeder spot/restaurant. Red-necked tanagers at arm’s length while we eat makes for some very enjoyable dining, plus tasty food. Restaurant Tropical is a place to return to.

Nov 15 drive to Paraty, 50 km or so up the coast for lunch, after birding at Fazenda Murycana 10 km west of Paraty in the morning. Fazebda Murycana was a great road up into 2nd growth forest that found by driving through a small town then taking the right fork, while up to the left or straight was a waterfall where lots of folks were headed, on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. Paraty is an old historical town in Brazil, very famous to Brazilians. It was the original gold port for the Portuguese, and was built in the 1500′s, then abandoned when they moved the port to Rio, so the original buildings are mostly still there. It’s now quaint and full of shops and restaurants, but nicely done. Would be fun to spend the night in one of the old pousadas and walk the town at night, when all the lanterns are lit. In the afternoon we go to Fazenda Capricornio to meet Carlos, a birding buddy of Bret’s, who has more feeders and a nice overgrown cacao plantation in back of his house. He has invited a reporter and photographer from the big Sao Paulo newspaper to come see international birders in action, so we get to pose for staged birdwatching photos and generally have a good time.

Nov 16 drive to Itatiaia National Park, to the Hotel do Ype for 3 nights at 1200 meters. This is the first national park in Brazil, and a lovely place to stay. Killer buffet, nice rooms, wonderful habitat all around and lots and lots of good birds, including yet more fabulous hummingbird feeders, where you can get them to perch on your finger. We spend the next 2 days walking trails, including one day up to the high country on the Agulhas Negras Road, or Black Needles. We drive up a very rough road to about 2,400 meters, very cold, windy and foggy. If you could hit a sunny day I’m sure there are some special butterflies up here. I was at the Hotel Ypé once before in June, their winter, and there are many more hummingbirds now, an amazing spectacle. There is a trail through the forest to the nearest hotel, Simon, which is a great walk.

The Hotel Simon, a large pink building, has been renamed the Itatiaia Park Hotel. In the parking area there is a large tree with red-rumped cacique nests, and lots of large caterpillars in large patches on the underside of the high branches, plus large patches of pupa. They look like moss, black w/yellow bands, and the pupa are tan, like large grapes. Many hundreds on the whole tree, the more we look w/binos the more we find. We take a side trail up to the left, near the Hotel Simon, or right if you come from the Simon, and climb through huge bamboo patches. I would love to see this place on a warm sunny day, it must have many special butterflies, but not now, when it’s cool and overcast, even though the day starts out clear and bright. I’m told this has been a very cool and wet spring here, so the butterflies are not around much.
One afternoon we go down to the Hotel Donati, and the road to the hotel is great for butterflies, even late in the day, 4-5pm. Many of the blue flowering salvia, and lots of grass skippers. I get good shots of what I think is Hypothyris euclea, a lovely small tigerwing. More places to come back to. You could stay at this hotel, nice grounds, and Ricardo tells me the rooms are nice and the food good, but it doesn’t have the hummingbird feeders of Hotel Ypé. We also go to the right, at the bottom of the steep road up to the Ypé, to a waterfall where there are 2 more trails, much to explore. This is a great spot, you could easily spend 4-5 days here, but they have a fair number of cool and wet days. It’s much quieter during the week, as it’s a popular weekend spot for folks from Rio. But now, Sunday night through Wednesday morning, we almost have it to ourselves.

Nov 19 a foggy rainy morning, some go back to the trails but I stay in. One more tasty lunch at the Ypé, then we drive 4-5 hours to Teresópolis for the last night of the Field Guides’ tour, in the mountains above Rio de Janeiro, at Hotel Alpina, Hotel de Realizaçóes on the east side of town. Another old, fancy grand lobby, looks like it has been in business a long time, large rooms, ornate trim, no internet. Interesting that several of the places we’ve stayed, even though they have been very nice hotels in or near town, have not had any internet hookups. I guess the Brazilians aren’t interested in the internet when they go away for the weekend, as many of these places, this one included, are weekend retreats. Simple Mexican hotels seem to have more internet access, usually wireless, than the ones we’ve used here in Brazil. Quite chilly when we arrive at 7pm, only 13 degrees centegrade, in the mid 50′s and raining. Hope it gets better for the morning. An interesting looking city, lots of huge fruit and veg stores with wonderful looking produce, country clubs, golf clubs, definitely an upscale area.

Nov 20 Drive part way on the road to Petropolis, a very good road for birds. Nice and sunny, but cold, however it warms up quite a bit later on. Lots of good birds, then we drive over to the east to a much drier habitat for our last birds, then the group splits and most head back to Rio for their flights home. I transfer to Serra dos Tucanos for a week on my own. Their british birding guide, Pete Forest, has been taking lots of butterfly photos, and I’m eager to see what they’ve got, plus get some shots of my own.

Nov 21 8 days at Serra dos Tucanos,, which looks to be very nice. Beautiful grounds, one of the better birding back yards I’ve seen. Lots of feeders, a big yard right up against forested hills, and lots of goodies coming to the feeders. Spot-billed and saffron toucanets, and lots of killer tanagers, plus tons of hummers of course. Nesting masked water-tyrants next to the swimming pool that get very upset w/me when I’m exploring around the edges. Quite a few trails up the hill as well, so I’ll have lots of explore. I spend most of the morning putting out spitwads. No action so far but get some great shots of a gorgeous new Pierella nereis and a beautiful owl, Dasyophthalma creusa which is a new genus for me, pointed out by the owner, Christine. He’s hiding under some leaves right next to the dining room.

Nov 22 – 27 spend the mornings wandering the trails at dos Tucanos. It’s a very cool and wet spring here, as in the rest of se Brazil, so we have a number of rainy/drizzly days, not good for butterflies. However, I find that part way up the hill they have a great clearwing lek, sort of exploded across the hillside, scattered along the trail. You go up 2 flights of stairs, where they have strung a rope you can hang on to to help pull yourself up the hill (a very good idea!) then the trail goes to the left and runs level around the hill. It drops off steeply below and climbs steeply above, so it’s very difficult to explore off the trail. I see clearwings float by, going uphill or down, and try to follow them in my binos to see if they land. The understory is filled w/impatients, which the clearwings use as platforms. I find a number of species, hard to separate them in the field until I get back to my reference books, but some of Oleria, Ithomia and Pteronymia at least. These are all the clear, bluish ones. You need to get a good look at the hindwing veination, so I spend lots of time taking pictures of everything that will sit still for me. Once they perch, they often let me take lots of shots, if I can scramble next to them. I get good shots of a yellowish one that turns out to be Epityches eupompe.
There are also some tigerwings, Hypothyris and Mechanitis. Pete tells me sometimes he has seen many at once, up to 50 or more. I would love to know what time of the year that happens. Right now I’m finding one or two at a time, but finding some every 10 – 50 meters or so. There are some small white flowers just starting to bloom that the clearwings feed on, which look different from other small weedy white flowers I’ve seen them feed on at other locations. Small bushes, like chili pequine from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, so they’re great for photography. While lurking around by myself in the forest I run into some nice bird flocks as well, get great upclose looks at black-cheeked gnatearters, male and female, and a number of other understory species, antwrens, antvireos and things. When the sun comes out, there are other butterflies flying high in the trees, perching mid elevation or higher in the sun, but out of my reach, unfortunately. Nice looks at what I think it Lycorea pasinuntia. Bret told me a number of bird species were originally described from specimens taken here in se Brazil, as Rio de Janeiro was one of the main access ports for the early collectors. I suspect the same thing is true for butterflies.
One of the photos Pete gives me is a nice shot of a Queen, and he has the nominate subspecies here, different from the one we have in the US and Mexico. His is the original, ours was described later. A very pleasant lodge to spend some time at. There is a group of Brits here, and another group coming in the day I leave, so they are using the lodge quite a bit from England. Pete leads them on day trips away from the lodge to a variety of other habitats, so you can see a lot based out of here, and they’re only 1.5-2 hours from Rio. Good food, comfortable rooms, great feeders, unfortunately no internet. That would be my only problem w/spending lots of time here, you have to go into town to access the net. The lodge is at 400 meters, though it feels higher. Very cool and damp, lots of moss on everything, feels more like 1200-1400 meters. I don’t usually see so many of the clear bluish clearwings at this elevation, they are more common higher in cloud forest in the Andes, but this is their kind of habitat.

Nov 28 fly back to Curitiba where I’ll stay for the next 2 ½ weeks, spending most of my time photographing specimens at the Universidade Federal do Paraná. Olaf HH Mielke has graciously given me permission to scrounge through his fabulous collection. I’m also spending some time with Raphael Sobania, a birding guide who lives here in Curitiba. He has helped me out a lot by finding hotels, driving me around and taking me to the University the first day, showing me where to go. He speaks excellent english and takes out birding groups all the time, so if you want a local guide around se Brazil, he’s great. His website is
I first stay at a very nice hotel, the Valentini di Lucca, see It’s 140 reais/night, which Raphael negotiates down to 120. The only problem is it’s in the upscale part of town, what they call Betel, and it’s quite a way from the University. A cab is between 20 and 30 reais (pronounced hi-yas), which is about $10-15 each way, a bit out of my budget. So I move to the Hotel Deville Express, more in the center of town, and a little cheaper at about 90 to 100 reais/night. www. Also the University has an arrangement where you get a 10% discount at the Deville, and Olaf calls and gets it for me. The big plus is the Deville is right next to the bus stop for a student bus that goes just to the University, stops at the Centro Polytecnico where I’m spending my time. The bus cost less than 1 buck, 1.90 reais, and runs every 10-15 minutes, so that makes it much easier to get around. I liked the Valentini better, much bigger rooms, nice windows, great breakfast, fast internet, very comfortable. But I think the assumption was if you were at the Valentini you had a car, as it was all extended stay business types on expense accounts. For us peons on foot or taking public transportation, there were much fewer options. I couldn’t find a grocery store close by, while at the Deville a large 24 hour store is just down the block. Always a trade off. I meet lots of very friendly grad students who are extremely helpful. Brazilians are wonderful people, open and happy.


Colombia/Panama Canal Zone – July-September 2008

Panama Canal Zone and Colombia

Participants: Kim Garwood, Dan and Kay Wade, Hank and Priscilla Brodkin

Author: Kim Garwood

Day 1 – July 6: fly from TX to Panama via Houston, stay 2 nights at Ivan’s B&B in Gamboa. $35/night for a single with breakfast, plus $13 for dinner, no lunch served.

Day 2 – July 7: walk pipeline road

Day 3 – July 8: meet the Wades at Panama City airport, fly to Cartagena, Colombia, meet up w/the Brodkins, stay in Santa Marta at La Perla de Carribean.

Day 4 – July 9: drove up to Cuchillo San Lorenzo at 2200 meters, stayed at cabins at the national park for 3 nights.

Day 5 – July 10: hiked up the road from the cabins to 2,600 meters.

Day 6 – July 11: went down the road

Day 7 – July 12: walked/drove down the road to Minca for 2 nights at San Souci, 750 meters.

Day 8 – July 13: walked up the road from San Souci in am, drove road left of Minca pm. Great restaurant for lunch in Minca.

Day 9 – July 14: In the morning went up to 1400 meters and back, then overnight bus ride.

Day 10 - July 15: got to Puerto Berrio about 7am, caught a mini bus to Puerto Boyaca, then a cab to Rio Claro for 3 nights, 350 meters. Had a lovely swim in the rio for the afternoon.

Day 11 – July 16: rain in the early am at Rio Claro, after a heavy thunderstorm during the night. Hiked up barbet trail before lunch, then walked the road after, went to oilbird cave at dusk

Day 12 – July 17: rain again all night, but cleared after breakfast. I went back up hill, others went to the Condor Cave.

Day 13 – July 18: rain again all night, am at Rio Claro, then drove to Medellin for 2 nights.
Day 14 – July 19: went to ‘the farm’ with Juan Guillermo & Luis, great butterflies!

Day 15 – July 20: Romera road in the am, then drove to Rio Blanco for 2 nights, 2500 meters

Day 16 – July 21: A beautiful day walking around Rio Blanco, lots of new high elevation bugs.

Day 17 – July 22: am at Rio Blanco, then drive to Otun for 2 nights, 1800 meters.

Day 18 – July 23: great sunny day at Otun.

Day 19 – July 24: am at Otun, then drive to El Cairo for 4 nights at Hostal El Cairo, 1850 meters.

Day 20 – July 25: Cerro El Ingles, 1900 meters.

Day 21 – July 26: Galapagos to San Jose de Palmar road, 2000 to 1600 meters, killer birds.

Day 22 – July 27: 2nd day at Cerro El Ingles Reserve.

Day 23 – July 28: drive to Pereira and take the bus to Bogota, 2 nights in Bogota at Platypus, 2,600 meters.

Day 24 – July 29: went to the University and met Dr Andrade in the am, then went to Cathedral de Sal in the afternoon.

Day 25 – July 30: fly to Panama City on Copa. End of Colombia report, see Panama report for continuation of trip.

Day 1 – July 6: got to Ivan’s B&B mid afternoon, then walked around the neighborhood. Ivan tells me he saw Harpy Eagle yesterday! We went looking for it late in the afternoon, but no luck. He shows me the cecropia tree it was in, right across the street from some houses. Ivan’s is simple and economical. He rents 4 rooms on the ground floor of his large 3 story house. Lots of birds and agoutis around the blocks of large houses, all the same style built by the North Americans when they ran the canal. Gamboa Resort is just up the road from Ivan’s, and I run into an escorted tour from there, all of them on sedgeways riding down the road. Gamboa is pretty expensive; I’m told they have an internet café but charge $15 to use it, an outrageous price. Ivan’s doesn’t have internet, which is a bummer, so I’ll wait until I get to Colombia. One thing about being at Gamboa, there aren’t any stores or restaurants or any alternatives, just a few blocks of big houses. Ivan shows me the little grocery store, which is mostly beer, pop and chips, so bring lunch snacks or granola bars if you want something between breakfast and dinner. Ivan doesn’t serve lunch.

Day 2 – July 7: Ivan drops me off at the guard gate at the start of pipeline road. It costs $5 to walk in, $20 if you’re going to go to the new birding tower about 2 km in. I just walk down the wide dirt road, deciding to pass on the tower today. When I was here 2 years ago, in 2006, they were building the tower and doing lots of work on the road, so there was lots of construction traffic. Now there’s almost nobody, I think I see 3 cars all morning long. The weather is foggy/misty/drizzly to start, and I’m worried it’s going to rain, but it holds off until later in the afternoon. There’s not many butterflies, due to the overcast, but there is a blooming flower that the Longwings/Heliconians seem to love. I have 5 or 6 species of Heliconius, most of them impossible to photograph as the flowers are up high. Up at the top, of course, there is a big spreadwing skipper with large yellowish spots in a distinct pattern, 3 big ones, then 2 small apical spots. It’s either Yellow-spotted Telemiades/Leafhugger/Telemiades avitas or Blushing Scarlet-eye/Dyscophellus phraxanor. I’m pretty sure it’s D. phraxanor, looking at the pattern of hyline spots more closely. I try throwing gravel at it to make it move, hoping it will come down to a lower flower (in my dreams), but it won’t move. Tough guy. Several hours later, as I walk back out, it’s still there on the same flower, only now I can tell it’s been grabbed by a spider. I swear it was moving earlier, but it’s not going anywhere now. Try as I might, I can’t pull that high flower down, so I can’t get a good shot, just a zoomed fuzzy shot. The Cattlehearts/Parides also seem to like these orange and yellow tubular flowers, and as it gets drier more and more are flying around these bushes. There are at least 2, probably 3, species of Parides here, and I get a few shots of some, but most never sit still or come low enough. I walk in to the 2 km bridge, go a few curves further then decide to go back. The new tower is just before that bridge, 600m off to the left and well-signed at a large intersection. This is a good area for butterflies, as it’s more open, even if it’s not sunny. I shoot 3 species of dark grass skipper here, 1 Synapte, 1 Quasimellana, and I think a Jungle Skipper/Papias subcostulata, plus a fresh Thoas Swallowtail is basking flat out in the light mist. When I walk back home, Ivan tells me he saw the Harpy Eagle again, while I was gone. Bad timing on my part.

Day 3 – July 8: flew from Panama City to Cartagena, Colombia at 3pm, so had a few hours around Ivan’s in Gamboa to look for butterflies. Found a flowering tree that had lots of metalmarks and hairstreaks, at the edge of the forest. Several species of Theopes. Then flew to Cartagena, where we met Pablo Flores, our guide for the next 3 weeks. Our trip has been arranged by Jurgen Beckers, a Belgium who came to Colombia as a birder and fell in love with it, and married a Colombian woman and now runs economical birding tours with his network of young hotdog Colombian birders. Jurgen has a very nice website about birding in Colombia, see lots of information about where to go and what to see. After a too brief tour around the old walled city of Cartagena, we drove to Santa Marta. It took longer than I had expected, and we didn’t get to our hotel until about l0:30pm. I wouldn’t do this again, instead I would fly to Santa Marta. You have to go through Bogota to do this, so we thought it would be easier to fly directly from either Panama City or one of us was going to take Spirit Air from Fort Lauderdale, FL, but I would either stay the night in Cartagena or fly directly to Santa Marta.

Day 4 – July 9: drove up to our cabins at the San Lorenzo Experimental Station at 2,200 meters on the El Dorado road above Santa Marta. We stopped several times and butterflied, saw different species at each elevation. We stopped first about 900 meters, above the small village of Minka about 600 meters. We’ll be staying a couple of nights here on our way down, so we wanted to get up to higher elevations to spend more time. At 900 meters we were in shade grown coffee, and saw lots of Cattlehearts/Parides and a couple of species of white satyrs. Kay found a stunning and cooperative tigerwing. Then up to about 1,300 meters where we had a Turquoise Emperor/Doxocopa laurentia and a fresh Rayed Sister/Adelpha lycorias coming to a spot in the road, so everyone got good photos. Next stop at the little tienda about 1,600 meters where we ate lunch and walked uphill a little way, saw a beautiful white striped satyr and a couple of nice clearwings. Each afternoon the rains come usually by 1 – 2pm, especially as you get higher, so you have to get out and look for butterflies in the morning. We had heavy rain by mid afternoon, so got to our cabins and snugged in. The clouds start to form down in the valley and the fog billows up and gradually obscures everything, then it rains heavily from 1 to 5pm, then clears. It did this all 3 days we were there. We went out again after the rains stopped, no butterflies but great looks at Santa Marta antpitta.

Day 5 – July 10: walked up the road from Cuchillo San Lorenzo, our nice but very cold stone cabins, to the top of the road at about 2,600 meters, at the microwave towers. Actually only Kay walked all the way up, as the rest of us wandered off and went back down. I only went up to about 2,350 meters. It was sunny and beautiful at dawn, and we started the day with nice looks at black-chested jays, similar to the crested jay on the Durango highway in western Mexico. There was a good hatch of a dark blue/green firetip, Mimardaris aerata, which we chased for several days but finally got some good shots of. When you get above 2,000 meters in South America you’re in satyrland, and that was true here. We saw many Pedaliodes, at least 3 or 4 species, a couple of gorgeous Lasiophila, some Corades, those with the weird wing shape and elongated tails, and lots of Pronophila. I don’t know if they were different species or all one common species. These are all high elevation, large satyrs. Several Dallas, high elevation grass skippers, were also photographed. Many Yellow Grosbeaks, or as they’re now called Golden-bellied Grosbeaks, singing and posing nicely on top of bushes, and lots of endemic Santa Marta brush-finch, as well as several other endemics.

Day 6 – July 11: Today we headed down the road. The birding was very nice. There are 17 endemic bird species here above Santa Marta, and we saw 11 or 12 of them, most right from the road, in our 3 days. My favorite was a spectacular show by the White-tailed Starthroat, guarding his favorite bush. Kay and Dan were able to digiscope him on his favorite perches and got wonderful photos. The lower half of the bird is sparkling snow white, while the top half is dark green, with turquoise and purple on the crown. When he flies you usually just see a streak of white, and Pablo told us this species almost never perches where you can see it. But this particular individual gave us quite a show, with many memorable looks. For butterflies we had lots of yellow Dismorphia, more satyrs of course, and some hairstreaks, though most were too high to photograph. No swallowtails or metalmarks.

Day 7 – July 12: Our last day at San Lorenzo, so we walked down the road while the crew packed up and brought the car down to meet us. Jurgen, the one who organized our trip, had talked his sister-in-law and her husband into coming up and cooking for us, and they did a bang up job. He had another Dutch couple with another guide, Wally, who lives in Santa Marta and knows the local birds very well, and we all shared the meals in our larger cabin. The cabin we were in had 2 large bedroom, 3 bunkbeds in each, and a big kitchen, and Alfonso and Claribelle cooked all day long. We were usually cold, it ran around 59 to 62 degrees, so we drank lots of coffee, tea, hot chocolate. Fortunately the bunkbeds came with lots of heavy blankets, so we were warm at night in bed, but that was the only place you were warm once it got to be late afternoon. When it was sunny in the morning, however, it got quite pleasant, I would just wear a light field shirt. The worst part is there isn’t any hot water, and icy cold showers when it’s only 60 degrees is too much for me, so we didn’t shower the 3 days we were there. The electricity is very undependable, as we lost power in thunderstorms for 2 days out of 3, so bring enough batteries for cameras. You have to bring in all your own food and supplies, as there aren’t any places to get anything, so it all has to come up the mountain with you from Santa Marta. The last day we started with fog, then it cleared about 9am, and the butterflies came out. We had a gaudy big Evenus hairstreak that caused us to almost have heartattacks, a couple of different Sisters/Adelphas, another Dalla, and more different Satyrs. Coming down we stopped at the El Dorado lodge run by ProAves at 1,900 meters, which is quite nice. Considerably more expensive at $85-100/night than where we stayed, but that includes 3 meals and transportation, and it’s a considerably plusher lodge, with hot water and nice views. There we had a great pair of Yellow-throated Fruiteaters and Blue-naped Chlorophonias coming to their feeders, as well as some different butterflies. ProAves is a conservation group that has purchased land for 12 reserves around the country, and they run birding tours through another company called EcoTours, see I’m coming back in January and doing a trip with them, so it will be interesting to compare the 2 times of the year, as well as where we go. There was a nice article in Winging It about the ProAves reserves recently. We made it down to San Souci, a rustic (grotty) place for the next 2 nights. But it’s outside of town, so it’s quiet and has very nice gardens. We spent the late afternoon sitting out by Hank and Priscilla’s room, the cabana up the hill, and watching hummingbirds come to the large inga trees off their patio. Their place is like a little apartment, w/a kitchen, but the other rooms are dark, old, and scruffy. Very much a backpacker hostal, where you put your own lock on the room doors. We don’t have our own locks, so we leave our doors open, and everything’s fine. Saw our first owl butterfly, Caligo memmon, at dusk.

Day 8 – July 13: our driver didn’t show up, and Pablo couldn’t get any answer calling him, so we walked up the road from San Souci for several hours. It was great; we found white flowering roadside bushes that the clearwings like to feed on for their alkaloids, so we took tons of photos of many species of clearwings, probably 8 to 10 species, most of which were new to me. There were also Scrub-Hairstreaks/Strymon, at least 2, maybe 3 species, and our first Metalmarks, Calospila lucianus, Hades noctula, and Emesis fatimella. So in spite of the lost driver, we had a really good morning. Poor Pablo finally got a ride into town and found another guy w/a truck, came back and found us up on the road and we went to another road he wanted to work. But by the time we got there, about noon, it was raining pretty heavily, so we ended up going to a tasty outdoor restaurant on the river in Minca. If you’re in Minca, look up Bururake, it’s worth your while. It was an excellent parilla, or grill, for all kinds of meat, delicious. It poured, but we were under the roof with a nice view and lots of very good food, so life was good. They also had a lovely salad of a nice variety of greens, which Pable assured us was safe to eat. We spend a couple of hours here, then the rains let up, the sun came out, and we went looking for bugs. Our new driver claimed to know a spot for Rosy Thrush-tanager, so we went there. No birds, but several new butterflies, including our first Swallowtail that Hank got a great shot of. Came back to the hotel a little after 4pm, went back up the road, found a few more clearwings and a beautiful black snake with white rings and a brilliant red head and tail. So a good day after all.

Day 9 – July 14: Went back up to 1400 meters with our new driver and his ‘59 Dodge huge truck, with benches in the back and a tarp roof, more comfortable on this bad road than the other cars we had used. Hank found a group of Cydno Longwings/Heliconius cydno clustering under a large leaf, and at first we couldn’t figure out what they were doing. Then we realized there were pupa attached under the leaf, and it must have been males trying to mate with the females still in the pupa. Took lots of photos. Went back to San Souci for pizza for lunch, Chris there is a good cook. Then headed into Santa Marta for our overnight bus ride down the Magdalena Valley to our next destination, Rio Claro. The bus is cheap, 60,000 pesos for our ticket, which at 1,800 pesos/1 dollar is about $30-33 dollars. Food is also inexpensive. We pay for our food separately from the tour. 2 dinners + 2 breakfasts + the great pizza lunch at San Souci is only 31,000 pesos each, or about $16 – 20. The really nice parilla lunch we had the other day in Minca was 21,000 pesos for me. I’m using 2000 pesos/1 $, so it’s a little over $10, plus 10% so maybe $11 or 12. Such a deal. This turns out to be the most expensive meal we eat the entire trip. Most of our meals are about $3-4 3each.

Day 10 – July 15: arrived at Puerto Berrio about 7am, just over the Magdalena River, after a night of freezing on the bus. If you take overnight buses in South America, take a blanket, maybe two. For some reason, they seem to really crank up the a/c, and it must have been into the low 50′s. But we got there, and had a very nice cup of café con leche with some empanadas while Pablo rustled up our next leg of transportation. We have so much luggage we had to buy an extra 2 seats on the mini bus to pile all our stuff. Another hour and a half and we got to Puerto Boyaca, where we changed to a minivan taxi for the last leg of another hour. We drove right by Pablo Escobar’s old mansion, which is being turned into a hotel. Brand new accommodations at Rio Claro, which looks like a popular swimming hole on the weekends. It’s about 400 hectares of second growth forest along a really pretty river with lots of huge marmel cliffs and caves. Our rooms are open, on the second floor, and look right out into the forest on 2 sides. We wake up to the ringing calls of buff-rumped warblers and bay wrens. After lunch we hike a little ways down the river to Pablo’s favorite swimming beach, which is beautiful. The river is running fairly strong, you couldn’t swim against it, but they have strung ropes across in certain places so you can wash up against the rope and pull yourself in. Lots of fun, and a spectacular setting, steep tree-shrouded cliffs, no sign of humans except the worn rope. This takes up most of the afternoon, plus we do see some nice birds and a new Emesis metalmark. Kay finds a Rufous-breasted Hermit nest right next to our cabins, and we have our first Starry Night Cracker/Hamadryas laodamia landing on the poles of our cabins.

Day 11 – July 16: heavy thunderstorms in the night, and it’s still raining when we wake up. Breakfast at 8. Rain had stopped, so we hiked up the white-mantled barbet trail. In the open places, when the sun came out briefly, there were some good butterflies, but it was brief. So we kept hiking, through the stream and up and down the hills. We only went up a couple of hundred meters, but we did that several times. Deep mud in places, this was definitely a rubber boots trail. Only Kay got looks at the barbet, but it was nice forest. She also got great dorsal shots of Pierella incandescens, with its gorgeous red dorsal hindwings wide open. A number of skippers, some of which we got and some got away. Dan almost fell off the hill reaching out for some good shots of what I think is Hyalothyrus infernalis. Late in the day we went in to the cave where we had gone swimming the day before, about a mile. Pablo told us there are oilbirds in the cave, and they come out about 6:30pm, so we sat on the beach and waited. We could hear them growling and screeching long before they came out. It was fairly dark when they finally made their appearance, but then they came out in bunches, hovering around like moths, seemingly afraid to leave the cave. Later they were drinking and bathing by flying over the river and dipping into it, very neat to watch, even if it was almost dark. Of course, then we had to hike back the rough, rocky and sandy, full of tree roots trail in the dark, with headlamps but still took concentration to not break something. But it was quite interesting to see them coming out, and especially to hear them. We heard crested owl on the way back as well.

Day 12 – July 17: More rain during the night, but by 8am it was clear. Pablo says that’s the normal pattern here, quite convenient to have it rain all night then clear off and be sunny during the day. Some of us take the truck about 6km away to the Condor Cave, which is a very nice walk through open pasture of about 15 minutes, then you get to a beautiful stream through good forest. They walk up the stream and the woods just get prettier and prettier. I didn’t go, but those that did all raved about it, and they brought back some good photos. I went back up the barbet trail, only this day I had lots of sun, so got lots of new species. A good day. Had to dodge mules hauling 2 very large pieces of cut lumber each, coming down the muddy trail. They were afraid of me, so I had to find a place to get out of their way. Not easy, but I didn’t want panicing mules, so we managed.

Day 13 – July 18: last day at Rio Claro. Hot, clear and sunny first thing, after our usual heavy night rains. Lots of bugs but they’re quite flighty so hard to photograph. Dan & Kay go out early with Pablo and get some good shots of early metalmarks, several of which I don’t know. Later, after breakfast, they’re all gone. I didn’t realize metalmarks are active right after dawn. Some people go back to the Condor Cave, but I stay at Rio Claro and chase new species, including a very cooperative Haetera macleannia. Then afer lunch we drive 4 hours to Medellin, Pablo’s home city. There are many soldiers and police on the road, seems like every other turn. Pablo tells us only a few years ago this was a very dangerous road to drive, due to the guerrillas, but the army has taken it back. They were very high profile, but they weren’t stopping traffic, just standing around and watching, with lots of automatic guns. But they did make us feel safer. This evening we go meet Juan Guillermo, who I have met on the internet over neotropical butterflies. He’s been sending wonderful photos to our forum for identifications, and he turns out to be a good friend of Pablo. They’re both nature nuts in Medellin, and are in their local bird club, which is quite active. We have timed our trip to spend the weekend in Medellin so Juan can come out in the field with us on Saturday and Sunday, when he’s off work. He and his wife very graciously invite all 6 of us to their house for dinner, and have several birding friends of theirs there as well, so it’s lots of fun to get to meet other Colombianos who are into nature. We don’t get back to our hotel until after 11:30pm, and the music is just getting wound up. Our hotel, Porton de la 70 on Calle 70, is unfortunately across the street from a disco, in the center of the action part of town, and it’s Friday night, so I don’t get a lot of sleep. Apparently there aren’t many mid-range hotels. Upper class hotels are expensive, $100 or more, and low class ones are dives. We’re in the $30-40 range, and there aren’t many choices. But the next morning I complain and Pablo gets me a small single room on the 5th floor, up the stairs, tucked away in the back and much quieter, so that’s fine.

Day 14 – July 19: Juan and Luis, one of the guys at the dinner the night before, meet us and take us to a private farm they often bird. We have a very tasty breakfast at a small restaurant on the road next to where we’re going to hike, and we leave the cars next to it. There are soldiers here, so it’s a safe place to leave vehicles. Colombia has lots of these simple little places to eat on the mountain roads, and the food has been really good. We have special arepas, a corn grilled flat thing you put butter and local white cheese on. These today are arepas de chocolo, made with special highland corn, and are really good. One is plenty for a meal, as they are thick and filling. They also serve very good coffee con leche, in large soup bowls you have to use both hands to pick up. Delicious and cheap, what’s not to like? I could get used to this. You sit on benches around the central area where the food is cooked over wood burning fires. Then we walk down the road, through the fence and onto the farm. It’s about 1400 – 1500 meters, maybe an hour out of town. Lots of it is pasture for cows with woods, very wet and muddy. An amazing number of species of butterflies, almost all of them new for us. Many ithominids, mostly tigerwings. I’m surprised to see so many tigerwings at this elevation, as I have thought of them as lowland bugs, but I’m obviously wrong. They appear to be lekking at the edge of the woods, sitting on leaves, sometimes 3 or 4 species on the same tree or shrub. In the pastures there are many flowers and butterflies all over the place, lots of grass skippers and pierids. It’s difficult to pick something to photograph, you keep seeing other ones to go after. We have a wonderful morning, though it’s exhausting slipping and sliding up and down the hills in the heavy mud. Often you are afraid you’re going to lose your boot in the mud. I fall once or twice and Hank falls so often he becomes a total mudball. We have a great time, and then the guys take us back to another wonderful outside restaurant with bird feeders where we have another great meal, a local soup chalupa?? with several types of meat, avocado, crispy things and plantain, many wonderful tastes all mixed together. It’s much better than it sounds, and very filling. And more coffee, of course. It starts to rain very hard during our late lunch, perfect timing as we had a great sunny morning, so we spend a few hours hanging out in the restaurant watching the every changing parade of great andean birds come to the feeders. This is my kind of birding. Finally we have to head back to town and our hotel. We’re so full we don’t bother with dinner, and hit the sack early to catch up for last night’s lack of sleep.

Day 15 – July 20: Juan and Luis come along again, and Diego shows up on his motorbike to meet us as well. He’s starting up his own company for bird tours, We go to the Romera road area, maybe 30 minutes from town. This is a great road, narrow and twisting up in to the hills, paved and almost no traffic, and nice habitat, up about 1900 – 2000 meters. Our target bird is red-bellied grackle, but we don’t find any. We do find lots of great high elevation butterflies, however. Juan brings along fish bait, like he did yesterday, and we got some beautiful riodinids, our first dartwhites, and a spectacular leafwing, Fountainea nessus, pink and purple on the dorsal. Plus a bronzy golden Eunica or Purplewing which I’ve never seen. We don’t have near as much sun as the day before, and especially at this elevation the butterflies really wait to come out when it’s sunny. This would be a fabulous place to spend a full day, but unfortunately we have to leave and drive on to Rio Blanco. Another great restaurant, then a 2nd one where we stop for a fruit drink. They make delicous fruit drinks with either water or milk. I have mango but guayanaba is also excellent. They’re like fruit shakes, one goes a long way. We get to Manizales, then take a bad dirt road up from there to the east, on the western side of the central Andes, above Cauca Valley. We finally make it to Rio Blanco at dusk, after sunset, having to walk the last kilometer or so uphill at 2400 meters because the van can’t make it up the dirt road with us in it. We find a sicklewinged guan as it’s getting dark, and get to our rooms for the next 2 nights. Higher than San Lorenzo but not near as wet, so even though it’s only 60 degrees in my room tonight it doesn’t feel as damp and cold. And they have sort of hot water!

Day 16 – July 21: very nice weather today, even though it started out pretty chilly, in the mid 50′s. After breakfast Pablo couldn’t pry the others away from the 15+ hummingbird feeders all around the porch. They have nearly 30 species of hummers here, and most of them are gorgeous. They also have a pair of spectacled bears, who come out and wander around their field. I take off down the hill accompanied by Pablo and the forest ranger Hugo. He suggests that a good place for butterflies is back down the road at the gate, 3-4 km downhill. There is a milk delivery car that goes down about 9am, and we can catch a ride on that. Of course, then we have to walk back up, starting at 2100 meters, but I’m game. So we catch our ride, get to the rio, and he’s right, there are nice puddle parties of Dartwhites/Catastica and a couple of new species of Sisters/Adelpha as well as Actinotes and some Dallas, all high elevation goodies. One species that’s new is Podotricha judith, a longwing with very falcate edges and orange and black stripes, and it’s big. Another killer one is the common Morpho sulkowskyi flying around along the river. A truly beautiful Morpho. No photos of those, too bad, they never stop. So I’m happy for several hours, and Hugo waits patiently. Apparently he’s not supposed to let tourists wander on their own. Finally I’m satiated and we head back up hill. Fortunately for me about half way up we catch a ride from a construction gang going up to work on the water system, and I get a free lift hanging onto the back of a jeep, as they’re packed in. Beats walking, and we get back just in time for lunch. The others had wandered around and have lots of good shots of Pedaliodes, Corades and other high elevation satyrs, so it’s been a great morning. Kay and Dan have some shots of another new leafwing, Fountainea centaurus, even if it’s worn. I spend most of my afternoon relaxing on the western porch watching the clouds change and basking in the sun, when it’s there. We look out and see across the Cauca Valley to the western Andes, a spectacular view, plus there are constantly a couple of zillion hummers whipping around. The most beautiful looks at spectacled??? violetear I’ve ever seen.

Day 17 – July 22: spend the morning at Rio Blanco, and I walk down on a trail that goes through the forest. We end up back down at the river, which means I have to walk back up. So I get my exercise for the day, and get some good butterfly photos as well. Plus some nice birds. Good looks at Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, one of the prettiest New World woodpeckers. After lunch we head off for Pereira and take another bad dirt road up to Otun Quimbaya reserve for the next 2 nights. This is a surprisingly nice hotel, up 12 km of bad road, and it’s surrounded by good second growth forest.

Day 18 – July 23: up at 5:30am for birds, and we see the localized Cauca Guan and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, plus wonderful looks at a pair of torrent ducks and their 3 young. The adults are doing a type of behavior none of us have ever seen, where they lean forward with their necks straight up in the air and stick their tail feathers up like a fan, while vocalizing loudly. It reminds me of sage grouse. It may be some sort of call to the young, as it doesn’t seem to be courting to each other. After breakfast we wander the road and/or the trails and see lots of goodies. It’s a beautiful sunny day, and it lasts all day, which may be a first for our trip. It’s a treat to be able to walk on a road and have it be relatively flat, rather than straight up like at Rio Blanco. Again almost no traffic. Some new metalmarks, and my first Elzunia humboldt. Also lots of fresh Fountainea nessus, but no centaurus. Those may fly a little higher, like at Rio Blanco. Or maybe their flight time is a little earlier, as we only saw one and it was worn.

Day 19 – July 24: Another nice morning, not as sunny as yesterday but some new bugs. A big firetip that won’t let me shoot it, Mimoniades nurscia, and more Altinotes on the road. There is a platoon of soldiers camped in the woods right down the road from the hotel, and the first I know of them is when I look up from shooting a butterfly in the road and see a guy in camo with lots of weapons watching me from in the woods. I say buenos tardes and smile, and he responds politely. Several of us talk to them, especially Dan who speaks the best spanish, and they say they are hear to serve us, to make sure we’re safe. We have seen heavy military presence in several locations, and it does make us feel safer. They all tell us the areas are calm and muy tranquilo, but they are certainly showing a strong presence. After lunch we drive back to Pereira and onto El Cairo. We have to take a very small jeep down to Pereira, with 8 of us and our luggage, and 3 of us stand on the rack in the back, including me. The guides don’t want me to do it, but it’s more comfortable than being smashed inside with my pack and my laptop on my lap. So Priscilla holds my stuff and I stand on the back. In Pereira we change to a minibus, still squashed in, and drive several hours to El Cairo about 1,900 meters, a small pueblo at the end of the road on the west slope of the western Andes, near the choco. A neat little colonial town with children playing in the square and in the streets, very peaceful. We stay in the nicest hotel in town, Hostal El Cairo, which is actually on the edge of town with great views of the valley dropping away beneath us. It’s quiet and the rooms are nice, the landlady is high energy and very helpful, the only downside is the water heater is broken. Fortunately one room, mine, has hot water (don’t ask why), so we all shower in my room every evening.

Day 20 – July 25: Up early to leave at 5am for Cerro El Ingles, which starts with an hour ride in another willy jeep that’s from 1950. All the old willys must have retired here in Colombia, as they are the vehicle of choice for these muddy mountain roads. This one’s bigger than the one we rode in yesterday, and the driver is very good. We get up to one of the reserves of the local conservation group, Serraniagua, which has organized this part of our trip. They provide the driver and jeep and a local guide who’s called Junior and is very helpful. Their website,, has info about this part of Colombia and the work they’re doing with local farmers to help preserve the forest. We get up to the forest, above pastures, and walk up a little ways and over a pass about 2,200 meters into the department of Choco, which is extremely wet. Being on the steep pacific side, the clouds come up from the sea and all the water is squeezed out by the steep slopes, so it rains all the time. As we cross over the pass it gets much wetter, and the rain gets steadily heavier. We’re seeing some good birds, my favorite being the purple-mantled mountain-tanager, but it’s too much wet for me and I turn back, wanting to go lower down on the drier side and look for butterflies. We find many bugs the rest of the day, as it’s basically a small track through the forest with lots of streams crossing and running down the track. So there are many Dartwhites and Dismorphias everywhere, several species of Corades and a gorgeous large Mygona irmina, a big satyr with large bright white areas on the dorsal hindwing. It makes me think of a Pierella, and between Hank and myself we get some good shots.

Day 21 – July 26: up a little later, as we go to a local panaderia for a 5:30 am café de leche and some sweet rolls, then off to the Galapagos road. Pablo is used to bird tours with very early starts to get the birds, so we keep whining and trying to slow him down. So we compromise with a 5:30 breakfast, and tasty coffee. The Galapagos to San Jose del Palmar road is an area that has only recently been considered safe for eco tourists, and I think we’re only the third group to go in. The birding is fantastic, as it’s a fairly wide dirt road with great views over the mountains and down the ravines. We see lots of special birds, lifers for all of us. Killer looks at golden-ringed tanager, which seem to be everywhere, and look fabulous against the dark mossy covered trunks. Some of us get black solitaire, we all get great looks at orange-breasted fruiteater, and lots of green and black fruiteaters, and many other Colombian specialities. One of the best is the lek of club-winged manakins Kay and Junior find down a very dark and wet trail, behind the old school building. They hear a weird electrical sound and are afraid it might be a radio, which could be guerrillas, so they come back out. But when they describe the sound to Pablo, he knows what it is and we all go back to find the manakins, and we get to see their strange display. It’s funny, but we see very few butterflies, and almost none land on the road or pose for photos. We see a couple of different metalmarks but can’t get any photos. We do get some great shots of a beautiful striped hairstreak, Micandra aegides. On our way in we run into a convoy of 4 large trucks filled w/police, who stop and talk to our driver and Pablo at lenght. One talks to Kay and asks her if she is a Colombiana, to her surprise. They tell us the area is muy calma and it’s ok for us to proceed, so up the road we go, following our extensive and very heavily armed escort. On the way out, at the end of the day, we’re stopped again when we get back to the paved highway (a small mountain road) by police who pat down the driver and our 2 guides, but again just nod politely to us. Pablo tells us later there are coca fields further down that road; that’s one of the reasons we didn’t go below 1,600 meters. It’s not secure further down, but no problems on the stretch we work. However, the guys want us to all stay together, and once Hank is a little ahead and some rangers on motorbikes stop and talk to him. The guides charge up there and explain who we are and what we’re doing, and again it’s smiles all around and we continue on. This is the place Pablo keeps the closest watch on us and doesn’t let us wander off. I was told by several South Americans that it was important we have Colombians with us, not to try and do a trip there by ourselves, and this appears to be very good advice. Pablo explains a number of times what we’re doing, photographing butterflies and looking at birds, and even though we might be able to speak adequate spanish it might be difficult if he wasn’t there. He has proved his worth many times over, just to smooth the way. They are not used to the idea of eco tourists, and definitely not used to folks from the US on these back roads.

Day 22 – July 27: The Brodkins and I go back to El Ingles preserve, and the Wades go back to the Galapagos road to try and do some digiscoping. Yesterday the birds were sitting and openly visible there, while at El Ingles it’s much more closed in and harder to spot birds in the trees. It’s interesting as we see many more butterflies at El Ingles, though both are about the same elevation and in the wet Choco cloud forest. So the 3 of us find a number of different species, especially satyrs. Good shots of Daedalma dinias and more Corades, as well as lots of different Dismorphia. The Wades get good looks at tanager-finch and crested ant-tanager.

Day 23 – July 28: last breakfast at our favorite panaderia where we buy all the guava empanadas they have every morning. Then back in the microbus to drive back to Pereira, where we get on a long distance bus to Bogota. It takes 3 hours to Pereira, then 8 hours to Bogota, so it’s a long day. At one point soldiers board the bus and collect everyone’s identification cards. But Pablo, our guardian angel, explains we’re tourists from out of the country, and they say never mind to us. They take all the cards and run them through a computer database, looking for bad guys. Fortunately no one on our bus is on the bad guy list, so we proceed on, after a mean looking soldier comes back on the bus and politely calls the names one at a time and returns the cards. These guys all look like classic jungle fighters but have consistently been very polite and professional. We get to Bogota about 6:30 pm and get to our newly renovated hotel in the historical Candalaria part of the centro by 7:30 or so, though it takes our 2 taxis quite a while to find the hotel. It’s fairly quiet, again sort of a backpacker place with a big kitchen on the 2nd floor and coffee all the time, but nicer than most of the places we’ve been. Feels very safe. Clean, a nice courtyard, comfortable, except my single room is a little noisy as I’m right on the entrance courtyard so I hear the buzzer on the door and people talking as they come and go. The outer door is locked all the time and you have to buzz the innkeeper to get in. Pablo stays with his uncle, and when he comes to get us the next morning the woman won’t let him in, as she doesn’t know him. So we have to vouch for him for once.

Day 24 – July 29: the Brodkins leave mid morning, but the other 3 of us have an extra day. I head to the Universidad Nacional de Colombia to try and meet Dr. Andrade, who is the head of the collection there and a faculty professor. Andy Warren had been there the week before to give a paper and told them about me, so I’m somewhat expected, which was very nice and helpful of Andy. Pablo helps me take a taxi to the University and we wander around, asking directions a number of times before we finally find the right building. It’s a huge campus, and of course we get out of the taxi at the opposite side of where we finally find the correct building, so we must walk for more than half an hour. There are guards to get on campus, and guards at the entrance of each building, so it’s very secure. We ask for Dr. Andrade, and the guard tells us he just left. I show him my Mexican butterfly book and say I want to leave it for Dr. Andrade as a gift, so the guard lets us go to his office. I don’t think we would have gotten in without his name. I meet a couple of women grad students there, Lina Campos and Nadja Grote, who graciously show me the collection, where I meet a 3rd student, Hannier Pulido. Lina specializes in riodinids and Hannier is into hesperids, which is great. He shows me a couple of drawers of Pedaliodes, which would be very helpful to work on. I think Lina is also working at satyrs. All 3 are very friendly, we exchange emails for future visits, and they give me a copy of the book they just published last year of butterflies of Santa Maria, which is very nice. Then Professor Andrade shows up, so I get to meet him as well. Nadja and Hannier come back to my hotel, as I offer them my last 2 extra copies of my Mexico book, so it’s hugs all around and offers to help me with future trips. Hannier even expresses some interest in working as a guide for a butterfly trip, which would be fantastic. He is a good nature photographer, and I hope to get to see some of his photos in the future. A very good and productive morning. I’ll definitely be spending some time in Bogota in the future. In the afternoon the Wades and I, with Pablo, take public buses to the Cathedral de Sal, which turns out to take a little over 2 hours to get to. This is a truly amazing place, an absolutely enormous series of huge spaces carved out underground and made into a cathedral, with the stations of the cross in each gigantic room. The size is incomprehensible, the rooms are sometimes close to 100′ high. Well worth your time to see it, a truly unique place. We take a taxi back, and it still takes us more than 2 hours as the traffic is horrendous and the driver has no idea where our hotel is. We finally get back after 7pm, and decide to just hit the close tasty restaurant where we had breakfast, just a block down the street. We were going to go to Casa Vieja, which a friend had highly recommended, but we’re too tired. Next time.

Day 25 – July 30: up early for a 9am flight to Panama City on Copa. We say goodbye to Pablo at the airport, after having to check in then go wait in another long line to get a stamp as an exemption to the airport tax, then go back to get our boarding passes. Not a very efficient way to run a system. Several more lines for various things, including a pat down search by same sex guards, and we finally get on our plane and back to Panama. I’m staying at the Albrook Inn, close to the domestic airport, for 2 nights. It’s a $30 cab ride from the international airport, arranged by the hotel in advance. It has a nice garden area, and I spend a few hours birding/butterflying while I wait for my room to be ready, as I arrive early. They have a nice restaurant with US food, and US prices. A bowl of fancy onion soup and a salad of tomatoes and mozarrella cheese is $15. No more cheap meals like 6,000 pesos/$3 as in Colombia, but then here I have choices. It’s all a trade off.

This is the end of my Colombian report. The Panama section will be a separate report. My overall impression of Colombia is go! We never felt in danger, and the people were very friendly. We spent most of our time, if not all of it, in secondary growth forest. I think the primary forest is more difficult to get to, often involving walking or horseback, or really bad roads. The roads we were on in the mountains were often very difficult, deep mud and ruts, 4 wheel drive required. The willys were standard transportation, not very comfortable but they get there. Don’t try and go to too many places, as transportation time is long between good locations. The food is filling, large quantities but often boring, especially at the lodges. The little restaurants we stopped at on the roads, especially around Medellin, were very good and quite cheap. But at the lodges it was mostly a piece of tough beef and lots of rice and potatoes, very little fresh fruit. I don’t think they eat much fruit in the highlands. Much more beef than chicken. A few times we could ask for what we wanted, and we asked for pollo a la plancha, a standard simple grilled chicken dish common in Mexico and other latin countries, but some cooks didn’t know how to cook it. So it was mostly meat and starches. They have very good fruit drinks, made with either milk or water, like a shake. Only a few flavors, but all good. They must drink their fruits rather than eat them whole. We never got a dessert, may be why most Colombianos are slender. If you want snacks, sweets or munchies, bring them with you. Jurgen had told me to estimate $20/day for food, and that was high. I spent about 600,000 pesos on food and some add ons, which is a little less than $300. We used atm’s to get cash, as almost no places took credit cards. These don’t always work, depending on which card you use, so bring multiple cards if you can. You can usually get only 300,000 pesos on one withdrawal, so we had to hit the atm’s several times, especially for couples with one card. There are of course many fabulous birds, as Colombia has been on most world birders’ lust list for a long time. We spent most of our time looking for butterflies, but couldn’t help but see many great birds. Jurgen Beckers is a serious birder, and offers several good birding trips. Our trip was customized, so with a small group you can organize as you want. Our trip was mostly at mid elevation, 1,400 to 2,400 meters. There are good places to go much higher, in the paramo, but we never got above tree line. Our only lower elevation location was at Rio Claro, at 350 meters. There we had the most butterflies, which is typical as you get more species in the lowlands than the highlands. We wanted to work the upper elevations however. The Andes in Colombia split into 3 cordilleras, east/central/west, and the habitat is different on all three. So there is tremendous diversity. The 2 large valleys in between are mostly developed with agriculture, and there are fields up most of the mountain sides. So you have to go high, up to the ridges, to find habitat. Probably my favorite area was around Medellin, and there are a couple of good reserves within a few hours of there. El Cairo, on the wet pacific side of the western andes, is probably one of the better places for birding. Santa Marta has a bunch of endemics, so most folk want to go there, though it requires an internal flight, or long bus ride, to get there. I would probably not use San Lorenzo again, but stay at the ProAves El Dorado lodge. In the cities we were in low middle level hotels, and I would probably upgrade. Our trip cost with Jurgen was $1,570 each for 5 of us for a little over 3 weeks. It was considerably more if there were only 3, as the expense of the guide and the vehicle is fixed. We had Pablo with us the entire time, from Cartagena to the airport in Bogota. ProAves is quoting me about twice that for our January trip, so it will be interesting to see if it’s that much nicer. Transportation is a large part of the trip expense, as the roads are slow. We had 2 long bus trips on this tour, and having a private vehicle would have added considerably to our cost. I don’t think ProAves does the bus trip thing, so that may be a big difference. None of us ever got sick at all. We ate veggies and salads at several restaurants, but tried to stick to bottled water as much as possible. Sometimes it was hard to find, especially in the highlands, as the locals prided themselves on their tasty water. Much more difficult to find than in Mexico, where bottled water is everywhere. All in all a good trip, with lots of new species of butterflies. I’ll be back.

Mexico – Veracruz/Oaxaca, May-June 2008

Trip Report for Veracruz – Oaxaca – May-June 2008

Participants: Kim Garwood, Bill Bouton, Kim Davis, Mike Stangeland

Author: Kim Garwood

Day 1 May 8 – left Texas, drove to Gomez Farias, night at Casa Piedras, 500 pesos/2
Day 2 May 9 – worked La Florida in am, then Encino Road, then Ciudad Mante, Hotel Mante for 2 nights, 580 pesos/2
Day 3 May 10 – Ocampo Road all day
Day 4 May 11 – go to Hotel Taninul in am, then Xilitla, cabanas up the road, 400 pesos each
Day 5 May 12 – drive to Costa Esmeralda, stayed at Best Western, 900 pesos/2
Day 6 May 13 – drive to Mueller’s El Mirador for 2 nights, US$60/person/night
Day 7 May 14 – hike down the barranca, hairstreak city
Day 8 May 15 – drive to Valle Nacional, stayed in hotel Valle Real on plaza, 380 pesos/2
Day 9 May 16 – drive to Oaxaca up Hwy 175, only made it to Km 86, back to Valle Nacional
Day 10 May 17 – drive to Oaxaca, back up Hwy 175. This time made it to Km 100, very cool, only 61 degrees when we started about 9am, got up to 66 in mid afternoon, fog frequently coming and going. Spent our 3rd night in Valle Nacional.
Day 11 May 18 – head for Oaxaca, 3rd time up Hwy 175. Mirador at Km 108, then habitat changed to pines and much drier. Hotel Posada Los Arcos, on east side of Oaxaca on Hwy 190. 500 pesos/2, w/internet in the rooms and easy access for vehicles.
Day 12 May 19 – rain all night and in the morning. We met w/John Kemner for info on locations around Oaxaca. Went back to pullout at Km 205 on Hwy 175 for the afternoon.
Day 13 May 20 – go to Teotitlan del Valle, about 16 km east on hwy 190 from our hotel.
Day 14 May 21 – drive south of Oaxaca on Hwy 175 to Hotel Puesta del Sol at 7,600′ in the pines Km 132, 500 pesos/2, for 2 nights
Day 15 May 22 – drive down to about Km 194, La Soledad/Buena Vista
Day 16 May 23 – on to the coast, Puerto Angel and Zipolite/Mazunte. Stayed at Punta Placer, 800 pesos/2 for a couple of nights.
Day 17 May 24 – R & R on the beach.
Day 18 May 25 – back to the mountains, Puesta del Sol. Finca La Pacifica, streamside bugs.
Day 19 May 26 – back to Oaxaca for 4 nights.
Day 20 May 27 – Teotitlan del Valle.
Day 21 May 28 – up Hwy 175E to the stream, found another pullout.
Day 22 May 29 – up Hwy 175E to higher elevations, went to El Cumbre (the summit).
Day 23 May 30 – over the pass to Valle Nacional for 2 nights.
Day 24 May 31 – back up Hwy 175 to higher elevations.
Day 25 June 1 – drive to Catemaco, Veracruz. Stayed at La Finca, a resort hotel on the lake, 860 pesos/2/night most of the week, 1,250 pesos/2 for Saturday night.
Day 26 June 2 – rained on and off all day, stayed around hotel. Good bugs in the afternoon.
Day 27 June 3 – same as previous day, lots of rain, worked the La Finca ditch later.
Day 28 June 4 – still raining in the am. Drove to the UNAM biological station.
Day 29 June 5 – went up the Ruiz Cortines road, from San Andre Tuxtla.
Day 30 June 6 – back to UNAM. A sunny day!
Day 31 June 7 – back to Ruiz Cortines road.
Day 32 June 8 – drive to Orizaba. Hotel Cascadas, 790 pesos/2.
Day 33 June 9 – back to Veracruz and up to the coast esmeralda. Hotel de Alba, 550 pesos/2.
Day 34 June 10 – drive to Hotel Taninul, 759 pesos/2, 15 km east of Ciudad Valles, 2 nights.
Day 35 June 11 – work the road to Taninul.
Day 36 June 12 – drive to Hotel Mante in Ciudad Mante for 2-3 nights.
Day 37 June 13 – La Florida in the am, above Gomez Farias in the pm.
Day 38 June 14 – El Encino in the am, drove to Ocampo in the pm.
Day 39 June 15 – drive to Victoria and do Canyon del Novillo. Stay our last night at Las Fuertes Mission Hotel for 971 pesos/2, including their fancy buffet breakfast.
Day 40 June 16 – Los Troncones in the am, then drive to Texas.


Expenses - we drove about 3,900 miles and spent about 7,200 pesos on gas and tolls, or about $700. The tolls are high around Veracruz, especially going up to Orizaba. The insurance for the truck was a little less than $700. This would be cheaper in a less valuable vehicle, and might be cheaper if you bought it for an entire year, through an online provider like Lewis and Lewis.

Day 1:We had to get Bill’s visa, so we went to Progresso about 9am. It didn’t take long, even though they have revised what you need to do, as of the day before. So we had to bounce between offices more, but were on our way through Progresso in short order. We filled up the truck on the Mexican side of the border, as it is a diesel and diesel fuel is only $2/gallon in Mexico, versus $4/gallon in the US. It took forever to fill it, must have had a very slow pump. We then drove to Gomez Farias with only a lunch stop taking about 6 hours, got our hotel room and went a little ways up the hill from about 4 to 5:30pm. Extremely hot, 101+, and not much activity. One down side to Casa Piedras is they don’t have air conditioning, but they do have fans. Mike & Kim brought along 2 big fans, one for each room, so we had a hurricane and it was fine.

Day 2: The next morning, we went to La Florida first thing, before the locals showed up to go swimming. By 8:30am we were on the trails, seeing lots of Dark Kite-Swallowtails, and getting some nice dorsal shots. There must have been a very fresh hatch, as they were everywhere. Quite a few swallowtails, lots of Variable Swallowtails, Bill got a killer dorsal shot of Thoas, and lots of Melwhites. The bamboo is coming back nicely there, and we had 5 species of satyrs, though no Kendall’s. I think Splendeuptychia, which is the genus for Kendall’s, tend to like bamboo, at least that’s where I see them almost all the time in South America. The bamboo died back at La Florida a year or so ago, and I haven’t seen Kendall’s there since, but it looks like they could show up again shortly. We did have Tailed Satyr, Two-banded or White Satyr, Plain or Pompilio, Carolina (of course) and Gold-stained Satyr. Lots of faded Mexican and Whitened Bluewings, and lots of Malachites. No Purplewings, however, and no Emperors. We’re at the end of the dry season, hoping the rains start soon. Very few skippers as well.

We left La Florida about noon and went north to Encino road, west to the river, across the low water crossing and to the right towards the nacimiento. Few bugs, and unfortunately under the big tree, where it’s ALWAYS muddy, it was completely dry, not a single mud puddle. When I was here in the first of April this was the best puddle party we had the entire 5 day trip, but not now. Nothing. We did see a number of females laying eggs, and Kim Davis got nice shots of a Common Banner and her egg.

Day 3 we went west to the Ocampo road, which is about 1 ½ hours to the west, past the town of Ocampo and up the hill to about 4,500′ in the oaks. There are several good spots to pull over, at large bus stops, and in the fall the eupatorium can be fabulous on this road. But again the dryness was overwhelming. No Dartwhites, no green hairstreaks (this is a great spot for Stained and Mountain Greenstreaks), just a few individuals of some common species. Like Starred Skipper, Salome Yellow, Common Glassywing, etc. It’s always fun to see how the habitat changes as you go up and down the hills on this road, but it’s a very bumpy road and it’s getting worse, due to the trucks. One bridge was out, and we were held up for 15 minutes or so for oncoming traffic to go on a long dirt detour, but when we came back in the mid afternoon they had opened up another dirt detour, so each side could go at the same time, no more waiting.

Day 4 drove by Hotel Taninul on our way to Xilitla, too dry. Got to Xilitla early afternoon, found out they don’t rent out the rooms there anymore. However, the guy recommended some cabanas up the road that worked out fine. We got 3 rooms for 400 pesos/room, Bill’s and mine shared a nice big porch w/a great view over the town of Xilitla. We saw a couple of great bugs, Banner Metalmark/Thisbe lycorias and a lovely hairstreak, Calycopis calus. The hairstreak was on the side of Kim & Mike’s room, and they got great shots.

Day 5 we decided to head over to the coast, which took us through Tamasunchale and Huetla de Reyes, very bad roads and very slow. It took us 8 hours to get to the coast below Papantla, where we stayed in the Best Western because it had internet. The ocean was gorgeous, some of us went swimming and the temperature was perfect.

Day 6 drove to El Mirador, the old hacienda of the Mueller family, where Jorge Mueller is a wonderful host. It’s like staying w/old family friends, and the food is excellent. There are 3 bedrooms which all share 1 bath, and you have to walk through 2 of the bedrooms to get to the bath, so you need to be friendly. But aside from that, I highly recommend it. It was extrememly dry, like everywhere else. Jorge said their rain is quite late. He grows organic coffee, and has 137 hectares of shade grown coffee and a great barranca. Email –

Day 7 we hiked down into the barrance, after Jorge insisted, and he was correct. There is a stream that runs all year around, even after 5 months of extreme dry, and the shaded areas next to the stream were swarming with butterflies, mostly Ithomiinae and Hairstreaks. We must have had 10 or 12 species of hairstreaks that we photographed, and missed many more. Especially as it got into the hot afternoon, the hairstreaks seemed to come down into the cool shade and at times were very quiet and non-spooky. We could move the leaves and they just sat there. A number of new species for all of us. The hike back up was steep and sweaty, but it was well worth it. 3-4 species of clearwings and several tigerwings as well. I’ve never seen so many Mechanitis, at least 2 species and probably 3, once we go through all our photos. This was the best butterflying we had the whole trip so far, probably more butterflies than we had seen the entire previous week.

Day 8 – unfortunately we had to leave the Mueller’s, though we’ll be back. Now we drove to Veracruz and onto Valle Nacional, on hwy 175 on the way up to Oaxaca, 45 minutes west of Tuxtepec. Tomorrow we plan to work the east slope of 175, see what we see.

Day 9 – made it up to Km 86 on Hwy 175, stopping at several great spots. The weather started out hot and clear, but by noon was clouding up and getting cool. We saw quite a few new species, as we were mostly up about 4,000 to 5,000′, in cloud forest. It was particularly good about Km 70 to 80, near La Esperanza, theoretical home of Esperanza Swallowtail, which we did not see. We did see Magnificant Swallowtail/Pterourus garamas, a couple of them. We saw our first Actinote, Mapwings, some new satyrs, a nice variety of species. Around 2:30pm we realized we weren’t going to make it to Oaxaca today. It’s only about 175 km from Valle Nacional, but it’s very slow going, twisty steep roads through the mountains, and lots of great looking habitat to lure you into stopping and walking the road. Good birds, too, this is a famous birding road. The problem is there aren’t any places to stay up in the mountains, so it’s Valle Nacional or Oaxaca. Tomorrow we’ll leave Valle Nacional early, skipping breakfast (which took an hour in a local restaurant) and get higher up before we start working the roadside. You could walk most of this road and see good things all along it.

Day 10 - Got some great bugs today, wonderful shots of Corita Daggerwing/Marpesia corita, Orange Mapwing/Hypanartia lethe and Trimaculata Mapwing/H. trimaculata autumna, Pandama 88/Diaethria pandama, and a couple of high elevation satyrs. Km 87 had a good pullout where we had the Marpesia, and Km 94 was good for the others. Made it to Km 100, but it was cool and foggy. Had a strong thunderstorm the previous night, so lots of limbs were down on the road and things were wet. Looks like maybe the rains are finally starting, as it was raining this evening as well back in town. But in spite of the cool weather butterflies keep flying by now and then. We saw Cloud-forest King/Anetia thirza several times, always as a fly-by so we couldn’t get any photos, but great looks.

Day 11 – left Valle Nacional, determined to make it to Oaxaca. As we went over the pass, about Km 108, the habitat changed dramatically to pines and much drier. Not many butterflies on the way down on the other side, as it was very cool, in the 50′s, and overcast. We stopped several places, and found Oyamel Skipper/Evergreen Poan/Poanes monticola, a beautiful skipper, and Mexican Pine-satyr/Paramacera xicaque were common around 8,500′. Then as we came close to Oaxaca, about Km 205, we pulled into a trashy roadside pullout and noticed Kite-Swallowtails in the debris. Very cooperative Mexican or Guatemalan Kite-Swallowtails/Protographium eipdaus right at the truck, then Bill walked down to the stream and said ‘hey, you guys might want to come down here’. There were fresh White-crescent Swallowtails/Mimoides thymbraes mudpuddling, and they even posed open wings. Then we kept finding more and more skippers, several new ones including Variable or Thornscrub Mottled-Skipper/Codatractrus uvydixa and Yellow-haired Skipper/Cogia cajeta.

Day 12 - rainy in the morning, so we met w/John Kemner who graciously came over to our hotel to show us some good locations. He was a fount of information, told us about enough places to keep you busy for several months. Many of his spots are way back of beyond, so you really need a good vehicle and a willingness to get back into isolated country. He’s most interested in finding new species and rare ones, while we’re more interested in seeing a bigger selection. It would certainly be fun to come back and spend some time going out in the field w/him, he would have lots to show you. He was picking up some researchers from UNAM that afternoon and they were taking off for 10 days of fieldwork, so it was particularly nice of him to take the time to come talk to us. In the afternoon the sun came out and we went back to our trash pullout about Km 205, where we saw a number of different species from the day before. The most exciting was Black-veined Leafwing/Consul excellens, which was seen by the other three but not by Kim G, damn. Just fly bys, unfortunately, it wouldn’t let anyone even see it perched, let alone photograph it. Also got our first looks at Creamy Stripestreak/Arawacus jada, one of my favorite hairstreaks, and finally got photos of White-striped Groundstreak/Calycopis clarina, which were laying eggs on vines. Several of the species we had seen the day before were not there, no White-crescent Swallowtail/Mimoides thymbraeus at the stream edge. Some folks got good shots of West-mexican Spurwing/Antigonus funebris

Day 13 - Spend most of the day at Teotitlan del Valle, taking the dirt road up through and beyond the well known weaving village up into the scrubby mountains. The rains are having a definite beneficial effect, as it looks greener everyday. We find a number of fresh species, including a large hatch of Marina Patch/Chlosyne marina which are all over a particular corner on the road. Mike sees another Black-veined Leafwing/Consul excellens, and we put out bait at a few spots hoping to lure it down. No luck w/the excellens, but we do get a Blomfild’s Beauty/Smyrna blomfildi at our bait. This area looks very much like southeast Arizona, and we walk up a number of rocky washes and ravines w/frequent puddles from last night’s rains Mike also gets our first Mexican Sootywing/Pholisora mejicanus, another species I would love to see. Not great photos, but good enough for id. Several swallowtails, the Mexican Kites/Protographium epidaus, White-crescent/Mimoides thymbraeus and Two-tailed/Pterourus multicaudatus sailing around.

The flowers on the bushes are just starting to bloom; it looks as if it would be very productive in another week or so. We may try and come back. We get good shots of an Amblyscirtes that we can’t identify. It seems to be between A. cassus and aenas, not as orange as cassus and missing the pale spot on the fw, but aenas is only in northern Mexico. We’ll send it to the expert. Andy later tells us it’s the southern seggregate of Brock’s Roadside-Skipper/Amblyscirtes brocki. Also a couple of different black w/white fringe cloudywing types. One looks very like it could be Dark or Tehuacana Cloudywing/Achalarus tehuacana, and another looks more like Northern Cloudywing/Thorybes pylades or maybe Mexican Cloudywing/T. mexicana.

We eat a late lunch at a very nice restaurant back in the village, where they sell rugs and weavings as well. A number of people walking or driving by on the road stop and talk, in spanish or english, curious as to what we’re doing, but very friendly. Everyone we have talked to on this entire trip has been very friendly, and think it’s cool that we’re down in Mexico looking at ‘their’ butterflies. I suspect they might not be as friendly if we were swinging nets.

Along Hwy 175, especially on the atlantic slope around Esperanza and Matates, there are many signs saying it is a protected area and specifically saying collecting of insects is prohibited. But when we show people cameras and say we’re photographing, they smile and seem to approve. This includes truck drivers, old toothless women carrying supplies, young people. John Kemner told us he has collected all over w/the UNAM people, however, and has never had any trouble. But we have heard of other collectors who were threatened and felt afraid and had to leave.

Day 14 - drive through Oaxaca City, lots of fun, and south on Hwy 175 towards the Pacific coast. Here we spend a few nights at the very comfortable hotel Puesta del Sol, Km 132 from Oaxaca, high up close to the pass at 7,600′. Blue mockingbirds, spotted towhees, yellow-eyed juncos, silky flycatchers, white-eared hummers and american robins are common from our cabin, eating pyracantha and cherries from the bushes. It’s about a 4 hour drive from Oaxaca on twisty mountain roads through dry scrubby habitat, not much to see butterfly wise.

At the elevation of our hotel, right north of the village of San Jose del Pacifico, it is often foggy, and it gets that way soon after we get here in the afternoon. We drive on to the south after checking in, down maybe 30 km, but see very little as it is cool and very foggy on our way back. However Bill and Mike find our first firetip, Orange-rimmed Skipper/Chalypyge chalybea, feeding on mango remains by a stream. There is tasty food in the restaurant and warm blankets on the good beds, so we all have a great night’s sleep.

Day 15 - We wake to sunshine and clear views of the fabulous surrounding mountains. Our cabins are staggered on a steep hill, so each has a great view, but a steep walk up to the restaurant, especially at this elevation for those of us from south Texas. We head down the hill to the west again, but this is much different from yesterday. It’s a beautiful day, sunshine and scattered clouds. The weather stays in our favor and we have sun most of the day. We stop at several likely looking pullouts on the road, finding a nice overgrown truck path about Km 181, where we see our first White Morpho/Morpho polyphemus sailing by like a huge kleenex. Lots of Ardys Crescents/Anthanassa ardys, which we photograph in abundance, looking for several new species of Anthanassa for us. Bill finds a great Black Hairstreak/Ocaria ocrisia.

Several species of hummingbirds fighting over blooming flowers, hermits and garnet-throated. We find Orange-patched Satyr/Euptychia fetna and get good shots. We continue on down the hill to La Soledada/Buena Vista, about Km 183, where there is a steep dirt road leading up from the 2 small miscelanea shops on the right. Up a short ways from the people we find Nebulosa Crescent/Anthanassa nebulosa for the first time, plus 2 species of clearwings, Pteronymia rufocincta and Greta annetta moschion. There are many interesting dirt roads leading off the highway, and you could spend a number of days exploring the possibilities.

We turn around before Km 200 and return to Puesta del Sol, as there is no other place to stay except down on the coast. Tonight Bill makes a great fire in our cabin, as a bonus.

Day 16 - off to the lowlands on the coast. Saw amazingly few butterflies on our way downslope. We stopped several times in good looking habitat as we dropped in elevation, but never found a great spot. Had some new species, Simple Patch/Chlosyne hippodrome and good looks at West-mexican Spurwing/Antigonus funebris about 2,100′, then backtracked up to Km 196/Pluma Hidalgo about 3,800′ and took the side road, but not much flying. We did see lots of White Morphos, however, they frequently flew in front of the truck or floated by.

It seemed odd, checking under bridges at creeks, nothing at all along the wet sides. We had been told that Pluma Hidalgo is a good spot, but I suspect that’s at different times of the year. Once we dropped below the rain forest section it dried out very quickly and became desert scrub w/cactus. The changes were amazing, from pines up high through oaks into rain forest, then to desert, in less than 120 kms. People we talked to all say July/August is the best time for butterflies, in the rainy season.

The hotel we were aiming for, Rancho Cerro Largo, was closed when we found it, on the beach between Zipolite and Mazunte, and the caretaker suggested going another 5 minutes in to town where we stayed at Punta Placer, lovely cabanas on the sand w/wireless internet and great porches and huge bathrooms w/open stone showers, everything all curves and bamboo. Probably one of the more upscale places in town. The most beautiful blue water right outside, w/big piles of rocks out in the surf and gorgeous bays. There’s a string of little hotels, many just small rooms to rent quite cheaply to mostly young Europeans and surfers. Very similar to Cabo many years ago, before development. The quintessential Mexican west coast beach, w/palapas and little restaurants and all of life’s necessities right there. Including tasty margharitas and pina coladas, of which too many were consumed that evening.

Day 17 – took the day off to enjoy the beach and the waves. About 85 to 90 degrees, a nice wind, brilliant sun and perfect temperature water. We spent quite a bit of time in the water and just lying around in the shade, watching the frigatebirds and boobies fly by. After the twisty mountain roads it was enjoyable to spend a day out of the truck. We saw both dark and one of the white kite-swallowtails fly by, along w/a number of large Pierids and a few dark skippers, but things rarely landed.

Day 18 - back in the truck and back up the mountains to Puesta del Sol. It’s so dry on the coast that we felt it wasn’t worth our time to go west or east on Hwy 200 and hug the shore. The rains usually start here in mid June/July, so late May is the driest time of the year. Same for much of Mexico, I think. I’ve learned on this trip that next time I will definitely wait until a little later in the summer to come for butterflies. It would be interesting to see how the bugs are at the end of the rainy season, in Sept/Oct/Nov. That’s when they are the best in the Rio Grande Valley and NE Mexico, but I thought it would be different this far south, but I was wrong. Oh well, sounds like another trip.
It was 83 degrees before 8am when we left Mazunte, after a night of barking dogs at the hotel. The owners seem to have disappeared early Saturday afternoon, and were never seen again, nor was there anybody else around, just their german shephard tied under our window. So we moved him out to the beach and retied him, but he continued to make a lot of noise. Not a very restful night.
Puerto Angel is about Km 250, so 120 Km to drive to Puesta del Sol at Km 132. As we climbed up Hwy 175 heading back to Oaxaca, we stopped at Finca La Pacifica about Km 202, 1,600′, and walked down a side road where we found a stream crossing the road. Good spot for skippers, finally. Several new species for the trip, Common Anastrus/Bluevent/Anastrus sempiternus, Common Bentwing/Bent-Skipper/Ebrietas anacreon, and maybe another species of Ebrietas, plus Scallopwings. A new grass skipper, a gorgeous fresh glowing orange Godman’s Skipper/Mexican Underskipper/Zariaspes mythecus, a first for all of us.
As we continued up the mountain it cooled rapidly. We stopped again at La Soledad, Km 183, for lunch, but not much there. Interestingly, we’ve stopped here 3 times, and seen very different amounts of butterflies each time. As we climbed higher the fog closed in, and by the time we got to Km 145 it was thick. Sometimes you couldn’t see the road at all, pretty scary on these Mexican mountian roads. Kim D did a great job, and got us back to San Jose del Pacifico in one piece, where we stopped at the Café Express for the best coffees around. Thus fortified, we made it the remaining 1 km to the hotel by 2:30, where it was dark and foggy and wet.

Day 19 – On to Oaxaca, another 250 km away. Started off the day w/2 new hairstreaks in the gardens of Hotel Puesta del Sol about 9am, basking in the cool early high mountain sun at 7,600′, Micandra cyda and Laothus erybathis. Then driving back to Oaxaca we stopped at a few spots and found our first Red Satyr/Megistro rubricatus of the trip at a scruffy dry spot about 5,700′ 100 Km from Oaxaca.

After we checked into Posada Los Arcos again, we headed up to our nearby trashy pullout at Km 205 Hwy 175E, to see if much had changed in the last week. The species mix was different, no Texan Crescents/Anthanassa texana which had been abundant, and several new skippers. We had Red-studded Skipper/Noctuana stator and Pacuvius Duskywing/Erynnis pacuvius at the stream, and a really fresh Zela Metalmark/Emesis zela, which has less orange on the hw than the ones we’re used to in Arizona and Sonora.

Day 20 - heavy clouds this morning, we were sure it was going to pour, but then it cleared about 10am so we took off for Teotitlan del Valle. Finally got good looks at Mexican Sootywing/Pholisora mejicanus, but very difficult to get decent photos. We could see the black veins on the vhw through binoculars, but he wouldn’t let us flash him, or get too close. Kim D finally got some usable shots, but it would be nice to get some really good ones. We also had White-rayed Patch/Chlosyne ehrenbergii, one of the Oaxacan specialities.

Lots of sulphurs were out, including Tailed Sulphur/Phoebis neocypris, quite a difference from our last trip out here a week or so ago. Also lots of Costa Rican White/Pallid Tilewhite/Hesperocharis costaricensis mudpuddling in the wet dirt in the bottom of the washes, and we hadn’t seen one last week. The hills looked noticeably greener, and there were small puddles down a number of the rocky ravines. This time we shot Desert Cloudywing/Achalarus casica instead of Tehuacana Cloudywing/Achalarus tehuacana, though we’ll have to compare the photos closely. By mid afternoon dark clouds were forming again, so we got back to the hotel a little after 4pm.

Day 21 - up Hwy 175E, tried to get to El Cumbre at 2,700 meters, but the clouds got dark and heavy so we went back down to our favorite trashy pullout at Km 205, close to town. We then found another pullout, even closer to town on the same stream, where a dirt track ran down from the highway. So we explored around here, several different dirt tracks all running down and intersecting the stream at different swimming holes. We spent most of the day here, moving up and downstream. Several new species were found, probably the most exciting were Zobera oaxaquena, which looks similar to a powdered-skipper/Systasea, and our first greenstreak, Erora nitetis. Both were well photographed. Bill did an especially good job of sneaking up on the hairstreak, which was mudpuddling in the midst of a large group of sulphurs and blues. Mike also got good shots of our first Piruna, Piruna brunnea.

Day 22 - made it up to El Cumbre at about 8,500′, but it was quite cool to start, 51 degrees when we arrived about 10am. We finally had a gorgeous clear sunny day, but the weather can change quickly here. It’s 22 km up Hwy 175 from the intersection w/Hwy 190 on the east side of Oaxaca. Steep twisty typical Mexican mountain roads, w/slow trucks, so it can take quite a while to drive it. They have set up an eco-tourism office there, right off the highway, w/the World Wildlife Fund emblem in the window, and charged us 50 pesos each, or 200 pesos, for a day pass to drive their 2 roads through very interesting habitat. It was well worth it, especially to encourage local communities to preserve their lands.

We did the southeast road first, because it looked like it was getting more sun, and this was a good choice. We went in a few km and found milkweed blooming along the road, so we parked and walked the road. More new species, the most exciting was getting great shots of Marbled White/Black-pointed Tilewhite/Hesperocharis graphites. They were landing on one corner and nectaring on beautiful red lilies, very cooperative. Plus another green hairstreak, this time Stained Greenstreak/Cyanophrys agricolor. We also got Tailed Sister/Adelpha diocles, one of the few sisters we’ve had on this trip. There were also loads of Sonoran Banded-Skippers/Autochton pseudocellus, which were fun to see as we had had Golden Banded-Skipper/Autochton cellus the day before along the stream at lower elevations. Sometimes there would be half a dozen or more Sonoran Banded-Skippers on the milkweed.

We also did the northwest road after lunch, but it was much drier, with huge agaves, and almost no butterflies. We only went in a few km, and they told us there was a campground 6 km in, so it might be better further along. But the road was fairly steep and twisty, so we decided to head back down to our favorite trashy pullouts along the stream close to town, for our last afternoon at Oaxaca. Got good shots of Bluegray Lasaia/Gray Bluemark/Lasaia maria maria, same species we had seen at Teotitlan but couldn’t get close to.

Day 23 - went up over the mountains on Hwy 175 back to Valle Nacional and the atlantic wet slope. Had fog and very cool up the Oaxacan side of the mountain, so no bugs. It was 46 degrees at the top, about 9,000′ at Km 108, and completely fogged in, so we kept going. Fortunately we stopped about Km 96, just 12 km down from the top, and found Jonaspyge jonas resting on leaves next to the road. It was drizzling and still only a cool 54 degrees. I think he had been hit by a car, as he didn’t want to fly.

Then our next stop, Km 87, we found Cloud-forest King/Anetia thirza feeding on purple flowers, in the drizzle, and got great shots. There were also Dark Doberes/Cloud-forest Sicklewing/Doberes anticus flying around a tree with small white flowers. We had as many as four flying at one time, but they were landing 30-40′ up above the road.

So, as usual in poor weather, we didn’t have many species but the ones we found were special, and they posed for good looks and photos. A little lower Kim D got a shot at Starred Satyr/Oxeoschistus tauropolis. Our final stop was at Km 53, just 3 km from Valle Nacional, where we wandered into a banana plantation about 800′ and found a number of new lowland species. Bill got great shots of an Owl, Caligo brasiliensis, and he also found a number of Moon or Luna Satyr/Pierella luna.

Day 24 – back up Hwy 175 to higher elevations. It’s amazing how much things had changed since we were here a few weeks ago. There were lots of Starred Satyrs/Oxeoschistus tauropolis and Junos/Dione juno, both very fresh. One of the best bugs was a very large orange and black grass skipper which obligingly posed for photos, and turned out to be our first Dalla of the trip, Chiapas Skipperling/Dalla nubes at Km 74, about 4,200′. We also got good photos of a large very dark skipper with lovely tan fringe and two bright white spots on the dfw, which I think is Angular Brown-eye/Enosis angularis.

We ate dinner at our favorite local restaurant several blocks down the street from our hotel, across from the Pemex, and a thunderstorm blew in while we were eating. Heavy rain, but fortunately it backed off, even though Mike had run back to the hotel to get our umbrellas.

Day 25 - off to Catemaco, Veracruz. Had a mostly rainy travel day, sometimes very heavy rain, as tropical depression Arthur hit the Yucatan and spilled over onto Veracruz. We made it to our hotel La Finca, a very nice 4 star spa/hotel right on Lake Catemaco, just south of town at Km 147 on hwy 180, the main coastal highway. It’s easy to get to without going through Catemaco, which is a big plus for us in the giant truck. And wireless internet in our rooms! We could sit in our room and watch snail kites flying over the lake, along with lots of egrets, herons, kingfishers, least grebes, cormorants, etc.

On the way to Catemaco we detoured up a short paved road out of San Andres Tuxtla to Ruiz Cortines, just to check it out. This is a great little road, unmarked and hard to find but well worth it. I spent a couple of mornings here in early August, 2007 and it was hairstreak heaven. It’s at the south edge of town, right across from the Goodyear tire store, with a Pemex on the east side of Hwy 180 just north of the road that leads up out of town. It’s only about 10-12 km up to the top, and the first 6 km or so is agriculture, but keep on going. It changes to good scrubby habitat, then higher up the trees get taller.

The road reaches about 3,400′ at the top, and the forest is great, tall and dark. You can stay at the ejido in Ruiz Cortines, past the ecological preserve, but it’s very basic. It will be interesting to see how the area compares to my last trip, when the cordia was blooming all along the road in the scrub. Today we had rain, and the higher we went the harder the rain got, so we turned around and headed on to the hotel. The weather forcast says 2 more days of 100% chance of rain, so it may be a couple of days of working on the computer on photos. Vamos a ver.

Day 26 - bands of rain heavy at times came through all day. Sometimes in between the sun came out. Kim D & Mike walked into town, then came back and rousted Kim G & Bill from the computer. They had found lots of butterflies in the weedy roadside edge next to the hotel dump. We had Long-tailed Metalmark/Sword-tailed Beautymark/Rhetus arcius and Bumblebee Metalmark/Square-spotted Yellowmark/Baeotis zonata posing very obligingly for photos, as well as lots of hairstreaks.

There was a very fresh Ruddy Daggerwing/Marpesia petreus that was cooperative, even on Bill’s finger, then shortly afterwards was nailed by an assassin bug. Life is short. I suspect the rain all morning made them more interested in feeding than worrying about photographers. Another very enjoyable dinner outside, with spectacular rainbows over the lake. We have the resort almost entirely to ourselves, with lots of very attentive staff. I could get used to this.

Day 27 – still raining all morning, but in the afternoon the sun came out about 2pm and we worked the La Finca ditch again, next to the dump. This provides great amusement to all the folks walking, driving and riding their bikes on the road, up above us. They laugh, stop and point, ask us what are we doing? They joke with the maids, who are working on the upper levels of the hotel. A group of teenage girls walked by, calling to us, and Mike pointed his camera at them and they went wild with giggles. We saw a couple of new greenstreaks, Tropical/Cyanophrys herodotus and Goodson’s/C. goodsoni, and some Telea Hairstreak/Chlorostrymon telea, a worn one and a very fresh one. Our trip list is up to 51 species of hairstreaks. We’re seeing lots of female Large Spurwing/Deathmask Spurwing/Antigonus nearchus, but no males.

Day 28 – not as dark for breakfast, outside by the pool, but then it rained again right afterwards. We had our usual breakfast of pancakes and a plate of fresh tasty fruit, café con leche and orange juice. Here in Veracruz I love the coffee, as they make something called a lechero, which is mostly hot milk with a little coffee, in a tall glass with cinnamon and foam on top. Very fancy, and delicious. The others mostly drink café americano, which is black. No imagination. We’re planning to drive through Catemaco and around the lake, if we get some sun.

We took off about 10am, out past the old hotel I used to use, Playa Azul, and towards Sontecomapan. Continued to the UNAM Biological Station, about 12 km past Sontecomapan. We had bits and pieces of sun, some drizzle, not tons of butterflies but a number of new ones. Keel-billed Toucans were loudly in evidence, which is always fun. Mike found a fabulous tiny hairstreak, Red-flocked Ministreak/Purple-webbed Ministreak/Ministrymon phrutus, and we also got good shots of another Ministrymon, M. coronta/Great Ministreak. Noticeable larger than most other Ministreaks, hence the common name. Lots of brown skippers, both spreadwings and grass skippers. Very fresh Veined White-skippers/Heliopetes arsalte, and 2 species of Redrings/Pyrrhogyra, first of that genus for the trip.

Day 29 – Ruiz Cortines road, up to about 1,000 meters. Did not see any white morphos today, did see them in August of 2007, and others saw them in early November 2007. But we did see a number of new skippers, and higher up got some new clearwings as well. Up at the edge of the taller dark forest we found a blooming tree that the clearwings liked, as well as one of the Potamanaxas skippers, Felder’s Skipper/Starred Potam/P. unifasciata. We also had our first Clearwinged Mimic-White/Dismorphia theucharila, coming to the same tree.

Bill got a killer shot of Brilliant Anastrus/Brilliant Bluevent/Anastrus neaeris, one I had never seen in Mexico. It was still cool and overcast most of the day, around 74 degrees, so we were lucky to see as much as we did. We had to sort through a couple of zillion blues; they went up in a cloud everytime a car went by, and lots of Yojoa Scrub-Hairstreaks/Strymon yojoa. I didn’t realize they could be so variable, I keep trying to turn them into something else. Bill, Kim D and Mike almost stepped on a large, 5′+, snake that certainly looked like a viper, which showed up suddenly in a clearing they had all been stomping around in for a while, so that surprised everyone.

Bill and I had great looks at Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, which had a nest right by the road in a bank. When we got back to the hotel it was sunny and in the high 80′s, so some of us checked out the ditch. The white flowers seemed to be past their prime, and there weren’t near as many bugs, but there was a fresh Goodson’s Greenstreak/Cyanophrys goodsoni.

Day 30 – drove back out to UNAM Biological Station, in nice lowland rainforest at around 400′. Worked the road whenever we saw decent forest. Much of the road goes through cattle pasture, but there is some decent forest left, mostly around the UNAM station past Sontecompan??? Today was bright and sunny, high around 90 degrees, so it was quite different than a few days ago.

We had a number of new species, lots of Pale Daggerwings/Marpesia harmonia, 2 species of Cattleheart/Parides iphidamas and P. sesotris, and a fresh Victorine Swallowtail/ Pterourus menatius victorinus that was very friendly. For skippers we had Fridericus Skipper/Geyer’s Zera/Ouleus fridericus in several places, and our first Common Blue-Skipper/Quadrus cerialis, who was very territorial and repeatedly returned to the same leaf at the edge of the woods for many photos. Surprising it’s taken so long to see one of those. 2 species of Battus swallowtails flew by several times, the lovely dark green ones with some yellow on the hw. We even saw one in the weedy ditch next to the hotel when we got back, so they must have just hatched out. They always seem to be in the canopy and rarely come down and pose.

One of the more interesting aspects of this trip has been seeing how different species come and go so quickly in the same location. We also had a spectacularly bright purple metalmark, Menander Metalmark/Shining-blue Graylor/Menander menander, which would not let us shoot him but almost blinded us by perching above in the sunlight and dive bombing us. He was the most electric glowing purple I’ve ever seen. Our weather changed quickly. Most of the day was gorgeous, then during dinner outside at the hotel some very dark clouds built up over the lake, and afterwards we had thunder and lightning. Hopefully it will blow itself out overnight.

Day 31 – Ruiz Cortines road. A cloudy morning, in the low 80′s at the hotel, about mid 70′s up the hill. We saw several new species, most bugs really fresh. Great Emesis/Great Tanmark/Emesis mandana was there, a lovely Tanned/Lugubris Blue-Skipper/Quadrus lugubris and several green hairstreaks, probably mostly Tropical Greenstreak/Cyanophrys herodotus, but we did have at least one Mountain Greenstreak/Cyanophrys longula. We also had a number of crackers for the first time, including Brownish Cracker/Hamadryas iphthime.

We went back up to the flowering tree at the edge of the tall forest, where it started to rain in ernest, but there were still several clearwings coming to the tree, including Leila Clearwing/Ithomia leila. More thunderstorms tonight, and heavy rain came in while we ate out under the canopy. Now that the rains appear to have started, we’re getting newly hatched species daily.

We’re still missing many of the Brushfoots/Nymphalidae. Almost no Sisters, no Emperors, very few Leafwings or Owls. Many of the fruit eating Brushfoots are what seem to be missing, so they may wait and hatch out later in the rains, when there would be more rotting fruit around in the forest. Our species count for the trip so far is as follows: skippers/Hesperiidae 155, brushfoots/Nymphalidae 133, swallowtails/Papilionidae 18, whites and sulphurs/Pieridae 33, hairstreaks/Lycaenidae 62, metalmarks/Riodinidae 35.

Day 32 - left our home away from home, La Finca, and drove to Orizaba. Overcast most of the day, with rain late afternoon at the Hotel Cascadas. From the parking lot of the hotel you can see the mountain peak of Orizaba on a clear day, but not today. It is the tallest peak in Mexico, over 19,000′, and snow covered all year. This hotel is on the edge of a large canyon that has 500 steps going down into it, which people use for exercise. It’s a nice place to stay, but we can’t get internet, even in the lobby, and a large party is going on, with live music, in the salon next to the restaurant. Hopefully it won’t go too late, as this is Sunday night.

The stream down in the bottom of the canyon was running high and muddy. We didn’t have many butterflies wandering around the grounds, due to the weather. When I was here before, in August, the gardens were quite good for a number of species, including Charcoal White/Perute charops, Tiger Mimic-white/Dismorphia amphione, and several green Urbanus longtails. Today, unfortunately, we don’t see any of those. Kim D and Mike do find Quilted Metalmark/Voltinia umbra and a nice Red-studded Skipper/Noctuana stator, but most of the other bugs we see are common widespread ones, like Crimson Patch/Chlosyne janais and Gold-snouted Scallopwing/Staphylus vulgata.

Day 33 - 65 degrees when we get up and dark and overcast, so we pack up and leave after breakfast. Too bad, because this place can be really good. We run into Jeff Glassberg at breakfast, and he tells us he has seen 150 species in a day at this hotel.

We drive back to Veracruz, getting hit again with 3 high tolls on the cuota, close to 300 pesos for 120 km, then turn north to Poza Rica and the costa esmeralda. There’s a string of hotels of varying levels, from sleezy dumps to upscale spa/resorts. We get north of Nauntla and try the Best Western again, but they’re full w/a busload of tourists. It appears they get most of their business from tours. So we continue a short way north and try the Hotel de Alba, which lures us with a sign saying ‘we speak english, and internet’. Being suckers for internet hookups, we take it.

The rooms are simple but decent, good a/c, good showers, internet in the rooms, good views of the beach, wind in the coconut palms, black sand, what’s not to like? Not many butterflies, but hey, you can’t have everything. I do find a nice Great Cycadian/Eumaeus childrenae in the walkway to the beach, hanging on for dear life in the wind tunnel. He lets me pick him up on my finger and take him upstairs and show him to the others, where we all take photos. This section of the drive is pretty boring and long. It takes a good 16 hours from Texas to Veracruz, and the slowest part is from Tampico south, along the coast. Tomorrow we’ll head for Taninul, between Tampico and Ciudad Valles.

Day 34 - a long driving day, for us, up the coast to Tampico and inland on hwy 70 to Hotel Taninul, 15 km east of Ciudad Valles. Lots of rough road, topes, slow trucks, and we got stopped twice by military checkpoints. They must not be used to eco tourists on this stretch of road, or maybe because we were coming from the port city of Tampico, but they seemed quite confused as to why we were there and what we were doing, so they took their time and opened all the compartments of the truck, rooted through all our luggage, asked lots of questions. It only took about 15 minutes or so, each time, but it did take time. The main things they’re looking for are guns or drugs, and we’re not carrying either of those, so we weren’t worried, but it’s still a hassle.

The checkpoints in SLP and Tamaulipas appear to be used to carloads of gringos looked for birds and/or butterflies and usually wave us through, but these guys didn’t seem to have run into this before. We brought out my Butterflies of NE Mexico and showed it to them, explained that Bill was a ‘maestro de biologia’ and that seemed to help. They liked the photos in my book, and I made sure to open the book to the pages in the front where there is the welcome in spanish from the tourismo director of Nuevo Leon.

Anyway, we finally made it to the hotel, where the entrance road is about 2 km long and can be very good to work. The bahinia mexicana was in full bloom and bringing in every Pierid from miles around. It was about 4pm and darkening rapidly for an afternoon thunderstorm, but the butterflies seemed frantic to feed on the flowers. So we ran around until about 6pm, when the skies finally opened up and we had to dash back into the truck.

Day 35 - spent all day walking up and down the 2 km entrance road to the hotel. Added a number of whites and yellows that we hadn’t seen so far, including Statira/Aphrissa statira and Lyside/Kircogonia lyside. Both angled-sulphurs were abundant, which was interesting as we hadn’t seen them in quite a while. The Yellow Angled-sulphurs/Anteos maerula were spectacularly fresh, a beautiful bright lime green below, as pretty as I’ve ever seen them.

We were surrounded by swirling yellow and white butterflies all day, plus several species of swallowtails and some new skippers. Mike and Kim had a nice Vacerra, we had a couple of Mercurial Skippers/Proteides mercurius, at least 2 different Silverdrops/Epargyreus and nice photos of White-edged Longtail/Urbanus albimargo. There’s been lots of rain here, lots of standing water along both sides of the road in the fields, and the sulphur pools are flooding over their edges, flowing through the grounds more than ankle deep.

Day 36 - worked the Taninul road for a couple of hours this morning, then drove to Ciudad Mante and got rooms at the Hotel Mante for the next couple of nights. The number of sulphurs seemed lower this morning, maybe they drowned after the last 2 nights of heavy rains.

It was very humid and warm, 90 degrees, so we sweat like pigs, even at 9:30am. There seemed to be more flashers around, we saw Gilbert’s/Astraptes alector, male and female, Yellow-tipped/Astraptes anaphus and Two-barred/Astraptes fulgerator. I’ve seen Frosted Flasher/Astraptes alardes here, it’s where I got my photos, but that was in November. Driving up to Tamaulipas, the rains appear to have been much less, so we’ll see how it is tomorrow at La Florida.

Day 37 - went first thing to La Florida. The water was higher than I’ve seen it, almost flooding to the round walled area in the middle, and completely covering the gravel bar under a couple feet of water. We had a zillion Dingy Purplewings/Eunica monima, with lots of purple for once, and large numbers of both species of Daggerwings/Marpesia and both species of Bluewings/Myscelia. All of them extremely fresh. Not a lot of skippers or hairstreaks, but we did get our first Damo Hairstreaks/Pseudolycaena damo.

The bus stop, right across from the dirt road that goes to La Florida, a couple of miles in from the highway on the road to Gomez Farias, was wet and had hundred of butterflies mudpuddling each time we stopped by. In the middle of all the Daggerwings and Purplewings was one super fresh Hammock Skipper/Polygonus leo, again with lots of purple sheen. After lunch (peanut butter and ritz crackers and an apple) we went up to Gomez Farias and beyond the town, working the start of the cobblestone road to Alta Cima. Bill found a fresh Smeared Ruby-eye/Tromba xanthura that was most obliging. Nice to see such large numbers of such wonderfully fresh bugs.

Day 38 – went to El Encino, a little north of Gomez Farias, and took the road to the west. The main low water crossing over the river was completely flooded, about a foot over the cement dike you usually drive over on, so we couldn’t cross. But we found lots of butterflies flying at the earlier crossing, which was dry, and a few other spots we stopped at before the main crossing. Got nice shots of one of the first Pipevine Swallowtails/Battus philenor we’ve seen, and a good puddling party of Giants and Broad-banded Swallowtails/Heraclides astyalus.

There were lots of skippers flying, very different species from yesterday, even though it’s only about 10-20 miles away from Gomez. Everything continued to be very fresh. One new skipper was Yellow-rimmed Scarlet-eye/Ocyba calathana. Several gorgeous Mercurial Skippers/Proteides mercurius, and some Polythrix longtail skippers.

Then we drove west on the Ocampo road to the new road down to El Naranjo, which is about 6 km west of Ocampo. In October this was fabulous, south about 8-12 km away from the sugar cane fields, but not now. Just the usual large numbers of sulphurs and bluewings, so it wasn’t worth our time to do it. Coming back we had to wait for some road work, where they were replacing a large bridge. We were told it was going to be an hour wait or so, then the flagman suggested we ‘might’ be able to do the closed diversion, where it was very muddy. He warned me to watch out for the charcos, only I didn’t know what they were. He told me the water was about a foot deep, so we didn’t dare stop once we were committed. Mike did a good job of driving us through, even though we slipped and slid quite a bit and I thought we were stuck a couple of times. We found out later charcos are puddles, well these were more than a few puddles. But we made it through, so that was our big excitement for the day.

Day 39 – drive to Victoria and head straight to Novillo Canyon, where you drive in through the gravel quarry on the southwest side of town. We find a huge congregation of swallowtails and sulphurs on the back side of the gravel piles, and because the trucks aren’t running on Sunday the butterflies are everywhere. This turns out to be our best place, because there is a steady stream of cars going up the canyon for a family day by the water. Lots of Ornythions and Broad-banded, plus finally our first Ruby-spotted Swallowtails/Heraclides anchisiades. It’s nice having so many of the first 2 to compare side by side. Also good looks at fresh male Pavon Emperors/Doxocopa pavon and finally Band-celled Sister/Adelpha fessonia.

After lunch we head further up the mountain, going back to the paved road and turning right, taking the old road to San Luis Potosi. It’s beautiful country, very green from the recent rains, and almost no roads into it except for the twisty highway. Gorgeous views. Several stops later we get close to the top, Altas Cumbres about 4,000′ at km 155, and stumble onto Superb Cycadian/Eumaeus childrenae caterpillars on cycads. We had been seeing them flying frequently, but hadn’t thought about finding larvae. So of course we all had to photograph them. Mike & Kim found larvae of several different instars and some empty pupa cases. Beautiful red and white larvae.

The hotel we stayed at is on the south side of town, on hwy 85. It was about 700 pesos in March, but had raised the price to the posted 971, which now includes 2 buffet breakfasts at 70 pesos each. We also had the great timing to share the hotel w/an enormous busload of ‘special needs’ kids, like some sort of special olympics, who are running wild in the hotel. Don’t think I’ll come back here again, time to go back to the Paradise Inn.

Day 40 – Los Troncones first thing in the morning. It was quite slow at the early part of the road, before the gate where you have to pay. The local ejidos have fixed it up inside and now charge 10 pesos/person to enter. My experience had been that the butterflies were better before the gate, as it wasn’t as chopped. But that wasn’t true this time. We were about ready to leave, as we weren’t seeing much. Kim D had found a pupa of Zebra Longwing/Heliconius charithonia, and there were several Zebras hanging around, probably males waiting for the female to hatch. Two of them landed on the pupa and spread their wings, preventing others from landing. It would have been fun to watch and see when she came out. Then someone drove down the road and stopped to talk to us. He turned out to be the manager of the park at the end of the road, and when we told him we were looking for butterflies, he invited us to go in for free. Told us to go to the bridge, where there were lots of butterflies. This used to be a great place when it was a drive through the stream crossing, then they built a cement bridge and moved all the gravel around.

The last few times I had been there we saw nothing, but today was another story. When we got there, maybe a mile or so from the entrance, the gravel bars were covered with hundreds of swallowtails, leafwings and skippers. We went wild, it was fabulous. We spend several hours just there, photographing like crazy. We saw our only Guava Skipper/Phocides polybius, several Polythrix skippers, and a couple of new swallowtails, Palamedes and Torquatus. It was interesting as we didn’t see any Daggerwings, while we had had tons of them back in La Florida around Gomez, just 2 hours away. We finally had to drag ourselves away and drive the 4-5 hours back to Texas, where we turned in the car permit and our visas at the border and made it back for a nice dinner at the Republic of the Rio Grande in McAllen. All in all, a good trip, lots of great photos and good food. We saw a huge variation in habitat, from wet lowland tropical rain forest to dry desert scrub and west coast decidious forest to high elevation cloud forest. One of the amazing things about Mexico is how quickly the habitat changes in a short distance at times.

Final counts:
Skippers/Hesperiidae – 182
Swallowtails/Papilionidae – 25
Whites & Sulphurs/Pieridae – 36
Brushfoots/Nymphalidae - 146
Hairstreaks & Blues/Lycaenidae – 64
Metalmarks/Riodinidae – 37
Total = 490 species, plus a few that may be identified later

Peru, Oct-Nov 2007

Trip Report Peru Oct 18 to Nov 29, 2007

Participants: Dan and Kay Wade, Hank and Priscilla Brodkin, Fred Heath, Willie Sekula, Richard Lindstrom and Shirley S. and Kim Garwood

Author: Kim Garwood

9 of us started for 2 weeks at Tambopata Research Center, and their 2 intermediate lodges, then 3 of us joined the ATL group in Cusco and drove to the Cock of the Rock lodge for a week w/Gerardo Lamas, then some of us continued on to Amazonia Lodge for 4 days, across from Atalaya at the end of the road, then on to Pantiacolla Lodge down river by boat for 6 days.

Then we retraced our steps back to Atalaya by boat, on the bus and back to Cock of the Rock for a night, back to Cusco for a night and flew back to Lima the next morning.

After spending a few days in Lima, the final 6 drove to Pampa Hermosa for 6 days, 2 hours from San Ramon, which was 6-8 hours from Lima over a 4,800 meter pass. So we had 2 cloud forest lodges, which were Cock of the Rock and Pampa Hermosa, at 1,400 and 1,200 meters respectively, and 3 lowland areas; TRC, Amazonia and Pantiacolla.

We tried to time the trip for early in the rainy season, so we had some wet but not too much. The serious rains start in December. For more detailed travel info see below.

Oct 18 - flew to Lima, arrive 1am on the 19th, spent 2 nights at Posada de la Parque in Lima.

A very nice simple hostal on a cul-de-sac, so it was very quiet which is a treat in any big city. It was $30 for a single, $36 for a double.

I would use this little place again, only about 30 minutes from the airport and probably 20+ blocks north of Miraflores. This is nice to have, as the airport at Lima is usually an hour from Miraflores, which is where most of the tourist hotels are. Miraflores is very nice, lots of restaurants and shops, but can be a long drive after a long international flight. A new Ramada has just opened at the airport, $145/night I’ve been told, but this may be a good option when you fly in at midnight, or later, and have to catch an early am flight to Cusco.

In the past I’ve used the Manhattan Hotel, which is about 5 minutes from the airport in a rough part of town. The rooms are acceptable, cost about $60-70, a decent place to crash for 4-5 hours between flights. Better than wasting 2 hours of sleep time back and forth to Miraflores. But if you’re spending more time you wouldn’t want to stay there.

Oct 20 -Early in the morning of 5 of us meet the 4 others of our group at the Lima airport for our flight to Puerto Maldonado, via Cusco. This included Dan and Kay Wade, Hank and Priscilla Brodkin, Fred Heath, Willie Sekula, Richard Lindstrom and Shirley S. and Kim Garwood, all friends and photographers. Our guides from Rainforest Expeditions, Gerson Medina and Rudolfo Pesha, met us at the airport and were with us the entire 2 weeks. They’re great bird guides, had recordings of the calls and were very knowledgeable, spoke good English, and are enthusiastic local Peruvians who have gotten good jobs through ecotourism.

We had asked for bird guides, even though we were concentrating on butterflies, because we are mostly birders as well and it’s nice to have guides who know the habitat. Rainforest Expeditions arranged the trip to TRC (Tambopata Research Center) and the stops at their other 2 lodges,

TRC, originally set up as a research center for the macaw lick, is simple and rustic, shared bathrooms down the hall, open rooms w/open ceilings, one step up from a dormitory, but great food and great habitat. It’s about 8 hours up river by boat from Puerto Maldonado, after a 45 minute bus ride, so you can’t get there the same day you fly in or out. So they have 2 intermediate lodges, Posada Amazona and Refugio Amazona. These other 2 lodges are a little less rustic, but follow the same style w/open ceilings and one wall completely open to the outside, only you have your own bathroom in your room at these other 2 lodges.

We slept under mosquito nets at all 3 lodges. We stayed at Refugio on the way up for 3 nights and Posada on the way back for 3 nights. The habitats are different at each one, so you see different species at each. TRC is the most primary forest, tall trees and dark and wet, while Posada is drier and more secondary growth.

Our 2 weeks cost about $1,600 each, not including airfare. The cost is higher for a smaller group. The internal flights on LanPeru were about $150 each leg, and those of us who stopped off at Cusco on the way back had to pay $450 for 3 legs, instead of $300 for a round trip Puerto Maldonado to Lima.

Nov 2 – Three of us, the Wades and Kim, flew from Puerto Maldonado and got off at Cusco, while 4 others continued onto Lima. The Brodkins stayed in Puerto Maldonado and the next day went up river to Manu Lodge, a 15 hours jaunt by car and boat, then took a boat and later met us at Amazonia Lodge. They don’t recommend this route, but they did see some good butterflies, even though Manu Lodge sounds like it’s seen better days. Plus they had boatloads of mosquitoes, which was very unusual as we didn’t have much mosquito problem at any other place.

In Cusco the 3 of us met up w/John Heppner and the ATL group, spent the night and left the next morning for Cock of the Rock in our bus. Others were flying into Cusco later that morning and came in a separate van. It’s about an 8 hour drive over 2 high dry passes, then down the east slope to Cock of the Rock, about 1,400 meters.

It’s an amazing drive, as the habitat changes dramatically as soon as you crest the last pass and start down the east, or wet, slope. First you have short elfin forest, then the trees get taller and the bromeliads get heavier. It’s too bad there isn’t a place to stay about 2,300 – 2,500 meters, as the fauna is quite different at this elevation as it is at Cock of the Rock. It’s about another 1.5 to 2 hours to the lodge, which makes for a long commute.

I’ve camped up at the higher elevation, but this isn’t a lot of fun as it’s usually damp and cool, but wonderful birds, and very special butterflies when the sun comes out.

We spent 7 nights at Cock of the Rock, ( working both up and down slope. Some of us were at the new lodge right around the corner, Manu Paradise (

More of the moth collectors were at Paradise, as they have electricity in their rooms. I was at Cock of the Rock, which uses candles everywhere, but they have a charging station in the dining room for batteries.

We were a large group, and you basically just work the road, as there are very few trails, but our bus driver was very obliging and frequently took some of us down the road 10 – 20 km so we could spread out. The lodge even brought down our hot chicken lunches by motorbike and delivered them to us individually, talk about service! I’ve been down this road a number of times, and each time it’s fabulous.

I would love to spend a week here every month for a year, to see how the species change. We were a mixed group of collectors and photographers, which caused a few conflicts, but most of the people were very cooperative and worked out fine together. I enjoy being w/the collectors, as several of them generously let me go through their catch each night and photograph what I want. We learn from each other. Plus on the road the collectors tend to move much faster and want to get ahead, so I hang back, go slowly, see plenty of bugs after they’ve swept through, and get the advantage of all the accumulated pee spots as the morning goes on. One of the best baits we found was urine, so we always tried to pee on the road, not off in the bushes. And poop can be even better. Dan Wade calls it serious bait. I would find 30+ butterflies on a pile of poop. It may not be esthetically pleasing but it sure works. Some people were even saving their urine in a bottle so they would always have some to sprinkle around. Not a bad idea.

Nov 10-13 – After the 7 days, some people went back to Lima, but most of us continued on to Amazonia Lodge. http:/

This is another 3-4 hours down the road, where it ends at Atalaya. Then you get a boat, or 2 in our case, across the river, and walk about 10 – 15 minutes through the jungle to the lodge. They transport your luggage. This is an old tea and citrus plantation about 500 meters, which has been used by bird tours for years. It’s mostly second growth, but they have a hill that goes up to about 900 meters which is more untouched forest. Very different species between the 2 habitats. The collectors were catching Agrias up on the hill, so that was the holy grail.

Our weather was cool and rainy, I even wore my fleece jacket several times, which is unheard of for the lowlands at this time of the year. It seemed very late for a friaje from the south. I think this negatively impacted our species counts, as it seemed very slow at times. I was last at Amazonia 3 years ago, in Sept 2004, and I had expected it to be even better now, in November, as we would be further into the rainy season. But I was wrong, we saw many more butterflies, both # of species and # of individuals, 3 years ago. Who knows why?

Nov 14-18 – Then 9 of us went on down river by boat to Pantiacolla, while 3 stayed at Amazonia.

This was a little lower, about 400 meters, had wonderful trails, very well marked. Some of us hiked many miles, putting out traps and really covering the possibilities. They had a large bamboo patch as well, w/many of the speciality bamboo birds, and probably butterflies. It’s always hard to catch or find things in bamboo, however. They have to want to be seen, or photographed.

They had cabins, 2 rooms connected w/a shared porch, so we had 1 cabin of collectors and 1 of photographers. I scored, as the odd woman out, and got my own single in a group of 3 rooms, but I had my own bathroom connected out the back, which was very nice in the middle of the night in a driving rain. Plus mine had hot water, sometimes! Don’t know why the other shared bathrooms didn’t have any hot water, maybe they’re putting it in.

We liked the habitat here better than Amazonia, but we still had the cool, rainy weather. And the food was boring, plenty of it but nothing to rave about. The last day was nice and sunny, and it would be interesting to see the place when we had good weather for several days. Butterflies are so sun dependent, it’s very hard to get a feel for a place when you have uncooperative weather.

Then we took the boat back upstream for 3 hours, met up w/the others at Atalaya and drove back to Cock of the Rock for the night.

Nov 20 – The next morning we were off for our all day drive back to Cusco, It was cool and drizzly, so our group stopped several times and birded. Fabulous birding, lots of hummers, and we even got some sun as we got to the top, so we had some of the special high elevation satyrs.

The big problem with doing butterflies up high is waiting for the short periods of good weather. Plan to bring lots of good books or play cards. When the sun comes out it can be fantastic, and lots of special stuff that you won’t find lower down. Lamas told me that February can be a great time to come, right in the height of the rains, but you get 6 rainy days out of 7. There are a number of species that only fly then, but it might be a long wait.

Nov 21 – When we got back to Lima on Nov 21st, after spending another night in Cusco, most people headed home. We had to spend a night in Cusco as the last flights out of Cusco are about 2pm, and you can’t plan to make it from Cock of the Rock. 6 of us stayed one more week, and drove 2 cars to San Ramon, over a high pass north of Lima, then on to Pampa Hermosa (http:/ on a bad jeep road for 24 km, 4 wheel drive is required.

Plan to get there before dark, as our 2 car ran late and had to come in after dark. It took them twice as long, due to rocks blocking the road and steep switchbacks where you have to cut and fill to get around them. Much easier when you can see what the road’s doing. Plus you have to know to look for the Victoria bridge, a small bridge off a dirt road just out of San Ramon. This isn’t easy to find, we had to hire a motorbike cab to lead us to the bridge. He wanted to make sure we didn’t want him to lead us all the way to the lodge, as he didn’t want to do the 24 km bad road.

Once we got there this was probably the poshest lodge we stayed at, tasty food, power 24 hours due to their own hydro-electric plant, bathrooms ensuite. But very little hot water, as they use solar, so when it’s cloudy there’s no hot water.

It would be great if they would put in propane heaters. I think the newer cabins had these, but my cabin didn’t. Great porches, though. It’s about 1,200 meters, with the road going a couple of meters higher.

Along the road is good, even though it runs mostly through little farms and orchards. Below the lodge there is a short trail to the riverside, and there is a small beach. We made this an official pee spot, and it was fabulous for big skippers and firetips. We probably had 10 – 12 species of Pyrrhopyge, more than I’ve even seen at one place.

I put out spitwads and they worked very well here, the only place on this whole trip the spitwads were effective. Again, who knows why? At times a skipper would hit the spitwad as soon as I put the salt water on it, within seconds. I carry a small bottle of salt water to put on the small pieces of toilet paper, or napkins, or whatever you can find that’s white. It’s easier than using spit, plus you can refresh them during the day, or the next morning, with a few drops from your bottle. Even at pee spots I found if I put out a few pieces of small white paper, to simulate bird droppings, the skippers would hit the white paper, then move off the paper to the urine soaked sand or rocks. W/out the spitwads the skippers seemed to buzz by more, w/them it made them stop and check it out.

It was interesting that we had most of the skippers on the beach, buzzing up and down the river, but very few up on the road, even at pee spots. Up on the road we had morphos, nymphalids, some riodinids, but not near as many skippers. It was also interesting that at the river beach pee spot the big skippers came in early in the morning, about 8:30am, while the spot was still in shade.

As the sun got higher and came to hit the pee spot, the skippers moved to stay in the shade, while the nymphalids started showing up in the sun. The pierids showed up last, in the full sun.

Across the river is a steep hill of good looking forest. There is a trail that crosses the small river, 2 planks, then continues for miles up into the hills. I spent a morning just a few hundred meters up this trail in a small clearing and had lots of goodies. They told us you can hike for 3-4 hours, climb 600 meters, and get to big cedar trees which would be very different habitat. Of course, that means an all day hike for me, so that’s not going to happen.

We only went a short distance on this trail, but it looked very interesting.

Than after 5 nights we drove back to Lima and flew out for home the next night. Most of the flights to the US leave around midnight. We stayed in Lima at the Hostal El Patio, in Miraflores.

This was a pretty little place, but they were a bit unorganized for our first stay. $30 – 40, an old hacienda looking building, a decent restaurant right across the street, Las Tejas, which we used several times because it was so convenient. $10 for a one hour cab to the airport, $20 for a van, and the hotel will arrange it. Close to internet, shops and parks.

All in all a very interesting trip, lots of good places, a nice variety of habitats. Now all I need is lots more years and lots more time to check them out at different times of the year. Next trip I may aim for May, at the end of the rainy season, see how it’s different.