Friday, December 23, 2022

Colombia’s Avian Rainbow

Greetings Everyone,
After a wildly successful “Mission Monkey” in Colombia, we have switched gears to look for some of the country’s colorful birds. On December 23 we flew from Medellin to Cali where we were met for our transfer to Araucana Lodge. When we visited Colombia in 2016 with Chris Calonje of "Columbia Birdwatch", Araucana Lodge was a dream in the making. Now, 6 years later it was reality and we arrived in time for happy hour with a Vermont friend, Liz.

Happy Hour at Araucana Lodge

Early the next morning, Marc, Liz, and I left to explore the Upper Anchicayá region with our guide Gilberto. We used Chris’ old Toyota 4x4 and drove down the highway until Km 30 and turned off onto a side road. It was raining and our chances of seeing the Rufous-crested Tanager were slim. We made a few stops along the way to look and listen for the birds but they weren’t around. We did see a Bat Falcon, Andean Motmot, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Rufous-throated Tanager, Purplish-mantled Tanager, and Cinnamon Flycatcher.

Purplish-mantled Tanager

We arrived at Doña Dora, our primary destination for the day, to bird at their feeders. When Dora Londoño first moved here, she set up a little cafe for passing truck drivers on their way to the Pacific port city of Buenaventura. A large fig tree in her garden attracted many birds and over time Doña Dora became a popular spot for local birders. Dora added hummingbird feeders and put out fruit to attract a colorful array of tanagers and barbets. Today, Doña Dora is a birding hotspot for domestic and foreign visitors alike.

Breakfast at Doña Dora

After settling in at a table overlooking feeders stocked with bananas and papaya we noticed immediately the family of Toucan Barbets nesting in the cavity of a nearby tree. This Chocó endemic is only found in Western Ecuador and Colombia and being a canopy species it normally is difficult to see. Here, they frequently visited the feeders a short distance away giving us unparalleled viewing and photographic opportunities.

Male Toucan Barbet

In addition, many brightly colored tanagers visit the feeders. Among them were Silver-throated Tanager, Flame-rumped Tanager, and Black-chinned Tanager. We were entertained by the hummingbirds visiting the tiny feeders set on the table while eating breakfast. One even perched on Marc’s coffee cup!

Green-crowned Brilliant at the Table

We spent most of the morning here visiting the hummingbird feeders and upper balcony. We logged over 40 species of birds! The diversity of hummingbirds was truly amazing with 14 species seen including White-necked Jacobin, Green Emerald, White-whiskered Hermit, Brown Violetear, Green Thorntail, Violet-tailed Sylph, and Velvet-purple Coronet.

Green Thorntail

We put out some rice for the rats that Liz had seen on a previous visit. They finally braved the rain and came out to feed. They were later identified as Dusky Rice Rats by Venkat Sankar.

Dusky Rice Rat

The rain let up so we walked up the road about a km where we were able to see Ornate Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Chlorospingus, Glistening-green Tanager, and Rufous-throated Tanager.

Glistening-green Tanager

After lunch, we drove back to the lodge. Being Christmas Eve the traffic was heavy, particularly around Km 30 where we encountered a devil, a drag queen, and an ape-like creature collecting money. The devil was quite persistent but we didn’t give him a donation.

The Devil

The staff at Araucana Lodge had prepared a Christmas Eve feast complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and mushroom gravy for us! We were joined by Chris, his wife Vivian, her sister, and a few other lodge guests for a family-style celebration. 

Christmas Eve at Araucana Lodge

Christmas Day in Colombia with our friend Liz had finally come to fruition after months of planning! We spent a peaceful day birding at the lodge feeders in the morning then were joined by Gilberto for more birding around the lodge grounds. The trail went through a bamboo forest where we got a glimpse of a Parker’s Antbird and Liz spotted 2 Tropical Screech Owls roosting high in the bamboo. We popped out by Chris’ father’s house where we had birded 6 years ago. We got a decent look at a Bar-crested Antshrike which is the bird on the Araucana Lodge’s logo.

Bar-crested Antshrike

The next day’s bird outings included San Felipe, a private hacienda purchased by the Calle family in 1989, that now is being preserved as a nature reserve that caters to birders. The first stop was a blind overlooking some feeders not far from the main house. Here we saw Chestnut Wood-quail endemic to Colombia and a secretive species not easily seen.

Chestnut Wood-quail

We then headed down into the forest to a hide that had been set up to view Little Tinamou. We’ve heard the iconic wailing of these birds often but like many forest-dwelling birds, they are shy and rarely come out in the open. We waited in the hide while the local guide put out food to attract the birds. Sure enough one Little Tinamou showed up and then a second. The female has more of a chestnut color and surprisingly was the vocal one calling to another male in the forest. Not only was it amazing to see these birds but to hear the female calling was really special.

Little Tinamou Pair

We went to a third hide built behind a weather trough. It gave the unique perspective of photographing birds with reflections. Many brightly-colored tanagers showed up including Saffron-crowned, Golden, Palm, Flame-rumped, Scrub, Black-capped, Golden-naped, Blue-necked, and Summer Tanager. We had a veritable “avian rainbow” unfolded before us!

Golden-naped Tanager

We returned to the main blind where more vibrant birds were visiting now that it was a bit warmer. New species included Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, Colombian Chachalaca, Sickle-winged Guan, and Green Jay.

Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush

After lunch at Araucana Lodge, we returned to Km 18 and drove to a finca at the end of the road called La Florida. The owner Javier and his wife have a small hotel, gardens, a gift shop, and feeders to cater to birders. The weather wasn’t great with clouds and intermittent showers but Javier’s wife served us a much-needed cup of locally-grown coffee.  There were still birds visiting the feeders. Many were species that we had seen but there were a few new species including Long-tailed Sylph, Greenish Puffleg, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, and finally a highly sought-after Multicolored Tanager.

Multicolored Tanager

We went to another hide nearby to see the Scaled Antpitta. Here, a tape was played to call the birds to come and feed on worms put out. A crafty Andean Motmot had learned the call and came to feast on the worms but Javier scared it away.

Andean Motmot

The man on the tape pioneered conditioning Antpittas to come to a feeding station. Although somewhat comical, the method works. 

Calling Scaled Antpittas

We got great views and photos of these birds that would otherwise be nearly impossible. The bird got its fill of worms and left. A second or maybe the same one returned a few minutes later so we got a second show.

Scaled Antpitta

We spent a relaxing morning at Araucana Lodge, a fitting end to our 3 and a half week return visit to Colombia. In the 1950s, Chris’ grandparents purchased 30 acres in the Western Andes of Colombia and built a small finca which they named La Araucana. The finca was a place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and reconnect with nature. Following in the spirit of their grandparents, the Calonje family built Araucana Lodge to share this special place with others. We thank them for their warm hospitality!

We hope all is well with everyone.
Peggy and Marc

Our route map:

Monday, December 19, 2022

Mission Monkey - Leg 3

Greetings Everyone, 
The last leg of Mission Monkey with Rob Smith of "Wild About Colombia" is underway! We have seen 17 species of primates so far, can we reach 20 species? On December 19, we left Bogota at 4:30 in the morning to avoid rush-hour traffic for the 6-hour drive to the Rio Claro Nature Reserve. We stopped near Rio Claro to look for Silvery-brown Tamarins along a dirt track. Unfortunately, the road led to a quarry where giant dump trucks full of rocks went rumbling past. It was hard to imagine finding tamarins here and as I feared we did not. We arrived at the Canon del Rio Claro Nature Reserve and had lunch before checking into our cabin. That afternoon we met Rob and Arturo, our new local guide to look for tamarins along the reserve road. We walked to one end and then the other finding our first Red-tailed Squirrels but frustratingly no tamarins. 

Red-tailed Squirrel

As dusk approached we decided to walk to a cave where Oilbirds are known to roost. On the path were many local tourists. They come here to raft the Rio Claro, explore nearby caves, or swim in the river. Once we passed the dormitory-style accommodations, the trail was quiet and pleasant. Just before sunset, we reached the cave which was on the other side of the river. A waterfall was cascading from the entrance but we could hear the birds squawking inside. As it got dark they trickled out, then more and more, maybe 100, flew out! It was challenging to get a good view as we didn’t want to shine our lights on them. Marc managed to get a decent photo of some Oilbirds as they flew out of the cave.


They are strange birds, the only member of the order Steatornithiformes. Their behavior was more bat-like in that they are nocturnal and one of the few birds to use echolocation to navigate. We could hear their clicks as they flew around the mouth of the cave. Unlike their closest relatives, nightjars, they eat fruit and not insects. So, why are they called Oilbirds? The answer is not very pleasant. In the past chicks were captured and boiled down to make oil. Thankfully this practice no longer occurs.

We left the cave and spotlighted back to the lodge. Rob picked up a rat in the beam of his spotlight, most likely in the genus of South American spiny rats, Proechimys.

South American Spiny Rat

There were some other creepy crawlers like spiders and this Dusky-handed Tailless Whip Scorpion.

Dusky-handed Tailless Whip Scorpion

After dinner, we continued to spotlight down the road where Rob found this cute mouse opossum at the base of a tree. It was later identified by small mammal enthusiast Venkat Sankar as Marmosops chucha. It’s a newly described species and doesn’t have a common name.

Marmosops chucha

Early the next morning we walked the reserve road in search of the tamarins but they were nowhere to be found. We returned to the “quarry road” where Rob was certain we’d find them but I had my doubts with all the dump trucks rumbling past. Rob’s persistence paid off and he found them not long after we had set off! The Silvery-brown Tamarins are another Colombian endemic, found here and nowhere else on the planet! They are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. The Magdalena River Valley is Colombia’s most threatened habitat. Most of the forest has been cleared for human habitation, cattle ranching, coca plantations, and mining. There’s no shortage of cement factories. Despite all this disturbance here was a troop of beautiful Silvery-brown Tamarins giving us the rare privilege of visiting them!

Silvery-brown Tamarin

After breakfast, we left for our next destination, El Paujil Reserve. We reached the town of Dos y Medio where we stopped for the customary ice cream before turning off on a dirt track. Along the way, we were treated to many river turtles basking in the sun including the critically endangered Magdalena River Turtle.

Magdalena River Turtles

In the early afternoon, we reached the gate to El Paujil Reserve. Vehicles can no longer make it down to the lodge as the road had been partially washed away during a recent flood. Fortunately, we were met by rangers Elkin and Andrés who shuttled our duffels to the lodge on their motorcycles. We put on our wellies for the steep, slippery descent.

El Paujil Reserve

When we arrived at the lodge, a male Blue-billed Curassow was perched on one of the dining area tables! The reserve was purchased by ProAves, a Colombian NGO to protect these critically endangered and endemic birds. In fact, “El Paujil” is the local name for these mysterious birds, little was known about them prior to 2003.

Blue-billed Curassow 

That afternoon we made the 500-foot climb back up to the ridge to search for our next two primate targets: the Brown Spider Monkey and the Varied White-fronted Capuchin. Rob, Marc, and I headed southwest along the main track and Arturo headed north. About 20 minutes later, Andrés and Arturo pull up excitedly on a motorcycle. They had found a large troop of Varied Capuchins! Rob said we should continue north to look for the spider monkeys as they are harder to find. I deferred somewhat hesitantly to his judgment. The afternoon wore on and we had yet to find a primate. Had we made the wrong decision? We turned a corner and came to a spot with an open view of the forest below. Suddenly, Rob shouts “spider monkeys!”. There were two in a tall ceiba tree about 300-400 meters away. It was far but they were in the open giving us a great view of these critically endangered monkeys. Are you sensing a theme here? Yes, many birds and animals in the Magdalena Valley are critically endangered with extinction and we were overjoyed to see them and help in their conservation efforts. Rob was thrilled to have found these monkeys so quickly. I was too! We watched them until they dropped down out of view.

Brown Spider Monkey

On the way back, we ran into the Varied Capuchins so we got both targets our first afternoon. The Varied Capuchin is also endemic to Colombia and is endangered. 

Varied Capuchin

We made a quick visit to an observation tower overlooking this precious 8000-acre reserve protecting some of the last remaining lowland forest in the Magdalena Valley and its rare inhabitants.

View from the Tower

After dinner, we set off on a night walk. We stopped at the observation tower to see if there were any mouse opossums at the hummingbird feeders but there were none. Rob did spot a nice Brown-eared Woolly Opossum for us.

Brown-eared Woolly Opossum

We explored the Cano Trail but it was very muddy and very quiet other than frogs. We returned to our cabin for some rest after a very exhilarating day!

Now that the pressure of finding our two main primate targets was off, we could spend a relaxing day in the reserve. It didn’t mean we’d stop our search for monkeys and other mammals but we could do it at a more relaxed pace. We climbed to the ridge and walked to the “spider monkey viewpoint”. All was quiet at this hour but we decided to wait to see if the monkeys would show. Sure enough, as the sun warmed the forest one made an appearance then another. They actually came closer to the road and joined other members of their group! We followed them getting great views and photos. Marc was able to capture an agile individual in mid-leap!

Leaping Brown Spider Monkey

Further down the road, we encountered the Varied Capuchins. What a treat to spend quality time with these two species of rare and endangered monkeys!

Varied Capuchin

The show wasn’t over yet. Rob took us to a tree where Gray-handed Night Monkeys were roosting, another new species for us. These vulnerable and nocturnal monkeys peered groggy-eyed from their nest cavity so we didn’t linger long. 

Gray-handed Night Monkeys

Our final morning at El Paujil was spent in the dining area watching both male and female Blue-billed Curassows. It’s amazing to have these critically endangered birds calmly walking about with no fear of humans now that they’re not being hunted. Central American Agoutis and Gray-cowled Wood-rails were also feeding on seed that Andrés had put out.

Central American Agouti

We showed Monica, Elkin, and their children Marc’s amazing photo of the leaping Brown Spider Monkey. It was rewarding to share our photos with this family who work so hard to keep this reserve going. The flood that occurred in June caused a lot of damage to the buildings and infrastructure of the reserve. In just 5 months, Elkin and Andrés were able to make the repairs so that guests can once again visit El Paujil. 

Reviewing Photos

We made the final climb to our vehicle and drove back to Dos y Medio where we dropped Arturo off. We continued on to Los Colores where we spent our final night with Rob. Mission Monkey was a huge success! We were able to see 21 species of primates, many endemic and endangered, in their natural habitat. Along the way, we met many Colombians working to protect the forest home of these monkeys and other endangered animals and birds. It was a privilege to be among the first foreign visitors to some of the fincas and reserves dedicated to conservation and ecotourism. A big thanks go to Rob Smith and Claudia Díaz of "Wild About Colombia" for making this trip possible and working out all the logistics. We wish them continued success with sharing Colombia’s rare and endemic primates with others! There’s still so much to see in this biodiverse country, we’ll be back!
We hope all is well with everyone,
Peggy and Marc

Our route map:

Colombia Mammal List: December 5 to 26,  2022

SpeciesScientific Name Comments
   1Colombian Squirrel Monkey
Saimir i cassiquiarensis albigena 

ssp. of Humbolt’s Squirrel Monkey
   2Ornate Titi MonkeyPlecturocebus ornatusendemic & vulnerable
   3Brumback’s Night MonkeyAotus brumbacki endemic & vulnerable
   4Colombian Woolly MonkeyLagothrix lagotricha lugens endemic & critically endangered 
   5White-bellied Spider MonkeyAteles belzebuth endangered 
   6Linne’s Two-toed SlothCholoepus didactylus 
   7Common Woolly MonkeyLagothrix lagothricha lagothricha vulnerable 
   8Black-capped Capuchin Sapajua apella Tufted Capuchin 
   9Colombian Red HowlerAlouatta seniculus   
 10Collared Titi MonkeyCheracebus lugens Black Titi
 11O’Connell’s Spiny RatProechimys oconnelli 
 12Lowland TapirTapirus terrestris  
 13Southern Opossum Didelphis marsupialis 
 14Black-headed Uacari Cacajao melanocephalus Golden-backed Uacari 
 15Black AgoutiDasyprocta fuliginosa 
 16Mottled-face TamarinSaguinus inustus “El Diablito”
 17Lesser Dog-like BatPeropteryx macrotis  
 18Common Vampire BatDesmodus rotundus
 19Lesser Spear-nosed BatPhyllostomus elongatus  
 20Seba’s Short-tailed BatCarollia perspicillata most likely
 21Southern Tamandua Tamandua tetradactyla 
 22Orinoco River DolphinInia geoffrensis humboldtiana Boto
 23Ecuadorian Squirrel MonkeySaimiri cassiquiarensis macrodon ssp. of Humbolt’s Squirrel Monkey 
 24Black Mantle TamarinLeontocebus nigricollis  
 25Red Titi Monkey Plecturocebus discolor White-tailed Titi
 26Miller’s SakiPithecia milleri vulnerable  
 27Colombian Black-handed TitiCheracebus medemi endemic & vulnerable 
 28South American CoatiCoati nasua only guides saw 
 29Greater Sac-winged BatSaccopteryx bilineata   
 30Lesson’s Saddle-back TamarinLeontocebus fuscus 
 31 Western Pygmy MarmosetCebuella pygmaea vulnerable   
 32Caqueta Titi MonkeyPlecturocebus caquetenis  endemic & critically endangered 
 33Red-tailed SquirrelSciurus granatensis 
 34Silvery-brown TamarinSaguinus leucopusendemic & vulnerable  
 35 Brown Spider MonkeyAteles hybriduscritically endangered  
 36Spiny RatProechimys sp.? 
 37Mouse Opossum Marmosops chuchanewly described 
 38Varied White-fronted CapuchinCebus versicolorendemic & endangered
 39Gray-handed Night MonkeyAotus griseimembra Vulnerable 
 40Central American AgoutiDasyprocta punctata 
 41Brown-eared Woolly Opossum Caluromys lanatus 
 42Dusky Rice RatMelanoyps caliginosus 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Mission Monkey - Leg 2

Greetings Everyone,
We’re in Colombia with Rob Smith of "Wild About Colombia" on a mission to find some of the country’s rare and endemic primates. On our first leg we found 10 species (see our previous blog post) and we expected more in this trip segment. On December 13 we flew from Bogota to Puerto Asis in the south close to the border with Ecuador. We checked into our hotel right across the street from the airport and had lunch. Later that afternoon, we were met by Diego, our local guide, for a short boat ride across the Putumayo River to a village where we hoped to see some different monkeys. 

Crossing the Putamayo River

We soon spotted our first primate in this new area, an Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkey, another subspecies of Humboldt’s Squirrel Monkey. We continued past village houses and a school to a cow pasture but didn’t encounter any more monkeys. We started to head back when Diego heard tamarins! They were Black Mantle Tamarins, new to the trip but not a lifer. 

Black Mantle Tamarin

We returned the way we had come to look for our next quarry, the Red Titi Monkey, on the other side of the village. We encountered barking village dogs and cows that blocked the path but no titis. We headed back to the area where we had seen the tamarins but now the trees were empty. Suddenly a woman from the village shouted that they had found the titis! Sure enough, not far from where we had docked the boat was a family of 4 Red or White-tailed Titi Monkeys including a mom with a very young baby. We had just walked 3.5 miles and the titis were right by our boat!

 Red or White-tailed Titi Monkeys

We left early the next morning toward the town of Mocoa and our next destination the Donde se Oculta el Sol Nature Reserve. We were greeted by the manager, Corentin who gave us a brief history of the 70-hectare reserve. The current owner acquired the property 20 years ago from the government and gave it to her to relocate from a conflict area. Twelve years ago, the owner decided to conserve the forest rather than clear it for farming and 5 years ago she started an ecotourism project. There are 8 species of primates in the reserve and we set off after breakfast to see how many we could find.

Donde se Oculta el Sol Nature Reserve

We climbed up a steep hill and into the forest. Last night’s storm had left the trail wet and slippery and there were a few downed trees to get around. Possibly due to the storm, the monkeys didn’t vocalize this morning so Corentin had no idea where they were located. We continued to climb finally reaching a more level ridge. We veered off onto a trail good for Miller’s Saki but found none. Corentin knew a tree with a Spix’s Night Monkey nest, so we climbed down to investigate. No one was home. We hiked back up toward the main trail. It had now been 2 hours without any trace of a monkey. Finally, one was spotted in the canopy, a Miller’s Saki we were told. We tried to follow it to get a better view. I managed to get a brief look to confirm it was a saki but Marc was unable to get a photo.

Searching for Miller's Saki

The monkey moved off and we continued on. Finally, we heard titis vocalizing in the distance and we headed in their direction. Their calls grew louder but stopped as we approached so we couldn’t find them. Foiled again! Corentin knew of another location for the titis and we headed there. Finally, we spotted a small family group high in the canopy. Not a great sighting but we could see their hands and they were Colombian Black-handed Titis, another endemic and a new species for us! 

Colombian Black-handed Titi

After lunch, we drove past the town of Villagarzon to Dantayaco, our accommodation for the next two nights. We met our new local guide, Edilson who took us to the nearby Puway Reserve. It had closed during the pandemic but access was still possible. We entered the forest on a path lined with slippery rocks to a rock overhang where a few Lesser Sac-winged Bats were roosting. 

Lesser Sac-winged Bat

We continued to climb on a steep, slippery ill-defined path that Rob assured us would level out. Just as it did, it began to pour! We rushed to get our pack flies and ponchos on and now had to make the slippery descent in the rain. We got down without incident and returned to the hotel for “easy monkeys”. We hung out in the dining area waiting for Pygmy Marmosets or Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkeys to show up now that we put out bananas for them. The hotel staff kept saying  “mañana, mañana”. 

Waiting for Monkeys

In the morning it was still raining so the “easy monkeys” were a no-show. Finally, the rain let up and we decided to revisit Puway Reserve. We climbed up to the top of the ridge when Rob shouted “wasps, move back!”. Marc was in the back and wasn’t sure what was going on but we ran a safe distance from the wasps. Marc thought Rob was shouting about the titi monkey that Marc had spotted low down in a nearby tree. Edilson and Rob missed it being distracted by the wasps. By the time we had moved around the wasps, the titi had moved high into the canopy and it was hard to tell if it was a Black or Yellow-handed Titi. The trail climbed down, crossed a stream, and reached the now abandoned buildings of the reserve or so we thought. We then heard dogs barking and were greeted by the caretaker. He had decided to stay on all by himself throughout the pandemic to keep an eye on the place. Surprisingly there was a friendly troop of Lesson’s Saddle-back Tamarins in the vicinity, a new species for us! 

Lesson’s Saddle-back Tamarin

After lunch, we returned to Donde se Oculta el Sol Reserve to look for monkeys along the road. Not long after we started, Rob spotted a Western Pygmy Marmoset high up in a tree, nice find! Edilson was able to relocate it or possibly a second individual and Marc got some photos for identification. This species has recently been split and we were seeing the western species.

Western Pygmy Marmoset

We managed to find some Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkeys and Lesson’s Saddle-back Tamarins but the Yellow-handed Titi Monkeys eluded us. At least we had seen them in Ecuador back in 2017.

The next morning the weather had cleared so the “easy monkeys” had no excuse for not showing up. We waited until 8:00 but gave up and went to our room to pack.  Just as we were heading out the door, Rob shouted “there are monkeys behind your room!”. A large troop of Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkeys had descended upon the hotel. We followed them to the dining area where they had found the bowl of bananas! It didn’t take them long to devour the entire lot. What’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys? A bowl-full of Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkeys!

Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkeys

We drove back through Villagazon before turning off the main highway toward Miraflor, our next destination. We bumped along a dirt track to the Caquetá River. To get to the village, we had to be ferried across the river. We sat in the back of the boat with the local passengers while cargo including 4 motorcycles with their riders was being loaded up front.

Caquetá River Ferry

On the other side of the river, we were met by Harold, the owner of the hotel we’d be staying, and Miller, the driver of an old Toyota pickup. The Tursan Hotel looked like a riverboat docked on land and maybe it was.

The Tursan Hotel

After settling in, we drove back to town for lunch. While waiting for our guide, Alexis, we watched as a wall of rain approached and engulfed the town. The rain let up so we decided to go to the community forest to look for our main primate target, the critically endangered Caquetá TitiAlexis caught up to us not long after we set off and we passed a few fincas with grazing herds of Brahma cattle but no primates were seen or heard. Finally, we spotted some Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkeys and Lesson’s Saddleback Tamarins but no titis. We arrived at Alexis’ house where we had a great view of an Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkey in the open.

 Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkey

On the return, we encountered more squirrel monkeys and tamarins but frustratingly no titis. Rob was confident we’d find them in the morning. We stopped at a street vendor to pick up fried chicken and potatoes for dinner and with a cold can of beer we had a satisfying meal.

Picking Up Dinner

When we arrived at the community forest the following morning all was quiet. Without the titis vocalizing, we’d have to find them the hard way. We searched all their known haunts with Alexis but they were nowhere to be found. We took a break for breakfast at Alexis’ house before resuming our search.

Breakfast at Finca Mirasol

We ventured off the main path into areas that had once been cleared to grow bananas but the titis weren’t home. We even ventured into Alexis’ family’s organic cacao plantation where we stopped to enjoy some fresh cacao fruit.

Fresh Cacao Fruit

After nearly 8 hours of searching, we hadn’t yet seen one monkey! We were about to give up when Alexis returned from a foray in the forest and excitedly reported he had found titis! We followed him to the spot but unfortunately, they had moved off. We searched in vain in the dense vegetation but retreated to the main path empty-handed. They did make another brief appearance and Marc was able to get a glimpse but I wasn’t so lucky. We’d make a last-ditch effort to find them in the morning.

Near Finca Mirasol

The weather had cleared in the morning and the Caquetá Titi Monkeys were much more vocal. At least we knew what general area they were in but they were too far away. We returned to the area where we had seen the titis yesterday. We could hear them calling so we entered the forest and walked to a cleared cornfield. Here we got our best views and Marc was able to get a photo of the tails of 2 of the 3 titis present. Sadly this would be our best encounter. At least we got a glimpse. With less than 100 remaining, not many people can claim to have seen a Caquetá Titi Monkey in the wild!

Caquetá Titi Monkey Tail

We returned to the hotel to pack up for the trip back to Villagazon where we’d catch a flight back to Bogota. Leg 2 of “Mission Monkey” had come to an end. Although more challenging than Leg 1, we did manage to see another 7 species of primates, 3 of which were lifers for us. Stay tuned for our final leg of "Mission Monkey."
We hope all is well with everyone,
Peggy and Marc

Our route map: