Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Birdwatching in Colombia

Birdwatching in Colombia
by Beckers, Jurgen and Pablo Florez
2014, 274 pp, ISBN: 9789090277851

BASICS: softcover; a highly informative and detailed summary giving instructions on how to find and what to see at 127 birding locations in Colombia;  85 maps show routes and landmarks to find each site; an account for each site outlines information on lodging, transportation, costs, contact information, directions, and target species; shows 164 small to medium-sized color photographs of birds and 70 more of habitats; arranged into 12 chapters that focus on a specific eco-zone in the country

REVIEW: This is a very welcome book for a bird-rich country with relatively little published for the traveling birder.  If you are thinking about a birding trip to Colombia, you will absolutely want a copy of this book to prepare for your visit and, to use while venturing around the country.  This is not a field or identification guide.  Instead, it is a location guide on where to go birding, how to get there, and what to expect in terms of both birds and accommodations.

A total of 127 specific sites are each reviewed in 1-3 pages.  This information is often very rich in detail and will be useful to help you select which sites you want to visit and how to arrange that visit in advance.  Besides providing a short list of target birds expected for the site, a fair amount of logistical information is given.  This includes recommendations about transportation to the area; key details on the costs and types of lodging; contact information such as phone numbers and addresses to arrange lodging; restaurants or local eating establishments; and, comfort levels of the facilities and grounds.

The information offered for finding birds at each site is often very detailed, especially when used with the adjoining map.  As an example for Rio Blanco: "…even better birding is to be found above the lodge.  After climbing about 150 metres, you reach the ridge 'B'.  The flat walk to the left 'D' takes you through secondary scrub with bamboo".  These directions from first-hand experience will help make a birder's searching a little bit easier and more efficient.
One nice, handy touch is the inclusion of 12 different icons that show the various amenities or conditions at the birding site.  These small icons immediately inform the reader if birding at a specific site is possible mainly along the road; or, if walking trails are available; if rubber boots are essential; the presence of cell phone reception; electricity or showers at the lodge, etc.  One other small touch is a 4-star scaling of each site.  These stars help one determine the "worthiness" of visiting a site.  This worthiness is based on the number of species or specialties to the difficulty of reaching that site.  A 4-star rating means "top site (many key species)" while a 1-star rating means "interesting site if more time available".

Each site is accompanied by 1-4 nice photographs that show both birds and the habitat of the surrounding area.  Of the 240 total photos in the book, 164 show birds (8% of the country's total), 70 show habitat, and 6 are of other animals or people.

The sites are organized into 12 distinct chapters, each representing an eco-region within Colombia.  A map printed inside the back cover shows how these regions are situated in the country.  Each chapter begins with a short summary of the associated endemic birds plus notes on other specialties found in that region.  A few other comments are made on the region's culture, its people, or on how to get to that area.
The 29-page introduction in this book is well worth reading for three reasons.  One, is a 15-page section that gives an update to the myriad of taxonomic changes for Colombia's birds.  This covers splits, lumps, name changes, and important subspecies.  This book presents the most up-to-date listing of changes in the country, other than private postings one might find with multiple internet searches.  Two, there is a simple map showing the travel times by bus between cities.  This will be very important for managing the flow of your trip.  Three, helpful information offers tips and advice on accommodations, safety, health, resources to bring with you, and general logistics. 

You will definitely be better off with this book if you go birding in Colombia, especially if you are the independent birder not part of a guided tour.  As a caveat, you should keep in mind information in this book can and will change over time; ergo, make note of what year you plan on going to Colombia versus when this book was written, which was 2013.  -- (written by Jack at Avian Review with sample pages, April 2014)

1 comment:

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