The last day
It was an early start (3am) as we hoped to do some birding on the way back to Bogata, so we left Medellin less than 12 hours after arriving. The plan was to spend the early part of the morning birding the trail along the Rio Clara, where we had seen the Beautiful Woodpecker and White-mantled Barbets a few days earlier. We made good time and arrived on site not long after sunrise. The first siting was that part of the track was covered in an ant swarm. Unfortunately, no accompanying birds could be seen or heard, so we headed up the trail as there were a couple of Antbirds to be searched for.
First up was a Russet-winged Schiffornis. Whilst we hoped for better views than we had obtained with the only previous one we had come across, this individual didn’t perform much better, though better flights views were obtained, as it dashed between tangles. Certainly enough this time to tick it.
First of the Antbirds to give themselves up was a Pacific Antwren, foraging in the canopy. This was quickly followed by Jet and then Magdalena Antbirds.
Walking back to the vehicle, a pair of Crane Hawks were spotted through the trees. Close to the minibus, a single Striped Manakin was found and this spot proved to be quite birdy. A couple of Collared Aracari’s had been calling in the distance, with occasional flyovers tantalising us. Three, however flew into so close trees and allowed prolonged good scope views.
It wasn’t long before we had to be back on the road to Bogata. Alejandro, Phil and myself were all on the right hand side of the vehicle and as we crossed the Rio Magdalena we all looked over to see if the terns were still around. They were, but the three of us noticed two largish black and white birds with a long orange beak sitting on a sandbank. My brain went: Oystercatcher!, no don’t be silly it’s.. and all three of us called Skimmer! At the same time. Not only a lifer but a new family for both Phil and myself. The views were totally unsatisfactory, but we knew what they were to they are ticked.
We picked up another couple of trip tick as we headed back to the airport. A Black-collared Hawk on a roadside post. A Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture sitting in a field and, eventually, a White-tailed Kite close to the airport.
We were dropped off at the airport well ahead of our 22:30 departure. Boarding went smoothly and we settled down for the long flight home. I was sitting next to one of the windows towards the rear of the plane and was watching the ground crew at work out side. The baggage had been loaded and everything looked ok when the baggage doors reopened and they started to remove the baggage crates. A couple of Police officers started to look into one of the crates, before sealing it with a padlock. My thoughts were that someone was trying to transport something they shouldn’t, or that someone who had checked in hadn’t boarded. A slight delay I thought. Then they started to remove crates and padlocked these as well. It was now clear to me that all the luggage was being removed. The Steward then announced the flight had been cancelled and we would get more instructions back in the terminal.
After disembarking and a lot of standing around we were eventually taken to a 5 star hotel for the night with a promise of a flight home the next day. By the time we had checked in it was close to 3am. 24 hrs we’d been up, we were tired, hungry and we probably smelled a bit and with our hold bagged locked away, we had no change of clothes or toiletries.
We eventually boarded a flight which left at 13:30 the next day. Although no official explanaition was provided, rumour was that one of the baggage tracks had hit the aircraft fuselage and, particularly in light of the very recent aircrash in Colombia, the airline was taking no chances.