Saturday 16 February 2008

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal range in the world and, although it isn't part of the Andean chain, a visit to the fringe of the sierra was a fantastic introduction to las montaƱas del Sudamerica. This view was from a crest at 2700m looking south to the main range. Pico de Christobal Colon sits in the centre at 5775m, Colombia's highest peak. It's quite a dangerous area to visit but it would be a great expedition to climb from the south into the range - many alpine lakes and unusual endemic vegetation.

Birds of Paradise
The birdlife was the highlight of my 2 days in the cloud forest of the Sierra Nevada. These photos of a pair of Quetzales dorados (Spanish) or White-tipped quetzals, were taken at 2300m in mixed pine, podocarpus & tagua forest. These birds are endemic to this area, so it was a unique moment watching these two flamboyant birds. Other birds seen in my brief visit- toucans (incl. a cute Emerald toucanet), trogons, a Crimson-crested woodpecker (or the Spanish nom de plumage - Carpinterio mariscal), 3 species of hummingbirds, incl. one endemic to Sierra Nevada, loads of parrots and partakeets squawking and, from the ridgetop at 3000m, an errant Andean condor. Unfortuantely too excited, preoccupied and slow-witted to take more photos of 'Los Aves de El Dorado'.

The flora was also an unexpected delight. Amazing display of bromeliads, some covering hillsides like the giant lobelias of Central Africa or as epiphytes sprouting out of clusters in trees.

Here are two unusual trumpet flowers.

Sphagnum moss mosaic falling down a steep bank of rock and water - an interesting specimen.

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