19 Highlights of 2019

The year 2019 was yet another year chocked full of action-packed adventures and amazing experiences. I spent half the year in the incredibly beautiful and diverse country of Colombia guiding at Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá (Montezuma Rainforest) and continuing my explorations of other regions. As well, a few weeks were spent in Panama where I had the privilege of visiting two of the country’s premier eco-lodges, Mount Totumas Cloud Forest in the highlands and Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge in the Caribbean. As a second-year limited-residency student at Prescott College, I also had the opportunity to participate in amazing and rewarding field classes, Community-Based Conservation in Costa Rica, and a suite of Marine Studies courses at the Prescott College Kino Bay Center in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Though my time at home in Colorado was very limited this year, I had the honor of assisting with American Birding Associations’ Camp Colorado for young birders, guiding for Colorado Birding Adventures, and birding around my hometown of Lyons. Thanks to everyone who helped make 2019 unforgettable!

A Golden-fronted Redstart forages for insects on Montezuma Road in Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá, Risaralda, Colombia. Twelve-kilometers long, Montezuma Road climbs in elevation through one of the best-protected forests in the world. Over 500 species of birds can be found along this legendary road and one never knows what surprise may lie around the next corner.
Flitting through an elfin forest laced with colorful moss, a Blue-backed Conebill briefly pauses before disappearing into the dense vegetation. This vibrant bird was moving in a large mixed flock of several high Andean songbird species in Parque Nacional Natural Chingaza above Bogotá, Colombia’s capital city
Just below treeline on Nevado del Ruiz, an active volcano in Colombia’s Central Andes, a Golden-breasted Puffleg perches on a grass stem.
After making a food delivery to its young, an American Dipper perches on driftwood in the middle of a mountain stream near Lyons, Colorado.
In the largest alpine-tundra ecosystem in the world, Páramo de Sumapaz, a Bronze-tailed Thornbill flashes its striking iridescent gorget feathers. This special hummingbird’s distribution is restricted to páramo habitats in Colombia’s Central Andes, barely extending into Venezuela.
“Wave Rider” – An American White Pelican endures an early spring windstorm in a small pond on Colorado’s Front Range.
A pair of Spectacled Parrotlets blend in with their environment at Laguna de Sonso, the last intact wetland system in the Valle del Cauca of Colombia.
An immature Red-tailed Hawk takes flight from a ponderosa pine to ambush a small rodent below. – Boulder County, Colorado.
A Russet-throated Puffbird silently perches in the dry thorn-forest of Santuario de Flora y Fauna Los Flamencos in La Guajira Desert of Northern Colombia.
Separated from their mother, two recently hatched Common Merganser ducklings seek shelter on the edge of a swift mountain stream near Lyons, Colorado.
A Green-crowned Brilliant strikes a gorgeous pose in the spectacular hummingbird gardens of Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve in the highlands of Panama.
After a spectacular sunrise, the sun peeks through the clouds illuminating a feeding frenzy of Brown Pelicans and Black Terns. This moment was captured while kayaking in the pristine waters of Tranquilo Bay in the Caribbean of Panama.
One of my all-time favorite experiences of 2019 was watching Red-billed Tropicbirds circle Swan Cay, a tiny, pristine, and magical island in the Caribbean of Panama. While circumnavigating the island, it felt as though I had time traveled to an unblemished, prehistoric world.
After a long migration from North America, a Northern Waterthrush skulks in the mangrove swamps of a Carribean island in Panama. – Tranquilo Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama.
A mother three-toed sloth cradles her sleepy baby, the most precious moment I had the privilege of capturing in 2019. – Tranquilo Bay, Bocas del Toro, Panama.
Western Sandpipers forage in a hurricane-flooded field in Bahía de Kino, Sonora, Mexico. Like these shorebirds, I too migrated down to the Gulf of California this past fall. Though these birds migrate to escape the harsh winters of the northlands, I arrived to study the fascinating marine and desert environment of the region.
Off the shores of Isla San Pedro Mártir, an isolated island in the middle of the Gulf of California, a pod of ~600 bottlenose dolphins hunt federally protected waters.
A big personality of the Sonoran Desert, a Cactus Wren perches atop an organ pipe cactus. – Bahía de Kino, Sonora, Mexico.
During a flaming sunrise, Brown Pelicans stream across Bahía de Kino, a magical place in the Gulf of California.

21 thoughts on “19 Highlights of 2019

  1. Gorgeous birds and photos! Dolphins and sloths are spectacular too. Thank you for sharing these moments with us. This weekend we saw a Bald Eagle perched on a utility pole near Rabbit Mt and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks in a towering willow here at the farm–always a thrill in our neck of the woods.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Joel, your images are extraordinary! Your are truly a world class artist with your photography. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and beautiful work. Be safe and Merry Christmas!


  3. Joel, your photographs are amazing!! The detail in each one is incredible. It sounds like you’ve had an adventure packed year and have gotten to see some beautiful places. Thanks for sharing. Hope your 2020 brings you more great travels.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Joel, I thoroughly enjoy reading about your amazing year. Your photos are fabulous! Wishing you all the best for 2020. I hope you will find time to participate again as a speaker or bird walk leader in the Yampa Valley Crane Festival at some point in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nancy! I’d definitely like to join in on the Yampa Valley Crane Festival again sometime. My best to you and your family for a wonderful holiday season and 2020!


  5. DOTTIE>>>I’m always amazed at the spectacular vivid colors of some birds. I am partial to sunrise and sunset pictures so I especially liked your flaming sunrise!  May the Lord direct you in the new year as diverse as your past.  Love you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Dottie! I’m spending my first Christmas at home since the year I started traveling and visited you and Dennis in Belize. May you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!


  6. Oh Joel! These photographs are spectacular. The flaming sunrise with pelicans soaring so close to the water is fabulous. I love the three toed sloth with that tiny baby snug and secure. So glad Pete and I got to see and read this. Spectacular! Happy New Year! We love you, Pete & Val


  7. Thank you for sharing your amazing photos— I learn a lot through you Joel! Can’t wait to see some of what you see this next year— happy 2020!


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