My adventures in Colombia really got rolling on my first full day in Villavicencio. The plan was to hit the road at 5:30 AM and drive straight out to Hernando’s fish farm about 2 hours away, and then stop at a few places to look for fish on the way back. The weather was crappy, with rain all night and a slight drizzle at dawn that lasted most of the morning. But a big delay was caused by someone parking Hernando into his garage, so we were not able to leave until the owner of the offending vehicle was found and the car moved. This is something that we chalk up to ‘COWA’… Colombia Wins Again… which means that annoying things will happen, there is nothing we can do about them, so just move on and do not get upset. COWA was a BIGLY part of this trip.
The late start meant that we had to deal with more traffic on the roads, so we were slower getting out of town. We hit the countryside about 8:30 in the morning, a time when we had intended to already be at the fish farm. The plan changed to trying to find filming locations while we had good light and work our way to the fish farm later in the day. We can return to the city in the evening. There is no sense driving when the conditions are good for filming.
But… COWA… the conditions are not all that good for filming. The rain stopped mid-morning, but the skies remained overcast. All the rain had blown out the streams, and each creek we passed was flooded and muddy. Hernando and Allesandro (a fish collector along to help out) were concerned that we were not going to find any place to film at all.
I, on the other hand, was having a great time. Yes, I wanted to collect fish and get some good video, but this day was also my first real foray into the countryside of the Llanos. Everything that I saw was new to me. I think that my bird watching was annoying Hernando and Allesandro a bit (after spending two weeks with Hernando, I think he became at least a closet birder), but I added 32 species to my life list that day.
The aquarium gods were watching and took pity on us, because the stream that would be our best chance at finding Apistogramma veijita, the Cano Potosi, was running low and clear, even while streams a kilometer away were blown out and muddy. I have no explanation, but I am thankful that this stream turning out to be such a great place to see fish.
Thank you to my sponsors for this expedition. Please visit their websites and take a look at what they have to offer.
Enjoy the video…
Colombia has been a dream destination for me for many years, ever since I started importing fish from there in the late 1980’s. But traveling to Colombia back in those days, especially from the USA, was not a good idea. Times have changed. Colombia is a much safer place to travel and is poised to become one of the biggest destinations in the world for ecotourism. I fulfilled my dream in December 2016, and I have promised myself to go again… many times!
I was in Colombia for two weeks and visited to areas of the country. The llanos region in the headwaters of the Rio Meta and Rio Guaviare, near the city of Villavicencio one the edge of the easter slope of the Andes mountains. And the confluence region near the city of Puerto Inirida, where the Rio Inirida, Rio Guaviare and Rio Atabapo come together and join the mighty Rio Orinoco as it leaves the interior of Venezuela. I will present this trip is a series of videos, of which the first episode is presented here. I am not sure how many videos the whole trip will require, but I shot a LOT of footage.
The trip was sponsored by three companies that have been instrumental in the advancement of the aquarium hobby, and their contributions to this project are greatly appreciated:
Episode 1 will set the stage for the entire trip. My goal is to publish a new episode each week, probably on a Sunday. Each episode will be previewed here on the vlog site telling you some more detail about the episode, so here is a great place to view the series. But I also appreciate the sharing of this video on FaceBook and subscribing to the Ted Judy YouTube Channel. Enjoy…
Here is the first installment from last month’s trip to Iquitos, Peru. The purpose of the trip was to get our feet wet with visiting Iquitos. We have every intention of going back, hopefully more than once each year. So this trip was pretty loosely planned out, and we scheduled out days based upon what was available to us. This first video is about our first foray out into the city to look at fish sellers. The video specifically shows the aquarium of my main supplier in Peru. Enjoy….
Not really aquarium-related, but this video does have fish in it. Catching a tarpon on a fly rod has been on my bucket list for a long time, and today I was able to check it off. The experience was even better because my son Thomas was also able to catch a tarpon. Biggest fish either of us has ever caught!
Thanks to the Missouri Aquarium Society, Inc. I had a chance to play with my video camera’s underwater housing in an Ozark stream this week. North American native fish would be an addiction easy to succumb to. Unfortunately, the Wisconsin invasive species laws prevent me from being able to collect fish all over the midwest and bring them back to my fish room. I will just have to stick to video and pictures… they are easier to transport anyway.
We spent half a day filming and netting in Whittenburg Creek, at the town of Steelville, MO, which is a tributary of the Meremac River. The conditions were great. Clear, shallow water on a sunny day. Take a look at the video: I thought the variety of fish we found was great, but the MASI members on hand told me that they usually find more at this location, especially darters. I netted this nice male fantail darter (Etheostoma flabellare)
There were two common minnows in the stream, southern redbelly dace (Crosomus erythrogaster)
and bleeding shiners (Luxilus zonatus).
We also found two species of Fundulus killifish: the black spot top minnow (F. olivaceus)
and the northern studfish (F. cantanatus)
Banded sculpin were very common (Cottus carolinae).
Unfortunately, we disturbed a madtom catfish nest, but did not catch the catfish. Here is a picture of the eggs. They were hard like a cory cat egg, and very well attached to the underside of this rock. Mike Hellweg (my host for the trip) took them home to try to hatch them. If anyone can do that, it will be Mike!
We also collected fish in the Meremac River itself, but the water was cloudy and filming poor. Maybe next time!
This episode of Going Gabon documents two days traveling out of the city of Ndjole to the north. We spent one day in the vicinity of Mitzic, a town near the borders of Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon, and another in larger streams feeding into the Okana River. The Okana is part of the Ogooue River system, the second largest watershed in the Congo ecoregion (second only to the Congo itself) and is contained entirely within Gabon. One of the reasons Gabon is so interesting to fish collectors is that this large, isolated system is home to several endemic species. Enjoy….
We spent a total of three days collecting while based in Makokou, and this video covers the last two day trips. The area is so rich in collecting opportunities and species diversity that you could make an entire 14-day trip just to this region. 1/2 of all the fish species we found on the trip were collected during the three days working out of Makokou!
We left Libreville on out 3rd day in Gabon and drove across the country to the eastern city of Makokou, where we spent three days collecting in the region known best for its abundance of killifish and the cichlid genus Parananochromis. This video shares our experience getting to Makokou and our first day of collecting.
Here is a quick look at some of the fish I brought back from Gabon that are settling in well. So far the only real disappointment were the mormyrids. They did not last the quarantine. One of the coolest is the freshwater pipefish (E. ansorgii). Two of the males that I collected were carrying fry, so now I have MANY of them. They seem to be eating well (paramecium and baby brine). Hopefully they will grow up and add to the group of five adults I collected. Even better… maybe the adults will breed!
The first day of collecting in Gabon was at locations along the road north of Libreville up towards the town of Cocobeach. We had to wait in Libreville for some members of the group having travel difficulties, and for some late-arriving luggage, so those of us already in Gabon decided dipping a net was better than waiting around. The area of Cocobeach does not hold any of our target species, but you never know what you might find. I apologize for the over-use of still images. I apparently had a problem with the memory card I used in the video camera the first few days of the trip, and did not manage to make is home with video footage.