Last Updated on 01 September 2017

Trip Report to Colombia

20-08-2016 to 08-09-2016

 Orange-breasted Fruiteater_-_Montezuma_-_2016-08-31_-_03_copy

Orange-bresated Fruiteater, one of the many target species on beforehand of our trip to Colombia.

General Information
This is a report on a birding trip we made to Colombia in august-september 2016. Being the prime birding destination in the world this country was highest on our wanted list and long overdue for a visit. The main goal of the trip was to see as many bird species as possible (with a strong focus on the country's endemics), as well as taking loads of pictures of them whenever possible. During the trip we recorded 592 bird species of bird and (only) 12 species of mammal. This tally includes 54 endemics as well as 48 near endemics. The places we visited included renowned birding spots such as Rio Claro, Rio Blanco, Montezuma, La Romera, Paramo del Ruiz and Otun. Of course a visit to Colombia would not be complete without a few days stop over at the Santa Marta mountains which is currently recognized as the geographical area with the most endemic species (bird- and otherwise) in the world! Besides the well known and well visited hotspots we also visited various sites shortly in order to see some difficult or very localised species.

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Santa Marta Toucanet is one of many endemics in the Santa Marta mountain range.

A visit to La Guijira would have fitted the scheme but we were told in advance that this area was too unsafe to visit currently. Strange enough we encountered some groups that would or did visit the area without any problems. We are still unsure wether or not it was a good decision for us not to go there (although we didn't decide this ourselves).

While preparing for this trip it took us long to find a tour company that did not charge an outrageous rate for the trip. Since safety has become less of an issue in recent years, interest of foreigners to visit have increased steeply (for obvious reasons ofcourse) and so did the rates. Worst of all was Rockjumper Tours which offered to make arrangements for us if we would pay no less than 8750 USD per person, which did not even included domestic flights! Finally we made contact with Luis Uruena who operates Manakin Tours and works with a variety of guides. We paid 3150 USD person which included basically everything: all ground and air transports (including domestic- but excluding intercontinental flights), 4x4 cars at Jardin, Montezuma and Santa Marta Mountains, accommodations, food, drinks and even all other snacks that we bought along the road. Basically this was the best arranged trip we ever had! The international flights were operated bij KLM and costed €744 per person.

Among the best birds seen during this trip were Bogota Rail, Santa Marta Screech-Owl (as yet undescribed), Santa Marta Blossomcrown, Black-backed Thornbill, Buffy Helmetcrest, Green-bearded Helmetcrest, Dusky Starfrontlet, Santa Marta Woodstar, Santa Marta Sabrewing, Beautiful Woodpecker, Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Santa Marta Parakeet, Yellow-eared Parrot, Santa Marta Antpitta, Alto de Pisones Tapaculo (as yet undescribed), Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Antioquia Wren, Munchique Woodwren, Gold-ringed Tanager, Multicolored Tanger, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer and Red-bellied Grackle. Although we expected to find some interesting mammals we were pretty much disappointed. The only species of interest we encountered were Grey-handed Night-monkey, White-footed Tamarin, Neotropical River Ootter and Western Dwarf Squirrel  In this report we will discuss the areas we visited and elaborate in detail which species we saw there.

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Montezuma is one of the best places in Colombia to look out for Gold-ringed Tanager.

We stayed in a variety of accommodations which were of medium to good quality. The accommodation that we were offered at Rio Blanco were more basic but we were fortunate that the only other accommodation across the road was operated by the same owners and still available. For a discussion of all accommodations in more detail please refer to the "Accommodations" section further on in this report.

All photographs displayed are produced during this trip. For each photo details are included about what it depicts and where the picture is taken. All photographs produced during this trip can be found at the travel picture gallery. All pictures are copyrighted but we are happy to provide you with a high res copy upon request. All the major bird (and other) observations of this trip can also be found at Observado, a website where one can enter their nature-related sightings. Details include the location, number of birds seen and sometimes details of the particular sighting as well. All other observations recorded during various other trips can be found at Observado as well.

In this report the names of each bird and of all important places we visited are typed in bold. This should make it easier to scan through the report for the information you’re after or skip the parts you are not interested in.

If any questions still remain after reading this report or if would like some help while you're planning a trip to Brazil yourself, please do not hesitate to contact us and we'll try to help you as much as possible. For future reference you may want to download this report in PDF format.

Guides in Colombia

During the length of the trip we were guided by Oswaldo Cortes from Bogota. Together we managed to find many of the specialties in the areas we visited. Oswaldo mat not be the most experienced guide that one can find but still is very skilled in recognizing almast any bird we found. Also Oswaldo knew the sounds very well which helped tremendously in findng many of the difficult species like the tapaculo's and antpitta's. Oswaldo is very dedicated to finding his clients the birds they like or "need" to see any time. On many occasions he was still pushing on for this other target species when the four of us had given up already.

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Oswaldo Cortes (in the middle) showing us around La Florida, Bogota

Last but not least Oswaldo is a very nice person to spend time with, he helped us out with anything and everything we needed or wanted to know. Last but not least he put up with the hundreds of questions we asked him about which bird to see where, but also kept pointing out the same species of which we forgot the call again despite him mentioning it only moments before. All of which he did with lots of patience and humor.

Itinerary

 20 Aug - International flight to Bogota and transfer to Real Estacion Hotel

 21 Aug - Visit to Parque la Florida, Jardin Encantado in San Francisco and Laguna Tabacal. Stay in La  Ermita Hotel, Mariquita

 22 Aug - Birding at Bella Vista, short stop at Guarinocito and transfer to Rio Blanco. Stay at Cabanas La Mulata.

 23 Aug - Birding at Rio Claro

 24 Aug - Morning birding at Rio Claro, transfer to Medellin, stay at Hacienda la Extremadura

 25 Aug - Morning birding at La Romera, transfer to Jardin, stay at Valdivia Plaza Hotel

 26 Aug - Full morning birding at Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve, afternoon visit to Cock-of-the-Rock lek just outside Jardin

 27 Aug - Early morning departure for Rio Blanco, afternoon birding around, and stay inside Rio Blanco Reserve

 28 Aug - Full day Rio Blanco birding

 29 Aug - Visit Nevado del Ruiz (only few hours due to altitude sicknes of one of us), transfer to Otun, stay at Yarumo Blanco

 30 Aug - Morning birding at Otun, transfer to Montezuma Reserve, stay at Montezuma Lodge

 31 Aug - 01 Sep - Full days birding Montezuma

 02 Sep - Transfer to Perreira and domestic flight to Santa Marta, stay at Hotel Minca

 03 Sep - Short birding session at Hotel Minca, then upwards to El Dorado Lodge, birding along the worst road ever, stay at El Dorado Lodge.

 04 - 05 Sep - Birding lower and higher elevations of Santa Marta Mountains

 06 Sep - Domestic flight to Bogota

 07 Sep - Birding at Chingaza National Park and visit to Observatorio del Colibries at La Calera

 08 Sep - International flight to Amsterdam, arrival home on 9th.

 Transportation and getting around

We travelled around in a very spaceous minivan with a group of four birders accompanied by a birding guide and driver. For most places this vehicle was sufficient to get to the places we visited. Nevertheless for visiting the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve, Montezuma and Santa Marta Mountains we needed to switch to 4x4 vehicles as the roads were way to bad to travel them by minivan. This was all arranged very well by Manakin Tours as was the whole of the trip.

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The minivan that carried us throughout the main part of the Bogota-Medellin stretch of the trip.

As we were in the good hands of our driver Erney Fonseca we did not have to worry about road conditions, directions or the quality of the road signs. Neverteless we got the impression that getting around on your own in Colombia should not be a real problem. Many people were using Google maps navigation which seemed to work fine but also other forms of GPS navigation are availabel. When preparing an individual trip it would be worth investigating this.

 Weather

During our stay the weather was quite stable. Most of the days were sunny with some clouds and temperatures varied due to the height. We exprienced the highest temperatures, around 28-33 degrees Celcius) in Rio Claro, Guarinocito, Santa Marta (but only the lower areas) and Minca. Adding to the temperature, Rio Blanco was also very humid which gave an extra dimension to the experience so to say. Rio Blanco, Medellin, Bogota and Jardin were al situated on higher elevations and therefore very pleasant temperature wise.

Rain was not a real problem although in Santa Marta it rained for about 30 hours straight making birding impossible. Further we had some rain in Jardin, Montezuma and Otun which was usually either during the night or a short period of time during the day. Al things considered we were seriously obstructed by rain only twice of which once (Santa Marta) we had enough time to find all specied there anyway.

Safety

The safety situation in Colombia is somewhat complex. Considering the map of Colombia that is on the website of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs one might think that is very unsafe to visit the country. In reality the situation is far better as many of the areas that are currently orange are in fact pretty safe to visit for anyone. Sure enough safety in this country is not something to take lightly as certainly there are some serious risks. There are still areas that are not controlled by the government but by all sorts of rebellian groups in which chances of getting abducted or worse is not unreal.

One area in particular that we would have liked to visit was La Guijira near Santa Marta. As it turned out this spot was not included in our initerary for safety reasons although we did encounter several groups that did visit the area just while we were in Colombia. Apparantly there's a thin line between safe and unsafe. We'd avise you to inquire with local organizations about the current safety status of the places you are planning to visit as the it might be different from one week to another.

As the FARC has signed a treaty with the Colombian government (actually this happened during our stay) the country might become even safer in the near future but this all depends on the wether the arrangements will stay in place.

Currency

The Colombian national currency is the Peso which at the time of our trip was worth around 0,0003. Consequently 1 Euro equalled 3330 Colombian Peso. We exchanged Euros to Pesos in Holland already so we did not have to bother finding an ATM during our stay. As mentioned before nearly all expenses were paid for in advance to Manakin Tours so we did not exchange a big amount. It was only on the last day of our stay in Bogota that we had to withdraw money from an ATM (which are in any shopping mall) to buy some souvenirs. All ATM's accepted our bank card without any trouble.

Literature

For identification of the birds we used "Birds of Northern South America" volume 2 by Robin Restall. This book consists of two volumes with the first featuring detailed distribution maps and detailed descritions of field marks, behaviour etc. Volume 2 depicts the species drawings including highlights on identification as well as a small distribution map. Most species are given enough space to have a good size drawing with enough detail on the bird, especially given that the book deals with an extremely high number of species. It must be noted though that the colours are sometimes far off from the actual bird (see for example Ornate Flycatcher which is not nearly as olive green on the breast and back as the plate suggests) which sometimes makes it extremely difficult to find the species you are looking at. In the ten years since publication of this book lots of things have changed regarding taxonomy and therefore some 20 species are not depicted in the book or only mentioned or depicted as a subspecies of another. Also some new birds have been discovered which are not yet in the book. If you're an independent birder visiting the country on your own it might be wise to look for a more recent and up to date bird book as the Restall is simply somewhat outdated.

For preparation in advance and local reference on the areas we visited "Birdwatching in Colombia" by Jurgen Beckers and Pablo Flores was used. This 270 page book is actually not a real Where-to-find-all-the-specialties book but on some occasions also features detailed information on very common and widespread birds. Surely all the high-quality species are mentioned (and on some occassions also species that have yet to be described for science) so it can be used by birders of all sorts. All areas that are covered by the book received a 1 to 4 star rating according to their importance for fingding endemic ar range restricted species or high number of species found there. Pictograms at the start of each chapter indicate a variety of topics like wether or not the area has features for non-birding travel companions, if rubber boots are required, if the area needs to be travelled by 4x4, an indication of the trails (tracks/roads or (narrow) walking trail or if the area is better than average for photography. Further more the introduction chapters deal, in lenght, with many of the taxonomic changes of recent times. The latter is a good feature but sometimes made it more difficult to use the book together with Bird of Northern South America.

 

Food & Accommodation

During this trip we stayed in accommodation ranging from hotels to spaceous cabins, some of which were rather basic. Either because of the poorly equipped bathroom, very small room or poor state of the building. Most of the time all meals were included. Most accommodations were situated in or very close to the area of interest minimizing any unnessesarry transportation and consequently loss of precious time. During our stay we visited a variety of restaurants which all had the same basic set up for lunch and dinner. Next to always these meals consisted of some piece of meat (mostly chicken and pork), a portion of rice and some sort of vegetable. Although we usually had no complaints about the food itself, variety was very low and therefore it was sometimes somewhat annoying to have the same dish as the days before. Food in Colombia is generally not very spicy but nevertheless tastefull.

Below we will discuss the accommodations we visited during this trip. Details will be given about food, the class, location and any other details that might be interesting to the birding visitor.

Hotel Real Estacion, Bogota

The very first hotel we stayed at in Colombia did not really make a big impression which was mainly due to the size of our room (although admittedly, the room of our travel companions was much bigger). There's really not much of interest to say about this hotel, it's middeclass in all aspects and located in a not too busy area of Bogota and birdwise of no interest at all. If you're looking for a cheap place to stay and do not really fancy luxury or want to have lots of comfort this a good place to stay. If not, consider staying at the Dann Norte Hotel (see further on).

La Ermita Hotel Boutique, Mariquita

We arrived at this hotel late in the evening and left again very early the next morning. We did not enjoy any of the facilities of this hotel but the pool looked very promising. The rooms of this accommodation are good albeit a bit outdated. As the area is very hot and humid we tested the air conditioning of the room but it didn't really work. Staying at this hotel was probably one of the least well planned things of this trip. The next morning we would visit Bella Vista which was still a two hour drive from Mariquita so a stay at the town of Victoria would have been better.

Rio Claro Lodge / Cabanas La Mulata, Rio Claro

Rio Claro Lodge is one of the main birding destinations to go to on a visit to Colombia. The accommodation is somewhat basic and visited by lots of backpackers. The rooms of Cabanas La Mulata are not equipped with air conditioning, windows or even screens (to replace the windows) so you are sure to be in the middle of nature, even inside your room.


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Rio Claro Lodge / Cabanas La Mulata, beautifully situated amidst the Rio Claro forest.

One downside to this is that nature sometimes comes closer to you than you would like. This became apparant when we found a scorpion inside the mosquito net that was installed around the bed.

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An unexpected visitor to one of our rooms at Rio Claro Lodge.

Bird life around Rio Claro lodge is simply stunning with so many extremely good species at your doorstep. Litterally as some of the best birds were found right around the accommodation. One good attraction of the lodge is te close proximity of a cave filled with Oilbirds. Just follow the track from the lodge along the river to the restaurant and continue the track once you reached the restaurant. The cave appearing oppositie the river after some 20 minutes of walking hosts the Oilbirds. Other good species seen at Rio Claro Lodge included Saffron-headed Parrot, Magdalena Antbird, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant and Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo.

Hacienda La Extremadura, Sabaneta

This accommodation was used as a stop over near Medellin and chosen for it's proximity to La Romera, one of the better birding sites around Medellin. Diner was OK and so was breakfast. The rooms were spaceous with a good shower. From the hotel Colombian Chachalaca was heard for which the area is extremely good.

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View over Medellin from Hacienda La Extremadura.

Hotel Valdivia Plaza, Jardin

This hotel is situated right at the plaza major in the charming village of Jardin and opposite the beautiful church (make sure to pay a short visit!). As charming as Jardin itself is the hotel, in typical caribbean style. The rooms are not too big but comfortable. About ten minutes on foot from the hotel is a great Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek which is usually visited by birders. Also Jardin is the best places to visit the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve which hosts many extremely good birds. There are many good restaurants to choose from in Jardin. The town is also well known for the coffee plantations in the area of which the many coffee shops (which actually sell coffee unlike coffee shops in Holland) there are proof. Besides Andean Cock-of-the-Rock no special birds can be found in Jardin town.

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Church in the centre of Jardin village. If you have a short moment while staying in Jardin, make sure to visit!

Reserva Ecologica Rio Blanco, Rio Blanco

The Rio Blanco accommodation is located in the heart of the best birding areas in Rio Blanco Ecological reserve. Upon arrival we were able to choose from the large rooms just across the road of the main building but we were disappointed by the poor state of the building. Therefore we opted to stay in the main building of which the rooms are much smaller but better maintained. Great birds can be found in the garden of the main house with many hummingbird feeders placed in strategic places attracting lots of great hummers.

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Lodge at Rio Blanco Ecological Reserve. The hummingbird feeders in front are a guarantee for great photographic moments.

Also a fruit feeder for tanagers is installed but this did not attract many birds during our visit. Once on the unpaved track birding can be fabulous. The last hour of our first afternoon produced a mixed flock of unmatched size. Until dark we saw one new bird after another and we surely missed a lot more as it was impossible to get a grip of all birds in the flock. In that hour we identified no less than 55 species including Flammulated Treehunter, White-banded Tyrannulet, Oleaginous Hemisphingus, Capped Conebill, Plushcap and Black-crested Warbler.

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White waiting at one of the antpitta feeding stations several Green-and-black Fruiteaters showed up to take their pick from the worms laid out for the pittas.

Obviously Rio Blanco is visited by many due to the antpitta feeders that are operated by the warden of the reserve. This is without doubt the easiest way to connect with these awesome birds. In fact we were lucky in seeing two of the most difficult species (Slate-crowned and Bicolored) but unlucky not to see the most common one: Brown-banded Antpitta.

Best birds seen at Rio Blanco included White-throated Screech-Owl, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Golden-headed Quetzal, Powerful Woodpecker, Bicolored Antpitta, Slaty-crowned Antpitta, Mountain Wren, White-capped Tanager, Masked Saltator and Slaty Brush-Finch.

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One of the more difficult to find, but probably cutest, antpittas to search for at Rio Blanco: Slate-crowned Antpitta.

Yarumo Blanco, Otun

Like many of the other accommodations that we stayed at Yarumo Blanco is situated right in the heart of Otun-Quimbaya National Park. Wether you are travelling in a small or big group Yarumo Blanco has accommodation to fit all possible varieties. Although the meals served were not all quite our taste, the quality of it all was very good. Birding starts right on the property with many species that are found within the garden such as Cauca Guan, Colombian Screech-Owl and Lyre-tailed Nightjar.

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Main Building of Yarumo Blanco Lodge. Note the nice scenery with lots of good birds!

Montezuma Eco Lodge

For birding the road towards and beyond Montezuma Eco Lodge usually a 4x4 car is required. Therefore we switched cars in a nearby town. The road up to the lodge is cultivated but the higher up you go the better it gets. Finally you arrive in another stunning birding destination amidst which the lodge is located. The quality of the rooms is somewhat basic but still pretty good to stay in. There are three great attractions to this accommodation: 1, The excellent food, 2 the thousands of moths and hawkmoths that fly around the dining area at night. Number three ofcourse being the birding in the area which is simply mindblowing.

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Main building of Montezuma Eco Lodge with the dining area on the left hand side.

During our stay in Motezuma the weather was sometimes far from ideal with heavy rains which caused us to postpone our plans to go birding in the higher parts of the park one morning as the main targets would probably not show anyway. We were lucky enough to have at least one morning without rain which saved our initial plans here. Although it's not visible from the photograph above, left of the dining area is a very good feeder setup which is visited by many hummingbirds and other stuf. In total we recorded around ten different species here including Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Empress Brilliant and White-tailed Hillstar.

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Another unwanted visitor to one of our rooms: Black Tarantula

Hotel Minca, Minca

We stayed at hotel Minca for oly one night between a domestic flight to Santa Marta and our transfer the next day to El Dorado Lodge in the Santa Marta Mountains. This hotel has a good sized rooms with an excellent shower. We only had an ealry morning breakfast here which was OK. The hummingbird feeders are not used frequently which makes them useless on a short visit such as ours. The fruit feeders attracted Golden-winged Sparrow which we also saw in Santa Marta Mountains but was seen very well here.

El Dorado Lodge, Santa Marta Mountains

Any visit to Colombia is not complete without a visit to this place. Although the road towards the accommodation is extremely rough (4x4 needed!) it is well worth the effort. Very much Like Rio Claro, Montezuma and Rio Blanco, this lodge is situated in the middle of one of the best birding sites in Colombia, and even the world.


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Viewing deck in front of the lodge providing a view over spectacular landscapes but also on the many birds visiting the feeders.

The owners go to every lenght to provided excellent services which includes great meals and everything one could wish for. Ofcourse it is in a rather remote area and is therefore not extremely luxurious but we were amazed by the high standards they keep considering the location.

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Lazuline Sabrewing is a regluar visitor to the El Dorado Lodge feeders in small numbers.

Hummingbird feeders are all over the place and sometimes visited by nearly 100 hummers at once. If it was not for the extreme amount of localized endemic birds a visit to the lodge would even be worth it for just being able to stroll around this place and taking photographs. Besides hummer feeders regular feeders are visited by a variety of tanagers and even Black-fronted Wood-Quails.

The best birds we recorded around the property included Santa Marta Screech-Owl, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Santa Marta Woodstar, Santa Marta Toucanet and Santa Marta Wood-Wren,

Dann Norte, Bogota

Since this trip was rather exausting and the accommodations sometimes rather basic we decided not to stay at the Real Estacion Hotel in Bogota for the last three nights of our stay in Colombia. Instead we opted for the Dann Norte Hotel which was without doubt the best hotel we stayed at during this trip. The rooms are comfortably large, the amenities excellent and so is breakfast and diner. Although it is listed as an expensive hotel by Colombian standards, compared to any hotel in Europe it would classify as a bargain especially considering the high quality rooms and everything else. Having said that the Dann Norte Hotel was not the most ideal place to venture out to Chingaza National Park in terms of travelling distance but we figured that was one thing we had to take for granted.

The hotel was located in a busy area of Bogota and therefore no birds of particular interest were recorded here.

 

Sites visited

Below all important sites we visited are described and discussed. For all sites usually only the species are mentioned that we only saw at 3 sites/occasions or less. This does not necessarily mean that those birds are among the most rare or sought-after. It just gives an impression of how commonly that species was encountered. If a species is a target bird we tried to give it extra attention as that particular bird may only, or most reliably, be found at that particular site. All recorded sightings can be found in the trip list and Observado.org.

For each site we indicate how much time we spent there, which targets we did and did not find, how many species we encountered and also how many species we found only at that particular site (indicated in brackets).


Parque La Florida

Time spent: 2 hours

(Near) endemics seen: Bogota Rail, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Silvery-throated Spinetail

(Near) endemics missed: Apolinar's Wren

Total species seen: 30 (11)

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La Florida Parque early morning. This park hosts two must-see species: Bogota Rail and Apolinar's Wren.

Parque La Florida was visited on our very first morning in Colombia and gave a rather slow start to the large amount of birds that we were about to encounter during our stay. The park opens relatively early and therefore can become very busy in the morning. Although we arrived there at around 07:00 quite a few locals were already having a barbeque and when we left the area was crowded with people that where spending their weekend there. Basically two main targets are to be found here: Bogota Rail and Apolinar's Wren. The rail is fairly easy to see although it requires some effort usually.

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Crappy pic of one of the best species recorded during this trip: Bogota Rail.

To reach the spot for both the rail and wren take the entrance on te west side of the road, walk straight on from the entrance until you see a boat ramp (scan lake for Spot-flanked Gallinule and Masked Duck), then follow the lake shore to the left until you reach a small hide. The gully going into the lake is were both should be found (but we only found the rail). Other good stuf during this walk included Noble Snipe, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Black- and Rusty Flowerpiercer and Brazilian Cavy (a small Guineapig). Silvery-throated Spinetail is easy at the eastern extrance, right behind and beyond the guard house. Spot-flanked Gallinule can be found at the lake and is sometimes difficult although it gave us no trouble at all. As the area is pretty open it's a good placed for photographing birds if time permits.


Jardin Encantado (San Francisco)

Time spent: 2 hours

(Near) endemics seen: Red-billed Emerald, Indigo-capped Hummingbird

(Near) endemics missed: 0

Total species seen: 20 (3)

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Jardin Encantado with the viewing deck on the left. Note the sheer amount of feeders.....

This is a privately owned hummingbird garden (like so many in Colombia) and operated for semi-commercial purposes. During any visit a limited amount of drinks and snacks are offered. Our tour leaders used this location as a short stop between other birding sites. Although it may fill up the bird list with some species there's not a real target to find here. Only Gorgeted Woodstar, Red-billed Emerald and Indigo-capped Hummingbird (which is an endemic) were not seen elsewehere.

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Brown Violet-ear at Jardin Encantado.

The garden itself is nice for viewing purpuses (it holds an extraordinary large amount of feeders) but not so much for photography as most bird perch on steel wires. Including the species mentioned before we recorded 11 hummingbird species here including White-necked Jacobin, Brown Violet-ear and Andean Emerald. Other than that no specialties were found. For any big lister hitting Colombia I would recommend skipping this spot and invest in an area with a higher quality species list. Nonetheless we never get bored by hummingbirds buzzing around so we spent a leisure few hours with joy!

 

Laguna Tabacal

Time spent: 2 hours

(Near) endemics seen:  Bar-crested Antshrike, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, White-bearded Manakin, Speckle-breasted Wren, Band-backed Wren

(Near) endemics missed: Spectacled Parrotlet, Apical Flycatcher, Velvet-fronted Euphonia, Grey-throated Warbler, Scrub Tanager

Total species seen: 35 (5)

Our visit to Laguna Tabacal was short and in the heat of the day, probably this was the main reason we did not see many of the targets listed for this site. Add to that the large number of (rather noisy) locals that spent their weekend here which did not improve chances of seeing good birds. Although we found many targets at other sites a thorough search of this area might increase the bird list significantly. As with the previous site we visited Laguna Tabacal in between other good areas so we could probably not get the best out of it. Time did not permit a second visit on a better moment of the day unfortunately. Finding the tagets that we did costed significant effort, birding up and down the, sometimes rather steep, trails. The laguna itself is not of much interest to birders but it held the only Least Grebes we found during our stay in Colombia. Besides the targets we found Black Hawk-Eagle, Grey-rumped Swift, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, White-bearded Manakin, Band-backed Wren, Streaked Saltator and Rufous-capped Warbler at Laguna Tabacal.

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Although we didn't find Spectacled Parrotlet at Laguna Tabacal it was rather common in other places.

Bella Vista

Time spent: 5 hours

(Near) endemics seen: White-mantled Barbet, Beautiful Woodpecker, Golden-headed Manakin, Spectacled Parrotlet, Flame-rumped Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Sooty Ant-Tanager, Grey-throated Warbler, Velvet-fronted Euphonia

(Near) endemics missed: Colombian Chachalaca, Spectacled Parrotlet, Saffron-headed Parrot, Antioquia Bristle Tyrant

Total species seen: 49 (5)

Bella Vista_-__Tijmen_Miranda_Michel_-_2016-08-22_-_02_copy_X

At Bella Vista we were accompanied by a local birder named Arthuru. He was very happy to show us around and knew many stake-outs for the best birds in the area like White-mantled Barbet and a breeding location of Beautiful Woodpecker. The given location indicates the start of the hike, from here Arthuru took us along many small trails and unpaved roads in order to find the specialties of the area. We succeeded in finding many of them of which White-vented Plumeleteer, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Golden-headed Manakin, Scaly-breasted Wren, Band-backed Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Grey-headed- and Golden-hooded Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis,Orange-billed Sparrow, Sooty Ant-Tanager and Buff-rumped Warbler were among the best birds. Although we encountered several Western Striped Manakins we always only heard them at Bella Vista. White-mantled Barbets also kept avoiding us and we only saw them when we had returned to the starting point of the hike and were about to leave for Rio Claro.

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 Beautiful Woodpecker at it's nesting location. Before finding this bird we had already checked several stake outs at which it's usually found.

 

Guarinocito

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