We had a great time with Forrest Rowland in Colombia. A wonderful country. Forrest is a fantastic birder and a great guide.
Colombia is simply vast. With arguably the most diverse avifauna of any single country on Earth, there are far too many special and important habitats to visit in anything less than several months’ time. As part of our continuing effort to do this magnificent country justice, our new Remote Colombia birding tour takes us into some seldom-explored areas in search of a whole host of rare, special and localised species. Targets are too many to mention but include such gems as Baudo Guan, Fuertes’s Parrot, Baudo Oropendola, Bicolored, Thicket, Hooded, White-bellied and Streak-chested Antpitta, recently described Perija Tapaculo, Turquoise Dacnis, Recurve-billed Bushbird, Multicolored Tanager, White-mantled Barbet, Gorgeted Wood Quail, Green-bearded Helmetcrest, Antioquia Bristle Tyrant, Yellow-green Bush Tanager (Yellow-green Chlorospingus), Indigo-crowned and Lined Quail-Doves, Niceforo’s Wren, Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, Esmeraldas and Magdalena Antbirds, Choco Tapaculo, Choco Brushfinch, Perija Metaltail, Perija Thistletail and Perija Brushfinch.
Chances for Harpy Eagle, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Orange-breasted Falcon, Wattled, Baudo & Band-tailed Guan, Colombian Chachalaca, Choco Tinamou, Tawny-faced Quail, Chestnut Wood Quail, Horned Screamer, Brown Wood Rail, Indigo-crowned & Lined Quail-Dove, Colombian Screech Owl, Rusty-faced & Rose-faced Parrot, Flame-winged Parakeet, Choco, Cinnamon & Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Greyish Piculet, Spot-crowned Barbet, Crested & Golden-headed Quetzal, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Red-bellied Grackle, Baudo Oropendola, Mountain Cacique, Amazonian Motmot, White-chinned Jacamar, Yellow-billed Nunbird, Black-breasted Puffbird, Barred, Golden-breasted & Scaled Fruiteater, Green, Yellow-headed & Golden-headed Manakin, Bicolored, Thicket, Hooded, White-bellied & Streak-chested Antpitta, Black Antshrike, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Stub-tailed, Zeledon’s, Klage’s & Esmeraldas Antbird, Northern Barred & Black-striped Woodcreeper, Streak-capped Treehunter, White-browed & Rufous Spinetail, Perija Thistletail, Choco, Paramillo, Stiles’s, Pale-bellied & the yet-to-be-described Perija Tapaculo, Recurve-billed Bushbird, chances for Sapayoa, Perija Metaltail, Purple-chested, Tooth-billed & Green-bellied Hummingbird, Grey-chinned & Bronzy Hermit, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Blue Cotinga, Rufous Piha, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Antioquia, Sooty-headed & Chestnut-breasted Wren, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Apical Flycatcher, Choco & Grey-throated Warbler, Plushcap, Purplish-mantled, Multicolored, Moss-backed, Glistening-green, Golden-chested, Crested Ant, Tawny-crested, Grey-and-gold, Golden-hooded, Rufous-winged, Emerald, Blue-whiskered, Scarlet-and-white & Lemon-spectacled Tanager, Yellow-green Bush Tanager (Yellow-green Chlorospingus), Perija Brush Finch, Paramo Seedeater
Chances for West Indian Manatee
cloud forest, temperate cloud forest, humid foothill forest, lowland & foothill Choco forest, secondary forest, wetlands, mangroves, rivers, meadows, creeks, Oak forest, subparamo scrub, paramo grassland, fincas
Temperate to cold in highlands; hot and very humid in the lowlands. Rain is likely on some days.
Brisk pace, some demanding walks
often spectacular endemic reptiles and amphibians, stunning scenery, little-explored pristine forests
Day 1: Arrival in Bogota
Upon arriving in the city of Bogota, you will be transferred to a comfortable hotel in the city – convenient to our birding destinations in this region. Here you will be met for a welcome dinner by your tour leader from Rockjumper Birding Tours with time to talk through some of the exciting adventures to come!
Day 2: Sumapaz and Chicaque, flight to Valledupar
Beginning this morning with an early departure from our hotel, we will make our way into the high elfin forests of Sumapaz National Park, where the sheer variety of flowers and orchids in an endless mosaic of moss-laden elfin stunted forest can be quite impressive. Our birding adventure begins here, as we gradually work our way above 3 500 metres.
The trill of the endemic Rufous-browed Conebill may start off the morning, the skulking Pale-bellied Tapaculo should make an appearance. As we reach the paramo, Espeletia flowers and terrestrial bromeliads characterise the landscape. It is here that we shall be searching for the endemic Green-bearded Helmetcrest, recently elevated to full species status. Our quest for the helmetcrest will likely have us panning through other hummingbirds, with Great Sapphirewing, Bronze-tailed Thornbill, Shining Sunbeam, Amethyst-throated (Longuemare’s) Sunangel and Blue-throated Starfrontlet all possible.
During our Colombia bird watching tour, we will dedicate as much time as possible to finding the endemic Apolinar’s Wren, which unusually inhabits the high altitude paramo here, in comparison to those found around Bogota inhabiting lower altitude marshes. The marshes are a reliable location for Bogota Rail, which will hopefully expose itself for good views. Tawny Antpitta is rather common, as are Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, while we would need a small dose of luck to find White-capped Tanager, Ochre-breasted Brushfinch and Black-chested Mountain Tanager.
Following lunch, we will then head to Chicaque Natural Park. A small number of conveniently placed hummingbird feeders provides an excellent assortment of species including Green and Sparking Violetears, Buff-tailed Coronet, Collared Inca, the very tricky Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, Tourmaline Sunangel and Glowing Puffleg. We shall no doubt take a short walk along the dirt roads searching for other gems that might include Rufous Spinetail, Black-crested Warbler, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Pale-naped Brush Finch, Blue-capped Tanager, Capped Conebill, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Superciliaried Hemispingus and Blackish Tapaculo.
Day 3: Los Besotes to Chamicero de Perija Reserve
The lowlands around Valledupar, and the lower mountain slope of both the Santa Marta range, and the Perija range nearby hold some very interesting prospects. Today we will spend time at a few locations above Valledupar in both ranges. Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Scaled Dove, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Shining-green Hummingbird, Double-banded Puffbird, Chestnut Piculet, Military Macaw, Black-backed Antshrike, White-whiskered Spinetail, Slender-billed and Pale-tipped Tyrannulets, Venezuelan Flycatcher, Lance-tailed Manakin, Golden-fronted Greenlet, and Trinidad Euphonia are among some of the 150 species possible in the area today, adding a special component to the tour’s birding and diversity!
The Chamicero Reserve was purchased in 2014 after the discovery of good forest tracts on accessible land for the entire suite (5 species) of Sierra de Perija endemics, including the yet-to-be-described Perija Tapaculo and another 35 subspecies that need further research. The local form of Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, Emerald Toucanet, Rufous Spinetail and Rufous Antpitta are all proposed splits that require more conclusive documentation.
The most exciting development was when ProAves also decided to build a lodge on the premises of this remote tract of land for visiting birders! Our tour will be one of the first tour groups to explore the new establishment, recently opened to the public late in 2014. Situated in high-altitude forest, the Reserve occupies 1,800 hectares of temperate and treeline forest, subparamo scrub and true paramo grassland, while the road in transects several fincas with intact native vegetation ranging from dry forests at 800m through lush foothill and lower subtropical habitats. Our focus this morning will be directed to the higher elevation forests and scrub, where the harder-to-reach Perija endemics occur. Perija Metaltail, Perija Thistletail, and both the Perija form of Golden-bellied Starfrontlet (a certain split) and Perija form of Rufous Antpitta (which has confounded, somewhat, the Santa Marta ssp. situation) only occur in treeline scrub and forests above the lodge, all accessible by vehicle. The road up is a wonderful transect of foothill to mid-elevation cloud forest, though some human interference and habitat degradation has occurred up to the lower border of the reserve proper. We will take the full day to bird our way up the mountain.
Day 4: Chamicero de Perija Reserve
Today on our Colombia bird watching tour, we begin birding at sunrise, in the paramo, and work our way down from here. Perija Metaltail and Perija Thistletail are the main targets, though many other splendid species occur that will draw our attention. The local race of Streak-backed Canastero is common in paramo scrub, as are Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and White-rumped Hawk, which are seen frequently. Closer to the lodge, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Crested Quetzal, Barred Fruiteater, Andean and Band-tailed Guans, Red-crested Cotinga, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Perija Brushfinch, Plushcap, Paramo Seedeater and Black-fronted Wood Quail are all, apparently, fairly common! Many species are attracted to the feeders at the lodge itself, including Black Flowerpiercer, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Mountain Velvetbreast and both Chestnut-capped and Slaty Brushfinch all regularly putting in appearances, while the toucanet and other fruit-eating birds only come sporadically.
The afternoon will be spent birding some of the good mid-elevation forest patches along the road from 2,400m down to about 1,800m elevation. The diversity only increases as we head down the road, getting into better habitat for birds including Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Wattled Guan, Streak-capped Treehunter, White-browed and Rufous Spinetails, endemic Perija Tapaculo, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Variegated Bristle Tyrant, Yellow-billed Cacique, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Venezuelan Tyrannulet, Buff-breasted and Lacrimose Mountain Tanagers, as well as the endemic Black-fronted Brush Finch. One of the most exciting things about being remote is the opportunity for discovery.
The Perija Tapaculo, for example, was discovered by a visiting birder who queued into an unidentifiable sound. While finding a species new to science is about as rare as being struck by lightning…it does happen! At the very least, we will contribute to the expanding base of knowledge on the fauna of this isolated mountain range.
Day 5: Chamicero de Perija Reserve to Valledupar
We will depart from the lodge with ample time to enjoy our final morning’s birds in the foothills and coffee plantation forests of the lower slopes. While most of the endemics to Perija are found higher up, there are nevertheless some spectacular birds to be found lower down. In recent months, researchers and visiting birders have turned up some surprising records, as well as extended the ranges of several East Andes and Magdalena Valley species. This morning, we will most likely run in to species we have already encountered on the tour. However, Red-legged Tinamou, Crested Bobwhite, Coppery Emerald, Rufous-shafted Woodstar, Klage’s Antbird, Rufous-breasted Wren, Grey-throated Warbler, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Fulvous-headed Tanager and Golden-winged Sparrow might all be new for us! After another action packed day, we shall drive to Valledupar for a well-deserved rest.
Day 6: Los Besotes to Ocana
Today will be mostly a travel day. There are some good wetlands and open habitats en route, that we will explore a bit to break up the drive. Birds like White-faced Whistling Duck, Buff-necked Ibis, Burrowing Owl, Trinidad Euphonia, Brown-throated Parakeet, and Fork-tailed Flycatcher might turn up to add to the ever-growing list of interesting birds under our belt.
Day 7: Recurve-billed Bushbird preserve to Bucaramanga
Situated at the northern terminus of the East Andes, the Hormigera de Torcoroma, or Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve managed by ProAves protects a very distinct habitat and avifauna. The reserve offers great access to this specialized habitat through a series of well-maintained trails. We will have a full morning to walk the trails in search of Band-tailed Guan, Black-fronted Wood Quail, Lined Quail-Dove, Red-billed and Short-tailed Emerald, Lazuline Sabrewing, Moustached Puffbird, the sought after endemic Recurve-billed Bushbird, endemic Klage’s Antbird, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Yellow-legged, Spectacled and Chestnut-bellied Thrushes, endemic Grey-throated Warbler and endemic Moustached Brushfinch. This afternoon we shall head north to the town of Bucaramanga in anticipation of our trip to Los Curos Road tomorrow.
Day 8: Los Curos Road
Today on our Colombia birding tour, we spend all day on the Los Curos road that heads east out of Bucaramanga, high in the Andes. As an altitudinal transect, this little-know road has a myriad of habitats home to some of the most sought-after birds in the country. Of note, mixed flocks of large birds often include Black-collared Jay, Northern Mountain Cacique, and the rare endemic Mountain Grackle! The mountain ridge forests here are home to a good population of the threatened Rusty-faced Parrot, which feeds almost exclusively on high-elevation Oak acorns. Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Moustached Brushfinch, Golden-bellied and Blue-throated Starfrontlets, Band-tailed Guan, glorious Grass-green Tanagers, Hooded and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers are relatively numerous along the route, as are Amethyst-throated (Longuemare’s) Sunangel!
Time permitting, we might be able to explore some of the lower elevation forest patches near to Bucaramanga. Though the edge of the range of drier-forest specialists, there are a few nearby stakeouts for special endemic species, such as Niceforo’s Wren and Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird. If we’re short on time today, we may attempt these and other species the following morning.
Day 9: Bijagual to RNA Reinita Azul
Continuing in the spirit of discovery on our Colombia birding tour, the seldom-birded areas around Bucaramanga hold some very interesting records. South of the city is the deep valley formed by the Rio Sogamosa. This steep-sided canyon sits in a rain-shadow and has evolved a very dry habitat. As mentioned before, should time permit and the road be in stable condition, we might spend a bit of time searching for Niceforo’s Wren and Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, Bar-crested Antshrike, Apical Flycatcher, and other dry forest species here. Another fine option this morning is the search for Recurve-billed Bushbird. This spectacular, somewhat enigmatic species inhabits dense foothill tangles on the western slope of the East Andes. During the few surveys done in the area, this species has been encountered along with Black-headed Brushfinch, Black-bellied Wren, Yellow-browed Shrike Vireo, and other fascinating birds inhabiting slightly more humid slopes facing the mighty Magdalena River.
Day 10: RNA Reinita Azul
ProAves’ has a long history of purchasing tracts of land for the preservation of habitat for a specific species. Though this property was obtained to ensure wintering habitat for the declining Cerulean Warbler, it is home to no less than 9 Colombian endemic species! Today on our Colombia birding tour, we dedicate all of our efforts to finding these, and other, spectacular and rare species that inhabit the fine cloud forest thriving on the slopes of this property.
Our target species here, many of which can be seen in the gardens around the lodge, include the endemic Gorgeted Wood Quail, Barred Hawk, Lined Quail-Dove, the striking endemic Black Inca, the rare endemic Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Moustached Puffbird, endemic Parker’s Antbird, skulky near-endemic Recurve-billed Bushbird, White-bellied Antpitta, endemic Magdalena Tapaculo, rare Yellow-throated Spadebill, Moustached Brush Finch, near-endemic Colombian Mountain Grackle, and perhaps the namesake Cerulean Warbler, among the myriad of tanagers, hummingbirds, flycatchers and spectacular birds in the region.
Due to recent discoveries on past tours in the coffee plantations and lower scrub below the lodge proper, we will also spend a full day birding the lower, disturbed elevations. Turquoise Dacnis, Niceforo’s Wren, Black-headed Brush Finch, Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, Double-banded Greytail, Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Spectacled and Pale-vented Thrush and scores of tanagers, tyrannulets, seed-finches and seedeaters can be found in the lower elevations here, warranting more scrutiny by our party.
Day 11: Magdalena Valley to Rio Claro
This morning on our Colombia birding tour, we get an early start, birding a small trail near our accommodations that is little-known in birding circles. This short track, which we discovered just two years ago, hosts practically the entire suite of Magdalena Valley endemic species, and offers truly outstanding birding. White-mantled Barbet, Magdalena Antbird, Rufous Mourner, Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Sooty Ant Tanager, Antioquia Bristle Tyrant, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant, Southern Bentbill, Cinnamon Woodpecker, and many, many more species are possible this morning!
Rio Claro is a general term for the Rio Claro Canyon Park area, which includes one of the best birding stops in the Magdalena Valley – Rio Claro Oilbird Caves. Not only does this activity provide us with wonderful, up-close views of dozens (if not hundreds) of bizarre Oilbirds, but the trail system up to the caves, and onto the hill beyond them, offers some great species besides.
We will begin the walk to the caves in the mid-afternoon, looking for skulking understory and secretive sub-canopy species including Barred Puffbird, the rare and local Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Great Antshrike, Dusky Antbird, Band-backed Wren, and, with a lot of luck, Spotted Antbird or Streak-chested Antpitta! We will take our time inside the caves, enjoying the unique sights and sounds produced by the Oilbirds, and the deep cool of the dark interior. Later, a steep trail leads us up a short hill to look for one of the most interesting of all Tyrannids, Brownish Twistwing, which we have been able to view in full display here on past tours. We have also encountered the dapper endemic Silvery-brown Tamarin here on multiple tours in the past, not to mention one sneaky Jaguarundi crossing the creek before us! After our hike, we will retire to our lodgings up the serene Rio Claro Canyon.
Day 12: Rio Claro to Medellin
The Rio Claro Canyon became popular with Colombian birders long before it was recognised as THE place to find the rare endemic Antioquia Bristle Tyrant. The canyon’s beauty is attractive to anyone, and what better backdrop to search out such additional fine birds as Blue-tailed, Gartered and White-tailed Trogons, Rufous Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Checker-throated Antwren, Magdalena (Dull-mantled) Antbird, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Black-tailed Flycatcher, Russet-winged Schiffornis, Orange-billed Sparrow, and many gorgeous tanagers and euphonias! We will spend a morning before setting off towards Medellin, stopping en route to search for any species we may be missing such as the endemic Beautiful Woodpecker, White-mantled Barbet, Lemon-rumped Tanager or Black-throated Mango. If time permits, we shall also stop at some road side gravel pits to search for Blackish Rail and Sora. Thereafter we will continue to Medellin where we will spend the night.
Day 13: La Romera to Pueblo Rico
Early this morning, we shall make the short drive to visit the narrow watershed of La Romera Municipal Park. This park protects an island of forest surrounded by farms and semi-rural homes. Birding from the road, we will watch for Andean Motmot, which can often be quite confiding compared to the undergrowth skulkers we will be searching for. Specifically, we will be targeting the endemic Stiles’s Tapaculo that is found in the same dense undergrowth where Chestnut-capped Brush Finch also lurks. The hyper-energetic Yellow-headed Manikin is also high up on our list of targets, La Romera is perhaps the best-known site for it in Colombia. Bird flocks can be quite a spectacle in this area with a pleasant assortment of migrant warblers including Golden-winged, Tennessee, Canada, Black-and-white, Blackburnian and the increasingly scarce Cerulean Warbler all possible. The gorgeous but elusive endemic Red-bellied Grackle moves around in small flocks, uttering extraordinary shrieks as they search for fruits and invertebrates.
By mid-morning, we shall be on our way towards Pueblo Rico. An important possible stop today could include a small reserve in Apia. If time does not permit an afternoon visit today, we will be sure to do so in the morning three days hence. Near a small school perched atop a rural mountain ridge, the stunted forest around Apia is home to both Yellow-headed Manakin and Turquoise Dacnis – two exceptional endemic species! Recent reports of Hooded Antpitta in the region might be worth a follow up, and with great luck we might run into Tolima Blossomcrown, among other exciting possibilities. Again, depending on our successes traveling today, we might delay this stop for a different day.
Day 14: Santa Cecilia (Tatama National Park)
The Baudo Oropendola inhabits a small range of Choco lowland rainforest in northwestern Colombia. Insufficient data exists to ascertain how common the species is within its range, due to the near complete inaccessibility of this habitat. Due to the very low population in the region and extensive forest persisting in the Choco department of Colombia, it’s probably stable, but it remains perhaps the least-encountered, and one of the most highly prized, of the Choco endemics. Today on our Colombia birding tour, we will visit a known nesting area for this spectacular, huge, oropendonla. The habitat this species inhabits hosts some other very interesting species with limited ranges in South America, such as Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Choco Brushfinch, Choco (Blue-tailed) Trogon, the magnificent Blue Cotinga, and many other denizens of Choco lowland forest and edge.
Day 15: Tatama National Park & Montezuma Road
The mountain ridge of Cerro Montezuma rises up from the valley beside our homestead and we have two full days of our Colombia birding tour to immerse ourselves in the avian riches of this under-explored wilderness. Like most regions of the Andes, the mountain can sometimes be foggy, but we will set out at least one early morning by horseback to access the higher elevations of the preserve. Given clear weather, the ride up the mountain through star-lit twilight can be mesmerising.
The higher we ride the further into the unique Choco vegetation we will be until we reach our breakfast site at over 2,000 metres in elevation. Here the dawn chorus will greet us and one of the first birds we will likely see is the gaudy endemic Gold-ringed Tanager, a species with an extremely limited distribution. Localised hummingbirds endemic to the Choco region are also well in evidence, including the oversized Empress Brilliant, Brown Inca, Purpled-bibbed Whitetip, White-whiskered Hermit, and lovely Violet-tailed Sylph. Bird activity will have us all watching the moss-covered trunks for the scarce Star-chested Treerunner that can often be found associating with other flocking activity. Some of the other Choco endemics that we will be sifting through in such flocks include the bright Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Uniform Treehunter, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Glistening-green Tanager, Choco Warbler, Dusky Bush Tanager, and maybe even the rarely-seen Black Solitaire that sometimes gives away its presence with its ethereal song. Conspicuous movement might also give away the presence of another Choco endemic in the form of Beautiful Jay although we will have to concentrate on small mouse-like movements in the undergrowth to catch a glimpse of Choco and Nariño Tapaculos, also both specialities of the Choco.
Birding our way into the lower elevations, we can continue looking for fruiting trees that attract frugivores such as Chestnut-breasted and Yellow-collared Chlorophonias, Black-billed Peppershrike, Scaly and the stunning Orange-breasted Fruiteaters, and the Choco endemic Toucan Barbet. Two difficult species that occur here that we might be able to lure into view are the scarce Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl that is normally found in the high canopy, while in the darkest undergrowth we can try our luck with the elusive Yellow-breasted Antpitta. The sparkling White-tailed Hillstar generally prefers to be along riverside vegetation, which is also the preferred habitat of Bay Wren and the scarce Olive Finch.
Day 16: Apia to Santa Rosa de Cabal
Today we will depart early in order to enjoy some light birding en route to Santa Rosa de Cabal, or search for any desired species we may want to make a quick try for before leaving the area. As mentioned before, we will spend a bit of time near Apia in search of Yellow-headed Manakin and Turquoise Dacnis. The patches of forest here host several other interesting species such as Parker’s Antbird, Whiskered Wren, and Moustached Puffbird, all of which are very regularly encountered here. Four species of Antpitta will pose a worthy challenge, while mixed flocks hosting more than a dozen species of Tanagers will provide great diversion!
The drive between Apia and Santa Rosa can take a couple hours, depending on traffic. We will schedule a bit of down time and a delightful meal at our nice accommodations this evening, to rest up for an early start tomorrow.
Day 17: San Vicente (Fuertes’ Parrot) to Cali via Laguna del Sonso
This morning on our Colombia birding tour, we will venture up the mountain from our accommodations into some stellar Central Andean temperate forest. We will hope to encounter a myriad of high elevation species, many of which will only be possible here. While a wide array of bird will keep us entertained, the clear targets here are the critically endangered, endemic, Indigo-winged (Fuertes’s) Parrot. Known from but a few locations in the area, this relatively new site is perhaps the best place on Earth to see the species. Golden-plumed Parakeet, White-capped Tanager, Bicolored Antpitta, Ocellated Tapaculo, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Black-thighed Puffleg, Purple-backed Thornbill, and a huge host of Tanagers are possible today!
After lunch, we will journey to Cali stopping at Laguna del Sonso en route.
Laguna del Sonso is a well-known hangout of Horned Screamer, though due to recent changes in water level maintenance, viewing this bizarre creature has become more difficult. Nevertheless, with dozens of hovering Snail Kite, roosting Common Potoo, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow Oriole, and a number of other great species are possible at this interesting site.
Day 18: KM 18 & Upper Anchicaya
This morning on our Colombia birding tour, we will depart Cali early and drive into the mountains west of the metropolis to the famed Bosque San Antonio, also known as the KM 18 Trail, and other spots en route. This is the area where many well-known Choco endemic species were first described to science! Superb forest still exists here, despite recent expansion into the area, and we will spend the day birding a few choice sites. The list of possible species is huge, some 300+ (!), so we will focus on specialities: Colombian Chachalaca, Crimson-rumped and White-throated Toucanets, and the mind-blowing Multicolored Tanager, among many other tanagers and some 15 species of hummingbirds!
Aside from the fabulous birding (including the occasionally mind-numbing mixed flock that defies reason), the scenery here is stunning, and the privilege of birding such an ornithologically famous area is undeniable. Due to a recent invasion of wealthy landowners from Cali constructing their mansions in the vicinity of KM 18, after we turn onto the Old Buenaventura Road and continue some 40kms, we will enter the best birding in the region. Having travelled the new, improved, more-heavily trafficked Buenventura Highway, this will be a welcome departure into the truly remote, undisturbed forests of the Anchicaya River drainage along the old road.
Day 19: Anchicaya to Buenaventura
We will spend the entire day birding the various trails and forested stretches of road between km’s 48 and 77 of the Old Buenaventura Road. The habitats will range from lower subtropical to Choco foothill forests and secondary forest, ranging from 1,400 to 500m in elevation. This is THE ideal birding transect in the heartland of the Choco-Pacific! More than 400 species have been recorded between Cali and Buenaventura. While neither time nor interest will take us all the way to the lower elevations at Buenventura, the majority of the species we will encounter today are highly sought-after and stunning birds.
Baudo Guan, Semicollared Hawk, Dusky Pigeon, Pallid Dove, Indigo-crowned Quail-Dove, Violet-bellied, Purple-chested and Tooth-billed Hummingbirds, Lanceolated Monklet, Rose-faced Parrot, Spot-crowned Barbet, Choco Woodpecker, Zeledon’s and Esmeraldas Antbirds, Choco Tapaculo, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Green and Golden-collared Manakins, Sooty-headed Wren, Rufous-brown Solitaire, Choco Warbler, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Golden-chested, Blue-whiskered, Scarlet-browed, Gray-and-Gold, and Dusky-faced Tanagers, Crested Ant Tanager and Yellow-green Bush Tanager (Yellow-green Chlorospingus) are all regularly recorded in this insanely bird-rich area. Night birding might turn up Colombian Screech Owl or Cloud Forest Pygmy Owl, as well as some fancy reptiles and amphibians, in which a proportionate level of endemism is displayed!
Day 20: San Cipriano to Cali and PM flight to Bogota for departure
Our last morning’s birding will be a great one. To access the rich forests of the escalarete area, reached only by the amusing “brujas”. These small, hand-powered, platform train cars take visitors up to the forest trails via the local rail system. Novel, and unique to this site in Colombia! The most-wanted species here is, perhaps, Five-colored Barbet. This is one of only three reliable sites for this beautiful Choco endemic. Black-and-white Hawk Eagle, Bronzy Hermit, Band-tailed Barbthroat, Blue-tailed Trogon, Black-breasted Puffbird, Stub-tailed Antbird, Thicket Antpitta, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Pacific Flatbill, Black-tipped Cotinga, and Slate-throated Gnatcatcher are amongst the 250+ species that inhabit the area! It will be a great way to finish up a wonderful tour, visiting the best of the remote birding sites in Colombia. After a full morning, we will make our way to Cali for evening flights to Bogota.
What our clients say about tours to Colombia
- MK, Colombia 2017
Forrest was absolutely fantastic. The best birder/guide that we have ever had the pleasure of travelling with. His enthusiasm and passion for his work were exceptional and made for an awesome birding trip.DH & RD, Colombia Highlights
From the several members of the office staff to the actual tour itself, I have nothing but high praise for my Rockjumper experience. This was my first tour with Rockjumper, but I hope it won’t be my last. Alison and Sarah were tremendously helpful. Rob Williams is as good a leader as I have ever experienced. He not only knows the birds, but he made sure that we all got to see them, showing patience way beyond what I thought necessary. When one of our participants lost his passport, Rob bent over backwards to help this hapless person, never complaining while doing so. Rob always told us what the plan was for the next day. When Plan A didn’t pan out, he had Plan B ready. If something went askew, he handled it with aplomb, always keeping his sense of humour. Did I mention he showed us wonderful birds? Oh, we saw some beautiful ones!CA, Colombia 2017
Rob Williams and the Rockjumper folks were absolutely fantastic in helping me after I lost my passport. They made sure I got back to Bogota for the embassy appointments, changing plans on the fly. Very impressive dedication to help customers.BA, Colombia 2017