Colombian Central Andes
By Alejandro Pinto
A quick trip on the western slope of the central cordillera, with stops in the Andean, High Andean forest and the Paramo ecosystems in the way to achieve top quality birds of the Colombian andes, with the company of Western Pennsylvania Audubon´s chapter.
The western slope of the Central cordillera
Day 1. Otun
A beautiful morning above Pereira, birding at the Otun river basin área, after our breakfast, we quickly moved to do some birding into the forest! After the drive and once we leave the car and started a walk into the forest: Collared Trogon (male and female) Chestnut-capped Brush Finch, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, and the highlights of the morning: the endemic Cauca Guan and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. By midday we had a nice talk about Yarumo Blanco NGO and their comunitary-based program in the Otun river basin, also it was time for birding and we spotted some good birds in that area, including a flash of the female Torrent Duck, but also White-capped Deeper. Later in the day a single male Red-howler Monkey eating berries from a palm tree before the rain, was the way to end the day.
Day 2. The Fuerte´s Parrot
A heavy rain/storm all night long! We started to drive about 5:00 am on a bumpy road towards east climbing the central cordillera. We had a nice picnic breakfast in the mountain and we started our birding, quickly we heard the call of the Fuerte´s Parrot and we spotted! This parrot is endemic, critical endangered and rediscovered after 90 years with no records.
The morning was loaded with really good birds: Purple-backed Thornbill was spotted several times during the day but also Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Pale-naped Brush- Finch, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Golden-fronted Redtstar, Pearled Treeruner, Slaty Brush-Finch and more!
Afternoon at café hacienda to learn about coffee culture, coffee process and sure thing…drink a cup of coffee.
Day 3. Rio Blanco
We arrived to Rio Blanco reserve – above Manizales – just on time for the first Antpitta feeding station, Mateo, our local guide started to whistling calling the Antpitta and after few minutes a Bicolored Antpitta gave us a nice show, eating worms! A campesino breakfast in place ad time to njoy a bit the feeders around the house: Bluw-winged Mountain Tanager, Blue-caped Tanager, White-throated Dagerbill among others. Then, we quickly moved to the second Antpitta feeding station and again a beautiful Chestnut-crowned Antpitta was showing off for a long time around the area and suddenly a male Green and Black Fruiteater appears and perch quietly in front of us. He was waiting for his snacks also! The next feeding stations were very productive with Slate-crowned Antpitta and the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta.
The morning was loaded with birds due to the mix flocks and we enjoy a lot of beauties of the high Andean forest: Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Grey-browed Brush-Finch, Black-eared Hemispingus, Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Xenops, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Southern Emerald Toucanet and plenty more! During our midday break we enjoy some time around the hummingbirds and bananas feeders and we saw more beautiful birds: Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, Bronzy Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Slaty Brush-Finch. After lunch we decided to make a couple stops on the way, we were walking slowly into the forest and we spotted: Black-billed Peppershrike, Black-eared Hemispingus, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher and Andean Motmot, a day with 87 species recorded!
Day 4. Tinamu reserve
An incredible full day at Tinamu reserve loaded with good birds and delicious coffee. During the morning we enjoyed the hummingbird and Tanager feeders around the hacienda, after breakfast we did a nice walk through the secondary forest and agriculture landscape of the rural area, we were able to spot top quality birds like: Parker´s Antbird, Bar-crested Antshrike, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Brown-throated Parakeet, Stripe-throated Hermit, Cocoa Thrush and many others. Our mid day break was followed by a short lecture about the story of the reserve and then more birds! At the afternoon we walked inside the forest, great views of Grey-headed Dove and Golden-collared Manakin, also Plain-brown Woodcreeper and finally a Kinkajou sleeping in an old tree.
Day 5. Old Road to los Nevados
Heavy rain all the night and with that some landslides came down blocking the road to “el Color de mi revés” at last minute we had to change our plans! We bird on the old road to los nevados which is home of primary high Andean forest, our breakfast took place in a farmers house surrounded by flowers and loaded with good hummingbirds: Shinning Sunbeam, Long-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, Sparkling Violetear and others. Then during the walk we saw some mix flocks loaded with top quality birds: Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-fronted Redstar, Dusky Piha, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Barred Becard, Smoky Bush Tyrant, Pearled Treeruner, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant and at the end of the morning we worked for a while for the Ocellated Tapaculo – did not showed off! – at the afternoon a short stop in a hummingbird feeders place to enjoy some nice hummers: Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Long-tailed Sylph, Andean Emerald, Speckled Hummingbird. Now heading off to los Nevados National park.
Day 6. Los Nevados National park, birding at 12.000 ft
At the morning we enjoyed the nice hummingbird feeders at the hotel, with great views of: Golden-breasted Puffleg, Great Saphirewing, Shinning Sunbeam when suddenly appears a Tawny Antpitta walking right in front of us and give a show! After breakfast we moved to Los Nevados Natural park on the way we got spectacular views of Black-chested Buzzard Eagle once we reached the 12.000 ft. in elevation, our main target the Buffy Helmetcrest was very cooperative and we got an incredible show of a male working around several flowers. During the morning and afternoon we were able to spot other top quality birds: Many-stripe Canastero, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Black-thiged Puffleg, Andean Duck, Plain-colored Seedeater among others.
At the end of the day went into the hotsprings!
Day 7. Hacienda el Bosque
Our last full day in the field was loaded with incredible sights! Early morning start to drive on scenery road in los Nevados area on the way to reach Hacienda el Bosque, a dairy farm with patches of high Andean forest which is goe of very top quality birds. After our breakfast in the hacienda we enjoy the feeding stations: Equatorial Antpitta and Grey-browed Brush Finch in the first feeder but also White-browed Spinetail was working around. We moved to the second stations to enjoy some hummingbirds for a while: Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfronlet, Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail among others and then the rockstar of the place “Lunita” an adorable Crescent-faced Antpitta, also Yellow-bellied Chat Tyrant and Andean Guan. The third station gave us nice sights and shots of the Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Hooded Mountain Tanager, White-throated Quail Dove and a short walk in the singletrack a really nice bird, the Barred Fruiteater. Hacienda el Bosque was the perfect place to end our trip.
After 7 days in the field, our bird’s list was 239 species and the top ones for the group:
Indigo-winged Parrot (aka Fuerte’s Parrot)
Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan
Thanks to the western Pensilvania Audubon’ society chapter, all the local guides in the field: Mateo, Edilson, Fernando. Our main driver Miller and eco-lodge’s staff for make this adventure an enriching experience.