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Enjoy nature with us! Is not just Birding, are amazing nature holidays!


Enjoy nature with us!

Is not just Birding, are amazing nature holidays

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The Andes of Macondo for Daniel Newberry and Caroline Spear

By Luis García Cuartas 


Dulima Reserve, Combeima. Andean Cloud Forest. Road to Doima, tropical dry forest
Having Daniel and Caroline as repeating customers after visiting the Amazonas forest at Inírida once with us but within a birding group of people, something more personal would be very nice for them to be introduced to the Andes and high Magdalena avían with Luis García as tour leader and Pastor as driver touring this time.


Starting at 6AM at the Hilton Garden Inn Aeropuerto in Bogota for breakfast, the first destination and spot is Chicaque NP, tropical Andean cloud forest. (2600 to 2000 masl) Driving 1 ½ hours out of Bogota jurisdiction on the southwest way through Soacha, a very well preserved cloud forest of 740 acres after 40 years of work with a list of over 400 bird species.
The birding starting hotspot is a small pound right at Cascajal dependency entrance on the way to Chicaque with the endemic Spot-flanked Gallinule, followed by others like Pied-billed Grebe, Western Cattle Egret, Southern Lapwing and other resident songbirds, what a perfect way to start our birding.
Now is time for roadside birding after listening to a few calls from Black-crested Warbler, White-sided Flowerpiercer and White-throated Tyrannulet, after a short walk we spotted Swainson’s Thrush as the first migratory species. Still on the road Sparkling and Lesser Violetear, also Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and Yellow-backed Oriole calling and calling as we spotted two Roadside Hawks, also calling, this is a very active road. Once in Chicaque NP, the hummingbirds in the feeders and the parking lot made very well for lifers and beauties for starting the Park. 
Golden-bellied Starfrontlet is what a hummer, the Collared Inca is also looking so nice this morning but, Tourmaline Sunangel was a one that Daniel really likes. By the parking lot tanagers starting with the outstanding Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, White-sided Flowerpiercer that is very common here, few winter birds like Black-burnian Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo showed up and one or two Swainson’s Thrush more.
From the New world sparrows, Pale-naped Brushfinch and Rufous-collared Sparrow, singing and spotted. Anyway, time to go downhill hiking through the cloud forest inside the Park. Just started birding and after a few good spots of the Rusty Flowerpiercer, Speckled Hummingbird and Moustached Brushfinch, the rain started to fall a bit hard, although, we never stopped walking until it rained less so the birds also started to fly around again so we had Brown-billed Scythebill, Streaked Xenops, Chestnut-capped Warbler, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Slate-throated Redstart, Chestnut-capped Brushfinch.
And that’s how we made it to the second restaurant facility for  lunch at restaurant Refugio and after taking one of those Jeeps to go back and meet Pastor, our driver. Transfer cars and transfer straight to Ibagué, Tolima, across the Magdalena river. Altamira Estelar Hotel for the next 3 days around Ibagué city, the capital for the Tolima Department, a half million population city and the Musical Capital City of Colombia, sounds great huh?.
eBird lists here 


The hotspot is the lagoon complex of El Salado, 30 minutes from the hotel on the southeast way, where water bodies have an extended checklist of water birds and dry forest specialties in the forest surroundings. Once at the hotspot Daniel wanted the Common Tody-Flycatcher, and it was right there as we dropped the car, nice! A look around for flycatchers, egrets, ibis and finches, vultures flyover the place also. Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Brown-capped Vireo along two Tropical Gnatcatchers made it great. 
Time to look over the El Escobal lagoon and enjoy the many species present like Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Striated Heron, Cocoi Heron, Common Gallinule, Little-blue Heron, Wood Stork, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Neotropic Cormorant, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Ringed Kingfisher, White-headed Marsh Tyrant and others.
After that incredible spotting, a bit of dry forest surrounds the lagoon with Western Wood-Pewee, Pied Water-Tyrant, Kiskadees, Eastern Kingbird, Olivaceous Piculet, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Elaenias, two Dwarf Cuckoo’s that we really liked and many Groove-billed Ani’s also, what a spot! 
Time for a lunch around the area, then we turned back to the El Salado road to Doima for a very nice roadside birding, time for Seedeaters, Ground Doves, a far Savanna Hawk, Rufous-tailed Jacamar in pairs, Red-crowned Woodpeckers, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Tricolored Munia looking really nice in the pastures next to the bouncers Blue-black Grassquit and the tiny Ruddy-breasted Seedeater followed by the northerns Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, Yellow Warbler, Canada Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler. Well, as we go deep the landscape turns repetitive as an extensive corn field marks the horizon so it is time to turn back to the hotel. So far, this is a very nice start for the lowlands surrounding Ibagué city, great! Back at the hotel, Italian food and a good rest for the night.
Overall eBird checklist here 


For day 4 on schedule in Ibagué is the San Jorge Botanical Garden, 25 minutes away from the hotel to the north of the city. A spectacular reserve with beautiful trails easy to hike and enjoy a real show of colors and shapes in the same place.  At the entrance, the botanical garden welcomes you with a nice fruit feeder where a Black-faced Dacnis and one or two Crimson-backed Tanager came to feed from the banana, a few Bananaquit came to the feeder also.
Eventually we were into a cloud forest just after the entrance building. In such a short time, this place looks really good and what a surprise as an Andean Motmot perched on the guadua bambu along the trail, Caroline and Daniel really liked this bird. Also Green Hermit was humming and feeding from flowers along the trail where Blue-necked Tanager foraging the trees and Crimson-Backed Tanager came to another fruit feeder followed by Ruddy-ground Dove doing its thing with the grains. 
Then an incredible orchid collection that is very easy to identify because of the signs with the names making it clear for every species, pretty enjoyable for orchid lovers. Around the flowers White-vented Plumeleteer and Shining-green Hummingbird that got Carolines attention.
Anyway, the White-bearded Manakin is one of our targets here and it didn’t took too long until some female individuals were spotted followed by two to three males moving all around but just in front of us for a wonderful sighting, how beautiful is that manakin, it gave us such an emotion. “Manakin promised, manakin delivered”. Deep into the trail it took us to “El mirador”, how wonderful, the city on the far and a tropical humid forest in between our view took all of our attention and made us to have a nice conversation while in there but also a fine spot for the Cerulean Warbler, a couple, a mate couple, that was even better! 
Back at the trail and on our way out from El mirador, Black-bellied Wren and a brief look to Andean Motmot that we took some time trying to find it again until we scrambled the area that much that a Common Pauraque jumped into the falling leaves and mimetized with the background as we lost it completely, that was nice. More tanagers on the very way out once leaving the place like Bay-headed Tanager, White-shoulder Tanger, Gray-headed Tanager and Buff-throated Saltator, some Seedeaters over the pastures outside the garden property like Yellow-bellied Seedeater and the bouncers again, Blue-black Grassquit.
This place was completely amazing, we loved everything in there and for sure more lifer birds are introduced now to the list, wow! Time to go for lunch and get ready for the roadside birding session for the afternoon over La Aurora dependency road. Starting birding again at 3:15PM after a short rain that gave us enough time to locate us on a very nice part of the road with tall perches with cecropias, ficus and other potential trees, seems like this forest belongs to the corridor we could see from El mirador, however, a nice birding we had in this hotspot, some of the species were a gorgeous Squirrel Cuckoo, Andean Motmot, Crested Caracara, Mourning Warbler, Chestnut-capped Warbler, Summer Tanager and another beauty the Black-faced Dacnis subspecies Yellow-tufted.
Well, before the storm that apparently is forming in the sky we decided to turn back with plenty of satisfaction from a very productive day, so back at the car with Pastor and straight to Altamira´s for a break before dinner and setting the plan for the next day.
Overall eBird lists 


After a stormy night and with a chill in the morning we are ready for Los Alpes hotspot, a ranch outside Ibagué on the southeast way over El Totumo dependency, where a lovely couple Doña Luz Ángela and Don Gilberto along Diego, they run the place as their own version of paradise on earth, art, sculptures, vegetation and birds, fantastic place with hummingbirds feeders and fruit feeders for tangagers and others, also a very nice garden with flowers and fruit trees like citrus and avocado and the local bambu called guadua where a Manakin can be spotted so, with all of those elements we just need the birds to do its thing but also us looking after every detail here and trying to enjoy like easy and relax it could be in here.
After spending part time between the feeders having White-necked Jacobin, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer, Black-throated Mango, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Orange-crowned Oriole, Palm Tanger, and others, part time in the gardens with two attempts after the manakin in the company of Mr Gilberto but without any spot from that one but a very productive list with Aplomado Falcon flyby over our heads like looking for prey, Liniated Woodpecker, Black-chested Jay, Summer Tanager, Plain-colored Tanager, Masked Tityra, Slaty Spaintail, White-winged Becard, Yellow-olive Flatbill and many other that were spotted in the surroundings of the house. 
We had a very special lunch cooked by Doña Luz Ángela, books to read and enough coffee to drink which makes this visit a delight while in Ibagué, what an incredible place Los Alpes is, thanks to this beautiful family. That’s how we spend a lovely day at El Totumo, just perfect for closing up the round around Ibague as our next destination is Iguaima Hotel in the Combeima Canyon over the northwest of the Tolima Department, the slopes of the Combeima awaits.
Overall eBird lists here
Staying at Iguaima for the next 4 days in a very comfortable wooden cabin in the rural area, were birding never stops on a easy way in the gardens and the open fields of the complex that can take through a short walk to the river for making the staying very neat as more time birding we could get at every place the better, so we started our eBird lists since the first time after arriving in the place. 
Combeima Canyon is our location for the next birding days to come, an incredible spot with splendid Andean forest up until the paramos on the way to the glacial summit NNP Los Nevados Nevado del Tolima. The Combeima river basin is where we are going to move along as a hotspot visiting the Regional Reserve Dulima for two days before going to meet the Yellow-eared Parrot hotspot at Anaime, so here we go for the cloud forest of the Combeima canyon over the Central Andes.

DAY 6 & 7

For day 6 & 7, we did almost the same, a morning birding session around the Iguaima property through the trails next to the river with a line of riparian vegetation, trees, shrubs, pastures and shores that gives plenty of options to different bird species without leaving the complex before breakfast time.
Check eBird liste here:
Then roadside birding before the reserve on day 6 as it gives plenty of chances through the tree lines over the road with some beauties like Collared Trogon, Green Jay, Golden-fronted Redstart, Golden-hooded Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, but also a one that got Daniel’s attention, Azara’s Spinetail.
The cloud forest hotspot into the reserve on the road to the NP Tolima is up to 2000 masl, a beautiful forest with an extensive and rich vegetation and with the high humidity related to this forest it gives the sensation of the perfect conditions for birding the Andes, Caroline and Daniel went amazed by the forest in this area, its magical. We covered more than 2 miles in two stages as the first day’s attempt it rained in the afternoon, but the second time it went really well for us and for the birding. Each day gave us different bird species with an average of 10 lifers for Caroline and Daniel per day like Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Sickle-winged Guan, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Chestnut-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, that one was coming as a main target for Daniel so yey! And many others.
eBird lists here:Nevertheless, once on the road on the way back, a couple of stops for more hotspots and a few lifer birds to add. Find those here on the eBird list:
Finally, every night Daniel and I, we tried to search for the owls at Iguaima´s with nice results as for the first night we had a flight and a perch of the Mottled Owl but not clearly visible like on the last night of the staying that we had it reacting to the playback and perching on the treeline on the back of the cabins, easy like that, what an incredible owl it is, we were completely satisfied in this place.  


One of the most exciting days of the tour was this because it was the day planned to meet the Yellow-eared Parrot at Anaime, a restricted and endangered bird almost extinct that has lost its habitat because the pressure that the settlement and farming has done over the cloud forest of Colombia and the wax palm tree that is essential for the parrot. Several efforts are coming from different angles, from local conservationists to cooperative conservation agencies, and plenty of programs trying to contribute to stopping the predation of the habitat but still it doesn’t have a promising future as the cloud forest is almost gone and just a couple of hundreds of palm trees stand there.
One of the local actors in this situation nowadays is who is going to be our guide to take us to the hotspot but he and his family are hosts for Retorno de los Colibríes, a recent but excellent hummingbirds feeders station with chances for many other species that we´ll visit later, his name is Diego Espitia. Diego has been working independently as a student, the local people but also with the agencies in the area for many years now so he knows very well all of the situation but also where to find the nesting, feeding and roost forest of the parrot for us.
We are now located over the west of the Tolima Department in the Anaime river basin where the last two cloud forest relics with wax palms trees are still standing, that is what is left for the parrot. The morning was cloudy and we drove for almost three hours to be in the hotspot, after a short walk we meet the wax palm trees and the roost forest in front of us and then the parrots started to flyover in pairs looking for holes in the palm trunks, at least 10 of them we spotted immediately, they are lovely and noisy at the same time but we could have really nice views and some photos and sound recordings for our memory trip.
Also, Diego shared all he knows about the parrot and what is the most recent situation according to what has been going on in order to preserve the forest and the bird, it took our breath away at some point as he was giving us all of that information, nevertheless there is hope as some local people that used to be farmers are changing ways and are contributing to the programs with their own intentions, preserving a few old farming fields where the forest and the palm are starting to grow again, yes, that is the hope. As the local people get the idea of conservation right there is when everything is worth doing, we celebrate that with Diego.
After almost two hours on the spot watching the bird and sharing ideas and thoughts, it was time to turn back on the way to Retorno de los Colibríes hotspot for the hummers and for some lunch. It was for certain the highlight piece of the tour so far, thanks Diego and to all the people that are giving their lives for preserving this beautiful bird and forest, wishing you all the best. Next to the Yellow-eared Parrot, the outstanding Bronze-winged Parrot was using the same palms and flying over the place, that one got our attention for some time though, what a nice bird. eBird list here.
Once in Retorno de los Colibríes, the hummingbirds show is outstanding, Caroline and Daniel were blown away by how many species and individuals can come to the feeders like this, they just took the time to enjoy the action from the hummers but also for the many others species in the surroundings. The specialties here are two endemics, Tolima Blossomcrown, and Tolima Dove, the hummer visits the Tamarin flowers and the dove visits a grain feeder below citrus trees with a hide for photographers, another endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird on the feeders, lovely. But it’s not only about hummers here so check the eBird lists here   as the northern birds are everytime around this time of the year and some local beauties also come to those feeders. Last but not least in here is the Espitia family that are putting their best to make the visit to Retorno a one to never forget but definitely a must visit twice with all the good taste of the food, the coffee, and the warm people they are that is the most important, thanks, we´ll meet again.
What a remarkable day, with mixed emotions and a big smile on our face, is how we left Anaime on the way back to Iguaima that gave us enough time to share our own impressions about the experience for closing such a relevant issue before wrapping the day. 
Overall eBird lists here 
Back at Iaguama, a short meal and night birding, the night for the Mottled Owl. Finally and after two nights we had that owl on a clean view for a couple of minutes, the best way to end our staying in the place as the next day we leave the area after birding Ukuku Rural Lodge. 


Our final birding day is at Ukuku Rural Lodge, back in the Combeima canyon, an spectacular lodge where birding never stops. Annie and Truman are the hosts and they make the experience pretty enjoyable, as they have been in the place for the last 10 years setting everything up with delicate work.
The birding starts at 6AM for the Tolima Dove, followed by a delicious breakfast cooked by Annie herself, then, birding the gardens where feeders stations are set for hummers, tangagers and others. Tolima Blossomcrown is also spotted here in the Tamarin flowers in front of the lodge, flowers that the White-booted Racket-tail hummingbird likes too. Daniel made it to have a couple of nice photos. Two more beautiful  hummers are the Bronze Inca and the Red-billed Emerald that can be spotted in the feeders but also using some flowers, that Emerald is very special.
In the fruit feeder a lot of action also from Palm Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Scrub Tanager, Golden Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager and other tanagers, fantastic. Walking around the place through the gardens, more birds and lovely views of the canyon makes this morning perfect as the wind blows gently and the weather feels sweet. Flycatchers, Saltators, Grassquits, raptors and northern birds.
Right at noon it was time to go back down and seek for the Torrent Duck over the river, final target of the tour also, it was the last chance to have that one and yes we had it for few seconds on a rock, it was a male and we celebrated that as it was the best way to end the tour, with the most beautiful duck of South America, well done!
eBird lists here 

Afternoon we drove straight back to Bogota, sharing the best memories and reading the numbers of the eBird Trip report from Daniel. Overall 240 bird species, 130 lifer birds, numbers that succeeded the expectations from Caroline and Daniel, so it makes us so happy at Manakin to accomplish a successful tour. We like to thank Caroline and Daniel for trusting us on this tour one more time. We´ll meet again soon.
Thanks to:
Chicaque NP, Cundinamarca
Hotel Altamira, Ibagué
Jardín Botánico San Jorge, Ibagué
Luz Ángela y Fernando, Finca Los Alpes, El Totumo IBagué
Iguaima Hotel y Restaurante, Combeima, Ibagué
Familia Espitia (Marta Fernando, Mónica y Diego), Retorno de los Colibríes, Loro orejiamarillo, Anaime, Tolima
Special guests:
Caroline Spear & Daniel Newberry

From the bottom of my heart

Meeting Caroline and Daniel was really special to me, I found one of a kind people this time, the way they are coming to Colombia so interested not only in the birds but also interested in the people and the conditions we are going through nowadays.
We enjoyed every conversation, starting with some ethnic and anthropological matters by the very beginning of the tour, until the Gabo conversation returning to Bogota, and why we called Colombia the magical realistic country after the titles he wrote, a vision that i know now Caroline and Daniel can understand better after experiencing more of my beautiful country.But it was not just about birds and Colombia, I also found people who I could trust with my personal matters and that opened a door that we walked together to the point that we felt like friends from a long time, friends you could trust. To me, this is one of the most beautiful things from birding, that you can build a strong bond with people that you have things in common like the love for the birds and their habitats, the nature, people that cares the communities, and likes having real experiences, all of that i founded in Caroline and Daniel and I know that will last forever as I know that we are going birding Santa Marta for their next time in Colombia.
Thanks for the advice, for cheering me up and for all the lessons I’ve learned from you. Looking forward to meeting you again.I would also like to thank everyone at Manakin for making this possible, we are the best, guys! 

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