Before start: I was waiting for the group at the gate of the airport, is usually easy to recognize a birder, but with this guys that was easy peasy! The came out of the gate wearing the binoculars and we started our birding right at the airport!
Day 1. Otun
A beautiful morning above Pereira, birding at the Otun river basin área, after a campesino breakfast in a local restaurant in la Florida, we quickly moved to do some birding into the forest! After the drive and once we leave the car the first bird was a beautiful Sickle-winged Guan, followed by Three-striped Warbler and Russet-crowned Warbler. A short walk into the area gave us nice views of the Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant and around the river a nice White-capped Deeper also a beautiful male Barred Becard. We did a nice walk into the forest and we saw good mix flocks loaded with birds: Multicolor Tanager (endemic), Variegated Bristle-tyrant, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Streaked Xenops, Red-faced Spinetail, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper and on the top of the café: Crested Ant-Tanager (endemic)! Also we spotted at least three different families of Red Howler Monkeys on our walk! By mid morning we saw other targets like: Cauca Guan (endemic) and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow! To end the day we spent some time around the bananas feeder at out hotel to add some goodies: Golden Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Black-winged Saktator and Andean Motmot.
Day 2. The Fuerte´s Parrot
A heavy rain/storm all night long! We started to drive about 5:10 am on a bumpy road towards east climbing the central cordillera, 45 min later a flat tired forced us to make a stop in the middle of the mountain, luckily our drivers change the tired in record time and we kept driving to the best birding area. We had a nice breakfasta in the mountains but the weather seems to be wet today…we started our birding with a ligh drizzle which little by little turn into a soft rain, anyway we heard the call of the Fuerte´s Parrot and we spotted one just before the serious rain! This parrot is endemic, critical endangered and rediscovered after 90 years with no records. We took a 1.5 hours nap into the cars during the rain. Again a soft drizzle, we decided to start to walk and we saw a bunch of good birds! In order: Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Pale-naped Brush- Finch, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Golden-fronted Redtstar, Pearled Treeruner, Slaty Brush-Finch, Red-crested Cotinga….and more!
Despite the rain we had a really good time and birding and also spectaculars views of el Ruiz Volcano and Santa Isabel snowy peak! On the way back, we saw near the road a beautiful Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and flying the Carunculated Caracara to end the day.
Day 3. La Semilla & Color de mi Reves
In the morning we visited a beautiful Project sponsored by the Audubon society in the mountains of the central cordillera above the town of Finlandia. The project´s name is “La Semilla” and Daniel and his wife Stephanie whose are in charge of the project prepared a short speech about it. During the last years they turned their coffee plantation in a biological corridor to connect 2 different patches of forest, by planting thousands of native trees they finally got their goal and now they are trying to convince their neighborhoods to do the same, in that way many birds now fly around the area and also the records for small mammals are getting more common, we enjoy it some good birds at the feeders like: Black-winged Saltator, Scrub Tanager, Golden Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, Yellow-backed Oriole, Green Hermit, Western Emerald and others.
By late morning we drove on the way to the mountains above Manizales and visit el Color de mi reves, a small lodge located at 3000 masl loaded with good birds and nice feeding stations, to start the afternoon we had incredible views of the Black-billed Mountain Toucan and Blue-capped Tanager, after that we enjoyed the hummingbird feeders: Tourmaline Sunangel, Shinning Sunbeam, Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet and others , after a short walk we added some new species: Golden-fronted Whitestar, Blue-backed Conebill, Mountain Elaenia, Zone-tailed Hawk…by the end of the day we saw 17 species of hummingbirds!
It was an incredible day and we had the opportunity not only for birding, but also to learn how the Audubon society has contributed to local projects which leads conservation efforts!
Day 4. Tinamú
A cloudy but very productive morning around Tinamu lodge! We started our day walking on the main gravel road around the rural area near the lodge, and the backyard which produce nice birds: Bar-crested Antshrike, Blue-necked Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager among others. Once we reach the forest we saw a couple of Moustached Puffbirds and also Cocoa and Streak-headed Woodcreepers, Andean Motmot and a beautiful Green Hermit flycatching! Despite the drizzle during the early morning we kept on birding and we ot spectacular views of Bronze-winged Parrot and Blue-headed Parrot, also Pale-breasted Spinetail and Tropical Gnatatcher. After the drizzle the birds were more active and at the same time we heard: Parker´s Antbird, Jet Antbird and Great Antshrike! We only miss the Jet Antbird which was very vocal active but never gave us a chance! And after that, Fernando our local guide, spotted one of the birds of the day: Common Potoo, which was perched on a Bamboo tree like stick near the main road! After a nice lunch at the lodge we did a short into the forest: Gray-fronted Dove, and Black-tailed Flycatcher were some of the additions to our list and by the end of the day a beautiful male of Guira Tanager was around the area. Today we add 65 new species to our trip list and we are over 200 species, not bad for 4 days.
Day 5. Rio Blanco
We arrived to Rio Blanco reserve – above Manizales – just on time for the first Antpitta feeding station, Luz, our local guide started to whistling calling the Antpitta and after few minutes a Bicolored Antpitta gave us a nice show, eating worms! 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 behind the group and perch on the seats of the hide! He was waiting for his snacks also! The morning was loaded with birds due to the mix flocks and we enjoy a lot of beauties of the high Andean forest: Blue and Black Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain Tanager, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Streak-headed Antbird, Grey-browed Brush-Finch, Black-caped Hemispingus, Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Xenops, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker and plenty more! During our midday break we enjoy some time around the hummingbirds and bananas feeders and we saw more beautiful birds: Ling-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, Bronzy Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Slaty Brush-Finch, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager. After lunch we decided to make a couple stops on the way, we were walking slowly into the forest when the Golden-headed Quetzal sing! We spotted a male into the forest and some minutes later our last addition to this incredible day: Choco (White-throated) Daggerbill, what a day!
Day 6. Los Nevados
Before breakfast we visited the hummingbird feeders at our hotel to watch some nice ones: Shinning Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, and Golden-breasted Puffleg. After a nice breakfast we drive on the way to Los Nevados natural park, it was a beautiful clear morning and we had spectacular views of the snowy peaks of the central Andes. Our first and main target was the Buffy Helmetcreast, so we started with a walk on the gravel road, during the walk we saw a couple of times the Andean Tit-Spinetail and the Sedge Wren, after some minutes we walked on a single path near the park house and we spotted a beautiful male Helmetcreast perch not far! We enjoyed the bird for about 20 minutes! After that we made a short transfer on the main road, we got some coca tea for the elevation and we saw good birds near the road: Andean Teal, Many-striped Canastero, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Plain-colored Seedeater and Band-tailed Seedeater. After lunch we decided to go on the old road to Manizales and it was very productive! We saw many birds and 2 or 3 big mix flocks loaded with superb birds and lifer for Alejo: Black backed Bush-Tanager and other ones like: Crowned Chat-tyrant, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Purple-backed Thornbill, Black-thigged Pufflegs, Black-headed Hemispingus, Streaked Tuftedcheck, Pearled Treerunner, Ash-colored Tapaculo, also beside the road we spotted a Band-winged Nightjar! It was an incredible day loaded with many good birds and memories.
Day 7. Hacienda el Bosque
Las morning in the field, on our short drive to our birding spot we saw the ashes of El Ruiz Volcano and a beautiful color on the sky – sunrise at the top of the Andes – our breakfast at the mountain with nice views of the green rolling hills and after that our first feeding station: Julia show off very well this morning – Equatorial Antpitta – and also Raúl – Grey-browed Brush-Finch – a nice Buff-breasted Tanager and a lot of good hummingbirds like: Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-winged Starfronlet and Black-thighed Puffleg. Then we moved to the second feeding station to have incredible views of the rockstar: Lunita, an adorable Crescent-faced Antpitta who dance for us for a while giving us incredible views. On our third feeding spot we waited for a long time! Tuqui – Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan – took more than an hour for the show, anyway during that time we saw: Paramo Seedeater, Barred Fruiteater, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Andean Guan, Sickle-winged Guan, Blue and Black Tanager and many others! It was a perfect way to finish our trip.
All negatives at out covid test! And ready to go back home with many memories and good birds in the pocket!
Thanks a lot to all our local guides, main driver and local drivers: Leo –our main driver – Daniel and Stephanie at La Semilla, Luz Aide at Rio Blanco reserve, Nestor and Juan at Hacienda el Bosque.
Also many thanks to Holbrook and Audubon society to put this group together: Bertrand who was the Space Coast – Florida, Audubon´s leader and Jacqueline Sulek chief in conservation project for Audubon Florida and all the gang!: Anne Marie, Megan, Vallerie, Angela, Thomas, Steven, David, Jana and our fearless Colombian leader Alejo.
260 + records for 7 days, 38 Tanager, 30 hummingbird species and a lot of fun at the mountains in Colombia.
Top birds for the group: Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Andean Motmot, Ash-colored Tapaculo, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Crescent-faced Antpitta, Fuerte´s Parrot.