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Western and Central Colombian Andes – Trip Report

By. Alejandro Pinto
4 friends and keen birds from UK join togheter in this trip: Dave, Richard, Jonathan and Robert and last but not least the Manakin Nature tour leader: Alejo Pinto. Ready to visit 2 branches of the Andes including some of the most iconic places for birding, loaded with many endemics and range restricted birds! Despite this trip is focus on some endemics we were looking for everything and we enjoyed every single bird, the beautiful sceneries of the Colombian mountains and the dramatic landscapes above 12.000 feet in the paramos! An epic 9 days trip with about 330 sight birds and tons of lifers for our guests!

La Romera park, Medellin.

After a short (45 min) flight to Medellin, we spend our first morning at La Romera, above Medellin, on the central cordillera, a morning easy to remember, cause after leave the car we immediately saw a family of the endemic Red-bellied Grackle. We also add some species like: White-throated Toucanet (Southern Emerald Toucanet complex), Colombian Chachalaca, Highland Motmot (Andean Motmot) and others. After Lunch we drove towards southwest to the charmy town of Jardin, located on the western Andes. A quick afternoon visit to the well known Andean Cock of the Rock lek was great to finish our first morning in the field. Pizza and local beer at night surrounded by the atmosphere of the colorful town.

Alto ventanas and Lucia & Martin Feeders

Early morning start to drive to the top of the mountain, before reach the top we spotted a Chami Antpitta running across the road and gave us good views! Once on the top, known as alto ventanas we had some Yellow-eared Parrot groups flying by with clear views of this spectacular birds, and to finish the short stop, a Slate-crowned Antpitta catching its breakfast into a bambu bushy área! After a quick campesino breakfast in the mountain we visit some feeding stations:  Chami Antpitta (Linda), Chesnut-naped Antpitta (Belleza) and Slate-crowned Antpitta came to get sworms, but also we saw on the way: Golden-fronted Redstart, Flammulated Treehunter, Rufous-crowned Toyd Flycatcher and beautiful mountain Tanagers, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant and others. During the lunch at the mountain we spotted a family of White-capped Tanagers, Inca (Green) Jays and Acorn Woodpeckers and tons of hummingbirds.

Bolombolo área and the Cauca Valley endemics.

We leave Jardin and drove to the lowlands near the Cauca River, our main targets: Antioquia Wren, Greyish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher; three in a row! We found al lof them very fast but other birds inckuding: Black-crowned Antshrike, Striped Cuckoo, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Greenish Elaenia, Tropical Gnatcatcher. After our short but productive sesión we were on our way to Manizales on the central cordillera. We reached our next lodge – Rio Blanco – by the afternoon and we decided to stoped and the lower portion: Choco (White-throated) Dagerbill, Sickle-winged Guan, Bronzy Inca, Chesnut-bellied (Slaty-backed) Chat-tyrant and others.

Full day at Rio Blanco

Our main aim was to add all the posible species of Antpittas to our trip list.
We me tour local guide Miguel, who help us to spot many birds! Was a very succesful day since we got: Bicolored Anpitta, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Brown-banded Antpitta, Masked Saltator, the very rare Slaty Finch, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, incredible views of the Golden-plumed Parakeet, Tyrannine Woodcreeper and others. A heavy rain at the late afternoon put low our chances to spot night birds! But anyway was a fantastic morning into the mountains.

Hacienda el Bosque and los Nevados

A rush day! Hacienda el Bosque was a last minute adition to our itinerary but as a guide I was sure we could get mostly all the targets pushing a little. After our early morning transfer all the way to the 3000 masl, and the best hot chocolate at the hacienda, we visited the feeding stations but also forest around hacienda el bosque to quickly increase our list with outstanding birds: Equatorial Antpitta, White-browed Spinetail, Purple-backed Thornbill, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Barred Fruiteater, Buff-winged Starfronlet and the rockstar Crescent-faced Antpitta. By 9:30 we move to the 4100 masl at los Nevados Natural park on the way to our next targets: as son as we leave the car… a beautiful male Buffy Helmetcrest was flying around us, during the next 20min we spotted at least 4-5 males and 3 females, but also the Tawny Antpitta running on the Trail and the Viridian Metaltail. Other birds for this day includes: Shinning Sunbeam, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfronlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Lacrimose Mountain Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Paramo Tapaculo, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tut-Spinetail, Many-striped Canastero among others!  By the end of the day a mix Flock gave us an un expected Masked Mountain-Tanager!
We enjoyed the stunning paramo scenery and the alpine type paramo habitats and seeing the flowering plants and rocky landscape.  After lunch we drove all the way down to Otun area, above Pereira city a cold beer at night for celebrating.


Early morning transfer to the end of the road, an area known as “El Cedral”, we arrived before the light with our main target: Hooded Antpitta. After 30min of hard work we got the perfect view of this incredible bird perche don a mossy Branch! What a way to start a day! the picnic breakfast into the forest was interrupted by the song of many birds and after walk some minutes we got some good flocks with foest birds like: Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Montane Foliage-gleaner, the spectacular Multicolored Tanager, Plumbeos-crowned Tyrannulet also near the river the White-capped Deeper and glimpse of the Moustached Antpitta.  Down the road got other birds that made our morning:  Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Cauca Guan, Inca Jay and now heading to our last spot on the western Andes.

Montezuma 2 full days

We spent two full days and one morning in the area of Montezuma, inside Tatamá National natural park, right after the farm house- our lodge for 3 nights- there is a 12 km road to the top of the mountain with an altitudinal gain of aprox 1200 meters (4000 ft) that means, with the change of elevation you also change the set of birds… our first morning we climbed to the ridge, and we had a breakfast with a view, right in from of some of the most beautiful peaks of the western Andes facing the pacific, and we started to walk. This first morning was a mindblowing!  Loaded with mix flocks and many birds all the time! we watched: Chesnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood Wren, Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, Gold-ringed Tanager, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Empress Brilliant, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Bicolored Antvireo, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Fulvous-dotted Treeruner, Black Solitaire, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Nariño Tapaculo, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, White-faced Nunbird and many many orchids in flower!
For the second morning we climbed until mid-elevations, this time our breakfast was in the middle of the forest, we also got: Tatama Tapaculo, Club-winged Manakin, Scaled Fruiteater, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Olive Finch, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Black and Gold Tanager and the elusive Lanceolated Monklet.  among others! What a day! Late afternoon we spend some time at the hummingbird feeders: Green Thorntail, Empress Brilliant, Purple-throated Woodstar, Western Emerald, Rufous-gaped Hillstar and others!
On our last and short morning we kicked off the trip and certainly we had a moment with: Parker´s Antbird, Zeledon Antbird, among other good birds. A short stop on the road on the way back and we got the las bird of the trip: Dwarf Cuckoo! – and flight to Bogotá.
Special thanks to our driver Erney who drives safety and took care of us all the time and Duberney and Jhon in Montezuma, the local Guides: Miguel at Rio Blanco, Edilson at hacienda el Bosque, Lucia & Martin at alto Ventanas and Gleison at Montezuma, they were very helpful at the field!

Top birds of the trip: Buffy Helmetcrest, Hooded Antpitta, Crescent-faced Antpitta, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Gold-ringed Tanager, Lanceolated Monklet, Scaled Fruiteater and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.

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