Western Andes & Flooded savannahs
This is my second trip with Terese & James and my third trip with Scott, after our previous adventures in Colombia, Scott told me: I think I deserve one more trip around your country, so I decided to design a customized special trip, putting together some of my favorite birding places because of the quality of the birds but also because of the special local experiences that those places offers to our guests. The first and main portion of the trip took place on the western Andes, around Cali and then in the area of Montezuma, all in mid and high elevations on the Andes, tons of endemics and near endemics of the cloud and rain forest and then we flew to the flooded savannahs to live the real Colombian safari and enjoy wildlife and nature.
But before of the main trip we had 2 days of pre-extension with Terese & James in the mountains of Jardin – Antioquia, to see some of the specialties: Yellow-eared Parrot, Red-bellied Grackle, Chami Antpitta and Andean Cock of the Rock! After our morning atop of the western cordillera with Lucia and Martin as a local guides we flew to Cali, the gang together for the adventure!
Day 1. Km 18, Florida
Departing early morning to reach our first spot located in the top of the western Andes, known as kilometer 18. We spent a complete morning at La Florida farm house, the welcome us with a great cup of coffee and tons of beautiful birds!
Multicolor Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Long-tailed Sylph but also: Chestnut Wood Quail and White-throated Quail Dove into the forest. Around the property, we also had great views of the Green and Black Fruiteater and the Golden-headed Quetzal, what a way to start a trip!
Our lunch in a local restaurant, a typical sancocho soup with nice views of hummingbirds: Booted Raquettail, Purple-throated Woodstar, Andean Emerald and many more.
Day 2. Doña Dora
After our lunch, we started down on the old road to Buenaventura, our first stop on the km 53 aprox near an old cars to look for the Lyre-tailed Nightjar and the Torrent Duck, despite we didn’t found the Lyre-tailed we saw some good birds on the road, including: Green Thorntail, Brown Inca, Dusky Chlorospingus, Spotted Barbtail, Rufous-gaped Hillstar and other. We continued on to Dona Dora´s El Descanso inn for lunch. We got several Hummingbirds and tanagers as well as the Toucan Barbet and Red-headed barbet! Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Silver-throated Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Purple-bibbed Whitetip. The lunch at Dora´s was fantastic and we had time to relax and get more birds. We left and found the Torrent Duck just passed the two cars stop! It was a fantastic day all around. At the afternoon we did some birding around Araucana lodge, a fantastic high end place with excellent service. We saw some good Tanager and hummingbirds but also Parker´s Antbird and Apical Flycatcher!
Day 3. Bitaco Forest and La Minga
Last day near Cali, we decided to go to Bitaco forest, a local protected area with good patches of cloud forest. We found many good birds walking on the gravel road: Andean Motmot, Collared Trogon, Bronze-winged Parrot, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet…a nice mix flock was the perfect opportunity for some little brown jobs like: Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant, Variegated Bristle Tyrant, Streak-necked Flycatcher and good Warblers. We took the road to La Minga, a local reserve which also protect part of the forest, the have a nice trails, but also a beautiful garden with feeders for hummingbirds and Tanagers, this road was very productive but also the feeders: Chestnut-breasted Wren was singing near the road and we have good views, also Green and Black Fruiteaters (male and female in the same field view!) more views of the Multicolor Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, incredible views of the Yellow-backed Oriole and many more. The lunch was an spectacular beans stew with sweet plantains and vegetables. Time to leave to Buga, located on the Cauca valley, just a short stop on the way to eat obleas – a local desert made with cookies and dulce de leche – afternoon to walk around the Basilica del señor de los Milagros and have a local dinner at town. On a random spot on the way to Buga we saw some good waterfowls and Oriole Blackbird!
Day 4. Sonso lagoon and driving to Montezuma
After breakfast we drove to sonso lagoon area, is a flooded area near an oxbow of the Cauca river valley, In the lowlands of the valley, that means a different ecosystem and a different set of birds.
We did our first stop in front of a wetland, and we saw near 40 species in about 1 hour! Snail Kite, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Glossy Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Cocoi Heron, Pied-billed Grebe, Wattle Jacana, Ringed Kingfisher. A short walk in the same area near the secondary growth produce really cool birds like: Jet Antbird, Great Antshrike, Yellow Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Spectacled Parrotlet, Greyish Piculet, Dwarf Cuckoo, Thick billed Euphonia building a nest, Common Nighthawk, Limpkin, Blue-headed Parrots on the nest, Guira Tanager and other goodies! 80 species + for a 3h stop!
Afternoon to transfer to Montezuma and be ready for the rain forest!
Day 5,6,7. Montezuma, welcome to the rain forest.
First morning we climb all the way to the top of the mountain, the view was beyond amazing! We saw the Tatamá mountain very clear flor a while while we enjoy spectacular birds like: Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Empress Brilliant, Velvet-purple Coronet, Collared Inca. Our breakfast took place in this spectacular mountain sceneray and then time work into the forest for more birds – and also plenty orchids in flower! –
Munchique Woodwren was one of the first ones, a nice cool song but also incredible good views, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Glistening-green Tanager, a nice mix flock with: Fulvous-dotted Treeruner, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Tanager Finch, Salty-backed Chat Tyrant, Dusky Chlorospingus, Sharpe´s Wren and other was part of the morning. Just before lunch the queen of the day: Gold-ringed Tanager was posing literally 10 feet away from us – photos with the cellphones! It was one of the top ranked birds for the trip – after and spectacular lunch into the forest we had a lot of fog but we saw: Black and Gold Tanager, Crested And Tanager, Orange-breasted Fruiteater and others.
Our second morning…a heavy rain all the night…rainy morning also. We drove half way to the top, after our breakfast at the tower, we decided to start to walk and birding with a soft rain, our first sight was a Collared Trogon (male and female) followed by Handsome Flycatcher and Dusky Chlorospingus, some minutes later our first mix flock loaded with with good birds: Glistening-green Tanager, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Scaly-throated Foliage Gleaner, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Uniform Treehunter and Yellow-vented Woodpecker. Some minutes later we spotted a male Orange-breasted Fruieatear and after some minutes we had very good views of the bird foraging around a tree with berries – drizzle and soft rain never stopped! – by 10:30 we made a snacks stops and coffee in the middle of the forest when Scaled Fruiteater sing! Quickly we moved to the area and despite the fog we got pretty decent views of this gorgeous bird, in the same area Toucan Barbets and Black-and-Gold Tanager where foraging + Purplish-mantled Tanager and Indigo Flowerpiercer. We got our lunch at the forest and the serious rain started again, so we decided to drive near the bottom of the forest and after some minutes we saw a beautiful Striolated Manakin. Despite the rainy day we saw incredible birds, welcome to the rain forest!
Last morning up here, after breakfast and a short walk we started to pick up some birds like Zeledon´s Antbird, Black-winged Saltator, Andean Cock of the Rock, but with no much time we decided to work for one of the targets, the Club-winged Manakin! After spotted an area where the were singing and displaying, we walk into the bushes and bingo! One male was perch above us dancing and displaying and on the top of the cake a Chestnut-crowned Gnateater (male and female) were moving around and gave us superb views! On the way to the llanos.
This trip was a very ambicious but incredibly designed joining two mai areas of the country, the western Andes and the flooded savanhas, that means tka 2 short flights to connect them, we got our first flight from Pereira to Bogotá, but our second flight from Bogotá to Yopal (capital city of Casanare state) was canceled, Yopal airport was close, we were move to another flight next day morning.
Day 8. The Odisea
After our unexpected night at Bogotá we went to the airport early morning (again) to get our flight, at the screens appears as: on schedule! We were living the waiting room to board the plane, when the air company gave us a bad news, Yopal airport was still close…1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours… the move us to a flight next day! We decided to go out and do some birding near Chingaza area and don’t miss our day…anyway we saw incredible birds, including some specialties of the Bogotá plateau area: Coopery-bellied Puffleg, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Blue-throated Starfronlet, Glowing Pufflegs, Amethyst-throated Sunangel and others. The air company never return our luggage, the put it straight for the next flight, at this point we could only cross our fingers to depart on the next day.
Day 9. Casanare and the flooded Savannahs.
We did! We had our early morning flights, our luggage was waiting for us and we area in the flooded savannahs! A “long transfer” from Yopal to Hato La Aurora, I said long, because is normally a 5h driving, we did it in 6 hours but we had some much fun! During the drive we saw more than 70 species of birds, including: Hoatzin, Scarlet Ibis, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Hored Screamer, Roseated Spoonbill, Jabiru (nesting site), Sunbittern, Oriole Blackbird, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Black-collared Hawk… and at least a thousand of Dicksicel flying in huge flocks all togheter over the rice crops! On our arrival to el hato we inmediatly saw: Pale-headed Jacamar, White-bearded Flycatcher, Blue-tailed Emerald, Scarlet Macaw, Violaceous Jay and many other! What a day!
Day 10 and 11. Colombian Safari
A couple of full days to explore a 17.000 hectares ranch, loaded with birds, mammals and wildlife in general.
A hundred birds a hundred thicks!
Our first morning we started at 4:40 am! We saw the sunrise in front of a big wetland with tons of good birds flying around! thousand Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, White-faced Whistling Ducks, Jabiru, Coco Heron, Scarlet Ibis, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Pied Lapwing, Large-billed Tern, Yellow-billed Tern…but also: hundres of Capybaras, Spectacled Caimans and White-tailed Deers were around us! A picnic breakfast and there we saw many birds at the forest edge and from the car. In some point we got thicks! Our local guide – Giovany – use his hands and machete to remove all the thicks out of pants and boots! Luckily no many bites – a couple no kidding! – during the morning we watch a lot of birds and before lunch our number of species for the morning was over 90!
We did a break and a lunch at the ranch and for the afternoon we explore the savannahs to add some species: Yellow-browed Sparrow, Grey Seedeater, Grey-cowled Wood Rail, and again tons of water birds, Giovanni made and stop on a small wetland on the way, he was using a small wood stick to try to found a Anaconda, guess what? He did it! An small Anaconda – 7 feet long – was into the wetland and we had the opportunity to appreciate this beautiful animal.
At night and incredible show of local music, we enjoy the lcoals dancing and singing beautiful songs, playing the harp, the cuatro and the maracas, was the perfect way to end the day.
Next morning we explore the far side of the Ranch and we added new species to our list: Scaled Piculet, Barred Antshrike, Black-faced Tanager, Ash-throated Crake…we move to a good area for one of the mega targets, after about 20 minutes of waiting, we spotted the bird: Crestless Curassow with a chick! Walking very elegant at the forest edge about 80 meters from our position, what a moment! At midday we did a break in a local finca – fundo – with hammocks, good local lunch and a really cool breeze! Around 3pm we started to go back to the main ranch with an afternoon main target…some minutes driving into the bushes and James & me spotted a Giant Anteater running away, I jumped on the rear seat of our open car and gave directions to one of the local guides – Jeremias, who was running with his machete, his hat and barefoot behind the Anteater following my directions – Giovanni driving like crazy our old 4×4 car into the bushes with cero visibility, all of us so exciting and in rush hour! Finally, we had a front view of the Giant Anteater crossing in front of us, what a moment! We spent the late afternoon in front of the Scarlet Ibis roosting area and enjoying thousands of Whistling Ducks flying in huge flocks in front of us.
Last day at el Hato, a Beautiful dance!
Terese birthday, a beautiful llanero serenata with the breakfast was the perfect way to celebrate and start our day, with one main target to clean up our list: Wire-Tailed Manakin. We did a short boat ride watching birds with a very pleasant weather and nice breeze, a short walk beside the river into the gallery forest, when I heard the voice of the Manakin. We initially spotted one male, who was very quiet perch on a branch with perfect light! After that: Cinnamon Attila, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Straigh-billed Woodcreeper, Anhinga and Hoatzin, we were coming back to the boat when we spotted the Wire-Tailed Manakin again, but this time the female was perch on the same branch, the male started to dance for her, doing little jumps and raising his tail filaments, we were more than lucky to see such a beautiful behavior, and that was the perfect end of our trip!
We had a great time and a memorable birding tour! Many special moments and birds, we enjoy the beauty of the mountains with the contrast of the eastern plains, the foggy and rainy forest and the warm and open savanna, what a contrast!
About this Trip
One of the greatest adventures in my lifetime!
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