The following is a summary of all species (in taxonomic order by day) that I saw in Colombia during a 7-day birding trip from February 22-28, 2017. A full list of species is provided for each day, as are key birding locations and general driving routes; those species that were lifers are underlined. The trip began and ended in Bogata, with key destinations being Parque La Florida, Laguna de Tabacal, Rio Blanco Reserve (guided), Los Nevados National Park, Las Tangaras Reserve (guided), Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve, and Otun-Quimbaya Reserve. This trip was more-or-less self-guided and was completed with birding friend Kent Russell. At certain reserves, it was not possible to go birding without a guide, as noted in the key areas above. From our respective home base cities, Kent and I travelled together from a common connection in Dallas, Texas. We arrived in Bogata after midnight on February 22, and by the time we got our luggage, picked up our rental car, and made it to the hotel, it was close to 2:00 am; our birding began just four hours later! All bird records are on file eBird
February 22, 2017
Locations: Parque La Florida, Laguna de Tabacal, Hwy 50 (San Francisco to Honda), Hwy 50 (Honda to Manizales).
Highlights: Driving in Bogata was an extreme lesson in patience and good humour. Despite being exhausted from the late arrival to our hotel, we began our birding adventure at 6:00 am. Despite the early start, it unfortunately took nearly two hours to get to Parque La Florida, which cut severely into our allotted amount of birding time at this location. Upon arrival, we got a couple of targets quickly (Bare-faced Ibis and Noble Snipe), but Bogata Rail was a decided no-show despite getting a single bird to respond to playback. From the park, we headed back to the hotel to check out, and then made our way to Laguna de Tabacal. We didn't have much time to spend at this location, but we did add a good variety of species for the trip, particularly around the visitor centre. From the laguna we then made then long drive to Manizales; the drive was long and slow, but I did manage to add Laughing Falcon as a lifer during the drive.
Species: Muscovy Duck, Least Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Bare-faced Ibis, Black Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Broad-winged Hawk, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Southern Lapwing, Noble Snipe, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Rock Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Eared Dove, Greater Ani, White-collared Swift, Gray-rumped Swift, White-vented Plumeleteer, Green Kingfisher, Olivaceous Piculet, Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Merlin, Bat Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Lesser Elaenia, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Black-chested Jay, Gray-breasted Martin, Brown-chested Martin, House Wren, Swainson's Thrush, Black-billed Thrush, Great Thrush, Rufous-capped Warbler, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Plain-colored Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Black Flowerpiercer, Saffron Finch, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Bananaquit, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Shiny Cowbird, Yellow-hooded Blackbird. Day List: 56 species; Trip List: 56 species.
February 23, 2017
Locations: Rio Blanco Reserve (guided)
Highlights: The trip to Rio Blanco Reserve requires a guide, which had arranged only a few days prior. A taxi picked us up at the hotel early, and liaised with our guide a few minutes later. We then travelled a short distance to the visitor centre where we commenced birding at sunrise...lots of hummingbirds at the feeders. After getting our bearings, the guide then walked us to several antpitta feeding stations over the course of the next three hours; lady luck was on our side as we successfully ticked four species. Other morning highlights included Flammulated Treehunter, Black-collared Jay, Golden-fronted Redstart, and Oleaginous Hemispingus. A nice lunch was provided at the visitor centre, after which we spent the afternoon walking downhill along the main road to the local reservoir. From here, the taxi picked us and took us back to the hotel where we had a nice dinner.
Species: Sickle-winged Guan, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Band-tailed Pigeon, Eared Dove, Chestnut-collared Swift, White-collared Swift, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Lesser Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy Inca, Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, White-bellied Woodstar, Andean Motmot, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Bronze-winged Parrot, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Bicolored Antpitta, Brown-banded Antpitta, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Montane Woodcreeper, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Flammulated Treehunter, Striped Treehunter, Pearled Treerunner, Azara's Spinetail, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Dusky Piha, Barred Becard, White-winged Becard, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Brown-capped Vireo, Black-collared Jay, Green Jay, Blue-and-white Swallow, Gray-breasted Martin, Mountain Wren, Rufous Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, White-capped Dipper, Great Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Russet-crowned Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Golden-fronted Redstart, Black-capped Hemispingus, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Black-eared Hemispingus, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Capped Conebill, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Plushcap, Gray-hooded Bush Tanager, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Ashy-throated Chlorospingus, Gray-browed Brushfinch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Slaty Brushfinch, Summer Tanager, Yellow-bellied Siskin. Day List: 82 species; Trip List: 130 species.
February 24, 2017
Locations: Los Nevados National Park, Hwy 50 (Manizales to Irra), Hwy 29 (Irra to El Rodeo), Hwy 25 (El Rodeo to La Pintada), Hwy 25B (La Pintada to Hwy 60), Hwy 60 to Las Tangaras Lodge.
Highlights: Having spent a second night in Manizales, we rose early to venture to Los Nevados National Park; a high elevation park above 4,000 m. Our goal was to find Buffy Helmetcrest, which we had no trouble finding upon arrival at the main gate in dense fog and light drizzle. We also picked up Rufous-fronted Parakeet, and some good high elevation trip birds such as Tawny Antpitta, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-spinetail, and Viridian Metaltail. From Los Nevados we made the very long slow, winding, and arduous journey to Las Tangaras Lodge. Once again, this journey required a good measure of patience and good humour. After getting lost a little bit, and nearly running out of fuel, we arrived at Las Tangaras with enough light to do a wee bit of birding and tick Red-bellied Grackle. We had a nice meal at the lodge and hit the hay early.
Species: Andean Guan, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Smooth-billed Ani, Buffy Helmetcrest, Viridian Metaltail, Shining Sunbeam, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Acorn Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Bicolored Antpitta, Tawny Antpitta, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Blue-and-white Swallow, Brown-bellied Swallow, Mountain Wren, Sedge Wren, Black-billed Thrush, Great Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Golden-fronted Redstart, Black-capped Hemispingus, Flame-rumped Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Plain-colored Seedeater, Streaked Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Pale-naped Brushfinch, Russet-backed Oropendola, Yellow-backed Oriole, Red-bellied Grackle, Hooded Siskin. Day List: 55 species; Trip List: 164 species.
Los Nevados National Park
Los Nevados National Park
February 25, 2017
Locations: Las Tanagras
Highlights: Our focus today was to bird the upper reaches of the Las Tangaras Reserve, which was necessarily accompanied entirely by a guide. We spent almost the entire morning on the main trail above the lodge, and added several good species including Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Tatama Tapaculo, Narino Tapaculo, Olivaceous Piha, Black Solitaire, Black-and-Gold Tanager, Gold-ringed Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, and Purplish-mantled Tanager. During lunch, we spent some time birding around the main lodge, and following lunch we visited the hummingbird feeders (where we added Empress Brilliant and Velvet-purple Coronet) and birded the main road just beyond the main trail. We also popped back onto the main trail where we picked up one of my favourites for the trip, White-headed Wren.
Species: Turkey Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, Band-tailed Pigeon, White-throated Quail-Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared Swift, Brown Violetear, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant, Andean Emerald, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Crested Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Red-headed Barbet, Toucan Barbet, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Plain Antvireo, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Tatama Tapaculo, Narino Tapaculo, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Azara's Spinetail, Ornate Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Great Kiskadee, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Olivaceous Piha, Barred Becard, Beautiful Jay, Green Jay, Blue-and-white Swallow, House Wren, White-headed Wren, Rufous Wren, Sharpe's Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Andean Solitaire, Black Solitaire, Black-billed Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Three-striped Warbler, Canada Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Flame-rumped Tanager, Black-and-gold Tanager, Gold-ringed Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Bananaquit, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Yellow-throated Chlorospingus, Dusky Chlorospingus, Tricolored Brushfinch, Summer Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia. Day List: 75 species; Trip List: 208 species.
Las Tangaras Reserve (at the hummingbird feeders)
February 26, 2017
Locations: Las Tangaras, Gorrion Andivia Reserve
Highlights: We began birding the main road just beyond the main trail at 6:30 am. It wasn't particularly birdy, and so new additions for the trip were sparse. After lunch, we decided to try a new location across the valley, and so our guide led us to Las Aves Gorrion Andivia Reserve. This site is within cloud forest habitat, and true to its name was enshrouded by cloud making the birding difficult. We did however manage to get decent looks at Munchique Wood-Wren (a target bird here), Indigo Flowerpiercer, Slaty Brushfinch, and Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl. We ended the day back at the lodge with a beer, good food, and a few laughs.
Species: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, Band-tailed Pigeon, Plumbeous Pigeon, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, White-collared Swift, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Tourmaline Sunangel, Violet-tailed Sylph, Greenish Puffleg, Velvet-purple Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Empress Brilliant, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Andean Motmot, Toucan Barbet, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Powerful Woodpecker, Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Montane Woodcreeper, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Pearled Treerunner, Azara's Spinetail, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Ornate Flycatcher, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Handsome Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow, Rufous Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Munchique Wood-Wren, Andean Solitaire, Black-billed Thrush, Great Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Golden-fronted Redstart, Black-capped Hemispingus, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Black-and-gold Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Palm Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Black-winged Saltator, Tricolored Brushfinch, Slaty Brushfinch, Russet-backed Oropendola, Red-bellied Grackle, Orange-bellied Euphonia. Day List: 67 species; Trip List: 226 species.
Birders in the Mist
February 27, 2017
Locations: Hwy 60 (Las Tangaras to Hispania-Andes Road), Hispania-Andes Road via Jardin to Hwy 25 at Riosucio, Hwy 25 (Riosucio to Pereira).
Highlights: Another long drive today, but this time with a specific mission...the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve. Having done a bit of homework on this site, we had the general impression that we would need to be there in the early morning, to catch a glimpse of birds moving from roost sites to feeding sites. From what we could gather, "early" was before 9:00 am. However, not unlike all of our previous driving routes, travel was slower, and rougher, than expected. Also, we had a couple of quick stops and turnarounds to pick up a few unexpected species such as Red-breasted Meadowlark, Crested Oropendola, Tourmaline Sunangel, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, and Wattled Guan. We arrived at the parrot reserve at 9:25 am, and after spending nearly an hour there and having seen no parrots, we were beginning to think we'd missed the opportunity. However, just a few minutes later I spotted a flock of parrots at a great distance and quickly got them in the scope. They were mere dots, and silhouetted against a light grey sky, and so we crossed our fingers hoping they would come closer...and they did. In fact, they came very close and we were able to get an excellent view of the birds as they flew past us...a view good enough to see the yellow ears. Shortly after, a few more birds passed by and in total we ended up seeing 21 birds. From the reserve, we made our way to Riosucio, and then to Pereira. We had intended to bird for a couple of hours in the late afternoon at Otun-Quimbaya, but a slowly-leaking tire upon arrival nixed that plan instantly and we had to back-track to town for a repair.
Species: Wattled Guan, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Ground-Dove, White-collared Swift, Sparkling Violetear, Tourmaline Sunangel, Collared Inca, Mountain Velvetbreast, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-tailed Coronet, White-bellied Woodstar, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Yellow-eared Parrot, Bar-crested Antshrike, Azara's Spinetail, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Barred Fruiteater, Barred Becard, Black-chested Jay, Blue-and-white Swallow, Black-billed Thrush, Great Thrush, Tropical Mockingbird, Blackburnian Warbler, Flame-rumped Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Saffron Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Slaty Brushfinch, Summer Tanager, Red-breasted Meadowlark, Crested Oropendola, Mountain Cacique, Shiny Cowbird, Giant Cowbird, Thick-billed Euphonia, Yellow-bellied Siskin. Day List: 55 species; Trip List: 244 species.
February 28, 2017
Locations: Otun-Quimbaya Reserve, Hwy 29 (Periera to Armenia), Hwy 40 (Armenia to Ibague), Hwy 40 (Ibague to Bogata).
Highlights: Our final day of birding in Colombia, and so we rose early to hit Otun-Quimbaya at 6:25 am. We spent two hours birding the main road and got a few target species quickly, such as Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and Cauca Guan. Other birds were much less cooperative, although Kent did spy a Multicolored Tanager that I missed, and I spotted a Southern Emerald-Toucanet that Kent missed. We also had a screech-owl calling at an incredibly short distance (probably less than 10 m), but could not find it. We returned to the main parking area in hopes of birding the trails in that area, but we soon learned that a guide was required, and not available. Therefore, we decided to press on and slowly make our way back to Bogata...and slow was the operative word here, whether by choice or not. When we arrived in Bogata we were about 12 km from our hotel...we spent the next two hours travelling that distance as we literally inched along the congested and fume-filled streets interspersed with a thunderstorm. Once at the hotel, which in fact we were not staying at, we got cleaned up and had a nice, relaxing and celebratory meal before heading to the airport. Given our short planning time, and some driving challenges, we both agreed it was a very successful trip!
Species: Cauca Guan, Cattle Egret, Bare-faced Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Southern Lapwing, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Western Emerald, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Collared Trogon, Andean Motmot, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Torrent Tyrannulet, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Acadian Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Green Jay, Blue-and-white Swallow, Brown-bellied Swallow, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Black-and-white Warbler, Tropical Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Flame-rumped Tanager, Palm Tanager, Golden Tanager, Saffron Finch, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Shiny Cowbird, Orange-bellied Euphonia. Day List: 36 species; Trip List: 255 species.
Trip Synopsis: Overall a very successful trip given that neither of us had been to the country before, and we only had two weeks to plan. Traffic was horrendous, especially in Bogata where it took more than two hours to get from the hotel (near the airport) to Parque La Florida (about 10 km away). It was also very bad crossing the Andes where there was an endless line of transport trucks and hairpin turns every few hundred metres. There were no major hiccups, but road tolls were more frequent than we had expected and it was wise to have carried a good amount of cash (about $150 USD) in small bills to keep things running smoothly. We got a flat tire in Periera, which was fixed in a local village in mere minutes for only $2 USD (we paid $5 USD because we were so thankful for the quick and friendly service). We would recommend a 4x4 vehicle with decent clearance if you plan to do the trip, and be prepared for some extremely rough roads, especially to get from Menazalis to Los Nevados National Park, Jardin to the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve, and from Periera to Otun-Quimbaya. Driving within Las Tangaras Reserve was relatively easy, but slippery when wet.
Until next time. Happy Birding!