1–19 April 2015
With over 60 endemic species, plus many near-endemics in the west the ranges of which barely extend into Ecuador, Colombia is a must-visit country for birders. It is as safe as almost anywhere one can travel in Latin America and the government is actively promoting a flourishing tourist trade. This fabulous new tour concentrates on endemics in the Colombian Andes and visits reserves that protect the last remaining forests and other habitats of some of the most endangered birds in the world
Day 1 Flight from London to Bogotá where we will transfer to a hotel for a two-night stay.
Day 2 We will begin our trip with a visit to the large and spectacular Chingaza National Park east of Bogotá, for birding at around 3000m elevation. This beautiful park acts as a major watershed and water source for the city of Bogotá and, as such, preserves a wonderful cross-section of mid- and high-elevation humid forest with distinctive Páramo vegetation. Here we will look for the enigmatic Bearded Helmetcrest and the endemic and threatened Brown-breasted Parakeet. Other species we may see include Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Tyrian Metaltail, Amethyst-throated (Longeumares) Sunangel, White-chinned Thistletail, Pearled Treerunner, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Tawny Antpitta, Pale-bellied and Ocellated Tapaculos, Black-capped, White-throated and White-banded Tyrannulets, Brown-backed Chat-tyrant, Grey-breasted Wood-wren, Rufous Wren, Superciliaried and Black-capped Hemispingus, Scarlet-bellied and Buff-breasted Mountain-tanagers, Rufous-browed and Blue-backed Conebills, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Slaty, Pale-naped, and Black-headed Brush-finches, Golden-fronted Redstart, Black-crested Warbler and Mountain Cacique.
Day 3 Following an early start we spend the first few hours of daylight at La Florida Park in search of Apolinar's Wren, Bogotá Rail and common Andean wetland birds. We will also be on the lookout for Rufous-browed Conebill and Silvery-throated Spinetail. Next we will return to the airport for a flight to Medellin then drive to the Arrierito Anioqueño Reserve for a two-night stay.
Day 4 We will spend all day birding at Arrierito Anioqueño Reserve, home to the recently-described, endemic Chestnut-capped Piha, our primary target species. Other birds here include Stiles's Tapaculo, Red-bellied Grackle, Multicolored and Black-and-gold Tanagers, Parker's Antbird, Black Tinamou, Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Red-faced Spinetail, Striped Woodhaunter, Purplish-mantled and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Sooty-headed Wren, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill and Chestnut-breasted Wren.
Day 5 A full morning will be spent birding along the Motmot and Bangsia trails looking for anything we may have missed. Following an early lunch we will undertake a seven-hour drive to El Carmen for a two-night stay at Las Tangaras Lodge.
Day 6 The new Las Tangaras Reserve holds many Choco specialties. We will spend all day slowly walking a relatively short distance up the well-maintained trail to the ridge-top. There are well- placed benches to rest up and wait for passing feeding-flocks and we will stop for a picnic lunch at the top. This moss-laden forest is home to some very special birds including Crested Ant-tanager, Black Solitaire, Cloud-forest Pygmy-owl, Colombian Screech-owl, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Uniform Treehunter, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Choco Tyrannulet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, White-headed Wren, Black-and-gold, Gold-ringed, Blue-whiskered and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers and Indigo Flowerpiercer. This is probably one of the two best places in the world to see the recently-described Choco Vireo.
Day 7 We will spend all morning at Las Tangaras reserve enjoying the bird-rich roadside with Narino Tapaculo and the soon-to-be-described Alto Pisones Tapaculo both possible. After lunch, we will drive to the picturesque town of Jardin in Antioquia, the traditional heart of Colombia, to stay overnight.
Day 8 Jeeps will take us to a site for the critically-endangered Yellow-eared Parrot. Once occurring all the way down into central Ecuador, this species is now found at only a couple sites in the western and central Andes of Colombia. A new 130-hectare reserve has been acquired to protect some of the prime forest for the parrot but the birds wander widely throughout the forest in search of food, making it impossible to preserve their entire range. Public awareness programmes have been essential for the protection of this species and ProAves has done a great job with these as local people are now aware of the parrots and are proud to have them on their land. The wax palm tree, which the Yellow-eared Parrots use for nesting, has been nearly wiped out as their leaves are collected for use in religious ceremonies. Other birds we may see here include Tawny-breasted Tinamou, Purple-throated Woodstar, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Spillman's and Ocellated Tapaculos, Handsome Flycatcher, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Citrine Warbler, Sharpe's Wren, Black-billed Mountain-toucan, Tourmaline Sunangel and Tanager Finch, with a chance of Munchique Wood-wren. Leaving in the afternoon, we will travel to Pereira and the Quimbaya Reserve for the night.
Day 9 The morning's birding will be at La Suiza along a little-travelled track in pristine forest. Our priority here is the endemic Cauca Guan. It was at this site that the species was rediscovered in the 1990s. Also found here are Chestnut Wood-quail, Greyish Piculet, Wattled Guan, Bar-crested Antshrike, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Flame-rumped Tanager, Black-winged Saltator and Chestnut-breasted Wren. Dense brush at the forest edge holds the inconspicuous and very-hard-to-see Moustached Antpitta and the recently-described Stiles's Tapaculo. Further species may include Collared Trogon, Slaty Antwren, Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant and Green (Inca) Jay. Along the river we may well find a pair of superb Torrent Ducks alongside rather less-impressive Black Phoebes and Torrent Tyrannulets and we could find Multicolored Tanager here too. After a late lunch we will head to Rio Branco Reserve for a two-night stay in their rustic lodge which has excellent hummingbird feeders and good owling possibilities at night.
Day 10 All day will be spent at the Rio Blanco Reserve, which protects an important watershed for the city of Manizales and holds some of the rarest and most threatened species in Colombia including Rusty-faced Parrot and the skulking and hard-to-see Brown-banded and Bicoloured Antpittas, which are now coming to feeders. Jay-like White-capped Tanager, one of the oddest members of the family and probably not even a tanager at all, is here too. At the hummingbird-feeders we may find Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Buff-tailed Coronet and the tiny White-bellied Woodstar. Further species present include Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Tyrannine and Black-banded Woodcreepers, Long-tailed Antbird, Dusky Piha, Rufous-crowned Tody-flycatcher, Black-capped and White-tailed Tyrannulets, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Pale-edged and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Citrine and Russet-crowned Warblers, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Capped Conebill (here with a white cap), Grass-green and Flame-rumped Tanagers, Grey-hooded Bush Tanager, Black-headed Brush-finch and Black-winged Saltator. We will also seek out bamboo-specialists Black-eared Hemispingus, Plushcap, Yellow-billed Cacique and Masked Saltator.
Day 11 For much of the day we will be at Los Nevados National Park above 3000m in the high temperate zone, where patches of forest give way to the Paramo. Here we may see the endemic and localised Rufous-fronted Parakeet, which is very hard to find. Flowering bushes attract a number of colourful hummingbirds including Viridian Metaltail, Golden-breasted Puffleg and Shining Sunbeam. On occasion the somewhat nomadic Black-thighed Puffleg can be present in some numbers, but at other times it may be absent. If we are lucky, we will also come across Rainbow-bearded and Purple-backed Thornbills and Great Sapphirewing. In the forest patches we will search for Paramo Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, Buff-breasted Mountain-tanager and Black-backed Bush Tanager, whilst in the more open areas and around a wetland we shall look for Andean Teal, White-tailed Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Andean Tit-spinetail, the localised Stout-billed Cinclodes, the attractive Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail, Sedge Wren, Pale-naped Brush-finch and a variety of seedeaters including Plumbeous Sierra-finch and Paramo and Plain-coloured Seedeaters. Tawny Antpittas are often very tame here. In the late afternoon we will travel to a comfortable hotel in Libano for the night.
Day 12 There is fragmented, remnant forest on our doorstep and we will search for specialities including Crested Ant–tanager, Yellow-headed and White-naped Brush-finches, Blossomcrown, Tolima Dove, Red-billed and Andean Emeralds, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Bronzy Inca, Andean Motmot, Olivaceous Piculet, Mountain Elaenia, Slate-headed Tody-flycatcher, Whiskered Wren, Black-winged Saltator, Rufous-naped and Scrub Greenlets, Rufous-capped Warbler, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Scrub Tanager, Streak-capped Treehunter, Bar-crested Antshrike, Blue-lored Antbird, Squirrel Cuckoo, Moustached Puffbird, Emerald Toucanet, Azara's Spinetail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Bar-crested Antshrike, Golden-winged Manakin, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Blackburnian and Canada Warblers and American Redstart (the latter three are all common winter migrants from North America). In the afternoon we will visit nearby Laguna el Hato specifically for the endemic Apical Flycatcher and the elusive Velvet-fronted Euphonia, but there are many other species to be found here including Moustached Puffbird, White-bellied and Dull-mantled Antbirds, Spectacled Parrotlet and Pileated Finch. Overnight Mariquita.
Day 13 La Victoria Watershed Reserve will give us our first chance to see Sooty Ant-tanager, White-mantled Barbet, Sooty-headed Wren, Beautiful Woodpecker and Antioquia Bristle-tyrant, while Tody Motmot can also be found here. We will then drive for four hours to the El Paujil reserve where, once onto the access road, we will look for Northern Screamer and Bare-faced Ibis while also hoping for Large-billed Seed-finch, White-throated Crake, the endemic Colombian Chachalaca and Chestnut-fronted Macaw during our walk into the reserve for a three-night stay at the lodge.
Days 14–15 El Paujil reserve has a well-developed trail system inside and a lovely stretch of little-travelled road outside. It was created to protect the critically-endangered Blue-billed Curassow, a species thought to be nearly extinct until a ProAves expedition located a viable population here in 2003. Other birds we will look for over the two days include White-mantled Barbet, Black Antshrike, Beautiful and Cinnamon Woodpeckers, Black-billed Flycatcher, Colombian Chachalaca, Red-lored and Saffron-headed Parrots, Pale-bellied and Stripe-throated Hermits, Gartered and White-tailed Trogons, Barred Puffbird, Black-mandibled and Channel-billed Toucans, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Black-striped and Cocoa Woodcreepers, Antioquia Bristle-tyrant, Western Slaty-antshrike, Jet, Bare-crowned, Dull-mantled and Chestnut-backed Antbirds, Striped Manakin, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Southern Bentbill, Cinnamon Becard, Black-bellied Wren, Sooty Ant-Tanager and Plain-coloured Tanager.
Day 16 Following early birding at El Paujil reserve we will leave on a seven-hour drive, with a lunch stop, to the town of San Vicente and the Reinita Cielo Azul (Cerulean Warbler) Reserve, where we will look for the endemic Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird. Transferring to jeeps, we will complete the drive to the reserve accommodation with its spacious rooms and large balcony, from which Flame-rumped Tanager and the endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird are routinely seen and the very rare Turquoise Dacnis can be watched. Two nights at the Cerulean Warbler Reserve.
Day 17 All day will be spent at the Reinita Cielo Azul Reserve, taking a picnic lunch with us. At first-light we will head for the forest, where there is a well-developed feeding station with hummingbird- feeders. Several threatened Colombian endemics occur including Gorgeted Wood-quail, Parker's Antbird, White-mantled Barbet, Turquoise Dacnis and Black Inca; Mountain Grackles can also be found in temperate forest just outside the reserve. Also present are Moustached and Yellow-breasted Brush-finches, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Collared Trogon, Moustached Puffbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Uniform Antshrike, Slaty Antwren, White-bellied Antpitta, Ornate Flycatcher, Rufous-naped Greenlet and Yellow-throated Spadebill. More widespread species include Barred Forest-falcon, Wattled Guan, Band-tailed Pigeon, Lined Quail-dove, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, White-tailed Nightjar, Chestnut-collared and White-tipped Swifts, Green Hermit, Lazuline Sabrewing, Brown, Green and Sparkling Violetears, Short-tailed and Andean Emeralds, Rufous-tailed and Speckled Hummingbirds, Green-crowned Brilliant, Long-tailed Sylph, Golden-headed Quetzal, Olivaceous Piculet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Azara's Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Montane and Lineated Foliage-gleaners, Streak-capped Treehunter, Strong-billed and Olive-backed Woodcreepers, Uniform Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Slaty Antwren, Rusty- breasted Antpitta, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Golden-winged Manakin, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Variegated Bristle-tyrant, Rufous-browed and Sooty-headed Tyrannulets and White-throated Spadebill.
Day 18 We will spend the morning walking through coffee plantations, which should be packed with boreal migrants. Here we can also find Large-billed Seed-Finch and Bar-crested Antshrike. If we have not already seen one already, we will have a quick look for Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, but our main target will be the endemic Niceforo's Wren. Finally we will drive to Bucaramanga and take a short flight to Bogota which will connect with the evening flight to London, where we will arrive on Day 19.
General Information Colombia can be hot and humid at this time of year, so we will spend a lot of time birding in the early morning and evening and spend the middle of the day, when bird activity is relatively low, either back at the hotel/lodge or transferring between sites. There are some health requirements so please consult your doctor. Only a general degree of fitness is required, although the heat and humidity can be tiring at times. Security is not a problem and we will travel only to areas approved by the British Foreign Office. Visas are required.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader.