Birding Colombia through the Southeastern regions of Putumayo & Huila (January 14 – 24, 2018).

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This was a successful trip to southeastern Colombia, where Hans Jornvall managed to see well nine new birds for his huge lifelist of more than 9200 species, and two additional birds “heard only”. Our trip had the very good support of local guide Brayan Coral Jaramillo, who organized most of the logistics and provided additional guidance.

In the previous week (January 7 – 13), we birded the Rio Claro canyon & Bellavista Forest in mid-Magdalena Valley for White-bearded Manakin (Corapipo leucorrhoa) & Saffron-headed Parrot (Pyrilia pyrilia) (having seen the manakin, but missing the parrot), and Hato La Aurora in the Orinoco region of Colombia for Crestless Curassow (Mitu tuberosum) & Masked Cardinal (Paroaria nigrogenis) (having seen both).

Hans Jornvall after returning from the mid-Magdalena Valley. We stopped at a typical restaurant entering Bogota.

After returning to Bogota from Hato La Aurora, we flew south to Pasto with Avianca Airlines, having an overnight stay at picturesque Laguna de La Cocha. The following day we visited Paramo de Bordoncillo, obtaining great views of both Chestnut-bellied Cotinga (Doliornis remseni) and Masked Mountain-Tanager (Buthraupis wetmorei). On our way to Mocoa, we birded El Trampolín de Las Aves, with splendid views of the White-rimmed Brush-Finch (Atlapetes leucopis). Near Mocoa we visited Campucana Trail, having success with the White-streaked Antvireo (Dysithamnus leucostictus), and hearing but not seeing the Black Tinamou (Tinamus osgoodi).

The picturesque poirt at Laguna de La Cocha.

January 18 to 21, we visited Isla Escondida, a private nature reserve set by Jurgen Beckers, who authored the book “Birdwatching in Colombia” with Pablo Flórez. Here, we managed to see well the highly wanted Buff-tailed Sicklebill (Eutoxeres condamini), and we heard the Chestnut-headed Crake (Anurolimnas castaneiceps) only a few meters away from us.

Near Pitalito we had great support from local guides Jorge Peña and Roso Ortiz. After a challenging ascent by horse to a steep mountain near town, we had the fortune of finding a Highland Tinamou (Nothocercus bonapartei) sitting on a nest. In dense bamboo stands (Chusquea spp.) we saw well the endemics Upper Magdalena Tapaculo (Scytalopus rodriguezi) and a gorgeous pair of the East Andean Antbird (Drymophila caudata). Along the road from Mocoa to Pitalito, we found the endemic Dusky-headed Brush-Finch (Atlapetes fuscoolivaceus). On our final day, we flew from Pitalito to Bogota with Avianca Airlines again.

A second view of El Puerto, at Laguna de La Cocha.


The Eastern Llanos at Hato La Aurora (January 11 – 13, 2018).

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Crestless Curassow is an uncommon and elusive bird that can defeat many birder´s intention to register the species. Having seasonal behaviors marked by rainfalls, water levels and availability of food resources, the bird is unreliable and somewhat unpredictable. During some months of the year, the bird might attend certain sites & gallery forests, disappearing for the rest of the year. In this case, the bird had eluded Hans Jornvall several times before, gradually becoming a highly desirable target.

Hato La Aurora is a birder´s paradise harboring a huge collection of Eastern Llanos species, some restricted to the Orinoco region, such as Pale-headed Jacamar, Orinoco Goose, Purple-throated Euphonia and White-bearded Flycatcher. Amazing lowland birds are present at Hato La Aurora, like the Jabiru, Maguari Stork, Horned Screamer, Sunbittern, Scarlet Ibis, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Hoatzin, Dwarf Cuckoo, Great Horned Owl, Black-and-white Owl, Burrowing Owl, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Russet-throated Puffbird, Wire-tailed Manakin, Orange-crowned Oriole and many, many more.

With a lifelist over 9200 species seen, it was not surprising that Hans had already bagged all birds listed in the ranch´s inventory, except for two: Crestless Curassow & Masked Cardinal. Therefore, this short visit to Hato La Aurora had the sole intention of finding and seeing these two birds.

We flew from Bogota to Yopal early morning on January 11 (2018) with Avianca Airlines. We met our driver at Yopal´s airport and drove 4 hours to the ranch. Two local guides at the ranch had seen the Curassow in previous days, so we immediately went to the exact location, but we had to return to the lodge without seeing the bird, before the night settled in. However, highlights of this day included 2 Brazilian Teals, 2 Speckled Chachalacas, 2 Woodstorks, 4 Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, 1 Crane Hawk, 1 Pied Lapwing, 2 Double-striped Thicknees, 2 Orange-winged Parrots, 8 Nacunda Nighthawks, 1 White-bearded Hermit, 2 Blue-tailed Emeralds, 4 Pale-headed Jacamars, 1 Chestnut-eared Aracari, 2 White-bearded Flycatchers, 2 Black-faced Tanagers, 1 Orange-crowned Oriole and 2 Purple-throated Euphonias.

The next day we decided to visit a second site where the bird was seen visiting a plantain crop, apparently attracted by fallen fruit. There was a small stream running nearby and a thin but dense gallery forest covering the edge of the stream. Next to the forest was a narrow belt of high pasture with scattered trees and bushes, followed by the plantain plants growing in dense clumps. We waited silently for about 1 hour, and certainly a beautiful male show up, walking slowly between the forest and the plantation, almost leisurely. For some moments, the bird will stand still, nervously looking around, and for some other moments, it will calmly smooth the tail feathers with the bill, almost as if taking a sun bath. The situation went on for about 30 minutes, and it gave us plenty of time for great scope views.

After seeing our main and most difficult target, we used the rest of the day for finding the Masked Cardinal, which quickly showed up near the lodge. Special birds for the day included 5 Horned Screamers, 3 Orinoco Geese, 2 Rufous-vented Chachalacas, 1 Rufescent Tiger-Heron, 4 Whistling Herons, 6 Scarlet Ibises, 2 Sharp-tailed Ibises, 7 Buff-necked Ibises, 1 Roseate Spoonbill, 3 Jabirus, 1 Aplomado Falcon, 1 Sunbittern, 10 Chestnut-fronted Macaws, 4 Hoatzins, 1 Glittering-throated Emerald, 2 Pale-headed Jacamars, 2 Crimson-crested Woodpeckers and 1 Purple-throated Euphonia.

In this short visit, we registered 131 species (127 species seen, plus 4 species heard-only).