Birding in Colombia from the Western Andes to the Santa Marta Mountains & Guajira peninsula, with a recapitulation.

21 - 10 - 2015

This was the second birding trip to Colombia for David & Nancy Massie, with a challenging list of target endemics, near-endemics & specialties from the Western Andes, Cauca Valley, northern Central Andes, Santa Marta Mountains & Guajira peninsula. From October 1-14, we birded Kilometer 18 above Cali, Sonso Marsh, Cerro Montezuma, Las Tangaras Reserve, “La M” above Carmen de Atrato and Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve in the northern tip of the Central Andes. Followed with an extension of 5 nights/6 days to the Santa Marta Mountains & Guajira peninsula, from October 15-20.

Overall, David & Nancy were able to add 61 new species to their life list! At Kilometro 18 the top species included Multicolored Tanager (E&VU), Blue-headed Sapphire, Nariño Tapaculo (NE) and Metallic-green Tanager. Sonso Marsh provided close views of the Cocoa Woodcreeper, and visiting Cerro Montezuma allowed the addition of key lifers such as Fulvous-dotted Treerunner (NT), Olivaceous Piha, Munchique Wood-Wren (E&CR), Black Solitaire (NE), Gold-ringed Tanager (E&EN), Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (NE), Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Olive Finch, Alto Pisones Tapaculo (E) and Chestnut-bellied Flower-Piercer (E&EN). At Las Tangaras reserve we had great views of the Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl (VU), Rufous-rumped Antwren, Handsome Flycatcher, Sooty-headed Wren (NE), Black-and-gold Tanager (E&VU) and Indigo Flower-Piercer (NE). Visiting the Chestnut-capped Piha reserve allowed more lifers such as Chestnut-crowned Gnateater (with a great photo taken by Nancy), Northern White-crowned Tapaculo, Chestnut-capped Piha (E&EN), Scarlet-and-white Tanager (NE), Crested Ant-Tanager (E), Black-headed Brush-Finch (NE) and Large-billed Seed-Finch.

Our party of three met with Bruce Webb & Peter Gent at El Dorado airport in Bogota as we all flew into Santa Marta on October 15th, birding the high altitudinal gradient from Minca to El Dorado Lodge & Cuchilla de San Lorenzo in the Santa Marta Mountains. Here, we were challenged by a sudden and unexpected onset of rainy days for the region, with long and frequent showers in the afternoons, but clear skies in the mornings that lasted until noon. We had great birding in the mountains, seeing well the endemics – Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Antpitta, Santa Marta Blossomcrown, White-tailed Starfrontlet (male & female), Santa Marta Woodstar (male & female), Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Santa Marta Wood-Wren, Bang´s Wood-Wren, Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager, Colombian Brush-Finch, Santa Marta Brush-Finch, Santa Marta Warbler, White-lored Warbler and Yellow-crowned Whitestart, plus the near-endemics Black-fronted Wood-Quail, Coppery Emerald, White-tipped Quetzal, Streak-capped Spinetail and Golden-winged Sparrow.  Besides, we saw well specialties such as the Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Band-tailed & Sickle-winged Guans, Lined Quail-Dove, Scaly-naped Parrot, Long-billed Hermit, Lazuline Sabrewing, Moustached Puffbird, Santa Marta (Emerald) Toucanet, Venezuelan Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Wren, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Veery, Black-hooded Thrush, Plushcap and Golden-bellied Grosbeak, among many others.

Our visit to Camarones & Perico in the Guajira Peninsula was ruled by extreme sun & heat, and nice birds such as the Chestnut Piculet (NE), White-whiskered Spinetail (NE), Orinoco Saltator (NE), Vermilion Cardinal (NE), Slender-billed Inezia (NE), Buffy Hummingbird, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Scaled Dove, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Ferruginous Pymy-Owl, Russet-throated Puffbird, Black-crested Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Pale-legged (Caribbean) Hornero, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Glaucous Tanager and Pileated Finch, among many others.

On the last day for David & Nancy, we enjoyed seeing the Chestnut-winged Chachalaca (E), Shinning-green Hummingbird and Lineated Woodpecker at El Vale near Santa Marta, and the Bicolored Conebill, Golden-green Woodpecker and Panama Flycatcher at Isla de Salamanca.

The second half of the trip for Bruce & Peter had a wonderful start at the Llanogrande gravel pits near Rionegro, where we enjoyed seeing at close distance and for a long time a male of Masked Duck with two females, a curious Blackish Rail, two Soras and an adult & juvenile Purple Gallinule.

Rio Claro in the mid-Magdalena Valley was very hot & humid (as always), presenting to us scope views of the endemic Beautiful Woodpecker and really close views of a party of Silvery-brown Bare-Face Tamarins, including a mom carrying a baby on her back. We enjoyed a diverse set of birds while birding along the inner road of the reserve and the Mulata trail, including the Magdalena Antbird (E), Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Stripe-throated & Rufous-breasted Hermits, Blue-chested Hummingbird (building a nest), Broad-billed Motmot, Barred Puffbird, White-whiskered Puffbird, Chestnut-mandibled & Channel-billed (Citron-throated) Toucans, Olivaceous Piculet, Black-crowned (Western Slaty) Antshrike, Pacific & SlatyAntwrens, Long-tailed, Wedge-billed & Plain-brown Woodcreepers, Olivaceous Flatbill, Long-tailed Tyrant, One-colored Becard and the Black-bellied, Bay & Band-backed Wrens, among many other birds.

A quick visit to the initial sections of the road to Puerto Pinzon also yielded a very nice set of birds, including Northern Screamer (NE&NT), Scrub Greenlet, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Laughing Falcon, White-winged Swallow, Spectacled Parrotlet, Striped Cuckoo, Pied Puffbird and Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher.

Bellavista Forest in Victoria presented us with splendid views of White-mantled Barbet (E&VU), Sooty Ant-Tanager (E&NT), Velvet-fronted Euphonia (E), Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Pale-bellied Hermit, Sooty-headed Wren (NE), White-breasted Wood-Wren, Purple-crowned Fairy, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Golden-headed Manakin, Black-chested Jay, Golden-hooded Tanager and Orange-billed Sparrow, among others.

At Laguna de Tabacal we saw the Blue-lored Antbird (E), Gray-throated Warbler (NE&NT), White-bellied Antbird, Velvet-fronted Euphonia (E), Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Ruddy Quail-Dove, Plain Antvireo, Checker-throated Antwren, Long-billed Gnatwren, Scrub Tanager (NE) and Slate-colored Seedeater.

Our visit to the Enchanted Gardens of San Francisco was also very productive, with great views of the dominant Indigo-capped Hummingbird (E), Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird, Gorgeted Woodstar, Red-billed Emerald (NE) and Shinning-green Hummingbird, among others.

Laguna de Pedro Palo & Chicaque Ecopark provided great birding, with very nice mix flocks. We saw the Black Inca (E&VU), Moustached Brush-Finch (NE), Golden-bellied Starfrontlet (NE), Ash-browed & Stripe-breasted Spinetails, Thick-billed & Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finches, Mountain Velvetbreast, Cerulean Warbler, Fawn-breasted, Beryl-spangled & Metallic-green Tanagers, and many more.

Birding along the road to Chingaza National Park surprised us with close views of the Silvery-throated Spinetail (E), Bronze-tailed Thornbill (NE), Pale-bellied (Matorral) Tapaculo (NE), Golden-fronted Whitestart (NE), Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, White-chinned Thistletail, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Black-backed Grosbeak and Andean Siskin. One of the highlights for the day was the unexpected view of a splendid male Purple-backed Thornbill!

Birding the Siecha gravel pits was also very productive, with the presence of Bogota Rail (E&EN), Noble Snipe, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Andean Teal, Ruddy Duck and Grassland Yellow-Finch.

Visiting Paramo de Guasca was most rewarding, with nice views of the endemic & vulnerable Brown-breasted Parakeet, Coppery-bellied Puffleg (NE&NT), Speckle-faced Parrot, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Amethyst-throated (Longuemare´s) Sunangel, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Powerful Woodpecker, Pearled Treerunner, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Black-capped, Superciliaried & Black-headed Hemispingus, Scarlet-bellied & Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanagers, Rufous-browed Conebill (NE) and Ochre-breasted Brush-Finch.

Our tour ended with a visit to the “Observatorio de colibríes” at La Calera, where we enjoyed the Black-tailed Trainbearer, Glowing Puffleg, Tyrian Metaltail, Sparkling & Green Violetears, quick views of Coppery-bellied Puffleg (NE&NT) and second views of female Blue-throated Starfrontlet (NE).

In total, we saw 436 species (plus 17 species heard only) and most importantly, had great fun while birding!

From left to right: Daniel Uribe, Peter Gent, David Massie, Nancy Massie, Bruce Webb and local guide at Los Flamencos Wildlife Refuge.