Birding & photographing birds along the Western Andes & Central Andes with Doug & Gail Cheeseman (April 22 – May 8, 2019).

09 - 05 - 2019

First trip to Colombia for Doug & Gail Cheeseman, starting in Cali and finishing in Pereira, covering widely the Mountain Choco birds in the Western Andes, plus the endemics & specialties of the Central Andes & Cauca Valley.

In this occasion, we prioritized the localities in the Western Andes near Cali (visiting La Minga Ecolodge at Bitaco Forest, Finca Alejandría, San Antonio Forest & Doña Dora´s site near El Queremal, plus Cerro Montezuma), but leaving Jardin & Las Tangaras for a second trip to Colombia in 2020. Striving for a very compact itinerary, the core of the Central Andes & Cauca Valley was included, with visits to the semi-dry forests at El Vínculo, Sonso marsh, Otún-Quimbaya Sanctuary, Cameguadua marsh, Los Nevados National Park, Rio Blanco and Tinamu Lodge, finishing conveniently with an Avianca flight from Pereira to Bogota & connections back home the following day.

As a keen birder, Gail wanted not to miss any of the endemics and big specialties, whereas Doug wanted to photograph all birds with a top notch 600mm Cannon lens. It is a challenging combination, to go birding and at the same time photographing the nicest birds possible!

La Minga Ecolodge had much to offer, with close views and/or photos of Multicolored Tanager, Andean Motmot, Barred Becard, Slate-throated Redstart, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Golden-headed Quetzal, Streak-capped Treehunter, Red-faced Spinetail, Glossy-black Thrush, Oleagineous Hemispingus, Chestnut-capped & White-naped Brushfinch and Three-striped Warbler, among others.

But it was the hummingbirds that provided the best poses, including near-endemic Purple-throated Woodstar, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Western Emerald, Crowned Woodnymph, Green Hermit, Green-fronted Lancebill, White-necked Jacobin, Brown Violetear, Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, Andean Emerald, Speckled, Rufous-tailed & Steely-vented Hummingbird.

Finca Alejandría provided second chances for most of the above hummingbirds, but the best part proved to be the many photo opportunities of tanagers & fruit-eating species, including Red-headed Barbet, Flame-rumped Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Multicolored Tanager, Blue-gray & Palm Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, near-endemic Scrub Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Masked & Rusty Flowerpiercer, Black-winged Saltator, among many others.

Doug & Gail at Finca Alejandría, with tons of birds to see & photograph!

At San Antonio Forest we photographed the endemic Colombian Chachalaca very closely.

Visits to Doña Dora´s place and the upper section of the road to Anchicayá were productive, with views of Chestnut Wood-Quail, Swallow-tailed Kite, Plumbeous Pigeon, White-throated Quail-Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Toucan Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Uniform Antshrike, Slaty Spinetail, Slaty-capped & Olive-striped Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Black-billed Peppershrike, Bay & Sooty-headed Wren, Glistening-green Tanager, Golden-hooded Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Variable Seedeater, Yellow-throated Chlorospingus, Crested Ant-Tanager and Buff-rumped Warbler, among others.

We photographed well the White-whiskered Hermit, Empress Brilliant, Crowned Woodnymph, Red-headed Barbet, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, White-lined Tanager, Black-headed & Tricolored Brushfinch, and Chestnut-headed Oropendola, among others.

Some highlights seen and/or photographed at El Vinculo & Sonso Marsh included the Horned Screamer, Black-bellied & Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Striated & Cocoi Heron, Snowy Egret, Glossy & Bare-faced Ibis, Limpkin, Purple & Common Gallinule and American Coot. Also, Dwarf Cuckoo, Greater Ani, Common Potoo, Ringed, Amazon & Green Kingfisher, Lineated Woodpecker, Spectacled Parrotlet, Blue-headed Parrot, Bar-crested Antshrike, Jet Antbird, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Yellow-olive & Vermilion Flycatcher, Apical Flycatcher, Pied Water-Tyrant & Crimson-backed Tanager.

At Cerro Montezuma, we had close encounters with dozens of great birds, including the endemics Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-Wren, Crested Ant-Tanager, Black-and-gold Tanager & Gold-ringed Tanager. Also, near-endemics Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Club-winged Manakin, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Dusky Chlorospingus, Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph and Brown Inca.

We had good views of soaring Ornate Hawk-Eagle & Barred Hawk. New hummingbirds for the trip included Greenish Puffleg, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Green-crowned Brilliant and Long-billed Starthroat.

We had close encounters with Moustached Puffbird, Yellow-vented & Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Zeledon´s Antbird, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Rufous Spinetail, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Ornate, Cinnamon & Handsome Flycatcher, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, White-breasted & Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Buff-throated Saltator, Olive Finch, Tricolored Brushfinch, Ochre-breasted Tanager, Russet-backed Oropendola and Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, among many others.

From left to right: Doug, local guide Fernando & Gail, at Cerro Montezuma.

Otún-Quimbaya did not failed providing photo opportunities of the endemics Cauca Guan & Stiles´s Tapaculo, and the Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Torrent Duck, Green Jay, Torrent Tyrannulet, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Siskin, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Fawn-breasted & Blue-necked Tanager. This was also the opportunity to see the Bronzy Inca, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, White-winged Becard, White-capped Dipper, Metallic-green Tanager and the uncommon White-winged Tanager.

A brief visit to Cameguadua marsh was important, as it allowed us to see the endemic Grayish Piculet, plus Blackish Rail, Gray Seedeater, Thick-billed Seed-Finch & Grayish Saltator, among many others.

A rainy, windy and very cold day awaited us at Los Nevados! It was certainly not the preferred weather for the high mountain, but we had an overall productive day. At Laguna Negra we scoped the Andean Teal and Andean Duck, and short stops along the road enabled us to see the Paramo Tapaculo, Stout-billed Cinclodes, White-throated Tyrannulet, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Brown-bellied Swallow, Sedge Wren, Lacrimose & Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Plain-colored & Paramo Seedeater. Also, the very nice Pale-naped Brushfinch and near-endemic Golden-fronted Redstart. But we sadly failed on the Buffy Helmetcrest, which was singing constantly inside dense bushes, but never came out, no doubt due to the very strong winds and low temperatures.

Clear skies were present only briefly at Los Nevados, here at 12,467 feet (3800 meters).

At the premises of the Hotel Termales del Ruiz we enjoyed seeing and photographing a nice collection of hummingbirds, including the Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrian & Viridian Metaltail, Black-thighed & Golden-breasted Puffleg (near-endemics), Shining Sunbeam, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast and Great Sapphirewing.

Daniel, Doug & Gail at the Visitor´s Center (13,450 feet) of Los Nevados National Park.

Rio Blanco was birdy as always, and we added many new species to our trip list, including Sickle-winged & Andean Guan, Scaly-naped Parrot, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Spillmann´s Tapaculo, Montane Woodcreeper, Streaked Xenops, Streaked Tuftedcheek, and Flammulated Treehunter. Also, Mountain Elaenia, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted, Pale-edged & Flavescent Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Capped Conebill, Black-crested & Russet-crowned Warbler, and the Slate-throated Redstart. Noteworthy was having splendid views of the scarce Red-hooded Tanager.

The Brown-banded Antpitta (endemic), Bicolored Antpitta (near-endemic) and Chestnut-crowned Antpitta made their photogenic displays as they grabbed the earthworms offered by Daniel Muñoz, the young local guide in charge of feeding these otherwise very difficult birds to see.

Local guide Daniel Muñoz, Gail & Doug, at one of the antpitta feeding stations in Rio Blanco.

The dense bamboo stands offered us a large collection of bamboo specialists, including the Black-capped, Superciliaried, Oleagineous & Black-eared Hemispingus.

New trip hummingbirds included the White-throated Wedgebill, Lesser & Sparkling Violetear, Collared Inca & White-bellied Woodstar.

We photographed the Golden-headed Quetzal, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Pearled Treerunner, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Black-collared Jay, Mountain Wren, Sharpe´s Wren, White-capped Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Lacrimose & Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Masked & White-sided Flowerpiercer, White-capped Dipper, Gray-browed & Slaty Brushfinch, among many others.

Tinamu Lodge was a lovely place to end the trip, enjoying several specialties, such as Gray-headed Dove, Parker´s Antbird (endemic) and Blue-lored Antbird, and photographing the Speckle-breasted Wren, Golden-collared Manakin, Moustached Puffbird, Common Potoo and many more. We added new species to the trip list, including the Stripe-throated Hermit, Black-throated Mango, White-vented Plumeleteer, Acorn Woodpecker, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Cinereous Becard, Black-chested Jay, Clay-colored Thrush, Gray-headed Tanager, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater and Golden-crowned Warbler.

After driving 1400 kilometers of mostly mountain roads, we finished with 396 species registered.