Birding the Central & Western Andes with Anthony Kaduck & Ken Edwards from Canada (March 20 – April 5, 2019).

06 - 04 - 2019

This was the third trip to Colombia for Anthony and first trip for Ken, covering the Central & Western Andes of Colombia, from Cali to Medellin. Without doubt, this is one of the best birding itineraries in the country. In this occasion, we registered 481 species (456 seen, 25 heard only), of which 190 were new for Anthony.

On our first day of tour, outside the hotel in Cali. From right to left: Ken Edwards, Anthony Kaduck, Daniel Uribe.

Trip started in Cali, with first birding at La Minga Ecolodge, followed by visits to Finca Alejandría & San Antonio Forest at iconic Kilometer 18. Recently open to birders, La Minga Ecolodge offers nice birding on a primary structured cloud forest, gardens & feeders. Here we saw the endemics Multicolored Tanager, Colombian Chachalaca & Chestnut Wood-Quail, and the near-endemic Nariño Tapaculo. A big array of elusive birds were well seen on the forested road, including the Streak-capped Treehunter, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Spotted Barbtail, Lineated & Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Uniform Antshrike and Plain Antvireo. Other forest birds included the Montane Woodcreeper, Streaked Xenops, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Bright-rumped Attila, Andean Solitaire, Pale-eyed Thrush, Oleagineous Hemispingus, Ashy-throated Chlorospingus & Orange-bellied Euphonia.

Special birds seen at La Minga included the Yellow-vented Woodpecker, White-throated Quail-Dove, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Mottled Owl, Common Potoo, Bronzy Inca, Western Emerald, Golden-headed Quetzal, Red-headed Barbet, Southern Emerald-Toucanet and Rusty Flowerpiercer, among others.

Our visit to Finca Alejandría was as good as ever in spite of strong rain, with close views of a large array of hummingbirds, starting with the very special Blue-headed Sapphire, plus Green Hermit, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Booted Racket-tail, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Purple-throated Woodstar (NE), Steely-vented Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, Crowned Woodnymph & Andean Emerald.

An assortment of tanagers & allies came to feeders loaded with bananas, including numerous representatives of Flame-rumped Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Multicolored Tanager (E), Scrub Tanager (NE), Golden-naped, Black-capped, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned & Golden Tanagers. Also, Black-winged Saltator & Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch on the ground, taking advantage of fallen pieces of bananas.

A quick visit to San Antonio Forest yielded great views of the uncommon Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Barred Becard, Brown-capped Vireo, Glossy-black Thrush & White-naped (Yellow-throated) Brushfinch, among others.

We birded Sonso marsh, the Media Canoa fishing ponds & Cartago marshes on our way to Cerro Montezuma. At these marshes, we had close views of Black-bellied & Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Cinnamon Teal (a threatened resident subspecies), Least & Pied-billed Grebe, Anhinga, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Striated, Cocoi & Little Blue Heron, Glossy, Bare-faced & Buff-necked Ibis, Snail Kite, Wattled Jacana, White-tipped Dove, loads of Spectacled Parrotlets, Greater Ani, Common Potoo, Ringed & Green Kingfisher.

But the most appealing of all was the Sungrebe, an uncommon bird in this part of the country, spotted by Anthony on smooth waters. Some of the most attractive species were seen at low, shrubby vegetation near water, including Jet Antbird, Bar-crested Antshrike (NE), Cocoa Woodcreeper, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-crowned, Yellow-olive & Vermilion Flycatcher, Cattle Tyrant, Cinerous Becard, Guira Tanager, Yellow Oriole & Oriole Blackbird.

Ken & Daniel, very happy after seeing the Sungrebe at Sonso marsh. Photo taken by Anthony Kaduck.

We lodged at Cerro Montezuma for three nights. The bird community of Cerro Montezuma is so big & complex, that having a good birding strategy is essential in front of limited time and weather variables (this is one of the rainiest sites on earth!).  We birded the top, mid and low altitudes of this gorgeous mountains at different days, grabbing peak activities on all mornings.

As always, Cerro Montezuma was a birding joy, with views of the following endemics: Black-and-gold Tanager, Gold-ringed Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Crested Ant-Tanager, Tatama Tapaculo, Munchique Wood-Wren, Grayish Piculet, Parker´s Antbird & Dusky Starfrontlet (also known as Glittering Starfrontlet).

Endemic & endangered Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, at the top of Cerro Montezuma. Photo by Anthony Kaduck.
Endemic Dusky Starfrontlet, a critically endangered species, at the top of Cerro Montezuma. Photo by Anthony Kaduck.

Near-endemics seen included the Toucan Barbet, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Uniform Treehunter, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Club-winged Manakin, Sooty-headed Wren, Black Solitaire, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Purplish-mantled Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Black-headed Brushfinch, Tanager Finch, Dusky Chlorospingus, Golden-fronted Redstart & Yellow-collared Chlorophonia.

More near-endemics came from the hummingbird family, including the Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant & Purple-throated Woodstar. We also enjoyed the Tawny-bellied Hermit, Green-fronted Lancebill, Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail, Greenish Puffleg, Booted Racket-tail, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Green-crowned Brilliant, Western Emerald, Crowned Woodnymph, Andean Emerald, Rufous-tailed & Steely-vented Hummingbird.

Other specialties seen included the Buffy Tuftedcheek, Handsome Flycatcher, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Scaled Fruiteater, Bronze-olive & Black-throated Pygmy-Tyrant, Ornate Flycatcher, Golden-winged & Striolated Manakin, Plushcap, Olive Finch, Tricolored (Choco) Brushfinch, Golden-bellied (Choco) Warbler & Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.

Lanceolated Monklet at Cerro Montezuma, by Anthony Kaduck.

Worth mentioning, we also had good views of Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Streak-headed & Zeledon´s Antbird, Ocellated Tapaculo, Chapman´s Swift, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, Rufous Spinetail, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, White-throated Spadebill, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Grass-green Tanager, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Variable Seedeater, Dusky-faced Tanager and Russet-backed Oropendola.

The trip continued into the core of the Central Andes, birding Otún-Quimbaya Wildlife Sanctuary, Cameguadua marsh, Rio Claro (near Chinchiná), Los Nevados National Park, Rio Blanco and Tinamu Lodge. Too many birds of significant caliber were seen these days!

At Otún-Quimbaya Wildlife Sanctuary we had great & close views of the endemics Cauca Guan, Stiles´s Tapaculo & Multicolored Tanager, and the near-endemics Moustached & Hooded Antpittas, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Scrub Tanager & Bar-crested Antshrike. And good views of numerous specialties, including Wattled Guan, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Bronze-winged Parrot, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Rufescent (Colombian) Screech-Owl, Collared Trogon, Andean Motmot, Slaty Spinetail, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Whiskered Wren, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Variegated & Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrants, Rufous-naped Greenlet & Common Chlorospingus. And an assortment of tanagers, including White-capped, Blue-necked, Beryl-spangled, Metallic-green and Saffron-crowned Tanager.

Endemic & Endangered Cauca Guan at Otún-Quimbaya Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Anthony Kaduck.

After birding Cameguadua marsh, we made an afternoon visit to Rio Claro, where we saw very nicely a pair of Turquoise Dacnis, a great Colombian endemic.

Our day visit to Los Nevados National Park was very productive, with views of the endemic & vulnerable Rufous-fronted Parakeet, and the beautiful Buffy Helmetcrest at 12,000 feet! A nice set of hummingbirds showed up at different mountain sites, including the near-endemics Black-thighed & Golden-breasted Puffleg, and extraordinary Purple-backed & Rainbow-bearded Thornbill. Also, Tyrian & Viridian Metaltail, Shining Sunbeam, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Sword-billed Hummingbird & Great Sapphirewing, among others.

We saw the Andean Teal and Andean Duck at Laguna Negra, and at different stops, the Paramo Tapaculo, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-throated Tyrannulet, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Sedge Wren, Glossy, Black & Masked Flowerpiercer, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Plain-colored & Paramo Seedeater, Gray-browed Brushfinch, Black-crested Warbler and Hooded Siskin.

Four species of Mountain-Tanagers were spotted on mix flocks, including the Hooded, Lacrimose, Scarlet-bellied & Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager. Also seen was the Blue-capped & Blue-and-black Tanager.

Rio Blanco´s cloud forest was very birdy, as always. Early morning we had close views of the antpittas beeing fed earthworms in the understory: the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta, the near-endemic Bicolored Antpitta, and the beautiful Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. Not far away we managed to call in the Ash-colored & Blackish Tapaculo. Along the trails we met with the Golden-headed Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Sickle-winged Guan, Barred Parakeet, Andean Motmot, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Tyrannine & Montane Woodcreeper, Striped & Flammulated Treehunter. Also, Pearled Treerunner, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Flavescent & Pale-edged Flycatcher, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Slaty-backed & Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Black-billed Peppershrike, Sharpe´s & Mountain Wren, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Glossy-black Thrush, Black-capped, Superciliaried & Black-eared Hemispingus, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Capped Conebill, Chestnut-capped, Slaty & Gray-browed Brushfinch, Citrine & Russet-crowned Warbler. Furthermore, we had good views of the rare Pale-footed Swallow and the Masked Saltator.

Ken, Daniel & Anthony, at Rio Blanco cloud forest.

Hummingbirds seen in Rio Blanco included the White-throated Wedgebill, Lesser Violetear, Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy Inca, Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, White-bellied Woodstar and Andean Emerald.

At night, we saw the White-throated Screech-Owl, Rufous-banded Owl & Lyre-tailed Nightjar (male & female).

Dropping down the mountain we birded at Tinamu Lodge, a private nature reserve equipped with gentle trails in a secondary forest. Here, we saw the rare Gray-headed Dove, Blue-lored Antbird, Golden-collared Manakin, Speckle-breasted Wren, Crimson-backed & Guira Tanager, and Large-billed Seed-Finch, to just mention a few. Nicely, we saw three species of Hermits: Rufous-breasted, Stripe-throated & Green Hermit.

We then moved into the final leg of the trip, driving from Manizales to Jardin, not taking the conventional road (because of heavy road constructions for a new highway) but taking instead the old gravel road from Riosucio to Jardin, climbing into Ventanas´s Pass. This allowed us to bag the endemic Yellow-headed Brushfinch, for many years known only from the Magdalena Valley on the east slope of the Central Andes.

Our stay in Jardin was very productive, with a full day birding along the road to Riosucio, visiting the Antpitta feeding stations at Doña Lucía´s place. Highlights included the endemic Yellow-eared Parrot, Chestnut-naped & Slate-crowned Antpitta, Chestnut-collared Swift, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant & Andean Cock-of-the-rock (about 14 males displaying at the lek near town). Noteworthy were the great sightings of Green Jay, Citrine Warbler and Scarlet-rumped Cacique.

Chestnut-naped Antpitta at Lucía´s Place in Jardin. Photo by Anthony Kaduck.
Daniel with Chestnut-naped Antpitta grabing an earthworm from hand, at Lucia´s place in Jardin. Photo by Anthony Kaduck.

Our final birding grounds were at ProAves´s Las Tangaras reserve in the Pacific slope of the Western Andes. Here, we had second & often improved views of many Mountain Choco species previously seen at Cerro Montezuma. In addition, we managed to find the endemic Red-bellied Grackle, and the Rufous-crested Tanager, Rufous-rumped & Yellow-breasted Antwren, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Olivaceous Piha, Choco Vireo (NE), Beautiful Jay (NE), White-headed Wren, White-thighed Swallow and Black Solitaire (NE).

On our final day, we drove to Rionegro (where Medellin´s airport is located), birding en route the dry forests near Bolombolo at Quebrada Sinifana, with sightings of Black-crowned Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Piratic & Streaked Flycatcher, among others. In this opportunity, we heard but did not see the endemic Antioquia Wren.

Endemic Multicolored Tanager, Anthony’s most wanted species prior to trip. Photo by Anthony Kaduck, taken at Finca Alejandría.