Birding trip for Happy Warblers from New York: the Central Andes & Cauca Valley, from Cali to Manizales (March 6 – 14, 2019).

15 - 03 - 2019

This was the third trip organized by our company for Joe Giunta´s Happy Warblers touring company. In this occasion, we decided for a short & compact route with tons of birds, starting in Cali and finishing in Manizales. Entry port was the city of Cali through a direct flight with American Airlines. Exit port was the city of Pereira with an outbound flight direct to Miami. Some participants opted for a domestic flight from Pereira to Bogota, taking a direct flight back to New York with Avianca.

First day of birding involved a short drive from Cali to the iconic “Kilómetro 18” (Km 18) in the Western Andes, where we visited Finca Alejandría and birded the forested road to Dapa. After a good lunch at Restaurant “Aquí me quedo” enjoying nice hummingbird feeders, we drove to Buga, birding en route the semi-dry forest at El Vinculo regional reserve. The following day involved a thorough birding visit to Sonso marsh that occupied all morning, with an afternoon drive to Otún-Quimbaya Wildlife Sanctuary, birding en route the Otún River for tryptic Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper & Torrent Tyrannulet. One full day was devoted to birding Otún-Quimbaya Sanctuary, from the lodge to the “fonda” at El Cedral. After a second morning birding Otún-Quimbaya, we drove to Manizales, birding en route Cameguadua marsh near the town of Chinchiná. The following days saw us birding Los Nevados National Park, with a splendid visit to the nice hummingbird & tanager feeders at Hotel Termales del Ruiz and a nice birding hike down the Old Road to Los Nevados. We enjoyed the antpittas and mix flocks of Rio Blanco, and finished with a nice visit to Tinamu Lodge bellow the city of Manizales.

We registered 305 species in just seven birding days. At Km 18 above Cali, some of the highlights included the Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Long-tailed Sylph, Booted Racket-Tail, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, near-endemic Purple-throated Woodstar, Blue-headed Sapphire, Red-headed Barbet, Red-faced Spinetail, Streak-capped Treehunter, Montane Woodcreeper, Uniform Antshrike, Smoke-colored Pewee, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Andean Solitaire, Flame-rumped Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, endemic Multicolored Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden Tanager, Black-winged Saltator, Hepatic & Summer Tanager, plus many others.

At El Vinculo forest we saw well the Spectacled Parrotlet, Lineated Woodpecker, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, near-endemic Bar-crested Antshrike, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, near-endemic Scrub Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Streaked Saltator, Tropical Parula and Yellow Oriole, among others.

Sonso marsh was very productive, not only for the aquatic birds but for the many species that inhabit the scrubland and gallery forests nearby. We saw a pair of Horned Screamers, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Cinnamon Teal (the resident subspecies, highly threatened), Least & Pied-billed Grebe, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Striated Heron, Cocoi Heron, Little Blue Heron, Buff-necked Ibis, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Wattled Jacana, Greater & Smooth-billed Ani, Striped Cuckoo, three species of Kingfishers (Ringed, Amazon & Green Kingfisher), Spot-breasted & Red-crowned Woodpecker, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Great Antshrike, Jet Antbird, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-olive & Vermilion Flycatcher,  endemic Apical Flycatcher, Cinerous Becard, Oriole Blackbird and Masked Cardinal, plus many others.

Otun-Quimbaya provided some of the most exquisite birds, including Wattled & Sickle-winged Guan, endemic Cauca Guan, Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Pale-vented Pigeon, Southern Lapwing, Bronze-winged Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared & Gray-rumped Swift, Bronzy Inca, Collared Trogon, Andean Motmot, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Streaked Xenops, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Plumbeous-crowned & Torrent Tyrannulet, Variegated & Barble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, near-endemic Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, White-winged Becard, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Green Jay, Pale-eyed Thrush, Black-capped, Blue-necked & Beryl-spangled Tanager, Metallic-green & Bay-headed Tanager, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, a collection of warblers (including Three-striped, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Canada & Black-and-white Warbler), Giant Cowbird and Yellow-bellied Siskin.

A group photo with or without hats? That was the question!

At Cameguadua marsh we had the pleasant surprise of seeing a nesting Grayish Piculet (endemic), the rare Ultramarine Grossbeak, Blackish Rail, Purple Gallinule, Western Emerald, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Vermilion Flycatcher, Pied Water-Tyrant, Cattle Tyrant, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied & Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Olive-crowned Yellow-Throat, Yellow Oriole, Yellow-hooded Blackbird and Carib Grackle.

Birding Los Nevados National Park, Hotel Termales del Ruiz & the Old Road to Los Nevados always provides quality birds, and in this day we enjoyed seeing Andeal Teal, Andean Duck, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Tapaculo, White-throated Tyrannulet, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Brown-bellied Swallow, Sedge Wren, Rufous Wren, Black-capped Hemispingus, three species of Mountain-Tanagers (Hooded, Lacrimose & Scarlet-bellied), Golden-crowned Tanager, Blue-backed Conebill, Glossy & Black Flowerpiercer, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Plain-colored & Paramo Seedeater, Pale-naped Brush-Finch, near-endemic Golden-fronted Redstart, Black-crested Warbler and Hooded Siskin, among others. An amazing collection of high altitude hummingbirds included great views of the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest, Purple-backed & Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Tyrian & Viridian Metaltail, near-endemic Black-thighed Puffleg, near-endemic Golden-breasted Puffleg, Shining Sunbeam, Collared Inca, Blue-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast and Great Sapphirewing.

Rio Blanco is known for the quality of the mix flocks, and for the antpittas being fed earthworms inside the forest. This was the opportunity for seeing really close the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and the endemic Brown-banded Antpitta. We heard the Bicolored & Slate-crowned Antpitta calling from dense bamboo stands, but both species were reluctant to visit the feeding sites. This day we enjoyed the Scaly-naped Parrot, White-throated Wedgebill, Lesser & Sparkling Violetear, Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy & Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, White-bellied Woodstar, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Southern Emerald Toucanet, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Pearled Treerunner, Flammulated Treehunter, Streak-headed Antbird, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Cinnamon & Pale-edged Flycatcher, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Mountain Wren, Sharpe´s Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Glossy-black Thrush, Black-eared Hemispingus, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Beryl-spangled & Metallic-green Tanager, Capped Conebill, Plushcap, White-naped Brush-Finch, Slaty Brush-Finch, Slate-throated & Golden-fronted Redstart, plus many others.

All settled for the antpittas at the second feeding station in Rio Blanco, where we were joined briefly by a photographer´s group from Taiwan.

Tinamu Lodge offers a pleasant stay at mid-altitude (1400m), with warmer temperatures in contrast to the higher mountains. Nice birds here included the Gray-headed Dove, Spectacled Parrotlet, Bronze-winged Parrot, Brown-throated Parakeet, Common Potoo, Green Hermit, Black-throated Mango, White-necked Jacobin, White-vented Plumeleteer, Steely-vented & Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Moustached Puffbird, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-collared Manakin, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Clay-colored Thrush, Gray-headed Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Guira Tanager, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Golden-crowned Warbler and Yellow-backed Oriole, among many others.

Here are the favorite birds of the trip, according to the group´s deliberation of final day of trip:

  • Black-billed Mountain-Toucan
  • Wattled Guan
  • Yellow-collared Manakin
  • Buffy Helmetcrest
  • White-capped Dipper
  • Moustached Puffbird
  • Blue-headed Sapphire
  • Andean Motmot