Birding trip for Happy Warblers from Yew 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


Birding in Inírida, San José del Guaviare, San Cipriano & the Anchicayá Valley with Katy Krigbaum & Birgit Felser (Feb. 4 – 27, 2019).

28 - 02 - 2019

From February 4 – 27 (2019) we birded Inírida & San José del Guaviare in the Colombian Amazon, plus the upper ridges of the Western Andes near Cali, dropping to the Pacific lowlands of San Cipriano and traversing the mountainous route from Aguaclara to El Danubio & El Queremal in the gorgeous Anchicayá Valley. Tour started in Bogotá and involved domestic flights from Bogotá to Inírida (two ways), from Bogotá to San José del Guaviare (two ways), and from Bogotá to Pereira (one-way), and a final flight from Cali to Bogotá with connections back home. At Inírida we used local moto-taxis and river boats to get from our comfortable hotel to the birding sites, and in San José & the long loop from Pereira to Cali, San Cipriano and Anchicayá we used good 4x4s.

The Spotted Puffbird, one of the most wanted birds by Katy & Birgit, seen on our second day of birding at Guamal. Image taken by Camilo Orjuela through Kowa scope.
Our birding group on the first full day of birding at Inírida, from left to right: Daniel Uribe, Jaime Córdoba (Caño Vitina´s Evangelical Pastor), Katy Krigbaum, Birgit Felser and Camilo Orjuela.

We registered 585 species, of which 58 were new for Katy & Birgit. At Inírida we enjoyed tons of nice birds, including Muscovy Duck, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, four species of Macaws (Blue-and-yellow, Scarlet, Red-and-green, Chestnut-fronted), Blackish Nightjar, Green-tailed Golden-Throat, Festive Coquette, Amethyst Woodstar, Blue-chinned Sapphire, Black-tailed Trogon, American Pygmy Kingfisher, four species of Jacamars (White-eared, Brown, Bronzy, Paradise), Spotted Puffbird, Orinoco & Golden-spangled Piculet, Yellow-throated, Cream-colored & Golden-green Woodpecker, Silvered & Yapacana Antbird (among many antbirds and antwrens), Black-spotted Bare-Eye, Orinoco Softtail, Plain-crested & Rufous-crowned Elaenia, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, Fuscous Flycatcher, Cinnamon & Citron-bellied Attila, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Capuchinbird, Spangled & Pompadour Cotinga, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, four species of manakins (Black, White-crowned, Yellow-crowned, Wire-tailed), Paradise & Opal-rumped Tanager, Rose-breasted Chat, Velvet-fronted Grackle and Plumbeous Euphonia.

The Yellow-crowned Manakin (Heterocercus flavivertex), seen here at Sabanitas. Image taken by Camilo Orjuela through Kowa scope.
Our imitation of the Capuchinbird cow-like grunt cannot be better! We greatly enjoyed the displays and puzzling sounds of this magnificent bird.
All very happy after seeing the Yapacana Antbird (Aprositornis disjuncta) in its typical habitat of flooded sandy-belt forest in Sabanitas.
All very happy after birding succesfully at La Rompida, Don Rafael´s farm over the Guaviare river. Here we saw the Blue-throated Piping-Guan, White-bearded Hermit, Festive Coquette, Blue-chinned Sapphire, the so-called “Inirida Antshrike”, Fuscous Flycatcher and Amazonian Umbrellabird, among many others.
Birding Inírida will be incomplete without a visit to Cerros de Mavicure, some 3 hours by boat along the Inírida River.
A mix of savanna, scrubland, varzea and terra firme forest is found at the base of the Mavicure formations. Here, Katy & Birgit while photographing the “Flor de Inírida” after birding the terra firme forest.

San José del Guaviare hosted many new birds for the trip, including good views of Little & Undulated Tinamou, Orinoco Goose, Pearl Kite, Sunbittern, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Hoatzin, Great Potoo, Sand-colored Nighthawk, Sooty-capped Hermit, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, White-chinned Jacamar, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Scarlet-crowned & Gilded Barbet, three species of Aracaris (Lettered, Chestnut-eared, Many-banded), Chestnut & Ringed Woodpecker, eight species of Woodcreepers (including Long-billed, Striped & Elegant), Yellow-crowned Elaenia, Cliff & Euler´s Flycatcher, White-browed Purpletuft, Chestnut-crowned & Pink-throated Becard, Red-capped Cardinal, Magpie Tanager, Solitary Black Cacique and Golden-bellied Euphonia, to cite just a few.

On our way to Cerro Azul, at the Serranía de La Lindosa, in search of the elusive Orange-breasted Falcon. From left to right: Birgit, Katy, Cristian Mur & William Rojas (local guide).
Cerro Azul has an amazing display of Indian art over lime stone. Something not to miss!
Our idea for this photo was to show our very clean shoes while birding Playa Güio in Guaviare, but Cristian for some unknown reason refused to include them inside the frame!

The Anchicayá Valley & San Cipriano were most productive, with sightings of Berlepsch´s Tinamou, Baudo Guan, Black-and-white & Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Dusky Pigeon, Pallid Dove, Purple & White-throated Quail-Dove, Rose-faced & Saffron-headed Parrot, Crested, Mottled & Black-and-White Owl, Choco Poorwill, Band-tailed Barbthroat, White-whiskered Hermit, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Purple-chested Hummingbird, Blue-tailed & Black-throated Trogon, Broad-billed & Rufous Motmot, four species of Puffbirds (Black-breasted, Pied, Barred & White-whiskered), Lanceolated Monklet, Spot-crowned & Five-colored Barbet, Yellow-throated & Choco Toucan, Lita & Cinnamon Woodpecker, Russet Antshrike, Spot-crowned Antvireo, ten species of Antwrens & Antbirds (including Esmeraldas, Stub-tailed & Zeledon´s Antbird), Black-headed Antthrush, Northern Barred-Woodcreeper, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Pacific Flatbill, Whiskered & Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Tufted & White-ringed Flycatcher, Rufous Piha, Black-tipped Cotinga, four species of Manakins (Green, White-crowned, Golden-collared, Blue-crowned), Scaly-breasted, White-headed, Sooty-headed & Whiskered Wren, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Golden-chested & Gray-and-Gold Tanager, Golden-hooded, Rufous-winged & Emerald Tanager, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Scarlet-browed & Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Lemon-spectacled & Ochre-breasted Tanager, Blue-black Grosbeak and Golden-bellied (Choco) Warbler, among many others.

On our short stay at San Cipriano, we enjoyed a brief encounter with Fernando Ayerbe Quiñones, author of the excellent Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia, just recently published (2018).
The Anchicayá Valley, seen from the gravel road that runs between Aguaclara and El Danubio. Without any doubt, the altudinal gradient and exhuberant forests makes Anchicayá one of the top birding destinations in Colombia.
At “El Descanso de Doña Dora”, with Doña Dora and local guide Anderson Muñoz. The feeders attracted many birds, including Toucan Barbet, White-whiskered Hermit, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Empress Brilliant, Rufous-throated Tanager, Black-headed Brush-Finch, Tricolored (Choco) Brush-Finch and many others!


Birding Mitú, Inírida & the Perijá Mountains for key species with Hans Jornvall from Sweden (January 5 – 23, 2019).

25 - 01 - 2019

From January 5 – 23 (2019) we birded the Colombian Amazon in Mitú and Inírida, plus the Perijá Mountains in the northernmost tip of the Andes. With a personal list over 9,500 species seen worldwide, Hans Jornvall had just a few birds to add to his lifelist.

We birded Mitú on January 6 – 13, visiting the localities of Línea Bocatoma (trail begins at the edge of town, in the neighborhood called “12 de Octubre”), Ceimá Cachivera, Cruce Bocatoma, Cerrito Verde, Pueblo Nuevo, road to Maka-Yuká, road to Santa Cruz & Microcentral Hidroeléctrica (MCH). We had the excellent assistance of local guide Miguel Portura and Wilson as our driver.

January 14 – 19 saw us birding Inírida, visiting the localities of Sabanitas, El Paujil, Caño Vitina, La Rompida in the Guaviare River, Caño Matraca, Los Cocos (Coco Nuevo) and El Guamal. We had the excellent assistance of Camilo Orjuela as local birding guide, handling all logistics smoothly.

The third and final leg was at Serranía de Perijá in the most northern tip of the Andes, from January 20 – 23 (2019). On the first night, we lodged near Manaure, at a small rural “bed & breakfast” hotel called Villa Adelayda. The second night we lodged at ProAves´s reserve (known as “Chamicero del Perijá”, in Spanish), and for the third and final night we used a city hotel in Valledupar (Hotel Tativán).

Many birds went through our bins & scope, but most importantly were the new birds for Hans:

At Mitú we registered the White-throated Tinamou (Tinamus guttatus), Gray-legged Tinamou (Crypturellus duidae), Barred Tinamou (Crypturellus casiquiare), Sapphire Quail-Dove (Geotrygon saphirina), Orinoco Piculet (Picumnus pumilus), Sapphire-rumped Parrotlet (Touit purpuratus), Black Bushbird (Neoctantes niger), Gray-bellied Antbird (Ammonastes pelzelni), Chestnut-crested Antbird (Rhegmatorhina cristata), White-eyed Tody-Tyrant (Hemitriccus zosterops), Azure-naped Jay (Cyanocorax helprini) and White-bellied Dacnis (Dacnis albiventris).

At Inírida we saw the Amazonian Black-Tyrant (Knipolegus poecilocercus), Yapacana Antbird (Aprositornis disjuncta), Orinoco Softtail (Tripophaga cherrei), Pale-bellied Mourner (Rhytipterna immunda) and the new “Inírida Antshrike” (which is probably an undescribed subspecies of Chestnut-backed Antshrike – Thamnophilus palliatus).

On the third leg of the trip, we managed to see all the Perijá endemics and specialties that Hans needed for his personal list, including the Perija Metaltail (Metallura iracunda), Perija Thistletail (Asthenes perijana), Klage´s Antbird (Drymophila klagesi), Perija Tapaculo (Scytalopus perijanus), Perija Brush-Finch (Arremon perijanus), Rufous-shafted Woodstar (Chaetocercus jourdanii) and the local subspecies of Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch (Atlapetes latinuchus nigrifrons).

As expected, we missed some of our target birds. In spite of much looking and searching, we could not find the Red-billed Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus pucheranii), Streak-throated Hermit (Phaethornis rupurumii), Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet (Touit huetii), Cinnamon-crested Spadebill (Platyrhinchus saturatus), Cinnamon Manakin-Tyrant (Neopipo cinnamomea) and the Reddish-winged Bare-Eye (Phlegopsis erythroptera). This is birding in the tropics!


Merry Christmas to all birders around the world!

22 - 12 - 2018


Second birding trip to Colombia for Ernest Bradley & Dale Brinker (November 19 – December 03, 2018).

04 - 12 - 2018

Ernie & Dale had been lingering for a second birding trip to Colombia and this time they opted for the Eastern Andes, including the best birding sites near Bogota.  Birding Tours Colombia had been running Eastern Andes tours for years, and it was very easy to agree on a magnificent 15-day itinerary.

Near Bogota, we visited Laguna de Pedro Palo, Chicaque Nature Reserve, Chingaza National Park, the Hummingbird Observatory at La Calera and the Siecha gravel pits. Moving north, we birded Paramo Grande above Guasca and the colorful Vereda Concepción with La Guajira & Bioandina Nature Reserves. We kept traveling north, visiting Laguna de Fúquene, the gorgeous colonial town of Villa de Leyva and Rogitama Nature Reserve before reaching the dry Chicamocha Canyon in Soata. Naturally, we birded the scenic Paramo de La Rusia and the beautiful Oak forests along the road to Onzaga.

On our return to Bogota, we decided to visit the reservoir of La Copa near the town of Toca for one morning. We then dropped to the Magdalena Valley and enjoyed the hummingbirds at the Enchanted Gardens of San Francisco, and birded thoroughly the rich Tabacal Lagoon near La Vega and Bellavista Forest above Victoria before returning to Bogota.

As a result, Ernie obtained 67 lifers, and Dale had a slightly bigger figure. We saw well the endemics Bogota Rail, Brown-breasted (Flame-winged) Parakeet, White-mantled Barbet, Black Inca, Chestnut-bellied & Indigo-capped Hummingbirds, Beautiful Woodpecker, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Apical Flycatcher, Niceforo´s Wren, Sooty Ant-Tanager, Mountain Grackle and Velvet-fronted Euphonia. Also, the near-endemics Bronze-tailed Thornbill, Coppery-bellied Puffleg, Golden-bellied & Blue-fronted Starfrontlets, Red-billed & Short-tailed Emeralds, Bar-crested Antshrike, Pale-bellied (Matorral) Tapaculo, Scrub Tanager, Rufous-browed Conebill, Black-headed & Moustached Brush-Finches, and the Golden-fronted Whitestart.

We enjoyed hundreds of glamorous birds, such as the Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Black-hawk Eagle, White-rumped Hawk, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Noble Snipe, Spectacled Parrotlet and the Andean Pygmy-Owl. Among the hummingbirds, we had spectacular views of the Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Black-tailed & Green-tailed Trainbearers, Purple-backed Thornbill, Glowing Puffleg, Gorgeted Woodstar and Lazuline Sabrewing. Other great birds included the Golden-headed Quetzal, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Red-rumped & Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers, Black-crowned Antshrike, Dusky, Jet & White-bellied Antbirds, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Ash-browed & Stripe-breasted Spinetails, Black-billed Peppershrike, White-bibbed Manakin, Black-faced & Metalic-green Tanagers, Band-tailed & Paramo Seedeaters, Black-backed Grosbeak and Andean Siskin, among many others.

From left to right: Dale Brinker, Ernest Bradley, Daniel Uribe & Roberto Chavarro. A retired MD (Anesthesiologist), Roberto is one of the most prominent conservation pioneers in Colombia. His commitment to conservation and his prodigious work restoring the barren land that he bought some 35 years ago is truly amazing. Today, the gardens & forests of Rogitama are home to hundreds of bird species, including the endemics Black Inca, Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, Silvery-throated Spinetail and Pale-bellied Tapaculo, and near-endemics Short-tailed Emerald, Moustached Brush-Finch, Scrub Tanager and Golden-fronted Whitestart.


Birding Colombia: an explosive extension into the Santa Marta Mountains, Guajira pensinsula & Perijá Mountains (October 18 – 27, 2018).

28 - 10 - 2018

Tony, Tom, Dale & Daniel flew to Santa Marta after birding the Eastern Andes near Bogota, aiming for high altitude endemics in the San Lorenzo ridge, scrubland specialties in the Guajira peninsula and the endemics of the most northern tip of the Andes: the Perijá Mountains.

Quickly after landing in Santa Marta at 4:15pm, we visited the close locality of El Vale, finding a group of seven Chestnut-winged Chachalacas, endemic to northern Colombia. In addition, Crested Bobwhites and Groove-billed Anis were actively moving from one side of the road to the other.

As always, Hotel Minca provided a pleasant stay, and the feeders at the balcony had White-necked Jacobin, Long-billed Hermit, Lesser Violetear, White-vented Plumeleteer, Steely-vented & Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. Black-chested Jays, Bicolored Wrens & Streak-headed Woodcreepers were active and vocal at the parking lot.

The following day we drove up the mountain, from Minca to Proaves´s El Dorado Lodge. With frequent stops along the steep climb, we managed to find several Santa Marta Mountain endemics, including the Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Santa Marta Antbird and Santa Marta Tapaculo. The stop of the Baticola enabled us to find the beautiful Santa Marta Blossomcrown, the Bang´s subspecies of Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, and a gorgeous Keel-billed Toucan as a bonus.

Other birds seen this morning included a pair of Crested Guans that sat calmly on dense foliage, giving great scope views. A singing pair of Rufous-breasted Wrens gave a nice show, followed by a duet of Rufous-and-white Wrens performing just a couple of meters from us. Birds seen this morning included the near-endemic Red-billed Emerald, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Whooping Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-bearded Manakin, Golden-crowned & Boat-billed Flycatchers, Ochre-bellied & Sepia-capped Flycatchers, Masked Tityra, Red-eyed Vireo, Pale-breasted Thrush, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, White-lined & Crimson-backed Tanagers, Buff-throated Saltator, Rufous-capped Warbler, Slate-throated Whitestart and Crested Oropendola. Red-billed Parrots flew across the mountains a couple of times. Some North American migrants showed up well, including Black-and-white Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Swainson´s Thrush and Eastern Wood-Pewee.

After a late lunch at the lodge, we enjoyed the feeders and gardens, visited by quality birds: the endemic Sierra Nevada (Colombian) Brush-Finch, endemic Santa Marta Brush-Finch, endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet and near-endemic Band-tailed Guan. Other birds seen included White-tipped Dove, Sparkling Violetear, male & female Lazuline Sabrewing, Crowned Woodnymph (numerous), Black-capped & Bay-headed Tanager, White-sided Flowerpiercer and Blue-naped Chlorophonia.

We had good scope views of a male White-tipped Quetzal (near-endemic) and Crimson-crested Woodpecker from the deck. In addition, it was not difficult to find the endemic White-lored Warbler on a short hike near the lodge.

At night, we had an exciting encounter with the endemic Santa Marta Screech-Owl.

The following day we had an early start (4:00am departure from lodge), bumping along the road all the way up to the San Lorenzo ridge. Birding was initially slow, probably due to the very sunny sky. However, we gradually saw most of our targets: Santa Marta Antpitta, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, White-tipped Quetzal, Streak-capped Spinetail, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Santa Marta (Hermit) Wood-Wren, Black-cheeked (Santa Marta) Mountain-Tanager, Santa Marta Brush-Finch, Santa Marta Warbler and Yellow-crowned Whitestart. We missed the Black-backed Thornbill and Santa Marta Parakeets. We heard the Rufous Antpitta (Grallaria rufula spatiator), Flammulated Treehunter and Pale-eyed Thrush.

All happy to be at the top of San Lorenzo ridge with a good day!

This morning we also saw one juvenile of Solitary Eagle soaring at close distance, and a Peregrine Falcon. Two groups of Scarlet-fronted Parakeets adding up to 25 individuals were very active and noisy, and Scaly-naped Parrots cruised several times above our heads. Other birds seen included Plushcap (one adult w/ one juvenile), Tyrian Metaltail, White-throated Tyrannulet and Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush.

Back at the lodge at 3:30pm, we had time to enjoy for a second time the species attending the feeders in the bloomed garden. We had great looks at 15 Band-tailed Guans, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, White-tipped Dove, Lesser & Sparkling Violetear, Lazuline Sabrewing, Crowned Woodnymph, Black-capped Tanager and Blue-naped Chlorophonia.

Before dark, we had time to take a short hike near the lodge, and luckily, we met with a group of four Black-fronted Wood-Quails!

The following day we birded our way back down to the lowlands. However, it was not easy to start our descent, simply because there were four female White-tipped Quetzals courted by two splendid males! Just in the parking lot!

Coming down the mountain we managed to find the endemic Santa Marta Woodstar (one male, perched on snag), near-endemic Golden-winged Sparrow, Golden-breasted Fruiteater and 6 Military Macaws. Also, we had good second views of 15 Red-billed Parrots, 1 Santa Marta Blossomcrown, 1 Red-billed Emerald and 2 Crimson-crested Woodpeckers. Other birds included Masked Trogon, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Black-throated Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-fronted Greenlet and Black-hooded Thrush.

We had a two-night stay at Camarones, where we met our good friend José Luis Pushaina, arguably the best local guide in the region. Since sunlight becomes very strong after 10:00am, we had an early start again, and within 4 hours we saw a fair number of target birds, including the near-endemics Tocuyo Sparrow, 4 Chestnut Piculets, 3 Vermilion Cardinals (two males, one female), 2 White-whiskered Spinetails, 1 Slender-billed Tyrannulet (Inezia). Also, 2 Buffy Hummingbirds, 2 Pale-tipped Inezias, 2 Black-backed Antshrikes, 1 Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, 1 Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, 1 Lesson´s Seedeater, 2 Pileated Finches, 1 Northern Scrub Flycatcher, 15 Bare-eyed Pigeons, 2 Green-rumped Parrotlets, 5 Ruby-topaz Hummingbirds (3 males, 2 females), 6 Red-billed Emeralds, 2 Trinidad Euphonias.

Other highlights included species such as 1 Black-faced Grassquit, 2 White-fringed Antbirds, 2 Black-crested Antshrikes, 20 Brown-throated Parakeets, 3 Rufous-tailed Jacamars, 2 Common Ground-Doves, 4 Scaled Doves, 5 White-tipped Doves, 2 Red-crowned Woodpeckers, 1 Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, 1 Brown-crested Flycatcher, 1 Great-crested Flycatcher, 2 Gray Kingbirds, 8 Tropical Gnatcatchers, 2 Tropical Mockingbirds, 3 Prothonotary Warblers, 2 Blackpoll Warblers and 2 Yellow Orioles.

Perched on low bushes we saw an astounding Hook-billed Kite and a beautiful Crane Hawk. Flying over were 5 Mississippi Kites. We saw 1 juvenile Black-collared Hawk, and several Crested & Yellow-headed Caracaras. We heard the Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Pale-legged (Caribbean) Hornero and Venezuelan Flycatcher.

At Boca de Camarones we met with a group of more than 200 American Flamingos, and a large number of waders and aquatics, including 8 Neotropical Cormorants, 6 Brown Pelicans, 1 Black-crowned Night-Heron, 1 Striated Heron, 6 Great Egrets, 2 Reddish Egrets, 10 Snowy Egrets, 1 Little Blue Heron, 4 White Ibises, 3 Scarlet Ibises, 2 Bare-faced Ibises, 15 Magnificent Frigatebirds, 1 Black-bellied (Gray) Plover, 1 Collared Plovers, 2 American Oystercatchers, 8 Black-necked Stilts, 1 Whimbrel, 10 Sanderlings, 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 15 Western Sandpipers, 3 Least Sandpipers, 1 White-rumped Sandpiper, 4 Willets, 15 Laughing Gulls, 4 Least Terns, 1 Gull-billed Terns, 30 Cabot´s (Sandwich) Tern and 20 Royal Terns.

In the morning of October 23 we birded the Cari-Cari road, seeing well the following: 4 Orinocan Saltators, 2 Vermilion Cardinals, 2 Glaucous Tanagers, 2 Russet-throated Puffbirds, 2 Buff-breasted Wrens, 1 Scrub Greenlet, 3 Trinidad Euphonias, 8 Crested Bobwhites, 2 Hook-billed Kites, 1 Common Black-Hawk, 1 Harris´s Hawk, 8 Bare-eyed Pigeons, 30 Brown-throated Parakeets, 2 Green-rumped Parrotlets, 2 Striped Cuckoos, 2 Buffy Hummingbirds, 3 Black-crested Antshrikes, 2 White-fringed Antwrens, 4 Straight-billed Woodcreepers, 2 White-whiskered Spinetails, 2 Southern-beardless Tyrannulets, 1 Northern Scrub-Flycatcher and 1 Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, among others.

The afternoon was spent entirely in the car on the way to Valledupar, lodging at a city hotel. The following day we drove shortly to Los Besotes private nature reserve, where we saw our main target there, the Red-legged Tinamou. Plus second views of the White-fringed Antbird, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher and Great-crested Flycatcher.

Near midday, we started our ascent to the Perijá Mountains, reaching ProAves´s Lodge at 5:00pm. We did some brief stops along the road, getting the endemic Perijá Tapaculo and near-endemic Gray-throated Warbler. The feeders were busy with Lesser & Sparkling Violetear, Speckled Hummingbird, Amethyst-throated Sunangel and Tyrian Metaltail.  And Scaly-naped Parrots (20) were cruising over.

The following day challenges were waiting for us up at Paramo de Sabana Rubia. Initially, we couldn´t locate the Perijá Thisthletail anywhere along the ridge, in spite of much looking and searching. But our efforts were finally compensated with extraordinary looks of one bird.

Excitement came with the extraordinary views of the endemic Perijá Thistletail.

Soon afterwards, we saw our first Perijá Metaltail of the trip. Here, we also saw the Perija (Rufous) Antpitta, a splendid Andean Condor soaring high. Other birds included 1 Merlin, 4 White-throated Tyrannulets, 2 Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrants, 2 Red-crested Cotingas, 4 Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers, 2 Blue-capped Tanagers, 2 Blue-backed Conebills, 1 Bluish Flowerpiercer.

At least three Highland Tinamous were vocalizing early morning, and a Paltry (Spectacled) Tyrannulet was moving with a mix flock.

Before dark, we saw below the lodge a pair of Golden-headed Quetzals, 1 Mountain Velvetbreast and 1 Band-winged Nightjar.

On the final day of tour, birding occurred down the road, reaching the airport in Valledupar for our flight back to Bogota.  We had a close encounter with a pair of the endemic Perijá (Phelp´s) Brush-Finch on a dense bamboo stand, and walking closely was a group of three Black-fronted Wood-Quails. Other birds seen included 10 Perija (Yellow-breasted) Brush-Finches, 4 Slaty Brush-Finches, 4 Common Chlorospinguses, 2 Golden-breasted Fruiteaters, 1 Chestnut-bellied Thrush, 2 Fulvous-headed Tanagers, 2 Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers, 1 Blue-capped Tanager, 1 Black-headed Tanager, 2 Black-capped Tanagers, 2 Beryl-spangled & 3 Bay-headed Tanagers, 1 Black-hooded Thrush, 1 Oleaginous Hemispingus, 1 Merlin, 3 Southern Emerald Toucanets, 2 Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, 6 Perija Tapaculos, 2 Montane Woodcreepers, 2 Rufous Spinetails, 2 Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatchers, 1 Smoke-colored Pewee, 2 Green Jays, 4 Black-chested Jays, 1 Whiskered Wren, 1 Pale-eyed Thrush, 2 Black-crested Warblers, 3 Three-striped Warblers, 4 Black-and-white Seedeaters, 2 Dull-colored Grassquits, 2 Slate-throated Whitestarts, 2 Blue-naped Chlorophonias.

The group at Los Besotes reserve, after seing the Red-legged Tinamou. From left to right: Daniel, Tony, Dale, Tom and José Luis Ropero (local guide). Guess who bought the colorful Guajira bag the day before?


The Eastern Andes near Bogota: private birding tour for Tony Menart, Thomas Heatley & Dale Manor (October 9 – 18, 2018).

20 - 10 - 2018

From October 9 – 18 (2018) we visited the very best birding sites near Bogota, with a short detour on the eastern slope of the Eastern Andes down to Villavicencio. This was the second Colombia trip organized by Birding Tours Colombia for three great birders with life lists over 6500 species each.  Thus, we focused on target birds only, and we did very well!

Sites visited included Laguna de Pedro Palo, Chicaque Park, Bosque Bavaria (also known as Orange-breasted Falcon Reserve), Lagos de Menegua (a new site for our company, which proved to be a wonderful place to bird for some of the Eastern Llanos specialties), Monterredondo and Laguna de Chisacá at Paramo de Sumapaz. East of Bogota we birded Chingaza National Park, the Observatorio de Colibríes at La Calera (also known as The Hummingbird Observatory), Páramo Grande (which we sometimes refer as Páramo de Guasca), Vereda Concepción w/ Bioandina & La Guajira private nature reserves and the Guasca & Siecha gravel pits. Moving west from Bogota, we birded the Enchanted Gardens of San Francisco and Laguna de Tabacal at La Vega.

Nice birds seen at Laguna de Pedro Palo: the endemic & vulnerable Black Inca, Spectacled Parrotlet, Gray-rumped & White-tipped Swifts, near-endemic Gorgeted Woodstar, Crowned Woodnymph, Booted Racket-Tail, Andean Emerald, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Olivaceus Piculet, Streaked Xenops, Ash-browed Spinetail, Brown-capped Vireo, Black-capped Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager and Yellow-backed Oriole, among others.

At Chicaque Park we were delighted with the presence of the gorgeous near-endemic Golden-bellied Starfrontlet (one male, two females), Tourmaline Sunangel, Collared Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet, Lesser & Sparkling Violetear, and Whiskered Wren on dense bamboo stands.

Bosque Bavaria has always been a great forest to bird, and we managed to find there many good birds, including: Gray-chinned Hermit, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Green-backed Trogon, Amazonian Motmot, Yellow-billed Nunbird, Gilded Barbet, Channel-billed Toucan, Lettered Aracari, Scaled Piculet, Northern Slaty-Antshrike, Black-faced Antbird, Spot-winged Antbird, Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, White-necked Thrush, Speckled Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Pectoral Sparrow.

Having done well with targets at Bosque Bavaria, the group decided to scout a new area that promised some rare Eastern Llanos specialties. Lagos de Menegua offered great birding on scrubby, secondary forest surrounded by wetlands and fishing ponds. We were surprised by the presence of a male Crestless Curassow and, as a bonus, Striated Heron, Undulated Tinamou, Horned Screamer, Black-collared Hawk, Snail Kite, Hoatzin, Greater Ani, Sulphury Flycatcher, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Striped-necked Tody-Tyrant and Red-capped Tanager, among many others.

At Monterredondo we had a ridiculously close encounter with a Tawny-breasted Tinamou walking along the edge of the road.  Perched, we had close views of a group of seven endemic Brown-breasted (Flame-winged) Parakeets. Also, very close views of the Lined-Quail Dove (they were very vocal and showing very well). And many more, including: Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy Inca, Green-bellied Hummingbird, Golden-headed Quetzal, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Pearled Treerunner, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Cliff Flycatcher, Black-collared Jay, Spectacled Thrush, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, one pair of the uncommon Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Capped Conebill, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, Ochre-breasted Brush-Finch, Golden-fronted Whitestart and Mountain Cacique, among others.

Surprisingly, we heard over seven Cundinamarca Antpittas calling from the forest, but we could not get our eyes on them.

At Paramo de Sumapaz, the endemic Green-bearded Helmetcrest was seen only once and at great distance, because of restricted access imposed by the Park staff, not allowing visitors to walk on trails any more. Nevertheless, we had close views of two pairs of the endemic Apolinar´s Wren, and good scope views of the Andean Teal & Andean Duck on the lake. In addition, the Tawny Antpitta, Andean Tit-Spinetail and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch were easily seen.

At Chingaza we also saw one male Green-bearded Helmetcrest, but again only briefly and distantly while hovering over Espeletia flowers. We had good views of the endemics Pale-bellied Tapaculo & Silvery-throated Spinetail, and near-endemics Bronze-tailed Thornbill and Rufous-browed Conebill. In addition, we saw well the Andean Guan, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, White-chinned Thistletail, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, Red-crested Cotinga, Superciliared Hemispingus, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-backed Conebill, Plushcap, Paramo Seedeater, Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Black-backed Grosbeak, Golden-fronted Whitestart and Andean Siskin.

Gardens and feeders at the Hummingbird Observatory are always beautifully kept with good taste and dedication by its owner, painter Victoria Lizarralde. The place has never failed to meet expectations. The feeders were busy as ever, with delightful presence of male & female near-endemic Blue-throated Starfrontlet, male & female Black-tailed & Green-tailed Trainbearer, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Saphirewing, Tyrian Metaltail, Glowing Puffleg, Sparkling & Lesser Violetear.

Both Paramo Grande & Vereda Concepción hold great expanses of well-preserved habitats, but both sites can be tough to bird on days with clear skies and strong sun. This time we did well, with second views of the near-endemics Bronze-tailed Thornbill & Rufous-browed Conebill. We also had good repeats for the Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Andean Guan, Tyrian Metaltail and Glowing Puffleg. We saw well the Streaked Tuftedcheek, White-browed Spinetail, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, White-capped Dipper, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager and Andean Siskin, among many others.

At the Siecha gravel pits we managed to see very well two individuals of the endemic Bogota Rail (we must have heard more than five other birds calling from inside the reedy marsh), plus Noble Snipe, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Striated Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron and Band-tailed Seedeater, among others.

As always, the Enchanted Gardens are truly enchanting, with hectic activity on the feeders. Birds seen included the endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Gorgeted Woodstar (2 males & 1 female), White-necked Jacobin, White-bellied Woodstar Andean Emerald, White-vented Plumeleteer, Black-throated Mango, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Lesser & Sparkling Violetear.

We can never understate how good a birding site Tabacal Lagoon is! It is hard to comprehend how many birders go into this place for just 1 or 2 hours of birding, where the number of quality birds is so high, including specialties, skulkers and uncommon species. We saw many great birds here, including the endemic Velvet-fronted Euphonia and near-endemics Short-tailed Emerald, Bar-crested Antshrike and Scrub Tanager. Other highlights included the Ruddy Quail-Dove, Striped Hermit, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Jet Antbird, Blue-lored Antbird, White-bellied Antbird, Ruddy Foliage-Gleaner, Ash-browed Spinetail, Stripe-breasted Spinetail, Cinereous Becard, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Black-bellied Wren, Speckle-breasted Wren, Long-billed Gnatwren, Gray-headed Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Plain-colored Tanager, Rosy-thrush Tanager and Black-striped Sparrow.  We had repeated views of the Rusty-breasted Antpitta and Red-billed Scythebill.

Overall, an intense, productive trip, with amazing birds and great fun birding!

From left to right: Victoria Lizarralde, Dale Manor, Tony Menart and Thomas Heatley, at the Hummingbird Observatory.

All very stressed!


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

26 - 01 - 2018

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).

15 - 01 - 2018

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).


Birding Hato La Aurora in the Eastern Llanos with Todd Pepper & Mark Eaton (December 1 – 4, 2017).

07 - 12 - 2017

This was a short visit to a wonderful birding paradise in the Orinoco region of Colombia, where savannas, gallery forests and wetlands form a prodigious landscape home to an amazing fauna.

First day of trip begun with an early morning (6:03 departure) domestic flight from Bogota to Yopal. Immediately after landing, the ranch´s driver picked us up and we drove to Paz de Ariporo, continuing to Montañas del Totumo & Lodge Juan Solito at Hato La Aurora. Birding this day was done along the road, and in the lodge´s gardens and nearby forests.

Second day was a full day trip from the lodge to the ranch´s main house, traversing open savannas and wetlands.

Third day was a shorter day trip, from the lodge to Mata de Palma, a wetland midways to the ranch´s main house. Fourth and last day was mostly rainy, driving back to Yopal´s airport for our 18:45 flight back to Bogota.

The trip was customized around Todd´s and Mark´s target birds, which were just a few: Orinoco Goose, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Crestless Curassow, Pale-headed Jacamar and White-bearded Flycatcher. The Amazonian Black-Tyrant & Pinnated Bittern apparently have been registered at this locality, but they are both extremely uncommon.

Special birds seen at Hato La Aurora and along the roads were: Horned Screamer, Orinoco Goose, Brazilian Teal, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Anhinga, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Cocoi Heron, Striated & Whistling Heron, Capped Heron, Scarlet Ibis, Sharp-tailed & Bare-faced Ibis, Buff-necked Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Black-collared Hawk, Crane  & Savanna Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Gray-cowled Wood-Rail, Purple Gallinule, Limpkin, Double-striped Thick-Knee, Black-necked Stilt, Pied Lapwing, Collared Plover, Wattled Jacana, Large-billed Tern, Pale-vented Pigeon, Scaled Dove, Blue Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Gray-fronted Dove, Striped & Little Cuckoo, Dwarf & Squirrel Cuckoo, Black-and-white Owl, Great Horned Owl, Burrowing Owl, Nacunda Nighthawk, Common Pauraque, White-tailed Nightjar, White-bearded Hermit, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Blue-tailed & Glittering-throated Emerald, Russet-throated Puffbird, Pale-headed & Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Scaled Piculet, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Aplomado Falcon, Yellow-crowned & Orange-winged Parrot, Spectacled Parrotlet, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Blue-crowned & Brown-throated Parakeet, Black-crested & Barred Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Rusty-backed & Pale-breasted Spinetail, Mouse-colored & Yellow Tyrannulet, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Short-crested & Brown-crested Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee, White-bearded Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Wire-tailed Manakin, Black-crowned Tityra, White-winged Becard, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Violaceous Jay, White-winged Swallow, Bicolored & Buff-breasted Wren, Black-capped Donacobius, Spectacled & White-necked Thrush, Cocoa Thrush, Yellowish Pipit, Masked Cardinal, Silver-beaked Tanager, Orange-fronted Yellow-Finch, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Eastern & Red-breasted Meadowlark, Oriole Blackbird, Venezuelan Troupial, Yellow Oriole, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Crested Oropendola and Purple-throated Euphonia, among others.

In total, we registered 161 species, including a nice set of range-restricted species that were new to either Todd or Mark, including Orinoco Goose, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Pale-headed Jacamar, White-bearded Flycatcher & Purple-throated Euphonia. Sadly, we missed the Crestless Curassow this time.

Family group of Burrowing Owls at the Eastern Llanos of Colombia.