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!