AT A GLANCE
With more than 1,950 species (almost 20% of the world’s total) counted so far, Colombia has more species of birds than any other country on the planet.
Join our expert-guide on this 15-day exclusive birding experience.
Private and small group, birding tours can be booked on request for your preferred travel dates
Next Group Departure date: 22 July 2021
Full Itinerary – South-Western Colombia Birding Tour
Arrival in Cali, transfer to Buga
Welcome to Colombia! Your fantastic birding tour in one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world will start as soon as you touch down at the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali, you will be met a company representative and be transported to your comfortable hotel about 45 minutes away to the northeast.
We will drive through Santiago de Cali, usually known by its short name “Cali”, the capital of the Valle del Cauca department. As the only major Colombian city with access to the Pacific Coast, Cali is the main urban and economic centre in southwest Colombia, and has one of the fastest-growing economies in the country. The city, located in a valley at 1,000 metres (3,281 ft) above sea level, was founded on 25 July 1536 by the Spanish conquistador Sebastián de Belalcázar. Cali is also a centre for sports in Colombia, and is the only Colombian city to have hosted the Pan American Games. It is also a hotspot for salsa dancing with the city boasting many famous salsa dancing clubs. It is why it is often called the “The Salsa capital of the world”, but it also goes by other nicknames: “Capital of Happiness”, “Sports Capital of Colombia” and even “Branch of heaven”. The city boasts many historical areas with varied and interesting attractions, including old churches, open squares, monuments, parks and museums.
On the way to the hotel in Buga, it might be a good idea to learn a little more about where we are. Colombia may have been struggling with conflict and drugs for decades, but recently tourist travel has increased by almost 50% and is on the way further up! It is well on the way of reclaiming its position as the “holy grail” of birding. This is because it is one of the most biodiverse countries on earth, considered a “megadiverse” country, with mountain ranges, Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, Amazon rainforest, two desert areas and a large paramo ecosystem. In 2017 Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos said “The biodiversity is to Colombia, what oil is for the Arabs”.
The huge altitude differences (from 0 metres to Pico Cristobal Colon at 5,775 metres (18,947 ft) above sea level) in the country result not only in varied fauna and flora, but also in dramatic climatic differences.
This has led to a high degree of endemism; Colombia has the highest number of endemic species worldwide. Incredibly about 10% of the fauna and flora species in the world live in Colombia! The country boasts almost 2,000 bird species, over 450 mammal species (of which a fifth are considered endangered or critically endangered), nearly 800 species of amphibians, almost 550 reptile species, 1,500 fish species and a barely believable 130,000 species of plants! The country occupies the first position worldwide in number of orchids and birds, second position in plants, amphibians, butterflies and freshwater fish, third place in species of palm trees and reptiles and globally holds the fourth position in biodiversity of mammals. All these amazing species can be found in Colombia’s 59 national parks and protected areas, which all vary dramatically in landscape, climate and ecosystems.
Our hotel is in the small city of Buga, formally called Guadalajara de Buga, one of the oldest cities in Colombia; founded in 1555. It is located in a cattle farming industry area and is famous for its Basilica del Señor de los Milagros, which houses an image of Christ called el Señor de los Milagros (“the Lord of the Miracles”). Over 3 million people make the pilgrimage to the city annually to visit the basilica. Buga is also famous for “The Holy Water Ale Brewing Company,” one of the only hostel-microbrewery combination destinations in South America.
We will get together for our Nature Travel Birding welcome dinner in the hotel restaurant and set out our target species for the trip, ensuring all participants a fantastic time. We will get our first taste of the delicious food of Colombia. Restaurants in the country pride themselves on fresh food and home-cooked meals, with influences from Italy, France, Spain, Peru and Argentina. Fresh juices and freshly baked breads are especially popular, so enjoy! After dinner we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow the birding tour starts in earnest!
Sonso Lagoon and drive to Montezuma Lodge
We will be up very early this morning with a quick cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast to get us going.
We will start early to take a 10-minute drive to the wetland gem that is Sonso Lagoon. It is one of the only remaining wetlands in the Cauca Valley and is teeming with birds, making it one of Colombia’s best wetland birding locations. It was declared a nature reserve in 1978 and has been a protected Ramsar site since 2017. It is also one of Colombia’s 127 Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Here we will search the marshes and lagoons that line the Cauca river for Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Anhinga, Little Blue, Cocoi, and Striated Heron, Snowy Egret, Black-necked Stilt and Snail Kite. We are likely to find Wattled Jacana, which have a polyandry mating system, where females mate with many males within a breeding season. Polyandry is a fascinating adaptation that occurs in less than 1% of birds, and is most common in shorebirds.
Other interesting species we might spot include the endemics Apical Flycatcher and Greyish Piculet, Jet Antbird, roosting Common Potoo, Yellow Oriole, stunning Bar-crested Antshrike, Blackish Rail, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, and bizarre Horned Screamer. Along riparian areas we may find Greater Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Southern Crested and Yellow-headed Caracara, Red-crowned and Spot-breasted Woodpecker, and Cocoa Woodcreeper. Greater Anis are fascinating because two to four unrelated pairs form a nesting group that build a single nest in which all the females lay their eggs and raise the young communally.
Lunch is back at the hotel with time to prepare for a 5 hour drive to the northeast towards Montezuma Lodge, which will require a transfer to 4×4 vehicles.
Our home for the next three nights is one of the country’s most famous birding lodges. It is a gateway to the Tatamá National Park, situated just below the legendary Montezuma Road (13 kilometres of pristine forest that covers a 1,400-meter (4,500 ft) altitudinal gradient), one of Colombia’s best birding locations. The family-run lodge provides comfortable accommodation and delicious home-cooked meals in a pristine natural rainforest ecosystem located in one of the planet’s top biodiversity hotspots.
We will get together for dinner and to tick our first day’s species on our trip lists.
Tatamá National Park (higher elevations)
A very early start will have us at the top of the Montezuma road by sunrise, in hopes of making the best out of a long day of birding. We will enjoy superb views of the park surrounding us with some quality local coffee in hand.
The Tatamá National Natural Park is where the Pacific Chocó lowlands meet the western Andes, and is located on the borders of the departments of Risaralda, Chocó and Valle del Cauca, within the Chocó bioregion, one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. The park encompasses 51,900 hectares (200 sq mi) of primary west-Andean tropical and subtropical rainforest, temperate cloud forest and páramo habitat, and is a source of water to rivers in all directions. It is home to over 550 species of birds, 450 species of orchids and 700 species of butterflies.
Our targets at the higher elevation are the endemics Munchique Wood Wren and Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, which should be easy to see in the open areas of the top of the hill.
The long descent will provide opportunities for some nice species, including Glossy-black Thrush, Barred Fruiteater, Tanager Finch, and Flame-faced, Black-and-gold, Rufous-throated and Golden-chested Tanager.
We will have a picnic lunch along the way to maximize our birding, allowing time to get after forest skulkers such as Tatama and Spillmann’s Tapaculo, and Yellow-bellied and Hooded Antpitta.
Other species we could see today include Gold-ringed, Black-chinned Mountain, Grass-green, Lacrimose Mountain and Purplish-mantled Tanager, Green-and-black and Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Beautiful Jay, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Collared and Brown Inca, Buff-tailed Coronet and Black-and-white Seedeater.
A long day if birding will come with the reward of an exquisite home-cooked meal and a good night’s sleep.
Tatamá National Park (lower elevations)
We have another full day of birding in the wonderful park, this time at lower altitudes.
The park never fails to provide birding excitement, and seeking out Colombian endemics such as Gold-ringed Tanager and Chestnut Wood Quail can be super rewarding. If the weather is on our side, we will have fantastic views of Cerro Tatama (the highest peak in the West Andes, at 4,100 m/13,500 ft above sea level), with hopes of running into species such as the endemic Beautiful Jay, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, White-faced Nunbird, Glistening-green Tanager, Streak-capped Treehunter, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous Piha and Indigo Flowerpiercer.
River crossings will give us a chance for White-capped Dipper, and we won’t have to venture too far from the lodge to have chances for Toucan Barbet, Black Solitaire, Choco Vireo and the beautiful Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.
Other exciting birds we could tick today include Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Chestnut-headed Oropendola, Red-headed Barbet, Bar-crested Antshrike, Smooth-billed Ani, House Wren, Montane Woodcreeper, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Ornate, Handsome, and Cinnamon Flycatcher, Barred Becard, Sharpe’s Wren, Chestnut-capped and Choco Brushfinch and Olive Finch.
We will arrive at the lodge in time to scope out the hummingbird feeders with visitors such as Violet-tailed Sylph, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Crowned Woodnymph, Velvet-purple Coronet, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Western Emerald, Empress Brilliant, White-tailed Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Andean Emerald, and the near endemic Purple-throated Woodstar. The fruit feeders might yield Black-winged Saltator and tanagers like Lemon-rumped, Golden, Silver-throated and Crimson-backed Tanager.
We will have some time to freshen up and relax. We will update our growing trip lists and then have dinner together, followed by a good night’s rest after another productive day.
Montezuma Lodge and drive to Manizales
We start our day with another hearty breakfast and some quality coffee, after which we will have time to enjoy the banana feeders where Silver-throated and Golden-naped Tanager, and Buff-throated Saltator take turns at the bananas in a semi-polite manner. Also, the kitchen staff sets out maize for a population of Blackish Rail that live in a nearby wetland, affording great views of this usually hard-to-see bird.
We then check out and thank the wonderful staff at the lodge before we hop into the vehicle. Today is basically a travelling day, but our destination is exciting! We are heading east towards the town of Manizales, the main production hub for Colombian coffee, and the famous Rio Blanco Reserve (Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco).
Manizales is situated in an area of seismic instability on the Colombian Central Mountain Range (part of the Andes) at 2,160 m (7,090 ft) above sea level. The city is home to the annual Manizales International Theatre Festival, one of the major theatre events in Latin America, and the Manizales Jazz Festival, which gathers jazz musicians from all over the world. The city also has several museums, beautiful churches and many open spaces and parks.
We will get together in our comfortable hotel, update our lists around the dinner table and then get a good night’s rest after a good meal.
Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco
We have a full day to explore the Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco.
A mere three kilometres northeast of Manizales lies this pristine and beautiful 3,600 hectare (14 sq mi) cloud forest reserve. It is an area of high biodiversity and protects numerous endangered species. The reserve is owned by Aguas de Manizales, the local water company, and is situated along an altitudinal gradient (between 1,300 and 2,300 metres above sea level), therefore including a wide variety of ecosystems. The reserve boasts a bird list of over 360 species, including 13 endemics.
Rio Blanco was the first birding location in Colombia to develop ‘antpitta feeders’. We could possibly observe five antpitta species, including the endemic and endangered Brown-banded, and the elusive Bicolored, Chestnut-crowned, Chestnut-naped and Slate-crowned Antpitta.
Additional species observed in Rio Blanco include the uncommon and endangered Rufous-fronted Parakeet, Andean Guan, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Collared Inca, Long-tailed Sylph, Buff-tailed Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangel, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Dusky Piha, Lacrimose and Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Grass-green and White-capped Tanager, Powerful and Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Ocellated, Blackish and Spillman’s Tapaculo, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Grey-browed Brushfinch. and the very rare and sought-after Masked Saltator.
Other less common species that are possible are Black-billed Peppershrike, Scaly-naped Amazon, Rusty-faced Parrot, the handsome Plushcap, Red-hooded Tanager, Mountain Cacique and the endangered Golden-plumed Parakeet.
Other inhabitants of the reserve include the Spectacled Bear, many butterflies and some stunning orchids.
In the evening after dinner it might be a good idea to search for some nightbirds. With luck we could find Lyre-tailed and Band-winged Nightjar, as well as White-throated Screech Owl and Rufous-banded Owl.
Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco and drive to Los Nevados National Natural Park
Today we have a chance to visit the reserve’s several well-maintained hummingbird feeders that attract a great variety of hummingbirds. We hope to see Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Mountain Velvetbreast, the tiny, slow-flying White-bellied Woodstar and the showy Long-tailed Sylph.
In the afternoon we will drive up the mountain to spend two nights at the historic Hotel Termales del Ruiz. One the way we could see many interesting species, including Andean Duck, Stout-billed Cinclodes, White-chinned Thistletail, Plumbeous Sierra Finch and Plain-colored Seedeater.
The lodge is situated at 3,350 metres (11,000 feet) above sea level in the surroundings of the Los Nevados National Natural Park. We can relax in its mineral-rich, medicinal hot springs and enjoy incredibly scenic views of the central Andes. The stargazing from here is also fantastic. The lodge also has excellent hummingbird feeders and we could see Shining Sunbeam, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Mountain Velvetbreast, Great Sapphirewing, Viridian Metaltail, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Rufous-capped Thornbill and Buff-winged Starfrontlet.
We will relax, update our lists and enjoy a fantastic dinner. The pub “El refugio” is a unique place to taste a good wine or hot beverage accompanied by the warmth of the fireplace. After a week together we could start talking about birding trips we would like to do in future to some other exotic places on the planet!
Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest, because tomorrow we head to another top spot on our tour.
Los Nevados National Natural Park
We will have breakfast at the lodge, followed by a short walk in the grounds to look for more species or to get some good photographs of some fauna and flora.
We will explore the 58,300 hectare (225 sq mi) Los Nevados National Natural Park, located on the highest part of the Colombian central Andes. The park’s history has been shaped by glacial activity and the protected area provides water to over 2 million Colombians. It is a beautiful place, with volcanoes with snow-capped peaks, lakes, forests, and glaciers. The Otún wetland system, located within the Park, was declared an internationally important Ramsar wetland. Apart from the fantastic birds, the park is also home to Spectacled Bear, Mountain Tapir, Northern Pudu, Northern Tiger Cat and even Puma.
We will wind through patches of forest that open up to páramo, an ecosystem of tropical grasslands above the treeline, toward the picturesque 5,300 metre (17,400 foot) volcano of Nevado del Ruiz. The scenery in páramo is magical and surreal, with velvety Frailejon plants adding to this effect. Frailejon plants belong to the Espeletia genus and are endemic to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The park is also home to 1,250 other species of plants and many other fascinating flora species.
The tour reaches elevations up to 3,950 meters (13,000 feet) here, so it will be cold and we will take frequent breaks in order for everyone to catch their breath. Here the goal is to find species adapted to high elevations like the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest and the near endemic Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, both of which sometimes forage on the ground.
Also possible are majestic Andean Condor (Colombia’s national bird), Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, critically endangered and endemic Fuertes’s Parrot (very small chance), near endemic Black-thighed Puffleg, Viridian Metaltail, Shining Sunbeam, Glowing and Golden-breasted Puffleg, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, the beautiful Golden-crowned Tanager, near endemic Black-backed Bush Tanager and Glossy Flowerpiercer. We may also find a variety of seedeaters in the Paramo, including Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Andean Siskin, and Paramo and Plain-colored Seedeater.
After another exciting day in the mountains we will get back to the hotel to update our lists and have dinner, afterwards chatting the evening away while the stars shine brightly from pollution-free Andean skies.
Los Nevados National Natural Park and drive to Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary
The morning is spent searching for any targets that may have been missed and enjoying the hummingbird feeders at the hotel. There is also a chance to look for the very rare and endangered endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet along a two-kilometre stretch of road that passes through elfin forest, an ecosystem of dwarfed plants. We also hope to spot the very tame Tawny Antpitta, a common companion in this area.
On the drive down to our next exciting destination the road passes by some interesting spots, including a glacial lake, Laguna Negra, where one may find goodies such as Many-striped Canastero, White-tailed Hawk, the rare Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Andean Duck, Andean Teal, Grass Wren and Pale-naped Brushfinch.
After lunch somewhere along the route we will head towards the Otún Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, a further 2 hour drive. We will drive southwest, and just before reaching the city of Pereira, we will cross the César Gaviria Trujillo Viaduct, one of the largest cable-stayed bridges in South America.
The city of Pereira is located in the foothills of the Andes at 1,411 metres (4,629 ft) above sea level in a coffee-producing area officially known as the “Coffee Axis”. Pereira, alongside the rest of the Coffee Axis, form part of UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia”. The city can trace its origins back to the pre-Colombian era, and apart from its current important status in the coffee industry, also boasts several other tourist attractions. These include the Bolivar Statue, the Viaduct, many open-air swimming pools and recreational parks, the Flora and Fauna Theme Park (“Bioparque” Ukumari), Lake Otún and Santa Isabel for sports adventure tourism, a vibrant night life scene with bars and nightclubs, and several hospitals and clinics providing aesthetic procedures.
Our route today will also wind along the Otún River, where we will look for the beautiful Torrent Duck, along with species like Torrent Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe and Green-fronted Lancebill which sometimes hovers above water surface to catch insects.
We will arrive at our family-run lodge and have some time to relax. Then it’s dinner time and a chance for us to update our lists and socialise. Afterwards we are off to bed following another exciting day.
Otún-Quimbaya Flora and Fauna Sanctuary and drive to Araucana Lodge
We will rise predawn to look for the Colombian subspecies of Rufescent Screech-Owl (considered by some to be a full species), and then continue birding at the Otún-Quimbaya Reserve right at the doorsteps of our hotel.
It is 490 hectare protected area characterised by rainforest vegetation and sub-Andean forest and an altitude of about 1,750 to 2,250 metres above sea level. There are also wetlands, forest plantations and natural forests in different stages of succession as well as old-growth forests that have great biodiversity. Apart from the fantastic birding, the reserve also hosts about 260 species of flora, many butterflies and mammals like Mountain Tapir, Pacarana (Branick’s Giant Rat) and Colombian Night Monkey.
It is also home to the Wax Palm, the tallest palm in the world and the national tree of Colombia. These palms, unlike most other species of palm, thrive at high altitudes and cool climates found here. We will also be received by the sounds of Colombian Red Howler Monkeys and the endangered, endemic Cauca Guan, once believed to be extinct until rediscovery of a population in 1990.
Otún-Quimbaya is also one of the best places in the world to observe Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. We will search for endemics like Chestnut Wood Quail, recently described Stiles’s Tapaculo and for near endemics like Moustached Antpitta, the handsome Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, and brightly coloured Golden-fronted Whitestart.
Other impressive birds we hope to find include Three-striped, Russet-crowned and Canada Warbler, Masked Trogon, Green Jay, Crested Ant Tanager, Andean Motmot, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Hooded Antpitta, Blue-naped Chlorophonia and Orange-bellied Euphonia. We will also look for Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Multicolored and White-capped Tanager, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Streak-capped Treehunter, Marble-faced and Variegated Bristle Tyrant, and Glossy and Masked Flowerpiercer.
After lunch at the lodge, the afternoon is spent driving back to Cali to the exquisite Araucana Lodge, our “home form home” for the next 5 nights. Nestled in a bamboo and palm grove on a ‘finca’ in the western Andes at 1,600 meters (5,250 ft) above sea level, the beautiful lodge is located on 20 acres of pristine Andean forest. The beautifully-maintained gardens and surrounding forest give us a chance to spot some great birds, including Parker’s Antbird, Apical Flycatcher, Blue-headed Sapphire, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Long-billed Starthroat, Purple-throated Woodstar, Flame-rumped, Blue-necked, Bay-headed, Scrub and White-lined Tanager, Yellow-backed Oriole, Spectacled Parrotlet, Scaled Antpitta and Black-winged Saltator.
We will get together for a fantastic dinner (the lodge has their own organic vegetable farm) and to update our growing trip lists before settling in for a good night’s sleep.
The famous Km 18
Today we spend the morning around the famous El 18, located on an 1,800 meter (5,900 ft) high pass 18 kilometres (11 miles) northwest of Cali along the road that connects Cali with the coastal seaport city of Buenaventura. This is an area of amazing birding opportunities and naturalists come from all over the world to experience this legendary piece of road and all the fauna and flora species it has to offer.
Birding can be crazily productive here, and we will look for four endemics: Chestnut Wood Quail, Colombian Chachalaca, Greyish Piculet and the spectacular Multicolored Tanager. This area is a tanager paradise, where we have a good chance to see Purplish-mantled, Summer, Beryl-spangled, Flame-rumped, Golden, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned and Golden-naped Tanager as well as Ashy-throated Bush Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain Tanager.
We hope to be dazzled by an impressive show of hummingbirds at a private house along the same road (more than 22 species of hummingbirds have been recorded here), including the beautifully ornate Long-tailed Sylph, Booted Rackettail, Blue-headed Sapphire, Green Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin. Brown Violetear and Tawny-bellied Hermit.
Birding the forest can also produce many near-endemics such as Scrub Tanager, Purple-throated Woodstar, Nariño Tapaculo, Purplish-mantled Tanager and Yellow-headed Manakin. Here we will may see striking birds such as Green-and-black Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted and Blue-naped Chlorophonia, the inconspicuous Golden-headed Quetzal, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtail, Streaked Xenops, and the noisy, inquisitive Crimson-rumped Toucanet. We will also listen and search for species with interesting calls and songs, like the hawk-like whistle of the Scaled Fruiteater, warbling song of Black-billed Peppershrike, and beautiful flute-like song of Andean Solitaire.
Other species we may find are Chestnut-breasted Wren, Greenish Puffleg, Montane Woodcreeper, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant and the hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher.
We will return to the lodge for dinner and to socialise into the evening. The lodge prides itself on serving nutritious, delicious and balanced meals. Most of the products come from the organic farm located on the property. The menus are inspired by the incredible selection of products and flavours of Colombia and other ingredients from tropical countries in other parts of the world. Enjoy!
El Descanso Feeders and Anchicaya Watershed
Perhaps Colombia’s (and maybe all of the Neotropics’) most famous birding location, the Anchicaya watershed is located along the edge of the 150,000 ha (580 sq mi) Farallones National Park, one of the most diverse parks on the planet. This watershed is known for its excellent biodiversity, especially with birds, amphibians and butterflies. The birding along this gradient of insurmountable diversity is such that it inspired Steve Hilty to start work in the 1970s on “A Guide to the Birds of Colombia”, the first ornithological field guide for South America that was published in 1986.
The birding begins just 40 minutes from the hotel via a paved road that can offer many of the Choco endemics that this megadiverse locality has to offer. Over 300 species have been recorded along this road, and we will be surrounded by lush vegetation and gorgeous waterfalls. Chasing a mixed flock of birds along this road will be one of the birding highlights of your life!
Our day on the Anchicaya road will allow time to enjoy the upper portion of the road and some very well-maintained feeders at our breakfast spot where Rufous-throated, Glistening-green and Silver-throated Tanager are known to occur.
The road will surely yield many highly prized species Golden-collared Honeycreeper, White-whiskered Puffbird, Uniform Treehunter, Sooty-headed Wren, Green Thorntail and White-tailed Hillstar.
One of the main targets main targets is Toucan Barbet, sporting 5 different colours elegantly while still having a tough demeanour. We will also search the skies for Barred Hawk, Ornate Hawk-eagle and Swallow-tailed Kite, whilst keeping an eye out for the attractive Ornate Flycatcher feeding on low branches. Another mega target is the recently described Tatama (Alto Pisones) Tapaculo. The road can be extremely productive and it rarely disappoints.
Depending on how low along the road we can make it, the lowers stretches can yield species such as Choco Trogon, Semicollared Hawk, Dusky Pigeon, Pallid Dove, Purple Quail-Dove, Lita Woodpecker and Baudo Guan. The tanagers can be quite a treat, with chances for Scarlet-and-white, Golden-chested, Gray-and-gold, and Scarlet-browed Tanager among many others.
Some other interesting creatures we could see, with some luck, include Spectacled Bear, Colombian White-faced Capuchin, various squirrels and even marsupials.
We will return to the lodge after a fantastic day of birding to freshen up and enjoy another superb meal. The bar and dining area has superb views of the San Antonio cloud forest, mandarin plantations and bamboo groves.
Night birding after dinner might turn up Rufescent Screech Owl (colombianus subspecies) or Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl, as well as some endemic reptiles and amphibians.
San Antonio Forest and Andean Cock-of-the-rock Lek
After breakfast in the dining room (with a communal table made of pine trees that have fallen in the surrounding forest) we will spend the morning birding in the pristine cloud forest of the San Antonio Forest.
More than 100 years ago, Frank Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History, spent some time researching the bird diversity of this forest, which concluded in the first detailed bird survey for Colombia.
Here we will may see striking birds such as Green-and-black Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted and Blue-naped Chlorophonia, the inconspicuous Golden-headed Quetzal, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtail, Streaked Xenops and the noisy, inquisitive Crimson-rumped Toucanet.
We will also listen and search for species with interesting calls and songs, like the hawk-like whistle of the Scaled Fruiteater, warbling song of Black-billed Peppershrike, and beautiful flute-like song of Andean Solitaire.
Other species we may find are Chestnut-breasted Wren, Greenish Puffleg, Montane Woodcreeper, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant and the hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher.
At 2 pm we will visit an active Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek for some close-up views of this magnificent bird’s display. This 25-minute hike will take us down a steep trail to their lek near the river.
This spectacularly bizarre bird is perhaps the most popularly recognised bird of the cloud forests of the Andes mountains, and high up on the of “birds you have to see before you die” list. The males’ way of attracting the female’s attention is the standout feature of this incredible bird. Males gather in communal leks typically located in steep forested ravines. 8 to 14 males display in each lek and segregate themselves into approximately three different display areas comprised of about 2 to 4 males. Within these smaller groups, they display toward each other. Females observe these competing displays in a central area within the “arena” of the lek. Displays consist of wing flaps, head bobbing and bowing, arching push-ups and abrupt facial movements along with loud crowing vocalizations and beak clapping. The females choose their mate by pecking at his neck after watching the displays. Once they have mated, the female departs and the male returns to the arena to continue displaying in the hope of attracting another female.
After our exciting time at the lek we will make our way back to the lodge. There might be some time to relax at Emerald Flats, a recreation area where we can relax and enjoy the sunsets in the middle of bamboo groves and coffee plantations. This lovely emerald grass lawn is a great spot place to practice yoga, exercise or enjoy a drink on our Adirondack chairs.
We will freshen up and have dinner while updating our trip lists and counting all our new species! Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
We will enjoy breakfast at the lodge and then leave for an exciting final day of birding on our amazing Colombia tour.
After a two drive to Zaragosa and a pleasantly unique 20-minute ride on “brujitas” (motorcycle-powered wooden carts on rails), one arrives in the small village of San Cipriano.
The area is a protected reserve and is the source of drinking water for the nearby port city of Buenaventura. Located in the Choco bioregion, it is known for being one of the wettest places on the planet, with average annual rainfall of about 9,450 mm (371.82 in)!
Some of the birds that are possible today include Choco Toucan, Blue-tailed Trogon, Stripe-billed Aracari, Black-tipped Cotinga, monotypic Sapayoa, Rose-faced and Blue-headed Parrot, Spot-crowned and Five-colored Barbet, Broad-billed Motmot, Black-chested Puffbird and Purple-throated Fruitcrow.
The area is also teeming with antbirds, with chances to see Ocellated, Jet, Stub-tailed and Bicolored Antbird.
We will leave after lunch and drive 2 hours back to the hotel. We will have our Nature Travel Birding farewell dinner tonight, socialising into the evening, having made friends for life.
Departure from Cali
After a final breakfast we will pack our bags, check out and say our farewells to the friendly staff at the fantastic lodge in the forest.
We then head back to the Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport in Cali, a drive of about one hour. At the airport, we will say our goodbyes after our fantastic time together in colourful Colombia.
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