7 days 6 nights
This one-week birding tour is perfect for any birders looking to add a multitude of Eastern Andes and Magdalena Valley endemics to their list. This is also for anyone looking to explore some of the most spectacular National Parks between Bogota and Medellin. We will have the chance to observe dozens of endemic species during this action-packed seven day adventure. We will bird a range of distinct ecosystems, including paramo moorland, elfin forest, cloud forest, tropical dry forest, and rainforest. Not only will you experience some of Colombia’s best birding, you will also have the remarkable experience of travelling through both urban and rural Colombia. Experience the incredible cultural and natural diversity of this fascinating country.
Welcome to Colombia! Today you will arrive in the bustling capital of Bogota, a city of more than 8 million people perched at over 2,600m above sea level in the Eastern Colombian Andes. If you arrive on an early flight, we will happily help organize a tour of the city for you, or you can simply retire to your lovely boutique hotel for some rest before we begin our intense birding trip.
In the evening you will meet with your Birding Tour Leader for a welcome dinner in a specially selected restaurant near the hotel. You will have the chance to get to know your fellow birders and ask any questions you may have about our route and target species. This dinner is sure to whet your appetite for all the incredible birding experiences to come!
We will depart the capital first thing this morning for the roughly 90-minute transfer to Chingaza National Park to the east of the city. We will primarily be birding in the surreal paramo moorlands and high-Andean and Elfin Forest between 2,600m and 3,600m, which shelter some of the region’s most range-restricted and interesting endemic species. Our exact itinerary for the day will be slightly dependent on weather conditions in the paramo, which can often be misty and overcast.
Our principal target in the paramo will be the endangered and endemic Green-bearded Helmetcrest hummingbird, a delightful little hummer of high-altitude moorlands in the Eastern Andes. This species especially favours the flowers of Espeletia plants found in the paramo, so we will concentrate our search in areas where these unique plants predominate. While looking for the helmetcrest we can expect to encounter species such as Andean Teal, Bronze-tailed Thornbill (another top target for the day), Andean Guan, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Tawny Antpitta, White-chinned Thistletail, Red-crested Cotinga, Sedge Wren, Many-striped Canastero, Purple-backed Thornbill, Paramo Seedeater, and perhaps the rare Andean Condor.
On the winding trails through the high-Andean forest we will have a whole other set of interesting targets. We will mainly be hoping for endemic species like Brown-breasted Parakeet (much prettier than its name suggests!) and Silvery-throated Spinetail, as well as the near-endemic Rufous-browed Conebill, and interesting local specalities such as Matorral Tapaculo, Rufous Antpitta, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Plushcap, and Black-headed Hemispingus.
We will depart from Chingaza in the mid-afternoon, and make a stop at the Hummingbird Observatory in La Calera on the road back to Bogota. This lovely country house has hummingbird feeders that attract a wonderful mix of high-altitude hummingbird species, many of which would be tricky to find otherwise. With luck we will be able to observe and photograph hummers like the near-endemic Coppery-bellied Puffleg and Blue-throated Starfrontlet, as well as Glowing Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, and Black-tailed and Green-tailed Trainbearers.
After a couple of hours enjoying the hummingbirds, it’s back to Bogota for dinner and some rest in your lovely boutique hotel.
After another early departure to beat the Bogota traffic, we will arrive at the huge paramo National Park of Sumapaz (the largest paramo in the world), where will spend the morning in search of some important Bogota endemics. The Green-bearded Helmetcrest is also possible in Sumapaz, but our main goal will be to spot the rare and endemic Apolinar’s Wren and Bogota Rail. Other interesting species that we should observe include Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Tawny Antpitta, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant, and Andean Ruddy Duck.
After a morning’s birding in Sumapaz we will transfer to the nearby Natural Park of Chicaque, set in a protected cloud forest on the southern fringes of Bogota between 1,600 and 2,600 m.a.s.l. After a short stop at the hummingbird feeders by the entrance – where we should be able to tick of the near-endemic Golden-bellied Starfrontlet – we will take a truck down into the lower reaches of the reserve in search of the star of Chicaque: the endemic Black Inca hummingbird. The bird regularly visits flowering bushes alongside the reserve lodge, which is also home to a fabulous terrace with canopy views where we can observe a multitude of tanagers, including the breathtaking Flame-faced Tanager. After some time birding the trails around the lodge, where hopefully we will be able to spot the near-endemic Moustached Brush-Fimch (along with excellent cloud forest species like Green-and-black Fruiteater, Andean Solitaire, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Grass-green Tanager, and Pale-naped Brush-Finch, among many others), we will head back to the van and return to Bogota for dinner and our last night in the capital.
We will wave goodbye to Bogota and the Eastern Andes after an early breakfast, and head down into the Magdalena Valley for the second stage of our tour. Our first stopover will be at The Enchanted Garden Hummingbird Observatory in San Francisco. This little garden has over 50 hummingbird feeders and attracts a multitude of interesting hummers. The endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird will be our first Magdalena Valley tick, as it is locally common at the observatory. Other top species include the Gorgeted and White-bellied Woodstars, the near-endemic Red-billed Emerald, Black-throated Mango, and White-necked Jacobin. The spectacular Ruby Topaz is also a possibility.
We will then depart for the nearby Tabacal Lagoon, a small lake near the town of La Vega with some interesting sub-tropical forest habitat. The shy and retiring Rosy Thrush-Tanager can be hear singing all along the trails, and with some patience we will hopefully be able to observe one of these wonderful birds. Other possible sightings along the forest trails include Little Cuckoo, the near-endemic Short-tailed Emerald hummingbird, Black-crested Antshrike, Bar-crested Antshrike, Uniform Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, White-throated Spadebill, White-bearded Manakin, and Speckle-breasted Wren. Around the lake we may be lucky enough to observe White-throated Crake, Osprey, Pied-billed Grebe, and Ringed Kingfisher.
We will transfer to the beautiful colonial town of Honda in the late-afternoon, where we will spend the night in a lovingly-restored colonial mansion in the heart of the historic centre.
The Magdalena Valley endemic hunt truly begins today as we depart Honda early and travel 45 minutes west to the pretty little town of Victoria. From Victoria we will continue another 20 minutes to Bellavista Forest, where we will spend the morning birding in search of some of our main Magdalena Valley targets. The endemic specialities White-mantled Barbet, Sooty Ant-Tanager, Velvet-fronted Euphonia, and Beautiful Woodpecker are all regularly spotted here, and Magdalena Antbird is also a possibility. Well over 300 species have been recorded on the reserve trails, so we should be able to rack up a nice total over the course of the morning. We will also keep our eyes peeled for the endangered and endemic White-footed Tamarin monkey, groups of which can often be spotted moving through the lower canopy.
After a full morning of birding in Bellavista Forest, we will transfer to Rio Claro Reserve, stopping along the way for lunch.
We will spend a full day today birding along the jungle trails winding along the spectacular marble canyon of Rio Claro Reserve. This small fragment of Middle Magdalena Valley jungle is part of only a small remaining pocket of these once widespread forests, and supports some truly unique endemic species, trapped in isolation by the mighty Central and Eastern Andes.
In the early morning we will bird primarily along the Mulata Creek Trail, where our principal targets will be the locally-common Magdalena Antbird, the tricky Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant (Rio Claro is the best site for this tough endemic), Sooty Ant-Tanager, and Beautiful Woodpecker. Aside from these top targets, we will be able to observe a host of interesting and rare species including Dusky-faced Tanager, Bare-crowned Antbird, Blue Cotinga (rare), Saffron-crowned Parrot (very rare), Rufous and Broad-billed Motmots, Pied, Barred, and White-whiskered Puffbirds, Purple-crowned Fairy, Tawny-crested Tanager, Pacific Antwren, Black-faced Dacnis, and Blue-crowned Manakin.
After lunch at the Rio Claro Lodge, we will head further up into the canyon towards the Condor Cave. While birding along the riverside trail we will hopefully encounter Bare-throated Tiger-Heron and Citron-throated Toucan in the canopy. At dusk a colony of Oilbirds floods out of the cave mouth for a night of feeding, so we will be in position to enjoy this spectacle, before returning to the lodge for dinner.
Early this morning there will be time to bird the Godoy Trail, where a host of interesting species can be seen, including Barred Puffbird, Gray-cheeked Nunlet, Rufous Piha, Black-bellied Wren, Southern Bentbill, and Chestnut-backed Antbird. After a morning of birding we will travel to Medellin for our flight back to Bogota, where the tour ends.
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