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A Report from

North-East Colombia, November 2007 ,

Jan Vermeulen


General Information 
Itinerary (summary)

Descriptions of the sites visited in Colombia:


Cuchillo San Lorenzo


Santuario de Fauna y Flora Los Flamencos


Reserva Natural Cañón del Río Claro
Gruta El Condor
Parque Natural Mana Dulce


Reserva Natural Ibanasca (Cañón del Río Combeima)


Laguna Pedropalo
Parque La Florida & Humedal La Conejera
Laguna Fúquene
Reserva Quincha de Soata & Soata area

Daily Log 

Systematic List of Birds
Systematic List of Mammals


This report details a three weeks birding trip to North-East Colombia in November 2007.

Vital Van Gorp, Luc Bekaert, Marc van Herck, Luc van Gompel and Staf Elzermans accompanied me.

Colombia has 1869 bird species, according to the latest checklist following the South American Checklist Committee, which are more birds than any other country in the world and a number that is growing every year through new discoveries and range extensions.

Only rivalled by Peru for being the country with the world’s biggest bird list, it is not only the sheer number of species that are impressive about Colombia, but also the extraordinary number of endemics found (69) within its boundaries: in this area it far outshines Peru or any other South American country other than Brazil.

Despite this incredible number of species Colombia is not a popular birding destination, this is because of the long-standing drug and guerrilla wars, which can make travelling very dangerous.

However, as long as you have good contacts and are well informed about where you can go and cannot, the country is not that dangerous at all.

We made contact with Jurgen Beckers at the Bird Fair 2006 at the Oostvaardersplassen in the Netherlands.

He told us that most of the troubles are located in small parts of the country, mainly on the borders with Venezuela and Ecuador. Over the last 7 years that he brought birders to Colombia, he never encountered any problems. Jurgen was our guide during the whole trip and we felt quite safe all the time. In 2009 we probably will return to Colombia to visit Central Colombia.

Nowadays Colombia is slowly reappearing to the birding community. Don't let the name "Colombia" scare you away! Large areas of Colombia are as safe to travel in as Ecuador or Peru and now is an excellent time to visit the richest bird country on our planet.


We booked our flight from Brussels to Bogotá for € 850 with Iberia. This flight took approximately 12 hours and went via Madrid. As with most South American countries you do not need a visa for Colombia if you intend to stay no more than 90 days. Domestic flights are pretty cheap in Colombia between main cities and daily, saving a lot of driving time.

The flight (Aero República) from Bogotá – Santa Marta (US$100) took about one hour. For the international flight you have to pay a tourist tax of US$5.

The security in the airport in Bogotá when we left was remarkable. Two x-rays and metal detectors, hand luggage & body search and twice baggage identification for some of us! Of course I was one of the persons who had to open his luggage twice.


The unit of currency in Colombia is the Peso. The exchange rate in November 2007 was about 2,800 Peso to the € and 2,200 Peso to the US$. One can easily change US Dollars and Euros everywhere in the cities, although this is unnecessary, because there are many ATM machines in the main towns. At the same time, you should avoid carrying large sums in cash in major towns and cities as petty crime such as mugging and pick pocketing is also a serious problem.


Standards of accommodation, food and hygiene are good. The food in Colombia, was not fancy, but was surprisingly good. Upset stomachs are a rare occurrence here, unlike in many Asian and African countries.

Stay away from uncooked fruits and vegetables that you haven't peeled yourself, and don't use ice. It is best to avoid drinking the water unless you know it is boiled. Drink bottled drinks.


It can't be denied that Colombia has one of the highest crime rates in the world. However, statistics have to be put into proper perspective. Most violent crimes in Colombia are the results of gang wars in the poor neighbourhoods of urban centres like Bogota, Cali and Medellin. Any common sense would suggest avoiding these neighbourhoods, especially at night. Civil War related activities are limited to a few well known areas that can easily be avoided with proper research of local conditions.

With caution you should not anticipate any problems. During our drive through the country we had several encounters with roadblocks, but we experienced no problems from the police.

The usual tropical health problems present themselves on a trip to Colombia. For vaccinations consult your own doctor for up to date advice. There is a small chance of malaria in the lowlands. Be sure to get enough malaria tablets for your trip, and do take them.

It is advisable to take a good medical kit with you as you are sometimes along way away from the nearest largest town. Mosquitoes and flies are sometimes a problem.

Unless you are in the Caribbean cities you should wear long pants or jeans everywhere else so as not to be spotted as a tourist a kilometre away.
Colombians are extremely hospitable towards foreigners and they will make certain that your impression of their beautiful country is something different to what is often presented in the international press.


Any birder travelling in Colombia need reasonable knowledge of Spanish as virtually no one speaks English.

A short study of names of food in Spanish before departure will be of benefit to the traveller. Asking for directions may be a nightmare if you don't understand Spanish.

Always carry a Spanish-English dictionary. With just a slight knowledge of the language you will make out with few problems.


Birders traditionally visit Colombia during the January - April dry season. Certainly this is the time of year when dry weather is most likely even though, as global climate becomes ever less predictable, this rule is more and more frequently broken.

However, the topography of Colombia is very complicated and wide variations occur within short distances.

The truth is that any time of the year can be good birding in Colombia. European birders will often prefer the traditional dry season as it coincides with the northern winter and thus dozens of species of North American migrants are an added bonus.

Normally it is hot all year around, especially along the northern part of the coast. A hat is recommended in the mountains and necessary in the lowlands. The tropical sun is intense at altitude. At high altitudes conditions range from cool to decidedly cold. Required clothing: lightweight linens with a raincoat.

However the weather in Colombia is unpredictable. At anytime of year at higher elevations, there may be rain, clouds and mist. Downpours can occur everywhere in Colombia, but especially in the tropical zone they can last for hours. An umbrella and rubber boots are very useful! The trails are sometimes very muddy.


Quite a lot of the good birding localities cannot be reached easily by public transport, so it's best to hire a car if you can afford it. The main roads are usually well maintained and for these a normal car is fine.

Searching for rare birds in some of the reserves that we visited requires a reasonable level of fitness because the majority of trails are steep in places, as well as being very muddy.

Expect heavy police/military presence in Colombia on all major and some minor roads.

During our drive through the country we had many encounters with security points manned by armed soldiers.

Roadblocks with extensive searching including body frisks are common. Stay calm and keep smiling. Always carry your passport.


With the help of an iPod Jurgen played the songs of a lot of birds. Often he recorded the song or call and played it back again. A tape recorder is essential if you want to catch sight of secretive species like Tapaculos, Antthrushes and Antpittas. A good torch is a must. A telescope is useful at coastal sites and lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides and of course for digiscoping.


I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (Birds of the World, A Check List, Sixth Edition, 2007).


Maps of Colombia can be obtained at the airports or from bookshops in Bogotá. The standard of the maps is not too high, and all the roads are not shown on them, but they do give you a bit of an idea as where to stay.


The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:

Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Band-tailed Pigeon, Smooth-billed Ani, White-collared Swift, Tyrian Metaltail, Red-crowned Woodpecker, White-bearded Manakin, White-throated Tyrannulet, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Great Thrush, Black-chested Jay, Blackburnian Warbler, Crimson-backed Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow.

The list of birds mentioned in the daily log, which follows, is purely taken at random from each day’s events highlighting some of the more interesting species. For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.



I use this software to keep track of the birds I have seen and to make lists of any country, labelling endemics and birds previously seen in that country, outside it, or both. BirdArea can produce checklists of the birds of any country of Clements’ world birds.


Trogon Trips
Telephone 0032 3385 2908 (Belgium)


James F. Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List, Sixth Edition.
Louise H. Emmons and Francois Feer. Neotropical Rainforest Mammals – A Field Guide.
A Guide to the Birds of Colombia Steven L. Hilty, William L. Brown.
Birds of Northern South America, Volume 1 and Volume 2 Robin Restall, Clemencia Rodner and Miguel Lentino.
Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor. The Birds of South America, Volume I, The Oscine Passerines.
Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor. The Birds of South America, Volume II, The Suboscine Passerines.
Nigel Wheatley. Where to watch birds in South America.


Nick Athanas. Colombia Feb 1 – 20, 2007.
Jurgen Beckers. Central-Colombia trip 2004.
Samuel Hansson. Colombia 19/6 – 21/7 and 10 – 20/9 2004.


I cannot praise Jurgen Beckers enough – it was an absolutely fabulous trip without any significant difficulty - pulled off in a difficult country. Jurgen tried his utmost to find all the birds in the areas that we were visiting. Having Trogon Trips arrange our trip was by far the best decision we could have made.

I also want to thank Oswaldo Cortes for his help the last week of the trip.


The itinerary changed a few times in the planning stage due to uncertainty about what sites that could be visited.


October       31     Chaam * Brussels * Madrid * Bogotá
November    1       Bogotá – Barranquilla * Santa Marta
November    2       Santa Marta * Cuchillo San Lorenzo (Reserva Natural del Las Aves “El Dorado”)
November     3       Santa Marta Mountains (Cuchillo San Lorenzo)
November    4       Santa Marta Mountains (Cuchillo San Lorenzo)
November    5       Cuchillo San Lorenzo * Minca
November    6       Minca * Santa Marta * Riohacha
November    7        Riohacha * Los Flamencos NP * Kalashe PR * Santa Marta
November    8        Puerto Boyacá * Reserva Natural Cañón del Río Claro
November    9        Reserva Natural Cañón del Río Claro * Gruta El Condor
November    10      Reserva Natural Cañón del Río Claro * Puerto Boyacá * Ibagué
November    11      Ibagué * Juntas * Reserva Natural Ibanasca (Cañón del Río Combeima) * Juntas * Ibagué
November    12      Ibagué * Agua del Rios * Parque Natural Mana Dulce
November    13      Parque Natural Mana Dulce * Laguna Pedropalo * Bogotá
November    14      Bogotá (Parque La Florida & Humedal La Conejera) * Laguna Fúquene
November    15      Laguna Fúquene * Soata
November    16      Soata * Reserva Quencha de Soata * Soata
November    17      Soata * Bogotá
November    18      Bogotá * Monterredondo * Bogotá
November    19      Bogotá * Parque Ecológica Matarredonde * Bogotá * Madrid
November    20      Madrid * Brussels * Chaam


For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.

Nearly all the sites are well covered at Jurgen Becker’s web site:



Accommodation: At the San Lorenzo Lodge (2,200 m) in the accommodation blocks.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an isolated mountain range apart from the Andes chain that runs through Colombia. Reaching an altitude of 5,700 metres above sea level just 42 km from the Caribbean coast, the Sierra Nevada is the world's highest coastal range. The Santa Marta Mountains in Northern Colombia are home to a whole range of endemic birds (16), including Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Antpitta, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Santa Marta Brush-Finch and the list goes on. In 2007, a new species, the Santa Marta Screech-Owl, was discovered The only safe place to see nearly all the Santa Marta endemics is the Cuchillo (knife) a small mountain ridge that is not attached to the Santa Marta mountains. Most endemics can be seen here, but not all as it is not high enough. Recently ProAves has bought nearly 75,000 hectares on the Cuchillo ridge to create a reserve and it is now called Reserva Natural del Las Aves El Dorado, named after the legendary city of gold.

Species seen/heard:

Black & Turkey Vulture, Tiny Hawk, Grey Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, White-rumped Hawk, Solitary Eagle, Band-tailed Guan, Black-fronted Wood-Quail, Band-tailed Pigeon, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, SANTA MARTA PARAKEET, Scaly-naped Parrot, Green Violetear, Blue-tailed Emerald, BLOSSOMCROWN, Mountain Velvetbreast, WHITE-TAILED STARFRONTLET, Booted Racket-tail, Tyrian Metaltail, Masked Trogon, White-tipped Quetzal, SANTA MARTA TOUCANET, Golden-olive Woodpecker, RUSTY-HEADED SPINETAIL, STREAK-CAPPED SPINETAIL, Spotted Barbtail, Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Xenops, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, Slaty Antwren, Undulated Antpitta, SANTA MARTA ANTPITTA, BROWN-RUMPED TAPACULO, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Venezuelan Tyrannulet, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, SANTA MARTA BUSH-TYRANT, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Southern House Wren, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Great Thrush, Black-hooded Thrush, Black-billed Thrush, Black-chested Jay, Green Jay, Brown-capped Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Andean Siskin, Golden-winged Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, YELLOW-CROWNED REDSTART, Grey-throated Warbler, WHITE-LORED WARBLER, Fulvous-headed Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, SANTA MARTA MOUNTAIN-TANAGER, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Bay-headed Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Black-and-white Seedeater, Paramo Seedeater, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Black Flowerpiercer, SANTA MARTA BRUSH-FINCH, Striped-headed Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Golden-bellied Grosbeak, Yellow-backed Oriole.

Other possibilities:
Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Lined Quail-Dove, Red-billed Parrot, Black-backed Thornbill, Santa Marta Woodstar, Yellow-billed Toucanet, Flammulated Treehunter, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Santa Marta Warbler, Slaty Finch.


Accommodation: A hotel in Minca. We slept in Guesthouse “Sans Soucie”.

Nested in the rainforest of the snow capped Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Minca is located just 30 minutes from the costal city of Santa Marta. At an altitude of 650m over sea level and an average temperature of 220C, Minca provides a refreshing change to the heat, hustle, and dust of the Caribbean coast.

Interesting species that can be seen here are Coppery Emerald, Red-billed Emerald, Rosy Thrush-Tanager and Golden-winged Sparrow.

Species seen/heard here:

Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Ruddy Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Scaly-naped Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Black-and-white Owl, White-collared Swift, Stripe-throated Hermit, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Steely-vented Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer, Blue-crowned Motmot, Collared Aracari, Scaled Piculet, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, White-bearded Manakin, Yellow Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Southern Bentbill, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Eastern/Western Wood-Pewee, Black Phoebe, Bright-rumped Attila, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Cinnamon Becard, Blue-and-white Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Rufous-breasted Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren, Southern House Wren, Pale-breasted Thrush, White-necked Thrush, Black-chested Jay, Yellow-throated Vireo, Scrub Greenlet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Lesser Goldfinch, Tropical Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Prothonotary Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Golden-crowned Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Grey-headed Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Golden-winged Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Streaked Saltator, Greyish Saltator, Buff-throated Saltator, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Crested Oropendola.

Other possibilities:
Keel-billed Toucan, Coppery Emerald, Rufous Nightjar, Northern Royal-Flycatcher.



Accommodation: A hotel in Riohacha. We slept in Hotel La Cassona.

The desert scrub near Riohacha (135 km east of Santa Marta), supports a number of specialities, many of which are restricted to northeast Colombia and northwest Venezuela.

This dry area is home for some of typical near-endemics, such as Vermilion Cardinal, White-whiskered Spinetail, Chestnut Piculet, Buffy Hummingbird, Tocuyo Sparrow, Blue-crowned Parakeet and Bare-eyed Pigeon.
Santuario Los Flamencos is probably the easiest place to find the specialities. It is also interesting for migrating waders in the proper time of the year. You have to drive 30 minutes coming from Riohacha towards Santa Marta and is indicated. It has two sections and two entrances.

Species seen here:

Brown Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant. Magnificent Frigatebird, Great Egret, Reddish Egret, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Caribbean Flamingo, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Pearl Kite, Common Black-Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Crested Caracara, Limpkin, Wattled Jacana, Black-necked Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Wilson’s Plover, Collared Plover, Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Willet, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Stilt Sandpiper, Laughing Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, Sandwich Tern, Royal Tern, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, BARE-EYED PIGEON, Scaled Dove, White-tipped Dove, Brown-throated Parakeet, Smooth-billed Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Blue-tailed Emerald, Shining-green Hummingbird, BUFFY HUMMINGBIRD, Ringed Kingfisher, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Pale-legged Hornero, WHITE-WHISKERED SPINETAIL, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Black-crested Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Slender-billed Tyrannulet, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Vermilion Flycatcher, Pied Water-Tyrant, Cattle Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Grey Kingbird, White-winged Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Bicoloured Wren, Tropical Mockingbird, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Lesser Goldfinch, Bananaquit, Bicoloured Conebill, Glaucous Tanager, Pileated Finch, Greyish Saltator, VERMILION CARDINAL, Great-tailed Grackle, Yellow Oriole.

Other possibilities:
Blue-crowned Parakeet, Chestnut Piculet, Tocuyo Sparrow, Orinocan Saltator.



Accommodation: cabins in the reserve, but in the vicinity of the reserve are quite a few hotels.

The excellent Rio Claro Reserve preserves one of the best tracts of humid tropical forest remaining in the middle Magdalena Valley. Here can be found two of Colombia’s threatened endemics, White-mantled Barbet and the recently-discovered Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant.

Species seen/heard here:

Little Tinamou, Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Barred Forest-Falcon, Plumbeous Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Greater Ani, Oilbird, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Stripe-throated Hermit, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Violaceous Trogon, Green Kingfisher, Barred Puffbird, White-whiskered Puffbird, WHITE-MANTLED BARBET, Collared Aracari, Citron-throated Toucan, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Olivaceous Piculet, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Plain Xenops, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Pacific Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, White-bearded Manakin, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, ANTIOQUIA BRISTLE-TYRANT, Olivaceous Flatbill, Fuscous Flycatcher, Western/Eastern Wood-Pewee, Tropical Pewee, Black Phoebe, Long-tailed Tyrant, Panama Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Cinnamon Becard, Masked Tityra, Blue-and-white Swallow, Brown-bellied Swallow, Band-backed Wren, Bay Wren, Southern House Wren, Southern Nightingale-Wren, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Glossy-black Thrush, Black-billed Thrush, Long-billed Gnatwren, Black-chested Jay, Green Jay, Brown-capped Vireo, Tropical Parula, Bay-breasted Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Canada Warbler, Buff-rumped Warbler, Bananaquit, Dusky-faced Tanager, White-shouldered Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Golden-hooded Tanager, Orange-billed Sparrow, Buff-throated Saltator, Yellow-backed Oriole, Orange-crowned Oriole, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Chestnut-headed Oropendola.

Other possibilities:
Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Dull-mantled Antbird, Western Striped Manakin, Black-tailed Flycatcher, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Sooty Ant-Tanager.


Accommodation: cabins in Cañón Del Río Claro, but in the vicinity of the reserve are quite a few hotels.

We visited this place mainly to visit the Oilbird cave. However here are tracts of humid tropical forest, where one can one find the same birds as at Cañon del Río Claro, including Brownish Twistwing and Sooty Ant-Tanager.

Species seen/heard here:

Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Grey Hawk, Crested Caracara, Laughing Falcon, Bat Falcon, Blue-headed Parrot, Oilbird, White-collared Swift, Western Long-tailed Hermit, Purple-crowned Fairy, WHITE-MANTLED BARBET, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Pacific Antwren, Black-faced Antthrush, Lesser Elaenia, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Cattle Tyrant, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Grey-breasted Martin, White-winged Swallow, White-thighed Swallow, Bay Wren, Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow-backed Tanager, White-shouldered Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Thick-billed Euphonia, Plain-coloured Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, Blue Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper, Saffron Finch, Buff-throated Saltator.


Accommodation: cabins at Mana Dulce.

The excellent Mana Dulce Reserve preserves one of the best tracts of dry tropical forest in the middle Magdalena Valley, which is home to the highly sought-after endemic Velvet-fronted Euphonia.

Species seen/heard here:

Great Tinamou, Little Tinamou, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Crested Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, Speckled Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Pale-vented Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Blue Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Spectacled Parrotlet, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Dwarf Cuckoo, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Striped Cuckoo, Pheasant Cuckoo, Pauraque, White-collared Swift, White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Barred Puffbird, Olivaceous Piculet, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Barred Antshrike, Western Slaty-Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Jet Antbird, White-bellied Antbird, White-bearded Manakin, Lance-tailed Manakin, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Forest Elaenia, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Slate-headed Tody-Tyrant, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Pied Water-Tyrant, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Cinereous Becard, Masked Tityra, Blue-and-white Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Bicoloured Wren, Black-bellied Wren, Southern House Wren, White-breasted Wood-Wren, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Pale-breasted Thrush, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Black-chested Jay, Red-eyed Vireo, Scrub Greenlet, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Bay-breasted Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Canada Warbler, Rufous-capped Warbler, Buff-rumped Warbler, Bananaquit, White-eared Conebill, Grey-headed Tanager, White-shouldered Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, VELVET-FRONTED EUPHONIA, Thick-billed Euphonia, Scrub Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Pileated Finch, Grey Seedeater, Black-and-white Seedeater, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Black-faced Grassquit, Saffron Finch, Orange-billed Sparrow, Black-striped Sparrow, Streaked Saltator, Greyish Saltator, Buff-throated Saltator.


Accommodation: a hotel in Ibagué, we slept in Hotel Center.

Some of Colombia's rarest endemics are found in the very disturbed remnant forest on slopes just outside Ibagué (Ibaqué). Amongst the endemics that can be seen here are Tolima Dove, Blossomcrown and Olive-headed Brush-Finch.

Species seen/heard here:

Cattle Egret, Torrent Duck, Black Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Band-tailed Pigeon, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Speckle-faced Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Grey-rumped Swift, Chimney Swift, White-tipped Swift, Green Violetear, Black-throated Mango, Blue-tailed Emerald, Bronzy Inca, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Highland Motmot, Andean Toucanet, Montane Woodcreeper, Mountain Elaenia, Torrent Tyrannulet, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Black Phoebe, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Barred Becard, Blue-and-white Swallow, Brown-bellied Swallow, White-capped Dipper, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Andean Solitaire, Great Thrush, Glossy-black Thrush, Green Jay, Brown-capped Vireo, Black-billed Peppershrike, Lesser Goldfinch, Tropical Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Common Bush-Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Black-and-white Seedeater, Yellow-faced Grassquit, Rusty Flowerpiecer, Bluish Flowerpiercer, White-naped Brush-Finch, OLIVE-HEADED BRUSH-FINCH, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Black-winged Saltator, Yellow-backed Oriole.

Other possibilities:
Tolima Dove, Red-billed Emerald, Blossomcrown, Streak-capped Treehunter, Immaculate Antbird, Apical Flycatcher, Crested Ant-Tanager.



Laguna de Pedropalo is a lake about 30 km NW of Bogota. It is a famous site for two interesting endemics: Black Inca and Turquoise Dacnis-Tanager.
The site was closed for 5 years, but now they have opened it again. To visit the area you need to have a permit from the Tena Alcaldia. We stayed only one hour here.

Species seen/heard:

Pied-billed Grebe, White-throated Crake, American Coot, Eared Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Andean Emerald, BLACK INCA, SILVERY-THROATED SPINETAIL, Torrent Tyrannulet, Black-billed Thrush.

Other possibilities:
Gorgeted Woodstar, Ash-browed Spinetail, Flame-faced Tanager, Rufous Conebill, Dull-coloured Grassquit.


Accommodation: a hotel in Bogotá. We stayed in Hotel Dorantes.

In Colombia’s capital there are isolated highland marshy areas worth visiting, which have created an endemic environment. These marshy areas hold three endemic birds: Bogota Rail, Silvery-throated Spinetail and Apolinar’s Wren.

Parque La Florida is under threat from development and the vegetation has overgrown the last part of open water place and I think that within a few years it is not worthwhile to visit this swamp.

Species seen/heard here:

Cattle Egret, Striated Heron, Bare-faced Ibis, Speckled Teal, Blue-winged Teal, MASKED DUCK, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, BOGOTA RAIL, Common Moorhen, Spot-flanked Gallinule, American Coot, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Eared Dove, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Greater Ani, Smooth-billed Ani, Sparkling Violetear, SILVERY-THROATED SPINETAIL, Mountain Elaenia, Torrent Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, Tropical Pewee, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow, Brown-bellied Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Southern House Wren, Red-eyed Vireo, Swainson’s Thrush, Great Thrush, Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Black Flowerpiercer, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Shiny Cowbird.

Other possibilities:

Noble Snipe, Subtropical Doradito.


Accommodation: El Santuario Fúquene (Chalet Refugio) along the lake

This reed-fringed lake at an altitude of 2,540 m used to be Colombia’s biggest natural lake. In the last 30 years drainage for farmland has reduced it to half of its original size and is only 25 meter deep. On top of that an introduced weed has covert the lake completely. The extensive reeds especially around the tunnel are probably the easiest place to see Apolinar's Wren in Colombia. Least Bitterns and Spot-flanked Gallinule are common. Around the lagoon Short-tailed Emerald and Black-backed Grosbeak are to be found.

Species seen/heard here:

Least Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Least Bittern, Black Vulture, Osprey, White-tailed Kite, Plain-breasted Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, BOGOTA RAIL, Common Moorhen, Spot-flanked Gallinule, American Coot, Green Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Short-tailed Emerald, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Tropical Kingbird, Brown-bellied Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Southern House Wren, APOLINAR’S WREN, Great Thrush, Andean Siskin, Tennessee Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Band-tailed Seedeater, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark.

Accommodation: Hotel International in Soata

The newly established Quincha de Soata Reserve conserves habitat for endangered and endemic species of Columbia. The initial reserve, comprising 700 hectares, was based on the occurrence of Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird and Niceforo’s Wren in the region around Soata. Other endemic bird species found in oak forests of the Soata Reserve are Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Mountain Grackle, Rusty-faced Parrot, Flame-winged Parakeet and Black Inca. web site:

Birds seen/heard here:

Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Crested Bobwhite, White-tipped Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Tropical Screech-Owl, White-collared Swift, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Lazuline Sabrewing, Sparkling Violetear, Short-tailed Emerald, CHESTNUT-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD, Collared Inca, Longuemare’s Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail, Andean Toucanet, Acorn Woodpecker, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Azara’s Spinetail, Streaked Xenops, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Montane Woodcreeper, BAR-CRESTED ANTSHRIKE, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Red-crested Cotinga, Mountain Elaenia, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, White-banded Tyrannulet, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, APICAL FLYCATCHER, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, NICEFORO’S WREN, Andean Solitaire, Swainson’s Thrush, Great Thrush, Black-billed Thrush, Brown-capped Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Black-billed Peppershrike, Tennessee Warbler, Tropical Parula, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Canada Warbler, Golden-fronted Redstart, Black-crested Warbler, Russet-crowned Warbler, Rufous-browed Conebill, White-capped Tanager, Common Bush-Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Summer Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Speckled Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Plain-coloured Seedeater, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch, Moustached Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Streaked Saltator, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-backed Oriole, Mountain Cacique, MOUNTAIN GRACKLE.


Accommodation: We slept in a hotel in Bogotá.

In 1989 Peter Kaestner discovered a new species of Antpitta (Cundinamarca Antpitta) in the Eastern Andes.

He found the bird in a patch of remnant forest (2,250 m) on a recently opened road from Monterredondo to the town of El Cavario in the valley of the Río Guaitiquía.

Birds seen/heard here:

Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Common Black-Hawk, Grey Hawk, Roadside Hawk, GORGETED WOOD-QUAIL, Band-tailed Pigeon, FLAME-WINGED PARAKEET, Green Violetear, Bronzy Inca, Andean Toucanet, Pearled Treerunner, Montane Foliage-gleaner, CUNDINAMARCA ANTPITTA, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Barred Becard, Blue-and-white Swallow, Whiskered Wren, Southern House Wren, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Andean Solitaire, Great Thrush, Green Jay, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Russet-crowned Warbler, Three-striped Warbler, Common Bush-Tanager, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Palm Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Ochre-breasted Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Crested Oropendola.


Wednesday 31 October

Our trip started with a long early morning flight to Colombia with Iberia. We had a short respite in our trip with a stopover at Madrid and landed somewhat delayed at El Dorado International Airport in Bogotá at 16.15.

We missed our flight to Santa Marta and had to stay in Bogotá, a bustling metropolis of eight million people, our starting point for the trip. We booked rooms not far from the airport, at the Hotel Suite Colonial Bogotá, where we all had a comfortable night after a tiring flight.

Thursday 1 November

The morning flight to Santa Marta had been cancelled, so we had to stay all day on the flat, high mountain plateau, where the capital is situated. We spent some time in a small park a stone’s throw from the hotel and amongst the birds seen were our only Swainson’s Hawk of the trip, Sparkling Violetear, Swainson’s Thrush, Scarlet Tanager and Summer Tanager. Then came torrential rain and we had to take shelter in our hotel.

At 17.00 hours we left Bogotá with an Aero República flight to Santa Marta or that is what we thought.

It turned out that we landed in Barranquilla, because the plane could not land in Santa Marta, because the airstrip seemed to be a lake now. In Barranquilla we were transported by bus to Santa Marta, where Jurgen Beckers was waiting for us. With taxis we drove to the city of Santa Marta, where we checked into Hotel Monterrey.

Friday 2 November

Next morning two Toyota jeeps were waiting and we headed with our cook to the Santa Marta Mountains.

The rough and rocky road was horrendous and a 4WD was essential. We hit a few landslides, but managed to get through these hurdles. We stopped at the new ProAves El Dorado Centre (1950 m) and the last 10 kilometres we walked to San Lorenzo. The weather was bad and it was misty and it rained all the time.

The first kilometres were very quiet and we hardly saw any bird, but then things changed. We encountered a flock and slowly the birds finally came out amongst them a few endemics: Santa Marta Toucanet, Streak-capped Spinetail, Yellow-crowned Redstart, White-lored Warbler and Santa Marta Brush-Finch. Amongst the other birds we encountered were no less than 6 Golden-breasted Fruiteaters, Pearled Treerunner, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Black-chested Jay, Brown-capped Vireo, Blackpoll Warbler, Bay-headed Tanager and many others. Not a bad start, and one that set the pace for the rest of the trip.

In the late afternoon we arrived at the park cabins, where our luggage already was waiting. After stowing away our luggage in our cabins, we checked the feeders at the Park Headquarters (Estacíon Experimental San Lorenzo). The hummingbird feeders gave us prolonged views of two endemic ♀ White-tailed Starfrontlets and a few Tyrian Metaltails, whilst fruit put out on the feeding table attracted Santa Marta Brush-Finches.

The last hour of the day we spent in the vicinity of the park cabins and here we found a few Band-tailed Guans, had a brief glimpse of the very vocal Santa Marta Antpitta, saw a very obliging Brown-rumped Tapaculo and also a Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager.

Saturday 3 November

A leisurely pre-breakfast stroll around the cabins produced amongst others another endemic, Rusty-headed Spinetail. We then walked our way higher into the Santa Marta Mountains. We spent all day at higher altitude and in the morning we had good weather. This high altitude forest gave us a whole new set of species and near the radio towers we saw a group of 25 endemic Santa Marta Parakeets in a tree at less than 5 metres, which gave superb views.

Other birds of note were Mountain Velvetbreast, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Andean Siskin, Paramo Seedeater (a possible split Santa Marta Seedeater), Black Flowerpiercer and Stripe-headed Brush-Finch. In the late afternoon persistent rain thwarted us again, however just before we arrived at the camp, luck and persistence led to success, as we spotted a small flock of near-endemic Grey-throated Warblers. The barbecue was excellent.

Sunday 4 November

Today we spent all day on the road from San Lorenzo to the El Dorado Centre. We managed to see a lot of birds amongst them Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Green Violetear, Booted Racket-tail, Masked Trogon, Spotted Barbtail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Swainson’s Thrush, Blackburnian Warbler, Blue-naped Chlorophonia and Golden-bellied Grosbeak. Overhead Grey Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, White-rumped Hawks and a Solitary Eagle soared, while we also saw a raptor I still have not identified.

Throughout our stay here we were taunted by the calls of the Santa Marta Antpitta, so it was with considerable relief when a Santa Marta Antpitta at last performed incredibly well for us.

We had lunch near the El Dorado Centre were we had good looks of a pair of the endemic Blossomcrown.

Next we moved up again to the Park HQ and before we reached our comfortable base the most noteworthy birds we saw included Scaly-naped Parrot, Green Violetear, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Green Jay, Black-and-white Warbler and White-sided Flowerpiercer. Behind our cabins we saw a pair of White-tipped Quetzals, a species I had seen only once near Colonia Tovar in Venezuela.

Then dark clouds gathered overhead, the first drops of rain started to fall and this wasn't too much fun and we returned to our cabins.

Monday 5 November

We started this morning by dropping in altitude down the road to Minca. The weather was good today and it turned out that it was our first day without rain.

Our stroll to El Dorado and a few kilometres lower produced many birds and on the way we saw amongst many others Tiny Hawk, Streaked Xenops, Slaty Antwren, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Venezuelan Tyrannulet, Black-hooded Thrush, Black-billed Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, Black-and-white Seedeater, Yellow-backed Oriole and Blue-tailed Emerald.

We searched in vain for the Grey-throated Leaftosser, a great disappointment for me. Leaftossers are nemesis birds for me and after 12 Neotropical trips I have seen only one species.

Hereafter we headed with our Toyota 4 WD’s to Minca. In the Minca area we birded in the drier, lower elevations of the mountains (750 m) to find Rosy Thrush-Tanager. No luck today with that one although we heard the bird. Amongst the additions to our list here were Stripe-throated Hermit, White-vented Plumeleteer, Blue-crowned Motmot, Collared Aracari, White-bearded Manakin, Yellow Tyrannulet, Bright-rumped Attila, Rufous-and-white Wren, Yellow-throated Vireo, Louisiana Waterthrush, Rufous-capped Warbler, Crimson-backed Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. It was almost dark as we checked into Guesthouse “Sans Soucie” and our first hot shower in 4 days was well appreciated. Sitting in the garden of the guesthouse we enjoyed a few much needed cold beers and then went to bed.

Tuesday 6 November

We were up early the following morning and spent all morning in the Minca area. The morning was crystal clear with glorious sunshine. Of course we made another attempt to find the Rosy Thrush-Tanager and although we heard the bird several times we could not locate it. In the woodland around Minca we had good views of the brightly coloured Golden-winged Sparrow, a lifer for everybody. Other birds of note we saw this morning were Scaled Piculet, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Wren, White-necked Thrush, Streaked Saltator and Crested Oropendola.

It rained heavily when we returned to the guesthouse. In one of our rooms we caught a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and released the bird outside.

All packed and ready to move on to the Caribbean coast we made a last effort to find the Black-and-white Owl in the bamboo behind the guesthouse, where Jurgen had seen the bird last year. We had just about given up, as Luc Bekaert spotted the roosting bird.

We waited a while for our minibus and we then drove to Riohacha, 150 kilometres east of Santa Marta on the blisteringly hot Caribbean coast. We made a stop a few kilometres before we arrived in Riohacha and here we got our first taste of birding desert scrub. It was hot and sticky, mosquitoes were everywhere, but we managed to see a few birds amongst them Savanna Hawk, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Vermilion Flycatcher and Greyish Saltator.

We arrived after dark in Riohacha and checked into Hotel La Cassona in the centre of town.

While having a fine dinner and a few beers we saw on television that we had left Bogotá just in time. It had snowed heavily in the capital and in some streets the snow was one metre high.

Wednesday 7 November
Dawn next morning again found us in the desert scrub along the Caribbean coast 15 kilometres east of Riohacha. It promised to be a very hot day. Braving the mosquitoes we spent two hours here and almost the first bird we saw was the near-endemic White-whiskered Spinetail, a lifer for all us. A wealth of species here quickly expanded our list and highlights included Black-crested Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Slender-billed Tyrannulet (Inezia), Glaucous Tanager, Pileated Finch and Yellow Oriole.

Hereafter we headed to Los Flamencos National Park. By mid-morning it was already scorching hot along the coast and here we encountered typical Caribbean species like Brown Pelican, Magnificent Frigatebird and Caribbean Flamingo.

Many species of waders were present, including Wilson’s Plover, Collared Plover, Dunlin, Willet and Stilt Sandpiper. In addition we found a few Gull-billed, Caspian, Sandwich, Royal and Least Terns.

The birding area extends well beyond the coast and ranging through woodland and scrub produced a great diversity of species including Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Shining-green Hummingbird, Buffy Hummingbird, Pied Water-Tyrant, Grey Kingbird, Bicoloured Wren and Bicoloured Conebill. One of our main targets here was the near-endemic Vermilion Cardinal and it took us quite some time before we saw a beautiful male.

We then headed to Santa Marta and just before we arrived in the city we visited a small private reserve called Kalashe. Then dark clouds gathered overhead and it started raining like hell. Hereafter we encountered a large flock of Military Macaws, which like many macaws, is now rare throughout its range. Other birds we saw here were Common Black-Hawk, Lance-tailed Manakin, Prothonotary Warbler and our target bird Black-backed Antshrike which proved elusive at first, but eventually was seen well. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the centre of the town, our best meal of the whole trip. At 7.00 p.m. we set off by night bus to Puerto Boyacá.

Thursday 8 November

Eleven hours later we arrived in Puerto Boyacá, where we had breakfast at a bakery. After breakfast we headed by mini-bus to Reserva Natural Cañón del Río Claro. After an hour we arrived at the reserve and the marble river was not very clear. It seemed that it had rained a lot the last week. After we checked into the park lodge, we explored the humid rainforest along the river. A Fasciated Tiger-Heron showed well, as did Barred and White-whiskered Puffbird. Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Citron-throated Toucan, White-flanked Antwren, Chestnut-backed Antbird, Olivaceous Flatbill, Fuscous Flycatcher, Panama Flycatcher, Cinnamon Becard, Band-backed Wren, Bay Wren, Buff-rumped Warbler and Thick-billed Euphonia were amongst the many other species we encountered.

We were also successful in obtaining excellent views of the endemic Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, but we only managed to hear the Barred Forest-Falcon.

We ended our day with a visit to the Oilbird cave. First a few came out but soon more and more were leaving the cave. During the night torrential rain fell.

Friday 9 November

After some much-needed sleep we were up well before dawn and we made a pre-breakfast walk along the Río Claro. Technically, the rarest bird we found this morning was a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, difficult to elect as bird of the trip, when the other contenders include endemic birds. A real treat here was watching a pair of the endemic White-mantled Barbets halfway up a tree and a Southern Nightingale-Thrush, which responded well to the tape. We encountered a rich variety of other birds along the way including Rufous-breasted Hermit, Violaceous Trogon, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Masked Tityra, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, Bay-breasted Warbler and Orange-crowned Oriole.

After breakfast we headed to the nearby Gruta El Condor. Of course we visited the Oilbird cave, where we tried to photograph the very noisy birds. In the rainforest we hardly saw any birds, although we did see 2 Silvery-brown Bar-faced Tamarins. The more open woodland held Bat Falcon, Purple-crowned Fairy, another White-mantled Barbet, Golden-naped (Beautiful) Woodpecker, Lesser Elaenia, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Yellow-backed Tanager, Plain-coloured Tanager and Blue Dacnis to name but a few.

We then headed back to our lodge in the Río Claro Reserve.

Saturday 10 November

Thunder and rain all night and the first hours of the day we had to stay at the lodge. A stroll in the vicinity of the lodge did bring us many birds we had seen before, but inevitably we saw a few new ones amongst them Olivaceous Piculet, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Pacific Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Long-billed Gnatwren, Dusky-faced Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager and Golden-hooded Tanager. A group of White-fronted Capuchins did not like our presence and they started angrily shaking branches.

We said goodbye to the staff of the lodge and then drove back to Puerto Boyacá, where we had lunch.

We stocked up on cold drinks and then set off by bus on a fairly good highway towards Ibagué.

The long drive to Ibagué was enlivened by seeing en route Cocoi Heron, Bare-faced Ibis, Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Southern Lapwing and Yellow-hooded Blackbird.

At dusk we arrived in Ibagué, set along the west edge of the huge Magdalena Valley and capital of the Tolima Department. We checked into Hotel Center.

Sunday 11 November

A 30 minutes taxi ride took us to the small village of Juntas. Near the village is situated Cañón del Río Combeima (Ibanasca reserve). We spent all day working the trail along the Combeima river, clocking up an impressive list of species. Grey-rumped and White-tipped Swifts deftly flitted over the canopy and the endemic Olive-headed Brush-Finch was very easy to find. Swirling tanager flocks made their rounds, holding such jewels as Blue-capped, Golden, Saffron-crowned, Golden-naped, Metallic-green and the localized Scrub Tanager. In the canyon we found such specialities as Speckle-faced Parrot, Blue-tailed Emerald (a possible split Western Emerald), Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Highland Motmot, Andean Toucanet, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Black-billed Peppershrike, Yellow-throated & Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch and Black-winged Saltator. We searched a long time for the Tolima Dove and Luc Bekaert and I crept through the bushes in what sadly proved to be a fruitless search. When we returned in Juntas we saw pair of Torrent Ducks on the rocks in the adjacent river.

Monday 12 November

Next day we headed by taxi and bus to Mana Dulce a private reserve in the Magdalena Valley. On arrival we were given a warm welcome and very cold beers by Stephan and Constance our hosts. After we had dumped our bags in our rooms, we were entering the dry forest and a good trail system allowed us to search after its inhabitants. A small flock of Spectacled Parrotlets showed well nearby, and other noteworthy birds along the network of forest trails included White-necked Jacobin, Blue-crowned Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Barred Antshrike, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Cinereous Becard, Black-bellied Wren and Orange-billed Sparrow. All gave good views, with perseverance.

Then came torrential rain and we had to take cover under a wooden shed. Hereafter we had lunch on the veranda and our meal was frequently disrupted as “new” birds put in an appearance. Vital and I had good looks of a male Velvet-fronted Euphonia, while the others were somewhere else.

We spent all afternoon on the trails and amongst the birds seen were Crested Bobwhite, Pauraque, Olivaceous Piculet, Jet Antbird, Forest Elaenia, Slate-headed Tody-Tyrant, Pale-breasted Thrush, Rufous-capped Warbler, Red-legged Honeycreeper and Black-striped Sparrow. We also heard Little and Great Tinamou, but best of all however was a calling Pheasant Cuckoo and in spite of some initial frustration most of us eventually obtained reasonable views of this brood parasite, although we first thought it was a Pavonine Cuckoo.

Tuesday 13 November

The following day we set off early in the bright sunshine into the dry forest, finally finding a cooperative White-bellied Antbird. The most memorable birds of our morning stroll were Blue Ground-dove, Dwarf Cuckoo, a Red-billed Scythebill clambering up the trunk of a tree, Western Slaty-Antshrike, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Scrub Greenlet, Bay-breasted Warbler and White-browed Conebill.

At the last possible moment Stephan discovered a pair of the endemic Velvet-fronted Euphonias in a tree behind the office, which showed extremely well. All too soon our time at Mana Dulce ended and sadly saying goodbye to Constance and Stephan and the rest of the family, we left them at mid-day.

We then headed with a private mini-bus to Laguna Pedropalo, a longish drive. We spent a very short time at the lagoon, but managed to have good views of the endemics Silvery-throated Spinetail and Black Inca.

At 19.00 hours we arrived in Bogotá and checked into Hotel Dorantes in the centre of the capital.

Wednesday 14 November

After a good night's sleep, we (including Oswaldo Cortes now) left the centre of Bogotá early to avoid the traffic and headed to Parque La Florida.

It used to be a very good spot to see Bogotá Rail, but the vegetation had overgrown the last part of open water and we hardly saw any birds here. Amongst the birds seen here were Bare-faced Ibis, Peregrine Falcon and Yellow-hooded Blackbird. We then switched location and headed to nearby Humedal La Conejera.

Our main priority at these highland marshy areas was to try to locate the Bogotá Rail and we failed miserably!

We spent much of the day searching unsuccessfully for this bird, although we heard the rail three times.

I have seldom, if ever, felt so chastened, but the gods were clearly not on our side. As I have often said, "There are no guarantees in birdwatching".
Although we failed to find the rail here we did discover a good variety of birds including Speckled & Blue-winged Teal, Masked Duck, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Lesser Yellowlegs, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Silvery-throated Spinetail and Ruddy-breasted Seedeater.

At 14.00 hours we left Bogotá and a 2½ hours drive took us to Laguna Fúquene (2,750 m). There was some time left for a stroll along the lake and amongst the birds seen were Least Grebe, Least Bittern, Merlin, Andean Siskin, Eastern Meadowlark and Yellow-backed Oriole. We heard the Apolinar’s Wren a few times, but did not see the bird. A little disheartened we checked into the luxurious Refugio El Santuario, a former railway station, situated right by the lagoon.

Thursday 15 November

On our morning stroll everything fell into place. We spotted the much-wanted Bogotá Rail at close range just outside the hotel and eventually after a prolonged game of hide and seek in the reed we were all to see a pair of the endemic Apolinar’s Wren. Other goodies here included Plain-breasted Hawk, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Short-tailed Emerald, Smoky-brown Woodpecker and Band-tailed Seedeater (a first for Jurgen).

It was time to hit the road once more. A short stop in the paramo on the longish drive to Soata yielded the superb Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-browed Conebill and Pale-naped Brush-Finch, but we searched for Bearded Helmetcrest to no avail. Nearer to our destination, a few very productive roadside stops added Longuemare’s Sunangel, Red-crested Cotinga, White-banded Tyrannulet, Golden-fronted Redstart and Mountain Cacique to our tally. In the late afternoon we arrived in the small town of Soata, where we checked into the Hotel Internacional.

Friday 16 November

Off for another early start and soon we were on the road to Reserva Quincha de Soata, who’s every turn revealed yet another stunning Andean panorama. The weather today was fantastic, although a bit cold and the ethereal song of the Andean Solitaire filled the crisp morning air. Here some steady climbing was rewarded with views of Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Collared Inca, Acorn Woodpecker, Azara’s Spinetail, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Black-crested Warbler, White-capped Tanager, Masked Flowerpiercer, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch, Moustached Brush-Finch and Mountain Cacique. An excellent selection of North American migrant warblers added greatly to the variety amongst them Tennessee Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler and Canada Warbler.

Our best bird here though was a flock of the endemic and rare Mountain Grackles, which gave superb views. While we headed back to Soata we encountered another flock of Mountain Grackles.

In the late afternoon we were back in Soata and we then walked to a meadow along a small river just outside town. Within minutes we had excellent views of the endemic Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird. It was hard work on the steep trails along the river, but eventually we caught up with Lazuline Sabrewing, Short-tailed Emerald, Bicoloured Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Hepatic Tanager and Scrub Tanager. When we returned after dinner to the hotel, a Tropical Screech-Owl was calling in the park.

Saturday 17 November

The break of dawn found our group standing again on the outskirts of Soata. We immediately spotted the Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird. Along the river course we located a pair of Bar-crested Antshrikes, the rare and particularly nomadic Apical Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Tropical Parula and another rare endemic Niceforo’s Wren showed itself after much coaxing with the tape.

The rest of the day was largely a travelling day as we drove back to Bogotá. The long drive back was broken by a stop in the paramo zone. Here we flushed a Band-winged Nightjar, whilst a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle drifted overhead and a few Plain-coloured Seedeaters were also new to our trip list.

At 18.00 hours we were back in Hotel Dorantes.

Sunday 18 November
Our last full day’s birding involved a drive to Monterredondo, where only a few years ago the endemic Cundinamarca Antpitta had been discovered. At Monterredondo we drove up into the mountains, a steep and winding road. From 1700 m there were remnant patches of cloud forest broken by scattered pastures.

It took us quite some time before we entered the forest (2,250 m), because the slopes here were very steep.

We stumbled, fell, swore, got up and were finally rewarded with brief but good views of the Cundimarca Antpitta. We clocked up a nice set of birds in this area. Top-of-the-bill here were the endemic Flame-winged Parakeets, allowing for a distant scope view. Mixed flocks passing through the forest contained Pearled Treerunner, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Metallic-green and Beryl-spangled Tanager and Ochre-breasted Brush-Finch.

We sadly only heard a Gorgeted Wood-Quail. At 18.30 hours we were back in the capital for a well earned dinner and rest.

Monday 19 November/ Tuesday 20 November

Our last morning in Colombia we spent in the paramo overlooking the capital. It was very cold at this height (3,250 m) and there were not many birds on the paramo. We managed to tease out the endemic Matorral Tapaculo, which quickly surrendered. Other birds of note were Merlin, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Green Violetear, Andean Siskin and White-sided Flowerpiercer.

El Dorado airport provided some interesting last memories of Colombia, when an agitated man employee of the Colombian customs of course picked me out of the long row of passengers to check my suitcase a second time.

At 18.15 we left Colombia and the many hours of waiting at the fog-bound airport in Madrid was an unavoidable anticlimax, but at 18.30 the next day we arrived in a very wet and windy Brussels.

Frequent and prolonged rain came to be a feature on our trip and although it may have dampened our spirits at times, it did not prevent us from notching up an impressive list of goodies. My total bird list ended at a moderate 458 species during these 19 days, but among these I had 29 endemics and several rarely encountered birds.

With such a vast bird list picking out a few highlights is almost meaningless. Nevertheless, a few that come instantly to mind include White-rumped Hawk, Black-and-white Owl, Blossomcrown, White-mantled Barbet, Santa Marta Antpitta, Cundinamarca Antpitta, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, Niceforo’s Wren, Olive-headed Brush-Finch and Mountain Grackle, most of them endemics, but lifers all of course.

My greatest disappointment was that we did not see Northern Screamer, Santa Marta Warbler, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Sooty Ant-Tanager and especially Rosy Thrush-Tanager. However in 2009 we return to the most bird-rich country on earth and we will have a second chance.

Chaam, 15 January 2008,                                                                                                                              

If you need any help or further information, contact me at the following address and I'll try and help if I can.

Jan Vermeulen
Bredaseweg 14
4861 AH Chaam
The Netherlands
Telephone:      (31) – 161 – 491327


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