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Bolivia, November 2001.,
- General Information
- Itinerary (summary)
- Descriptions of the sites visited in Bolivia:
SANTA CRUZ AREA
ROUTE SAMAIPATA – TAMBO
SERRANIA DE SIBERÍA
ROUTE SIBERÍA – COCHABAMBA
LA PAZ AREA
- Daily Log
- Systematic List of Birds
- Systematic List of Mammals
The following report is based on a three weeks birding trip to Bolivia in October/November 2001 and encompassed many of the well-known sites in Bolivia. My Belgian friends Luc Bekaert, Jos Elzermans and of course Vital Van Gorp and Eric Wille accompanied me.
Squarely placed in the heart of South America and straddling the Andes, land-locked Bolivia supports more than 40% of the total number of bird species found in South America and is currently one of the least known Neotropical destinations and holds a good proportion of the region's avifauna.
Bolivia, the most “Indian” nation in South America, is a country bordered by Peru to the north-west, Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay to the south-east, Argentina to the south and Chile to the west. Bolivia stretches across the widest part of the Andean mountain chain and is one of the poorest, highest and most isolated of Latin American republics. The country is as varied as its people and ranges from steaming Amazonian rainforest, high saline lakes, mountain cloud forest and high steppe desert, rolling tropical savannah to snow covered peaks and glaciers.
There are three main areas: the first is a high plateau known as the Altiplano, a largely barren region lying approximately 4000m above sea level. It comprises 10% of the country's area and contains 70% of the population, nearly one-third of who are urban dwellers. The second area is a fertile valley situated 1800m to 2700m above sea level. The third area comprises the lowland tropics, which stretch down to the frontiers with Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, taking up some 70% of the land area. Rainfall in this region is high, and the climate is hot.
With the objective of searching for the Blue-throated and Red-fronted Macaws and other Bolivian specialities, we travelled from Amazonian lowland to the highest elevations in the Andes.
Bolivia has the largest list of any land-locked country in the world – currently over 1370 species – and 20 species endemic to Bolivia, but this figure is misleading because another 100-plus species are confined to a variety of rather limited ecosystems in adjacent remote parts of Peru and Brazil, species that may not be seen readily by birders elsewhere.
Considering that it remains one of the least-studied countries on the continent, Bolivia could easily yield another 100 species
Citron-headed Yellow-Finch *
Note: There could be some discrepancies on the taxonomic treatment and the endemic status of some species.
FLIGHT AND VISA
We booked our flight from Brussels to Santa Cruz for € 850 with Varig. This flight took approximately 15 hours and went via Frankfurt and São Paulo. The flights were punctual and troublefree.
As with most South American countries you do not need a visa for Bolivia if you intend to stay no more than 90 days.
When you're leaving Bolivia, you are required to pay a departure tax of US$25. Domestic flights area pretty cheap in Bolivia between main cities and daily, saving a lot of driving time and they often leave . Flights to Trinidad are not as dependable, and will not happen in rainy conditions (read a lot of waiting). In our case our flight was cancelled and we had 24 hours delay, when we flew from Trinidad, via Cochabamba to La Paz. Flights (Lloyd Aereo Boliviano) from Cochabamba to Trinidad take about ½ hour and most fares are around € 100.
MONEY AND ACCOMMODATION
The unit of currency in Bolivia is the Boliviano (B.). The exchange rate in November 2001 was about 6.75 to the US$.
One can easily change US dollars everywhere in the cities. Creditcards: Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in the large shops of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba and the more expensive hotels.
Hotel accommodation is usually of quite a high standard and in the largest cities, there is a wide range of places to stay.
We stayed in cheap and also in more expensive hotels:
Hotel Royal ****, Santa Cruz US$60.00
La Víspera, Samaipata US$10.00 per person
American Mission School, Tambo US$10.00 per person
Hotel Diplomat ****, Cochabamba US$73.00 (double room)
Hotel Luxor ***, Cochabamba US$20.00 per person
Hotel El Puente, Villa Tunari US$27.00 (double room)
Hotel La Hostería ****, Trinidad US$53.00 (double room)
Hotel Calacoto ***, La Paz US$30.00 (double room)
Hotel La Finca, Coroico US$5.00 per person
FOOD AND DRINK
Bolivian food is distinctive and is generally good. We frequently did our own breakfasts and lunches. Stay away from uncooked fruits and vegetables that you haven't peeled yourself, and don't use ice. Bolivian beer, especially Paceña, is one of the best on the continent. Mineral water and bottled drinks are available.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
The people in Bolivia are in general both friendly and helpful, making for a pleasant and relatively hassle-free trip.
Tiny Bolivia is one of the safest destinations for travel in all of Latin America. 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.
At the Chapare Road we had to change our itinerary, because
the coca farmers threatened to block the road the next day.
When we headed back to Cochabamba many policemen and soldiers were patrolling the road, but we did not encounter any problems, although the next day we read in the papers that people were throwing stones at the cars.
The usual tropical health problems present themselves on a trip to Bolivia, compounded by the possible joys of altitude sickness, which can be a three days horrible illness if unconditioned. As a consequence it is common to start in Santa Cruz, then Cochabamba (2500m), where one can adjust a little through two days with the endemics around the dry valleys of Cochabamba and then up to the capital La Paz (3600m), for the Puna and Altiplano birds and the Yungas (Coroico Road).
For vaccinations consult your own doctor for up to date advice. Be sure to get enough malaria tablets for your trip, and do take them! You are at the greatest risk in the lowlands (below 1500m). It is advisable to take a good medical kit with you as you are sometimes along way away from the nearest largest town. Mosquitoes (Bení lowlands) and flies are sometimes a problem.
The grassy areas of Bolivia (Hotel La Finca) can be loaded with vicious microscopic red itchy little buggers known as chiggers.
These tiny mites raise welts, which itch like, well, like crazy. Chiggers attack wherever clothes fit tightly, such as around the belt line and sock tops, but also at other places of your body, no matter how private.
Insect repellent is necessary at these locations. Spray your socks and pant-legs liberally with an insect repellent before going afield and take a hot soapy bath upon returning.
Most people in Bolivia speak little or no English, particular
away from the big cities (Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and La Paz).
A short study of names of food in Spanish before departure will be of benefit to the traveller.
At gas stations sign language for a fill-up, and reading the total on the pump works fine.
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.
Bolivia has a temperate climate but with wide differences between day and night. The dry season is between June and September. This is important for wet habitats especially Pampas roads, where many dirt (mud) roads are closed during the rainy season.
The wettest period is November to March. The north-east slopes of the Andes are semi-tropical. Visitors often find La Paz uncomfortable because of the thin air due to high altitude. The mountain areas can become very cold at night.
Required clothing: lightweight linens with a raincoat.
A light overcoat is necessary at night, particularly in the Altiplano
and the Puna.
A hat is recommended in the mountains and necessary in the Orient. The tropical sun is intense at altitude.
However the weather in Bolivia is unpredictable. At anytime of year at higher elevations, there may be rain and mist.
Downpours can occur everywhere in Bolivia, but especially in the tropical zone they can last for hours.
An umbrella and rubber boots are very useful!
The first four days of our trip in Santa Cruz and Samaipata were very windy with 50-75km/h winds.
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. For car rental, you will need a major credit card and a passport.
I tried to contact Barron’s rent-a-car, but the company did not respond to my E-mails. We hired two cars (4WD Suzuki Vitara) from Hertz and paid 60 US$ per day for a car (unlimited mileage). The price of the petrol was 3.31 Boliviano for a litre.
It is advisable to fill up with petrol at every opportunity, because you never know when petrol stations are likely to run out of fuel. We had no problems on returning the cars and had driven many poor roads (even fording rivers).
If you hire a car always carry your driving license and passport with you, since there are constant checks.
In the cities taxis are abundant and cheap, usually running at a fixed price within certain boundaries.
These varied from very good to appalling. Bolivia has few roads and only 5% of them are paved. The main roads in Bolivia are generally rather bad, but for most of these a normal car is fine. However places like Lómas de Arena, Laguna Volcán, Serrania de Sibería and the Bení lowlands are almost impossible to reach without a 4WD-car.
Roads can occasionally be closed at short notice, because of long-term road works. Beware of fast-moving buses and a frustrating lack of road signs in the cities.
The Coroico Road from La Paz – Cotapata is metalled. The worst stretch of the Coroico Road is the stretch from Chuspipata to Coroico (20 km), often described as the most spectacular (read dangerous) highway in South America.
Traffic flow is reversed with all downhill traffic giving way the traffic coming up – and this involves squeezing onto very tiny passing places right on the edge of the cliff face with precipitous 200 metres drops.
It can be very slow going and quite frightening, particularly when the whole area is shrouded in fog with visibility down to 25 metres, as was the case when we were there.
A tape recorder and the "Bird Sounds of Bolivia"
by Sjoerd Mayer (CD-ROM 1996) are quite useful for drawing in birds.
With the help of the tape recorder we played the songs of a few birds. Sometimes we 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 Antbirds, Antthrushes, Antpittas and Tapaculos.
A good torch is a must. A telescope is useful at lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides.
Clothing can be T-shirt and short anywhere, except on the summit of La Cumbre and Cerro Tunari where a sweater is more comfortable.
As anyone who has birded the Neotropics knows, the Tyrant-Flycatchers present the most identification problems, consequently many birds remained unidentified. A combination of range, altitude and habitat can aid identification, but ultimately the most useful tool for difficult genera is call recognition.
I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (Birds of the World, A Check List, Fifth Edition, 2000).
Maps of Bolivia can be obtained at the airports, or from bookshops in La Paz and Santa Cruz.
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. "Berndtson & Berndtson" put out the best road map readily available for Bolivia.
Usually I draw maps of important sites, but the birding areas are so well described in the available reports (see references) and on the Internet that there is little point in giving exact locations for birds.
The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:
Neotropic Cormorant, Cocoi Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Black-collared Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Mountain Caracara, Southern Caracara, American Kestrel, Common Moorhen, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, Andean Gull, Eared Dove, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Picui Ground-Dove, Mitred Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Campo Flicker, Rufous Hornero, Greater Thornbird, Gray-crested Cachalote, White-throated Tyrannulet, Cattle Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Brown-chested Martin, Gray-breasted Martin, Blue-and-white Swallow, Black-capped Donacobius, House Wren, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Chiguanco Thrush, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Purplish Jay, House Sparrow, Hooded Siskin, Common Bush-Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Red-crested Finch, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Gray-crested Finch, Ringed Warbling-Finch, Blue-black Grassquit, White-bellied Seedeater, Band-tailed Seedeater, GRAY-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER, Saffron Finch, Red-crested Cardinal, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Golden-billed Saltator, Bay-winged Cowbird, Crested Oropendola.
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 want to thank my friend Mark van Beirs for his great help and valuable advice in planning this trip. Thanks are also due to Jon Hornbuckle and John van der Woude who were very generous in passing on very useful information.
Avenida. 6 de Agosto 138
E-mail (one of the teachers Lenna Gill): firstname.lastname@example.org
¨ Allen Altman & Byron Swift. Checklist
of the Birds of South America.
¨ James F. Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List, Fifth Edition.
¨ James F. Clements and Noam Shany. A Field Guide to the Birds of Peru.
¨ John S. Dunning. South American Birds, a Photographic Aid to Identification.
¨ Louise H. Emmons and Francois Feer. Neotropical Rainforest Mammals – A Field Guide.
¨ John Fjeldsa and Niels Krabbe. Birds of the High Andes.
¨ T. Narosky - D. Yzurieta. Birds of Argentina & Uruguay.
¨ Martín R. de La Peña and Maurice Rumboll. Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica (Collins Illustrated Checklist).
¨ Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield. The Birds of Ecuador.
¨ 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.
Unfortunately, there is no fieldguide for Bolivia. As a consequence one needs to collect a few books to identify birds throughout the country. For the Amazonian forests we used a mix of the brand-new “Birds of Ecuador” and “The Birds of South America I & II”. For high altitude, above 2000 m, everything is covered in “Birds of the High Andes”.
For Chaco, Pampas and Cerrado habitats the best guide is Collins Illustrated Checklist. The plates in Collins Illustrated Checklist are not that great, but easy to use.
Nigel Wheatley's "Where to watch birds in South America" is also useful at the planning stage.
While writing this report “A Field Guide to the Birds of Peru” was published and I used this excellent guide to check a few records.
REPORTS AND ARTICLES ON BIRDING LOCALITIES
¨ Henk Hendriks. Bolivia 21st July
¨ Andrew Moon. Bolivia – March 13th to
¨ John Hornbuckle. Bolivia 1994. 20th July to 20th September.
¨ Brian Gee. Bolivia October 1998 – January 1999.
¨ Danish Ornithological Society. Birdwatching in Bolivia & Chile. August 1999.
¨ John van der Woude. Bolivia September/October 2000.
A few reports have been written about Bolivia. I found the superb report by Brian Gee the most useful. Henk Hendriks’ report is still useful in spite of the age.
October 25/26 Chaam * Brussels * Frankfurt
* São Paulo * Santa Cruz de la Sierra
October 26 Old Jardín Botánico (Santa Cruz)
October 27 Lómas de Arena * Kim's Golf Course * Memorial Park (Santa Cruz)
October 28 Jardín Botánico (Santa Cruz) * Laguna Volcán * Samaipata
October 29 Samaipata
October 30 Samaipata * Tambo
October 31 Sibería Cloud Forest * Tambo
November 1 Sibería Cloud Forest * Tambo
November 2 Tambo * Sibería Cloud Forest * Lago Angostura * Cochabamba
November 3 Cerro Tunari (Quillacollo Road)
November 4 Cochabamba * Chapare Road * Villa Tunari
November 5 Villa Tunari * Chapare Road * Cochabamba
November 6 Cochabamba * Liriuni Road * Lago Angostura
November 7 Cochabamba * Trinidad
November 8 Trinidad * Hacienda El Cutal
November 9 Hacienda El Cutal
November 10 Hacienda El Cutal * Trinidad
November 11 Trinidad * La Paz
November 12 La Paz * Lago Titicaca * La Paz
November 13 La Paz * Coroico Road * Coroico
November 14 Coroico * Coroico Road * La Paz * Santa Cruz * São Paulo
November 15 São Paulo * London * Brussels * Chaam
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE SITES VISITED IN BOLIVIA
The list of birds mentioned at every site, which follows, is purely taken for the more interesting species and is certainly not complete.
SANTA CRUZ AREA
Accommodation: A hotel in Santa Cruz de Sierra.
Eastern Bolivia is in a transition zone between the humid forests of southern Amazonia and the dry, xerophytic Chaco.
Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the commercial centre of Bolivia and the capital of the province of the same name, is a pleasant Spanish-style city in the eastern lowlands of the country. The city and its associated economic and agricultural activities are expanding rapidly, increasing the pressure on nature and birds in its surroundings. Large birds like Rheas and Seriemas are getting hard to find and if one's itinerary includes the savannah lowland around Trinidad, birding around Santa Cruz does not add much to the list. Nevertheless, it can be convenient to start with a couple of days of easy birding around Santa Cruz after the (very) long flight from Western Europe. All localities mentioned below are in the tropical zone at altitudes around 200 - 400m.
LÓMAS DE ARENA
On the south-east side of Santa Cruz is situated Lómas de Arena (“the dunes of sand”), a regional park on the northern border of the Chaco. Leaving the city towards Cabezas, the reserve is sign posted to the left, just before the end of the road, the gate of a factory.
This nature reserve protects some spectacular sand dunes - used by the locals for noisy and destructive off-road driving - and the surrounding Chaco and grassy savannah. The latter habitats hold a good selection of Chaco birds, most of which can be seen by walking along the entrance road.
NB: In this reserve you definitely need a 4WD!
Species seen here included:
Red-winged Tinamou, White-bellied Nothura, Cocoi Heron, Great & Snowy Egret, Striated Heron, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Comb Duck, Brazilian Teal, Black & Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Snail Kite, Savanna Hawk, Gray Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Southern Caracara, American Kestrel, Limpkin, Common Moorhen, Red-legged Seriema, Wattled Jacana, White-backed Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Lesser Yellowlegs, Baird’s Sandpiper, Picazuro Pigeon, Picui Ground-Dove, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, Nacunda Nighthawk, Spot-backed Puffbird, White & Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Campo Flicker, Rufous Hornero, Chotoy Spinetail, Common Thornbird, Plain Tyrannulet, Hudson’s Black-Tyrant, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, Cattle Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Brown-chested Martin, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Yellowish Pipit, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Sayaca Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Tawny-bellied Seedeater, Dark-throated Seedeater, Saffron Finch, Red-crested Cardinal, White-browed Blackbird, Giant Cowbird, Epaulet Oriole, Chopi Blackbird.
Other species that can be seen here:
Small-billed Tinamou, Chaco Chachalaca, Whistling Heron, Masked Duck, Harris Hawk, Rufous-thighed Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Collared Plover, Limpkin, Ash-throated Crake, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Gilded Sapphire, White-eared Puffbird, White-wedged Piculet, Yellow-throated Spinetail, Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Rufous Casiornis, Greater Thornbird, Chaco Suiriri, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, White-rumped & White Monjita, Spectacled Tyrant, White-winged Black-Tyrant, White-banded Mockingbird, Masked Gnatcatcher, Gray-and-chestnut Seedeater, Red-crested Finch, Black-backed Grosbeak, Solitary Cacique.
KIM’S GOLF COURSE
It is a good place to visit, when you have a few hours left after visiting Lómas de Arena. At the end of the road just before the factory there is a dirt road to the right, along the fence of the factory to the golf course (2 –3 km). Ask permission on the very friendly Chinese owners of the golf course.
In the direct surroundings of the course you find some ponds, scattered woodland and a river with marshy areas and grassland.
Species seen here included:
Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Great Egret, Striated Heron, Brazilian Teal, Black & Turkey Vulture, Snail Kite, Southern Caracara, American Kestrel, Common Moorhen, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, Solitary Sandpiper, Picazuro Pigeon, Yellow-billed Tern, Picui Ground-Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, Campo Flicker, Rufous Hornero, Vermilion Flycatcher, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, Cattle Tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Gray-and-chestnut Seedeater, Dark-throated Seedeater, Saffron Finch, Wedge-tailed Grassfinch, Yellow-billed Cardinal, Red-crested Cardinal.
This “garden” is situated on the eastern edge of Santa Cruz en route to Cotoca (Avenida Virgen de Cotoca). It is on the right hand side of the road, soon after a “peaje”, just after a fly-over across a railway. Along the garden is a long fence with a large gate that was closed the first time we were there. We found out that you have to go the house on the left corner of the garden and ask there to be let in. We had to come back the following morning. Don’t make the mistake to visit the “old” botanical garden as we did. This botanical garden features a preserve of natural tropical deciduous dry forest with trails, an open Pampas area and a small water body in addition to a manicured garden.
Species seen (also from the nearby Memorial Park & the old Jardín Botanico) here included:
Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Gray-headed Kite, White-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Southern Caracara, Collared Forest-Falcon, American Kestrel, Purple Gallinule, Common Moorhen, Wattled Jacana, Picazuro Pigeon, Picui Ground-Dove, Green-cheeked Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Scaly-headed Parrot, Blue-fronted Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Short-tailed Swift, Ashy-tailed Swift, Spot-backed Puffbird, Blue-crowned Trogon, Black-fronted Nunbird, Chestnut-eared Aracari, White-wedged Piculet, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Rufous Hornero, Common Thornbird, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Large Elaenia, Small-billed Elaenia, Lesser Elaenia, Rufous Casiornis, Vermilion Flycatcher, Cattle Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Swainson’s Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Brown-chested Martin, Thrush-like Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Hauxwell’s Thrush, Purplish Jay, Plush-crested Jay, House Sparrow, Red-eyed Vireo, Hooded Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Red-crested Finch, Blue-black Grassquit, Saffron Finch, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Grayish Saltator, Black-backed Grosbeak, Shiny Cowbird, Giant Cowbird, Solitary Cacique, Crested Oropendola.
Other species that can be seen here:
Undulated Tinamou, Tataupa Tinamou, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Black-collared Hawk, Toco Toucan, White Woodpecker, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Plain-crowned Spinetail, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Stripe-backed Antbird, Mato Grosso Antbird, Black-capped Antwren, White-backed Fire-eye, Bolivian Slaty-Antshrike, Plain Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Southern Scrub-Flycatcher, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, Crested Becard, Fawn-breasted Wren, Hooded Siskin, Flavescent Warbler, Guira Tanager, Orange-headed Tanager, Epaulet Oriole.
This lagoon (1000m) seems to be a regular site for Masked Duck, a species I had dipped on all my previous Neotropic trips and a difficult species to locate anywhere. It is located en route Santa Cruz – Samaipata, approximately 40km before Samaipata on the right hand site of the road. The Laguna is well signposted and is accessed by a very rough and steep 4WD track (3–4 km) with some sparse dry woodland. You have to pay an entrance charge at the Laguna, but we did not see anybody there.
Species seen here included:
Least Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Striated Heron, Masked Duck, Swallow-tailed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Rufous-thighed Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Common Moorhen, Wattled Jacana, Mitred Parakeet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Blue-crowned Trogon, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Spot-backed Puffbird, Chaco Suiriri, Purple Jay, Two-banded Warbler, Guira Tanager, Palm Tanager.
Other species that can be seen here:
Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Harris Hawk, Bat Falcon, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Green-cheeked Parakeet, Streaked Xenops, Black-capped Antwren, Hauxwell's Thrush and Swainson's Thrush.
Accommodation: A hotel in Samaipata (Hotel Mily). We slept at La Víspera, an excellent birder-friendly lodge (cabañas) owned by a Dutch couple. Amongst the birds we did see at La Víspera were White-faced Dove, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Tyrant.
Samaipata (1650m) is a village situated in the dry eastern Andean foothills on the old Cochabamba road, 120km south-west from Santa Cruz. After the opening of the new road from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba, Samaipata has lost its commercial importance and now serves mainly as a retreat for wealthy people escaping the summer heat of Santa Cruz.
This pleasant small town provides a base for visiting a few good sites, where a number of localised species hard to see elsewhere occur including Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Giant Antshrike, Slaty Gnateater and Dull-coloured Grassquit.
If you have more time you could explore more habitats
in the surroundings of Samaipata and even explore nearby Amboro
When entering the village, a pipeline is easily visible across the valley on the north side of the road. The rough trail parallels the pipeline, but is now very hacked and there has been a lot of recent clearance and crop planting along this trail.
The habitat improves the further you get from the village and provides easy access to good shrub and deciduous forest.
We spent a few hours here in the late afternoon and were disappointed in the number of birds we did see.
Species seen here included:
Tataupa Tinamou, Eared Dove, Picui Ground-Dove, Blue-fronted Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Guira Cuckoo, American Pigmy Kingfisher, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Rufous Hornero, White-collared Swift, Highland Elaenia, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Tropical Kingbird, Purplish Jay, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Red-crested Finch, Saffron Finch, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Golden-billed Saltator, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Bay-winged Cowbird.
PUENTE EL FUERTE (WATERFALL)
The waterfall is situated c5km in the direction of Santa Cruz. Explore the trail along the waterfall. After 200m it is possible to walk on the rocks in the river and search for the easy to find Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper.
Species seen here included:
White-tailed Kite, Mitred Parakeet, Blue-fronted Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Guira Cuckoo, White-collared Swift, Planalto Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Highland Elaenia, Black Phoebe, Streaked Flycatcher, Variegated Flycatcher, Blue-and-white Swallow, Swainson’s Thrush, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Tropical Parula, Masked Yellowthroat, Guira Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Saffron Finch.
EL FUERTE (RUINS)
El Fuerte is a pre-Inca ceremonial site approximately 10km from Samaipata. There is an area of well preserved woodland behind the ruins which deserves more time than we had on this windy day.
Species seen here included:
Andean Condor, Roadside Hawk, Glittering-bellied Emerald,
Striped Cuckoo, White-collared Swift, White-tipped Swift, Sclater’s Tyrannulet,
Pale-edged Flycatcher, Variegated Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, House
Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Hooded Siskin, Red-crested Finch.
Other species that can be seen in the Samaipata area:
Short-tailed Hawk, Plain-breasted Hawk, Buff-bellied Hermit, Narrow-tailed Emerald, Chestnut-collared Swift, Occelated Piculet, Lineated Woodpecker, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, Buff-browed Spinetail, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Giant Antshrike, Variable Antshrike, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, White-backed Fire-eye, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Slaty Gnateater, Short-tailed Antthrush, Black-goggled Tanager, Two-banded Warbler, Dull-coloured Grassquit, Ringed & Black-capped Warbling-Finch.
ROUTE SAMAIPATA – TAMBO
Accommodation: American Mission
It is worthwhile to stop en route Samaipata - Tambo (1650 – 1700m) at various places in areas of cactus-dominated scrub. We spent all day birding along this road.
Species seen here included:
Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Black & Turkey Vulture, Andean Condor, White-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Southern Caracara, Picui Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, White-faced Dove, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Mitred Parakeet, Scaly-headed Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, White-collared Swift, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-bellied Hummingbird, Speckled Hummingbird, Slender-tailed Woodstar, Spot-backed Puffbird, White-fronted Woodpecker, BOLIVIAN EARTHCREEPER (10km before San Isidro), Rufous Hornero, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Variable & Rufous-capped Antshrike, White-tipped Plantcutter, Small-billed Elaenia, Greater Wagtail-Tyrant, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Cliff Flycatcher, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Variegated Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow, House Wren, Chiguanco Thrush, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Masked Gnatcatcher, Purplish Jay, Plush-crested Jay, House Sparrow, Red-eyed Vireo, Tropical Parula, Brown-capped Redstart, Bananaquit, Hepatic Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Red-crested Finch, Gray-crested Finch, Black-and-chestnut Warbling-Finch, Ringed Warbling-Finch, Black-capped Warbling-Finch, Saffron Finch, Saffron-billed Sparrow, Grassland Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Golden-billed Saltator, Black-backed Grosbeak, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Bay-winged Cowbird, Epaulet Oriole.
Accommodation: American Mission
The rare endemic RED-FRONTED MACAW may occur anywhere around Comarapa and Tambo and we saw a group 5km east of Comarapa.
Species seen here included:
Tataupa Tinamou, Ornate Tinamou, Darwin’s Nothura, Cattle Egret, Harris’ Hawk, Southern Caracara, Eared Dove, Picui Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, RED-FRONTED MACAW, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Mitred Parakeet, Monk Parakeet, Striped Cuckoo, Band-winged Nightjar, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Blue-tailed Emerald, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-bellied Hummingbird, Slender-tailed Woodstar, White-fronted Woodpecker, Golden-breasted Woodpecker, Striped Woodpecker, Cream-backed Woodpecker, BOLIVIAN EARTHCREEPER, Rufous Hornero, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, White-tipped Plantcutter, White-bellied Tyrannulet, Greater Wagtail-Tyrant, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Cliff Flycatcher, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, House Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Masked Gnatcatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Hooded Siskin, Tropical Parula, Hepatic Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Red-crested Finch, Purple-throated Euphonia, Gray-crested Finch, Ringed Warbling-Finch, Saffron Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Golden-billed Saltator, Black-backed Grosbeak, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Bay-winged Cowbird.
Other birds that can be seen here:
Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Black-bodied Woodpecker (very rare), Chaco Suiriri.
SERRANIA DE SIBERÍA
Accommodation: American Mission
Just an hour west of the arid Tambo valley straddling the departmental border of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, the mountain range of the Serrania de Sibería, cloaked in a lush cloud forest at elevations of 2400 – 2750m, is the southern biogeographical limit for numerous forms of Andean birds, including the endemic BLACK-HOODED SUNBEAM, GRAY-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER and RUFOUS-FACED ANTPITTA. In this classic Neotropic environment can be found many rare and interesting birds including Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Black-winged and Scaly-naped Parrots, Band-tailed Fruiteater, Blue-capped Tanager, Pale-legged Warbler, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant and White-browed Conebill among a long list of possibilities.
In complete contrast to the nearby arid Tambo/Comarapa area (25km), here tall, epiphyte-clad trees tower over thick undergrowth of flowering shrubs and bamboo. Birdwatching in Sibería may involve less extremes of weather than might be expected at the Arctic namesake but at these elevations conditions can change swiftly and heavy rain is always a possibility, quickly turning the muddy tracks into rivulets
We were lucky and had two reasonable days with low clouds early to become sunny later on.
Species seen here included:
Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Mountain Caracara, Andean Guan, Band-tailed Pigeon, Eared Dove, BLACK-HOODED SUNBEAM, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Blue-capped Puffleg, Red-tailed Comet, Tyrian Metaltail, Scaled Metaltail, Long-tailed Sylph, Masked Trogon, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Red-necked Woodpecker, Azara’s Spinetail, Light-crowned Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, RUFOUS-FACED ANTPITTA, Trilling Tapaculo, Red-crested Cotinga, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, White-crested Elaenia, Highland Elaenia, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Andean Tyrant, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Eastern Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow, Hellmayr’s Pipit, Mountain Wren, Chiguanco Thrush, Hooded Siskin, Brown-capped Redstart, Citrine Warbler, Spectacled Redstart, Pale-legged Warbler, White-browed Conebill, Common Bush-Tanager, Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Black-and-chestnut Warbling-Finch, GRAY-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER, Masked Flowerpiercer, Great Pampa Finch (on slopes up towards Sibería), Rufous-naped Brush-Finch, Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch, Stripe-headed Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
Other species that can be seen here:
Andean Condor, Variable Hawk, White-throated Hawk, Black-winged Parrot, Red-billed Parrot, Scaly-naped Parrot, Green Violetear, Andean Swift, Band-tailed & Barred Fruiteater, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Buff-browed Spinetail, Giant Antshrike, Undulated & Rufous Antpitta, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Crested Becard, Pale-legged Swallow, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Glossy-black Thrush, Spotted Nightingale-Thrush, Plush-capped Finch, Blue-backed Conebill, Blue-capped Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Rufous-sided & Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch.
ROUTE SIBERÍA – COCHABAMBA
We stopped many times en route from Comarapa - Cochabamba. The best part was c75 - 90km from Comarapa, where we just birded from the road. There was nothing special about the habitat, just fairly steep covered hillsides at c2600m, but we did see the endemics BLACK-THROATED THISTLETAIL, IQUICO CANASTERO, BOLIVIAN WARBLING-FINCH and CITRON-HEADED YELLOW-FINCH in this area.
Approximately 15km before you arrive in Cochabamba, you'll see the large Lago Angostura at the left-hand side of the road.
The dam in the lake is a good place to observe the numerous Andean Aquatic birds (see page 16).
Species seen en route included:
Andean Tinamou, Roadside Hawk, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Eared Dove, Picui Ground-Dove, Bare-faced Ground-Dove, Black-winged Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Eared Dove, Andean Swift, White-bellied Hummingbird, Giant Hummingbird, Red-tailed Comet, Scaled Metaltail, Andean Flicker, Rock Earthcreeper, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Rufous Hornero, BLACK-THROATED THISTLETAIL, IQUICO CANASTERO, Red-crested Cotinga, White-throated Tyrannulet, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, D’Orbigny’s Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-webbed Tyrant, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, Brown-bellied Swallow, Andean Swallow, Hellmayr’s Pipit, House Wren, Brown-backed Mockingbird, Chiguanco Thrush, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Pale-legged Warbler, Common Bush-Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, BOLIVIAN WARBLING-FINCH, Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch, Ringed Warbling-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, GRAY-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER, CITRON-HEADED YELLOW-FINCH, Great Pampa-Finch, Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch, Stripe-headed Brush-Finch, Golden-billed Saltator, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Black-backed Grosbeak, Bay-winged Cowbird.
Accommodation: A hotel in Cochabamba. Hotel Luxor was the best place we stayed.
With approximately 300,000 inhabitants, and the weather typical of Andean locations at 2550m Cochabamba is the third largest city in Bolivia at 2550m of altitude, a progressive city with a lovely climate of dry, warm, sunny days and cool nights. This city, situated in a natural sprawling amphitheatre surrounded by mountains, is well situated as a base for some key sites, although several of them such as the Chapare Road are quite a distance away.
Here, we divided our time among some of South America's classic birding destinations: the highlands of Cochabamba, the Chapare Road and Villa Tunari.
CERRO TUNARI/LIRIUNI ROAD (QUILLACOLLO ROAD)
The scrubs along the lower part of the road are excellent for passerines such as BOLIVIAN WARBLING-FINCH, COCHABAMBA MOUNTAIN-FINCH with one of the smallest ranges of any Bolivian endemics, GRAY-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER and BOLIVIAN BLACKBIRD.
A little higher, the endemic WEDGE-TAILED HILLSTAR and IQUICO CANASTERO can be found in the scrubs among the fields.
A Polylepis grove on the left side of the road at about 3500m is good for Polylepis specialists such as Giant Conebill and Tawny Tit-Spinetail. Rufous-bellied Saltator, known only from a few sites in northernmost Argentina and Bolivia, can also be seen here, as well as in the previous two zones.
The boulder-covered Puna grassland at about 4000m is good for Short-tailed Finch and several kinds of Ground-Tyrants.
The Liriuni Road to the Liriuni Hot Springs is similar, although we only spent a few hours here and could not make it to the Altiplano, because the (private) road was closed after a few kilometres.
We saw COCHABAMBA MOUNTAIN-FINCH and Rufous-bellied Saltator in the first three kilometres of the Liriuni Road after the junction (left is to Cerro Tunari and right is to Liriuni).
Species seen here included:
Andean Tinamou, Variable Hawk, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Bare-faced Ground-Dove, Black-winged Ground-Dove, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Giant Hummingbird, Red-tailed Comet, Andean Flicker, Green-barred Woodpecker, Plain-breasted Earthcreeper, Rock Earthcreeper, Bar-winged Cinclodes, White-winged Cinclodes, Rufous Hornero, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Creamy-breasted Canastero, Cordilleran Canastero, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Olive-crowned Crescent-chest, Red-crested Cotinga, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Cliff Flycatcher, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Rufous-webbed Tyrant, Puna Ground-Tyrant, Cinereous Ground-Tyrant, White-fronted Ground-Tyrant, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, Andean Swallow, House Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Chiguanco Thrush, Hooded Siskin, Brown-capped Redstart, Cinereous Conebill, Sayaca Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Black-hooded Sierra-Finch, Mourning Sierra-Finch, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, White-winged Diuca-Finch, Short-tailed Finch, BOLIVIAN WARBLING-FINCH, Rufous-sided Warbling-Finch, COCHABAMBA MOUNTAIN-FINCH, Ringed Warbling-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, GRAY-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER, Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch, Greenish Yellow-Finch, Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Golden-bellied Saltator, Rufous-bellied Saltator, Bay-winged Cowbird, BOLIVIAN BLACKBIRD.
Other species that can be seen here:
Torrent Duck, Puna Ibis, Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (very rare), Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Great Sapphirewing, WEDGE-TAILED HILLSTAR, Sparkling Violetear, Andean Parakeet, Andean Tapaculo, D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant, Brown-backed Mockingbird, White-capped Dipper, Giant Conebill, Plain-coloured Seedeater.
Lago Angostura is situated c15km from Cochabamba along the old Cochabamba – Santa Cruz road. Originally we had planned to spent a few hours at the more well known Laguna Alalay, but were so disappointed in the number of birds we did see there that after 10 minutes we decided to make another visit to this artificial lake. This lake holds numerous wildfowl, waders, rails etc.
Species seen here included:
Neotropic Cormorant, Great, Cattle & Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Comb Duck, Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, White-cheeked Pintail, Puna Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Andean Duck, Osprey, Plumbeous Rail, Common Moorhen, Slate-coloured Coot, Wattled Jacana, White-backed Stilt, Andean Avocet, American Golden-Plover, Collared Plover, Hudsonian Godwit, Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, Andean Gull, Picui Ground-Dove, Giant Hummingbird, White-tipped Plantcutter, Cliff Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Barn Swallow, Bank Swallow, Cliff Swallow, Blue-and-white Swallow, Short-billed Pipit, House Wren, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Gray-crested Finch, Saffron Finch.
Accommodation: A hotel in Cochabamba or a hotel in Villa Tunari.
The rough road from Cochabamba to the town of Villa Tunari (3500 – 500m) is considered to be one of the best birding sites in South America. Even though this road is not as extreme as the Coroico Road, because it re-ascends a couple of times before the final drop into the lowlands and because the pass, where it descends from, is not that high, it still cuts through the whole range of altitudinal forest types, from virtually untouched elfin forest down to the distant Amazonian lowlands.
This is due to the large extent of good forest remaining on the steep Andean slopes.
Lots of uncommon species are possible here, a/o Hooded Tinamou, Hooded Mountain-Toucan, YUNGAS TODY-TYRANT, Hazel-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant, all of which we missed. The Chapare Road shares many species with the Coroico Road and the frustration that access to the forest is very limited.
We concentrated our efforts in the following areas:
The pass above the cloud forest at 3500m is excellent for Swallow-tailed Nightjar. We did not try to find the bird as we had seen this bird in Ecuador in 1993 in the Cordillera de Huacamayos and because we had to be there before dawn.
The altitude is c3000m.
In the subtropical zone, many birds can be seen in the
vicinity of the
Just north of the village, a track going west offers another opportunity to get away from the traffic. The forest is also highly disturbed, but nevertheless excellent for birds and in my opinion this must be considered the best birding spot along the Chapare road. Our best bird in the Miguelito area was undoubtedly the White-eared Solitaire we saw well, perched at close quarters. Other birds we did see here were Blue-banded Toucanet, Straw-backed Tanager and Slaty Tanager.
On our way back from Villa Tunari we made a stop halfway between Miguelito and Tablas Montes and spent some time on a track on the eastside of the road where we saw Striped Treehunter and Plush-capped Finch.
Species seen here included:
Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Plain-breasted Hawk, Solitary Eagle, Roadside Hawk, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Band-tailed Pigeon, Plumbeous Pigeon, Red-billed Parrot, Black-winged Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared Swift, Gould’s Inca, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Blue-capped Puffleg, Versicoloured Barbet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Azara’s Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, Striped Treehunter, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Variable Antshrike, White-throated Antpitta, RUFOUS-FACED ANTPITTA, Red-crested Cotinga, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, White-crested Elaenia, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, Bolivian Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, Buff-banded Tyrannulet, White-banded Tyrannulet, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Masked Tityra, Blue-and-white Swallow, White-eared Solitaire, House Wren, Mountain Wren, Great Thrush, Andean Slaty-Thrush, Purplish Jay, Hooded Siskin, Spectacled Redstart, Blue-backed Conebill, Common Bush-Tanager, Three-striped Hemispingus, Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Slaty Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Straw-backed Tanager, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, GRAY-BELLIED FLOWERPIERCER, Masked Flowerpiercer, Rufous-naped Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Yellow-billed Cacique, Mountain Cacique, Dusky-green Oropendola, Russet-backed Oropendola.
Other species that can be seen here:
Hooded Tinamou, Little Tinamou, Sickle-winged Guan, Stripe-faced Wood-Quail, White-throated Quail-Dove, Andean Parakeet, Swallow-tailed Nightjar, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Crested & Golden-headed Quetzal, Rufous Motmot, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, BLACK-THROATED THISTLETAIL, Scaled & Undulated Antpitta, Yungas Manakin, Blue-backed Manakin, Round-tailed Manakin, Fiery-capped Manakin, YUNGAS TODY-TYRANT, Hazel-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Rufous Casiornis, Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Barred & Band-tailed Fruiteater, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, White-capped Dipper, Green Jay, Orange-browed Hemispingus, Two-banded Warbler, Olivaceous Siskin.
Accommodation: a wide range of hotels. Hotel El Puente, where we stayed is situated in a nice setting.
Around Villa Tunari (400m), a number of common tropical birds can be seen and a visit can be made to nearby Carrasco National Park where a cave lodges the southern most colony of Oilbirds. We only spent one hour on the grounds of our hotel.
Species seen here included:
Neotropic Cormorant, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Blue-headed Parrot, Smooth-billed Ani, White-necked Jacobin, Black-spotted Barbet, Rufous Hornero, Variegated Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Moustached Wren, Red-eyed Vireo, Flavescent Warbler, Blue-and-gray Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, White-lored Euphonia, Russet-backed Oropendola.
Accommodation: a hotel in Trinidad.
In 1992 the only presently known breeding area of the very rare BLUE-THROATED MACAW, once feared extinct in the
wild, was rediscovered on a large ranch near Trinidad in the Province of Bení. The Blue-throated Macaw is endemic to the lowland Bení region of Bolivia, and the results so far indicate an alarming situation where there could be fewer than 100 individuals of this species remaining in the wild state. The Bení region, reminiscent of the famous Pantanal of Brazil, is vast and almost entirely uninhabited, and is a virtually untapped fountain of wildlife.
We spent four days in this bird paradise.
LAGUNA SUAREZ ROAD
This road from Trinidad towards the rather commercialised lake is situated approximately 10km from Trinidad and goes through wet savannah abounding with birds. Not an essential site as the same birds can be seen along the road from Trinidad to Hacienda El Cutal. We spent a few hours here in the late afternoon.
Species seen here included:
Neotropic Cormorant, Whistling Heron, Cocoi Heron, Great, Snowy & Cattle Egret, Striated Heron, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Southern Screamer, Great Black-Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Southern Caracara, Limpkin, Wattled Jacana, Large-billed Tern, Golden-collared Macaw, Ringed Kingfisher, Greater Thornbird, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Rufous Hornero, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Brown-chested Martin, Gray-breasted Martin, White-winged Swallow, White-rumped Swallow, Black-capped Donacobius, Rusty-collared Seedeater, Lined Seedeater, White-bellied Seedeater, Saffron Finch, Red-crested Cardinal, Grayish Saltator, Solitary Cacique, Scarlet-headed Blackbird.
TRINIDAD – HACIENDA EL CUTAL ROAD (PAMPAS OF BENÍ)
This is the road going north from Trinidad towards San Ramon. The habitat en route is open flooded fields and scrubby pasture with occasional wet savannah interspersed with woodland. The region has a poor drainage, and in the wet season is susceptible to flooding We did not have the time to do the superb habitats real justice. On the first day we lost the whole morning, because it had rained like hell the evening before and the dirt road was closed till 11 o'clock before we could drive northwards. On the second day we did not have much time either, because we had spent too much time birding at Hacienda El Cutal. Nevertheless we had a huge bird list.
Species seen here included:
Greater Rhea, Small-billed Tinamou, Red-winged Tinamou, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Whistling Heron, Capped Heron, Cocoi Heron, Great, Snowy & Cattle Egret, Striated Heron, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Wood Stork, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Plumbeous Ibis, Buff-necked Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Green Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Southern Screamer, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Orinoco Goose, Muscovy Duck, Black & Turkey Vulture, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Snail Kite, Slender-billed Kite, Long-winged Harrier, Crane Hawk, Great Black-Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Southern Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Limpkin, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, South American Snipe, Collared Plover, Spotted & Solitary Sandpiper, Large-billed Tern, Pale-vented Pigeon, Picui & Ruddy Ground-Dove, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Golden-collared Macaw, White-eyed Parakeet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, White-chinned Sapphire, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Toco Toucan, White Woodpecker, Dot-fronted Woodpecker, Campo Flicker, Greater Thornbird, Common Thornbird, Rufous Hornero, Chotoy Spinetail, Gray-crested Cachalote, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Great Antshrike, Mato Grosso Antbird, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Vermilion Flycatcher, Gray Monjita, White-rumped Monjita, White Monjita, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Cattle Tyrant, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Brown-chested Martin, Gray-breasted Martin, White-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow,
Black-capped Donacobius, House Wren, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Pale-breasted Thrush, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Red-crested Finch, Blue-black Grassquit, Rusty-collared Seedeater, Lined Seedeater, White-bellied Seedeater, Saffron Finch, Red-crested Cardinal, Red-capped Cardinal, Grayish Saltator, Bay-winged Cowbird, Unicoloured Blackbird, Troupial, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Red-rumped Cacique, Solitary Cacique, Crested Oropendola, Scarlet-headed Blackbird.
HACIENDA EL CUTAL
Accommodation: Hacienda El Cutal.
The ambience and hospitality of a large, old-style hacienda where we stayed, were just some of the reasons why this region was the highlight of our trip. Hacienda El Cutal is a working cattle ranch: a modest 5,000-ha spread created when the paterfamilias split the original holding equally among his four children. Within this 20,000-ha area lies protected the world's only population of BLUE-THROATED MACAWS - maybe one hundred birds total.
To visit this and the neighbouring hacienda (La Esperanza) - and improve your chances of seeing the elusive macaw - you need to get in touch with Lyliam Gonzalez who runs a travel agency in Trinidad and can guide you around the ranches.
Even though the Blue-throated Macaw is the main attraction, many other exciting birds are found on the haciendas which - in addition to the palm "islands" favoured by Blue-throated Macaw - have the same savannah and woodland habitats as found along the road described above.
The potential is enormous - unfortunately we did not have enough time to fully explore it, mainly because the main attraction took considerably longer to find than we had anticipated.
Species seen here included:
Greater Rhea, Undulated Tinamou, Neotropic Cormorant, Anhinga, Whistling Heron, Capped Heron, Cocoi Heron, Great, Snowy & Cattle Egret, Striated Heron, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Wood Stork, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Plumbeous Ibis, Buff-necked Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Green Ibis, Orinoco Goose, Muscovy Duck, Black & Turkey Vulture, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Zone-tailed Hawk, Great Black-Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Southern Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Speckled Chachalaca, Limpkin, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Purple Gallinule, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, South American Snipe, Spotted & Solitary Sandpiper, Large-billed Tern, Pale-vented Pigeon, Picazuro Pigeon, Eared Dove, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Ruddy Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Gray-fronted Dove, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, BLUE-THROATED MACAW, Red-and-green Macaw, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Golden-collared Macaw, White-eyed Parakeet, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Little Cuckoo, Greater Ani, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, Great Horned Owl, Spot-tailed Nightjar, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Occelated Piculet, Campo Flicker, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Greater Thornbird, Rufous Hornero, Chotoy Spinetail, Gray-crested Cachalote, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Great Antshrike, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Gray Monjita, White Monjita, Cattle Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Black-tailed Tityra, Brown-chested Martin, Gray-breasted Martin, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Donacobius, Thrush-like Wren, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Purplish Jay, House Sparrow, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Sayaca Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Wing-barred Seedeater, Rusty-collared Seedeater, Lined Seedeater, Double-collared Seedeater, White-bellied Seedeater, Saffron Finch, Red-crested Cardinal, Red-capped Cardinal, Grayish Saltator, Unicoloured Blackbird, Troupial, Solitary Cacique, Crested Oropendola, Chopi Blackbird.
Other birds that can be seen in the Bení lowlands:
Crowned Eagle, Solitary Eagle, Hook-billed Kite, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Hoatzin, Sunbittern, Chaco Chachalaca, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Tropical Screech-Owl, Common Potoo, Nacunda Nighthawk, Little Nightjar, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Red-stained Woodpecker, Scale-breasted Woodpecker, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Plain-crowned Spinetail, Plain Softtail, Chestnut-winged Foliage-Gleaner, Short-billed Leaftosser, Barred Antshrike, Rusty-backed Antwren, Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant, Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Dull-capped Attila, Lesser Kiskadee, Fawn-breasted Wren, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Masked Yellowthroat, Black-and-white Seedeater, Marsh Seedeater, Velvet-fronted Grackle, Bobolink.
LA PAZ AREA
Nestling in a gaping canyon at an altitude of 3600m below the snow-capped Mount Illimani (6400m), La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. This picturesque city is well situated as a base for some key sites.
Accommodation: A hotel in La Paz or Coroico
Some of the most stunning habitat diversity and vertical scenery South America has to offer are in the terrifying Yungas roads. This Yungas road drops down 3000m in just 60km from the La Cumbre mountain pass to Coroico village.
This “world’s steepest road” connects the high Andean city La Paz with the tropical lowlands to the north of it, making a dramatic descent and passing through the whole set of habitats from Puna to lowland rainforests.
Leaving La Paz, the road climbs up for about 15km all the way to “La Cumbre” (the summit), which is where the pass is.
Right next to it is an artificial lake bordering the road in the midst of bleak Puna.
One or two kilometres before the pass, a small vehicle track leads to the right over low hills. Behind the hills is an extensive cushion bog, at about 4650m. Just before the statue of Christ on the pass itself, a vehicle track leads up to the left, into barren terrain of black scree with little artificial lakes, at 4700 - 5000m. During our visit we encountered Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes here.
Species seen at La Cumbre included:
Silvery Grebe, Andean Goose, Speckled Teal, Crested Duck, Mountain Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Andean Lapwing, Baird's Sandpiper, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Andean Gull, Slender-billed Miner, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Streak-throated Canastero, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Cinereous Ground-Tyrant, White-fronted Ground-Tyrant, Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant, Andean Negrito, Andean Swallow, White-winged Diuca-Finch, Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch.
We did not have time to visit the Pongo (3650m) area near the food stalls. This montane site holds amongst others Scribble-tailed Canastero, White-browed Tapaculo, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant, Blue-mantled and Olivaceous Thornbill.
At Cotapata (3000m) some 5km before the very dangerous stretch starts at Chuspipata, a trail at the petrol station of Cotapata leads into the temperate forest. Follow this trail, as it descends into the valley and carries on and on. It is the best site for the newly described (1992) Diademed Tapaculo. (Sjoerd Mayer's website http://www.bolivianbeauty.com/).
We had very little time at this site because of our packed itinerary, due to the day we lost in the Bení lowlands.
Species seen at Cotapata included:
Mountain Caracara, Speckle-faced Parrot, Gould's Inca, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, BLACK-THROATED THISTLETAIL, Pearled Treerunner, Diademed Tapaculo, Barred Fruiteater, White-throated Tyrannulet, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Cliff Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Great Thrush, Brown-bellied Swallow, Spectacled Redstart, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Orange-browed Hemispingus, Drab Hemispingus, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Ant-Tanager, Rufous-naped Brush-Finch.
Other birds that can be seen at Cotapata:
Scaly-naped Parrot, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Rufous-banded Owl Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Crested & Golden-headed Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Hooded Mountain-Toucan, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Light-crowned Spinetail, Rufous Antpitta, Barred Antthrush, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Band-tailed Fruiteater, Andean Solitaire, Collared Jay, Grass-green Tanager, Three-striped Hemispingus, Golden-collared Tanager, Moustached Flowerpiercer, Citrine Warbler, Yellow-billed Cacique.
NB: The stretch of road from Chuspipata – Coroico is no longer a one way system from, whereby traffic is allowed down from early morning till mid afternoon and traffic up is limited to late afternoon and night. It was made for a much safer drive along one of the world's most impressive and dangerous roads. Now again it is a two-way road (drive on the left-hand side of road, because the traffic flow is reversed here!) and still is the very dangerous road, as it was in the past!
This road is so narrow that trucks and buses occupy it's entire width and you have to step aside on the edge of the precipice, and this stepping aside and traffic noise continuously drowning bird sounds make the road a very unpleasant birding experience.
COROICO - HOTEL LA FINCA
Accommodation: Hotel La Finca or a hotel in Coroico town.
Hotel La Finca is situated c8km from Coroico. Behind the hotel grounds there is a trailhead (past the chalets). Follow a concrete water channel past a pool and then a quite clear very steep trail leads up onto the forested mountainside.
We only spent two hours in the late afternoon at this place.
Species seen here included:
Black Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Speckled Chachalaca, Green-cheeked Parakeet, Red–billed Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Spectacled Owl, Tropical Screech-Owl, Booted Racket-tail, Versicoloured Barbet, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Upland Antshrike, Yungas Manakin, Large Elaenia, Short-crested Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow, Thrush-like Wren, House Wren, Brown-capped Redstart, Spectacled Redstart, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Sayaca Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Palm Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Double-collared Seedeater, Solitary Cacique, Dusky-green Oropendola.
Other species that can be seen here:
Andean Guan, White-faced Quail-Dove, Planalto Hermit, Masked Trogon, Blue-banded Toucanet, Black-streaked Puffbird, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Wedge-billed, Spot-crowned & Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Montane & Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner, White-backed Fire-eye, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Barred & Short-tailed Antthrush, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Capped Conebill, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Scarlet-breasted & Ban-tailed Fruiteater, White-eared Solitaire, Three-striped & Russet-crowned Warbler, Black-eared Hemispingus, Blue-naped Chlorophonia.
Accommodation: A hotel in La Paz or a hotel along the shore of the lake.
This vast lake straddles the border with Peru amid the Cordillera Real, which boasts more than 600 peaks over 5000m.
The rarest of the lake residents of this high altitude wetland habitat is the flightless SHORT-WINGED GREBE, which is endemic to Titicaca and Lake Poopo in the Bolivian Altiplano
Species seen here included
Ornate Tinamou, White-tufted Grebe, SHORT-WINGED GREBE, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Puna Ibis, Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Puna Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Andean Duck, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Common Moorhen, Slate-coloured Coot, White-backed Stilt, Andean Lapwing, Greater Yellowlegs, Andean Gull, Franklin’s Gull, Eared Dove, Bare-faced Ground-Dove, Sparkling Violetear, Andean Flicker, White-winged Cinclodes, Barn Swallow, Andean Swallow, Correndera Pipit, House Wren, Chiguanco Thrush, Black Siskin, Cinereous Conebill, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Mourning Sierra-Finch, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Yellow-winged Blackbird.
Other species that can be seen here:
Mountain Parakeet, Spot-winged Pigeon, Andean Hillstar, Puna Canastero, Slender-billed Miner, D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird, Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant, Black-Billed Shrike-Tyrant, Plain-coloured Seedeater
Thursday 25thOctober/Friday 26th October
A long flight to Bolivia with Varig was a conventional enough start to our journey. We had a short respite in our trip with a stopover at Frankfurt and an arrival at São Paulo in the early morning. We then transferred to an onward connection to Santa Cruz de la Sierra in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia. We arrived at a very windy Viru-Viru airport in Santa Cruz at 11.30 o'clock in the morning. We hired two 4WD-cars at Hertz and then booked rooms in the attractive, modern Hotel Royal with comfortable air-conditioned rooms and very friendly service.
After a short rest and a drink our trip began with an exploration of the old Jardín Botánico in Santa Cruz. We spent a few hours in the very noisy "botanical garden" and we then found out we were at the wrong place. Amongst the birds we encountered here were Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, numerous Guira Cuckoos, Ashy-tailed Swift, Spot-backed Puffbird, Rufous Casiornis, Lesser Elaenia, Red-crested Finch, Grassland Yellow-Finch and Solitary Cacique. Now to help us with our jetlag we needed our bed desperately and we returned fairly early to our hotel and luckily were not disturbed by noisy guests during the night.
Saturday 27th October
We began the day with some stormy skies, which were only a hint at what the day had in store- but then again late October in Bolivia is always risky with the beginning of the rainy season. We visited nearby Lómas de Arena. Here in the grassy savannahs interspersed with stands of semi-deciduous woodland we found a wide diversity of birds. Some of the best ones were White-bellied Nothura, Red-legged Seriema, White Woodpecker, Chotoy Spinetail, a very late austral migrant Hudson's Black-Tyrant, Yellowish Pipit, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Tawny-bellied & Dark-throated Seedeater and White-browed Blackbird.
We then headed to the nearby Kim's Golf Course and had a very cheap lunch at the restaurant. On the golf course, the ponds and in the bushes near the river we found amongst others Pied-billed Grebe, Yellow-billed Tern, Burrowing Owl, Wedge-tailed Grassfinch and Gray-and-chestnut Seedeater.
In the late afternoon we drove to the 'new' Jardín Botánico, but found out that the garden was closed. Very disappointed we decided to make a stroll in the forest behind the nearby Memorial Park.
It was not a complete waist of time and amongst the birds seen here were goodies such as Blue-crowned Trogon, Black-fronted Nunbird, Black-backed Grosbeak and Crested Oropendola.
We returned to Santa Cruz, got hopelessly lost in the centre of town, because all the streets in the town seemed to be blocked by a "fiesta" and eventually found our hotel with the help of a taxi-driver.
Sunday 28th October
We started the day at the now open Santa Cruz Botanical Gardens. The open areas of the central area provided good looks at a number of species. Some of these species were White Woodpecker, Green-cheeked Parakeet, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Straight-billed Woodcreeper and Crowned Slaty Flycatcher. In the native woodlands at the back of the area we found Collared Forest-Falcon, Gray-headed Kite, Hauxwell's Thrush, Hooded Tanager and Plush-crested Jay, among others. In the afternoon we left the eastern lowlands and drove west along the "old highway" into the Andean foothills to Samaipata.
En route we made a stop at Laguna Volcán and discovered that the track to the lagoon was very rough and steep.
I was rewarded with 14 Masked Ducks, a bird I had dipped in Texas and on all my nine previous Neotropic trips.
Other birds of note we did see were Plumbeous Kite, Blue-crowned Trogon, Two-banded Warbler and Guira Tanager.
At 6.00 p.m. we arrived at Samaipata and checked in a wonderful lodge, La Víspera, at the left backside of the town, bordering the hills.
Monday 29th October
An early morning stroll at the lodge turned up White-bellied Hummingbird, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, White-faced Dove, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Tyrant. Our next birding stop was near a waterfall (Puente El Fuerte) several km up the road where we located 2 Sharp-tailed Streamcreepers, along with Planalto Hermit that Vital spotted, Highland Elaenia, several other species of Flycatchers, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Masked Yellowthroat as well as 20 other species.
Hereafter we headed to El Fuerte, a nearby pre-Inca ceremonial site. We paid the US$3 entrance fee per person and explored the area of well preserved woodland behind the ruins, which deserved more time than we had.
Although it was very windy and the smaller birds refused to behave we managed to observe Striped Cuckoo, Sclater's Tyrannulet, Pale-edged Flycatcher and Swainson's Thrush.
Highlight of the day however was the sight of four Andean Condors sailing over the rocky crags near the impressive ruins of this Inca site.
In the late afternoon we did the famous pipeline-trail at Samaipata. Birding along this trail was easy but we did not see many species and once again the wind kept the smaller birds in hiding. Birds seen here included Tataupa Tinamou, American Pygmy-Kingfisher, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Bran-Coloured Flycatcher and Ultramarine Grosbeak.
We dipped Slaty Gnateater and Giant Antshrike, although the latter we had already seen on our 1994 Argentina trip.
As dusk fell we walked back to the village and then drove a little bit disappointed to our cabañas at La Víspera.
Tuesday 30th October
On a very rainy morning we headed westwards to the American missionary school at Tambo. We made many stops en route, mostly in areas of cactus-dominated scrub and despite the rain we had a very productive day seeing no less than 81 species. The stops were good for new ones like Speckled Hummingbird, Slender-tailed Woodstar, White-fronted Woodpecker, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, many bizarre-looking White-tipped Plantcutters, Greater Wagtail-Tyrant, Masked Gnatcatcher, Purple-throated Euphonia, Gray-crested Finch, Black-and-chestnut, Black-capped & Ringed Warbling-Finch and great looks at Rufous-capped Antshrike and Variable Antshrike.
Just before we arrived at San Isidro we saw a couple of skulking endemic Bolivian Earthcreepers along the road.
The last hour of the day we spent in a cactus-cled desert valley on the road between Tambo and Comarapa and luck was with us as we spotted another targetbird, a group of 6 birds of the endangered and endemic Red-fronted Macaw.
With our main targets firmly under our belt we returned to Tambo and arrived at dusk at the famous missionary school, our base for the next three nights.
Wednesday 31st October
A very early start the following morning found us at the productive cloud forests of Sibería. As it turned out the first 100m of the forest were the best. In less than a quarter of an hour we added Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Blue-capped Puffleg, Scaled Metaltail, Long-tailed Sylph, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-throated Tyrannulet, Brown-capped Redstart, Pale-legged Warbler, Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Rufous-naped Brush-Finch and Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch to our trip list.
Later on thick mists swirled around the epiphyte-clad trees creating a myriad of strange shapes and sometimes we really didn’t see anything. We spent most of the day at Sibería and amongst the birds we encountered later on were the endemic Black-hooded Sunbeam, Masked Trogon, Light-crowned Spinetail, Red-crested Cotinga, Trilling Tapaculo, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Andean Tyrant, Mountain Wren, Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch, Gray-bellied Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer and Stripe-headed Brush-Finch.
We also had well earned, long stares at the three-note whistling, elusive Rufous-faced Antpitta, which was a first for everyone of course.
We had a good and very cheap dinner at the Hotel Paraiso in Comarapa. Later that evening we ventured out from the missionary school for a spotlighting trip and had incredible views of one of South America's fanciest Nightjars, the Scissor-tailed, the males of which have a 30cm long tail.
Thursday 1st November
At the Serrania de Sibería it was a chilly 10o C with dense clouds, wind and periodic rain. Not a good day for birders but typical for this habitat as we had found out since yesterday.
We spent all morning in the cloud forest and many of the birds here were the same as we saw yesterday, but inevitably we found a few new ones amongst them Andean Guan, Buff-browed Foliage-Gleaner, White-browed Conebill and Citrine Warbler. However the absolute highlight of the day was the rare Chestnut-crested Cotinga that performed so incredibly well. Returning once more to Tambo we had time for a visit to a scrubby arid canyon and got excellent looks at Darwin's Nothura, Striped Woodpecker and Streak-fronted Thornbird, among many other species.
Friday 2nd November
Next day, our first stop on the long drive to the old city of Cochabamba yielded smashing views of the endemic Black-throated Thistletail and Iquico Canastero. Short stops added Andean Tinamou, Rock Earthcreeper, a rare Rufous-webbed Bush-Tyrant, the endemic Bolivian Warbling-Finch and Citron-headed Yellow-Finch to the list.
In the late afternoon we had some time exploring an artificial lake (Lago Angostura) not far from Cochabamba.
This turned out to be our best day for waterfowl. We saw Yellow-billed, White-cheeked, Cinnamon and Puna Teal and Andean Duck. We also had Plumbeous Rail at close range along with Slate-coloured Coot, White-backed Stilt and Andean Avocet. At 6.30 p.m. we arrived at Cochabamba and booked rooms in Hotel Diplomat.
The excellent meal at the very luxurious hotel added a few centimetres or so to everyone's waistline!
Saturday 3rd November
We left Cochabamba at 6 o'clock and we were soon in the dry Andean valley above Quillacolla where stands of mature Polylepis woodland still existed. This is referred to as the Cerro Tunari Road. We went up to 5000m before turning around.
We started the day by locating the endemic Bolivian Blackbird and Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant. Higher up we added Olive-crested Crescent-chest (thank you Jos), Plain-breasted Earthcreeper and Brown-capped & Tawny Tit-Spinetail to our trip list.
At a grove of loosely clad Polylepis trees the Giant Conebill did not respond to my tape and although I tried it several times we dipped, a good thing we had seen the bird in 1993 in the Cordillera de Huacamayos in Ecuador.
At higher altitude a Short-tailed Finch played hide-and-seek amongst some big boulders and we saw no less than five species of Sierra-Finch here.
At our next stop far above the treeline at the boggy páramo of Cerro Tunari we came across three species of Ground-Tyrants: Puna, Cinereous and the large White-fronted.
It was in the late afternoon that we finally located at the Polylepis woodland our main targets: the endemic Cochabamba Mountain-Finch and the rare Rufous-bellied Saltator, a bird we had dipped on our Argentina trip.
We returned to the city of Cochabamba to have a splendid meal at restaurant La Estancia - 11 lifers today, life could be worse.
Sunday 4th November
Dawn the next morning saw us at the Chapare Road. Our first stop was at the top of the pass near the "restaurants" San Isidro & Cañado". We saw 20 species in a flock of which Gould's Inca, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Blue-backed Conebill, Three-striped Hemispingus, Hooded & Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-capped, Blue-and-black and Golden-naped Tanager and Masked Flower-Piercer were new to the trip.
Several more kilometres down the road we made a stop at the Tablas Monte area. Personally I found this track along this upper montane "secondary" forest very disappointing although we had good views of Solitary Eagle and Olive-sided Flycatcher here.
We stopped at the semi-disturbed middle montane forest (km98.5) named Miguelito, for the nearby town. We made a long walk along the substation trail. We were there fairly late in the afternoon but we did add several species including Blue-banded Toucanet, Black-winged Parrot, Versicoloured Barbet, Bolivian Tyrannulet, Buff-banded Tyrannulet, White-eared Solitaire, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Slaty Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, the rare Straw-backed Tanager and Beryl-spangled Tanager.
We spent the night outside the village of Villa Tunari in the very charming Hotel El Puente, located by the Chapare River in a lush tropical valley.
Monday 5th November
Our pre-breakfast birding around the hotel produced amongst other things Blue-headed Parrot, White-necked Jacobin, Black-spotted Barbet, Masked Tityra and White-lored Euphonia.
We had planned to bird all day in the Villa Tunari area, but while having breakfast the manager of the hotel told us that there would be trouble tomorrow on the Chapare Road, because local farmers threatened to block the road.
Their action would cost us several interesting species (alas) and made for a quick departure from our hotel in Villa Tunari.
We headed back to the Chapare Road and everywhere there were soldiers and police patrolling along the road. The soldiers frequently stopped us, but they were very friendly when they saw that we were tourists.
We were rather late at the montane forest and we stopped at several places along the road. During the course of the day we added some nice quality sightings, such as Azara's Spinetail, Striped Treehunter, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Rufous-faced Antpitta, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Andean Slaty-Thrush, Blue-naped Chlorophonia and Plush-capped Finch.
En route to Cochabamba we had our second flat tyre of the day, but we arrived just before dark in the city and booked rooms in the very cosy Hotel Luxor.
Tuesday 6th November
The morning of this day was unexpectedly reserved to visit the Liriuni Road to try to find the endemic Wedge-tailed Hillstar and the Giant Conebill, which we again failed to find.
We then visited the inner city Lake Alalay of Cochabamba, our second disappointment of the day. Hardly any birds and some real troublesome youngsters.
We then decided to drive to nearby Lago Angostura and it provided a very nice afternoon of birding with great scope looks at some of the Andean Aquatic birds like Roseate Spoonbill, Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Puna Teal, Andean Duck, Slate-coloured Coot and Collared Plover.
A lifer from our hotel room was a real surprise the next morning when Eric spotted a Rusty Flowerpiercer in the trees in front of our hotel. This morning we flew to the bustling town of Trinidad. This town is in the centre of the Bení Pampas, cattle rancher country, extending into the Brazilian Pantanal.
Greeting us upon our arrival in Trinidad was Lyliam. Eagerly shaking hands, carrying luggage, helping people onto the truck, and generally exuding enthusiasm.
Lyliam transported us to Hotel Hostería, just outside town and en route to Hacienda El Cutal. She told us that our LAB-flight on Saturday to Cochabamba probably would be cancelled!
In the early afternoon we made a stroll in the vicinity of the hotel. We added a considerable number of species to the list here including Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Limpkin, White-eyed Parakeet, Greater Thornbird, Gray-chested Cachalote, Red-billed Scythebill, Rusty-collared Seedeater, White-bellied Seedeater and Unicoloured Blackbird.
Then we hired a taxi to nearby Laguna Suarez. We birded the extensive wetlands along this road that had birds and mosquitoes all over. Amongst the birds were Whistling Heron, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Southern Screamer, Great Black-Hawk, Black-collared Hawk, Golden-collared Macaw, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, White-winged & White-rumped Swallow, Black-capped Donacobius and the beautiful Scarlet-headed Blackbird. Then dark clouds gathered overhead and the first drops of rain started to fall and this wasn't too much fun and we quit early after everyone got fairly wet.
When we had dinner at our hotel, Lyliam phoned us that we had to wait till nine o'clock next morning before we could leave, because it had rained all evening. The dirt road to Hacienda El Cutal would certainly be closed!
Thursday 8th November
Next morning a pre-breakfast stroll around the hotel produced amongst other things Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Toco Toucan, Dot-fronted Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Great Antshrike, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Pale-breasted Thrush, Troupial and Yellow-winged Cacique.
At 9 a.m. we left the city of Trinidad with our Blue-throated Macaw guide Lyliam Gonzalez in an open air Safari truck.
The rain had continued until midnight and it took several hours of morning sun to dry the road. We had to wait till 11 a.m. before we got permission to drive to the Blue-throated Macaw base ranch El Cutal. It was a 100km drive over dirt roads through wetlands, pasture, palm savannah and fantastic birding. This part of the Bení looks like the Llanos grasslands of Venezuela or the Pantanal of Brazil, and it is as rich or richer in birdlife than either. Our first full day in the Bení department turned out to be our trip big day with 108 birds seen by the five of us.
Most noteworthy birds we encountered were Greater Rhea, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Plumbeous & Green Ibis, Long-winged Harrier, Crane Hawk, South American Snipe, Mato Grosso Antbird, Gray, White-rumped & White Monjita. White Caymans and Capybaras were also around, though vary and shy and most of the time speedily getting away splashing in the water when approached. We also found a dead Anaconda alongside the road.
After five hours driving we arrived at the hacienda. All five of us were accommodated in the owner's house. We then made a stroll around the hacienda and added Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Rufous-throated Sapphire and Screaming Cowbird to our trip list. When it was dark we discovered a Great Horned Owl on the top of the television antenna and many very large toads on the veranda. The ranch staff was great and the food was surprisingly good given the isolation of the hacienda.
Friday 9th November
During dinner last night Lyliam had said, "We'll leave at 4 a.m. tomorrow. We don't want to miss a possible early macaw flight." This morning at El Cutal was a bit of a nail-biter. It had rained like hell the evening before and had turned the dirt road into a quagmire, so we weren't sure whether we would make it to the macaw site. Nevertheless we departed and our spotlight picked up the glimpse of a Crab-eating Fox, a Spot-tailed Nighthawk and several unidentified Nightjars along the roadside, before our truck got stuck to its axles in the mud. Lyliam radioed to the ranch and an hour later a tractor arrived and… also got stuck in the mud, even deeper than our truck!
Lyliam again talked with the ranch and 1½ hour later a bunch of cowboys with ten horses arrived and they managed to pull our truck out of the mud. It was impossible to reach the macaw-site by truck, so Lyliam suggested making the trip by horse!
First I refused, but when I realised that I would dip the macaws I agreed to this more basic mode of transport, the first time in my life. It took us almost three hours across this wild inundated savannah landscape, before we arrived at the small islands of palm-dominated forest in the middle of a flat plain.
I worried that we might not see the macaws, but I need not have worried. Within 30 minutes we had a pair flying above the forest and Eric spied the pair perched high in the forest canopy and we were eye-to-eye with one of the world's rarest macaws. They even turned around for front and back views. Their big, dark blue throats and patches of bubble-gum pink skin at the base of their lower mandibles stood out perfectly.
On the three hour-long ride back to our ranch quarters we saw many birds amongst them Orinoco Goose, Aplomado Falcon, Speckled Chachalaca, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Red-and-green Macaw, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Little Cuckoo, Pale-crested & Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher and Great Pampa-Finch.
Just before nightfall we arrived at the ranch, tired and with a very sore bottom. Luckily, Juanita the cook of the hacienda had again made a delicious meal.
The next morning we were supposed to drive back at the unearthly hour of 3.30 for Trinidad, but Lyliam got a radio-call that night that confirmed that our flight to Cochabamba had been delayed until Sunday 13.30 p.m.
Saturday 10th November
After some much-needed sleep we were up well before dawn and spent all morning in the surroundings of the ranch.
We had great looks at many birds especially Undulated Tinamou, Plain-breasted Ground-Dove, Occelated Piculet and Yellow-bellied Elaenia. In a group of White-bellied & Rusty-collared Seedeaters we had excellent views of 2 Wing-barred Seedeaters, a species probably never seen before in this country.
In the afternoon driving back to Trinidad we stopped many times. In this bird paradise highlights were many amongst them Small-billed Tinamou, Capped Heron, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Red-capped Cardinal and a Pink River Dolphin at a river crossing. We again spent the night at Hotel Hostería in Trinidad.
Sunday 11th November
This morning we went for a short time to nearby Loma Suarez, an area not far from the airport and full with mosquitoes. Amongst the birds seen were Slender-billed Kite, Piratic Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, Black-billed Thrush and Yellow-rumped Cacique.
Leaving the Bení lowlands behind we flew to Cochabamba and from there to the capital La Paz. We arrived at 18.15 in La Paz for our last part of the trip in the high thin air of the Andes. We checked into the Hotel Calacoto, close to the Hertz office. A great dinner at the hotel, voted by all participants as the best accommodations during the trip, fuelled us up for the next day ahead.
Monday 12th November
We lost a few hours when we discovered that the Hertz office was closed until 9.00. Later we drove across the Altiplano to marshy sections of the shores of famous Lago Titicaca.
We did find no less than 17 near endemic flightless Short-winged Grebes. We also conservatively estimated 500 Franklin’s Gulls on the lake and saw many other waterbirds. Others new for the trip were Sparkling Violetear, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Black Siskin and Yellow-winged Blackbird. Due to the time we lost this morning we decided again to alter our itinerary and cancel our plans to drive to Sorata, the place to find the endemic Berschlep’s Canastero. It bit disappointed we returned to La Paz having our third flat tyre of the trip.
Tuesday 13th November
Our final destination was the Coroico Road and we set out to drive up to La Cumbre. As we reached the summit, the mountains and the valley to the east were clear. We drove two kilometres into the track behind the statue of Christ on the pass itself and explored the area near a small artificial lake. Many of the species we did see here were the same birds seen at Cerro Tunari, but we also had excellent views of a group of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes and Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant.
We then continued to the petrol station of Cotapata and explored the trail that lead into the temperate forest. We followed this trail, as it descended into the valley.
Here we scored on the Diademed Tapaculo, Speckle-faced Parrot, Barred Fruiteater and Superciliaried & Drab Hemispingus. The Diademed Tapaculo gave us a very hard time. Despite having a very loud song it proved to be an accomplished skulker and getting more than a fleeting glimpse of this bird required a great deal of perseverance.
We fully agreed that the next part of the Coroico Road is the world’s most dangerous road. We had to stop many times in hairpin bends, while driving on the left-hand side of the road and here and there passing directly under a waterfall.
In the late afternoon we arrived in Coroico and headed to Hotel La Finca, a few kilometres east of the town. We checked in and made a stroll in the tropical forest behind the gardens of the hotel. This forest yielded amongst others Booted Racket-tail, Bronzy Inca, Versicoloured Barbet, Upland Antshrike, Yungas Manakin, Large Elaenia and Short-crested Flycatcher. Just before dinner we heard Spectacled Owl and Tropical Screech-Owl, but could not locate them.
Wednesday 14th November/Thursday 15th November
We began our last day in the field by driving the dangerous Coroico Road to Cotapata. At Cotapata we saw many of the same species as the previous day but added Orange-browed Hemispingus. At La Cumbre we headed up over the mountain to check out a large bog for Puna Snipe. We found a fairly new road coming into the bog and large trenches draining the bog with significant portions already cut for peat. We did not find the snipe but our last additions to the trip list were Slender-billed Miner, Streak-throated Canastero and Andean Negrito. We then returned to the airport of La Paz and at 14.10 p.m. we left Bolivia and flew via Santa Cruz, São Paulo and London to Brussels.
I think we all agreed that the trip was a success. We identified 508 species during these 20 days, and saw 505 of these.
Yes, the Bení Department was buggy at times- more with mosquitoes, but nothing unbearable. We had some rain, but I think we all knew we could have had a lot more. Most of the rain fell during non-birding hours, so can’t complain too much.
This was indeed one of the best trips of the last five years and Bolivia offers some of the best birdwatching I have ever experienced. I ended up with 108 lifers, probably the last time I will ever have that many ticks on a Neotropic birding trip.
The outstanding highlight of the entire trip for me were undoubtedly the male Scissor-tailed Nightjars watched at night in the powerful beam of Eric's hand-held lamp as they flew several times over our head at Tambo.
My ten best birds of the trip? Short-winged Grebe, Masked Duck, Solitary Eagle, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Blue-throated Macaw, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Rufous-faced Antpitta, White-eared Solitaire, Straw-backed Tanager and Rufous-bellied Saltator, most of them not endemics, but lifers all of course.
My biggest disappointment was dipping the Hooded Mountain-Toucan, but you cannot have them all as I have experienced so many times during my 20 years of birding abroad.
Chaam, 3 January 2002,
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4861 AH Chaam
Telephone: (31) – 161 - 491327
- Systematic List of Birds
- Systematic List of Mammals