Colombia Uncovered - Southern Andes, Amazonian Foothills and Llanos


Dates and Costs

 

08 – 24 February 2025

Price: US$8,290 / £6,871 / €8,125 per person sharing, based on 4-8 participants
Single Supplement: US$990 / £821 / €970

 

* Please note that currency conversion is calculated in real-time, therefore is subject to slight change. Please refer back to the base price when making final payments.

 


Recommended Field Guide

(Please also read our blogs about recommended field guides for the seven continents here)


Tour Details

Duration: 17 days
Group Size: 4 – 8
Tour Start: Cali
Tour End: Bogotá


Price includes:

Transfers from the airport to the hotel and back to the airport
All accommodation
All meals (except meals on Day 1 & Day 17)
All private land transportation including 4×4 vehicle for safari trips
Tour leader fees
Local guides fees
Entrances and admission fees
All activities described in the itinerary

 

Price excludes:

International and domestic flights
Medical and travel cancelation insurances
Personal expenses such as laundry services, drinks, alcoholic drinks
Any activity not described in the itinerary such as city tours, visiting cultural sites and any place not described in the itinerary
Gratuities (please see our tipping guidelines blog)

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Colombia Uncovered: Southern Andes, Amazonian Foothills and Llanos
February 2025

 

We are proud to introduce to you our fantastic Colombia birdwatching trip, Colombia Uncovered: Southern Andes, Amazonian Foothills and Llanos. This exciting Colombia birding tour is one of several trips we offer to this amazing country, the planet’s richest country for birds, with almost 2,000 species recorded. If you have enjoyed our classic The Very Best of Colombia: Santa Marta, Andes and Chocó birding tour (which immediately precedes this tour) and/or our Bogotá and Medellín endemics birding tour (which takes place in October), then this third tour is a great choice for another fantastic birding adventure with Birding Ecotours.

This trip provides the opportunity to travel across Colombia along a completely different route compared to our classic itinerary above. We will start the trip in the city of Cali, and after visiting a new private reserve, where we should get excellent views of two Colombian endemics, Chestnut Wood Quail and Multicolored Tanager, as they regularly visit bird feeders here, we will then travel south to Nariño and Putumayo states to enjoy further unique birding experiences.

Colombian birding tours
We will look for a family of Chestnut Wood Quails in Reserva La Florida (photo Gilberto Collazos).

 

One of the highlights of the tour will be visiting the Páramo de Bordoncillo on a quest to find the poorly known and localized Chestnut-bellied Cotinga. This species was only recently rediscovered, and the area we visit for it is one of the few spots on Earth to see this awesome bird. Together with the Peruvian endemics, White-cheeked Cotinga and Bay-vented Cotinga, this species is considered a “Holy Grail bird” among cotinga fans and South American bird lovers; honestly, it is one you should just not miss! Other interesting species here include Golden-plumed Parakeet, Black-headed Hemispingus, Carunculated Caracara and the majestic Andean Condor, which is relatively easy to photograph near its roosting cliffs. Another highlight of this tour is visiting the Llanos, now inaccessible in Venezuela but within reach in Colombia (not everyone knows this!), but more about this below!

Heading south, we will reach the humid montane forest of a fascinating geographical part of the continent: the point where the Andes mountain chain, that runs south to north, splits into three different cordilleras. This unique geography is perhaps the most important reason why Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. Indeed, Colombia has more bird species than any other country, only seven less than the magical 2,000!

We will drive along the infamous Trampolin Road, which will take us from the cloudforest to the upper tropical Amazon lowlands. In the mountains, we will look for the near-endemic and sought-after White-rimmed Brushfinch, another huge target of this trip. While looking for this sought-after bird, we should also be rewarded with massive mixed-species feeding flocks which hold species such as Blue-browed Tanager, Golden Tanager, Bronze-green Euphonia, Orange-eared Tanager and Golden-collared Honeycreeper. Other species in these lush mountains include classics such as Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Dusky Piha, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and the beautiful White-capped Tanager.

The upper tropical forest where the Andes meets the Amazon will provide a feast of birds such as Coppery-chested Jacamar and other avian jewels including White-eared Jacamar, Brown Jacamar, White-chinned Jacamar, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Amazonian Umbrellabird, White-chested Puffbird, Western Striolated Puffbird, Black-streaked Puffbird, Scaled Fruiteater, Vermilion Tanager and Golden-collared Toucanet.

Colombia birding tours
The Amazonian foothills provide for another new set of birds (photo Oswaldo Cortez).

 

The lowlands will provide birds like Horned Screamer, Plum-throated Cotinga, Cream-colored Woodpecker, White-throated Toucan, White-eared Jacamar, Long-billed Woodcreeper and the most-wanted Rufous-headed Woodpecker. With luck, we may see Amazon (Pink) River Dolphins in the Putumayo River. After several days exploring the Mocoa and Putumayo lowlands, we will take a domestic flight to Bogotá (Colombia’s capital) where we will stay overnight, followed by a full morning to explore La Florida Park looking for more Colombian endemics such as Bogota Rail, Apolinar’s Wren and Silvery-throated Spinetail. In the afternoon, we will fly to Yopal, the gateway of the Colombian Llanos.

Los Llanos are vast tropical grassland plains nourished by the waters of the Orinoco River. This habitat represents an amazing bird and wildlife refuge in northwestern South America. It is reminiscent of the Pantanal in Brazil, due to its high density of aquatic bird species. It was a popular destination among birdwatchers and nature lovers visiting Venezuela in previous decades, but due to the current political and social situation in the country, Venezuela is less popular to visit. The good news, however, is that you can still visit Los Llanos and not miss this incredible habitat, shared by only Colombia and Venezuela.

Colombia birding tours
We will find large congregations of waterbirds while in Los Llanos (photo Alejandro Grajales).

 

While in Los Llanos we will use the famous Juan Solito Lodge as a base where we will spend three days looking for the localized Pale-headed Jacamar, Orange-fronted Yellow Finch, Two-banded Puffbird, Masked Cardinal, Wire-tailed Manakin, Rufous-vented Chachalaca and White-bearded Flycatcher, as priorities, but of course, we also expect to be able to feast our eyes on many others. This area provides a fantastic wildlife spectacle created by the congregation of hundreds of aquatic birds including Wood Stork, Jabiru, Scarlet Ibis, Sharp-tailed Ibis, the Near Threatened (IUCN) Orinoco Goose and the amazingly beautiful Roseate Spoonbill. Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Double-striped Thick-knee and Crestless Curassow should also be among the highlights for this section of the tour. After twelve days of intense birding in the Andes and the lush tropical forest, our stay in Los Llanos will be more relaxed, allowing participants to enjoy birds, wildlife and photography in this beautiful landscape. Los Llanos also provides great opportunities to spot wildlife such as Capybara and Orinoco Crocodile and, with luck, elusive species such as Giant Anteater, Jaguar and Anaconda.

Come and join us on this epic Colombian birding adventure that will take you from the heights of the Andes to the lowlands of the Llanos, targeting a number of unique and endangered species while in the company of your friendly and experienced Birding Ecotours tour leaders.

 

Itinerary (17 days/16 nights)

 

Day 1. Arrival in Cali

You will arrive at Cali international Airport and be transferred to our comfortable hotel where we will have our first dinner together and discuss the exciting prospect of the next 17 days of birding in Colombia.

Overnight: Hotel Carl Danton, Cali

Colombia birding toursMulticolored Tanager, one of the most beautiful tanagers may be seen at Reserva La Florida (photo by Alejandro Grajales).

 

Day 2. Birding Reserva La Florida and transfer to Popayan

We will have an early start to visit Reserva La Florida where we will have the chance to see a family of endemic Chestnut Wood Quails coming to a feeder. Other classic bird species include Golden-naped Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden Tanager, Andean Motmot, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Golden-winged Manakin and Golden-headed Quetzal, the endemic and striking Multicolored Tanager and the endemic Colombian Chachalaca. After lunch we will drive south to the colonial town of Popayan.

Overnight: Hotel Dann Monasterio, Popayan

 

Day 3. Birding Paramo de Purace

After a 1.5-hour drive, we shall reach the Paramo de Purace where, with a bit of luck, we will be able to see the majestic Andean Condor, Colombia’s national bird. Here the local communities feed the Andean Condor with animal carcasses, which offer good opportunities for photography. In addition to the condor, we may see Carunculated Caracara and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle soaring above the paramo. Other species include Golden-plumed Parakeet, Grass-green Tanager, Buff-breasted MountainTanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, Black-backed Bush Tanager, Black-capped Hemispingus and hummingbird species such as Shining Sunbeam, Black-thighed Puffleg and the impressive Sword-billed Hummingbird. After lunch we will return to Popayan, looking for birds on the way to the hotel.

Overnight: Hotel Dann Monasterio Popayan

Colombia birding toursThe ridiculous-looking Sword-billed Hummingbird.

 

Day 4. Birding around the hotel and transfer to Pasto

The hotel surroundings offer great opportunities for species like Crested Bobwhite, the elusive Dwarf Cuckoo, Bar-crested Antshrike, Cocoa Thrush, Greenish Elaenia, Red-breasted Blackbird, White-lined Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, Pearl Kite and two endemics: Greyish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher. By 10am we will start the long drive (5.5 hours) to Pasto and be transferred to our hotel.

Overnight: Chalet Guamuez, Pasto

 

Day 5. Birding the Paramo de Bordoncillo

Today we will explore the Paramo de Bordoncillo, a place that has only recently been put on the map for birdwatchers when the poorly-known Chestnut-bellied Cotinga was rediscovered in this remote part of Colombia. For Cotinga-lovers this is probably one of the main targets of the trip and one of the rarest and hardest to find anywhere in the world. We will focus most of our efforts on finding this mega rare species.

However, the paramo also includes other impressive species such as Masked Mountain Tanager, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Carunculated Caracara, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Paramo Tapaculo, White-browed Spinetail, Black-backed Bush Tanager and Spectacled Whitestart. After lunch we will visit Laguna La Cocha to look for species such as Noble Snipe, Andean Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Gull and Black-backed Grosbeak.

Overnight: Chalet Guamez, Pasto

 

Days 6 – 7. Birding Trampolin Road (upper and lower sections)

The famous Trampolin Road, which joins the city of Pasto with Mocoa, is one of the most dramatic roads in Colombia, passing through different forest types from 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) to 1,900 feet (600 meters) above sea level, as it descends into the tropical upper Amazonia. Along the road, we will look for one of the main targets of the trip, the sought-after White-rimmed Brushfinch. Other birds to look out for along the road include Blue-browed Tanager, Bronze-green Euphonia, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Golden-eared Tanager, Lined Antshrike, Western Fire-eye, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer, Grey-mantled Wren, Orange-eared Tanager, Black-collared Jay, Dusky Piha, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Rufous-rumped Antwren, White-capped Tanager, Rufous-crested Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Maroon-tailed Parakeet and hummingbirds such as Violet-fronted Brilliant and Chestnut-breasted Coronet.

Overnight: Hotel Suma Wasi, Mocoa

Colombia birding tours
We’ll look for the rare White-rimmed Brushfinch along the Trampolin Road (photo Danial Orozco).

 

Day 8. Birding Campucana

Today we shall focus on the tropical forest known as the Campucana. Here we will look for the prized Coppery-chested Jacamar and also other delights such as Black-streaked Puffbird, Speckled Tanager, White-streaked Antvireo, Spot-winged Antbird, Southern Nightingale-Wren, Musician Wren, Orange-billed Sparrow, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Foothill Stipplethroat, Yellow-breasted Antwren, White-crowned Manakin, Blue-rumped Manakin, Black-billed Treehunter, Short-tailed Antthrush and hummingbird species such as Blue-fronted Lancebill and Wire-crested Thorntail.

Overnight: Hotel Suma Wasi, Mocoa

 

Day 9. Birding El Escondite

Today we shall focus our birding efforts on a lower-elevation tropical forest where we hope to find species like White-eared Jacamar, Brown Jacamar, White-chinned Jacamar, Green-backed Trogon, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, White-chested Puffbird, Amazonian Trogon, Amazonian Motmot, Western Striolated Puffbird, Black-streaked Puffbird, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Riparian Antbird, Gilded Barbet, Scaled Fruiteater, Vermilion Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager, Speckled Chachalaca and Long-billed Woodcreeper.

Overnight: Hotel Pakarii, Puerto Asis

 

Day 10. Birding Playa Rica

Playa Rica offers forest and wetland areas which provide perfect habitat for a number of species including the likes of Horned Screamer, Capped Heron, Limpkin, White-throated Toucan, Plum-throated Cotinga, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Ivory-billed Aracari, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Chestnut Woodpecker, Cream-colored Woodpecker and Yellow-tufted Woodpecker. We should also find other more common species such as Black Caracara, Silver-beaked Tanager, Turquoise Tanager, Red-capped Cardinal, Blue-headed Parrot and Lettered Aracari. If time permits, we will look for Amazon (Pink) River Dolphin on the Putumayo River

Overnight: Hotel Pakarii, Puerto Asis

Colombia birding toursWe hope to find Cream-colored Woodpecker in Playa Rica.

 

Day 11. Flight to Bogotá and visit to the hummingbird garden 

We will continue our adventure by taking a domestic flight from Puerto Asis to Bogotá, from where we will transfer to La Calera to visit the hummingbird garden “Observatorio de Colibries” This private house offers beautiful gardens with great hummingbird feeders including species such as Sword-billed Hummingbird, the striking Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Glowing and Coppery-bellied Puffleg, Black-tailed Trainbearer and Longuemare’s Sunangel. Later we will transfer back to Bogota to stay near the airport.

Overnight: Courtyard by Marriot, Bogotá

 

Day 12. Flight to Yopal

We will be transferred to the airport and connect with a domestic flight to Yopal in the Casanara state, the entrance to the Colombian Llanos. If time permits, we could spend the morning birding La Florida Regional Park close to the airport before our domestic flight to Yopal. La Florida is a good spot for the endemic Bogota Rail, and other birds such as Subtropical Doradito, the endemic Apolinar’s Wren, the endemic Silvery-throated Spinetail, American Coot, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Common Gallinule, Bare-faced Ibis, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Andean Duck, Southern Lapwing and Mountain Elaenia. If we do not have time for birding in Bogota before the flight, we can visit a place called Lagunaso in Yopal, where we can spend the afternoon looking for aquatic species.

Overnight: Hilton Hotel, Yopal

Colombia birding tours
Jabiru and hordes of other waterbirds can be seen near Juan Solito Lodge (photo Alejandro Grajales).

 

Day 13. Yopal to Hato La Aurora and onwards to Juan Solito Lodge

After breakfast we will leave our hotel and head to Hato de La Aurora, birding the savannas and the seasonally flooded plains looking for species such as Double-striped Thick-knee, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Wood Stork, Whistling Heron, American White Ibis, Scarlet Ibis, Sharp-tailed Ibis, King Vulture, Savanna Hawk, American Kestrel, Oriole Blackbird, Grassland Sparrow, Yellowish Pipit, Eastern Meadowlark and Burrowing Owl. We will arrive at Juan Solito Lodge for lunch and will spend the afternoon birding around the lodge. Juan Solito Lodge is located in the north-eastern corner of the Hato La Aurora ranch, right on the banks of the Ariporo River and acts as a perfect base from which to explore the vast and impressive Los Llanos.

Overnight: Juan Solito Lodge

 

Day 14. Birding Juan Solito, Hato La Aurora

We will start our adventure by exploring Los Llanos in safari-style 4×4 vehicles while scanning the vast savannas and wetlands for wildlife such as Capybara, Giant Anteater and even the mighty Anaconda. Los Llanos is probably one of the easiest places in the world to see this giant snake! However, our target species are, without doubt, the localized Pale-headed Jacamar and White-bearded Flycatcher, both restricted to the Llanos habitat. Other species include Festive Amazon, Scaled Piculet, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Violaceous Jay, Bicolored Wren, Purple-throated Euphonia, Masked Cardinal, Wire-tailed Manakin, Orange-fronted Yellow Finch, Masked Cardinal, Spectacled Thrush, Rufous-vented Chachalaca and vast numbers of aquatic species. At night, we will do another safari-style drive looking for nocturnal wildlife and birds and, with some luck we  might see Jaguar or Lowland (Brazilian) Tapir.

Overnight: Juan Solito Lodge

Colombia birding toursThe cute Wire-tailed Manakin in the Llanos (photo Alejandro Grajales).

 

Day 15. Birding Juan Solito, Hato La Aurora

Today we will explore river channels by boat looking for species such as Orinoco Goose, Brazilian Teal, Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Crestless Curassow, Hoatzin, Sunbittern, Sungrebe, Boat-billed Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Two-banded Puffbird, Venezuelan Troupial, Barred Antshrike, Northern Slaty Antshrike, Amazonian Black Tyrant, Orange-crowned Oriole, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Rosy Thrush-tanager and Orange-fronted Yellow Finch.

Overnight: Juan Solito Lodge

 

Day 16. Juan Solito and transfer back to Yopal

After a last morning enjoying the lodge surroundings, we will drive back to Yopal for our final night of the trip.

Overnight: Hilton Hotel, Yopal

Colombia birding tours
Orinoco Goose is another one of our targets while in Los Llanos (photo Alejandro Grajales).

 

Day 17. Domestic flight to Bogotá and flight out

We will be transferred to the airport and catch our domestic flight to Bogotá. We will say farewell at Bogotá Airport after an amazing 17-day-long birding and wildlife adventure.

 

 

Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.

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Colombia Uncovered Tour Report, February 2023

08 – 24 FEBRUARY 2023

By Eduardo Ormaeche

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very best of colombia report

The endemic Multicolored Tanager is one of the most spectacular tanagers in the world (photo Alejandro Grajales).

 

Overview

 

 

After some years of waiting, I had the privilege of returning to Colombia to lead this tour, which we had planned before the COVID pandemic hit. This was a special tour offering our clients and friends an opportunity to see different parts of Colombia compared to the traditional birding routes. We decided to be adventurous and explore the possibility of a birding route through the southern Andes, from Cali, across the Paramo de Bordoncillo, and the Trampolin Road to the Amazonian foothills around the Putumayo River. In addition to this, a second leg focused on the eastern region of Casanare, in the Colombian Llanos. We called this tour Colombia Uncovered. I was delighted to return to this incredible country after stopping guiding here in favor of my very good friend and colleague, Giancarlo Ventolini. I had also been very busy giving other South American countries my personal attention, but this was a new tour we were developing, and what better opportunity to visit this amazing country again.

Planning and preparations had proceeded well and were at an advanced stage, with the Birding Ecotours team and our excellent ground partners finalizing all minor details to start the trip. Unexpectedly, on January 10, 2023 – less than two months before the start of the tour – a colossal landslide destroyed an important section of the Pan-American Highway and adjacent villages, with 64 houses destroyed and 700 people displaced. The part of the highway that was destroyed formed part of our planned route, from Popayán to Mocoa. Alternative driving routes near the main highway were not a viable option, as they would be heavily congested with traffic. After studying various possible options, we decided to travel by vehicle from Popayán through Purace National Park, to Pitalito, and the across Huila State to Mocoa. This route had incredible birding opportunities, but unfortunately missed Paramo de Bordoncillo and Trampolin, which meant no chances for Chestnut-bellied Cotinga and White-rimmed Brushfinch. At the end of the trip, I felt a great personal satisfaction when the participants agreed that they had thoroughly enjoyed the modified tour and thought that it worked better than the originally planned tour. They asked me if we would advertise this tour, rather than the original plan, just to point out how much they enjoyed it.

Needless to say, this trip provided some of the classic, most-wanted and iconic birds of the neotropics, as well as a nice set of endemics and range-restricted specials, including Andean CondorAndean Cock-of-the RockTorrent DuckSword-billed HummingbirdGrey-breasted Mountain ToucanOrinoco GooseJabiruRoseate SpoonbillHorned ScreamerBand-bellied OwlTolima BlossomcrownTolima DoveHooded and White-bellied AntpittasAmazonian UmbrellabirdGolden-winged Tody-FlycatcherLemon-throated BarbetSapphire-rumped ParrotletLong-billed WoodcreeperRufous-headed WoodpeckerCoopery-chested and Pale-headed JacamarsWhite-bearded FlycatcherSharp-tailed IbisHoatzinSunbitternBicolored Hawk and Crestless Curassow. Endless numbers of Scarlet Ibises roosting before sunset in the ponds of water in Los Llanos was a magical experience. Wildlife was not ignored on this trip – our first Colombia tour with a significant amount of wildlife – including, unexpectedly, Amazon (Pink) River Dolphins only a few meters from the boat, Giant AnteaterSouthern Tamandua, the endemic Colombian Black-handed (Medem’s) TitiHumboldt Squirrel MonkeyRed (-crowned) Titi MonkeyOrinoco CrocodileCapybaras, and the impressive Green Anaconda.

Detailed Report

 

Day 1, 08th February 2023. Arrival in Cali

Today was our arrival day in Cali and we made our way to the hotel and discussed the exciting trip ahead.

Day 2, 09th February 2023. Finca La Florida

All tour participants had met the previous night in the city of Cali. The first day of the tour was a predawn start from Cali to drive to the famous Km 18 and visit Finca La Florida. This relatively new private reserve and feeding station has become very popular among birders and photographers in Colombia, providing a great selection of birds, including two endemic stars, Multicolored Tanager and Chestnut Wood Quail. As soon we arrived at the property, we were received by Andean Motmot and then amazed by the number of birds coming to the feeders, including handsome and colorful species such as Red-headed Barbet, and GoldenSaffron-crownedGolden-napedPalmBlue-greyWhite-lined, and Black-capped Tanagers which were all seen nicely. In addition, the endemic Flame-rumped Tanager and striking Multicolored Tanager gave us repeat views, to the full satisfaction of our group. The hummingbird feeders attracted beautiful avian jewels such as White-booted Racket-tailWestern EmeraldSteely-vented and Rufous-tailed HummingbirdsFawn-breasted BrilliantLong-tailed SylphWhite-necked JacobinBrown Violetear and Tawny-bellied Hermit. After our breakfast and heavenly Colombian coffee (and equally good chocolate, for some) we went directly to the quail feeders to feast our eyes on excellent views of a family party of Chestnut Wood Quails. The lighting and distance were perfect, allowing us to study every minute detail of these great birds.

very best of colombia report

The endemic Chestnut Wood Quail was seen well at La Florida (photo Alejandro Grajales).

We also used the opportunity to walk some of the trails on the property, following the call of a Narino Tapaculo, but it remained heard only. We were still glad, though, because the elusive Chestnut-breasted Wren soon showed for us, but sadly covered by some leaves, and not everyone managed to get this skulking species. We were also rewarded with an unexpected Golden-winged Manakin (male) which was seen by the whole group. Property staff pointed out a Common Potoo at its daytime roost, which was a nice surprise and a highlight of the first day, especially for those who were setting foot in the neotropics for the first time. Other birds in the area included sightings of Sickle-winged GuanAcorn WoodpeckerMontane WoodcreeperScarlet-fronted ParakeetBlack-billed ThrushGreat KiskadeeTropical KingbirdBrown-capped VireoRufous-collared SparrowEared DoveShiny CowbirdSaffron FinchCanada and Blackburnian WarblersYellow-headed CaracaraBlack Vulture, and the handsome Green Honeycreeper.

Before enjoying lunch, we heard the calls of Golden-headed Quetzal calling from the nearby forest, and with a good strategy, we managed to see a beautiful pair near the parking lot. We got scope views and the photographers amongst us tried their best to get shots of this lovely bird.

very best of colombia report

Common Potoo at its day roost at La Florida (photo Alejandro Grajales).

After a delicious lunch at La Florida we started the 100-mile (160-kilometre) drive from La Florida to the southern city of Popayan, arriving late in the afternoon.

very best of colombia report

Crimson-rumped Toucanet (photo Alejandro Grajales).

Day 3, 10th February 2023. La Piedra del Cóndor and Puracé National Natural Park

We left Popayan and headed towards Puracé to visit La Piedra del Cóndor, a high-elevation montane forest habitat where Andean Condor can still be seen roosting on the mountain cliffs. It is also one of the few accessible places in the country to see the near-endemic Caranculated Caracara. We were given an informative introduction to the tourist project being run by the local Andean community of Puracé. It is a commendable project, aiming to conserve the area and attract and cater for visitors in a sustainable way. We were then placed at a well-known stakeout with stunning views of the surrounding landscape, and in front of the huge rock La Piedra del Cóndor, where the locals put out meat to attract the condors. I quickly spotted the bird roosting on the cliff and we all had good views through the spotting scope. We waited patiently to see if the condor would descend from the top of the cliffs and feast on breakfast. There was not much other bird activity until we saw a Caranculated Caracara coming to the rock, providing great views. Only a few participants had seen it before, in other locations like the mountains and national parks such as Antisana, above Quito, Ecuador.

very best of colombia report

Caranculated Caracara (photo Alejandro Grajales).

After quite a long time we saw the Andean Condor descending from the top of the cliff and heading straight towards us. It maneuvered in the air, turned around, and finally perched on the rock to eat some food. It was a fantastic experience to have one of the most iconic birds in the world soaring right above us. Although people see condors in places like the Andes of PeruChile and Argentina, they are often only seen at a distance. It truly was awesome to see its imposing size from so close!

We had a long drive ahead of us, across Puracé National Natural Park, on our way to San Agustin. So we left La Piedra del Cóndor and decided to spend less than an hour birding along the road. During our condor watch I had heard the call of Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, so decided to give it a chance. Fortunately, I took the group to the right spot, where a family of toucans were flying by. Even though they were a bit further from the road, there were great photographic opportunities. Everyone certainly enjoyed one of the most spectacular mountain toucans in the Andes which was a big target for some of our group. Then we drove lower and made another stop, where we got our first views of Sparkling Violetear,calling and making territorial displays from the Eucalyptus trees. Even more importantly, we were able to find a couple of White-throated Toucanets.The birds here belong to the endemic griseigularis race,found only in western and central Colombia. There is still controversy over Emerald Toucanet taxonomy, after being split into seven different species, with some considered conspecific, by other taxonomic authorities. The International Ornithological Congress (IOC) considers Aulacorhynchus albivitta as White-throated Toucanet, with four different races. The Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) uses the name Grey-throated Toucanet to refer to the same species, Aulacorhynchus albivitta,and eBird uses the name Southern Emerald Toucanet. I suggest keeping track of all subspecies and races because one does not know when they might be split or lumped together again.

very best of colombia report

We had incredible views of this female Andean Condor (photo Alejandro Grajales).

 

We then continued our drive towards San Agustín, crossing Puracé National Park. The dreamers amongst us kept their eyes open for Mountain Tapir, whilst the others admired the landscape or took a short nap. We did, however, make two important stops along the way. First, we stopped to look at Frailejones, beautiful plants in the Espeletia family that dominate the páramos of Colombia. Only those who had visited Colombia before had seen these beautiful plants at the base of Nevado del Ruiz’s snow-capped volcano, which rises above the city of Manizales. This active volcano is a famous birding spot and home of the beautiful Buffy Helmetcrest. The other highlight of our long drive was seeing Hooded Mountain Tanager,which is the second-largest tanager in the world, after White-capped Tanager. With all these amazing sightingsgreat anticipation for the coming days, and a little fatigue after the first early starts, we arrived in San Agustín and settled into our comfortable hotel. We then enjoyed a delicious supper and a good night’s sleep.

Day 4, 11th February 2023. San Agustín Archeological Park and surrounds

After a beautiful sunrise and a tasty breakfast, we found some birds in the hotel grounds, including the first Inca Jay and Buff-rumped Warbler, which was skulking on the small forest stream banks. We then drove to San Agustín Archeological Park. This park contains one of the largest collections of religious monuments and megalithic sculptures in Latin America, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. We had great birding in the park, including our first views of the endemic Colombian Chachalaca. Their noisy calls were all around us, announcing our arrival at the park. We spent the first few hours of the morning having nice encounters with species such as Ruddy PigeonSquirrel CuckooAndean MotmotSmoky-brown WoodpeckerPlain AntvireoScale-crested Pygmy TyrantGreat Crested and Rusty-margined FlycatchersGrey-breasted Wood WrenChestnut-capped BrushfinchSlate-throated SaltatorBlue-grey, Bay-headed, and Blue-necked Tanagers, and Rufous-collared Sparrow. We had to work harder than usual and were rewarded with great views of Western Fire-eye and Slaty Spinetail. Sadly, some birds remained heard only, including Orange-billed Nightingale-ThrushWhiskered Wren and Streaked Xenops. We also found the migratory Canada Warbler and Swainson’s Thrush. We then had good views of Black Phoebes during our refreshments. After a few hours enjoying the birding and being introduced to the fascinating pre-Columbian civilizations, we left the park and headed for lunch at a local restaurant. After lunch we went to explore a nearby wetland which, incredibly, provided excellent (but brief) photograph opportunities of the secretive but widespread White-throated Crake.

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   A tomb platform with supporting statues (photo Alejandro Grajales).

In the afternoon we spent the rest of the day looking for and photographing water birds and open-country species in a different wetland not far from San Agustín. We added species such as Black-bellied Whistling DuckBlue-winged and Cinnamon TealsCommon Gallinule, and Southern Lapwing, while enjoying great scope views of a single male Masked Duck (together with two females), with Grey-cowled Wood RailGreatSnowy and Western Cattle EgretsLittle Blue and Striated HeronsWattled JacanaSolitary SandpiperBare-faced Ibis, and Black-crowned Night Heron all seen in the area too. A great moment of excitement came when, while scanning the reeds with the scope, I suddenly spotted a Wilson’s Snipe right out in the open at the edge of the reeds. Everyone had good looks through the scope. Things got even better, with a Sora crossing the open spaces of the reed islands, giving everyone perfect views. We enjoyed some open-country species as well, such as Vermilion (female) and Piratic Flycatchers, and Tropical Mockingbird. We also had Southern Rough-winged Swallows and nice, but distant, views of Yellow-hooded Oriole.

After enjoying our fill of the abovementioned species, we decided to walk towards a large patch of Guadua bamboo, where we heard a lowland bamboo special, Large-headed Flatbill. Sadly, access to the interior of the patch was not easy and we were running out of time. We heard a raptor call and played Bicolored Hawk and this magnificent hawk came towards usand perched in the open, providing magnificent scope views. Generally, accipiters are difficult to see, making this sighting the cherry on top. We happily called it a day and drove to Pitalito for our two-night stay.

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The endemic Red-bellied Grackle was seen nicely atEl Encanto Reserve (photo Alejandro Grajales).

Day 5, 12th February 2023. El Encanto and Drymophila Reserves

We had an early start and drove towards the recently established El Encanto and Drymophila Reserves, both run by a local family who have decided to invest in ecotourism and conservation. These reserves were put on birders’ radars recently (after the COVID pandemic) when the secretive Schwartz’s Antthrush started coming to the bird feeders. Sadly, it didn’t show up during our visit. Nevertheless, we got other great birds during our full-day visit. We started the day exploring the Drymophila Reserve, getting species such as Inca Jay, the endemic Red-bellied Grackle, the endemic and localized East Andean Antbird (Drymophila caudata; the reserve takes its name from this genus). The hummingbird feeders attracted interesting species, such as Andean EmeraldCrowned WoodnymphBuff-tailed CoronetGorgeted WoodstarBronzy IncaLesserSparkling and Brown Violetears, White-booted Racket-tail,and theendemic and recently split Tolima Blossomcrown,one of the stars of the reserve.

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We had good views of White-bellied Antpitta at El Encanto feeders (photo Alejandro Grajales).

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We were delighted to see the enigmatic Hooded Antpitta at El Encanto feeders (photo Alejandro Grajales).

 

We visited the bird feeders of the Drymophila Reserve and were rewarded with excellent views of White-bellied Antpitta, and the enigmatic Hooded Antpitta, amega-rare near-endemic. Wehave seenit regularly on our previous Colombia tours at El Cedral in the Otún Quimbaya Fauna and Flora Sanctuary, but this was the first time we had seen it attending a worm feeder. We got great views of both but, sadly, there was no hope for the Schwartz’s Antthrush, which had not been seen in a while. Other interesting species at the bird feeders were the large and secretive White-throated Quail-Dove and the endemic and localized Tolima Dove.We saw the silhouette ofa Scaly-naped Amazon flying above the reserve, but it was too far away for the group to count. We returned to El Encanto along a very rough road and some of us managed to see Yellow-faced Grassquit and Lesser Goldfinch.

We savored a delicious homemade lunch at the family house, and then continued birding around the house. We saw White-lined Tanager (male and female), a tanager that does not mix with other species in flocks. At the same fruit feeders we also saw Blue-greyPalmBlue-necked and Bay-headed Tanagers.We got nice views of Squirrel CuckooStreaked SaltatorRed-headed BarbetScrub Tanager, the beautiful Crimson-backed TanagerThick-billed Euphonia, the endemic Velvet-frontedEuphoniaRed-crowned WoodpeckerCrimson-rumped ToucanetPale-breasted and Black-billedThrushes, and the well-known Rufous-collared Sparrow.

Before we left the reserve, we managed to get good views of the endemic Apical Flycatcher, as well as Ash-browed Spinetail, and Rufous-naped Greenlet. The hummingbird feeders provided Red-billed EmeraldWhite-vented Plumeleteer, the endemic Indigo-capped HummingbirdBlack-throated Mango, and Rufous-tailed and Shinning-green Hummingbirds.We then returned to Pitalitoto get some rest in the late afternoon.

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Golden-eared Tanager (photo Diego Rocha).

Day 6, 13th February 2023. Birding lowland hotspots around Mocoa

This morning we drove towards Mocoa, the capital of the Putumayo department, located at 1,980 feet (605 metres) elevation. We planned to spend the next few days focusing on lowland species that are hard to find in Colombia (but may be possible to see elsewhere in South America). These species may indeed be found around Mocoa at some of the few accessible Amazonian lowland hotspots in Colombia.

We started birding some hotspots near Mocoa, including Bosque Verdeyaco, La Ruta del Barniz, and Km. 51. Bosque Verdeyaco received us with great views of species like Speckled ChachalacaScaled Piculet, the striking Paradise Tanager, also Magpie, White-linedWhite-shoulderedBlue-greyPalm, and Silver-beakedTanagersYellow-rumped CaciqueCrested and Russet-backed OropendolasThrush-like WrenYellow-browed SparrowViolaceous JayOlive-sided Flycatchers, and Chestnut-collared and White-collared Swifts.

In the late morning sporadic showers became heavy rains. Unfortunately, this happened on almost all our afternoons in the Amazonian foothills, limiting the time available for birding and thus the number of lowland species recorded. Birding next to the road and checking the rivers provided views of Torrent Duck for all participants and Amazonian Umbrellabird for only some of us.

We explored another hotspot, where we had amazing views of Coppery-chested Jacamar,our first attractive jacamar for the trip. Another interesting species was the huallagae race of Yellow-whiskered Bush Tanager (considered by Cornell to be Short-billed Chlorospingus). We continued birding the Verdeyaco forest, getting some common species (but new for the trip), such as Grey-capped FlycatcherGreat KiskadeeLemon-browed FlycatcherRed-capped CardinalYellow-headed Caracara, and Smooth-billed Ani. We heard Dusky Spinetail,which did not want to cooperate with us, as well as Little Tinamou, calling in the distance.

In the evening we visited a spot on the outskirts of Mocoa town to look for Band-bellied Owl, which showed nicely for everyone.

Days 7-8, 14-15th February 2023. Vereda Campucana and Bosque de Verdeyaco

We spent the next couple of days exploring the Amazon rainforest foothills around Mocoa. We explored a family property where we got a nice set of birds, including the always-stunning Rufous Motmot, the uncommon Lemon-throated BarbetChivi VireoBoat-billed FlycatcherViolaceous JayCerulean Warbler, and SummerYellow-bellied (a glimpse for some of the group), Blue-necked, and Turquoise Tanagers. We also saw Golden-tailed Sapphire, a new hummingbird for the trip.

After a brief but productive stop on this property, we went to explore Vereda Campucana, unfortunately spoiled by lots of fine and continuous rain. A steep track passed through the forest where the mythical Black Tinamou has been seen, but the rain was not helping, especially on the upper parts of this road. As bird activity was rather quiet and the trail was slippery, we decided to retreat, but were then splendidly rewarded with the uncommon Black-streaked Puffbird.It is found in similar habitat in Peru and Ecuador, but this is the northern limit of its range in southern Colombia. We were happy for Sue, who found a female Andean Cock-of-the Rock, a bird she badly wanted to see. We managed to see Slaty-capped FlycatcherBlack PhoebePale-vented PigeonChestnut-eared AracariSwallow TanagerYellow-bellied DacnisBuff-throated Saltator, and Purple Honeycreeper. The following birds were heard only: Cinereous Tinamou (distantly), Orange-billed Sparrow (close, but no cigar), Lined Antshrike and Dusky Spinetail.

We also birded some strategic sites back along the main road, one of which gave us full views of the most-wanted and hard-to-see Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher.That was another super moment of the trip! We added several common birds, including Southern Rough-winged and Blue-and-white SwallowsBlack Vulture and Blue-headed Parrot.  We returned to Bosque de Verdeyaco, where we got some new birds, such as Green-backed TrogonThickbilled and Orange-bellied EuphoniasCanada WarblerGolden TanagerSmoke-colored Pewee, and Olive-sided and Acadian Flycatchers. We had decent views of Glittering-throated Emerald and glimpses of Wire-crested Thorntail feeding on an Inga tree near the property entrance. The male was seen by a few only, while the female was seen on more than one occasion, albeit very briefly.

For these couple of days we enjoyed lunch at the hotel and then kept the afternoons free to evade the foreboding weather. Participants were glad to have an opportunity to work on their photos and enjoy some leisure time.

Day 8, 15th February 2023.El Escondite

Following our adventure in the Putumayo region, we went to explore a famous hotspot called El Escondite (The Hide). Sadly, the weather was not great as it was raining mildly. When we arrived at the private reserve, we went to the old school area, the best place in the area to see one of our targets for the day, Sapphire-rumped Parrotlet,which we saw well. There was almost no understory bird activity but several canopy species were showing well. Other species seen this morning on El Escondite included interesting birds such as White-chinned JacamarChestnut WoodpeckerStriped WoodcreeperPurple-throated FruitcrowSwallow-winged Puffbird and Black-tailed Tityra. We got nice scope views of Bare-necked Fruitcrow (male), and once again we had a glimpse of Amazonian Umbrellabird flying by. Other birds at El Escondite included Orange-fronted PlushcrownYellow-browed Tody-FlycatcherWhite-vented EuphoniaMasked TanagerGrey-capped FlycatcherRed-bellied MacawLaughing FalconFerruginous Pygmy OwlGreater AniSpeckled Chachalaca, and Golden-bellied Euphonia. Common species included Great KiskadeeViolaceous Jay, the monotypic Black-capped Donacobius, and PiraticSocial, and Boat-billed Flycatchers. We also had views of a Great Potoo at its day roost, with White-bearded Hermit and Fork-tailed Woodnymph seen in the main garden and Roadside HawkBare-faced Ibis, and Whistling Heron added near the reserve entrance. The monotypic Hoatzin was seen here for the first time on the trip which was a highlight for those who had yet to see this unusual species.

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The monotypic Hoatzin was seen nicely on this tour (photo Noah Frade).

Our visit to El Escondite allowed us to get two interesting primate sightings. First, a group of the Colombian-endemic and range-restricted Colombian Black-crowned (Medem’s) Titi, which was seen nicely. Second, a large troop of Humboldt’s Squirrel Monkeys putting up a characteristic performance while travelling across the forest subcanopy above us.

After the morning birding at El Escondite we started out for our next destination. Leaving Mocoa, we managed to get our first Scarlet Ibis of the trip – apparently, they have started to colonize the Amazon foothills from the eastern Llanos. We arrived in Puerto Asís, where we were scheduled to stay for two nights, and decided to have another easy afternoon as the weather was not improving.

Day 9, 16th February 2023. Putumayo River tributary and Playa Rica

I took the group for a pleasant surprise after I heard that Amazon (Pink) River Dolphins were almost guaranteed along a tributary of the Putumayo River. We took an hour-and-a-half-long speedboat trip along the Putumayo River, at times a few meters from the Ecuadorian border. The group did not expect this at all, since I was covering the surprise with a veil of mystery until the very last minute. I had the freedom to take a decision like this because I knew the group very well, having travelled with them on various occasions and enjoying a friendly relationship. I knew they would love the experience of seeing this amazing and very unexpected creature.

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Amazon (Pink) River Dolphins were the wildlife surprise of the trip.

During the boat trip, we saw some interesting birds, such as Mottled-backed ElaeniaWhite-winged SwallowAmazon and Ringed KingfishersRufescent Tiger HeronHorned ScreamerPied PloverBlack-bellied Whistling Duck, and Masked Crimson Tanager, which was new for the trip and the group was very happy to see. We also had White-banded SwallowRed-capped Cardinal, and Black-capped Donacobius, and we heard Riparian Antbird, and Great Antshrike.We found the dolphins and, although it was difficult to take good photos because they were constantly moving, spending more time under water, and only coming up for short periods to breathe, everyone loved the experience.

After this little adventure, we went directly to Playa Ricaour hotspot for the day. We arrived a little later than expected, but still nailed some great birds, including the most-wanted Rufous-headed Woodpecker, the fantastic Long-billed WoodcreeperWhite-eared JacamarScarlet-crowned and Lemon-throated BarbetsBlack-crowned TityraBlue-headed ParrotCobalt-winged Parakeet, and Yellow-tufted Woodpecker.In addition to the birds, we were fortunate to find a Red (-crowned) Titi Monkey.After lunch,we returned to Puerto Asis and took the afternoon off. In the evening we ate a last supper with Johnny, our main driver since the start of the trip. This was the end of the first leg of our trip and we were to catch a flight the next day for the second leg of our adventure.

Day 10, 17th February 2023. Flight to Bogota and Observatorio de Colibríes

After a very short drive we arrived at Puerto Asis airport to catch our flight to Bogota. We had a smooth flight and after arrival in Bogota, we headed to La Calera town to visit the famous Observatorio de Colibríes. The driving was slow due to weekend traffic, as the people living in Bogota like to get out of the city and enjoy a country lunch and chill out. There was also rain and roadworks, delaying us further. From the van window, we got excellent views of Streak-throated Bush Tyrant. We arrived at the feeding garden and some of the participants went into raptures when they saw how many high-elevation and sought-after hummingbird species were around, some of them difficult to see anywhere else. Additionally, this lovely private house boasts strikingly beautiful garden designs. Some of the spectacular species we saw included the impressive Great Sapphirewing, the striking Blue-throated StarfrontletLonguemare’s SunangelBlack-tailed TrainbearerTyrian MetaltailWhite-bellied WoodstarSparkling VioletearGlowing Puffleg, and the most-wanted Sword-billed Hummingbird, which made Sue very happy. Other birds seen around the gardens included Great ThrushRufous-collared Sparrow and Glossy Flowerpiercer. We then returned to Bogota for the night.

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Blue-throated Starfrontlet was the star of the Observatorio de Colibríes (photo Alejandro Grajales).

Day 11, 18th February 2023. Yopal rest day

We were transferred to El Dorado airport in Bogota and caught our short flight to Yopal, where we stayed for the rest of the day, resting and preparing for the intensity of the next few days. Since there were no direct flights between Puerto Asis and Yopal, this “rest” day was necessary to allow us to do the five-hour drive from Yopal to Juan Solito Lodge (the heart of the Colombian Llanos) at a relaxed pace during the prime hours of the day.

Day 12, 19th February 2023. Los Llanos and Juan Solito Lodge

We were fetched from our hotel in Yopal in two 4×4 vehicles and started our drive to Juan Solito. We had hoped we could get some of our targets and interesting species on the way to the lodge, but the drive far exceeded our expectations. We wished we could have spent longer enjoying the birds and taking photos!

We scored with a large diversity of waterbirds, including the handsome, most-wanted and here, relatively common, Orinoco Goose. We got excited with several sightings of the localized Sharp-tailed Ibis. We alsoenjoyed views of White-headed Marsh TyrantCarib GrackleTropical MockingbirdHorned ScreamerBlack-necked Stilt, large numbers of Black-bellied Whistling Duck, our first Roseate SpoonbillYellow-headed and Crested CaracarasJabiru, a couple of Maguari StorksSavanna Hawk, and Scarlet Ibis.

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Los Llanos (photo Alejandro Grajales).

 

During the dry season only a few ponds of water remain, harboring a plethora of aquatic species in high concentrations – as can be seen in the image above – and this is the perfect time to visit Los Llanos. Los Llanos (“the plains”) is a vast tropical grassland plain situated to the east of the Andes in Colombia and Venezuela. Most of it is located in Venezuela however not many eco-travelers are aware that Colombia offers excellent access to this unique biome.

We arrived at Juan Solito Lodge, and after check in were introduced to our local guide and field assistants for our stay in Juan Solito. We stayed in the clearing at the lodge to explore the surroundings and it could not have been better! We found many of the localized targets for this region, including the most-wanted Pale-headed JacamarOrange-fronted Yellow FinchRufous-vented ChachalacaRuddy Ground DovePale-vented PigeonVersicolored EmeraldChestnut-eared AracariScaled PiculetLineated WoodpeckerShort-crested FlycatcherViolaceous JayMasked Cardinal (found only in Colombia, Venezuela and Trinidad), Spectacled Thrush, a female Blue Ground Dove (only for some of us), and the localized White-bearded Flycatcher. We were very happy to find a Great Potoo roosting in a dead tree during the day (well done Tracy). There were birds everywhere and we enjoyed being away from the city and completely surrounded by nature for a few days.

After a long day, we enjoyed a quick shower, supper, worked on our daily checklist, and made plans for the following day. There was much excitement, and with those thoughts we said goodnight.

Day 13, 20th February 2023. Birding around Juan Solito

We went for a walk before breakfast hoping to see Giant Anteater, which can be reliable in the area, but didn’t find it. We however enjoyed views of Double-striped Thick-kneeGrey SeedeaterBlue-black GrassquitSouthern Beardless TyrannuletOlive-grey SaltatorYellow-browed SparrowOriole BlackbirdOrange-fronted Yellow Finch, and Rufous-fronted Thornbird next to its massive nest. Furthermore, we found Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant playing hide-and-seek, Short-crested FlycatcherWhite-fringed AntwrenSpectacled ParrotletBrown-throated Parakeet and Chestnut-fronted Macaw.

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Wire-tailed Manakin was one of the stars at Los Llanos (photo Alejandro Grajales).

After breakfast, we went to explore some gallery forest looking for interior forest species. The activity was slow and quiet, adding Straight-billed Woodcreeper, followed by Pale-breasted SpinetailLineated WoodpeckerDusky-capped Flycatcher, and Chestnut-eared Aracari. One of the stars was Wire-tailed Manakin for which we had to work hard to get all the participants onto, as the male manakin was shy, mostly remaining hidden from us. We were happy with good views, including its tail, although taking photographs proved difficult.

Laura, our field assistant, spotted a Collared Forest Falcon near the trail while she was trying to provide the photographers a better opportunity with the manakin. Laura and I worked together, trying to find a good position and eventually this elusive and shy raptor came out into view. We feasted our eyes on this sighting, with everyone trying to get photographs and admiring its behavior. Great was our surprise when we saw its mate arriving, having a pair was a real treat! After this sighting, there was not much activity in the forest and so we returned to the lodge clearing. We looked for birds from the river stakeout, where we added Pale-headed JacamarGrey-fronted DoveSunbitternGreen IbisSpot-breasted and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers and Orange-winged Amazon.

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A highlight of Juan Solito was the secretive Collared Forest Falcon.

We also saw other wildlife, such as Capybaras and some Spectacled Caimans, the more common crocodilian in this part of Los Llanos in Casanare. The special Orinoco Crocodile is scarcer and we were hoping to see some in the upcoming days, together with the mythical Green Anaconda.

We spent the afternoon on a 4×4-vehicle excursion, exploring some of the dry plains and looking for Yellowish Pipit. We planned to check a small lagoon for aquatic species and wait until sunset, hoping for mammals coming to drink. Our first score was a nice pair of Burrowing Owls along the track. We tried hard for Yellowish Pipit but we did not find it, unfortunately. At the lagoon we added lots of aquatic species, completing all potential birds in Los Llanos, with a list including Snowy and Great EgretsLittle BlueRufescent Tiger, Striated, Cocoi, and Whistling HeronsJabiruWood and Maguari Storks, and Bare-facedGreenAmerican WhiteScarlet and Sharp-tailed Ibises. We were hoping for Glossy Ibis only because we had not seen it yet but unfortunately, they did not oblige today. In addition, we saw Black-bellied Whistling DuckBlue-winged and Brazilian TealsWattled JacanaPied Plover, and the monotypic Limpkin.We added Least and Solitary SandpipersGreater and Lesser YellowlegsYellow-billed and Large-billed Terns and Black Skimmer.

At sundown, we enjoyed a bottle of white wine with snacks. We had views of Red Brocket deer, which was relatively common in the area and there was a habituated individual at the lodge. Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences, amongst the breathtaking natural scenery, was the ‘red leaf tree’. Humorously, the tree was red because it was full of roosting Scarlet Ibises – a special moment,as this species was a target for many of our participants.

On the drive back to the lodge we managed to get great views of Crab-eating Fox.Before supper we triedfor Tropical Screech Owl,which we heard near the cabins, but it did not want to answer this time. Nevertheless, Mike managed good views when he woke up during the night, with a photograph to prove it! Before I went to my room, I saw a huge Common Opossum but, sadly, nobody else in our group saw it.

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Scarlet Ibises preparing to roost in a tree in Juan Solito.

Day 14, 21st February 2023. Hato de La Aurora and wetland birding

We planned to repeat the same formula of birding and exploring the surroundings for an hour, before returning for breakfast. Suddenly Giovani, our local guide and a true llanero, shouted, “anteater”! We dropped everything and had excellent, close views of Giant Anteater, one of the big five animals of South America. We had seen this amazing creature on our Brazil and Peru tours and recently in Guyana, but this was our first time finding one in Colombia. The light was not ideal and the anteater was moving briskly, but everyone was ecstatic with this sighting.

We birded the surroundings and saw some of the usual suspects, seen on previous days, and some new birds, such as White-tipped DoveStriped CuckooSouthern Mealy Amazon, and a nice surprise was a Two-banded Puffbird.This isa recent split from Russet-throated Puffbird, which is almost a Venezuela endemic but reaches the Colombian Llanos as the western range of its distribution.

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Giant Anteater was a wildlife highlight of the trip.

After breakfast, we started a 4×4-vehicle drive towards Hato de La Aurora, in the deep heart of the Colombian Llanos, where we would spend the full day and return in the evening. On the way to Hato de La Aurora, we stopped at a seasonal lagoon, where we saw the Critically Endangered Orinoco Crocodile. We could study it in great detail, comparing it to the Spectacled Caimanwe had seen previously. We then went looking for something some of the participants were dreaming of seeing, the mythical Green Anaconda.Even though it is widespread across the continent it is not easy to see, and Los Llanos is the place with the highest likelihood. Our local guide, Giovani, together with the driver (both men born in Los Llanos and thus experts), looked for it in a swamp they knew. An individual had been reported recently and, walking in the swamp with feet under the muddy water, they managed to find one, which came out of hiding and showed for us. We would certainly remember this experience for the rest of our lives!

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The Green Anaconda seen in Los Llanos.

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The Critically Endangered Orinoco Crocodile seen in Hato de La Aurora.

After the big herping moment with these two impressive reptiles, we arrived at Hato de La Aurora hacienda for lunch and enjoyed the garden feeders. Hato de La Aurora is a huge hacienda property with the highest density of Jaguars in the Colombian Llanos, and where conservationist and researcher, Mr. Jorge Barragan, has been conducting a study on the Jaguar population in the area for the last 20 years. We had the opportunity to meet him and listen to a short, fascinating talk about his work in Hato de La Aurora. Before and after lunch we looked for birds around the garden and had Masked CardinalBicolored WrenVersicolored EmeraldRed-crowned WoodpeckerChestnut-eared AracariViolaceous JayTropical MockingbirdThick-billed EuphoniaSilver-beaked TanagerOlive-grey Saltator, and Venezuelan Troupial.

After lunch and a short break, we drove in our 4×4 vehicles to a distant wetland where jaguars had recently been photographed on a camera trap. On the way, we managed to see Eastern Meadowlark, a new bird for the trip, plus Burrowing Owl. We arrived at the spot and waited in silence for over an hour with the hope of seeing Jaguars. In the meantime, we got good views of Savanna and Black-collared Hawks, and Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures.Time was running out and we were about to leave when we had a super sighting of a pair of Crestless Curassows which, although distant, provided good views of this shy species. We left the wetland and looked in another lagoon where, in addition to all the usual aquatic species and dozens of Capybaras, we managed to spot a single Glossy Ibis, which showed nicely in the scope. It was then time to start the long and dusty drive back to Juan Solito. Along the drive, we had good views of Crab-eating Foxes as well as Nacunda NighthawkParauque and Spot-tailed Nightjar.

We arrived back in Juan Solito, and after supper we were surprised to be invited to participate in a birthday party for one of the lodge staff members. It was a brief but very interesting opportunity to experience local customs, especially the local musical traditions which had a unique style.

very best of colombia report

Crestless Curassow was a great find in Hato de La Aurora in the Colombian Llanos.

Day 15, 22nd February 2023. Juan Solito Lodge area and return to Yopal

We had an easy morning hanging around the lodge clearing, trying for Spectacled Thrush, which unfortunately did not show. We got all the usual birds around the clearing, including Scaled DoveCarib GrackleMasked Cardinal and Rufous-vented Chachalaca. We got nice views of White-bearded Manakin and Pale-headed Jacamar for the last time, as well as a Southern Tamandua which was a lovely surprise before we hit the road back to Yopal. It was great to see this awesome creature so well and for so long. It did not seem to be bothered by our presence, it seemed very relaxed, looking for termites, and climbing down a tree. We then drove back to Yopal for the night.

Day 16, 23rd February 2023. Flight to Bogota and departure

We caught our flight from Yopal to Bogota where our fantastic 16-day Colombian birding tour would end. All the participants had decided to stay extras nights in Bogota in order to get their international connections, or do some tours around the city.

Everyone enjoyed this Colombia Uncovered birding tour, despite all the last-minute changes, due to the landslides, described in the first part of this report. As I am writing these lines, I’m still unsure whether we should revert to the original itinerary or keep this modified version. The modified version seems to be perfect for reaching the best bird and wildlife experience in southern and eastern Colombia. Perhaps we would have to rename the tour to Wild Colombia, though. It was a great trip and we hope to return to Colombia soon.

very best of colombia report

Pale-headed Jacamar, restricted to Los Llanos in Colombia and Venezuela.

Bird List – Following IOC (12.2)

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen.

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International: VU = Vulnerable.

Common Name Scientific Name
Tinamidae
Cinereous Tinamou (H) Crypturellus cinereus
Little Tinamou (H) Crypturellus soui
Anhimidae
Horned Screamer Anhima cornuta
Anatidae
White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata
Black-bellied Whistling Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis
Torrent Duck
Orinoco Goose Neochen jubata
Brazilian Teal Amazonetta brasiliensis
Cinnamon Teal Spatula cyanoptera
Blue-winged Teal Spatula discors
Masked Duck Nomonyx dominicus
Cracidae
Rufous-vented Chachalaca Ortalis ruficauda
Speckled Chachalaca Ortalis guttata
Colombian Chachalaca (Endemic) Ortalis Columbiana
Sickle-winged Guan Chamaepetes goudotii
Crestless Curassow Mitu tomentosum
Odontophoridae
Chestnut Wood Quail (Endemic) Odontophorus hyperythrus
Caprimulgidae
Nacunda Nighthawk Chordeiles nacunda
Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis
Spot-tailed Nightjar Hydropsalis maculicaudus
Nyctibiidae
Great Potoo Nyctibius grandis
Common Potoo Nyctibius griseus
Apodidae
Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutile
White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris
Short-tailed Swift Chaetura brachyuran
Neotropical Palm Swift Tachornis squamata
Trochilidae
White-necked Jacobin Florisuga mellivora
Green Hermit  Phaethornis guy
White-bearded Hermit Phaethornis hispidus
Tawny-bellied Hermit Phaethornis syrmatophorus
Brown Violetear Colibri delphinae
Lesser Violetear Colibri cyanotus
Sparkling Violetear Colibri coruscans
White-tailed Goldenthroat Polytmus guainumbi
Black-throated Mango Anthracothorax nigricollis
Longuemare’s Sunangel Heliangelus clarisse
Gorgeted Sunangel Heliangelus strophianus
Wire-crested Thorntail Discosura popelairii
Speckled Hummingbird Adelomyia melanogenys
Long-tailed Sylph Aglaiocercus kingii
Black-tailed Trainbearer Lesbia victoriae
Tyrian Metaltail Metallura tyrianthina
Greenish Puffleg Haplophaedia aureliae
Glowing Puffleg Eriocnemis vestita
Bronzy Inca Coeligena coeligena
Blue-throated Starfrontlet Coeligena helianthea
Mountain Velvetbreast Lafresnaya lafresnayi
Sword-billed Hummingbird Ensifera ensifera
Great Sapphirewing Pterophanes cyanopterus
Buff-tailed Coronet Boissonneaua flavescens
Chestnut-breasted Coronet Boissonneaua matthewsii
White-booted Racket-tail Ocreatus underwoodii
Fawn-breasted Brilliant Heliodoxa rubinoides
Green-crowned Brilliant Heliodoxa jacula
Violet-fronted Brilliant Heliodoxa leadbeateri
Purple-throated Woodstar Philodice mitchellii
White-bellied Woodstar Chaetocercus mulsant
Gorgeted Woodstar Chaetocercus heliodor
Short-tailed Emerald Chlorostilbon poortmani
Western Emerald Chlorostilbon melanorhynchus
Tolima Blossomcrown (Endemic) – VU Anthocephala berlepschi
Grey-breasted Sabrewing Campylopterus largipennis
White-vented Plumeleteer Chalybura buffonii
Crowned Woodnymph Thalurania colombica
Fork-tailed Woodnymph Thalurania furcata
Steely-vented Hummingbird Saucerottia saucerottei
Indigo-capped Hummingbird (Endemic) Saucerottia cyanifrons
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Amazilia tzacatl
Andean Emerald Uranomitra franciae
Shining-green Hummingbird Chrysuronia goudoti
Golden-tailed Sapphire Chrysuronia oenone
Red-billed Emerald Chlorostilbon gibsoni
Versicolored Emerald Chrysuronia versicolor
Glittering-throated Emerald Chionomesa fimbriata
Cuculidae
Greater Ani Crotophaga major
Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani
Striped Cuckoo Tapera naevia
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana
Columbidae
Rock Dove (Introduced) Columba livia
Band-tailed Pigeon Patagioenas fasciata
Pale-vented Pigeon Patagioenas cayennensis
Scaled Dove Columbina squammata
Ruddy Ground Dove Columbina talpacoti
Blue Ground Dove Claravis pretiosa
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi
Grey-fronted Dove Leptotila rufaxilla
Tolima Dove (Endemic) Leptotila conoveri
White-throated Quail-Dove Zentrygon frenata
Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata
Rallidae
Grey-cowled Wood Rail Aramides cajaneus
Sora Porzana carolina
Common Gallinule Gallinula galeata
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinica
White-throated Crake Laterallus albigularis
Aramidae
Limpkin Aramus guarauna
Burhinidae
Double-striped Thick-knee Burhinus bistriatus
Recurvirostridae
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus
Charadriidae
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
Pied Plover Hoploxypterus cayanus
Jacanidae
Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana
Scolopacidae
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
Wilson’s Snipe Gallinago delicata
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius
Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Laridae
Black Skimmer Rynchops niger
Yellow-billed Tern Sternula superciliaris
Large-billed Tern Phaetusa simplex
Eurypygidae
Sunbittern Eurypyga helias
Ciconiidae
Wood Stork Mycteria americana
Maguari Stork Ciconia maguari
Jabiru Jabiru mycteria
Anhingidae
Anhinga Anhinga anhinga
Phalacrocoracidae
Neotropic Cormorant Nannopterum brasilianum
Threskiornithidae
Buff-necked Ibis Theristicus caudatus
Sharp-tailed Ibis Cercibis oxycerca
Green Ibis Mesembrinibis cayennensis
Bare-faced Ibis Phimosus infuscatus
American White Ibis Eudocimus albus
Scarlet Ibis Eudocimus ruber
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja
Ardeidae
Rufescent Tiger Heron Tigrisoma lineatum
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Striated Heron Butorides striata
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi
Great Egret Ardea alba
Whistling Heron Syrigma sibilatrix
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Opisthocomidae
Hoatzin Opisthocomus hoazin
Cathartidae
King Vulture Sarcoramphus papa
Andean Condor – VU Vultur gryphus
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture Cathartes burrovianus
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture Cathartes melambrotus
Pandionidae
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Accipitridae
White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus
Bicolored Hawk Accipiter bicolor
Plumbeous Kite Ictinia plumbea
Black-collared Hawk Busarellus nigricollis
Savanna Hawk Buteogallus meridionalis
Roadside Hawk Rupornis magnirostris
Grey-lined Hawk Buteo nitidus
Broad-winged Hawk Buteo platypterus
Strigidae
Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl Glaucidium brasilianum
Tropical Screech Owl Megascops choliba
Band-bellied Owl Pulsatrix melanota
Trogonidae
Golden-headed Quetzal Pharomachrus auriceps
Green-backed Trogon Trogon viridis
Alcedinidae
Amazon Kingfisher Chloroceryle amazona
Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata
Momotidae
Amazonian Motmot Momotus momota
Andean Motmot Momotus aequatorialis
Rufous Motmot Baryphthengus martii
Galbulidae
White-eared Jacamar Galbalcyrhynchus leucotis
Pale-headed Jacamar Brachygalba goeringi
Coppery-chested Jacamar – VU Galbula pastazae
White-chinned Jacamar Galbula tombacea
Bucconidae
Two-banded Puffbird Hypnelus bicinctus
Black-streaked Puffbird Malacoptila fulvogularis
Black-fronted Nunbird Monasa nigrifrons
Swallow-winged Puffbird Chelidoptera tenebrosa
Capitonidae
Scarlet-crowned Barbet Capito aurovirens
Lemon-throated Barbet Eubucco richardsoni
Red-headed Barbet Eubucco bourcierii
Ramphastidae
Crimson-rumped Toucanet Aulacorhynchus haematopygus
White-throated Toucanet Aulacorhynchus albivitta
Lettered Aracari Pteroglossus inscriptus
Chestnut-eared Aracari Pteroglossus castanotis
Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan Andigena hypoglauca
White-throated Toucan (H) Ramphastos tucanus
Yellow-throated Toucan Ramphastos ambiguus
Picidae
Scaled Piculet Picumnus squamulatus
Acorn Woodpecker Melanerpes formicivorus
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker Melanerpes cruentatus
Red-crowned Woodpecker Melanerpes rubricapillus
Little Woodpecker Veniliornis passerinus
Smoky-brown Woodpecker Leuconotopicus fumigatus
Golden-olive Woodpecker Colaptes rubiginosus
Spot-breasted Woodpecker Colaptes punctigula
Chestnut Woodpecker Celeus elegans
Cream-colored Woodpecker Celeus flavus
Rufous-headed Woodpecker Celeus spectabilis
Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus
Crimson-crested Woodpecker Campephilus melanoleucos
Falconidae
Carunculated Caracara Phalcoboenus carunculatus
Crested Caracara Caracara plancus
Yellow-headed Caracara Milvago chimachima
Laughing Falcon Herpetotheres cachinnans
Collared Forest Falcon Micrastur semitorquatus
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Psittacidae
Sapphire-rumped Parrotlet Touit purpuratus
Orange-chinned Parakeet Brotogeris jugularis
Cobalt-winged Parakeet Brotogeris cyanoptera
Blue-headed Parrot Pionus menstruus
Bronze-winged Parrot Pionus chalcopterus
Yellow-crowned Amazon Amazona ochrocephala
Scaly-naped Amazon Amazona mercenarius
Southern Mealy Amazon Amazona farinosa
Orange-winged Amazon Amazona amazonica
Spectacled Parrotlet Forpus conspicillatus
Brown-throated Parakeet Eupsittula pertinax
Dusky-headed Parakeet Aratinga weddellii
Chestnut-fronted Macaw Ara severus
Scarlet-fronted Parakeet Psittacara wagleri
Furnariidae
Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper Dendrexetastes rufigula
Long-billed Woodcreeper Nasica longirostris
Buff-throated Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus guttatus
Straight-billed Woodcreeper Dendroplex picus
Montane Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger
Orange-fronted Plushcrown Metopothrix aurantiaca
Ash-browed Spinetail – VU Cranioleuca curtata
Slaty Spinetail Synallaxis brachyura
Dusky Spinetail (H) Synallaxis moesta
Pale-breasted Spinetail Synallaxis albescens
Azara’s Spinetail Synallaxis azarae
Thamnophilidae
Plain Antvireo (H) Dysithamnus mentalis
Barred Antshrike Thamnophilus doliatus
Lined Antshrike (H) – VU Thamnophilus tenuepunctatus
Mouse-colored Antshrike (H) Thamnophilus murinus
Black-crowned Antshrike Thamnophilus atrinucha
Northern Slaty Antshrike (H) Thamnophilus punctatus
Black-crested Antshrike Sakesphorus canadensis
Great Antshrike (H) Taraba major
East Andean Antbird (Endemic) Drymophila caudata
Western Fire-eye Pyriglena maura
Grallariidae
Scaled Antpitta (H) Grallaria guatimalensis
White-bellied Antpitta Grallaria hypoleuca
Hooded Antpitta – VU Grallaricula cucullata
Rhinocryptidae
Nariño Tapaculo (H) Scytalopus vicinior
Tyrannidae
Yellow-bellied Elaenia Elaenia flavogaster
Mottle-backed Elaenia Elaenia gigas
Southern Beardless Tyrannulet Camptostoma obsoletum
Mouse-colored Tyrannulet Phaeomyias murina
Golden-faced Tyrannulet Zimmerius chrysops
Slaty-capped Flycatcher Leptopogon superciliaris
Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant Lophotriccus pileatus
Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant Atalotriccus pilaris
Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher Poecilotriccus calopterus
Spotted Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum maculatum
Common Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum
Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum chrysocrotaphum
Ochre-lored Flatbill Tolmomyias flaviventris
Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus cooperi
Smoke-colored Pewee Contopus fumigatus
Eastern Wood Pewee Contopus virens
Acadian Flycatcher Empidonax virescens
Vermillion Flycatcher Pyrocephalus obscurus
Streak-throated Bush Tyrant Myiotheretes striaticollis
Pied Water Tyrant Fluvicola pica
White-headed Marsh Tyrant Arundinicola leucocephala
Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca cinnamomeiventris
Cattle Tyrant Machetornis rixosa
Piratic Flycatcher Legatus leucophaius
White-bearded Flycatcher Phelpsia inornata
Rusty-margined Flycatcher Myiozetetes cayanensis
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis
Grey-capped Flycatcher Myiozetetes granadensis
Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus
Lemon-browed Flycatcher – VU Conopias cinchoneti
Boat-billed Flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus
Fork-tailed Flycatcher Tyrannus savana
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer
Swainson’s Flycatcher Myiarchus swainsoni
Short-crested Flycatcher Myiarchus ferox
Apical Flycatcher (Endemic) Myiarchus apicalis
Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus
Large-headed Flatbill (H) Ramphotrigon megacephalum
Cinnamon Attila (H) Attila cinnamomeus
Cotingidae
Andean Cock-of-the-rock Rupicola peruvianus
Purple-throated Fruitcrow Querula purpurata
Amazonian Umbrellabird Cephalopterus ornatus
Bare-necked Fruitcrow Gymnoderus foetidus
Pipridae
Golden-winged Manakin Masius chrysopterus
Wire-tailed Manakin Pipra filicauda
Tityridae
Black-crowned Tityra Tityra inquisitor
Black-tailed Tityra Tityra cayana
White-winged Becard Pachyramphus polychopterus
Vireonidae
Rufous-naped Greenlet Pachysylvia semibrunnea
Chivi Vireo Vireo chivi
Brown-capped Vireo Vireo leucophrys
Corvidae
Violaceous Jay Cyanocorax violaceus
Inca Jay Cyanocorax yncas
Hirundinidae
White-winged Swallow Tachycineta albiventer
White-banded Swallow Atticora fasciata
Blue-and-white Swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
Southern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx ruficollis
Grey-breasted Martin Progne chalybea
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Donacobiidae
Black-capped Donacobius Donacobius atricapilla
Troglodytidae
Bicolored Wren Campylorhynchus griseus
Thrush-like Wren Campylorhynchus turdinus
Rufous-and-white Wren (H) Thryophilus rufalbus
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Grey-breasted Wood Wren Henicorhina leucophrys
Chestnut-breasted Wren Cyphorhinus thoracicus
Mimidae
Tropical Mockingbird Mimus gilvus
Turdidae
Swainson’s Thrush Catharus ustulatus
Great Thrush Turdus fuscater
Black-billed Thrush Turdus ignobilis
Pale-breasted Thrush Turdus leucomelas
Spectacled Thrush Turdus nudigenis
Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush (H) Catharus auratiirostris
Cinclidae
White-capped Dipper Cinclus leucocephalus
Passeridae
House Sparrow (Introduced) Passer domesticus
Fringillidae
Lesser Goldfinch Spinus psaltria
Blue-naped Chlorophonia (H) Chlorophonia cyanea
Velvet-fronted Euphonia (Endemic) Euphonia concinna
White-vented Euphonia Euphonia minuta
Thick-billed Euphonia Euphonia laniirostris
Orange-bellied Euphonia Euphonia xanthogaster
Bronze-green Euphonia Euphonia mesochrysa
Passerellidae
Yellow-whiskered Bush Tanager Chlorospingus parvirostris
Yellow-browed Sparrow Ammodramus aurifrons
Orange-billed Sparrow (H) Arremon aurantiirostris
Chestnut-capped Brushfinch Arremon brunneinucha
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis
Icteridae
Eastern Meadowlark Sturnella magna
Russet-backed Oropendola Psarocolius angustifrons
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
Yellow-backed Oriole Icterus chrysater
Yellow Oriole Icterus nigrogularis
Venezuelan Troupial Icterus Icterus
Epaulet Oriole Icterus cayanensis
Giant Cowbird Molothrus oryzivorus
Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis
Carib Grackle Quiscalus lugubris
Red-bellied Grackle (Endemic) – VU Hypopyrrhus pyrohypogaster
Oriole Blackbird Gymnomystax mexicanus
Yellow-hooded Blackbird Chrysomus icterocephalus
Parulidae
Cerulean Warbler Setophaga cerulea
Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca
American Yellow Warbler Setophaga aestiva
Buff-rumped Warbler Myiothlypis fulvicauda
Canada Warbler Cardellina canadensis
Slate-throated Whitestart Myioborus miniatus
Cardinalidae
Summer Tanager Piranga rubra
Thraupidae
Green Honeycreeper Chlorophanes spiza
Swallow Tanager Tersina viridis
Purple Honeycreeper Cyanerpes caeruleus
Blue Dacnis Dacnis cayana
Yellow-bellied Dacnis Dacnis flaviventer
Olive-grey Saltator Saltator olivascens
Streaked Saltator Saltator striatipectus
Buff-throated Saltator Saltator maximus
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola
Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivaceus
Blue-black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina
White-shouldered Tanager Loriotus luctuosus
Flame-rumped Tanager (Endemic) Ramphocelus flammigerus
Crimson-backed Tanager Ramphocelus dimidiatus
Masked Crimson Tanager Ramphocelus nigrogularis
Silver-beaked Tanager Ramphocelus carbo
Grey Seedeater Sporophila intermedia
Yellow-bellied Seedeater Sporophila nigricollis
Saffron Finch Sicalis flaveola
Orange-fronted Yellow Finch Sicalis columbiana
Grassland Yellow Finch Sicalis luteola
Masked Flowerpiercer Diglossa cyanea
Glossy Flowerpiercer Diglossa lafresnayii
Hooded Mountain Tanager Buthraupis montana
Blue-winged Mountain Tanager Anisognathus somptuosus
Multicolored Tanager (Endemic) Chlorochrysa nitidissima
Magpie Tanager Cissopis leverianus
Masked Cardinal Paroaria nigrogenis
Golden-naped Tanager Chalcothraupis ruficervix
Blue-grey Tanager Thraupis episcopus
Palm Tanager Thraupis palmarum
Black-capped Tanager Stilpnia heinei
Golden-hooded Tanager Stilpnia larvata
Blue-necked Tanager Stilpnia cyanicollis
Masked Tanager Stilpnia nigrocincta
Scrub Tanager Stilpnia vitriolina
Bay-headed Tanager Tangara gyrola
Golden-eared Tanager Tangara chrysotis
Saffron-crowned Tanager Tangara xanthocephala
Flame-faced Tanager Tangara parzudakii
Golden Tanager Tangara arthus
Silver-throated Tanager Tangara icterocephala
Turquoise Tanager Tangara mexicana
Paradise Tanager Tangara chilensis
Total seen 377
Total heard only 17
Total recorded 394

Mammal List

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable, DD = Data Deficient.

Common Name Scientific Name
Myrmecophagidae
Giant Anteater – VU Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Southern Tamandua Tamandua tetradactyla
Caviidae
Capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
Dasyproctidae
Central American Agouti Dasyprocta punctate
Sciuridae
Red-tailed Squirrel Sciurus granatensis
Cebidae
Humboldt’s Squirrel Monkey Saimiri cassiquiarensis
Pitheciidae
Colombian Black-handed Titi – VU Cheracebus medemi
Red (-crowned) Titi Monkey Plecturocebus discolor
Canidae
Crab-eating Fox Cerdocyon thous
Cervidae
Red Brocket – DD Mazama americana
Iniidae
Amazon (Pink) River Dolphin) – EN Inia geoffrensis
Total seen 11

Reptile List

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: CR = Critically Endangered, VU = Vulnerable.

Common Name Scientific Name
Crocodiles (Crocodylidae)
Orinoco Crocodile – CR Crocodylus intermedius
Alligators and Caimans (Alligatoridae)
Common Caiman Caiman crocodilus
Boas (Boidae)
Green Anaconda Eunectes murinus
Iguanas and Chuckwallas (Iguanidae)
Green Iguana Iguana iguana
Whiptails and Tegus (Teiidae)
Gold Tegu Tupinambis teguixin
South American and Malagasy River Turtles (Podocnemididae)
Savanna Side-necked Turtle Podocnemis vogli
Yellow-headed Sideneck – VU Podocnemis unifilis
Total seen 7

Amphibian List

Common Name Scientific Name
Tree frogs and their allies (Hylidae)
Boettger’s Colombian Treefrog Dendropsophus colombianus
Total seen 7

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This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

THE VERY BEST OF COLOMBIA, PART II: SOUTHERN ANDES, AMAZONIAN FOOTHILLS AND LLANOS TOUR-SPECIFIC INFORMATION

 

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PERTAINING TO OUR COLOMBIA TOURS IN GENERAL

 

This itinerary has been designed to provide you with another incredible birding adventure which is complementary to our Very Best of Colombia: Santa Marta, Andes and Chocó birding tour. As Colombia is a large country, the fourth largest in South America, it is virtually impossible to see all of its highlights and enjoy all of its avian treasures in a standard 15- or 21-day trip. For this reason, we have decided to divide our ‘Very Best of Colombia’ tour into two different tours. The Very Best of Colombia, Part II will give you the chance to see other areas of this fabulous country. This trip will take you to the southern Andes in search of some incredible, range-restricted species such as the Chestnut-bellied Cotinga and White-rimmed Brushfinch. In addition, we will search for some classic and most-wanted Andean species such Andean Condor, White-capped Tanager and Golden-plumed Parakeet. We shall explore the Amazonian foothills where we will enjoy a plethora of colorful birds such Coppery-chested, White-chinned, White-eared and Brown Jacamars, Plum-throated Cotinga, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Vermilion Tanager, White-throated Toucan and Golden-collared Toucanet. We will end our trip in Los Llanos where we can enjoy great birds such as the localized Pale-headed Jacamar and Orinoco Goose and if we are lucky wildlife such Anaconda, or even the mighty Jaguar.

            

ARRIVAL INFORMATION

Our tour will start in Cali’s Alfonso Bonilla Aragón International Airport (CLO) which can be reached by direct flights from all over Colombia, from some US international airports and from Panama City (Panama). Cali can be reached from Europe with a stop in Bogota. Please consult your travel agent to book your most convenient flight. Your tour leader will be waiting for you at Cali airport with a small board with the Birding Ecotours logo and we will then transfer you to your hotel. Please remember to keep your luggage tags, as they are required to exit the terminal at the Barranquilla airport. Please be aware that most international flights arrive in Cali in the afternoon, so we don’t have any birding activities planned for the first day. In case you arrive on an early flight, you will be transferred to the hotel but may have to wait until check-in is available. For an early check-in you might be charged extra by the hotel; this cost is not included in the Birding Ecotours tour price.

When filling out the customs declaration form, please use this address for the hotel:

Hotel Hampton by Hilton Cali, Avenida Colombia #1A Oeste-35, Calí, Colombia

Phone: +57 (2) 4896000

 

DEPARTURE INFORMATION

Our tour will end in Bogota after a wonderful 17 days in Colombia. After a final morning’s birding we will transfer you to the Bogota El Dorado International Airport (BOG), from where you can catch international connections and flights back home.

 

DOMESTIC FLIGHT INFORMATION

There are three domestic flights on this trip, covering the Puerto Asis-Bogota and Bogota-Yopal-Bogota legs. These flights are not included in the Birding Ecotours tour price, but we will book them for you. To reach Bogota from both Puerto Asis and Yopal we will fly in small aircrafts where the luggage is limited to 15 kg (33 Ib) as checked luggage and 5 kg (11 Ib) as hand luggage.

Any excess baggage fees are not included in the tour price and will cost about US$ 2 per kg (4.40 Ib). We will fly with EasyFly (www.easyfly.com.co) for the Puerto Asis-Bogota and Bogota-Yopal-Bogota routes, which we find to be the easiest airline covering these routes. We ask you to not book any flights before you confirm with Birding Ecotours.

 

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS AND PACE

We grade this trip as moderate. Most of the birding consists of walking along roads and birding near the vehicle but some of the walks lead slightly up and down hills in the paramos. There are two areas, in the lowlands of Los Llanos and Putumayo, where the vehicles cannot access and thus require full mornings of walking with high humidity and heat but all along flat gradients.

We need predawn starts on each day of the tour so you will have to be physically and mentally prepared for this. We normally spend the whole morning birding in the field, return to the lodge for lunch (followed by a little rest), before continuing our birding in the afternoon.

We have customized our tour so that we will be spending two or three nights at a few destinations, which minimizes the stress of packing and re-packing every day, however Colombia is a big country, and the tour includes some lengthy drives between destinations. These lengthy drives are however certainly not bland and they will allow us to enjoy the interesting countryside and maximize our chances for unexpected birds along the way. There will be long drives through the southern Andes along our way to Putumayo

We will stay at the best accommodations available, however not all lodges provide the full suite of facilities such as air conditioning or heating.

We think this trip might be difficult for people with back, walking, and balance problems or for those who are not used to a birding trip with the many early starts involved.

 

ATM

ATM machines are available in Cali, Popayan, Bogota, Pasto and Yopal but not in Putumayo. You can pay with credit card at Hotel Hampton Cali, Hotel Sumawasi, Hotel Habitel Bogota, and Hotel Hampton Yopal. Please be aware that credit cards are not accepted everywhere, especially in remote locations.

 

WEATHER

We ask you to be ready for all kinds of weather during this trip.

Putumayo, Pasto, Puerto Asis and Hato La Aurora in los Llanos are hot with temperatures reaching 30 – 37 °C (86 – 98 °F). Please pack clothes in which you feel most comfortable for this kind of weather. We highly recommend using sunscreen and a light-colored hat or cap. Please check here on what we recommend to pack for our birding tours.

Even when it is sunny in the mornings, the temperatures can be cool at night in Popayan. Similarly, the southern Andes can be warm in the mornings with temperatures often dropping to a chilly 16 °C (60 °F) at night. We can also expect some rain in this part of the Andes however certain flocks of birds are more active on rainy and overcast days.

Up in Paramo de Bordoncillo in the southern Andes, windy days may produce even colder temperatures, sometimes dropping to 5 °C (41 °F) in the night and early morning.

In Calí, high humidity and some rainy mornings should be expected with minimum night-time temperatures in Bogotá at around 10 °C (50 °F).

 

INSECTS

Insects and chiggers are expected in Los Llanos and the Amazonian foothills however we recommend that you bring insect repellent, wear loose-fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirts and keep insect repellent handy. Spraying your feet, socks, shoes, and the lower portion of your pants with insect repellent will help reduce chigger bites.

 

LAUNDRY

Laundry services are only available at Hampton Cali, Pasto, Putumayo (Hotel Sumawasii), Habitel in Bogota and in Hampton Yopal. Laundry fees are not included in the tour price.

 

ACCOMMODATION

Note on showers: Hotel Pakari (Mocoa x 2 nights) and Juan Solito (Llanos x 3 nights) do not provide hot showers however the weather is generally hot and humid.

 

TRANSPORT

We will have a private van for the whole tour with plenty of room for everybody. However, we might have to divide the group in two for the transfer from Yopal to Juan Solito Lodge. We will use open safari-style jeeps for our drives around Los Llanos which offer better views and photography chances.

Birding Ecotours

Colombia General Information

Download Best of Colombia, Part II Tour Information

Giancarlo was an excellent guide. He is very knowledgeable about the birds of Colombia and a very pleasant person to be with. He was good at seeing and hearing birds and then using the tapes to draw the birds in. It was also very good that he wasn't using a camera. We've had guides who were more focused on getting photographs for themselves rather than helping us get the photographs. We were very impressed by the sheer number of birds we saw and the range of interesting and beautiful habitats on our 2020 Best of Colombia birding tour. We really did think we were seeing the best of Colombia from a birding perspective. Giancarlo was an excellent guide and a very nice person to be with for 3 weeks. It was also very nice that there were just the three of us and we weren’t in a large group.
John and Maggie - On Giancarlo and Colombia
The Classic Colombia tour was so wonderful. I cannot say enough about how great it was. Eduardo is/was fantastic as a guide and leader. The itinerary was also great, and he has a warm relationship with local guides and lodging hosts. I have zero complaints! An added bonus was having Giancarlo Ventolini as a driver and extra guide for much of the trip. That young man was a sweetheart, a super driver as well as a really good and knowledgeable birder. He has a lot of potential for being a bird guide in the future. I wish you could see how well we all got on. I thank you for allowing a tour with only two participants. We four became good friends and had so much fun together. Honestly, with the difference in ages, it was not expected. I am old enough to be mother to Eduardo and Anne, and a grandmother to Giancarlo. Yet we truly had a blast! You do have a treasure in Eduardo as your employee. He made the tour perfect for me. I hope to do another trip with him in the future. Good birding!
Betty - On Eduardo and Colombia

The Best of Colombia Part 2 is an excellent balanced tour with many areas of interest. If you want to see good hummingbirds, this is the tour for you. If you want to see elusive Chestnut Wood Quails do this tour. The people you meet are all kind and welcoming and the bird gardens are fantastic. After the Andes and Amazonia, Los Llanos is a welcome surprise with wonderful scenery and photo opportunities. Who doesn't want to see a bare tree decorated with scarlet ibises at sunset – almost too beautiful to believe.

John and Susan - On Eduardo and Colombia

Birding Ecotours took us on a whirlwind tour of southern Colombia that we will not soon forget. We asked for and immediately received modifications to the standard tour that met the needs of our group. The staff at Birding Ecotours quickly and happily adjusted the tour to allow one couple to exit early and allowed for an extension for the rest of us. Our guide, Eduardo Ormaeche, and his assistants made us feel comfortable and safe while finding an amazing variety of birds. Away from the incredible birding, the food, lodging, transportation, and general service was outstanding. We have done a fair amount of world traveling and we all agreed this trip ranks in the top four of any we have taken. Well done Birding Ecotours and we will use you again without reservation.

Charles - on Eduardo and Colombia

This tour was a blast. The guiding was exceptional. Whether it was our primary guide Eduardo, our drivers, or all the local guides that were helping along the way, they all had one thing in mind, pleasing the customers. Accommodations were very nice and the food was fantastic. We saw over 430 species of birds. We also saw Pink River Dolphins and Andean Bear. Such a great trip!!

Jeff - On Eduardo and Colombia

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