WESTERN & CENTRAL ANDES BIRDWATCHING TOUR

The unsurpassed, classic andes tour to some of the best birding spots in the whole country!  

Day 1. Arrival in Cali

We will pick up you at the airport Alfonso Bonilla Aragón in Palmira and head to Cali, the city of birds.

Night: Hotel Pension del Oeste, Cali.

Day 2. El 18 and Andean cock- of the rock

At the morning we will go birdwatch at km 18 and visit the amazing feeders at the privately owned Finca Alejandría. The super-star of the trip is the multicolored tanager (Chlorochrysa nitidissima), which is feeding almost daily and even with juveniles on board!  Other tanagers are the golden (Tangara arthus), Saffron-crowned (T. xanthocephala), metallic-green (T. labradorides) , golden-naped (T. Ruficervix) and the fabulous Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager (Anisognathus somptuosus).  Other good birds are the Masked flowerpiercer (Diglossa cyanea), green honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza) and the red-headed barbet (Eubucco bourcierii). The hummingbirds include the Blue-headed sapphire (Hilocharis grayi), brown Violetear (Colibri delphinae), White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora),  Fawn-breasted brilliant (Heliodoxa rubinoides), Speckled hummingbird (Adelomyia melanogenys) and with some luck a Green (Phaethornis guy) or Tawny-bellied (Phaethornis syrmatophorus)  Hermit. Then we will go have lunch and go in  the afternoon to see the impressive Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus) at lek, with more than five individuals dancing around. We will then do a 1 hour drive to el Queremal and sleep there.

Night: Hotel Pension del Oeste, Cali.

Day 3. Sonso Lagoon

Early birding will be at Sonso lagoon looking for marvelous aquatic species such as Cocoi Heron (Ardea cocoi), Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis), Osprey (Pandion haeliatus), Snail kite (Rhostramus sociabilis), Horned Screamer (Anhima cornuta), Neotropical cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus), Striated Heron (Butorides striata), Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana) and more like a good dose of sandpippers, rails and plovers. Also almost sure bets include Spectacled Parrotlet (Forpus conspicillatus), and the Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) and Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus), both of which we know their exact spots! In the afternoon we’ll drive towards the very productive Montezuma road.

Night: Hotel Guadalajara, Buga.

Days 4-5. Montezuma Road

Considered by many as the top destination for bird watching in Colombia. Thanks to its privileged position facing the pacific from the Western Cordillera, and to its range of elevations between 1300 and 2600 m, Montezuma boasts an incredible variety of life, the place where the Andes and Pacific meet. We will be here two full days birding one day at mid and the other at high elevations, where different species occur.

More than 600 bird species have been recorded in this locality alone, with about 11 endemics and 37 near-endemic species. Virtually the only place for both Gold-ringed (Bangsia aureocincta) and Black-and-gold tanagers (Bangsia melanochlamys). At the high elevations the targets are the endemic and critically endangered Chestnut-breasted flowerpiercer (Diglossa gloriosissima) and the endemic Munchique wood-wren (Henicorhina negreti).

Day 6. Montezuma Lodge to Otun-Quimbaya Reserve

On the morning we will focus on the feeders at the Montezuma lodge that are also very productive for tanagers and specially hummingbirds with visiting individuals of Empress (Heliodoxa imperatrix) & Green-crowned Brilliant (H. jacula), Brown (Coeligena coeligena) and Bronzy Incas (C. wilsoni), White-tailed Hillstar (Urochroa bougueri), Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus coelestis), Booted-racket tail (Ocreatus underwoodii) and others. After lunch we will go towards Otun-Quimbaya Reserve, driving through the city of Pereira.

Night: La Suiza Lodge Cabins, Otun Quimbaya Sanctuary.

Day 7. Otun-Quimbaya reserve

The site is very comfortable with good food. At this place our target is the endemic Cauca Guan (Penelope perspicax) that is common here, along with the noisy and active Chestnut Wood-Quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus)

Also easy to spot is the Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (Pyroderus scutatus) with its peculiar call, a hollow hoot like when someone is blowing a bottle. We will be looking at interesting birds such as Masked Trogon (Trogon personatus), Blue-naped Chlorophonia (Chlorophonia cyanea), Rufous-breasted Flycatcher (Leptopogon rufipectus), Golden-fronted Whitestart (Myioborus ornatus) and others. At the Otun river it’s likely to catch Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata), White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) and Torrent Tyrannulet (Serpophaga cinerea). Some bridges on this river are common nesting site of the Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus). Other interesting species are Moustached Antpitta (Grallaria alleni), Stiles’s (Scytalopus stilesi) and White-crowned Tapaculo (Scytalopus atratus), Chestnut-breasted Wren (Cyphorhinus thoracicus) and Western Wedge-billed Hummingbird (Schistes albogularis) a recent split from the Wedge-billed hummingbird (Schistes geoffroyi). We wil then drive to Manizales.

Night: Hotel Termales del Otoño, Manizales.

Day 8. Rio Blanco Reserve

One of the most visited and famous sites in Colombia for birdwatching, with its Antpitta feeders visited by no less about seven species and the very productive mixed-species flocks that go around the area the whole day. 

Chestnut-crowned (Grallaria ruficapilla) and  the endemic Brown-banded (Grallaria milleri) antpittas are easy with possibilites of the near-endemic Bicolured Antpitta (Grallaria rufocinerea).  Other main targets here include Masked Saltator (Saltator cinctus), Dusky Piha (Lipaugus fuscocinereus), White-capped (Sericossypha albocristata) and Red-hooded Tanagers (Piranga rubriceps), Ocellated (Acropternis orthonyx) and Ash-coloured (Myornis senilis) tapaculos, Golden-plumed parakeet (Leptosittaca branickii) and Chestnut Wood-Quail (Odontophorus hyperythrus). The hummingbird feeders are nice for species such as Tornaline Sunangel (Heliangelus exortis), Buff-tailed coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens), Long-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingi) and White-bellied Woodstar (Chaetocercus mulsant) among others.

At night we will search for Rufous-banded Owl (Ciccaba albitarsis), White-throated Screech-Owl (Megascops albogularis) and  Swallow-tailed Nightjar (Uropsalis segmentata).

Night: Río Blanco Lodge.

Day 9. Los Nevados National Natural Park

At this day we will reach high elevations (around 4000 m or 13.000 ft) to the alpine tropical grasslands called Paramo, exclusive to only some Andean countries with the majority of this ecosystem occuring in Colombia. For the first time visitor this is an unforgettable experience, with a view of the active Ruiz volcano and the unique vegetation above the treeline, where the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest (Oxypogon stubelii) steals the show taking nectar from the famed frailejones (Espeletia hartwegiana) one of the world’s most unique plants. The birds around here are highly adapted to the cold temperatures and be sure to wear your cold-weather gear to help your adaptation process too!

We stand good chance to see in this area Tawny Antpitta (Grallaria quitensis), Stout-billed cinclodes (Cinclodes excelsior), Paramo Tapaculo (Scytalopus opacus) Brown-backed chat-tyrant (Ochthoeca fumicolor), Viridian Metaltail (Metallura williami), Scarlet-bellied (Anisognathus igniventris), Buff-breasted (Dubusia taeniata) and Lacrimose (Anisognathus lachrymosus) Mountain Tanagers, Glossy flowerpiercer (Diglossa lafresnayii), Sedge Wren (Cistophorus platensis), Andean Tit-Spinetail (Leptasthenura andicola), Paramo seedeater (Catamenia homochroa), Plumbeous Sierra-Finch (Phrygilus unicolor) and others.

With luck we might come across Black-backed Bush-tanager (Urothraupis stozmanni), Golden-crowned Tanager (Iridosornis rufivertex), Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus) Many-striped Canastero (Asthenes flammulata), Golden-breasted puffleg (Eriocnemis mosquera). At a small, glacial lake we are in good position to see Ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), Andean teal (Anas andium) and along the roads there’s opportunities for  the endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet (Bolborhynchus ferrugineus). We will transfer in the afternoon towards Jardín.

Night:  Valvidia plaza, Jardín.

Day 10. Jardín

The colonial town of Jardín (“The garden”) is the home to the Yellow-eared Parrot (Ognorhynchus icterotis), thanks to a succesful conservation program that made possible the recovery of this endangered species to good, healthy numbers.

This is the best place also for Chestnut-crested Cotinga (Ampelion rufaxilla) and there are good birds around the area (specially in  Ventanas Pass) where we can spot Tanager Finch (Oreothraupis arremonops), Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus), Barred Fruiteater (Pipreola arquata), Black-collared Jay (Cyanolyca armata), Black-billed Mountain-Toucan (Andigena nigrirostris), Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher (Poecilotriccus ruficeps), Hooded (Buthraupis montana) and Lacrimose (Anisognathus lacrymosus) Mountain-Tanagers, Mountain velvetcrest (Lafresnaya lafresnayi) among several others.

 Day 11. Jardín to Medellín

At the morning we will continue birding around the landscape of Jardín which has a lot to offer. After lunch on our way to Medellín, we will go towards the Cauca Valley, stopping briefly at the town of Bolombolo for species typical of hotter, dry tropical forests. Our target is the endemic Antioquia Wren (Thryophilus sernai) described in 2012, and to spot the Apical Flycatcher (Myiarchus apicalis) and Greyish Piculet (Picumnus granadensis) in case we missed them at Sonso Lagoon. Then we will make a late arrival to Medellín.

Night: Hotel Porton, Medellín.

BOOK YOUR TOUR

Tour leader: Rubén Darío Palacio