THE BUFFY HELMETCREST - an endemic species found in the Andean Paramo at an altitude of around 4,000 Meters (approx 13,000ft.)
COLOMBIA has more species than anywhere else in the world! It is home to 1881 species of birds, 77 of them are endemics with many more regional endemics.
Despite this amazing fact, very few birders have visited this country and discovered its rich-avifauna. Colombia is a country with a troubled past that is now settled and stable. In recent times more and more viisiting birders are making astounding discoveries, birding is now becoming a very popular pastime in this beautiful country.
A newtork of local birders are discovering new birding sites and new species all the time, site guides are out of date even before publication such is the pace of change. Colombia is large, trying to cover the whole country in one trip is impossible, so we concentrate our efforts in the Andean Mountains where over 500 species can be seen on this trip.
This 17-day tour covers a wide range of habitats found in the Eastern, Central and Western Colombian Andes, we visit a variety of evelavtions giving us a great opportunity to maximise our sightings. We search for the Buffy Helmetcrest in the Paramo at 4000 masl (meters above sea level) whilst down at much lower levels we search the Inter-Andean Valleys of Magdalena & Cauca for lower altitude species. We trace the course of the Otūn River to look for the Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper. All the ecosystems in between the high altitude Paramo and Sea-Level are covered on this trip.
The Colombian Andes (Eastern, Central and Western) are rainy mountain ranges and are home to several global rarities, also many really special birds, including, a number of country endemics, and others that are just stunning to look atl! The region is a paradise for tanager fans and hummingbird lovers alike, and includes rich, biodiverse cloud forest between 800-3800 m. In Colombia, the western slope of the Western Andes is still mostly covered by forests whilst the drier eastern slope is largely deforested.
There are 9 endemics in the western Andes (most of which have only recently been discovered): Urrao Antpitta, Gorgeted & Colourful Pufflegs, Dusky Starfrontlet, Munchique Wood-Wren, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Alto Pisones Tapaculo, Paramillo Tapaculo and Gold-ringed Tanager. In addition there are a further 7 national endemics, and many other special near-endemics such as Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Black Solitaire, Buffy Tuftedcheek, Bicoloured Antvireo, Choco Vireo and Beautiful Jay. Many of these species also occur in Ecuador, but are easier to see in Colombia. We shall look for all of these species during our fabulous trip.
Upon arrival in Bogota, we will be met by our guide where and our air-conditioned bus and be driven to the first birding destination which is the Hummingbird Observatory located in the small town of la Calera. Here we will encounter our first hummingbird specialties such as: Black-tailed and Green Tailed Trainbearers, Blue-throated starfrontlet, Glowing Puffleg, Coppery-bellied Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing and White-bellied Woodstar. On occasion, and depending on altitudinal movements, Golden-bellied Starfrontlet and Amethist-throated Sunangel come to visit the feeders.
Just after lunch time we will head to the Elfin forest to where the Paramo habitat begins and so does some great birding. Species we will look for include: (Endemic) Silvery-throated Spinetail, (Near Endemic) Matorral Tapaculo, (NE) Golden-fronted Whitestart, (NE) Coopery-bellied Puffleg, (NE) Rufous-browed Conebill, Purple-backed Thornbill, Paramo Seedeater, Plush-capped Finch, Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, and Black-headed Hemispingus. After that excirement we drive back into Bogota to our hotel for the night.
Today we rise early and head out towards Chingaza NP looking for more specialties such as (E) Brown-breasted Parakeet, (E) Silvery-throated Spinetail, (E) Green-bearded Helmetcrest, (NE) Blue-throated Starfrontlet, (NE) Matorral Tapaculo, (NE) Coppery-bellied Puffleg, (NE) Rufous-browed Conebill, Purple-backed Thornbill, Paramo Seedeater, Plush-capped Finch, Andean Pygmy-owl, Bronze-tailed Thornbill, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Black-headed Hemispingus, Red-crested Cotinga, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Rufous wren, Andean Guan and others. Our second night will be spent in Bogota,
La Florida Park is a wetland heavily impacted by development. The small remaining natural area is a perfect spot to find the endemic Bogota Rail. Other interesting species to be found include endemic Apolinar's Wren, a bird of tall cattails. The endemic subspecies of the Yellow-hooded Blackbirds are normally present and conspicuous, but Noble Snipe and Subtropical Doradito are rather rare and more difficult to see. Small numbers of Spot-flanked Gallinule (endemic subspecies) are usually present in open water. (E) Silverythroated Spinetail and (NE) Rufous-browed Conebill can occasionally be found in the surrounding Eucalyptus trees and parkland. Other birds of interest include Band-tailed Seedeater, Lesser Scaup, Andean Siskin, Andean Teal and Black Flowerpiercer.
After a full morning there we will transfer to airport for our flight to Medellín in the heart of the Central Andes. Overnight in Medellin.
Today we will head out towards the Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve. This Pro-aves reserve protects an important area of forest in the northern tip of the Central Andes and is home of the very rare Chestnut-capped Piha, an endemic only discovered no more than 20 years ago. A very convenient mix of Chocó, Mid-Magdalena region and Central Andes species occur here, making this place an unusual and fantastic birding Colombian hotspot.
Specialties here include: (E) Chestnut Wood-quail, (E) Blackand-gold Tanager, (E) White-mantled Barbet, (E) Sooty Anttanager, (E) Magdalena Antbird, (NE) Purplish-Mantled Tanager, (NE) Scarlet-and-white Tanager, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Western Striped,White-crowned, Goldenwinged, White-bearded and White-bibbed Manakins, Blackheaded Brush-finch, (E) Parker´s Antbird, (E) Red-bellied Grackle, (NE) Sooty-headed Wren, Blackish Rail, the very rare Pavonnine Cuckcoo, (E) Colombian Chachalacas attend every day at the feeders wich also attract Spotted, Golden, Scrub and Flame-rumped Tanagers. In addition, along the approch track to the reserve is possible to find some regional specialties of the dry and tropical wet forest, for example: Yellow-browed Shrike-vireo, Red-billed Scythebill, (NE) Southern Bentbill, Dusky Antbird, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Tody Motmot, Wattled Guan, Olivaceous Piculet and Fasciated Antshrike among others. We spend the first of our two nights at the Piha Reserve centre where one or two Owls can be found. Overnight in Chestnut-capped Piha Lodge
Day five will be spent exploring the many kilometers of track and trails of this fantastic reserve searching for the many species and regional specialities that are mentioned above. A second night will be spent at the Reserve Centre which we will have to ourselves. Overnight in Chestnut-capped Piha Lodge
We will spend the morning birding on the way out of the Piha Reserve and in very special forest patches on the way to Medellín. After our lunch, taken along the way, we will start our drive to Medellin and spend one night there. Overnight in Medellin
This morning we transfer to Jardin and along the way we will visit one of the last remnents of the very endangered tropical dry forest where 4 endemics are found: (E) Antioquia Wren, (E) Grayish Piculet, (E) Apical Flycatcher and (E) Colombian Chachalaca. This fragmented forest also hosts other specialties as (NE) Bar-crested Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Jet Antbird, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Moustached Puffbird, Spectacled Parrotlet, Cinereous Becard, Long-billed Starthroat, Guira Tanager, Plain Antvireo, Black-crowned Antshrike, and Striped Cuckoo.
After a morning full of specialties we will start our drive to the colorful town of Jardín, home of the endangered and endemic Yellow-eared Parrot, but this afternoon we will spend time in the best Colombian lek of the deep-red colored subspecies of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock located only ten minutes away from Jardin. This is an amazing experience not to be missed, you will be thrilled by the close proximity of the birds, it really is quite spectacular. Overnight in Jardin
Today we will have an early start and make our way to Alto Ventanas. Target sightings today include: (E) Yellow-eared Parrot, (E) Dusky Starfrontlet (rare) (E) Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, (E) Chestnut Wood-quail, (E) Red-bellied Grackle, (E) Colombia Chachalaca,(NE) Golden-fronted Whitestart, (NE) Purplish-mantled Tanager, (NE) Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, and (NE) Tanager Finch.
Other specialties we may find are: Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, White-rumped Hawk, Purple-backed Thornbill, Black-billed Mountain-toucan, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Rufous Antpitta, Ocellated Tapaculo, Spillman's Tapaculo, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Striped and Flammulated Fruiteater, White-capped Tanager, Red-hooded Tanager, Blackcollared Jay, and Powerful Woodpecker. Overnight in Jardin
This morning we will head off early to the city of Manizales where Rio Blanco is located, a stop along the way looking for missing specialties of the tropical dry forest is possible depending on our needs.
Río Blanco is one of the oldest and better known birding hotspots of Colombia. It was the first in establishing antpitta feeders where is possible to spot at least 4 species, (E) Brown-banded, Chestnut-crowned, Slate-crowned and (NE) Bicolored Antpittas.
Feeders are strategically placed close to the lodge and next to the main road, photographic chances are the best here. In addition to this, there are hummingbird feeders wich attracts species previously seen but with a different environmemt and light conditions: Collared Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Bronzy Inca, Lesser and Sparkling Violetears, Speckled hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Buff-tailed Coronet and White-bellied Woodstar amon others.
Andean Emerald, Fawn-breasted Brilliant and (NE) Western Wedge-billed Hummingbird are found in a second feeder station in the main entrance to the reserve.
Tanager feeders attract Buff-breasted and Blue-winged Mountain-tanagers, Slaty Brush-finch, Masked Flowerpiercer and others. Birding from the main track is possible to see the much wanted and rare Masked Saltator, Goldenheaded Quetzal, White-capped Tanager, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Montane, Tyrannine and Strong-billed Woodcreepers, Rusty-faced Parrot, Dusky Piha, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Red-hooded Tanager and Black-billed Mountain Toucan among others. Night at the Rio Blanco Pro-aves Reserve
We have this whole day exclusively dedicated to Rio Blanco and all the specialties mentioned before. We will be free to explore the reserve with the help of one of the local guides and even explore the forest when the night falls looking for owls such as Rufous-banded Owl and White-throated Screech-owl and White-winged Nightjars are also possible. Night in Río Blanco Reserve.
Today we we will explore Los Nevados National Park, located on the highest part of the Colombian Central Andes. We will wind through patches of forest that open up to Paramo, a montane ecosystem above the treeline dominated by espeletia (frailejon), and grasses.
We will reach elevations up to 3,950 meters (13,000 feet), so it will be cold and we will take all precautions to avoid elevation sickness. As we enter the paramo habitat, possibilities include: (E) Buffy Helmetcrest, (E) Rufous-fronted Parakeet, (NE)Black-backed Bush-tanager.
Other specialties include Tawny Antpitta, White-chinned Thistletail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Andean Condor, Many-striped Canastero, Paramo Seedeater, Noble Snipe, Black flowerpiercer, Golden-crowned Tanager, Ash-coloured & Paramo Tapaculo, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Mountain Avocetbill and Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant.
One of the highlights of this day is the visit to one of the best hummingbird feeders in the highlands, found in the gorunds of our Hotel! We will be able to look for the rare species (NE) Black-thighed Puffleg, (NE) Golden-breasted Puffleg, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphire-wing, Viridian Metaltail, Mountain Velvetbreast, Shining Sunbeam and Buff-winged Starfrontlet among others. Scarlet-bellied and Lacrymose Mountain-Tanagers visit the banana feeders as well. Night in Los Nevados
This morning we will wake up surrounded by the steam coming directly from the hotsprings just behind the hotel, don´t forget to bring a swimsuit and enjoy one of the two thermal pools with uninterrupted views over the stunning mountains above the hotel.
After a cooked breakfast we will start exploring the dwarf forest around the hotel and later on the way to the city of Manizales. Specialties here include: Purple-backed thornbill, Black-chested Mountain-tanager, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Golden-crowned Tanager, Paramo Seedeater, Dusky Piha, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Agile Tit-tyrant, Black-headed Hemispingus, Mountain Avocetbill, Crowned and Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrants. As we descend, specialties are the same as those found atf Rio Blanco, so we can look for some missinhg birds.
After lunch, which is taken along the way, we will head towards Otún Quimbaya. This is another famous location with a long tradition promoting birding through a community-based tourism strategy led by the Yarumo Blanco Community Association.
It's also the best place for some restricted birds like the endemics Cauca Guan, Crested Ant-tanager, Stile's Tapaculo and Multicolored Tanager.
Other specialties here include: (E) Grayish Piculet, (NE) Moustached and Hooded Antpitta, (NE) Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Torrent Duck, White-capped Tanager, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Wattled Guan, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Streak-capped Treehunter, Bronze-olive Pygmy-tyrant, Black-billed Peppershrike, Golden-winged and Cerulean Warblers, among others. Night in Otún-Quimbaya
We have the whole day to explore the local trails and the river to look for the targets previously mentioned and spend time on the main road and/or around the lodge wihch is surrounded by pristine forest with many opportunities for photography and relaxed birding, admiring the splendour of the mountains here. Night in Otún-Quimbaya
After a early breakfast we will drive to the very well known Tatamá National Park, an incredibly biodiverse region which is home of the Montezuma Hill. Without doubt Montezuma is one of the best locations for birding in the Colombian Andes. Its privileged location laying on the north side of the Tatamá NP just in the transition between two of the main bio-regions of Colombia:Chocó and Tropical Andes, making this place a real hotspot for birding and other nature watching activities.
Here we will spend 3 full days and one half morning trying to achieve sightings of the many targets. In this case our targets are the jewels of Tatamá NP, a set of rare, colorful and range restricted birds found here. Just after we arrive, the hummingbird feeders in the lodge grounds, will be waiting for us, the first jewels of the regions will provide us with fantastic moments. A short exploration of the low section is available for those who want to continue with the adventure or we can just sit and watch the feeders. Night in Tatamá NP
An early start will find us climbimg into the back of our 4*4 vehicles to be driven to the top of Montezuma Hill, it is an amazing place off tranquility and where we can find the three main endemic species of the region. We shall enjoy a picnic breakfast before we stroll downhill through the park.
The Montezuma hill which lies within the Tatamá NP, is often divided into 3 altitudinal sections. Today we will explore the best spots of the high part in the quest for many of the specialties with stops at 2 feeder stations set at 2200 and 2400 (masl) where it is possible to see some extra hummingbirds such as Collared Inca, Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Greenish Puffleg, Mountain Velvetbreast among others that are seen in the lower section around the lodge.
The endemics and near endemics found here is an extensive list of goodies. The endemics are: Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, Munchique Wood-wren and Gold-ringed Tanager, (the endemic tanager with the most restricted range in Colombia and an iconic bird of the country).
Other specialties here are (NE) Tanager Finch, (NE) Black Solitaire, (NE) Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, (NE) Orange-breasted Fruiteater, (NE) Beautiful Jay, (NE) Purplish-mantled Tanager, (NE) Glistening-green Tanager, (NE) Dusky Chlorospingus, (NE) Black-chinned Mountain-tanager, (NE)Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, (NE) Cloudforest Pygmy-Owl, (NE) Brown Inca, and (NE) Nariño Tapaculo.
Other specialties include: White-faced Nunbird, Greater Scythebill (rare), Crested Quetzal, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Tricolored Brush-Finch, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Semicollared Hawk (rare). Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Barred Fruiteater, Ornate Hawk-eagle, Barred Hawk. Night in Tatamá NP.
Today we will start in the mid level, considered the most biodiverse of the three sections. Here we'll have chance to see the endemic Black-and-gold Tanager, Olivaceous Piha, (NE) Indigo Flowerpiercer, (NE) Purplish-mantled Tanager, (NE) Glistening-green Tanager, (NE) Dusky Chlorospingus, (NE) Black-chinned Mountain-tanager, Crested Quetzal, Olive Finch, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Tricolored Brush-Finch, Yellow-collared and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonias and Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant.
Other interesting birds are Barred Hawk, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, and some interesting antbirds as (NE) Bicolored Antvireo, Zeledon's Antbird, (E) Parker's Antbird, Slaty, Rufous-rumped and Yellow-breasted Antwrens. Night in Tatamá NP
Our last remaing time in the Tatamá NP will be spent exploring the lower section of the Montezuma hill in search of missing targets. After a tasty lunch in company of the hummingbirds, we will head to the airport, if time permits we shall stop in the coffee plantations to search for the new species, especially the endemic Turquoise Dacnis. We may also see Yellow-faced Grassquit, Yellow-bellied Seedeaters and several Tyrannulets, namely Black-capped, Brown-capped and Golden-faced Tyrannulets. We may also see the Yellow-backed Oriole and Pale-breasted Spinetail. We can wave goodbye to the dozens of White-collared Swifts and Grey-rumped Swifts as they dashed over the valley above us.
It is a great way to finish our trip to the birdiest country in the world: COLOMBIA.
Afternoon flight and connections with late evening departure on our international flight to London.
A reasonable amount of fitness and stamina is required, you will need to be able to walk up to 3-5km a day and stay out in the field for long spells. You will be walking forest trails, sometimes uphill and sometimes in wet rain-forest and other times in hot, humid dry-forest. It will rain for some of the days, so stout waterproof walking shoes/boots are required. An umbrella, a rain cape/poncho or good waterproof clothing is essential.
During this tour we climb to nearly 4000 masl, but this is done on a gradual basis, for most of the tour we are walking at altitudes of between 1000 - 3000 masl. So our gradual ascent to the high Paramo should not cause you any problems with regards to Altitude Sickness.
Malarai is not a problem in Colombia but there mosquitos and other small biting insects, so a good repellent is required which contains a percentage of Deet. Sun hts and sun-protection cream should be worn at all times.
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