Trip to Colombia: sites in Western and Central Andes and the Mid-Magdalena Valley – Antioquia, Risaralda and Caldas departments
Dates: Tuesday 19th July - 4th August 2016
Trip list by: Chris Seaton email@example.com
Other birders: Robert Williams; Diego Calderón-Franco briefly at Ventanas; local guides at Montezuma Road and Río Blanco; other tourist birders at Río Blanco
My long-time birding amigo, Robert Williams of Swanbourne in Bucks, had planned a 6-week trip to Colombia over the Summer of 2016, from Santa Marta in the north, through the Andes and to the Amazon in the south. I asked if I could join him for part of the trip and the most convenient section for me to connect with was one based around 6 sites centred on the cities of Medellín and Manizales. Rob agreed and this report reflects the 13 days of birding and 4 days of travel that I undertook with him.
In terms of my personal life list, Colombia was always going to be amazing. It falls geographically in a gap between previous part-time birding trips to Mexico and south Brazil. So, on a full-time birding trip, I was inevitably going to hit a good number of lifers. In addition, I am always keen to add as many endemics as possible, and this area boasts a fair number.
Travel Plans and Accommodation
Rob has a width and depth of experience in travelling in Latin America on a tight budget and he put together the schedule of my visit as part of his trip based around the six key sites of:
i) Reserva Natural Cañón de Río Claro, Antioquia
ii) Reserva ProAves Arrierito Antiqueño (“Chestnut-capped Piha Reserve”) and El Roble, Antioquia
iii) Jardín and Ventanas, Antioquia
iv) Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá Cerro Montezuma, Risaralda (Montezuma Road)
v) Reserva Ecológica Río Blanco, Caldas
vi) Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados, Caldas/Tolima
Given that I had to meet up with Rob on a precise date, I was limited on flights and took a Delta flight from LHR to Medellín via ATL. I booked these 8 months beforehand but still paid an eye-watering £900+ for the ticket. The service was good although my checked luggage on return was 48 hours behind me have taken a detour to Detroit.
Regarding accommodation, at the key sites we had no option but to stay in the rather expensive lodges, with full board. These were at Río Claro, Montezuma Road and Río Blanco; the expense for me was a small price to bird these sites effectively. For the other sites and transit, we followed Rob’s usual practice of taking advice from local taxi drivers or bus station information centres to recommend cheap and clean hotels and hostels which we found in Medellín, Manizales and Pereira. At El Roble we stayed in a house in the village and were not formally charged but left some money.
Most birders visiting Colombia will seek to maximise their convenience, comfort and time by having a local person or a specialist company handle all their logistics of accommodation and transport. As independent birders, we relied mostly on – in ascending order of cost – hitchhiking (once near El Roble), moto-taxi (1 in El Roble), buses (10 different journeys for me), Uber (1 in Medellín), local taxis (6 in all) and specific drivers arranged locally to get us into, through or out of birding sites (i.e. El Roble-Arrierito Reserve twice; a whole day for Jardín and Ventanas; a long 4x4 for the journey from Jardín to Montezuma Road; from bottom to drop off at the top of Montezuma Road; from Montezuma Road to Pueblo Rico bus station; from Río Blanco for the day through PNN Los Nevados to Manizales). The only one that was really painful financially was the 4x4 from Jardín to Montezuma and we could have avoided this if we had been willing to miss out a whole day of birding to travel back through Medellín by public transport.
Brief Overview of Area
Most of the trip was based in the Central and Western Cordilleras of the Andes at altitudes between 1,000 and 4,000 metres. The sites were all located in cloud forest, with the exception of Río Claro in the Mid-Magdalena Valley, which sits as low as 300m. The other exception was on the tops of Los Nevados where above around 3,000m the alpine tundra conditions of the páramo take over. The environments were pleasant, safe and conducive, save for the obvious challenges of forest birding.
Regarding the social and human context, we found Colombia to be friendly, relatively safe and delightfully ‘un-touristy’. The food and drink were not remarkable but this is compensated for by the people, fascinating places, beautiful scenery and of course the birds.
Field, Travel and Site Guides
We used the 2014 2nd edition of ProAves Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia as our bible. This was generally a good comprehensive guide, albeit with an unusual index and some very misleading illustrations. However, it is punctuated with wit, very useful (brief) descriptions of the birds and the altitude ranges for species contained in the maps were also useful.
Rob had also extracted and cut and pasted (in the old-fashioned sense!) some useful illustrations from older guides and other guides (e.g. to Venezuela and Peru) to complement the main field guide and these were crucial in some instances. In preparation for the trip I also studied the Ber Van Perlo’s 2015 Collins Field Guide to the Birds of South America – Passerines.
We also took along Beckers and Florez’ 2013 Birdwatching in Colombia as our key site guide. This is an important and seminal work helping to kick-start popular birding in Colombia and giving shape to a birder’s visit. However, some of the directions are a bit ambiguous. Also, it would seem that things have changed since the research for the book was done over the past 5 years. I would suggest that expectations of what can be seen at some places needs to be moderated given that extensive tape-luring by some visiting and some local guides has meant that sites like Montezuma Road and Río Blanco are ‘played-out’. For example, don’t expect to do other than stumble upon tapaculos at these places: we heard plenty and saw none.
I took my Nexus 6P phone and as I did to Tenerife, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Morocco in recent years I used an excellent off-line satnav app osmand.net/, which I highly recommend. You get turn-by-turn navigation and it works with GPS without requiring the use of mobile internet data. I didn’t therefore need a hard copy map. I just used my phone for photography given that my digital SLR would have taken up too much space in the backpack.
As independents, we backpacked and given the generally comfortable climate, the minimum volume of clothing was needed. However, Wellington boots took up a fair bit of space, although very useful. Otherwise, it was pretty standard equipment; I didn’t take a scope or tripod. The first two days of the trip were sadly the swan song for my beloved 18-year-old Swarovski SLC 7x42s that I unfortunately left on a bus whilst still jet-lagged early in the trip. Fortunately, we had bought a compact pair of binoculars for spare and these proved an adequate replacement, but might have cost me 10% of the birds Rob saw given the reduced field of view.
Most of my jabs were up to date. I needed to update my Yellow Fever, which I understand will now last for 25 years (might see out my international birding out, but who knows?) I was unsure whether or not malaria was a risk at the lower levels, i.e. at Río Claro, so I started a course two days before leaving but it became clear locally that there was no perceived risk so I stopped taking these.
2015-2016 saw one of the strongest El Niño events on record, which for Colombia had meant warmer and drier weather than usual for the first half of 2016. Climatologists were declaring the event over in June and predicted the onset of La Niña. I guess this would explain the fact that the weather for us looked a bit more like a classic rainy season: warm, cloudy or sunny mornings; light rain getting heavier or a heavy shower or early afternoon. Apart from on a couple of days, when the rain stayed heavy until or after dark, it was clear by the end of the day. We had two or three days without any rain or just a couple of spots. The altitude made a lot of difference to temperatures with Río Claro feeling distinctly tropical and PNN Los Nevados feeling like the Lake District in late October.
The impact on this for birding was the need to plan the day well and make sure that waterproofs were donned as soon as the big spots of rain came! We used umbrellas as well as cagoules to bird in the rain to protect binocular lenses. The wellies were as much to avoid getting soggy trainers from the rain as to navigate muddy ground, as the majority of birding was on unmade roads rather than paths or trails. It was interesting to discover that the birding ‘kept going’ through the day and didn’t really strongly favour early morning – you just need to hit flocks in the forest.
Tuesday, 19th July 2016: Bognor Regis- Medellín
My wife kindly offered me a lift to the airport (assume nothing when you are allowed away for two weeks birding!) and we left home at 06.45. A reasonably easy start to the long journey including navigation of the M25 saw me make my 11.35 Delta flight (operated by Virgin) from LHR in good time and with a tail wind we arrived early in ATL. This was a good thing as immigration (with ESTA pre-acquired) always takes a long time and I had a short layover. The 17.55 (local) flight to Medellín unfortunately did take off an hour late and so I arrived at MDE at 22.00. I took my first Uber to the Caribe hotel in Medellín, where I met up with Rob at 23.35. This was the worst hotel we stayed in, but was still cheap and clean so passed the basic tests.
Wednesday, 20th July 2016: Medellín-Río Claro
A short night’s sleep was ended by the 03.30 alarm. We took a taxi in the steady rain to the Terminal del Norte, bought our tickets and tucked into a street breakfast. The 04.30 bus to Bogotá left on time and progressed rapidly as the traffic was very light on Colombia’s Independence Day. We caught up with some sleep and the rain stopped as daylight broke and we easily found our stop at the entrance to Reserva Natural Cañón del Río Claro, which we reached at 07.30.
The birding began immediately with our bags on the roadside and the sights and sounds of a new birding location filling the senses. First birds of the day, the site and the trip were a pair of Spectacled Parrotlet on the telegraph wires, a pair of Cattle Tyrant around the buildings, and some Greater Ani in the trees above the entrance. There was also a pair of Saffron Finch about the buildings and a Black Phoebe was flitting around. A Rusty-margined Flycatcher appeared on the wires and we spent a bit of time identifying that against the possibility of Social Flycatcher. A male Thick-billed Euphonia provided the first big splash of tropical colour to the proceedings, as indeed did a splendid Black-chested Jay. There were few Grey-breasted Martin flittering around the area and another colour-burst came from a Crimson-backed Tanager and Blue-grey Tanager. The first of a good haul of hummers for the trip was a good clear view of a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, and House Wren was buzzing around the entrance buildings.
After this amazing flurry of activity, we checked into the Reserve at 08.05, a process which in the end took us no less than an hour, even though there was nobody else in the queue! However, this gave us time to eat some breakfast and also to keep on birding. We added around Feral Rock Pigeon, and picked up a few Black Vulture circling over the road (38 in all seen today). A noisy flock of Orange-chinned Parakeet dropped into a tree just inside the reserve, and shortly afterwards a flock of the much larger Blue-headed Parrot flew over the entrance into the reserve. The trip-list kept rolling with Ruddy Ground-Dove, Palm Tanager and Tropical Kingbird, and finally we were checked in and breakfast was done.
So, at 08.45 we donned all our baggage and began the 1km slog up towards the Reserve Centre. Naturally, our progress was heavily interrupted by good birding to our left over by the campsite. This included many of the common birds seen already but also a big moment when I saw the member of a new bird family: a splendid Barred Puffbird perching for an excellent inspection. As we walked up the road, we found a White-flanked Antwren bouncing through the woods on road-edge, and then a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper. In the same flock was another ‘new family tick’ for me as we got onto the first of three Cinereous Becard and we encountered a noisy Roadside Hawk, yes, on a tree by the side of the entrance road.
We reached the Activity Centre at 10.30 where we checked in and we got the key to our very splendid cabina accommodation. Walking there, we picked up the first of 3 Golden-faced Tyrannulet before dumping our gear in our habitación. Underway again at 11.00 we set off to bird back towards the Mulata Creek before lunch. We picked up a Stripe-throated Hermit, and a Green Kingfisher along the river and then hit a good bird flock as we walked back down the road towards then entrance including Dusky-faced Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator and an important endemic, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant. Another flock soon followed with Cinnamon Woodpecker, Plain-coloured Tanager and female White-bearded Manakin, after which we pick up a Buff-rumped Warbler in the scrub by the river bridge. We had now reached the start of the Mulata trail and decided to take a look up at this. After a while we hit another bird flock containing Golden-hooded Tanager, and then a noisy flock of Sooty Ant-Tanager that were difficult to see well as they moved quickly through the canopy. We turned before the ford of the creek and saw a White-tailed Trogon perched statuesque in the mid-storey showing its under-tail to aid identification. A Pale-bellied Hermit also perched obligingly; there was a male Yellow-backed Tanager in the low storey and we picked up the first of 3 Bay Wren seen on the day. I noted what could have been a Black-billed Flycatcher, and added Crimson-crested Woodpecker.
At this point (13.40) we took lunch and headed for our cabina for a rest at 15.15. However, we could not resist continuing our birding and added Black-faced Dacnis, of the distinctive ‘Yellow-tufted’ subspecies. We also picked up Bananaquit and a male White-bearded Manakin. But after our very early start we did take a shower and a sleep before getting up and out again at 16.30.
We had been told to get to the Oilbird Cave (E on the site guide) by 17.30 so set off to look at the area north of us and picked up a Blue-chested Hummingbird around there but little else was showing. We also saw two species that were more or less identified by deduction: Channel-billed (Citron-throated) Toucan and Grey-rumped Swift. We arrived at the cuevas at 17.05 and ended up being there over 90 minutes. The birds in the cave got noisy around 17.20 and it was all quite Hammer House of Horror sound effects really. Whilst we waited for a sighting, a Black Phoebe buzzed up and down the river and we got nice views of Green Kingfisher. I saw another Citron-throated Toucan flying high over the canopy and shortly afterwards glimpsed a Collared Aracari as it did the same. And then at 18.30 the weird and wonderful Oilbird flock started to emerge from the cave and move around. We watched them for 20 minutes until the light had really gone and then headed back to our room. The end of a fantastic first birding day of the trip, and 35 lifers notched up – stunning.
Thursday, 21st July 2016: Río Claro
Awoken before our 05.20 alarm by the remarkable call of the Venezuelan Red Howler monkey and out birding by 05.45 on a clear morning. First birds of the day were Black Phoebe on wires and by the river. Barely light enough, we managed to pick out Pale-breasted Thrush along the road and then a Chestnut-backed Antbird low in vegetation at the roadside. A female White-shouldered Tanager was initially puzzling, a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird less so. We picked up a Pale-bellied Hermit and then enjoyed looking at a nicely perched Collared Aracari and then soon after a perched Channel-billed Toucan. We were getting familiar with the song of the Bay Wren and along the road we found Blue-Grey Tanager, female Spectacled Parrotlet and Thick-billed Euphonia.
By 06.50 we had reached the campsite near the entrance and proved a great area for flycatchers. I finally saw my first Common Tody-Flycatcher here as well as a Sooty-headed Tyrannulet feeding from the trees along with Tropical Kingbird among others. Over by the river there was a pair of Lesser Kiskadee and we also found a Streaked Flycatcher. One of the highlights was my second (after Yucatan Wren) Campylorhynchus wren, Band-backed Wren – a very engaging species. There was also a Cinnamon Woodpecker [erroneously noted as Chestnut Woodpecker], a Crimson-backed Tanager and a Rusty-margined Flycatcher. A group of small low-flying swift were identified as Short-tailed Swift. We then picked up Golden-hooded Tanager and the clear crown stripe that helped us identify Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet. As we moved toward the main road, we found 2 House Wren and 3 Palm Tanagers.
We reached the gate at 07.30 and as on the previous day, there were Blue-headed Parrots (4) flying high above the entrance. There were also 3 Plain-coloured Tanager, another Yellow-tufted Dacnis and another Rusty-margined Flycatcher. We saw a striking hawk with what looked to me to be an unusual flap-and-glide action: I noted a ‘parrot-like head and broad wings’. This could well have been a Hook-billed Kite.
At 07.50 we turned back up the road and encountered a group of tamarin monkeys and then added another new hummer, a male White-vented Plumeleteer. Proceeding back up the main road, we picked up a Roadside Hawk and got good views of a pair of Citron-throated Toucan.
Breakfast was 08.20-09.20 but the restaurant gave us no rest from birding and we added Greater Ani to the day list as we kept an eye on the tree-lined bank. So, after our break, we set off for the Mulata Creek Trail, crossing the bridge at 09.35. After a large group of unidentifiable pigeon flew over, we picked up a couple of Bay Wren and a Black-chested Jay. The first serious bird group included a Plain Xenops and an Olivaceous Flatbill. In a clearing we checked circling raptors and as well as 3 pale/orange unidentified ‘buzzards’ we picked up our first 3 Turkey Vultures and even better a King Vulture. Rob skilfully identified a female Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and then soon afterwards a female Violet-crowned Woodnymph. We picked up another Plain Xenops, a Yellow-margined Flycatcher, a Streaked Woodcreeper and then an unidentified all-black hummer. Then we hit a flock of tanagers and flycatchers, including White-shouldered Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Dusky-faced Tanager, a male Purple Honeycreeper, a pair of Green Honeycreeper, an unidentified yellow-rumped flycatcher and a splendid Scarlet-browed Tanager. This trail kept giving as we picked up Bananaquit, Slaty-capped Flycatcher and then a strange seedeater type of thing that I couldn’t identify. Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner we did identify okay, and we also picked up a Tropical Pewee before we reached the creek again at point F on the site guide at 11.05.
As we pulled up the steep path on the far side of the creek, the birding got much slower. It must have been nearly a kilometre on from the creek when we hit a big highlight of the trip: a lek of 9 male Golden-headed Manakin. Another special was encountered a few minutes later as Beautiful Woodpecker hunted up a tree right by the path. The top of the path and a clearing was reached at 11.55 from which we saw a Grey Hawk glide over a meadow. A flock of large swifts circling in the distance with vultures was identified as being White-collared Swift.
Beginning the walk back down to the creek at 12.05, we saw two Long-tailed Tyrant on a dead tree at the top of the trail. Then we hit a small flock in which we found one of the big-ticket endemics, White-mantled Barbet as well as a female Striped Manakin and a Black-crowned Antshrike (aka Western Slaty-Antshrike). We reached the creek again at 12.55 and picked up a female Plain Antvireo, another Slaty-capped Flycatcher and an unidentifiable greenlet-type bird. It then all went rather quiet and we reached the start of the trail (B) again at 13.20. On the way back to the Refugio we had another Long-tailed Tyrant, a White-flanked Antwren and a Buff-rumped Warbler along the main road.
Stopping for lunch at 13.30 at the Refugio, they had run out of drinking water and harking back to the days at the beginning of true civilisation, I had to drink beer instead! We then went back to the cabina for a nap and then I had another swim in the river which was again wonderful. We set off again at 15.25 walking to the main entrance to take a bus to the Cueva del Condor which we jumped on at 16.00. In the confusion of trying to work out where we should get off and looking at Google maps offline, we jumped off the bus at 16.10 and somehow managed to leave my beloved Swarovski 7x42s on board. This event obviously not only overshadowed the day, but rather a lot of the next few days emotionally and practically as we tried to work out how to try to find them and then report the loss. All attempts to track down the bins with the bus company, despite the kind help of locals, failed. We returned to the refugio for dinner at 18.10 and an early night, albeit a rather sleepless one for me as my mind insisted on continually replaying the moment I got off the bus in my head.
Friday, 22nd July 2016: Río Claro-Medellín
Every day is a new day. I had brought my wife’s binoculars as a spare, but Rob’s spare pair of Opticron 7x25s were better and he kindly let me use them for the rest of the trip. We moved from our cabina at 05.50 arriving at the refugio by 06.05 and picked up Black Phoebe, Bay Wren mad Chestnut-backed Antbird. We put our rucksacks in the staff area of the refugio as previously arranged and began a final walk up the Mulata Creek Trail. We reached the start of the trail at 06.15 and soon picked up the first lifer of the day, Rufous-tailed Hermit followed by a Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer and another hummer that I couldn’t identify. A flock produced Black-tailed Flycatcher, Tawny-crested Tanager, a male White-bearded Manakin and a male Golden-headed Manakin. There was an antbird I noted but couldn’t identify and then a Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet. Picking up a female White-shouldered Tanager we reached the creek at 07.10 where there was a pair of Buff-rumped Warbler.
Up the steep hill towards the Golden-headed Manakin lek, we followed the silhouette of a small antbird-type thing bouncing through the low storey of bushes, but failed to get onto it. It was singing a very distinctive song of slow descending whistles on one note, each note separated by about one second. Try as I might, I cannot find this song on the xeno-canto website. We identified a Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher and a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird before we again took some time to enjoy the Golden-headed Manakin lek. As we continued up the trail, we saw Black-bellied Wren, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Thick-billed Euphonia and heard but could not get on a small group of Colombian Chacalaca. As we reached the top clearing for the final time, we saw a group of parrots below and left of the trail and just got enough of them to confirm the desirable Saffron-headed Parrot had been seen.
Arriving at the top gate at 08.10, a Roadside Hawk was calling conspicuously. A group of Black Vulture were circling by this time and as we dropped we picked up a pair of Beautiful Woodpecker. A hummer was probably a female woodnymph sp., followed by a Yellow-margined Flycatcher. There was a Slaty-capped Flycatcher as we reached the creek again at 08.50 and not much was added before we reached the start of the trail at 09.15. As we turned for the refugio we found a White-necked Jacobin and immediately afterwards a Dusky Antbird, followed by a Golden-hooded Tanager and another Thick-billed Euphonia.
We took our final breakfast at Río Claro at 09.30 and walked back to the gate with our packs. Just before we reached the gate at 10.45 this superb site gave us a final gift – a Black-crowned Tityra behind the campsite. The bus arrived at 11.10 and our journey to Medellín was much slower in traffic than it had been on Thursday. En route we picked up a few new trip ticks including Cattle Egret and Bare-faced Ibis. We arrived at 15.05 and found our way from the Terminal Sur to our downtown hotel (Botero Medellin) and en route picked up Feral Pigeon and White-winged Dove. As we had an early start the next day, we were in bed by 21.30.
Saturday, 23rd July 2016: Medellín-El Roble
Alarm at 04.00 and in the light rain, we got a taxi to the Terminal Norte, where after a couple of strong coffees we caught the 05.00 to Anori. The rain had stopped when we pulled in for a breakfast stop around 07.00 at a roadside café south of Puente Gavino and we used the time to quickly refuel and get birding! We succeeded in getting the day list underway with Shiny Cowbird, Black Vulture, Cattle Egret, Tropical Kingbird, Bare-faced Ibis, Saffron Finch, Crested Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Cattle Tyrant and Black Phoebe. A distant small falcon was I assume American Kestrel and we also saw a couple of Blue-black Grassquit. By 08.30 we had reached the Amalfi-Anori junction, adding Great Egret en route, and finally reached the village El Roble at 09.30 where we jumped the off the bus, seeing a Smooth-billed Ani in the trees by the road. We enquired about accommodation and an old lady took us in, showing us a dormitory with 3 bunk beds. No money was discussed.
We settled in quickly then arranged for a lift in a car up to the Reserva ProAves Arrierito Antiqueño (Chestnut-capped Piha Bird Reserve), arriving there at 10.52. We had a wander up to the reserve centre and got there at 11.05. First job was to start birding the hummingbird feeders. These were the first I had really encountered and I was blown away, especially as there was a banana-laden tanager feeder there too. Around the feeder were Steely-vented Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Seedeater and Crowned Woodnymph. The list grew incredibly as the minutes rolled by: Bananaquit, Brown Violetear, Blue-necked Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Andean Emerald, Black-winged Saltator, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Speckled Tanager, Golden Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Green-crowned Brilliant, a possible Orange-crowned Euphonia, Purple-throated Woodstar, White-necked Jacobin, Tropical Parula, Scrub Tanager and Colombia Chacalaca.
We had been watching these splendid creatures whilst drinking coffee at the reserve headquarters by the feeders and then the rain started falling. However, at 13.00 we felt it was time to walk off along the road towards point J on the Beckers/Florez guide. Our birding was interrupted by occasional showers and we donned waterproofs and wellies. We had another Black-capped Tanager and then a couple of half-ticks, hearing a tapaculo sp. and seeing a mystery ani-type bird deep in the roadside tangle. As we proceeded to an open area there was a Bat Falcon on a cliff. Other birds seen on this roadside walk were Lemon-spectacled Tanager, White-tipped Dove, possible Rufous-winged or Yellow-breasted Antwren (not noted in list below or site list), Yellow-bellied Elania, Mountain Elania, White-thighed Swallow, Roadside Hawk, Great Thrush, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, Andean Siskin, a Streaked Xenops and a distant possible Andean Solitaire. We turned a little earlier than we had planned as a scooter stopped and the driver warned us that up ahead there was an hombre mal who was drunk and had a gun. So, we turned back and the rain came and went and eventually we got back to the Sendero Motmot and walked up to the feeders there. Here we saw Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch coming to feed.
This took us to about 17.00 when we turned, started walking and caught moto-taxis back to the bottom (an interesting new experience for me!) We ate at the local restaurant where I had delicious frijoles. Heavy rain fell in the late evening and we slept well albeit the house was smelly with our damp clothing (particularly my socks!)
Sunday, 24th July 2016: El Roble and Reserva ProAves Arrierito Antiqueño
A cool but dry morning, we were out in the dark and ate breakfast of eggs and bread at the restaurant up the street at 06.00. The cloud was high and the temperature about 12 degrees. About 06.30 we started walking up towards the reserve, planning to hitch a lift as opportunity arose.
The walk was a useful one though and bird waves were passing all the time. On the walk up we had Lemon-spectacled Tanager, Tropical Kingbird, Crimson-backed Tanager, Common Tody Flycatcher, Scrub Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Palm Tanager and a glimpsed view of the first lifer of the day: Olivaceous Piculet. There was also Social Flycatcher, Blue-grey Tanager, White-shouldered Tanager and flock of Black Vultures overhead. Another lifer came along with Black-billed Thrush, then House Wren, Russet-crowned Warbler, Tropical Mockingbird, Shiny Cowbird, Blue-black Grassquit, Ruddy-bellied Seedeater and excitingly, a pair of Bronze-winged Parrot. There was a myiarchus flycatcher, possibly a Panama, but it too far away to be sure. As we continued walking, the day list continued with Colombian Chacalaca, Saffron Finch, Streaked-necked Flycatcher and Common Ground-Dove.
By 07.00 we were ready for a lift and obligingly a local farmer drove past and we flagged him down. He kindly gave us a free ride the 15 minutes back to the ProAves Reserve and we were birding from the word ‘go’ with Golden Tanager, Slate-throated Redstart and Orange-bellied Euphonia as we were dropped off near the reserve centre. We set off from point B on the Beckers/Florez guide back towards the feeders on point C and picked up Andean Motmot en route. We turned and moved on towards point B and were into the pristine forest at 08.00. Birding was tricky in the thick forest but we picked up Three-striped Warbler and across this period added Slaty Antwren, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Ornate Flycatcher, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant and Spotted Woodcreeper.
The time was now 08.50 and we had reached Point E and set off on the right track toward Point F labelled as Sendero La Cascada. In a group of Antbirds we thought we had a Parker’s but could not be sure but sadly the rest of the walk (despite all its promise), yielded nothing. We arrived at a pretty waterfall at 09.30 and returned to Point E at 10.00. Here we picked up a Hepatic Tanager and a possible Green Hermit. This was a quiet part of the day.
But things picked up when we arrived at the 5-metre platform at Point G at 10.15. We couldn’t identify a fly-past very large brown raptor but we got onto another Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant. One of the best birds of the day was a Lanceolated Monklet that perched and presented itself for 10 minutes while we watched. We moved from the platform but returned to it, picking up a flock of Chestnut-collared Swift. We continued to wait and had Cinnamon Flycatcher, Olivaceous Woodcreeper (a different sub-species to the one I saw in Brazil in 2003), Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, Wing-barred Piprites and a probable Masked Trogon (top half only seen so we couldn’t distinguish it firmly from Collared). I then got a poor view of a Guira Tanager followed by a pair of Uniform Antshrike.
At 11.15 we continued on towards the ridge passing a rain shelter at 11.30. We had Plain Antvireo here and a little later a Slaty Antwren before we hit another of the big birds of the day, Purplish-mantled Tanager, albeit with a poor view. I luckily got a record shot of a hummer on a branch over the trail that proved to be Green-fronted Lancebill. We added another female Orange-bellied Euphonia before arriving around point H at 12.30. There was a Beryl-spangled Tanager and more euphonia here and I saw another flycatcher that could not be pinned down to species. We then hit a real purple patch starting with Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager: not a very rare bird but its Latin name, Anisognathus somptuosus, indicates what a smart bird this is. This was followed by the lovely and near endemic Indigo Flowerpiercer and the equally impressive White-winged Tanager and then one of the big-ticket items of the trip, Multicoloured Tanager. In the same feeding flock was another Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, yet more Orange-bellied Euphonia and some good views at last of Purplish-mantled Tanager.
At 12.50 we reached the top of the ridge (around Point H) and felt it was time to turn back, with Bananaquit being the first bird on the return. On the way down we had a pair of Squirrel Cuckoo and a Grey-breasted Wood-Wren before the rain started falling at 13.39 precisely. This led to us putting our heads down and marching back to the road. By 14.20 we had reached the reserve lodge and checking the cascade by the road we picked up a pair of Green Hermit. Working back onto the hummer feeders we had another great selection including Purple-throated Woodstar, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, Crowned Woodnymph, Brown Violetear, Andean Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, White-necked Jacobin and Greenish Puffleg. Another impressive visitor to the feeder area was a single Crested Guan.
Getting towards the end of the birding day, at 15.15 we started one final walk up the road but it was very quiet, with only Palm Tanager and Bat Falcon showing. The rain started at 15.55 and we turned around, picking up just one more bird for the day, a solitary Oleaginous Hemispingus. Nothing further was seen as the rain continued and we caught a bus back around 16.45.
This was the best day of the trip for numbers seen and 2nd best for lifers, with some stunning birds seen. We again dined in the only restaurant in El Roble and went to bed again very happy, but with the smell of damp clothing all around.
Monday, 25th July 2016: El Roble- Jardín
Time to head back south (this would be the furthest north in the country I would travel) and a 5am alarm awoke us. The weather was fine with 20% cloud and we headed to the restaurant for breakfast at 05.30. Again, birds were all around us: Lemon-spectacled Tanager, a handsome Striped Manakin, Black-capped Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Palm Tanager, Bananaquit, Crimson-backed Tanager, Social Flycatcher and then the first lifer of the day in Red-crowned Woodpecker. Also ticked were Chestnut-collared Swift, Olivaceous Piculet and Common Tody-Flycatcher before the bus arrived at 06.15.
The first leg of our travel today was just over 4 hours by bus back to Medellín. Birds seen from the bus or at the half-way stop were Smooth-billed Ani, Snowy Egret, Shiny Cowbird, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Bare-faced Ibis, Crested Caracara, Feral Rock Pigeon, Black Vulture, Tropical Kingbird, Cattle Tyrant and Blue-black Grassquit. We spent about an hour in Medellín transferring from the north to the south terminal and en route we picked up Eared Dove. At 11.30 we took the bus into the Central Andes and a very fast driver took us up the windy road to Jardín, in the very south of Antioquia, where we arrived at 15.15. We asked around and found a nice pension, Jardín en Tuigo, on the corner of the plaza and Carrera 5.
Soon after we arrived, the rain started and it stayed heavy until 17.30. At 16.30 we walked to the edge of town to the site on the road to Serranías, famous for its Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek. After a short wait in the rain we managed to see the lek of this fine species, which I had identified as one of my key targets for the trip. Also, at this little suburban site we saw Andean Motmot, Scrub Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator, the Andean sub-species of Rufous-collared Sparrow, Flame-rumped Tanager, Palm Tanager, Blue-Grey Tanager, Black Vulture and Tropical Kingbird.
That was the birding for the day, and after this it was shower, a rather disappointing meal at Las Margaritas restaurant and before bed we negotiated a driver for tomorrow with our host.
Tuesday, 26th July 2016: Jardín/Ventanas
04.30 alarm and we were off by 05.00 in our 4x4 on a dry, fine and cool morning to head up towards Ventanas. In the greyness before dawn we were lucky to be able identify three good birds en route. First was a Sickle-winged Guan scuttling through the bushes, then a few Band-winged Nightjar flitted in front of the headlights and best of all a Rufous Antpitta scurried across the road before us. As we approached Ventanas, we saw the first of 10 Glossy-black Thrush over the day.
At 06.30 we arrived at the ‘top’ of the Ventanas (site of the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve) Road at an altitude of around 3,000metres. We spent the day birding this road, starting from a good-looking open area with Wax Palms and the ‘lone house’ at point E described by Beckers /Florez. Our driver followed us all day and was effectively our picnic and water carrier, although we did jump in for some sections. As we got out, we picked up Streak-throated Bush Tyrant, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Andean Siskin and Great Thrush. We would later take breakfast at the ‘lone house’ and were allowed to watch their hummingbird feeders. We took longer over of this later, but first had a look around for parrots, just picking up Collared Inca initially.
It was a lovely cool morning, but apparently, we were a few minutes late as the parrots had recently left their roost in the Wax Palms. So, we enjoyed the high-level vista and waited with anticipation to see if they would re-appear, which eventually they did: a silhouette view at first of 5 Yellow-eared Parrot although we got much better views later on and the following day. We also picked up Smoke-coloured Pewee and Ruddy Pigeon before heading off to the ‘lone house’ at 07.15. Birding here was dramatic with Sword-billed Hummingbird being the standout species. The supporting cast wasn’t bad with Mountain Velvetbreast, Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed Coronet, Sparkling Violetear, Black Flowerpiercer, Speckled Hummingbird, White-throated Tyrannulet, Blue-and-Black Tanager, Masked Flowerpiercer, Citrine Warbler, House Wren, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager and a pair of fly-by Scaly-naped Parrot. Wow, what a start to the morning!
We met a family group birding at the ‘lone house’, which turned out to be that of a rock-star of Colombian birding, Diego Calderón-Franco. He was a very nice guy who happily chatted to us and shared some knowledge. Like Diego and his family, we took desayuno at the house, consumed quickly between 08.15 and 08.30. While we ate a few Blue-and-White Swallow flew by and we then set off walking down the road with our driver nearby. Birding was slow but we picked up a single Azara’s Spinetail and a couple of tanagers. At 09.20 we reached the road to the ProAves reserve but decided not to go up as advised in the site book. Five more Yellow-eared Parrot flew over and then the first of a number of Rufous Spinetail. The pace of birds picked up again as we walked and we added Golden-fronted Redstart, Slaty Brush-Finch, a second Sickle-winged Guan and a further Masked Flowerpiercer. As we pressed on, we had Black-capped Hemispingus, Blue-backed Conebill, White-sided Flowerpiercer, another Blue-and-Black Tanager, Pearled Treerunner, Russet-crowned Warbler and heard a Roadside Hawk.
At 11.45 we reached La Truchera the home of famously birder-unfriendly residents. We obviously birded but as inconspicuously as we could but there wasn’t much around; only a possible Brown Martin and a Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager. At this point we decided to drive down through quite a degraded area, probably about 2km, and took the opportunity to eat our packed lunch. At 12.15 we started birding again in a mixture of forest and open farmland, picking up Cattle Egret flying over fields. Things started picking up again and we had Green-and-Black Fruiteater, Black-capped Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, White-naped Brush-Finch, Golden-naped Tanager and Black Vulture overhead.
At 13.20 Andres picked us up again and drove us back towards the town. At around 13.40 we stopped at a fish-farm (also called La Truchera) in a vain search for Torrent Duck, but we did pick up a flying flock of Russet-backed Oropendola. In all we tried 3 places and at 14.00 the first drops of rain were falling and we got back to pension finally at 15.26 as the rain started to come down very steadily. Over the pension we noted Southern Lapwing and Feral Pigeon and once the rain stopped, around 17.15, we headed back to Bonita Creek. It was nice to have a second look at the Andean-Cock-of-the-Rock lek, this time with good views of two birds and at least another 6 heard. We also had Flame-rumped Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager and a final lifer for the day, Blue-and-Black Seedeater. The day finished a meal at the same restaurant as last night and us settling up for the 2-night stay and 2 drivers – Andres for today ($100,000 pesos) and Fabio for tomorrow ($350,000 pesos).
Wednesday, 27th July 2016: Jardín-Camino Montezuma
After the peak day of the trip for lifers, we faced another day of travel and our first out of Antioquia region. 05.15 alarm and awoke to weather that was fair and cloudy as usual. Fabio arrived at 06.00 and we were off in a 4x4 on the ‘short’ cross-country route to our second site in the Western Andes. We travelled up again on the Ventanas road and passed over the watershed and into Caldas Region. En route we saw Andean Motmot and Grey-breasted Wood-Wren before we arrived at the spectacular high point of Peñas Blancas where we stopped for coffee at 07.15. At this coffee stop, we had the remarkable experience of 25 Yellow-eared Parrots dropping into a tree right by us offering excellent views.
Soon off, we proceeded towards our breakfast stop at Anserma and so the Caldas list got underway including Great Kiskadee and a splendid tick from the bus, Black Hawk-Eagle. Rob got good enough views to tick Brown-bellied Swallow, but I did not. We arrived at Anserma at 09.00 and over breakfast picked up White-tipped Dove before driving on.
We finally got to Montezuma Lodge at about 13.15. The weather was cloudy after some rain and of course we were keen to get birding immediately with a group of “Lemon-rumped” Flame-rumped Tanager. A short walk by the fast-flowing river did not produce the elusive Torrent Duck, but we spotted a White-capped Dipper. Continuing our walk around the compound we picked up good numbers of birds including a juicy pair of Crested Ant-Tanager. Better still; we picked up a single Olive Finch, the only one of the trip and a fine male White-winged Becard.
We checked into our cabin, got washed and changed and at 14.15 moved to the hummingbird feeders, which were of course very productive with Empress Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph, Purple-throated Woodstar, Variable Seedeater and Thick-billed Euphonia. Then the rain came at 14.30! But we could still bird under the cover by the feeders and added White-tailed Hillstar, Speckled, Steely-vented and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Greenish Puffleg and Western Emerald. We got chatting to a birder whom we had met first earlier (can’t remember where now – maybe in El Roble area?) called Johnnier. He was friendly and pleasant and offered to help us when we got to Manizales.
The rain stopped briefly at 15.20 and we decided to go for a first walk up the camino, setting off at 15.30. We were back by 16.10 as the rain started again and fell heavy but we picked up Blue-necked Tanager and heard Southern Lapwings about. Back to the feeders we added Andean Emerald and Scrub Tanager before taking a break. At 17.00, once the rain stopped, we ventured forth once again for a final walk up the main road with the skies lightening. A quick glimpse of a falcon, which we at first thought to be either a Bat Falcon or an Orange-breasted Falcon, was identified by Rob as a Barred Forest-Falcon. On the feeders just outside our cabin was the lovely and sought-after Velvet-purple Coronet. Also, around the cabins we picked up Southern Rough-winged Swallow as well as Blue-black Grassquit jumping quite hilariously on a bush. The day’s birding ended at 17.45 and Rob and I worked on the notes accompanied by numerous moths and other bugs. An Opossum crept in at 19.20 to eat the bananas left over from the tanager feeding station.
Thursday, 28th July 2016: Camino Montezuma
Bright and early alarm at 04.40 and we found the weather to be bright and cool after rain. We paid $150,000 for a taxi to take us both with our compulsory guide, up to the top of the road. At 06.05 we had reached the top of the road and an altitude of 2,346m and amongst stunning views began our birding with Band-tailed Pigeon, then a nice find of a brief Black Solitaire. We spent a while at the top, with the guide playing taped songs and calls of some of our target tapaculos and flowerpiercers, but these would not show for us at the top, middle or anywhere on the road. We started walking downhill slowly at 06.40 and picked up Glossy Black Thrush and my only Sharp-shinned Hawk of the trip. Reaching some feeders, we added Tourmaline Sunangel and Collared Inca and at 07.25 we heard the first of a number of Stile’s Tapaculo. Descending to 2,300m we picked up Green-and-Black Fruiteater, Rufous Spinetail, Purplish-mantled Tanager and a poor view of a very big bird for the trip: Tanager Finch. The birding started to pick up at this point and we added some excellent birds including Sharpe’s Wren, Grass-green Tanager, Dusky Bush-finch and Sooty-headed Wren. After that spurt of lifers, we were at 08.15 and 2,293m and the next wave we hit included Bluish Flowerpiercer and then another poorly-viewed but well-heard target for the day: Munchique Wood-Wren.
Birding slowed at this point I took some photos, including one of an Andean Lily (rather spoiled by too much sunlight). A last push before breakfast added a few more birds before we stopped at the feeders located at 2,202m for some food at 09.15. There we added a female Empress Brilliant and a splendid male Chestnut-breasted Cholorophonia. Moved on after a short rest and heard only Narino’s Tapaculo before adding Yellow-throated Bush-Finch, the aptly named Handsome Flycatcher and Fulvous-dotted Treerunner.
The birding slowed down again at this point and at 10.50 we had dropped to 1,959m and sat on a log for an early lunch. The quiet period continued over the next 40 minutes down to Cajones after which we finally started to hit gold. The first of a few Three-striped Warbler was followed by Tricoloured Brush-Finch and then undoubtedly the bird of the day, Gold-ringed Tanager. We tried unsuccessfully to call out some more tanagers and began to walk on at about 12.15. I got such a poor view of an Emerald Toucanet I decided I could not tick this, but then added a handsome male Blue-naped Cholorophonia. At 12.30 we encountered a splendid Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager. Reaching 1,800m we came very close to Nariño Tapaculo but not close enough! After a few more day-ticks, the 200th lifer of the trip was added – and not a bad one: Black-and-Gold Tanager.
We were now well into the afternoon and so far the weather had stayed dry. We added Cinnamon Flycatcher, Montane Woodcreeper, Olive Finch and then our only Streak-capped Treehunter of the trip. The Quebrada La Clarita stream marks the end of the upper Road and we reached this (1,527m) at 14.48 and we worked on through the middle section starting with familiar stream-side birds like Black Phoebe, Buff-rumped Warbler and Bay Wren. The birding slowed into the afternoon but we added Plumbeous Pigeon and finally reached the lodge at 15.55. Of course, we didn’t stop birding on, checking the hummer feeders.
The day finished with another walk when we saw plenty more birds, including Grey Seedeater, Thick-billed Seed-Finch. That took us to 18.10 and the end of a long but enjoyable day. For the second night we did our daily log in the presence of an amazing volume and variety of bugs, some of which are still impressed in my field guide.
Friday, 29th July 2016: Camino Montezuma-Manizales
We made a relatively late start to our birding today. We managed to get out without a guide, which is not strictly allowed, but we found the guide at the site to be of limited help and in some ways an obstruction. The weather was dry with low cloud and we started on the feeders at 6.30 after which we started walking. First good bird was one I had missed a few days ago, Red-headed Barbet, and a stunner it was. Goodies kept coming and by 7.07 we had reached 1,284m up the road. Conspicuous Russet-backed Oropendola were seen followed by Red-faced Spinetail and a good list of others. After about 90 minutes walking we had climbed to 1,500m and added Cinnamon Flycatcher and then a nice lifer for me, Lemon-browed Flycatcher. As we neared the middle section, we saw another cracker, Glistening-Green Tanager.
At 08.20 we had climbed to 1,497m and reached the La Clarita Bridge, after which I consider we were on the middle part of the road. This section began splendidly with an Olivaceous Piha, Rufous-naped Greenlet and Montane Woodcreeper (plus an unidentified Woodcreeper), before we reached the escape lane at 1,655m just after 09.00. We heard Plumbeous Pigeon, then picked up Yellow-breasted Antwren, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Golden-crowned Flycatcher and another Glistening-green Tanager. At 09.20 we hit another few goodies with a Thick-billed Euphonia, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Uniform Treehunter, an Antwren I couldn’t identify and followed by a female Bicoloured Antvireo and a female Bar-crested Antshrike. That was some 20 minutes of birding!
09.40 saw us at 1,730m and the birds kept coming adding Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Dusky Bush-Finch, Rufous-throated Tanager, Black Solitaire, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Black-and-Green Fruiteater and Sharpe’s Wren. At 10.08 I caught glimpse of a runner across the path that from notes seems surely to have been a Rufous-breasted Antthrush (my first ever Antthrush). We pressed on picking up Tricoloured Brush-Finch and Chestnut-breasted Cholorophonia by 10.25 (at 1,766m).
After a quiet 20 minutes, Rob wanted to bash on at pace, so at about 1,900m I let him crack on up the hill. I turned and walked slowly back down. Inevitably, identification was trickier without Rob, and I couldn’t i.d. a small flycatcher but then picked up Purplish-mantled Tanager and a small tyrant I later identified from notes as Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant. Time ticked on past 11.00 and I was still at 1,871m (having walked nearly 6 miles) when I picked up a Scaly-breasted Wren. Amongst a flock were a warbler and a tanager I could not identify but from notes Golden-olive Woodpecker was secured. By 11.45 I was back down to 1,680m, with little new stuff seen as I struggled to pick things out in the high canopy, identifying only another Buff-throated Saltator. Rob caught me up and we added another Golden-olive Woodpecker along with White-breasted Wood Wren and the local sub-species of Citrine Warbler and a noisy female Crested Ant-Tanager.
Plodding down the hill at some pace as we were now focusing on catching our bus, we added nothing new before arriving back at the lodge at 13.30. According to my app, we had walked 10.62 miles and climbed 1,329 metres. It is interesting that we noted a similar tally of birds this morning but actually more lifers than we did yesterday when we were out for a whole day with a guide! We settled our bill, which was $520,000 for accommodation (2 people, 2 nights) and $80,000 for the guiding. Our taxi left the lodge at 15.00 costing us $70,000 taking us to the square in Pueblo Rico. From there we took a bus at $16,000 each to Pereira where arrived at Hotel Paris de Cafe at 19.15. This place cost us $40,000 each for the night. Feral Pigeon took the day list to 58 and and that left just 4 days birding for me.
Saturday, 30th July 2016: Manizales-Rio Blanco
We woke up before our alarm at 05.50. Shower and taxi from the hotel to bus station at a price of $9,500. Breakfast at terminal cost us $4,500 (and the loo $1,000 pesos!) Hopped onto the bus to Manizales (cost $19,000 each) leaving at 07.30 and naturally started birding from the bus to start the day-list. Pretty quick turnaround at the bus station at 09.00 and then a taxi to Rio Blanco, arriving there at 09.45.
Naturally, as soon as we’d dropped our bags, we got straight onto the feeders picking the first lifers of the day, including the splendid Long-tailed Sylph, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Collared Inca and Bronzy Inca. At 10.30 we began walking the trails and picked up en route Green Violetear , Emerald Toucanet, Black-eared Hemispingus, Black-capped Hemispingus, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Blue-capped Tanager, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren and Golden-faced Tyrannulet. At 11.15 we reached the ridge at 2,661m and turned right towards the ranger’s house. In this area we added Blue-and-Black Tanager, Andean Guan, Russet-crowned Warbler and a flock of Blue-collared Jay. We passed the gate near the ranger’s house at 11.50 and the rain started to fall. Around here we added Tourmaline Sunangel, Montane Woodcreeper, Streaked Xenops, Band-tailed Pigeon, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker and a splendid Masked Trogon feeding on a caterpillar on the ground. We finally added a single Grey-browed Brush-Finch before turning back for lunch at the Foundation Centre at 13.00.
After a quick lunch I took photos of a roosting Band-winged Nightjar and a Sphynx moth before we set off again at 13.45 on the lower trails, climbing higher than this morning. Nice start was a pair of Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, followed by Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Capped Conebill, Sickle-winged Guan, Golden-fronted Redstart, further Masked Trogon, another Beryl-spangled Tanager and Green-and-Black Fruiteater. At 2,710 metres in altitude we turned and glimpsed a flock of sought-after Golden-plumed Parakeet. Stile’s Tapaculo was a heard only followed by other goodies while a flock of Brown-bellied Swallow were noted overhead. As we walked on, we picked up Glossy-black Thrush, Azari’s Spinetail, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Sharpe’s Wren and Bluish Flowerpiercer before returning to the Foundation Centre at 17.30. The evening was spent licking our lips at the thought of antipittas in the morning!
Sunday, 31st July 2016: Rio Blanco
This anticipated morning began with a brew and a look at the hummer feeders before the group visit to the antpitta feeders around 06.35. Blue-and-White Swallow were overhead and in addition to Blue-winged Mountain Tanager we added Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager.
At 07.10 we moved off to the first antpitta feeder where the guide started leaving food (or bait?) while we all sat on nearby benches. Here we added some nice day-ticks then the first of four Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. At 08.15 we moved on to the second feeder area where the same process was followed and we added more nice birds and then the prize of this feeder: Slate-crowned Antpitta. We left this second antpitta feeding site and began walking to the third at 09.00. We reached the third and final antpitta feeder site at 09.30 and after some patience a couple of Bicolored Antpitta popped out to feed. Here we also added a proper gem in White-capped Tanager. There were more decent birds around including Barred Becard before we headed back to the centre for lunch at 11.45. Lunch was a dish called Ajiaco, a fabulous chicken and potato stew made with the Colombian herb, guascas (must have been nice for me to note that!)
Before leaving the centre after lunch, I picked up my 300th bird for the trip, Brown-capped Vireo, and we headed out again at 13.35. We added the local sub-species of Eared Dove, the roosting Band-winged Nightjar again along with Mountain Wren and before moving up a different trail. Up this trail we added near a stream a splendid Slaty-backed Chat Tyrant and then a Smoky Bush-Tyrant before we reached the aqueduct at 15.00, birding here for another 45 minutes. Back to base around 16:35 and a good end to the birding day enjoying the hummer feeders.
Monday, 1st August 2016: Rio Blanco > Nevado del Ruíz > Manizales
Last day at Rio Blanco and the morning began at 05.30 with the statutory visit to the antpitta feeders. As ever the day list rolled off rapidly but nothing new was added until 07.55 at the second feeder when we added a single Brown-banded Antpitta. I say, ‘we’, as in the group that waited: McMullan and Donegan in their brilliant field guide have inserted an amusing and informative cartoon on page 202 of a man in an armchair with his pipe sat in a temperate rainforest. The caption says, “you will need patience to see antpittas.”
At 08.05 we moved on from the group and I birded with a Swiss (I think they were swiss) couple called Roman and Christine. Roman was nearly as nearly as bad a gripper as Rob as he had seen a Golden-headed Quetzal over the weekend in the lower section, but failed to get me onto one today! We got back to the Foundation Centre around 09.00 where we ate some breakfast and packed. Driven down to the entrance to the park around 09.40, the altitude was slightly lower (2,240m) and as we had hoped, this was the place to pick up White-bellied Woodstar around the feeders. We also added White-tailed Tyrannulet in the area before the taxi arrived at 10.15. We shared the taxi down to the bus station with Roman and Christine and then arranged for the driver to be with us for the day as we had planned to pull in one final site.
So, after saying goodbye to the Swiss couple we headed off with our driver up the Bogota highway with Nevado del Ruíz in our sights. Following Becker/Florez’ tip, we called in to the Sabinas restaurant for 15 minutes to see if the Golden-headed Quetzal were about. Of course, we were not in the dry period when then they said the bird should easy, but it was a worth a go. Leaving without the tick at 11.30, we turned off the highway and made our first stop at point B in the site guide, which was around the treeline at 3,300m. We arrived in what is known as paramo habitat at noon and noticed both lower temperatures, as well as cloud and wind.
We wandered around and jumped in and out of the car on the carretera section picking a bevy of lifers in this new habitat for the trip. These included, Grass Wren (aka Sedge Wren in ProAves 2014), Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Plain-coloured Seedeater, Black-thighed Puffleg, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant and a flyover flock of Rufous-fronted Parakeet. After around an hour we moved on up the road to around 3,800m and the lake known as Laguna Negra. We spotted a small group of Andean Duck (at the time Ruddy Duck) on the lake and picked up Andean Siskin and Black Flowerpiercer.
We decided to visit the highest point available without a permit, which is the meteorological station and café at 4,100m. We just crossed into Tolima province and found ourselves on paramo proper. Here the short trail produced a short list but these included the delights of a female Buffy Helmetcrest, a Tawny Antpitta literally jogging along the trail in front of us, Andean Tit-Spinetail and Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant.
As if the day hadn’t been pretty stunning – more for its variety of birds and habitat as for its numbers – there was a finale ahead. We had heard good things of the hummer feeders at Hotel Termales del Ruíz, a very pleasant hotel down at 3,100m where we enjoyed a late lunch, a dip in the hot pool and best of all a shed-load of hummingbirds! What could be better in birding than sitting in an outdoor bar with a beer watching a feeder dripping with lifers? These included Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Viridian Metatrail plus 3 other species (including two more hummers) already seen. The final joy was Glossy Flowerpiercer feeding in the bushes before we ate and headed off around 16:50.
And in birding terms, that was pretty much that. We picked up a dozen or so day-ticks on the drive back down to Manizales where we spent a pleasant evening staying the comfortable Kumanday Adventures Hostel. Quite a day that was: another 20+ lifer day with 17 species of hummer.
Tuesday, 2nd August 2016
It took pretty much two and half full days to get from our hostel in Manizales to Bognor Regis. After getting up, breakfasting and saying farewell to Rob (who had two more weeks of Colombian birding ahead of him including great adventures in Amazonia), the taxi picked me at 08.00. I caught the express minibus to Medellín, which was comfortable and had WIFI, but the journey was long and tedious. Only noted a handful of species from the bus despite a stop at a pleasant café south of La Pintada. I was dropped off at Ayura metro station and took the train to Parque Berrio, checking in to Botero Medellín Hotel at 15.40. The last possibility for a lifer (Red-bellied Grackle), felt like a mini-trip too far after a long day of travel and uncertainty of getting to the site (despite the knowledge that I would regret it when I told Rob!). So, I spent the evening mooching around the city centre instead and enjoying a final Colombian meal.
Wednesday, 3rd August 2016
The bus stop for the airport was happily right outside my hotel and the 05:00 left on time and I was safely in the air by 07:28. An afternoon layover in Atlanta enabled me to catch most of a Leicester City pre-season friendly at a bar before we were off again at 17.15, landing in LHR at 07.05 the next morning. It was raining, of course and my luggage arrived 48 hours later via Detroit.
Species List noting where birds first seen and those new for Colombia (C), the Neotropical region (N) or both (C/N) and those in red font being lifers.
Andean Duck - Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Sickle-winged Guan - On road Jardín-Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Andean Guan - Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July (C/N)
Crested Guan - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Colombian Chacalaca - ?heard only RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July?; around feeders RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); El Roble, 24 July
Cattle Egret - en route Río Claro-Medellín (C), 22 July; near Puente Gavino, 23 July; near Puente Gavino and Medellín, 25 July; Ventanas Road, 26 July; near Anserma, 27 July; Rio Blanco, 31 July & 1 August
Great Egret - near Puente Gavino (C): 6, 23 July; 20, 25 July
Snowy Egret - near Puente Gavino (C), 25 July
Bare-faced Ibis - en route Río Claro-Medellín (C), 22 July; near Puente Gavino, 23 July; near Puente Gavino and Medellín, 25 July
Turkey Vulture - RN Cañón de Río Claro (C), 21 July; 1 near Anselma, 27 July
Black Vulture - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C); 21 July & 22 July; near Puente Gavino, 23 July; El Roble, 24 July; between El Roble and Medellín, 25 July; Ventanas Road, 26 July; near Anserma and Montezuma Road, 27 July; near Manizales, 30 July; Rio Blanco, 31 July & 1 August
King Vulture - 1 RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
¿Hook-billed Kite? - possible entrance RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Roadside Hawk - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C); 21 & 22 July; RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July; Ventanas Road, 26 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Grey (or Gray-lined) Hawk - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Black Hawk-Eagle - near Anserma, 27 July (C/N)
Barred Forest-Falcon - Montezuma Road, 27 July (C/N)
Crested Caracara - near Puente Gavino: 23 July (C), 25 July; Rio Blanco, 31 July
American Kestrel - distant bird on wire near Puente Gavino, 23 July (C)
Bat Falcon - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 23 July (C), 24 July
Southern Lapwing - near Puente Gavino, 23 July (C); 2 Jardín, 26 July; heard Montezuma Road, 27 July; 4 near Manizales, 30 July & 1 August
Common Ground-Dove - El Roble, 24 July (C/N)
Ruddy Ground-Dove - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 20 July (C), 21 July; near Anserma, 27 July
Feral Rock Pigeon - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C); near Puente Gavino and Medellín, 25 July; Jardín, 26 July; Pereira, 29 July
Band-tailed Pigeon - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C); Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Plumbeous Pigeon - Montezuma Road: 6, 28 July (C/N); 3, 29 July
Ruddy Pigeon - Ventanas area, 26 July (C/N); 12 near Ansermas and 1 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Eared Dove - Medellín (C), 25 July ; near Manizales, 30 July & 1 August; Rio Blanco, 31 July
White-tipped Dove - in plazas Medellín, 22 July (C); El Roble, 23 July; near Anserma
Rufous-fronted Parakeet - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Yellow-eared Parrot - 15 in Ventanas area, 26 July (C/N); 25 Peñas Blancas, 27 July
Golden-plumed Parakeet - Rio Blanco: 16, 30 July (C/N); 12, 31 July & 1 August
Spectacled Parrotlet - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 2, 20 July (C/N); female, 21 July
Saffron-headed Parrot - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N)
Orange-cheeked Parakeet - flock at entrance to RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Blue-headed Parrot - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 10, 20 July (C/N); 4, 21 July
Bronze-winged Parrot - El Roble, 24 July (C/N)
Scaly-naped Parrot - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N)
Squirrel Cuckoo - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C)
Greater Ani - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Smooth-billed Ani - El Roble village, 23 July (C); en route El Roble-Medellín, 25 July; Montezuma Road, 27 & 28 July; near Manizales, 30 July & 1 August
Oilbird - c.30 emerged from cave RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Band-winged Nightjar - on road Jardín-Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Chestnut-collared Swift - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); El Roble, 25 July
White-collared Swift - flock RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Grey-rumped Swift - flock high above RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C); 6 Montezuma Road, 29 July
Short-tailed Swift - campsite RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
White-necked Jacobin - main road, RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N); RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 4, 23 July; 2, 24 July; 4 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Rufous-breasted Hermit - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N)
Stripe-throated Hermit - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Pale-bellied Hermit - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Green Hermit - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Green-fronted Lancebill - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Brown Violetear - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 15, 23 July (C/N); 20, 24 July
Green Violetear - Rio Blanco, 30 July (C/N)
Sparkling Violetear - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); 2 Rio Blanco, 31 July
Tourmaline Sunangel - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); 4 Montezuma Road, 28 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Speckled Hummingbird - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); 3 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Long-tailed Sylph - Rio Blanco (C/N), 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Violet-tailed Sylph - Montezuma Road: 6 27 July (C/N); 20, 28 July; 10, 29 July
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill - Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Buffy Helmetcrest - Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Viridian Metaltail - Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Greenish Puffleg - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Montezuma Road, 27 July
Black-thighed Puffleg - Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Golden-breasted Puffleg - Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Shining Sunbeam - Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Bronzy Inca - Rio Blanco (C/N), 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Collared Inca - Ventanas Road, 26 July (C/N); near Anserma, 27 July; Montezuma road, 28 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Buff-winged Starfrontlet - Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Mountain Velvetbreast - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); Nevado del Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Sword-billed Hummingbird - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N)
Great Sapphirewing - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Buff-tailed Coronet - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); 20 Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July
Velvet-purple Coronet - Montezuma Road: 1, 27 July (C/N); 2, 28 July
White-tailed Hillstar - Montezuma Road: 6, 27 July (C/N); 10, 28 July
Purple-bibbed Whitetip - Montezuma Road: 1, 29 July (C/N)
Fawn-breasted Brilliant - Rio Blanco, 30 July (C/N)
Green-crowned Brilliant - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño; 15, 23 July (C/N); 10, 24 July
Empress Brilliant - Montezuma Road: 8, 27 July (C/N): 3, 28 July
White-belled Woodstar - Rio Blanco, 30 July (C/N)
Purple-throated Woodstar - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 3, 23 July (C/N); 5, 24 July; Montezuma Road: 20, 27 July; 20, 28 July
Western Emerald - Montezuma Road: 1, 27 July (C/N); 1, 29 July
White-vented Plumeleteer - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer - RN Cañón de Río Claro: female, 21 July (C/N); 1, 22 July
Violet-crowned Woodnymph - RN Cañón de Río Claro , 21 July (C/N); RNA Arrierito Antiqueño : 20, 23 July; 25, 24 July
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20, 21 and 22 July (C/N); 4 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Andean Emerald - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 10, 23 July (C/N); 20, 24 July; Montezuma Road: 6, 27 July; 6, 28 July
Blue-chested Hummingbird - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Steely-vented Hummingbird - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); 2 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Violet-bellied Hummingbird - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
White-tailed Trogon - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Masked Trogon - ¿possible male RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July?; 4 Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July (C/N) & 1 August
Green Kingfisher - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C)
Andean Motmot - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Jardín, 25 July; near Peñas Blancas, 27 July; around Manizales, 1 August
Barred Puffbird - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Lanceolated Monklet - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
White-mantled Barbet - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Red-headed Barbet - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Channel-billed Toucan - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 2, 21 July
Emerald Toucanet - Rio Blanco, 30 July (C/N)
Collared Aracari - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Olivaceous Piculet - El Roble: 1, 24 July (C/N); 2, 25 July
Red-crowned Woodpecker - El Roble, 25 July (C/N)
Beautiful Woodpecker - RN Cañón de Río Claro; 1, 21 July (C/N); 2, 22 July
Yellow-vented Woodpecker - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Golden-olive Woodpecker - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker - Río Blanco, 30 & 31July (C/N) & 1 August
Cinnamon Woodpecker - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Crimson-crested Woodpecker - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Bar-crested Antshrike - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Western Slaty-Antshrike - Mulata Creek Trail Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Uniform Antshrike - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Plain Antvireo - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N); RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July
Bicoloured Antvireo - female Montezuma Road (C/N), 24 July
White-flanked Antwren - RN Cañón de Río Claro: male, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Slaty Antwren - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Yellow-breasted Antwren - Montezuma Road (C/N), 29 July
Rufous-rumped Antwren - Montezuma Road (C/N), 29 July
Dusky Antbird - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N)
Chestnut-backed Antbird - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1 roadside, 21 July (C/N); 1, 22 July
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N) & 1 August
Bicolored Antpitta - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Rufous Antpitta - Jardín, 26 July
Tawny Antpitta - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Brown-banded Antpitta - Rio Blanco, 1 August (C/N)
Slate-crowned Antpitta - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N) & 1 August
¿Stiles Tapaculo - Heard only, Montezuma Road, 28 July; Rio Blanco, 30 July?
¿Nariño Tapaculo - Heard only, Montezuma Road, 28 July?
Rufous-breasted Antthrush - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Azara’s Spinetail - Ventanas Road, 26 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July
Rufous Spinetail - Ventanas Road, 26 July, 4 Montezuma Road, 28 July
Red-faced Spinetail - Montezuma Road, 29 July
Fulvous-dotted Treerunner - Montezuma Road, 28 July
Pearled Treerunner - Ventanas Road, 26 July; 3 Rio Blanco, 31 July
Andean Tit-Spinetail - Nevado de Ruíz (C/N), 1 August
Montane Foliage-Gleaner - Montezuma Road, 29 July
Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N); 2 RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July; 1 Montezuma Road, 29 July
Streak-capped Treehunter - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Uniform Treehunter - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Plain Xenops - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C); 2 RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July; 1 Montezuma Road, 29 July
Streaked Xenops ¬- RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C); 1 Rio Blanco, 30, 31 July
Olivaceous Woodcreeper - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C)
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 1, 22 July
Spotted Woodcreeper - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Olive-backed Woodcreeper - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Streaked Woodcreeper - 1 Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Montane Woodcreeper - Montezuma Road: 1, 28 July (C/N); 2, 29 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July
Sooty-headed Tyrannulet - 2 RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet - 1 RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Yellow-bellied Elaenia - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 1, 23 July (C/N); 1, 24 July
Mountain Elania - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); Rio Blanco, 30, 31 July
White-tailed Tyrannulet - Rio Blanco, 1 August (C/N)
White-throated Tyrannulet - 1 Ventanas, 26 July (C/N)
Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet - 1 Mulata trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C)
Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant - 1 Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Golden-faced Tyrannulet - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N); Rio Blanco, 30, 31 July
Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Montezuma Road: 1, 28 July; 5, 29 July
Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Streak-necked Flycatcher - El Roble, 24 July (C/N)
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Slaty-capped Flycatcher - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N), 22 July; Montezuma Road, 29 July
Rufous-breasted Flycatcher - Río Blanco, 30 July (C/N)
Ornate Flycatcher - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Montezuma Road, 28 & 29 July
¿Black-billed Flycatcher? - possible Mulata trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher - Rio Blanco, 30 July (C/N) and 31 July
Common Tody-Flycatcher - pair campsite RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N); 1 El Roble, 24 July & 25 July; 1 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Olivaceous Flatbill - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N); RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July
Yellow-margined Flycatcher - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 21 July (C/N) and 1, 22 July
Sulphur-rumped Flycatcher - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N)
Black-tailed Flycatcher - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N)
Cinnamon Flycatcher - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Montezuma Road, 28 & 29 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Handsome Flycatcher - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N) & 29 July
Smoke-coloured Pewee - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); 1 Montezuma Road, 28 July
Tropical Pewee - Mulata Creek Trail RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Black Phoebe - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N); 21 & 22 July; Puente Gavino, 23 July; Montezuma Road, 27, 28 & 29 July; near Manizales, 30 July
Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant - Ventanas Road, 25 July (C/N)
Smoky Bush-Tyrant - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Long-tailed Tyrant - 3 in all RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Cattle Tyrant - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N); near Puente Gavino: 23 & 25 July
Rusty-margined Flycatcher - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N) & 21 July; Montezuma Road: 27, 28 & 29 July
Social Flycatcher - El Roble: 2, 24 July (C), 1, 25 July
Great Kiskadee - near Anserma (C), 27 July
Lesser Kiskadee - campsite RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Lemon-browed Flycatcher - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Golden-crowned Flycatcher - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Streaked Flycatcher - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 21 July (C)
Tropical Kingbird - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 20 July (C) & 21 July; 20 near Puente Gavino, 23 July; El Roble, 24 July; near Puente Gavino and Medellín, 25 July; near Anserma and at Montezuma Road, 27 July; Montezuma Road, 28 & 29 July; near Manizales, 30 July & 1 August
Pale-edged Flycatcher - Rio Blanco, 30 July (C/N)
¿Panama Flycatcher - possible El Roble, 24 July?
Green-and-Black Fruiteater - Ventanas Road, 26 July (C/N); Montezuma Road: 4, 28 July; 4, 29 July; Rio Blanco; 3, 30 July; 7, 31 July & 1 August
Andean Cock-of-the-rock - 10 male, 2 female at Jardín lek, 25 July (C/N); 2 at Jardín lek, 26 July
Olivaceous Piha - 1 Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Striped Manakin - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N); male, El Roble, 25 July
White-bearded Manakin - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 2, 20 July (C); male, 22 July
Golden-headed Manakin - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 9, 21 July (C/N); 6, 22 July
Black-crowned Tityra - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N)
Barred Becard - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Cinereous Becard - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
White-winged Becard - Montezuma Road, 27 July (C/N)
Wing-barred Piprite - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Brown-capped Vireo - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Rufous-naped Greenlet - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Montezuma Road, 29 July
Black-collared Jay - Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July (C/N)
Black-chested Jay - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Blue-and-white Swallow - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); near Anserma, 27 July; near Manizales, 30 July & 1 August; Rio Blanco, 31 July
Brown-bellied Swallow - Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July (C/N) & 1 August
White-thighed Swallow - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N)
Southern Rough-winged Swallow - Montezuma Road: 27 July (C/N)
Grey-breasted Martin - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C) and 21 July
¿Brown-bellied Martin - not seen sufficiently well for lifer near Anserma, 27 July?
Scaly-breasted Wren - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
House Wren - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C) & 21 July; El Roble, 24 July; Ventanas 26 July; Montezuma Road, 27 & 28 July
Mountain Wren - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Grass Wren - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Band-backed Wren - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Sooty-headed Wren - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Black-bellied Wren - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 22 July (C/N)
Bay Wren - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N), 21 & 22 July; Montezuma Road, 28 & 29 July
Sharpe’s Wren - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N); 4, 29 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July
White-breasted Wood-Wren - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Grey-breasted Wood-Wren - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); Peñas Blancas, 27 July; Montezuma Road, 28 & 29 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July
Munchique Wood-Wren - 1 Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
White-capped Dipper - 1 Montezuma Road, 27 July (C/N)
¿Andean Solitaire - 1 distantly RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July?
Black Solitaire - Montezuma Road: 1, 28 July (C/N); 4, 29 July
Pale-breasted Thrush - 1 in road Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Black-billed Thrush - El Roble, 24 July (C/N); 6 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Great Thrush - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); Ventanas Road, 26 July; near Anserma, 27 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July and 1 August
Glossy-black Thrush - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); Río Claro , 30 & 31 July & 1 August
Tropical Mockingbird - El Roble, 24 July (C/N)
White-capped Tanager - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Oleaginous Hemispingus - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August
Black-eared Hemispingus - Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July (C/N)
Superciliaried Hemispingus - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Black-capped Hemispingus - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N), Montezuma Road, 28 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July
Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); 5 Rio Blanco, 31 July
White-shouldered Tanager - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 21 July (C/N) and 22 July; El Roble, 24 July
Tawny-crested Tanager - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 21 & 22 July (C/N)
Crimson-backed Tanager - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 & 21 July (C/N); El Roble, 24 & 25 July; Montezuma Road, 27 & 28 July
Flame-rumped Tanager - Jardín, 25 July (C/N) and 26 July; Montezuma Road, 27-29 July
Blue-grey Tanager - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 12 20 July (C); 1, 21 July; 1 RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July; 2 El Roble, 24 July; Jardín: 4, 25 July; 2, 26 July; 4 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Palm Tanager - Cañón de Río Claro: 20 July (C), 21 July; El Roble: 24 July & 25 July; Jardín, 25 July; Montezuma Road: 27 & 29 July; near Manizales, 1 August
Blue-capped Tanager - Rio Blanco, 30 July (C/N) & 31 July
Black-and-Gold Tanager - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Gold-ringed Tanager - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager - Jardín, 26 July (C/N)
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Ventanas Road, 26 July; Rio Blanco: 30 July, 31 July & 1 August
Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Grass-green Tanager - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager - Rio Blanco, 31 July (C/N)
Purplish-mantled Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); 3, Montezuma Road, 28 & 29 July
Glistening-green Tanager - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Multicoloured Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Black-capped Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); 2, El Roble, 25 July; 2 Ventanas Road, 26 July; 1 Montezuma Road, 28 July
Golden-naped Tanager - 2 Jardín, 26 Jtapuly (C/N)
Scrub Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); 1 El Roble, 24 July; 1 Jardín, 25 July; Montezuma Road: 1, 27 July; 1, 29 July
Golden-hooded Tanager - Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 2, 21 July; 1, 22 July
Blue-necked Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); 2 El Roble, 25 July; Montezuma Road: 1, 27 July; 2, 28 July
Rufous-throated Tanager - Montezuma Road, 29 July (C/N)
Speckled Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N)
Blue-and-Black Tanager - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); Rio Blanco: 30, 31 July
Beryl-spangled Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 4, 23 July (C/N); 1, 24 July; 1, Montezuma Road, 28 July; Rio Blanco, 30 & 31 July
Plain-coloured Tanager - Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 3, 21 July
Bay-headed Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); 1 El Roble, 24 July
Saffron-crowned Tanager - Ventanas Road, 26 July (C/N); 1 Montezuma Road, 29 July
Golden Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 6, 23 July (C/N); 1, 24 July; 2 Montezuma Road, 29 July
Silver-throated Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); 1 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Black-faced Dacnis - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Purple Honeycreeper - Mulata trail Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Green Honeycreeper - Mulata trail Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Scarlet-browed Tanager - Mulata trail Cañón de Río Claro, 21 July (C/N)
Guira Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Yellow-backed Tanager - Mulata trail Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Blue-backed Conebill - Ventanas Road, 26 July (C/N)
Capped Conebill - Rio Blanco: 1, 30 July (C/N); 5, 31 July
Glossy Flowerpiercer - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Black Flowerpiercer - Ventanas feeders, 26 July (C/N); Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August
White-sided Flowerpiercer - Ventanas Road, 26 July (C/N); Rio Blanco: 3, 30 July; 6, 31 July
Indigo Flowerpiercer - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Bluish Flowerpiercer - Ventanas Road, 26 July (C/N); 2 Montezuma Road, 28 July; 2 Rio Blanco, 30 July
Masked Flowerpiercer - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); Rio Blanco, 31 July & 1 August
Plumbeous Sierra Finch - Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Dusky-faced Tanager - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July
Bananaquit - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 1, 20 July (C); 1, 21 July; RNA Arrierito Antiqueño: 2, 23 July; 1, 24 July; 1 El Roble, 25 July; Montezuma Road: 3, 27 July; 6, 28 July; 3, 29 July
Black-winged Saltator - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); 1 near Anserma, 27 July
Buff-throated Saltator - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N); 1 Jardín, 25 July; 3 Montezuma Road, 29 July
Rufous-collared Sparrow Jardín, 25 July (C); 10 Ventanas, 26 July; 8 near Anserma, 27 July; 1 Montezuma Road, 28 July; Rio Blanco: 15, 30 July; 20, 31 July & 1 August
Saffron Finch - RN Cañón de Río Claro: 2, 20 July (C); 3, 21 July; 1 near Puente Gavino, 23 July; El Roble, 24 July
Blue-black Grassquit - near Puente Gavino, 23 July (C); El Roble, 24 July; near Puente Gavino, 25 July; Montezuma Road, 27 & 28 July
Grey Seedeater - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Variable Seedeater - Montezuma Road, 27 July (C/N)
Black-and-White Seedeater - Jardín, 25 July (C/N); 1 Montezuma Road, 27 July
Yellow-bellied Seedeater - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); Montezuma Road: 6, 27 July; 8, 28 July
Plain-coloured Seedeater - Carrertero Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August (C/N)
Ruddy-bellied Seedeater - El Roble, 24 July (C/N)
Thick-billed Seed-Finch - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); 24 July
Grey-browed Brush-Finch - Rio Blanco: 1, 30 July (C/N); 4, 31 July & 1 August
Olive Finch - Montezuma Road: 1, 27 July (C/N); 2, 28 July; 3, 29 July
Tanager Finch - Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
White-naped Brush-Finch - Ventanas Road, 26 July (C/N); 3 Rio Blanco, 30, 31 July
Tricoloured Brush-Finch - Montezuma Road: 2, 28 July (C/N); 6, 29 July
Slaty Brush-Finch - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N); 8 Rio Blanco, 31 July & 1 August
Dusky Brush-Tanager - Montezuma Road; 5, 28 July (C/N); 1, 29 July
Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño:1, 23 July (C/N); 1, 24 July; Montezuma Road: 6, 28 July; 1, 29 July
Hepatic Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
White-winged Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Sooty Ant-Tanager - Mulata trail Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N)
Crested Ant-Tanager - Montezuma Road: 2, 27 July (C/N); female, 29 July
Lemon-spectacled Tanager - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); El Roble village, 24 & 25 July
Tropical Parula - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C)
Slate-throated Redstart - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Montezuma Road, 28 July
Golden-fronted Redstart - Ventanas Road, 26 July (C/N); Montezuma Road: 28 & 29 July; Rio Blanco, 30, 31 July
Citrine Warbler - Ventanas, 26 July (C/N) ; Montzuma Road, 29 July; Rio Blanco, 31 July
Russet-crowned Warbler - El Roble, 24 July (C/N); Ventanas Road, 26 July; Rio Blanco, 30, 31 July
Three-striped Warbler - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N); Montezuma Road, 28 & 29 July
Buff-rumped Warbler - RN Cañón de Río Claro, 20 July (C/N); 21 & 22 July; Montezuma Road, 28 July
Russet-backed Oropendola - Jardín, 26 July (C/N); Montezuma Road, 27 & 29 July
Shiny Cowbird - near Puente Gavino, 23 July (C) & 25 July; 2 El Roble, 24 July; near Anserma, 27 July
¿Orange-crowned Euphonia - possible RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N)?
Andean Siskin - RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 23 July (C/N); Ventanas Road, 26 July; Nevado del Ruíz, 1 August
Thick-billed Euphonia - 1 RN Cañón de Río Claro: male, 20 July (C/N); 1, 21 July; 2 males 22 July; Montezuma Road: 4, 27 July; female, 28 July; 1, 29 July
Orange-bellied Euphonia - 10 RNA Arrierito Antiqueño, 24 July (C/N)
Blue-naped Chlorophonia - 2 Montezuma Road, 28 July (C/N)
Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia - Montezuma Road; 4, 28 July (C/N); 3, 29 July
Conclusion and Summary
Stands as one of the best birding trips of my life. It had everything: great birds, good fun, stunning scenery. Whets the appetite for more new places.. Maybe.
325 Colombia ticks
285 Neotropic ticks
19th July 2016 0 day ticks 0 lifers (travel from UK)
20th July 2016 49 day ticks 34 lifers (travel – Río Claro 1)
21st July 2016 66 day ticks 30 lifers (Río Claro 2)
22nd July 2016 31 day ticks 8 lifers (Río Claro 3 + travel Medellin)
23rd July 2016 47 day ticks 24 lifers (travel + Arrierito Antiqueño 1)
24th July 2016 72 day ticks 34 lifers (Arrierito Antiqueño 2)
25th July 2016 32 day ticks 3 lifers (El Roble + travel – Jardín 1)
26th July 2016 54 day ticks 37 lifers (Jardín 2)
27th July 2016 57 day ticks 13 lifers (Jardín 3 + travel – Montezuma Road 1)
28th July 2016 63 day ticks 19 lifers (Montezuma Road 2)
29th July 2016 58 day ticks 20 lifers (Montezuma Road 3 + travel Pereira)
30th July 2016 52 day ticks 19 lifers (travel Manzales + Rio Blanco 1)
31st July 2016 61 day ticks 10 lifers (Rio Blanco 2)
1st August 2016 58 day ticks 22 lifers (Rio Blanco 3 + Nevado del Ruíz)
2nd August 2016 0 day ticks 0 lifers (travel Manizales-Medellin)
3rd August 2016 0 day ticks 0 lifers (travel Medellin-UK)