24-28 January 2024
Tour length: 5 days
Group size limit: 7
Julien Mazenauer and a local leader
Day 1: The participants will be met at Barranquilla International Airport (BAQ) in the evening, from where we drive to our nearby hotel, have an introductory dinner and get excited about the adventure to come, as we talk about the numerous endemics we might well find on this tour!
Day 2: This morning, we will visit a University of Atlántico campus one of the better sites to see the scarce endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca. We will have a first introduction to the avifauna of northern Colombia, with species likely seen such as Glaucous Tanager, Pale-bellied Hermit, Bicoloured and Stripe-backed Wren and many more.
Next stop will be at the Salamanca Island Road Park in search of one of Colombia’s rarest hummingbirds, Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird! We will also look for Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Chestnut Piculet, the striking Black-crested Antshrike (here of the streak-fronted form) and Stripe-backed Wren. We will visit the Cienega Grande de Santa Marta where will we look the huge Northern Screamer and Dwarf Cuckoo, our first Russet-throated Puffbird, Turquoise-winged Parrotlet, Sapphire-throated and Shining-green Hummingbirds, Black-collared Hawk, Bronze-brown Cowbird (recently elevated to species level from Bronze Cowbird) and many waterbirds. We will sleep in the town of Minca in the lower part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Day 3-4: We will then proceed towards the fabled Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, stopping first at low elevation to look for scarce Coppery and Red-billed Emeralds, the beautiful Black-backed Antshrike, monotypic and weird Rosy Thrush-Tanager, Scaled Piculet, smart Golden-winged Sparrow and many more. We will drive uphill to our accomodation for two nights, the fantastic El Dorado Lodge!
We will have the possibility to explore the upper reaches of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, home to an impressive number of endemics and near-endemics species. We will target every possible endemic species and subspecies (only three Santa Marta endemics require expeditions to get to, but we will do our best to find all the others). While Hermit Wood Wren, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Santa Marta Antbird, Sierra Nevada Antpitta, Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, Rusty-headed and Streak-capped Spinetails, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Santa Marta and White-lored Warblers, Yellow-crowned Whitestarts, Brown-rumped and Santa Marta Tapaculos are reasonnably common, other endemics like Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Screech Owl, Santa Marta Blossomcrown, Santa Marta Woodstar, Black-backed Thornbill, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Antpitta and Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant usually require more luck and persistence. We will also be looking for some other species (either endemic forms, near-endemics or localized birds) like Black-fronted Wood-Quail, exquisite White-tipped Quetzals, Yellow-billed and White-throated Toucanets (the latter of an distinctive endemic form), Sooty-capped Hermit, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Black-hooded Thrush and the local Grey-throated Leaftosser and Black-banded Woodcreeper forms.
Day 5: After some final birding, we will leave the Sierra Nevada behind and drive north-east to reach the arid Guajira peninsula, home of several endemics shared with nearby Venezuela. We will make some stops en-route to look for some previously missed species of lower elevations and maybe some mammals like the beautiful Cotton-top Tamarins. With a great deal of luck, we might even find the localy very rare Lilac-tailed Parrotlet. We will sleep in the town of Palomino for one night.
Day 6: We will travel early in the morning to Los Flamencos National Park. We will be exploring various xerophytic habitats and stretches of La Guajira where our prime targets will be regional endemics such as Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Green-rumped Parrotlet, the amazing Vermillion Cardinal, stunning Orinoco Saltator, White-whiskered Spinetail, Buffy Hummingbird, Tocuyo Sparrow and Chestnut Piculet. More widespread but interesting species could include Bare-eyed Pigeon, Caribbean Hornero, Slender-billed and Pale-tipped Inezias, Black-backed Antshrike and many more. We will then have a fairly long drive south to Valledupar where we will spend one night.
Day 7: Very early in the morning, we will visit the nearby Reserve Los Besotes, where we will dedicate some time to look for Red-legged Tinamou, here at its most accessible site of the country. Although we might well hear several individuals, seeing one requires patience and luck. But we’ll certainly try our best! The avifauna of the park is somewhat similar to La Guajira, with Vermilion Cardinal still occuring that far south, but with some other interesting species such as the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow (we will need some luck to find that one!), Crested Bobwhite, Military Macaw and a vast array of dry-forest passerines. We will then proceed to the Serrania del Perijá, where we will spend the next two nights, and start our exploration to find the localized Rufous-shafted Woodstar and Klages’s Antbird and our first Perija endemics such as the secretive Perija Brushfinch.
Day 8: The Serrania del Perijá is a mountain range adjacent to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and marking the border with Venezuela. It holds several interesting endemics found nowhere else and only accessible on the Colombian side, which is nowadays safe to visit! This full day will be dedicated to birding the higher stretches of the Serrania del Perija, where we will work hard to find all specialties! It includes Perija Thistletail, Perija Metaltail, Perija Antpitta (recently split from the Rufous Antpitta complex), Perija Tapaculo and some yet-to-be-split species such as “Black-fronted” Yellow-breasted Brushfinch and “Perija” Golden-bellied Starfrontlet. We might well find other localized species like Black-fronted Wood Quail, Spectacled and Coopman’s Tyrannulets or Fulvous-headed Tanager, amongst others.
Day 9: This morning, we will drive back down the hills and start our drive south. After five hours, we will reach the southern stretches of the Perija mountains near La Jagua de Ibirico, where we will go uphill a little to reach a local farm where the highly distinctive Todd’s (or Perija) Parakeet was recently rediscovered. The locals were of course aware of it since many years but it only came to a birder’s ears recently! We will spend few hours birding at this locality and enjoying great views of this endangered and striking parakeet. We will also have a second chance at species like Rosy Thrush Tanager. We will then continue southwards to reach Ocaña in the nigth for sleep.
Day 10: The main reason to visit the remote locality of Ocaña is the nearby Recurve-billed Bushbird Reserve protecting habitat for one of the globally rarest antbird, the Recurve-billed Bushbird. We will spend the morning exploring trails through bamboo forest in the hope of locating a pair of these endangered and spectacular antbirds, which we have a good chance of finding. There is quite a number of other difficult birds to find elsewhere in Colombia at this locality, and we might well find one or two specialties like Grey-throated Warbler, Klages’s Antbird, Chestnut-bellied Thrush, Black-headed Tanager, Moustached Puffbird or Moustached Brushfinch. We will then start the longish drive (seven hours) to San Vincente de Chucuri, where we will stay for the next three nights.
Day 11-12: Two full days birding at Cerulean Warbler Reserve in the town of San Vicente de Chucuri and bordering the Yariguíes National Park. Where in addition to where we can observe Cerulean Warbler, we will look for Niceforo’s wren, Gorgeted Wood-Quail, White-bellied Antpitta, White-mantled Barbet, Turquoise Dacnis, Beautiful Woodpecker, Magdalena Tapaculo, Parker’s Antbird, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Yellow-throated Spadebill, amongst many more.
Day 13: Transfer in the morning to the city of Bucaramanga. In the afternoon birding in Bucaramanga area for to search Mountain Grackle and Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird. One night in a hotel in Bucaramanga City.
Day 14: Transfer to the reserve Rogitama Biodiversa Natural Reserve, lunch in the beautiful colonial city of Villa de Leyva. In the afternoon we will search Black Inca and other interesting bird species such as Lazuline Sabrewing and Gorgeted Woodstar in Rogitama Biodiversa Natural Reserve, where we will spend the night.
Day 15: Transfer from Rogitama Biodiversa Natural Reserve to Bogota International Airport, (BOG) where the tour ends this afternoon. Those continuing on the extension will overnight nearby.
BOGOTÁ EXTENSION (can be taken as a stand-alone tour)
Day 1: Overnight near Bogota International Airport after concluding the main tour.
Day 2: Departing early, we will travel to Chingaza National Park and nearby places, where we will be all morning looking for Brown-breasted Parakeets, Muisca Antpitta, Longuemare’s Sunangel, Coppery-bellied Puffleg, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Rufous-browed Conebill, Pale-bellied Tapaculo and many more. In the afternoon we will be in Hummingbird Observatory with very good options to photograph Black-tailed Trainbearer, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Glowing Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Coppery-bellied Puffleg, Tyrian Metaltail, Great Sapphirewing, Blue-throated Starfrontlet. We will return to our hotel in Bogotá in the evening.
Day 3: This morning we will travel to Sumapaz National Park where we could observe Green-bearded Helmetcrest, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Apolinar’s Wren, Tawny Antpitta, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, Andean Tit-Spinetail. During the day we will also visit the Chicaque Nature Reserve where we will have options to see Tourmaline Sunangel, White-bellied Woodstar, Lesser Violetear Hummingbird, Mountain Velvetbrest, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Flame-faced Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager. We will return to our hotel in Bogotá in the evening.
Day 4: Very early in the morning we will travel to the east of the city of Bogota to visit the Cundinamarca Antpitta Reserve. After several hours of travel, we will look for Cundinamarca Antpitta, Slate-crowned Antpitta and Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. In the afternoon we return to our hotel for one last night in Bogotá.
Day 5: After a morning around Bogota in search of Bogota Rail and Colombian Horned Lark, we will transfer to the airport where the tour ends this afternoon.
Cost: $ 6,400
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 500
Cost: $ 1,800
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 295
Accommodation: Basic to comfortable twin-bed, and single rooms, all with private facilities.
Walking difficulty: Easy to moderate throughout the tour on a mixture of trails and roadside birding.
Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.