Bird Watching Tour

Duration:
15 days - 14 nights
From:
AUD $ 4,950
p.p. twin share. Excludes Airfares

No single word encapsulates Colombia better than ‘diversity’. Its wide range of environments, ecosystems, people and species of flora and fauna is quite simply breath-taking. Therefore it is no surprise to learn that Colombia is home to more bird species than any other country in the world.

With almost 2,000 known species, be prepared to be in awe of the spectacular avifauna as you explore Colombia’s lush cloud forests, wetlands, valleys, and high mountain plains on this 15-day adventure. Join Chris Calonje, resident bird guide and founder of Colombia Bird watch on these unique trips. Chris is the charismatic, bi-lingual and internationally renowned expert on Colombian birds and wildlife who leads these fascinating voyages through this dynamic birding destination. Enjoy the colorful culture, delicious gastronomy and passionate people as Chris shows you the magic of Colombia and its amazing ornithology.

Overview

Overview

Day 1Flights to Cali
Day 2El 18 and Andean Cock-of-the-rock Lek
Day 3San Antonio Forest and Travel to Buga
Day 4Sonso Lagoon
Day 5Montezuma Lodge
Day 6Higher elevations of Tatama National Park
Day 7Montezuma Lodge and travel to Otun – Quimbaya
Day 8-9Otun-Quimbaya Reserve
Day 10-11Rio Blanco Reserve
Day 12Los Nevados National Park
Day 13Manizales to Cali for Cali city tour
Day 14Dolmetsch Arboretum
Day 15Flights homeward

Itinerary

Itinerary

Day 1 – Flights to Cali

Your tour leader will meet you at the airport for your transfer to the hotel. Lodging: Hostal Santa Rita

Day 2 – El 18 and Andean Cock-of-the-rock Lek

Colombia, Cock of the Rock.Today we spend the morning around the famous El 18, located on an 1800-meter (5,900-foot) pass 18 kilometers (11 miles) northwest of Cali along the road that connects Cali with the port city of Buenaventura. We will spend the day birding near the hotel along a road that passes through fragments of cloud forest usually with good mixed flock activity. Birding can be very productive here, and we will look for four endemics – Chestnut Wood-Quail, Grayish Piculet, handsome Flame-rumped Tanager, and the spectacular Multicolored Tanager. This area is a tanager paradise, where we have a good chance to observe some stunning birds like Choco endemic Purplish-mantled, Summer, Golden, near endemic Scrub, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned, and Goldennaped tanagers as well as Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager. We hope to be dazzled by an impressive show of hummingbirds at a private house along the same road, including the beautifully ornate Long-tailed Sylph, Purple-throated Woodstar, Blue-headed Sapphire, Green Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird, and White-necked Jacobin. We also hope to find some hummingbirds that lek in small groups such as the Brown Violetear and Tawny-bellied Hermit. Our next stop is Bichacue Yath reserve, a beautiful moss and fairy garden that also offers great birding opportunities. Nearby we will stop at a few bridge crossings over the Felidia River searching for more endemics – Crested Ant-tanager, Grayish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher. At 5 pm we will visit an active Andean Cockof- the-rock lek for some close-up views of this magnificent bird’s display. This short, 10-minute walk will take us down a steep hill to their lek near the river. Then we will drive back to Cali for dinner and rest. Lodging: Hostal Santa Rita.

Day 3 – San Antonio Forest and Travel to Buga

We will spend the morning birding in the pristine sub-Andean cloud forest of the San Antonio Forest, near El 18. Here we will bird along small gravel roads where we might see striking birds such as Green-and-black Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, and Blue-naped Chlorophonia, inconspicuous Golden-headed Quetzal, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Streaked Xenops, and noisy, inquisitive Crimson-rumped Toucanet. We will also listen and search for species with interesting calls and songs, like the hawk-like whistle of the Scaled Fruiteater, warbling song of Black-billed Peppershrike, and beautiful flute-like song of Andean Solitaire. Other species we may find are Chestnut-breasted Wren, Greenish Puffleg, large Montane woodcreeper, Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant, Choco endemic Nariño Tapaculo, and hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher. Then we will make our way towards Buga, a marvelous city and one of the most important religious pilgrimage centers in Colombia. Our colonial hotel has a large swimming pool and impressive architecture. Lodging: Hotel Guadalajara de Buga

Day 4 – Sonso Lagoon

We will start early to take a 10-minute drive to the wetland gem, Sonso Lagoon. This lagoon is one of the only remaining wetlands in the Cauca Valley and is teeming with birds, making it one of Colombia’s best wetland birding locations. Here we will search the marshes and lagoons that line the east bank of the Cauca River for Fulvous and Black-bellied whistling-ducks, Anhinga, Neotropical Cormorant, Little Blue, Cocoi, and Striated herons, Snowy Egret, Blacknecked Stilt, gregarious Bare-faced Ibis, and Snail Kite. We are likely to find Wattle Jacana, which have a polyandry mating system, where females mate with many males within a breeding season. Polyandry is a fascinating adaptation that occurs in less than 1% of birds, and is most common in shorebirds. We also will look for species that spend the non-breeding season in Colombia, such as locally rare Glossy Ibis, Cinnamon Teal, Lesser and Greater yellowlegs, and Spotted and Least sandpipers. Other rare species we might spot include Pinnated Bittern, endemic Apical Flycatcher, Roseate Spoonbill, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, and Horned Screamer. Horned Screamers are closely related to geese and have some bizarre morphological features such as spurs on their wings used for fighting and air sacs in their legs used to make sounds. Along riparian areas we may find Southern Lapwing, Greater Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracara, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Southern Beard- less-Tyrannulet, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Yellow Warbler, hard to visually identify Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Grey and Ruddy-breasted Seedeaters, Blue-black Grassquit, and Cinereous Becard. Greater Anis are fascinating because two to four unrelated pairs form a nesting group that build a single nest in which all the females lay their eggs and raise the young communally. In nearby oxbows (called madres viejas in Colombia) we hope to observe handsome birds such as Jet Antbird, Orange-crowned Euphonia, and Fiery Topaz plus Slate-headed Tody-Flycatcher. We will have lunch at the hotel and prepare for our 5 hour drive to the Montezuma Lodge, which will require a transfer to 4×4 vehicles. Lodging: Montezuma Lodge

Day 5 – Montezuma Lodge

The Montezuma Lodge offers unsurpassed hospitality and magnificent feeders and birding right from the lodge, but we will save the feeders for later. An early start will have us in search of Colombian endemics such as Gold-ringed Tanager and Chestnut Wood-quail. If the weather is on our side, we will have fantastic views of Cerro Tatama, with hopes of running into species such as the endemic Beautiful Jay, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, White-faced Nunbird, Glistening-green Tanager, Streak-capped Treehunter, Linnetaed Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous Piha, and Indigo Flowerpiercer. River crossing will give us a chance for White-capped Dippper, and we won’t have to venture to far from the lodge to have chances for Toucan Barbet, Black Solitaire, Choco Vireo and the beautifulm Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia. Lunch at the lodge will give us a chance to enjoy the hummingbird feeders with visitors such as Violet- tailed Sylph, Empress Brilliant, White-tailed Hillstar, and the near endemic Purple-throated Woodstar. We will spend the afternoon birding the vicinity of the lodge in preparation for a long ascent the following day. Lodging: Montezuma Lodge

Day 6 – Higher elevations of Tatama National Park

A very early start will have us at the top of the hill by sunrise, in hopes of making the best out of a long day of birding. Our targets at he higher elevation are the endemics Munchique Wood-wren and Chestnutbellied Flowerpiercer, which should be easy to see in the open areas of the top of the hill. The long descent will provide opportunities for some nice species, including Flame-faced Tanager, Glossy-black Thrush, Tanager Finch, and Black-and-gold, Rufousthroated, and Golden-chested Tanagers. We will have a picnic lunch along the way to maximize our birding, allowing time to get after forest skullkers such as Spillman’s Tapaculo and Hooded Antpitta. A long day if birding will come with the reward of an exquisite home-cooked meal and a good night’s sleep. Lodging: Montezuma Lodge

Day 7 – Montezuma Lodge and travel to Otun- Quimbaya

After breakfast we will have time to enjoy the banana feeders where Silver-throated Tanager, Buffthroated Saltator, and Golden-naped Tanagers take turns at the bananas in a semi-polite manner. Also, the kitchen staff sets out maize for a population of Blackis Rail that live in a nearby wetland, affording great views of this usually hard-to-see bird. After lunch we will head towards the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve, which will be a 5 hour drive. We will drive through the city of Pereira, and wind along the Otun River, finally arriving at the locally run and rustic, La Suiza Lodge, where we will spend the night. Lodging: La Suiza Lodge Cabins

Day 8 – Otun-Quimbaya Reserve

We will rise predawn to look for Choco endemic Colombian Screech-Owl, and then continue birding at the Otun-Quimbaya Reserve right at the doorsteps of our hotel. The Otun-Quimbaya Reserve is a flora and fauna sanctuary located on the west slope of the Central Cordillera, and is home to the Wax Palm, palma de cera, the tallest palm in the world that grows up to 70 meters (230 feet) and is the national tree of Colombia. These palms, unlike most other species of palm, thrive at high altitudes and cool climates found here. We will also be received by the sounds of Howler Monkeys and the endangered, endemic Cauca Guan, once believed to be extinct until rediscovery of a population in 1990. Otun-Quimbaya is also one of the best places in the world to observe Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. We will search for endemics – Chestnut Wood-Quail, recently described Stiles’s Tapaculo – and near endemics, like Moustached Antpitta, the handsome Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, and bright-colored Golden-fronted Whitestart. Other impressive birds we hope to find include Three-striped, Russet-crowned, and Canada Warblers, Masked Trogon, Green Jay, Highland Motmot, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and Orange-bellied Euphonia. We will also look for Black-billed Mountain- Toucan, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Plumbeouscrowned Tyrannulet, Marble-faced and Variegated bristle-tyrants, and Glossy and Masked flowerpiercers. Lodging: La Suiza Lodge Cabins

Day 9 – Otun-Quimbaya Reserve

This morning we will devote time to finding the infamous Torrent Duck. En route to Manizales, a 3.5- hour drive, we will stop at a roadside lake where we will be able to encounter more aquatic species including Pied-billed Grebe, Masked Duck, and Blackish Rail. We will spend the next two nights at the Rio Blanco Reserve 30 minutes from Manizales, touted as one of the three best birding sites in the world. Our accommodations for the next two nights are rustic, but comfortable and clean, and with unsurpassed hospitality. Lodging: Rio Blanco Lodge

Day 10 – Rio Blanco Reserve

Manizales is in the middle of the famed Coffee Triangle, and is a great central location from which we can visit several reserves that are inhabited by some of Colombia’s most rare and threatened species. The Rio Blanco Reserve is owned by Aguas de Manizales, the local water company, and is situated along an altitudinal gradient, therefore including a wide variety of ecosystems. We could possibly observe five antpitta species at feeders located within a short hike from the lodge, including endemic and endangered Brown-banded, Bicolored, Chestnut-crowned, Chestnut- naped, and Slate crowned antpittas. Other feeder visitors seldom seen include Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush and Stripe-headed Brush-Finch. Additional species observed in surrounding areas of the lodge are endemic and endangered Rufous-fronted Parakeet and the very rare Masked Saltator. Many sought after species that we may encounter here include Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Golden- fronted Whitestart, Dusky Piha, Lachrymose and Buff breasted mountain-tanagers, showy Grassgreen and White-capped tanagers, Powerful Woodpecker, and the hard to see Ocellated, Blackish, and Spillman’s tapaculos. Other less common species that are possible are Black-billed Peppershrike, the handsome Plushcap, Mountain Cacique, and endangered Golden-plumed Parakeet. Lodging: Rio Blanco Lodge

Day 11 – Rio Blanco Reserve

Today we will visit the reserve’s several well maintained hummingbird feeders that attract a great variety of hummingbirds. We hope to see Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy and Collared incas, Mountain Velvet breast, the tiny, slow-flying White-bellied Woodstar, and the showy Long-tailed Sylph. This evening we will drive back to Manizales to spend two nights at Hotel Termales del Otono, where we can relax in its mineral-rich, medicinal hot springs and enjoy scenic views of the central Andes. Lodging: Hotel Termales del Otono

Day 12 – Los Nevados National Park

We will explore Los Nevados National Park, located on the highest part of the Colombian central Andes. We will wind through patches of forest that open up to Paramo, an ecosystem of tropical grasslands above the treeline, toward the picturesque 5,300-meter (17,400-foot) volcano Nevado del Ruiz. The scenery in Paramo is magical and surreal, with velvety Frailejon plants adding to this effect. Frailejon plants belong to the Espeletia genus and are endemic to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador. We will reach elevations up to 3,950 meters (13,000 feet), so it will be cold. Here we hope to find species adapted to high elevations like near endemic Bearded Helmetcrest and Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, both of which sometimes forage on the ground, Viridian Metaltail, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant that often conspicuously perches at the top of shrubs, the beautiful Golden-crowned Tanager, near endemic Black-backed Bush-Tanager, and Glossy Flowerpiercer. We may also find a variety of seedeaters in the Paramo, including Plumbeous Sierra- Finch plus Paramo and Plain-colored seedeaters. We will search for the very rare and endangered endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet along a twokilometer stretch of road that passes through elfin forest, an ecosystem of dwarfed plants. We also hope to spot the very tame Tawny Antpitta, a common companion to this area. We will stop at a nearby glacial lake, Laguna Negra, where we may find Many-striped Canastero, White-tailed Hawk, the rare Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Andean or Ruddy Duck, Andean Teal, Grass or Sedge Wren, and Pale-naped Brush-Finch. In the early evening we will explore Manizales then return to our hotel, where we can soak in the hot springs. Lodging: Hotel Termales del Otono

Day 13 – Manizales to Cali for Cali city tour

We’ll leave for Cali in time to see the best of this city. We will tour San Antonio, one of the oldest and most beloved neighborhoods in Cali, exploring the colonial architecture and enjoying panoramic views of the city. We will dine in San Antonio and return to the hotel to relax and rest before tomorrow’s departure. Lodging: Hotel Obelisco

Day 14 – Dolmetsch Arboretum

We will have the morning to explore Cali and then have lunch at the Dolmetsch Arboretum with the director, Alvaro Calonje. The Dolmetsch Arboretum houses more than 2,200 plants from around the world, and is world-renown for its cycad collection, containing more than 60 species. Cycads are an ancient group of seed plants that are much less abundant than they were during the Jurassic period, and their geographic ranges have contracted, resulting in cycads being one of the most threatened plant groups in the world. Because of the variety of plants at the arboretum, we cansee a good variety of birds, such as Green Jay, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Acorn Woodpecker, and Blackburnian Warbler. Our farewell dinner will give us a chance to reminisce on the good times and good birding that Colombia, its people and its birds allowed us to have. Lodging: Hotel Obelisco

Day 15 – Flights homeward

After breakfast, our agent will transfer you to the Cali Airport, or you may choose to extend your stay to see more amazing sites in South America.

Inclusions

Inclusions

  • Arrival & departure transfers in all cities
  • 2 nights accommodation in Cali
  • 1 night accommodation in Buga
  • 2 nights accommodation in Risaralda
  • 2 nights accommodation in Quimbaya
  • 2 nights accommodation in Rio Blanco
  • 2 nights accommodation in Mazales
  • Entrances to Parks and Reserves
  • All Meals From Breakfast on Day 2 to Breakfast on Day 15
  • Local Guides
  • Snacks Throughout the Trip
  • Bottled Water Throughout the Trip

Not included

  • International and internal flights
  • Items of personal nature
  • Drink alcoholic and non-alcoholic
  • Tips to Drivers, guides and Porters

Airfares

Travel Just 4U has competitive South America Flights to get you to the starting point of your chosen Holiday. Contact one of our Travel Consultants for a full quotation including airfares, stopovers and any additional travel you wish to organize.

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