Birding and wildlife encounters




CLIENTS: Margaret Walton and Bruce Peart
 from Canada

DATE: 24 November – 4 December 2017

GUIDE: Sebastian Ballesteros



We started at Cali airport with the arrival of our travelers in the afternoon. We drove one hour going through Cali to our lodge Hotel Faro del 18 located outside the city where we stayed for two nights.


We started birding at 6AM; we walked almost 2 Km from our hotel along a dirty road towards a farm with very nice activity due to its amazing bird feeders. The road was very active and with a good combination of forest with small farms and houses that provide decent habitat for different species that we saw, like Andean solitaire, Blue-winged mountain-tanager, Golden tanager, Beryl-spangled tanager, Metallic-green tanager, Flame-rumped tanager, Golden-hooded tanager, Black-winged saltator, Golden-rumped Euphonia, White-naped brush-finch, Azara’s spinetail, Stripe-throated wren among others. We also had good views of Uniform Antshrike, Three-striped warbler, Barred becard, Green Jay and Colombian chachalaca before arriving to Finca Alejandria, a paradise for hummingbirds and tanagers, it is the best place to have the best views and photo opportunities for the endemic and astonishing Multicolored tanager, which we saw quite well. The feeders also attracts other tanagers like Golden-naped, Black-capped, Scrub, Saffron-crowned, Golden, and of course the very ubiquitous Blue and grey and Palm tanagers. Other bird species attracted by the more than 50 bananas per day include Red-headed barbet, Emeral toucanet, Crimson-rumped toucanet, Colombian chachalaca, Black-billed thrush, Green honeycreeper. The hummingbird feeders are visited by many species such as Booted racket-tail, Long-tailed and Violet Sylphs, Speckled hummingbird, Purple-throated woodstar, Andean emerald, Green-crowned woodnymph, Green hermit and Steely-vented hummingbird. After a great lunch and birding we started our walk back to our hotel, in this part se saw more new species among them Variegated Bristle-tyrannt, Streaked xenops, Andean motmot, Smoky-browned woodpecker, Spotted woodcreeper and Golden-fronted whitestart.


This day we started driving at 5AM towards the north and stopping in Yotoco Forest, a nature reserve with a relic of good primary forest, this was a fast 3 hours birding in here, before continuing our trip to Montezuma Lodge. During this period we saw Chestnut-crowned gnateater, the endemic Greyish piculet, Metallic-green tanager, Rufous-naped greenlet, Plain Antvireo, Slaty spinetail, Yellow-headed manakin, Blue-capped tanager, Scale-creasted pygmy-tyrant, Rufous-breasted flycatcher, Summer Tanager, Tennessee warbler, Bar-crested Antshrike, Crimson-crested woodpecker, Three-striped warbler. Then we continued towards the boundaries of Pereira city where we changed vehicle and driver and then continued to Montezuma Lodge. We passed Puerto Rico town and started getting closer to the lodge, before that we stop in a very good place to see Crested ant-tanager which we saw quite good among Mustached puffbird, Dusky pigeon, Variable seedeater, Emerald toucanet, Rufous-tailed hummingbird, White-vented plumeleteer, Yellow-bellied elaenia. We arrived with the last light enough to have a look at the hummers that attend the feeders that included Empress brilliant, Purple-bibbed whitetip, Purple-throated woodstar, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple coronet, Western emerald and White-tailed hillstar. We had a wonderful dinner and due to the rain decided not go for a night walk and instead try the Colombian screech-owl next day before daylight.


We started driving early at 4:30 in order to go to the top of the Montezuma Hilla at 2600m. On the way we stopped in a good place the local guide of the reserve knew to try the Colombian screech-owl, which we saw well and also heard Mottled owl and Cloud-forest pygmy-owl calling actively. When it was a little light we saw well a couple of Black solitaires, Tanager finch, Olive finch, Beautiful Jay and Tricolored brush-finch. We arrive to the top at 6AM and started with good views of Munchique wood-wren, Chestnut-bellied flowerpiercer, Black-billed mountain-toucan, Viridian metaltail, Smoky bush-tyrant, Purplish-mantled tanager, Indigo flowerpiercer, Rufous wren, Streaked-headed antbird, Broad-winged hawk, Great thrush. We stopped on a place with hummingbird feeders just on the road where we had our breakfast, here we saw Tawny-bellied hermit, Violet-tailed sylph, Brown inca, Mountain velvetbreast, Buff-tailed coronet, around and on the way down we got brief views of Alto Pisones Tapaculo and Nariño Tapaculo. We continued going down and the rain started, it remains for most of the day, so we had to wait several times inside the vehicle and then watch birds again. Despite the rain we got views of both endemic Gold-ringed tanager and Black-and-gold tanager. We also saw very well Glistening-green tanager, Green-grass tanager, Rufous-throated tanager, Flame-faced tanager, Yellow-collared chlorophonia, Uniform antshrike, Buffy-tuftedcheek, Scaly-throated foliage-gleaner, Uniform treehunter, Pearl treerunner, Smoke-colured pewee, Wedge-billed woodcreeper, Spotted woodcreeper, Rusty-winged barbtail, Olivaceus piha, Club-winged manakin, Rufous motmot and great views of Orange-breasted fruiteater. We arrive before sunset at the lodge had a great dinner and got nice rest.


This day we decided to go up a little in order to try another species we didn’t see the next before due to the rains. The weather was great and we added nice views of Toucan barbet, Silver-throated tanager, Golden-headed quetzal, Masked trogon, Bicolor antvireo, Choco vireo, Black-headed brush-fnch, Marble-faced bristle-tyrant, Sooty-headed wren, Dusky bush-tanager, Masked tityra, Tawny-crowned greenlet, Silver-throated tanager, scaly-throated foliage-gleaner . We also got amazing views of a couple of Ornate hawk-eagles soaring and perched. We then came back for lunch and started driving towards Pereira city and then to Otun Quimbaya National Park where stay for one night. After our arrival we watch some birds around the garden including the endemic Cauca guan, the amazing Red-ruffed fruitcrow, Blue-necked tanager, Wedge-billed hummingbird, Buff-throated foliage-gleaner, Andean motmot, Metallic-green and Saffron-crowned tanagers and Grey seedeater. After supper we went out to try Mottled owl, we had great views of one very close to the lodge.


We had an early breakfast and started birding at 6Am with the company of a local guide of the park. We walked along the main dirty road and took several trails in the forest. We saw: Spotted barbtail, Bicolor antvireo, Stile’s tapaculo, Black-winged saltator, Crested Ant-tanager, Chestnut-breasted wren, Grey-breasted wood-wren, Rusty-winged barbtail, Strong-billed woodcreeper, Black-banded woodcreeper, Collared inca, Ashy-headed tyrannulet, Plumbeous-crowned tyrannulet, Black-eared hemispingus, Olive-striped fruit-tyrant, Black-billed peppershrike, Grey-hooded bush-tanager, Multicolored tanager, Collared togorn, Roadside hawk. We tried several times for the Torrent ducks which can be seen along the Otún river, but unfortunately we didn’t see this impressive species, instead we got great views of White-capped dipper. We returned for lunch and some relax birding in around the lodge. We added a few new species such as Whiskered wren, White-naped brush-finch, Parker´s antbird. Then we took our transportation to the airport to take flight to Medellin where stayed for one night in a nice hotel.


We had a nice breakfast in the hotel and then were transported to Medellin´s airport where we took our flight to Bahia Solano, in the Pacific Choco lowlands where stay for three nights. The flight was delayed one hour due to weather conditions, in the Choco lowlands, one of the most humid place on the planet, rains are an almost everyday situation. The airport was small and rudimentary, we were picked up in small tuc-tuc and transported to the our hotel in Valle village, 30 minutes from Bahia Solano airport. We did some birding on the way despite the rain and saw Choco toucan, Golden-collared manakin, Spot-crowned barbet, Fulvous-vented euphonia, Rusty-winged flycatcher, Little blue heron, Straited heron. Just after arrive to the hotel, which is located in front of the beach, we saw Black-striped woodcreeper, Black-cheeked woodpecker, Lemon-rumped tanager, Red-legged honeycreeper, Variable seedeater, Solitary sandpiper, Baltimore oriole, Scarlet-rumped cacique, Panama flycatcher and Common-black hawk. We had a lovely sea food lunch and after some rain we were ready to go out for some birding along the road. Some interesting species we saw included Plain-colored tanager, Golden-hooded tanager, Scarlet-thighed dacnis, Scarlet-browed tanager, Chestnut-mandibled toucan, Striped-billed aracari, Roadside hawk, King vulture, Tiny hawk, Blue-headed parrot, Red-lored parrot, Cinnamon becard, Thick-billed seed-finch and Tropical parula.


This day we took a boat trip going up along a small stream to then return walking on trail and road to the hotel. The morning was very cloudy with some occasionally rains. Here we saw Pacific antwren, Rose-faced parrot, Slaty-winged foliage-gleaner, Green manakin, Golden-collared manakin, Red-capped manakin, Blue-black grosbeak, Stripe-throated wren, Broad-billed motmot, Chestnut-backed antbird, Bay wren, Tawny-bellied hermit, Band-tailed barbthroat, White-whiskered hermit, Amazon kingfisher, Black-capped pygmy-tyrant, Long-tailed tyrant, Tawny-crested tanager, Blue dacnis, Scaly-breasted wren.

After lunch we took the trail towards Utria National park but it was rainy and the trail was very muddy, we weren’t able to add many species to the trip: Pied puffbird, Chestnut-headed oropendola, Black-chested Jay, Peregrine falcon, Grey-headed kite, Olivaceus faltbill and Orange-bellied euphonia. During the night we tried a couple of places for owls, but due to the rainy conditions we didn’t get any.


This day was very rainy specially early in the morning and late in the afternoon, however we managed to see some interesting species during the day like the following: Dusky-faced tanager, Orange-billed sparrow, Rufous-winged tanager, Blue-whiskered tanager, Scarlet-and-white tanager, White-fronted nunbird, Semiplumbeous hawk, Black-tipped cotinga, Bat falcon, Bright-rumped atila, Purple-throated fruitcrow, Blue-ground dove, Purple-crowned fairy, Bronze-tailed plumeleteer, Wedge-billed woodcreeper, Rufous-tailed jacamar, Cinnamon woodpecker, Crested guan, Piratic flycatcher and also some migrant such as Citrine warbler, Prothonotary warbler, Chestnut-sided warbler and Mourning warbler.

DAY 10

Since we had a morning flight to Medellin we decided to leave the hotel early and do some fast birding on the road, where we saw White-tailed trogon, Choco toucan, Hook-billed kite, Crowned woodnymph and One-coloured becard. After arrival to Medellin we were taken to the outskirts of the city for the last night of the tour. We arrived in the afternoon and relax for a while in the garden of our pleasant lodge. At night we went put to the nearby forest were we were able to see White-thorated Screech-owl and heard Tropical screech-owl and Rufous-banded owl.

DAY 11

During the morning we had just a couple of hours for birding before taking our travelers to the airport for their international flight. During this short walk around the hotel we saw the endemic Red-bellied grackle, Blue-and-black tanager, Black-capped tanager, Masked flowerpiercer, Rusty flowerpiercer, Green jay, Andean motmot, Squirrel cuckoo, Pale-edge flycatcher.

We saw 325 bird species, 112 were life bird for our travelers.



CLIENTS:  Bruce and Linda Bauer form USA


GUIDE: Sebastian Ballesteros

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a very famous and well recognized area for birding in the Neotropics. Located in the north of the country it concentrates the highest number of local endemics in Colombia with a total of 28 unique species distributed from sea level up to 4000 m.a.s.l., from which 26 can be seen in accessible areas like El Dorado Reserve and Minca. Other specialties can be found in the lowlands which include a different array of ecosystems such as tropical dry forest, xerophytic vegetation, mangroves, wetlands and sandy beaches.


The tour started in Barranquilla airport at 2:00pm from where we drove 2 hours almost straight to Minca in order to arrive with daylight and do some birding around Minca in the evening. We arrived to our birding spot at 4pm and saw almost 30 bird species in two hours, among them Whooping motmot, Keel-billed toucan, Collared aracari, Squirrel cuckoo, Orange-chinned parakeet, Boat-billed flycatcher, Streaked flycatcher, Golden-winged sparrow, Cocoa woodcreeper, Crimson-crested woodpecker and Long-billed starthroat.


In this whole day in Minca we went early to a small private nature reserve called Faunal 4 km above town, in a bad road as the roads usually are here. In this pleasant place we saw many different species from a few specific places, without much walking. The area has a nice bird feeder that attracts some interesting species such as: Black-chested jay, Grey-headed tanager, Crimson-backed tanager, Yellow-backed oriole, Bay-headed tanager, Crested oropendola, Golden-winged sparrow and Red-crowned woodpecker. Other species we saw around were Scaled piculet, Streaked-headed woodcreeper, Gartered trogon, Lineated woodpecker, White-bearded manakin, Swallow tanager, White-vented plumeleteer, White-necked Jacobin and Coppery emerald.

In the afternoon we went to a special place in search for the localized Rosy-thrush tanager which we saw briefly, in this area we also had good views of Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Sooty-headed tyrannulet, Rufous and white wren, Rufous-breasted wren, Sooty grassquit, Pale-eyed pygmy-tyrant, Blue-black grosbeak.

Day 3

We had an early birding drive with several stops from Minca towards El Dorado reserve at 2000m. On the way we had our breakfast in the field and as the ecosystems change as we go higher we started to see some endemic species like Santa Marta foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta antbird, Bang’s wood-wren and Santa Marta brush-finch and some specialties such as Rusty-breasted antpitta, Orange-billed nightingale-thrush, Venezuelan tyrannulet, Coopman’s tyrannulet, Black-headed tanager, Red-billed parrot among many others. We also stopped in a classic store of Doña Elvira where is possible to see the Santa Marta blossomcrown and Santa Marta woodstar visiting the flowers. We didn’t see the hummingbirds but saw a bunch of Blue-naped chlorophonias coming to the banana feeders, a family a Groove-bille toucantes nesting in a tree hole nearby and where lucky enough to see a juvenile of Santa Marta tapaculo. We arrive at the lodge for lunch and then we had some relax watching the feeders and the compost area which also attracts important wildlife. In the feeders we saw the White-tailed starfrontlet which was the only endemic hummingbird attending the feeders, other visitors included Brown, Sparkling and Lesser (Green) violetear, Violet-crowned woodnymphn and Lazuline sabrewing. In the evening we took a small walk around the lodge inside the forest in search for other key species we were able to see despite the quietness of the forest such as White-tipped quetzal, Masked trogon and Grey-throated leaftosser. On the way back we also saw a small mix flock which contained Montane foliage-gleaner, Montane woodcreeper, Brown-capped vireo and the endemic White-lored warbler which we saw many times. Around the lodge in the compost pile we say Slaty-backed nightingale-thrush, Lined quail-dove, Sickle-winged guan and Band-tailed guan which roost just next to the lodge.

At night we were ready to see a family of Grey-handed night-monkeys and a Kinkayu that come to eat banana in a Cecropia tree where the people in the reserve feed them everynight.


This was a long day, since we started driving in our 4x4 at 4:30 AM through the very rocky and uneven dirty road along the forest in order to arrive at 6AM to the top of the mountain, the so called San Lorenzo ridge, a hotspot at 2700m where some very local endemics ought to be found. Among them we saw Santa Marta mountain-tanager, SM warbler, SM wood-wren, SM parakeet, SM bush-tyrant, Black-backed thornbill, Yellow-crowned whitestart (redstart) also we catched a glimpse of Brown-rumped tapaculo. Other non-endemic highlights we saw include Smoky-brown woodpecker, Cooper´s hawk, Golden-bellied grosbeak, Yellow-breasted chat-tyrant, Plushcap, Scarlet-fronted parakket and Scaly-naped parrot. Since we had to be at 9:30 lower in the SanLorenzo ranger station to accomplish a date with the Santa Marta antpitta at a feeder. We arrived a little late and the lady had already given the earthworm food to the antpitta, nevertheless we tried again, and we were lucky to see it for around 2 minutes. We then continued our driving back in pursuit for some mix flocks, which we found some smalls on the way that gave us some new species: Black-throated tody-tyrant, Strong-billed woodcreeper, Blue-capped tanager, Streaked xenops and some migratory warblers like Blackburnian, Black and white, and Tennessee warbler and American redstar. We also saw a nice group of Santa Marta toucanets in their secret nest, Cinnamon flycatcher. We arrived just for lunch and some relax in the afternoon and birding around the lodge. Here we saw Colombian (Sierra Nevada) brush-finch, Black-fronted wood-quail coming briefly to the seed feeders. Also golden-crowned flycatcher, and good views of Golden-breasted fruit-eater. In the feeders and the garden we saw Black-capped tanagers, Blue-naped chlorophonias, Black and White-sided flowerpiercers. We also enjoyed views of Brown agouti and Crab-eating fox which come to the compost pile. Just before dinner we heard a Spectacled owl calling close to rooms and when called a Santa Marta Screech-owl came close to us, letting us to see it for several minutes.


In this day we went from EL dorado lodge at 2000m to the sea level where stay nearby a nice river. Close to the lodge the found and ant swarm with a Ruddy woodcreeper attending as well as a Plain-brown woodcreeper. On the way we stopped in the store to try the two endemic hummingbird we were missing. They are basically a matter of luck, and they come to flowers but are chased by the dominant species. We waited for 30 minutes and saw a gorgeous male Santa Marta woodstar working on the flowers for almost two minutes, we waited a little bit more for the SM blossomcrown but this didn´t appear. We drove down and on just on the road, 30 mteres form the car we saw a magnificent Tayra (Eira barbara) crossing the road and walking up a small trail. We passed Minca and went down to the boundaries of Tayrona Park where had lunch with good river view. New birds here included Shiny cowbird, Zone-tailed hawk, Short-tailed hawk, Ringed kingfisher and Solitary sandpiper. Then we continued to our destination, Tayronaka EcoLodge where stay for one night next to Don Diego river. To get there we sent our bags in a boat through the river and we walk almost 1 km of good birding where we saw: Yellow-bellied elaenia, Yellow-crowned tyrannulet, Brown-capped tyrannulet, Black-throated mango, Ruby topaz, Grey seedeater, Bright-rumped Attila, White-bearded and Lace-tailed manakins, Yellow-olive flycatcher, Ochre-lored flatbill (before called Yellow-breasted flycatcher), Streaked-headed woodcreeper, Barred antshrike, Rufous-breasted hermit and Pale-bellied hermit, among others.


During the morning we birded from 6Am to 10, with a short break to take breakfast, in the gardens and indigenous terraces present in the area, and also in forest border and inside, then we return for breakfast. Here we saw several Lance-tailed manakins, White-necked puffbird, Gartered trogon, white-chinned sapphire, Cocoa woodcreeper, Whooping motmot, Collared aracari, Keel-billed toucan, White-winged becard, One-colored becard, Sepia-capped flycatcher, Buff-breasted wren among other ones.

After lunch we started driving towards Flamencos Park where stay for one night. But on the way we tooked a different route and stopped in a couple of artificial lakes that attract many bird species such as: Wattled Jacanas, Purple and Common Gallinules, Limpkin, Yellow-hooded blackbird, Striated heron, Anhinga, Neotropical cormorants, Buff-necked Ibis, Black-bellied whistling-duck, Bare-eyed pigeon, Blue-crowned parakeet, Green-rumped parrotlet, Carib grackles, Pied water tyrant, Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Lesser yellow-headed vulture, Least grebe, Snail kite, Spot-breasted woodpecker and some migratory species like Blue-winged teal, Green heron, Yellow warbler and Solitary sandpiper. Before leaving we saw a group of Lesser nighthawks flying. Then we arrived our lodge in front of the beach to have a nice sea food dinner.


During this morning we birded from 6AM in different trails and some water ponds in the dry scrubby vegetation where we found Vermillion Cardinal, White-whiskered spinetail, Chestnut piculet, Pileated finch, Russet-throated puffbird, Slender-billed tyrannulet (Inezia), Straight-billed woodpecker, Black-crested antshrike, Caribbean (Pale-legged) hornero, Pearly-vented tody-tyrant, Orinocan saltator, Crested bobwhite, Buffy hummingbird, Red-billed emerald, Glaucous tanager, Tropical gnatcatcher and Northern scrub-flycatcher among others. We also went to see some shorebirds present in the area like Sandwich, Yellow-billed and Royal terns, Laughing gull, Semipalmated, collared and Wilson’s plover, Reddish egret, Spotted sandpiper, Whimbrel, Willet and American oystercatchers and of course the America flamingo. We then started driving back towards Barranquilla, having lunch on the way and stopping in Salamanca Park before arriving Barranquila, in order to look for the endemic Sapphire-bellied hummingbird which we saw together with Bicolor conebill, Pied puffbird, Panama flycatcher, Brown-crested flycatcher, Red-eyed vireo, Osprey, Common tody-flycatcher, Black-necked stilt and some migrants such as Prothonotary warbler, Northen waterthrush and American redstar.

We then arrived to Barranquilla before dinner to get some rest and the next day our clients took their flight back home early in the morning.

We saw 312 bird species, including 22 endemics and 28 near-endemics.