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Colombia: Chocó & Western Andes

This carefully-designed tour covers most classic sites, including Montezuma, Rio Blanco, and Nevado de Ruiz, as well as several little-known spots. We will build a large list of endemics and specialities such as the recently discovered "Cali" and Paisa Antpittas, Multicoloured, Gold-ringed, and Black-and-gold Tanagers, Buffy Helmetcrest, Cauca Guan, Antioquía Brushfinch, and much more.

Next Dates

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Price: $

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Leaders:

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Single Room Supplement: $

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Group Size Limit:

6

Deposit: $

TBD

Add a Title

Price: $

TBD

Leaders:

Add a Title

Single Room Supplement: $

TBD

Group Size Limit:

Deposit: $

TBD

Accommodation:

Mostly good-standard, comfortable hotels and lodges.

Walking difficulty:

Mostly easy, on a mixture of trails and roadside birding, with a couple of moderate effort walks throughout the tour - particularly for “Cali” Antpitta.

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.

Day 1: The tour starts this evening at Medellín Airport (MDE), where we will spend the night.


Day 2: This morning, we will visit La Romera reserve, close to town, in search of the rare Yellow-headed Manakin at one of the most reliable places in the world to see it. Supporting cast includes endemic Red-bellied Grackle and Stiless Tapaculo. Afterwards, we will drive north. Night in Santa Rosa de Osos.


Day 3: Today will be an exciting day, as we will search for the very recently rediscovered Antioquía Brushfinch - surely one of the most shocking events in neotropical ornithology during the recent past -  as well as the recently discovered “Paisa” Antpitta, which nowadays is coming to a feeding station! We have very good chances of seeing these two mega rarities at close quarters. Afterwards, we will drive towards Jardin, stopping en route at a patch of dry forest in search of the recently described endemic Antioquía Wren. Night in Jardin.


Day 4: Our main target today will be the Critically Endangered endemic Yellow-eared Parrot, which we hope to see well. We will also be in pursuit of the recently split Chami Antpitta, which is coming to feed on mealworms together with Chestnut-naped Antpitta! While searching for the parrot and the antpitta, we should see a number of interesting species, such as Tawny-bellied Tinamou, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk at dawn, Tanager Finch, Chestnut-crested Cotinga at one of the best spots in the world for it, Golden-headed Quetzal, White-capped Dipper, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, White-capped and Purplish-mantled Tanagers, Golden-fronted Whitestart, Streaked-troated Bush Tyrant and Yellow-headed Brushfinch, among others. In the afternoon, we will visit what is arguably the best, largest, and most accessible Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek in the world! After marvelling at these incredible birds for a while (at touching distance!), we will have a tasty dinner in the delightful town square. Night in Jardin.


Day 5: Final morning birding in the Jardin area, searching for whatever we might have missed, plus Undulated Antpitta. We will then embark on the long journey towards Hacienda El Bosque, where we will spend two nights.


Day 6: Today, we will explore the high temperate zone at Nevado del Ruiz, which is situated above 3000 m elevation. Here, amidst some impressive scenery, our main targets are the endemic Buffy Helmetcrest and the endemic and very localised Rufous-fronted Parakeet (which is often hard to find, but regularly comes to roost at a known cliff). Other high-altitude species we are likely to see include Black-backed Bush Tanager, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, Red-crested Cotinga, Tawny Antpitta, Páramo Tapaculo, Andean Teal, Andean Duck, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, and White-chinned Thistletail. We will also visit some fantastic hummingbird gardens where Viridian Metaltail, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Black-thighed Puffleg, and Rainbow-bearded and Purple-backed Thornbills all occur, as well as Golden-crowned Tanager. At night, we will search for Rufous-banded Owl. Night at Hacienda El Bosque.


Day 7: In the morning, we will look for the fantastic Crescent-faced Antpitta (formerly a very difficult bird throughout its range), which in recent times is coming to feed on mealworms, as well as the recently split Equatorial Antpitta. We hope the birds are still around by the time of our visit. Other interesting species that are present in the area include Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, which regularly comes to feed on grapes put out specifically for it, Slaty Brushfinch, the uncommon Páramo Seedeater, and the magnificent Ocellated Tapaculo. Later, we will drive to Manizales, where we will overnight.


Day 8: Today, we will visit the famous Rio Blanco reserve, which holds some of the rarest birds in Colombia. In particular, we hope to see the skulking endemic Brown-banded and near-endemic Bicoloured Antpittas, which in recent years have become much easier to see at a feeding station. If lucky, we might also see the poorly-known Masked Saltator in a mixed feeding flock. We will also try to find the elusive Rusty-faced Parrot, though this species can be absent from the area for months if the oaks are not producing its favoured seeds. Slate-crowned and Chestnut-crowned Antpittas also regularly come to feed at two other feeding stations, along with Green-and-black Fruiteater. Other targets here include Spillmann’s, Blackish, and Ash-coloured Tapaculos, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Crimson-mantled and Bar-bellied Woodpeckers, Tyrannine and Strong-billed Woodcreepers, Streak-headed Antbird, the rare Flammulated Treehunter, Dusky Piha, Rufous-breasted, Pale-edged, and Golden-bellied Flycatchers, Rufous-headed Tody Flycatcher, Mountain Wren, Capped Conebill, Grey-hooded Bush Tanager, Grass Green Tanager, Black-eared, Black-capped, Superciliared, and Oleaginous Hemispingus, and the smart Plushcap. Cracking White-capped Tanagers can sometimes be seen here too. Hummingbirds at the feeders should include Long-tailed Sylph, Tourmaline Sunangel, Speckled Hummingbird, Buff-tailed Coronet, and White-bellied Woodstar. Evening night birding should produce the stunning Lyre-tailed Nightjar at a regular stake out, as well as White-throated Screech Owl. Afterwards, we will drive to Pereira for an overnight stay.


Day 9: We will spend the morning birding at Otún Quimbaya Reserve, where our main target will be the Endangered Cauca Guan, thought to be extinct until rediscovered here in the 1990s. The stunning and uncommon Red-ruffed Fruitcrow is particularly common here, and we will also search for Moustached Antpitta, Stiles’s Tapaculo, Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, and Crested Anttanager, among others. The rare Hooded Antpitta used to be pretty reliable here until recently, but we will still put effort into trying to find it. Mountain Tapir is also seen here with relative frequency. In the afternoon, we will drive to Montezuma for a three-night stay.


Days 10-11: Apart from hosting a number of Chocó endemics that are shared with Ecuador, the Montezuma region is also home to several Colombian endemics, including the cracking Gold-ringed Tanager and its close Bangsia relative, the stunning Black-and-gold Tanager, both of which we should see well. During our three full days here, we will build a large list of great birds, which can include the near-endemic Brown Inca, Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-throated Woodstar, Violet-tailed Sylph, Cloud-forest and Andean Pygmy-Owls, Crested Quetzal, Moustached Puffbird, Lanceolated Monklet, Toucan Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner (which is probably easier to see here than anywhere else in the world), Pacific Tuftedcheek, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Chocó Brushfinch, Uniform Treehunter, Bicoloured Antvireo, Yellow-breasted and, if lucky, Hooded Antpittas, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Ocellated, Nariño, Chocó, and endemic Tatama Tapaculos, Bronze-olive Pygmy Tyrant, Scaled and Orange-breasted Fruiteaters, Olivaceous Piha, Club-winged Manakin, Chocó Vireo (also easier here than elsewhere in Colombia or Ecuador), Rufous-naped Greenlet, Yellow-collared and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonias, Beautiful Jay, Tanager Finch, Gray-mantled and Sharpe’s Wrens, endemic Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer, and many others. Nights at Montezuma Lodge.


Day 12: After spending the morning birding in the Montezuma area, searching for whatever we might have missed or visiting an area that regularly holds Baudo Oropendolas, we will drive towards Buga for an overnight stay.


Day 13: We will spend most of today at Laguna de Sonso Nature Reserve, where we will be searching for endemic Greyish Piculet and Apical Flycatchers, as well as Bar-crested Antshrike, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Horned Screamer, Jet Antbird, Dwarf and Striped Cuckoos, Spectacled Parrotlet, and Blackish Rail, among others. In the afternoon, we will head to San Cipriano for a two-night stay.


Day 14: Full day at San Cipriano lowland Chocó forest. There is a long list of possible targets, including  Sapayoa (a must for those trying to see all of the world's bird families), Berlepsch's Tinamou, White-tipped Sicklebill, Chocó Toucan, Uniform Crake, Olive-backed Quail Dove, Five-coloured Barbet, Golden-collared Manakin, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Spotted, Ocellated, Dull-mantled, and Stub-tailed Antbirds, Streak-chested Antpitta, Pacific Flatbill, Black-tipped and Blue Cotingas (if lucky), Yellow-browed Shrikevireo, Song and Stripe-throated Wrens, Blue-whiskered, Rufous-winged, Scarlet-browed, and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers, and many others. Nightbirding can produce Chocó Screech Owl and Chocó Poorwill. Night at San Cipriano.


Day 15: After some morning birding in San Cipriano, we will head to La Florida, at the famous km18 in Cali, where we will spend the afternoon. Among our targets are an impressive collection of tanagers, including the stunning endemic Multicoloured Tanager, which we should see very well and at close quarters, allowing for incredible photo opportunities (unlike on many other tours!). Other likely species include Scrub, Blue-necked, Metallic-green, Beryl-spangled, Golden-naped, Black-capped, and Saffron-crowned Tanagers, endemic Chestnut Wood Quail, White-throated (or Chocó) Daggerbill, Colombian Chachalaca, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Scaled Antpitta, Little Tinamou, and Golden-winged Manakin. Night near Cali.


Day 16: This morning, thanks to the help of local researchers who work alongside our trusted ground agent, we will visit the spot at Farallones National Park that hosts “Cali” Antpitta, a recently discovered Grallaricula antpitta not yet officially described! We will probably be the only group allowed to visit the site to see this very special bird, which we have a very good chance of seeing. After lunch, the tour will end in the evening at Cali International Airport (CLO).


You may be interested in linking this tour with Colombia: Magdalena & Central Andes!

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