Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Sumapaz and Beyond!

Everyone apart from Rob and myself had early flights so we decided to make the most of this ‘spare’ day and visited Sumapaz with Jose. This is another high-altitude site close to Bogota and I’m including our sightings here for sake of completeness and to give an idea what is possible. We had amazing close views of the endemic Apolinar’s Wren within a few minutes of arriving. 

Green-bearded Helmetcrest (female)

It took a bit longer to find the endemic Green-bearded Helmetcrest but we did find a pair eventually, whilst the other stand-out bird was Northern Tawny Antpitta– a different species to the one seen on the main tour according to HBW. In fact, this species was incredibly common up here and we enjoyed repeated views. 

Northern Tawny Antpitta

Other birds seen up here included Andean TealAndean Duck, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Red-rumped Bush-TyrantBronze-tailed Thornbill, a few Noble Snipe, Greater Yellowlegs, what appeared to be a Plain-breasted Hawk, Andean Siskin, Shining Sunbeam, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and a flock of 30+ migrating Lesser Nighthawks

Indigo-capped Hummingbird

By mid-morning we were done here and took a longish drive to a secret site with a stack of feeders attracting numerous endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbirds. Also present were Black-throated Mango and White-vented Plumeleteer amongst others. It was a lovely spot to have lunch and enjoy all of the frenzied activity before driving to the airport for our late evening flight home.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

The End of the Road.....

We left the excellent El Dorado Lodge after breakfast, seeing for the last time species such as Black-hooded ThrushBand-tailed GuanLazuline Sabrewing etc. 

Band-tailed Guan

A few stops at various points as we descended the mountain proved to be productive beginning with a perched endemic Santa Marta Blossomcrown at a known stake-out for this sometimes tricky species. 

Santa Marta Blossomcrown

A Louisiana Waterthrush spent some time on the road in front of us as we walked down the road from here, and a Santa Marta Tapaculo was extremely confiding here as well. We also saw commoner species such as Pale-breasted Thrush, Bicoloured Wren and Santa Marta Brushfinch before making another stab at seeing Rusty-breasted Pitta

Rusty-breasted Antpitta

This time we well and truly nailed it with calling birds seen on both sides of the road at the dame spot. Wow! There was also Tropical Pewee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Grey-lined Hawk, American Redstart, Rufous-capped Warbler and the peculiar Santa Marta race of Bay-headed Tanager

White-chinned Sapphire

We finished our birding this morning closer to Minca with perched Long-billed Starthroat and White-chinned Sapphire, and a Rosy Thrush-Tanager for a couple lucky people. Oh and let’s not forget the pair of day-roosting Black-and-white Owls.  

Black-and-white Owl

We had lunch at the Hotel Minca where Orange-chinned Parakeets, White-vented Plumeleteer and lots of White-necked Jacobins entertained us at the feeders. 

Orange-chinned Parakeet

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird

Steely-vented Hummingbird

White-necked Jacobin (female)

White-necked Jacobin (male)

From here it was a short drive to the airport and a quick flight back to Bogota and conclusion of a very successful tour.

Monday, 30 September 2019

Santa Marta Mountains

Left at 04:30am and drove up to the top of the mountain on the horrid track that’s more akin to a dry riverbed. Anyway, it took around 90 minutes to reach the top ridge and upon arrival the weather was clear with occasional bouts of low cloud obscuring things for short periods. A Santa Marta Warbler played hard to get initially but a little later we enjoyed point-blank views over breakfast, and we also had nice looks at several Santa Marta Parakeets, some Scaly-naped Parrots perched up close by, incredibly close Santa Marta Brushfinch, the endemic Yellow-crowned Whitestart, a pair of endemic Hermit Wood-WrensStreak-capped SpinetailSanta Marta Toucanet (not yet a full species but a ssp of White-throated Toucanet…), Santa Marta Mountain Tanager, a very brief Brown-rumped Tapaculo, a pair of Scarlet-fronted Parakeets, and a few flyover Red-billed Parrots

Santa Marta Parakeet

Santa Marta Brushfinch

Scaly-naped Amazon
Hermit Wood-Wren
Then we headed lower, stopping at a few places to look for Santa Marta Antpitta without any joy. And then the heavens opened  so we headed down to lunch.

Back at the lodge we had a fine meal and waited for the rain to stop, which it did shortly after. The hummer activity in the garden was frenzied and we saw all the same species as yesterday but of particular note was the female White-tailed Starfrontlet perching up on several occasions, at least 2 male Lazuline Sabrewings, and amazingly 3 White-tipped Quetzals found at the front of the lodge. 

White-tailed Starfrontlet

With some of the group opting for an easy afternoon around the lodge the rest of us headed back up the mountain on our antpitta quest. Well, it took a while but in the end we enjoyed fantastic views of a pair of Santa Marta Antpittas ‘doing their thing’ and feeding in a relatively open patch of forest even if the photos don’t do this awesome bird justice. 

Santa Marta Antpitta

We also enjoyed good views of the endemic White-lored Warbler here too. Higher up we surprisingly watched an endemic Brown-rumped Tapaculo feeding on the track right out in the open for a few brief seconds! With a dramatic sunset and awesome scenery we waited until dark before calling in a fantastic Stygian Owl. And that was the end of another great day, just a shame the calling Spectacled Owl didn’t show to everyone after dinner.

Santa Marta Sunset

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Santa Marta Mountains at Last!

Breakfast was at the reasonable time of 05:30am in the hotel restaurant during which time we saw a pair of White-vented Plumeleteer visiting the feeders, with a Pale-breasted Thrush feeding in a large tree. 

White-vented Plumeleteer

Then we set off in our 4WD Landcruisers up the bumpy mountain track towards El Dorado Lodge where we would be spending the next 2 nights. Our first stop gave us glimpses of Golden-winged Sparrow, a Red-billed Emerald feeding on some flowers, Crested Oropendola, a brief Coppery EmeraldWhite-chinned Sapphire, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Rufous-tailed JacamarGrey-headed Tanager, and frustratingly only heard Rosy Thrush-Tanager

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

We drove on for a few kilometres before checking out another of Jose’s favourite spots where Rufous-capped Warbler, Barred Antshrike, Santa-Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Rufous-and-white Wren, and several Swallow Tanagers were present. We really hadn’t driven very far up the mountain at this stage so we made amends and drove for quite a while before our next stop. Here, a Rusty-breasted Antpitta proved tricky to see and not everyone managed to get on it but a Santa Marta Antbird showed quite well at the same spot, as did a Lined Quail-Dove and an Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush

Lined Quail-Dove

Continuing our drive along an ever increasingly poor track produced a pair of Bat Falcons in display and perched quite close, before stopping for coffee at a roadside stall. Here we saw Santa Marta Woodstar on its favourite perch, Santa Marta Brushfinch, skulking Sierra Nevada Brushfinch, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren of the subspecies bangsi and a potential split and a tricky Santa Marta Tapaculo.

Lazuline Saberwing

We eventually reached El Dorado Lodge in the ProAves reserve for a lovely late lunch, but not before checking out the numerous feeding stations here. There was a compost heap with Strong-billed Woodcreeper and Black-hooded Thrush feeding on it. 

Brown Violetear

A pile of seed was attracting Black-chested Jays and Band-tailed Guans, Blue-naped Chlorophonia visited the banana feeders, whilst the hummer feeders hosted Brown Violetear and a superb Lazuline Sabrewing amongst plenty of other previously seen species. 

Blue-naped Chlorophonia
Black-chested Jay

Lunch was delicious, as was a female White-tailed Starfrontlet (we’d see the male here later today) that came in for a short time. 

Not a bad view

Our luxury rooms had a fantastic view as one side of the round rooms was completely glass and you could see the ocean many miles below. Wow! But they were a long way from the restaurant and it took 25 minutes to reach them, which made us rather sweaty indeed! Thankfully our luggage was taken up to them by the staff! We spent just 15 minutes getting ourselves sorted before walking the higher trail back to the main lodge/restaurant and this proved to be very rewarding. A group of Black-capped Tanagers fed in the low bushes, and we also spotted a Rusty-headed Spinetail, and the local Santa Marta race of Bay-headed Tanager that is just red and green and looks totally different from the nominate forms joined the other tanagers, along with an early returning Blackburnian Warbler, a fabulous Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager, and overhead some Scaly-naped Parrots passed by. 

Bay-headed Tanager - looking very different here....

Walking down into dark and gloomy forest gave us a pair of Slaty-backed Nightingale-ThrushesMasked Trogon, endemic White-lored Warbler, a pair of stunning Golden-breasted Fruiteaters high overhead, a brief White-tipped Quetzal and Sickle-winged Guan. We returned to the main lodge just in time for the late afternoon feeding frenzy and although we didn’t get anything new apart from a fine male White-tailed Starfrontlet, it was a very enjoyable experience to witness all the activity. 

Santa Marta Screech-Owl

We enjoyed a fine early dinner before setting out along the main track in search of Santa Marta Screech-Owl and it didn’t take too long to spotlight a calling bird to round off another great day in Colombia! Oh and I almost forgot that we saw Kinkajou and Night Monkey in the trees beside the lodge this evening as well...!


Friday, 27 September 2019

Los Flamencos

What a day this was as we added over 50 new species to our ever growing list including a fine selection of Guijara Peninsula specialities. We began with Rufous-vented ChachalacaYellow-breasted FlycatcherScrub GreenletNorthern White-fringed AntwrenTocuyo SparrowBarred Antshrike, a pair of Glaucous TanagersYellow-rumped CaciquePearly-vented Tody-TyrantRuddy Seedeater and a Brown-crested Flycatcher. Driving towards the coast we stopped along the road to scope a pair of Double-striped Thick-knees, and as we watched them we also noticed a flock of Yellow-headed BlackbirdsVermilion Flycatcher,American Kestrel, several Fork-tailed Flycatchers, and a few Bare-eyed Pigeons

Tocuyo Sparrow

Once at Los Flamencos we walked along a track through the sand forest and notched up many new birds. In fact, new birds came thick and fast and we quickly saw Tropical Mockingbird, Wood Stork, Slender-billed Inezia, Northern Scrub Flycatcher, many Tropical Gnatcatchers, Pileated Finch, a pair of cracking White-whiskered Spinetails, Black-crested Antshrike, Shining-green Hummingbird, Black-backed Antshrike, and a group of 3 Chestnut Piculets.

Black-backed Antshrike

Driving on to the next site we saw a pair of Green-rumped Parrotlets at their nest hole in a telegraph pole and a Reddish Egret feeding in a lagoon. Another path to a large pond was very productive as we saw a pair of awesome Vermilion Cardinals, Grey Kingbird, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, another Northern White-fringed Antwren, Orinocan Saltator, a confiding Baird’s Sandpiper, Black-faced Grassquit, some flyover Magnificent Frigatebirds, Buffy Hummingbirdand Bicoloured Wren.

Vermilion Cardinal
Grey Kingbird

Baird's Sandpiper

Orinocan Saltator

Lunch was at a fabulous setting along a palm-fringed beach where a flock of American Flamingo’s flew by.

We finished our birding at a huge lagoon with numerous shorebirds and terns roosting in front of us. There were many Cabot’s Terns, as well as LeastCommonGull-billed and Royal Terns too. 

Cabot's Tern

An American White-faced Ibis skulked below some bushes at the water’s edge, several Laughing Gulls patrolled the area, but our main focus were the shorebirds. There were Semipalmated Plovers, a pair of huge Wilson’s Plovers, Semipalmated and a Western Sandpiper, Willet, a group of Short-billed Dowitchers, Ruddy Turnstone, both Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, American Oystercatcher, and a breeding-plumaged Dunlin. A distant Cocoi Heron was scoped, a Western Osprey flew by. And that was us done and we had to leave and head towards the Santa Marta Mountains. At the base of the mountains we were met by a couple of four-wheel drive vehicles for a short drive up to Minca, stopping along the way to scope a bunch of Military Macaws at their roost.