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.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019


Our day began with a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl calling away from a large tree right outside the front door of the hotel. We then headed over to the port area and as soon as we got out of the minibus a Chestnut-winged Chachalaca was seen in a bare tree and it was soon joined by another bird and they began uttering their raucous call. 

Chestnut-winged Chachalaca

A Glaucous Tanager was scoped, whilst Grey Kingbird, Yellow Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Ringed Kingfisher, Greyish Saltator and Common Ground-Dove all appeared around us. Several groups of Brown-throated Parakeets flew by, with a few birds landing on the bushes nearby, whilst a cracking pair of Bicoloured Wrens showed well and began singing quite close to us. From here we moved on to a trail an hour’s drive away which led into open country and some lagoons. A Caribbean (Pale-legged) Hornero was the first bird seen, quickly followed by a pair of stunning Stripe-backed Wrens and a trio of Black-crested Antshrikes

Black-crested Helmetshrike

Walking along we were getting very sweaty as it was such a hot day but the birds kept appearing with Cattle Tyrant, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Snail Kite and Yellow-headed Caracara. The first of three stunning Rufous-throated Puffbirds to be seen today was next up, along with GreaterSmooth-billed and Groove-billed Anis, Purple Gallinule, Wattled Jacana, Scaled DovePied Water-Tyrant, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipersand a perched Green Kingfisher

Pied Water-Tyrant

A large lagoon was productive with White-cheeked Pintail,Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Greaterand Lesser Yellowlegs, a superb Stilt Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt, Yellow-chinned Spinetail and White-tipped Dove. A short drive from here took us to Salamanca Reserve where a shortish walk gave us Pale-tipped Inezia, Pied Puffbird, Northern Waterthrush, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Lineated and Golden-green Woodpeckers, and a day roosting Lesser Nighthawk. 

Lesser Nighthawk

A longish drive was made more problematical by the ever-present Colombian roadworks and also a car accident that stalled us for an hour in a long queue. But after lunch and another drive we walked a side track where we heard a Little Tinamou, and saw Trinidad Euphonia, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Yellow-green Vireo, another American Pygmy Kingfisher, Buff-breasted Wren, Rufous-tailed Jacamar and a rather flighty Bright-rumped Attila. Dinner was taken at a nice seafront restaurant.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Jardin to Barranquilla

We left our lovely hotel at the edge of Jardin town square and went to Finca Bambusa for breakfast, which is actually Jose’s mothers house. Upon arrival we could see there were some feeders in the garden and they attracted a pair of Blue-necked, lots of Palm, a pair of White-lined and a few Scrub TanagersThick-billed EuphoniaRuddy Ground-Dove, and a Clay-coloured Thrush

Blue-necked Tanager

Clay-coloured Thrush

Ruddy Ground Dove

Around the edges of the garden there were Social and Streaked Flycatchers, Great Kiskadee and a Squirrel Cuckoo. The hummer feeders enticed Steely-ventedWestern Emerald and for a short period a superb Green Hermit fed. 

Green Hermit

Western Emerald

A major surprise was the family of endemic Colombian Chachalacas that came in twice to feed. Wow! Oh and we also dashed down the lane to see a pair of endemic Parker’s Antbirds too. 

Colombian Chachalaca

Tearing ourselves away after a fine breakfast we drove down the lane and found at least 9 Bronze-winged Parrots feeding in some nearby trees, before heading out on the long drive to Medellin. 

Bronze-winged Parrot

Along the way we stopped along the road and surprisingly found quite a few new trip birds such as Chivi Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-margined FlycatcherRuddy-breasted Seedeater, Golden-crowned Warbler, Common Tody-Flycatcher and even our first Turkey Vulture. An endemic Greyish Piculet also appeared, before we homed in on another two endemics. First up was a pair of Apical Flycatchers, followed by a skulky Antioquia Wren which took a bit of finding. 

And then we set out on the 4 hour drive to Medellin, arriving with just an hour to spare before our flight to Barranquilla. Upon arrival we drove straight to our hotel and enjoyed another fine meal in a nearby restaurant. There’s no way any of us are losing weight on this tour!