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Colombia NEW! Western Andes

A 15-day, small group birdwatching tour to Colombia

With more than 1900 species recorded, Colombia’s bird list is the largest for any country in the world - and we should encounter around a quarter of these on this superb tour! Indeed, this is such an amazing destination for birds that even those who have visited Colombia before will find the avifauna of the Western Andes is buzzing with species not found on our Bogotá and Santa Marta tour. Guide Trevor Ellery has spent 10 years birding in Colombia and has unrivalled experience of its numerous endemic birds and regional specialities. Join him on our Western Andes tour for a spectacular array of antpittas, Tolima Blossomcrown, Buffy Helmetcrest, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Black-and-gold Tanager and more!

Tour Dates

2019

Spaces
4

Leaders
Trevor Ellery
Richard Thaxton

Max Group Size: 10
Duration: 15 Days

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Cost: £4795

inc flights London Heathrow-Bogota

Deposit: £600

Single Supp: £425
Land Only: £3995

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Chestnut crowned Antpitta, Rio Blanco Reserve, Colombia (3) resized

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta is one of several species of 'habituated' antpittas we hope to see at Rio Blanco Reserve © Trevor Ellery

As a birdwatching destination, Colombia has become one of the must-visit countries in South America - and its bird list of more than 1900 species is the largest for any country in the world! Among them is a quite remarkable array of Colombian endemic or near-endemic species, many of which still await formal ratification. This new and exciting 15-day tour perfectly complements our previous tours to central and northern Colombia, with a minimal overlap of species and many special highlights of its own!

Our birding begins to the southwest of the capital Bogotá, where the cloudforest reserve at Chicaque is home to Masked, Bluish, White-sided and Glossy Flowerpiercers, Beryl-spangled and Blue-and-black Tanagers, and bizarrely named, 'dictionary-swallowing' Superciliaried and Oleaginous Hemispinguses - plus a host of 'must-see' hummingbirds, including Glowing Puffleg, Collared Inca and Mountain Velvetbreast.

From here, we drop down into the Magdalena Valley (altitudinally, the lowest point of our tour), before climbing up again into the Western Andes. Suddenly, the avifauna changes and we encounter our first two 'western' endemics: Apical Flycatcher and Velvet-fronted Euphonia.

At Ibague, we seek more endemics, including Yellow-headed Brushfinch and the difficult-to-see Tolima Dove, plus Colombian Chachalaca, Andean Motmot and Lance-tailed Manakin. In the same area, we also hope to find the recently split Tolima Blossomcrown.

Otun Quimbaya can be a good spot to find the excellent Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and the endemic Cauca Guan. We'll check roadside undergrowth for Chestnut-breasted Wren, Inca Jay, Collared Trogon and Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, and have a good chance of species such as Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant, Spotted Barbtail and White-capped Dipper. With much luck, we also might come across the amazing Multicoloured Tanager – a bird that does exactly what it says on the tin!

Our visit to Rio Blanco Reserve is our ‘official antpitta day'. Over the years here, these once 'impossible to see' forest floor skulkers have become habituated to people. We'll seek out point-blank views of Chestnut-crowned, Slaty-crowned and the long-legged endemic Brown-banded Antpitta, and we also have a chance of Bicoloured Antpitta.

The dizzying mixed flocks at Rio Blanco are among some of the best in the world. Species we might encounter include Powerful Woodpecker, Black-collared Jay, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispinguses, Slaty and White-naped Brushfinches, Plushcap, and Blue-winged and Buff-breasted Mountain Tanagers. Those tantalisingly tricky tapaculos are also well represented here, bringing chances of Spillman's, Blackish, Ash-coloured and Ocellated... with a fair bit of luck and expertise that is!

The windswept high paramo of the active Nevado del Ruiz volcano is the haunt of enticing endemics such as Rufous-fronted Parakeet and the 'must-see' Buffy Helmetcrest, along with a number of other delightful hummingbirds on local feeders.

Our next port of call is Las Tangaras, where the bio-diverse forests protect two rare endemics - Gold-ringed and Black-and-gold Tanagers. Handsome Flycatcher, Indigo Flowerpiercer and White-headed Wren are often present, sharing their home with Golden-headed Quetzal, Toucan Barbet and Black-chinned Mountain Tanager. It is impossible to list all of the spectacular species at this amazing reserve, but our time here will doubtless be filled with an assortment of treehunters, leaftossers, tanagers and hummers - many with names that sound as good as they look: Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant, Purple-bibbed White-tip...

Nearing the end of the tour, we'll find ourselves at Jardin and the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve. Highlights here may be the critically endangered Munchique Wood Wren and localised Tanager Finch. Other species in these remarkable forests include Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Citrine and Russet-crowned Warblers, and Hooded and Lachrimose Mountain Tanagers. And as if all this were not enough, Jardin has one of the best Andean Cock-of the Rock leks in the world!

A flight from Medellin then carries us back to Bogotá, where a final morning's birding offers a chance to look for the endangered Bogotá Rail, Subtropical Doradito and Apolinar's Wren at the city's remarkable urban wetlands.

Guide Trevor Ellery has spent the last 10 years living and birdwatching in Colombia and has travelled extensively there. A leading expert on Colombian birds, he also has a wealth of birding experience throughout South America.

Limosa's Richard Thaxton has also travelled widely in Central and South America, including leading tours for Limosa to Colombia, Ecuador, Galapagos, Brazil (8 times), Trinidad (10 times) and Tobago (5 times). This July 2019 tour will be Richard's third visit to Colombia for us.

Orange breasted Fruiteater, Las Tangaras, May 2015, 3 resized

Orange-breasted Fruiteater at Las Tangaras © Trevor Ellery

Day 1
FLY LONDON TO BOGOTÁ

Our birdwatching tour to Colombia begins with a flight from London Heathrow today, bound for Bogotá, where Trevor will be waiting to welcome us. We make the 30-minute transfer to our comfortable city hotel for dinner and overnight. Night Bogotá

Day 2
CHICAQUE NATURAL PARK & MAGDALENA VALLEY

Leaving Bogotá early this morning to miss some of the traffic, we head southwest through the bustling streets of the capital to Chicaque Natural Park, at the edge of the Bogotá Plateau. This amazing cloud forest reserve is home to an impressive variety of birds. At altitudes of between 2100m (6,900ft) and 2700m (8,900ft), we will be taking it slow and easy today, birding mostly along the entrance track into the reserve.

Loose feeding flocks here can hold Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, several species of flowerpiercer (including Masked, Bluish, White-sided and Glossy), Black-capped Tyrannulet and Blue-and-black and Beryl-spangled Tanagers. Superciliaried, Black-eared and Oleaginous Hemispingus might also come our way - all birds of course, and not tropical diseases!

Scrubby bushes along the road provide chances of Black-crested Warbler and several olive-backed brushfinches, among them Moustached, Pale-naped and Grey-browed. Though we are of course unlikely to see everything on a single visit, other species typical of the cloudforest at Chicaque include Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Andean Pygmy Owl, White-throated Toucanet, Pearled Treerunner, Striped Treehunter, Rufous Spinetail, the tiny White-throated Tyrannulet, Smoky Bush Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Grey-breasted Wood Wren and the near-endemic Rufous-browed Conebill - and we can hope to at least hear Ash-coloured and Blackish Tapaculos. Colombia boasts a fantastic list of tanagers, with Blue-capped Tanager and Ashy-throated Bush Tanager to watch for here, while Golden-fronted Whitestarts have a penchant for Chicaque's flowering shrubs. With an eye on the slopes above, we might also hear and find the fabulous Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager and perhaps even Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager.

Near the buildings at the end of the track are some excellent hummingbird feeders, attractive to dazzling Glowing Pufflegs, snazzy Collared Incas, Mountain Velvetbreast with its thin decurved bill, aggressive Green and Sparkling Violetears, and occasionally Golden-bellied Starfrontlet, another Colombian near-endemic. The whole area can often be shrouded in fog and low cloud (well, this is cloud forest!), but as we sit back and enjoy the hummingbird show we can warm ourselves with steaming mugs of hot chocolate - another great Colombian tradition!

Departing Chicaque late morning, we descend from the cool Eastern Andes into the hot lowlands of the Magdalena Valley. Pausing to enjoy lunch en route, we then cross the mighty Magdalena River, which runs south to north in Colombia, bisecting two-thirds of the country.

In the late afternoon we take a quiet sideroad that runs through farmland and dry forest. Here we will find a whole suite of different species to those seen in the cool Andean highlands this morning. As our exciting first day draws to a close, we will target two key endemics: Apical Flycatcher and Velvet-fronted Euphonia, but other species to watch for include the near-endemic Spectacled Parrotlet, our first Red-crowned Woodpeckers, and both Vermilion and Fork-tailed Flycatchers. Along with a good selection of the commoner seedeaters, raptors and our first Tropical Gnatcatchers and Tropical Kingbirds, with luck, we might also glimpse a troop of Crested Bobwhites crossing the road.

Early evening arrival at our hotel in the bustling regional coffee town of Ibague. Nestling in a valley on the eastern slope of the Western Andes, Ibague will be our base for two nights. Night Ibague

Day 3
IBAGUE: CLARITO BOTERO & THE MAGDALENA VALLEY

We will rise early and take breakfast this morning at a conveniently located 24-hour bakery near the hotel. Transferring to 4WD Jeeps, we then make a half-hour ascent up a bumpy track into the foothills of the central Andes. We will find the temperature pleasantly cool up here and, if it is clear, we should be rewarded with spectacular views over the city of Ibague and the flatlands of the Magdalena Valley spread out below us.

Much of our morning will be spent at Clarito Botero, birding along a wide track where the only traffic might be the occasional mule train (bring your own tea tray!) or lycra-clad mountain biker! Amongst many new species, our main focus will be to find the endemic and range restricted Yellow-headed Brushfinch. We'll also keep our eyes peeled for the endemic Tolima Dove, though this species is shy and retiring and sightings are rare. Our birding will be busy with plenty of other interesting species to look for. The near-endemic Bar-crested Antshrike is normally quite common and mixed feeding flocks often hold the attractive Rufous-naped Greenlet and a fine selection of terrific tanagers including Bay-headed, Blue-necked, Black-capped and Scrub.

Scrubby ravines may produce our first Andean Motmots and, if we are really lucky, we will might across a Moustached Puffbird or Black-headed Brushfinch. We will almost certainly hear Northern White-crowned Tapaculos and though these mouse-like birds are always tough to see, we will make a good effort to find one. A whole host of commoner species will keep us busy here through to late morning, when we'll return to the hotel for lunch and a short siesta.

In the mid-afternoon we'll head a little north along the Magdalena Valley to visit a dry forest park, which brings a change of scenery (and a second opportunity to look for Velvet-fronted Euphonia and Apical Flycatcher if we missed them yesterday). Amongst a good selection of dry country species in the reserve are White-bellied Antbird, the splendid Lance-tailed Manakin, Rufous-tailed Jacmar, Whooping Motmot and Cocoa Woodcreeper. Pale-breasted Thrush should be common and we have an outside chance of goodies such as Yellow Tyrannulet, Colombian Chachalaca and Dwarf Cuckoo. Night Ibague

Day 4
CANYON DE COMBEIMA & DRIVE TO OTUN QUIMBAYA

After a slightly later breakfast today, we will spend the morning birding in the Canyon de Combeima, near Ibague. Our initial focus will be  on a patch of flowers which are a favoured haunt of the endemic Tolima Blossomcrown.

From there, we move on to bird along another quiet backroad with second chances of some species from the previous day’s birding and also plenty of new ones to entertain us. Bare-faced Ibis, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Smoke-coloured Pewee, White-winged Becard, Azara's Spinetail, Whiskered Wren and Fawn-breasted Tanager are among many we could see.

Late morning we depart Ibague and make the slow drive across the central Andes to Otun Quimbaya. Though the distance isn't great (just 70 miles), this is the only road that crosses the Andes here (indeed it's the only route between Bogotá and Colombia's Pacific port) and slow moving convoys of heavy trucks can sometimes slow travel down. However, it's an opportunity to sit back and enjoy the scenery and reflect on our sightings so far. Come late afternoon, we will have crossed the spine of the central Andes and arrived in the upper reaches of the Cauca Valley. If the traffic has been kind to us, we may arrive early enough to stop for a little birding along a river on the way in to Otun Quimbaya. It's here we have perhaps our best chance of finding Torrent Tyrannulet and White-capped Dipper as well as the handsome stripy male and beautiful burnt-orange female Torrent Duck.

This night and the next will be spent at the Otun Quimbaya Field Centre, which is part of Colombia's fine National Parks system and one of the gateways to Los Nevados National Park. We will stay in a building built in a traditional style, where rooms are simple but comfortable and the pleasant grounds and setting provide a wonderfully relaxing experience. Meals will be taken in a communal dining room and the self-service style may remind some of their school days! Indeed, we may well find groups of young biologists or park staff are present undertaking training courses. Night Otun Quimbaya

Day 5
OTUN QUIMBAYA

With minimal driving today, we spend a full day about Otun. Making a pre-dawn start, we drive for about 40 minutes, uphill to quite literally the end of the road. Here we will try for the difficult and rare Hooded Antpitta, with its bright rusty head. Although this site is the best location for this diminutive and highly localised species, sightings can never be guaranteed. If we are incredibly lucky, we could also encounter the rusty-bellied Moustached Antpitta here.

Among other key species to look for this morning is the endemic Cauca Guan, which is usually seasonably common, and we also hope to pick up it's smaller cousin, the Sickle-winged Guan. Simply stunning, we will very much hope to find a flock of gaudy White-capped Tanagers while another signature bird to watch out for at Otun is the fabulous Red-ruffed Fruitcrow.

While we will focus our efforts on the above specialities, there will be plenty of other great birds to enjoy. Walking back down the road, we can check the thick roadside undergrowth for Collared Trogon, Inca Jay, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Streak-capped Treehunter, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher and both Golden-olive and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers - the latter one of those impressive red-crowned or red-headed Campephilus woodpeckers that used to include the now extinct Ivory-billed.

We will return to the Field Centre for lunch and have some time to relax and enjoy a stroll about the grounds – perhaps taking a photo or two.

In the afternoon we'll take to the trails behind our lodgings. Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet, Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant, Lineated Foliage-gleaner, Plain Antvireo and Spotted Barbtail are possible here and, with much luck, we might even come across the amazing Multicoloured Tanager - in all its yellow, green and turquoise glory! As ever, we will also keep our eyes and ears open for sneaky skulkers such as Stiles's Tapaculo and Chestnut Wood Quail, though these species can be very difficult to see.

After our evening meal, there'll be an opportunity to enjoy a little night birding (optional). Local possibilities include Common Pauraque, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, Mottled Owl and Colombian Screech Owl. Night Otun Quimbaya

Day 6
OTUN & RIO BLANCO

There is so much to see at Otun that we'll relish the chance to spend a little more time this morning birding the trails, searching for any species we may have missed the previous day or to enjoy ‘seconds’ of those we did see. We also have another chance to try for Torrent Duck.

After lunch, we leave Otun and make the three-hour transfer to Rio Blanco, where we plan to spend the late afternoon birding the lower part of the reserve. Arriving at some stands of flowers, we will watch the toing and froing of hungry hummingbirds as the plants are often visited by Wedge-billed Hummingbird. Other 'hummers' that are attracted to these flowers as well as to nearby feeders include Bronzy Inca, Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Buff-tailed Coronet and the tiny White-bellied Woodstar. We may well stay out until dusk (about 6pm) in the hope of seeing Lyre-tailed Nightjar, which can sometimes be found nearby, before continuing to our next hotel at Manizales, where we stay three nights. Night Manizales

Day 7
RIO BLANCO RESERVE

We spend the whole day in the Rio Blanco Reserve, taking breakfast on arrival at the lodge there. Today is officially ‘Antpitta Day’ and we spend the morning visiting feeding sites where, over the years, antpittas have become habituated to people and regularly come to take worms. At Rio Blanco, we have good chances of enjoying point blank views of Chestnut-crowned, Slaty-crowned and the long-legged, endemic Brown-banded Antpitta - and have a reasonable chance of Bicoloured Antpitta, too. Other species that are attracted to the feeding stations include the appealing Grey-browed Brush Finch and Green-and-black Fruiteater.

After a dizzying morning, we'll while away the rest of the day birding roads within the reserve, hoping to encounter mixed species groups. The mixed flocks at Rio Blanco can be some of the best in the world and there may be times when we simply don't know where to look! Likely candidates here include Yellow-vented and Powerful Woodpeckers, Dusky Piha, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Black-collared Jay, Black-capped, Black-eared, Superciliaried and Oleaginous Hemispinguses, Slaty and White-naped Brushfinches, Plushcap, Grey-hooded Bush Tanager, and Blue-winged and Buff-breasted Mountain Tanagers. Those tricky tapaculos are another highlight at Rio Blanco: Blackish, Spillman's, Ash-coloured and Ocellated are possible... with a bit of luck (and skill) that is!

Seasonally, both Golden-plumed Parakeet and Rusty-headed Parrot can be found here, while the bamboo is home to Flammulated Treehunter and Streak-headed Antbird. It promises to be a busy day of birding, but we will take a little time around lunchtime to relax at the small lodge and reflect on what will have been a great morning - and also to enjoy watching the hummingbird and fruit feeders. New species here might include Long-tailed Sylph, Tourmaline Sunangel and the endemic Andean Squirrel. Night Manizales

Day 8
THE NEVADO DEL RUIZ VOLCANO

Today we will leave pre-dawn and use 4WD vehicles to climb to the highest and coldest site visited on the trip - at 3700m (12,100 ft), on the slopes of the active Nevado del Ruiz volcano. At dawn, temperatures can be as low as -2C (28F) so we'll take coffees to warm ourselves up!

Our first stop will be an occasional roost site for the endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet, though it can be erratic and tough to locate at times. We swiftly move on to the park entrance, where we hope to find the endemic and charismatic Buffy Helmetcrest – and what an incredible little hummingbird this is, with its spiky hair-do and lanceolate purple throat patch!

Species diversity on the windswept high paramo is quite low, but this allows us to spend time looking for a small subset of quality birds. Tawny Antpittas are the exception to the rule when it comes to this skulking group and can often be found running around on the road and feeding in the open, completely unconcerned! Viridian Metaltail, Andean Tit-spinetail, Many-striped Canastero, Brown-backed Chat Tyrant, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Plain-coloured Seedeater, Black Flowerpiercer and Black-backed Bush Tanager are among other possible treats in store.

Mid-morning we will drop back down to a hotel at some thermal springs. We have two main objectives here: first, to get a welcome cup of hot chocolate to warm us up, and second to enjoy the remarkable hummingbird feeders, which are generally regarded as some of the best in the world! Among many species we hope to see are Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Black-thighed and Golden-breasted Pufflegs, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Great Sapphirewing, Shining Sunbeam and the incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird.

We return to our hotel at Manizales this evening for a third and final night. Night Manizales

Days 9 - 10
MANIZALES & LAS TANGARAS

After our extended stay, we set off from Manizales this morning on the longish drive (about five hours) to our stop: Las Tángaras Reserve.

We drop from 4000m to about 600m in the Cauca Valley, where we meet the Cauca River and follow it north as it gently descends. Along the way, we shall cross our third Andean range of the tour as we climb up and over the Western Andes and finally descend to Las Tángaras, which nestles on Colombia's Pacific slope. We should arrive in time for some afternoon birding at this wonderful new lodge, which will be our home for two nights. We will dine this evening next to our third great Colombian river - the Atrato - which though here, close to its source, is more like a rushing mountain stream.

Las Tángaras Bird Reserve was created in October 2009 to protect the incredibly bio-diverse and important forests that are home to two very rare endemic tanagers: Black-and-gold Tanager and Gold-ringed Tanager. (Please note that to reach the best spot for the latter, a short but steep, 10-minute climb is required. Some participants may choose to opt out of this, but you can decide locally).

We begin our full day here by climbing into jeeps for the 40-minute drive from our lodge up into the Tángaras Reserve, eventually finding ourselves amidst some of the most stunning scenery of the tour and surrounded by lush, dripping, moss-laden Choco cloudforest. Our birding will be along a traffic-free road and a wide trail - and this could easily be one of the birdiest days of the trip!

Starting off, we hope to find the endemic Black-and-gold Tanager along with other special birds such as Olive Finch, Handsome Flycatcher and Indigo Flowerpiercer, before heading out into a clearing where White-headed Wrens are often present. We also have chances of Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Toucan Barbet and Golden-headed (and possibly Crested) Quetzal here.

After this, we head on up the trail for the rest of the morning (and possibly for much of the day) as Las Tángaras boasts a spectacular list of target species. Among many delights we hope to find are Red-headed Barbet, Beautiful Jay, Black Solitaire, Olivaceous Piha, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Star-chested Treerunner, Uniform Treehunter, Bronze-olive Pygmy Tyrant, Ornate Flycatcher and Glistening-green, Rufous-throated, Silver-throated, Saffron-crowned and Purplish-mantled Tanagers. We will also keep a watchful eye on the understorey for Yellow-breasted and Ochre-breasted Antpittas and Dusky Leaftosser.

At lunchtime (or later if we are busy with birds!), we will visit some hummingbird feeders in the forest, where - incredibly - we may find yet more new 'hummers'. Possibilities include Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-bibbed White-tip, Booted Racquet-tail, White-tailed Hillstar, Empress Brilliant, Brown Inca, Violet-tailed Sylph, Purple-throated Woodstar and Greenish Puffleg - imagine going home with that!

In the afternoon we will return to the road, focusing our attention on any species we haven't yet seen - while those that wish to take things more gently have the option to return to the lodge and relax, perhaps by enjoying some of the commoner species at the hummingbird and fruit feeders. Two nights Las Tángaras

Day 11
LA EME RIDGE & COCK-OF-THE-ROCK LEK AT JARDIN

Leaving the lodge before dawn, we drive up to La Eme ridge, 2600m (8500ft). Along the way there may be time to pause for Swallow-tailed Nightjar and White-throated Screech Owl. However, our main aim here will be to find the critically endangered Munchique Wood Wren, while also looking out for the localised Tanager Finch, which can sometimes be seen along the road. Other species we might encounter at La Eme include Black-billed Mountain Toucan, White-capped Parrot, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Rufous and White-browed Spinetails, Citrine and Russet-crowned Warblers, Lachrimose and Hooded Mountain Tanagers. If we are really lucky, the patchily distributed Chestnut-crested Cotinga is very occasionally recorded from these forests.

Late morning we will descend from the ridge and make the three-hour drive to the pleasant town of Jardin, where we spend the next two nights at the Hacienda Balandu Country Hotel.

Jardin boasts one of the best Andean Cock-of-the-rock leks in the world and we will aim to arrive in time to pay a visit in the late afternoon. Any chance to see these special birds as they sneak in to lek about the trail is a magical one! Night Jardin

Day 12
YELLOW-EARED PARROT RESERVE

Another early start will find us ascending to the Yellow-eared Parrot Reserve above Jardin, at an elevation of 2600m (8500ft). Here we will eat our packed breakfast as we look out and wait for these large and extremely rare green-and-yellow parrots to depart their roost.

We'll spend the rest of the day slowly walking on a gravel backroad through wonderful Andean forest and seeing what we can pick up. It's an opportunity to get further views of species we may have seen previously, but we've also a great chance of adding the likes of Barred Fruiteater, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Streak-throated Bush Tyrant, Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant, Ashy-headed and White-tailed Tyrannulets, Northern Mountain Cacique, Metallic-green and Grass-green Tanagers... and a host of others.

Come late afternoon, at the end of another terrific day of Colombian birding, there are options either to return a little earlier to our hotel and rest up or to revisit the local Cock-of-the-rock lek. Night Jardin

Day 13
CAUCA VALLEY TO MEDELLIN & FLY MEDELLIN-BOGOTÁ

This morning we must head to Medellin for our flight back to Bogotá. There may be time for a little birding along the Cauca Valley, which sits between the Western and Central Andes. Key targets here are the endemic Antioquia Wren and Greyish Piculet, but other species which make their home in the valley include Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Greenish Elaenia, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Slate-headed Tody Flycatcher, Clay-coloured Robin, Black-striped Sparrow and the dazzling Yellow-backed Oriole.

Continuing to Medellin Airport, we catch an afternoon flight back to Bogotá. Night Bogotá

Day 14
BOGOTÁ MARSHES, FLY LONDON

Our final morning in Colombia offers a great opportunity to visit La Florida and the famous Bogotá marshes - home to the endangered Bogotá Rail, which is most active early in the morning. The open, urban wetlands of Bogotá boast an endemic avifauna that also includes the near-threatened Subtropical Doradito and the endangered Apolinar's Wren, which is endemic to the Andes of central Colombia.

The few wetlands that still exist in and around the capital are extremely threatened habitats in Colombia and the populations of several endemic species have declined significantly. Noble Snipe, Spot-flanked Gallinule and Andean Ruddy Duck are possible here. Yellow-hooded Blackbirds are usually easily seen, while Silvery-throated Spinetail and Rufous-browed Conebill may be found in the surrounding eucalypts and parkland; Brown-bellied Swallows zap overhead and the very common Great Thrush jumps about on the ground.

After an excellent final morning and lunch in Bogotá, we return to the airport and check in for our overnight flight home.

Day 15
ARRIVE LONDON

Late afternoon or early evening arrival in London, where our birdwatching tour to Colombia's Western Andes concludes.

Andean Guan, Rio Blanco, May 2015, Cohen Private Trip (1) resized

Andean Guan at Rio Blanco Reserve © Trevor Ellery

What To Expect

With more than 1900 species recorded, Colombia’s bird list is the largest for any country in the world - and we should encounter around a quarter of these on this superb tour! Indeed, this is such an amazing destination for birds that even those who have visited Colombia before will find the avifauna of the Western Andes is buzzing with species not found on our Bogotá and Santa Marta tour. Guide Trevor Ellery has spent ten years birding in Colombia and has unrivalled experience of its numerous endemic birds and regional specialities. Join him on our Western Andes tour for a spectacular array of antpittas, Tolima Blossomcrown, Buffy Helmetcrest, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Black-and-gold Tanager and more!

In early July, the sunrises in Colombia a little before 6.00am and sets just before 6.00pm - just 12 hours later. Accordingly, we will be making early starts most days for not only are the daylight hours relatively short, but bird activity in Colombia is at its height during the first three hours of daylight. Early starts will be tempered with leisurely lunches, afternoon siestas (where possible) and occasional relaxed afternoons, plus relatively early finishes in the evenings.

Please note: some drives, especially those up to higher altitudes, will be on rough, unmade roads. Access to some sites is necessarily by 4WD vehicle, in which the ride quality can often be bumpy and a little uncomfortable at times.

Colombia has a tropical to temperate climate (due to the effects of altitude). Our July tour runs during one of the two Colombian ‘dry seasons’, but note that rainfall can (and does!) of course occur year round in the mountains and rainforests. It can often be cool and misty in the mountains and cloudforest, and it will be cold and breezy in the early morning at altitide on the high paramo on the Nevado del Ruiz volcano.

Take note that warm and waterproof clothing - including gloves, scarf and a warm hat - will be required at times on this tour. In contrast, our birding at Ibague will be in hot conditions.

The maximum group size for this tour is 10 participants and 2 guides. Note that only one guide (Trevor Ellery) will accompany the tour in event of a small party size up to 7 participants.

Birds

350-450 species

Accommodation

13 nights accommodation in Colombia staying at good (or best available) medium grade hotels and lodges convenient to site. All rooms have private facilities. At all of the places we stay the rooms are kept clean - and the birding around about is out of this world!

Meals

All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with dinner on arrival in Bogotá on Day 1 and concluding with lunch at the airport prior to our return flight on Day 14. Food is generally good in Colombia, with large portions! Be sure to try a traditional Colombian Paisa lunch of beans, rice, pork and banana. Steaming mugs of hot chocolate are another a great Colombian tradition!

Walking

The walking effort on this tour is mostly easy, but moderate at times due to the terrain and especially altitude. Colombia is a mountainous country so all visitors should expect some trails to be steeper in parts - but these are always taken slowly, at normal birding pace and with frequent stops to bird. Wherever possible, we aim to drive uphill in the vehicle and walk back down the slope.

As one would expect, rainforest trails can sometimes be muddy, so sturdy waterproof walking shoes or lightweight boots with stout corrugated soles for grip are essential.

Altitude: We start our tour at Bogotá, at an elevation of 2500m (8,200ft), descending from there to the lowest point of our tour - Ibague (1200m/4000ft) - to help acclimatise before climbing higher again. The Nevado del Ruiz volcano is the highest point on our tour, where we spend a few hours birding at elevations up to 3700m (12000ft). At other locations we will be birding at around 3000m (10000ft).

Maximum elevation on this tour: 3700m (12000ft)

Travel

We fly from London Heathrow to Bogotá with Lufthansa, British Airways or similar (change of planes en route), according to best schedules and availability at the time.

Ground Transport   By comfortable Mercedes Sprinter 14-seater (or similar) minibus, driven by a local driver. At some locations we switch to 4WD Toyota Landcruisers (or similar), essential to reach certain key birding spots.

Please note: the unmade Andean roads can be rough going in places and though the distances covered are not great, rides in 4WD vehicles can be bumpy and a little uncomfortable at times.

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