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Best place to see a Cock of the Rock lek

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Old Monday 28th January 2019, 20:14   #1
kb57
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Best place to see a Cock of the Rock lek

One of my 'bucket list' birding experiences is seeing a cock-of-the-rock lek...I don't mind which species, Andean or Guianan.
Unlike some of the other species on my wish-list, this aspiration isn't particularly shared by my partner, so this would be a solo venture.
A window of possible opportunity has arisen in a 10 day to 2 week time window in March of this year, so I'm looking for advice on recommended countries / sites which might be feasible at short notice.

I've never been to the Neotropics, and don't speak Spanish - I'm not exactly a seasoned world traveller, although I have travelled independently in South and east Asia in the past. My preference would be sites I could get at or near enough to under my own steam, although I'd be more than willing to pay for guides / local transport - as a Neotropical neophyte, almost everything would be a 'lifer', so my ID skills will be limited.

My thoughts are maybe Colombia - fly to Bogota / Medellin, bus to Jardin for the Andean C-o-R lek there, add on yellow-eared parrot and other goodies. Downside is I'm not sure how safe this would be, or how easy to navigate without Spanish skills - I don't want to end up in a hostage situation, there's no Irish embassy in Colombia!
I'd be happier with a guide, but according to websites seem to operate on a 2 person minimum - this may seem like a stupid question, but would guides take 1 person if I paid 2 person fee? If feasible I'd also look into maybe taking day tours from Cali and Bogota for other species- internal flights / city hotels look reasonable, as are flight prices from Newcastle via Paris. The short notice might also cause problems if the guides are all booked up of course.

Am I right in thinking that Ecuador might be easier for the independent traveller using public transport, with a better established birding infrastructure? The downside is it seems to cost 2x the price of Bogota flights to get to Quito, and lodges are relatively expensive (and bearing in mind my lack of Neotropical experience, I'd still probably need a guide to get the most out of it).

Another option is a flight to Cayenne in French Guiana...I've read about a Guianan C-o-R lek to the east of Cayenne; I speak passable French, flights are reasonable, and car rental seems straightforward. However, based on my previous experience in France 'outre-mer' (Reunion) and from what I can glean on websites, I fear birding infrastructure would be next to non-existent, leaving me alone in the rainforest with very little clue what I'm looking at or how to find it.

Any thoughts / advice gratefully received!

(and in case your wondering why, I saw one on a cigarette card when I was a kid and thought they were the epitome of exotica (can't remember which species was illustrated though))
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Old Monday 28th January 2019, 20:28   #2
Andrew Whitehouse
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The legendary Paz de las Aves in Ecuador has good opportunities for seeing Cock-of-the-Rock leks, as well as the antpittas.
http://www.refugiopazdelasaves.com/
You can stay overnight and they will guide you. It's not ridiculously expensive and can be fairly easily reached from Quito (though you might need transport from the main road to the lodge - they can probably help with this).

The nearby Mindo area should also have opportunities for seeing COTR. You can reach it easily from Quito by bus and can stay cheaply and pleasantly here:
http://www.ecuadormindobirds.com/index.html
You'll see loads of birds in that area.
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Old Monday 28th January 2019, 20:42   #3
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I don't know about a lek, but you can see them at Machu Pichu in Peru.
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Old Monday 28th January 2019, 23:37   #4
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The below link is of a Cock of the Rock posted today in the Gallery by a long time member who spends a lot of time in Peru so you might want to PM him for some suggestions.

https://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sh...3/limit/recent
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Old Tuesday 29th January 2019, 01:00   #5
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I would support the Paz de las Aves (Ecuador) experience, staying with them for a couple of days and doing another elevation near Mindo location for another few days is bound to provide you with a lot of interesting birds. I have no experience with the alternatives mentioned.

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Old Tuesday 29th January 2019, 13:22   #6
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Thanks for the suggestions guys, just checked out Paz de las Aves website and it looks fantastic...my only worry would be price of flights to Quito (vs. Bogota or Cayenne) and of course accommodation cost (vs. e.g. Ibis hotel Cali £35...) might eat into my budget...but avoiding guiding costs (or reducing them to $40 or so per group visit to lek / antpittas) is very tempting. It looks feasible to get there by bus and taxi too, with clear directions on the website.
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Old Tuesday 29th January 2019, 13:40   #7
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the lek at Jardin, Colombia is very reliable just at the edge of town. Birds allow getting very close and are not shy at all (less shy than e.g. at Angel Paz). There is even a placemark in google to show the exact location: https://goo.gl/maps/YFEhrznFEDp
the link from KC Foggin is probably at the Cock-of-the-rock lodge on the Manu road. This lek has moved I heard because of a landslide. Plenty of COTR around anyway, but not the cheapest place to reach. I had mine here: https://peru.observation.org/waarneming/view/81992994
Other 'easy' places to see one are e.g. around 12-1400 meters near Afluente on the Abra Patricia road (around this bridge: https://goo.gl/maps/YFEhrznFEDp ) , and the same altitude on the Satipo road (somewhere here: https://peru.observation.org/waarneming/view/133210818 ), and the same altitude on the Loreto road to San Francisco de la Orellana in Ecuador, or any other road diving down from the Andes into the foothills without too much deforestation.

One remark: some races are much darker than others. The Peruvian ones are orange-reddish instead of the more saturated red birds from the W-Andes (Angel Paz, Jardin), so if you want to see one, first determine what color you like most ;-)
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Old Tuesday 29th January 2019, 16:54   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by temmie View Post

One remark: some races are much darker than others. The Peruvian ones are orange-reddish instead of the more saturated red birds from the W-Andes (Angel Paz, Jardin), so if you want to see one, first determine what color you like most ;-)
Thanks for info Temmie, I hadn't even thought of Peru as a possibility...after reading Niels and Andrew's recommendation for Paz de las Aves I was leaning towards Ecuador - although flights in mid March are GBP 760 vs. 480 for Colombia, I'd end up taking internal flights as well in Colombia and paying more for guiding. But your observations about Jardin make me think the experience may be better there...

As for colour, although it was probably one of the pictures that got me interested in birds as a young child, I can't remember what was on the cigarette card, it may even have been a Guianan cock-of-the-rock...so I'm easy about which shade of red or orange, or even what species!
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Old Tuesday 29th January 2019, 19:05   #9
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Having seen both colour varieties of Andean Cock of the Rock I can confidently assert that neither disappoints! Good luck with your quest.

(Fwiw we found red ones lekking in some forest near a big waterfall we stopped at for a couple of nights. Got there quite easily from Quito by bus, but it was 30 years ago, so any site information would be horrendously out of date if I could even remember it, which I can't.)
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Old Tuesday 29th January 2019, 19:36   #10
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Ecuador would still be the most ‘efficient’ in terms of travel time for an international airport and you really can’t go wrong with Ecuador. Colombia is also quite easy to travel but Jardin obviously is a bit further from Bogota. Flying into Manizales or Medellin could shorten travel time.
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Old Wednesday 30th January 2019, 13:41   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JWN Andrewes View Post
Having seen both colour varieties of Andean Cock of the Rock I can confidently assert that neither disappoints! Good luck with your quest.

(Fwiw we found red ones lekking in some forest near a big waterfall we stopped at for a couple of nights. Got there quite easily from Quito by bus, but it was 30 years ago, so any site information would be horrendously out of date if I could even remember it, which I can't.)
Thanks...it looks like I'm narrowing it down to red, rather than orange-red!

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Originally Posted by temmie View Post
Ecuador would still be the most ‘efficient’ in terms of travel time for an international airport and you really can’t go wrong with Ecuador. Colombia is also quite easy to travel but Jardin obviously is a bit further from Bogota. Flying into Manizales or Medellin could shorten travel time.
Thanks again Temmie!
I can see that the key places are all along the same route NW of Quito and not so far away...and Paz de las Aves offer transfers from the airport on their website if I really wanted to make things easy for myself, so a two centre trip including Mindo could readily fit into 10 days or less.
I'm still tempted by Colombia, as flying to Medellin is not too expensive, the airport is near the bus terminal for Jardin, and bus tickets can be booked online.
The determining factor I think is going to be what else I can do with the trip - if I can manage to organise guided day trips from Bogota (either at start or end) and Cali (flying from Medellin) then I guess I could get to see a greater variety of habitats in Colombia. A few sample hotels all seem to have space for my date range.
If this proves difficult to get guided birding at what is now short notice in Colombia - and provided there is still space in lodges - then Ecuador does indeed look a better bet, with the attraction that if I'm staying in lodges in good habitat amongst other birders, I'm going to see quite a lot anyway. Time to get emailing I think...
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Old Monday 4th February 2019, 09:04   #12
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the lek at Jardin, Colombia is very reliable just at the edge of town. Birds allow getting very close and are not shy at all (less shy than e.g. at Angel Paz).
Well, this comment of Temmie's plus the large difference in flight prices from Newcastle to Quito vs. Bogota convinced me to go with Colombia...so I booked ten days away.

Flight booked, and guided birding from Bogota to Guasca / La Calera booked for the following day, to get me started with some Neotropical species. Planning to fly to Medellin and bus to Jardin for the following day, but haven't organised anything beyond that yet..four days to fill, and wavering between trying to access / stay at a Pro Aves reserve or trying to organise day trips from a different area I can fly to, such as Cali.

Thanks for everyone's input!
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Old Tuesday 5th February 2019, 07:49   #13
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oh dear, what have I done to you :-)

Some relatively 'easy' and straightforward places to bird after Jardin would be around Manizales:
- day trips up to the parque de los nevados should be easy to arrange.
- a stay at reserva Rio Blanco should be arranged beforehand.

In between Manizales and Pereira you have Santa Rosa de Cabal. THE site for Fuertes's Parrot.

going South, Pereira is the base to visit Otun Quimbaya. Better to arrange that one beforehand as well. If you want a VERY realistic view of what to expect, just look at google streetview: they even have footage of all the trails...! https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ja...7!4d-75.819361

A bit South of Otun Quimbaya, and a bit more touristy, is Salento. You'll understand why it is more touristy when you check pictures of the wax palm (palma de cera) landscape. The town is nice as well, and walks up the mountain are rewarding, but a bit more open / deforested.

If you want a flight to Bogota, the road between Armenia and Cali is very fast and straightforward through the Cauca Valley (no more twisty roads!). If you prefer going overland, the pass between Armenia and Ibague (La Linea) is much improved (tunnels, viaducts) and takes around 3 hrs at max. Between Ibague and bogota, another 4 hr. I once lived in Ibague and did that stretch to Bogota around 15 times...

Another option is to stay on the W-Andes. Close to Jardin, you have the Proaves reserve Las Tangaras near El Carmen del Atrato. Or you can visit Pueblo Rico. At either place, you can spend the full 3-4 days left without running out of birds! If going lower down, you have the Anchicaya Valley near Cali. More to the North, there is the Paramo del Frontino...

So many options :-)
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2019, 13:49   #14
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Thanks Temmie, some great information there, more so in view of the fact you've actually lived there.

I've been looking at Cloudbirders trip reports (the 'non-tour group' filter is very good!), and thinking about maybe heading back to Medellin then on to Rio Claro then the El Paujil Pro Aves reserve - with the idea of having a big altitudinal gradient on my trip, from 3000m above Bogota to low elevation forest, with Jardin / Ventanas in between. Bearing in mind this is my first Neotropics trip, seeing a good variety of habitats and their typical species is more important to me than searching out endemics. So non-endemics like Oilbird have as much appeal to me as something like Fuertes's Parrot or Blue-billed Curassow.

I haven't made any firm bookings yet beyond getting to Jardin, so I'm going to look at your suggestions very carefully...as you say, so many options :-)
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2019, 14:19   #15
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Guianan: Aldea mari mari lodge in presidente figueiredo, amazonas, Brasil. Hire a car in manaus and just go. 100% possibilities

Enviado desde mi LG-H930 mediante Tapatalk
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2019, 14:50   #16
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I haven't been to El Paujil (yet), but Rio Claro is indeed a very convenient stop on the road between Medellin and Bogota (+ anything in between).
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Old Monday 11th February 2019, 18:38   #17
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Guianan: Aldea mari mari lodge in presidente figueiredo, amazonas, Brasil. Hire a car in manaus and just go. 100% possibilities

Enviado desde mi LG-H930 mediante Tapatalk
Thanks, I'm committed to going for Andean in Jardin now, but I'd like to see Guianan one day too...


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I haven't been to El Paujil (yet), but Rio Claro is indeed a very convenient stop on the road between Medellin and Bogota (+ anything in between).
The more I read about Rio Claro, the better it seems - going to try and book accommodation there now. El Paujil seems a little harder to get to - a bus from Rio Claro to Puerto Boyaca, 'chiva' to Puerto Pinzon, followed by a walk or mototaxi to the reserve - but the thought of semi-tame curassows is appealing!
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Old Tuesday 12th February 2019, 22:32   #18
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A quick flight to Mitu in Colombia would net you Guianan Cock of the Rock easily as well.
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Old Sunday 17th February 2019, 16:06   #19
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A quick flight to Mitu in Colombia would net you Guianan Cock of the Rock easily as well.
Hmm...I should have thought of that possibility before booking the rest of my trip!
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