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Colombia - Central Andes and Mitu, Dec 2022 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
United States
Colombia has been high on my wishlist for many years now, and this year I finally decided to make it happen. I've done quite a bit of birding in the Neotropics, including multiple visits to Mexico/Central America, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil, so I was particularly keen to target Colombian endemics, as well as northern Andean species that I had missed several times in Ecuador. My original itinerary included a week around Santa Marta for endemics and Caribbean dry forest specialties, but I found myself increasingly wanting to return to Amazonian forest, and Mitu held a good selection of white sand specialties that I'd not seen in eastern Ecuador. So in the end, I settled on a three-week itinerary for my husband and I, with much of the time spent in the Central Andes followed by a 6-day trip to Mitu. With three weeks we could easily have fit in another region, but my husband is not really a birder, so I kept the pace more leisurely, allowing for downtime as well as second chances for birds at some of the key sites.

Trip Planning:

I organized the itinerary myself and made most lodging, transport, and guiding arrangements prior to departure. I have a very basic but workable understanding of Spanish, which was very helpful for independent travel - many of the local guides and drivers that I used did not speak English. Most Colombians use WhatsApp, so that was an easy way to make arrangements and communicate both from the US and while in Colombia. My husband got a local sim card while we were there, so he was able to provide me with a mobile hotspot when WiFi was not available for not working. I used the Beckers and Florez "Birdwatching in Colombia" book for initial planning, it helped me to decide which regions to target and to choose some must-visit sites. I also reviewed a number of blogs and trip reports, which contained more up-to-date information and informed me of two newer Central Andes sites that are not included in the book - Hotel Tinamu and Hacienda El Bosque.


Flights to Mitu from Bogota are operated by Satena, and there are only a few flights per week - so flight availability as well as our guide Miguel's availability dictated when and for how long we visited Mitu, and was the first piece of the itinerary that I firmed up. I had read that flights from Mitu are subject to cancellation and that it was advisable not to schedule your flight from Mitu to Bogota too close to your departure home, so I included a buffer of two full days in Bogota between the flight from Mitu and the flights back home. I was glad I did, because mid-trip Satena informed me that they were no longer running Thursday routes, so my original Dec 15 flight would have to be rescheduled. They had a Dec 16 flight, I wasn't too miffed about getting an extra day in Mitu. In the end, Spirit Airlines also pulled the same stunt with our return flight home, so we still ended up with two full days in Bogota at the end of our trip.

Speaking of Spirit Airlines - this was the first time I'd used this company. Fares are low (round trip New Orleans to Bogota was $350 per person), but the prices for baggage and even carry-on are high and difficult to predict prior to booking - baggage prices seem to be date- and route-specific and ranged from about $40-$80 per flight. In the end, this still only came to about $600 round-trip, closer to but still cheaper than any other option at the time. There are no complimentary beverages or snacks on board, not even water, not even for the four-hour leg from Florida to Bogota. Check-in lines were exceedingly long on both ends. And not to mention they decided to cancel our return flight so we had to choose between shortening our trip or lengthening our trip by a day. I suppose I'd fly with them again if the other options were considerably more expensive, but I'd also be willing to pay a couple hundred extra bucks not to.

Itinerary: After the flight changes, here is what our itinerary worked out to be:

Nov 28: Flight New Orleans to Bogota, overnight El Eden Bogota, a sort of BnB/Homestay near the airport found via booking.com
Nov 29: Morning birding at La Florida, afternoon flight to Manizales, transfer to Reserva Rio Blanco
Nov 30: all day Rio Blanco
Dec 1: morning at Rio Blanco, transfer to Hacienda El Bosque
Dec 2: Hacienda El Bosque, transfer to Manizales, overnight at Golden Frog Hostel
Dec 3: open day in Manizales (originally planned a day visit to Nevado del Ruiz, but I was advised to wait until Monday due to weekend crowds)
Dec 4: open day in Manizales
Dec 5: morning birding Nevado del Ruiz with driver, transfer to Hotel Tinamu reserve
Dec 6: morning birding Hotel Tinamu, transfer to village of La Florida above Pereira - stay at Cabanita el Congolo found on booking.com
Dec 7: birding the road around Otun-Quimbaya
Dec 8: birding, starting at dawn at El Cedral
Dec 9: morning birding, afternoon flight Pereira to Bogota, overnight Hotel Expo Inn Embajada
Dec 10: flight to Mitu, check in to Hotel Carayuru
Dec 11-15: daily guided birding around Mitu
Dec 16: flight back to Bogota, check back in to Hotel Expo Inn Embajada
Dec 17-18: open days in Bogota. Ended up doing some birding at Monserrate.
Dec 19: flight home

I'll include some additional details about logistics and lodging in the daily summaries to follow.
Nov 28: An early travel day, we left home around 2:30 a.m. to make the 1.5-hour drive to the New Orleans airport for our 6:00 a.m. flight. After an uneventful journey, we arrived in Bogota at 3:00 p.m. local time, spent nearly 2 hours in line for immigration, and finally made it out to our ride to El Eden Bogota. It now being rush hour, what should have been a 15-minute drive to our lodging took nearly an hour. We checked in, and at the suggestion of our host placed an order to have dinner delivered. I asked her some questions about catching a taxi to Parque La Florida in the morning, and she tried to dissuade me from going - saying it wasn't very safe, that there were plenty of birds to see elsewhere - but I insisted that's where I wanted to go, so she said she'd make arrangements to take us there first thing in the morning.

Nov 29:
At 6:30, our host herself drove us to Parque La Florida, bringing along her two kids to play while we went birding. Coming from south of the park, we had to park at the end of a road which at one point led over the canal and into the park, but the bridge has fallen not been repaired. From here it was about a half mile walk to the east to reach a pedestrian bridge over the canal, and then west through the park to get to the wetland birding area. Walking along the canal I had my first lifer, Bare-faced Ibis, along with Southern Lapwing, Carib Grackle, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, and several shorebirds and egrets. Our host and her kids stayed behind at a ball field while Tom and I continued on to the birding area. We ran into another birder there who had just had Spot-flanked Gallinule and Bogota Rail, two of the main targets for the morning. We followed the trail to where the birder had described, and saw a Spot-flanked Gallinule wading around at close range. We also heard Bogota Rail, and with some patience caught some glimpses of one working the edges of the wetland vegetation. Apolinar's Wren, another important target, showed very briefly as a pair skulked in the vegetation. Father down the trail we came across a small mixed-species flock consisting of Yellow-backed Oriole, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Rufous-browed Conebill, and Swainson's Thrush. Too soon it was time to turn around and head back to our lodging, check out, and head to the airport for our flight to Manizales.

Our flight to Manizales, operated by EasyFly out of the small second terminal at Bogota's international airport, was scheduled to depart at 12:30. As we were about to board, the lady checking us in told us to wait and continued letting other passengers on. Thinking I had missed something about which rows were being boarded, we obliged and sat down to wait our turn. Soon there was nobody left in line, I went back up, and she told me to wait. A few other passengers were present and began arguing with the lady, but in Spanish too rapid for me to follow. Another 20-30 minutes went by, and then what's that - our plane was leaving! I went back up and gestured and insisted on an explanation. Apparently the plane was too heavy, so they had somehow selected us and a few other passengers to stay behind. The lady printed out new boarding passes for the next flight out, leaving at 3:30. Ok - great. A couple more hours inside the terminal. We passed the time drinking some cheap Colombian beer and uploading the morning's photos to ebird. Fortunately, we were allowed on to our next flight and were finally off to Manizales.

A few more road bumps awaited us when we arrived in Manizales. First, our luggage had flown to Manizales on our original flight without us, and my Spanish wasn't quite up to explaining that situation to airport personnel - fortunately a bit of Google Translate communication smoothed the way and our luggage was eventually located and brought to us. By then, all the taxis were gone from the airport - I had been unable to arrange prior transportation to Rio Blanco because the two contacts I had were unavailable - but a bit of waiting saw new taxis arrive, and much to my relief, the first driver we approached was willing to take us to Rio Blanco fr $60,000 pesos (~$12) after a quick phone call to the reserve staff to make sure his car could make it. And it did, though just barely! We arrived at Rio Blanco just as it was getting dark. No time for birding, though a short walk after dinner and before rain started to fall netted a heard-only Rufous-banded Owl. I was glad to finally be settled into a forest reserve and looked forward to an entire day of birding tomorrow.

Morning ebird checklist:

Bare-faced Ibis
Spot-flanked Gallinule
Bogota Rail
Southern Lapwing
Yellow-hooded Blackbird


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Nov 30: Rio Blanco

Logistics: I found it easy to make arrangements to stay here, I filled out the request form at Rioblanco and staff responded to me within 24 hours (I don't believe they monitor email over the weekends, FYI). We had a room with a king bed for 211,000 pesos ($45 USD) and full day of guiding for 115,000 pesos. Meals were available on request. Payment was in cash only. Guides are provided to all guests, though I believe you could bird the main entrance road on your own.

I couldn't wait to get started and left the lodge around 5:30, just as it was beginning to get light. The highlight was a pair of (heard-only) White-throated Screech-Owls across the road directly in front of the lodge. We had breakfast at 6:30 and our guide was present and ready to take us to the first antpitta feeder at 7:00. The real stars of this reserve are two range-restricted antpittas that reliably come to worms: the endemic Brown-banded Anpitta and the near-endemic Bicolored Antpitta. Both feeding stations are very close to the lodge, and we went first to the Bicolored Anpitta spot. It took about a half of hour of coaxing, but our wait was rewarded with good (if short) views of Bicolored Anpitta - what a handsomly-patterned bird, rufous-brown above and slate-gray below. This shy individual occasionally fails to show, our guide told me that the most recent group waited an hour with no luck - but the next day, a couple got the bird within 5 minutes!

We spent the next half hour at the lodge feeders, our guide replenishing the fruit stations to lure in tanagers. The hummingbird feeders attracted Buff-tailed Coronet (most numerous), Bronzy and Collared Incas, Tourmaline Sunangel, Sparkling and Lesser Violetears, Long-tailed Sylph, Mountain Velvetbreast, and White-bellied Woodstar. The fruit feeders attracted Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Gray-browed and Slaty Brushfinches, Blue-capped Tanager and Masked Flowerpiercer. A Green-and-Black Fruiteater foraged in the trees above.

Next, it was time to move uphill to the next antpitta feeder. On the way we stopped for a pair of Chestnut-bellied Chat-Tyrants, and then to look through a mixed-species flock containing Grass-Green Tanager, Beryl-Spangled Tanager, Gray-hooded Bush Tanager, Golden-fronted Redstart, Blackburnian Warblers (most common migrant throughout the trip), Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, and Sharpe's Wrens. While watching, a pair of Chestnut-crowned Antpittas (nicknamed Pablo and Pabla) came out to greet us, watching us from arm's length in anticipation of their worm breakfast. Once the mixed flock moved on, we moved to the designated feeding area to give the antpittas their worms - they ate a few but mostly collected them, evidently to take them to their active nest somewhere deep in the forest, Our guide tried to call in the Green-and-Black Fruiteater (nicknamed Raul), who sometimes comes down to the feeding area, but he did not oblige today.

Finished with our close encounter with the charming Chestnut-crowned Antpittas, we continued up the road and soon hit another mixed-species flock, this one containing Montane Woodcreeper, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, and Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager among others. After birding the main road along the ridgeline for a bit, we retraced our steps partway and crossed a gate into the employee housing area, passed by an open ridge overlooking Manizales and continued up into the forest. The star of this section was a pair of Ocellated Tapaculos that began calling, and with a bit of work we managed to call one in close for photos. Not a lifer for me, but only my second encounter with this spectacular species.

We returned to the lodge grounds at noon for the Brown-banded Antpitta feeding station. Like the Bicolored, this individual was fairly shy - it didn't take as long to come in, but it was hesitant to leave dense cover and did not linger in the open, darting out for worms and quickly darting back. Still, it gave good open views from the edge of the brush. Once I learned the call, I realized Brown-banded Antpitta is fairly common at this site, and I would typically hear multiple individuals on any birding walk.

After lunch and a little siesta, we left the lodge again at a bit after 2:00 pm for some afternoon birding. After discussing targets with my guide, we elected to go back uphill and continue a little farther in hopes of Masked Saltator, Powerful Woodpecker, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, and others. On the walk up we had a Purple-backed Thornbill feeding on some flowering plant in the subcanopy, a much-wanted lifer although views left much to be desired. A mixed-species flock gave us a few new species including a Hemispingus trifecta, with Black-capped, Black-eared, and Superciliaried. Well up into the trail we came across a foraging pair of Powerful Woodpeckers that gave splendid, close views. We returned to the lodge a bit after 5:00, and while waiting for dinner I heard a calling Band-winged Nightjar. It had been a fantastic day of birding!

Bicolored Antpitta
Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager
Chestnut-naped Antpitta
Brown-banded Antpitta
Ocellated Tapaculo
Powerful Woodpecker


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Hummingbirds at the lodge feeders:
Buff-tailed Coronet
Collared Inca
Lesser Violetear
Bronzy Inca (foreground) and Tourmaline Sunangel (background)
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Long-tailed Sylph
Mountain Velvetbreast


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Dec 1: Rio Blanco and Hacienda El Bosque

This morning was set aside to search for remaining targets, chief among them Masked Saltator. We spent the morning first going back uphill, then returning and going downhill past the lodge for other species such as Black-collared Jay. This morning was much quieter than the previous, and we failed to find the much-wanted Masked Saltator, but highlights included a small flock of Golden-plumed Parakeets that landed in a tree above the lodge just as we were setting out, my lifer Oleaginous Hemispingus, and a big mixed flock downhill that included Barred Becard, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Streaked Tuftedcheek, and two stunning Red-hooded Tanagers.

Our driver Rodrigo picked us up from the lodge at 1:00 after lunch and drove us to Hacienda El Bosque. This is a relatively new site, and lodging has just been added within the past year. Arrangements were easy to make via WhatsApp using the number listed on their website (Hacienda El Bosque) and payment was made prior to the trip using the link the owner Juan sent to me. It's not a cheap place to stay by Colombian standards (around $85 per night, which included breakfast and morning guiding), but we thought it was good value for what we got and it was a delightful splurge for a traveling couple. The site is situated on a working cattle farm at 3100 meters elevation, with a series of adorable cabins for rent, and a glass-walled building serving as the reception area and restaurant. The cabin we had included a fireplace (which the staff lit for us after dinner), a hot tub, hot shower, and a porch overlooking the valley below. The restaurant served delicious meals, with coffee and hot chocolate (with milk from their own cows) available anytime, and alcoholic drinks for purchase.

It was foggy and raining a bit when we arrived, but after check in and some hot chocolate, the owner Juan took us down to one of the feeding stations, bringing along more hot chocolate for us to enjoy. There is shelter at the feeding station but fortunately the rain let up shortly and allowed us to enjoy stunning close views of Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan and Hooded Mountain-Tanager coming to the grape feeder, and several White-throated Quail-Doves coming to the corn on the ground. The hummingbird feeders attracted an assortment of species, including Sword-billed Hummingbird, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, and Shining Sunbeam. We enjoyed the birds for a couple hours before walking up to the reception for drinks and then dinner. Tomorrow was going to be an exciting day, with a good chance of seeing my most-wanted South American bird: Crescent-faced Anpitta.

Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan
Hooded Mountain-Tanager
White-throated Quail-Dove
Slaty Brushfinch
Andean Guan


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Dec 2: Hacienda El Bosque

The big day! It started a bit rough, I awoke before my alarm to hear Tom breathing rather heavily. He felt nauseous and had a splitting headache - altitude sickness, which he is rather prone to getting. I went down to breakfast a bit early to tell the staff he would not be joining us and to ask for some coffee to take up to him. They understood immediately why he wasn't feeling well and sent along some Te de Coca (coca tea), which is supposed to be very helpful for altitude sickness and has helped Tom enormously during previous trips to high altitude in Ecuador. That done, I returned for breakfast, accompanied by another traveling couple, and then at 7:30 we were ready to meet the local guide for the morning's activities.

First on the agenda was the Equatorial Antpitta feeder. We walked down into a patch of forest in a valley, spotting a very unusual Fork-tailed Flycatcher and a more typical Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant on the way. A Gray-browed Brushfinch was waiting for us at the feeding spot. Our guide began to call in the antpitta, and after about 15 minutes the Equatorial Antpitta came in and showed well.

After we'd all had our fill, we returned to the main road, spotting a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle flying overhead, and then went down into another patch of forest. We stopped at a platform that included a blind and some hummingbird feeders. Here, our guide said that the Crescent-faced Antpitta could take a while, we could enjoy the hummingbirds and he would call us to the blind when it was approaching. Another staff member had also arrived to stock us up with coffee and hot chocolate. We watched the hummingbirds for a bit, mostly the same species as the day before along with several flowerpiercers, and then our guide called us over. Quickly and quietly we all lined up at the blind and watched with bated breath. After an intense 5-10 minutes of watching, suddenly it appeared below us - the stunning and mythical Crescent-faced Antpitta. I could hardly believe it! It gave us a solid 2 minutes of viewing before disappearing into the steep, tangled forest below. I would have been satisfied with that, but our guide coaxed it out for more, and 10 minutes later it returned and gave us another good show. When it disappeared the second time, it was high fives all around, we couldn't have asked for more - certainly for me this was the highlight of the whole trip.

The main bird in the bag, we moved on to the grape feeders and spent some time there - although I'd already spent some time at this spot the day before, the other couple had not. The same birds appeared and provided a great show. In the meantime, Tom showed up to join us, having been well revived by the coca tea and told by the staff where we would be at this time. We wrapped up the morning with a walk along a short trail through this patch of forest, picking up White-browed Spinetail, White-banded and White-throated Tyrannulets, Golden-fronted Redstart, and Black-crested Warbler.

We returned for lunch at noon, and then Rodrigo arrived at 1:00 to take us to our hostel in Manizales. I discussed with him the possibility of a day trip to Nevados del Ruiz the following day, but he recommended that we wait, because tomorrow was Saturday - he said it would be very busy and we should wait until Monday. With that change, we had the next two days unplanned in Manizales. Perhaps just as well, by this time I had come down with a nasty head cold, and Tom still needed to recharge after altitude sickness, so the next two days would be filled with relaxing and easy site seeing.

Equatorial Antpitta
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant
Crescent-faced Antpitta


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Dec 3-4: Manizales

We stayed at the Golden Frog Hostel in Manizales for three nights. It was a nice place to stay downtown, a clean, budget option, though sometimes noisy, particularly on Saturday night - but that's as could be expected. The only birding of note we did was a visit to Ecoparque Los Alcazares, a half hour walk from where we were staying. This is a decent-sized, forested park at the edge of Manizales, and included a fruit feeder and canopy tower near the entrance. There was a good assortment of birds at the feeder, including Blue-gray, Palm, Scrub, Blue-necked, Golden, and Bay-headed Tanagers, Green Honeycreeper, and Black-winged Saltator, with Green Hermit and Steely-vented Hummingbird visiting nearby flowers. Along the trails, we found Whiskered Wren, White-naped Brushfinch, Mourning Warbler, Bar-crested Antshrike, Streaked Xenops, Andean Motmot, and more.

The next day we were hoping to go for a bike ride, taking advantage of the Sunday road closures for Ciclovia, but the bicycles for rent at the hostel were not up to par - mine barely had working brakes, and the seat on Tom's was wobbly and pointed upward in a way that crushed his.. uh.. delicates. Instead, we walked around and visited a few of the many nearby bicycle shops, but none of them offered rentals. Just as well, it ended up being a very rainy day. We spent some time at a coffee shop at the base of the Chipre tower, waiting out the rain before ascending to the observation platform. A surprising assortment of birds came by, including the trip's only Sulphur-bellied Flycatchers, Vermilion Flycatchers, Cattle Tyrant, and Streaked Saltator. We went up the tower during what we thought was a break in the rain, only to have the rain return with a vengeance, so we didn't have much of a view. It was a good place for mothing though, I guess the tower lights attract moths at night and some of them get stuck inside.

Photos: (edit: I reversed the order of these labels but now the photos are showing in the proper order - I don't know!)
Tom at the base of Chipre tower, great weather for sight-seeing haha!
Amastus sp. at Chipre tower
Pantherodes pardalaria at Chipre Tower
Birding sign for Caldas Department in downtown Villamaria
Canopy tower at Ecoparque Los Alcazares


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Dec 5: Nevados del Ruiz and Hotel Tinamu

Rodrigo picked us up from our hostel at 6:15 a.m. for a morning trip to the paramo and high-altitude forest below the entrance to Parque Nacional Nevados del Ruiz. About 45 minutes after leaving we made our first stop along the gravel road up to the main park entrance, spending about 20 minutes birding the road through some elfin forest (4.9982367,-75.3284859). The habitat was promising and could be worth some effort, though it somewhat quiet during our brief visit - highlights were Golden-breasted Puffleg, heard-only Paramo Tapaculo, and the first Glossy Flowerpiercers of the trip. Next up was a stop at Laguna Negra, an area a bit above treeline, with a small shop and a platform overlooking a lake. The lake contained a few Andean Ducks and one Andean Teal, and the nearby scrub produced Stout-billed Cinclodes, Grass Wren, and Plain-colored Seedeater. From here we continued to the entrance to the national park - you can bird the short trail and the road leading back down without paying the park entrance fee. Here was our prime target for the day, and it wasn't hard to find the first Buffy Helmetcrest right from the visitor's center porch. This was the most common bird on our otherwise very short checklist for this spot.

Our final stop for the morning was at the Hotel Termales del Ruiz - Rodrigo dropped us off about a quarter mile shy of the hotel so that we could bird the forested road. This was a good call, and there was a nice mixed-species flock right where he dropped us off, with Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-backed Conebill, Black-backed Bush Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, and White-banded and White-throated Tyrannulets. At the hotel proper, the main targets were a few special hummingbirds: Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and Black-thighed Puffleg chief among them. I had been advised that the thornbill does not visit the feeders, but instead to watch the flowers in the garden and parking area. Entrance was not cheap - I didn't write it down but I think it came to $20 per person. This spot ended up being the most disappointing of all - watching the feeders was pleasant enough and got us a few good trip birds including Great Sapphirewing, but otherwise I did not connect with any of my most-wanted targets. I don't know if it was time of year, time of day, weather (it was cloudy and drizzly), or just bad luck.

After wrapping up at Termales del Ruiz, it was time to head to Hotel Tinamu, on the other side of Manizales and about 1.5 to 2 hours from where we were. In retrospect, I would have preferred to make a full day trip (as originally planned) and spend more time at each spot, and maybe hit more forest spots on the way up and down. I have no idea though if the half-day Monday trip we did ended up better or worse than a full-day Saturday trip would have been.

Buffy Helmetcrest
Shining Sunbean
Pale-naped Brushfinch
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager


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Enjoying this report - so many good birds - and so confusingly labelled!:unsure: ;)! It got easier when I realised the order was sometimes reversed and sometimes not (i know BF sometimes does this)

Gripped by the Moorhen at La Florida, which I also heard had a dubious reputation, but my guide told me was somewhat overstated.

That Equatorial Antpitta shot is terrific and the Ocellated Tapaculo is bucket-listed. Happy to see the last two pix as they were among the last of my own flying visit to Bogota a few years ago.

Enjoying this report - so many good birds - and so confusingly labelled!:unsure: ;)! It got easier when I realised the order was sometimes reversed and sometimes not (i know BF sometimes does this)

Gripped by the Moorhen at La Florida, which I also heard had a dubious reputation, but my guide told me was somewhat overstated.

That Equatorial Antpitta shot is terrific and the Ocellated Tapaculo is bucket-listed. Happy to see the last two pix as they were among the last of my own flying visit to Bogota a few years ago.

Huh, you're right - I swear I labeled them in the order that I saw them!
Thanks folks, glad you're enjoying the report! Trying to get it all down while it's still fairly fresh.

Dec 5-6: Hotel Tinamu

We arrived at Hotel Tinamu in the afternoon, checked in, and managed about an hour of birding before the rain caught up to us and finished out the day. The feeders were very busy with a lot of common birds, but also including some targets such as Guira Tanager and Colombian Chachalaca. A short walk between the end of the rain and dark produced trip birds in the form of Cocoa Woodcreeper and Golden-crowned Warbler. We enjoyed our home-cooked dinner and then went to bed early, Tom now coming down with my cold just as I was starting to feel better.

In the morning, Tom elected to sleep in while I went out with the local guide for some birding. I squeezed in some birding at first light, getting heard-only Little Tinamou and Common Pauraque from the main reception area. After an early breakfast was a visit to the Scaled Antpitta feeder - this is a species I had heard in Mexico, and had in hand during mist-netting, but in many ways this was my first "proper" sighting (i.e. not in hand and not heard only). It was somewhat shy but allowed a good look and a somewhat decent photo in the dark understory. Next we moved to a blind with cracked corn that attracted Gray-headed Dove, and used to draw in a Little Tinamou, but evidently this individual was eaten by a tayra some months back. The guide then took me for a short hike, calling in a Moustached Puffbird, pointing out a roosting Common Potoo, and then taking me to the Golden-collared Manakin lek. Rufous-naped Greenlets were calling near the lek and showed pretty well.

Afterwards we were joined by a group of 4 visiting birders, and then repeated the same circuit - not ideal for me, but with only one guide that's just how it went (I would've been happy to go off on my own, but that doesn't appear to be permitted). The Scaled Antpitta failed to show the second time, and we didn't spend too long at the dove blind before moving on to new sections of the trail. Several Blue-lored Antbirds were vocal but not quite willing to come in for views. A pair of Parker's Antbird were more cooperative. A Grayish Piculet was also a welcome addition, though a bit high in the canopy for photos. Many other birds were simply uncooperative this morning, but a couple of mixed flocks added more species to the trip list, including Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Slay-capped Flycatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Yellow-throated Vireo. A few Spectacled Parrotlets were perched in the bare tree by reception when we returned.

After lunch, we watched the feeders for a bit while awaiting our ride from Ana, for whom we had been given contact information by Hotel Tinamu. She arrived at 1:00 and drove us to our next lodging outside of Pereira, with a stop for groceries on the way. Here, a few logistical notes are in order: I had originally planned to have us stay at the Otun-Quimbaya reserve, but I never had any luck contacting the right people. I was either met by silence, "we don't manage the housing", or "it's only available for groups of 10 or more". I discussed this issue with the traveling couple we had run into earlier, and they had experienced the same problem. Their understanding was that the indigenous group (Yarumo Blanco) that used to manage the reserve housing, and still manages visits to the Los Frailes waterfall, had some sort of falling out with the government/park staff, and things are a bit in limbo at the moment. That couple had chosen to stay in the nearby town of La Florida, and I had gotten us a cabin halfway between La Florida and La Suiza (cabin was about 3.5 km from the edge of the reserve). Our driver had a bit of trouble finding the place, as it is unsigned and we didn't have cell reception in this area, but with a bit of asking around we finally made it (the place is known as Cabanitas El Congolo on booking.com, but seems to be called Cabanita de La Florida on Google Maps). It was an entire cabin to ourselves on the banks of the Rio Otun, and it was worth every penny. A short walk around the area in late afternoon produced Torrent Tyrannulet, White-capped Dipper, and Green-fronted Lancebill as highlights.

Scaled Antpitta
Moustached Puffbird
Black-billed Thrush
White-necked Jacobin
Steely-vented Hummingbird
Crimson-backed Tanager
Rusty-margined Flycatcher


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Fine report! As jkgrooms said, the detail is wonderful and rounds out the adventure for all us who wish we could be there.

Dec 7: Otun-Quimbaya Reserve

In the morning, Tom and I walked along the road from our cabin up to the reserve lodge at Otun-Quimbaya Reserve. Highlights from our walk included nice views of a pair of Parker's Antbirds about a half km before reaching La Suiza, good looks at Red-ruffed Fruitcrow in several areas, Cauca Guan once we got into the reserve border, and a large mixed flock that contained one of my prime targets for this area: Multicolored Tanager. It didn't cooperate for a good photo, and it must not be terribly common in this area, this was the only time I ran into this species. We racked up a list of 69 species for the morning.

After an afternoon rain, I walked out to the river overlook behind our cabin and spotted Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, and Torrent Tyrannulet - nice "yard" birds! Then I walked the road again but back toward La Florida. Some birds encountered included Gray-cheeked Thrush, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, and small warbler flocks with e.g. Canada Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart. At the edges of La Florida, the landscape opens up into farmland and produced some different open-country species, such as Blue-black Grassquit, Southern Lapwing, Yellow-faced Grassquit, and Saffron Finch. On my way back to the cabin, as dusk was approaching, I heard a Scaled Antpitta calling from the forest just across the road from our cabin.

Parker's Antbird
Flame-rumped Tanager
Lineated Woodpecker
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow


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Dec 8: El Cedral

My alarm went off at 3:00 a.m., and I leapt out of bed, excited for the day's plans. I was targeting Hooded Antpitta today, probably my second-most wanted species for the trip. From what I'd read in other trip reports, the best way of finding this species is to be at El Cedral at first light, when it calls. It does not regularly call or respond to playback much later than this. To get there, I had decided to make my way the 10 km from my cabin to El Cedral on foot, and for the added challenge and to make the journey faster, I decided to run it (I do a lot of running at home, though other than today I did very little during this trip). I wasn't sure how I'd feel running uphill the whole way with my day pack, so I left plenty of time to get there. In fact, I left too much time - after a challenging but enjoyable hour of slow jogging through the forest, I made it to El Cedral at 4:30 a.m. - a whole hour before first light!

I settled down in the shelter at El Cedral to wait, sweat growing chilly on me as the hour crept by. No nightbirds, though I tried playing a few different species. Soon dawn began to break, and some of the first day birds began to call. A Rufous-bellied Nighthawk flew over the clearing, a nice pick up! Unbeknownst to me at the time though, I had not looked closely enough at the Hooded Antpitta GPS point that I had gleaned from a trip report - I had arrived at El Cedral, seen that the area was tiny, and figured I would be able to hear the antpitta from anywhere. Not so - the antpitta spot is a short way down the road before reaching El Cedral, but far enough away that one cannot hear it from El Cedral proper. As the minutes ticked by and more and more birds began to call, but no Hooded Antpitta, I grew worried - I had gotten some recent gen from the traveling couple, they had the bird showing well a few days prior, so I started to suspect I wasn't at the right place. With no reception I couldn't type the GPS coordinates into my phone, but I decided to walk a bit down the road. The hauntingly beautiful song of Chestnut-breasted Wren emanated from the epiphyte-laden forest, and a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta called, but no Hooded. I was feeling frustrated with myself for not preparing better, but a nice consolation prize walked by in the form of Mountain Tapir.

I began the long walk back to the cabin. The forest was beautiful but often quiet. In the higher reaches I heard a Moustached Antpitta. Two good flocks though produced Spotted Barbtail, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Streak-capped Treehunter, Montane and Lineated Foliage-Gleaners, White-winged Becard, and many others. A fruiting tree held a couple Southern Emerald-Toucanets. Cauca Guans were common. Toward the bottom of the reserve, I found my only Plain Antvireo of the trip.

After getting back, even though I was tired from the 20 km of running/walking, I was also very hungry and we were running low on groceries. So Tom and I walked down to La Florida for lunch, adding Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Red-crowned Woodpecker to the area list. A short late afternoon walk down the road near the cabin was nice but did not add anything new, except another good view of Torrent Duck. In the evening, I reached out to the couple we had some days ago for more details about their Hooded Antpitta experience. They gave me GPS points (4.746342, -75.536719), along with contact information for a local driver named Jorge who had been willing to drop them off at El Cedral at 5:00 a.m. I arranged my ride, and armed with better location information, I went to bed early, ready to try again in the morning for Hooded Antpitta.

Collared Trogon
Torrent Duck
Mountain Tapir


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Enjoying your adventure and envy you the tapir, but most of all Torrent Ducks right there from your cabin sounds fabulous - do you have any pix that show the habitat?

Sorry to be OCD, but a hint about labelling pix - you might consider adding your list of pix after the photos are loaded so you know which order BF has imposed on you and can adjust accordingly. Other options are embedding the pix in the text and labelling the pix themselves, but admittedly both are more time-consuming.

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Enjoying your adventure and envy you the tapir, but most of all Torrent Ducks right there from your cabin sounds fabulous - do you have any pix that show the habitat?

Sorry to be OCD, but a hint about labelling pix - you might consider adding your list of pix after the photos are loaded so you know which order BF has imposed on you and can adjust accordingly. Other options are embedding the pix in the text and labelling the pix themselves, but admittedly both are more time-consuming.

I think I have a few habitat photos on my phone - I'll see what I have and post a few. I always find myself wishing I'd taken more non-bird photos!

Re: images - I always check both before and after posting and it's always right. Somehow the image order gets switched around later! I may have to use one of the other options because I haven't figured out how to make sure the order doesn't get switched on me from what I see during and immediately after posting.
Here are a couple of habitat shots, one from the upper elevations of Otun-Quimbaya, the other from the back porch of our cabin


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Dec 9: El Cedral, take two

My ride arrived promptly at 4:30, and a half hour later dropped me off at El Cedral for my second attempt at Hooded Antpitta. I lingered around El Cedral proper for a few minutes, hoping for the recently-reported Rufescent Screech-Owl, before meandering my way back down the road to the Hooded Antpitta spot. As before, the first day birds began singing around 5:30, though it was still quite dark in the forest understory. At about 5:40, a sharp call from nearby, was that.... there it was again, yes, Hooded Antpitta! The call came from the south side of the road, where the forest slopes steeply upward, too steeply for me to think about clambering up to it. It played hide and seek with me a for a good 20 minutes, moving perches just as I was closing in on the source of the sound, and then crossing the road. Here, the forest was much more level, so I slowly picked my way through the undergrowth, the bird again moving just as I was getting close. I followed it a bit more, then heard it call from very close by, so I froze, frantically searching. It shifted a bit and there - the Hooded Antpitta, near the ground not far from me and totally unobscured views. I had left my camera with my pack at the side of the road so that I could clamber around more easily, and indeed it was still rather dark, but I could've gotten serviceable photos. Ah well, I drank in the views of this rare, near-endemic species, as it rotated its body side to side in the manner of many other Grallaricula species, and then it flew off farther down the slope. I made by way back to the road, grabbed my gear, considered going after it again with my camera, and then decided I was satisfied with my encounter.

Elated with this success, I began the walk back through the forest, hoping to pick up a couple more targets, including one that had remained elusive, Crested Ant-Tanager. I heard several more Chestnut-breasted Wrens this morning, a total of five, and one was calling from just off the road and gave me my first views of this species - completing my set of 3 Cyphorhynus species. Mixed flock activity was lower than the previous day, but one produced Tyrannine Woodcreeper for a lifer and Fawn-breasted Tanager for a trip bird. No sign of the ant-tanager though - searching ebird later, it seems this species is present but hardly guaranteed at this site, with sites in the Western Andes being more favorable.

I returned to the cabin around 10:30, and our ride showed up shortly after 11:00, nearly an hour early, to take us to the Pereira Airport for our flight back to Bogota. A Spotted Sandpiper seen en route brought my total trip list to 297 - could I make 300 before arriving in Mitu the following day? That became my goal, especially after a walk to dinner netted Tropical Mockingbird, #298. I had a little bit of time the following morning, in hopes of getting two more species.



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