Day 1: Arrive in Bogota – overnight at Hotel in Bogota
Day 2: A quick visit to Parque La Florida if time permits where we will look for the endemic Apolinar’s Wren and Bogota Rail before our late morning flight to Bucaramanga. After lunch near the city we will transfer to the Cerulean Warbler Reserve (4hr drive), with some birding in the plantations as we near the reserve. Here we will be on the lookout for lowland species such as Yellow-browed Shrike-Vireo, Guira Tanager and Barred Puffbird. Night at Cerulean Warbler Reserve.
Day 3: At first light we will walk up to reserve (1hr) where we will briefly visit the hummingbird feeders at the entry to the forest before proceeding into the reserve itself. At the feeders we can expect the endemic Black Inca and the stunning Long-tailed Sylph amongst several other species. We will then spend the majority of the day birding our way up the old stone Lenguerke Trail with a field lunch brought up to us. This fantastic montane forest holds several endemics such as Magdalena Tapaculo, Parker’s Antbird and if we are extremely fortunate, Mountain Grackle and the ultra-elusive Gorgeted Wood-quail. Mixed flocks can contain Wing-barred Piprites, Plumbeous-crowned and Rufous-browed Tyrannulets as well as a host of tanagers such as Metallic-green and Golden-naped. We will also try our luck with a couple of the most local of all neotropical avifauna, Pavonine Cuckoo and Yellow-throated Spadebill. This will be our most physically demanding day as we will cover about 6-7km over at times slippery terrain. Night at Cerulean Warbler Reserve.
Day 4: After breakfast we will spend some time around the gardens for Turquoise Dacnis then the rest of the morning birding the plantations below the lodge. The plantations are incredibly productive and we will be on the lookout for the endemic Niceforo’s Wren and the tricky Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird. Striped Cuckoo, Yellow-legged Thrush, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Cinereous Becard and several species of Oriole including Orange-crowned and Yellow-tailed are likely and we will also be on the lookout for western lowland specialties such as Double-banded Graytail and White-eared Conebill. In the afternoon we will spend some time relaxing at the lodge hummingbird feeders where the endemic Indigo-capped Hummingbird is common before heading out to a different area of the plantations or possibly to look for one of the most sought after Colombian near-endemics the skulking Recurve-billed Bushbird. Night at Cerulean Warbler Reserve.
Day 5: After breakfast we will drive to Bucaramanga with a little birding en route for any targets we may still be looking for. In the late morning we will fly to Barranquilla with a transfer in Bogota. Upon arrival in Barranquilla we will head straight out to the outskirts of the city to do some birding along a dirt track at “Km 4” in open fields and a few small wetlands. Here we will look for Northern Screamer, Snail Kite, Dwarf Cuckoo, Russet-throated Puffbird and the endangered endemic subspecies (or species depending on your preferred taxonomy!) of Bronzed Cowbird. Night in Barranquilla.
Day 6: We start the morning with breakfast at the hotel then at first light head out to a stakeout for the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca. If we feel like the Km 4 track warrants a second visit we will spend some time there again before heading on to the visitor centre at Isla Salamanca National Park. At the park HQ flowering trees attract Sapphire-throated Hummingbirds as well as the less common Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird (endemic). A walk through the mangroves here could produce Bicolored Conebill, American Pygmy-kingfisher, Prothonotary Warbler and even a Rufous-necked Wood-rail if luck is with us. In the late morning we will transfer to the foothills above Santa Marta where we will lunch at the Hotel Minca amidst a myriad of hummingbirds that visit the feeders. After lunch and some relaxing at the feeders we will take pickup trucks up the bumpy road to the El Dorado Lodge in the famous Santa Marta Mountains, birding as we ascend. En route we will be on the lookout for some of the lower elevation endemics such as Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, White-lored Warbler and the abundant Santa Marta Brushfinch. We will also try to track down the cute Rusty-breasted Antpitta. If we are feeling up for it, we can go out after dinner to do some owling with another endemic, the Santa Marta Screech-owl our primary target. Night at El Dorado Lodge.
Day 7: A 4:30 start today to drive the remaining atrocious(!) 6km up to the San Lorenzo Ridge in time for first light. Sunrise looking across to the Sierra Nevada is a truly breathtaking experience and will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the trip assuming the conditions are clear. Santa Marta Parakeets typically spend some time first thing in the morning at a row of eucalyptus where we will have a field breakfast as we await them. The rest of the morning will be spent birding the ridge arriving back at the lodge for a late lunch. There are over a dozen endemics that we will be on the lookout for this morning including Santa Marta Rufous Antpitta, Brown-rumped Tapaculo, two spinetails, Santa Marta Bush-tyrant, Santa Marta (Black-cheeked) Mountain-tanager, Santa Marta Warbler and the recently described Hermit Wood-wren. After lunch we will bird the lodge gardens where feeders attract many hummingbirds such as White-tailed Starfrontlet, Lazuline Sabrewing, the stunning Crowned Woodnymph and the occasional Santa Marta Woodstar. Other feeders attract Black-fronted Wood-quail and the elegant Blue-naped Chlorophonia. If we feel up to it we can spend a couple hours birding a level trail that runs out to a lookout near the lodge. This trail is often one of the better places for Grey-throated Leaftosser and White-tipped Quetzal. Night at El Dorado Lodge.
Day 8: After breakfast at the lodge we will bird our way down the road on foot. We will be on the lookout for any middle elevation goodies we haven’t picked up such as Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Groove-billed Toucanet and Black-headed Tanager. At a small finca with flowering shrubs we will try for Santa Marta Blossomcrown and recently a local family have started feeding the otherwise elusive Santa Marta Antpitta. Our pickups will take us back up to the lodge for lunch after which we will transfer down to Minca, continuing to bird the middle elevations as we descend with Santa Marta Antbird and Paltry (Speciose) Tyrannulet among our targets. Night at Hotel Minca.
Day 9: This morning will be spent birding around Minca with many new lower elevation species likely. Eye-candy such as Rosy Thrush-tanager, Golden-winged Sparrow, Whooping Motmot and Rufous-tailed Jacamar are all likely and if we are lucky we might track down Coppery Emerald at a flowering tree. Similar to the plantations at the Cerulean Warbler reserve this area of mixed plantation and forest strips typically makes for a long bird list. Before heading back down towards the Hotel Minca we will check a stakeout for roosting Black-and-white Owls. Leaving around 11am for Riohacha we will stop en route for lunch in addition to a couple birding stops. Arriving in Camarones with time to spend a couple hours birding the lagoon for waterbirds will provide us with our first American Flamingos of the trip along with several species of Herons/Egrets, Terns and shorebirds. Night in Riohacha.
Day 10: The Guajira desert near Riohacha and Perico is one of the most enjoyable places to bird in the country with the open scrub making for fairly easy birding and a whole host of specialties are present. These include the diminutive Chestnut Piculet and Slender-billed Inezia (Tyrannulet), Buffy Hummingbird, Pale-legged Hornero, Orinoco Saltator and the gaudy Green-rumped Parrotlet, White-whiskered Spinetail and Vermilion Cardinal! Some more tricky targets that may encounter include Ruby Topaz hummingbird, Blue-crowned Parakeet and Tocuyo Sparrow. After lunch at a beachside restaurant in Camarones we will transfer to El Chamicero Reserve in the Perija Mountains (4hrs). As we climb up the slopes of the Perija range we will make a couple brief stops to break up the trip but we will have more time to bird these middle and lower elevations on day 12. Night at El Chamicero Reserve.
Day 11: After breakfast we will drive the half hour up to the edge of the Paramo where we will spend the rest of the morning birding the upper elevations above the lodge. In the paramo we will be after the reserves flagship bird, the Perija Thistletail a species that until a few years ago very few people had seen! Another Perija endemic, the Perija Metaltail is fairly common in this zone replacing the similar Tyrian Metaltail of slightly lower elevations. The endemic “Perija” Rufous Antpitta can also be found up here with an ounce or two of luck. Flocks in the forested part of upper elevations contain endemic forms of Lachrimose and Hooded Mountain-tanager, Rufous Spinetail, Yellow-breasted (Black-fronted) Brushfinch and many others, some of which undoubtedly deserve full species status. Much work is still to be done on the taxonomy of the birds of the Perija range! After lunch we will bird lower down along the road below the lodge where we will be on the lookout for the common Perija Tapaculo as well as Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, Golden-winged Starfrontlet (endemic subspecies) and Black-and-chestnut Eagle. Andean Condor is seen with some regularity in the area and we can fancy our chances of encountering this iconic species as the day warms up and they start riding the thermals. Night birding near the lodge could produce White-throated Screech-owl and Band-winged Nightjar. Night at Chamicero Reserve.
Day 12: The morning will be spent birding our way slowly back down to Valledupar in the lowlands from where we will catch an after lunch flight back to Bogota. As we descend we will be on the lookout for several more specialties like Rufous-shafted Woodstar, Lazuline Sabrewing, Klages’ Antbird, Perija Brushfinch and Fulvous-headed Tanager. Lance-tailed Manakin is also possible and we will have a second shot at Golden-winged Sparrow if we missed it around Minca. Night in Bogota.
Day 13: Depending on the time of our flight to Puerto Inirida we may have time for another stop in at Parque La Florida for a couple hours first thing. After arriving in Puerto Inirida we will check in to the hotel, have lunch and spend the afternoon birding, either by boat or along the Caño Culebra trail, getting our first taste of a very different set of avifauna including White-eared Jacamar, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Pompadour Cotinga and Cherrie’s Antwren. The habitat around Puerto Inirida is comprised of Varzea (seasonally flooded) and White Sands forest, the latter is a specialized forest type that is most prevalent in eastern Colombia and adjacent parts of Venezuela and Brazil that holds many specialties. Birding in White Sands forest is typically fairly slow going compared to other Amazonian forest types but it is a case of quality over quantity, that being said, a list of over 150 species is highly likely over our time here. The Puerto Inirida area has become one of the best spots for White Sands specialists and as such is starting to become well renowned in Colombian birding. The exact order of how we bird the Inirida environs will be determined based to some degree on how the weather plays out but the next three days will be something like the following. Note that being so far east the sunrises early so we will try to be out birding by 5:30am. The area is populated largely by local indigenous tribes with many small communities in the vicinity of Puerto Inirida. Night at hotel in Puerto Inirida.
Day 14: We will start the morning birding the Matracas trail, a short boat ride from the city. Here we will get a good sample of the local targets with commoner Amazonian species such as Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Black-fronted Nunbird, Blue-crowned Trogon, Varzea Schiffornis, Wire-tailed Manakin, Velvet-fronted Grackle and Olive Oropendola likely as we search for the more specialized species. These specialties include the beautiful Rose-breasted Chat, Collared Puffbird, Green-tailed Jacamar and Black-spotted Bare-eye (at antswarms) as well as the incredibly local Orinoco Softail, one of the top targets for the area. In the afternoon we will head a little further upriver to La Rompida where we will search for river species such as Rufescent Tiger-heron, Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Drab Water-tyrant (aka Champagne-breasted Riverjewel!). The beautiful Festive Coquette has also been seen in this area and in the skies we may spot Slate-colored Hawk.
Day 15: Today we will bird the Varzea forests of the Caño Carbon trail which holds one of the most sought after species of the Inirida area, the bizarre Capuchinbird! The area is also good for understory species such as antbirds with Imeri Warbling-Antbird, Pearly and Amazonian Antshrikes and Spot-backed Antwren possible. Exposed perches could hold Paradise Jacamars and the common Swallow-winged Puffbird as well as its rare cousin, the Brown-banded Puffbird. Golden-spangled Piculet and Gilded Barbet are mixed-flock species we could also come across in this area. Overhead we will keep an eye out for Black-headed Parrots passing over.
Day 16: A special day, today we make a 1.5-2 hour boat trip to the beautiful Mavicure Cerros (raised rock hills) to the south of the city. These Cerros are typical of the Guianan shield and provide for wonderful vistas out over the otherwise flat landscape. In this area we will be looking for Sand-colored Nighthawk and Black-collared Swallow (both along the river) as well as Golden-green Woodpecker, Plain-crested Elaenia, Brown-headed Greenlet, Spangled Cotinga, Amazonian Umbrellabird and Cliff Flycatcher. Orinoco Piculet, Yellow-throated Flycatcher and Plumbeous Euphonia are also possible in this area.
Day 17: Our final morning of the trip will be spent birding the White Sand forests near the community of Sabanitas. This is one of the best spots in the area for several White Sand specialists such as Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Black Manakin, White-naped Seedeater and the very local Yapacana Antbird. Pompadour Cotinga is also here if we have yet to catch up with this stunning bird as is another Cotinga, the cute White-browed Purpletuft as well as Bronzy Jacamar.
It is worth noting that an interesting Antshrike was recently discovered in the Inirida area and it has been determined to be either a massive range extension for Chestnut-backed Antshrike or a new species to science. Just one more great reason to visit Colombia! In the afternoon we will fly back to Bogota where we will spend the final night.