Welcome to the Colombia Birdwatch Blog, hosted by Owner/Operator Christopher Calonje. I was born and raised in Cali, Colombia, and have been leading birding and nature tours throughout all regions of Colombia since 2008. I have always carried a camera on my travels, becoming an enthusiast of bird and lanscape photography. This blog is intended to be a showcase of the spectacular birds and scenery that one can experience in the five major regions of Colombia: Andean, Pacific, Caribbean, Amazon, and Orinoco. Subscribers will be able to keep track of my travels throughout Colombia,and view the birds and scenery I photograph during these amazing trips. The idea is that folks will learn about the plethora of birding localities that can be visited in Colombia, in hopes of encouraging birders to visit a country that holds 20% of the world's species of birds in less than 1% of the world's landmass.
I pride myself in knowing the ins and outs of Colombia, its mind-boggling avian diversity, diverse geography, amazing people, delicious food and interesting culture. I find extreme joy in showing off my country to birders and naturalists from around the globe, and want to extend an invitation to all of you to come visit the most avian-rich country on the planet.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Colombia Birdwatch January 2014 Tour

We had a marvelous time birding with some folks from Oregon and California during out 14-day Western and Central Andes and Choco Specialties Tour. We visited Finca La Araucana, El 18, and Upper Anchicaya on the first leg of our trip. For Photos and videos visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/74491075@N05/sets/72157640615128833/ January 13, 2014: Finca La Araucana, Bichacue Yath and Andean Cock-of-the-rock Lek Our first full day of birding began at Finca La Araucana, where we were met by 3 individuals of Smoky-brown Woodpecker, American Redstart, Blue-black Grassquit and a Squirrel Cuckoo flying around us. The “guadua” (bamboo) greenhouses provided an entertaining show of a family of Spectacled Parrotlets, and it was nice to be received by Alvaro Calonje with some coffee and tea on the balcony. The show started with Crimson-rumped Toucanet and a myriad of tanagers, including Summer, Scrub, Flame-rumped, Golden, Hepatic and Fawn-breasted. A flowering “guayacan” tree, with its impressive yellow flowers, attracted Rusty Flowerpiercer and an impressive amount of hummingbirds that included Long-billed Starthroat, Black-throated Mango, White-necked Jacobin, and Western and Andean Hummingbirds. A very productive morning ended with a lunch consisting of a “tamal” on the canopy terrace of the Bichacue Yath reserve, where we were blessed with incredible views of the endemic Colombian Chachalaca. The excitement in the air was felt by everyone, and it was no secret that we were all very eager to get to El Pato, bordering the Farallones National Park. We arrived at Jaime Certuche’s place, where he greeted us and shared his story with the group. An avid hunter, Jaime changed his ways recently and now considers himself a conservationist, caring for an active Andean Cock-of-the-rock Lek on his property that he graciously allowed us to visit. A life bird for half of the group, 6 individuals entertained us for a few hours, making the steep but short hike worth our while. Content, we enjoyed some organic coffee and fried bread offered by our hosts before heading to the hotel in Km 18 for s nice dinner and rest. January 14, 2014: Anchicaya The first birds of the day were Torrent Tyrannulet and Yellow-faced Grassquit just outside El Queremal. As we descended the western slope of the western Andes in the Anchicaya region, our first stop yielded Glistening-green Tanager and excellent views of Brown-billed Scythebill. A superb day for hummingbirds, we were able to add Green Thorntail, Empress Brilliant, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Booted Racketatil, Violet-tailed Sylph, Green-crowned Woodnymph, and Greenish Puffleg to the list. The group certainly enjoyed the very handsome Ornate Flycatcher, and Orange-bellied Euphonia was certainly a crowd-pleaser. We arrived at “El Descanso” (The Rest Stop) and met Doña Dora and her grandson Josman, a young birder who was as excited as can be to receive his first pair of binoculars, a thoughtful gift by Jim and Linda Thomason. A small colony of Chestnut-headed Oropendolas nests near the house, so we enjoyed these before we set out on a shot walk as the activity at the feeders was low. We enjoyed great views of Bat Falcon, Lemon-rumped Tanager and Silver-throated Tanager before lunch. A delectable lunch was followed by an hour of rest and before some great afternoon birding. Most notably we saw Red-headed Barbet, Black-billed Peppershrike, and Rufous-throated Tanager before a light rain had us in the van and on the way to the hotel for a nice dinner, list-making and rest. January 15, 2014: El 18 We started the day walking along the road close to the Hotel where birding is very productive. We heard many birds like the endemic Chestnut Wood-quail, Russet-crowned Warbler and others. Suddenly the birds began to appear and we had views of Streak-capped Treehunter, Scaly-naped Parrot and the first view of the special and endemic Multicolored Tanager. Afterwards we took the road to The Raul’s Place “the hummer’s paradise”. Just after getting off the van we started to enjoy the plethora of hummingbirds and tanagers visiting the feeders, the experience with the hummers was very close and the photographers were especially excited. Our trip list began to grow; Long-tailed Sylph, Brown Violetear, Buff-tailed coronet, Purple-throated Woodstart, White-necked Jacobin, amongst other hummingbirds. Tanagers included Saffron-crowned, Golden, Golden-naped, Black-capped, and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager. Of course, Red-headed Barbet showed off for us before we began our hike along the road from Raul’s place. The activity was hectic, everyone commenting on what an amazing time they were having. Some of the specialties we saw included Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Green-and-black Fruiteater, a very special and close view of Tawny-bellied Hermit eating insects, and the amazing Collared. The highlight of the day was most definitely views of a pair of Golden-headed Quetzal building a nest. The female and the male gave us a solemn nature show, On our way back to lunch the rare Scaled Fruiter made an appearance, and the group had a very pleasant Tapaculo experience, in this case with the near endemic Nariño Tapaculo. After lunch we walked along the same road seeing similar birds, adding specialties such as Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Golden-winged Manakin, we had again another special experience with the Quetzal and better views of the endemic and vulnerable Multicolored Tanager. We went back to the Hotel to have an early dinner and prepare for our early morning departure down the western slope of the western Andes towards San Cipriano, in the Pacific Region.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Birding with the Portland Audubon Society in Colombia

Had an excellent trip with Dan Van den Broek and his group from the Portland Audubon Society touring all three Andean Ranges and the Santa Marta Mountains and Caribbean Coast. More than 350 species in 12 days of birding at a leisurely pace provided some great times. An amazing number considering we did not use lasers or playback on this trip! One of the most memorable highlights was seeing six antpittas in one day at Rio Blanco, but this was not shadowed by seeing the endemic and recently described Santa Marta Screech-owl in Santa Marta, or the fascinating Bearded Helmetcrest in the paramo of Los Nevados National Park in the Central Andes. Our adventure started in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and home to many urban wetlands that can provide excellent opportunities for the endemic Bogota Rail and the endemic Silvery-throated Spinetail, both of which we had good views of.
Colombia Birdwatch's El 18 - Western Andes - Colombia photoset Colombia Birdwatch's El 18 - Western Andes - Colombia photoset
We then headed to Cali, where our welcome dinner with empanadas and “Lulo” juice were accompanied by a nice serenade. Breakfast at Raul’s place in El 18 was a mesmerizing experience, with a circus of colors offered up by Red-headed Barbet and more than ten species of tanagers including Saffron-crowned, Blue-winged, Blue-capped, Flame-rumped, and a show by one of the trip targets: Multicolored Tanager. Not to mention the Golden-headed Quetzal that we all had great views of. In all, the Western Andes treated us stupendously, not only for the birds but for the nice tour of the Dolmetsch Arboretum, the pristine San Antonio Cloud Forest and the fairy’s of the moss gardens of the Bichacue Yath Reserve. Down in the Cauca Valley, between the Western and Central Andes, we visited the vast wetlands of the Sonso Lagoon Reserve near Buga. We were successful with our targets at the lagoon, most importantly Apical Flycatcher and Grayish Piculet. People also enjoyed the variety if aquatics including Blakish Rail and the nay herons and egrets utilizing the reserve. We certainly enjoyed the pool at our colonial style hotel before embarking on a drive up the Central Andes towards the Otun-Quimbaya Sanctuary.
Colombia Birdwatch's Birding in Sonso Lagoon - Cauca Valley, Colombia photoset Colombia Birdwatch's Birding in Sonso Lagoon - Cauca Valley, Colombia photoset
A couple of days at the reserve were plenty to get acquainted with Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and Cauca Guan, a species that was thought to be extinct until the population of the sanctuary was rediscovered in 1990. Another highlight of the trip was Torrent Duck, which the entire group was able to see. En route to Rio Blanco, the next reserve on the itinerary, we stopped for birding at a small lake with interesting finds such as Laughing Gull and Lesser Scaup. A gondola ride above the city of Manizales was a great way to end the afternoon, as we were all excited to spend the next few days birding at the Rio Blanco Reserve. Of course the highlights at Rio Blanco were Undulated, Bicolor, Brown-banded, Chestnut-crowned, Slate-crowned, and Chesnut-naped Anpittas all seen in one day! But we cannot leave out Powerful Woodpecker and Golden-plumed Parakeet from the long list of amazing birds we saw at Rio Blanco. Our day in the paramo of Los Nevados National Park was also very rewarding as we saw Bearded Helmetcrest, Tawny Antpitta, and Andean Tit-spinetail.
Colombia Birdwatch's Otun Quimbaya and Los Lagos, Central Andes, Colombia  photoset Colombia Birdwatch's Otun Quimbaya and Los Lagos, Central Andes, Colombia photoset
From the Central Andes we flew to Barranquilla, to bird the mangroves of Salamanca National Park. It was a nice surprise to run into Prothonotary Warbler, and the group enjoyed views of Pied Water-tyrant and Brown-throated Parakeet. From Isla Salamanca we traveled along the Caribbean Coast to Cienaga, where we began our ascent into the foothills of the Santa Marta Mountains. Our creek side hotel in Minca was quite nice, and to our surprise we began the next day of birding with Keel-billed Toucan working the trees above the hotel. A morning walk was productive observing birds in the gardens and yards of Minca, including Carib Grackle, White-headed Wren and Rufous-tailed Jacamar. Befor departing Minca we had lunch at Hotel Minca which has some great hummingbird feeders. As we arrived we saw Masked Tityra, and then enjoyed the diversity of hummingbirds from the balcony that include white-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, and Santa Marta Woodstar.
Colombia Birdwatch's Rio Blanco - Central Andes, Colombia photoset Colombia Birdwatch's Rio Blanco - Central Andes, Colombia photoset
The drive to El Dorado lodge was bumpy but a few stops along the way allowed us to see the endemic Santa Marta Brush-finch and Red-billed Parrot. We arrived at the lodge before it was dark and enjoyed the nice meal and the installations El Dorado had to offer. The next day the group was birding before breakfast as the lodge has very well-maintained feeders and the activity is always high. The feeders provided fabulous views of Blue-naped Chlorophonia as well as Colombian Brush-finch, the endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet, Bronzy Inca and Masked Flowerpiercer. After breakfast we headed up the hill towards Cerro Kennedy, where the views are awe-inspiring. At the top of the hill we saw the endemic Santa Marta Bush-tyrant and the near endemic Streak-capped Spinetail. After a morning at high elevations we began our descent and were pleasantly surprised at views of both a male and a female near endemic White-tipped Quetzal. An even better surprise was the views of the near endemic Black-fronted Wood-quail from the lodge balcony and the endemic Santa Marta Screech-owl roosting next to the cabins. Our next morning we had breakfast and then started hiking down the hill along the road. Some of the highlights of birding on the road down to Minca included Swallow Tanager, Long-billed Hermit at the store with the jam for sale, and Groove-billed Toucanet just below the store. After a long birding trip, we ended the trip with a few days of relaxing on the beach and snorkeling.
Colombia Birdwatch's Birding in the Santa Marta Region - Northern Colombia photoset Colombia Birdwatch's Birding in the Santa Marta Region - Northern Colombia photoset

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Anchicaya Community Education and Birding (12 photos) Colombia Birdwatch and Mapalina Birding Trail are working on a community education project with the schools in anchicaya, on the old road to buenaventura in the Cauca Valley Department, western Andes. We had a great time with the students and had some awesome birding.
Colombia Birdwatch's Birding and Community education in Anchicaya photoset Colombia Birdwatch's Birding and Community education in Anchicaya photoset