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.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Birding in Rio Blanco

Rio Blanco has been touted as one of the three top places to go birding in the world! The reserve is managed by Aguas de Manizales, the municipal water company for the beautiful city of Manizales. The city is in the center of the famed Coffee Triangle and the hospitality at the reserve is beyond comparison. The reservation covers a large altitudinal gradient, and thus represents a strata of varied ecosystems. It is possible to observe five species of Antpitta within a few hours at the three feeders located within a short hike from the lodge: The endemic Brown-banded, Bicolored, Chestnut-crowned, Chestnut-naped, and Slate-crowned Antpitta. The seldom seen Slaty-backed Nightingale Thrush and Gray-browed Brush-Finch also feast at the feeders. The endemic Rufous-fronted Parakeet and the very rare Masked Saltator are also usually observed in the vicinity of the lodge. Along with endemic and rare species, this area boasts many sought after species that include: Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Golden-faced Redstart, Dusky Piha, Black-billed and Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanagers, Grass-green and White-capped Tanager, Powerful Woodpecker, and the the hard to see Ocellated, Blakish and Spillman’s Tapaculos. Black-billed Peppershrike, Plushcap, Moun¬tain Cacique, and Golden-plumed Parakeet are also options. The reserve boasts several well-maintained hummingbird feeders that attract various speecies of hummingbirds that include Tourmaline Sunangel, Buff-tailed Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy and Collared Inca, Mountain Velvet-breast, the tiny White-bellied Woodstar and Long-tailed Sylph.
Colombia Birdwatch's Birding in Rio Blanco - Central Andes, Colombia  photoset Colombia Birdwatch's Birding in Rio Blanco - Central Andes, Colombia photoset

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Colombia Birdwatch's Birds of El 18 and Surroundings - Western Andes, Colombia photoset Colombia Birdwatch's Birds of El 18 and Surroundings - Western Andes, Colombia photoset

El 18 is located on the pass that connects Cali with the port city of Buenaventura (Colombia's only Pacific Ocean port), at approximately 1,800 meters in elevation. The pass is called El 18 because it is 18 kilometers from downtown Cali, and it is our access into the San Antonio Forest. The forest is classified as a sub-Andean cloud forest, and is characterized by low-lying fogs and mists that are formed when moisture-laden air is blown in from the Pacific. Birding in the forest is done along small gravel roads that pass through fragments of cloud forest with good mixed flock activity. The area is regarded as one of the best places to observe tanagers, a true tanager paradise. Possibilities include Purplish-mantled, Golden, Blue-capped, White-lined, Scrub, Fawn-breasted, Summer, Metallic-green, Saffron-crowned, and Golden-naped Tanagers, as well as Ashthroated Bush-Tanagers and Blue-winged Mountain-tanager. Our target endemic species for this area are the awe-inspiring endemic Multicolored Tanager and Flame-rumped Tanager.

Other birds we might see in this area include, Scarlet-fronted parakeet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Streak-capped Treehunter, Scaled Fruiteater, Green and Black Fruiteater, Yellow-headed Manakin, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Black-billed Peppershrike, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Golden-headed Quetzal, Montane woodcreeper, Redfaced Spinetail, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Streaked Xenops and Narino Tapaculo. It will be easy to see the hyperactive Cinnamon Flycatcher, and a delight to listen to the Andean Solitaire. Along one of the roads, we will visit Esdrujal, a local peasant who maintains feeders and attracts an impressive show of hummingbirds. The following species have been observed at the feeders. Purple-throated Woodstar, Blue-headed Saphire, Booted Raquetail, Brown Violetear, Green Violetear, Fawn-Breasated Brilliant, Greenish Puffleg, Speckled Hummingbird, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, White-necked Jacobin, and Long-billed Starthroat. The San Antonio Forest has over 200 documented species, and is one of the hottest birding destinations in Colombia.

Nearby we will search the Felidia River for the endemic Crested Ant-tanager, Grayish Piculet and Apical Flycatcher. At 5 pm we will visit an active Andean-cock-of-the-rock  lek for some closeup views of this magnificent bird.
Sadly, forest fragmentation and habitat loss have made Colombian cloud forests one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. A fundamental step in conservation is knowledge of the biological resources in the area, and second to that, especially in the Colombian cloud forest, is community involvement in protecting resources. Colombia Birdwatch and Rioja Turismo have partnered up with Mapalina, a non-profit organizations that trains local youths to become birding guides and in turn realize the potentials of protecting the cloud forest they live in. We are very excited about this partnership because this region of Colombia holds a special place in our hearts. Thus, it is our top priority to promote conservation, environmental education, and responsible ecotourism that benefits the local communities and habitats of the area.

Colombia Birdwatch Episode on Birding Adventures TV

Please click on the link below to view the full episode we filmed last December with James Currie of Birding Adventures TV.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Birding and Environmental Education in the Anchicaya Region of Colombia. Western Andes and Choco Bioregion

I have dedicated my first official blog to the Alto and Bajo Anchicaya region, a birding locality in southwestern Colombia. The area is easily accessed from the city of Cali, in the Cauca Valley Department, and is perhaps one of the best birding destinations in Colombia. I also chose this area for my first blog because I am very proud of the work we are doing there with Mapalina Birding Trails  and the students of El Cauchal and Bajo Anchicaya schools.  
The Anchicaya birding route begins in the town of El Queremal, situated on a plateau in the Western Andes Mountains. The recently paved and very lightly traveled road descends towards the port town of Buenaventura, offering birding opportunities along a large altitudinal gradient that includes cloud forests, subtropical foothill forests and Pacific lowland ecosystems. Over 350 species have been registered in the Alto and Bajo Anchicaya, and it is normal to see 100+ species in a day.  Two of the main target species are in the Cotinga family, Black-tipped Cotinga and Long-wattled Umbrellabird, of which males have an inflatable wattle with scaly feathers that they inflate during courtship. Anchicaya is also a true gem for beautiful Tanagers, including Scarlet-and-white, Lemon-rumped, Scarlet-browed, and Blue-whiskered.
Colombia Birdwatch is collaborating with Mapalina Birding Trails to support environmental education projects in the Anchicaya region. Educating the children in the communities that we visit on bird identification, conservation, craftsmanship, English,  and bird guiding, helps promote conservation of the forests, a love of the natural environment, and economic opportunities for the locals in a region where no such opportunities exist.
This year we started a project with Farallones National Park and the El Cauchal and Bajo Anchicaya schools and we have made several visits to the school to start with English, Art and Bird Identification classes. The classes have been an incredible success and we hope to be increasing the frequency of the classes to get our future birders hooked on birding. With a donation of binoculars from The Birders Exchange Program of the American Birding Association, we have been able to equip the kids with their first pairs of binoculars. Some noteworthy species  we encountered on our last trip include Lita Woodpecker, Blue-tailed Trogon, Violet-bellied and Tooth-billed Hummingbirds, Pallid Dove and Indigo-crowned Quail-Dove, Club-winged and White-crowned Manakins, Pale-eyed Thrush and Rufous-brown Solitaire. Please click on the flickr link below the pictures to view the entire album. Enjoy the pictures, and please comment!