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.

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