EASTERN COLOMBIA: DETAILED ITINERARY
Eastern Colombia: Day 1 Our tour begins in the evening in Bogotá, where we will stay overnight. Transfers from the airport to the hotel will be available.
Eastern Colombia: Day 2 From Bogotá we will take a flight to Mitú, a remote town deep in the Colombian part of Amazonia. We will stay at Mitú for the next seven nights.
We may arrive in time for some initial exploration of the marvellous Mitú area this afternoon.
Eastern Colombia: Days 3-8 Mitú is situated in the Vaupes department in the heart of the Amazonas province of Colombia, close to the Brazilian border.
This fantastic birding location in eastern Colombia has become better-known in recent years, and the town of Mitú is within easy reach of excellent white-sand, varzea and terra firme forests. Located at the edge of the Guianan Shield the verdant forest is interspersed by wide rivers, whilst the landscape is also punctuated by high Tepui-like hills and basalt outcrops.
The avifauna is an interesting mix of Guianan Shield specialities (the so-called Imeri endemics) and more widespread Amazonian species, and in a week it is possible to rack up an impressive list of over 300 species while based at Mitú. Being now in Amazonia for the first time, the majority of these species will be new for our tour list.
During our stay in Mitú, we will head out in different directions to explore the variety of habitats on offer. In such a diverse part of Colombia, with so many potential species on offer, we will necessarily target a particular suite of species that are difficult to come by elsewhere. High on our want list will be the spectacular Chestnut-crested Antbird, a localized species which is regularly found here, alongside the equally localized Grey-bellied Antbird.
The white-sand forests and more open habitats are home to a large number of specialities. Here we will search for the impressive Azure-naped Jay, the colourful Yellow-crowned Manakin and the superb Bronzy Jacamar as well as the smart Brown-banded Puffbird, Spotted Puffbird, the dashing Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Blackish-grey Antshrike, Cherrie’s Antwren, the furtive Rufous-crowned Elaenia, the interesting duidae subspecies of Fuscous Flycatcher, the vocal Citron-bellied Attila, Black Manakin, the localized Brown-headed Greenlet, the unusual Plumbeous Euphonia and the rare White-naped Seedeater (though this species seems to have virtually vanished from this area in recent years).
In more humid areas, a number of other rarities occur. The gorgeous Fiery Topaz is frequently seen and other rare hummers include Streak-throated Hermit and Black-bellied Thorntail. The rarely seen Orinoco Piculet is frequent, as is the superb Tawny-tufted Toucanet. The secretive Black Bushbird occurs in some of the wetter areas and other interesting antbirds may include the rare Black-headed Antbird, the range-restricted Yellow-throated Antwren and Imeri Warbling Antbird, Spot-backed Antwren, Rufous-backed Stipplethroat and the attractive Pearly Antshrike. Cotingas are well-represented, and as well as having an excellent chance of seeing the amazing Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, we may also come across colourful Purple-breasted, Pompadour and Spangled Cotingas.
Several generally scarce but widespread Amazonian species are frequently seen here too including the impressive Bar-bellied Woodcreeper, Slender-billed and Rufous-tailed Xenops, and the difficult to come by White-bellied Dacnis. Other goodies we hope to find include Chestnut-capped Puffbird, the speedy Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Festive Amazon, the amazing Red-fan and colourful Orange-cheeked Parrots, the ant-loving White-chinned Woodcreeper, the secretive Rufous-rumped, Chestnut-winged and Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaners, the smart Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Double-banded Pygmy-Tyrant, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, the water-loving Amazonian Inezia and Amazonian Black Tyrant, the retiring Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin and Brown-winged Schiffornis, and the river-loving Black-collared Swallow.
During our stay, we should also see a few of the tougher and rarer species which have been found here, which include White-throated, Grey-legged, Cinereous and Variegated Tinamous, Sungrebe, Lined and Collared Forest Falcons, Dark-billed Cuckoo, White-chested Puffbird, the colourful Gould’s Jewelfront, Short-billed Leaftosser, Spot-throated Woodcreeper, Spotted and Thrush-like Antpittas, the tricky Cinnamon Neopipo, Ringed Antpipit, Collared Gnatwren or even the rare (Imeri-endemic) Rio Negro Gnatcatcher or the very rare but amazing Red-billed Ground Cuckoo!
There are also many widespread Amazonian species that we may well see around Mitú. In open country and grasslands and whilst travelling between the forested birding locations we may well encounter the smart Green Ibis, Black and Turkey Vultures, Plain-breasted Ground Dove, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Greater Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Lesson’s, Lined and Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Bananaquit and Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers, whilst along the watercourses we will keep an eye out for Black Caracara, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Striped Woodcreeper, Drab Water Tyrant, Silvered and Black-chinned Antbirds, and, at dusk, Band-tailed Nighthawk.
Approaching the forest edge, we may well hear the raucous calls of Speckled Chachalaca or the ear-splittingly noisy Red-throated Caracara. The edge is a great area to observe many species flying between forest patches or perching at the edge, such as the spectacular Scarlet Macaw, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, the scarce Sapphire-rumped and Dusky-billed Parrotlets, Cobalt-winged Parakeet and Black-headed Parrot. Toucans are also often prominent, and these may include Lettered, Many-banded and Ivory-billed Aracaris and splendid White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans. Other species which are more likely to be seen around the forest edge include Swallow-winged Puffbird, Paradise Jacamar, Short-crested, Grey-capped, Crowned Slaty and Sulphury (the latter restricted to palms) Flycatchers, Rusty-fronted, Spotted and Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatchers, and Green and Olive Oropendolas.
Although generally difficult to see in Amazonia (compared to montane areas) a number of hummingbirds do occur, and we’ll keep a keen eye on flowering trees and shrubs for Straight-billed and Reddish Hermits, Amethyst Woodstar, Blue-tailed Emerald, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Versicoloured Emerald and White-chinned Sapphire. There is even a slim chance for Fiery-tailed Awlbill.
Also often attracted to flowering and fruiting trees, and hence easier to see at the forest edge, are a variety of tanagers, including Magpie, Fulvous-crested, Green-and-gold, Yellow-bellied, Masked and Opal-rumped Tanagers, Black-faced Dacnis and the scarce canopy-loving Short-billed Honeycreeper as well as White-vented and Rufous-bellied Euphonias.
Woodpeckers are also well represented, and we should come across several species which may include the huge Red-necked, Yellow-tufted, Red-stained, Yellow-throated, Scaly-breasted and Chestnut Woodpeckers, whilst some subtle hooting from the canopy may lead us to Gilded and Lemon-throated Barbets.
Entering into the forest we will be seeking another set of goodies lurking in the darker forest interior. Here we hope to encounter the spectacular Pavonine Quetzal, as well as Black-tailed and Amazonian Trogons, the furtive Rusty-breasted Nunlet and the stunning Yellow-billed Jacamar. We will be on the lookout for mixed flocks. These are often led by vocal Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antshrikes and can contain a variety of mid-storey and understorey species such as Chestnut-winged Hookbill, the furtive Eastern Woodhaunter, Olive-backed Foliage-gleaner, Ocellated and Lineated Woodcreepers, Rufous-tailed, Plain-throated, Long-winged and Grey Antwrens, Rufous-tailed Flatbill and Tawny-crowned Greenlet, whilst canopy flocks way above us are more likely to include Pygmy and Moustached Antwrens, White-lored and Slender-footed Tyrannulets, Grey-crowned and Ochre-lored Flatbills and Lemon-chested Greenlet.
If we are fortunate, we’ll encounter a small antswarm, and this can create some entertainment as attendant birds grab the insects fleeing from the marauding soldier ants. Likely to be in attendance at such an event are Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Yellow-browed, Sooty and Bicoloured Antbirds and perhaps Coraya Wren or the furtive Rufous-capped or Striated Antthrushes. Pretty Scale-backed, Dot-backed and Spot-backed Antbirds sometimes attend, though are more often found away from ants, and the impressive array of other antbirds that we may encounter include Fasciated, Plain-winged, Mouse-coloured, Amazonian and Spot-winged Antshrikes, and Grey, Black-faced, Spot-winged and Black-throated Antbirds. A strange little call may lead us to the tiny and elusive Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, and other species we may encounter in the forest interior include Ruddy Spinetail, Hauxwell’s Thrush, Golden-crowned and White-crested Spadebills, Greyish Mourner, White-crowned Manakin, Wing-barred Piprites and Cinereous Mourner (this one is a cotinga rather than a tyrant flycatcher).
Eastern Colombia: Day 9 After some final birding around Mitú, we will fly back to Bogotá for an overnight stay.
Eastern Colombia: Day 10 This morning we will be back in the air again as we fly to the far east of Colombia, to the remote town of Inírida (formerly Puerto Inírida), situated on the river of the same name not far from Colombia’s border with Venezuela. We will be spending four nights at Inírida and we will begin our exploration of the surrounding area this afternoon.
Eastern Colombia: Days 11-13 Inírida is a surprisingly bustling little town considering its remote location. It is the Inírida River and the even larger, neighbouring Guaviare River that give it life and also provide an easy smuggling route for every kind of consumer goods for the benighted inhabitants of nearby Venezuela!
From a traveller’s perspective, the most famous draw here is the truly spectacular Cerros de Mavecure; three huge, black, quartzite domes that rise straight out of the jungle beside the Inírida River. The three mountains, which are sacred to the indigenous people of the area, are known as Pajarito (little bird), Mono (monkey) and Mavicuri and are 712 m (2,336 ft), 480 m (1,570 ft), and 170 m (560 ft) respectively in height. They are truly spectacular and we are sure to pay them a visit during our stay.
However, we have come to this little-visited place because it is still one of the best-kept birding secrets in Colombia, indeed still off-the-beaten-track for birding tours. Inírida has a really great selection of birds, including some hard or impossible to see elsewhere.
The most special bird of Inírida, which is not hard to find, is the restricted-range Orinoco Softtail. This is the only currently accessible place where one can see this species.
However, Inírida now has a second special bird, the recently discovered ‘Inirida Antshrike’. There is still debate as to whether this new, as-yet-undescribed form is a full species or a new, very geographically separated, subspecies of the Chestnut-backed Antshrike. Given the morphological differences (Inirida has a black throat and breast, whereas all races of Chestnut-backed are barred) there seems to be a chance it is a new species, although a genetic study suggests otherwise. Mercifully it is not difficult to find around Inírída, so we can form our own opinion.
The Inírida area also shares a number of white-sand forest specialities with Mitú, but in addition, has its own exclusives including Yapacana Antbird, Plain-crested Elaenia, Helmeted Pygmy Tyrant, Pale-bellied Mourner, the strange Capuchinbird and the lovely Rose-breasted Chat, all of which are regularly recorded. We will also have further chances for Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Orinoco Piculet, Blackish-grey Antshrike, Cherrie’s Antwren, Black Manakin, Green Oropendola, Plumbeous Euphonia and and Red-shouldered Tanager. In addition, the chances of seeing the uncommon White-naped Seedeater are much better here than at Mitú.
Other birds of particular interest include Slate-coloured Hawk, White-eared Jacamar, Golden-spangled Piculet, Yellow-crowned Elaenia, Varzea Schiffornis, Masked Cardinal and Velvet-fronted Grackle. We will also have second chances for Great-billed Hermit, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Duida Woodcreeper, Amazonian Streaked Antwren, Imeri Warbling Antbird, Amazonian Black Tyrant, Sulphur-rumped Myiobius, the wonderful Amazonian Umbrellabird, Pompadour Cotinga, the handsome Black-collared Swallow, Brown-headed Greenlet, Amazonian (or Rothschild’s) Grosbeak and Yellow-bellied Dacnis.
More widespread species we may well encounter include Muscovy Duck, Spix’s Guan, Anhinga, Cocoi and Capped Herons, Western Osprey, Black-collared, Savanna and Great Black Hawks, Sunbittern, Russet-crowned Crake, Sungrebe (easier here than at Mitú), Collared Plover, Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, Black Skimmer, Pale-vented and Scaled Pigeons, White-tipped Dove, Least Nighthawk, White-collared Swift, Glittering-throated Emerald, Blue-crowned and Black-throated Trogons, Brown and Green-tailed Jacamars, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Golden-green and Cream-coloured Woodpeckers, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras, Laughing Falcon, Brown-throated Parakeet and Blue-and-yellow, Red-and-green and Chestnut-fronted Macaws (indeed, macaws are still a regular sight around Inírida).
Among the passerines, we could well find Great and Black-crested Antshrikes, Plain Antvireo, Dot-winged Antwrens White-browed Antbird, Long-billed and Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Curve-billed Scythebill, Rusty-backed and Yellow-throated Spinetails, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant, Ruddy-tailed and Euler’s Flycatchers, Lesser Kiskadee, Cinnamon Attila, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Wire-tailed Manakin, White-winged Becard, Violaceous Jay, White-banded Swallow, Thrush-like and Buff-breasted Wrens, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Black-capped Donacobius, Black-billed Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Crested Oropendola, Thick-billed and Golden-bellied Euphonias, Black-faced, Hooded, Grey-headed, Burnished-buff and Summer Tanagers, Grey and Yellow-bellied Seedeaters, Large-billed Seed Finch and Greyish Saltator.
A bonus in the Inírida area is the pink Amazon River Dolphin, as small groups are regularly sighted along the rivers. As with so many creatures, they are an endangered species these days, but they still seem to be doing well in this area. We may also see Collared Titi Monkey.
Eastern Colombia: Day 14 After some final birding around Inírida, we will catch a flight back to Bogotá where our tour ends.