COLOMBIA: THE SOUTHERN ANDES & MITÚ BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Colombia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Day 1 Our tour begins this evening at Bogotá where we will spend two nights.
Colombia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Day 2 This morning we will set out early in order to visit a rarely visited birding location in the Eastern Andes.
Our journey will take us through more open country before we leave the main highway at Monte Redondo and climb up to the type locality for the recently discovered Cundinamarca Antpitta. As with most members of the Grallaria genus, this rather smart endemic is shy and retiring, but these days it often comes to a feeding station.
In the forest areas and bamboo patches, we may well also encounter the endemic Flame-winged Parakeet and no fewer than three near-endemics: Green-bellied Hummingbird, Longuemare’s Sunangel and Ochre-breasted Brushfinch.
A wide range of other species we could easily encounter today includes Broad-winged Hawk, Band-tailed Pigeon, White-vented Plumeleteer, Tyrian Metaltail, White-collared Swift, Masked Trogon, Red-headed Barbet, White-throated Toucanet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Muisca Antpitta (easier to hear than see), Blackish Tapaculo, Black-capped and Golden-faced Tyrannulets, Variegated and Marble-faced Bristle Tyrants, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Speckle-breasted Wren, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Great, Pale-breasted and Black-billed Thrushes, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Red-eyed Vireo, Scrub Greenlet, Thick-billed Euphonia, Slate-throated Whitestart, Tropical Parula, Crested Oropendola, Northern Mountain Cacique, Purple Honeycreeper, the electric-blue Blue-backed Conebill, Glossy, Black, White-sided, Bluish and Masked Flowerpiercers, Common Bush Tanager, and Speckled, Blue-necked, Beryl-spangled and Blue-and-black Tanagers. We may also encounter the uncommon Black-and-chestnut Eagle.
Boreal migrants such as Swainson’s Thrush, Black-and-white, Blackburnian, Blackpoll and Canada Warblers, American Redstart and Summer Tanager are also present.
Roadside birds are likely to include Western Cattle Egret, Turkey and Black Vultures, Roadside Hawk, American Kestrel, Eared Dove, Smooth-billed Ani, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white and Southern Rough-winged Swallows, House Wren, Tropical Mockingbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Saffron Finch, Bananaquit and Magpie, Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers.
Colombia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Day 3 Today we will drive southwards through the Andean valleys to southern Colombia, where we will spend a total of five nights. A total of three nights will be spent the at delightful El Encanto reserve near Palestina in the Pitalito region and two nights a bit further south at Mocoa.
(Note: Trying to fly to Pitalito or the other small towns in southern Colombia is very problematic, otherwise we would do it. There are very few flights, and often nothing direct, and the schedules change regularly, so you can easily end up with major logistical issues late in the day when things change! Driving is much more reliable.)
Colombia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Days 4-7 This is a very rich Andean area, with numerous bird species likely during our stay, some of which are Colombian specialities and some of which have a wider distribution.
Our time in the Palestina region will feature such mega-specialities as the endemic East Andean Antbird and the endemic Dusky-headed Brushfinch but also many other good birds including such endemics or range-restricted specialities as Tolima Blossomcrown, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Short-tailed Emerald, Hooded Antpitta and Magdalena Tapaculo.
Feeders not far from where we stay at El Encanto nowadays attract both Hooded Antpitta and Schwartz’s Antthrush so we have a good chance of some awesome views! At our lodge, the feeders attract Black-striped Sparrows of the form inexpectatus, a potential split.
While exploring the Mocoa area we will be concentrating on the Sachamates Trail, a place where we have a good chance rather than a slim one for the elusive Black Tinamou, and also higher altitude forest at El Trampolín, home to the range-restricted and very localized Spectacled Pricketail.
Among the other great birds in these areas are Subtropical Pygmy Owl, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Black-streaked Puffbird, White-streaked Antvireo, Blue-rumped Manakin, Grey-mantled Wren, White-rimmed Brushfinch, Golden-eyed (or Deep-blue) Flowerpiercer and Blue-browed, Golden-eared and Orange-eared Tanagers. The endemic Red-bellied Grackle has also been found here on rare occasions, so we could get lucky.
Among the many other species that we will be looking for in this part of Colombia are Colombian Chachalaca, Wattled Guan, Chestnut Wood Quail, Swallow-tailed Nightjar, Geoffroy’s Daggerbill, Tourmaline Sunangel, Greenish, Glowing and Emerald-bellied Pufflegs, Bronzy Inca, Mountain Velvetbreast, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Gorgeted Woodstar, Red-billed Emerald, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Tolima Dove, Barred Hawk, White-throated Screech Owl, Rufous-banded Owl, Western Striolated Puffbird, White-throated Toucanet, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, Spot-winged and Spectacled Parrotlets, the Magdalena form of the Maroon-tailed Parakeet, White-capped Parrot and Scaly-naped Amazon.
Passerines include Dusky Leaftosser, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Flammulated Treehunter, Ash-browed Spinetail, Bar-crested Antshrike, White-bellied Antbird, White-bellied, Brown-banded and Chestnut-crowned Antpittas, Northern White-crowned and Long-tailed Tapaculos, Plumbeous-crowned and Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulets, Variegated Bristle Tyrant, Rufous-breasted, Handsome and Apical Flycatchers, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Black-chested Fruiteater, Olivaceous and Dusky Pihas, Rufous-naped Greenlet, Black-collared Jay, Velvet-fronted and Bronze-green Euphonias, Yellow-whiskered, Ashy-throated and Grey-hooded Bush Tanagers, Moustached, and Pale-naped Brushfinches, Subtropical and Northern Mountain Caciques, Golden-fronted Whitestart, White-capped, Rufous-crested, Flame-rumped and Scrub Tanagers, Black-and-white and Slate-colored Seedeaters and Black-headed Hemispingus.
Among the tougher possibilities are Tawny-breasted Tinamou, Spot-fronted Swift and Buff-fronted Owl.
Columbia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Day 8 After some early morning birding near El Encanto we drive back to Bogotá for an overnight stay.
Columbia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Day 9 This morning 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 five nights.
We will arrive in time for some initial exploration of the marvellous Mitú area.
Columbia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Days 10-13 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 ‘Imeri endemics’, which we see on no other tour) and more widespread Amazonian species, and during our visit to the Mitú area it is possible to rack up an impressive list of over 300 species. 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.
The Imeri endemics include the striking Tawny-tufted Toucanet, the tiny Yellow-throated Antwren, Imeri Warbling Antbird, Grey-bellied Antbird, Brown-headed Greenlet and the rare Rio Negro Gnatcatcher.
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, Brown-headed Greenlet, the unusual Plumbeous Euphonia, Red-shouldered Tanager and the rare White-naped Seedeater (though this latter species has become rare in the Mitú 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, typically Amazonian species that we may well see around Mitú. In open country, grasslands and wetlands we may well encounter the smart Green Ibis, Bare-faced Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, Striated and Little Blue Herons, Western Cattle, Great and Snowy Egrets, Neotropic Cormorant, Black, Turkey and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Spotted Sandpiper, Common, Ruddy Ground Doves and Plain-breasted Ground Doves, Fork-tailed Palm Swift, Ringed, Amazon and Green Kingfishers, 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, Duida Woodcreeper (uncommon), Rufous-tailed, Plain-throated, Amazonian Streaked, 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).
Other species likely to be recorded in the Mitú area include Little Tinamou, Double-toothed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Ruddy Pigeon, Eared and Grey-fronted Doves, Smooth-billed Ani, Squirrel Cuckoo, Least Nighthawk, Short-tailed and Grey-rumped Swifts, Great-billed Hermit, White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Green-backed Trogon, Black-fronted Nunbird, Spot-breasted, Crimson-crested and Lineated Woodpeckers, Bat Falcon, Blue-headed Parrot and Mealy and Orange-winged Amazons.
Passerines include Plain-brown, Wedge-billed, Buff-throated and Straight-billed Woodcreepers, Speckled Spinetail (uncommon), White-flanked Antwren, White-cheeked Antbird, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Forest Elaenia, Grey-crowned Flatbill, Ochre-bellied, Dusky-capped, Rusty-margined and Piratic Flycatchers, Bright-rumped Attila, Screaming Piha, the wonderful Amazonian Umbrellabird, Sulphur-rumped Myiobius, White-crowned and Golden-headed Manakins, Black-tailed Tityra, White-browed Purpletuft, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Red-eyed Vireo, Southern Rough-winged and White-winged Swallows, Grey-breasted Martin, House Wren, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Epaulet Oriole, Giant Cowbird, Silver-beaked and Turquoise Tanagers, Yellow-bellied and Blue Dacnises, Red-legged and Green Honeycreepers, Blue-black Grassquit, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Buff-throated Saltator and Amazonian (or Rothschild’s) Grosbeak.
Columbia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Day 14 After some final birding around Mitú, we will fly back to Bogotá for an overnight stay.
Colombia: Southern Andes & Mitú: Day 15 Our tour ends this morning at Bogotá.
(Important Note: The flight schedule to Mitú changes quite frequently, so it is possible that we may have to stay an extra night at Mitú and fly back to Bogotá today. In consequence, it is important that guests do not book a flight out of Bogotá before late this evening. It will be possible to keep the hotel room in Bogotá until at least midday.)