Tuesday, 22 January 2013


We’ve just returned from Colombia where we were leading a 12-night birding tour for Avian Adventures.  Arrangements for the tour were made through ProAves/EcoTurs and we worked alongside their local guide, Juan Carlos Luna.

Although the weather was pretty good throughout the tour and we experienced very little rain or wind, light conditions for photography were often very poor, a common problem, of course, in rainforests.  A few images are included here but lots more remain to be processed.

We flew from London, via Miami, to the country’s second largest city, Medellín and our itinerary took us from there by road to four ProAves reserves - El Paujil, Arrierito Antioqueño, Las Tangaras and  Loro Orejiamarillo.  On our first morning we also stopped for a couple of hours at Rio Claro Reserva Natural.

Rufescent Tiger-Heron

El Paujil reserve was created in 2003 to protect the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow, a species which we unfortunately didn’t manage to see except in temporary captivity - three birds waiting to be re-located.  The huge reserve also contains some of the last intact humid forest in the middle Magdalena valley.

El Paujil

Arrierito Antioqueño protects forests that are home to several Colombian endemic species that we did manage to see including Colombian Chachalaca, White-mantled Barbet, Parker’s Antbird, Black-and-gold Tanager and Red-bellied Grackle.

Cinnamon Flycatcher

Our favourite amongst the reserves we visited was Las Tangaras, described by ProAves as one of the most diverse and important tropical forest sites on earth.  The reserve has an area of 7,076 acres that lie between altitudes of 1,250 and 3,400 metres above sea level.  Golden-ringed Tanager and Black-and-gold Tanager, both Colombian endemics, were among the highlights but the reserve lived up to its name by producing a total of around 20 tanager species during our two days there.
Bay-headed Tanager

 Flame-rumped Tanager

Loro Orejiamarillo is the local name for the Yellow-eared Parrot, a Critically Endangered Colombian endemic.  Yellow-eared Parrots live among wax palms (Ceroxylon quindiuense), the national tree of Colombia, a species which itself is threatened. They nest in the hollow trunks of the palm trees. The story of their decline is a familiar one, involving hunting and habitat destruction, particularly the harvesting of wax palms, which are traditionally cut down and used each year on Palm Sunday.  We blogged here about this bird and the reserve following Peter’s previous visit in 2011.

One of the undoubted highlights of the tour was our visit to an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek on the outskirts of the town of Jardín.  Previous experiences at such leks has involved watching birds in fading evening light with little chance of photography but this was very different.  At least six birds were displaying and although we were often watching them through fairly dense vegetation, sometimes they came close and occasionally sat in the open.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock

Almost everywhere we went there were hummingbird feeders and as a result we were able to get good views of many of the 31 species that were recorded.  They certainly provided a few identification challenges!

Violet-tailed Sylph

Purple-throated Woodstar

June’s enthusiasm for the Picidae was well satisfied with 10 species of the woodpecker family, including the endemic Greyish Piculet.  For Peter, there were just two waders, Spotted Sandpiper and Southern Lapwing.

Lineated Woodpecker

We have another tour in Colombia scheduled for September when our itinerary again includes Las Tangaras, Loro Orejiamarillo and the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek.  That tour will also take us to Rio Blanco Forest Reserve and El Dorado Bird Reserve, the crown jewel of Colombian birding.

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