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Magdalena Valley, Guajira Peninsula
and Santa Marta Mountains

15 September–2 October 2024

With over 60 endemic species, Colombia is a must-visit country for birders. This fabulous tour concentrates on endemics in the Magdalena Valley, Guajira Peninsula and Santa Marta Mountains, which hold some of the most endangered birds in the world including Bogota Rail, Recurve-billed Bushbird and many birds with the prefix Santa Marta: Parakeet, Screech Owl, Blossomcrown, Woodstar, Foliage-gleaner, Bush Tyrant, Brushfinch and Warbler.

Day 1 Flight from London to Bogotá where we will transfer to a hotel for the night.

Day 2 Today we will visit three very special places close to Bogot´. Our first stop will be La Florida Park, where we will look for a number of wetland species including Bogota Rail, Apolinar’s Wren, Silvery-throated Spinetail, Noble Snipe, Spot-flanked Gallinule and Subtropical Doradito. Our second stop will be at the “Jardin Encantado” hummingbird house in San Francisco, where we may see up to 16 different species of hummingbird including Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Short-tailed Emerald and Gorgeted and White-bellied Woodstars. Finally, we will visit Laguna El Tabacal where, in the secondary forest, we will look for Blue-lored Antbird, Stripe-breasted Wren, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Rosy Thrush-tanager, Grey-throated Warbler, Stripe-breasted Spinetail and more. At the end of the day we will transfer to Líbano for the night.

Day 3 We will visit the coffee plantations and secondary forest around Líbano village in the morning and in the afternoon move on to the dry forest and fields of Laguna del Hato. The long list of interesting birds we will look for today includes Tolima Dove, Yellow-headed and Black-headed Brushfinches, Crested Ant Tanager, Crowned Woodnymph, Andean Emerald, Bronzy Inca, Dwarf and Squirrel Cuckoos, Barred and Moustached Puffbirds, White-throated Toucanet, Azara’s Spinetail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Bar-crested Antshrike, Golden-winged Manakin, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Mountain Elaenia, Buff-breasted and Whiskered Wrens, Scrub and Rufous-naped Greenlets, Bay-headed, Crimson-backed, Golden and Plain-coloured Tanagers, Black-winged Saltator, Velvet-fronted Euphonia, Apical, Dusky-capped, Fork-tailed, Panama and Vermilion Flycatchers, Pearl Kite, Common and Ruddy Ground Doves, Yellow-crowned Amazon, Short-tailed and White-collared Swifts, Western Slaty-antshrike, Northern White-fringed Antwren, Jet Antbird, Pale-breasted Thrush, Buff-rumped and Chestnut-capped Warblers, White-eared Conebill, Grassland Sparrow, Slate-coloured, Ruddy-breasted, Grey and Yellow-bellied Seedeaters and Blue-black Grassquit. In the late afternoon we will transfer to Victoria for the night.

Day 4 This morning we will visit the Bellavista Natural Reserve in Victoria municipality, a small but really nice reserve in the Caldas department. In the afternoon we will transfer to Canon del Rio Claro in Rio Claro Natural Reserve, stopping en route for speciality birds. Birds of particular interest we will look for today include White-mantled Barbet, Beautiful Woodpecker, Antioquia Bristle Tyrant, Sooty Ant Tanager, Black-faced, Golden-hooded and Tawny-crested Tanagers, Tody Motmot, Cocoa and Streak-headed Woodcreepers, Red-billed Scythebill, Ochre-bellied and Streaked Flycatchers, Striolated and White-bearded Manakins, Streaked and Buff-throated Saltators, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Great and Snowy Egrets, Cocoi and Little Blue Herons, Bare-faced Ibis, Wood Stork, Jabiru, Roadside Hawk, Yellow-headed Caracara, American Kestrel, Large-billed Tern, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Pied Water Tyrant and White-winged Swallow. Three nights in Rio Claro Natural Reserve.

Days 5–6 We will spend both days in the Rio Claro Natural Reserve where we will enjoy the incredible humid tropical forest with its amazing biodiversity. Possible birds in this habitat include Colombian Chachalaca, Citron-throated Toucan, Bay and Black-bellied Wrens, Black-headed Tody-flycatcher, Marbled Wood Quail, Chestnut-backed and Magdalena Antbirds, Stripe-throated Hermit, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, White-tailed Trogon, Pied and White-whiskered Puffbirds, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Pacific Antwren, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Southern Bentbill, Long-tailed Tyrant, Rufous Piha, Blue Cotinga, Yellow-browed Shrike-vireo, Black-chested Jay, Scarlet-browed and Scrub Tanagers, White-eared Conebill, Slate-coloured Seedeater, Large-billed and Thick-billed Seed Finches, Masked Yellowthroat, Orange-crowned Oriole and Fulvous-vented Euphonia. One afternoon we will visit Aquitania Forest (also humid tropical forest) where we may add some species including Black-billed Flycatcher, Black Antshrike and Bare-crowned Antbird.

Day 7 We will move on this morning to San Vicente de Chucuri, a small town in the mountains where the Cerulean Warbler Reserve is located. This is a great reserve established to protect migratory birds as well as other endemic and endangered species. We will stop for birding en route to search for the near-endemic Northern Screamer and in the afternoon change to 4x4 vehicles to climb up to the reserve. Two nights in San Vicente de Chucuri.

Day 8 The whole day will be spent in the Cerulean Warbler Reserve in the Yariguies National Natural Park searching for a number of speciality birds including Gorgeted Wood Quail, Black Inca, Parker’s Antbird, Long-tailed and Magdalena Tapaculos, Highland Tinamou, Red-headed Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Spotted Barbtail, Ochre-breasted and White-bellied Antpittas, White-throated and Yellow-throated Spadebills, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Pavonine Cuckoo and Golden-winged Manakin.

Day 9 In the morning we will bird around the coffee plantations of the reserve before moving on to Ocaña municipality, close to the Bushbird reserve. Birds we will look for in the reserve include White-fronted Tyrannulet, Band-backed and Bicoloured Wrens, Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, Turquoise Dacnis and Niceforo's Wren. Two nights in Ocaña.

Day 10 We will spend all day in the bamboo and secondary forest of the Bushbird reserve. The target bird will, of course, be Recurve-billed Bushbird but there are many other species present here including Streaked Spinetail, Black-fronted Wood Quail, Lined Quail-dove, Long-tailed Antbird, Orange-billed Nightingale-thrush, Chestnut-capped and Moustached Brushfinches, White-bibbed Manakin, Band-tailed Guan, Lazuline Sabrewing, Black-headed, Burnished-buff and Speckled Tanagers, Chestnut-bellied and Yellow-legged Thrushes, Yellow-bellied Siskin and Cliff Flycatcher.

Day 11 We will spend the whole of today making the long transfer north to Riohacha on the Caribbean coast. We will break the journey with birding stops for such species as Double-striped Thick-knee, Buff-necked and Green Ibis and Black-collared Hawk. Overnight in Riohacha.

Day 12 This morning we will visit the Los Flamencos National Park before making our first visit to Santa Marta in the afternoon. We can add many species to our lists in this dry thorn-scrub habitat including Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Pale-breasted and White-whiskered Spinetails, Vermilion Cardinal, Harris's Hawk, Common Black Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, American Kestrel, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Brown-throated and Blue-crowned Parakeets, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Burrowing Owl, Red-billed Emerald, Buffy Hummingbird, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Whooping Motmot, Russet-throated Puffbird, Chestnut Piculet, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Caribbean Hornero, Black-crested and Black-backed Antshrikes, White-fringed Antwren, Northern Scrub Flycatcher, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Slender-billed Tyrannulet, Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant, Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant, Brown-crested, Social, Streaked and Venezuelan Flycatchers, Bicoloured Wren, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Tropical Mockingbird, Blue-grey and Glaucous Tanagers, Tocuyo Sparrow, Black-faced Grassquit, Grey Pileated and Saffron Finches, Olive-grey and Orinocan Saltators and Yellow Oriole. At the end of the day we will transfer to Minca for the night.

Days 13–14 We will explore the beautiful humid tropical forest around Minca in the morning looking for various species including Scaled Piculet and Golden-winged Sparrow, then transfer to El Dorado Lodge in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains in the afternoon. Despite having been in Colombia for two weeks, today is likely to be filled with new birds. Possibilities include the endemics Santa Marta Screech Owl, Santa Marta Sabrewing (critically endangered), Santa Marta Woodstar, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Blossomcrown, Santa Marta and Brown-rumped Tapaculos, Santa Marta Antbird, Santa Marta and Sierra Nevada Antpittas, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Santa Marta Bush Tyrant, Hermit Wood Wren, Yellow-crowned Whitestart, Santa Marta and White-lored Warblers, Santa Marta and Sierra Nevada Brushfinches and Black-cheeked Mountain Tanager, as well as Black Hawk-eagle, Military Macaw, Scarlet-fronted and Orange-chinned Parakeets, Red-billed Parrot, Black-fronted Wood Quail, White-tipped Dove, White-collared and Chestnut-collared Swifts, Brown and Lesser Violetears, Coppery Emerald, White-vented Plumeleteer, Steely-vented Hummingbird, Groove-billed Toucanet, Collared Aracari, Keel-billed Toucan, Golden-olive, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, White-tipped Quetzal, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Greenish and Forest Elaenias, Yellow-olive, Piratic and Yellow-breasted (Ochre-lored) Flycatchers, Cinereous, Cinnamon and White-winged Becards, Masked Tityra, Rufous-breasted Wren, Black-hooded and Black-billed Thrushes, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Brown-capped Vireo, Purple Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Bay-headed, Black-headed, Black-capped, Palm, White-lined and Crimson-backed Tanagers, Yellow-backed Oriole, Crested Oropendola and Thick-billed Euphonia. During the northern winter months these foothills harbour a good number of North American breeding migrants including Swainson’s Thrush, Yellow-throated Vireo, Tennessee, Golden-winged, Cerulean, Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Summer Tanager. Two nights at El Dorado Lodge.

Day 15 We will spend the day revisiting the lowland areas of the Santa Marta Mountains to look for any species we may have missed thus far. Overnight in Santa Marta.

Day 16 This morning will see us birding the mangrove and beach habitats of Salamanca National Park together with Km 4 and the University of the North in Barranquilla; the tropical dry forest around the latter forming a refuge for local birds in the midst of a highly-populated city. Species we hope to see in the Salamanca area include the critically-endangered Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird together with Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, Bicoloured Conebill, Golden-green Woodpecker, Stripe-backed Wren, Turquoise-winged Parrotlet, Cattle Tyrant, Savanna Hawk and Snail Kite. Other species we should see this morning include Limpkin, Striped Cuckoo, Crane Hawk, Orange-winged Amazon, White-bellied Antbird and Trinidad Euphonia. In the afternoon we will catch a flight to Bogotá. Overnight in Bogotá.

Day 17 Morning flight back to London arriving in the early morning of Day 18.

General Information Colombia can be hot and humid at this time of year so we will spend a lot of time birding in the early morning and evening and spend the middle of the day, when bird activity is relatively low, either back at the hotel/lodge or transferring between sites. There are some health requirements so please consult your doctor. Only a general degree of fitness is required, although the heat and humidity can be tiring at times. Security is not a problem and we will travel only to areas approved by the British Foreign Office. Visas are required.

Group SizeMinimum number for tour to go ahead: 5; maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader.

Russet-throated Puffbird

Russet-throated Puffbird

Recommended books available from NHBS