November 27th-December 11th
This was a wonderful trip and Colombia fully lived up to its reputation as the world’s best birding country. 436 species, including 34 endemics, were seen and among them were many spectacular and memorable encounters from antpittas to hummingbirds and from parrots to cocks-of-the-rock. A big thank you goes to our Colombian guide, Juan Carlos Luna, as his expert knowledge was instrumental in finding many of these birds.
November 27th – London to Bogota.
After a smooth flight from Heathrow via Paris we touched down at Bogota’s El Dorado airport in the final minutes of daylight and in just enough time to find our first South American birds, which included Eared Dove and Cattle Egret. Then it was off through the city’s streets, which were already heavily decorated with Christmas lights – sometimes to an exceptionally over-the-top extent – to the hotel to meet our Colombian bird guide Juan and for a well-earned rest.
November 28th – Bogota to Ibague.
We began our birding in misty conditions at the wetlands of La Florida park on the outskirts of Bogota, quickly noting ‘bread-and-butter’ species such as Great Thrush, Tropical Kingbird and Rufous-collared Sparrow. The marshy area yielded Bare-faced Ibis, Blue-winged Teal, Striated Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, American Coot of the yellow-billed colombiana race and Yellow-headed Blackbird. Perhaps the key target species here was Bogota Rail, and we were lucky that at least two birds showed themselves well. Further searching produced a pair of Spot-flanked Gallinules, Pied-billed Grebe and a gathering of Southern Lapwings. La Florida’s other Colombian endemics, Apolinar’s Wren and Silvery-throated Spinetail, were not as obliging as the rail and the former was only heard, albeit at very close range, while the latter played hide-and-seek in a clump of bushes before eventually showing well. Other landbirds here included Band-tailed Seedeater, Andean Siskin, Broad-winged and Roadside Hawks, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Tennessee Warbler, American Redstart and Northern Waterthrush. Following a breakfast of fruit, cookies and coffee we headed north to the ‘Enchanted Garden’, a private residence surrounded by birdfeeders, where we enjoyed excellent close views of 13 species of hummingbirds including the endemic Indigo-capped, which was very common. Black-throated Mango, White-vented Plumeleteer and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird were also present in dozens, while White-bellied and Gorgeted Woodstars and White-necked Jacobin put in regular appearances. Other garden birds included Crimson-backed, Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonia and Bananaquit. Then, after lunch nearby, we drove to Ibague for the night noting Yellow-headed Caracara, White-collared Swift and Smooth-billed Ani along the way.
Black-throated Mango female
November 29th: Ibague to Manizales.
A couple of heavy-duty jeeps picked us up before dawn and negotiated the steep and rutted track up to Clarita Botero. Almost immediately upon arrival we found a mixed flock containing Black-capped and Golden Tanagers and Blue-naped Chlorophonia, followed swiftly by a group of Yellow-headed Brush-Finches – an endemic and one of our main target species – which showed well. A stunning male Cerulean Warbler was a welcome surprise, and we also watched Blue-necked Tanagers and a Slaty Brush-Finch through the mist as it rolled past along the hillside. A Scale-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant showed well low down in a nearby bush and Swainson’s and Glossy-black Thrushes put in brief appearances. Several Stiles’s Tapaculos and Whiskered Wrens were heard, including one of the latter which was glimpsed through the undergrowth. The Chestnut-capped Brush-Finches were similarly skulking until one finally gave itself up and showed well at the far end of the trail. At the same spot a Chestnut Wood-Quail was heard and a pair of Andean Solitaires showed exceedingly well at low level. Retracing our steps we had splendid views of a pair of Highland Motmots that we had previously heard, and an equally good look at an Emerald Toucanet which was one of three seen during the morning. Further down the hill we encountered Buff-tailed Coronet, Speckled Hummingbird and Green Violetear. A Metallic-green Tanager showed briefly along with Bay-headed and Saffron-crowned Tanagers. Slate-throated Whitestarts became more common as the morning wore on, and a pair of Golden-crowned Flycatchers showed well close to where our jeeps were waiting. After lunch in Ibague, where Ruddy Ground-Dove, White-tailed Kite and Great Kiskadee were added to the trip list, we headed for our hotel in Manizales via Armenia.
November 30th: Rio Blanco.
The hummingbird feeders were just starting to get busy when we reached the lodge at the Rio Blanco reserve at just after 6am, with Buff-tailed Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangel, Green Violetear and Long-tailed Sylph all much in evidence, along with Masked Flowerpiercers just beside the balcony. Before breakfast we had a very important appointment with some antpittas. We followed the ‘worm man’ up the hill, took our seats in the arena and waited for the show to begin, which did not take long as Chestnut-crowned and the endemic Brown-banded Antpittas virtually took food out of his hand. We had more stunning views of both species during the next hour and in addition Hooded, Slate-crowned, Chestnut-naped and Bicoloured Antpittas were heard. After breakfast we progressed slowly up the hill making stops for Fawn-breasted Brilliant, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Sharpe’s Wren, Grey-hooded Bush-tanager, Black-capped Hemispingus, Black-crested Warbler, Capped Conebill, Mountain Velvetbreast, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Tyrannine Woodcreeper and Barred Becard. We were very fortunate that a group of three Chestnut Wood-Quail crossed the road just behind us and gave brief but good views. Further up the hill the new birds kept coming with Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher and Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher among the additions to the list, while Golden-fronted Whitestarts were seemingly everywhere. A busy few minutes produced excellent views of two beautiful but often skulking species, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager and White-naped Brush-Finch, while White-throated and White-tailed Tyrannulets and a trio of Streaked Xenops were also added to the list. The frequent accompaniment of the songs of Blackish and Stiles’s Tapaculos finally culminated in one of the latter being glimpsed at close range on the hillside. After lunch we walked a trail at the top of the hill where Lachrymose Mountain-Tanager showed briefly and Black-billed Mountain-Toucan was heard in the distance. Neither Blackish or Ocellated Tapaculos could be tempted into view despite both singing from very close by. Greater success was had with Rufous Wren, Russet-crowned Warbler, Montane Woodcreeper and Olive-striped Flycatcher, which all showed well. Part two of our antpitta extravaganza took place at the lower feeding station, where Chestnut-crowned and Brown-banded again showed very well, a Stripe-headed Brush-Finch was equally obliging and a Masked Trogon lingered at close range. Best of all, though, were three White-capped Tanagers, one of which came in very close to inspect us and gave remarkably good views in the process. As darkness began to fall our time in the reserve was not yet over. A return to the upper trail at dusk yielded stunning views of both Band-winged Nightjar and Rufous-banded Owl, which rounded off what was undoubtedly a red-letter day’s birding for all.
December 1st: Rio Blanco and Otun-Quimbaya.
We made an unscheduled return visit to Rio Blanco this morning due to the road to Los Nevados being washed away by recent heavy rains. This proved to be a productive alternative in that it allowed us to catch up with a number of species that we had not seen yesterday. After breakfast at the lodge, watching hummingbirds and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers, we set off up the hill, finding quite a few of the same species as yesterday, plus plenty of new ones. A large party of Golden-plumed Parakeets dropped in and performed well for a while. Stiles’s Tapaculo again showed briefly for a lucky few. At the top of the hill things really began to hot up with a pair of Blue-capped Tanagers and some Lachrymose Mountain-Tanagers seen at the junction, followed in quick succession by an obliging Dusky Piha and some very confiding Rusty-faced Parrots. Working our way slowly along the trail we also encountered Azara’s Spinetail, Long-tailed Antbird, Blue-and-black Tanager, Pale-edged Flycatcher and a group of Black-collared Jays. At the furthest point, just where the forest gave way to farmland, we found a Green-and-black Fruiteater and, best of all, a pair of unashamedly gaudy Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers which posed well for several minutes. A Pearled Treerunner bade us farewell as we rounded off a very successful unscheduled visit. After lunch in Manizales we headed south towards La Suiza lodge in the Otun-Quimbaya reserve, adding Acorn Woodpecker to the list along the way. We arrived at the lodge in time for the final couple of hours of daylight and set off birding straight away. The lodge’s gardens were so productive that we occupied ourselves fully until dusk without venturing more than 20 metres from the building! The star attractions were undoubtedly some very showy Red-ruffed Fruitcrows and several endemic Cauca Guans which perched high in the surrounding trees. Other ‘goodies’ included Black-billed Peppershrike, Blue-necked, Black-capped and Scrub Tanagers, Rusty-margined Flycatcher and Montane Foliage-gleaner. An excellent end to another excellent day.
December 2nd: Otun-Quimbaya to Santa Marta.
Luckily the night’s torrential rain ceased just as the sun rose. A pair of ludicrously bright Flame-rumped Tanagers and a pair of Red-ruffed Fruitcrows were among the first birds seen before breakfast. The latter species turned out to be common along the track leading from the lodge, where Cauca Guans were also abundant as we must have seen more than 20 during the course of the morning. Birding was hard work to begin with, apart from the fruitcrows and guans, but things soon picked up with a fine male Collared Trogon and then a big mixed flock containing Golden Tanager, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Slaty-capped Flycatcher and Bluish Flowerpiercer. Hummingbirds foraging along the trail included three Booted Racket-tails (one male with rackets and two females), several Speckled Hummingbirds and a brief Bronzy Inca. A Bronze-winged Parrot didn’t hang around long but a group of three Green Jays and two or three Sickle-winged Guans were more obliging. A Chestnut-breasted Wren continued the pattern for its family by being extremely skulking and elusive, but it was eventually glimpsed a few times. Several Highland Motmots and a female Collared Trogon gave much better views. Just as it was time to leave a good morning turned into a brilliant one in the space of a few minutes when our two target endemics, Multicoloured Tanager and Crested Ant-Tanager, showed well in the same flock in quick succession. Our flight to Santa Marta ran smoothly and on time, enabling us to spend half an hour birding close to the airport at dusk. Royal Terns, Turkey Vultures and a Pearl Kite were seen on the way to the site. The key target species, Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, was ticked off within minutes and in total we saw about 10 birds gathering to roost. Also seen were White-tipped Dove, Lesser Nighthawk, Pale-legged Hornero and Social Flycatcher.
Santa Marta Brush-Finch
December 3rd: Minca to El Dorado.
After a 6 o’clock start the jeeps had only driven a few hundred yards from the hotel when we made an impromptu stop to watch a group of Orange-chinned Parakeets. It turned out that we had chanced upon a real hot-spot as one good bird after another showed itself. Rufous-and-white Wren, Golden-winged Sparrow, Rufous-capped and Tennessee Warblers, Crimson-backed Tanager, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Crested Oropendola, Slender-billed Tyrannulet and Santa Marta Sabrewing all followed in quick succession and we were rooted to the spot for more than an hour. Eventually moving slowly down the hill we added Buff-throated and Streaked Saltators, Whooping Motmot, Rufous-breasted Wren and Greenish Elaenia. A Keel-billed Toucan called in the distance, a Rosy Thrush-Tanager was closer but equally invisible, and a pair of Black-backed Antshrikes showed very well. All morning we had been hearing the calls of Santa Marta Foliage-gleaners, so it was with excellent timing that one finally gave superb views at very close range just before a heavy shower set in and hastened a move for breakfast. We had only walked about 100 metres in three-and-a-half hours of birding! For birders who remember the pot-holed entrance tracks to RSPB reserves like Minsmere and Elmley, we used to joke that the rougher the track, the better the birds on the reserve. This certainly applied to the road to El Dorado lodge, where the track was 100 times worse than the British reserves and the birds probably better and more plentiful in a similar proportion. It was the most rutted, pot-hole-ridden road that most of us had ever encountered, but what a road it was for birds! Again we stopped frequently for one bird but ended up staying for 20 minutes or half an hour and adding a hatful of others. Highlights included Coppery Emerald, a group of Black-chested Jays, a pair each of Collared Aracari and Crimson-crested Woodpecker and Streak-headed, Plain-brown and Ruddy Woodcreepers, the last being a normally rare and elusive species which gave exceptionally close and confiding views as it attended an ant-swarm. In mid-afternoon the heavens opened so we took refuge in a small café where the feeders attracted female Black-headed Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager and nearly 20 Blue-naped Chlorophonias. This gathering, though, was eclipsed by the throng of birds present at the feeders at El Dorado lodge, where hummers included the endemic Santa Marta Woodstar and White-tailed Starfrontlet, plus dozens of Violet-crowned Woodnymphs and occasional visits from Lazuline Sabrewing and Tyrian Metaltail. Santa Marta Brush-Finches were seen right by the buildings and a Santa Marta Antpitta showed briefly on a trail not far from the lodge at dusk.
December 4th: La Laguna and El Dorado lodge.
A 4.30am departure from the lodge enabled us to reach the La Laguna area, close to the summit of the mountain, by daybreak. Yellow-crowned Whitestart showed very well straight away and a host of other target birds followed in quick succession, including Santa Marta Brush-Finch and Streak-capped Spinetail from the road. A short but steep hike to a rock outcrop afforded great views over the mountains at the times when we were not enveloped in the clouds that rolled in over the peak at regular intervals. Tyrian Metaltail and White-throated Tyrannulet showed well from here, as did Emerald Toucanet and the first elusive Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager, which performed a swift fly-past. Eventually the biting cold of this exposed place (a striking contrast to the heat of the tropical coast which we could see below us) encouraged us to make our way back down to the jeeps for a welcome cup of coffee. A pair of Scaly-naped Parrots zipped past. Walking up the track we had good views of Santa Marta Warbler and a brief glimpse of the Santa Marta race of Rufous Antpitta, while a very close Brown-rumped Tapaculo remained hidden in the dense undergrowth. Back at the jeeps we were just about to move on when a party of five Santa Marta Parakeets bombed along the track and would probably have flown through the lead vehicle if the windows had been open! They then afforded marvellous close views for 20 minutes as they fed close by at eye-level. A little way down the hill a pair of Rusty-headed Spinetails was equally as confiding as the parakeets, a Mountain Velvetbreast attended flowers and a group of Santa Marta Mountain-Tanagers finally showed well to everybody and gave prolonged views. Back at the lodge the feeders were as busy as ever, with Santa Marta Woodstar, White-tailed Starfrontlet, Lazuline Sabrewing and many other species performing magnificently. A torrential downpour during mid-afternoon restricted our viewing to the area of feeders around the café down the hill, where White-lined Tanager and Rusty Flowerpiercer were added to the trip list and we were bystanders in a birthday celebration. Conditions brightened up by 5pm in time for our second visit to the Santa Marta Antpitta site. This time we were treated to a superb performance – the “best ever” according to our English hosts Roger and Annie – as it fed on worms in front of us and then hopped off down the path, unceremoniously stumbling down a bank in the process. It was an apt way to end another remarkable day.
December 5th: El Dorado to Riohatcha via Los Flamencos.
A pre-dawn start to look for Santa Marta Screech-Owl failed again to locate our quarry but a Sickle-winged Guan constituted a small consolation prize. Back at the lodge the hummer feeding frenzy was in full swing and Blue-naped Chlorophonias were out in force, while Emerald Toucanet and Blue-capped Tanager also showed well. The stars, though, were a Lined Quail-Dove, a pair of Colombian Brush-Finches and an Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush next to the lodge buildings. Making our way back down the hill to the coast our various stops produced a party of four Golden-breasted Fruiteaters, two Black-hooded Thrushes, two Red-billed Parrots, a Montane Woodcreeper (both of the last two species being the distinctive Santa Marta races) and three Keel-billed Toucans among the many other good birds. Monteiro, one of our excellent drivers, did his good deed for the day by pulling a lorry out of a tricky situation along the ‘road’ just outside Minca so that our convoy could pass. A lunch stop produced, in addition to some very tasty red snapper, Great-tailed Grackles, Yellow-headed Caracaras, Great Black-Hawk and some huge arboreal iguanas on the opposite side of the river. Further east along the coast we passed through a village which had been totally flooded and its inhabitants forced to stand by the roadside as this was the only strip of higher land – it was a surreal encounter that was rather like driving through a TV news report. Mile after mile of lowland was flooded as we closed in on Riohatcha, and most of it was farmland. In one such area a stop produced a host of new species for the trip including Green-rumped Parrotlet, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Tyrant, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Brown-breasted Parakeet and Groove-billed Ani among them. We reached Los Flamencos National Park, near the town of Camerones, during a torrential downpour and with just an hour’s daylight remaining. Fortunately the storm soon passed and we were able to observe a waterbird wonderland of pools and mudflats which contained Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, Tricoloured Heron, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, American Flamingo, Least, Semipalmated and Solitary Sandpipers, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, Black Skimmer and Great Blue Heron. In the adjacent areas of scrub we found Bare-eyed Pigeon, Grey Kingbird and Northern Scrub-Flycatcher before we eventually dipped our toes in the Caribbean while watching passing Brown Pelicans at dusk.
December 6th: Los Flamencos, then flight to Medellin and on to Jardin.
Recent torrential rain meant that the ‘dry forest’ habitat of this area was not living up to its name. However, our intrepid group donned wellies and was soon enjoying an excellent morning’s birding which included many of the local specialities. Among these were Buffy and Shining-green Hummingbirds, Red-billed Emerald, Greyish Saltator, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Scrub Greenlet, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Pileated Finch, Vermilion Cardinal and White-whiskered Spinetail. Wandering further into the scrub a Russet-throated Puffbird posed beautifully atop a cactus and a pair of Rufous-tailed Jacamars boldly announced the boundary of their territory. Perhaps most impressive of all, though, were several Black-crested Antshrikes with their unbelievably long punk-style ‘haircuts’! We strolled through a village inhabited by the local Guajira people, seeing a flock of Glaucous Tanagers, an Acadian Flycatcher and a Prothonotary Warbler in the process as well as gaining better views of some of the species mentioned above. All the time the wetland was in close proximity, meaning that a good selection of waterbirds was also being added to the list and these included (in addition to species listed yesterday) Scarlet and White Ibises, Magnificent Frigatebird, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, American Oystercatcher, Sanderling and Caspian Tern. After a short drive we worked our way along another track, hearing Buff-breasted Wren, chancing upon the roost-site of a White-tailed Nightjar and also seeing Osprey, Pied Water-Tyrant and Wattled Jacana. A side-track led to a clump of bushes which contained a splendid Orinocan Saltator. By this time the heat and humidity were oppressive so we adjourned to a beach bar for a cold drink whilst watching passing Royal and Cabot’s Terns, Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds. What should have been a short drive to the airport turned into a major detour along muddy tracks through tiny villages thanks to a taxi drivers’ protest blocking the main road. Luckily we made our flight to Medellin with minutes to spare and continued on to Jardin in the minibus during the evening.
December 7th: Yellow-eared Parrot reserve and Jardin.
We arrived at the Yellow-eared Parrot reserve to find the road blocked by a landslide about 4km from the summit. Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant and Smoke-coloured Pewee were among the first birds seen. We then walked as fast as we could to the site as the parrots generally disperse by 8am. Our progress was slowed by two more landslides blocking the track. These necessitated taking a double detour up two steep paths through the forest, which the reserve warden helped to ‘prune’ with his gigantic machete! A Speckle-faced Parrot caused a false alarm before a flock of 13 Yellow-eared Parrots performed a fly-past, so despite the hurdles we had arrived in the nick of time to see this rare endemic. Other birds in the area included Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Masked and Lachrymose Mountain-Tanagers, Azara’s Spinetail, Blue-backed Conebill and Mountain Cacique. A torrential downpour eventually hastened our departure from the reserve. After lunch back at the hotel we drove a short distance to the edge of town where an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek provided some marvellous entertainment with around 10 males strutting their stuff, dancing and chasing each other around. Also at the site were Yellow-faced and Black-faced Grassquits, Flame-rumped, Golden and Crimson-backed Tanagers and a large number of White-collared Swifts.
December 8th: Jardin to Piha reserve.
There was some good birding to be had in the hotel grounds before breakfast with Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Cattle Tyrant, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Southern Lapwing, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Orange-bellied Euphonia and Flame-rumped and Crimson-backed Tanagers among the species showing well. Our long drive today was punctuated by several stops, the first being near Bolombolo where Golden-crowned Warbler and White-throated Spadebill were among the first birds seen. The first target bird, Greyish Piculet, followed soon after when a pair was very obliging. It was only a matter of minutes before our second target endemic, Apical Flycatcher, was seen well by all, while Streaked Flycatcher was in the same tree as the Apicals and White-breasted Wood-Wren was heard nearby. Once through Medellin we stopped for lunch to the north of the city, noting a Short-tailed Hawk in the process. As we progressed we passed a number of rivers and lakes which produced at least three Ospreys, a Ringed Kingfisher and large numbers of Great and Snowy Egrets, while at another unscheduled stop we chanced upon a troop of half-a-dozen White-footed Tamarin monkeys. As we closed in on the Piha reserve the mist rolled in off the hills, making our search for Red-bellied Grackles a tough one, although a Scaly-breasted Wren which showed briefly was a more than adequate ‘consolation prize’.
December 9th: Piha reserve.
The lodge garden was a hive of bird activity first thing in the morning and produced a host of good birds including several that were new for the trip. Species seen included Black-faced, Scrub, Black-capped, Lemon-rumped, Silver-throated, Crimson-backed, Palm, Blue-grey and Summer Tanagers, Andean Emerald, Green-crowned Brilliant, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Buff-throated and Black-winged Saltators, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Lesser Goldfinch and Pale-breasted Thrush. After breakfast the Colombian Chachalacas found their voices and several showed on the adjacent hillside. We took the ‘Motmot trail’ from close to the lodge. It wound its way up a steep hill and soon we had found Slaty-capped Flycatcher, White-tipped Sicklebill, Green Hermit and a pair of Parker’s Antbirds which circled us and gave good but usually fleeting views in the process. As we gained height we came across a number of mixed flocks which contained Red-headed Barbet, Golden-winged, Black-and-white, Canada and Three-striped Warblers, Olivaceous, Wedge-billed and Olive-backed Woodcreepers, Red-faced Spinetail, Olivaceous Piculet, Purplish-mantled, Speckled, Golden and Black-and-gold Tanagers and Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager. A pair of Uniform Antshrikes showed well while the sunny conditions saw raptors on the wing and these included Barred Hawk and Black Hawk-Eagle. On the way down after lunch we got caught by a shower but did enjoy excellent views of Ornate Flycatcher in the rain. In the afternoon we took the minibus a mile or two down the road and caught up with the Red-bellied Grackles that we had missed yesterday. They performed brilliantly, making the effort we’d put in to see them seem well worthwhile. Other species here included a Buff-rumped Warbler and a couple of dozen Russet-backed Oropendolas. Then it was back to the lodge to enjoy more of the garden birds before dark, while a Tropical Screech-Owl serenaded us during dinner.
December 10th: Piha reserve.
The bird-feeders at the lodge were again busy with many of the species of hummingbirds and tanagers seen yesterday, while new additions to the ‘garden list’ included four passing Bronze-winged Parrots and 10 Russet-backed Oropendolas which dropped in to feed on bananas. After another hearty breakfast we took the ‘Piha trail’ from close to the lodge. At first the birding was rather slow compared with what we’d become accustomed to, although three new species were heard: Blue-fronted Parrotlet, Sooty-headed Wren and Ochre-breasted Antpitta. Further up the hill two or three Chestnut Wood-Quails scurried into the undergrowth and Parker’s Antbirds and Uniform Antshrikes showed well, while close to the end of the trail a Chestnut-capped Piha called a couple of times and showed briefly. At the very end of the trail a waterfall held several Green-fronted Lancebills including several males having a dispute and another bird bathing in the fast-flowing waterfall (it is a wonder that it wasn’t washed away!) and then sallying for insects low above the water. On the way back to the lodge a pair of Red-faced Caracaras showed well and, after a short wait, a singing Buff-rumped Warbler came into view. After lunch at the lodge and some more garden birdfeeder-watching we walked some way along the main road, seeing a Collared Trogon and hearing a Green Jay. Further additions to the trip list were a Laughing Falcon, seven Yellow-bellied Siskins and a calling White-throated Crake.
December 11th: Piha reserve to Medellin, then Bogota and fly to London.
We set off before dawn towards Medellin to catch our flight, so there was no time for any final birding at the Piha reserve. However, we did make a stop a couple of hours down the road at a bridge over a river/lake in the Porce valley. Here we found several Black-capped Donacobius, Striated Heron and Black-crowned Night-Heron, while Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers, Osprey and White-winged Swallow passed by. Scrutiny of the dense aquatic vegetation paid off with a brief glimpse of a Purple Gallinule and excellent views of a White-throated Crake repeatedly running up the bank to collect dried leaves for nest-building. In the adjacent scrub were several Colombian Chacalacas, two Southern Beardless-Tyrannulets, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Crimson-backed and Blue-grey Tanagers and Slate-coloured Seedeater. Further along the road Yellow-headed and Crested Caracaras and Savannah Hawks were seen, while at our breakfast stop an American Kestrel became the final addition to the list as bird number 436. From here until Medellin we saw kettle after kettle of Black Vultures and there must have been thousands of these birds in total.