Northern Colombia (3-17th March 2020)

The region of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an exceptional area for many reasons. It contains one of the largest quantities of endemic species with a restricted range of the South American continent. The landscapes are beautiful and varied, between the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea and the humid forests of the Sierra Nevada, through the dry forests of La Guajira and the mangroves near Barranquilla. In addition to endemic species and local birds, the region is home in winter to many North American migrants, including warblers and waders.

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Egrets at dusk with a view over the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (F. Schneider)

Itinerary

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Itinerary (GoogleMaps)

3rd March

After picking up participants at the airport or bus station in Santa Marta we will drive to Minca, a small bucolic village on the side of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta where we will spend the next two nights.

4th March

We will spend the day exploring the surroundings of Minca.

The upper parts of the village are already home to 7 endemic species of this mountain range, isolated from the rest of the Andes : Santa Marta Woodstar Chaetocercus astreans, Santa Marta Blossomcrown Anthocephala floriceps Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner Clibanornis rufipectus, Santa Marta Antbird Drymophila hellmayri, Santa Marta Tapaculo Scytalopus sanctaemartae, White-lored Warbler Myiothlypis conspicillata and Santa Marta Brushfinch Atlapetes melanocephalus.

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Santa Marta Brushfinch (F. Schneider)

In addition to the many interesting local species present as the Military Macaw Ara militaris, Red-billed Parrot Pionus sordidus, Rusty-breasted Antpitta Grallaricula ferrugineipectus or Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush Catharus aurantiirostris, a good diversity of boreal migratory passerines can be observed, the most common being Tennessee Warbler Vermivora peregrina, Blackburnian Warbler Setophaga fusca and Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus. Sometimes rarer species may appear; for example in 2017 we found a Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora cyanoptera, a North American species that is an extreme rarity with only a few historical record in the country.

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Blackburnian Warbler (F. Schneider)

5-6th March

We will go up in the evening to the biological station of San Lorenzo where we will spend the evening and the night. A rustic option, but less expensive than the ProAves lodge, located a few hundred meters. The evening will be dedicated to the search of the Santa Marta Screech Owl Megascops gilesi, an endemic owl species only discovered in 2007 and described in 2017.

In the morning we will leave before dawnthe station, on foot to climb to the Cuchilla San Lorenzo. This site is a hotspot of endemism with a dozen of species with a very restricted range like Black-fronted Wood Quail Odontophorus atrifrons, White-tipped Quetzal Pharomachrus fulgidus, Santa Marta Parakeet Pyrrhura viridicata, Rusty-headed Spinetail Synallaxis fuscorufa, Streak-capped Spinetail Cranioleuca hellmayri, Brown-rumped Tapaculo Scytalopus latebricola, Santa Marta Bush Tyrant Myiotheretes pernix, Hermit Wood Wren Henicorhina anachoreta, Santa Marta Warbler Myiothlypis basilica, Yellow-crowned Whitestart Myioborus flavivertex et Santa Marta Mountain Tanager Anisognathus melanogenys. There are also different endemic subspecies that may one day be elevated to the status of a species.

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Yellow-crowned Whitestart (F. Schneider)

By returning to the biological station, we will have a look to the other endemics of the region as the White-tailed Starfrontlet Coeligena phalerata or the Santa Marta Antpitta Grallaria bangsi. Many other unusual species are present around the station as Band-tailed Guan Penelope argyrotis, Golden-breasted Fruiteater Pipreola aureopectus or Golden Grosbeak Pheucticus chrysogaster.

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White-tailed Starfrontlet (F. Schneider)

7-8th March

The two following days, we will stay in the vicinity of Minca. In addition of bird watching, it will be possible to visit a coffee plantation or to swim in a natural pool.

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Coffee seeds (F. Schneider)

Then we will go down to Calabazo, at the gateway to Tayrona National Park, where we will spend three nights.

9-11th March

We will visit for two whole days and a morning the sublime Tayrona National Park. We will explore different sectors of the park. Some areas are very dry and host, for example, the endemic Turquoise-winged Parrotlet Forpus spengeli, as well as Scaled Dove Columbina squammata, Russet-throated Puffbird Hypnelus ruficollis or Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant Hemitriccus margaritaceiventer.

Wetter areas are good for the observations of species such as Keel-billed Toucan Ramphastos sulfuratus, Lance-tailed Manakin Chiroxiphia lanceolata or Rufous-tailed Jacamar Galbula ruficauda, and why not with great luck the endemic and extremely rare Blue-billed Curassow Crax alberti.

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Rufous-tailed Jacamar (F. Schneider)

The Sapphire-throated Hummingbird Lepidopyga coeruleogularis can be seen in the mangrove areas, like many species of herons and kingfishers.

On the 11th, we will hit the road the afternoon to Camarones in SFF Los Flamencos where we will sleep at the seaside.

12-13th March

The next days we will walk around the SFF Los Flamencos; a brackish lagoon surrounded by dry groves.

The lagoon attracts a large amount of waders, laridae and other waterfowl. Boreal species live next to locals American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber, Roseate Spoonbill Platalea ajaja, American White Ibis Eudocimus albus, Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens and Black Skimmer Rynchops niger.

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Ibis and spoonbill with many North-american waders (F. Schneider)

The surrounding bushes are very interesting. We can observe several species that are only present in the most arid parts of Colombia and Venezuela, as Bare-eyed Pigeon Patagioenas corensis, Buffy Hummingbird Leucippus fallax, White-whiskered Spinetail Synallaxis candei, Slender-billed Inezia Inezia tenuirostris, Tocuyo Sparrow Arremonops tocuyensis, Orinoco Saltator Saltator orenocensis and the beautiful Vermilion Cardinal Cardinalis phoeniceus.

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Vermilion Cardinal (F. Schneider)

On the 13th we will hit the road again, to reach the foot of the Perija Cordillera.

14-15th March

We will stay two days to explore the Perija Cordillera. A total of 4 species and many subspecies are endemic to this mountain range straddling Colombia and Venezuela. Three endemics are to look rather in the upper part : Perija Metaltail Metallura iracunda, Perija Tapaculo Scytalopus perijanus and Perija Thistletail Asthenes perijana. Perija Brushfinch Arremon perijanus, it is present a little lower in altitude. Several other rather rare species in Colombia are present in these mountains, such as Black-fronted Wood Quail Odontophorus atrifrons, Rufous-shafted Woodstar Chaetocercus jourdanii, Klages’s Antbird Drymophila klages or Golden-breasted Fruiteater Pipreola aureopectus.

Then, we will join the region between Santa Marta and Barranquilla.

16-17th March

We will visit during our last two days, the mangroves of Parque Isla de Salamanca, as well as these surroundings.

This site is one of the best place to hope to observe the endemic and threatened Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Lepidopyga lilliae. The mangroves and the surrounding marshes attract many species of waders and other migratory waterbirds. Prothonotary Warbler Protonotaria citrea and Northern Waterthrush Parkesia noveboracensis are the two most common North American passerines in these wetlands. Bicolored Conebill Conirostrum bicolor, rather localized species in Colombia, is also present here.

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Mangroves (F. Schneider)

In drier groves, we will essentially seek the endemic Chestnut-winged chachalaca Ortalis garrula.

On the 17th, we will drive back to Santa Marta where ends our tour.

This tour can be cumulated with the tour in the Central part of the country; more information here.

Climat

The climate is rather hot on the coast with temperatures generally above 30°C. Higher in altitude, the conditions are a little cooler. This time of the year coincides with the dry season but some showers are not excluded.

Risks

There is no major risk. The areas crossed are safe, although as in many parts of Latin America, zero risk does not exist. We will be accompanied regularly by a local guide.

Prices

Standard price : 2’290 CHF/USD // 1’990 €
Special price with package Colombia (Northern+ Central) : 4’990 CHF/USD // 4’340 € (domestic flight between Cali and Santa Marta included)

Under 25 and student (-10%) : 2’060 CHF/USD // 1’790 €
Special price for “young” with package Colombia (Northern+ Central) : 4’490 CHF/USD // 3’900 € (domestic flight between Cali and Santa Marta included)

Included : guides during all the time at the destination, accommodations and three meals a day and transports at the destination.

Not included : transports (plane/train/bus) to the destination (but it can be arranged by the organizer), travel insurance (mandatory to participate in trips), alcoholic beverages, souvenirs and personal effects.

Count around 950 CHF/USD (830 €) for a flight from Geneva to Santa Marta (roundtrip).

Extra charge of 220 CHF/USD // 190 € for an individual room.

Information and Registration

Fabian Schneider : birdtrotter.tour@gmail.com

Click here to download the registration form