The Santa Marta endemics
The "Sierra Nevada of the Santa Marta Mountains" is a clear example of bird speciation resulting from a long period of isolation. This green, humid and lush mountain range is isolated from the rest of the Andes by a "sea" of dry forest providing the "Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta" with the highest bird endemism area in Colombia. Her more than 25% (20 species) of the Colombian endemics occur and there are at least 39 endemic subspecies (some of which might even deserve the rank of a full species!). The drier areas surrounding the mountains are also home to a handful number of bird species that are only shares with remote areas of Venezuela including, 3 more Colombian endemics; such birding bonanza is only parallel by the beauty of the sunset of the Caribbean ocean watched from the comfortable balcony of "El Dorado" lodge.
Day 1. Late afternoon arrival in Barranquilla and transfer to our hotel for the night.
This trip could also start with a flight from Bogotá to Santa Marta city, but starting in Barranquilla will save us the price of an internal domestic flight ticket (it requires the entire group take the same flight!). After arriving in Barranquilla or Cartagena in the late afternoon, we will have transfer to our comfortable Hotel in Barranquilla for the night.
Day 2. Early morning drive to Via Parque Isla Salamanca for the morning and afternoon drive to Santa Marta. Late afternoon birding along the Naguange entrance to Tayrona National Park. Night in Santa Marta city.
We will leave Barranquilla very early in the morning to be at first light in the Cacti dominated dry scrub of "Parque Via Isla Salamanca" to look for the endemic Chestnut-winged Chachalaca. This Chachalaca often sits on top of the Candelabra Cactus to sun bath in the early morning, and we will be waiting for them with our scope. Soon after we will head for the Cocos visitor center inside "PVIS" (Salamanca Park) to walk through mangrove forest in search of one of the rarest birds in Colombia the enigmatic and endemic Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird. Other birds here include Bare-eyed Pigeon, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Brown-throated Parakeet, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Black-crested Antshrike, the common Bicolored Conebill, Bronzed Cowbird (for some this is the Bronze-brown Cowbird, an endemic species to Colombia) and the rare Chestnut Piculet; as soon as the heat of the day arrives we will explore the wetlands protected in the park (birds communities will vary accordingly with the month of the year and water level and depending on whether our customers hail from the New World or the Old World, (just ask us for the possibilities!). Here we will be looking for Fulvous Whistling-duck, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Cinnamon Teal, White-cheeked Pintail, Black-necked Stilt, several Sandpipers, Gulls and Plover species, Black-collared Hawk, Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Pied Water-tyrant and White-headed Marsh-Tyrant. Later on the day we will drive beyond Santa Marta city to the Neguanje entrance of the Tayrona NP in search of the rare and local Black-backed Antshrike and maybe with a bit of luck will also find the very localized Tocuyo Sparrow. Night in Santa Marta City.
Day 3. Early morning birding along the "Las Tinajas road and birding transfer to Tayrona NP. Night Tayrona.
We will start early from Santa Marta to arrive early at "Las Tinajas" side road and try for the range restricted Lilac-tailed Parakeet along with a set of more common species including Red-crowned Woodpecker, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Whooping Motmot, Orange-chinned Parakeet, Coppery Emerald, White-bearded Manakin, Pale-breasted Thrush and Bicolored Wren; as soon as the heat of the day sets in, we will head to the Tayrona National Park near Calabazo and check into our charming facilities right by the beach. The late afternoon will be devoted to look for some the specialties from the park including the localized Pale-tipped Tyrannulet right in the mangrove area near the lodge.
Day 4. Early morning birding the Tayrona NP and transfer to La Guajira, late afternoon birding near Caricari. Night in Rio Hacha.
The various trails and main road of Tayrona National Park will offer many opportunities to look for forest species including the ultra rare and hard to come by endemic Blue-knobbed Curassow (YES, we have seen the Curassow inside the park!) along with Crested Guan, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Keel-billed Toucan, Yellow-billed Cuckoo (only during migration), Rufous-breasted Hermit, Western Long-tailed Hermit, Sooty-capped Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, White-necked Puffbird, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Western-Slaty Anshrike, Jet Antbird, Northern White-fringed Antwren, White-bellied Antbird, Lance-tailed Manakins, Southern Bentbill, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Gray-headed Tanager, Carib Grackle, Yellow Oriole and Orange-crowned Oriole. After lunch we will start our nearly 3 hour drive to Rio Acha, but not before stopping along the side road to Caricari in the late afternoon where we will search for: Rufous-vented Chachalaca, Crested Bobwhite, Chestnut Piculet, Russet-throated Puffbird, Bare-eyed Pigeons, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Brown-throated Parakeet, Green-rumped Parrotlet, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Sapphire-throated Hummingbird, Red-billed Emeral, Carribean Hornero, White-wiskered Spinetail, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Northern White-fringed Antwren, Slender-billed Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Pied-water Tyrant, Scrub Greenlet, Glaucus Tanager, Trinidad Euphonia, Orange-crowned Oriole and Gray-pileated Finch.
Day 5. Early morning birding the Perico road and Los Flamencos Park, afternoon return to pass through Santa Marta to the small and charming town of La Minca. Night La Minca.
A very early start will take us at first light along the road near Perico where we will have one more opportunity for almost all the species mentioned for Caricari. Also we will try to add to our list species such as Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Common Ground-Dove, Scaled Dove, Buffy Hummingbird, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Venezuelan Flycatcher, Black-faced Grassquit and Vermilion Cardinal; later in the morning we will head towards the town of Camarones stopping in the way for the Orinocan Saltator, Tocuyo Sparrow and many of the waterbirds by the Los Flamencos lake, such as Reddish Egret, Tricolored Heron, White Ibis, Scarlet Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Caribbean Flamingo, White-checked Pintail, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Harris´s Hawk, Laughing Gull, Caspian and Royal Tern and Black Skimmer. After lunch and during the heat of the day we will drive back to the small town of La Minca; during the last hours of light we will look for birds in the semi-deciduous dry forest near La Minca, such as White-vented Plumeleteer, the rare endemic Santa Marta Sabrewing, Scaled Piculet, Santa Marta Foliage Gleaner (endemic species), Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Cinereous Becard, Rufous-breasted Wren, Rufous-and-white Wren, Swallow Tanager (endemic subspecies), Dull-collored Grassquit, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Crimson-backed Tanager and Golden-winged Sparrow.
Day 6. Birding from La Minca to El Dorado Reserve. Night Dorado Lodge.
The first hours in the morning will be devoted to looking for species that might have eluded us the previous afternoon in the nearby La Minca dry forest. Later on in the day, we will drive to higher elevation toward the world famous "El Dorado" Reserve with many exciting stops along the way looking for Scaled Pigeon, Coppery Emerald, Steely-vented Hummingbird, White-vented Plumeleteer, the rare and endemic Blossomcrown, the endemic Santa Marta Woodstart, Collared Aracari, the endemic Santa Marta Toucanet, Yellow-billed Toucanet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Pale-breasted Spinetail , Streaked Xenops, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Slaty Antwren, the endemic Santa Marta Tapaculo, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Venezuelan Tyrannulet, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Orange-billed Nightingale-Thrush, the endemic White-lored Warbler and the endemic Santa Marta Brush-Finch. We will arrive with sufficient daylight remaining so that we can look at the fruit and hummingbird feeders at the "Jeniam Restaurant"
Day 7. Full day El Dorado Reserve. Night Dorado Lodge.
The next two days will be devoted to further exploration of the San Lorenzo ridge road above the "Jeniam Lodge" where many of the special birds from the mountains occur. Most of efforts will be dedicated looking for Band-tailed Guan, Sickle-winged Guan, Lined Quail-Dove, the endemic Santa Marta Parakeet, Mountain Velvetbreast , the endemic White-tailed Starfrontlet, the endemic Black-backed Thornbill, Masked Trogon, White-tipped Quetzal, Streak-capped Spinetail, the endemic Rusty-headed Spinetail, Flamulated Treehunter, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, the endemic Santa Marta Antpitta, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, the endemic Brown-rumped Tapaculo, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Great Thrush (endemic subspecies), the endemic Yellow-crowned Whitstart, the endemics Santa Marta and White-lored Warblers, Blue-capped Tanager, the endemic Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, Yellow-legged Thrush, the endemic Santa Marta Brush-Finch and Stripe-headed Brush-Finch
Day 8. Full day El Dorado Reserve. Night Dorado Lodge.
Other species worthy of mentioning here include Black-fronted Wood-Quail, Gray-throated Leaftosser, Montane Woodcreeper, White-throated Tyrannulet, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Black-hooded Thrush, Páramo Seedeater and Slate-throated Whitestart, all of which are represented as endemic subspecies restricted to the Santa Marta Mountain range. A small bit of stamina during the nights, and we will also look for the recently described Santa Marta Screech-Owl, which has been recorded very close to the lodge.
Day 9. Full day birding from the El Dorado Reserve to Santa Marta. Night in Santa Marta city.
The Santa Marta Wren is most likely beyond our reach because their ranges are mainly restricted to the remote south side of the mountains. This day will be devoted to look for any species we may have missed in the previous day. In the afternoon we will start our return to the city of Santa Marta.
Day 10. Early morning birding the Mamancana reserve before catching our mid-morning flight out to Bogotá and transfer to International flights back home.
Our last few hours in the Santa Marta region will see us exploring the Mamancana reserve where we might have an extra chance for some of the drier habitat species including Red-bellied Emerald, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Russet-throated Puffbird, Chestnut Piculet Black-crested Antshrike, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Venezuelan Flycatcher, Bicolored Wren, Scrub Greenlet and Gray-pileated Finch among many others. Participants not taking the Bogotá extension will be transfer to a Barranquilla Hotel for the night to take their flights returning home the following morning.