New tour to Columbia

Well-known leader Paul Cardy is back from a reconnaisence trip to Columbia. His synopsis of the sightings on the trip makes mouth-watering reading!



Returning to Colombia after nearly thirty years, I was soon reminded why, when asked, I still name it my favourite country. Stunning biodiversity and superb habitat, the richest avifauna in the world, and more butterflies than anywhere else. The Andes split in three cordilleras here, providing an incredibly varied topography, of western and eastern slopes and inter-andean valleys. The coastal Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the worlds’ highest coastal mountain range, and boasts many endemic birds and butterflies.


Tatama National Park has a butterfly list of well over seven hundred species, along one superb forested road, which ranges in altitude from 1300 to 2600. Any visit will of course see only a percentage of these but here were very many fine species and this will be the centre piece of the tour. Indeed all sites I visited produced many butterflies, I saw some 500, and 500 birds too.


In Tatama were some fifty species of orchid in one day, ranging from the tiny epiphytic Lepanthes carunculigera and Pleurothallis orecta to the showy terrestrial Maxillaria speciosa and beautiful Oncidium serpens.


More than fifty species of hummingbird was a feature, the names as beautiful as the birds, notably Band-tailed Barbthroat, Green-fronted Lancebill, Violetears, Incas, Emeralds, Tourmaline Sunangel, Green Thorntail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Tyrian Metaltail, Greenish Puffleg, Velvet-purple Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Empress Brilliant, and White-vented Plumeleteer.


Perhaps the metalmarks were the butterfly highlight. Lovely hairy-legged Anteros jewelmarks, eyemarks, sombermarks, greenmarks, tanmarks, whitemarks, and euselasias. Showy species included Blue-and-Yellow Beautymark Ancyluris inca, Costa-spotted Beautymark Ancyluris jurgensenii, Ancyluris aulestes, Ancyluris etias, Necyria bellona, Cherry-bordered Metalmark Lyropteryx lyra,  Rhetus dysonii, and the semi-transparent Chorinea bogota. Among many others were  Cloud-spotted Metalmark,  Red-spotted Metalmark, Orange-banded Metalmark, and Crocozona coecias.


Hairstreaks included beauties such as such as Arawacus aetolus, Theclopsis lydus, and Brevianta emathaon. Colombian Kite Swallowtail mud puddled, and Emerald-patched Cattleheart and Pink-checked Cattleheart nectared. Pierids included cattlehearts, mimic-whites, and dartwhites. Many fine clearwing and tigerwing ithomiines were a feature, especially at Villavicencio on the eastern slope of the east cordillera, and many Heliconians were typical of these neotropical forests.


Puddling Striped Eighty-eight, Six-spotted Eighty-eight, Two-eyed Eighty-eight, Blue-and-Orange Eighty-eight and Common Eighty-eight were lovely. There was a fine selection of that most characteristic neotropical genus Adelpha. There were Catones, Memphis Leafwings, Banners, Perisama, Marpesia Daggerwings, Mapwings, and Preponas, Metamorpha elissa and Blue-patched Crescent Eresia levina amongst many others.


Morphos glided through pristine forest clearwings, Morpho cypris, Morpho helenor, Morpho achilles, and the lovely pale silvery Morpho sulkowskyi.


I found a remarkable variety of satyrids, not least in the Sierra Nevada, where among many specialities were the blue Lymanopoda caeruleata, and Lymanopoda nevada, Manerebia nevadensis, and Pedaliodes leucocheilus. Clearwing satyrids such as Pseudohaetera hypaesia, Pseudohaetera mimica were a highlight. There was a great richness of Pronophila,  Corades,  Oxeoschistus,  Lasiophila, Steroma, Eretris, Lymanopoda, Pedaliodes, Cissia, Euptychia, Magneuptychia,   Pareuptychia, and  Forsterinaria. At least a hundred skippers were seen.


Hawkmoths featured, attracted to walls lit overnight, the stunning green Xylophanes chiron a highlight.


Oilbirds emerged in numbers at dusk from a cave across a crystal clear river, Sand-coloured Nighthawks over the water. The scarce White-rumped Hawk sailed over pristine subtropical forest. Golden-headed and White-tipped Quetzals, great views of Moustached Puffbird, the characterful Toucan Barbet, and eleven species of toucan. Notable parrots were the scarce Rusty-faced Parrot, lovely Military Macaws, noisy Golden-plumed Parakeets, and endangered Yellow-eared Parrots.


The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek was a superb spectacle, of great interest to locals too, the subspecies sanguinolentus being a strikingly orange-red. I also encountered a Golden-headed Manakin lek, on a superb morning in pristine forest at Rio Claro, where I saw not a single other person for five hours.


Antpittas featured, and I had superb views, (prime photo opportunities), of Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Brown-banded Antpitta, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, and Slate-crowned Antpitta, and we will likely see others too on the tour. Perhaps the bird of the tour was Ocellated Tapaculo, a remarkable species that I watched for ages working leaf litter on the forest floor. But for me the most stunning of all these stunning birds was White-capped Tanager, above Jardin, a simply lovely bird, red, white, and black. Red-billed Scythebill was a superb find too. Yet more stand outs were Flammulated Treerunner, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Pearled Treerunner, Bar-crested Antshrike, lovely Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, and Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher.


Green-and-Black Fruiteaters, Barred Fruiteater, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, and Orange-breasted Fruiteater were stunners. Black Solitaire was seen closely, as were beautiful Blue-naped and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia. Some sixty tanagers were seen, a highlight the two endemics Black-and-Gold Tanager and Gold-ringed Tanager seen superbly. Grass-green Tanager was as always a stunner. The endemic, Multicoloured Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiercer very approachable at high altitudes in Tatama, the stunning Plushcap, Golden-winged Sparrow, and Olive Finch.


Other endemics included Colombian Chachalaca, Cauca Guan, Grayish Piculet, Parker’s Antbird, Antioquia Bristle-Tyrant, Munchique Wood-Wren, Red-bellied Grackle, Crested Ant-Tanager, Turquoise Dacnis. In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta were the endemics Santa Marta Woodstar, Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Rusty-headed Spinetail, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Hermit Wood-Wren, Bang’s Wood-Wren, Sierra Nevada Brushfinch, Santa Marta Brushfinch, Santa Marta Warbler, White-lored Warbler, Yellow-crowned Redstart, and Sierra Nevada Mountain-Tanager.


Few mammals, but I did see Night Monkeys, Venezuelan Red Howlers, Humboldt’s Squirrel Monkeys, Kinkajou, Tayra, Central American Agouti, Western Dwarf, Andean, and Red-tailed Squirrels. And a fantastic variety of invertebrates.

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