[Tweeters] TR Columbia SA Feb 2015

barry levineb at fastmail.fm
Sat Feb 28 17:29:50 PST 2015

Fellow birders,
This years version of my winter getaway found me traveling in Columbia
S.A.. With a small window of three days to put the 17 day trip together
there was a fair amount of concern as to whether
I would be able to get to the places necessary and whether my experience
would be enough so that I didn't miss a large percentage of the birds
heard or seen. Luck was with me as I
was able to use 30k miles for a quick connection roundtrip on Alaska Air
and to get Pro Avis to send a copy of the second version of the book to
Casona Del Patio in Bogota where many birders chose to stay.
Got it on arrival to the hotel. I was also able to get Diana Bacalar to
help out with 3 days of guiding in and around Bogota. Elkin Rodriguez, a
Birdingpal, also agreed to one day of help
in the city. Both Elkin and Diana are great spirits to be around and we
did quite well at Sumipaz, La Florida, Montserrate, San Francisco, the
Botanical Gardens and La Vega. Did not get
to go to Chingaza, as Diana thought we could get many of the same
species at Sumipaz.
Bogota is so choked with traffic that the independent birder will have
to have their wiles about them to get to the sites. I would recommend
not trying to drive in the city. Buses and taxis are
a possibility. Possible to use taxis in city for La Florida (Bogota
Rail, Apolinarse Wren site), Montserrate (worth a visit for some of the
birds and a great view of the city) and the Botanical
Gardens (nice place, but not a must). Could also hire a taxi to get to
San Francisco (hummingbird feeders), and La Vega, both about an hour and
a half away and very worthwhile.
Sumipaz possible with a taxi. All sites would depend on how well you
know the birds and their songs in S.A. Without playback many of the
sought after birds will be really difficult.

>From Bogota headed by bus to Pareira. A 6 hour trip that turned into 10

hours. It typified my experience pretty much throughout Columbia. Only
take buses if you have the extra time or
are looking for places to save money. At the bus terminal in Pereira on
my way out of town to Manizales, I was sold a ticket for a bus that was
supposed to leave in 20 minutes The bus never even showed
up. After asking often I was finally refunded my money about an hour
later. Did not meet many non-cooperative people in Columbia, though
many were workers at the bus terminals. I did
run into the taxi drivers who tried to overcharge. Pretty much like
anywhere else in the world. Flights your best bets. Reasonably priced
Before you get to Pereira might be best to call Jimmy at Otun Quimbaya
to get a taxi to pick you up at the terminal. The ride which is 15
kilometers is on a rough road. Loved staying at Otun. Birded on my own.
I was the only guest and got to know Jimmy (a great character) and also
one of the other workers there. Both knowledgeable birders and fun to
hang around with. The fruiting trees in the garden
held many good birds. Be careful of chiggers in the tall grass.
Columbian and Tropical Screech Owls seen in the garden area.The road as
you head out to the right also well worth spending time birding.
The trails inside Otun not as important according to Jimmy and I would
agree. An Andean Solitaire being the only new bird found inside the
trails. Rode the local bus back to Pereira and that
was an interesting experience. All the local school kids ride that bus
to get to and from school. You could have Jimmy get you a taxi back to
town. Pereira didn't seem like a nice place at all.
Took a mini bus from Pereira to Manizales, the gateway to Rio Blanco.
Manizales is a beautiful place with Mobius strip like roads that climb
up the mountain to the center of town. Sort of like the
roads in San Francisco US, but even more so. Great place to spend an
evening if the time is available. Selene at Rio Blanco gave me the
number of a taxi and off I went early the next morning. At Rio Blanco
you cannot go alone on the road to the Antpitta feeding areas. This
ended up being a problem as the local guide (Selene's daughter) who I
had been told would take me that day, was already engaged
with another birding group. So now I was restricted to birding around
the lodge. Again luck was on my side as the group from Newcastle invited
me to join them for the rest of the day. So nice
to meet these lads and their guide Johnny. Saved what could have been a
wasted day. Rio Blanco is a little rough around the edges, but with the
chance of seeing 4 Antpittas in one day you pretty much must go there.
Another minibus ride took me to Medallin (pronounced Med a jeen). Liked
it here a lot. Great metro system that takes you pretty much everywhere.
If you go on the metro,to the it is important to note that the gondolas
to Santo Domingo don't leave until 9 in the morning. When you get to the
top the one walk that would get you into primary forest does not leave
until 11. Takes about 4-5 hours to cover the 5 kilometers you will walk.
Only one guide is knowledgeable about birds, so aim to go on his trip.
The Botanical Gardens in town hold some nice birds as well. These are
easily visited from a metro stop.
Flew on to Cartagena. Not much birding to do around town, in that
species can easily be seen elsewhere. But it is a spectacular place to
see. It was my intention to head to Baranquilla for Isla Salamanca, but
the Carnival had just started and it was going to be a zoo. So on to the
Mecca of the trip: Santa Marta.
No guide lined up for the 5 days in the area posed a daunting challenge.
Impossible to get up to the towers without a 4 wheel drive vehicle.
Could get to Minca, but from there who knew what would happen.
Not really my style of birding. But,again good luck interceded. An email
I had sent to another local birdingpal was answered and now 4 out of the
5 days were covered. Great time in a very magnificent place.
Two nights around Minca (nice Hotel Minca) and three at Palo Alto.
Another spot where I was the only person staying there. So beautiful.
Nights of many stars and incredible views all the way south to
Baranquilla. Birding was superb.
Great guiding by the ethically minded Sebastian made for a memorable
time in a place that hopefully will not be overrun by people putting too
much pressure on the birds. What a grand way to end the trip.
Thanks for all the help from Diana, Elkin, Jimmy and especially
Sebastian who came through in a pinch. And to all of you who sent me
information about Columbia. A trip report from Dick Meijer and Peter
Van Scheepen helped me immeasurably in forming the backbone of the trip.
Easy to say at this point that it makes great sense to get yourself a
guide and have them cover the logistics, but for an individual
that will be very pricey. The cost of getting a vehicle, guides,
flights, food, etc. runs steep. I feel tremendously fortunate to be able
to have traveled given the constraints that were present. Due to these
it was difficult to almost impossible to get into certain areas. I just
had to let that go. Could have easy struck out a few, or possibly many,
times during the trip. But if anything my hopes were raised by the
of the people I encountered. .
As usual I'll skip the list of birds. They are many excellent trip
reports that have already covered the same ground. It is always my
intention to create a possible vehicle for helping people to try to set
up their own journey.
Let me know if I can be of any more help in that respect.
Columbia felt very safe. Really enjoyed my time there.
All the best

barry Levine
Seattle, Wa. US
levineb at fastmail.fm

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