21st – 23rd February – Urrao, Colombia   Leave a comment

The Colombia Andes are divided into three distinct ranges divided by the narrow Cauca and the wide Magdelena valleys. Most of the birding on this trip was on the eastern cordillera, then we crossed the Magdelena valley to reach Medellin on the central cordillera  Later we flew over the western cordillera to reach the coast. Now we drove from Medellin across the Cauca valley and up into the eastern cordillera for our last location on this tour. We stopped in the valley to look for a species that was only described in 2012, the Antioquia Wren. We heard the wren OK and saw it fly across the road, but we came away rather disappointed.


We arrived at the picturesque town of Urrao after dark. We left most of gear at the hotel and took just a few things for our night on the mountain.


It was still dark the following morning when we set off on mule back for the mountain lodge.


We had wonderful views from the lodge which was 600m above our starting point …..


… but this was the first time I have ridden a horse or mule since I was a kid and it was hardly the most comfortable of experiences! Photo by Ed Wilson.


After a stop for breakfast at the lodge we climbed a further 400m on mule back.


… before ascending the last 200m to the treeline on foot.


On the way up we bumped into this delightful Ocellated Tapaculo, the first time I’ve seen this beautiful species without taping it in. Photo by Ed Wilson


The wonderfully named Lacrimose Mountain-tanager. Photo by Ed Wilson


The paramo was covered with espeletas. Unfortunately Beaded Helmetcrest has not spread this far west, but we did see three specialties, Chestnut-bellied Flowerpiecer, Paramillo Tapaculo and Dusky Starfrontlet, lifers for all of us and new for the Birdquest life list.


We returned to the lodge on foot where we saw the incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird at the feeders. Photo by Ed Wilson


Just after dawn on our final day we were treated to views of the recently described Urrao Antpitta – Grallaria urrao ……  Photo by Ed Wilson



…. however Pro Aves the conservation society that own the site named it as Fenwick’s Antpitta Grallaria fenwickorum after the organisations benefactor George Fenwick. The near simultaneous  naming of the species by two different parties under acrimonious conditions has created a bit of a scandal in the ornithological world.

This was to be my last new bird of the trip, although a stop in the Cauca valley did give us good views of the Antioquia Wren. From here we walked down to meet the bus and drove back to Medellin to catch the overnight flight to Madrid and then to home. It had been an excellent trip with 56 life birds out about 600 recorded. Of course I didn’t see all that I hoped to, much of Colombia is poorly known ornithologically, as can be seen by the number of species new to science that are being discovered there also this was the first time that this itinerary had been followed in full by Birdquest, as the last tour was severely affected by weather causing cancellation of flights to the coast. Of course after 13 visits to South America I’m very much searching  for specialties and almost by definition, specialties are hard to see, either because they are rare, elusive or their locations are difficult to access.

Of course there were some problems, in some places rain hindered our birding, but in others it was too dry and birds weren’t singing. Logistically it went very well but there were still some dreadfully long drives, however  things should improve when the new roads, currently under construction, are opened. However the biggest issue was the situation with Roger, who remains very much in our thoughts.

PS Whilst completing this entry I received a lot of photos from Ed Wilson which were far better than mine. I have replaced my old Lumix camera with the Canon Powershot SX 50 HS that he used, more of that later. I hope to post a few of Ed’s pictures as soon as I have had time to review them.

Posted March 8, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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