Birder's Guide

AUG 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 38 of 67

many species. A trip to the Colombian Andes is sure to please even the most demanding of birders. The Caribbean Coast and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta • The Caribbean part of Colombia has some spectacular spots, most of them undeveloped when compared to Caribbean locations in other countries. Pristine beaches, coastal wetlands, and dry forests await birders near Barranquilla (barr-ahn-KEE-yah), Santa Marta, and the Guajira (gwah-HEE-rah) Peninsula. Grandiose snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta beckon birders to high montane cloud-forests exploding with endemic birds and numerous specialties. You can bake in the hot dry sun of the Caribbean coast while looking inland at the towering peaks, where wet forests and cooler climes await. Most tours begin in Barranquilla, a bustling city known mostly for being Shakira's hometown and also for hosting the secondlargest Carnival party in the world, behind only Rio de Janeiro. So if you're planning a trip from early to mid-February, know that you'll be engulfed in this city's celebrations! (A taste of the festivities is well worth the effort.) Birding tours fy into Barranquilla to take advantage of Parque Isla de Salamanca and its endemics, such as Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, Bronzebrown Cowbird, and the extremely rare Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird. This short trip also offers numerous chances to see Bicolored Conebill and Northern ScrubFlycatcher. Many tours continue birding along the Caribbean Coast toward the Guajira Peninsula—and more specifcally—at Los Flamencos sanctuary, where you can see American Flamingo as well as Chestnut Piculet, Vermilion Cardinal, Orinocan Saltator, Green-rumped Parrotlet, and White-fringed Antwren. An absolute must for any serious birder is a few-day visit to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This isolated mountain range, distinct and separate from the Andes, reaches staggering heights of over 18,000 feet but is only 26 miles from the hot beaches and dry forests of the coast. The astonishingly rapid ascent makes the Santa Marta mountains the highest coastal range in the world, a cu- rious dichotomy when you experience the warm Caribbean beaches and waters quickly giving way to chilly, wet montane forests and eventually to glacier-capped peaks. Due to its isolation, this fascinating mountain range has nurtured an impressive array of endemic species. In-the-know agencies reserve rooms at El Dorado Bird Reserve. El Dorado's lodge is about four hours from the city of Santa Marta, and the birding starts the moment the jeep begins its climb up the winding and bumpy mountain road. This splendid lodge commands spectacular views of the snowy peaks above and valleys below, courtesy of the lodge's large viewing windows. Birding at El Dorado is a memorable experience. The lodge has several feeders with dizzying numbers of hummers visiting throughout the day. Additionally, a worm station draws in the endemic Santa Marta Antpitta, and a compost heap is occasionally visited by Black-fronted WoodQuail. The focus at El Dorado is on the numerous endemics that can be seen either along the San Lorenzo Road or via the trail system within the reserve itself. Some of the area's avian highlights include Santa Marta Screech-Owl, Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Santa Marta Tapaculo, Santa Marta Brush-fnch, Santa Marta MountainTanager, Santa Marta Woodstar, and Santa Marta Sabrewing. Given the names of those birds, can you tell this area is a hotbed of endemism? A few days spent exploring the different elevations and forested habitats here might well be the highlight of your trip. Colombia is a uniquely diverse country with unparalleled travel opportunities, and is quickly becoming a top destination for traveling birders and wildlife enthusiasts alike. This much-maligned country may not be for everyone—at least not yet—but those who dare travel in search of one-of-a-kind encounters, and who are willing to form their own opinions, will fnd a nation that is spreading its wings and rising to new heights. Experience frsthand what Colombia has to offer, and you will not be disappointed. August 2013 | Birder's Guide to Travel 37

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