Day 1 – Arrival and Orientation
Our Colombia: Santa Marta birding tour starts in Barranquilla, a port city along the Caribbean coast and readily accessible from North American airports. We meet for dinner at our hotel to discuss the adventure ahead. Night in Barranquilla.
Day 2 – Drive to Minca
We will leave our hotel just before dawn, taking a box breakfast with us. After looking for Chestnut-winged Chachalaca, Bicolored Wren and other goodies in a patch of tropical dry forest in a suburb of Barranquilla, we will drive east parallel to the coast, stopping at Isla de Salamanca National Park (the main target, though the chance that we will see it is not high, is the Critically Endangered Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird,) and we will also stop at a few other places including one or two roadside ponds. We will have lunch in a restaurant prior to heading inland to Minca, which is in the lower foothills of the Santa Marta range. Night in Minca.
Days 3 – Birding and transfer to El Dorado Lodge
At Minca we will bird around 700 meter elevation in tropical dry forest. We are likely to see several dozen species as we search for Black-backed Antshrike as well as the spectacular Golden-winged Sparrow and Rosy Thrush-Tanager. Aboard 4-wheel drive jeeps we will start driving up the Santa Marta Mountains to the marvelous El Dorado Lodge located at 1950m on the San Lorenzo ridge. We will be stopping along the way in several spots in submontane forest and coffee plantations and we will find our first Santa Marta endemics, hopefully including Santa Marta Antbird and Santa Marta Blossomcrown. Night at El Dorado Lodge.
Days 4 and 5 – El Dorado Lodge
In the gardens at El Dorado, hummingbird feeders attract many hummingbirds including White-tailed Starfrontlet, Santa Marta Woodstar and hopefully Lazuline Sabrewing; fruit feeders bring in Blue-naped Chlorophonia and Black-capped Tanager; both Santa Marta and Sierra Nevada Brush-Finches should be in the underbrush; and possibly the endemic Black-fronted Wood-Quail will be present. Santa Marta Screech-owls may call at night. We will also board the jeeps and explore the forests above and below the lodge, paying particular attention to the many endemics and unique subspecies of the region. Higher elevations support a host of “Santa Marta” specialties – Santa Marta Parakeet, Santa Marta Antpitta, Santa Marta Foliage-Gleaner, Santa Marta Bush-Tyrant, Santa Marta Warbler, Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager, and Hermit Wod-Wren, as well as White-tipped Quetzal, Rufous Antpitta, Rusty-headed and Streak-capped Spinetails, Golden-breasted Fruiteater, White-lored Warbler and Yellow-crowned Redstart. If we are fortunate, we could find the very rare Black-backed Thorntail and/or Santa Marta Sabrewing. Below the lodge the birding is equally exciting - Band-tailed and Sickle-winged Guans, White-tipped Quetzal, Santa Marta Blossomcrown, Masked Trogon, Montane and Strong-billed Woodcreepers, Emerald and Groove-billed Toucanets, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Swallow Tanager, and Yellow-legged and Black-hooded Thrushes. Nights at El Dorado Lodge.
Day 6 – To Minca and Riohacha
In the morning, we will continue to bird the forests of Santa Marta, specifically looking for any of the specialty species we may not have seen yet. After midday we will drive to Minca and then head east, driving for 3 to 4 hours to Riohacha. Night in Riohacha.
Day 7 – Flight to Bogotá and connection to main tour
Before our flight to Bogotá, we have a morning of birding around Riohacha. This will allow us to sample xerophytic scrub and desert habitats and the Los Flamencos Reserve, where specialties include Green-rumped Parrotlet, Buffy Hummingbird, Black-crested Antshrike, White-whiskered Spinetail, Slender-billed Inezia, Vermilion Cardinal, Orinocan Saltator, and Tocuyo Sparrow. Los Flamencos is a national reserve designed to protect several lagoons used seasonally by large concentrations of Greater Flamingos. Among the flamingos occur several other waterbirds, including Roseate Spoonbill, Reddish Egret, Scarlet and White Ibis. Further possibilities include Russet-throated Puffbird, and Chestnut Piculet. This area becomes warm fairly early, so this morning we will have to leave before dawn with a box breakfast to eat on the road.
We have a midday flight from Riohacha to Bogotá, arriving about 2 pm. This is the end of our Colombia: Santa Marta birding tour, but participants carrying on to our Colombia birding tour will meet for dinner. Others can connect to flights home in the afternoon or evening.