BIRDING ROUTES IN COLOMBIA
Magdalena Valley Route
Good all year; 10 days travel; 550+ species occur, 10 endemics, 12 threatened species
This route visits some of the most important reserves in the Magdalena Valley, where deforestation has been intensive. The tour ranges from the high altitudes of Chingaza National Park near Bogota (11,000 feet; Bogota itself sits at nearly 9,000 feet), to the hot humid lowlands of El Paujil reserve, and the pleasant climate of the Cerulean Warbler reserve. This route takes 8-10 days, and the varied altitudes and habitats contribute to an excellent diversity of birds, including a long list of specialties and endemics. The route is most popular in the (relatively) dry months of December through March, but is possible at any time of year – although the wet season can present logistical challenges it is often better for bird activity!
The route begins in the modern capital of Bogota and traverses the large and varied Magdalena Valley. The complex topography of the Andes means some travel is difficult, but almost all roads are in good condition year-round. Accomodation is generally good and includes both excellent city hotels and comfortable eco-lodges located in nature reserves.
Bogota itself is home to some fabulous cultural attractions such as the Gold Museum and Montserrat, a monastery perched on a hill above the city, accessible by cable car (watch for Sword-billed Hummingbirds at Montserrat!). Bogota is also very close to Chingaza National Park, which protects beautiful paramo and temperate forest, and safeguards Bogota’s water supply. After a day in the open expanses of Chingaza, the route stops by one of the few wetlands remaining in the Bogota area. The entire Bogota region previously consisted of a large wetland; city-building and agriculture have predictably destroyed much of this habitat, although the few remaining wetlands are important strongholds for several marsh endemics.
The route then leads down into the Magdalena Valley to the Golden Poison-dart Frog Reserve, home to endemic birds and frogs, before turning north and visiting the humid forest of El Paujil Reserve, where the critically endangered Blue-billed Currassow can be found. There are lots of cattle but few forests left in the Magdalena Valley, and Paujil is also a stronghold for the endangered variegated spider monkey. A further drive north leads to the excellent Cerulean Warbler Reserve, where several profitable days can be spent exploring the bird-friendly coffee zone and subtropical forest – make sure to try the local coffee!
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