Trip Reports

Colombia Workshop Trip Report

By June 11, 2019 July 15th, 2019 No Comments

Cock Of The Rock

Colombia is one such place where you can spot and click birds to your heart’s content. The diversity of birds found here is overwhelming right from the stunning Hummingbirds that gather around the tubular flowers to sip nectar with their long beaks to the vibrant Tanagers and the active Antpittas that inhabit the forests. With every turn of your head you can see a rare bird whizzing past as if in a hurry. The sheer number of birds that one can spot will convince anyone that 20% of the planet’s birds live right there, which is also factually true.

One can guess that any avid bird lover and photographer will hardly get any time to look up from his camera given the high concentration of endemic birds in each region of Colombia and that is what exactly happened on this photo workshop too. During this trip, we shot at the feeders, created setups and did on-field or opportunistic shoots deep in the forest and at the lodges where we stayed. We did not just click images but soaked in the beauty of the Colombian highland forests where the mist hangs low just like we read in a fairy tale.

The trip began from Bogotá which was the starting point where we all met. The historical city of Bogotá is postcard perfect with its grand colonial houses and cobbled streets. Exploring the city is a great activity one can indulge in; once here, you cannot miss visiting the Gold Museum here as it houses the world’s largest gold collection. Step into the old meets new experience during the city tour. The vibrant culture of Colombia and the amazing coffee that you will find here will literally sweep you off your feet. You will need an entire day to yourself to explore the city, and if you want to do that it is advisable that you land in Bogotá a day before the photo trip starts.

Amazing Facts About Blue Naped Chlorophonia!

The Blue-naped Chlorophonia can be found extensively in the circum- Amazon range. The males have a bright green head, throat and breast, bright blue rump and central back, bright yellow breast and belly and green wings and tail. The females have a ligher shade of green head, chest and throat, a blue ocular area and collar, dull greenish-yellow underparts

Amazing Facts About Multicolor Tanager!

The Multicolor Tanagers is an endangered and an endemic bird of Colombia. The males have a yellow face and throat, a shining green nape, a black or chestnut patch on the neck, a yellow mantle and greenish-blue rump, green wings and tail, bright blue underparts and with black median chest and belly. The females are smaller in size but dull in color without any yellow mantle and black in the underparts. They inhabit humid and mossy forests at the elevations of 1300-2200m and can be spotted in the West Andes and North Central Andes.

Next morning, we drove to the airport for a short flight to the city of Manizales for the next leg of the journey. The secluded lodges offered a panoramic view of the Central Andes range and thermal baths here are a chief attraction here apart from its thriving bird population. After a day of a fruitful photo shoot at the Hummingbird Observatory and hourlong travel to Manizales, we soaked in the natural thermal baths to soothe our tired nerves and mind and brace ourselves for more photo adventures that awaited. We spent three days shooting at Manizales as there are several spots for creating both multi-flash setups and for opportunistic shooting.

Quick facts About the Purple Backed Thornbill

The Purple-backed Thornbill is a Hummingbird species with the smallest bill. The males have brilliant-purple plumes with forked purplish-black tails. These tiny Hummingbirds can be spotted in the periphery of humid forests, semi-open highlands and in páramo. In the monsoon these Hummingbirds fly off to higher elevations. They feed on nectar from flowers and insects. It is a delight to watch their courtship displays where the male dances around in arc patterns while making loud cracking noise.

Quick facts About the Purple Backed Thornbill

The Purple-backed Thornbill is a Hummingbird species with the smallest bill. The males have brilliant-purple plumes with forked purplish-black tails. These tiny Hummingbirds can be spotted in the periphery of humid forests, semi-open highlands and in páramo. In the monsoon these Hummingbirds fly off to higher elevations. They feed on nectar from flowers and insects. It is a delight to watch their courtship displays where the male dances around in arc patterns while making loud cracking noise.

The Los Nevados National Natural Park at Manizales not only hosts at least 12 rare species of Hummingbirds and other endemic birds, but also stunning landscape dotted by snow-capped volcanoes, glaciers, lakes, and forests. Los Nevados National Natural Park is where you will find one of the most important biodiversity hotspots of the Andes, called Páramo. Which is home to more than 69 bird species, 1200 different varieties of plants which include the endemic species like the tall Wax palms and the Espeletia flowers that resemble tiny sunflowers which are also known as the frailejón or fraylejón and big mammals like the Mountain Tapirs, Puma, and the Spectacled Bear.
Whether you are bird, wildlife, landscape and nature photographer there is something for everyone here.

Facts About Cresent Faced Antpitta

The Crescent-faced Antpitta is well known for its striking plumage and belongs to the Grallariidae family. The adults have a slaty-gray crown and nape, a bold white crescent in front of the eye from where it gets its name and a densely streaked buff and whitish underparts. This bird falls under the endangered list due to constant threat to its habitat.

The active volcano Nevado del Ruiz is in the North, in the south, there is the Emerald Lake Verde and the Trout filled lake Otún and snowy peaked Nevado del Tolima. Thus, there is a lot to explore around this place. As the quest for birds was intense, we stayed at Los Nevados to spot and train our lenses to capture the vibrant birds. some of the outstanding Hummingbirds we clicked during the multi-flash setups here are the- Buffy Helmetcrest an endemic Hummingbird which lives in the higher altitudes, Golden-breasted, and Black-thighed Pufflegs, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Shining Sunbeam, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Great Sapphirewing, Tourmaline Sunangel, Mountain Velvetbreast, Viridian Metaltail, Tyrian Metaltail, and Sparkling Violetear. These vibrant Hummingbirds come to feed nectar of the Espeletia flowers, we clicked them then and when they rested on the perches. The other birds we spotted here are Lacrimose and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers, Pale-naped and Gray-browed Brush-Finches, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Brown-bellied Swallow, Andean Siskin, Tawny Antpitta, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Sedge Wren, White-chinned Thistletail to just name a few.

Facts About Crested Oropendola

This is the most widespread Oropendola that can be found at the elevation of 2600 meters in Colombia. The bird’s plumes are black with a chestnut rump and underbelly, yellow patches in the tail that can only be seen in flight and blue irides.

After a fruitful hike and photo workshop at Los Nevados National Natural Park and around Termales del Ruiz it was time to shift to the misty and lush cloud forests of Rio Blanco Natural Reserve, it is the home to the rare Antpittas and the feeders here will ensure that you spot at least five types of this endangered species. Here we clicked the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Bicolored Antpitta, duller but endemic Brown-Banded Antpitta and occasional and elusive visitors like the Slate-crowned Antpitta and Chestnut-naped Antpitta. The other birds that we spotted around the Antpitta habitat are the Green-and-black Fruiteater and Gray-browed Brushfinch. At the fruit or banana feeders, we were lucky to spot the Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers and Slaty Brush-Finch. The activity at fruit-feeders is always unpredictable. We hiked around the forest and clicked more birds like the Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Masked Trogon, various tanagers, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Black-collared Jay among others. There are several Hummer feeders around the lodge at Rio Blanco where we got superb images of rare Hummingbirds like Long-tailed Sylph, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Tourmaline Sunangel, Lesser (Green) Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Buff-tailed Coronet, White-bellied Woodstar, and Booted Racket-tail. We spent two days at Rio Blanco to click all these birds, for which one day can never do justice.

Blue Naped Chlorophonia

Facts About Cresent Faced Antpitta

The Crescent-faced Antpitta is well known for its striking plumage and belongs to the Grallariidae family. The adults have a slaty-gray crown and nape, a bold white crescent in front of the eye from where it gets its name and a densely streaked buff and whitish underparts. This bird falls under the endangered list due to constant threat to its habitat.

From Rio Blanco, we moved to Hotel Tinamú a lodge located at the heart of a sub-humid forest teeming with more enigmatic birds which we haven’t spotted yet elsewhere. Here we created multi-flash setups around the feeders at the lodge to click the Hummingbirds and went for regular jungle trails every morning and afternoon. At the feeders, we spotted the Steely-vented Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Rufous-tailed Hummer, Long-billed Starthroat and White-vented Plumeleteer. The fruit feeders were frequented by the Green Honeycreeper, Bay-headed Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Scrub Tanager, Streaked Saltator, Common Palm and Blue-gray Tanagers, Clay-colored Thrush and Great Kiskadee. The short trails around the forest and lodge premises yielded great results as we got glimpses of the Bar-crested Antshrike, Buff-rumped Warbler, and Spectacled Parrotlet.

Torent Duck

The next morning, we spent capturing more images at the lodge before we finally left for Bogotá. We felt a little sad as it was the last day of our photo tour, at the same time thrilled to see so many birds within a span of few days and create an amazing portfolio of the endemic birds. Truly, Colombia holds a rich natural treasure that we were fortunate to witness, words fail to do justice to its beauty.  Since Colombia is still new in the tourist’s radar here you will be able to tap into its virgin beauty. This place will surely pull you back to her and this photo trip will be something you will not forget anytime soon.

Supreet Sahoo

Supreet Sahoo

Supreet Sahoo is the founder of Tropical Photo Tours: professional photography guided tours, designed to help you get the best out of your camera whilst exploring wonderful cities with a local. A professional photographer for over a decade Supreet enjoys shooting the surreal by mixing dreamlike qualities into his conceptual images.