Bountiful Bolivia – Endemic Macaws, Cloud Forests and Andes

The Republic of Bolivia – Endemic Macaws, Cloud Forests and Andes

Cochabamba Mountain FinchCochabamba Mountain Finch

Bolivia, officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a landlocked country located in central South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, Chile to the southwest, and Peru to the west. The geographic location of the country comprises a great variety of terrains and climates. Bolivia has a huge degree of biodiversity, considered one of the greatest in the world; It stretches across the widest part of the Andean mountain chain and is one of the poorest, highest and most isolated of Latin American republics with the biggest indigenous Amerindian population.

The country is as varied as its people and ranges from steaming Amazonian rainforest, high saline lakes and high steppe desert, rolling tropical savannah to snow covered peaks and glaciers of the High Andes. This varied topography makes for many habitat types and consequently one of the largest bird lists for a landlocked country in the world. Assisted by the recent publication of a superb national field guide (in English), the birding world is starting to appreciate what they have been missing for years! While we will not neglect the quantity of birds, our trip will target quality endemic and range restricted birds.

In particular, we will search for two endemic big Macaws (Bolivia is indeed a land of parrots), a range restricted and a potentially endemic antpitta which may be split in the near future and so much more. Reasonable roads, good hotels throughout (some simple but all clean) and the added advantage of our field chef Aurelio preparing field breakfasts and lunches in shady spots with great birds from the dining table, will make for a comfortable and birdy trip-all in aid of Neotropical bird conservation.

Possible birds are Huayco Tinamou, Darwin’s and White-bellied Nothuras, Orinoco Goose, Bare-faced Curassow, Rufous-breasted Wood Quail, Titicaca Grebe, Plumbeous Ibis, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Andean Avocet, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Yungas Pygmy Owl, Black-hooded Sunbeam (E), Sword-billed Hummingbird, Red-tailed Comet, Scaled Metaltail, Hooded Mountain Toucan, Ocellated Piculet, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Cliff Parakeets (E), Blue-throated (E) and Red-fronted Macaws (E), Bolivian Earthcreeper, Brown-capped and Tawny Tit-Spinetails, Black-throated Thistletail (E), Maquis, Berlepsch’s (E), and Scribble-tailed Canasteros, Light-crowned and Bolivian Spinetails (E), Plain (Beni) Softtail, Spot-breasted Thornbird, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Upland and Bolivian Slaty Antshrikes, Mato Grosso Antbird, Short-tailed Antthrush, Rufous-faced Antpitta, Diademed Tapaculo, Olive-crowned Crescentchest, Rufous-sided Pygmy Tyrant, Bolivian Tyrannulet, Yungas Tody-Tyrant, Hudson’s Black Tyrant, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Band-tailed Fruiteater, Scimitar-winged Piha,White-eared Solitaire, Andean Slaty and the elusive Unicolored Thrush (E), (Bolivian) Citrine, Pale-legged and Yungas Warblers, Southern Mountain Cacique, Velvet-fronted (Beni) Grackle, Bolivian Blackbird (E), Bolivian (E) and Fulvous-headed Brushfinches, Orange-browed and Three-striped Hemispingus, Rufous-bellied and Chestnut-bellied Mountain Tanagers, Straw-backed Tanager, Giant Conebill, Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer (E), Grey-crested Finch, Long-tailed Reed Finch, Bolivian Warbling Finch, Cochabamba Mountain Finch (E) and Rufous-rumped and Dark-throated Seedeaters. Some potential interesting mammals include Azara’s Night Monkey, White-eared Titi Monkey, Culpeo Fox and Southern Tamandua.


Day 1: ARRIVE SANTA CRUZ

Most International flights arrive at Viru-Viru airport in Santa Cruz early in the morning. Visit to the very birdy Botanical gardens. We'll pay particular attention to any Santa Cruz specialties we may have missed. First, we’ll visit a small lake, which is home to Least Grebe, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Wattled Jacana, Rufous-sided Crake, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Red-capped Cardinal. The light forest around the lake is often noisy with Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Blue-winged Parrotlets, Thrush-like Wrens and Rufous Horneros. Once in the tall Chiquitano dry forest we may see many birds including Green-cheeked Parakeet, Buff-bellied Hermit, White-wedged Piculet, Bolivian Slaty Antshrike and Fawn-breasted Wren, Pale-crested Woodpecker and White-backed Fire-eye.

With luck, we may hear or see Hooded Capuchin and Pale Titi Monkey or see a family of Black-tailed Marmosets. To the east of the botanic garden lies a patch of Chacoan thorn scrub where we’ll look for Rufous-throated Sapphire, Red-billed Scythebill, White-bellied and White-crested Tyrannulets, Mato Grosso Antbird and the delightful Stripe-backed Antbird. After lunch at a typical restaurant we spend the afternoon at Lomas de Arena. Lomas de Arena was initially preserved because of a small lake between sand dunes that can give the impression of having a beach. Several types of habitats are preserved in the area: savannahs, dry forest, marshes and large water bodies. The area is also a stop over and wintering ground for many Austral and Boreal migrants.

Over 240 birds have been recorded in the park but it is believed only 70 are actual residents. The usual daily list stands at 60-80 species. The bird community is in constant flux, with many crazy single day records of hundreds of Austral migrant birds just passing through on their way to or from Argentina. Moreover, in Bolivia 's summer, Eastern Kingbirds and Barn Swallows can be the most abundant birds.

The area has many easily seen desired birds such as Comb Duck, Brazilian Duck, Burrowing Owl, White-eared Puffbird, White Woodpecker, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, and Chotoy Spinetail. The area also harbors some rarities like Toco Toucan, and Red-legged Seriema. Birds seen in this area are Red-winged Tinamou, White-bellied Nothura, Buff-necked Ibis, White-tailed Hawk, Southern Caracara, Burrowing Owl, White-eared Puffbird, White-woodpecker (Austral Migrant), Campo Flicker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Hudson's Black-Tyrant (Austral Migrant), Spectacled Tyrant, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, Yellowish Pipit, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, and the rare Black-throated Saltator.

Further on the road is the Hotal Sol & Arena. Over the vegetated small sand dunes east of the hotel (just behind the dining area) is a large area of closed dry and mixed forest that is well worth a visit. The land is private and used for cattle pasture. There is no official trail system, but there is well used cattle trail that travels over the vegetated sand dunes and into the forest, from there travelling north and south. In the closed forest area, there is Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Blue-crowned Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Buff-breasted Woodcreeper, Great Antshrike, Steaked Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher, Moustached Wren, Plush-crested Jay, Grayish Saltator, and Orange-backed Troupial. Night in Santa Cruz B: L: D


Day 2: TRANSFER TO TRINIDAD FROM SANTA CRUZ

Flight to Trinidad. The bustling Tropical town of Trinidad is located in the Department of Beni on the Moxos savannahs. We will spend 3 nights in our comfortable hotel commuting to the birds each day; this habitat is a mix of dry woodlands, riparian gallery forest, grasslands, and palm savannahs. It is seasonally flooded, and our visit is timed at the height of the dry season. It is in the palm savannah that the endemic and critically endangered Blue-throated Macaw is to be found (total population estimated to number about 350 birds). For many years this spectacular Macaw was known only from specimens and live birds in the possession of parrot collectors. Night Hotel Tapacare. B: L: D


Day 3: TRINIDAD- LORETO

Early breakfast on the road to the Macaws and other birding at Loreto. We'll drive to the savannahs near Loreto today concentrating on open flooded fields and scrubby pasture. The bird list here is amazingly long. There are several species restricted to the Beni savannas known as “Beni endemics (BE)” which are slated for species rank in the future. Some of our target birds besides the fabulous Blue-throated Macaw, are Chaco Eagle, Plain (Beni) Softtail, Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin and the endemic boliviensis race of the Beni Velvet-fronted Grackle. Others birds might include Plumbeous, Green, Buff-necked, Plumbeous and Bare-faced Ibises, Comb Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Southern Screamer, Muscovy Duck, Scarlet-hooded and Unicolored Blackbirds, Greater Thornbird, 3 species of Monjita, Bicolored Seedeater, Toco Toucan, Great Rufous and Narrow-billed Woodcreepers, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, various Whistling Ducks, Little Cuckoo, Orange-winged Parrot, Azure Gallinule, Slender-billed Kite, Black-collared Hawk, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Chotoy , Cinereous-breasted , Plain-crowned and Yellow-chinned Spinetails, Rufous Chachalote and Fawn-breasted Wren. Night Hotel Tapacare. B: L: D


Day 4: TRINIDAD AND THE LA HABANA ROAD

Breakfast on the road La Habana. Today we are heading for some gallery forest to look for Unicolored Thrush (tough to find so we need luck on our side). Birding here is dynamite with Rheas, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Grey-lined Hawk, Hoatzin, Turquoise-fronted Parrot, Gilded and Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds, Green-barred and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers and much, much more. The grasslands and seasonally flooded woodlands are reminiscent of the more open parts of the famous Brazilian Pantanal or of the Venezuelan llanos and harbour the same rich and spectacular variety of birds. The open habitat makes for easy viewing and during our day here we should amass a splendid list. Many of the birds of the marshes, oxbow lakes, open meadows and pastures are widespread in the Neotropics, but we will of course be concentrating on the local specialties, and in particular the rare Orinoco Goose (here to be seen in flocks!), the rare Hudson’s Black -Tyrant (a migrant from central Argentina) and Dark-throated Seedeater. Additional species we may well see include the stately Greater Rhea, Undulated Tinamou, Anhinga and Cocoi, Whistling, Capped and Striated Herons. The gallery forest should hold, as well as Black-tailed Trogon, the incredible Toco Toucan (with its bright blue eyes), White-wedged Piculet, handsome Pale-crested and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Red-billed Scythebill, Mato Grosso Antbird, Euler’s Flycatcher, White-eyed Attila, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Orange-headed and Grey-headed Tanagers, Chestnut-vented Conebill and Golden-crowned Warbler. Night Hotel Tapacare. B: L: D


Day 5: TRINIDAD- SANTA CRUZ – LOS VOLCANES

Morning flight to Santa Cruz and immediate departure for Refugio Los Volcanes The Andean foothills and bird the dry forest and canyons. This is a good area for Parrots and we may see any of the following - Mitered and Green-cheeked Parakeet, Scaly-naped and Red-billed Parrot. This is also an area where we have seen Military Macaw in the past. Other possibilities here include Plush-crested Jay, the rare Large-tailed Dove, Blue-crowned Trogon, Ocellated Piculet, Black-capped Antwren and Guira Tanager, White-backed Fire-eye. In the afternoon, we'll arrive at the comfortable Refugio Los Volcanes and bird access road - Glittring-bellied Emerald, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Tatauapa Tinamou, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Two-banded Warbler. We shall hope to have the afternoon to bird the Los Volcanes area. Night Los Volcanes. B: L: D


Day 6: LOS VOLCANES

Refugio Los Volcanes is in a most spectacular geographical setting surrounded by many forest clad sugarloaf peaks and cascading waterfalls. Possibilities we will be looking for include Bolivian Tapaculo, Yungas Manakin, Slender-tailed Woodstar, Buff-bellied Hermit, Blue-browed Tanager, Southern Scrub Flycatcher, Bicolored Hawk, Military Macaw, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Slaty Gnateater and more. The endemic Bolivian Recurvebill is here too. Night Refugio Los Volcanes. B: L: D


Day 7: LOS VOLCANES - SAMAIPATA

Morning birding around Refugio Los Volcanes and in the afternoon on to Samaipata for the night. We may make a stop at Los Volcanes Lake B: L: D


Day 8: SAMAIPATA - TAMBO

Early start and a field breakfast. We’ll head to a locality for Alder Parrot. We have seen the scarce and hard to see Red-faced Guan here on occasion. The rest of the morning may produce Spot-backed Puffbird, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Red-crested Finch, Black-capped Warbling Finch, Sooty-fronted and Stripe-crowned Spinetails, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Giant Antshrike, White-barred Piculet and Dot-fronted Woodpecker. We’ll move on a little-known birding road to Vallegrande stopping and birding at suitable habitat along the way. Birds we may encounter include Spot-breasted Thornbird and Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet. The rare Chaco Eagle is possible along this stretch. In the late afternoon, we’ll arrive in Tambo for the night. Hotel Monte Blanco. B: L: D


Day 9: SAIPINA AND SUROUNDINGS Morning around the cultivated fields between Tambo and Saipina. Dawn will see us waiting for the dawn flyover of the rare and endemic Red-fronted Macaw. Regular birds to be seen include the almost endemic Bolivian Earthcreeper, White-bellied Hummingbird, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, White-fronted Woodpecker, Chaco Suiriri Flycatcher, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Cream-backed Woodpecker, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Rufous-capped Antshrike, White-bellied Tyrannulet, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Bay-winged Cowbird, Ringed Warbling Finch, Grey-crested Finch, Rusty-browed Warbling Finch and Saffron-billed Sparrow. In the afternoon, we’ll head to Saipina and some agricultural areas along the Rio Misque - here Red-fronted Macaws, Blue-crowned Parakeets and Turquoise-fronted Amazons often raid the crops. We could see Black and Rufous Warbling Finches here as well. We’ll make a special effort for the endemic Cliff Parakeet. Night Tambo Hotel Monte Blanco B: L: D


Day 10: SIBERIA

Early start for the humid temperate forest at Siberia. We'll spend all day with a picnic lunch exploring side roads and trails. This will be our first introduction to cloud forest birding with lot's more to come further north. Birds we are hoping to see here include Giant Antshrike (largest of all Antbirds) and the shy Rufous-faced Antpitta only found outside Bolivia in a remote area of Peru. The local cochabambae race of Rufous Antpitta is here too and if split would become a Bolivian endemic, Andean Guan, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Red-crested Cotinga, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, White-browed Conebill, Pale-footed Swallow, Pale-legged Warbler, Crested Quetzal and Blue-winged and Chestnut-bellied Mountain Tanagers. We'll look for Great Pampa-Finch and Red-tailed Comet on the way back to Comarapa. We may want to spend the afternoon in some dry semi deciduous habitat looking for Bolivian (endemic) and Rufous-sided Warbling Finches, Speckle-breasted Thornbird and Olive-crowned Crescentchest. Night in Tambo Hotel Monte Blanco. B: L: D


Day 11: SIBERIA TO COCHABAMBA

Very early start with a picnic breakfast. To-day we head for the pleasant city of Cochabamba. We'll stop for some early morning birding at Siberia looking for species we may have missed. Continuing on we pass some remnant scrub Polylepis woodland - here possibilities include Giant Conebill, Grey-hooded Parakeet, Rock Earthcreeper, Andean Swift, Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer (endemic), Rufous-bellied Mountain Tanager (near endemic), Wedge-tailed Hillstar (near endemic), and Rufous-sided and Rufous-browed Warbling Finches. We’ll stop on the high grasslands to search for Puna Canastero and a variety of Miners. Continuing on we'll spend the afternoon birding a cultivated stream area where we hope to see Citron-headed Yellow-Finch (near endemic), Red-tailed Comet, Giant Hummingbird, Golden-breasted Flicker, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Black-hooded Sierra Finch, Fulvous-headed Brushfinch and Rusty-vented Canastero. Finally, we descend into the fertile Cochabamba valley. Night at our hotel in Cochabamba. B: L: D


Day 12: COCHABAMBA

Early start for the temperate forest of the Yungas (cloud forest) of Chapare. We'll start at the treeline and hope to see some of the following: Undulated Antpitta, Andean Tapaculo, Great Sapphirewing, Cochabamba Thistletail (endemic), Black-winged Parrot, Hooded Mountain Toucan, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Light-crowned Spinetail and Crowned Chat-Tyrant. We’ll spend the afternoon in the lower cloud forest looking specifically for Straw-backed Tanager and maybe Upland Antshrike, and bird our way to our hotel in Cochabamba. B: L: D


Day 13: COCHABAMBA

As a complete contrast to the previous day we'll visit a dry Andean valley above Quillacolla where stands of mature Polylepis woodland still exist. This should be an exciting day’s birding. Endemic-types are the order of the day here and we will pay special attention to Cochabamba Mountain Finch (endemic), Wedge-tailed Hillstar (near endemic), Bolivian Blackbird (endemic) and Bolivian Warbling Finch (near endemic). Other possibilities here include Black-winged Ground Dove, Andean Hillstar, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Tufted and Tawny Tit-Tyrants, Andean Swallow, Rufous-bellied Saltator and Cinereous and Giant Conebills. We'll head up to the high Puna grasslands for the local Short-tailed Finch, Streak-throated Canastero, White-winged Diuca Finch, Brown-backed Mockingbird and a variety of Ground Tyrants and Sierra Finches. We'll return to Cochabamba for the night. B: L: D


Day 14: COCHABAMBA- ORURO

We'll take all day birding the route. Our first stop will be for Bolivian Blackbird in the arid canyons west of Cochabamba should we have missed it up until now. Brown-backed Mockingbird is here too. The rest of the day's journey is through high Puna grasslands and we'll bird particular areas for high altitude species such as Puna Hawk, Andean Flicker, Bright-rumped Yellow Finch, Cordilleran Canastero, Puna Canastero, Slender-billed and Common Miners, Mountain Parakeet and Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail. We may be lucky and see an Ornate Tinamou or a Golden-spotted Ground Dove. In the afternoon we drive to Oruro for the night. We hope to have time to vist the lake for 3 species of Flamingoes, Andean Avocet, Puna Plover and more. Night Oruro. B: L: D


Day 15: ORURO - QUIME

To-day we may do some birding around Oruro if we are missing any important birds or we may start and drive to Quime on the road to Iquisivi and do some afternoon birding below Quime. B: L: D


Day 16: QUIME TO CHULLUMANI

Our breakfast stop will be in a bushy canyon where we'll look for the endemic Black-hooded Sunbeam. Puna Tapaculo and D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant are here too as well as the near endemic Maquis Canstero. Moving on we'll drive beyond Inquisivi and look for the endemic and recently described Bolivian Spinetail – this is why we are making this complex detour. Continuing on, it’s a long drive to the town of Chullumani (about 7 hours) and our rustic but comfortable hotel. Night Chulumani. B: L: D


Day 17: CHULUMANI - COROICO

Dawn will see us in a very pretty patch of Cloud Forest close to the Apa Apa private reserve. Our target bird will be the little-known Scimitar-winged Piha. Birding is good and Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Crested Quetzal, Hazel-fronted Pygmy Tyrant, White-eared Solitaire and Yungas Warbler are all possible. We'll spend the morning here with a picnic lunch. In the afternoon, we'll head for Coroico and our comfortable hotel B: L: D


Day 18: CHAIRO AND COROICO

A full, flexible, day’s birding in the lower cloud forest. First, we will go to El Chairo and the Cotapata National Park. Here we may see Cabanis’s Spinetail, Upland Antshrike, the unobtrusive, near-endemic Yungas Tody-Tyrant, Bolivian Tapaculo and the pretty little White-bellied Pygmy Tyrant. There is likely to be a substantial supporting cast in this life zone, including Dusky-green and Crested Oropendolas. We’ll drive a long transect, birding middle elevations looking for many of the birds mentioned for tomorrow. Night in Coroico. B: L: D


Day 19: COROICO – THE OLD ROAD TO LA PAZ

This track is spectacular and good for birds. We'll concentrate on the upper temperate forest in the morning. As we explore trails and side roads we expect to see some of the following: Golden-collared Tanager, Citrine Warbler, Three-striped Hemispingus, Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher, Black-throated Thistletail (endemic), Yungas Manakin, Black-hooded Sunbeam (endemic), Moustached Flowerpiercer, Three-striped and Supercilliaried Hemispingus, Plush-cap, Orange-browed Hemispingus, Hooded and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers, Rufous-faced Antpitta and Sword-billed Hummingbird. Another night in Coroico B: L: D


Day 20: COROICO - CHUSPIPATA- HUATAJATA

We’ll bird the middle elevations again along the old road to La Paz. We'll concentrate on the upper temperate forest in the morning. In the afternoon, we'll bird the higher elevations of the Coroico road. On our way to Lake Titicaca we should have time to visit some upper temperate forest and the La Cumbre area for some high-altitude species such as Short-tailed Finch, Andean Tapaculo and Scribble-tailed Canastero as well as a variety of Sierra Finches. We’ll visit a variety of locales ranging from high puna bogs to altiplano to high Andean cloud forest. The road that takes us over the pass at La Cumbre and to Lake Titicaca, is a narrow, winding road, affording breathtaking vistas of distant ridges and steep-walled valleys shrouded in clouds at every turn. We’ll by-pass La Paz and drive to our hotel on Lake Titicaca. Night Lago Titicaca. B: L: D


Day 21: SORATA

Today we undertake a journey to seek the endemic Berlepch’s Canstero. We’ll also look for other high-altitude species including the enormous Giant Coot and return in time to seek the Lake Titicaca flightless Grebe. Night Hotel at Lago Titicaca. B: L: D


Day 22: TO LA PAZ AND FLIGHTS HOME (OR JOIN PALCACHUPA COTINGA TOUR)

Transfer to El Alto Airport for international flights home.


CAN BE COMBINED WITH THE CHACO PRE TOUR EXTENSION AND THE PALCACHUPA COTINGA AND MASKED ANTPITTA TOUR

 

 

Customer Testimonials

Joe Crighton – Wildbird Tours - Canada

Had to pass along our heartfelt thanks to you and your organization. Things went perfectly. Lynda and I were so impressed with all your people. Especially Mary and Marco. Mary guided us through your operation. She was friendly, gracious and professional. We were impressed and look forward to seeing her again.

Debby Reynolds - UK

First we all want to thank you and all the backup team for fantastic service and great birding adventure. We certainly think Manu Expeditions does a very good job. We can unreservedly recommend the Cusco and Manu components to any UK birders. A foremost star of the show was Silverio, who certainly counts as one of the best bird tour guides any of us has been with over many decades of worldwide trips.

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First we all want to thank you and all the backup team for fantastic service and great birding adventure. We certainly think Manu Expeditions does a very good job. We can unreservedly recommend the Cusco and Manu components to any UK birders. A foremost star of the show was Silverio, who certainly counts as one of the best bird tour guides any of us has been with over many decades of worldwide trips.

Had to pass along our heartfelt thanks to you and your organization. Things went perfectly. Lynda and I were so impressed with all your people. Especially Mary and Marco. Mary guided us through your operation. She was friendly, gracious and professional. We were impressed and look forward to seeing her again.

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