Arrival to Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz, a place surrounded by beautiful natural grasslands, hard to resist picking up the binoculars even before we leave the airport!.
After collecting our baggage and meeting our local guide and driver, we will explore some of the nearby woodlands and grasslands in search of species like White-bellied Nothura, Red-winged Tinamou, Long-winged Harrier, Golden-collared Macaw, Bicolored Seedeater, White Woodpecker and Greater Rhea amongst others (we will have access to our luggage and facilities at the airport if we need to change clothes). After lunch and a well-earned rest at our hotel after the long journey, we will continue birding in the late afternoon. After an exciting start to the tour we will have a good night’s sleep in a comfortable hotel in Santa Cruz.
Days 2 & 3
Los Volcanes – Amboro National Park
This morming we plan to depart Santa Cruz very early (probably 0430 or 0500) in order to reach our first birding trail during peak morning activity. En-route, we will enjoy a picnic breakfast in semi-humid forest along a rushing river on the lower mountain slopes, then hike a dry, gently undulating trail through the forest. Continuing westward, we will eventually reach the southern boundary zone of Amboró National Park.
Amboró is a large wilderness area of 1.5 million acres that straddles the eastern foothills of the Andes in the Department of Santa Cruz. It is conveniently situated at the confluence of four very different biogeographical zones: the southern rim of the Amazon Basin (with its humid tropical rainforests), the western edge of the Brazilian shield (with its subtropical deciduous forests), the northern limit of the Chaco (temperate woodlands), and the very diverse subtropical and temperate forests of the Andes. This mosaic of ecosystems shelters a correspondingly rich diversity of plants and animals, including no less than 830 bird species! The comfortable Refugio Los Volcanes is conveniently located in the subtropical and temperate forests of Amboró National Park, and will provide us with a very comfortable base for two nights from which we will explore the nearby forests.
Jose Antonio Padilla and David Pearson
Refugio Los Volcanes. Parque Nacional Amboro, Bolivia
The lodge is located in a valley which is favoured by many species of parrots, including Mitred, Blue-crowned, Green-cheeked, and Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, and in November the strikingly beautiful Military Macaws breed here. Two-banded Warblers are almost guaranteed, and we have also had past success with the very rare Huayco Tinamou, King Vulture, Sunbittern, Spectacled Owl, Channel-billed Toucan, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Blackbanded Woodcreeper, Black-capped Antwren, White-backed Fire-Eye, the shy and elusive Slaty Gnateater, Bolivian Tapaculo, Marbled-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Yungas Manakin, Rufous-bellied Thrush, and Plush-crested Jay. The area also features some very good mixed species flocks that feature a diverse group of tanagers including a distinct race of Common Bush-Tanager, Guira Tanager and Black-goggled Tanager. Between the months of May and November, cold fronts from the Antarctic drive higher altitude species down to lower elevations providing us with opportunities to see White-winged, Saffron-crowned and Blue-necked Tanagers. This is definitely one of the most exciting times to visit the lodge as figs begin to fruit during this time period. Other species we will be looking for include Yungas (Large-tailed) Dove, Military Macaw (seasonal), Scaly-headed Parrot, Blue-fronted Parrot, Rufescent Screech-Owl, Planalto Hermit, Buff-bellied Hermit, Versicolored Barbet, White-eared Puffbird, White-barred Piculet, Ocellated Piculet, the endemic Bolivian Recurvebill (rare), Gray-throated Leaftosser, Blue-naped Chlorophonia and Straw-backed Tanager, amongst others.
The pace at the lodge is normally relatively relaxed. We will be waking up very early to have breakfast before dawn, then bird until late in the morning when the sun becomes too hot and the bird activity dies down. This is a perfect time to enjoy the crystal clear waters of the streams found near the lodge and we will even have the opportunity to swim in a natural pool that has formed at the base of a small waterfall. We will continue birding in the afternoon and into the early evening when nocturnal birds such as Spectacled Owl will become our target.
A number of localized species hard to see elsewhere in Bolivia occur around Samaipata, and we will spend the morning trying to get good looks at as many of these species as possible. Some of the local specialties include Huayco Tinamou, Andean Condor, Black-faced Ibis, Dusky-legged Guan, the endemic Red-fronted Macaw, Creambacked Woodpecker, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, Giant Antshrike, Greater Wagtail-Tyrant and White-tipped Plantcutter.
Following a good lunch, we will continue our trip westward. With a birding stop or two along the way, we will pass through dry deciduous forests before eventually entering into a zone of arid inter-Andean valleys lying within a rain shadow formed by the surrounding mountains. Around sunset we will pull into the little town of Tambo (about 1,700 metres). This area of Bolivia is rural to say the least, and distant from any large town. We will check in to the one small hotel, the Monteblanco, which offers clean rooms with private bathrooms and a restaurant.
Days 5 & 6
Birding the hot, dry habitats near Comarapa dictates that we concentrate our efforts in the early morning and late afternoon. In the Andean foothills and the semi-deciduous woodlands and shrub-desert near Tambo we hope to see Tataupa Tinamou (rare), White-eared Puffbird (possibly soon to be split to Chaco Puffbird), the endemic Bolivian Earthcreeper, the endemic Rufous-faced Antpitta, Andean Tyrant, White-tipped Plantcutter, Blue-capped Puffleg, Red-tailed Comet, Spot-breasted Thornbird, Olive-crowned Crescent-chest, the endemic Bolivian Warbling-Finch, Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch, Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch, and the endemic Gray-bellied Flower-piercer among others.
The main purpose of our trip to this remote region of Bolivia, however, is to attempt to see the endemic Red fronted Macaw. This large green macaw, highlighted with scarlet forehead and underwings, brilliant blue primaries and tail, and flaming orange epaulets, is not only one of the most spectacular of all macaws, it also ranks as one of the rarest birds in South America. It is possible that only a few hundred Red-fronted Macaws remain in the wild, and they are restricted to the arid canyons of the central Bolivian Andes. The birds are erratic, moving to food supplies, but with perseverance and a little bit of luck, we could come away with excellent views of these magnificent birds.
On one of the days we will go to a very different habitat: the cloud forests of Siberia. Just a couple of hours west of Tambo, the mountain range is high enough (2,600m) to catch the last of the moisture-laden easterlies and thus represents the southernmost limit of humid-temperate cloud forest in South America. It also marks the southern terminus in the distribution of numerous species of high-elevation forest birds. Birding will be along level roads and on trails (with some climbing near Siberia) in both the arid zone and in the cloud forest. The cloud forest trails are sometimes muddy (rubber boots recommended), although not too long or particularly steep.
We undertake a birding transfer today back to Santa Cruz, picking up on any species that we may have missed.
Last Night in Santa Cruz
Tranfer back To Santa Cruz Airport to wait for the international flight.
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