A Week in the Llanos of Colombia: Jan 27—Feb 03, 2017
Hato La Aurora
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Great biodiversity with many easy to see waterbirds; an incredible mix of lowland habitats including savanna, tracts of tropical dry forest, grasslands, and shrubby vegetation; good chances for seeing the bizarre Hoatzin and the unique Scarlet Ibis.
The vast llanos that spread across central Venezuela also extend far south into Colombia. With current political difficulties in Venezuela, many birders have looked to Colombia for new alternatives—just at a time when Colombia is opening up almost everywhere to birders. With this in mind, we are offering our first Victor Emanuel Nature Tours trip to the Colombian llanos, to a ranch that is quite similar to those we have been visiting in Venezuela.
The ranch, Hato La Aurora, is located in the Colombian state of Casanare, and can be reached by a short plane flight from Bogotá to the eastern base of the Andes and then an overland trip of about six hours, birding eastward into the heart of this marvelous region.
The ranch has been welcoming visitors for several years now at a lovely site next to a small river with gallery forest along both sides and large shade trees bordering the entrance road. It’s a great place for an introduction to these vast grasslands, and there are sure to be birds in abundance. Visitors can explore the ranch by truck or, if they want, also by horseback, although we’d recommend using the truck because at nearly 40,000 acres, the ranch is quite large.
Over 200 species are possible including such spectacular birds as Sunbittern, Whistling Heron, both Great and Common potoos, Scarlet Macaw (rare), Jabiru, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, and many others. Evening spotlighting of night birds, reptiles, and amphibians from the custom-designed, observation truck will be a highlight.
One day, in the Bogotá area, we will visit Chingaza National Park, with patches of high Andean montane forest, subparamo, and paramo (an ecosystem above the tree line in the Andes). In the forest, birds such as Golden-fronted Whitestart, Rufous-browed Conebill, Silvery-throated Spinetail, and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager could give us a nice surprise. Once in the paramo, we will need to keep our eyes open for great little birds adapted to these high altitudes and low temperatures, such as Green-bearded Helmetcrest and Bronze-tailed Thornbill. In the afternoon, an “observatory for hummingbirds” will be open for us, providing the opportunity to find many species of these lovely birds, including Blue-throated Starfrontlet, Coppery-bellied and Glowing pufflegs, Black-tailed and Green-tailed trainbearers, and Sword-billed Hummingbird.
During a scouting trip a few years ago, Steve Hilty noted four Giant Anteaters during the first day of his visit, as well as groups of rare Orinoco Geese and a wide range of waders and waterbirds. Also present were many smaller passerine birds including Pale-headed Jacamar and White-bearded Flycatcher, the only true llanos endemics. With a combination of great wildlife, comfortable accommodations, and a relaxed atmosphere, this trip offers a wonderful weeklong getaway that can be combined with a day or two of culture and birding tours in Colombia’s exciting capital city of Bogotá.
In the Llanos expect basic but generally good accommodations; food generous and good; birding on foot on little-traveled roads; safari truck is a 4-wheel-drive vehicle; midday breaks; in the Bogotá plateau, accommodations are good and walking is minimal.