Bolivia: Endemic Macaws & More Part I: Sep 15—30, 2018
Eastern Lowlands, Beni Grasslands & Inter-Andean Valleys
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A wonderful new Bolivian field guide should open the door to often overlooked Bolivia. Part I explores vast areas of Chaco, inter-Andean dry valleys, lush Yungas rainforests, and cloud forest to vast Pantanal wetlands, seeking two endemic macaws, along with a wealth of other seldom seen South American birds, with dramatic scenery throughout. Excellent photographic opportunities. A combination of both Bolivia trips offers the possibility of nearly 650 bird species!
Bolivia is truly a hidden gem for birders. Poorly-known and typically overlooked, this South American country holds a superb variety of unspoiled habitats with a bewildering avian diversity approaching 1,450 species. Among these are 21 endemics, close to 100 near-endemics, and several newly described species. This unique landlocked paradise is one of the world’s last birding frontiers where new discoveries are almost expected. Two stunning endemic macaws, Red-fronted and Blue-throated, highlight a wide range of beauties such as Black-legged Seriema, Cream-backed Woodpecker, Ringed Teal, Red-tailed Comet, Bolivian Recurvebill, Rufous-faced Antpitta, Slaty Gnateater, Olive-crowned Crescentchest, Band-tailed Fruiteater, and Chestnut-crested Cotinga, all of which burnish Bolivia’s reputation as an undiscovered birding mecca.
Bolivia has made great strides in the past two decades upgrading its infrastructure, with enormously improved roads and surprisingly good guest accommodations—excellent in some areas—and the country has made significant progress socially and economically as well. Despite such modernization, age-old customs flourish and may be on display anywhere, as evidenced by colorful and often strictly traditional clothes and dress, colorful and diverse markets, and pastoral landscapes.
Our introduction to Bolivian birding begins in the city of Santa Cruz with visits to a series of parks and marshlands before departing south to explore the famed avian-rich Chaco and native Chiquitano woods (dry scrub forests), home to a mouthwatering lineup of highly-sought species including Yellow-collared Macaw, Cream-backed Woodpecker, Ringed Teal, Spot-backed (Chaco) Puffbird, Lark-like Brushrunner, Crested Gallito, Chaco Earthcreeper, Blue-tufted Starthroat, and the wonderful Many-colored Chaco Finch.
Amid lush Andean foothills, Refugio Los Volcanes is a paradise in an idyllic isolated valley on the edge of Amboró National Park where we’ll enjoy a lovely mild climate, cool star-filled nights, and spectacularly clear daytime skies. Cloaked in cloud forest rich in southern Andean birds, this special area may yield a host of marvelous birds. Majestic Andean Condors and Military Macaws are standouts among a treasure-trove of possibilities including Green-cheeked Parakeet, Red-necked Woodpecker, Subtropical Pygmy-Owl, Plush-crested Jay, endemic Bolivian Recurvebill, Slaty Gnateater, and lovely Yungas Manakin.
We will also work the unique inter-Andean dry valleys, home to several range-restricted and endemic species. We will search among giant columnar cacti for our main target, the stunning and endemic Red-fronted Macaw, possibly the most beautiful macaw of all, in addition to other dandies such as White-fronted Woodpecker, White-tipped Plantcutter, and the near-endemic Gray-crested Finch. Yet another highlight will be the unparalleled opportunity for a day of exploration amid the thriving cloud forests of Sierra de Siberia. Here, the orchid-rich forests should reward us with swirling flocks of colorful mountain-tanagers of several types, Black-winged Parrot, and endemic birds like Rufous-faced Antpitta, stunning Black-hooded Sunbeam and Gray-bellied Flowerpiercer, Crested Quetzal, Band-tailed Fruiteater, and Olive-crowned Crescentchest.
For a grand finale we will visit the rich tropical savanna and Pantanal of Trinidad, home to the superb endemic Blue-throated Macaw. Beyond searching for the highly localized and endangered macaw, these tall-grass savannas and marshes hold Greater Rhea, Jabiru, Slender-billed Kite, Orinoco Goose, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Toco Toucan, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Plain Softtail, Band-tailed Manakin, and Scarlet-headed Blackbird.
Good accommodations and food; roadside birding in Andes and Chaco; easy walking on well-kept trails at lodges; no high altitudes higher than 8,800 feet; travel mainly by bus, including a couple of long drives, and one commercial plane flight to Trinidad; tour pace moderate; midday breaks; cool temperatures in the Andes, and warm to hot in the lowlands.