Bolivia: Endemic Macaws & More Part II: Sep 29—Oct 08, 2018
Foothills, Cloud Forests & the Altiplano
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A Bolivian adventure highlighting the special birds and spellbinding scenery of the foothills, cloud forests, and high elevation grasslands of the majestic Andes. A wonderful new Bolivian field guide should open the door to this often overlooked country. Combining Part I and Part II offers the possibility of nearly 650 bird species. Part II focuses on Bolivia’s mountain habitats, encompassing the sweeping panoramas of altiplano from grasslands to lakes including the famous Titicaca, and lush Yungas cloud forest to high Polylepis woodland and both dry and wet Puna. We will seek out neat endemics along with a wealth of other seldom seen South American birds, with a backdrop of dramatic scenery. Excellent photographic opportunities.
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. With minimal overlap from Part I, we seek out all three flamingoes; Titicaca (flightless) Grebe; Hooded Mountain-Toucan; Blue-banded Toucanet; Black-eared Parrot; Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe; superlative endemic Black-hooded Sungem and Red-tailed Comet; confiding Scribble-tailed Canastero; endemic Black-throated Thistletail and Rufous-faced Antpitta; Giant Conebill; Barred Fruiteater; Chestnut-crested Cotinga; Rufous-bellied Mountain-Tanager; and endemic Cochabamba Mountain-Finch, all of which burnish Bolivia’s reputation as an undiscovered birding mecca.
This breathtakingly scenic trip focuses on the heart of the enchanting Andes with its incredibly varied habitats, from sweeping altiplano grasslands to lakes, bogs, and spectacular canyons—all set against a continuous backdrop of towering snow-covered volcanic peaks that reach to 21,000 feet. Forest habitats include endangered high elevation Polylepis woodland and a wide array of Yungas cloud forest, each with a unique plethora of avian gems. Of course, no trip to the Bolivian Andes would be complete without an opportunity to explore the riveting beauty of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, and its intriguing Aymara indigenous people poling their famous reed boats along the lake shore.
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.
Cochabamba is a strategic, habitat-diverse location ideal for beginning our Andean exploration, featuring hillsides cloaked in humid Yungas forests, and sculptured cactus-clad scrub valleys and uplands with panoramic overlooks. Participants should expect encounters with an amazingly rich variety of species, of which Black-eared Parrot, Blue-banded Toucanet, Hooded Mountain-Toucan, Golden-headed Quetzal, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Orange-browed Hemispingus, White-collared Jay, and tanagers galore including Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager. Band-tailed Fruiteater, and endemic Rufous-faced Antpitta and Black-throated Thistletail are representative. Shadowed by the mighty snow-capped Cerro Tunari, we’ll bird the unique Polylepis forest for the endemic Cochabamba Mountain-Finch and Wedge-tailed Hillstar, Red-tailed Comet, the rare and local Rufous-bellied Mountain-Tanager, endemic Gray-bellied Flowerpiercer, and iconic Giant Conebill.
Ascending magnificent dry valleys, we will search for Ornate Tinamou, Brown-backed Mockingbird, Berlepsch’s Canastero, and the endemic Bolivian Blackbird before reaching the attractive altiplano (high grassy plains). The La Paz and Oruro region encompasses a tremendous transect of habitats from wet grassland to the dry rocky rain-shadow slopes of the Andes. Here, remote picturesque lakes like the famous Titicaca are home to soaring Andean Condors and the flightless Titicaca Grebe. Andean waterfowl abound among the shimmering pink of three species of flamingos, in addition to Andean Avocet, endemic Black-hooded Sunbeam, and odd Giant Coot.
For a grand finale, based in Coroica we will enjoy non-stop birding in two very different settings from pristine cloud forest to puna for high elevation specialties before returning to finish in La Paz. We can hope for Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Andean Condor, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Puna Snipe, Blue-banded Toucanet, Versicolored Barbet, Great Sapphirewing, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Diademed Tapaculo, Golden-collared Tanager, Scimitar-winged Piha (rare), White-fronted Ground-Tyrant, and Short-tailed Finch. Finally, Bolivia holds some of the most stunning landscapes on earth. The combined effect of sensational scenery, abundant nature, and pleasant people is enthralling.
Good to excellent accommodations and food; excellent roadside birding in Andes; no difficult hikes; easy walking with bus following on trails (no altitudinal sickess as we carefully plan and gradually become acclimated; travel by bus including a couple of long drives; tour pace moderate with midday breaks; cool to pleasant temperatures throughout.