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Rich Hoyer reports from our Bolivia: Northern Andes, Madidi National Park, and Barba Azul tour

November 10: Rich Hoyer reports from our Bolivia: Northern Andes, Madidi National Park, and Barba Azul tour

The second of our two Bolivia tours took us to some stunningly beautiful and remote areas, and the fabulous birds and landscapes made for a memorable and enjoyable trip. It was also wonderful that everyone was interested in pausing for fascinating flowers, showy butterflies, damselflies at 15,000 feet elevation, and of course a Maned Wolf on our last morning at Barba Azul. We had two excellent drivers with the Lijerón brothers who treated us very well with their long hours on difficult roads and busy La Paz traffic, and we certainly enjoyed their refined picnic breakfast and lunch skills.


It was a trip highlight to have such wonderful views of Blue-throated Macaw at Reserva Barba Azul. It wasn’t our only target bird there, but it did garner the highest score in our favorite birds of the tour. The name of the reserve is the local name for the bird, after all, and it is one of the rarest parrots of the world. We had to cross the Rio Omi by boat to see them, but on our last morning a small group chased a Hook-billed Kite halfway across the river, and we even saw them from the dining hall.


The second ranking highlight of the tour, also at Barba Azul, was our morning experience with the fabulous Cock-tailed Tyrants of the tall, old-growth grasslands. We watched one male courting a female at close range, when he then switched to hawking insects, and then interacted with another male, while in the far distance, yet another male could be seen displaying.


A close encounter with a Tropical Screech-Owl at Barba Azul was also among the tour favorites.


Our time in the Andes was also spectacular. We spent a fair amount of time in the valley above Sorata where we finally managed to connect with the super local endemic Berlepsch’s Canastero.


The highest elevations were exhilarating, and here we had amazing views of nesting Giant Coots, Silvery Grebes, charming Andean Geese, and several ground-tyrants, among many others.


The eastern slope of the Andes offered something new at every stop, with tanagers in mixed flocks and butterflies puddling in the road. On our return after dark, we were flagged down by a young Dutch birding couple who alerted us to a group of Oilbirds coming to a roadside hot spring. Seeing and hearing them in our lights overhead was an unforgettable experience. On our way down the east slope we stopped at a bridge over a side creek and were delighted by an amazingly cooperative Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper.


At the lower elevations near Apolo, we spent a day in Madidi National Park where we targeted the near-mythical Inti Tanager. We eventually heard one singing, which was better than nothing, but we scored big on our day in the opposite direction, with Swallow-tailed Cotinga being one of the first birds of the day. Even the difficult Green-capped Tanager showed well. It was a special day to see two of South America’s most range-restricted birds in the same location.

Posted: November 10, 2022