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Sunbird – Itinerary

Bolivia: Northern Andes, Madidi National Park and Barba Azul

Monday 3 October to Wednesday 19 October 2022
with Rich Hoyer as leader

Maximum group size: 7 and 1 leader

Note that single rooms are limited and the above single room supplement covers only those sites where single rooms can be guaranteed.  

2020 Tour Price : £5,990

  • Single Room Supplement : £130
  • Plus flights estimated at : £900

Subtropical Pygmy-Owl Photo: Rich Hoyer

Bolivia is a large country with many ecoregions and this tour, as a companion to our  Bolivia: The Chaco and Central Andes tour, allows you to see even more of it and the wonderful birds that call it home. We’ll visit four regions of radically different ecosystems, all farther north than our other tour. Starting with the Lake Titicaca area, we’ll bird its shores then cross the northern Andes and descend through the cloud forests on our way to the dry interior valley of Apolo, which has a whole host of special birds. We’ll then return to La Paz to take a short flight to the Amazonian lowlands where we’ll spend some time at one of Bolivia’s few ecolodges, located on the outermost ridge of the Andes - low enough to have some classic Amazonian species yet high enough to offer some respite from the tropical heat. Finally, we’ll take a private air taxi to Barba Azul Nature Reserve, a remote station located in the Llanos de Moxos, a region of seasonally flooded tropical savanna and gallery forest. After two days at bird-filled Barba Azul, famous for its conservation importance for the Blue-throated Macaw, we’ll finish with a day in Trinidad and a short internal flight to Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

This tour can be taken in conjunction with Bolivia: The Chaco, Valle Zone and Central Andes

Day 1: The tour begins this evening at our La Paz hotel.

Day 2: After a relaxed morning start, we’ll have an easy day to acclimate to the elevation and recover from overnight flights, but we’ll still see some exciting birds in the process, among which could be Titicaca Grebe (found only in this lake’s basin), Yellow-winged Blackbird, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, and Wren-like Rushbird. A detour to the valley of Sorata may result in our finding the endemic Berlepsch’s Canastero and Black-hooded Sunbeam. Night at Lake Titicaca.

Day 3: If necessary, we’ll make some more birding stops along Lake Titicaca and at nearby marshes to look for waterfowl, such as Andean Goose and Yellow-billed Pintail, Chilean Flamingos, and migrant shorebirds before we start working our way into the drier, upland habitats of the Andes. Ovenbirds such as the Slender-billed Miner and tyrants such as Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant could be found on the short grass tundra-like puna, while various small ponds and lakes should have Giant Coot, Crested Duck, and many other fascinating species. We’ll then cross a high pass and arrive at a stopping point part way down the Andean slope. Night in Charazani.

Day 4: We’ll complete our drive to Apolo today, passing through some mid-elevation cloud forests that are full of interesting birds. At the higher elevations we’ll listen for the ethereal songs of Andean Solitaires, keeping our eyes on the sky for the rare White-throated Hawk and much more likely Andean Condor. As the day progresses we’ll visit lower stretches of cloud forest with more subtropical affinities, and possibilities here include Many-spotted Hummingbird, Slaty Gnateater, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Upland Antshrike, White-rumped Hawk, and many more. We’ll arrive at our lodging in the late afternoon. Night in Apolo.

Days 5-6: We’ll spend two days in this interior valley in the rain shadow of the Andes’ outlying ridges. Dry areas like this in an otherwise rain-drenched eastern slope are quite rare and host birds with isolated distributions. One of the most famous recent rediscoveries here is the endemic and far-removed subspecies of Swallow-tailed Cotinga, which some split as the Palkachupa Cotinga. We’ll make a special effort for it and also look for the rare Ashy Antwren and Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, both of which are spotted here occasionally. In the drier areas likely species include White-eared Puffbird, Blue-crowned Trogon, Red-winged Tinamou, and Sapphire-spangled Emerald, and Green-capped Tanager. In the wetter areas there’ll be a significantly different set of birds which could include Black-capped Tinamou (likely to be heard only, but it’s a marvelous and unmistakable call), Military Macaw, Ash-browed Spinetail, Ochre-faced Tody-Tyrant, and Yungas Manakin. Nights in Apolo.

Day 7: We’ll retrace our steps back to La Paz, breaking the long drive in half in order to bird the moist cloud forests along the main road once again, and we’ll be certain to pick up many species we missed on the way down. Night in Charazani.

Day 8: We’ll spend the early morning near town birding the puna grasslands and humid treeline scrub where Puna Tapaculo and Andean Hillstar are among the many possibilities, then we’ll work our way over the high pass, where we’ll concentrate on picking up some species that we may have missed on the first day, with Gray-breasted Seedsnipe a possibility. We’ll complete the day with a drive to La Paz. Night in La Paz.

Day 9: This morning we’ll take a 30-minute flight to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia’s gateway to Amazon Basin. From there we’ll transfer by road to the ecolodge that will be our home for the next four nights, stopping to look for birds along the way if we have time. A pond by the road is a great place to check for Hoatzin, while we’ll likely be distracted by toucans and aracaris perched in roadside trees, Roadside Hawks sitting right where they belong, family groups of Smooth-billed Anis in hedgerows, and Red-breasted Meadowlarks on fences. We’ll arrive at our lodge in time for lunch and enjoy the lovely view of the deeply layered forest right outside the dining hall. A jungle lodge on an outlying ridge of the Andes, Sadiri is a rarity in Bolivia. Amidst this perfect habitat we’ll enjoy leisurely birding while paying special attention to the range-limited species found here. The recently described Yungas Tyrannulet is unlikely to be found on any other tour’s itinerary, but more common and colourful birds such as Starred Wood-Quail and Paradise Tanager will be just as delightful. Mixed flocks pass right by our cabins, and an excellent system of forest trails and a little-traveled road pass through beautiful, pristine habitat full of potential. Night at Sadiri Lodge.

Days 10-11: We’ll have two full days of birding the trails and roads at Sadiri, allowing for afternoon siestas and chances to sit and watch the hummingbird feeders, as well as taking evening owling walks with possibilities of witnessing other nocturnal creatures such as Paca and numerous frogs. Nights at Sadiri Lodge.

Day 12: After some early morning birding at Sadiri, we’ll drive to the frontier town of Santa Rosa de Yacuma. Along the way we’ll pass by some extensive marshes and exquisite habitat, and driving nonstop will be impossible. We’ll likely see Snail Kite, Black-collared Hawk, Limpkin and many other water birds along the way, and we’ll arrive in time for our chartered air taxi. From Santa Rosa we take a 30-minute flight, passing over the enchanting landscapes of marshes, lakes, pastures, and grasslands of the Llanos de Moxos. We’ll arrive at Barba Azul Nature Reserve in time for lunch, take a siesta, and then in the afternoon make our first outing, during which we’ll likely see our first Blue-throated Macaws. Night at Barba Azul Nature Reserve.

Days 13-14: We’ll have two full days based at the reserve. We’ll prioritize several specialities, especially the namesake of the reserve, the extremely local Blue-throated Macaw. The story of the discovery of the Blue-throated Macaw’s distribution and its ongoing conservation is well known but can’t be told often enough. If not for the efforts of several conservationists in Bolivia, the species could very well be extinct in the wild, and our visit will help support the efforts to ensure its survival. There are actually six species of macaws possible here, as well as many other birds found in the tropical savanna and gallery forests, and we’ll search for specialties such as Spot-tailed Nightjar, Cock-tailed Tyrant, Sharp-tailed Tyrant, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Black-masked Finch, Long-winged Harrier, and Chimango Caracara. This region is so filled with birds that each day’s bird list will likely exceed 125 species with little effort. Nights at Barba Azul Nature Reserve.

Day 15: After a final morning of birding at the reserve we’ll continue via private air taxi to Trinidad. Night in Trinidad.

Day 16: We’ll have most of the day based out of Trinidad to look for any birds missing from our list, and there are a few specialities more easily found here than elsewhere on our itinerary. Unicolored Thrush, an elusive endemic, is one of the possibilities, and if we’ve missed the Blue-throated Macaw due to unforeseen circumstances, there’s a discrete breeding population within driving distance that will be our priority. The Velvet-fronted Grackle and Plain Softtail that occur in this part of Bolivia are often considered worthy of specific status, so we’ll look for them as well. In the afternoon we’ll take a commercial flight to Santa Cruz. Night in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Day 17: The tour ends this morning with transfers to the international airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Updated: 17 November 2020