Monday, September 3, 2018

Post #142 - Colombia - Eastern Andes - Boyacá

Quick note - This entry, like my previous on birding in Cundinamarca, is meant more as a permanent online reference than it is a quick blogpost, so it is VERY long and very detailed. This account - as well as summaries from all the places I've visited - will be archived in the International Birding Resources tab under the main banner photo.

Part 1 - Boyacá Logistics
When to visit
Getting there
Where to stay

Part 2 - Boyacá Birding!
Key Boyacá birds
High Andean forests northwest of Tunja
Dry and oak forests accessed from Soatá - endemics!
Paramo and high elevation lakes above Sogamoso
Reserva El Paujil
Eastern slope at Santa Maria

Part 1 - Boyacá Logistics
Boyacá is a Colombian department located just north of Cundinamarca and the capital district of Bogotá. It is situated in the Eastern Andes and is one of the most rugged Colombian municipalities. My impression is that Boyacá has been under-birded compared to other departments, but it's proximity to Bogotá guarantees increased coverage as more birders visit the recently stabilized country in upcoming years. I first visited Boyacá in July of 2018, and I am going use this post to write a bit about the spots that I birded on that trip. My experience was far from comprehensive, so do know there is way more to Boyacá than what I present here.

When to Visit (taken  verbatim from my Cundinamarca post)
Short answer: Late-November through early-March with January and February being best. June to August might work, but it's a bit of a gamble.
Long Answer: Rain - more than temperature - is the primary consideration when planning a visit to Boyacá (or anywhere in Colombia), and the graph below shows the average monthly precipitation in Bogotá (8,675ft / 2,644m). Though rainfall will vary with exact location and elevation, the indicated trends are generally reflective of the yearly rain cycle anywhere in the Colombian Andes, Boyacá included.

Precipitation is lowest December through February and June through August, but there is a big difference between those two superficially similar windows. That's because the weather on the high elevation páramo (above ~10,500ft / 3,200m) is usually decent between December and March but is much more variable from June to August.

For example, on my 7-week 2018 trip (June 15 to August 3, I made 10 independent day trips to the páramo in the Central and Eastern Andes across 7 different departments and suffered rain on each occasion. Not every trip to the páramo was a washout, but it was always wet and trails were in universally mucky/terrible shape. The birding was fine but less productive or enjoyable than it would have been between late-November and early-March, the true Andean Summer.

So, while the Andes as a whole have a bit of a break late-June through early-August, páramo elevations, the exact elevations that hold many of the unique and endemic birds birders want to see, could still be very wet. That window might work, but there's greater risk of high elevation rain than between late-November and early March (again, January and February are best).

As if that video isn't enough to convince you of the suggested window, I'll offer 2 more reasons. First, the usually hot Magdalena Valley in the western part of Boyacá is coolest late-November to early-March. The birding there is fantastic, and a visit to the Eastern Andes would be incomplete without some time in that abutting geography. Second, North American neotropic migrants are present late-October to early-April, so total trip lists will be higher than in June-August window.

Getting there
Tunja, Boyacá's largest city and capital, does not have an airport of significance, so the best way to access the department is through Bogotá's fully modernized international airport. From there, it's only 2-3 hours drive to reach Boyacá. Rental cars are available at the Bogotá airport, but be advised you'll probably need at least a high clearance vehicle - if not four-wheel drive - to reach most of the sites I will discuss. Renting an SUV is very expensive, and it is usually cheaper and easier to just hire a driver with his own vehicle instead. I suggest contacting Jovani Flórez at Solutions in Colombia (, whatsapp +57 311 227 1259 or +57 320 835 9104). My driver, Daniel, was from Solutions and was absolutely amazing - professional in every way. They are the 'go-to' for Colombian birding transportation and have experience carting birders around every part of the country.

Where to stay
I moved around a lot and utilized a variety of accommodations as I went. I will highlight these as I discuss the individual birding sites and from what bases (cities, hotels) they should be accessed.

Hernan Arias took me around Boyacá. He is absolutely incredible and comes with my highest recommendation (, +57 318 3853676). He knows the birds amazingly well - vocalizations included - and speaks English fluently. He is a good leader, decision maker, and travel companion, and he has a flawless reputation throughout Colombia. He is based in Ibagué in Tolima Department but has experience guiding in all parts of the country. Call him. He's great, I promise.

Biologists Johana Edith Zuluaga-Bonilla and Diana Carolina Macana Garcia also accompanied us in Boyacá. They are members of the Asociación Ornitológica de Boyacá, and I'll point you to that organization's Facebook page for more information on Boyacá birds and birding. The photo below shows me, Hernan, Johana, and Carolina.

Part 2: Boyacá Birding!

Key Boyacá birds
Since Boyacá is so mountainous (minus a tiny sliver of Magdalena Valley in the west), bird diversity is generally lower than in departments with more lowland areas (where species diversity is highest) However, Boyacá is a great place to find Colombian endemics, at least 15 of which can be found in the department with some degree of predictability. I will mention or discuss all 15, though some with more specificity than others. Many of these can also be found in Santander Department to the north or Cundinamarca Department to the south. The Colombian endemics reliably found in Boyacá are:

Colombian Chachalaca (slopes on inter-Andean Valleys)
Blue-billed Curassow (spottily in forests in NW Colombia, notably El Paujil in Boyacá)
Bogotá Rail (highland wetlands in East Andes, specifically Boyacá and Cundinamarca)
Green-bearded Helmetcrest (East Andean páramo)
Black Inca (west slope of East Andes, specifically Santander, Boyacá, and Cundinamarca)
Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird (dry areas on west slope of East Andes, specifically Santander and Boyacá)
Indigo-Capped Hummingbird (Magdalena Valley into East Andes)
White-mantled Barbet (North Central Andes; west slope of East Andes)
Beautiful Woodpecker (North Central Andes; west slope of East Andes; Magdalena Valley)
Brown-breasted Parakeet (Spottily in East Andes)
Silvery-throated Spinetail (East Andes, specifically Boyacá and Cundinamarca)
Apical Flycatcher (Inter-Andean Valleys and adjacent slopes, one of the most widespread endemics)
Apolinar's Wren (East Andes, specifically Boyacá and Cundinamarca)
Niceforo's Wren (west slope of East Andes, specifically Santander and Boyacá)
Mountain Grackle (west slope of East Andes)

Blue-billed Curassow, Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, Niceforo's Wren, and Mountain Grackle are the most important species as they can't be found in the more easily accessed Cundinamarca to Boyacá's south. The critically endangered curassow will require the most effort as birders will have to reach all the way to El Paujil in the western part of the department (or go to PNN Tayrona on the Caribbean Coast). White-mantled Barbet and Beautiful Woodpecker can also be found at Paujil, but those aren't super critical there as both are also found in the Northcentral Andes, specifically to the east of Medellin. The hummingbird, wren, and grackle are all found in the drier areas around Soatá (below), and special effort should be made to see those in that area.

Bogotá Rail, Green-bearded Helmetcrest, Black Inca, Indigo-capped Hummingbird, Brown-breasted Parakeet, Silvery-throated Spinetail, and Apolinar's Wren are equally or better sought in Cundinamarca to the south. If you miss any of these is Boyacá, there will be additional chances if you also bird Cundinamarca (recommended). Colombian Chachalaca and Apical Flycatcher are widespread and should be found without dedicated effort, either in Boyacá or Cundinamarca. For the rest of this post (E) = endemic.

Just as interesting are these true endemics are several near-endemics (or 'East Andean' endemics) shared with only neighboring Venezuela. With that country a 'no-travel' area at writing, these exclusively shared species are effectively Colombian endemics until that country stabilizes. I don't know exactly how many of these near-endemics there are, but I've shown the ranges of Coppery-bellied Pufflug, Pale-bellied Tapaculo, and Moustached Brushfinch to illustrate the point. For the rest of this post NE = near endemic, specifically shared with Venezuela.

Golden-breasted Starfrontlet (NE), Rufous-browed Conebill (NE), and Ochre-breasted Brushfinch (NE) are three other species that follow this Colombian-Venezuelan distribution, but there are certainly at least a few others. Given the close proximity to Venezuela, Boyacá is a great place to observe these shared Colombia-Venezuela birds. So is Cundinamarca (previous post).

Boyacá Birding Areas
With some of the key birds established, let's talk geography. My time in the department was focused in three areas: th High Andean forest northwest of Tunja (Villa de Leyva, Arcabuco), the dry areas around Soatá in the north, and the highlands and páramo outside of Sogamoso. I will give detailed and firsthand accounts of my time in those places, and I will also briefly mention two other spots that I didn't visit at the end. Those are Reserva Natural del los Aves El Paujil, a lodge in the Magdalena Valley in the western part of Boyacá, and Santa Maria, a small town on the eastern slope of the Eastern Andes. Each of those lowland areas presents an entirely different avifauna from what I sampled in Boyacá's highlands.

High Andean forests northwest of Tunja
With several very good birding sites and an abundance of lodging options, the area to the Northwest of Tunja presents a great starting point for any Boyacá birding venture.

El Peligro (eBird Hotspot, as generated from my checklist, the first for El Peligro)
El Peligro is a relatively new site that is being developed as an avitourism destination by the Corpoboyacá, a local government agency tasked with improving the department's ecotourism product. We arrived at El Peligro after a 70 minute drive from Villa de Leyva (more on this amazing town in a bit). Much of that was on dirt roads, and the final stretch to reach the trailhead will require a high-clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicle. The trail runs west from the starting point and generally follows the ridgeline with some rolling ups and downs. The trail had some very mucky spots when I visited in July, but it should be much drier in the December-March window. The birding was really nice, and the High Andean Forest yielded Golden-bellied Starfrontlet (NE), Glowing Puffleg, Streaked Xenops, Pearled Treerunner, Rufous Wren, Capped Conebill, and Yellow-billed Cacique. We heard Pale-bellied Tapaculo (NE), and others in the group saw Black Inca (E). As the Starfrontlet, Inca, and Tapaculo are the three keys birds at this site, it was a really productive walk. I did not see it on my visit, but Colombian Chachalaca (E) is almost certainly present as well as it has been eBirded from other nearby areas. The trail looks really steep in the photo, but only that section was challenging!

It is worth noting that the trail is designed as a one-way through-hike (your driver could wait for you at the other end), but I will do everything in my power to dissuade that idea as the westernmost section is treacherously steep and rocky. I was so focused on not falling that I did zero birding on that descent. Very fit and adventurous hikers can manage it (I did), but it's an accident waiting to happen for tour groups. My advice is for everyone to start at the eastern end and walk the trail until you feel like turning back. The constant turnover of feeding flocks will ensure different birds are observed going and returning. If the birding is quiet, be patient. You really need to find a flock for the action to heat up.

Reserva Privada Rogitama (eBird Hotspot)
Rogitama is a very interesting story. When owner Roberto Chavarro purchased the property in 1982, it was entirely 'potreros', or cattle pastures. In the 36 years since, Roberto has made reforesting the property his passion. He knows a ton about plants, and he has taken painstaking care to remake the forest in its original image. His is a truly remarkable effort, and you should ask Roberto to show you the photos of the property as his forest has changes over the years. It is amazing, and Roberto should be commended for his conservation efforts.

Located 10-15 minutes outside the small town of Arcabuco, Rogitama is probably the best place on planet earth to see Black Inca (E). I observed 5-6 individuals during my two hour visit, including one individual coming to the lodge feeders. Other species at those feeders included White-bellied Woodstar, Gorgeted Woodstar, Short-tailed Emerald, Andean Emerald, Buff-tailed Coronet, Lazuline Saberwing, and Brown, Lesser, and Sparkling Violetears. Walking the entrance road and minimal trails with Roberto, we found a subset of the birds that we found at El Peligro. There are basic accommodations at Rogitama (I think there's hot water, but double check if you contact Roberto), and meal service can be arranged if you want to eat on site. Otherwise just drive 10-15 minutes into Arcabuco for food. Contact information for Roberto/Rogitama is found on the sign depicted below.

Sanctuario Flora and Fauna (SFF) Iguaque (eBird Hotspot)
SFF Iguaque is a wonderful track of habitat located between Arcabuco and Villa del Leyva. The High Andean Forest is similar to that of El Peligro, so the species are mostly overlapping. Where the two areas differ is in walkability. Assuming one skips the steep western end of El Peligro, the walk is relatively flat. However, Iguaque's main trail immediately assumes a steep pitch that continues for miles. If one is willing to climb several thousand meters (which I suspect few birders are), the trail runs all the way to the high elevation páramo. As such, Iguaque is probably more a hiking destination for the very fit than it is a birding destination for tours and such.

Rather than bird that steep and very narrow hiking track, I'd suggest exploring the Iguaque entrance road. It's a wide, gradual uphill that offers much better visibility, and it could be very productive early in the morning. If I had one morning in the area I'd probably go to El Peligro, but the Iquaque entrance road is a viable and easier-walking alternative for those that prefer to stay nearer the car.

It is possible to stay at Iguaque as they have a beautiful onsite lodge, but you will need to haul your luggage up the bottom 1km of the hiking trail. Unfortunately, this is a common problem in Colombia. A 27-year old backpacker won't blink at the 1km hike to the lodge, but that uphill distance is an insurmountable obstacle for a foreign retiree dragging a rolling suitcase. The photo below shows - clockwise from top left - entrance sign/prices, administrative building, entrance road, lodge.

Additional notes on lodging - Villa de Leyva!
I've noted that there is basic lodging at Rogitama and (mostly inaccessible) lodging at Iguaque, but there are other options as well. I stayed in the very convenient Hotel Azul (Hotel Blue) in Arcabuco and found it fine for a quick overnight. It was a really convenient base from which to access all the described destinations, and there is an attached/adjacent and 24-hour restaurant for convenience. There's nothing for amenities, and it's more like a motel than a hotel. But the rooms are clean, the beds comfortable, and the water hot! They have Wifi, but I had to be in the restaurant for it to work well.

With all the lodging options I've presented, none compare to Villa de Leyva, arguably the most fun and charming Latin American town I've visited. There are all sorts of boutique hotels, so there's something for everyone. Restaurants, art galleries, and shops line the beautiful stone roads, and it would be easy to spend a full morning or afternoon exploring the picturesque town (photos below). I stayed at the Die Sonne Hospederia, and I highly recommend it. It's far from the only game in town but is fairly indicative of the sort of lodging the Villa de Leyva offers. Indigo-capped Hummingbird (E) can be found around Villa de Leyva, but it's very common in Cundinamarca to the south. Don't spend time looking for it if you're also going to Cundinamarca. The photos below show the main square and a street in Villa De Leyva.

As great as Villa de Leyva is, it does require a birder to traverse a rather long and bumpy stretch of dirt road (probably best in high clearance or 4-wheel drive) to reach Iguaque, Rogitama, and El Peligro. For example, it took us about 55 minutes to drive from Villa de Leyva to Arcabuco - and that was in a really nice SUV. That means birders will need wake up an hour earlier to reach El Peligro than if they stay in Arcabuco or at Rogitama. Villa is really cool, so I think it's worth spending a night. If I was going to stay multiple nights in the area, I'd probably spend one in Villa and one in/around Arcabuco. But I don't mind moving every night, and I like to spread out my tourism dollars.

One person everyone should contact in Villa del Leyva in Francisco Javier Peña Tovar at Ciclo Trip (, Facebook page, Instagram = ciclotrip). He's a super cool guy offers tours where he couples birding to hiking and biking! He knows the local birds well and can organize whatever sort of outdoor, birding, or adventure outing you would like. He would also be a good person to contact if you're thinking about visiting Patio de Brujas (below) as the place can be a bit tricky to find without some local help. Francisco speaks English fluently. Give him a call, you won't be disappointed. Shop: +57 578 732 1485, Cell +57 320 899 4442 or +57 317 435 5202.

Patio de Brujas (ebird Hotspot)
If you do stay in Villa de Leyva, the drier habitat of Patio de Brujas might be interesting. Located about an hour south of town, Patio is an ancient astrological site and one of the very few places in Colombia to see Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant. We found that bird around the monument and collected Short-tailed Emerald and Silvery-throated Spinetail (E) on the entrance road. With a general paucity of birds beyond those specialty few, Patio is probably best suited for hard-core listers who want to tick the Ground-Tyrant. Winds tend to pick up in the afternoon, so a morning visit is preferred. As most other areas present much better birding, try to hit Patio between other spots or in-transit. The two photos below show the restored astrological monument and the surrounding dry hills.

Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant at Patio

Soatá - Dry forests and endemics
Several hours (3-4) north of Villa de Levya is the picturesque mountain town of Soatá. Situated at the interface between some higher elevation oak forest and some lower elevation desert habitat/forest, Soatá will appeal most to hardcore listers looking to chase down Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird (E), Niceforo's Wren (E), and Mountain Grackle (E). I found Soatá's arid habitats a fun departure from higher and wetter habitats, and at times it felt like I was birding in Arizona or Texas!

Mountain Grackle (E), Pale-bellied Tapaculo (NE), Rusty-faced Parrot (NE), and Moustached Brushfinch (NE) can all be found in the oak forest above town, and the Carretera Onzaga hotspot is as good a starting point as any. However, for those interested in something a bit more interesting and personal, I'd suggest a visit to Finca La Labrandera. Owned by Etzel Javier Hernandez, the finca exactly abuts the Carrtetera Onzaga hotspot and offers a similar birding experience, albeit for a small fee. I think it's worth paying to visit La Labrandera as Etzel ( is a wonderfully engaging personality. His property is beautiful, and accessing it will help in the quest for the grackle. I'm sure he'd be happy to show you around, and a bit of time with him will enrich your Colombia experience - provided you know a bit of Spanish! There is not yet an eBird Hotspot for La Labrandera, but you can map its exact location from the checklist from my visit.

While in Soatá, I'd also suggest a visit to Ramiro Medina's ( Finca El Reposo on the eastern edge of town. Located squarely in the scrubby dry forest, El Reposo offers a rustic hiking trail on which I observed Apical Flycatcher (E) and heard Niceforo's Wren (E). The property surely hosts Cinnamon-bellied Hummingbird (E) and Colombian Chachalaca (E) as we saw both along nearby roads. Ramiro is currently improving his trail, but anyone in average shape will be able to manage it as it is. Again, there isn't yet an eBird hotspot for El Reposo, but here's my checklist so you can see exactly where the finca is. Ramiro is also a really nice guy, and I'll link this article (in Spanish) that highlights him, Etzel, and the efforts the two men are making to develop their properties as ecotourism and birding destinations. The top photo show the oak forest around Etzel's La Labrandera (left) and the scrub-desert around Ramiro's El Reposo (right). The bottom photo shows me with Ramiro (center) and Etzel (right).

For those that make the drive to Soatá, I will also suggest a stop at this stunning and easily accesible patch of páramo directly off of Road 55. Make a right onto the dirt but very well-surfaced Road 64 and drive a few miles into the habitat. We had Andean Teal, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Silvery-throated Spinetail (E), Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Andean Siskin, and others in the first mile or two along that road. I'm sure that great páramo birding can be found for at least the first few miles of that road. The photo below show the habitat along Road 64.

Sogamoso - Páramo and high elevation lakes
My biggest regret about my time in Boyacá was that it rained non-stop during my single day at Páramo/Laguna de Siscunsi and Lago de Tota (the 'Inclement Páramo Weather' video from above was made at Siscunsi on that rainy day). But that shouldn't deter you as I can imagine both areas would be absolutely stunning in better weather!

Páramo/Laguna de Siscunsi (eBird Hotspot)
To reach this pristine and stunning track of páramo habitat at over 12,000 feet of elevation, follow Road 62 for 31km from the Sogamoso Central Plaza (or 29km from the indicated Finca San Pedro) to reach a signed turnoff onto a dirt road. That turnoff is between km markers 33 and 34 on Road 62. From that turn, a relatively well-maintained dirt road winds its way up onto the páramo. A high-clearance vehicle would be best, but my local guides said they have taken taxis up the road before!

Regardless, of how you get there, I suggest the small trail that runs ~1.5km to Laguna Siscunsi. Along it you'll have good chances to find a variety of páramo birds including Andean Teal, Noble Snipe, Many-striped Canastero, Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Tawny Antpitta, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and a host of others. Most prized is the Green-bearded Helmetcrest (E), a fantastically styled Colombian speciality found only on East Andean Páramo. My group was buzzed by several of them - even in the wind and rain - but without a decent perched view it remained off my official Life List. There aren't a ton of birds at Siscunsi, but those that are present are high quality. The páramo is best birded first thing in the morning, so get an early start (maybe 5am) from Sogamoso to reach Siscunsi by 6:15-30. I'd spent 3 hours there, then head to Lago de Tota.

Lago de Tota (eBird Hotspot)
Located at 10,000 feet of elevation, Lago de Tota is Colombia's largest natural lake. My visit to Lago de Tota was marred by the same rain that washed out my Siscunsi morning, but I still have a decent idea of how the place works and what birds to expect. The best way to explore the lake is by boat, and piloted skiffs are available adjacent to the Police Station on the lake's eastern shore, roughly where the red pin is placed on the map above. We heard Apolinar's Wren (E) singing at several points along the marsh but were unable to get eyes on them with the constant the wind and rain. We did see Purple Gallinule, Andean Teal, Ruddy Duck, Large-billed Tern, and Yellow-hooded Blackbird. Birding the shore from the road after the washed-out boat trip, we added Noble Snipe, Grassland Yellow-Finch, and Andean Siskin. We did not hear or see Bogotá Rail (E), but I'm sure the wind was to blame for that as there are lots of eBird reports of that species from the lake. If you miss either the wren or the rail at Tota/Boyacá, there are other chances for both around Bogotá/Cundinamarca. The photo below show the view of some of Tota's marshes.

Though Siscunsi and Tota are close together and couple well, both must be birded first thing morning for best results, particularly the lake where high winds invariable materialize by 11am. My group hustled from Siscunsi to Tota to do both in the same morning. Had it not been pouring rain and miserable, I think we would have regretted not having more time at each. Better would be to have one full morning on the páramo and one full morning on the lake.

I'd spend the first night in Sogomosa, perhaps at the fun and convenient Finca San Pedro as indicated on the map. I'd leave that lodging at 5am the next morning to be at Siscunsi at 6:30. I'd spend most of the morning exploring that area before dropping to Tota for lunch and some shore-based birding. I'd also use that afternoon to find a local hotel and organize a boat trip for the following morning. After that boat excursion the next day, I'd hop back into the car and use that afternoon to drive to my next destination.

Reserva Natural de las Aves El Paujil (eBird Hotspot, website)
El Paujil is a reserve/ecolodge located in the western reaches of Boyacá. Run by Colombia birding and conservation entity ProAves (, El Paujil is located where the western slopes of the Eastern Andes flatten and join the Magdalena Valley. Elevation in the reserve varies from ~500 to ~ 4000 feet (~150 to ~1200 meters), and the 400+ species eBirded from the property reflect the incredibly bird diversity along that cline.

The signature species at El Paujil is the critically endangered Blue-billed Curassow (E, aka 'El Paujil'), a Colombian endemic with an estimated population of just 250 to 500 individuals. El Paujil was originally established to protect a significant fraction of the surviving curassows but has since evolved into a wonderful all-around birding destination. Of the Boyacá endemics mentioned above, Colombian Chachalaca (E), White-mantled Barbet (E) and Beautiful Woodpecker (E) can be found at El Paujil. Otherwise, Sooty Ant-Tanager (E) is the only other endemic that El Paujil offers, at least with any predictable frequency. Velvet-fronted Euphonia (E), for example, has been observed only a handful of times and should not be expected.

The biggest hurdle with El Paujil is access. It's an equally long, 7-hour drive from Tunja, Bogotá (in Cundinamarca to the south), or Medellin (in Antioquia to the west). Though I haven't been, I imagine it to be the sort of place a birder would want to spent at least 3 days and 2 nights. The reserve abuts the Río Ermitano, and it is possible to bird the Santander side of that flow to if department listing is your thing! El Paujil, looks like a really cool place, and I hope to visit at some point.

Blue-billed Curassow (from Tayrona in 2016)

Santa Maria (eBird Hotspot)
Located at ~2800 feet (~850 meters), Santa Maria is located on the Eastern Slope of the Eastern Andes. I did not make it to Santa Maria on my trip, but it sounds as if it afford access to a number of different elevations, particularly as one drops towards the Amazon basin to the east. It might work well to spend 2-3 nights at in Santa Maria and bird different locations each day. I do not know specific birding spots to the east of Santa Maria, but the Rio Upía, the river that forms the border with adjacent Casanare, is just an hour down the hill to the east. At just ~1000 feet (~300m), I image the birdlife would be very different from anything higher up on that eastern slope. So, Santa Maria is something to keep on your radar during your Boyacá wanderings. Santa Maria is probably the single best place to go in Boyacá if you're really looking to run up your trip list and get into some very different habitats. Minus the 3 endemics in Soatá (Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird, Niceforo's Wren, and Mountain Grackle) and the Blue-billed Curassow and other goodies at El Paujil, the birding in Boyacá's is pretty similar to Cundinamarca. As Boyacá is a less accessible from Bogotá, it makes sense that Cundinamarca/Bogotá have been more heavily birded to this point. But Santa Maria and surrounds are a real wild card and probably hold a lot of birds that can't be seen farther south or closer to Bogotá. 
I suspect the drive will take significantly longer that the indicated 3 hours 45 minutes - probably closer to 5 with Bogotá traffic.

OK, that's it for this installment. There will be additional departmental accounts coming, but these have taken so much work I might need need a break for a while!

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