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5 - 25 March 1992

by Niels Poul Dreyer


We were 13 people who joined a trip to Bolivia. It has been a very successful trip and we saw almost 500 species of birds and for me 173 lifers. The tour was well organized, and no delays occurred, because the company hired Roberto Cossio (Casillis No 2424, Santa Cruz) to ensure that everything ran smoothly. Roberto Cossio ensured through the Ministry of Tourism that we would  not be delayed by any police check point, which are otherwise very common in Bolivia. If you have been travelling alone in Bolivia, you will certainly have spent much time discussing with officers, before it would be possible to continue down the Rd. The government has set up check points in order to control drug trafficking.

We put much effort into seeing Red-fronted Macaw, because we did not have any success near Tambo Valley during nesting season. It was necessary to hire a truck, so we were able to get into the Pulquina area on a 4WD road.

In the cloud forest areas, trails are hard to find, so it can be a hassle to see antpittas, antthrushes etc. Most of the hard-to-find birds have been located by the guides during a previous 3 week scouting trip, and tape playback gave us exceptional good views of Giant Antshrike, 6 Canasteros, 8 Spinetails (also tit), Ochre-faced Tody Tyrannulet, Fawn-breasted Wren, Rufous Antpitta, Rufous-faced Antpitta for most people, several Tapaculos and much more.

Accommodations near forest habitats are rare, so early morning starts were more a rule than exception on this trip. Generally we were able to be at the birding site at dawn. This is important as most birds are active the first couple of hours in the morning. Too much sunshine and good weather can bring a birding day to a standstill, but most days we had perfect overcast weather during the day, and only one afternoon was lost because of rain at Coroico the 22 March. However, we drove out of the rain and got some good birds at Pongo Rd. March is just after the wet season, and the dry intermontane valleys were green, full of flowers, and bird activity high. At Santa Cruz March turned out to be more windy and birding more slow than October.

The Santa Cruz area is deteriorating rapidly, as the bush is cleared for sugarcane. Otherwise most forests on the eastern slope of the Andes remain in good condition, because population pressure is still not so high, as only 6 million people live in a 1 million square kilometers country. In the high Andes, native puno grassland and polylepis forests are endangered from firewood collection and overgrazing. Bad erosion was seen enroute from Siberia to Cochabamba and some places enroute to Oruro.

Description of Birding Sites:

Santa Cruz:

During the 3 days Stay in Santa Cruz we visited 4 main areas:


Rio Piray site which can be reached by driving North towards Montero, then turn left after the Police Checkpoint. The woodlands which consist of dead trees, wine tangled scrub, acacia trees is found along the road. In March a few potholes with water can be worth checking. The area will change as more areas is converted into sugarcane fields. The river is worth checking for Pied-Plover and White-winged Swallow ec.

Weather: Partly cloudy and windy. 28°C


The park is reached just outside Santa Cruz towards Cabizas. A sign to Lomas brings you down a dirt road to the left. Just 1-2 km down the road, some marshes are worth checking for Brazilian Ducks and Yellow-throated Spinetail. A few trails to the left are good for bush birding. We saw 90% of the birds in the area along those trails. The reserve itself 5 km. down the road, supports fewer birds, but has some wetlands among sand dunes, where herons and other water birds can be seen. Before getting there we drove along a river bed and passed a house, where an entry fee was paid.

Weather: Overcast, very windy 24°C

CAMPOS ROAD March 8 Morning:

The third day we went 15 km. down the Campos Road towards Camira. The habitat was good for Puffbirds, Serimas, Tanagers, Parrots. The bird fauna was different from the other places we visited, though the habitat looks very much the same, maybe it was more extensive than the other areas around Santa Cruz.

Weather: Overcast, windy and showers 25°C

OKINAWA RD March 8 afternoon:

Okinawa starts outside Montero, as we turned right twice, when coming from Santa Cruz at a statue. We stopped several places, where suitable areas like marshes or woodland were found along the road. An especially good place was located 2 km. before Ingino sign posted towards Cicilia. Again habitats do change rapidly all the time, so suitable habitat must be refound all the time further away from Santa Cruz. On the way back through Montero, we took a side road called Bilgarca, where some large trees supported lots of Parrots and White Woodpeckers.

Weather: Overcast, windy and showers 25°C


A few km uphill from Angostura at 1200 meters a nice ravine with upper tropical forest supports 2 trails on each side of a torrent called Samaipata Trail. We saw very good birds like Slaty Gnatwren, White-backed Fireeye, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail (seen by some), Green-cheeked Parakeet, Black-goggled Tanager and Orange-headed Tanager and many more, which we only encountered at this location.

Weather: Sunny in the morning, then some clouds 18-24°C

ACHIRA March 9 Lunch:

In a dry intermontane valley at 1450m we stopped for lunch. This place near a river is more dry and its habitat is dominated by Acacia and Cactus scrub. This was the only place we saw Red-peliated Finch and Rufous-bellied Thrush. Also we found a pair of Tropical Screech Owl.

Weather: Dry sunny and warm.

EAST of LOS NEGROS March 9 afternoon:

Some undisturbed serix scrub mixed with cactus, thorn trees was worth a stop east of the town Los Negros. The elevation was 1400m. Most of the birds we saw here we located in Tambo, but we got good looks of Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, and Yellow-rumped Euphonia.

Weather: Sunny, warm little wind.

TAMBO AREA March 10:

We stayed at the missionary school at Tambo during the children's vacation time, This is the best and most comfortable place to stay. We drove up in the valley and spent the morning among cactus, acacia and thorny scrub and some gallery woodland. The place looks very much like South-east Arizona. Any place in this habitat is good for birding. Marcapata (Rufous-capped) Antshrike and Bolivian Earthcreeper and perhaps White-bellied Tyrannulet is more easily found along river courses.

In the afternoon we went on a 4WD road into Pulquina area further into the canyons than Tunal in order to find the Red-fronted Macaw. We were lucky on 12 March to see 8 endangered Macaws flying among the hills low over the scrub. Some woodlands at the junction between Pulquina and Tunal roads were very good. Here we saw White-bellied Tyrannulet and Suiriri Flycatcher and again two noisy Red-fronted Macaws! The Tunal area is 30 min west of Tambo.

Weather: Clear sunny, pleasant cool in morning, warm to hot later.

SIBERIA FOREST March 11,12,13 morning:

The road connecting Tambo and Cochabamba is very good for birding stops. The first place called Siberia Cloud Forest at altitude 2600m can be reached after a 2h drive uphill. The forest is restricted to 20000 hectares, but is shrinking slowly as settlers are moving into the area from lower elevations. We stayed at Tambo and drove up each day. If traveling alone it may be a better idea to camp so it is possible to conduct some night birding. Rufous-bellied Owl might be attracted from tape play-back in the very early morning. The main attractions are the Black-winged Parrot, Giant Antshrike, Blue-capped Puffleg and the common but very elusive Rufous-faced Antpitta. Further to the west at 3000m the road passes through Siberia, and at 3100m elevation it is worthwhile to stop near a small ravine forest. The place supports a pair of the local Spot-breasted Thornbird, split from Freckle-breasted Thornbird. In the flowers the Hooded Sunbeam is working hard at feeding.

Weather 11 March: Sunny the partly cloudy, wind
Weather 12 March: Overcast little wind which is ideal condition for birding condition.
Weather 13 March: In morning clear and sunny.


About 100 km. south of Cochabamba in a valley near Monto Puno at the altitude of 3100m with some remnant polylepis among fields and houses is worth a birding stop. We saw some very interesting birds like Subtropical Doradito, Maquis Canastero. To find the place: Look for an almost abandoned town with a big football field, and then a bridge crossing a river. Big eucalyptus trees grow near the bridge. Turn before the crossing up in the valley along a dirt road to the left (if you are traveling towards Cochabamba). Continue for a few km.

 Weather: Partly cloudy, fresh weather


The place is uphill from Cochabamba along Quillacollo/Tunari Rd, and the road climbs all the way from 2600m to 4200m. The polylepis grow from an elevation of 3200 to 3600m. Any place along this stretch is good for birding. Nearly all polylepis birds such as Fulvous-headed Bush-finch, Giant Hummingbirds, and Brown-capped and Tawny Tit-spinetails was seen. Further uphill in the wet puno we located the Short-tailed Finch and got fabulous views of the Andean Condor.

Weather very clear and sunny day perfect for birding

CHAPARE FOREST March 15,16,17:

A large undisturbed temperate forest can be reached after a 2h drive from Cochabamba. Unfortunately very few trails exist here, but it is worth taking a side road to the left when the main road forks at 2800m near some houses. This side road has very little traffic. Further down at 2400m the Chapare road pass through a village and a police check point. Here the first cecrobia trees can be seen and we are in the subtropical zone. At 2000m the descent flattens and the road passes through a small village. We stopped for birding and lunch just after the village on a plateau and some clearings. We spent some time here and saw lots of good birds such as Versicoloured Barbet, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher and Red-headed Woodpecker. We continued further down to 1700m, but here the road descends rapidly, so the traffic is intense and noisy, as the trucks climb the hills in first gear.

Weather 15 March: Sunny morning, no wind, later a weak buildup
Weather 16 March: Sunny morning, build up, rain at lower elevations
Weather 17 March: Sunny in morning, weak build up but no rain


The first 40 km. of this road offer a lot of birding opportunities. We made a stop just outside Cochabamba at a police check point (the second and largest),where we could watch over some fields and scrub. There was a lot of rubbish and dirt, so the place was not attractive. We saw the Bolivian Blackbird, Brown-backed Mockingbird and Darwin Nothura here. Further uphill we made several stops at 3200m, 3450m and 3820m. We saw Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail, Rufous-banded Miner and D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant. Very little was seen above 4000m as the landscape is barren, overgrazed and dry.

Weather: Clear sunny, few clouds some wind above 4000m

LAGO URU-URU and ORURO March 19:

This is a very good spot for water birds. We saw all 3 Flamingos and thousands Wilson's Phalarope, some in breeding plumage. The lake is just outside town. We stayed at Hotel Terminal, which was in reasonable condition, but a little noisy, as the buses depart all night.

Weather: A beautiful day, nice thunderstorm build up in the afternoon over the hills.


Enroute to La Paz, we made two major stops on a side road to the left where we saw Gold-spotted Ground-dove and Mountain Parakeet in a canyon. Some saw Spot-crowned Ground-tyrant here. Lago Vila-vila, 70 km from Oruro had Andean Avocets.

Weather: Clear morning, buildup to storms we missed most of it. Cool day at high elevation but little wind


The road to Coroico passes through La Cumbre Pass at an elevation of 5000m. The area is worth exploring. We made a side trip the 24th up to 5500m to the left (coming from La Paz) just after the lake. Here we saw Andean Snipe and White-fronted Ground-tyrant.The area is good for Ground-tyrants and we got some views and identified 4 species here.

On the eastern side of the pass the road drops rapidly down. At 3600m elevation a side road called Pongo brings you down to a river. The area has polylepis scrub, and the river can be checked for Torrent Duck. Further down the main road there is a fork at 3100m. The Chuspipata road has less traffic, and some fabulous birding can be done at 3000m. Stop any place and be rewarded with Orange-browed Hemispincus, Hooded Mountain-tanager and Plus-capped Finch.

Coroico road is very narrow and is almost cut into the cliff face, and it passes directly under a waterfall. The buses and trucks have to reverse in order to give way to one another. Knowing that a wrong turn can bring the bus to a 1000m free fall can make everyone nervous. At 2600m-2700m the road passes through a settlement called Sacramento Alto, and the farmer is a good friend with our guides. He managed to get 20 people down from La Paz in order to cut a 2-3km trail into the forest. The birding would have been superb if we have spent more time here. During a couple hours of birding, before the rain started, we managed to see Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner, Crowned Chat-tyrant, Masked Trogon, Fruiteaters, A Rufous-bellied Owl was flushed, we heard a Barred Antthrush, and we got very close to a calling Rufous-faced Antpitta.

Weather 21 March: Clouds below 4000m overcast day perfect condition for birding little wind.
Weather 22 March: Overcast from morning distant thunderstorms rain developing after 1 p.m. lasting all day. We drove out of the rain when we passed 3800m elevation.
Weather 24 March: Clear sunny weather at la Cumbre, clouds start in the altitude of 3800m.


We visited the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca especially around Sojacapa town. Boat ramps and houses are constructed all the time, and the lake is threatened by pollution from a growing population. However, we got good views of the endemic Titicaca Grebe with 2 chicks. On the way back to La Paz we stopped for lunch in a wet puno area. Many endemic frogs waweres found and photographed.

Weather: Overcast, partly sunny later in the day.


05.03.92        23.00  Departure Miami-Santa Cruz Lloid Aero Boliviano.

06.03.92  06.00-08.30  Arrival to Viru-viru Airport
          08.30-11.30  Drive to Rio Piray site Birding.
          11.30-15.00  Lunch, rest at hotel La Palmas
          15.00-18.00  Drive to Montero, birding north west of town

07.03.92  06.00-11.30  Birding around Lomas de Arena
          11.30-14.30  Lunch at hotel La Palmas
          14.30-21.00  Birding at Lomas, night birding

08.03.92  05.30-11.30  Birding along Campos Rd
          11.30-12.30  Drive to Okinawa Rd,Lunch
          12.30-16.00  Birding Okinawa Rd
          16.00-18.30  Birding Bilgarca Rd

09.03.92  05.00-07.00  Drive to Samaipata trail
          07.00-09.30  Birding Samipata trail
          10.00-12.00  Drive birding enroute to Achira
          12.00-14.00  Birding & Lunch Achira
          14.00-16.30  Drive to Los Negros
          16.30-17.30  Birding east of Los Negros
          17.30-19.30  Drive to Tambo School

10.03.92  06.00-11.30  Birding in Tambo Canyon
          14.00-18.00  Drive on truck to Pulquina area

11.03.92  04.30-06.30  Drive to Siberia
          06.30-16.30  Birding Siberia
          16.30-18.30  Return to Tambo School

12.03.92  04.30-06.30  Drive to Siberia
          06.30-13.30  Birding Siberia
          13.30-15.00  Return, truck to Pulquina
          16.00-18.00  Birding Pulquina/Tunal Rd

13.03.92  05.00-07.30  Drive to west of Siberia
          07.30-09.00  Breakfast & Birding
          09.30-15.00  Drive birding enroute
          15.00-17.00  Birding Puento Epunte
          17.00-19.30  Drive to Cochabamba, Night Hotel Plaza.

14.03.92  05.00-06.30  Drive to Sierro Tinoa area
          06.30-17.30  Birding Sierro Tinoa
          17.30-18.50  Return to Cochabamba

15.03.92  05.00-07.00  Drive to 3100m Chapare
          07.00-12.00  Birding 2800-3000m
          12.50-15.00  Birding 2000m
          15.30-18.00  return birding enroute

16.03.92  05.00-08.30  Drive to 2200m Chapare
          08.30-18.00  Birding 2200-1700m Chapare
          18.00-20.00  return to Cochabamba

17.03.92  06.30-09.30  Drive to 2000m Chapare
          09.30-16.00  Birding 2000-3000m Chapare
          16.00-18.30  return to Cochabamba

18.03.92  06.00-18.30  Drive to Oruro birding enroute

19.03.92  06.30-12.00  Birding Uru-uru
          12.00-15.00  Lunch in town market day
          15.00-18.00  birding Uru-uru

20.03.92  06.00-07.00  Drive to Thomas Barron
          07.00-10.00  Birding on side road, breakfast
          10.00-11.00  Drive to Vila-vila
          11.00-13.00  Lunch & Birding Vila-vila
          13.00-18.00  Drive to La Paz Hotel Librador

21.03.92  05.00-07.00  Drive to Chuspipata Rd 3000m
          07.00-10.30  Breakfast & Birding Chuspipata
          10.30-12.00  Drive down to 2700m Coroico Rd
                       Lunch & Birding.
          12.00-17.00  return to 3000m birding trail
          17.00-19.20  return to La Paz

22.03.92  05.00-07.50  Drive to 2700m Coroico Rd
          07.30-13.00  Breakfast Coroico Birding trail.
          13.00-15.00  Return to Pungo Rd area 3600m
          15.00-16.30  Birding
          16.30-19.00  Drive to La Paz birding enroute

23.03.92  06.00-09.00  Drive to Titicaca birding enroute
          09.00-12.00  Birding for Grebes and in Sojacapa
          12.00-15.00  return, field lunch, birding enroute
          15.00-19.00  Shopping day La Paz

24.03.92  05.30-07.00  To La Cumbre pass
          07.00-10.00  Birding La Cumbre area
          10.00-11.30  Drive to Pungo Rd 3600m
          11.30-14.00  Birding Pungo Rd,Lunch
          14.00-16.00  Return to La Paz birding enroute

24.03.92  18.30-20.30  Departure Airport
                20.30  Lloid Aero Boliviano to Miami

25.03.92        06.30  Arrival Miami.
          08.30-12.00  Birding Miami
          18.00-       British Airways to London

Trip ends.




Niels Poul Dreyer,
c/o Hesselbjerggård, Kongstedvej 17,
4291 Ruds-Vedby, Denmark,
Telephone 4553561010;