Birding Bogotá & Colombia

Hato La Aurora Reserve

Key species:

Horned Screamer, Pinnated Bittern (hard to see), Orinoco Goose, Sunbittern, Jabiru, Pale-headed Jacamar and White-bearded Flycatcher.

Specialties:

Crestless Curassow (relatively common but shy), King Vulture, Crane Hawk, Bat Falcon, Brazilian Teal, Fulvous, Black-bellied and White-faced whistling-ducks,  Capped and Whistling herons, White, Scarlet, Buff-necked, Glossy, Bare-faced and Sharp-tailed ibises, Roseate Spoonbill, Maguari and Wood storks, Double-striped Thick-knee, Dwarf Cuckoo, Hoatzin, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Gray Potoo, Rufous Motmot, five species of kingfishers, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Scarlet and Chesnut-fronted Macaw, Spectacled Parrotlet, Sirystes, Pale-eyed Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-capped Donacobius, Cocoa Thrush, Yellowish Pipit, and Orinoco Saltator.

Approximate number of bird species: 290

Height above sea level: 250m (820ft)

Travelling with Birding Bogotá & Colombia at Hato La Aurora will let you be able to enjoy the famous “llanos” or grasslands of eastern Colombia at their best. This large ranch encompasses about 16,000 acres in the department of Casanare with a variety of intact savanna ecosystems, including gallery forests along rivers and streams and vast marshes, wetlands and open grasslands.

The ranch is a paradise for wildlife, all of which coexist in relative harmony with traditional livestock ranching. Much of this wildlife is large and easy to see and includes a great variety of raptors, large wading birds, and waterfowl, among them Crane, Savanna and Great Black hawks, Gray-necked Wood-Rails, Sunbitterns, up to seven species of ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, whistling-ducks, Brazilian Teals, and both Maguari Storks and Jabirus.

The best time to visit this site is during the dry season between December and later April when there is less water and wildlife is concentrated at remaining waterholes.  Although tracks and roads on the ranch may be dusty at this time of year, the entire ranch is accessible, something that sometimes is not possible during the rainy season when portions of the ranch are flooded.

The waterfowl and waders at Hato La Aurora present a living spectacle that is one of the most impressive in all of Colombia. In addition, hundreds of Capybaras and Spectacled Caiman occur here and are seen to best advantage in the dry season around waterholes, as are anacondas and a variety of turtles. Gallery forests provide habitat for Red Howler Monkeys, and Giant Anteaters are not uncommon in open areas. Camera traps reveal the presence of jaguars, ocelots and pumas here although these larger cats are generally difficult to see.

For those that wish a more or a traditional ranch experience it may be possible to participate in dairy activities, and view some of the works of the cowboys employed by the ranch. Here, in addition to bird-watching, you can enjoy the scenery by walking, horse riding, and in trips in trucks, boats or canoes. And, of course, the ranch has a fine lodge with very comfortable facilities, and all visitors will be treated to special meals typical of the llanos.

Banana feeders near the dining room attract a wide variety of birds including chachalacas, woodpeckers, Violaceous Jays, Yellow Orioles and Red-capped Cardinals. Key species such as Pale-headed Jacamar and White-bearded Flycatcher can be found near the lodge, along with caracaras, Yellow-crowned Parrots and many other species.  And, at the end of the day, as night falls across the llanos, you are sure to be treated to the sound of traditional llanero harp music, played masterfully by the family that owns the ranch and its employees.

Model four-day birding itinerary at Hato La Aurora

First day. This day is mostly used for traveling from the city of Yopal to the ranch with numerous stops en route to enjoy the scenery and spectacle of birds and animals which can be seen even from roadsides.

Upon arrival, visitors are greeted with a typical lunch and will have time to settle into their rooms. Afternoon activities may include a boat tour, observing wildlife near the lodge and time to enjoy a peaceful llanos sunset. Wildlife we may encounter on our journey today includes Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Sunbittern, Hoatzin, Ringed and Amazon kingfishers and Cocoi, Striated, and Capped herons. At night we will have a short introductory presentation about the ranch and perhaps also see photographs of animals taken with camera traps here on the ranch.

Second day. We’ll plan a “safari” to the main house of the ranch, located one hour and a half (non-stop) from the lodge. Our drive by 4×4 vehicle, however, will include frequent stops to view birds and other wildlife along the route, including birding in patches of forest for flycatchers, warblers, tanagers and others. This drive will provide an excellent introduction to wildlife of the llanos and we will likely not reach the main ranch house until nearly mid-day.  At the ranch house we’ll have an opportunity to see daily ranch live, cattle and possibly some llaneros (cowboys) as well. For those that are interested we can arrange for demonstrations of the use of horsehair, rawhide, traditional stirrups and other aspects of ranch life. You will also be treated to a delicious traditional lunch of the llanos and some time to rest and relax in hammocks during the heat of the afternoon.

Later in the afternoon we’ll return to our guesthouse, often arriving after dark with opportunities to search for interesting mammals and a few nocturnal birds along the way. After our evening meal, for those that wish, you will be treated to a demonstration of the llanera harp, as well as poems and traditional songs and legends of the llanos all beneath a brilliant starry sky.

Third day. During the period of the year known as the “trabajo de llano (ranch work) you will have the option of watching the cowboys as they work cattle bringing them into the main corral for annual work. This only happens twice a year, in late May and November, when the rainy season is finished.

On most trips we will devote this day to the exploration of some trails near the guest house. We have the option of using horses, or walking and, depending upon the location of certain wildlife, we may also include a short drive in a 4×4 vehicle. We also will offer an optional morning or late evening boat trip in which we row along a “caño (small stream) if water levels are sufficiently high. These small creeks in the llanos are marvelous places to see a great variety of wildlife including caimans, hoatzins, wood-rails, hawks, many small birds, and a variety of waders and waterbirds, as well as the opportunity to learn about some of the plants of the region. We also may include an opportunity to fish for pirañhas from the boats and enjoy a midday lunch near where we fish if weather permits.

Fourth day. Depending upon the interest of individuals or groups we will offer an early morning birding and nature walk along the streams and gallery forest near the guest house. Because the llanos typically get quite hot during midday, birds are most active early in the morning here in the llanos, as they commute from roosts to feeding areas, visit fruiting trees and forage actively when it is still cool. There is typically an impressive dawn chorus with dozens of different kinds of birds calling and we are sure that you will want to take this last opportunity for an early morning walk along the gallery forest and trails near the guest house. After breakfast we’ll pack our bags for our return to Bogotá, with an opportunity to enjoy the wildlife along the road as we leave.

For visiting Hato La Aurora, please contact us at info@birdingbogotaandcolombia.com

We will be pleased to arrange a trip for you!

Esta entrada también está disponible en: Spanish

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