El Dorado

El Dorado is another ProAves birding lodge, located in the lower elevations of the Santa Marta mountains, at 6400 feet. The Santa Martas are an isolated mountain range, near the Andes but separated from them. It's a compact, roughly circular, range, covering only about 6600 square miles. It's a “sky island”, separated from any other mountain habitat by valleys, and thus it has a high degree of endemism—many species that are found only here (as attested by the numerous species that have “Santa Marta” as part of their name).

The main building of El Dorado, with restaurant, lounge and offices. Lodgings are in other buildings.
On our first morning at El Dorado, we went up on the Lorenzo ridge above the lodge, up to about 8500 feet. Before long, we found our first endemic, this Santa Marta Warbler.
Santa Marta Warbler
Santa Marta Brushfinches were ridiculously tame, helping themselves to crumbs from our snacks.
Santa Marta Brushfinch
Santa Marta Brushfinch
Distant view of a Santa Marta Parakeet
The Great Thrush looks like a gigantic, all-brown, American Robin.
Depending on whose nomenclature you follow, this is named either Black-cheeked Mountain-Tanager, or Santa Marta Mountain-Tanager.
Mountain Elaenia
White-tipped Quetzal. Not exactly resplendent but still spectacular.
Black-throated Tody-Tyrant
The road up Lorenzo ridge. Over the course of the trip, we spent many hours riding, very slowly, over 4WD tracks like this.
The lodge has a resident Colombian guide, Roger, who speaks very good English and who led us around for a day. Here we are on Lorenzo ridge, with Roger holding the bluetooth speaker. This photo by Merrill Lynch.
Back at the lodge, there were hummingbird feeders and hordes of hummingbirds. Crowned Woodnymph was the most abundant species here.
female Crowned Woodnymph
Crowned Woodnymph. The exact amount of green that you see depends critically on the angle of the light.
Crowned Woodnymph
Crowned Woodnymph
Green Violetear was also a common species.
Green Violetear
And there were a few Brown Violetears.
Brown Violetear
White-tailed Starfrontlet
White-tailed Starfrontlet
White-tipped Dove
Roger was doing graduate research on the Santa Marta Screech-Owl and knew exactly where to find a roosting pair. No, really. You can see one of them here.
This Gray-throated Leaftosser was remarkably cooperative, except for the part about being in deep forest shade late in the day, requiring a long exposure.
Gray-throated Leaftosser
Black-chested Jay
Black-chested Jay
Serious Poinsettias in the garden
On our second day here, we departed early in the morning and birded our way back down the mountain, toward the coast. This Rusty-margined Flycatcher was hanging out at the lodge, perhaps contemplating a big bird, as we prepared to depart.
We stopped at a store, Tienda Las Rosas, which has hummingbird feeders to watch. Again, there were Green Violetears.
White-tailed Starfrontlet
Here, and elsewhere, we saw some of “our” birds on their wintering grounds. Rose-breasted Grosbeak was one of the most common neotropical migrants.
As was Tennessee Warbler.
Crested Oropendola
Pale-breasted Thrush
Another Bicolored Wren