Colombia is one of the most butterfly rich countries on the planet, with roughly 3800 species, about 20% of the earth's total. On this pleasant and easy tour we won't see all of the species, but we'll see an awful lot! This trip explores beautiful areas in the west-central portion of the country.
We retain the right to remain flexible as to our exact itinerary in order to take best advantage of hot spots and to enable us to work with the weather, not against it. Exactly where and when butterfly populations will appear is highly dependent upon local environmental and climatic conditions. The uncertainty heightens our excitement.
Day 1. Today we'll arrive in Medellin and meet up in our very comfortable hotel in this surprisingly attractive Andean city.
Day 2. We'll make a day trip to the cloud forests west of Medellin today. This area is home to an excellent mix of butterflies to get our trip started. We'll spread bait along promising stretches of road, and hope for a variety of visitors including several stunning black, orange, and blue banners (Epiphile), Stormy Heliconian (Heliconius clysonymus), Orange-edged Daggerwing (Marpesia corinna), the striking Orange-thighed Skipperling (Dalla jelskyi), and the interesting Club-spotted Falcon-Satyr (Corades enyo). We can also hope for some glitterying metalmarks such as Owl-eyed Eyemark (Mesosemia metuana), Hackberry Greenmark (Caria rhacotis), Melanis hodia, and Red-edged Jewelmark (Anteros kupris). If we're lucky, we may also find the incongruous Spurwing Metalmark (Amphiselenis chama), perhaps some nice hairstreaks such as Interrupted Stripe-streak (Arawacus leucogyna) and Zebra Cross-streak, or Orange-banded Phantom-Satyr (Pseudohaetera hypaesia). We'll return to our very comfortable hotel in Medellin for the night.
Day 3. This morning we'll leave early to beat the traffic, and head down into the semi-humid forest low in the spectacular Cauca Valley. This is the great divide between the Central and Western Andean ranges, and we have a great butterflying road - forested but not dark, very lightly travelled - staked out. In this drier, lower-elevation forest, we can expect to find butterflies concentrated around creek crossings – and of course on our bait spots! On a sunny day, our favorite creek crossing can be visited by two greenmark species including the rainbow-colored Brilliant Greenark (Caria mantinea), several sailors such as Four-spotted Sailor and White Sailor (Dynamine theseus), a couple of glowing - but often shy! – bluemarks, Blind Eighty-eight (Haematera pyrame), the beautiful Red-and-black Leafwing (Siderone galanthis), and even an undescribed enops (Polyctor), a spreadwing skipper. There are plenty of enigmatic metalmarks to hope for; the tiny but beautiful Carousing Jewelmark (Anteros carausius) is often present, and other possibilities include Two-oranges Metalmark (Notheme erota), Cell-barred Geomark (Mesene phareus), Orange-striped Metalmark (Parcella amarynthina), Prison Metalmark, (Hyphilaria thasus), and the eyemarks are represented by the Violet-washed Eyemark (Mesosemia telegone). There are some nice ticlears around, such as Cell-spotted Slantcell (Napeogenes stella) and Disturbed Tigerwing (Mechanitis polymnia). Finally, this has proven to be one of the best sites in the area for hairstreaks, and we've had such wonderful species as Brown Groundstreak (Ziegleria ceromia), Ambrax Hairstreak (Strephonota ambrax), Patchy Groundstreak (Lamprospilus collucia), Saddled Groundstreak (Calycopis callus), Black-edged Dreamstreak (Erora carla), Red-fringed Minstreak (Ministrymon cruenta), and Tiger-eye Hairstreak (Rekoa metron). When things slow down - or when it's simply getting too late in the day! - we'll load back into the van and drive across the mightly Cauca River and up into the Western Andes. In the afternoon, we'll arrive in the heart of Colombia's coffee-producing region and settle into our very pleasant lodge outside of the village of Jardin.
Days 4-6. We will have three full days to explore the area around Jardin. The immediate surroundings of our lodge, with trails, gardens, and a gravel road, can be very productive for a day of butterflying. We'll be watching for species like the endemic Colombian Kite-Swallowtail (Eurytides colombus). Some spectacular skippers are possible such as the endemic Colombian Beamer (Phocides johnsoni), Pink-banded Firetip (Mimoniades nurscia), and Coffee-and-cream Skipperling (Dalla miser). At least three species of actinotes including the pretty Pink-bodied Actinote (Altinote neleus), and the strangely angled Elongated Sombermark (Euselasia extensa), have been found here.
On another day, we'll drive up to higher elevations to look for some Western Andes specialties such as the rarely-encountered Yellow-tipped Mapwing (Hypanartia charon), the lovely Pink-flushed Leafwing (Anaea centaurus), the amazing Flaming Firetip (Yanguna spatiosa), dartwhites such as Rio Cauca Dartwhite (Catasticta seitzi) and Pleated Dartwhite (C. philone), Andean metalmarks including Yellow-banded Raymark (Siseme pallas), Blue-bordered Metalmark (Necyria bellona), and even a pretty undescribed tanmark (Emesis) species known from the area. Of course at high elevation we can also expect some great satyrs including Oval-spotted Falcon-Satyr (Corades chelonis), Cell-spotted Falcon-Satyr (C. chirone), White-banded Lasio (Lasiophila prosymna), Big-spotted Lyman (Lymanopoda labda) among many others; high-elevation skippers could include West-Colombian Potam (Potamanaxas andraemon), Magdalena Skipperling (Dalla wardi), and Yellow-fringed Therra (Thespieus tihoneta), while high-elevation hairstreaks possible include Auda Highstreak (Johnsonita auda), and Ruddy-frosted Andean-Elfin (Penaincisalia loxurina). Perhaps the ultimate reward at the highest elevation is the spectacular Opalescent Morpho (Morpho sulkowskyi) - lucky is the photographer who gets a chance at one of these, but we'll do all we can!
On our third day, we can either revisit our previous sites, or perhaps try middle elevations for species such as Red-scarfed Firetip (Pyrrhopyge decipiens), the unusal Blue-banded Crescent (Eresia levina) and Exclamation Mark Crescent (Gnathotriche exclamationis), and perhaps some nice periclouds such as Colombian Pericloud (Perisama antioquia), Blue-spotted Pericloud (P. bomplandii), or Yeba Pericloud (P. yeba). No matter what, this should be an exciting three days of cloud forest butterflying based in a very friendly lodge!
Day 7. Today we need to complete the 3-4 hour drive back to Medellin, where we'll spend the night. We can either have another shot at sites near Jardin, or revsit Sinifana (see Day 3) en route. Night in our hotel in Medellin.
Day 8. We'll have another day trip outside of Medellin, this time heading for a high ridge above the city. There is a very special metalmark here – Yellow-patched Eyemark (Mesosemia cordillerensis), but there are other great butterflies to search for, such as the pretty skippers Serdis viridicans, Checkered Potam (Potamanaxas bana), and Dalla hesperioides, the high elevation Red-edged Pericloud (Orophila cardases), and the striking Andean Silverspot (Dione glycera). Of course, like the higher elevations at Jardin, we'll find a wonderful variety of satyrs hopefully including spectacular species such as Colombian Snout-Satyr (Proboscis prophylea), Marbled Junea (Junea doraete), and Cream-banded Twin-tailed Satyr (Daedalma dinias) among the more "normal-looking" examples such as Butler’s Falcon-Satyr (Corades cybele) and Many-spotted Falcon-Satyr (C. dymantis). We'll return for a final night at our Medellin hotel.
Day 9. Today we'll make another early start to avoid traffic on the way out of town, and head through the typical Colombian scenery of the Central Andes - mountainsides punctuated by waterfalls and coffe plantations, steep forested gorges, and long vistas down lush green valleys - towards the Magdalena Valley foothills. Here, in the Rio Claro area, we'll find our most diverse butterfly community of the trip in low-elevation foothill rainforest. We'll arrive at our pleasant country hotel - complete with necessarily air-conditioned rooms in this tropical climate - and begin our exploration in the afternoon - see below for what we might find! Night in Rio Claro.
Days 10-13. We will have 4 full days to explore the forest patches of the humid Magdalena River Valley. Some protected areas hold extensive pristine forest, and these are the richest areas. Some people will be surprised at the exciting variety of skippers (no, they're not all common, small, and brown!) including several flashers (Astraptes), ghost-skippers (Phanus), Nervous Skipper (Udranomia kikkawai), the glitterying Green-headed Sootywing (Gorgopas chlorocephala), and several firetips such as Orange-spot Firetip (Aspitha leander), Narrow-winged Firetip (Zonia zonia), Common Mytip (Myscelus amystis), and Teal-bordered Firetip (Passova ganymedes). And yes, there are pretty grass-skippers around too, such as Dyson’s Silverpatch (Aides dysoni), Blue-costa Skipper (Aroma aroma), Superb Ruby-eye (Carystus superbiens), Squiggly Brown-Skipper (Phanes aletes), and the glowing Teal Saliana (Saliana hewitsoni) - all of these are usually found in the interior of good forest. Other forest goodies include some surprising metalmarks – Flame-bordered Sheenmark (Eurybia donna), Blue-winged Sheenmark (E. lycisca), and Four-spotted Mimic-mark (Pheles strigosa) like to hide their beauty under leaves, while White-patched Metalmark (Cyrenia martia) and jewelmarks such as Elegant Jewelmark (Anteros allectus), Neglected Jewelmark (Sarota neglecta) and Black-spot Jewelmark (S. acantus) are also wonderful little finds. Smooth Sombermark (Euselasia candaria) and Schaus’ Sombermark (E. tarinta) are glowing little pendants that also like to perch under leaves. And of course, the forest interior is home to larger satyr-types including the stunning Gold-bordered Owl-Butterfly (Caligo atreus), the transparent Rusted Phantom-Satyr (Cithaerias pireta), and the pretty leaf-litter-hopping Red-washed Phantom-Satyr (Pierella hevlina). A final reward in lush rainforest are ticlears, potentially including Ithomia diasa and Oleria amalda. Nights in Rio Claro.
We'll also explore more open areas, looking for large species such as Tigerwing Swallowtail (Papilio zagreus), daggerwings, including the amazing Black-bordered Daggerwing (Marpesia furcula), and other tropical brushfoots such as Panacea prola, Eunica orphise and E. volumna). There are also nearly unlimited options for great hairstreaks like Imperial Sunstreak (Arcas imperialis), Ochre Groundstreak (Calycopis trebula), and Black-barred Cross-streak (Panthiades phaleros).
There is one side road that has been particularly productive in the past: on a short stretch of it we have recorded Costa-spotted Beautymark (Ancyluris jurgensenii), Felder’s Scintillant (Crocozona pheretima), Orange-barred Pixie (Melanis electron), White-fringed Lemmark (Synargis calyce), Blue-and-white Heliconian (Heliconius sapho), Yellow Patch (Chlosyne narva), Splendid Crescent (Eresia emerantia), White-banded Morpho (Morpho cypris), Two-eyed Eighty-eight (Callicore pitheas), Blue-celled Purplewing (Eunica volumna) and Many-eyed Sailor (Dynamine arene) – among others!
Finally, we cannot ignore the gardens of our hotel! Among the beauties we've seen here are Cloudy-eyed Whitemark (Leucochimona lagora), Squiggly-lined Eyemark (Perophthalma tulius) (two wonderful metalmarks!), different forms of Dot-bordered Heliconian (Heliconius doris), and Starry Cracker (Hamadryas laodamia). In short, there is no way we will run out of butterflies to look for in a four-day stay - this is an area with nearly unlimited potential, and an excellent way to finish our tour!
Day 14. On top of the butterflies, the Rio Claro area has the advantage of being located just a few hours from Medellin's international airport, so we conveniently do not need to return to the city before catching flights to conclude the tour.
Leader will be David Geale, experienced Neotropical butterflying tour leader.
Cost of the trip is $4895/person from Medellin. Cost includes double-based accommodations, lunches and soft drinks, ground transportation, airport transfers, tour leader fees and entrance fees. Not included are dinners, alcoholic beverages, laundry services, and other items of a personal nature. Single supplement is $450. This trip is limited to 8 participants.
Click Reservations for a Reservation Form.
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Friday February 3, 2017 to Thursday February 16, 2017