by Lawrence Rubey and A. Bennett Hennessey
The Tablas Monte road, a dirt road branching of from the main Chapare Road at kilometer post 72, passes through an upper montane forest. The Tablas Monte road beings at 2900 meters and descends 27 kilometers to the village of Tablas Monte. Unfortunately, clearing for agriculture has increased markedly in the past decade. The roadside disturbed forest has a number of trails (used by local farmers), that pass through secondary growth as well as cleared fields and cow pastures. It is also possible to bird along the road, although recently improved, it still gets little traffic. While some well-forested slopes remain, access is more difficult. Note: the barbwire fences are to stop cattle from leaving, they do not typically mark private property.
Many of the birds found at Tablas Monte are found on the Cotapata list in the Appendix. Some of the high cloud forest birds seen here include: Andean Guan, Hooded Mountain-Toucan, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Black-winged Parrot, Red-crested Cotinga, Band-tailed and Barred Fruiteaters, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Stripe-faced Wood-Quail, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Collared Inca, Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, White-throated Screech-Owl, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycathcer, Light-crowned Spinetail, and Black-throated Thistletail. The endemic Rufous-faced Antpitta can usually be heard calling. One of the better trails it 0.4 km down from the turn, a wide path leading off to the right.
Just before Tablas Monte, is another interesting site. After passing the (bird poor) reservoirs of Corani, but before arriving at the turn-off for Tablas Monte, the road passes through a deep gorge (about 3300 meters). Emerging from the gorge, there are several cleared road side areas (with lots of trash). It is possible to pull over and bird these bushy roadside areas. This stop can be quite good for the higher elevation species including: Moustached Flowerpiercer, Great Sapphirewing, Black-hooded Sunbeam and Black-throated Thistletail.
Logistics: From Cochabamba, the left turn for the Tablas Monte road is at kilometer post 72. Actually, the kilometer post has disappeared, but a large "72" is painted on a wrecked green car on the left-hand side of the road next to several buildings. The turn is also about a kilometer past a small cluster of buildings with signs for "Bar/Restaurant San Isidro." The good-quality dirt road winds down 27 kilometers to the village of Tablas Monte, although the first few kilometers of the road are usually the best. Camping at Tablas Monte can be great for the early morning chorus, though it is often mixed with the muffled sounds of trucks and cars passing.
GPS reading at turn for Tablas Monte road: S 17 10.286' W 65 53.549'