Tour operated by Birdseekers, UK
LEADERS: Steve Bird, Gina Nichol, & Juan Carlos Calvachi
Day 1 Sunday, 18th November
Day 2 Monday 19th November
As we approached Antisana, we drove past a large remnant lava flow that blocked the valley. A roadside stop produced a Giant Hummingbird perched out in the open on some brush on a hillside. We were treated to scope and flight views of this largest hummingbird which is often difficult to locate. Above the hill, a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle appeared and flew across the valley. A Stout-billed Cinclodes perched on a fence post by the road and a Black-tailed Trainbearer flew in, its long tail feathers blowing in the breeze. Above the ridge two Carunculated Caracaras soared with another Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. A Black Flowerpiercer worked the low brush along the fence. Suddenly two Andean Condors appeared just above the ridge. As we watched them soar, one disappeared behind the ridge but the other gave a good show flying in front the ridge where we could see all of its features with the hillside as the background. A Cinereous Harrier flew behind them not nearly so grand but good views nonetheless.
We continued on in the bus noting several flocks of Black-winged Ground-Doves flying in the open fields. Steve spotted a Variable Hawk that flew in and landed on the ground so we stopped to scope it and found a pair on ground of an adjacent hill. Plumbeous Sierra-Finches could be seen in the grasses but the prize was a Streak-backed Canastero that sang from the top of a bush giving us all good views. Back on the bus, we spotted our first Aplomado Falcon enjoying excellent flight views. Our next stop produced several Stout-billed and Bar-winged Cinclodes and more Sierra-Finches. Our first Ecuadorian Hillstar buzzed by and flew back toward a lone building in the vast open fields. We scoped the building and some of us walked up to it to find an active nest of this lovely endemic. Steve and Juan further explored the building and found a roosting Barn Owl which tucked itself further into the rafters and out of view for the rest of us. Outside a couple of Paramo Ground Tyrants worked the open ground and an Ash-throated Sierra-Finch was noted.
We moved on to an open area where several Andean Gulls were feeding along with numerous adult and immature Carunculated Caracaras. A stop at a hacienda at the top allowed us superb looks at Ecuadorian Hillstars near some feeders - one male roosting on the building above the feeders. Here we saw our first Brazilian Rabbit and a small pond nearby held a pair of Andean Teal. Driving to another spot we found a very close Aplomado falcon on the ground once again a smart subject for the photographers in the group. Brown-bellied Swallows and another Andean Condor flew over the hillside and we enjoyed the spectacular views of the unique landscape over a picnic lunch.
We continued on surveying some pools which held Yellow-billed Pintails. Several Paramo Pipits worked the dry areas and up to ten Andean Lapwings as well as a flock of thirty Baird’s Sandpipers spotted in the wetland areas. We stopped by a lake where a Greater Yellowlegs worked the reeds along the edge. In the water, there were Andean Coot and some very attractive Silvery Grebes. Heading back, we made a stop near some arable land and found a Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant. A Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant showed well as did a Sparkling Violetear while a Shining Sunbeam was all too brief. On a nearby hill, a White-tailed Deer was spotted. As the deer moved along the hillside, it flushed a Curve-billed Tinamou which allowed us great flight views.
Our last stop of the day was at a small lake where a group of 14 Andean Ducks were seen along with several Yellow-billed Pintails and two Spotted Sandpipers. Pleased with our first day, we headed back into Quito and our charming B&B.
Day 3 Tuesday 20th November
Further on, a Blackish Tapaculo was heard calling from down the hill but never showed. We scoped a Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager up the hill and got good looks at Glossy Flowerpiercers down the hill. The feeders along the way very quiet but we spotted some hummingbirds working the flowers on the hillside including Buff-winged Starfrontlet and Sapphire-vented Puffleg. Spectacled Whitestarts worked the treetops and Juan put us on a Streaked Tuftedcheek. We had a quick look at a Superciliaried Hemispingus and then, across the trail, a Rufous Wren showed well working some low vegetation along with some Rufous-naped Brush-Finches. A White-browned Spinetail worked the trunk of mossy tree while a Crowned Chat-Tyrant worked the low brush right along the trail. A mixed flock moved in including Masked and Glossy Flowerpiercers, Blue-backed Conebills, and a nice Superciliaried Hemispingus which showed very well. Banded Tyrannulet also made an appearance as did another Scarlet-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Black-crested Warbler, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, and a stunning Grass-green Tanager that glowed in the reflected light of Juan’s mirror. Another White-browned Spinetail was spotted giving everyone very good views. While everyone was enjoying the Spinetail, a Golden-breasted Puffleg came in and perched on a branch.
At the feeders at the end of the trail were several stunning hummingbirds including Great Sapphirewing, Shining Sunbeam, Buff-winged Starfronlet, and Sapphire-vented Puffleg. The photographers had a field day with these sparkling subjects while the rest of us marveled at their antics at the feeders. At one point, Gina exclaimed “Sword-bill here!” and we turned to see a female Sword-billed Hummingbird on a branch under some thick canopy near one of the feeders. The bird didn’t stay long but we all got fairly good looks at its ridiculous bill. After enjoying the show at the upper feeders, we moved down to the lower feeders which held several male and female Buff-winged Starfrontlets and Tyrian Metailtails. On the walk back out to the parking area, a nice male Sword-billed Hummingbird showed well for us. Other than that the trail was very quiet and a thick mist was rolling in. We took lunch at the entrance to Yanacocha our sparkling views from this morning now replaced by low clouds.
We left Yanacocha and drove down a shortcut to Nono-Mindo Road. A brief panic ensued when Juan spotted a Curve-billed Tinamou in a ditch on the side of the road. We piled out of the bus and chased the bird across a field to try and get better looks as the bird disappeared quickly in the fog. We continued down the road until Edgar spotted a Masked Trogon on a Cecropia tree near the road. We all got out and scoped the male and soon found the female in the branches above. In the same spot a Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant was calling and we scanned the hill and spotted it perched in a bush.
The next stop was beside another large Cecropia Tree which
held a young Sickle-winged Guan.
We arrived at Bellavista and immediately went to the feeders where we enjoyed multiple views of hummingbirds including Buff-tailed Coronets, Collard Inca, Speckled Hummingbird, Green and Sparkling Violetear, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Purple-throated Woodstar, and the tiny but charismatic Booted Rackettail. We were also treated to the unexpected appearance of a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta walking along the main path.
We checked into our rooms and met before dinner to review our list of birds for the day. After a lovely dinner, we went out to see amazingly close views of a Common Potoo perched on a stick along the main path.
Day 4 Wednesday 21st November
The feeders were buzzing with Purple-throated Woodstars, Booted Rackettails, and Buff-tailed Coronets. Susie spotted a nice Montane Woodcreeper moving up a trunk just behind the feeders. In the canopy behind was a White-winged Brush-Finch and our first Golden Tanager, and a Black-capped Tanager. Two Toucan Barbets showed well in the trees behind the feeders and remained around for viewing and photos until we went into breakfast. The trees above held several Southern Yellow Grosbeaks, Brown-capped Vireo, Golden-rumped Euphonia, a Blackburnian Warbler, and a White-tailed Tyrannulet. A female Capped Conebill sat preening in a tree and a Red-tailed Squirrel crossed the main path via the trees. A few Blue-and-White Swallows flew over and down the valley. As we headed for breakfast, two White-winged Brush-Finches were spotted near the trail and served as targets for a few of the photographers in the group. A Sierran Elaenia caught our attention as we tried to get into the dining room.
After a great breakfast, we headed up to the trails above the lodge. A good look at a Black-crested Warbler proved quite elusive as it circled around where we were standing on the path never stopping for a second. Our consolation was a lovely Gorgeted Sunangel which flew in and perched on an open stick just above eye level. We continued along the trail as Spillman’s Tapaculo called from deep in the forest. Way up on the hillside in the treetops, a Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan was spotted but the distance and the mist made it very difficult to see. Our scan for the Mountain-Toucan yielded scope views of a Streaked Tuftedcheek. A Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant worked some branches while a Speckled Hummingbird hawked insects just below the treetops. Further on, we heard the Oscellated Tapaculo calling down a hillside so we took a side trail to try and see it. There were at least two or three calling and though they did not seem to be far away, they did not come into view. After several minutes, we moved back up to the main trail and continued on to find an Andean Pygmy Owl perched in a tree near the trail. We got good scope views of this bird and even some photos and were thrilled to encounter this rare species. Grey-breasted Wood-Wrens were mobbing it so we caught some good views of these as well.
We headed back down the trail and a few of us saw a Flavescent Flycatcher. As the rest of us tried to get on it, a Glossy-black Thrush appeared. A Barred Hawk called in the distance and then flew over. The forest was very quiet as we walked back but an encounter with two close Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans got our adrenaline going. A Crimson-mantled Woodpecker flew across the trail and several Dusky Bush-Tanagers worked some low shrubs along the trail. Juan spotted a Plushcap moving under the canopy and as we were getting on that a Grass-green Tanager appeared.
Further down on the corner of the trail there was an explosion of excitement as a mixed flock moved through. Birds were being called in every direction including White-sided Flowerpiercer, Blue-and-Black Tanager, Black-and-White Becard, White-tailed Tyrannulet, and Striped Treehunter. On the other side of the trail, another Gorgeted Sunangel was found perched on a horizontal branch. As we watched, it flew up above us, hawked some insects and flew off. Back on the bus, we moved further along the road. The bus stopped suddenly for a pair of Strong-billed Woodcreeper which were seen silhouetted against the forest in the thick mist which was quickly turning into steady rain. A Streak-necked Flycatcher also appeared but was difficult to see in the poor light. The rain was getting heavier but more birds were coming in including a couple of Red-crested Cotingas, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, and White-tailed Tyrannulet. Once the flock activity subsided, we began to head back to the lodge. On the way, Susie spotted a Masked Trogon in a tree along side the road.
After lunch, we went to a private house with a lovely garden and several hummingbird feeders. We were in awe as several new species of sparkling gems buzzed around including Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Andean Emerald, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Purple-throated Woodstar, Western Emerald, Brown Inca, Violet-tailed Sylph, and Empress Brilliant. A White-sided Flowerpiercer was in attendance while a female then a male Little Woodstar fed on some orange flowers and moved around like bumblebees. A Crimson-rumped Toucanet flew fast across the sky but disappeared before we could all get on it. We moved up to the veranda where tea and coffee were being served and noted just as much hummingbird activity on the other side of the garden. This was truly a birder’s heaven and we were most appreciative of our host’s hospitality.
After a lovely afternoon, we moved down into the valley at dusk to look for nightjars. A Rufous-bellied Nighthawk flew down the valley and a little later two more birds flew up the road over our heads. Some bats were confusing things as darkness fell but we did manage to get views of a female Lyre-tailed Nightjar flying along the hillside. We headed back up to our lodge for another wonderful dinner and night at Bellavista.
Day 5 Thursday 22nd November
After breakfast, we went back up to the trails above the lodge. Our first sighting was a Green-and-Black Fruiteater followed by a Striped Treehunter. Les pointed out four Band-tailed Pigeons as they flew over and we found a Tawny-bellied Hermit on the corner of the trail in some low shrubs. We heard a Stripe-headed Pygmy-Tyrant which did not show but we did get views of Speckled Hummingbird, Collared Inca, Rufous Spinetail, and Russet-crowned Warbler. We heard a Spillman’s Tapaculo close by so we searched the edge of the trail and got quick glimpses as the bird moved in the shadows.
John spotted the first of many White-collared Swifts flying overhead. We stopped to check the activity of some large moss covered trees ahead of us where Flavescent Flycatcher, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blackburnian Warbler, Sierran Elaenia, Toucan Barbets, Cinnamon Flycatcher, and Red-eyed Vireo were all spotted. Dusky Bush-Tanagers noisily worked the lower foliage and our attention was turned back up to the tree tops for a flurry of activity which yielded a female Capped Conebill, lovely Blue-capped Tanagers, and the now common Slate-throated Whitestart. We walked down a steep trail back to the lodge enjoying a pair of Green-and-Black Fruiteaters along the way. A Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch was spotted on the compost pile and once again we were distracted by the fascinating moths that had come to our light overnight.
After breakfast, we packed up and had one last visit at the feeders before
we headed toward Mindo.
We made several roadside stops which yielded a number of species including Western Hemispingus, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Russet-crowned Warbler, and Montane Woodcreeper. Another stop on a hillside allowed great looks at Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager and two Beryl-spangled Tanagers making a nest high on a mossy branch. Our first Golden Tanagers were spotted here as some Red-billed Parrots noisily flew off. A Smoke-colored Pewee required us to strain our necks but Toucan Barbet, Mountain Wren, and Violet-tailed Sylph were lower in the trees allowing some relief.
Further down the road, we found our first Violet-purple Coronet. Gina spotted two Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers in the tree tops while a Brown-capped Vireo gave close looks. Continuing on we had our first stunning Blue-necked Tanagers.
We stopped at one of the Jocotoco Foundation reserves where the feeders held Green-crowned Woodnymphs and Banaquits and our first Green Thorntails on the flowers. White-whiskered Hermit and Green-crowned Brilliant also showed here and we were able to get better looks at a dazzling Blue-necked Tanager. Golden Tanagers visited the fruit feeders and two Yellow-collared Chlorophonias worked the trees above. Further away on top of a tree was a female Purple Honeycreeper which looked good through the scope. A Squirrel Cuckoo flew over the building drawing our attention back to the feeders which hosted Lemon-rumped Tanagers, Andean Emerald, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds.
After lunch, Rufous-throated Tanager was spotted on the feeding table. We tore ourselves away to walk the trails through a gorgeous rainforest which was incredibly quite. The only noise was from three Bronze-winged Parrots that flew over so we headed back up to the main building where we added Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Tropical Parula, Thick-billed and Orange-bellied Euphonia, and Red-eyed Vireo to our day list.
We moved on from this spot searching the trees for more colorful birds. A Summer Tanager shimmered red in a large tree where a Black-winged Saltator was also foraging. More Bronze-winged Parrots noisily passed. Further on, Variable and Yellow-bellied Seedeaters were seen along the road and a Western Wood-Pewee kept us guessing about its identity for a few minutes. One stop produced a nice Bay-headed Tanager feeding on some fruits, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and Rufous-throated Tanager. A Swainson’s Thrush was spotted in some low brush. Nearby was a lovely Ornate Flycatcher and in the thick vegetation we were able to spot a Red-faced Spinetail. As we walked the road, we found Smoky-brown Woodpecker, One-colored Becard, Spotted Woodcreeper and Streaked Flycatcher. An elegant Swallow-tailed Kite soared slowly by allowing good views.
The highlight of the afternoon for Juan was surely the Moss-backed Tanager showed on top of a moss covered tree. As we waited for satisfying views of the bird, a Golden-faced Tyrannulet flew back and forth across the road and a Southern House Wren commanded our attention. The area was quite active with species including Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Palm Tanager, and Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner. A Bay Wren was heard but not seen but we were rewarded by views of a nice male Purple Honeycreeper on some treetops. A Choco Warbler shot through just under the canopy and our first Gray-and-gold Tanager showed quickly as well. We made our way to an open area where we could see down a hill where a Bran-colored Flycatcher worked around a large fallen tree. Some lovely Fawn-breasted Tanagers were seen here as well as a few Social Flycatchers but the show stopper was a family of Swallow-Tanagers feeding young on top of some trees. On the way back to the bus, a few people caught a glimpse of a Pale-mandibled Aracari. We boarded the bus and headed to our lodge finishing the day with 107 species.
Day 6 Friday 23rd November
We moved to another open area that allowed us good looks at Bay-headed and Grey-and-Gold Tanagers in some nearby trees. Two Ruddy Pigeons sat on top of a palm front as a Red-headed Barbet played hard to see in the trees right above us. Some White-thighed Swallows were noted on a power line as some flew around Southern Rough-winged Swallows showing their pale rump. A cracking Variable Seedeater was spotted by Ken as a Yellow Tyrannulet was seen in a bamboo stalk.
We got back in the bus and moved along until Steve spotted an interesting raptor perched in a tree. At first it gave the impression of a Laughing Falcon but after careful observation and some discussion it was identified as a juvenile Grey Hawk. Another roadside stop near a farm growing palm trees provided us with a number of species including Barn Swallow, Masked Water Tyrant, Giant Cowbird, and Shiny Cowbird. A Pacific Hornero walked the grounds around the farm house and a Pacific Parrotlet was perched in the garden.
We moved on stopping near a stream that was flowing over the road. The trees along the stream held Western Woodhunter, Red-eyed Vireo, Tropical Gnatcatcher, two Olivaceous Piculets, and a Black-cheeked Woodpecker. Further on, we stopped to view an adult Laughing Falcon perched on a tree. Digiscoping was soon interrupted by a Choco Toucan on top of a distant palm. The open skies allowed views of Maroon-tailed Parakeets, Bronze-winged Parrots, and a Blue-crowned Pigeon perched against the horizon. Along the road, Juan pointed out Snowy-throated Flycatcher – our first and only for the trip. Our next roadside stop was for a group of Pale-mandibled Aracaris perched on trees up a steep hill.
We reached Silanche Reserve and climbed up the observation tower giving us looks at the canopy. Three Pale-mandibled Aracaris were perched in a nearby Cecropia while two Plumbeous Kites were spotted a bit further away. As we scanned the treetops we found a gorgeous Rose-faced Parrot perched right on top of some trees and we all enjoyed prolonged views of this nice looking rarity.
A Masked Tityra landed in a tree right next to the tower as three Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift flew over head. A Boat-billed Flycatcher called from a distant tree as Grey-rumped Swifts were also noted overhead. We watched some activity in a fruiting tree which started with some Blue-necked Tanagers joined by some Emerald Tanagers. Suddenly two stunning Blue-whiskered Tanagers appeared greatly exciting our leaders as Steve entertained us with his “lifer” dance! It was fantastic seeing these birds at their level!
The fruits of this tree must have been quite desirable as more birds joined the fray including Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Thick-billed and Orange-billed Euphonia but it was the tanagers that wowed us here. On the closer treetops some Rusty-margined Flycatchers showed very well and a Smoke-colored Pewee was noted. Below us in the under story we spotted a male and female Tawny-crested Tanager and from the other side of the tower a female White-bearded Manakin was seen. We had brief looks at a female Western Slaty-Antshrike while a pair of White-ringed Flycatchers showed well. On top of a Cecropia, a pair of Scarlet-browned Tanagers fed along side a Yellow-tufted Dacnis. Closer two noisy Bright-rumped Atillas were spotted as well as Cinnamon and One-colored Becards.
We tore ourselves away from the canopy show and took a walk into the forest. A Broad-billed Motmot was spotted under the canopy while further down near some heliconias, a Band-tailed Barbthroat was found feeding. High in the trees above, a male Collared Trogon was seen while we searched for a White-tailed Trogon that was calling. A Black-striped Woodcreeper showed well as did some Band-backed Wrens on a dead snag. A low flying Swallow-tailed Kite graced us with its presence while a pair of Plain Xenops were much more elusive. We chased a Brown-capped Tyrannulet to an open area where a quick moving flock made our heads spin. Here we saw Red-rumped Woodpecker, Red-eyed Vireos, Guira Tanager, Cinnamon Becard, Olivaceous Piculet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Lesser Greenlet, Black-and-white Becard, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant and One-colored Becard. Our last birds of the morning were White-bearded Manakins on a lek. While hunger pangs beckoned some of us back to the bus, others stayed behind to enjoy watching the males perform their dancing rituals.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch by the bus noting a nice Pallid Dove on a trail. After lunch, we walked up the road where there was quite a bit of activity. The Guira Tanager was difficult but we finally got good views. Slaty Antwren also showed as did Black-and-White Becard, two Stripe-headed Woodcreepers, and a Red-rumped Woodpecker. A Black Hawk-Eagle was spotted circling around with a couple of Black Vultures and another Swallow-tailed Kite flew over. Juan heard the call of a Rufous-tailed Jacamar and put us all on this little gem. Further on, a Golden-olive Woodpecker was seen working an opening in the under story. This same area produced Dot-winged Antwren, Little Cuckoo, and a female White-shouldered Tanager. Steve found a curious Wedge-billed Woodcreeper that followed his light up a trunk. We finally nailed the elusive Lesser Greenlet but the highlight of this excursion was a Common Potoo sitting on a dead stump right near the road. The bird sat motionless while we enjoyed good views and took photographs.
Back to the bus, we continued on making a short stop on the Silanche River Bridge for two Black Phoebes and two Green Kingfishers at the base of a fallen log. Our next roadside stop yielded a large group of Bronze-winged Parrots in a tree. They noisily took off which flushed a Zone-tailed Hawk that had been perched nearby. Here some of us caught up with Common Tody-Flycatcher which had been eluding us up to know.
We headed back to our lovely lodge to spend some time at the hummingbird feeders which held Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Brown Inca, White-necked Jacobin, Andean Emerald, Booted Rackettail, Purple-throated Woodstar, and Purple-bibbed Whitetip. We all met up again for a delicious dinner and review of another fantastic day of birding.
Day 7 Saturday 24th November
We came to a trail junction where we had fantastic views of the now famous Giant Antpitta, “Maria” and a group of five Dark-backed Wood-Quail. With patience, we were able to get good looks at a very shy Moustached Antpitta. Down by the stream at the bottom of the hill and with more patience we got views of Willy the Yellow-bellied Antpitta. On our walk back up the trail we found several Puma tracks fresh from the night before. Some of us were lucky enough to get views of an Ochre-breasted Antpitta below the trail as well.
We enjoyed a home cooked breakfast by Angel’s family and went back out to the open trails where a tree full of tanagers held Metallic-green, Blue-winged Mountain-, and Golden-naped Tanagers. A Wedge-billed Hummingbird sat out in the open behind the hummingbird feeders giving us good views of this hard to see species.
We boarded the bus and waved goodbye to Angel and headed out of this wonderful reserve. Not far down the road, we passed by a Black-and-Chestnut Eagle that had just killed a chicken and was sat on top of it right next to the road. From the bus, we had amazingly close views of this magnificent bird complete with a field mouse that was walking by the eagle as it sat on its prey. This was by far the best look that any of us will ever have of this majestic bird!
We continued on to a café with more hummingbird feeders. Here we got up close and personal with Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Empress Brilliant, Brown Inca, and Buff-tailed Coronet. From a raised veranda, we could see several species from above and marveled at their incredible iridescent colors. In the trees above the feeders we spotted Barred Becard, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Blackburnian Warbler, and Wedge-billed Woodcreeper. Having heard the song on a daily basis, it was nice to finally get good looks at a Gray-breasted Wood-Wren below the feeders.
We drove back at our lovely lodge for lunch and then headed back out for the afternoon. From the bus, Edgar spotted a Golden-headed Quetzal which we scoped but couldn’t get much detail as it was silhouetted against the sky. We relaxed at another hummingbird café which held Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Green Thorntails, and White-whiskered Hermit. Tanagers included White-lined, Silver-throated, Blue-grey, Golden, Rufous-throated, Palm, Blue-necked, and Green Honeycreeper. An Ecuadorian Thrush also visited the feeders as did male and female Thick-billed Euphonies. An Orange-billed Sparrow showed well under one of the feeders and a Rufous Spinetail was spotted in the trees near the feeders. Outside, the mist lifted just long enough to see the river below and 100 or so Cattle Egrets and several White-collared Swifts. We enjoyed coffee, tea, and beers while watching the feeder show. Later on, we headed back to our “7th Heaven” lodge for a lovely dinner.
Day 8 Sunday 25th November
We traveled for an hour or so for an unscheduled, but very special excursion. As we drove, a Lineated Woodpecker flew across and landed on an open tree offering good views from the bus. We arrived at a farm and checked the gardens around the farm house where Lemon-rumped and White-shouldered Tanagers were seen as well as Pacific Hornero, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Black-Striped Sparrow, and Sooty-headed Tyrannulet. Some of the farm hands joined us on the bus as we drove along one of the farm roads noting Yellow-faced Grassquit and an American Kestrel. We were led down a trail and got excellent views of a Cinnamon Woodpecker on a dead tree. Bronze-winged Parrots were seen and we sorted a Dot-winged Antwren on some bamboo and a Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant nearby. We got to an area where there were some ladders that led down into a cavern cut by a stream. In a few moments we were looking at a colony of Oilbirds fairly well lit by the light coming through the cavern. There were 30+ Oilbirds in all with young and we were thrilled with our exceptional views of these rare and unusual birds. The colony had only been discovered in the past year and we were the first non-Ecuadorian group to go in and see these birds! We thanked the farmer and his family for a wonderful morning and were back on our way with many photos and fond memories.
Back on our regular schedule, we went to a hillside near Calacali where we took lunch and then looked for some specialties of the area. The area was quiet but we did manage a nice Green-tailed Trainbearer and a Tufted Tit-Tyrant. We continued on toward Papallacta noting a Carunculated Caracara, two Andean Teal, and some Yellow-billed Pintail along the way. We arrived at our lovely resort and enjoyed a soak in the thermal hot pools before dinner – a very happy group of birders!
Day 9 Monday 26th November
After breakfast, we checked out and headed east toward San Isidro. Our first roadside stop was for two Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers on a fruit tree in a farm field. Cinereous Conebill was noted as well. We stopped at Guango Lodge where the hummingbird feeders were very active and offered many photo opportunities. There were several Sword-billed Hummingbirds, Chestnut-breasted Coronets, Tourmaline Sunangels, Mountain Velvetbreasts, Collared Incas, male and female White-bellied Woodstars, Long-tailed Sylphs, Buff-winged Starfrontlets, a few Glowing Pufflegs, Tyrian Metaltail, and Speckled Hummingbird all constantly changing places at the feeders. A large number of frenetic Masked Flowerpiercers were also present adding a lovely bright blue to the flurry of iridescent gems whizzing around the feeders.
Up near the car park, a tiny but stunning Gorgeted Woodstar showed well and we watched it for several minutes before going back down to the lodge for coffee. A walk on trails around Guango allowed us Slaty Brush-Finch and Blackburnian Warbler and a flock of six White-crowned or Speckle-faced Parrots flew over. We scoped a distant Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant and a Pearled Treerunner but the Turquoise Jays were much closer and much more vocal. The most surprising sighting was a very close Dusky Piha not expected in this area. Some Black-crested Warblers worked some low brush nearby and just beyond there were at least four Cinnamon Flycatchers hawking insects from some small bare trees.
Back on the bus, we moved further down the hill stopping for four Mountain Caciques in a tree by the road. Another stop along side the Papallacta River saw us a family of Torrent Ducks – male and female and two young not very distant at all. A Spotted Sandpiper was also noted here and John spotted a Torrent Tyrannulet on the opposite shore. As we scoped this little beauty, a second bird was discovered nearby. From here we went to the town of Baeza where we enjoyed a lovely trout lunch at Gina’s Restaurant.
After lunch, we continued toward San Isidro but noting the rain in the vicinity of our destination, we decided to explore an area around a river. The mix of sun and clouds made for a beautiful afternoon and fabulous views of the mountains. As we drove up the track off the main road, a Torrent Tyrannulet was seen around some rain puddles in the road ahead of us. Black Phoebes were in evidence around the river. The road was a bit primitive but Edgar skillfully navigated around several cows, over some dicey bridges, and through stream that flowed over the road. We stopped for a raptor on a dead palm stump which turned out to be a Broad-winged Hawk. In the same area, we found Pale-edged Flycatcher and another Summer Tanager. A stop for Subtropical Cacique also yielded a fairly elusive Rufous-capped Tody-Tyrant which most of us eventually got on. Susie spotted a Highland Motmot perched on a log over the river in a very nice pose allowing good views. As we walked back down the hill, an Andean Toucanet was spotted in some trees above the river. Some Mountain Caciques worked the tree tops and a Golden-faced Tyrannulet was seen under the Caciques. A Subtropical Cacique was also spotted on top of a large moss covered tree feeding. In the grasses below, we heard then found a Plain-tailed Wren and a Long-tailed Antbird. Across the road, we scoped at least three Saffron-crowned Tanagers on top of a distant tree. Chestnut-bellied Chlorophonias also worked the tree tops and a lovely rainbow appeared in the sky.
We continued on to San Isidro lodge arriving just after sunset. We settled into our rooms and met for a wonderful gourmet dinner. After dinner as we walked toward the cabañas we found two San Isidro Owls in the trees along the path. Both an adult and a juvenile showed well and we were pleased to get excellent views of this yet to be described species. We reviewed our bird list for the day and walked back to our rooms under a lovely star lit sky.
Day 10 Tuesday 27th November
We walked a little further along to the corner of the road which we later dubbed the “Corner of Dreams” for the number and variety of dazzling birds here. In the closest canopy at eye level as we were on a hillside, we could see great views of Red-headed Barbet, Gray-and-yellow Tanager, Yellow-bellied Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, and Buff-throated Saltator coming in to feed on some fruits. A few Blue-and-white Swallows perched on a cable that stretched across the valley. A Yellow-breasted Antwren showed well close by and back at the eye-level canopy we had Spotted Tanager, a female Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, Black-faced Dacnis, a Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and a brilliant Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater. This was by far the best two hours of birding we could ever hope for and as the activity waned we tore ourselves away to continue on. A quick stop a little further on yielded two Cliff Flycatchers which were particularly striking in flight. We passed a road cut where a Yellow-browed Sparrow was easily spotted and continued on arriving at the soon to open Sumaco Lodge and reserve.
Our first bird here was a Great Potoo perched on a dead tree not far from where we parked the bus. On the road, two Coppery-chested Jacamars were found possibly with a nest in the vicinity. A large, very friendly butterfly befriended us and landed on several people as we walked along. In some low brush, we had fairly good views of a Fork-tailed Woodnymph and a Dot-winged Antwren showed as well. We checked the entrance to a small trail where we could hear the “chik-burr” call of a Scarlet Tanager in the canopy. We walked another trail where an Olivaceous Siskin was seen at the top of a small Cecropia and we got good views of a Long-tailed Tyrant. We spent some time at the hummingbird feeders adding several new species to our list including Golden-tailed Sapphire, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Grey-chinned Hermit, Napo Sabrewing, a female orange Booted Rackettail, Green Hermit, and Black-throated Brilliant. We took lunch here noting many very friendly butterflies. A Magpie Tanager was spotted in the foliage above the feeders and a Dusky Spinetail showed in some thick vines around the trunk of a tree. At the feeders, an Ecuadorian Piedtail made a quick appearance but never showed again.
In the canopy, we got silhouetted views of Chestnut-tipped Toucanet. An Olive-backed Woodcreeper was spotted working a distant trunk and a Yellow-tufted Woodpecker was seen extracting nuts from their husks in the trees above. Behind the feeders a Blackish Antbird showed briefly as we were getting ready to make our way into the forest. Not far from the feeders, we found a very handsome White-crowned Manakin which posed for all of us to get great views. On the trail back to the bus, we got good close looks at a Dusky Spinetail now tickable for all of us. We boarded the bus and continued up toward the new lodge which was still being built in a lovely spot overlooking a forested valley. We spent a few minutes surveying the new buildings and surrounding landscape which looks very promising as a birders accommodation. We boarded the bus again and headed back down the road stopping almost immediately for a nice Many-banded Aracari. A little further on we had quick views of a Golden-collared Toucanet in a Cecropia and as we got off the bus we saw several others flying back toward the lodge. We followed them to an area just behind the new buildings where we saw no less than eight Many-banded Aracaris feeding in a fruit tree. We found Chestnut-tipped and Golden-collared Toucanets feeding here as well and got excellent views of all. Back down on the road, Juan called us for a Rose-breasted Grosbeak feeding in a tree. An American Redstart was also seen nearby.
We began our journey back to our lodge with a few more roadside stops the first of which yielded Thrushlike Wren, Squirrel Cuckoo, more Aracaris, and a Masked Tityra. We encountered three caterpillar trains traveling the road and marveled at this very unlikely sight! Another roadside stop for Crested Oropendolas flying by yielded a Violaceous Jay in a Cecropia. A Black-capped Donacobius flew across in front of the bus and landed close to the road so we all had good looks A stop for cold drinks saw a nice White-tailed Hillstar at a feeder and a gorgeous waterfall. We noted some interesting butterflies here as well with the numbers 98 and 89 on their underwings.
Our next stop found us a Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager not to be confused with the Yellow-throated Tanagers nearby. A few Cliff Flycatchers were in residence and some Bronze-green Euphonias worked some trees on the hillside above. Also noted here were Silver-beaked Tanager, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer, and Summer Tanager but the real excitement was another Blue-naped Chlorophonia. We moved on a little further and found another Highland Motmot perched on an open branch on the side of the road. After dark, we stopped at a spot for nightjars but none showed. Now completely dark, we marveled at the starlit sky so full of glittering stars that we could barely recognize any constellations. We continued on in the dark reflecting on our wonderful day when a nightjar flew up from the side of the road and landed on a fence post at the edge of the road. We got amazingly close views of this bird which as later identified as Ladder-tailed Nightjar. We arrived back at the lodge for another delicious dinner and check of our growing species list.
Day 11 Wednesday 28th November
We took lunch by a rickety bridge over a river where Ken spotted four more Torrent Ducks. It was raining again so we made our way back toward our lovely thermal pool lodge. On the main road to the lodge, a Plain-colored Seedeater was noted near the farm fields.
We checked in to our rooms and decided to make another run up behind the resort to the Cayambe-Coca Reserve. As we gathered in the parking lot, some of us got good views of a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. At our first stop near a bridge over the Papallacta River, the Antisana volcano was in full majestic view against the clear blue sky. Two Red-crested Cotingas were spotted on the top of a tree with Antisana in the background. Spectacular! We also had a nice close look at a Shining Sunbeam perched on a low tree.
We continued through the entrance gate to the reserve and listened along
the road until we reached an area that had a flock of tanagers highlights
of which included Black-chested Mountain-Tanager,
Day 12 Thursday 29th November
After breakfast, we packed up and headed toward Papallacta Pass to look for a few more high elevation species. On the way up, we had a group of three Variable Hawks circling together over the hillside. At the top, we hiked a trail in search of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. The clear weather allowed brilliant views of a spectacular landscape as we scanned for our target. Our search yielded Andean Lapwing, Plumbeous Sierra-Finches, and some nice Paramo Ground-Tyrants. Juan wandered further on the trail and soon motioned for us to join him as he had spotted a female Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe and four fuzzy chicks. We reached the area and enjoyed excellent views and photographs of these gorgeous birds for several minutes.
From here we traveled back down the mountain road making a quick stop for Tawny Antpitta. We got even better views further down with one on top of a bush along side the road. The same stop produced a Many-striped Canastero also showing on top of a bush. Further on, we were treated to Andean Tit-Spinetail going back and forth to a nest. A Grass Wren sang and finally showed in the hole of a thick shrub. We stopped at one point where we searched a wet area for Noble Snipe. Our search was successful and yielded nice flight views of the bird.
After lunch, we continued down toward Quito stopping in a residential area to check for more tanagers. The area held Southern Yellow-Grosbeak, male and female Vermillion Flycatchers, and several Sparkling Violetears in a field of orange flowers. A Black-tailed Trainbearer was spotted here as well as a Giant Hummingbird. Around the corner we spotted a flock of Band-tailed Seedeaters and were finally able to get on some Blue-and-Yellow Tanagers in some trees near the road. From here we made our way back to El Jardin for our final dinner and review of our wonderful tour.
Day 13 Friday 1st December
This tour produced a fabulous species list with several birds not seen on previous tours. Thanks to the expertise and persistence of Juan Carlos, we had many fantastic sightings or birds. The extra excursions were a special treat, particularly the Oilbird colony which is sure to gain the attention of future birding tours and the Sumaco area which holds a variety of interesting species. Special thanks to Steve Bird for sharing his expertise and enthusiasm and the tour participants who savored their wonderful experiences!