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Birding Ecuador, August 2017 (1 Viewer)


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I privately arranged a birding trip to Ecuador after another trip folded. My contact was Mercedes Rivadineira the owner of Puembo Birding Garden ([email protected]).

Puembo birding garden was a great place to stay near Quito, despite being conveniently close to the airport, it's outside the “envelope” so is quiet and semi-rural. I saw a number of birds at Puembo that I did not see elsewhere in Ecuador [Vermilion Flycatcher, Scrub Tanager, Southern Yellow Grosbeak, Western Emerald, Black-tailed Trainbearer] as well as some commoner Andean and neotropic species. [Great Thrush, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Hooded Siskin, Sparkling Violetear, Shiny Cowbird, Eared Dove, Cinereous Conebill, American Kestrel]

Mercedes makes you feel very much at home, which was very welcome after 24 hours in transit. Mercedes' arrangements worked very well for me, and her contacts made sure I had a good driver-guide and excellent service.

After getting my eye in a bit around PBG my first full day was at Yanacocha. Surprise of the day was a family of Aplomado Falcons – a life for me. Yanacocha has a number of feeding stations and is good for Hummingbirds. [Great Sapphirewing, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Tyrian Metaltail, Shining Sunbeam, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Sapphire-vented Puffleg.]

Other birds seen included Black-chested Mountain Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Masked, Black and Glossy Flowerpiercers as well as Glossy-Black Thrush, Blue-backed Conebill, Rufous-necked Brushfinch, Stripe-headed Brushfinch and numerous Spectacled Whitestart.

My guide Luis Perez then took me through the Tandayapa valley to Alambi. On the way we picked up several Red-Crested Cotingas, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Pearled Treerunner, Brown-backed Chat-tyrant and White-banded Tyrannulet.

At Alambi there is an extensive Hummingbird Gallery, [White-necked Jacobin, White-whiskered Hermit, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Brown Violetear, Lesser Violetear, Saprkling Violetear, Long-billed Starthroat, Booted Racket-tail, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Green-crowned Woodnymph and Andean Emerald.] In the river behind the Hummingbird Gallery I had Black Phoebe and White-capped Dipper and Lemon-rumped Tanager and Thick-billed Euphonia were common.

After a night in Pacto we set off for Mashpi reserve and arrived before dawn. Although it was raining the feeders attracted a large number of birds whilst we remained under cover. [Bronze-winged Parrot, Flame-faced Tanager, Golden Tanager, Blue and Black Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Black-winged Saltator, Empress Brilliant, Violet-purple Coronet, Brown Inca, Green Thorntail, Violet-tailed Sylph, Booted Racket-tail.] Whilst walking in the reserve we also saw Indigo flowerpiercer, Lyre-tailed Nightjar (roosting), Toucan Barbet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Slaty Antwren, Masked Trogon, Ornate Flycatcher, Slaty Spinetail, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, Spotted Barbtail and Pearled Treerunner. Several Moss-backed Tanagers were seen.

On the journey to Sachatamia Lodge we picked up Golden-headed and Crested Quetzal, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and Blue-winged Mountain Tanager.

At Sachatamia I saw Black and White Owl as well various Tanagers and Hummers at their feeders.

The following morning found us at Silanche reserve spotting a Hook-billed Kite and Rufous Motmot on the way in. Up the Canopy tower we saw Broad-billed Motmot, Blue-necked Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Scarlet-browed Tanager, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Choco Toucan, Pale Mandibled Aracari. Walking around Silanche we also saw Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Dot-winged Antwren, Dusky-faced Tanager and Red-masked Parakeet. Pacific Parrotlet and Variable Seedeaters were common in the fields around the reserve.

Back near Sachatamia we went to another gallery, seeing Golden-naped Tanager, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Ecuadorian Thrush.

The following day we made the usual pre-dawn start at Refugio Paz de las Aves' famed Andean Cock of the Rock lek. This was a superb visual and aural spectacle, amazingly atmospheric as the the light gradually improved, revealing these astonishing birds. We then waited patiently and silently at the Antpitta feeding stations, eventually being rewarded with superb views of Yellow-breasted, Moustached, Chestnut-crowned, Ochre-breasted and Giant Antpitta. We also saw Green and Black Fruiteater, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and Powerful Woodpecker.

During a quick lunch stop at Sachatamia lodge I spotted a Plain-breasted Hawk in the grounds.

My flight to Coca had been delayed so we rejigged the itinerary and went to Antisana in the morning. This high altitude reserve provided an opportunity to see some high Andean species such as Andean teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Ruddy Duck, Andean Coot, Andean Gull, Andean Lapwing, Andean/Black-faced Ibis, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Carunculated Caracara, Andean Condor, Andean Tit-spinetail, Many-striped Canastero, Paramo Ground Tyrant and Paramo Pipit, Stout-billed and Chestnut (Bar-) winged Cinclodes.

Arriving in Coca, I was met by the staff from Sacha and my bird guide, the legendary Oscar Tepui.

The first morning at Sacha dawned Foggy as we headed for the Canopy towers with Miguel, boat master and telescope carrier, who also happened to have a superb eye and ear. A Long-billed Woodcreeper soon appeared out of the mist and showed well. Channel-billed and White-throated Toucans were calling from the trees, with Many-banded and Ivory-billed Aracaris as Tanagers and Cotingas began to appear – Opal-rumped and Opal-crowned were common, supported by Swallow Tanagers, Flame-crested Tanager, Masked Tanager, Turquoise Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Purple Honeycreeper and Yellow-bellied Dacnis. Spangled Cotinga, Purple-throated Cotinga and Bare-necked Fruitcrow perched in the tops of trees. [Dusky-throated Antshrike, White-flanked Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Slender-footed Tyrannulet, Grey-crowned Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher]

Donacobius, Russet-backed Oropendula, Yellow-rumped Cacique were common around the lodge and it was quite easy to see Black-maned Tamarind on the boardwalks.

After an exciting morning we took to a boat through channels to another even higher (46m) tower built around a Kapok tree. Hoatzin were easy to see, though it was hard to identify all the parrots flying over.

Oscar used playback in exactly the right environment to secure views of hard to see antbirds. [White-shouldered Antshrike, Spot-winged Antbird, Plumbeous Antbird, Silvered Antbird.] From the tower we added Blue Crowned Trogon to the Black-tailed and White-tailed Trogons we'd seen in the morning. Also notable were Black-tailed Tityra, Plum-throated Cotinga and Cinnamon Attila. Troops of Ecuadorian Squirrel Monkey, Capuchins and a Red Howler made an appearance. I don't think Miguel and Oscar ever realised how great it was being paddled through the waterlogged forest by the two of them. The birds were a bonus.

After a great night's sleep another early start saw us getting into a motorised canoe with Miguel at the helm. By the boat dock a Common Potoo was repeating it's mournful four note song. It's eyeshine got me onto it and I was able to see the shape of this strange bird in the early dawn. On the banks of the Napo a Lettered Aracari and Chestnut-eared Aracari made an appearance. Miguel found an Amazonian Motmot. Then we got into the boat. On the river another life – Amazonian Umbrellabird showed well in tall trees along the banks, Plumbeous Kite and Crane Hawk flew over.

At the parrot lick small numbers of different species made a show. [Southern Mealy Amazon, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Dusky-headed Parakeet] Chestnut fronted Macaws flew over, and Large-billed Parrotlet were seen at a nest hole in a palm.

Landing at a river island we went for some of the river island specialists, utilising playback to a moderate extent. Oscar was ready to say “they're not interested” rather than fruitlessly playing the song a hundred times. [Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Ladder-tailed Nightjar, White-bellied Spinetail, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Castelnau's Antshrike, Coraya Wren, Lawrence's Thrush, Caqueta Seedeater, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, Yellow-Browed Sparrow, Oriole Blackbird]

We then moved to the south bank of the river and visited the Yasuni national park for a trek. Despite the increasing heat, good birds still showed. [Great Tinamou, Collared Puffbird, Lemon-throated Barbet, Screaming Piha, Masked Crimson Tanager, Magpie Tanager, Thrushlike Antpitta, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Blue-Crowned Manikin, Wire-tailed Manikin]

After lunch we returned to base and went for a paddle in the waterways. Again the judicious use of tape playback produced some great birds, [Cinereous Antshrike, Rufous-tailed Antwren, Black-faced Antbird, Dot-backed Antbird] we also saw Citron-bellied Attila, White-bearded Manikin, White-chinned Jacamar and American Pygmy Kingfisher, the last being a bogey bird for me, and my final American Kingfisher.

The next morning was time to go, but as Oscar walked me to the boat we continued to pick up new birds. [Black-headed Parrot, Cream-coloured Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Variegated Flycatcher, White-winged Becard] I also picked up Large-billed Tern on the trip back to Coca.

Luis Perez picked me up at Quito airport and we headed for Papallacta. I spotted an Andean Condor on the way and our lunch stop produced Variable Hawk and Black-chested Buzzard Eagle. In worsening weather, Luis got me good views of Tawny Antpitta. At the famous Papallacta torres, Luis found me Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, though Andean Snipe did not make an appearance, but we did find Ecuadorian Hillstar and Stout-billed Cinclodes, and on our descent from Papallacta, Luis found a Great Horned Owl nest in driving rain, which we observed through the scope in the shelter of the tailgate. We were glad to get to Guango Lodge, where the feeders hosted Sword-billed Hummingbird, White-bellied Woodstar and Chestnut-breasted Coronet.
The day dawned cold and wet. Bird numbers were low. As we tramped round the sodden trails a few hardy birds appeared. [Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Smoky Bush-tyrant, Streaked Tufted Cheek, Mountain Wren, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Gray-Hooded Bush Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Pale-naped Brushfinch, Slaty Brushfinch, Brown-capped Vireo]

Around the lodge Turquoise Jays were common and Tourmaline Sunangel, Long-tailed Sylph and Collared Incas were numerous around the feeders.

After lunch we headed for San Isidro, stopping to look for birds at Key points. A couple of Golden-Olive Woodpeckers showed up, then Red-breasted Blackbirds in a scrubby field, followed by Sub-tropical Caciques and then a mystery falcon perched in a tree. Inching closer with the telescope and zooming in on a long distance photograph we gradually established a firm identity – Orange-breasted Falcon, a rare bird across its range, but its size, white on the upper breast and orange flecks in the black breast band clinched the identification.

As we approached Cabanas San Isidro a Sickle-winged Guan flew in front of the car, and perched long enough to identify. We found a pair of Torrent Duck in The Cosangas River as well as Spotted Sandpiper. At the Cabanas we had Saffron-crowned Tanager, and finished up the day with excellent after dinner views of a couple of the mysterious San Isidro owls.

The next day's itinerary was distorted by the arrangements for seeing White-bellied Antpitta. Instead of breakfast before dawn we had an amble around the site, picking up Grey-breasted Wood-wren, Pale-edged Flycatcher and Russet-crowned Warbler. At 7.30 we had excellent views of White-bellied Antpitta, followed by breakfast. After Breakfast, the hot sun was high in a dazzling blue sky and the birds had gone for an early siesta.

Luis and I scoured the roadways and tracks, but turned up few birds, including Common Bush Tanager, Inca Jay, Streak-headed Antbird, Rufous-crowned Tody Flycatcher and Black-eared Hemispingus. Luckily the feeders had good numbers of Hummers, including Lesser Violetear, Long-tailed Sylph, Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy Inca, Collared Inca and Brown Inca.

In the late afternoon our luck changed with the discovery of a female Andean Cock of the Rock, eastern race. Shortly afterwards around 5.00 we found a mixed flock, picking up Cinnamon Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Pearled Treerunner, Montane Woodcreeper and Common Bush Tanager, Slate-throated Whitestart. Whilst ogling a couple of Golden-headed Quetzals, Luis called to me. He'd found a Highland Motmot, alerted by its odd voice. I was absorbed by this bird when Luis called again, White-capped Tanager – one, then two singing from a tree. When they flew towards us a third bird appeared. A great finish to the day.

Luis had a contact who had been monitoring the nest of a Black and Chestnut Eagle. The day started with another Torrent Duck and a Trek up a side valley. Then a very tough climb through Semi-tropical forest to get to the nest site. We saw a pair of Black and Chestnut Eagles on the nest as well as a number of other species. [Tawny-bellied Hermit, White-tailed Hillstar, Long-tailed Tapaculo, Bronze-Olive Pygmy Tyrant, Handsome Flycatcher, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Yellow-whiskered Bush Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager]

After lunch we headed again towards Quito via Papallacta, this time with a photography stop. Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Paramo Ground-tyrant and Many-striped Canastero were seen.
On my last day of birding Luis and I decided to go to Mashpi Chocolate Farm to try and see the Pittasoma. An extremely early start ended in a measure of disappointment. The Chestnut-headed Pittasoma had not been seen for a couple of days and was a no-show. The birds were good though and I added quite a few lifers – Purple-chested Hummingbird, White-tailed Trogon, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Spotted Woodcreeper, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Pacific Antwren, Cinnamon Becard, Tawny-faced Gnatwren and Emerald Tanager as well as Laughing Falcon, Stripe-throated Hermit, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Slaty Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, Tropical Parula and Orange-bellied Euphonia.

A brief stop at Sachatamia on the way home found Dusky-bush Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush Tanager and Three-striped Warbler.

My last new bird of the trip was a pair of Black-tailed Trainbearers near Puembo Birding Garden, as well as the usual Scrub Tanagers, Saffron Finches and Vermilion Flycatchers.

After a day visiting the sites of Quito – definitely worth a look if you are in the area, I headed for the airport. An American Kestrel was flying over the perimeter fence. The first bird I saw on my return to Heathrow – a Common Kestrel.

I only saw a bit of Ecuador, but it is a beautiful country, full of outstanding birds and habitats.

Pictures from my trip can be found at:

Mercedes and Puembo Birding Garden can be found at:

I can't recommend Mercedes' travel services highly enough.


Information please

Hi Adare,
Sounds like you a great time in Ecuador and made me very envious.
Did you travel by yourself and if so could you forward onto me all the travel details including costs because I would like to do a similar trip next year if possible.
Kind regards,
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