• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Ecuador and the Galapagos, Jan 2020 (1 Viewer)

Matt Bell

Registered User
Supporter
Hello all,

I’m wondering whether to write a trip report. I’ve only just joined the forum, and I’ve never written a report before. In January — yes, back in those blissful days before the coronavirus went global — my wife and I spent a bit under three weeks in Ecuador.

It wouldn’t be a thorough or expert report. Our Ecuador adventure was a holiday first and a birding trip second. The itinerary had to fit the limited time we had available. Since we wanted to divide our time between the Amazon, the cloud forest and a whole week cruising the Galapagos (with a couple of transit stopovers in Quito in between), we couldn’t fit in any other destinations. This meant that we left whole areas of the country unvisited. So for instance, we didn’t visit the western lowlands and coast or the high Andes. And we didn’t go after any particular rarities.

Given these limitations, we did see a lot of wonderful birds and loads else besides. I have a full record of what we saw and where, and I have some half-way decent photos.

So — anyone interested in a report on our Ecuador & Galapagos trip? A couple of positive replies would be enough of a nudge.

Matt

P.S. by way of a taster, here's a pic my wife took of me getting to know a Galapagos Flycatcher
 

Attachments

  • IMG_7189.jpg
    IMG_7189.jpg
    211.2 KB · Views: 97

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
Scotland
Oooooh!!! Please Matt... the whole trip.

It sounds like you had a wonderful time too.
 

NY_Birder

Well-known member
I would be highly interested in reading your account. I'm sure I would not be the only one.

How many species did you see?
 

viator

Well-known member
Singapore
Definitely interested - especially since my 3 week trip to Ecuador from late May had to be cancelled for obvious reasons!
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
It’s always good to have a wide variety of trip reports Matt and the fauna and flora of the Galapagos will be of particular interest I think.
 

JWN Andrewes

Poor Judge of Pasta.
Another vote for. Reading trip reports to a variety of places, by people with a range of interests, in all sorts of different writing styles is one of the best things about BirdForum.
 

Matt Bell

Registered User
Supporter
Thanks for all the encouraging responses. I'll get to work on this in the next day or two.

In answer to NY_Birder's question: about 190 species, made up of 75 in 3 days in the Amazon, 40 in 7 days in the Galapagos, and 75 in three days in the cloud forest at Mashpi.
 

NY_Birder

Well-known member
Thanks for all the encouraging responses. I'll get to work on this in the next day or two.

In answer to NY_Birder's question: about 190 species, made up of 75 in 3 days in the Amazon, 40 in 7 days in the Galapagos, and 75 in three days in the cloud forest at Mashpi.

Thanks.

Super excited to read about your trip, especially about the Galapagos. It's a dream of mine to go there one day...
 

Matt Bell

Registered User
Supporter
Sorry not to have posted anything.

My dad passed away a couple of weeks ago, and somehow posting about the Ecuador trip seems a bit trivial.

I hope I'll get around to it in the next few weeks.

Matt :(
 

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
Scotland
Oh Matt.... I'm so, so, sorry to hear about your father. So sad for you.

Just come back to the thread when you're ready, I'm sure you have much else on your mind right now.
 

Matt Bell

Registered User
Supporter
Life and death have got in the way of my posting this report of our trip to Ecuador back in January. In the early stages of the coronavirus lockdown, I thought, rather selfishly as I now understand, that I was coping admirably. I was on study leave anyway and working from home on a big book. Everyone else’s lives might have been disrupted by the lockdown, but I was doing just fine. I felt sorry for my two daughters, both in their early twenties, because their lives were put on hold — it was tough for them to deal with everything shutting down at an age when life should have been opening up for them. Then my elderly dad fell ill. He went from one hospital ward to another, and none of us could visit him because of the pandemic restrictions. Eventually I got to see him two days before he died. He was half conscious and not really able to speak. He died on my birthday, which put my own selfishness into perspective.

I mention this only because our trip to Ecuador in January, while the virus was brewing in China but we were unaffected, now seems freakishly lucky. I guess I should cherish the memories of it.

I hope this report gives a small insight into the amazing birdlife of Ecuador — the country has exceptional biodiversity, a wide range of fascinating ecosystems, good transport infrastructure and (in our experience) wonderfully friendly and helpful people. I’d love to go back!

A quick note on the format of this report: I’ve listed all the bird species we saw on the trip, with an emphasis on ticks and not much on repeat sightings (ticks are in bold type). I’ve given only minimal coverage of mammals, fish and invertebrates.
 
Last edited:

Matt Bell

Registered User
Supporter
Apologies for the preamble. The rest of this report will be (almost) all about birds, and not about me!

So, how did we structure the trip? We had less than three weeks to ‘do’ Ecuador. One week would be a cruise round the Galapagos. Our two other destinations were the Amazon and the cloud forest at Mashpi a couple of hours north of Quito. Given the amount of travel involved, this was the limit of what we could pack in. “Had we but world enough and time”, we’d have enjoyed a much more leisurely and thorough pursuit of Ecuador’s 1600 recorded bird species.

So we were going to miss the vast majority of the birds in Freile & Restall's huge and admirable Birds of Ecuador (I still packed it, because you have to be prepared for anything, don't you?) Another strongly recommended guide is the 2nd edition of Fitter, Fitter and Hosking's Wildlife of the Galapagos which, in addition to accounts of many of the islands' birds, has very useful guides to all of the main sites that can be visited. If you're thinking of travelling to the Galapagos, it's well worth consulting Fitter/Fitter/Hosking while planning the trip.

5 January

We were up well before dawn for a horribly early flight out of London Heathrow to Madrid, where mid-morning we boarded an Iberia flight to Quito, arriving in the Ecuadorian capital early evening. We spent the next day (6 January) exploring Quito and, in my case, feeling distinctly unwell due to the altitude: nauseous, short of breath, sleepless. I had this once before on a hiking trip in the Colorado Rockies; it seems to affect me at about 2,750m plus, and it’s not at all pleasant. For all that I'd have loved to explore the high Andes on this trip, it might not have been a good idea.
 

Matt Bell

Registered User
Supporter
7 January

Our first birding destination was the Napo Wildlife Centre in the Amazon. We were up early again to Quito airport, for a quick hop over the Andes to the town of Coca on the Napo River. Coca services the oil industry in Ecuador’s Amazon — it’s an unlovely place carved out of the jungle with a frontier-town feel. Waiting for our boat at the docks and munching through sandwiches, we saw our first proper South American birds: the unmistakable Swallow-tailed Kite and the easily mistakable Short-tailed Swift.

After lunch our boat took us flying down the half-mile-wide Napo River and weaving skilfully between vast flat sandbanks. Due to the boat’s speed, the only birds I could see were the big stuff: Great Egret and Snowy Egret on the sandbanks, and Turkey Vulture and Greater Yellow-headed Vulture soaring above the forest.

After two hours of being buffeted by the hot winds and spray, it was a relief to disembark and properly hear and feel the rainforest for the first time. We were now at the mouth of the Añangu Creek, with its tannic black water in contrast to the mineral-rich white water of the Napo River, and we were ready to enter the Yasuni National Park, with its daunting tally of around 600 bird species. While we waited to shift all our baggage into the canoes, we had great views of Yellow-rumped Cacique popping in and out of their pendular nests and some Cobalt-winged Parakeets screaming through the clearing.

No powered vehicles of any kind are allowed in this part of the Yasuni reserve, so we were rowed in blissful peace up the Añangu Creek. (All the food and other supplies for the Napo Wildlife Centre have to be brought in by the same method — two hours of rowing in nearly 30-degree heat and high humidity.) The one surprise was how low the water level was. Apparently there hadn’t been any rain for a week or so, and the drought continued during our stay. We didn’t see so much as a drop during our four days in the Amazon, which was slightly disappointing. Part of me was looking forward to a proper Amazonian drenching. (We would get a full share of rain in the cloud forest later in our trip.)

On the way up the Añangu, the main sightings were herons: Cocoi Heron and Agami Heron (arguably the most striking of Ecuador’s herons). The ubiquitous bird is the Hoatzin (pictured below), which the locals call the ‘stinky turkey’ on account of its foul-tasting flesh. We also chalked up Grey-fronted Dove, Ringed Kingfisher, Greater Ani and Lesser Kiskadee.

After two blissful hours in the canoe we reached our destination — the Napo Wildlife Centre, a stunning lodge on the banks of the beautiful Añangu Lake. In the evening we met up with our guide for our stay at Napo, the admirable Juan, an Amazon local.
 

Attachments

  • Hoatzin.jpg
    Hoatzin.jpg
    308.4 KB · Views: 58
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Top