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Mindo: Birding the West Slope of Ecuador (1 Viewer)

lgonz1008

Well-known member
United States
South America is the birding continent, this is something being told by just about every birdwatcher under the sun and it is a goal destination for most. Earlier this year I visited the region for the first time with a 10-day birding trip to Guyana that can only be described as unforgettable due to how close and easy it was to bird the Northern reaches of the Amazon rainforest and the Guianan Shield. However, I wanted to reach the first big milestone of every birder and pass 1,000 species before the year ended, so I booked a flight to Quito and spent 4 and a half days of hardcore birding making sure I reached that goal. Spoilers for all, since I’ve never been to the Andes, I reached the big number in the morning of day 2 and left the country with 235 lifers out of the 331 birds seen, the heard only list boosted the species total to 363. Obviously, in such a short time, I couldn’t get all the targets of the region and I even missed some expected targets, but with seeing 40 species of Hummingbirds, 57 species of Tanager and allies, and point-blank views of 8 of the 11 Antpittas encountered throughout the trip, I can only say it was a success!

Before the detailed itinerary I would like to say that I did use a local guide for logistics, driving and bird ID for the trickier species. The man in question is Nelson Apolo from Ecuador Nature Tours, he’s one of the top guides in the country and one of the best catering to my birding and budgetary needs. Great hearing and seeing skills, that once again reminded me how unprepared I would have been making this trip on my own. If you are ever in the country, reach out to him, his services are worth every penny you can spend in the region.

With that said, I know a number of birders here like to do solo birding and Ecuador is easily one of the best places to do so in South America from a combined front logistics, cost and species count that few countries will rival, it's likely that you'll see more specialties on your own in Ecuador than you would in nearby Colombia and Peru, just from the fact of how used some of these birds are to people even in the dry season, which tend to be the time when the birds are less common in the feeders. But, you will still miss a few key species if you are short on time like I was, since nothing beats local experience.

Detailed Itinerary:
  • October 25-26 (Flight and first day in the high Andes)​
I arrived at Ecuador in the middle of the night and emigration was pretty easy to get through, I even got out before my transport to the hotel arrived to pick me up! Once we met up, we took a 20 minute drive to the Zaysant Ecolodge in Puembo, which I couldn’t really see much of or enjoy the amenities since we were out of there by 5AM. Thankfully, the room I got was big and cozy, the hot shower was welcomed after the flight, and if it wasn’t because of an extremely high pitched frog outside my room (could have also been my excitement) I could have taken full advantage and sleep 4 hours, but instead I only got 2 before it was time to get up.​
At 5, I got out of my room, met up with Nelson and began driving through Quito to reach our first birding stop on the West Slope, outside of a brief stop for coffee and noticing some garden type birds like Great Thrush, Rufous-collared Sparrow and the only Tropical Mockingbird of the trip, not much else was seen until our first stop on the roadside to Yanacocha. This first stop was overlooking the treeline and soon, we got great views of high elevation targets like Pearled Treerunner, White-banded Tyrannulet, Spectacled Redstart and Blue-backed Conebill. We also began my long saga of hearing but not actually seeing Ocellated Tapaculo.​
Moving on from the first stop, we decided to go downhill to a relatively new Reserva Zuro Loma that’s notable for having the only known feeders for Chestnut-naped Antpitta in this part of Ecuador. When arriving to the parking area, we had our boxed breakfast, which was really hard for me to enjoy since there were lifers everywhere (even in the restroom!), from there we were guided to the hummingbird feeders and while Nelson kept reminding me that we were in the low season for feeder activity as most of the birds would be foraging the fruiting flowers and trees in the forests. Nonetheless, the activity was still high from my newbie perspective, with 7 different hummingbirds IDed while sitting down, some of these included Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast and the iconic Sword-billed Hummingbird (this property was actually better to see and photograph this species compared to the more popular Yanacocha. The nearby feeders also brought in Glossy, Black, White-sided and Masked Flowerpiercer, along with Gray-browed and Yellow-breasted Brushfinch, and Blue-capped Tanager.​
Eventually, the big show was to begin as we heard the Chestnut-naped Antpitta come in, we sat down and waited for a few brief moments before seeing this beauty out in the open, which offered amazing views (and pictures!) of my first member of this family. Once we had our fill of this Antpitta, we moved to one of the trails where the second Antpitta of the property came in a pair, this was the adorable Equatorial Antpitta, which seems to follow the idea of a ball on stilts by literally jumping all around us while waiting for the worms.​
Outside of the feeders and the Antpittas, the property has a third attraction that requires a modest uphill hike to get to, this being a roosting White-throated Screech-Owl, sadly when we got to the site, the bird was not roosting in the area, but we did see a second Chestnut-naped Antpitta as far away as possible from the feeding station. The owl, wasn’t the only dip of the hike as we tried and got very close to seeing a calling Undulated Antpitta, but I would have to take my consolation prize in seeing my first member of the Cotinga family for the trip, Red-crested, the only views I would have of any Tapaculo thanks to a slightly more indulgent Blackish Tapaculo, and enjoying a mobbing flock that included Yellow-bellied and Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Black-crested and Russet-crowned Warbler, and a trio of Cinereous Conebills. On the drive out, we scanned the nearby cattle pens to eventually connect with a pair of Andean Lapwings and the first raptor of the trip in an American Kestrel.​
We arrived in Reserva Yanacocha little after 11 and while Nelson notified the staff to prepare us lunch, I enjoyed the feeder activity that included the only views of Great Sapphirewing and Shining Sunbeam for the trip. From there, we did a short walk around the Paramo area where we had a pair of singing Grass Wren, brief views of Tawny Antpitta, and the only mammal sighting of the day with an Andean Rabbit. On the fruit feeders, we also enjoyed a pair of Black-chested Mountain Tanager and after a delicious hot lunch, we went down the trail as the fog creeped up the mountain.​
The foggy trail was a fun test for someone with mild vertigo, but overall, it was more disappointing, and worrying, that we couldn’t enjoy or see most of our targets. A total of 7 Ocellated Tapaculos were heard but none to be seen, we also briefly connected with a Tyrannulet trio in the forms of White-banded, White-throated and Black-Capped Tyrannulet, plus a small family of Crowned Chat-Tyrant. The only members of the Cracidae family were seen as a pair of Andean Guan flew down the mountain in front of us, and luck would dictate that I had my bins up just as a pair of Barred Fruiteaters briefly flew across my view in the fog.​
Eventually we arrived at our destination about 2km into the trail. This was another hummingbird feeder station, but this one was necessary to connect with Golden-breasted Puffleg, which rarely show up in the feeders by the entrance of the reserve. Together with this lonesome Puffleg, we also enjoyed the antics of an Equatorial Antpitta that was moving around our feet while foraging, a skulkier Rufous Wren in the understory and a size chart difference between Buff-breasted, Scarlet-bellied and Hooded Mountain Tanager. Eventually, the sandflies forced us to leave these feeders and we walked back towards our car with a much clearer view of the valley as the fog had dissipated.​
From there, it was a long drive towards Mindo, with roadside stops giving us views of Short-tailed and Roadside Hawk, Black Phoebe, White-tipped Dove and a small mixed flock that included my first boreal migrant in the form of Blackburnian Warbler, alongside some local species like Fawn-breasted Tanager, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Golden-rumped Euphonia and Glossy-black Thrush. We could hear an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek while driving through the Tandayapa Valley, that gave us a prelude for what would come tomorrow, but today, we arrived in Mindo after enjoying a beautiful sunset, had dinner in the restaurant of choice when in town and by 9PM, I was already in bed and ready for an early start tomorrow.​
 

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Since I am also going out with Nelson Apolo this summer for birding (on also my first visit to Ecuador), I have been salivating at the prospect of reading through this trip report, as a sneak peek at one my own trip might be like.
 
Since I am also going out with Nelson Apolo this summer for birding (on also my first visit to Ecuador), I have been salivating at the prospect of reading through this trip report, as a sneak peek at one my own trip might be like.
I can say with confidence that this is just the start with probably the lowest species total in one day? We had multiple century days (including 2 century hotspots).

Nelson was far too catering to my needs and by the end, if we counted the heard only, I saw the same number of species in 5 days that I would saw in my 10 days in Guyana, and this was with him telling me that during the peak season (rainy months) the bird variety in the feeders explodes and it's not uncommon to have dozens of species coming to the feeders at the same time.
 
I can say with confidence that this is just the start with probably the lowest species total in one day? We had multiple century days (including 2 century hotspots).

Nelson was far too catering to my needs and by the end, if we counted the heard only, I saw the same number of species in 5 days that I would saw in my 10 days in Guyana, and this was with him telling me that during the peak season (rainy months) the bird variety in the feeders explodes and it's not uncommon to have dozens of species coming to the feeders at the same time.
Well, when or if you get a chance, I would love to see a ebird trip report too. I've been trying to figure out the odds of seeing different species. Sounds like Nelson is an awesome guide to be with.
 
  • October 27 (Refugio Paz de las Aves and Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge)​

Today was an early start, with us leaving around 4 towards what's likely the most popular birding hotspot in the whole of the Mindo area, Refugio Paz de las Aves. Normally, such an early rise isn't needed, but Nelson brought the temptation by saying we would try for owls before sunrise. The first stop was just outside of the turn to enter Mindo, and outside of the gigantic cock-of-the-rock statue, no birds were seen or heard, though we heard plenty of rain frogs, thankfully no rain.​
From here we moved to the entrance road of Paz de las Aves in an attempt for two nocturnal specialties of the area. The first was the strictly nocturnal Rufescent Screech-Owl, there's a known roosting site high up on the forest next to the road and we spent about 40 minutes playing back and forth with this vocal but uncooperative for views owl. While waiting, I couldn't help but take notice of how clear the sky was and how many stars I could see in it, the lack of light pollution was a huge welcome and needless to say that I cursed my incapability to take a good shot with either my phone or camera of the view. Eventually, while Nelson was trying to switch calls to see if the owl could be coaxed into view, a brown blur flew past us and I only saw it because of luck and the spotlight hitting the right area. This was the only views we'd get from the owl, but while trying to spotlight it and find the eyes (now from the bird calling below us), I noticed a snappy flight with two long extensions following behind it, my brain short-circuited for a bit because I thought I saw seeing a Scissor or Fork-tailed Flycatcher, before I properly registered that it was a male Lyre-tailed Nightjar! I told Nelson to get on it and eventually the bird perched in front of us for about 5 minutes! At this point, the sun was rising and there was a change morning chorus, so we had to hurry to reach the first attraction of this great place, in the cock-of-the-rock lek. We met with Rodrigo Paz on the way and we told him of the nightjar since there wasn't one roosting elsewhere within the property to show guests, but it turns out the bird left the perch soon after we left and nobody else saw it.​
The property currently has two different leks, with normally one having a shorter walk but a much further view of the birds, so we went to the one that required a slightly longer walk, but much better views of the birds. Along the way we heard a number of cloud forest species but we stopped for none, except for a calling, male Golden-headed Quetzal. When we finally reached the lek, we had about 40 minutes of activity before the birds dispersed for the morning, but I doubt anyone in the group complained of seeing a dozen Andean Cock-of-the-rock calling and showing off at eye level, at one point, a female briefly came in and needless to say, the males got a bit too excited. While in the lek, we were hearing the whistling calls of a Scaled Fruiteater, which sadly did not come to show, making it my only dipped fruiteater of the trip; we also heard a Dark-backed Wood-Quail further down the hillside and as we got ready to go to the first lek where Angel normally feeds plantains to them, instead he told us to follow him up the trail since he was trying to get a new bird accustomed to him. This bird gave us a good 30 minutes of expectation before we got some views of it in the understory, while waiting for it however, we had great views of Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Mountain Wren and heard a few Plumbeous Pigeons.​
Once we saw the wood-quail, we began alking back to the car, which we soon realized it was easier said than done with the overwhelming activity in the forest. From the trees in the distance called Andean Solitaire, Ecuadorian and Pale-eyed Thrush, a small mixed flock showed us views of Montane Woodcreeper, Golden-bellied Flycatcher, Slate-throated Redstart and Dusky Chlorospingus among others. A female White-booted Racket-tail was briefly seen by me before it flew off, and it would turn out to be the only one we'd see in the property, when we reached a clearing, we had a flock of Maroon-tailed Parakeet feed in the trees while a flock of Barred Parakeet showed themselves as they flew above us. Eventually we got back to the car and made our first antpitta spot of the morning; the bird in question is the Yellow-breasted Antpitta, of which Rodrigo called in to come get their "spaghetti" (chopped worms), Nelson later told me that there was a Crested Guan calling in the back, but antpittas are king here.​
After everyone got great views and pictures, we drove to the kitchen/garden area, it was around 9, so we were all wanting the famous breakfast that's offered in Paz de las Aves, but before that, our attention was taken to the hummingbird feeders and flowers of the garden. A number of hummers could be seen here including Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Lesser Violetear, Speckled Hummingbird and a total of three White-throated Daggerbills, an uncommon visitor to the flowers within Refugio Paz de las Aves. This last bird is especially noteworthy since it was my lifer number 1,000! I got a decent shot of this milestone bird and saw an attempt of a mating display, before going inside for breakfast; but that didn't stop me from looking outside, which resulted in taking a big gulp of milk before calling out a Crimson-rumped Toucanet. After finishing breakfast, I went out and relocated the bird alongside the couple of British naturalists that were doing a day visit like I was (the other participants of the day were staying within the property's new cabins).​
From there, it was back to the cars and time to move to the fruit feeders. The feeders were a mixed reception, as Nelson put it, we came in the low season, most of the big feeder action occur during the wet season since the trees in the forest are not fruiting. However, a mixed reception, is still a positive one when more than half of the species are lifers, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, White-winged Brushfinch, Yellow-bellied Siskin, Orange-bellied Euphonia, and White-crested Eleania were a few of the visitors. In a nearby tree, Angel pointed us to the Black-and-white Owl that normally perches in the feeder at night, although normally the bird roosts far away from the site. The hummingbird feeders provided a bit more variety in both color and size, with Purple-throated Woodstar, Andean Emerald, Brown Inca, Empress Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph, Velvet-purple and Buff-tailed Coronet being just a few of the visitors.​
But now, it was time for the big show and the stars were the antpittas. First we went down a couple dozen steps until we were signaled to stay quiet and keep an eye out since there were two different antpittas being called. It took less than 10 minutes before we were told to move further down the stairs as the Ochre-breasted Antpitta was coming in, very soon I got a few glimpses of it, along with a decent shot, before we were called to go back up the steps because the Moustached Antpitta came in! Soon enough, I also got views and pictures of this bird before it went into the bushes and I went going back down the steps for better of the Ochre-breasted and hoping the other visitors could take my spot and get better views. Turns out that this was my best decision, since no sooner after I got there, a second Moustached Antpitta showed alongside the Ochre-breasted Antpitta and I got great views and photos of both species out in the open!​
Now, it was time to see the bird that truly made Angel Paz a household name for any international birder, the Giant Antpitta, but before reaching that part of the trail, we were greeted with what I can only call my first proper Neotropical mixed flock. There were at least 40 different species represented on this flock, many we had already seen, but some of the new additions included Flavescent Flycatcher, Ashy-headed Tyrannulet, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Metallic-green Tanager, Black-and-white Becard, Red-faced Spinetail, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Three-striped Warbler and Capped Conebill.​
Eventually we moved away from this monster-sized gift, partially because we thought we IDed every possible bird within the flock and partially because the descendant of Maria the Giant Antpitta was finally responding. I got there as fast as I could, I sat down in the dirt and waited to see what was probably one of the most iconic birds of Ecuador, if not all of the Americas, and that without a doubt, none of us would have seen without the effort and protection of the forest that Angel Paz and his brother Rodrigo have done. Sure enough, the Giant Antpitta came in, it saw us, then it saw the worms, it ate a few and took the rest back into the forest, probably nesting somewhere, moment gone in a few minutes but definitely a trip highlight.​
After this amazing experience, we began walking back to the trail entrance, but not before we were literally greeted at arm’s length by a female Masked Trogon. Normally, I recommend to take a camera with good zoom if you want to get any good shots of birds, but while in Ecuador, I found out that at least a third of the species I saw, I probably could have taken great ID shots just from my phone, the birds were that close at times. But, even though the Scaled Fruiteater wasn’t cooperating, Nelson and Angel’s nephew, eventually got into a small competition to whistle in an Orange-breasted Fruiteater they were hearing. Soon enough we ended with not one, but two males of this beautiful cotinga moving close to where the owl was roosting alongside a third one singing in the distance.​
The final stop of the day was for the Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and if you were willing to hike a bit more (and pay a small fee), you would be taken to see the Ocellated Tapaculo, I personally chose to skip the tapaculo in the vain hope to see it elsewhere and instead focused on seeing the last of the five possible antpittas in the property. The views were a bit further away than the other antpittas but great nonetheless and we said goodbye to everyone before driving out. By the end of checklist tracking we had encountered exactly 100 species during our time in Paz de las Aves, marking our first century day (and hotspot) but also showing how lucky we were that morning since we did miss a few species, but all the antpittas showed well without having to spend hours as it’s the case sometimes and the mixed flock was an unexpected treat that nobody can predict.​
While driving through Tandayapa Valley, we made a roadside stop in hope to see pretty much any of the big targets possible in the valley, Beautiful Jay, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Toucan Barbet, you name it. Unfortunately, the best we had was a trio of female hummingbirds with Western Emerald being the clear standout; we opted for a roadside lunch, while attempting for Beautiful Jay, but as anyone will tell you, this species is unpredictable at best, so no luck. Eventually, we began going up the road towards Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge and made a few stops in hope of seeing the nomadic but regularly reported White-faced Nunbird and coaxing into view a calling Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, sadly neither would be gracing us with their presence, but I did get a big target in what’s likely up there among the worst views of this species, with a Toucan Barbet that showed us nothing but it’s behind while calling about 50+ feet above us, the other highlight of the stop would probably the fast-moving flock of Red-billed Parrot that at least showed a nice contrast against the blue sky.​
Little past 3, we arrived at Bellavista and went directly to the feeders, the fruit feeders only had a Red-tailed Squirrel taking the last plantain pieces, but thankfully the hummingbird feeders gave us a chance to connect with Collared Inca and the main target of the area, Gorgeted Sunangel. After getting good views of both species, we went down the trail with the cooing call of a White-throated Quail-Dove greeting us by the compost, this compost eventually did give us views of the species on the way out, but since they had just dumped waste, there was little activity. In the length of the trails we were experiencing what can only be called as tapaculo hell for me, we had four different Ocellated Tapaculo and at least two Spillmann’s Tapaculo calling loudly and boldly, some were almost next to us but none came into view. The best birds of the walk were a Turquoise Jay that called above us for a while but never sitting for a photo, and a pair of male Black-and-green Fruiteater that seemed to like the jay’s style, because they did not sit still for more than a few seconds. As we walked out of the trail with mixed results, we heard the wailing calls of a Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and sure enough, we found one bird perched close to a possible nesting cavity. Words cannot describe how amazing this toucan is and sadly, the distance from the bird and lighting don’t do it justice in my photos.​
Feeling good after the toucan, we got on the car and made an attempt for the Tanager Finch, a bird that’s neither a tanager nor a finch, but it’s in fact a New World sparrow, and while it certainly sounds like the sparrows I’m familiar with, its look, behavior and preferred habitat make me thing that it’s anything but one. Sadly, this bird is usually seen early morning, and this time too it was no exception, we spent nearly an hour in the location this species is usually seen at, but all we got was heard onlys of other species I would have liked to see like Cinnamon Flycatcher, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant and Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, thankfully having open views of a male Crested Quetzal, is a great consolation price, even if again, the pictures I took don’t do justice to this gorgeous bird.​
From there, the sun was setting and we began the long drive down the valley and back to Mindo, along the way we enjoyed a second gorgeous sunset, which in Nelson’s words, doesn’t happen often in the area. As luck would have it, we would get one more bird for the day in the form of a Band-winged Nightjar in the middle of the road, sadly the bird didn’t stick around for photos, but considering that it was at a lower elevation than where it is normally seen, we were pretty happy and drove back to Mindo after a long, productive day, which after a nice dinner and a shower, made for the best sleeping medicine anyone could ask for.​
 

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Well, when or if you get a chance, I would love to see a ebird trip report too. I've been trying to figure out the odds of seeing different species. Sounds like Nelson is an awesome guide to be with.
I'll share it once I finish the trip report, want to keep a bit of the surprise, I can't say you will see all of the species I saw, since you might be targeting some sites I skipped and vice versa, but outside of the boreal migrants, you should have a good chance of seeing most of these species and if you count HO, which I don't for my life list, your species total will be as high as the one Nelson had for the trip (363), if not higher, since I imagine you will be spending some time in the other slope to get all the families I chose skip on targeting in hope to see more species in my limited time.
 
I'll share it once I finish the trip report, want to keep a bit of the surprise, I can't say you will see all of the species I saw, since you might be targeting some sites I skipped and vice versa, but outside of the boreal migrants, you should have a good chance of seeing most of these species and if you count HO, which I don't for my life list, your species total will be as high as the one Nelson had for the trip (363), if not higher, since I imagine you will be spending some time in the other slope to get all the families I chose skip on targeting in hope to see more species in my limited time.
I'll most be around Mindo...I am going to be visiting Antisana and Guango Lodge, but not really dipping much further down the east slope. Figured those are best saved for future trips.
 
  • October 28 (Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary and Milpe Bird Sanctuary)
We slept in a bit today and got on the road at the late hour of 4:30AM, after a quick stop to get drinks for our boxed breakfast, we drove through the palm plantations until we eventually reached a remnant of protected forest in the Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary. This place was formerly part of a larger lowland Choco rainforest, but these days, outside of some forest by the river, this is the only proper forest habitat left in the region and it acts like an island of greenery that provides access to a fair number of Choco specialties without having to leave the Pichincha province.​
The first birds to greet us were an Orange-billed Sparrow briefly foraging on the road and the morning calls of a wintering Summer Tanager, alongside the resident Whiskered and Scaly-breasted Wren. When we finally parked within the sanctuary, we noticed a bit of activity in the trees, this turned out to be my first and only mediocre views of a flock of Yellow-throated Toucan that were heard calling throughout all the morning. The hummingbird feeders were sparsely visited by a few species, with White-whiskered Hermit and Purple-chested Hummingbird being a lot more appealing than Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Crowned Woodnymph, but it must be said that the best bird was a Northern Barred Woodcreeper that flew low next to us, as this species would not be heard or seen for the rest of the day.​

The morning was overall misty and overcast, not great for photos but best scenario for bird activity, when walking the short trail to the canopy tower we heard and eventually saw Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail, a very uncommon resident of the region and a positive sign of how productive Rio Silanche would be this morning. The start in the tower was slow with a Black-striped Woodcreeper being the first bird we heard and saw for a while; eventually we were greeted by a family Scarlet-browed Tanager, which would turn out to be the birds we’d see most often from the tower as they kept coming back to the fruiting trees around it. From there, the skies cleared up a bit and activity ramped up until we left the tower with over 60 species seen and heard, some of the highlights included Scarlet-breasted and Black-faced Dacnis, White-tailed and Blue-tailed Trogon, a bold Broad-billed Motmot, flyover Hook-billed, Swallow-tailed and Double-toothed Kite, and small mixed flocks that included Blackpoll Warbler, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Choco Tyrannulet, Thick-billed Euphonia, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Golden-hooded, Blue-necked, Bay-headed and Rufous-winged Tanager.​

Once the heat was catching up with the canopy activity, we headed back down and began walking the trails of sanctuary. Our first stop was for two non-bird sightings, first it was a very vocal Mantled Howler Monkey that had apparently set up territory in the forest, but sadly nobody to vocalize and interact with, the second is probably the most infamous of all invertebrates in South America, the Bullet Ant, we had one relaxed ant on top of a leaf that seemed like it was confused but everyone knows that touching one of these guys is the same as asking to get shot, so we left it as is. Soon after though, Nelson noticed the whistling calls of a Neotropic mega and tried playing a recording to see if it would respond; the bird not only responded but flew into a clear branch above us and began to sing and pose for photos, honestly never thought my lifer Lanceolated Monklet would turn out to be this cooperative or easy to see. From there, we tried for the normally more cooperative White-whiskered Puffbird, without much luck, and we turned our attention to a mixed flock that had both canopy and understory members like Tawny-faced Gnatwren, White-shouldered and Tawny-crested Tanager, Slate-colored Grosbeak, Striped Woodhaunter, and Streak-headed Woodcreeper. Going further through the trail, we didn’t encounter much for a while, but eventually we connected with a small mixed flock, but this one had some more colorful members, these included Red-headed and Orange-fronted Barbet, Dot-winged Antwren, and the ever-present Bananaquit.​

Arriving back to the car, we decided to walk the road leading to an open agricultural area, this gave us a chance to see more open country species and see the results of human encroachment to the sanctuary. During the walk through the forested area, we saw Band-tailed Barbthroat foraging on heliconias and a Snowy-throated Kingbird calling from a high perch. Several coastal Ecuador/Tumbes specialties that have been spreading north were seen, including Pacific Parrotlet, Masked Water-Tyrant, Scrub Blackbird and Violet-bellied Hummingbird were seen; and a Pygmy-Owl recording later, a mobbing flock compromised of some of the birds listed before and a few new ones like House Wren, White-lored Gnatcatcher, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet and a Western Wood-Pewee came boldly calling before being scattered by an incoming party of nearly 20 Smooth-billed Ani. While hoping for something new to appear, we noticed a pair of Ruddy Pigeon in a small tree that would soon be the center stage for a calling Striped Cuckoo.​

By this time, it was past 1 and we decided to go back to the car and start driving towards our well-deserved lunch. Unsurprisingly, Rio Silanche still had more to give, since we would encounter another mixed flock with Guira Tanager and Sooty-headed Tyrannulet thrown in for variety and two separate roadside stops gave us views of a trio of calling Barred Puffbird and a pair of Choco Toucan. We arrived at the restaurant for lunch after 2:30 and while enjoying the great food and fresh juice, I noticed, and soon after we were able to add one of our missing targets from the open habitat in the form of Pale-legged Hornero.​

Our final stop for the day is the beautiful Milpe Bird Sanctuary, normally this would have been our stop for the last morning of the trip, but we chose to change things around since we were in the area. The hummingbird feeders had a lot of activity with a female Purple-bibbed Whitetip being a clear standout, but seeing Green-crowned Brilliant, Green Thorntail, and, finally connecting with, White-necked Jacobin, was a great experience on these feeders. From there, we began to walk the trails and were soon greeted by a Speckled Nightingale-Thrush out in the open; from here, things would get more interesting and frustrating. AS previously mentioned, Milpe is beautiful, it honestly feels like you are walking through a fairytale forest with the steps that are covered with dirt and greenery making it all, including the few manmade aspects in the trail, to be a natural part of the forest, however, Milpe also has some amazing foothill forest in which the tree canopy is on average 50+ feet above our heads, combine this with either blaring sunlight and you can imagine how I felt about not being able to enjoy the mixed flock that was foraging above us. Birds could still be seen, but it was likely that we only saw about 40% of the species in the flock and heard a further 20% before calling it quits for the sake of our necks and eyesight, some of the picked up species included Lineated and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Cinnamon Becard, Tawny-breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Chlorospingus, and Gray-and-gold Tanager, we also heard Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Ecuadorian Thrush, and Yellow-collared Chlrophonia. Of course, no trip to the Neotropics would be complete without a staple heard only tinamou, and the bird for this trip is of course the Little Tinamou, which in the words of bird guide for sanctuary: “you will have an easier time seeing Berlepsch's Tinamou in Rio Silanche than seeing a Little Tinamou in Milpe”.​

Eventually we moved towards the active nest of a Golden-winged Manakin, but sadly the bird was nowhere to be seen, the consolation prize we got was an Ochre-breasted Antpitta and a quick flush of a Pallid Dove. We went to the bird hide in hopes that maybe the corn placed down would attract a Pallid Dove or two, but the only sightings were a cute Orange-billed Sparrow and a hungry Central American Agouti. Eventually got back to the car as the sun was setting and while Nelson was taking a bathroom break, I got views and a decent shot of a Silver-throated Tanager and outline views in the bushes of a Dusky-faced Tanager. We took a short drive back to Mindo and similar to the previous nights, I was in bed by 9 and getting ready for another early start tomorrow.​
 

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An absolutely overwhelming report - and less than halfway through!

That nightjar is fabulous!

Looking forward to the next instalment.

Cheers
Mike
 
Reports like this really don't do my bank balance or holiday allowance any good... Ecuador is top of my list for South America.

Agree with Mike and Pete, absolutely fantastic and some cracking birds too.
 
Reports like this really don't do my bank balance or holiday allowance any good... Ecuador is top of my list for South America.

Agree with Mike and Pete, absolutely fantastic and some cracking birds too.
Thank you all for the kind words and call me the devil's advocate, because I'm going to give you a little temptation for Ecuador on the cost side.

This whole trip was only 6 days, but considering I was on my own it cost a lot less than expected, with me spending less than 2k counting a flight from Miami. So while I can't guarantee how much everything would cost if you went with a bigger group or different contact/company, I can guarantee it won't break your wallet to visit Northern Ecuador as long as you stay away from the Napo river lodges, those would cost double my trip to Mindo for less time.
 
  • October 29 (Reserva Amagusa and Guayabillas Road)
Today was our last full of birding and I can only say that the universe seemed to align to make sure we got as many mega targets as possible. As we were driving through the dark to area of Reserva Amagusa, which is within the greater Mashpi protected region, I made the comment/hope to see Black Solitaire, a beautiful thrush of the cloud-forests of the Choco ecoregion. Nelson mentioned that we were at the right time of year for the species to be seen around this elevation and almost as if to prove his point, the first bird we saw that day was a Black Solitaire foraging across the open road. The lighting left a bit to be desired for photos, but the fact that we saw this amazing bird as our first one of the day was only a glimpse of what was to come.​
From there, we drove past Reserva Amagusa, which doesn’t open until 8 or so, and instead turned our attention to some of the fruiting trees and moth light close to the Mashpi Lodge. To say that the trees and surrounding area were lit up with colorful birds like Christmas lights would be an understatement. We began with some insectivores in the forms of Rufous Motmot, Esmeraldas and Zeledon’s Antbird, Streak-capped Treehunter, Spotted Barbtail and the first of many Ornate Flycatcher. My trip nemesis bird in the lower elevations up to this point was the Bay Wren, we’ve heard so much that I was sure that this bird and Ocellated Tapaculo would haunt my dreams for weeks to come, sadly it would remain a heard only for now, but the morning chorus also had some amazing members here, a few of which would remain heard only for me, Club-winged Manakin, Plain-backed Antpitta, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, and Toucan Barbet were among them. Over the skies, a group of White-collared Swift were briefly joined by flocks of Bronze-winged Parrot and Maroon-tailed Parakeet.​
But as the sun properly rose and the light hit the trees, the frugivores and small mixed flocks came in, first it was a warbler quarter, with Choco and Buff-rumped Warbler feeding low, while Tropical Parula and Slate-throated Redstart went high, then came the tanagers with Swallow, Golden and Beryl-spangled Tanager seen particularly well. Finally, we had the becards, Barred, Black-and-white and Cinnamon Becard called as they foraged through, but in all this madness looking high, I took a moment to look down in hope of seeing the calling Bay Wren, only to have an Olive Finch literally feeding between our feet! Once the Olive Finch left our side, we looked back up and noticed that Brown-capped and Chivi Vireo took residence in the tree, and not long after I heard Nelson scream the most happily he had all trip, there was a Choco Vireo in the mixed flock. Normally this would be enough to make any birder in the Choco happy, but things got better as the bird stayed relatively still for photos and when we were both photographing the bird, we realized that we were looking at two different individuals! So not only did we have one of the rarest possible endemics of the region in our view, which Nelson said he could count in his hands how many times he’s seen this species, we had a pair, which he said it was a first for him, how good was that?​
Eventually, the fog from the cloud-forest began to roll in, taking away the sun, but that was fine as it was time to slowly walk towards Amagusa. However, it cannot be stressed how good the fruiting trees were, even though we were mostly in the same area, since we had so much activity around, we ended up walking about a kilometer just to see everything the trees were showing us. On the road to Amagusa we encountered our first Indigo Flowerpiercer, a Green-fronted Lancebill close to its nest, and a pair of Olive-crowned Yellowthroat in the cattle pen of someone’s home. Once in the reserve, we had eye-level views of a quartet of Rose-faced Parrot feeding on plantains, these I can only say are now among my favorite parrots just from how gorgeous they are and how good the pictures I took of them came out. When it was finally time for the feeder action, we passed by the hummingbird feeders first and I could finally see why this was considered the low season, there were hummingbirds, but the number and variety was low compared to the videos I’ve seen of the reserve online. After confirming the hummers were species we’ve already seen previously like Velvet-purple Coronet, Green-crowned and Empress Brilliant; we moved on to where the fruit feeders and right away we were shown something uncommon but very welcomed. Nelson heard the aggressive calls of a few hummingbirds, which isn’t uncommon in feeders, but it’s rare away from them since usually you don’t have 3 different species fighting at the same time, turns out there was a good reason for this odd behavior, and it was none other than a Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl that was perched on an open branch at eye-level! This is probably one of the birds we had tried the hardest for on a few days, the afternoon in Bellavista was literally alternating the recording between this and the nunbird in hopes that either species would appear, simply put, they did not, which made this up-close view of this little owl that much more amazing.​
Once the owl had enough of the hummers, and we got great shots, the bird flew off and we turned our attention to the feeders. Since we were the first guests of the day, Nelson had the honor of putting the plantains and then we waited for the birds to fly in. It was a slow trickle with a few bumps in the form of a pair of Crimson-rumped Toucanet, which seemed to enjoy tossing the plantains out of the feeder area to the floor and scaring the smaller birds away. Eventually, things picked up, first with the ever-present Flame-rumped Tanager, but soon there was a carousel of other species coming through like Black-chinned Mountain Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Moss-backed, Glistening-green, Rufous-throated and Flame-faced Tanager to name a few. The surrounding bushes finally gave me proper views of a Bay Wren and we even had a female Orange-breasted Fruiteater call above our heads.​
We had our fill of the feeders, so headed back out to the road, in hopes of connecting with a mixed flock and a few target species. The target species in question is the hummingbird with Velociraptor claw-like bill (eBird description not mine), the White-tipped Sicklebill, this area is great for this species as there are a couple dozen heliconia just growing on the side of the road. Sadly, our luck was not shinning for this little guy, as today turned out to be the day that Mashpi Lodge would have someone trim the roadside vegetation with a loud weedwhacker…To make matters less appetizing, we could hear mixed flocks down in the forested valley, but we were simply too high up for them to respond or even care for our attempts to bring them in. We still connected with a few new species like Tricolored Brushfinch, Slaty Spinetail and the tiny Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant (whose name is probably longer than the bird). By 11:30 we called it for the Amagusa area and drove out towards a roadside restaurant at the entrance of our hotspot for the afternoon.​
We arrived at Sacha Guatusa Reserva Natural around 12, this is probably the only stop in our trip that’s not a well-known birding destination in the Mindo circuit, but one that will become, at least for the local birders, one of the best places to see Choco endemics in the years to follow. The property mostly offers space for overnight camping with toilets and showers readily available. Add to that the opportunity of having fresh oven-baked pizza, coffee, and tea at a request ahead of time and that would be appetizing to any budget birder. However, the biggest appeal of the property is the newly made nature trail that went through the forested hillside, we were literally the first birders to use this trail. This forest has likely not been cut down in decades, bar a few select trees that were illegally taken against the owners wishes, the result of this, is some prime habitat that in previous years, bird surveys in the area, such as CBCs literally found Banded Ground-Cuckoo, Baudo Guan, Purple Quail-Dove and other highly sought-after species in the area.​
Sadly, we didn’t have an amazing encounter with any of these species, thought we tried for them, instead we heard the spaceship-like calls of the Wattled Guan and had a loose lek of White-bearded Manakin close to the entrance. The mixed canopy flocks included Rufous-rumped Antwren, Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner, Choco Tyrannulet, Ochre-breasted and White-winged Tanager, and Choco Warbler; while in the understory, Chestnut-backed and Zeledon’s Antbird, Striped Woodhaunter, and Ochre-breast Antpitta could be seen. Outside of birds, we also had a Central American Agouti run away from us (this is the mascot of the reserve, so you know they are there) and several frogs and invertebrates were also seen. The trail was tricky to get through at times, we were literally padding down the soil as we passed through, but eventually it leads to a beautiful waterfall if you are interested in that, but we opted to go back to the car instead. The roadside birding was equally productive with Blue-chested and Purple-chested Hummingbird showing side-by-side comparisons and Dusky-faced Tanager being slightly more cooperative than the previous evening.​
Finally, we moved to driving and birding along the Guayabillas road, and this could easily be the most productive birding road I’ve ever been on, early morning here is like being a kid in a candy store but seeing over 60 species under 3 hours is not too bad for an afternoon drive. The road is overall begins in prime foothill forest habitat and it slowly winds it’s way until reaching areas that overlook the Mashpi protected region and some cattle farms. On the forested areas, the quality of what you can find depends on your luck with encountering a mixed flock, which we were able to connect with a few and gave us some mouth-watering targets like Brown-billed Scythebill, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Yellow-green and Scarlet-and-white Tanager. The more open areas gave us views of Purple-crowned Fairy, Choco and Yellow-throated Toucan, and Rusty-margined Flycatcher, at one point I heard an odd barking call outside the car and this would turn out to be a Barred Forest-Falcon, in the prospect of a lifer, I asked if it was possible to call it in since it flew past us even when we were right next to it, and Nelson tried but said there’s no guarantee it will respond. Turns out the falcon did respond so well in fact that we ended up with two individuals calling on either side of the road and we even got to see them fly across it at one point.​
After the falcon encounter, we finally drove out of the mostly forested area and had a clear overlook of the Mashpi area, this area is important for scoping certain canopy species on clear days, and while our view was a bit foggy when we arrived, it was still clear enough for me to find our target Black-tipped Cotinga before Nelson even had a chance to set the scope up. This one was one of my top targets for the region due to my love for the continga family, and although the bird was a couple miles away, the contrast of white with the dark green canopy made it stand out and it was incredible to see it via the scope once it was set up. At one point we did get questioned by the local farmers asking if we were private contractors looking to survey their property against their wishes, but when we made it clear that we were looking at the paloma blanca (local name for the cotinga, if you know Spanish this name makes you chuckle a bit) and we were left to our devices. In the more open habitat, we tried again to play a pygmy-owl call and the response was big, in both size and variety, Squirrel Cuckoo, Chivi Vireo, Pacific Antwren, Golden-hooded and Blue-necked tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, and Red-rumped Woodpecker were all responding to the potential predator.​
As the sun was setting, we also got great views of Rose-faced and Bronze-winged Parrot, I failed again in my attempts to photograph a toucan, and while driving out, we made a stop close to a puddle by the road to see what would appear, this would mostly be seedeaters in the forms of Thick-billed Seed-Finch and Variable Seedeater along with both Black-winged and Buff-throated Saltator. We drove back to Mindo as the sun was setting, and we made brief stop to get some fruits to snack on, I tried salak palm which was fun both because of the outside texture and the chewy, mildly sweet flavor of the fruit (it was like eating apple-flavored gum because of all the chewing I had to do). Once we reached Mindo, we had the farewell dinner and went to sleep early to prepare for the last morning in the country.​
 

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We arrived at Sacha Guatusa Reserva Natural around 12, this is probably the only stop in our trip that’s not a well-known birding destination in the Mindo circuit, but one that will become, at least for the local birders, one of the best places to see Choco endemics in the years to follow. The property mostly offers space for overnight camping with toilets and showers readily available. Add to that the opportunity of having fresh oven-baked pizza, coffee, and tea at a request ahead of time and that would be appetizing to any budget birder. However, the biggest appeal of the property is the newly made nature trail that went through the forested hillside, we were literally the first birders to use this trail. This forest has likely not been cut down in decades, bar a few select trees that were illegally taken against the owners wishes, the result of this, is some prime habitat that in previous years, bird surveys in the area, such as CBCs literally found Banded Ground-Cuckoo, Baudo Guan, Purple Quail-Dove and other highly sought-after species in the area.​
Hah...I immediately looked up this reserve online, and I am pretty sure they have a picture of you and Nelson birding there on their facebook page.

Sadly I will be missing Guayaibillas road, as I will be targeting Oilbirds on the schedule for that afternoon. Still....sounds like an amazing place.
 
Hah...I immediately looked up this reserve online, and I am pretty sure they have a picture of you and Nelson birding there on their facebook page.

Sadly I will be missing Guayaibillas road, as I will be targeting Oilbirds on the schedule for that afternoon. Still....sounds like an amazing place.
I had to check their Facebook page after you mentioned that, and you are right, no clue when they took that photo but that's definitely us birding before the lunch break.

Honestly, I was pretty 50/50 between the 2 options, especially since I'm a sucker for nocturnal birds and family listing, but since I got 15 lifers out of that road, including a mega and proper pictures of other species, I think I made the best decision at the time. Ask me before the trip or even during it, and I'd probably would have asked to go see the Oilbird cave instead.

The road just had the appeal for me that I wouldn't get anywhere else in the trip, which was to bird an area that's relatively underbirded, so potential for lots of surprises, such as the fact that the Forest-Falcon had only been seen once before in that hotspot, and even the Yellow-green Tanager was up there with the Choco Vireo as a really rare endemic that you rarely encounter, and we ended up seeing 3 of them in a mixed flock.


With that said, next time I go to Ecuador, I told Nelson I wanted to target all the important families I'm missing, so to the Oilbird cave I'll go, plus target Seedsnipe and Sunbittern (which is slowly turning into a nemesis bird, only one missed attempt away).
 
I had to check their Facebook page after you mentioned that, and you are right, no clue when they took that photo but that's definitely us birding before the lunch break.

Honestly, I was pretty 50/50 between the 2 options, especially since I'm a sucker for nocturnal birds and family listing, but since I got 15 lifers out of that road, including a mega and proper pictures of other species, I think I made the best decision at the time. Ask me before the trip or even during it, and I'd probably would have asked to go see the Oilbird cave instead.

The road just had the appeal for me that I wouldn't get anywhere else in the trip, which was to bird an area that's relatively underbirded, so potential for lots of surprises, such as the fact that the Forest-Falcon had only been seen once before in that hotspot, and even the Yellow-green Tanager was up there with the Choco Vireo as a really rare endemic that you rarely encounter, and we ended up seeing 3 of them in a mixed flock.


With that said, next time I go to Ecuador, I told Nelson I wanted to target all the important families I'm missing, so to the Oilbird cave I'll go, plus target Seedsnipe and Sunbittern (which is slowly turning into a nemesis bird, only one missed attempt away).
Sunbittern I got at the Canopy Lodge. From a family listing perspective, they are also I think probably easiest in the Pantanal, where you can also get Screamers, Seriemas, Rheas, etc. I think Seedsnipe are also a lot easier in the southern cone of South America, where you need to go for things like Many-colored Rush-Tyrant and Sheathbill. Although I am trying to make a special effort for Seedsnipe on my trip this summer, especially as the Ecuadorian population might be a potential split.

If I had time I would probably try to add Rio Canande. It seems to be very reliable for Sapayoa, and seems good spot for some of the scarcer Choco birds like Choco Manakin. But from a maximize trip list and cost perspective, Guango Lodge and Antisana seem a better option.
 
Sunbittern I got at the Canopy Lodge. From a family listing perspective, they are also I think probably easiest in the Pantanal, where you can also get Screamers, Seriemas, Rheas, etc. I think Seedsnipe are also a lot easier in the southern cone of South America, where you need to go for things like Many-colored Rush-Tyrant and Sheathbill. Although I am trying to make a special effort for Seedsnipe on my trip this summer, especially as the Ecuadorian population might be a potential split.

If I had time I would probably try to add Rio Canande. It seems to be very reliable for Sapayoa, and seems good spot for some of the scarcer Choco birds like Choco Manakin. But from a maximize trip list and cost perspective, Guango Lodge and Antisana seem a better option.
I can agree with that, I think the Rush-Tyrant can be seen as far North as Peru, but yeah, Southern cone is necessary for Snowy Sheathbill, Magellanic Plover, plus a few pelagic families that are relatively easier there than elsewhere in their range, and it's also the best region to connect with the less skulky members of the Tinamou and Tapaculo family, which are painful to get views of in most places, bar a few feeding stations and well-protected regions.

There's a lot of birds in the high Andes of Ecuador that are due for splits simply because of how isolated they are from the populations to the South, so fingers crossed this one gets split and given proper protection because of it.

Canande is up there for me, I'd rather try for Sapayoa in Ecuador where it's pretty much guaranteed in the right location as opposed to Panama, where it's a coin flip every time you visit the area they are reported.
 
  • October 30 (Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge and Departure)
The original plan for the last day was for us to visit Milpe, however, since we already visited the site earlier in the trip; Nelson said we should get a little payback on Bellavista and the road leading up to it for the many targets we missed. This was fine with me and we were out on the road up to Bellavista around 4 in the morning to get a few nocturnal species. The first target we had was the Swallow-tailed Nightjar, which is a buffy version of the lower elevation Lyre-tailed Nightjar. As we neared the site to try for them, we did briefly see a female of this species crossing the road and we connected again with the Band-winged Nightjar; once we reached the site, we did a bit of bushwhacking as there was a quarry where Nelson has better luck with this species and sure enough, in less than 5 minutes, we had a male fly in front of us showing the long tail feathers that gave the species its name. From there we attempted to see if any other nocturnal species would show up, but we mostly got replies from Rufescent Screeh-Owl and a pair of Andean Pygmy-Owl. Eventually, we did get views of a new bird in the form of Rufous-bellied Nighthawk and for a brief moment, we even had an Oilbird calling above us! Sadly, it was not meant to be as the bird quickly moved on, and this will be a species I will have to connect with in a different trip.​
As the sun rose, we moved to the session of the road that is best location to connect with the Tanager Finch, but sadly the bird was not cooperating when we arrived, but the lifer bonanza continued to pay off, with Streaked Tuftedcheek, Flammulated Treehunter appearing just as the sun rose for the first views. From there, we connected with a wintering Broad-winged Hawk, before hearing the same birds we didn’t see last time like Cinnamon Flycatcher and Chestnut-bellied Chat-Tyrant, we also connected with a Speckle-faced Parrot high on the distant canopy and in the trees nearby, we also saw a pair of Powerful Woodpecker. Overall, we had spent a successful hour in the area, even if our main target just didn’t wish to even call, walking back to the car we connected with one of the non-avian targets of the cloud forest in the form of a Giant Earthworm, and while it seemed like it could get bigger, the one we saw could easily have been used as bait to go fishing for sharks!​
After calling it a dip, we moved down the road and no less than 100 meters from where we spent the last hour, there was a very vocal pair of Tanager Finch that even stuck around enough for pictures. This was honestly the best we could hope for and eventually we moved on to Bellavista with big smiles on our faces since the revenge visit was giving back to us all of the big targets we’d missed so far. However, that doesn’t mean the original afternoon visit wasn’t worthwhile, as we would notice when reaching Bellavista that a number of our seen species that day were not around, including the White-throated Quail-Dove and the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan.​
The hummingbird feeders also had a bit less activity and variety compared to the last visit, but in its place, the trees had some larger species cooperating for great views and photos. The first of this was none other than our second big target for the morning, the White-faced Nunbird, as it was obvious to us before, this species is unpredictable and throughout most of its range it is considered nomadic, but here in Bellavista, just as Nelson was about to blast the recording in hope for the birds to at least call back, I had to quickly stop him because there was a pair of them looking at us in perfect morning light! We got to enjoy these beauties for a few minutes as they called and foraged around us, catching some huge insects and gulping them without a care in the world. Walking through the trail, we were once again greeted with the calls of Spillmann’s and Ocellated Tapaculo, but sadly neither species would be seen, we also heard a Wattled Guan from further down the valley and it was clear that these species would be going to my heard only list for this trip. Not all was lost though; we did get proper views of Chestnut-capped Brushfinch and Tyrannine Woodcreeper, both of these species surprised me as we had missed them until now, but better late than never. The great views continued, this time with close views of a male and female Golden-headed Quetzal and a hardworking Masked Trogon that was doing all in his power to feed a hungry chick while we enjoyed our breakfast.​
Time was running out, so the drive down the mountain began, making several stops along the way in hopes to connect with a Beautiful Jay or two, but this though specialty of the Tandayapa Valley would not grace us with its presence. Instead, we made a stop overlooking the valley that gave us a chance to connect with three new species in the forms of Spot-fronted Swift, Black-capped Tanager and a soaring pair of Barred Hawk.​
No more birds were seen or stopped for until reaching Quito, although it was nice to at least see the “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” (Middle of the World City) which is where the mark for the equator line is; however, I give quotations with good reason as the actual equator line lies 240m North of the marked attraction, nonetheless, it looked like a beautiful park that I would have properly checked out if I had more time.​
Since we arrived at the airport around 11, and my flight didn’t leave for a few hours, we made a quick stop at the airport pond to add a few more species to the trip list and my life list, even if the views were mediocre at best. From the lifer side, I added Yellow-billed Pintail, Slate-colored Coot, and Harris’s Hawk, which brought the lifer total to 235, but we also added some widespread species that I can see within an hour’s drive of my home depending on the time of year, including Great and Snowy Egret, Pied-billed Grebe, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Neotropic Cormorant and Vermillion Flycatcher.​
I said goodbye to Nelson and thanked him for everything once again, passed through immigration with no issues and waited for my flight to departure. Thankfully the flight left without delays and by 9PM local time, I was already at home and talking about the trip with my family. Great views, great birds, great experience and one country that I’ll definitely return to and check out the spots I missed/had to skip over this time around.​
 

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