• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Northern Ecuador September 2022 (2 Viewers)


Well-known member
Northern Ecuador 10th-30th September 2022

With four people we decided to do this 2.5week trip to Northern Ecuador. For all of us our first South American experience and while two people had some experience from Mexico and Costa Rica for the other two it was the first time on the Western hemisphere. So basically, everything was completely new.

We and especially I mainly focussed on birdwatching rather than photographing, so you sadly wont find a lot of prime images in this report but I added some basic images to the E-Bird checklists I will add to each Day. To keep things interesting the full trip report list will be posted at the End, but of course you could stalk my ebird ;).
It is the first trip report Iam writing so I hope you will find it interesting and please forgive me my bad grammar.

We decided to be on some sort of semi budget trip, and we tried to keep the costs reasonable.

In the end we ended with around 2500€ p.P. including all expenditures.

We decided against a full guiding trip on purpose as we all are experienced birders and like to Find and ID the birds on our own, which is part of the birding experience. So, we booked some guiding on certain spots but did most on our own.

This of course was only possible with a good amount of preparation and a lot of hours was spend on learning in Field guides and learning some voices with the Merlin Audio App.

I speak Spanish fluently so that was not a problem for us. I think in the touristic areas and the more expensive lodges you can get around with English, but it is good to speak at least some basic Spanish to get around in the country.


Flight with KLM from Amsterdam to Quito and back via Guayaquil.

There are not a lot of options to get a direct flight from Europe. I can recommend KLM. We paid 710€ p.P. and luckily didn’t have any trouble at Schiphol airport with our luggage.

We rented a car from Europcar. I would recommend high clearance, but 4*4 is not required at this time of the year. Full insurance from the car companies is utterly expensive but you can get the basic insurance and cover that with a full insurance from a different company which saved for us around 400€. We didn’t have any trouble with getting and returning the car but I would advise at least some basic Spanish.

It was a Chevrolet SUV which might have needed 10 or so more Horsepower but brought us safely through the country.

Driving was surprisingly easy. We didn’t have heavy traffic in Quito and the Ecuadorians are driving rather defensively in the majority. Just get some basic feeling for the roads and only overtake on clear sight and you are fine. Most of the main roads were in very good condition, only the Loreto Road was an exception here which in addition to the heavy truck traffic made driving a bit uncomfortable.
Dirt roads are sometimes in bad conditions, and you get around slowly, but you don’t need to rely on those roads to cover the distances you want to do.

Costs: 1400€ including full insurance.


San Jorge Eco Lodge Quito

We decided to drive through Quito on our arrival Day and San Jorge seems to be a close by option if you want to go to Yanacocha and want to avoid Quito traffic in the Morning.

Rooms were very nice, and the lodge grounds look good, though we didn’t have a lot of time for birding.

3 course dinner was very delicious and a great introduction to the Ecuadorian cuisine.

Price: 60$ including Dinner

Hacienda San Vicente (Yellow House)

A very nice place to stay in Mindo, you can rent a full cabin with 4 people which cost 500$ for the whole week for us. The lodge ground is busy with birds, and it has its own trail network which is accessible. You have a usable kitchen in your cabins and so we decided to make our own breakfast and didn’t buy the option for 5$ day/person which is also offered by the yellow house.
For Dinner there are several options in Mindo which is nearby. I can personally recommend Bio Mindo which was great and had several vegetarian options.

Hotel Sol de Piedra

Basic Hotel in the town of Papallacta. Was available via booking.com so we chose this. Hotel is basic but fine, but you can’t take a shower in the morning unless you are a polar bear.

We could leave our luggage here and do the trips to Papallacta pass and Cabanye Coca NP without luggage and came in for a late breakfast which was nice.

19$ p.P. including breakfast

Guango Lodge

Well known lodge on the Eastern slope. Rusty but very cosy and with nice meals and a good trail network. I think almost nobody skips this lodge on the Northern route and rightful so. Staff is very friendly and helpful.

You can book this together with San Isidro to save a bit on the rates. And you could also visit this lodge without an overnight stay.

We paid 129$ p.P including three meals.

Cabanas Tamiaju

I can highly recommend this place if you visit the Cosanga area. Especially if you are on a tighter budget. This is a family-owned business, and the cabins are fully self-constructed wooden cabins but have everything you need and were very clean. Breakfast was delicious as well and they have a nice Hummingbird feeder in the garden and a trail network which accesses the nearby forest. The Guacamayos ridge is only 10 minutes away by car. You can have dinner here as well.

Costs 20$ p.P. including breakfast

Gran Selva Lodge

This lodge needs some love. It is located nicely on the road south of the napo river which leads to Gareno Lodge and has well forested areas nearby and the birding was good but the lodge itself is a little bit outdated. They had a swimming pool which was really nice in the heat and if you are out birding all day I think it is fine to stay here, although in hidhsight I would have chosen something a little bit closer to Puerto Misuahali probably or the little bit more expensive but with prime biriding opportunities AMAEcoLodge but for the price of 29$/night including breakfast and dinner you definitely can not complain.

Wild Sumaco Lodge

I think I don’t need to write a lot about Wild Sumaco. This lodge offers Prime birding opportunities and is extremely well managed. Staff great, birding great, food great, guide great, rooms good and clean, 10/10 would recommend this place. They offer different rates depending on how long you are staying, and you can also arrange packages with them which includes birding in different areas.

It is rather expensive at 149$/night including three meals but well worth the price.

Cabanas San Isidro

We wanted to visit this place earlier and longer during our trip but had to reschedule due to them being booked completely so we only stayed for a night and a morning here.

The rooms here are luxurious, food was good, and we got a couple of target birds. And the special night animals of the lodge

We paid 139$ including 3 meals p.P
Last edited:
Day 1) Flight and drive through Quito

Flight from Amsterdam to Quito, we picked up the car without problems, first birds of the trip were Rufous-collared Sparrow and Eared Dove, we drove slowly along the Quito Airport Pond, sadly there is no option to stop here and we didnt want to risk a police control in the first hour. Some species could be identified and we had our trip only views of Snowy Egret, Great Egret and Pied billed Grebe.
We drove rather straight through Quito, with a short issue when google wanted us to drive a road which was not a road but rather a donkey trail but after a short detour we were arriving in the last light at San Jorge Eco Lodge, we enjoyed a very good meal for the first evening. And acclimated to the height. Outside of a small headache and an exploding shampoo bottle we didnt have any issues fortunately.

Airport: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118473432
Airport Pond: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118473731
San Jorge Eco Lodge: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118472218
Day 2) Reserva Yanacocha
We were starting the day with some 20 minute Birding around the lodge. Here we enjoyed some of our first Neotropical families. Our first Hummingbirds included Black-tailed Trainbearer and Shining Sunbeam. And some quality Birds were seen as well including views of Blackish Tapaculo, Red crested Cotinga and Tawny Antpitta.

We then drove to Yanacocha, with some issues in the Route finding by google Maps, so we had to do a detour in Nono. Basically google gives you two options to access Yanacocha but one of those is through private access and you cant drive this way. The first entry looks (and also is on the first meters) extremely bad and so we didnt take it because we thought we had a second option.

On the road we had views of American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon and Brown bellied Swallow.
Instead of the planned 7:30 our arrival at Yanacocha was at 8:30. On the parking lot we had calling Equatorial Antpitta and Occelated Tapaculo. Both remained unseen but it was a good start. You pay the entrance fee of 5$ p.P. and then can explore the trails or the feeding areas at the entrance.
We decided to pay a visit to the feeders around the “comedor” which already gave us some of the Yanacocha specialities as Great Sapphirewing, Black-chested Mountain Tanager, Masked and Glossy Flowerpiercer and Yellow-breasted Brushfinch.

At the Entrance a soaring Andean Condor was an absolute highlight, this bird is rather scarce at Yanacocha and we were not expecting to see one of the most targeted birds of the trip so early on.

You have to do a longer hike to the upper feeders and we were a bit feeling the height. The day was warm and bright, so bird activity was rather low. And we didnt see a lot of birds in total. Highlights of our way up were superb views of Tawny Antpitta and Andean Guan. And a flyby Variable Hawk.

The Colibri activity at the upper feeders was high. Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Puffleg and Buff-winged Starfrontlet were nice additions, with the highlight being a Sword-billed Hummingbird allowing great views and the sound was equally impressive. A Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager was a colorful visitor.

The way back down only added our first Turkey Vulture and our only Supercilliaried Hemispingus of the trip.

Around 1pm the mist settled in and we left the reserve. At a short stop on the road we could add Black-crested Warbler, And Cinereous Conebill to the list.

We then tried to take the ecoroute from Nono to Mindo which turned out to be a bad idea. As we were informed later during the roadblocks earlier this year, a lot of heavy trucks took the ecoroute so it was in an extremely bad shape, only allowing very slow drives and almost no options to stop and watch for birds, especially when rain started to set in. So we arrived at the Yellow House in Mindo only around 5pm.

Our cabins were great and we had a complete house to our own. First birding in the garden added some of the common birds we would encounter every day around the house. Like Flame-rumped Tanager and Blue-gray Tanager, Red-headed Barbet and Ecuadorian Thrush.

San Jorge Ecolodge : https://ebird.org/checklist/S118535462
Road to Yanacocha: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118535483
Yanacocha: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118535431
Nono-Mindo Ecoroute https://ebird.org/checklist/S118541911
Yellow House: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118544177
Day 3) Mindo

We started with an early morning walk on the Yellow House trails.

Around the cabins we began with good views of Rufous Motmot which seemed to nest here and a trip only Buff-rumped Warbler at the river. The trails are starting through a former plantation which is partly reforested but disturbed habitat and a bit of forest edge. The actual forest is only reached after around 2-2.5km of a hike.

As almost everything was new, we didn’t come far and reached the actual forest rather lately.

A lot of tanagers were around with Bay-headed, Golden, White-lined and White-shouldered being all new and seen very well.
A small flock of Amazona were firstly only a flyover but then allowed good views for identification and they turned out to be Red-billed Parrots.
Our first small neotropical flock held, Scaly-throated and Lineated Foliage Gleaner, Spotted Woodcreeper, Northern Parula and Slate throated Redstart, as well as a Slaty Spinetail and several Chivi Vireos.

Zeledons Antbirds were calling and seen briefly. While even without feeders we added a good Hummingbird collection to our list. With Rufous-tailed Hummingbird being the most common and a Brown Inca a rather unexpected addition.

Finally reaching the forest at a suboptimal time we enjoyed great views of the small Ornate Flycatcher. Gray-breasted Wood Wrens called, and a small flock held the Highlight of the Day in a Scaled Fruiteater.

Back at the cabins we saw a Choco Tyrannulet which finished the morning with a good total of 62 species.

We spent most of the afternoon at the “Via a las cascadas” in Mindo. A street starting out of town through a well forested area.

A nice Tanager flock had Blue-necked, Rufous-throated, Guira and our trip only Metallic-Green Tanager.
While we heard both large Toucan species before and seen some quiet ones, a calling Choco Toucan was the first confirmed visual ID. A nice flock of White-collared Swift flew overhead and a pair of Collared Aracari made a short stop on a roadside tree.

The first full day at Mindo was a good introduction to a lot of the families we were going to encounter through the rest of the trip. A lot of more common birds were seen very well here and we got some trip only highlights as well.

Yellow House: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118570583 ; https://ebird.org/checklist/S118588266 ; https://ebird.org/checklist/S118588948
Via a las Cascadas: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118588213
Day 4) Milpe Bird Sanctuary

The early Morning at the Yellow House started with a blast. A Sunbittern was walking along the Swimming Pond of the Yellow House. Unfortunately one of us missed the bird, which flew away out of sight.
We then drove 30 minutes to Milpe Bird Sanctuary. Milpe is an area managed by the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation (MCF) which is located in the foothills of the Choco Andes. They have a variety of forest species with the specialities here being the manakins.
When we arrived the gate was still closed and we birded the road a bit but didnt see anything notable. Shortly after the warden came to open the gate.
As we wanted to visit the other sanctuaries of the MCF in the next days we bought a combo ticket for 22$ which allows you entrance to Rio Silanche and Pacha Quinde as well.
As it was still early we skipped the buzzing hummingbird feeders first and went directly to the forest.

The forest was rather quiet and we didnt manage to find a good flock firstly. But two Choco Warbler were a good start and we heard several calling Rufous-rumped Antwren. After some time, we heard the unique sound of a Club-winged Manakin and also got excellent views of the bird. White-bearded Manakins were displaying as well with a maybe even better sound, but remained unseen. On our way back to the feeding are we finally found a nice mixed species flock, with Gray-and-gold Tanager, three species of Foliage Gleaner, Several Yellow-throated Chlorospingus and a Slaty Antwren.

At the Hummingbird feeders we could add several new species for the trip with Green Thorntail, Purple-bibbed Whitetip and a single Empress Brilliant. The fruit feeder was completely empty of birds but after some time a Tayra came and ate everything in a very professional way you could easily tell, that it wasnt his first visit to this feeder.

It was getting a little bit late and bird activity notably went down. We took the way to Milpe Gardens, which allowed good views of 2 Crested Guans and a singing Scaly-breasted Wren.

The way back along the road, added some birds of more open areas to the daylist, including the only Snowy-throated Kingbird of the trip.

We had to pick up cash in a well named town “Los Bancos” because Mindo has no functioning ATM, which surprised me as it is a really touristic town. In general ATMs were rather rare, so you should have an overview of your cash money, as credit cards are not accepted in a lot of places. Here we saw our only House Sparrows of the trip.
In the afternoon we decided to have a look at the Mindo-Nono Ecoruta from the lower entrance to look if the road is better.
It was not, so we didn’t go far and decided to take the mainroad on our day in the Upper Valley.
At our stop at the lower road, we only saw four species at all, but three of them were new with Flavescent Flycatcher, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager and the stunning Toucan Barbet.

We decided to finish the day with some birding at the Yellow House gardens.
Here we could add Rusty-margined Flycatcher to our list. Two perched Bronze-winged Parrots were not new but the best views we have gotten so far and several hundred White-collared Swifts flying overhead before roosting were spectacular.
Last edited:
Day 5) Rio Silanche

We went to the Choco lowlands at Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary. For this day we had booked Heike Brieschke in advance as a guide. Heike is a German biologist living in Ecuador for over 20 years. She has her own private conservation area and together with her husband she is working on several educational projects regarding conservation and environmental training. Furthermore, she is an experienced guide not only for the Mindo area but complete Ecuador.
You can contact her via Mindo Lindo

Heike picked us up early at 4:20 to drive with us the 1.5hours to Rio Silanche. It was very foggy, and I was happy that I didn’t have to drive today.

We arrived at the reserve at the first light and immediately headed to the canopy tower.

Bird activity was very high and especially for the voices we were very happy to have Heike with us.

We quickly added, Striped Woodhaunter and Black-striped - and Northern Barred Woodcreeper to the list. Chestnut-backed Antbird was calling from the forest floor and a Broad-billed Motmot and a White-tailed Trogon perched directly in front of the tower.

Small flocks flew in and out permanently, mostly containing Tanagers, Dacnis and Honeycreeper.

In little time we added Golden-hooded Tanager, Scarlet-thighed-, Blue- and Scarlet-breasted Dacnis as well as Emerald Tanager. A little bit later Dusky-faced, Tawny-crested and Scarlet-browed Tanager almost completed the set of tanager Targets.

The choco endemic Orange-fronted Barbet showed well and we had talked about our bad luck with woodpeckers until now. As birding goes sometimes in quick succession we could add Olivaceous Piculet, Guayaquil Woodpecker and Cinnamon Woodpecker to the list.

Flycatchers were frequent visitors within the Tanager flocks. And we saw Brown-capped- and Sooty-headed Tyrannulet as well as Ochre-bellied- and Yellow-margined Flycatcher that way, while a Streaked Flycatcher used a Secopia tree as a regular perch and could be observed well during the morning.

Notable Hummingbirds were a Purple-crowned Fairy and a Purple-chested Hummingbird.

After ca. 4.5 hours we decided to leave the tower with almost 70 species without having moved and explored the forest trails.
Now the sky cleared up a little bit and interestingly we started to the the raptors not from the tower but from the forest floor. New additions were a Swallow-tailed Kite (one of my favorite raptors) and a rather rare bird for Ecuador with a Zone-tailed Hawk.

We didn’t have luck with any understory flock so every new bird was hard work but we got good quality birds.
It started with calling Purple-throated Fruitcrows in the distance. Then a White-whiskered Puffbird as seen very well, while we only got some quick glimpses on a calling White-throated Spadebill.
My personal worst “view of the trip” of a White-flanked Antwren, which everyone else saw rather well, was quickly forgotten because we got excellent views of a pair of Choco Trogons soon afterwards.
We then tried the roadside for Jacamars and Yellow Tyrannulet but had no luck with either of them. But a thicket held a couple of Bay Wrens which allowed some decent views for this rather skulky species.
We left this nice, but probably undervisited bird sanctuary in the early afternoon to continue birding along the Rio Silanche road.

We made frequent stops where it was possible and new species were added on each of them. Mainly birds of opener areas like Thick-billed Seed-Finch, Blue-black Grassquit or Olive-crowned Yellowthroat but also some birds you would rather expect in the forest as we finally found a Rufous-tailed Jacamar, a Dusky Antbird and a calling Black-crowned Antshrike.

A Pale-legged Hornero on a powerline was a bird we definitely wanted to see but sadly we missed the Masked WaterTyrant which is usually around at this spot. But a pair of Bat Falcon and very good views of a Dusky Pigeon finished a great day at Rio Silanche.

Heike then took us to her reserve at Mindo Lindo for a coffee and some looks at her feeders. Located a little bit higher than Mindo, we could add some new species to our list, such as Velvet Purple Coronet, Fawn-breasted Brilliant and Golden-naped Tanager.

We finished the day with a very good total of 129 species.

Rio Silanche: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118759924
Rio Silanche Road: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118760679
Mindo Lindo: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118759912

And as I messed up yesterdays post, here the links
Yellow House: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118606492 ; https://ebird.org/checklist/S118760693
Milpe: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118696183
Ecoruta: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118695563
Last edited:
It's weird that this is the second Ecuador trip report in a row that comments on how skulky Bay Wren is. From my experience in Panama, they were one of the most common and easy wrens to see, especially at the Canopy Lodge. Of course that could be a different form, but does highlight differences between different areas from a birding perspective.
Interesting to see the main differences between your day in Silanche and mine, you got a few species I just missed since they wouldn't vocalize but the biggest contrast is probably the fact we did Milpe that same afternoon, instead of in the morning like you did. Sure, we had a mixed flock, but high in the canopy and the sun position made it hard to see almost anything, even if the flock had many of the species you saw in yours!

Also, a bit jealous of the Tayra since the best mammal I got all trip was probably the Red-tailed Squirrel, since the rest were either seen before in Panama or too brief of a view to be enjoyable as a sighting.
It's weird that this is the second Ecuador trip report in a row that comments on how skulky Bay Wren is. From my experience in Panama, they were one of the most common and easy wrens to see, especially at the Canopy Lodge. Of course that could be a different form, but does highlight differences between different areas from a birding perspective.
I can confidently say that if it wasn't for how lucky I've been with Wrens in the US, I'd consider them a nemesis family, most of the species of them I see in the Neotropics are painful skulkers bar (Southern) House Wren. There are moments of great luck where I can see one pop out, but most times it's just a brief glimpse after many attempts on many locations (like it was with Bay Wren) and even more than that, I just get the best calling but never in view (Scaly-breasted and Whiskered in Ecuador and Buff-breasted in Guyana)...
I dipped on Scaly-breasted in Panama, but I don't think we even heard any. Otherwise, knock on wood, I have had good luck with wrens, and pretty much got all the gettable species (9) on my Panama trip (there were a few other species that I could have seen, but they required trips to habitats/sites I didn't visit).
It's weird that this is the second Ecuador trip report in a row that comments on how skulky Bay Wren is. From my experience in Panama, they were one of the most common and easy wrens to see, especially at the Canopy Lodge. Of course that could be a different form, but does highlight differences between different areas from a birding perspective.
Got to be down to precise location, luck time of year etc. I only saw it twice on my trip to Panama...
Interesting to see the main differences between your day in Silanche and mine, you got a few species I just missed since they wouldn't vocalize but the biggest contrast is probably the fact we did Milpe that same afternoon, instead of in the morning like you did. Sure, we had a mixed flock, but high in the canopy and the sun position made it hard to see almost anything, even if the flock had many of the species you saw in yours!

Also, a bit jealous of the Tayra since the best mammal I got all trip was probably the Red-tailed Squirrel, since the rest were either seen before in Panama or too brief of a view to be enjoyable as a sighting.
We saw Tayra several times during the trip. But in general Mammals were rather disappointing as well to us. I think Silanche was one of the areas were you could easily spend 3-4 full days and still get something new. Really enjoyed that place even though the surroundings were rather sad.
It's weird that this is the second Ecuador trip report in a row that comments on how skulky Bay Wren is. From my experience in Panama, they were one of the most common and easy wrens to see, especially at the Canopy Lodge. Of course that could be a different form, but does highlight differences between different areas from a birding perspective.
Bay Wren definetly wasnt rare on the Western slope but mostly heard and only seen 2 times and only that one time with decent views.
Day 6) Upper Tandayapa Valley
Today we headed up for the Upper Tandayapa Valley to find some specialities of the higher altitudes of the Western slope. Unfortunately, we dipped on the sought after Mountain Toucan but found a couple of other good birds. In hindsight, we probably should have invested one more day here on the Western slope where we would have been on a higher altitude on first light. We were at first light at Alambi but the amount of stops and birds we got there got us pretty late uphill.

The plan for the day was to enter the Ecoruta at the Alambi reserve and continue the road past Tandayapa up to Bellavista.

Roadside birding was very good here. Every stop produced new birds as Andean Solitaire, White-winged Brushfinch or Barred Becard. A migrating Osprey was unexpected and apparently the first Ebird record for the Tandayapa Valley.

On a stop close to Pacha Quinde Reserve we found a Blue-Capped Tanager in a small Flock and saw two large Raptors soaring in the nearby valley. They turned out to be Black-and-chestnut Eagles. Globally rare birds but regularly seen in this area. Still a very unexpected find for us.
With our Mindo Cloudforest Foundation combo ticket, we were also allowed to enter a small but very cosy place called Pacha Quinde Reserve with a lot of Hummingbird Feeders. The place is tricky to find and not signed at all. You must park in a bend and then walk through a very inconspicious path right next to the road. We had no signal there, so we drove blind only relying on the map, which proved to be difficult. Best is to sort out GPS before here.

The place was full of Hummingbirds. We managed to see 14 different species including the much sought after Rufous-gaped Hillstar which is difficult to get in other locations. The fruit feeder was interesting as well, providing good views of Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Golden-naped Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain Tanager.

We went even a bit higher up. Stopping for a coffee at Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge, where we were greeted by a Pale-legged Hornero. A bird I haven’t been expecting at such altitude.

The Hummingbird feeders were rather quiet, but a pair of White-sided Flowerpiercer was nice to see and a welcome addition to our list.
Afterwards we walked up the road trying for the toucans but without success. A calling Crested Quetzal remained invisible, but a small feeding flock held Striped Treehunter and several of the lovely Pearled Treerunner which marked a lifer 2000 for one in our group. I think there are worse birds to do so. And finally we added 2 Band-tailed Pigeon to our list. A bird we had expected much earlier on our trip.

Rain started to fall, and we decided to drop down to Alambi Reserve.

Entry was 5$ per Person including a coffee and access to the feeders and the river.

We headed down to the river first and managed to find Torrent Tyrannulet quickly and White-capped Dipper with a bit of work on our way back. Away from the feeders only a few other birds were seen but two Three-striped Warbler were new to the list.

We then spent almost two hours in the rain at the feeders. Activity was high and we had options on several new Hummingbird species, but only a Western Emerald was new for us. Fruit feeder activity was high as well, with several Tanager species including Blue-necked and both expected species of Saltator.

We called it a day and went back to the Yellow House only to be greeted again by a Sunbittern, this time directly at the pond in front of our cabin.

We saw the Sunbittern again on a later Day so it seems to be a reliable place for it, especially as we havent spend a lot of time looking for it.

Tandayapa Valley: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118807413
Pacha Quinde: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118809010
Bellavista: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118807320
Alambi: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118807310
Last edited:
Thanks for reporting, it brings back good memories.

I'm surprised to hear you missed Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, but it goes to show that birds you randomly bump into (like it happened to me with the Mountain-toucan), you sometimes consider them 'easy' while they aren't.
Ecuador is such a country where you could see 600 sp. of birds in 3-4 weeks of birding, but one group could see 150 different species than the other.

ps: Most wrens are imho fairly easy. They react very well on playback. Southern Nightingale Wren (aka Scaly-breasted) is quite a skulker though. Contrary to Bay Wren / Whiskered Wren (and many others), I didn't manage to photograph it, despite having heard them all over Northern S-America.
We missed Black-billed Mountain Toucan as well 🙈.
according to the Wrens (we saw 12 species) most were well visible with a little bit of time and effort. But Scaly-breasted Wren remained a heard only.
Day 7) Refugio Paz de las Aves

Today was the day every birder visiting the Mindo area is doing and also must do in my opinion.
The Antpitta tour with Angel Paz. I think there is enough text and context available, so I don’t have to introduce the family anymore. But recent development made it necessary for Angel and his brother Rodrigo to buy the forest and farmland around the refugio. A crowdfunding was successful, so this area stays protected, and the next generation is already trained to guide and keep the business and conservation going.

The tour contains of a Cock of the Rock lek. Up to 5 different Antpitta species at feeding spots, a nice breakfast at the comedor, the best fruit feeders we visited on our trip and whatever is available at the moment.

You must be there before Sunrise at around 5:45 for the lek. The place is not easy to find, again GPS coordinates are your friend here and you can park at a small Cock of the Rock sign.

On the entrance road we flushed a female Lyre-tailed Nightjar which was a great start to a great day. At the lek we already heard the Giant Antpitta calling a little further down the road but first we went to the Lek and had around 10 Cock of the Rock displaying very nicely and especially with a great sound.

Other notable birds at the hide were a small flock of Spot-fronted Swift and a flying Double-toothed Kite. Angel then said, in 3 Minutes a Wood-Quail will come in, and indeed a Dark-backed Woodquail came in after exactly three minutes feeding a Banana basically out of his hand. This was quite surreal birding, which basically continued during the morning.

On the road we then had a scope view of a nesting Rufous-bellied Nighthawk (Who the heck has found this) and then continued to the Star bird “Maria” the Giant Antpitta. As we already heard her before, we were quite confident to see it, and indeed it didn’t take long to get some great views of this very difficult bird outside of this special place.

We continued in our cars upwards to the next spot, where the Yellow-breasted Antpitta showed quickly as well but only for a short time, and we got nice views of a Crested Guan pearched in a nearby tree.

We then went on to our last stop where it got completely ridiculous in my opinion. In around 50meters and 10 minutes Angel and Rodrigo managed to show us 3 different Antpitta species. Chestnut crowned, Ochre breasted- and Moustached Antpitta. Only the Chestnut-crowned needed a bit of time to come out of cover but then showed beautifully. Furthermore, another Giant Antpitta was calling nearby. Apparently, a young bird is seen here regularly and already trained to come in for the worms as well, which will make the whole experience even more surreal.

Our question was, how many of those Antpittas are really sitting in the other forests around us and how didn’t we manage to see or hear any on our own yet outside from the high elevations.
Only target which stayed elusive was the Rufous-breasted Antthrush, which called nearby but didn’t want to show itself.

Basically, that was the Antpitta “Grand Slam”, so we all enjoyed a great breakfast with Empanadas and some sort of fried banana balls, called “balones”. The Paz family then left, not before showing us a roosting Common Potoo, but we were allowed to stay at the feeders as long as we want and to explore around the area a bit.
The feeders were great, with Toucan Barbet and Crimson-rumped Toucanet feeding closely and a lot of Tanagers around. Mainly Golden, Flame-faced and Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers.
The flocks had other species as well and we could enjoy our first Mountain Wren climbing up tangles and vines in the trees and both Smoky-brown and Powerful Woodpecker (what a beast).

We decided to have a rather quiet afternoon with some birding around our cabin at the yellow house. The short afternoon birding had a lot of the common species around the Yellow House and added a calling White-throated Crake and a Fasciated Tigerheron to the list.

Refugio Paz: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118850945 (with some of my more decent photos)
Yellow House: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118862902
Last edited:
Day 8) Reserva Amagusa

Our last day in the West brought us to the Mashpi area, which is the easiest place in Ecuador for several Choco endemics of the foothills.

We went to Reserva Amagusa which is a nice private Reserve run by Sergio and Doris. Now they are building some accommodations for overnight which I then would recommend as the drive from Mindo is a bit exhausting and we arrived around 7am. So being there directly in the Morning after an overnight stay should be even better.
We had a lot of luck here. When we arrived at Amagusa, another small group arrived which had arranged a tour with Sergio beforehand and Sergio directly invited us to come with them and immediately showed us the first speaciality of the region with a Rose-faced Parrot. I was initially a bit worried as I had bad experiences with this sort of accidental guiding when it comes to the price later. But Sergio didn’t charge us anything aside from the entrance fee to Amagusa which was 10$ if I remember correctly. We added a good tip on that obviously because we really had around 3.5hours of guiding.
But continuing with the birds, we went down the road to the entrance of the Mashpi lodge which is the accommodation in the area if you have the money. I think a room is around 1300$ a night. Apparently a lot of rich Ecuadorians are coming here from Quito to enjoy the weekends.

On the birds we picked up a Green-fronted Lancebill at a small gully. This guy was just started to build his nest there, which was a good find for Sergio as this species is not 100% reliable. More Choco endemics came flying in with Moss-backed and Glistering-green Tanager and a pair of Orange-breasted Fruiteater being the standout ones. At the road we heard a short sound which was probably a Choco Vireo, but it was heard too briefly and not enough for us to tick it. But a foraging Rufous-rumped Antwren allowed good views of a species we didnt see well before.

What we could tick however was a surprisingly good view of a Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant which is usually rather elusive.

The main attraction on our way back were three Black Solitaire, which provided good views and very interesting calls.
At the reserve we enjoyed nice views of Black-chinned Mountain- more Moss-backed and two Rufous-throated Tanagers as well as two Golden-collared Honeycreeper which are rather local on the Western slope. Among a couple of commoner birds, like Common Tody-Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow and two House Wren nesting in a provided nestbox.

Back at the road we found a single small feeding flock which luckily had three more new birds for us.
Sharpe`s Wren, Black-billed Peppershrike and a very nice Pacific Tuftedcheek. We left Amagusa with 65 species, and a lot of our targets in the bag.
I really enjoyed the place. The whole atmosphere was great, you only bird a small area and birds are easily accessible.

Driving back to Mindo, we had a Wood-Quail flying over the Mashpi road which most likely was a Dark-backed. A spot for Black-tipped Cotinga was sadly unsuccessful.

Amagusa: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118915905
Mashpi Road: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118926210
Day 9) Calacali, Antisana, Papallacta

We came to our transit day, where we finally left the Western slope, crossed the Andes and ended on the Eastern side for the first time. And furthermore the day I feared I had planned wrongly as many people tend to have the overnight in Quito before going to Antisana, but well sometimes you take some risks when planning such a tour.
The plan was to start at Mindo, drive through Quito to Antisana, bird Antisana and then continue to our hotel in Papallacta.

A lot of driving and passing through Quito two times could have gone wrong. But we were lucky. It was a Sunday and traffic was not a big deal at all. We started birding on a former hippodrome in Calacali a “suburb” of Quito, which I found randomly on E-Bird and has typical inter Andean scrub birds on the list. A habitat we wouldn’t bird again on our trip, so we gave it a try. We arrived at 6:50 and the place turned out as expected. We only saw ten different Species there but five of them were new and not seen again on our trip. Common Ground Dove, Tropical Mockingbird, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Ash-breasted Sierra Finch and the gorgeous Golden Grosbeak. Furthermore this hippodrome had a nice lost place vibe and I can recommend it to everyone passing through, because the scenery is great.
Three hours later we arrived at the Tambo Condor Restaurant, a must stop for every birder visiting Antisana, not only for the Condors which are around (we didn’t see any here by the way) but also for Giant Hummingbird, which turned out to be easily seen but was not very cooperative for a picture. When this guy came flying in, you wouldnt think of a Hummingbird.
Other highland specialities in the area were our first of many Carunculated Caracaras, two Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and a Black-winged Ground Dove.

The Antisana reserve is amazing. We had clear sky and great views of Antisana and Cotopaxi Volcano. The scenery is stunning and you don’t want to miss this place when you are in Ecuador.

Our first stop was at a small river, where a path to the right is a good stakeout for Ecuadorian Hillstar. We immediately saw a female but sadly no male showed up. We didn’t see any perched male for the whole day. At the river was also our first Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, a Tufted Tit Tyrant and a pair of Andean Condor soaring overhead.

We continued our path to Laguna Mica. Bird density in such habitat is usually low and here it was not different. Apparently it was a very dry year, so Andean Ibis was completely absent from the area. But several short stops got us a couple of new birds, such as Plain-capped Ground Tyrant, Andean Lapwing and Stout-billed Cinclodes. On the Mammal front we had large numbers of White-tailed Deer but nothing else.

Laguna Mica was full of tourists. As it was a Sunday apparently half of Quito was here but Birding was still good. We also bumped into an American tour group, one of the to me surprisingly fewer occasions we encountered other birders. Apparently the season was only starting and many groups tend to visit later in October or November.

On the lake itself were large numbers of Andean Duck, several Yellow-billed Pintails and Slate-colored Coots and two Silvery Grebes. Andean Gulls were also present. We had hoped for a couple of Northern Waders but apart from a single Baird’s Sandpiper, nothing else was seen.

The nearby slopes had several singing Many-striped Canasteros, where one showed well. A Tawny Antpitta and a singing Grass (Paramo) Wren.
Chestnut-winged Cinclodes and Plumbeous Sierra Finches were common around the lakeshore.

Happy with a lot of targets nailed, we drove the way back through the reserve and in direction Papallacta.
Here we had some trouble with the placement of petrol Stations in Ecuador. We knew there was no option to fill up between Quito and Baeza so we navigated to a nearby Petrol Station at a roundabout. To get to the correct side of this roundabout you had to do a major detour into the other direction only to then have 4! Petrol stations on the same side of a road in around 800metres.

On the way up to Papallacta we saw one of the two accidents during our whole trip. In general I felt driving through Ecuador was very easy compared to other countries. Birding was rather uneventful, around the Hotel Sol de Piedra were several calling Tawny Antpittas and a single Andean Gull the only memorable species.

We had a great dinner at a small roadside restaurant with fresh trout which was raised accross the street.

Calacali: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118994297
Tambo Condor: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118994168
Antisana: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118992341
Laguna Mica: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118994620
Papallacta: https://ebird.org/checklist/S118994101
Warning! This thread is more than 2 years ago old.
It's likely that no further discussion is required, in which case we recommend starting a new thread. If however you feel your response is required you can still do so.

Users who are viewing this thread