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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Northern Ecuador September 2022 (1 Viewer)

Day 7) Refugio Paz de las Aves
It's really interesting to see the broad difference between the species seen between your group and mine just a month apart, the fact you got Toucan Barbet up-close makes it something I could only dream of, since I mostly just a butt view and their constant calls from the faraway hills for the trip...

Also, the Chestnut-crowned were completely separated from the other Antpittas when I went, they were at the entrance of the trail for the Ocellated Tapaculo (which you have to pay an extra fee to see).

I can also say with confidence that there are a lot of Antpittas we missed because sometimes they don't even call, just stay in one place for a long period (that was my experience with Ochre-breasted both times I saw it outside of Paz de las Aves).

Day 8) Reserva Amagusa
This location was pretty similar in experience, although I missed a few of your seen targets (Peppershrike, Honeycreeper and Tuftedcheek). I can say that we probably saw the same Lancebill since the one I took photos of was watching a nest in a small gully!

The Wood-Quail was definitely Dark-backed in the Amagusa area, so you can add it to the list for that day if you want. We also heard them down the valley, but couldn't even dream of seeing one outside of the very skulky one in Paz (that one was still unused to the feeding, so we had to spend around 30 minutes just hoping it would call back).
It's really interesting to see the broad difference between the species seen between your group and mine just a month apart, the fact you got Toucan Barbet up-close makes it something I could only dream of, since I mostly just a butt view and their constant calls from the faraway hills for the trip...

Also, the Chestnut-crowned were completely separated from the other Antpittas when I went, they were at the entrance of the trail for the Ocellated Tapaculo (which you have to pay an extra fee to see).

I can also say with confidence that there are a lot of Antpittas we missed because sometimes they don't even call, just stay in one place for a long period (that was my experience with Ochre-breasted both times I saw it outside of Paz de las Aves).

This location was pretty similar in experience, although I missed a few of your seen targets (Peppershrike, Honeycreeper and Tuftedcheek). I can say that we probably saw the same Lancebill since the one I took photos of was watching a nest in a small gully!

The Wood-Quail was definitely Dark-backed in the Amagusa area, so you can add it to the list for that day if you want. We also heard them down the valley, but couldn't even dream of seeing one outside of the very skulky one in Paz (that one was still unused to the feeding, so we had to spend around 30 minutes just hoping it would call back).
Was also very surprised about your Angel Paz report.
Apparently you did the Giant Antpitta up in the area which we heard only and was not yet habituated. We basically had the Chestnut-crowned directly above the Ochre-breasted and the Moustached. They offered us the Occelated Tapaculo as well, but one of us had a knee injury and therefore we didnt want to try it. We met two American Birders later in Yellow House who did this tour and said it was a good choice, as it was a long and steep forest climb at this time.
Regarding Amagusa I thought, that this Lancebill is gonna be famous :D. We missed out on the Flowerpiercer and the Choco Vireo sadly and I wasnt aware of the other great option in the area. Which I heavily regretted after reading your report. In general I found the Amagusa area one of the most interesting areas we have birded during the whole trip.
Was also very surprised about your Angel Paz report.
Apparently you did the Giant Antpitta up in the area which we heard only and was not yet habituated. We basically had the Chestnut-crowned directly above the Ochre-breasted and the Moustached. They offered us the Occelated Tapaculo as well, but one of us had a knee injury and therefore we didnt want to try it. We met two American Birders later in Yellow House who did this tour and said it was a good choice, as it was a long and steep forest climb at this time.
Regarding Amagusa I thought, that this Lancebill is gonna be famous :D. We missed out on the Flowerpiercer and the Choco Vireo sadly and I wasnt aware of the other great option in the area. Which I heavily regretted after reading your report. In general I found the Amagusa area one of the most interesting areas we have birded during the whole trip.
When I went, the Tapaculo option was a long walk through an open farmland and then reach the forest, not sure how much walking it would have been, but they said it would have taken about 40 minutes at a normal pace, I kind of regret not taking it considering it's now a nemesis bird, but if I did, I probably would have missed a couple of lifers, including two megas in Gorgeted Sunangel and Mountain Toucan.

Guayabillas is definitely one of those roads that outsiders aren't familiar with but locals know well, and it honestly makes me wonder why? It goes through prime Choco habitat without having to leave further West and the potential is amazing, but I guess the established routes take priority unless you go with a local trying to cater for something slightly off the beaten track.
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
Brings back some great memories at that time 2019 the Giant Antpitta (Maria) was chased off the worms by this Dark-backed Wood Quail


  • dark backed woodquail.JPG
    dark backed woodquail.JPG
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Day 10) Papallacta to Guango

Today we went to the highest points of the trip to look for the Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe.

The path at the radio Antennas opens at eight a clock. Same for the Cayambe-Coca, which is a bit sad, as being early up there in Cayambe Coca and then target the antennas a little bit later, might ahve been more productive. You can bird around the Termas de Papallacta but Habitat is very degraded and didnt look promising to us. We left early to start birding the Laguna Papallacta on the way. Sadly, the road north of the lake seems to be closed completely at the moment. But the laguna itself had several Andean Teal, which we missed at Antisana as well as two Spotted Sandpiper and a single Southern Lapwing.

We continued upwards to the Papallacta pass, birding the surroundings of the pass, before the road opens for access to the Antennas.
Here we got great views of a male Ecuadorian Hillstar as well as a nicely perched, Blue-mantled Thornbill. Tawny Antpitta were common and a single Ecuatorial Antpitta was only heard again but not seen. Plumbeous Sierra Finches were everywhere, and a Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant was a nice addition.
Then we drove up to the pass, searching for the Seedsnipes. We tried for around 1.5 hours but without any success. It was very good weather around the antennas and there is a lot of habitat for the Seedsnipes. Sadly, one of our major targets was dipped.

During a bad time of the day, we then went back to Papallacta and to Cayambe Coca Nationalpark.

There was maintenance in the ranger office so the checkpoint was directly at the termas, and you couldn’t drive past the regular checkpoint. But parking uphill and then going by foot was possible.

Birding was unsurprisingly very slow, but we managed to find a small flock with some high quality birds. Here we could add White-banded Tyrannulet, Black-backed Bush-Tanager and the scarce Masked Mountain-Tanager to our list. Funnily we again saw 2 Andean Condor. Our third Condor spot. A bird we only expected in Antisana.

A calling Spillmann’s Tapaculo was a great finish and we then drove back downhill.
We tried a spot for Crescent-faced Antpitta without success but found a lovely flock nearby, with several Pearled Treerunner, Blue-backed Conebill, Spectacled Redstart and a White-chinned Thistletail, which probably didn’t belong to the feeding flock itself. A Viridian Metailtail completed a list, which was not long but added a couple of new and trip only species to our list.
This area is not often visited by birders but has a lot of potential, sadly the gate here also does not open before 8am and the area around the Termas is very disturbed and doesn’t seem promising for good birds. But a full morning here in the upper elevations seems rewardable.

We checked out from our Hotel and then drove the 12km to the famous Guango lodge.
Guango is the “typical” spot for higher altidude Eastern slope birding in Ecuador at around 2900m.

You can visit this as a day visitor or stay at the lodge overnight. I can highly recommend the place. A bit rusty but very cosy, good food and very good service. The local manager Daniel is very good and knowledgeable about birds. If you have some targets, just ask him, you will get the best advices.

The Hummingbird feeders were great and having a good variety of species and a lof of new ones as it was the first East slope feeder we visited. Most common were Chestnut-breasted Coronet, but also Long-tailed Sylphs and Tourmaline Sunangel showed very well, White-bellied and Gorgeted Woodstar made a great sound appearance and we saw our second Sword-billed Hummingbird of the trip.

We then tried at the river for Torrent Duck. Usually, a very good and reliable spot but we had no luck today and neither on the next day, so it might be difficult to get one on the trip. But Torrent Tyrannulet and White-capped Dipper showed that the river has a good quality.

Guango has a blind with a moth trap and a food feeder. Here we saw Green- and Turquiose Jay as well as Chestnut-capped Brushfinch and Mountain Cacique.

We enjoyed a great dinner and a nice hot beverage with cinnamon and sugar cane alcohol called Canelazo.
Today we crossed the 300 species count.

Laguna: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119026995
Radio Antennas: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119026966
Cayambe Coca: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119048704
Guango: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119056876
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Day 11) Guango Lodge
Guango Lodge has a Trail network through nice temperate Forest on both sides of the main road. It also has an extensive trail along the Guango and Papallacta River which usually is good for the typical fast flowing Andean river species. Birding here is in my opinion easier as in the cloud or tropical forests on the western slope.

We started early to be at the moth feeder before sunrise. I was very excited on this, but it was rather disappointing a band of Turquoise Jay and Mountain Cacique made a quick deal with the insects and apart from 2 Russet-crowned Warbler nothing else showed up. So we crossed the road and tried for the "sendero" on the other side which is the best place for Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, which we also encountered there. Same for a Barred Fruiteater, which gave its high pitched call but remained elusive.
In the understory we had a calling Chestnut-naped Antpitta and saw Rufous-headed Pygmy Tyrant as well as Rufous-crowned Tody Flycatcher, which apparently is a rare sighting at this altitude. Two Andean Guan feeding at Bananas were a nice sight and on our way back we found two nice flocks and new birds came in left and right.

Highlights were Lacrimose- and Buff-breasted Mountain Tanager, Streaked Tuftedcheek and my personal favourite, a Plushcap feeding very close to the path.

We had a nice and quick breakfast and continued down to the river to finally find the Torrent Duck, which we didn’t do but a much rarer Fasciated Tiger-Heron. Birding along the trails was good as well. We ecountered several flocks, with Grass-green Tanager, Black-eared Hemispingus, Slaty and Gray-browed Brushfinch as well as Gray-hooded Bush Tanagers being new for the trip. A Hooded Mountain Tanager at the parking lot was the last possible Mountain Tanager on our trip. So we managed to get a clean score on this impressive group of birds.

We left Guango after Lunch and continued to the Cosanga area staying at the Cabanas Tamiaju.

We were a little bit exhausted, so we did a somehow lazy afternoon not investing much into birding.
The forest in the back of the lodge is good though with calling White-bellied Antpitta. At the Hummingbird feeder, Green-backed Hillstar was an easy and trip only addition. Several "Amazona" type Parrots were flying overhead. We safely identified a group of Scaly-naped Parrots. I flushed a Band-winged Nightjar which unfortunately no one else connected on.
I think you could easily spend a full morning here on the grounds but sadly our time in the area was kind of limited.

After a trip to the Cosanga river for Torrent Duck (no luck) we ate dinner in Cosanga.

Guango: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119078888 ; https://ebird.org/checklist/S119091110 ; https://ebird.org/checklist/S119099476
Cabanas Tamiaju: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119112185
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Day 12) Guacamayos Ridge and driving into the amazon lowlands

We started early to be at the Guacamayos Ridge at dawn. This Morning was the first time we really sucked without having a guide. The days before we always managed to see and identify a good number of birds. Even some voices were manageable, but at the Guacamayos Ridge it felt like we knew nothing.
Lighting was difficult with a lot of birds against the sun and high up in the trees or deep in the understory. In addition to that we had a lot of very indistinctive voices and so we had our worst morning with only 24 species and every single one was hard work.

Best bird was undoubtly a calling Barred Antthrush, one of the special birds of the ridge.
We found some feeding flocks mainly containing the same species. Pearled Treerunner were very common and several Tanager species as well. Most common were Hooded Mountain, Grass-green and Beryl-spangled Tanager. Short-billed Chlorospingus were also common as well as Handsome Flycatcher.

Anyway, we left rather disappointed, not because there have been no birds, but because we were underperforming in ID-ing them.
We then went to Cosanga again to miss the Torrent Duck. We were slowly running out of options here.
We had a late and good Breakfast at the Cabanas and didn’t leave before adding Chestnut-collared Swift to our list. We left the Andes to drive to the Grand Selva lodge near the Napo River at Puerto Misahualli.
The drive was easy. An ATM in Archidona didn’t want us to retrieve more than 200$ so we had to try again to get some more. In general, I was surprised that credit cards are only accepted at a few places and most of the time cash is the only option. I thought Germany was the worst country here, but apparently it isnt. And there are not many ATMs available to get cash. Around Tena was a large police checkpoint who was a little bit unhappy with our copied car papers from the rental company (well you never get the original papers I think) but then let us pass without issues.
A hard change of climate as even for the Amazon it was very hot. Grand Selva is located directly in nice secondary forest, so the lodge grounds and the access road were both very birdy.
But there was a lot of traffic at the road, where truck after truck with pipes for probably oil pipelines went into the forest. The whole area is basically a dark spot on ebird. Many people and tour groups are going down the Napo River by canoe to reach some more pristine forest and high quality lodges. But the area around Misuahalli has a lot to offer and I think deserves more attention by birders than It gets, especially as the costs are around 10% of the costs you pay up the Napo.

Almost every bird was new for us, so we took our time. The lodge has a nice swimming pool for people and a pool for birds, which attracted a Spotted Sandpiper and a Striated Heron. Several Flycatchers were perched on a wire, feeding over the pool. Here we saw and of course heard our first Great Kiskadee, a Boat-billed Flycatcher and two Gray-capped Flyatchers. All were regular visitors here during our three days.
White-banded Swallows were common and there was a mixed colony of Russet-backed Oropendola and Yellow-rumped Cacique directly at the hotel grounds.
Birding was extermely good here. We had Parrots and Parkaeets flying over constantly. Most numoerous were Blue-headed Parrot. Both Ani species were rather common and a White-necked Puffbird was a nice addition.
A flyover Amazonian Umbrellabird was a surprise for us, which were 2 Ferruginous Pygmy Owl sitting directly in front of the window of my room as well.
In the late evening we managed to add 8 more species in the last 20 minutes of daylight. Last and maybe also best bird of the day, were 2 Spix’s Guan feeding high in a tree. After a disappointing start a very successful end of the day. Which continued after dinner with several calling Tropical Screech Owl at night.

Cabansas Tamiaju: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119128446 https://ebird.org/checklist/S119143261
Guacamayos Ridge: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119139913
Cosanga: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119139931
Gran Selva Lodge: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119162628
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Day 13) Misuahalli and surroundings

Today we went into the footsteps of the “Big Day” record holding team and tried the road going through the Jatun Sacha and Mariana Miller reserve near Misahualli. In 2015 the Big Day record was setup on the Eastern slope of the Ecuadorian Andes, starting here in the lowlands near Misahualli they scored a grand total of 431 species in 24 hours (including an inland flight at night to bird some saltpans) which is absolutely stunning, and I can also recommend to read the published article. Basically, their daylight birding started on this road in the early morning after dawn. The road goes through good forest, and you have some better views than inside the forest, so we decided to focus mainly on the roadside birding in the Amazon.

Which proved to be a good choice. The start of the road was rather slow birding without many birds seen. Several Parrots and Parakeets flying overhead, Yellow-headed and Black Caracara were perched along the road and a calling White-throated Toucan came flying in. Those were the best birds we found. We then saw a large tree directly at the road and decided to stay a bit here, as those trees often work as some sort of magnet for birds. A good decision, as exactly this happened to work for us as well. A large Oropendola flying into the tree turned out to be a Green Oropendola and shortly after a Bare-necked Fruitcrow landed on the same branch. A very odd but interesting looking bird.

A large flock of Swifts were flying nearby and aside from the common, White-collared Swifts we could identify Short-tailed and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts. A soaring vulture looked interesting, and it indeed was a Greater Yellow-headed Vulture. Once you saw your first of these birds, you can basically figure out on the way they soar, if it is a GYH or a Turkey Vulture. A Tanager flock held Turquoise and Silver-beaked Tanager and several Flycatcher species could be added as well including a pair of very vocal Piratic Flycatcher.

We continued down the road, until the forest didn’t look that good anymore. Sadly in this area, logging and deforestation is continuing, when you compare the satellite images on google Maps with the actual situation it is a bit depressing, even though in Ecuador a lot of places still looked very ok, especially if you compare it with regions in Africa and Asia. We turned around and saw two strange looking birds on an electricity post, getting up the bins they turned out to be White-browed Purpletuft, a species I didn’t expect to be available here at all.
A calling White-browed Antbird was a nice finish to this early morning.

Afterwards we decided to go to the direction of Tena Airport to get some of the lowland open country species. But first we stopped at the Punta Ahuano for a coffee. The military had a large training session here, with helicopters, boats etc. so we were a bit suspicious if it is a good idea to get out with full camera gear and bins. A quick chat with an officer and it was no problem at all. I think it wouldn’t have been without the chat either, but better safe than sorry. We sat directly at the river and already planned for a Swallow and a Kingfisher to be added to the list.
Guesses were good because we saw 2 Amazon Kingfisher and not only one but two new Swallow species with White-winged Swallow and Brown-chested Martin. We then explored a short patch of riverine forest which held a small feeding flock with additions of Scarlet-crowned Barbet and our trip only Striped Woodcreeper.

Continuing to the airport we hoped for Red-breasted Meadowlark but no success. Cattle Tyrants a recent colonist to the area were reasonable common and a Chestnut-bellied Seedeater was also one of our targets here. It was getting really hot, so we decided for a longer lunch break and enjoyed some time in the pool just to score a Gray-headed Kite as a lifer seen from the pool.
After the success yesterday evening, we decided to bird the street around our lodge again and were not disappointed either. Two Green-backed Trogon were not seen yesterday, and our first flock had a Mottle-backed Elaenia, a Black-tailed Tityra and among several Tanagers a Yellow-bellied and two Yellow-backed Tanager which are rarely reported in the area. At Night a Great Potoo called behind the lodge. And we went to bed very satisfied, with our first full day in the Amazon, because we imagined that the birding would be more difficult, than the situation we encountered. Of course you have to admit that we basically gave up on forest dwellers by the choice of our birding spots.

Big Day Road : https://ebird.org/checklist/S119193266
Punta Ahuano: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119193237
Tena Airport: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119193196
Gran Selva Lodge: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119211426
Day 14) Ama Ecolodge / Laguna Paikawe
Today was the biggest surprise of the trip. We got a hint of Heike Brieschke, that there is an observation platform on a lodge next to Misuahalli and she asked for us if we could be there for a morning to watch birds. The platform is at Ama Eco Lodge and is open for public. Entrance is 10€ and you can stay for a full morning including a nice coffee brought in a Samovar, which added some sort of flair to the whole scenery.

I cannot recommend this place highly enough. If you are in the area, you must go here. You can contact Jiovanny at best via WattsApp on his website www.amaecolodge.com to make the arrangement you can also stay here. We had a look at the rooms, they looked very well and have a high standard. Rooms are available for around 150$/night so 75 per person including breakfast and of course access to the platform. The platform is directly located in a nice patch of riverine forest, next to an oxbog lake and with several canals running through the area.

Jiovanny greeted us at 6 at the parking and went with us to the platform. Even the parking lot was very birdy, with a mixed Tanager flock and several flycatchers already available.
At the moment you enter the platform via a ramp with a rope, but they are building some stairs for easier access. We went up the tower and were directly greeted by the ancient Hoatzin. Jiovanny put some fruits on nearby feeders and then I almost fell of the tower, because I saw a heron flying which fortunately perched next to a Hoatzin. I only shouted Agami and it got hectic on the tower. Fortunately, all of us picked up the bird quickly and got good views of it. According to Jiovanny the Agami Heron was seen by him several times already, so it might be a regular spot.
Bird of the day and for me of the trip (doesn’t matter what would come) was scored after 10 Minutes, so the day was already successful for us, but it was one of those magic days. Birds came in left and right and we added species after species giving as well excellent opportunities for observation. All three expected Barbet Species were seen and heared well among the common Gilded- and Scarlet-crowned Barbet also the much rarer Lemon-throated Barbet. Two Black-capped Donacobius showed in a grass patch next to the canal. Oropendolas and Cacique were everywhere including Solitary Black and the rare Ecuadorian Cacique. At the feeder Masked Crimson Tanager and Red-capped Cardinal were regular visitors as well as Purple Gallinule climbing up high to reach the bananas.
Below the tower were several flowering Verbena, which among the common Black-throated Mango also attracted Glittering-throated Emerald, a Gray-breasted Sabrewing and surprisingly a Long-billed Starthroat.

Six species of Woodpecker were seen during the morning. The first star was a Lafresnaye’s Piculet which is only a few centimetres long, but the observation got topped by a pair of Cream-colored Woodpecker which allowed nice views and almost made you think twice about the Agami Heron being the bird of the day. Birding didn’t slow down at all during the morning.
Riparian and Silvered Antbird were both seen and heard, Black-banded Crake was calling, and a Gray-cowled Wood Rail responded to a optimistic try to tape in some more rails. Finally, two Riparian Parrotlet showed close to the platform adding another riverine specialist.
We finished with 70 species and a high quality of birds and observation in only five hours without having moved at all.

Next to the Ecolodge is the better-known Laguna Paikawe, usually the place to go to see Hoatzin in this area.

We took the canoe tour for 7$ each and were not expecting much during the heat of the day. But well, as I mentioned earlier it was one of those days. The tour started with an Arapaima, what a monster of fish directly under the canoe. Red-mantled Saddle backed Tamarins were common and we saw a small group of White-bellied Spider Monkeys. Birding was rather slow, but we managed several good Birds, including Lesser Kiskadee, a calling Point-tailed Palmcreeper a nicely perched Ringed Kingfisher and at least three White-eared Jacamar.
The star of the trip undoubtedly was a Sungrebe, which was swimming in the open, before quickly disappearing on the land. Sungrebe is known but irregularly seen on the Laguna.

We took a long lunch break this time and went out again only at 4:30 to continue a little bit of roadside birding along the lodge. And again, we were not disappointed.

Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper, Amazonian Trogon and Chestnut-eared Aracari all showed well, and an Undulated Tinamou was heard in the distance.

The beer tasted even better this evening. By the way Ecuadorian beer is really good and very cheap in most places. I would recommend Pilsener over Club.

AMA Ecolodge https://ebird.org/checklist/S119285016 (yes there is a Agami photo ;) )
Laguna Paikawe: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119285031
Gran Selva Lodge: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119300538
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Day 15) Transfer to Wild Sumaco Lodge
Our last morning in the amazon. I think the area around Misahualli deserves more attention by birders than it gets now. Especially when you want to do things independently. Of course, you are not getting the full package you will get in the Napo lodges, where apart from the tour groups, also a lot of local guides seem to focus on. And you miss out on the large canopy towers which simply are not here (apparently there is a rope climbing facility in Jatun Sacha). And some of the main targets like Cocha Antshrike and guaranteed Macaws are probably not in the area. But I think we have seen some high-quality birds here as well and maybe with more focus by birders even some of those species can be seen reliable here in the future. Putting a boost in Ecoturism in this area might also prevent some parts of woodland from being logged and converted into farmland.

We started with some birding around the lodge. As usual in Ecuador, even birding the same area always gives you some new species. Today it was Antbird time with Sooty Antbird and Peruvian Warbling-Antbird being present. Today we split up a bit, while two stayed behind and two continued walking the road. Up the road was a large group of Vultures, mainly Black and Turkey but a single juvenile King Vulture was present in the group as well. I personally missed it, but I saw it in Mexico before, so not a big issue for me. We had a similar impressive new bird in form of a Golden-faced Tyrannulet....

After the breakfast we packed up to drive the long way to Wild Sumaco but we had plans to try again for the missing Red-breasted Meadowlark at Tena Airport. Which turned out to be a good idea. Not only the Meadowlark was new but with Caqueta Seedeater and Yellow-browed Sparrow we had luck with two of the missing open country species.
As it was only 10am so we decided to try the "World Record Road" another time as well. We again stopped at the large tree and again it delivered. Funnily enough the Green Oropendola was sitting on the same branch as two days earlier.
We saw a nicely perched Double-toothed Kite and nearby a pair of White-necked Puffbird. A small flock was in the area which held Opal-rumped Tanager, a Yellow-bellied Dacnis and surprisingly a Short-billed Honeycreeper as new species. Several Tyrants provided some ID difficulties, but we managed to safely ID a group of Dusky-chested Flycatcher and a Slender-footed Tyrannulet was nice enough to call. We finished our Amazon section with an Amazonian Grosbeak feeding in a patch of high grass.

It was a long drive to Wild Sumaco and the Loreto Road was definitely the worst main road we drove in Ecuador. Curvy, narrow, lots of far too heavy trucks in both directions and potholes everywhere.

We made the usual stop at the km 10 quarry for Cliff Flycatcher, which was even easier than expected and arrived at Wild Sumaco with around two hours of light left. We decided to stay at the deck, enjoy the hummingbirds and look for whatever else is coming feeding around the deck.

Apart from the hummingbirds we didn’t see a lot here. It is praised in other trip reports as a great spot for feeding flocks and larger birds, but for us this wasn’t the case in our four days here. The hummingbird feeders were very nice though.

On our first afternoon we saw 14 different species here, many of them new and some of the most beautiful hummingbirds were present including my personal favourite, the Gould’s Jewelfront. Other additions, which were present daily, were Violet-headed Hummingbird, Wire-crested Thorntail, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, the recently split Peruvian Racket-tail and most numerous the Golden-tailed Sapphire.

We heard and saw one Ecuadorian Tyrannulet and managed to see two Military Macaws in the distance. We enjoyed an amazing Dinner and prepared for the next day.

Wild Sumaco lodge is located in the foothills of the Eastern Andes. Including the road, the birded are ranges from around 700m - 1400m above sea level, giving a wide range of habitats and species. It has a well maintained trail network and also some feeders. Far over 500 different species are reported here. The E-Bird location even has over 600 reported species, but I would stick with the official lodge list here.
Apart from the typical species in this elevation this are also has surprising visitors, lingering from the AAmazonian lowlands or from higher altitudes into the are. Iam confident that you could spend a week here and still get new additions to your list.

Gran Selva Lodge: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119319984
Airport: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119355400
Big Day Road: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119355320
Wild Sumaco: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119361894
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Day 16) Wild Sumaco with Byron

We had a full day with Byron Gualavisi as a guide. You can book Byron directly via Wild Sumaco or contact him via Facebook or Wattsapp. He is the guide who got praised by Arjan Dwarshuis during his big year as the best guide he had during the whole year. I can not doubt that.
I personally think Iam a good birder in my home range, knowing almost all the calls, getting birds IDed safely even on bad views and usually getting quickly on birds, even in foreign places. But Byron was a whole different level than anyone I have known so far. He knew every call, saw every movement, got directly onto the birds, and was able to show us almost everything he saw as well. It was one of those days, you would get lost completely without tracking a live checklist.

We started early as usual at 5:50am a quick glimpse at the moth feeder didn’t bring anything new, but Byron told us we can get these birds easily on our own and so we started in the direction of the F.A.C.E trail to get some of our target bird list we gave to him. The list was ambitious, and we told him that we would like to focus on Antbirds, as our list wasn’t that big here and without a guided knowledge, they for sure are rather difficult to get.

In the Parking Lot the day started well with a pair of Plain Antvireo allowing good views. Rufous-naped- and Olivaceous Greenlet were singing, and the nearby flock held several species, including Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Slaty-capped Flycatcher and Montane Foliage-gleaner.

A raptor rushed through our view quickly disappearing behind the forest. Silhouette immediately looked strange, and Byron confirmed it as a Buckley’s Forest Falcon one of Wild Sumacos specialities. We heard this bird again in the next days but that remained our only (rather bad) sighting.

We continued birding the main road to the face trail, picking up new birds left and right. Such as Yellow-breasted Antwren, Streaked Xenops, Dark-breasted Spinetail or Western Wood Pewee.

A calling Wing-banded Wren remained unseen.

At the face Trail we entered really good and old forest, the number of birds slowed down, but the quality went up. In quick succession we could see or hear, Rusty-winged- and Slaty Antwren, Blackish and Black-faced Antbird, and enjoyed great views of a pair of Sooty Antbird and a stunning male Western Fire-eye.
We asked for Antbirds, and we got Antbirds. Blue-rumped and White-crowned Manakin were common and after a lot of work, by Byron we heard a Yellow-throated Spadebill, which unfortunately remained out of sight. We had more luck with a pair of Golden-collared Toucanet which came in close to allow good views through the canopy.

Byron tried several spots for roosting owls, but without luck today. So, we left the face trail still rather early in the morning with a lot of new birds in the back. We continued the Coopmans/Antpitta Trail. Not before picking up a nice Raptor flock from the road, including Several Swallow-tailed Kite, a Plumbeous and a Double-toothed Kite as well as a Barred Hawk. A Black-Hawk Eagle called shortly but remained unseen. As it was getting hotter, the general birding slowed down a bit, but Byron worked hard for our targets. We tried for a calling Gray-tailed Piha but couldn’t get a view on it. An Ochre-breasted Antpitta was not new but finding one outside of a feeding stakeout was still feeling good.

A Musician Wren was maybe the only bird I found today before Byron. We fortunately saw it well and enjoyed its very nice song.

Then we got another big flock, and it was difficult to get everyone on every bird.
It started with a stunning male Cerulean Warbler and a Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant. Several tanager species were in the flock, including some of the Chlorospingus. Highlights of the flock were undoubtedly a Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo and a nice male Fulvous Shrike Tanager. Unfortunately we were under a Bee or Wasp nest, so we couldn’t enjoy it for too long.

Here an owl roost for Foothill Screech-Owl was successful and we could enjoy a single bird very well at its Day roost.

With 117 species, we closed the morning and enjoyed a nice lunch at the lodge.

In pouring rain, we started to our afternoon session. First trying for Rails along some of Byrons stakeouts and then birding the lower area of the Sumaco Road.

The first spot for Blackish Rail was easy and after a few minutes a pair of those “Water Rail” type birds allowed good views in the open.

The stop for Black-banded Crake was not that successful, the bird responded to Playback but was not coming close and in my opinion, Byron tried a bit too hard for getting us views of the bird, so we spent a lot of time here without success.

We then continued down the Sumaco Road scoping some of the more open areas.

Undulated Tinamou were calling in the distance. Speckled Chachalaca were seen close to the road, and we could see several birds perched well in the canopy. Including Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, and Chestnut-fronted Macaw. A pair of close by Military Macaw and at least 2 Amazonian Umbrellabird.

A Crowned Slaty Flycatcher was very surprising, as it usually is only seen in the Amazon basin with only a few records in the Sumaco area. Funnily this bird was found by us before Byron got on it. Their internal bird list would count it as the second record ever, but I think it is not 100% up to date. We added White-fronted Tyrannulet, Short-crested and Olive-faced Flycatcher to our list in quick succession.

It was getting darker, and we wanted to try for nightbirds as well. Still at dusk we heard several Chestnut-headed Crake, a Scaled Antpitta and a Short-tailed Antthrush, before the Tropical Screech-Owls started Calling. We sadly didn’t get any view of the birds. But enjoyed a show of a Great Potoo, calling nearby and then flying through our flashlights. Definitely the Forest ghost you would imagine here.
Band-bellied Owls were calling several times, but a flyover bird was the only brief view we got here.

Anway it was a very successful afternoon and with a total of 152 species seen or heard.

Sumaco Lodge (Morning) : https://ebird.org/checklist/S119408587
Sumaco Road (Afternoon): https://ebird.org/checklist/S119434264
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Day 17) Wild Sumaco Lodge

Yesterday was an exhausting day, physically and mentally. So, we decided to slow down a bit today.

Without guiding we managed to score 75 species in the morning session, by some roadside birding + the agouti trail.

Anyway, we started off early, to enjoy the moth feeder. New birds were Black-streaked Puffbird, and Black-billed Treehunter. Other notable species, which could be observed very well here, are a pair of Black-faced Antbird, a Plain Antvireo and a female Western Fire-eye.

We then had a late Breakfast and birded along the road a bit. Then we split up, while some enjoyed the deck and the feeders, we went to explore the Agouti trail, which was not in that good of a shape as the other trails, and we had some smaller climbing and sliding sections today. Anyway, the tour was a nice jungle experience.
Birding wasn’t very good, we didn’t see a lot in the first part, only notable bird was a nice male Cock of the rock. Later we found a single good flock at a bad spot for identifying the birds. But we were able to add Olivaceous Woodcreeper and Plain-winged Antwren to the list.

In the afternoon we tried the lower parts of Sumaco Road again, but without much success. Birding was much slower than yesterday, and the only notable mention were good views of a Chestnut-headed Crake, crossing the road. So, we finished the day with only five new species. But again over 100 species this day.

Sumaco Lodge: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119471124
Sumaco Road: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119488880
Day 18) Wild Sumaco Lodge

After the slow day yesterday, we decided to put some more effort in today. Plan was to bird the road and the Antpitta trail until the Antpitta feeding starts.
Wild Sumaco has a worm feeding station which attracts Plain-backed Antpitta, Speckled Nightingale Thrush and sometime White-crowned Tapaculo.

Before Breakfast we had a calling Wattled Guan. A good start to the day. And probably the most amazing bird sound I have heard so far.

We birded the road very slowly, because the bird activity was very high, and we saw a lot of good flocks including our largest flock of the trip which included well over 70 birds (mainly Tanagers and a lot unidentified). In the Tanager flock was an Orange-eared Tanager, which was new for us. Several Foliage-gleaner and Woodcreeper showed well, we enjoyed great views of Slaty-capped Flycatcher and Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant and an Olive-striped Flycatcher was new to the list. Rufous-naped Greenlets were present in every flock and Blackburnian, Canada and Cerulean Warbler were all seen well.

Entering the Antpitta Trail to the feeding station bird activity remained high and sadly we had to rush a bit to get to the feeder in time. Plain-backed Antpitta were breeding nearby and quickly a bird came in to feed on the worm, the Speckled Nightingale-thrush called not far away but it took its time to came in to feed. During this we could enjoy the view on a female Golden-winged Manakin next to the feeding Station. Immediately after the Nightingale Thrush left and we wanted to leave as well the White-crowned Tapaculo called right next to us and several seconds later he also took his breakfast from the feeder.

We birded back the trail to the road and saw an interesting hummingbird feeding on the flowers inside the forest, which was quickly confirmed as an Ecuadorian Piedtail a bird we expected at the feeders at Wild Sumaco where we didn’t see one during our four days. Shortly after we saw a small bird with a reddish looking head feeding in a small tree. It turned out to be a Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant, a scarce and rarely reported bird of the East Andean Foothills. Speaking of rarely reported birds of East Andean Foothills, the first mixed species flock near the road, had a Foothill Eleania, which we detected by its call and also got some views of the rather uneventful looking bird. Much more interesting looking was the other new bird in the flock. A Gray-mantled Wren. Feeding in very atypical wren way in the canopy, foraging along branches, much more looking like a Warbler than a Wren. Stunning bird, great finish of the Morning session we thought.

But it wasn’t our last addition. I told you we had trouble with the Ecuadorian Piedtail at the feeders. Same goes for the Napo Sabrewing, which should be reasonable common around the deck. It wasn’t for us. But we got decent views of this large and good-looking Hummingbird feeding along the road.

The afternoon session was rather quiet. We again tried for some birding along the road and at the deck which proved rather boring again. But we enjoyed some nice mixed species flocks along the road, including Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Olive-backed Woodcreeper and Streaked Xenops. Only new addition was a small group of Many-banded Aracari, before we had luck because the chef(!) of Wild Sumaco spotted a White-tipped Sicklebill feeding at the Heliconias in front of the lodge, allowing great views for everybody. And our final new Hummingbird of the trip which was number 66. Before the trip I thought 50-60 should doable 66 was above my expectations.

In general I was very impressed how knowledgeable a lot of the people -which are not bird guides- are in Ecuador.

After another great dinner we called it a day and enjoyed our last night at the wonderful lodge.

Wild Sumaco: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119523282 ; https://ebird.org/checklist/S119539304
Day 19) Wild Sumaco to San Isidro

At breakfast we could see some Guans flying into a tree, turning out to be Sickle-winged Guan, a species which has eluded us so far. A promising start.
We wanted to try the face trail again in the morning before leaving Wild Sumaco and driving to San Isidro.
As we had seen a lot in the last days, we were not expecting to add a lot today in Wild Sumaco. But birding started well with two Olive-striped Flycatcher and a small group of three Lafresnaye`s Piculet. I really enjoyed the “Mini-Woodpeckers” here in Ecuador. We were able to add a female American Redstart and rather far away a calling Scaled Pigeon remained unseen. Along the road we enjoyed a group of seedeaters. Among some Chestnut-bellied Seedeater and Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch were a small group of Black-and-white Seedeater which are only seasonal here.
We enjoyed the large number of hummingbirds a last time and made our way back up the mountain to San Isidro.

During the drive we stopped in Cosanga at the river to have a lunch ( you get a really nice lunch pack at Wild Sumaco) and trying one last time for Torrent Duck. And this time we were lucky.

Seeing both male and female, diving, swimming, feeding, sitting on a rock. We tried hard for this species and at the end got the maximum reward. Everybody was happy. This would have been a painful dip.

We arrived during the mid of the day and in rain at San Isidro, so we decided to stay at the lodge deck to have a coffee and wait out the rain.

The hummingbird feeders were rather poorly visited during our short stay. A couple of Chestnut-breasted Coronet were always present, only joined by a few other Hummingbirds, Collared Inca, Long-tailed Sylph and Fawn-breasted Brilliant.

General birding around the deck was good though. We had several Common Chlorospingus coming in and a pair of "Common Blackbird" emm Glossy-black Thrush feeding directly at our feet. Several Flycatcher were feeding in nearby trees, including CinnamonFlavescent and Streak-necked Flycatcher. A small mixed flock had a Canada Warbler, several Pearled Treerunner and a couple of Montane Woodcreeper, among several Tanager species, including the Eastern form of the Flame-faced Tanager. A short trip along the road didn’t add anything new but Chestnut-crowned and White-bellied Antpitta were calling nearby.

But the speciality of San Isidro are the night observations. Right next to the deck, you can see Colombian Night Monkeys without much effort, and the famous “San Isidro Owl” made a nice appearance sitting in the light of the lodge at a nearby tree. After the dinner we tried for Rufous-banded Owl along the road, but only had two more calling “San Isidro Owl”.

Wild Sumaco: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119594465
San Isidro: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119606453
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Day 20) Back to Germany
Our last day in Ecuador. A last time getting up early and put some work into birds.

We started birding around the deck at the moth feeder before breakfast. The moth feeder was full of insects and unlike Guango where a group of Cacique and Jays basically finished everything, here at San Isidro it was different, even though we had Russet-backed Oropendola, Scarlet-rumped Cacique and Green Jay coming in and feeding on the moth, there was plenty of good left for the “smaller” birds.
So we enjoyed Pale-edged Flycatcher, Smoke-colored Pewee and surprisingly a Black-billed Peppershrike, coming in to feed at the moth.
An Azara’s Spinetail was foraging in the nearby grass and a Collared Forest-Falcon flew through only allowing brief views. On the other hand a pair of Masked Trogon allowed the best views you can imagine of this species.

After breakfast we went to the Antpitta feeder and were greeted by a calling Long-tailed Tapaculo.
The White-bellied Antpitta which we expected here, came in quickly, allowing great views. They also tried to lure in a Peruvian Antpitta, which comes to feed from time to time but apparently is not 100% regular. We sadly had no luck.
So, we packed up and birded the parking area. A good number of birds were present and quickly we added a Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet. Before we left a pair of Streak-headed Antbird were foraging in a nearby bamboo making it the final species for the trip.

We left around 10am for the 2.5hour drive to Quito airport. Returning the car was no issue (but I can only recommend to speak some Spanish) and we checked in and passed security without issues. We then boarded our long flight to Amsterdam, via Guayaquil, were you have to drop out the plane and re-enter. We were not sure how good the birding is at the airport but some lists of ebird were promising.

At Guayaquil airport the birding is very difficult but we saw a huge number of bird (in the 1000s). Large flocks of birds were flying to nearby roosts. Mainly along the river and mostly very far away.

Most of the birds were Black-bellied Whistling Duck, but we could safely ID Rock- and Pale-vented Pigeon, Eared Dove, Black and Turkey Vultures and Gray-breasted Martin, as well as at least three Magnificent Frigatebirds, which were flying along the Guayaquil estuary.

Several flocks of Blackbirds, Grackles and Parrots remained unidentified, as well as some interesting Raptors which were simply too far away for a safe ID.

On the next day we arrived in Amsterdam and went home to Germany.

San Isidro: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119663529
Guayaquil: https://ebird.org/checklist/S119826894
We finished with a total of 578 species group combined. I consider myself lucky to be able to hear or see 573 of them.
You can see the whole trip report here: https://ebird.org/tripreport/41395 Including all species seen and on how many occasions.

My personal top 5:
1) Agami Heron
2) Cream-colored Woodpecker
3) Torrent Duck
4) Gould's Jewelfront
5) Silvered Antbird

Honorable mentions would be around 100 more I think. Paradise Tanager, Sunbittern, Sungrebe and Andean Condor didnt make the list for example.

I can not recommend Ecuador highly enough as a birding destination. There are surprisingly few trip reports of independent travelers. But it is very easy to do on your own, if you speak a little bit of Spanish. We never felt unsafe on any occasion, driving was easy, distances are low and travelling is surprisingly fast. Iam very sure it was not the last time Iam visiting this country but next time probably hitting the southern section, or the depp Choco Lowlands, or the Amazon, or Galapagos, or you could go again to our trip and see the several hundred species we missed out on. :)

I hope you have enjoyed the trip report. Thanks for reading and for the given feedback.
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A fantastic report and very much enjoyed report! Thanks for the work put into keeping track of all your activities and birds.
Identification of those exotic species would be nearly impossible for myself. How did you manage that?
To plan a trip of my own, I’d like to map where you birded and stayed. It seems you had a great deal of pre-trip information on sites to visit.
I’ll take your repeated advice to learn some Spanish. What little I ever knew is in the dust bin these days.
As I am just recovering from Covid caught on my on recent trip, I’d like to know if Ecuadorians are taking that seriously.
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