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

Tapaculo-fest: A week in Northwest Ecuador (1 Viewer)

Final Summary and Wrap Up

It's hard to consider the trip anything but a success. Overall, I recorded 356 bird species, and of those 279 were lifers. Additionally I was able to add an additional 3 herps to my life list and 5 mammals, with an additional 3 other mammal species seen.

Overall top critters are of course the Tayra and Spectacled Bear on the mammal front, and with birds that honor would probably go to Oilbird, Andean Condor, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Andean Cock-of-the Rock, Mottled Owl, and Toucan-Barbet. Among my favorite sites on the trip, that honor would probably have to go to the three-way tie of Guango Lodge, Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge, and Amagusa Reserve.

Even though 279 lifers is a lot, it could have been higher as I missed several regularly seen species. Overall I would say my luck was bizarre on the trip. I underperformed I feel on the Tanager front, largely because summer is a poorer time of year to see them. On the other hand, I did pretty great on Tapaculos and Antpittas, and also managed all of the possible Toucans, none of which posed any particular challenges. It just goes to show the randomness involved in birding.

My itinerary overall I thought was good. Perhaps I should have sacrificed the east slope final two days for more time on the west slope. Even excluding the more remote Choco, I do have to say that 5 days is probably not sufficient for birding the Mindo area. This would have allowed us more chances for tougher birds and allowed us to visit a few places that were not possible to visit on this trip. My trip had a TON of time in the car. The Oilbirds were my favorite birds of the trip, so I don't regret at all the effort taken to see them. But 6+ hours in a car is rough in a single day.

With a little more money (which I didn't really have...if anything I kind of went over budget), I think the biggest thing that would have improved the trip was staying at lodges, rather than in Mindo the three middle nights of the trip. For one, the Lodges were just nicer and more comfortable, and a nice break. Secondly, by staying in Mindo it felt like extra birding time was lost to getting meals and driving to and fro. At the very least, it would have allowed more owling. I don't think I would have done NEARLY as well at Bellavista had I not stayed the night before.

Nelson was an outstanding guide and I heartily recommend his services, if you want guiding but don't want a tour.

More than likely I will be back: At the very least, with my goal of checking off every bird family, I will probably want to return to Ecuador to try for Sapayoa. But really, the Ecuador Amazon, East Slope, Southwest, and Galapagos are all full trips in and of themselves. I certainly can only recommend Ecuador as a birding destination.
Already got Thrush-Tanager from Panama!

Burbayar Lodge in Panama I think is one of the major go-to's for Sapayoa, but Rio Canande Reserve in Ecuador is also good, and has the benefit of having a higher number of new birds given I've already been to Panama once.
If you are willing to sacrifice comfort, Playa de Oro's Reserva de Los Trigillos is much better for Sapayoa and other Choco endemics, though the comfort lost includes little to no electricity and 100% humidity 24/7.

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