Guided by Sam Woods. This was a set departure tour.
This fantastic tour of the south began in Guayas province, starting in Cerro Blanco, just outside Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil, before heading into the foothills in El Oro province. The home of Long-wattled Umrellabirds and El Oro Parakeets. From there we headed south to close to the border with Peru and the dry deciduous woodlands of Jorupe and El Empalme. From our base near Peru we also explored the southwestern highlands of Utuana and Sozoranga for a discreet set of localized species, before we ascended into the temperate zone around Tapichalaca, (the home of the fabled Jocotoco Anpitta), and Cerro Toledo. From there we headed to the east side of Zamora-chinchipe and the tanager-rich foothills of the Rio Bombuscaro sector of Podocarpus. After a few days scanning through numerous foothill flocks we climbed up to the highest point of the tour, and explored the high Andean paramo in El Cajas park for the end of the main tour. The extension began in the hot lowland coastal scrub on the Santa Elena Peninsula, where localized passerines combined with masses of waterbirds for a fun morning on the peninsula. Our final time of the tour was again spent in the lowlands of the west seeking rare hummingbirds and our last Tumbesian specialties.
At the end of it all we had seen well over 500 species, that included some real rarities including El Oro Parakeets in Buenaventura, and the fantastic little Esmeraldas Woodstar in Ayampe. A couple of other hummers were also worthy of note, also having tiny ranges – the endemic Violet-throated Metaltail that we saw close to the edge of the paramo in El Cajas, and the scarce burgundy-throated Neblina Metaltail up in the mist on the Cerro Toledo Road. Of course no tour to the south would be complete without Ecuador’s most famous bird, the Jocotoco Antpitta. This recently discovered species thrilled us in Tapichalaca, when up to four birds hopped around within just a few feet of us. This impressive antpitta battled with the monstrous male Long-wattled Umbrellabird (that had his substantial wattle extended to full capacity in Buenaventura), for the title of top trip bird. Taking of antpittas, we enjoyed a good run on these, seeing 7 species by the trip end, in addition to a superb Barred Antthrush at Tapichalaca too. Other highlights included an absurdly confiding Andean Potoo at Tapichalaca, and both White-capped Tanager and Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan at the same temperate site. Other impressive trip birds included a fantastic male Andean Cock-of-the-rock in Bombuscaro, in addition to a whole host of colorful tanagers in the eastern foothills, including the rare, shocking-red Vermillion Tanager. The specialties of the Tumbesian region fell well for us and we enjoyed some great birds including Elegant Crescentchest, Pale-browed Tinamou, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner and Watkins’s Antpitta. The southwestern highlands produced the bamboo-dwelling Gray-headed Antbird, in addition to a Rusty-breasted Antpitta, and the ridiculously cute Black-crested Tit-Tyrant. As you can see from this list we had many and varied highlights from a thorough scout around the south, where we enjoyed the varied habitats and scenery as much as the many special birds found therein.