Trip report: Ecuador The Andes Introtour (Nov 2010)

Guided by Sam Woods.

This Introtour packed a lot into a tiny package: lots of glittering hummingbirds, a multitude of multicolored tanagers, scores of scarce endemics, and lots of birds in general. Over 360 species in this six-day introduction to this mega birding area, the Chocó region of northwest Ecuador (that also extends into southern Colombia). We were based out of one well-placed lodge, the wonderful Tandayapa Bird Lodge that is quite simply one of the best hummingbird sites on Earth. Tandayapa is also a great location to access a number of varied birding sites…

We began upslope from Tandayapa in the cool temperate zone in Yanacocha reserve (3400m/11,155ft) that brought avian gems like the incredible, jaw-dropping, Sword-billed Hummingbird, and bold Barred Fruiteater. From there we dropped downslope into the subtropical zone of the Tandayapa Valley (1750-2300m/5740-7545ft), that bought some of the most highly-desired birds of the region – the ultra rare Tanager Finch, the technicolor Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, and clown-like Toucan Barbet, in addition to literally hundreds of glittering hummingbirds, like the striking Empress Brilliant, and distinctive Violet-tailed Sylph. Heading lower still into the foothills of the Andes we visited two sites Milpe (1100m/3610ft), that brought dancing Club-winged Manakins, the sparkling Glistening-green Tanager, and the less conspicuous Uniform Treehunter; and the wonderful new Mashpi reserve where scarce and rare Chocó species were the order of the day: Indigo Flowerpiercer, Black Solitaire and the gorgeous Orange-breasted Fruiteater all being found during a misty day on site. Then came what for most was the best day of the tour, our venture into the Chocó lowlands of Rio Silanche (350m/1150ft), a tiny though delightful reserve, that although it required the longest drive to get there, was well worth it for the remarkable 150+ species day we had. This day yielded many, many highlights including Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Orange-fronted Barbet, Black-tipped Cotinga, and Slate-throated Gnatcatcher. After being begged to return there on our final day I denied the group this request, stuck to our original itinerary and visited the legendary “Antpitta Farm”, where we were treated to two different rare antpittas, a delightful covey of Dark-backed Wood-Quail, a roosting Oilbird, and some very confiding Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers. The tour closed with a view of a real scarcity – the White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant, a large and distinctive flycatcher seen on the outskirts of Quito, in the dry interandean valley, in stark contrast to the wet western slopes of the Andes that had dominated the rest of this short, though dynamic tour…

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