Trip report: Southern Ecuador (Jan-Feb 2014) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Andrés Vásquez.

There are many reasons why Tropical Birding guides love to lead this tour, and why our clients always end up very happy after two weeks visiting this vastly underrated part of Ecuador. For some, the appeal is the high number of birds seen, others love the vast amount of rarities, endemics and local specialties in the region; and for many others, it is the incredible diversity of ecosystems in which we bird through the tour, including coastal shore, mangroves, dry tropical forest, foothill Amazonian rain forest, all the way up to Paramo and highland elfin forest plus the misty cloud forest of both slopes of the Andes. Last, but not least, all participants love the great accommodations used on this tour; many lodges have hummingbirds feeders, some have fruit feeders for tanagers also, and two places even now for tinamous!!

The tour essentially makes a big loop starting, and ending, in Guayaquil. On this loop we visit various reserves, each containing specialty birds which are among the rarest and most sought after species in the entire country. In the humid foothills of Buenaventura reserve we went after the bizarre Long-wattled Umbrellabird; at a place that is also also home to El Oro Parakeet and El Oro Tapaculo, two of few true Ecuadorian endemics. Some other highlights at this site were Slaty-winged Foliage-Gleaner, Club-winged Manakin, (Pacific) Royal Flycatcher, White-tipped Sicklebill, and Gray-backed Hawk. In the dry Tumbesian zone, where were based in the excellent Jorupe reserve, we picked up Pale-browed Tinamou, Watkins’s Antpitta, White-tailed Jay, Collared Antshrike, Ecuadorian Trogon and Ecuadorian Piculet, to name but a few.

We also visited several spots in the Andes, from cloud and Elfin forest to the high Andean paramo grasslands. At these higher elevations we visited Tapichalaca reserve, where we found Jocotoco, Chestnut-naped and Slate-crowned Antpittas, Andean Potoo, and the odd, jay-like, White-capped Tanager; at Cerro Toledo we found Bearded Guan, Masked, Black-chested, and Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers, plus Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and Neblina Metaltail. At Saraguro we found arguably the bird of the trip, with awesome views of Crescent-faced Antpitta; at Cajas National Park we got another Ecuadorian endemic with Violet-throated Metaltail, along with Giant Conebill; and at Utuana we found Black-crested Tit-Tyrant, Gray-headed Antbird, Rainbow Starfrontlet, Rusty-breasted Antpitta, Black-cowled Saltator, and the local “Piura” form of Black-eared Hemispingus.

Finally, the Amazonian foothills around Zamora and Shaime gave us at least fifteen different Orange-throated Tanagers, incredible views of the rare Gray Tinamou at a feeder, as well as Vermilion, Straw-backed and Blue-browed Tanagers, Spangled Coquette and Little Woodstar, Zimmer’s Antbird, Bar-winged Wood-Wren, Blackish Pewee, White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, and the intriguingly out of range Bluish-fronted Jacamar.

The birds listed above are merely highlights of the highlights; there is no other tour in Ecuador with this great a compilation of special species. See why I love this tour???!!!

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