Trip report: Ecuador, The Andes Introtour (February 2015)

Guided by Jose Illanes.This was a set departure tour.

This tour covered a range of altitudes and easily accessible sites in the Andes of northern Ecuador. On this particular trip, we started out with the High Andes extension, and the open grasslands and lakes to the east of the capital Quito. There birds like Andean Condor (Ecuador’s national bird), Carunculated Caracara, and Black-faced Ibis parading the paramo grasslands were all very popular indeed. Moving on to the main tour we swapped one great hummingbird lodge for another, as we moved into Tandayapa Bird Lodge for an extended stay. While the hummingbirds are always an exceptional feature of this location (the lodge feeders boasted hundreds of individuals of over a dozen species while we were there), it’s location, in the middle of a varied set of birding locations, allowed us to dip into a variety of local sites, and amass a great bird list sprinkled with superb birds while based at this birding lodge. This included the rare Tanager Finch, and the multicolored Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan in the Tandayapa Valley, as well as a Scaled Antpitta right at the lodge’s forest blind, at a designated feeding station. A dusk foray from the lodge also gave us one of the standout birds of the trip, as a male Lyre-tailed Nightjar flew around the treetops overhead, with his spectacularly long tail trailing behind him.

Lower down, within the Andean foothills, we visited both Mashpi and Milpe, sites that yielded some extraordinary birds indeed, from the much-liked displaying Club-winged Manakins at the latter, to Glistening-green Tanager and Golden-collared Honeycreeper at some new feeders at the former. In addition to these sightings, we also enjoyed outrageous, and unexpected, perched views of Tooth-billed Hummingbird and the beautiful Rose-faced Parrot in these foothill areas too. Any trip to this part of Ecuador would not be complete without a visit to the wonderful private reserve of Paz de Aves, famed for its excellent feeding areas, which over the years has reliably lured in some secretive forest species to see up close, along with the Andean Cock-of-the-rock display area on site, which is arguably the best in the whole of Ecuador. On both these fronts this reserve proved very worthwhile; we observed 3 species of antpittas up close, including the spectacular Giant Antpitta, and stood in awe of half a dozen scarlet male cock-of-the-rocks dancing in the cloudforest from a purpose-built forest blind, as dawn broke in the Andes. This tour remains one of the most popular birding trips offered by Tropical Birding, and with highlights like this, it is easy to understand why!

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