Trip report: Ecuador, The Andes Introtour (January 2016)

Guided by Andrés Vásquez.This was a set departure tour, and it included the High Andes extension.

The Andes Introtour is a wonderful tour to start exploring South America; it is moderately paced and somewhat relaxed thanks to the fact that we use a great lodge and only one during the entire main tour (the famed Tandayapa Bird Lodge) which means unpacking only once and not going through the stress of hopping from lodge to lodge. On the other hand, it is every bit as serious in terms of finding species as any other tour with some early starts and some late endings. It does not sacrifice any bird opportunity, and proof of that is the incredible list we compiled during this tour and the awesome amount of rarities we managed to find thanks to the focus and great spirit of all the participants. This tour was particularly above average birding wise and INCREDIBLE for mammals; in one day of the extension we got 7 Andean Condors, 2 cooperative Rufous-belied Seedsnipes, Andean Ibis, a Black-breasted Buzzard-Eagle (among 5 species of raptors that day) plus 2 species of deer, the local subspecies of White-tailed Deer and the rare and secretive NORTHERN PUDU, just after finding a SPECTACLED BEAR crossing the road in front of us. We also saw a Tayra on a previous day stealing bananas from bird feeders.

Other highlights included a displaying Lyre-tailed Nightjar flying over our heads below Tandayapa, a quest with a happy ending for Torrent Ducks, an active lek of the superb Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, detailed studies of a displaying male Club-winged Manakin, a very cooperative Spotted Nightingale-Thrush, nice photographic chances of the Choco Endemic Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, a family of playful Powerful Woodpeckers, killer views of Golden-headed Quetzals and countless numbers tanagers of which the favorites were Grass-green and Glistening-green Tanagers. Raptors were particularly good to us during this trip with excellent views of several rare ones like Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle and Black-and-chestnut Eagle amongst the 12 species of hawks and 5 of falcons; 17 raptors seen not counting vultures and condor is a ridiculous number. We recorded 9 species of antpittas (5 seen very well), and 43 of hummingbirds including the bizarre Sword-billed Hummingbird and the hulking but not really colorful Giant Hummingbird.

As you can see this tour is filled with incredible moments, rare and unique birds, plus surprises that always happen. It is arguably the best value tour we have which is the reason why it is also usually our bestselling one. And you do not need to be an expert – no neotropical birding experience is required. We try to see all the birds, even the common ones.

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