Guided by Jose Illanes.This was a set departure tour.
We enjoyed another fantastic tour of the varied sites on the east side of this small Andean country. The tour started in the high Andes, and Antisana National Park, where we were able to see Andean Condor, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Carunculated Caracara, Black-faced Ibis, Silvery Grebe and Giant Hummingbird. Next up was Papallacta Pass that was also very productive, with Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Tawny Antpitta, the rare Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant and Giant Conebill. We also made a quick visit to Cayambe-Coca National Park, which led to us seeing birds like Andean Pygmy-Owl, Pale-naped Brushfinch, Viridian Metaltail, Black-backed Bush-Tanager and a surprise mammal lifer for guide and group alike: Mountain Tapir. Our third major stop was the wonderful Guango Lodge, which was good not only for hummingbirds at their famous feeders, like Long-tailed Sylph, Tourmaline Sunangel, Glowing Puffleg, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and the odd looking Sword-billed Hummingbird, but also for other standout birds like Torrent Duck, Turquoise Jay, Hooded Mountain Tanager, and Chestnut-crowned Antpitta.
The tour continued by descending down the Andes into the subtropical forests around San Isidro, where the birds were markedly different: Inca Jay, Saffron-crowned Tanager, the famous “San Isidro Mystery Owl” (an as yet unconfirmed species, which might be a Black-banded or Black-and-white Owl), Rufous-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant and White-bellied Antpitta. On the way to our next stop, WildSumaco, we also birded at the slightly higher Guacamayos Ridge where we saw Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Andean Guan, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Slate-crowned Antpitta and Black-billed Mountain-Toucan. WildSumaco is one of the best lodges on the northeastern slope of the Andes, and proof was provided in a heady list of birds seen there: Military Macaw, Golden-collared Toucanet, Plain-backed and Ochre-breasted Antpittas, Gray-tailed Piha, White-crowned Manakin, Red-headed Barbet, Paradise Tanager, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Gould’s Jewelfront, Wire-crested Thorntail and Napo Sabrewing were just a selection of what was seen.
The final leg of the trip was very different indeed, as we visited two wonderful lodges located in the vast rainforests of the Amazon. Firstly, we visited Sacha Lodge, where we saw White-throated and Chanel-billed Toucans, Ringed Woodpecker, Ivory-billed and Many-banded Aracaris, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Opal-rumped, Opal-crowned, Masked and Green-and-gold Tanagers, Amazonian, Green-backed and Blue-crowned Trogons, Crested Owl during the daytime, Lanceolated Monklet, Tawny-bellied Screech- Owl and the cute Wire-tailed Manakin. Our final lodge of a very comfortable trip was Napo-wildlife Center, which is owned by the native Quichua community. Like Sacha, this is a high end lodge, with great facilities, and of course, great birds; there we saw Cream-colored Woodpecker, Lunulated, Dot-backed Yellow-browed and Banded Antbirds, Black-necked Red-Cotinga, Zigzag Heron, Orange checked Parrot, Spangled and Plum-throated Cotingas, White-browed Purpletuft, Blue-and-yellow Macaw and the rarely encountered Crested Eagle, among many others! As you can see from what is merely a selection of what we saw, we enjoyed a varied tour, with lots of birds, and very based in very nice lodges all along the way.