Trip report: Southern Ecuador (Jan. 2016) by Tropical Birding

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

This Ecuador ranks as my favorite among the many possible Ecuador tours out there, and this trip proved no different; we enjoyed some truly fantastic birds. Everyone arrived in Ecuador’s most populous city, Guayaquil, the day before. The following morning, we headed west out of the city to Manglares Charute, a dry scrubby habitat that kicked us off with some good birds, like (Pacific) Royal Flycatcher, Jet Antbird, Orange-crowned Euphonia and Ecuadorian Trogon. The following day, we birded at the Buenaventura Reserve, which again proved itself to be one of the best places to see Long-wattled Umbrellabird, and also produced Gray-backed Hawk, Club-winged Manakin, Ochraceous Attila and the very local Ecuadorian Endemic, El Oro Parakeet at a nesting and roosting site. Our next stop was another, very different, Jocotoco Foundation reserve, Jorupe, which was combined with visits to surrounding areas like El Empalme, Sozoranga and Zapotillo, all hotspots for Tumbesian endemic birds. At El Empalme we found Red-masked Parakeet, White-edged and Yellow-tailed Orioles, Baird’s Flycatcher and the shy White-headed-Brushfinch. Jorupe itself gave us nice views of Pale-browed Tinamou, Whooping Motmot, Ecuadorian Piculet, the gaudy White-tailed Jay, Henna-hooded Foliage-Gleaner, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker and Watkins’s Antpitta.

Our visit to Zapotillo also yielded some special birds like, Elegant Crescentchest, Tumbes Pewee, Tumbes Sparrow, West Peruvian-Dove and the very local (in Ecuador) Comb Duck. Sozoranga gave us Chestnut-collared Swallow, Bay-crowned Brushfinch, and Slaty Becard. Yet another Jocotoco property also featured next, Utuana, where we saw Chapman’s Antshrike, Black-cowled Saltator, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Jelski’s Chat-tyrant and Rainbow Starfrontlet and Purple-throated Sunangel at their hummingbird feeders. One of the most popular birds there though was the Black-crested Tit-Tyrant. Next up was Podocarpus National Park, one of the biggest parks in Ecuador, where we ascended to the Cerro Toledo section, birding at around 12,000ft/3700m. Our main target there was the very local Neblina Metaltail, which was saw, along with Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Mouse-colored Thistletail, Black-headed Hemispingus, and Golden-crowned Tanager. One of the most highly anticipated spots in the region, is Tapichalaca, home of the fabled Jocotoco Antpitta. This species was seen easily at a feeding station, and other birds supported this too, like the tough White-capped Tanager, Barred Fruiteater, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Chestnut-naped Antpitta and the handsome Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan.

Having just spent time in the chilly cloudforest we then drove down into the humid foothills on the east slope of the Andes, and to Yankuam Lodge, a simple lodge set beside some fantastic birding areas. Specialties we picked up in this area were White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, Blackish Pewee, Peruvian Warbling Antbird, Fulvous Antshrike, Purplish Jacamar, Golden-winged and Black-and-white Tody-tyrants, and Gilded Barbet. We also encountered a variety of colorful tanagers in this area, not least the main target we were looking for, the rare and local, Orange-throated Tanager. Our next stop was the always-popular Copalinga Lodge, and the Rio Bombuscaro entrance to Podocarpus NP. Although this was still within the foothills of the east, these are quite different from Yankuam, and we added plenty of more birds like the increasingly scarce White-breasted Parakeet, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Lanceolated Monklet, Foothill Elaenia, a horde of beautiful tanagers, and several hummingbird species at the lodge feeders like, Black-throated and Violet-fronted Brilliants, Violet-headed Hummingbird, while Ecuadorian Piedtail was seen inside the forest. Copalinga’s star attraction, a grain-fed Gray Tinamou was also seen above the lodge. From the southern city of Cuenca, we visited two different protected areas; at Yunguilla we got Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and the very rare and local endemic Pale-headed Brushfinch. Our last birding stop was El Cajas National Park that brought us Tit-like Dacnis, Violet-throated Metaltail, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Sword-billed Hummingbird and the attractive Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan.

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