Guided by Alex Luna. This was a set-departure tour.
Ecuador is a top destination for many birders and bird photographers, which is unsurprising considering there are almost 1700 species of birds in a country that you can cross from border to border in about 12 hours by car. Our journey took us through mega-diverse areas, starting with the enchanting landscapes of the Antisana Reserve, where the Antisana Volcano (18,714 ft) towered overhead, majestic Andean Condors soared, and flocks of the rare Black-faced (Andean) Ibis strutted over the grasslands. Descending onto the eastern slope of the Andes, we travelled to Guango lodge, which was our base for two nights. During our stay, we visited the notoriously misty Papallacta antennas, and with great luck the weather cleared, so we were able to take some good photos of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. The hummingbird feeders in the lodge also provided us with some specialties such as the incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird, a family of Torrent Ducks along the river, and a view of the colorful Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan. To appreciate a different variety of species, we continued our trip across the Andes to the western slopes, staying at Tandayapa Bird Lodge for five days. Located in one of the richest regions in flora and fauna of the world, we set out to discover the Chocó region. We made the most of the spectacular natural wonders that Tandayapa Lodge has to offer, visiting the forest blind that allowed us to observe species like the Rufous Motmot, Russet-crowned Warbler, Spotted Barbtail, and more. We set up for multiflash at the feeders, which were swarming with Booted Rackettails fighting for the best spots, as well as 14 other species of hummingbirds. Using Tandayapa as a base, we traveled farther down the western slopes. The Milpe Reserve introduced us to some endemic species of the Chocó, new hummingbirds such as the Green Thorntail and Crowned Woodnymph, and several species of manakins: Club-winged, Golden-winged, and White-bearded. After Milpe we had a relaxing afternoon shooting at the bird feeders of San Tadeo which allowed us to take great photos, despite a little rain and fog. We also visited Rancho Suamox, the warmest climate of the trip. We took photos of a variety of woodpeckers, such as the Golden-olive and Black-cheeked, as well as other species like the beautiful Long-billed Starthroat. Our tour ended on a high note, with the famous Andean-cock-of-the-rock and the shy antpittas, of which we photographed two species and observed another. Throughout the trip, our priority was to capture as many photos as possible, visiting a numerous feeders and walking where necessary to search for the more elusive species and to try for more challenging species like some of the manakins.