Trip report: Ecuador, HARPY EAGLE and East Andean Foothills Custom Extension (Jan-Feb 2021) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Jose Illanes.This was a custom extension, and is available as an add-on to all 2021 & early 2022 Ecuador tours.

This custom extension trip was set up for one person who simply could not get enough of Ecuador…John had just finished Ecuador: The Andes Introtour, in the northwest of the country, and also joined the High Andes Extension to that tour, which sampled the eastern highlands too. However, he was still missing vast chunks of this small country that is bursting with bird diversity. Most importantly, he was keen to get in on the latest “mega bird” in Ecuador, a very accessible Harpy Eagle nest, near a small Amazonian town, which had been hitting the local headlines and drawing the few birding tourists in the country at this time to come see it. With this in mind, TROPICAL BIRDING has been offering custom add-ons to all of our Ecuador offerings (for 2021 and 2022) to see this Harpy Eagle pair, with only three extra days needed to see it. The participant, John, had a little more time than this, so combined a trip to visit the eagle nest, with a visit to WildSumaco Lodge in the eastern foothills of the Andes, which he had not been to on any previous section of his Ecuador tours. The Harpy Eagle (photo title page before) did as it was supposed to do, and gave a great showing, and this same area of under-explored Amazon, yielded a White-lored Antpitta at the only feeding station that currently exists in the World for this shy and difficult bird, and also plentiful other Amazonian birds, like Scarlet-crowned, Lemon-throated and Gilded Barbets, the unmistakable Scarlet Macaw, and other classics of the Amazon, like a quartet of toucans, including Golden-collared Toucanet, Lettered and Chestnut-eared Aracaris, several manakin species, a series of spectacular woodpeckers, like Ringed, Cream-colored, Spot-breasted and Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers, and the dulcet tones of a Musician Wren were also enjoyed. By perusing the huge lake at Limonocha and checking the banks of a wide Amazonian river, we picked up wetland species too, like Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Bare-faced Ibis, Azure Gallinule, Pied (Lapwing) Plover (photo page 4), Large-billed Tern (photo page 9), Hoatzin, and Black-capped Donacobius.

Once we got up into the Andean foothills, the bird list changed markedly from just a few hours away, at elevations lower down. Hummingbirds came to the fore, where two sets of feeders and a garden in bloom attracted plentiful species, Napo Sabrewing, Gould’s Jewelfront, Wire-crested Thorntail, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Ecuadorian Piedtail, and Violet-fronted and Black-throated Brilliants were only seen during this part of the trip. This custom extension also added two more owls to the list with Tropical Screech-Owl in the Amazonian lowlands, and Band-bellied Owl in the Andean foothills. The cloudforest in the foothills of the Andes was markedly different in climate, birds and plants than those in the Amazon lower down, and led us to another big hit of birds, including another scarce and rarely seen antpitta, Plain-backed Antpitta, this one at a unique, reliable feeding station at WildSumaco Lodge, which also attracted an Ochre-breasted Antpitta there too. Crested Quetzal was another stunner that was only possible by adding the foothills to this extension. There was a good selection of rare, local, or difficult species on this final section, including the rarely seen Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, the inconspicuous Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Wing-banded and Gray-backed Wrens, and Foothill Stipplethroat, genuinely rare Military Macaw, and very shy Short-tailed Antthrush all around Sumaco too. Tanagers and antbirds were also a major feature of this week-long extension, with White-backed Fire-eye and Blackish Antbirds among the other as not yet mentioned, antbirds, and Blue-browed, Paradise and Saffron-crowned Tanagers and Golden-collared Honeycreeper among the tanagers. Hopefully, from this long list of only highlights, you can tell that this weeklong trip was excellent even it was a standalone trip, and not added on to The Andes Introtour, as it was, giving John plentiful more new birds, and totally different wildlife experiences and lodging from the main tour he joined first.

Click the link below to view FULL report and photos.

FULL Ecuador: Harpy Eagle & East Andean Foothills Custom Extension 2021 trip report (2.8 MB PDF)