Trip report: Northern Ecuador Birding Custom Tour (May 2021) by Tropical Birding

Guided by José Illanes This was a custom tour.

This trip in northern Ecuador was a custom tour, with the specific aim of targeting specialties that were lifebirds for the person involved. The trip started by journeying northeast of the capital Quito, by car, where we targeted, and found, Páramo Tapaculo, Andean Potoo and Red-hooded Tanager. From there, we continued towards the Amazon, where Gareno Lodge was our final destination. On the way there we added some other target species, like Plushcap and Point-tailed Palmcreeper. At Gareno itself, birds came like Fiery Topaz, Reddish-winged Bare-eye and the stunning White-plumed Antbird, which were much wanted target species, along with other standouts like Pavonine Quetzal, Ash-throated Gnateater, Hairy-crested Antbird, Rufous Potoo, and Slaty-backed Forest-Falcon. From Gareno we swapped one Amazon area for another, this time visiting Sani Lodge. Some of the major requests that fell there included Orange-eyed Flatbill, Amazonian Scrub-Flycatcher, and Orange-crested Manakin, and on some Napo River islands we found Black-and-white Antbird, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Black-banded Crake, while around the lodge we found the extremely local Cocha Antshrike. Other Sani highlights included White-bellied and Parker’s Spinetails, Great Potoo, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Black-faced Anthrush, Sungrebe, and White-shouldered and Plumbeous Antbirds.

After this extended stay in the Amazon, we headed uphill, into the markedly different foothills of the East Slope, at Narupa Lodge (which is owned by the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation). On the drive over, we picked up Chestnut-headed Crake (another requested species), as well as Rufous-winged Antwren, Scaled Fruiteater, and Coppery-chested Jacamar. From this location, we covered some different elevations as side trips from there. A visit to Wayra Private Reserve, produced Rufous-breasted Wood-quail, while the Guacamayos Ridge yielded both the rare Greater Scythebill and extremely elusive Peruvian Antpitta. In the area around the lodge, we took in a variety of east slope foothill tanagers, including Paradise, Spotted, Yellow-bellied and Golden-eared Tanagers, and we also found Greenish Puffleg, Sunbittern, and Green-backed Hillstar, before we moved slopes, and transferred to the west slope, and its markedly different birds. We left early from Quito to cover the Yanacocha Reserve, where we found another target species, Imperial Snipe in display flight. The same reserve also got us White-throated Screech-Owl, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, and along the Old Nono-Mindo Road, we located Torrent Duck too. In the Tandayapa Valley, we found some great target species, like White-faced Nunbird, Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl and the threatened Tanager Finch, while a visit to the western foothills produced the rare Purple Quail-Dove. Other major highlights in the Tandayapa area included Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Gorgeted Sunangel, and the scarce Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia in the upper cloudforests. Venturing downslope from there, the foothills and lowlands brought us other species like Choco Toucan, Scarlet-browed, Tawny-crested and Rufous-winged Tanagers, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Esmeraldas Antbird and the beautiful Orange fronted Barbet. By covering multiple elevations on both slopes of the Andes we were able to find many of the requested target species.

Read the full TROPICAL BIRDING Northern Ecuador Birding custom tour trip report (PDF format; 8.5 MB size file).