Trip report: Ecuador, The Andes Introtour (June 2021) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Sam Woods .This was a set departure tour, which did NOT include the High Andes extension.

This tour aimed to introduce those who took part to an extraordinarily rich part of South America, the Andes of Northwest Ecuador, which is situated in the wet Choco bioregion. The tour began in Ecuador’s mountainous capital, Quito (at 2800m/9190ft), before moving into temperate cloud forest at the Yanacocha Reserve. Our experience their typified this trip, where tanagers and hummingbirds were front and center; the feeders provided some great moments with Scarlet-bellied and Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers, and the hummingbirds in attendance featured one of the oddest of them all, Sword-billed Hummingbird. Moving lower down, we visited the subtropical cloud forests around the Tandayapa Valley (1750m-2300m/5740-7545ft), seeing Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper on the way, while highlights there included a swarm of hummingbirds at the Tandayapa Bird Lodge feeders, where Booted Racket-tail and Purple-bibbed Whitetip (photo below) were strong highlights, as was Rufous Motmot and Toucan Barbet at the lodge fruit feeders. In the higher parts of the valley, we enjoyed stunning views of a Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan (photo title page). While close to an Andean town we located a roosting male Lyre-tailed Nightjar, seemingly oblivious to the busy road it had chosen to rest next to!

We then visited some lower areas, first at Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary (500m/1640ft), in the western lowlands, where birds like Orange-fronted Barbet, Broad-billed Motmot, and an extremely photogenic Blue-tailed (Choco) Trogon stood out. Then, we visited two sites in the foothills (1100-1500m/3610-4920ft), first at Milpe, where displaying Club-winged Manakins and Choco Toucan were standout birds, then Mashpi, where a flood of regional endemics featured, including Indigo Flowerpiercer, Black Solitaire, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, and both Glistening-green and Moss-backed Tanagers. Finally, we visited subtropical forests near Mindo at Paz de las Aves on our final birding day, where 4 species of antpittas were an undoubted highlight, as were displaying male Andean Cock-of-the-rocks in the cloud forest at dawn. Other fantastic birds there included Golden-headed Quetzal and Golden-winged Manakin, and feeders with birds like Toucan Barbets and Flame-faced Tanagers (photo below) up front. Our last stop in the dry Interandean Valley near Quito led us to one final hummingbird, and a particularly spectacular one at that, Black-tailed Trainbearer. It was a great tour to get to know tropical bird families, with 47 bird families featuring, including some classic tropical ones, like Hummingbirds, with 37 species seen, Trogons, with 5 species seen, Potoos (two roosting Common Potoos were seen), Motmots (2 seen), Puffbirds (2 species), Toucans (5 species), New World and African Parrots (8 species), Typical Antbirds, Antpittas (5 species), Antthrushes (a superb Rufous-breasted Antthrush was seen), Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers (17 seen), Cotingas (4 species including displaying Andean Cock-of-the-rock), Manakins (2 species including displaying Club-winged Manakins), Tityras and Allies (4 species), and Mitrospingid Tanagers (1 species-this is perhaps the best location to get this family), and the true Tanagers (more than 50 species). The tour also featured dozens of endemic species to the Choco bioregion, including Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet, Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Violet-tailed Sylph, Glistening-green and Moss-backed Tanagers, Orange-breasted Fruiteater and Yellow-breasted Antpitta, among others. On top of that, we had success with photography by staying at a lodge with good feeders and visiting a series of different sites that also offered good photo opps at their feeders too that led us to be able to get some of the photos in this report…

Click the link below to view FULL report and photos.

FULL Ecuador: The Andes Introtour June 2021 trip report (7.8 MB PDF)