American Birding Association Ecuador Birding Bash 2020

The American Birding Association, in partnership with Tropical Birding Tours, invites you to join the ABA Ecuador Birding Bash from July 17-26, 2020

Ecuador is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, with an enormous bird list of 1600+ species despite being only about the size of Colorado. The reason for this extreme number is that Ecuador sits in the tropics, right on the equator (the country name is the Spanish word for equator), and contains a huge variety of habitats and birding areas. Its most prominent geological feature is the Andes, which form a central spine down the country. The Andes will be the focus of the Birding Bash, and there will be a variety of extensions available throughout Ecuador before and after.


Tropical Birding operated the very successful ABA Ecuador conference in 2007, as well as the ABA Thailand event in 2019. One of the reasons for their success was our attention to the individual needs of the participants. Different programs are available for birders, bird photographers, and those who enjoy some of both (Birding with a Camera®). The itineraries will be almost identical, but the guides will lead their groups differently in order to meet the needs of these styles. Tropical Birding staff will also try to contact each and every participant to ensure that they are put into a group that meets their needs and expectations.

Social interaction is also a huge part of the ABA’s events. Individual groups will be no more than 8 participants, but multiple groups will be staying each night in the same hotels and lodges so that they can mingle and reminisce over the day’s superb birding. ABA staff members will also accompany some of these groups, and will stay in the same hotels and lodges.

Extensions

A variety of tours are available before and after the Birding Bash. These will also be limited to 8 participants plus one Tropical Birding guide, and ABA staff members will join some of the tours as well. Click the tour name for more detailed itineraries, or click here for a short summary of the options.

Before the Birding Bash:
Southern Ecuador (Birding with a Camera® Tour), July 7-17
Galapagos Cruise (suitable for both birders and photographers), July 9-17 2020
Amazon and Eastern Andes (Birding with a Camera® Tour), July 10-17
Amazon and Eastern Andes (Photo Tour), July 10-17
New Birder Intro (Birding and Birding with a Camera®): July 15-17

After the Birding Bash:
Choco Clean Up (Birding Tour), July 26 – August 1
Amazon and Eastern Andes (Birding Tour), July 26 – August 2
Southern Ecuador (Birding Tour), July 26 – August 4
Southern Ecuador (Photo Tour), July 26 – August 4

Itinerary for Ecuador Birding Bash

The main event is ten days long and covers some of the most famous birding sites in the Andes of Ecuador, including the lush cloudforests of the legendary Tandayapa Valley and the dramatic high-mountain sites of Papallacta and Antisana where Andean Condors roam effortlessly on the wing. A variety of other superb locations feature, where hummingbird feeders attract a dizzying variety of shimmering species, and well-stocked fruit tables can attract anything from toucans to tanagers. If you only ever come to Ecuador once, this is a tour that will satisfy that hunger. This tour is open to birders of all levels, from first-timers to seasoned experts, and there will be photography-focused groups as well.

Click here to see a map of sites to be visited. This opens in Google Maps in separate browser tab.

5 species of toucan are possible on this trip
5 species of toucan are possible on this trip (Pablo Cervantes D)

This is a sample itinerary. Groups will visit these sites in a different order to reduce congestion at birding sites and lodges. However we intend for all groups to visit all sites mentioned, though we may make some small adjustments closer to departure based on feeder activity, road conditions, recent sightings, and other factors in order to provide the best tour experience possible.

Day 1 (July 17): Arrival in Quito/ABA Welcome dinner. After arrival in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, you will be transferred to our excellent hotel, where much of the main event is based. There will be a welcome dinner at 6:00pm to introduce the ABA staff and all the Tropical Birding guides. Note: As many flights do not arrive until late at night, it may be necessary to arrive a day earlier in order to ensure you can make the welcome dinner. An extra hotel night in Quito can be arranged on request, although this is not included in the tour fee. An extra night is also highly recommended in case of travel delays and in order to acclimatize to the 9000 ft altitude. If you take a pre-Bash extension, you will arrive in time for the dinner.

Day 2: The Tandayapa Valley. The Tandayapa Valley, a 90-minute drive from Ecuador’s capital, Quito, is rightly regarded as one of the best birding destinations in Ecuador. After breakfast in Quito, we shall drive directly to the valley and spend the day in both the lower and upper sections, which differ markedly in their birdlife. The higher parts are the haunt of the gorgeous Plate-billed Mountain-Tanager along with many other birds like Grass-green and Beryl-spangled Tanagers, Gorgeted Sunangel, Collared Inca, Dusky Chlorospingus, and Green-and-black Fruiteater. We’ll have lunch in Tandayapa Bird Lodge, one of the pioneer birding lodges in the region, which comes equipped with insane hummingbird feeders. Around the lodge, birds like Red-headed and Toucan Barbets, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Rufous Motmot, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden and Black-capped Tanagers, and a swathe of hummingbirds can be found, most notably, Buff-tailed Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Purple-throated Woodstar, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Andean Emerald, Brown, Sparkling and Lesser (Green) Violet-ears. Dinner will also be in Tandayapa Bird Lodge, and one night will be spent here by each group.

Booted Racket-tail is easy to see and photograph at Tandayapa Bird Lodge
Booted Racket-tail is easy to see and photograph at Tandayapa Bird Lodge (Pablo Cervantes D)

Day 3: Refugio Paz de las Aves and Tandayapa. After an early breakfast, we’ll drive about 45 minutes to Refugio Paz de las Aves. This private reserve is a successful family-run conservation project; local fruit farmers Angel and Rodrigo Paz became bird guides after building a trail to an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek (display site), and unknowingly stumbling upon a rare antpitta in the process. Extraordinarily, Angel started feeding this rare species, and word spread like wildfire. He soon found he had a steady stream of birders visiting his property, for not only the cock-of-the-rocks, but also “his” antpitta. The brothers soon realized they were on to something very special indeed, and started feeding other difficult species. Over the years, the brothers have managed to habituate FIVE species of antpittas (Yellow-breasted, Ochre-breasted, Chestnut-crowned, Moustached, and Giant Antpittas) as well as Dark-backed Wood-Quail and Rufous-breasted Antthrush. Every visit is different and only very lucky see of these in one morning, but it is always a fun experience. The reserve also regularly hosts a roosting Lyre-tailed Nightjar, while the surrounding forests are home to stunning birds like Golden-headed Quetzal, Scaled and Orange-breasted Fruiteaters, and Olivaceous Piha. We’ll have a mid-morning snack and hot beverage at Angel’s cafe while we admire the fruit and hummingbird feeders alongside, which can attract species like Golden, Golden-naped, Flame-faced and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers, and Velvet-purple Coronet and Empress Brilliant, among others. We will return to collect our bags from Tandayapa Bird Lodge, have lunch, do some final birding there, and then head on back to Quito for dinner. We’ll spend the night in the same hotel as on day 1.

Chestnut-crowned Antpitta is one of several possible antpittas at Paz de las Aves
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta is one of several possible antpittas at Paz de las Aves (Nick Athanas)

Day 4: Milpe/Mindo (and San Tadeo) day trip. Milpe is located in the foothills of the Andes, an area which has undergone high rates of deforestation. Thankfully, some reserves still exist with abundant birdlife within. After an early breakfast, we will drive to one of the most important protected areas in the region, Milpe Bird Sanctuary. The Milpe area is not that far from the Tandayapa Valley in miles, but feels a world away in terms of the birdlife; mixed flocks are the name of the game here, and these can hold a bewildering variety of ovenbirds and woodcreepers: Red-faced Spinetail, Buff-fronted, and Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaners, and Spotted and Wedge-billed Woodcreepers can all be in a single flock, along with species like Bay-headed, Rufous-throated, and Blue-necked Tanagers, and many other birds too. At the feeders, birders and photographers alike will be happy with hummingbirds like the tiny Green Thorntail, striking White-necked Jacobin, dazzling Crowned Woodnymph, and bulky Green-crowned Brilliant. Bananaquits also often compete with the hummingbirds for a seat at this table. We’ll have lunch at a nearby restaurant, Mirador Rio Blanco, where we can admire a staggering view of the Rio Blanco far below. There are also fruit feeders in this sanctuary, which sometimes attracts nothing and other times be very active. Species like Collared Aracari, Choco Toucan, Rufous Motmot, Blue-gray, Palm, Golden, and Rufous-throated Tanagers are all possible. Note: the photography groups may deviate from this itinerary if the fruit feeders are not active during the Birding Bash. Either before or after going to Milpe, we shall also drop in at some superb feeders near the tiny village of San Tadeo. Some of the keys species that come in to the feeders include regional endemics like Toucan Barbet, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Brown Inca, and Violet-tailed Sylph. We’ll return to Quito in the evening, where we have dinner and spend the night.

Collared Aracari is the most abundant toucan species in the foothills of the Andes
Collared Aracari is the most abundant toucan species in the foothills of the Andes (Pablo Cervantes D)

Day 5: Yanacocha Reserve. This reserve is one of the closest to Quito, located on the slopes of the volcano which overlooks the city, Volcan Pichincha, which also gives the province its name. It is a “classic” site, well-visited by birders for many years now. We’ll have breakfast in the Quito hotel and depart the city before traffic picks up. While driving through farmlands on the way, on clear mornings we can see several distant volcanoes on the horizon like Cotopaxi, Antisana, and Cayambe, along with an impressive view of Quito too. Fuchsia flowers along the entrance road are a haven for hummingbirds, even up at these heady altitudes, and species like the spectacular Black-tailed Trainbearer and Shining Sunbeam come to probe their scarlet bells. As we get ever-closer to the reserve, taller trees start to take the place of farms. The best birding begins as we arrive at the parking lot of the reserve. Well-placed hummingbird feeders are abuzz and the birds are quite literally fight with each other for a place at their “breakfast table”. Tyrian Metaltail, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, and Great Sapphirewing are just some of the regulars, with yet more of these treasured Andean birds likely as we move on down a mostly flat trail to other feeders. As we reach the pristine forest farther along the trail, we’ll scan the trees for mixed-species flocks, which can be mindblowing at Yanacocha. So many songbirds can appear almost at once it can be both exhilirating and frustrating at the same time as you race to see them before the move on. Regular flock attendees include White-throated and White-banded Tyrranulets, Blue-backed Conebill, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Rufous Wren, Spectacled Redstart, and sometimes also the odd Barred Fruiteater. Having hopefully experienced one of these flocks, we will reach the reserve’s centerpiece, a ring of hummingbird feeders, where Sapphire-vented Pufflegs dominate, but Tyrian Metaltails and Golden-breasted Pufflegs also sneak in regularly too, as does the cartoonesque Sword-billed Hummingbird, with a bill size relative to body size that is the longest of any bird on Earth! We’ll have lunch in a small restaurant back at the reserve HQ, with feeders just outside the window. Slices of fruit that may attract hulking Andean Guans or an assortment of tanagers, including the striking Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager or Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch. After lunch, and some further birding we return to our hotel in Quito for dinner and another night.

The feeders in the temperate forest of Yanacocha attract Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers
The feeders in the temperate forest of Yanacocha attract Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers (Nick Athanas)

Day 6: Antisana Reserve. Named after the magnificent 18,714 foot volcano that dominates the view on clear days, this national reserve is a vital watershed for the Quito area and protects an enormous amount of high Andean habitat. Antisana remains the most reliable place in Ecuador for their national bird, the iconic Andean Condor. After breakfast, we’ll drive up the slopes below the snow-capped peak where vast grasslands (known as paramo) host a variety of birds not found at lower elevations, and lakes are havens for waterfowl. It will be the best or only site during the Bash for Black-faced (Andean) Ibis, Andean Gull, Andean Lapwing, Andean Duck, Silvery Grebe, and Carunculated Caracara among others. The landscape and the easy birding, are a really nice complement to the forest sites we visit elsewhere. We’ll have lunch at a small restaurant equipped with hummingbird feeders and great views of the nesting and roosting cliffs of the condors. We will spend time scanning the skies and rock faces for condors here, and also admire the feeder visitors which often include the dazzling Shining Sunbeam and the biggest of them all, Giant Hummingbird. We may have a fairly early finish on this day, due to its proximity to Quito and the ease of the birding. We have dinner and another night back in the Quito hotel.

Antisana is home to the largest number of Andean Condors in Ecuador
Antisana is home to the largest number of Andean Condors in Ecuador (Sam Woods)

Day 7: Papallacta and Guango. Papallacta is the highest elevation site of the tour, and we may reach up to 13700 ft for a short time, and will spend the night at 10,900 ft. After breakfast in the Quito hotel, we’ll drive up to the highest pass of any main highway in Ecuador. Quiet side roads offer open country birding in the paramo grassland and shrubland. Various birds will be on offer like Stout-billed and Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Many-striped Canastero, Tawny Antpitta, and Viridian Metaltail, among others. Later in the day, we’ll drop down to Guango Lodge in the temperate forests along the east slope of the Andes. This small lodge and restaurant is set beside a rushing Andean river that hosts Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, and Torrent Tyrannulet. The alder-dominated forest is home to roaming flocks of birds which regularly include Black-capped Hemispingus, Buff-breasted and Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, and Pearled Treerunner. Turquoise Jays and Mountain Caciques can often be quite conspicuous just out the back of the lodge too. However, Guango is perhaps most famous for is its hummingbird feeders that bring in daily sightings of Sword-billed Hummingbird, White-bellied Woodstar, Collared Inca, Long-tailed Sylph, and Tourmaline Sunangel. We’ll have a tasty lunch here, and have more birding in the afternoon before returning to Papallacta, where we spend one night and have dinner in a lovely hot spring resort. Soaking in the piping hot pools is a great way to relax after a long day!

Sword-billed Hummingbird has the longest bill to body size of any bird on Earth
Sword-billed Hummingbird has the longest bill to body size of any bird on Earth (Pablo Cervantes D)

Day 8: Borja. Borja is a relatively new birding site consisting of foothill and subtropical forests on the east slope of the Andes. There are three different sites in the Borja area that will be covered: two different sites with feeders, as well as a nearby dirt road that offers great roadside birding. Photography groups will concentrate on the feeders. Birding groups will spend less time at the feeders and more time along the birding road. Some very noteworthy hummingbirds come in to the feeders that are different from those seen on other days, with species like White-tailed Hillstar, Gorgeted Woodstar, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Bronzy Inca, and the buff-booted form of Booted Racket-tail, along with other more common Andean species. The roadside birding offers a great number of possible species, and we will be on the lookout for Torrent Duck, Southern Lapwing, Andean Motmot, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Green (Inca) Jay, Golden-olive and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Ash-browed Spinetail, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Orange-eared and Golden-eared Tanagers, and Red-breasted (Blackbird) Meadowlark, to name a few. We’ll have lunch at a restaurant in the area. After more birding in the afternoon, we’ll return to our now-familiar hotel in Quito, where we have dinner and spend the night.

Crested Quetzal can be seen in the Borja area
Crested Quetzal can be seen in the Borja area (Nick Athanas)

Day 9: Jerusalem reserve, Laguna San Pablo, and Otavalo. This is a relatively relaxing day as we mix in some culture to go along with the birding. After breakfast in the Quito hotel, we drive north of the city to the Jerusalem reserve, a valley in the middle of the Andes that is surprisingly arid due to the rain shadow effect. The forest is home to Purple-collared Woodstar, Scrub Tanager, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Vermilion Flycatcher, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Hooded Siskin, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, and others. After a few hours of birding here, we will carry on north to the town of Otavalo. We’ll break for lunch in a restaurant and visit its famous outdoor artisan market, one of the largest in the world, where locals sell handicrafts, sweaters, weavings, leather items, jewelry, artwork, and much more. In the afternoon, we’ll stop by the reed-fringed Laguna San Pablo in the shadow of the 19,000 ft Cayambe Volcano. We’ll try to see the local form of Virginia Rail (a possible split), Subtropical Doradito, Slate-colored (Andean) Coot, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Teal, and Andean Duck. We’ll return to Quito for one last night in our group hotel, and a farewell dinner.

Black-tailed Trainbearer has a ridiculous tail!
Black-tailed Trainbearer has a ridiculous tail! (Sam Woods)

Day 10 (July 26): Departure or begin post-Bash extension. The Birding Bash ends this morning. Airport shuttles will be provided for anyone heading to the airport. If you are joining a post-tour extension, it will begin this morning.

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TRIP CONSIDERATIONS

PACE: Moderate. Early starts are necessary on all days since birding in the Andes is almost always best early in the morning. Drive times to the sites vary, with the longest expected to be around 2.5 hours (direct, with no birding stops!).We’ll have a break in the middle at lunch time (which will always be a sit-down meal at a restaurant) to relax a bit, then bird for another few hours in the afternoon, before heading to the hotel. We plan to arrive at the hotel in time to have a shower and do some socializing before dinner.

PHYSICAL DIFFICULTY: Moderate. Most of the birding will be on flat or slightly-inclined roads or wide tracks. Refugio Paz de las Aves, which is visited on one day, has some fairly steep trails (a walking stick helps a lot), but they are relatively short. You can expect to walk around 2-3 miles (3.2-4.8 km) per day on average. Much of the day at Yanacocha will be spent at 11,500 ft. (3500 m.) elevation, but most of the walking is on a wide, nearly flat track which will be done at slow pace. Parts of two days will reach elevations of 13,000 ft for a few hours. We will do very little walking at these elevations and stay near the vehicle. Anyone concerned about the elevation should see their doctor about preventative measures, though the vast majority of birders we have taken up there so not suffer any serious issues.

MEALS: Breakfasts will typically start between 4:30am and 5:30am. Whenever possible, breakfasts will be in the hotel or lodge. Breakfasts will mostly be simple “continental style” affairs that include cereal, fruits, bread and toast, and hot tea and coffee, but usually not a cooked egg-based breakfast (it is usually not possible to get these at the early hour that we need them, but it may be possible on some mornings. Lunches will be in lodges or restaurants in or near the birding sites – we do not intend to have packed lunches unless something unexpected happens. Dinners will all be taken in the hotels and lodges.

CLIMATE: Highly variable due to the variety of sites visited, from warm and humid around Milpe (61-86°F) to cold at Papallacta and Antisana (potentially down near freezing and windy. Layers are recommended as temperature changes throughout the day can be high. July is drier than other times of year, but some rain is still likely in a few areas, so rain gear is essential.

ACCOMMODATION: Good to excellent throughout. We will be using just three places; a business style hotel in Quito with all the usual amenities (24 hour electricity, high speed Wi-fi, hot water, conference rooms etc.); one night will be spent at Tandayapa Bird Lodge within the cloudforest of the Andes, where hot water and full time electricity are also normal. Internet is available at Tandayapa for a small fee, but is via satellite and therefore is slow and unreliable. One night will also be spent at Termas de Papallacta, a high end hot-spring resort with amenities similar to the Quito hotel

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required for entry into Ecuador. It must be valid for at least six months past the time of your scheduled return. A visa is not required for tourists of nearly all nationalities who stay 90 days or less in any consecutive one-year period. Visas are currently required only of nationals of a few countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. By law you are required to carry your passport with you at all times, though while in Quito it is recommended that you only carry a photocopy of it, and leave your passport in the hotel safe.

WHAT’S INCLUDED?: Accommodation from the night of day 1 to the night day 9; meals from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 10 (unless you leave before breakfast service begins); reasonable non-alcoholic beverages with meals; safe drinking water; tour leader with scope and audio playback gear from the evening of day 1 to the evening of day 9 (there will be one leader per 8 participants); ground transport for the group in a suitable vehicle with local driver from the morning of day 2 to the afternoon of day 9; airport shuttle bus on day 1 and day 10 (these may be shared with other people); entrance fees to the sites mentioned in the itinerary; a printed and bound checklist to keep track of your sightings (given to you at the start of the tour – only electronic copies can be provided in advance).

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED?: Snacks; additional drinks apart from those included; alcoholic beverages; tips of any kind (while optional, it is customary to tip guides/tour leaders, drivers, luggage porters if you use their services, and to leave a tip in the lodge tip box in Tandayapa); flights; travel insurance (highly recommended); excursions not included in the tour itinerary; extras in hotels such as laundry service, minibar, room service, telephone calls, and personal items; medical fees; other items or services not specifically mentioned as being included.

EXTENSIONS:

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Galapagos Cruise

July 9-17 (pre-Bash)
$6990 in double/twin; singles not available but we will assign a roommate to anyone who needs one

The Galapagos is one of those “ultimate bucket-list” destinations. The wildlife of the islands is famously tame, and allows anyone to walk away with more than merely decent photographs of them. To a birder, these islands have greater appeal still. In addition to the lure that they have for others, the islands are home to a discrete set of endemic bird species (more than twenty by current taxonomy, but ever increasing), many of which are easily found by taking a very comfortable cruise around some of the key islands. If ever there was a birding trip that you could feel totally comfortable inviting a non-birding partner on, this is it. Simply put, everybody likes the Galapagos, as it is a totally unique nature experience that is satiating to people from all walks of life. We will visit many of the best sites in the archipelago on board a 16-passenger Superior First Class Yacht, the Beluga. The Beluga is a fully air-conditioned, spacious and comfortable motor yacht. This tour is suitable for both birders and photographers. The number of species is very low and most are incredibly easy to find, meaning we can easily spend lots of time with each species without fear of missing anything.

Click here for the full itinerary and tour details.

Penguins? Yes! Take the Galapagos extension and you can see them along with loads of other endemics
Penguins? Yes! Take the Galapagos extension and you can see them along with loads of other endemics (Nick Athanas)

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Southern Ecuador

July 7-17 (pre-Bash, Birding with a Camera® Tour)
$3690 in double/twin; $3990 in single

July 26 – August 4 (post-Bash, Birding Tour)
$3390 in double/twin; $3670 in single

This tour takes in the best of Southern Ecuador. We’ll fly down to the coastal plains where Horned Screamers and other waterbirds may be found in wetland areas. Moving up into the foothills of the Andes in Buenaventura, our quarries become even more enticing; Long-wattled Umbrellabird and the endemic El Oro Parakeet are both found here, along with a swathe of hummingbirds, including White-vented Plumeleteer and Violet-bellied Hummingird. We will then move close to the border with Peru, where completely different dry forest awaits, peppered with giant kapok trees. It is home to Ecuadorian Trogon, White-tailed Jay, White-edged Oriole, and many other regional endemics. Just up the road from there is damp cloudforest at Utuana, where spectacular species like Rainbow Starfontlet and Purple-throated Sunangel visit feeders. Continuing over to the east side of the Andes, the birds will change dramatically; at the Jocotoco Foundation’s famous Tapichalaca reserve we will go after one of the best antpittas in the world, the Jocotoco Antpitta, the namesake of the foundation. While there, we can also admire hummingbirds at their feeders like Flame-throated and Amethyst-throated Sunangel, and watch for mixed flocks with Golden-crowned Tanagers or Bearded Guans in attendance. Moving north, we will finish up within Cajas National Park, home to the electric blue Tit-like Dacnis, endemic Violet-throated Metaltail, as well as some of the most dramatic scenery on this varied extension. The pre-Rally itinerary includes a “rest day” in Quito in order to properly link up with the Rally, which is why it is one day longer.

Click here for the full itinerary and tour details.

The Southern Ecuador and Choco Clean Up extensions will target the amazing Long-wattled Umbrellabird
The Southern Ecuador and Choco Clean Up extensions will target the amazing Long-wattled Umbrellabird (Nick Athanas)

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Southern Ecuador Photo Tour

July 26 – August 4 (post-Bash)
$3690 in double/twin; $3970 in single

This tours focuses on getting photos of some of the birds that make the southern part of the country special. We’ll photograph the amazing Jocotoco Antpitta in the Tapichalaca Reserve, which also offers chances at other antpittas like Chestnut-naped and Undulated. Hummingbirds like Amethyst and Flame-throated Sunangels will be targets for multiflash photography. The dry forest of Jorupe offers up photo subjects like White-edged Oriole, Whooping Motmot, White-tailed Jay, Black-capped Sparrow, and even Guayaquil Squirrel, a surprisingly good-looking animal. Not far from Jorupe are higher mountains with some very localized hummingbirds like Rainbow Starfrontlet and Purple-throated Sunangel, which we’ll try to shoot in flight with our setups. Buenaventura is loaded with hundreds hummingbirds at its two sets of feeders, including Violet-bellied Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, Crowned Woodnymph (the unique emerald-bellied form), Green Thorntail, Andean Emerald, as well as Bananaquit and Green and Purple Honeycreepers.

Click here for the full itinerary and tour details.

Photography groups will engage in multi-flash techniques
Photography groups will engage in multi-flash techniques (Pablo Cervantes D)

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Amazon and the Eastern Andes

10-17 July (pre-Bash, Birding with a Camera® Tour)
July 26 – August 2 (post-Bash, Birding Tour)
$3190 in double/twin, $3570 in single

This tour combines excellent lodges in very different settings. We will journey into the Amazon Basin by way of motorized and paddle canoes to a famous high-end lodge in the area, Sacha Lodge. From our comfortable setting (with full time electricity and hot water), we can explore the lakes and channels for species like Hoatzin, Long-billed Woodcreeper, and Black-capped Donacobious; further afield we can visit the famous Yasuni National Park parrot clay lick, where birds like Orange-cheeked Parrot, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Yellow-crowned Parrot come in. We’ll also spend time in the canopy tower and walkway, where we will see toucans, tanagers, oropendolas, cotingas, howler-monkeys, and many more at eye level. We will also visit WildSumaco Lodge in the Andean foothills, which comes stocked with two different sets of hummingbird feeders, and a reputation as one of the best birder-oriented lodges in the country. The feeders attract the likes of Napo Sabrewing, Wire-crested Thorntail, Black-throated Brilliant, Gould’s Jewelfront and sometimes even Ecuadorian Piedtail, while birding trails in the area can lead to sightings of Band-bellied Owl at a roost, Plain-backed and Ochre-breasted Antpittas at a feeding station, along with Coppery-chested Jacamar, Blackish Antbird, Wing-banded Wren, and White-crowned Manakin.

Click here for the full itinerary and tour details.

Extensions to the Amazon will visit a clay lick that can attract hundreds of parrots
Extensions to the Amazon will visit a clay lick that can attract hundreds of parrots (Nick Athanas)

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Amazon and the Eastern Andes Photo Tour

10-17 July (pre-Bash)
$3290 in double/twin, $3600 in single

Bird Photographers will head off to the Amazon too, although they will visit another wonderful Amazon lodge, Sani Lodge, where a spacious tower and gorgeous lake offer unique photo opportunities. Subjects for us in the Amazon could include prehistoric Hoatzins clambering around by the edge of the lake, Greater Anis gathering in groups to display, White-eared Jacamars that perch next to the lodge’s bar, Silver-beaked Tanagers and Scarlet-crowned Barbets coming into fruiting trees, and the canopy tower can allows photos of treetop toucans, tanagers, trogons, and puffbirds too. The Amazon forms the core of this tour, but several stops will be made as we journey back to the nation’s capital, first at San Isidro, where Inca Jays, Bronzy Incas, and Chestnut-breasted Coronets can all provide great shots. A second stop at Guango Lodge will give us extra chances to photograph Sword-billed Hummingbirds, Collared Incas, Tyrian Metaltails and Tourmaline Sunangels.

Click here for the full itinerary and tour details.

The tower at Sani Lodge (on the Amazon Photo extension) offers eye-level shots of amazing birds like Green-backed Trogon
The tower at Sani Lodge (on the Amazon Photo extension) offers eye-level shots of amazing birds like Green-backed Trogon (Nick Athanas)

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Choco Clean-Up

July 26 – August 1 (post-Bash)
$2490 in double/twin, $2710 in single

For birders who wish for more time in the rich northwestern part of Ecuador, this tour perfectly complements the sites visited on the Birding Bash. We’ll spend more time in the Tandayapa area to search for tougher species like Tanager Finch, and visit completely different sites like Mashpi, where we should find key Choco endemics like Glistening-green and Moss-backed Tanagers, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, and Indigo Flowerpiercer. A visit to a local roosting site for the odd Oilbird will also be included, for those keen to see this odd monotypic bird family.

Click here for the full itinerary and tour details.

The Choco Clean Up extension gives us much better chances at scarce birds like Orange-breasted Fruiteater
The Choco Clean Up extension gives us much better chances at scarce birds like Orange-breasted Fruiteater (Sam Woods)

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New Birder Intro (birding and Birding with a Camera®)

July 15-17 (pre-Bash)
$690 in double/twin, $820 in single

This short extension before the Birding Bash is an introduction to birding tours in tropical areas – perfect for anyone who has never traveled abroad or never been part of an organized tour before. Along with birding, we’ll cover topics like calibrating binoculars, choosing the right camera settings, using a scope, spotting birds in tropical forests, use of playback, and more. We’ll also have a lot of fun! Birding in the tropics can be challenging, but it does not have to be frustrating.

Full itinerary and tour details will be added soon!

An aquamarine Golden-naped Tanager takes a look at the bananas laid out for it below
An aquamarine Golden-naped Tanager takes a look at the bananas laid out for it below (Sam Woods)

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HOW TO BOOK:

To register for the ABA Ecuador Tour you must be an ABA Member. If you are not yet a member, it is easy to join today! Click here for more info on becoming an ABA member.

Please read through the itinerary and the “Trip Considerations” in detail for both the Birding Bash and any pre- and post-Bash extension you are booking before completing the booking form.

To book on the ABA Ecuador Birding Bash, please email Tropical Birding at [email protected] or call us at +1 (409) 515-9110 or (800) 348-5941 to check availability. We will then send you a link to our online booking form. After submitting your booking form, you will be invoiced for an initial deposit of 20% of the cost of the Birding Bash and any of the extensions that you are taking. The final balance will be due April 17th, 2020.

Payments can be made be made by US dollar check (drawn from a US or Canadian Bank and mailed to Tropical Birding’s Maryland office), by wire transfer, or by credit card. Credit card payments will incur a 4% surcharge. If you wish to pay by credit card, please let us know and we will add the 4% charge to your invoice and send you a secure payment link. Anyone not resident in the USA also has the option to pay by Flywire, and Flywire often accepts credit cards at a lower rate than the 4%.

FLIGHTS: Please do not book nonrefundable flights without contacting Tropical Birding to confirm that the Bash and any extensions you have booked have enough people to run. Quito airport (airport code UIO) is well connected with direct flights from the US on several airlines including American, Delta, Jet Blue, and United.

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TROPICAL BIRDING LEADERS:

All of the Tropical Birding leaders have spent plenty of time in Ecuador, and some of them live there.

Keith Barnes

Keith realized that he was no longer a scientist when a significant difference in the tail lengths of larks didn’t make a significant difference in his life! Turning his back on the ivory towers, he helped to found TB and has never looked back. He lives in quirky Taiwan, but guides birding and photography tours just about everywhere. Asia and Africa are favorite haunts though. Before Keith was able to actually see the birds he wanted to, he sat in an office and wrote about them in various books for BirdLife International. He coauthored Birding Ethiopia and Wild Rwanda published by Lynx Edicions, and Animals of Kruger, Birds of Kruger, and Wildlife of Madagascar with Princeton University Press.

Iain Campbell

Iain ended his career as a geochemist in West Africa when it dawned on him that his life list was more valuable than gold. He packed up his G-pick, said goodbye to fufu, and headed to South America, which better suits his style. He is very involved in bird conservation, having created Tandayapa Bird Lodge and Mindo Cloudforest Foundation. Besides being one of the original guides of Tropical Birding, Iain is near fanatical about getting more people into birding, and works with many organizations trying to achieve this main goal. He used to be a fanatical lister, but now much prefers to photograph the world’s specialties.

Pablo Cervantes Daza

Pablo came to Tropical Birding by accident; this die-hard city-loving engineer had to go and help out in Tandayapa Bird Lodge for a week, and suddenly realized there was far more to life than Quito nightlife. He became hooked on bird photography and quickly started taking out professional photographers and helping with their photography workshops. He now guides photo tours all over the world including Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, South Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, and Australia. He is the principal photographer of Wildlife of Ecuador: A Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians, published in 2017..

José Illanes

José grew up in Sani Isla, an Amazonian community in eastern Ecuador. His uncle, José Hualinga, was one of the pioneer guides of the Amazon, spawning a whole ream of quality guides that have now emerged from there. Therefore, it was only natural that José Illanes became a bird guide too, although, unusually, he began his training in the Amazon at the tender age of 12! After working at the famous Amazon lodges of La Selva and Sani (where he also helped to compile the official bird lists for the area), his reputation as a bird guide quickly grew, and so in 2002 he moved out of the Amazon and into Ecuador’s capital, Quito, after taking a job with Tropical Birding Tours and Tandayapa Bird Lodge. He is now one of the senior guides for Tropical Birding, having worked there for 14 years; and he continues to live in Quito, with his wife and young, soccer-mad son, Casey. His long-term experience as one of the most well known guides in Ecuador, has led him to make a series of overseas presentations promoting birding in both the Quito region and Ecuador as a whole, including in the US (at an ABA convention in Maine); and the UK (at the largest birding festival in the world, the British Birdfair). José has now led birding and bird photography tours to 5 different countries (Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Venezuela, Australia, and the Galapagos too), and traveled to Africa and Asia too, in pursuit of birds. He is known for his relaxed guiding style, keen sense of humor, and, especially, his sharp eyesight, which leads to his uncanny ability to find roosting owls in the daytime, a skill that makes him a very popular tour leader!.

Alex Luna

Alex became interested in birds at a very young age when he moved to Mindo, Ecuador. As a boy, he was lucky to have the opportunity to meet great birders who inspired him to have the same passion for birds, and he got well and truly hooked when a friend gifted him a field guide to the birds of Ecuador. Alex started to keep track of the species he had seen, and he started to travel throughout Ecuador searching for more lifers. After graduating from university, Alex decided to follow his dream of becoming a guide, and he has led many trips for both birders and bird photographers. Alex uses a Swarovski spotting scope, and Olympus camera gear.

Ben Knoot

Ben is a nature photographer originally from the state of California. He has been photographing the natural world since the age of 9, focusing mainly on wildlife. It was through the lens of his father’s camera that he first observed the beautiful green and purple sheen of a Common Raven. Observing the fine hairs at the base of the birds massive bill, Ben became passionate about sharing the beauty of the natural world around him. From then on, Ben’s desire to educate others blossomed. He self-published a children’s book The Color of Birds to help young children learn their colors through bird identifications. He has traveled the United States extensively, especially in the Pacific Northwest where he completed college. While in school, Ben further honed his desire to teach with a degree in Environmental Policy and Education. Ben’s work has been published since 2007 by multiple organizations including: Natures Best Photography, Audubon, Ranger Rick, NANPA, Wildlife Photo Magazine and the BBC. Ben shoots with Canon gear and specializes in natural, action photography.

Daniel Aldana Schumann

Daniel is the Tropical Birding guide for Guatemala tours. He was born and raised in Guatemala with an ornithologist for a father; so, he has been birding as long as he can remember. After graduating from high school, he started college but decided to dedicate his life to birds instead. Working as a field tech for researchers from Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy. Later, he was elected to be part of the Guatemalan Birding Tourism board of directors, so he started working on birding tourism and started guiding all over this wonderful birding destination. He has also been an avid e-Birder ever since he heard of it and is currently one of the top e-Birders for Guatemala, while also working on the very first field guide dedicated to the birds of Guatemala. Daniel uses a Leica scope and bins.

Andrés Vásquez

Andrés has been chasing birds all over his native Ecuador for well over a decade now. As part of our team he leads tours regularly in Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, and Belize plus sporadically in Japan and other destinations. Andres has also explored Southeast Asia and South Africa learning new families and tons of new birds. Based in Quito, when not in the field, he can be found at his computer working on book publishing; he has already released several wildlife guidebooks for Ecuador, including a field guide to the birds of Northwest Ecuador, one for the birds of the Amazon and he just finished Wildlife of Ecuador: A Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians. Andres uses Leica binoculars and a Kowa scope.

Sam Woods

Sam’s unhealthy obsession for birds began with a pair of tits in a London park at age 11. He famously proclaimed the evening before “I’m not looking at birds; they’re boring”. Rarely have words haunted someone for so long. Sam was instantly hooked, starting off by spanning the British Isles in search of birds, which quickly expanded to the wider world, and has now traveled to all seven continents over the last thirty years. He has been working as a full-time guide for Tropical Birding since 2005, since when he has guided on six different continents. Sam attended Plymouth University in Devon (UK), getting a degree in Environmental Science, which led him to the Andes of Ecuador to undertake research on hummingbirds. This stoked an interest in the Americas; originally from the United Kingdom, he now resides in Ecuador (South America), but arguably spends just as much time overseas, as he does there. He is most at home, when he is away. Sam has also been a co-author on several books on Australian birds and wildlife. He has also written articles for the ABA’s Birding and Birder’s Guides magazines, as well as repeatedly in the Neotropical Bird Club’s magazine Neotropical Birding about various aspects of Ecuadorian birds and birding. He uses a Swarovski scope and binoculars; Olympus camera gear. You can read Sam’s blog Lost in Birding..

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ABA STAFF

Jeffrey A. Gordon
Jeff is the President of the American Birding Association. Jeff’s special areas of interest include how we build a bigger, more inclusive tent of birders, and how we can come together to have the greatest possible positive impact on the future of birding and the birds that have meant so much to us all. Prior to coming aboard at the ABA, Jeff spent several decades leading birding tours, working as an interpretive naturalist, and learning about the birding industry as a freelance writer, speaker, video editor, and trip leader.

Liz Deluna Gordon
Liz has been a birder for 25 years. After growing up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and not knowing about the birds in her backyard for 13 years, she discovered Green Jays and chachalacas. There was no stopping her after that. Her goal in life became to teach that birds and bird habitat were worth caring for and protecting, and as a hairdresser she had a captive audience every day! She was one of the founders of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, and after 10 years of festival life she left Texas to move to Delaware, in order to finally hear wild Canada Geese and to marry Jeff Gordon. She and Jeff were mentors for the ABA/Leica Tropicbirds in Texas and Cape May. Jeff eventually brought her to Colorado Springs, where she first volunteered and eventually became Adjutant at the ABA office. She helps with whatever needs doing: some days, it’s cleaning the break room fridge, some days she is organizing and fulfilling the Birders’ Exchange applications, and others she’s answering the phones and answering questions about where to take injured birds. A passion for birds and protecting their habitats drives her every day.

More ABA staff may be added based on tour participation.

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TROPICAL BIRDING ECUADOR TOUR MANAGER

Paola Villalba

Paola is a true nature lover, thanks in no small part to family trips from an early age, to many beautiful wildlife sites in her native Ecuador. She studied eco-tourism at university, which led Paola to manage logistics for several eco-lodges on the coast, in the Andes and Amazon of Ecuador, and, later, manage the world famous Ecuadorian bird lodges of the Jocotoco Foundation, before joining Tropical Birding in the spring of 2016. Paola has traveled around Ecuador and other countries like South Africa, USA, Thailand, Malaysia and Brazil, not only looking at birds, but enjoying nature in general and immersing in the culture of these areas. In spite of not being an avid birder, she has some great rarities on her life list, like Masked Saltator, Sapayoa, and Crescent-faced Antpitta! Her other passion is helping dogs; she volunteers at a foundation that helps street dogs in her native Quito. Paola manages Tropical Birding’s New World tours.

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TROPICAL BIRDING GENERAL MANAGER

Cristina Campbell

Cristina is TB’s General Manager, and it is through her good work that our tours run so smoothly. An Ecuadorian, she has a thorough understanding of business in South America and beyond. She has two children, Gabriel and Amy, and currently lives in Maryland where the Tropical Birding head office is located. She is an occasional birder too, but prefers colorful toucans to skulking tapaculos.