7 - 24 February 2008
All photos taken on the tour.
This year's set-departure tour was again a lot of fun and we all had a great time. I have to admit, this one was harder than most, thanks to some participants having delayed flights, and the unusual heavy rain that closed some roads. However, Southern Ecuador is such an amazing trip, that they were only small problems among a load of great birds and fantastic experiences. We still had a huge list with almost all the regional endemics. Check out the Andean Potoo to the right that we found on a day roost at Tapichalaca, which was one of my favorites.
After our breakfast we headed to Cerro Blanco Reserve, which is located juat 30 minutes driving from our hotel. This private reserve holds some great Tumbesian endemics. We birded in the area all morning and saw White-tailed Jay, Saffron Siskin, Ecuadorian Piculet, Gray-cheeked Parakeet, Red-lored Amazon, Plain Antvireo, Greenish Elaenia, great scope views of the shy Gray-capped Cuckoo, Gray-and-gold Warbler, Red-billed Scythebill showing nicely right in the open, and a flock of Pacific Parrotlets. The rain started later in the morning, but it was time to leave anyway since we had a long drive south to Zaruma. On the way we got birds like Savanna Hawk, Ringed and Green Kingfishers, various herons and egrets, Wattled Jacana. We made a quick roadside stop at the Churute Reserve for Horned Screamer; luckily we got one perched right out on the tree top, and nearby we also saw Snail Kite, Peruvian Meadowlark and Ecuadorian Ground-dove. In early evening we reached the pleasant mountain town of Zaruma where we stayed two nights.
After an early breakfast, we went to visit the Buenaventura reserve, which is owned by the Jocotoco Foundation. For most the most wanted bird here is the bizarre Long-wattled Umbrellabird, which we saw well as you can see by the photo! We also saw the Ecuadorian endemic El Oro Parakeet, as well as plenty of other species like Club-winged Manakin, Choco Toucan, soaring Barred and Gray-backed Hawks, Swallow-tailed Kite, Flame-faced, Rufous-throated Silver-throated, Blue-necked, Fawn-breasted, and Beryl-spangled Tanagers, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Line-cheeked and Azara's Spinetail, Whiskered and Song Wrens, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, and Ornate Flycatcher, one of the cutest of that huge family. In one of the Heliconia flower patches we got Wedge-billed Hummingbird and the amazing looking White-tipped Sicklebill. Later in the day we also nailed Guayaquil Woodpecker, Ecuadorian Thrush, Masked Yellowthroat, and Streaked Xenops before heading back to the hotel for dinner and aomw cold beer to celebrate the good day.
Today we started quite early as well (it is a necessity on this trip), heading for the upper part of the reserve to search for some birds that we were missing, finding Pale-vented Thrush, Bay Wren, and Bronze-winged Parrot. Later in the morning we went to check the hummer feeders, where we got 12 species coming to fill up on sugar water. Velvet-purple Coronet and Brown Inca were nice surprises among Baron’s and White-whiskered Hermits, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Brilliant, Long-billed Starthroat, White-necked Jacobin, and Brown Violet-ear. After the feeders we birded just below the lodge where we were able to see Speckle-breasted Wren, Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Pale-mandibled Aracari, and Sooty-headed Tyrannulet. We had to leave the area by 11h00 since it was a long drive to the really dry forest of El Empalme. We didn't have much time there but managed to see Tumbes Sparrow, White-edged Oriole, White-headed Brush-Finch, and Ash-breasted Sierra-finch. We finally got to the border town of Macará at dark, where we stayed three nights.
The Jorupe Reserve is just fifteen minutes driving from Macara, so we got to "sleep in". This hot spot is also owned by the Jocotoco Foundation, and thanks to them this dry forest area is protected. This deciduous forest has interesting vegetation, and it is amazing to see the huge Ceiba trees with huge green trunks. I been there a few times and they still surprise me. The road and trails here brought us great birds like Slaty Becard, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner showing nicely for all of us, Plumbeous-backed Thrush, Baird’s Flycatcher, Red-masked Parakeet, even the Tumbes Swift flying really low so it was easy to tell from the other swift species, and finally Ecuadorian Trogon, which in the beginning had been hard to see, but in the end turned out to be very easy. All these are Tumbesian Endemics, but hold on, I forgot to mention that we were lucky to lure in the hard Pale-browed Tinamou, and we all saw it better than I ever had before. Soaring King Vultures and Harris’s Hawks were overhead, and we also spotted Bat Falcon, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, and One-colored Becard. A great day all around!
Today we birded in cool, dry temperate forest, almost hour and half from the hotel. The site is called Utuana Reserve, another private reserve which is part of the Jocotoco Foundation. Without a doubt this place has a bunch good birds, and while walking the easy trail we got Chapman’s Antshrike, Black-crested Tit-tyrant, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Black-cowled Saltator, and a little feeding flock with Plushcap, Blue-capped Tanager, White-crested Elaenia, and Black-crested Warbler. At the hummer feeders that the park rangers fill every day the feeders we got Rainbow Starfrontlet, Purple-throated Sunangel, and Speckled Hummingbird. Lower down the road, the rain made it difficult to bird, but we got a few good species dawn there, such as Bay-crowned and White-winged Brush-finches, Three-banded Warbler, Chiguango Thrush, and Gray-chinned Hermit. Heavier rain sent us back to the hotel a bit early, where we had a nice shower and enjoyed our dinner at D’Marcos Restaurant, without doubt it is the best in the town.
Out first stop was near Sozoranga. Just past this little town, a side road holds some good birds that can be picked up pretty easily, and we got Watkins’s and Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaner, noisy Rufous-headed Chachalacas, Loja Tyrannulet. The best was the Elegant Crescentchest sitting on top of a shrub; it was awesome, usually this beautiful bird is hard to see, and we were thrilled about it. Driving up to Utuana, we stopped again for some species that we were missing, Gray-headed Antbird and Rusty-breasted Antpitta, only recently found in Ecuador. I know it was hard work to see them but it was worth it! After driving for a few hours we arrived to Catamayo where we found Parrot-billed, Chestnut-throated and Drab Seedeaters, Band-tailed Sierra-finch and Short-tailed Woodstar by the grassy habitat in the airport, before driving a few more hours to Vilcabamba for the night.
We went to Poducarpus National Park for the morning, one of the biggest parks in Ecuador. This time we visited Cajanuma area, prepared for some cold weather. But fortunately we got good weather and the place brought us some wonderful species. Most of these were new for the trip, and Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan without doubt was one of the most beautiful birds. It amazed me that this time of year we found so many cute Glowing Pufflegs, they were almost everywhere. Smoky and Streak-throated Bush-Tyrants and Red-crested Cotingas were sitting out on treetops. Little mixed feeding flock showed up along the road where we got the Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Grass-green Tanager, Hooded and Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers, Turquoise Jay, White-banded Tyrannulet, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Rufous-naped Brush-Finch, Blue-backed Conebill, and Superciliaried and Black-headed Hemispinguses. It was bizarre to see Paramo Seedeater in one of the flocks, it is really low for that species. The rain held out until noon, which was great since we had a several hour drive to the Tapichala reserve would be our home for two nights. En route we also birded on the way, seeing Golden-crowned Tanagers and flying flocks of Golden-plumed Parakeets. We arrived to Casa Simpson at dusk.
This is another Jocotoco reserve and I’m glad that this part of Ecuador is well protected thanks to that organization. It is always my pleasure to come to visit this reserve, because there are plenty birds to see even apart from the "big boy", Jocotoco Antpitta, always the top bird to look for. Now this is normally a shy and skulking species, but Franco the reserve ranger has been feeding them worms and we easily saw at least three different Jocotoco Antpittas and even a Chestnut-naped Antpitta. They usually feed them by eight o’clock, and I was so impressed how they managed to do this. Afterwards we had time to see some more birds on the Quebrada Honda trail, some of them were Chusquea bamboo specialties like Slaty Finch, Plain-tailed Wren, Black-throated Tody-tyrant, and Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus. Orange-banded Flycatcher was difficult in the beginning, but at the end turned out to be quite common. Red-hooded Tanager, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Citrine Warbler, and Rufous Wren were also seen before heading back for lunch. We checked the feeders at the lodge where we picked up, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Long-tailed Sylph, Amethyst-throated and Flame-throated Sunangels, Rufous-capped Thornbill, White-bellied Woodstar. Later on we headed down the Valladolid road to try for some subtropical species, seeing Saffron-crowned Tanager, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Yellow-vented woodpecker, Metallic-green Tanager, Canada Warbler, Bronzy Inca, ending the day well despite the rainy and misty weather.
We had another morning birding in the reserve, so we went back to the same trail to pick up some species that we were missing, Pale-naped Brush-finch, better views of Golden-plumed Parakeet, Chusquea Tapaculo, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied and Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrants, Northern Mountain-Cacique, Montane Woodcreeper, and wonderful views of both Barred and Green-and-black Fruiteaters. Just at beginning of the Piha trail we were able to call in the utterly amazing Ocellated Tapaculo, which came out nicely for us. But the most amazing thing was the really rare Andean Potoo which was marvelous to see in the middle of the day. After lunch we headed to Zamora, our next destination. The idea was to do some birding on the way, but unfortunately there was a big landslide blocking the road, just a few km driving from the lodge. I wasn't going to let this stop us and cost us birds, so we had to leave our bus and driver Nico. We took a public bus on the other side of the landslide back to Loja, and another bus down to Zamora, and fortunately we managed to get to Copalinga Lodge, a bit late but we were there! It's a great place and we spent three nights there.
It was raining so we started birding on the lodge porch, which turned out to be a great idea as we saw Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher, Lined Antshrike, and the tough Dusky Spinetail. The owners Catherine and Baldwin put fruits out on the feeding table that attracted Green-and-gold, Silver-beaked, Golden-eared, Palm, and Blue-gray Tanagers, and Yellow-tufted Woodpecker. The trees nearby gave us Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Little Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tyrant, Masked and Paradise Tanagers, Crested and Russet-backed Oropendolas, Violet-fronted Brilliant, and Glittering-throated Emerald at the feeders. A Wire-crested Thorntail drank nearby at Cecropia flowers. Since Nico hadn't arrived yet, Catherine kindly gave us a lift to Rio Bombuscaro after the rain stopped. The park itself gave us a bunch of good species: Coppery-chested Jacamar, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Black-streaked Puffbird, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Orange-eared, Spotted, and Yellow-bellied Tanagers, Olive Finch, Red-headed Barbet, Ash-browed Spinetail, Orange-crested Flycatcher, Blue-black Grosbeak, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, and Subtropical Cacique, all of them along the main trail. After the long day we were all tired, worried that Nico had not arrived yet and that we would have to walk all the way back to the lodge. But something happened here, a miracle! Lucky us! Our bus arrived just at the right time, and we were all happy to see it and the cheerful Nico.
We were all calmer this morning with Nico back and we headed out early for the old Zamora road, about twenty minutes away. Lanceolated Monklet was a great bird to see, responding very well, this quiet bird is hard jsut about everywhere. Also we got some mixed feeding flocks with Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Black-faced Dacnis, Golden Tanager, and Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager. It was kind of cool to coax out the shy Blackish Antbird and Dark-breasted Spinetail for good views. Finally we got lucky and had some White-breasted Parakeets fly over and land just thirty feet away! This bird is almost endemic to Ecuador. After a great morning birding we went back to the lodge to enjoy our lunch. After a siesta we did some birding in the lodge grounds. The verbain plants were flowering, and it brought a couple new species of hummers, Violet-headed Hummingbird and Spangled Coquette (photo right). White-banded Swallows flew over and we found the dull but local Olive-chested Flycatcher. While passing a creek someone spotted the shy and often difficult to find Fasciated Tiger-Heron. Heavy rain started coming down, so we decided to go back to the lodge to relax and enjoy another delicious meal.
Today we knew it was a long drive between Zamora and Cuenca, but there was still plenty of time for birding. I decided to got to the old Zamora road again for some that we were missing. We found Black-and-white and Yellow-cheeked Becards, Magpie and Guira Tanager, Black-billed Thrush, Chestnut-tipped Toucan and a nice perched male Andean Cock-of-the-rock. By the raging river we also picked up White-capped Dipper, Yellow-browed Sparrow and Chestnut-bellied seedeater. Later we stopped at San Francisco Research Station for a while, which is another part of Poducarpus National Park, finding Bearded Guan, Chestnut-bellied Thrush, Oleagineous Hemispingus, and Bluish Flowerpiercer. In the afternoon we drove through more rain, dodging potholes on the Panamerican Highway, arriving at our nice hotel outside of Cuenca at dusk.
We knew that today we would bird at the highest point in this trip, from 11,000 ft to 12,000 ft approximately. Cajas National Park has beautiful mountain scenery with paramo, lakes, and Polylepis woodland. So today wasn’t just birding, also enjoying the surroundings and breathing the fresh air. First we birded the lower part of the park, where we were able to see a few good species, the unreal Sword-billed Hummingbird amazed everyone, feeding in one of the Brugmansia flowers, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Grass Wren, Plain-colored Seedeater, and White-throated Tyrannulet, and by the lake we got Andean Ruddy-Duck, Andean Coot, and Andean Teal. Most amazing were the Red-faced Parrots that we saw flying over very low; even with years birding my home country it doesn't embarrass me to say that it was a new bird, since it is so rare. Going up to another part of the park we spotted a Torrent Duck sitting on the rock, which was great. In the upper part we saw the endemic Violet-throated Metaltail as well as Mouse colored Thistletail, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Tawny Antpitta, and Many-striped Canastero. Hummers were also about and we saw Ecuadorian Hillstar and Blue-mantled Thornbill feeding at Chuquiragua shrub, and by the Polylepis woodland we got a ton of Tit-like Dacnises gathering around on the bushes. Once again we had bad luck with roads when we learned the main road to Guayaquil was blocked by a landslide, so we had to take a much longer route back down and up the Andes. Luckily traffic wasn't too bad and we made good time to our hotel in Guayaquil. I’m glad that everybody had been happy about our main tour, and there was still the extension to come.
After our breakfast at Hotel Continental we headed to the Santa Elena Peninsula, but before we got there, we did some birding by Ancon and Ancocito. This usually dry and brown area was green with the winter rains, and this habitat brought us some great birds. Crimson-breasted Finch (photo right) was really common, without a doubt they are beautiful for a finch. Collared Warbling-Finch and Necklaced Spinetail also came to see what was happening with my pygmy-owl call, and in the end the real Pacific Pygmy-Owl finally showed up. Another stop got us Gray-and-white Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, and Short-tailed Field-tyrant. By the ocean at Punta Carnero we saw Whimbrel, Brown Pelican, and Willet, and then we visited the Ecuasal salt ponds for Chilean Flamingos, Western and Stilt Sandpiper, Peruvian Pelican, White-cheeked Pintail, American Oystercatcher, Laughing, Gray-headed, and Franklin’s Gull, Sanderling, Wilson’s, Snowy, and Collared Plovers, and Royal Terns. It was very hot by then so we drove north along the Pacific to our base at Mantaraya Lodge in Puerto Lopez.
These two days we birded at Rio Ayampe and Machalilla National Park. The first day after early breakfast we headed to the Rio Ayampe area, which is thirty minutes driving from the lodge. As soon when we get there, we started birding along the dirt road that is always loaded with birds. First we got Tumbes Pewee, which is not an exciting bird, but at least is endemic to the region. Next we had a White-backed Fire-eye come in, then some beautiful Black-capped Sparrows. Walking a few hundred meters farther down the road we got out main target, the Esmeraldas Woodstar, an endemic species for Ecuador, sitting right out on a dead twig. We met Bob Ridgely here and other members of the Jocotoco Foundation, studying the woodstars. They were talking about buying the land here to protect this bird. After sharing some information, we carried on birding and found a nice male Little Woodstar, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Gray-breasted Flycatcher, and Northern Violaceous Trogon. We headed back to the lodge for lunch and a break by the pool. Later in the afternoon we headed to Machalilla National Park, seeing a lot of species we had seen before, and getting good views of a perched Pearl Kite and soaring Hook-billed Kite.
It was our last day of the trip, and in the morning we headed back to Rio Ayampe. There wasn't much new since we had already seen most things, but enjoyed some good views of Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Pacific Parrotlet, Ecuadorian Thrush, and Pauraque. We drove bak to Guayaquil with a few stops on the way. The Pacific coastline gave us a few new species for the trip: Black and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, Gray Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Gull-billed Tern, Blue-footed Booby, and a Lesser Nighthawk that our driver Nico found for us. We arrived at the hotel, did our final checklist and dinner together, and remembered our trip. I’m glad that at the end our trip was successful and that everybody was happy. We voted for our favorite birds and they chose Jocotoco Antpitta, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Ocellated Tapaculo, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, and Scarlet-backed Woodpecker. I would say it was a "whaooo" trip even for me; of course we missed some things, but such is birding, and it is a reason came back to Ecuador. I want to say thanks to all for coming with us and I hope to see you all again on another trip in the near future.
The Taxonomy and nomenclature of this list fallow: Ridgely, Robert & Greenfield, Paul. The Birds of Ecuador: Field Guide. 2001. Ithica, NY: Comstock Publishing.
This list includes all the bird species that were recorded by at least one of the participants plus the guide
Species marked with H were heard only.
516 species seen and 52 heard only