Ecuador Birding: Choco Highlands & Slopes

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Day 1: Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

Yanacocha, Bellavista: You will be picked up from your hotel in Quito, to be transferred to the first destiny, Yanacocha Reserve, place that boasts excellent montane cloud forest northwest of Quito with lots of montane bird life. If the flocks treat us well, they are frequented by mountain-tanagers (including Golden-crowned Tanager, Hooded, Black-chested, Scarlet-breasted MountainTanagers, fruit-eaters (Barred, Green-and-Black), Brush-Finches (Yellowbellied, White-naped), flowerpiercers (Glossy, Black, Masked, White-sided), etc. We will drive some down the Bellavista Road looking for Platebilled Mountain Toucan, Tanager Finch, Fruiteaters (Barred and Green-andBlack), mixed flocks, etc. in the afternoon.

Activities and Services

Included

Lunch 

Dinner

Specialized Expert Birding Guide

Day 2: Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

Silanche, Rancho Suamox & Milpe: Silanche and Rancho Suamox are both lowland Chocoan sites. The first is a 60 hectare fragment of remnant forest (30 years ago there were over 20,000 connected hectares there before heart of palm plantations moved in), which is packed full to the brim with birds. The flocks, if found, may contain over 30 to 40 species easily. Rancho Suamox is very close to the Silanche Reserve, but is a bit different. The Ranch operated as a hotel and the property, like the surrounding properties, was highly manipulated / disturbed. The owners have been reforesting the property and focusing on attracting birds. While many of the birds they attract are “common”, they will be new birds for the trip and some of the birds they attract are quite rare. A walk around the property may yield some surprises as they have resident Spectacled Owls among other delights. We will have lunch in Pedro Vicente Maldonado and continue on towards Milpe. Silanche and Rancho Suamox are below 500 m.a.s.l. and Milpe is around 1000 m.a.s.l. meaning the first two are lowland Choco sites and Milpe is a foothill birding site. There will be some overlap but the differences certainly merit a visit to both! The feeders here are excellent and the hummingbirds will be all different from the morning’s location. The trails are beautiful and may provide mixed flocks, maybe even an umbrellabird, or other surprises. When the weather is nice, we can look for Black-and-White Owl, Cloudforest Pygmy-Owl, and other nocturnal birds.

Activities and Services

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Specialized Expert Birding Guide

Day 3: Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

Birdwatcher’s House (Santa Rosa) & Mindo: A retired guide bought a nice piece of land and made it very bird-friendly in the Birdwatcher’s House. We will get there early in order to take full advantage of the light setup which attracts insectivorous birds, which can be quite difficult to see, out into the relative open. There is also a banana feeder station and hummingbird station. Some of the main targets here are also quality views of Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Yellow-breasted Antpitta, Gorgeted Woodstar, and Blue-capped Tanager.

Activities and Services

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Specialized Expert Birding Guide

Day 4: Puembo

Paz  de los Aves, Alambi Puembo Birding arden:This morning is a real treat. We will be visiting one of the best cock-of-the-rock leks in the country and we don’t want to be late. Darker clothing is best today. After the show is put on by the Cocks of the Rock, we will start looking for other stars of the morning. Wild antpittas and other birds (like Blue-winged and Blackchinned Mountain-Tanagers, Toucan Barbet, Sickle-winged Guan, Crimsonrumped Toucanet) will hopefully present themselves with astonishing ease. After antpitta time, we will focus in on hummingbirds and fruit feeders while having some traditional food ourselves. After eating our second breakfast, we will head towards Quito, first stopping at Alambi Reserve. This place has an amazingly-bustling garden and a trail giving access to a river very good for White-capped dippers. When the avocado trees are in fruit, this place attracts both species of local quetzal (Crested and Golden-headed). We will stay on the eastern outskirts of Quito. Our accommodations are strategically located in a birdy garden in the interandean valley. In the afternoon we will focus on interandean specialties like Blue-and-Yellow Tanager, Scrub Tanager, Western Emerald, Rusty Flowerpiercer and more.

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Specialized Expert Birding Guide

Day 5: Napo Province

Papallacta Pass, Parque Nacional Cayambe Coca ̀ Baeza : First we will look for the Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. This is a large cool bird that loves blending in to what can be brutal habitat. Papallacta Pass is located on the continental divide, which is well above the tree-line in habitat known as Paramo. When the weather cooperates, the views are stupendous and the walk is quite pleasant. Sometimes the wind, snow and ice doesn’t allow for long visits. Sometimes this bird requires tremendous patience and sometimes he is seen from the parking lot. Not many other birds live up as high as the seedsnipe and he will be our primary target. Once properly ticked, we will move lower down on the pass where more Paramo birds are possible. After that, a quick stop at a patch of Polylepis forest (Polylepis is an interesting looking type of tree adapted to grow above the general tree line) may provide a Giant Conebill, followed by a visit to tree-line or “elfin” forest. The Elfin forest is shorter and gnarly compared to the other forests (apart from the Polylepis) we have seen. Apart from the potential views (it could be quite foggy), the flocks here are nice when they show up and could include Black-backed Bush Tanagers, Mountain Tanagers (including the elusive Masked), Thistletails, Brush-Finches, and more high-altitude ovenbirds. After a full morning of high altitude sites, we will move down and visit the foothills briefly to warm up. Baeza is close to San Isidro, and is lower in elevation. We will have lunch here. After lunch, we will bird a bit along a road between Baeza and San Isidro, which still has some nice forest along it and is also good for open area birds like Red-breasted Meadowlark and Chestnut-bellied Seedeater. This site is still the only place where I’ve seen Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Blue-browed Tanager, and Spectacled Prickletail so one never knows what surprises to expect! Shortly after birding our site in Baeza, we will arrive to San Isidro for the night.

Activities and Services

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Specialized Expert Birding Guide

Day 6: Napo Province

San Isidro, Guango & Return to Quito: San Isidro is a bustling place in the morning. As it becomes light, many other birds come in to eat the moths attracted by the parking lot lights. Many birds potentially come in, including both species of quetzal, masked trogon, black-chested fruiteater, and sicklewinged guan. Other regulars include Black-billed Peppershrike, Olive-backed and Montane Woodcreeper, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Green (Inca) Jays, Subtropical Caciques, Russet-backed Oropendolas, etc. After racking in lifers in the parking lot in the morning, we will head down a short path to an antpitta feeding station where someone from the lodge feeds worms to feed Whitebellied Antpittas on a daily basis. After the antpitta session, we will head in for breakfast, and then go out looking for more birds along the ridge trail that often attracts a large flock in the late morning. After lunch, we will drop in elevation over 1000 meters to Narupayacu. Verbena bushes have been planted everywhere along the trail system here. The trail leads to a nice waterfall and can provide some nice amazon foothill birds. The verbena bushes and hummingbird’s feeders attract the true gems here. Gorgeted Woodstar, Rufous-throated Sapphires, Spangled Coquetes, Goldentailed Sapphires, Blue-tailed Emeralds and maybe 10 more species of hummer can be seen buzzing around. Each night the weather is nice in San Isidro, we can look for the San Isidro Owl and other nocturnal birds.

Activities and Services

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Specialized Expert Birding Guide

Day 7: End of Itinerary

San Isidro, Guango & Return to Quito : In the morning we can hit the trail system and look for forest flocks and rare birds that we won’t see in the parking lot or repeat the session in the parking lot which may be better for providing quality views and maybe new species not seen the day before. Quetzals are a particular interest which like the parking lot. After breakfast we will head to Guango Lodge which is in the direction of Quito. Guango Lodge is a higher elevation forest than San Isidro. When we first get there we will focus on the hummingbirds. There are a few hummers here that are not in Yanacocha. Also, this is a great place for Sword-billed Hummingbird. Then we will go check on the Torrent Duck before having lunch. After lunch, we can walk the trail system looking for Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, mountain-tanager flocks, and back along the river looking for the Torrent Duck along the beautiful Papallacta River. Eventually, it will be time to return to Quito with drop-off at hotel or airport and end of service.

Activities and Services

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Specialized Expert Birding Guide

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