Pieter VerheijTrip-report/Local-guide :
Juan Carlos Calvachi
Day 1 - November 27th
Transfer In to Séptimo Paraiso lodge 1560 meters (subtropical forest and cloudforest and great location to explore the surrounding areas)
We met our Guide Juan Carlos Calvachi at the International Airport of Quito. First of all we drove to B&B El Jardin to have some breakfast and here we had an introduction of the first Ecuadorian birds like the noisy Sparkling Violetear, Saffron Finch, Southern Yellow Grosbeak, Vermilion Flycatcher and a few others.
Around noon we already started our 2hours drive and passing the Equator Monument Line towards Séptimo Paraiso lodge and the cloud forest reserve located in the Mindo area, which is one of the most famous areas in bio-diversity in Ecuador. This cloud forests reserve is located on the Northwest part of the country in an area know as the Choco bio-region and is considered to be one of the 10 hotspots in biodiversity in the world, specially for the number of endemics species encountered here.
We arrived at Séptimo Paraiso at lunch time. In the afternoon we explored the lodge surroundings and had a great welcome by numerous species of hummingbirds like Booted Racket-tailed, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Andean Emerald, Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant, Violet-tailed Sylph and the noisy Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and then we had dinner and spend the night at the Lodge.
Day two - November 28th
We had an early breakfast and then we drove up towards the upper part of the famous Nono-Mindo road to the Bellavista Cloud Forest.. Because of the difference in altitude the forest is different and as a result also the bird-species to find. It turned out to be an exeptional day for raptors; some of the jewels we saw were; Barred Hawk, White rumped Hawk, Black and chestnut Eagle and Hook-billed Kite.
At the Bellavista Lodge we choosed to walk one of the many trails looking for a Plate billed Mountain Toucan nest. We were very lucky and we were able to make sensational photos of this bird. Near the the compost-site of the Lodge we found a White-throated Quail-Dove and around the Lodge we also found Masked trogon, and the common Buff -tailed Coronet, as well as Gorgeted Sunangel, Montane Woodcreeper, Azara´s Spinetail, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Capped Conebill, Blue winged Mountain Tanager, Beryl spangled Tanager, Plushcapped finch, Green and Black Fruiteater and several others colorful birds. After lunch at Bellavista Lodge we drove down the valley and visited The Alambi reserve where we found Western Emerald, White-wiskered Hermit, Purple-throated Woodstar and White-necked Jacobin and in this first place with fruit feeders we saw Ecuadorian Thrush, Thick-billed Euphonia, Silver-throated Tanager, and the common Lemon-rumped Tanager . After this visit we continued our drive towards Septimo Paraiso Lodge to have diner and stay overnight.
Day three - November 29th
That morning it was important to start very early in order to be in time to watch the courtship behaviour of the fascinating Andean Cock of the Rock. The privately owned site (at an altitude of 2000 meters) has been created and is maintained by the Paz family. Angel Paz one of the members of the family showed us the place where every early morning the Andean Cock of the Rock males are giving their show. The sounds they make are like screaming picks.
After this show we followed Angel, who liked to show us some of the antpitta species. Normally the Antpittas are extremely hard to see, but with a lot of patience he got some birds used to come to feeding places. We had extremely good views of the Giant Antpitta
(whose knick name is María) , but unfortunately the other species did not want to show themselves.
After this visit we went to the main-house, where Angel's wife served us a tipical ecuadorian breakfast.After this lovely breakfast we drove one hour and half to an agricultural area (at an altitude of 900 meters).
The Oilbirds nest and roost in a gorge. To see those birds you have to descend some ladders (with very good safety-measures) and can get really close to places where they nest . We had very good views of roosting and flying birds, indeed an unforgettable experience. The Oilbird is the only fruit-eating night-bird and it is a surprise to see this mitical bird so easy.
When we left the caves back on the way to the jeep we heard the noisy Pacific Hornero which belongs to the Oven-birds-family because they build their nests like an old-fashioned mudd-oven. Not a day with many species, but species of great quality and also beautiful places which certainly will stay in our memories for a long time. We drove back to Septimo Paraiso Lodge for dinner and overnight.
Day four - November 30th
Before breakfast and we had a little walk and drove to the Mindo turn-off where we visited the nearby feeders. Here we managed to see Three-striped Wabler, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Lineated Foliage- Gleaner and Brown Inca.
After breakfast we hiked one of the Septimo Paraiso Lodge trails where we managed to find Golden-headed Quetzal, Scaled Fruiteater, Rufous Motmot, Broad-billed Motmot, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Golden Tanager, Metallic -green Tanager, and a very alusive Barred Forest-Falcon which was very hard to photograph. At the end of the morning we paid a visit to the butterfly garden in Mindo. We could observe at least 20 different species.
We had lunch at the lodge and had a siesta in the afternoon, because we wanted to leave later and stay until dark to try to find some night birds. butterflyThat afternoon we saw Torrent Tyrannulet, Yellow -throated Bush-Tanager and in the dark we managed to see a Lyre-tailed Nightjar, a Common Potoo and Motled Owl. later we drove back to Septimo Paraiso Lodge for dinner and overnight.
Day five - December 1st
Day six - December 2nd
We had an early breakfast and drove for one hour and a half to the Silanche Nature Reserve.
The Silanche Reserve is a small reserve of tropical rainforest at an altitude of 450 meters.
In the Reserve there is a metal tower which provides good views of the surrounding canope. We were lucky to see; Maroon-tailed Parakeets, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Purple-crowned Fairy, Western White-tailed Trogon, Choco Trogon, Pale mandibled Aracari, Lineated Woodpecker, Black-capped Pygmy Tyrant, Gray Eleania, Streaked Flycatcher, Bay-headed Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Scarlet-thighed and Yellow-tufted Dacnises, Scarlet-rumped Cacique, Chestnut Mandibled and Choco Toucans, Red -rumped Woodpecker and many more. After this show from the tower, which was really great and very relaxed, we walked the main trail of the Reserve and we found some more very special species, like the Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail, good pictures of Green Manakin, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Checker-throated Antwren and several others. After enjoying our "Picnic Lunch" we left towards Santo Domingo city and from there to Tinalandia lodge where we were welcomed by hummingbirds like Green Thorntail, White-Wiskered Hermit, Green-crowned Brilliant and the always noisy Rufous-tailed hummingbird. We went to our rooms and coming back to the restaurant for dinner we saw a Pacific Pygmy Owl which is a bird that is expanding its range because it is usually only found in Southwest Ecuador.
Day seven - December 3rd
We had a good breakfast and just from the porch we had had very good views of several species coming to feed on the fruit-feeders; Pallid Dove, Pale mandibled Aracari, Golden-Olive woodpecker, Green Honeycreeper, Dusky-faced Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, and a few others that we had seen before.
After breakfast we walked along the side of the golf course and the forest edge, having the chance to see a Masked Tityra, One colored and Cinnamon Becards, Lesser Greenlet, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Choco Trogon, Yellow-bellied and a spectacular Red-billed Scythebill. After lunch we visited the Indigenous Community of Santo Domingo (Los Tsachilas) where we observed a small museum and after this visit we found some interesting birds like Yellow-tailed Oriole, Striped Cuckoo, Pacific Parrotlet, Scrub Blackbird, Lesser Seedfinch and few others. Before dinner we went searching for Owls being lucky to find a Choco Screech Owl. Certainly a great find. Dinner and overnight in the Tinalandia Lodge
We left Tinalandia Lodge after breakfast and drove towards the Central Valley, crossing the Western Andes, admiring a beautiful scenery.
We arrived at around 9h AM at the Pasochoa Reseve. In this reserve you can find still one of the few remaning parts of the Andean forest of the Central Valley (which was de-forested hundreds of years ago). It was still early enough to find some great birds like: Red-crested Cotinga, Supercillaried Hemispingus, Spectacled Whitestart, Cinereous Conebill, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Stripe-headed Brush-finch, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, white-crested Eleania, Plain-tailed Wren, Andean Guan, Ash-colored Tapaculo, Saphire-vented Puffleg, Tyrian Metal-tail and several others. We had another "Picnic lunch" and after that we just had to drive 45 minutes back to Quito for a relaxed afternoon.We stayed overnight in B&B El Jardin where we had a lovery home-cooked dinner.
We had a 7 nights/8 days break for our visit to The Galapagos Islands
Day 8 - December 12th
Day 9 - December 13th
After breakfast at B&B El Jardin we drove to the Antisana Ecological Reserve, one of the most Scenic places in Ecuador, where we had an extraordinary day.
On our first stop we saw a magestic Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and a Variable Hawk and an unusual encounter was a White-throated Hawk. After that we waited quite a long time for the Andean Condor, but it never showed up. We continued our tour and met with a pair of Aplomado Falcons which posed for great pictures. Shortly after this encounter, no more than 5 minutes, we were extremely lucky to see flying very close 3 Andean Condors in the opposite direction.
They disappeared, but after a short while they came back and gave us the best shows of an Andean Condor I have ever had in my life (I am guiding for 15 years now). After such a great experience we continued our tour and found hundreds of Carunculated Caracara, lots of Black-winged Ground-Doves, Paramo Pipits, Andean Gulls, Andean Lapwings, Bar-winged and Stout-billed Cinclodes, Paramo Ground-Tyrant and many others located along the road. We drove on and found Ecuadorian Hillstar (nesting and at feeders) and also in the Mica-lake, water birds like Silvery Grebe, Andean Coot, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck, Andean Teal and a Greater Yellowlegs. The Mica-lake provides fresh water to the city of Quito.
After such a wonderful day we started our way back to B&B El Jardin for dinner and overnight.
We left early from B&B El Jardin and drove for 1,5 hour to one of my favorite birding sites in Ecuador. The Yanacocha Reserve indeed is a magical place with lots of hummingbirds. This Reserve belongs to the Jocotoco Foundation which is making great effort in preserving areas where endemic birds are located. In the Yanacocha Reserve it is the Black-breasted Puffleg, which is the bird in danger.
After parking the Jeep we walked for about 5 hours. We found many mixed flocks of birds with among many others Blue-backed Conebill, White-banded Tyrannulet, Rufous-naped Brush-Finch, Rufous Wren, Black-chested Mountain Tanager, Crowned Chat-Tyrant , and we spent time at the feeders admiring Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Golden-breasted Puffleg, and the amazing Sword-billed Hummingbird, which is the bird with the longest bill in relation with its body size, and certainly most people´s favorite hummingbird.
After a very productive morning we we visited the The Equator Monument line, and drove back t o B&B El Jardin for dinner and overnight
Day 10 - December 14th
Day 11 - December 15th
We left B&B El Jardin after breakfast towards the Papallacta Pass stopping at different elevations looking for Tawny Antpitta, which is one of the easiest Antpittas to see (certainly to hear), Andean Tit Spinetail, Giant Hummingbird, Shining Sunbeam,Hooded Siskin and Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. Then we left the Paramo area to continue our tour to Guango Lodge where we were welcome by lots of hummingbirds like Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangel, White-bellied Woodstar and Long-tailed Sylph. Here we had dinner and stayed overnight.
Day 12 - December 16th
We had an early breakfast at Guango Lodge and drove up towards the Paramo-area again where we found Agile Tit-Tyrant, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch. After leaving the Paramo we checked the Resort Termas de Papallacta, which is a beautiful place at an altitude of 3.200m in a breath-taking scenery, where you can relax and enjoyed thermal baths among a lot of other healthy treatments. Such a nice place that we decided to included this place in our future trips. We drove back to Guango lodge, where we packed and after lunch we continued our tour towards Cabañas de San Isidro Lodge, for a 2 nights stay. We planned to arrive before sun-set to be in time to see the feeding of Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, which we did. We were able to make nice photos.
Before dark we also observed a while the hummingbird feeders. We had dinner and stayed overnight.
Before breakfast we had a walk around the cabins. The various lights during the night attract a lot of mots, which make those places very interesting for birds in the morning. We found and had very good views of White-tailed Tyrannulet, Rufous-crowned Tody- flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Brown-capped Vireo, Canada Wabler, Black-eared Hemispingus,Pale-edged Flycatcher and Blackpoll Wabler among others. After breakfast we drove and walked around in the area.On our way we found some really goodies like Crested Quetzal that decided to pose for us for more than 15 minutes. we also found Glossy-black Thrush, Southern Lapwing and Torrent Tyrannulet. We went back to the Lodge and had a great lunch.
After a nice siesta we drove towards The Guacamayos Ridge with the idea of staying until dusk and try for Owls and other "night-birds, but before dusk we already managed to see Grass-green Tanager, Common Bush Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain Tanager. At dusk we found Rufous-bellied Nighthawk and, we heard very close the White-throated Screech Owl and finally we got very good views of the rare Andean Potoo. Completely satisfied we went back to the Cabañas de San Isidro Lodge to have dinner and stay overnight. Swallow-tailed Nightjar
Day 13 - December 17th
Day 14 - December 18
We had an early breakfast, because we wanted to do some birding at the Coca Falls. Those falls are the largest in Ecuador and the scenery is special. That place gave us the chance to find great birds like Copery-chested Jacamar, Andean Cock of the Rock, Spotted Nighttingale-Thrush, White-tipped Sicklebill, Streaked Xenops, Blue-rumped Manakin, Inca Jay, Ashy-throated Bush Tanager and several other birds.
After a picnic lunch we started our last journey towards B&B El Jardin. Our guide had promised us that we would see the Giant hummingbird, and indeed we were lucky to find it. Dinner and overnight at B&B El Jardin
It is very relaxed when you don't have to travel a lot for your flight back home.
Juan Carlos and his charming wife brought us to the International Airport of Quito. It was a special experience. We took our time to see the birds, We never were in a hurry. We enjoyed the birds and were able to see almost 350 different species and we made many nice photos.