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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk
Northern Ecuador, 9 August-3 September 2010,
This was our third visit to Ecuador (we birded in Ecuador in 1987 and 2002) and still I managed to observe 115 lifers during this trip. We spent some 8 days in the Mindo area (It is unbelievable how this area has changed since 1987), 3 full days at Rio Canandé, 2 days at Cerro Mongus and 1 day at Otavalo, before we moved to the east side of the Andes. Here we spent 3 full days at Wild Sumaco and 2 days at the San Isidro Lodge. Short stops were also made at Yanacocha, Papallacta pass and Guango Lodge.
Many good reports have been written, especially about the well–birded areas around Mindo and San Isidro, so I will not write a “true” trip report about locations.
We did not use any bird guide during this trip, with the exception of one full morning at San Isidro, when the local guide Marcelo guided us around. We did get some tips from birders we met on the road, mainly Boris Herrera of Mindo Loma and Dusan Brinkhuizen who was doing a north Ecuador trip with Bert de Bruijn. So we tried to find the birds ourselves and are satisfied with the results we got. We saw some great birds and missed some. Have a look at our annotated list and judge for yourself. The biggest problem we encountered was the identification of some of the flycatchers and tyrannulets. That is when you want one of the really experienced neo-tropical birders is around to help you out.
A big advantage was that we had a car and a driver, who knows his way around. To bird all the important areas around Mindo you can opt to stay in a hotel in Los Bancos (Hotel Mirador Los Bancos) as from there all the sites can be reached within one hour’s driving. We stayed 3 nights at the Bellavista Lodge and 4 nights at Mirador Los Bancos in Los Bancos.
We birded Bellavista, Rio Silanche, Milpe, Mashpi Road, Angel Paz’s place, Manga Loma and Mindo Loma. Our driver knew these places and had no problem in driving to them before dawn.
GETTING THERE – FLIGHT
We flew Iberia from Amsterdam to Madrid and from Madrid to Quito, with a stop at Guayaquil with LAN. A return ticket cost us €960,- including all taxes. When leaving Ecuador you have to pay a departure tax of $40, It is a long and tiring flight. On the way back we had a delay of more than one hour in Madrid.
The currency used in Ecuador is the American dollar for some time now. It is easy to purchase cash at ATM’s at the airport or in Quito itself.
GETTING AROUND – CAR – ACCOMMODATION – FOOD & DRINKS
As another brother of us lives in Ecuador since 1993, we asked him some advice about hiring a car with driver for our trip. He knew a Dutch lady who runs a travel agency and through her we arranged our whole trip. (See useful addresses) She also booked some of our accommodation.
It is absolutely necessary to book Canandé lodge in advance. We were the only guests at this lodge and the day we arrived, a caretaker and cook (with all the food) also arrived from Quito. Important: To cross the river on the ferry to reach Canandé it is absolutely necessary that you can show a paper with registered names to the ferryman, or he will refuse to transport you over the river. It is also advisable to book the other places in advance.
We hired a spacious 4x4 car with driver for the entire period for which we paid $120 a day. The driver also took care of his own accommodation and food. This was a bargain.
Daniël, our driver, was young and very reliable. He had no problem in getting up very early and drove us around in a safe way. That cannot be said of other drivers as we saw some crazy things happening on the road. He was also interested in nature and birds, brought binoculars and a camera along and accompanied us sometimes in the field. As he had never been to Canandé, he had scouted the route we had to take, in the week before we arrived! He also knows how to contact the people from Manga Loma and Angel Paz.
Bellavista Lodge: $64 pp. a night, including all meals
Hotel Mirador Los Bancos: $15 a night for a double room, incl.breakfast.
Rio Canandé Lodge: $80 pp. a night including all meals.
Hotel Oasis in Ambuqui: $33 a night for a double room, incl. breakfast.
Wild Sumaco Lodge: $115 pp. a night, including all meals.
San Isidro Lodge: $80 pp a night, including all meals.
Food & drinks - These were fine
HEALTH & SAFETY
During this trip we were never really sick. Frans had some minor stomach problems for a few days, which made the steep hike up to Cerro Mongus a bit difficult.
Safety was okay. During the planning stage of this trip we considered a visit to the Colombian border area (La Bonita Road for instance), but we were advised against that. Having said this, many birders have recently visited these areas without any difficulties. Just avoid travelling at night time.
As usual the weather in Ecuador is variable. We were lucky that the weather in the Cerro Mongus area was nice and sunny. It can be cold, windy and wet. This can make your visit very difficult and unpleasant. In the Mindo area we had generally dry weather with the exception of one morning at Rio Silanche when we encountered a nasty drizzle. At Canandé we were rather unlucky with the weather. We had 2 mornings with fog and rain and this hampered our birding severely. At Wild Sumaco we were rained out completely one afternoon and one early morning. At San Isidro the weather was fine.
I had collected a nice selection of songs on an I-pod and from time to time I recorded a song/call on a digital recorder to tape a species in. I also brought a small Leica scope with me, which I rarely used.
Marjolein Rientjes: Campustrekking Phone: 593.2.2340601/2345164, e-mail: email@example.com
She smoothly arranged a car with driver for us and booked accommodation, if necessary.
I like to thank the following people who one way or another helped us in the planning stage of this trip or who we met during the trip and provided us with additional info: Martin van de Berg, David van de Schoor, Daniël our driver, Boris Herrera, Dusan Brinkhuizen, Bert de Bruijn, my brother Joep and Marjolein Rientjes.
Day 1: Monday 9 August Geldrop – Amsterdam – Madrid – Quito
We took the train from Geldrop to Schiphol airport and at 19.10 pm we flew from Amsterdam via Madrid to Quito.
We also touched down for an hour at Guayaquil.
Day 2: Tuesday 10 August Quito – Yanacocha – Bellavista Lodge
We arrived at Quito at 7.30 a.m. where we met our brother Joep, his son André, Marjolein Rientjes who arranged the logistics of our trip and our driver Daniël. We changed some dollars at the airport and at 9.00 am we left for Yanacocha. We bought some food on the way up and at 11.00 we arrived at Yanacocha where we birded until 15.00 pm. We slowly walked the trail for about 2 km and besides some great hummingbird species at the feeders, we had great views of a pair of very cooperative Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers. No sign of the rare Black-breasted Puffleg though, which is occasionally recorded at this site. At 15.00 we left for the drive to Bellavista Lodge where we arrived at 17.00 pm. Nice room, but the vegetarian meal we got was below the standard we are used to. We quickly received some better food. After a couple of beers we crashed out.
Day 3: Wednesday 11 August Bellavista Lodge area.
This was my birthday and as usual I was not at home. Dawn saw us at a stake-out for the rare Tanager Finch, a species high on our list. It did not take long before we had exceptional views of a very vocal pair. A nice start of the day and also a nice birthday present. After a quick breakfast we birded along the main road in the vicinity of the lodge. Our main target was Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, missed during our previous visit to the area. But birding was rather slow.
At noon we had lunch and a short break at the balcony of our room. Soon we had great views of a very vocal pair of Plate-billed Mountain Toucans and as a bonus Toucan Barbet. In the afternoon we paid Tony Nunnery a visit and birded his garden and feeders. Another most-wanted species was Beautiful Jay. According to Tony a pair was holding territory close to his garden, along the main road.
While birding along this stretch we bumped into Dusan Brinkhuizen and Bert de Bruijn, who were doing a very succesful trip to Northern Ecuador. We exchanged some info and they left. When we were also about to leave the area, I heard a Beautiful Jay calling. After some playback a pair gave great views. Very satisfied with the results of this day we left for Bellavista. That evening we had a great meal.
We had arranged a visit to Angel Paz the next day but when our driver Daniël phoned him in the evening to confirm the arrangement, we found out that we would be in the company of some 16 Ecuadorian students the next day during our visit to Angel!! No way, so we quickly changed our plans and told Angel that we would visit him the day after, on August 13th. This was no problem. Instead we would bird Mashpi Road the next day.
Day 4: Thursday 12 August Mashpi Road – Bellavista
We left in the dark (5.30 am) for our drive to Mashpi, where we arrived just before dawn. Here we had our breakfast before we started to bird along the road. The weather was variable, some rain, some sunshine but also fog, which hampered our birding severely. We would hit a nice flock and all we could see where shadows. Very frustrating. But still we managed to see a nice selection of good species.
Moss-backed Tanager turned out to be rather common and Mashpi Road must be the best site to see this rare tanager. In a mixed flock we also encountered the rare Pacific Tuftedcheek. Mid morning we met Dusan and Bert again, who were surprised to see us here as we told them we would visit Angel Paz today. We birded together for a couple of hours along this road. Dusan showed us the exact spot where he had discovered the Choco Vireo, earlier this year. Since then several other birders had found the species at exact the same spot but we failed. They also told us that they had found Indigo Flowerpiercer and Esmeraldas Antbird at the start of the road. Best species we observed was a pair of Orange-breasted Fruiteater. After they had left we continued birding along the road and Frans was lucky to observe a Black Solitaire in another mixed flock which unfortunately flew off before I could get on to it. In the afternoon we had great views of a male Indigo Flowerpiercer and a pair of Esmeraldas Antbird at the start of the road. Late afternoon we drove back to Bellavista and spent the last hour of the day on the trail towards the compost heap. Here we had good views of a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, hopping unconcerned on the trail in full view. Another highlight was the observation of a Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush in the same area. At night a Black & White Owl was calling just outside our cabin, but we were too lazy to get out.
Day 5: Friday 13 August Angel Paz – Mindo Loma – Mindo
Well before dawn we drove to Angel Paz. This was Antpitta day and we had high expectations of this day and we were not to be disappointed. When we arrived at Angel Paz we heard a Common Potoo lower down and at dawn a Rufous-bellied Nighthawk gave nice views at the start of the trail. Here we met Angel and with him and an American birder and his son we started to walk down into the forest. First we went to a lookout point where we witnessed the never boring spectacle of displaying Andean Cock of the Rock. After that we walked the trails in search of Antpittas and one after the other we observed Giant Antpitta, Yellow-breasted Antpitta (which took some nervous-wrecking time), the dimunitive Ochre-breasted Antpitta and finally the difficult one, the Moustached Antpitta.
In the process we also observed some other good species like Rufous-breasted Antthrush, Toucan Barbet, Olivaceous Piha and Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager. At 10.00 am we left the forest and at the feeders at the forest edge we saw the gorgeous Purple Coronet and the Empress Brilliant, both choco endemics. It was a fantastic morning of birding.
After a late breakfast, we said goodbye to Angel and drove to nearby Mindo Loma. Here we were lucky to meet Boris Herrera. He did not have much time but was willing to show us the area where the rare and local Hoary Puffleg, our main target species, is regularly observed. After a 20 minute walk we arrived at the area (flowerbeds along a small stream) and immediately located a lone Hoary Puffleg, perched at close range. It’s amazing how luck can be on your side sometimes. We walked back to the lodge and Boris gave us some info about Canandé. Then we left and drove to Mindo. The last time I was in Mindo was in 1987 and I hardly recognised the place. We drove along a dirt track past Mindo to a stakeout of Club-winged Manakin (thanks Dusan). It did not take long before we had excellent views of a calling male. After this success we decided to drive to Los Bancos to our hotel (hotel Mirador de Los Bancos). Here we spent the last part of the day at the feeders just outside the hotel. Best species: 2 Rufous-throated Tanagers.
At the hotel we met a birder from Czech Republic. In the evening we tried for Black & White Owl at the outskirts of Los Bancos, but nothing moved.
Day 6: Saturday 14 August Milpe
After an early breakfast we drove the short distance to Milpe. We birded the whole day in Milpe Garden, along Milpe road and along the trails. At midday we took a short lunch break at our hotel. Generally we had a nice birding day but nothing exceptional. We tried a stakeout for Yellow Green Bush-Tanager but no success. We also came VERY close to a calling White-throated Crake in a grassy area but no views.
Nice birds seen this day were: Maroon-tailed (Choco) Parakeet, Bronze-winged Parrot, White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed H.Bird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Green-crowned Brilliant, Booted Rackettail, Purple-crowned Fairy, Choco Trogon, Rufous Motmot and Broad-billed Motmot, Golden-Olive Woodpecker (nest at the entrance), Spotted Barbtail, Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner ,Plain Brown Woodcreeper, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Spotted Woodcreeper, Western Slaty Antshrike, Russet Antshrike, Slaty Antwren, Immaculate Antbird, Golden-winged Manakin, White-throated Spadebill, Tawny-breasted Flycatcher, several Ecuadorian Thrushes but best was a gorgeous Spotted Nightingale-Thrush. We also saw our only Olive-crowned Yellowthroat of the trip at the edge of some scrubby fields. At least 3 Buff-rumped Warblers were observed in the forest interior.
Back at the hotel Mirador Los Bancos we saw a single Long-billed Starthroat at the feeders and several tanager species like Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Golden Tanager, Silver-throated Tanager, Green Honeycreeper and again 2 Rufous-throated Tanagers.
Day 7: Sunday 15 August Silanche
We left our hotel before dawn, in the company of the Czech birder, for our one hour drive to the canopy tower of Silanche. We had great expectations of this site but unfortunately we encountered a lot of rain during the day. At the tower we had our packed breakfast. Most of the time was spent on and around the tower but we also birded along the entrance road and along the short trails. At midday we had lunch in nearby Pedro Vincente Maldonado. Despite the rain we still managed to observe a nice selection of birds though we never encountered the so-called “big flock”.
Species seen today included: Western White-tailed Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Red-headed Barbet, Pale-billed Aracari, a single Choco Toucan, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Checker-throated Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, a single male Blue-crowned Manakin along a small trail, White-bearded Manakin, Cinnamon Becard, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Brown-capped Tyrannulet, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Scaly-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Yellow-margined Flycatcher and Streaked Flycatcher. From the tower we observed probably our best species of the day, twice a Slate-throated Gnatcatcher.
Tanager species seen were White-shouldered Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Blue-Grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, our first Grey & Gold Tanagers, Silver-throated Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Blue Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper and White-winged Tanager. Night at hotel Mirador Los Bancos.
Day 8: Monday 16 August Manga Loma – Silanche
We had arranged a visit to Manga Loma but when we arrived at the entrance in the early morning nobody was expecting us. So, no local guide to show us around. Instead the warden walked with us on the muddy trails. He told us that he knew a site for Long-wattled Umbrellabird but when we got there nothing moved. We walked the trails for several hours but the birding was rather slow. Not a sniff of the specialties of the area, Rufous-crowned Antpitta and the rare Banded Ground-Cuckoo. Finally we found Long-wattled Umbrellabird ourselves. Best species seen was briefly a Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Crested Guan and 1 pair of Pacific Antwren.
After another lunch at P. Vincente Maldonado we visited Silanche again in the afternoon. Dusan had given us a stakeout for Brown Woodrail but when we got to the spot it turned out that I had forgotten to collect the call of Brown Woodrail on my I-pod!! Afternoon again around the tower of Silanche. Additions were Dusky Pigeon, a single male Purple-Chested Hummingbird, Collared Trogon, White-whiskered Puffbird ,Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, a single Olivaceous Piculet, Streaked Xenops, White-flanked Antwren and Guira Tanager.
Day 9: Tuesday 17 August Los Bancos – Canandé
We left at 4.00 am for the long drive to Canandé. At the ferry we briefly searched for Plumbeous Seedeater but without success. After crossing the ferry we started to bird along the muddy road. It was rather depressing to watch big lorries with huge trunks of tropical hardwood passing by.
Birding was rather slow but we saw Grey-headed Kite, perched along the road but not the hoped for rare tanager species or Black-tipped Cotinga.
At noon we arrived at the lodge. But it took another hour before the caretaker and cook with all the supplies arrived from Quito. After we settled in and after having lunch, we started to bird along the trails, close to the lodge. At the lodge we had a perched Double-toothed Hawk and at the feeders White-necked Jacobin, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Rufous-tailed H.Bird, Purple-chested H.Bird and Green-crowned Brilliant.
We slowly walked the so-called Barred Forest Falcon Trail. When watching a small flock of Dusky-faced Tanagers I suddenly spotted an Indigo-crowned Quail-Dove walking slowly in the forest interior which gave brief but good views. In the same area I observed our only Red-capped Manakin and a single Northern Barred Woodcreeper. A Rufous Mourner was also a good find.
Back at the lodge we had a very good dinner. We were the only visitors and so had a private cook. Close to the lodge we identified Rufous-vented Euphonia and after dark we heard a Choco Screech-Owl calling. We would hear the bird every night but it never responded to playback.
Day 10: Wednesday 18 August Canandé
After a predawn breakfast we walked up to the mirador along the Banded Ground-Cuckoo trail. We had high expectatations of this walk up to the ridge, where some of the best species are supposed to be found. It was quite foggy and from time to time it rained. At one time I heard a Rufous-fronted Wood-Quail calling just next to the trail. After a little playback a single bird popped up at the trail at close range. Unfortunately because of the foggy conditions we were unable to enjoy the full splendour of its plumage. We birded the ridge trail before and after the Mirador up and down untill 15.00 pm when we returned to the lodge area. We failed to find the rare Golden-chested Tanager but twice we bumped into a nice flock at an antswarm. We observed Bicoloured Antbirds, gorgeous Ocellated Antbirds and Immaculate Antbird and it is at these antswarms with these accompanying antbirds that the mythical Banded Ground Cuckoo is sometimes found. Standing in the middle of the antswarm, the adrenaline rushing, I was scanning carefully the surrounding area. After 20 minutes I gave up.
We also spent some time at the mirador itself where we had our packed lunch. We were lucky to observe the rare Grey-backed Hawk. A single Black Hawk Eagle also soared by at close range, calling loudly.
Some nice birds observed this morning were endemic Rose-faced Parrots, which gave great perched views, Choco Trogon, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Spot-crowned Antvireo, Green Manakin, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-crowned Spadebill, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Tawny-crested Tanager, Masked Tanager and Orange-billed Sparrow. On our way down we had more Ocellated Antbirds but best bird was an Olive-backed Quail-Dove, briefly seen on the ground.
Late afternoon was spent around the lodge where we observed among others Band-backed Wren, Golden-hooded Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Yellow-tufted Dacnis and Fulvous-vented Euphonia. A single Slate-throated Gnatcatcher was the highlight of the afternoon.
Day 11: Thursday 19 August Canandé
The same procedure as the previous day. Unfortunately we encountered a lot of rain which made birding rather unpleasant. We returned to the lodge at 14.00 pm and on our way down we flushed a Dagua Thrush from the trail. We birded from the balcony during the afternoon, where we were sheltered from the rain. From the balcony Frans spotted suddenly a passing Black-tipped Cotinga. Later we could observe the bird in the scope, although at a great distance.
Day 12: Friday 20 August Botrosa Road – Canandé
Early morning we drove to the nearby village of Hoja Blanca and birded the Botrosa Road all morning. From time to time we encountered some nice tanager flocks. In one of these I had brief views of a single Blue-whiskered Tanager. We also had great views in the scope of Black-tipped White Cotinga and Tiny Hawk. Several parrot species were observed like Blue-headed Parrot, Red-lored Parrot and Mealy Parrot. 2 Long-wattled Umbrellabirds also performed nicely. Frans was lucky enough to observe briefly a Lita Woodpecker in one of the flocks. We did not find the Scarlet & White Tanager and Lemon-spectacled Tanager but we did see several Scarlet-browed Tanagers and a nice male Scarlet-breasted Dacnis. After lunch we drove back to Hoja Blanca and birded the other side of the village. Here we saw Black-throated Trogon and several Purple-throated Fruitcrows.
Late afternoon we birded along the Barred Forest Falcon trail when I suddenly heard a Rufous-crowned Antpitta call. It kept calling for at least 30 minutes but unfortunately it did not respond to playback. A spotlight session in the evening gave calling Choco Screech Owl, Spectacled Owl and Choco Poorwill but no views.
Day 13: Saturday 21 August Canandé – drive to Otavalo – Parque Condor
We decided to try for the antpitta again in the early morning. We birded the same stretch until 8.00 am but to no avail. Then we said goodbye to our hosts and started our long drive back to civilisation.
At the ferry we tried to find Slate-coloured Seedeater at a known stakeout but again no success. We had a short lunch break at San Vincente Maldonado and it was already 17.30 pm before we arrived at Parque Condor near Otavalo where our brother Joep lives. He had just finished building a nice bungalow with a fantastic view of the Imbabura vulcano. After a quick shower we went to Otavalo to have dinner. Of course we had a lot to talk about.
Day 14: Sunday 22 August Otavalo – Parque Condor
This was the first day we did not get up before dawn. After breakfast Joep showed us around the park. It made quite an impression on us. It was very spacious laid out and in an impressive setting. Some of the raptors were born in captivity but most were injured or seized birds. Twice a day a spectacular flight show is given for visitors, interspersed with informative and educational talks about the role of raptors/predators in nature and the need for conservation for both the birds and their environment. For Ecuadorian nationals it is quite an experience to get so close to birds of prey. A Caracara is running at one time along the rows of people and the experience of a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle coming in just inches above your head is also something you are not likely to forget. During the week many schoolchildren are visiting the park and it is obvious that it is important for the upcoming generations to understand the significance of nature conservation. Joep is currently building a nature education centre in the park.
At noon we drove the short distance to a site at the edge of Lago de San Pablo where Dusan and Bert had observed Ecuadorian Rail a few weeks earlier. And sure enough we had brief but excellent looks of one and heard several more. In the same area we also observed several Tropical Doraditos in the reed beds, though it took some time to get good views.
In the afternoon we just relaxed a bit at Joep’s place. In the evening we prepared ourselves for the trip to Cerro Mongus the next day. Joep had seen the Chestnut-bellied Cotinga years back in the nineties without difficulty.
Day 15: Monday 23 August Otavalo – Ambuqui – Cerro Mongus
We left at 7.00 am in the morning and at 9.00 am we arrived at hotel Oasis in Ambuqui. This hotel has been used in the past as base by several other birders, visiting Cerro Mongus. It is a huge hotel with swimming pool and large playground for children and can be busy with locals at the week-end. At the time, there were hardly any visitors and after checking in we left for Cerro Mongus. Thanks to the excellent descriptions of my friend David van de Schoor we arrived at 11.00 am at the spot from where we had to walk. Because of the fine weather we could drive straight up to about 3300 m. Within 10 minutes of walking we entered the first forest patch. Of course we were too late for the dawn chorus and we slowly walked up towards the paramo. Frans had a hard time going up because of some stomach problems. When we entered the paramo we were a bit confused by the information given in several reports. We continued going up along the edge of the forest in search of a side trail along a small water canal going into the forest and where we had to find the land slides to look for the cotinga. We then phoned Joep to help us out. He thought that we had climbed up too high and we had missed the side trail but it turned out later that the side trail was only about 100 metres further up from the point where we turned around.!!
So we walked down again but could not find the side trail (and landslides). I decided to climb up again while Frans stayed further down. Half an hour later I found the right trail and entered a beautiful forest and also found the 3 landslides. Bumped into a nice mixed tanager flock with Black-backed Bush-Tanager, Gold-naped Tanager and the very rare Masked Mountain-Tanager. Also a very tame Tawny Antpitta hopping on the trail. I spent a short time at the second landslide and then had to turn back down. No Cotinga.
Meanwhile Frans had seen a nice pair of Black-tighed Pufflegs lower down. Together we walked back down and at 15.30 we drove back to Ambuqui. During the last half hour of the day we walked on the hotel grounds of hotel Oasis in search of Scrub Tanager and Blue-headed Sapphire. We did not find the tanager but had one male Blue-headed Sapphire. Had dinner in an almost deserted dining room of the hotel. We decided to go up to Cerro Mongus again in the very early morning to be there at dawn. We knew how to drive to the spot in the dark and where the right trail was. Hopefully the weather would stay favourable.
Day 16: Tuesday 24 August Cerro Mongus – drive to Otavalo
We left Ambuqui at 5.00 am and at 6.15 we where again at our starting point. Just before the village of Impueran we had a Short-eared Owl, patrolling the fields along the track. The weather was fantastic and we had beautiful views of the surrounding mountain scenery. Had a quick breakfast and started our climb up. We birded the first forest patch and immediately had a Pale-naped Brush-Finch on the trail when entering the forest. A little later we surprised an Undulated Antpitta on the trail. After a little playback the bird came in and gave brief but excellent and close views in the middle of the trail. Then I tried Crescent-faced Antpitta and to our surprise we got an immediate and close response. We crawled into the bush a bit where we had a sort of a view of a gap in the vegetation and tried to lure the bird into view at this site. He came in but I only saw the bird from behind and never saw its striking (crescent-faced) face pattern. Despite the fact that the bird stayed in the same position for half a minute, it never turned around. Then it flew of, never to be seen again. Then we discussed our options. Try again for the Crescent-faced Antpitta for better views or continue for the cotinga site. We opted for the latter. On our way up we also heard Rufous Antpitta call and at the start of the paramo we heard Paramo Tapaculo.
We walked straight up to the Cotinga site where we arrived at 9.00 am. Then we started our scanning of the surrounding area. Most of the time was spent at the second landslide but we also checked from time to time the third one. At 12.30 we were about to give up. We had only seen Red-crested Cotinga and highlight sofar was excellent views of several males Rainbow-bearded Thornbills. When I stepped back on the trail and turned around, suddenly a bird popped up some 100 meters away. When I got my bins on it I could not believe my eyes: Chestnut-bellied Cotinga. After some tantalising moments (Frans had to climb up a steep section to reach my spot), I got my scope on the bird and we both had fantastic views of the bird. What a relief!
After 10 minutes the bird flew off and we started our return walk. We then bumped into a great flock near the first landslide: Besides Masked Mountain-Tangers, Gold-naped Tanagers, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, Black-backed Bush-Tanagers, another or the same Chestnut-bellied Cotinga was observed. Frans was lucky to see all the good birds he had missed the day before.
In a very good mood we walked down to the car and drove down to Ambuqui where we arrived at 15.30 pm. We decided to walk around the hotel grounds again, before our drive to Otovalo. It did not take long before we ticked Scrub Tanager and we also observed some Tropical Mockingbirds. Drove to Joep’s place at Parque Condor and had a good dinner and some beers at Otavalo.
Day 17: Wednesday 25 August Otavalo – Sumacao.
Stops at Papallacta pass and Huacamayos Ridge. We left Otavalo at 8.00 am and first stop was at the Papallacta pass. The weather was cold, foggy and windy. We made a stroll in the surroundings of the pass and saw Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail, Rufous-backed Canastero and Bar-winged Cinclodes.
We continued towards Sumaco, had lunch in Baeza and made a short stop at the Huacamayos Ridge. We walked the first 500 meters before it started to rain. Drove further to the Sumaco Lodge where we arrived at 16.00 pm. We were welcomed by Jim and Bonnie and after dropping our gear, they advised us to spend the last hour of the day at the feeders. We did and we saw 5 lifers at the feeders during this last hour of the day. Many-spotted Hummingbird, Gould’s Jewelfront, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Black-throated Brilliant and Rufous-vented Whitetip. A male Gorgeted Woodstar at the flowerbeds in front of our cabin was a nice bonus. It turned out that we were the only visitors at the lodge and after a good dinner we were given plenty of info about our target species and where we had the best chances of finding them.
Day 18: Thursday 26 August Sumaco
At dawn we birded a little around our cabin. We quickly observed Black-billed Treehunter, which we saw daily at the same time at the same spot. Blackish Antbird also made an appearance along the entrance road. After breakfast we started to bird the nearby FACE trail. We spent a full morning at this trail.
Best species observed along this trail were a perched Lined Forest Falcon, White-throated Quail-Dove, Red-headed Barbet, great views of at least 4 different Chestnut-crowned Gnateaters, a single onobtrusive Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater at very close range, Blue-rumped Manakin, White-crowned Manakin, Golden-winged Manakin, Golden-faced Tyrannulet and the very rare Yellow-throated Spadebill.
After a lunch break and some casual birding from the porch of the lodge (fantastic views of the valley), we birded along the main road. From the porch we saw our first Black-mandibled Toucans, Lined Antshrike and in a small mixed flock a male Golden-collared Honeycreeper, a most wanted species for many years. Jim took us first to a spot were Red-billed Tyrannulet is regularly recorded and sure enough after a little playback we had good views of one. Along the main road we ran into some nice tanager flocks in which we were able to locate the rare Blue-browed Tanager.
Also Silver-beaked Tanager, Blue-Grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Orange-eared Tanager, Paradise Tanager (common), Green & Gold Tanager, Golden Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Spotted Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, White-winged Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager and Magpie Tanager. At a fruiting tree we located a pair of the rare Fiery-throated Fruiteater as well as another Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater. Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer was also seen several times along this stretch.
In the evening we went owling. Though we heard Foothill Screech Owl, Rufescent Screech Owl and Band-bellied Owl, we had no views.
Day 19: Friday 27 August Sumaco
The whole morning was spent along the Piha Trail. Best species this morning were White-throated Quail-Dove, astonishing views of a White-tipped Sicklebill (finally), Slaty Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, White-backed Fire-Eye, great and close views of a tape responsive Short-tailed Antthrush, Plain-backed Antpitta (HO) and at least 2 Grey-tailed Pihas in the canopy.
After lunch we birded the Benavides Trail. This trail starts right below the lodge and gave us quite some good species during 2 visits. We saw a single and also rare Plain-winged Antwren along this trail. After some debate we identified Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant and for me the best bird was the Wing-banded Wren which responded nicely to the tape and came in.
Late afternoon along the main road, again with tanagers and another Blue-browed Tanager which showed nicely. We also identified White-fronted Tyrannulet along this stretch. In the evening we went owling with Jim but unfortunately only heard 4 species of owl! Pauraque on the track was only a very small consolation.
Day 20: Saturday 28 August Sumaco
Morning was spent along the Benavides Trail and the beginning of the FACE trail. Along the Benavides Trail we heard Rufous-breasted Wood Quail. About half way down I spotted a male Cock of the Rock and was able to get very close to take some photos. At a nice spot near the deepest part of the trail we spent quite some time and here we observed a male Foothill Antwren, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Dot-winged Antwren, Scale-backed Antbird, Plain-backed Antpitta(HO), Rufous-naped Greenlet, Olivaceous Greenlet and Yellow-throated Bush Tanager.
Near the entrance of the FACE trail we saw another White-tipped Sicklebill, White-backed Fire-eye and Blue-rumped Manakin. After lunch we birded the Coopmans Trail, mainly in search of Foothill Elaenia. In this we succeeded but then it started to rain heavily and we were completely soaked. We were completely rained out the rest of the afternoon and did only some birding along the main road, late afternoon, when the rain stopped. Here we saw many tanager species again including a single Yellow-bellied Tanager and our only Black-capped Tanagers.
We tried again for owls in the evening and this time the Foothill Screech Owl came up the ridge and perched very close to us in the dense foliage. Despite the fact that the bird called very close we were unable to locate it and after a couple of minutes it flew down again. Very frustrating! And also Rufescent Screech Owl and Band-bellied Owl were typically only heard.
Day 21: Sunday 29 August Sumaco – San Isidro. Stop Huacamayos Ridge.
We spent a full morning along the FACE trail and along the main road. Again a White-tipped Sicklebill (the third one in 3 days!), a single Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, tossing leaves a few feet away from us, a pair of Ornate Antwrens, White-backed Fire-eye, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant and White-breasted Wood Wren were seen along this trail. After a last lunch we said goodbye to Jim and Bonny and left for San Isidro. We birded along the first stretch of the Huacamayos Ridge between 14.00 – 15.00 but the birding was very slow. Drove further to San Isidro Lodge where we arrived at 16.00 pm. We said hello to Carmen and birded a little around the lodge. Great views of some very cooperative Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatchers. During dinner we saw at least 10 other birders present at the lodge. In the evening nice photos of the “San Isidro” Owl near the restaurant.
Day 22: Monday 30 August San Isidro
After breakfast we were taken to a site just below the restaurant area where within minutes we saw 2 White-bellied Antpittas. Then we started to bird along the Cock of the Rock Trail. Slowly we birded along this trail and best species seen along this trail were Masked Trogon, at least 3 Highland Motmots, Pearled Treerunner, Lineated Foliage-Gleaner, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, another White-bellied Antpitta, Green & Black Fruiteater, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Variegated Bristle Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Golden-rumped Euphonia, a pair of Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Rufous-crested Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain Tanager, Safrron-crowned Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager and Blue & Black Tanager.
After lunch we made the mistake to bird the so-called log trail. Very difficult and even dangerous trail to walk. Several Long-tailed Antbirds were seen. In the evening we made an arrangement to go birding on our last day with a local guide called Marcelo. This can be arranged through Carmen.
Day 23: Tuesday 31 August San Isidro – Huacamayos Ridge – Caucheras area
Some birding at the parking lot gave great views of Black-billed Peppershrike. After an early breakfast we met Marcelo and drove to the Huacamayos ridge which we birded from 7.00 – 12.30 am. We walked the first 3 to 4 km. It turned out to be a very productive morning, also because of the good weather conditions. Target species were Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Barred Antthrush and Slate-crowned Antpitta. A pair of the latter gave exceptional views and we were also lucky to observe a single Black-billed Mountain-Toucan. The toucan is apparently getting more and more difficult at this site. Barred Antthrush was unfortunately only heard. But we saw a nice array of interesting species along this trail and best species seen include Andean Guan, fleeting glimpses of White-throated Quail-Dove, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Green-fronted Lancebill, an unexpected Emerald-bellied Puffleg, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Long-tailed Tapaculo, Blackish Tapaculo, Green & Black Fruiteater, Dusky Piha, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Flavescent Flycatcher, Handsome Flycatcher,Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Sharpe’s Wren, Grass Green Tanager, Black-capped Hemispingus, Rufous-crested Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager and at least one Yellow-whiskered Bush Tanager.
A stop at the Cosanga river on our way back to the lodge, gave us a pair of Torrent Ducks. After lunch we drove to another area which is called Caucheras. This is supposed to be a reliable site for Pale-footed Swallow but we failed to find it. Good views though of several Black-billed Mountain-Toucans. On our way to this site we surprised a White-rumped Hawk, perched on a log along the road with a freshly killed rabbit in its claws. A male Slaty-backed Chat was a nice bonus and gave good views.
Owling in the evening at the start of the Huacamayos Rideg gave calling White-throated Screech-Owl and good views of Swallow-tailed Nightjar. A Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, hawking for insects was also briefly seen at dusk.
Day 24: Wednesday 1 September San Isidro – Guango Lodge – Papallacta Pass – Quito - Evening flight to Amsterdam
After some early morning birding around the lodge we left for Quito. We made a stop at the Guango Lodge where our main target was the Tourmaline Sunangel, which was very common at the feeders. Another stop was made at the Papallacta pass. Many calling Tawny Antpittas but no views. Continued to Quito Airport where we met Joep again and after some coffee we said goodbye. Evening flight from Quito to Madrid.
Day 25: Thursday 2 September Arrival at Amsterdam in the evening.
Arrived at Madrid. After a delay of 1 hour we finally arrived at 22.00 pm at Schiphol airport. Took the night train to Eindhoven and then a taxi from the train station home.
09-08 Flight Amsterdam – Madrid – Quito
10-08 7.35 am arrival at Quito. Yanacocha 11.30 – 15.00 Travel to Bellavista Lodge. Overnight Bellavista
11-08 All day in the area around Bellavista Lodge. Overnight Bellavista
12-08 Mashpi Road 7.00 – 15.00. Late afternoon Bellavista. Overnight Bellavista.
13-08 Angel Paz place 6.00 – 11.00. Minda Loma 12.00 – 13.00. Afternoon around Mindo. Overnight Mirador Los Bancos – Los Bancos
14-08 All day at Milpe. Lunch break at Mirador Los Bancos. Overnight Mirador Los Bancos.
15-08 All day at Silanche. Overnight Mirador Los Bancos.
16-08 Manga Loma 6.00 – 13.00. Silanche 15.00 – 18.00. Overnight Mirador Los Bancos.
17-08 Los Bancos – Canandé. Arrival at Noon. Afternoon around the lodge and nearby trails.
18-08 Canandé. All day on the Banded Ground Cuckoo Trail. With considerable time spent around the mirador.
19-08 Canandé. All day on the Banded Ground Cuckoo Trail. Again with time around the mirador. Late afternoon around the lodge and nearby trail. (Barred F.Falcon Trail)
20-08 Canandé. Botrasa road in the morning, left of Hoja Blanca. Botrosa Road in the afternoon, right of Hoja Blanca.
21-08 Barred Forest Falcon Trail until 8.00 am. Travel from Canandé to Otovalo. (Parque Condor) 17.30 pm.
22-08 All day Parque Condor. Visit to Lago San Pablo.
23-08 Otavalo – Ambuqui – Cerro Mongus
24-08 Cerro Mongus 6.30 – 14.30. Drive to Otavalo
25-08 Otavalo – Wild Sumaco Lodge. Afternoon at feeders.
26-08 Wild Sumaco. FACE trail and along the road.
27-08 Wild Sumaco. Piha trail and Benavides Trail.
28-08 Wild Sumaco. Benavides Trail and along the road.
29-08 Wild Sumaco. FACE trail until 11.00 am. Huacamayos Ridge 14.00 – 15.00 pm. San Isidro Lodge.
30-08 San Isidro. Cock of the Rock Trail and the Logtrail.
31-08 San Isidro. Huacamayos Ridge 7.00 – 12.30. Along the road up to Las Caucheras.
01-09 Around the lodge – Guango Lodge – Papallacta pass – Quito. Evening flight Quito – Madrid – Amsterdam.
02-09 Arrived at 22.00 pm. Amsterdam.
Full Bird List (120kB .pdf)