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Mindo: seeing 3 species antpitttas ,
This is a short note for independent travellers who want to visit excellent Mindo. This note should enable you to see (and not only hear!) at least 3 species of antpitta. At this incredible place it is even possible to make pictures of the usually extremely hard to see Giant Antpitta! This is a place operating only since October 2005. I was here at 28 and 29 December 2005.
Giant Antpitta, Foto: Eduard Sangster, December 29 2005
Seeing the antpittas
Giant, Yellow-breasted and Scaled Antpitta are all quite easy to see. Early morning is best, late afternoon is second best. Owner Angel Paz says his grounds hold 3 more species of antpitta, but at the moment it is not possible to see these. The spots for these are more distant and there is no trail to these places. He is now busy to make the trails. This will take easily one year?? I am not sure, but I believe he told me the other 3 species of antpitta on his grounds are Ochre-breasted, Rufous and Chestnut-crowned Antpitta.
You will go with Angel Paz walking the trails. He first catches some worms, then he takes out the intestines (“bad for the pitas…”) and washes the worms. He puts the worms in a bucket and this is the food for the antpittas. A smart Giant Antpitta, which he calls ‘Lucho’ (a common Latin-American name), knows the worm-place and probably will appear as soon as Angel Paz dugs for the worms… If Lucho is not showing up he will walk quite fast over the trails, calling “Maria, Maria, venga, venga” (Maria, Maria, come here, come here). Another Giant Antpitta, which he calls Maria, can show up. This bird eats out of his hand… You can make pictures of the Giant Antpitta (flash is prohibited!). At my time of visit the Scaled and Yellow-breasted Antpittas were far more enigmatic and it is was difficult to make a picture of these two species.
The first birder who ‘discovered’ this place was the owner of Bellavista Lodge. There are now still only a dozen birdguides who know of this place. Nice to know: in the past Angel Paz used to kill antpittas with a catapult/slingshot and eat them…
The place is called Paz de las aves. The owner of the land (some farmland and some forest) is a guy named Angel Paz. He is happy to show you the antpitta but he strongly recommend to call first to make an appointment. His telephone numbers are 2116243 or 2116026. He only speakes Spanish. If you don’t call, he is probably working on the fields or otherwise unable to help you to find the antpittas. Going on his land without notice is of course not done! And…you probably need him to see antpittas. You have to pay US$5 per person. Please give him some more if possible (he is quite poor). Prices probably will go up if it is getting busier.
The place is easy to find. Drive from Mindo to the highway Quito-Esmeraldas. At the Mindo turnoff drive 12.8 km east (to Quito). At 12.8 km in a sharp bend to the right, you go on a dirtroad to the right. This dirt road is right in the bend, so take care. At the opposite side there is a large clearing (farmland).
You will follow this road for about 5 km. You will go through 2 streams (no bridge, no problem with low clearance 2WD cars). After about 5m you will see, pretty much on top of a hill, some small houses on your left. Also some stables with pigs are here. Park your car here and ask for Angel Paz. The spots for the antpittas are only 10 minutes walking from here. Good shoes or boots are recommended.
In nearby Mindo is plenty of accommodation for all budgets. For birding the Septimo Paraiso Lodge is convenient located (US$ 80 per night for a double or twin room). Much cheaper hotel are in town. Visiting lodges for birding is no problem. Most lodges ask US$ 5 for this. Birding the lodges and not staying at the lodges (but in town) is a perfect solution.
Other birds in the area
I only went on a late morning and on a hot early afternoon. Angel showed a nest of Andean Cock-of-the-rock (babies present, no female) and I saw Barred Becard. On the grounds is also a lek of the cock-of-the-rock and there are probably more interesting birds to see here e.g. Olivaceous Piha, Toucan Barbet and Plate-billed Mountain-toucan.
Some other birdspots in the Mindo area
Toucan Barbet: very easy and every early morning present at the trees at the Mindo turnoff. Even if it is busy you can see the bird here in the trees next to the old police station. If patient you can make brilliant pictures.
Umbrellabird: the trail behind the lodge nearly opposite to the Mindo turnoff. The birds are also sometimes present in the lodge garden, mostly between 3 and 4 p.m.
Mirador Rio Blanco: this café is situated in the town of Los Bancos. Los Bancos is a city some 20km west of Mindo. If you enter town it is almost directly on your left hand side. At this café there are feeders with excellent birds. This place is a must for fotographing! I photographed tanagers (e.g. Golden, Silver-throated, Flame-faced, Emerald, Bay-headed, Rufous-throated, Blue-necked), Green Thorntail, Pale-mandibled Aracari and Black-cheeked Woodpecker.
Andean Cock-of-the-rock: there are several leks in the area. Most convenient is probably to combine it with the antpitta place. Otherwise you can go with a local guide to visit a lek (only very early morning (best) of late afternoon (less activity)) more near to Mindo. I went with Macelo firstname.lastname@example.org to a place (30 minutes walking from the road).
Feeders: strangely enough the feeders at the different lodges hold different species of hummingbird. Visit more than one feeder!
There are many more excellent places to visit. Bellavista is of course of must! See for more details other reports.
My visit to Mindo was part of a 3 week trip to mainland Ecuador. In total I travelled with my (non-birding) girlfriend for 3 months to Mexico, Galapagos, Ecuador and Peru. In total I saw 1050 species. It was a fantastic trip. The highlights were 1. Galapagos 2. Antpittas, Mindo 3. Diademed Plover, Peru. In Ecuador I saw 324 species of birds in 10 mornings of birding.