NORTHERN ANDES BIRDING TOUR
|12 days, 11 nights
|* This tour is available for any dates of your choosing provided guide services and accommodations are available.
DAY 1 - QUITO
International flights arrive by evening. Hotel provides transfer to accommodations. Night at San Jose de Puembo Hotel.
DAY 2 - GUANGO RESERVE & SAN ISIDRO RESERVE
Early transfer to Guango Lodge. Morning birding at Guango Lodge and reserve, a high elevation site near the village of Papallacta. The path through the gardens offers superb birding, especially during early morning. The path is basically a grassy area surrounded by gardens and secondary growth along the river. There is also some forest edge where forest species often appear. Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper are sometimes found along the river, and birds such as Black-capped Hemispingus, Black-eared Hemispingus, Gray-hooded Bush Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Capped Conebill, Masked Flowerpiercer, and Slaty Brush-Finch can often be found in the gardens. A major attraction at Guango is the many hummingbird feeders just outside the entrance to the lodge dining area. Up to 15 species of hummingbirds vie for perches and feeding stations. Species typically present are Sparkling Violetear, Buff-tailed Coronet, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Glowing Puffleg, Purple-backed Thornbill, Tyrian Metaltail, Mountain Avocetbill, Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, and Gorgeted Woodstar.
After lunch transfer to San Isidro, a middle elevation site downslope from Papallacta. After arrival, bird paths around the lodge grounds. The grounds near the dining area and cabanas have paved and stone paths through gardens and forest edge. These offer very good opportunities to find Masked Trogon, tanagers, and flycatchers. Shortly after dark look for the mysterious "San Isidro Owl", a bird intermediate in plumage between Black-and-white Owl and Black-banded Owl. No one quite knows what this owl is. It may be a separate species or a sub-species new to science. The owl is usually present and easily seen around the lodge walkways. Night at Cabanas San Isidro.
DAY 3 - SAN ISIDRO
Early morning will be devoted to seeing antpittas that can usually be lured onto a trail not far from the dining room, including Two species usually appear, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and White-bellied Antpitta. The remainder of the day will be spent birding the San Isidro Reserve, private property owned by the lodge. Several trails go through secondary forest, where it's sometimes possible to see Crested Quetzal. Also possible is Golden-headed Quetzal. Among the other birds that could be found in the forest and along forest edge are Andean Motmot, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Orange-eared Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, and Beryl-spangled Tanager. Some different species of hummingbirds are present at feeders near the dining room, including Tawny-bellied Hermit, Bronzy Inca, Green-fronted Lancebill, Violet-bellied Hummingbird, and Fawn-breasted Brilliant. During early evening take an optional excursion back upslope to a road cut where Lyre-tailed Nightjar can often be found roosting on the bluff. Night at Cabanas San Isidro.
DAY 4 - LORETO ROAD & SAN ISIDRO
All bird famed upper Loreto Road, an altitudinal transect from temperate forest into subtropical forest. Temperate forest along the upper Loreto Road is home to a great diversity of birds including White-eyed Parakeet, the endemic Coppery-chested Jacamar, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Lined Antshrike, Short-billed Chlorospingus, Bronze-green Euphonia, Orange-eared Tanager, Spotted Tanager, Caqueta Seedeater, and Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer. Farther downslope is the upper subtropical zone near the junction with the Archidona Road and the lower Loreto Road. Also bird part of the lower Loreto Road or a short stretch of the Archidona Road. It's worth checking the roadside edge habitat and the more open agricultural area. Possibilities along the lower Loreto Road include the rare Amazonian Umbrellabird and many species of flycatchers and subtropical tanagers such as Paradise Tanager. The Archidona Road passes through an agricultural area and can produce Gilded Barbet, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, and Orange-backed Troupial. Night at Cabanas San Isidro.
DAY 5 - SAN ISIDRO & GUANGO
Morning bird around San Isidro, including forest trails where there will be another chance to find the sometimes elusive Crested Quetzal. After lunch transfer upslope to Papallacta. En route bird along Santa Lucia-Bermejo Road. This side road above San Isidro goes through a mix of temperate forest and farmland. Possibilities along the road include Wattled Guan, Sickle-winged Guan, Lafresnaye's Piculet, Powerful Woodpecker, and Saffron-crowned Tanager. Night at Guango Lodge.
DAY 6 - PAPALLACTA WATER PLANT ROAD & PASS
Early morning bird the Papallacta Water Plant Road, a private road through alpine scrub and forest. A number of interesting higher elevation birds can be found along the roadside. Among these are Bar-bellied Woodpecker, the quite easily to see Tawny Antpitta, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, and Black-backed Bush Tanager. The lovely Shining Sunbeam can usually be seen feeding on flowering plants near the start of the road. Some more difficult species are also possible, including Spillmann's Tapaculo, Paramillo Tapaculo, and Plushcap.
After breakfast, depart for the western Andes. En route take a side road up to the antenna area to look especially for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. This area is one of the few places in Ecuador where it can be seen. Other likely high elevation birds there include Stout-billed Cinclodes, Chestnut-winged Cinclodes, Many-striped Canastero, and Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant. Always possible, though rare, is an Andean Condor soaring above the valley below. En route toward Quito, a number of side roads offer birding possibilities in the alpine scrub. There species such as Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Blue-backed Conebill, and Giant Conebill are possible. Arrive in the Tandayapa Valley in the western Andes before dark. Night at Tandayapa Bird Lodge.
DAY 7 - TANDAYAPA & MINDO
All morning bird around the lodge. Tandayapa Bird Lodge owns some forest property that offers excellent birding. A trail winds uphill and downhill around a gully, ending up on the road below the lodge. Birding along that trail and on side trails that lead farther uphill can be superb. A blind near the lodge is worth visiting in early morning. A number of secretive species such as Giant Antpitta, Scaled Antpitta, and Rufous-breasted Antthrush sometimes show up there. Many visitors never walk the trails, but they are worth the effort especially in early morning. Among the many attractions are Golden-headed Quetzal, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Powerful Woodpecker, Golden-winged Manakin, the endemic Ecuadorian Thrush, Blue-capped Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, and Beryl-spangled Tanager. Of special note is the endemic Beautiful Jay, which is often seen on the far side of the ravine across from the lodge by those who do the entire loop trail. In addition to forest trails, the lodge attracts many species of hummingbirds to feeders behind the restaurant. Some of the notable species are Violet-tailed Sylph, Buff-tailed Coronet, Booted Racket-tail, White-bellied Woodstar, Western Emerald, and Andean Emerald.
After lunch depart for Mindo farther downslope. En route take a side road near Nangegalito to Cueva de los Tayos where the nocturnal Oilbird can be seen on a private farm near the Maquipucuna Forest Reserve. Your guide will need to make advance arrangement to gain access. Seeing the Oilbirds entails a 3-km transfer via 4-wheel-drive or a tractor-pulled wagon pulled by the farmer followed by a 1½km trail and a descent down some 300 steps to the grotto where the birds roost. Continue on to Mindo, arriving before dark. Night at Hosteria Septimo Paraiso.
DAY 8 - MINDO JUNCTION & RIO SILANCHE
Mindo Junction is the turn-off from the main highway that leads toward the town of Mindo. It's a mere 5-min from Septimo Paraiso Lodge. The attraction is the parking lot lights and a few trees around the old abandoned police station. Around dawn the lights attract numerous insects, which in turn attract a wide variety of birds. This is a great place to start off the day and can't be missed on a visit to Mindo. Among the many birds we've seen there are Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Masked Trogon, Toucan Barbet, Streak-capped Treehunter, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Capped Conebill, Masked Flowerpiercer, and Tricolored Brush-Finch. After an hour or so at Mindo Junction, continue downslope to Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary, about a ¾ hour drive.
Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary features wonderful birding in the subtropical zone. Birds there are quite different than the cloud forests around Mindo. Trails in the sanctuary are wide and mostly level. A short observation platform allows easy viewing of birds in the mid-story of the forest. It's worth spending most of the day in the reserve. Possibilities include Tiny Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Red-masked Parakeet, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Red-rumped Woodpecker, Pygmy Antwren, Blue-crowned Manakin, Fulvous-vented Euphonia, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Emerald Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, and Scarlet-browed Tanager. Many interesting rarities are also possible. Night at Hosteria Septimo Paraiso.
DAY 9 - MILPE BIRD SANCTUARY & MINDO-NAMBILLO ROAD
Morning bird Milpe Bird Sanctuary downslope from Mindo. This small reserve offers superb birding and features a variety of species not found at higher elevation Mindo. Several wide easy trails provide access to middle elevation forest, while hummingbird feeders in the open gardens attract a variety of hummingbirds. Birds of interest include the beautiful endemic Choco Toucan, Blue-tailed Trogon, Collared Trogon, the near endemic Guayaquil Woodpecker, Esmeraldas Antbird, Pacific Flatbill, Orange-crested Flycatcher, and various tanagers including Tawny-crested Tanager, Moss-backed Tanager, Glistening-green Tanager, Gray-and-gold Tanager, and Ochre-breasted Tanager. It's also an excellent place to look for the rare Tooth-billed Hummingbird. On the way back to Mindo, stop at a cafe outside Los Blancos where hummingbird and fruit feeders attract a nice variety of hummingbirds and tanagers.
Afternoon bird the road leading through the Mindo-Nambillo Forest Reserve outside Mindo. Outside Mindo the road crosses a white-water river where White-capped Dipper is likely and Torrent Duck. Farther up, the road winds through open forest where roadside birding can be very good. The habitat is basically open woodland where forest edge and open woodland birds are evident. Likely species include Red-headed Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Turquoise Jay, Choco Warbler, Golden-naped Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, and Orange-bellied Euphonia. Night at Hosteria Septimo Paraiso.
DAY 10 - REFUGIO PAZ & BELLAVISTA RESERVE
Extremely early departure for half hour drive to Refugio Paz, where the owner has conditioned several species of antpittas to come out on the trail for food. Following a 20-minute hike down a somewhat steep trail, we'll reach a blind where we can observe male Andean Cocks-of-the-Rock displaying in the understory. Later Angel Paz will treat us to close-up views of extremely rare and locally distributed antpittas he has conditioned to come out onto the trail. Species that usually appear are Giant Antpitta and Yellow-breasted Antpitta. Less commonly, the very shy Moustached Antpitta also puts in an appearance. More recently, Angel has also conditioned Ochre-breasted Antpitta to appear as well. In addition to the antpittas, Angel can sometimes lure the rare and secretive Dark-backed Wood-Quail into the open as well. Many other middle elevation specialties are seen regularly during a visit to this private reserve, including Golden-headed Quetzal, Toucan Barbet, Ecuadorian Thrush, Flame-faced Tanager, and Black-capped Tanager. Angel also has several hummingbird feeders that attract hummingbirds similar to those at Tandayapa Bird Lodge and Septimo Paraiso.
Afternoon transfer to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, located at higher elevation than Mindo or Tandayapa on a ridgeline between the two valleys. Everyone is likely to be rather tired from the early visit to Refugio Paz, so there will be time to rest and relax. Bellavista Lodge is the perfect place to do that. One can sit on the veranda outside the restaurant, enjoy a drink, and watch birds in the surrounding trees. Toucan Barbet, Green-and-black Fruiteater Barbet, and Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan regularly put in an appearance, along with a variety of other birds. Night at Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge.
DAY 11 - BELLAVISTA RESERVE
Bellavista is located on a ridgeline so many of the trails are rather steep and difficult. However, a few trails traverse the ridgeline through secondary forest and are worth birding. Morning birding in the forest can produce Sickle-winged Guan, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Sierran Elaenia, Smoke-colored Pewee, Turquoise Jay, and White-sided Flowerpiercer. Numerous hummingbird feeders draw in a variety of species, mostly similar to those seen in Mindo and Tandayapa Valleys. After lunch transfer to Quito, arriving at the hotel before dark. Night at San Jose de Puembo Hotel.
DAY 12 - END OF TOUR
Tour ends with breakfast at the hotel. International flights home.