ABOUT THE BIRDING
Podocarpus National Park is conveniently divided into two main sections, the higher elevation site accessed from the Cajanuma entrance and the lower elevation Bombuscaro section accessed from Zamora. The road through the park leading to the visitor center offers opportunities for roadside birding within the park. The Cajanuma section features a landscape of steep slopes covered with dense temperate cloud forest often shrouded in mist. Towering trees emerging above the canopy are covered in epiphytes, while smaller trees, bushes, and patches of bamboo create an impenetrable understory of thickets. Habitat at higher elevations changes into elfin forest and paramo.
A 2-mile long trail near the visitor center provides excellent access to the temperate forest. It takes 2-3 hours to bird. The longer Oso de Anteojos and Bosque Nublado trails also provide access into the temperate cloud forests of the park. Likely species include Bearded Guan, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Red-hooded Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager,Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, and Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager. During flowering season a variety of hummingbirds are attracted to flowers around the visitor center and along the trails. Possibilities include Rainbow Starfrontlet, Flame-throated Sunangel, and Tyrian Metaltail. The prized Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan is often heard across the valleys but is only occasionally seen.
A steep and typically muddy trail leads up into the elfin forest and paramo zones. The trail takes about 1½ hours to reach the paramo but is worth the effort. At the higher reaches of the trail, it's possible to find the endangered and very localized Neblina Metaltail. Other birds in this zone include Chusquea Tapaculo, Ocellated Tapaculo, both more often heard than seen, Masked Mountain-Tanager, and Plushcap. Another possibility is the rare and highly localized Chestnut-bellied Cotinga, which was first seen in the park.
LOCATION OF SITE
The Cajanuma section of Podocarpus National Park is reached by driving south from Loja in southern Ecuador. A short 20-minute drive leads to the park entrance. Once in the park, a winding road overlooking a forested canyon below provides access to the park interior.