ABOUT THE BIRDING
Yanacocha Reserve (also called the "Inca Ditch") protects a high-altitude cloud forest situated at 10,500 ft elevation on Pichincha Volcano west of Quito. The land was purchased by the Jocotoco Foundation in the early 1990's and is currently managed by CECIA, the Corporacion Ornithologica del Ecuador. The reserve encompasses 964 hectares of elfin Polylepis Forest, that is home to many avian specialties but is noted primarily for its hummingbirds. A primary purpose of the reserve is to protect the highly endangered Black-breasted Puffleg, which was driven nearly extinct by land degradation while the area was owned by the Quito Water Authority. As far as is known, Yanacocha Reserve is the primary breeding area of the species. The puffleg spends the breeding season from October-March in the inaccessible higher elevation elfin forest. It can be seen in accessible areas only from March-October.
Birding in the accessible areas entails a fairly long hike along the access road past the parking area and gate where visitors must leave their vehicle behind. A cleared area above the parking lot before the gate is a good place to find Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager. The road into the reserve is mostly level but is along a steep mountainside where there is limited habitat. Some birds can be seen along the road, which is lined mainly by bushes and stunted trees in the narrow area between the road and the slopes below. Likely possibilities include Tawny Antpitta (mostly heard in the valley below), Blackish Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Rufous Wren, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Glossy Flowerpiercer, and Rufous-naped Brush-Finch.
Some of the best birding is toward the end of the road where there are a couple sets of hummingbird feeders and some small tracts of forest. Yanacocha is a wonderful place to see high-elevation hummingbirds. Species commonly seen include Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, and Tyrian Metaltail. Less commonly seen hummingbirds include Shining Sunbeam, Mountain Velvetbreast, Golden-breasted Puffleg, and Purple-backed Thornbill. The road ends in a clearing and from there a short uphill walk leads to a small forest patch where it's possible to see birds such as Barred Fruiteater, Spectacled Whitestart, and Superciliaried Hemispingus.
LOCATION OF SITE
Yanacocha Reserve is located on the northeastern slope of Pichincha Volcano about 45 minutes northwest of Quito along the old Nono-Mindo Road en route to the Mindo Valley. It's reached via a fairly level hard-pan dirt road off the Nono-Mindo road that is quite potholed.