Duration:17 days
#Heard Only:29

2007 Northern Ecuador Birding Tour

Our birding tour to northern Ecuador in December 2007 was a resounding success. Six participants joined us on the tour, led by master guide Willie Perez, and we saw or heard 561 species in 14 days of birding. We spent 4 days birding the western Andes including Yanacocha Reserve, Mindo Valley including a morning at Finca Angel Paz, Rio Silanche Reserve and Milpe Bird Sanctuary farther downslope, and Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve. We then spent 6 days birding the eastern Andes including Antisana Reserve, Papallacta Pass, the private reserves around Guango Lodge and Cabanas San Isidro, Guacamayos Ridge, the upper Loreto Road, the Archidona Road, and El Para Reserve. Finally, we spent 5 days including transfer days birding in the Amazon headwaters of the Rio Napo while enjoying Napo Wildlife Center. We enjoyed fine accommodations and fantastic food throughout the tour. Everyone was tired by the end, but the fantastic birding made all our efforts worthwhile.

Among the many amazing birds we saw, some truly stood out. Highlights in the western Andes included Hook-billed Kite, Tiny Hawk, great views of a perched Black Hawk-Eagle at Rio Silanche, close-up views of five Dark-backed Wood-Quail adjacent to the trail at Finca Angel Paz, Mottled Owl, Black-and-white Owl, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, 30 species of hummingbirds including White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail, Andean Emerald, Purple-chested Hummingbird, Empress Brilliant, Buff-tailed Coronet, Velvet-purple Coronet, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Booted Racket-tail, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Violet-tailed Sylph, and Purple-throated Woodstar, good looks at a female Golden-headed Quetzal, great looks on two different days of the spectacular endemic Toucan Barbet, as well as close-up looks at the equally spectacular Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Golden-green Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Red-faced Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Streak-capped Treehunter, Western Woodhaunter, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Russet Antshrike, White-flanked Antwren, Esmeraldas Antbird, Immaculate Antbird, great looks at Giant Antpitta and Yellow-breasted Antpitta at Finca Angel Paz along with fleeting glimpses of Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Unicolored Tapaculo, Narino Tapaculo, Spillman's Tapaculo, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Barred Fruiteater extraordinary displays of three male Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks on the lek at Finca Angel Paz, White-bearded Manakin, Blue-crowned Manakin, the amazing Club-winged Manakin, 51 species of flycatchers, 38 species of tanagers including Cinereous Conebill, Superciliated Hemispingus, Guira Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Blue-whiskered Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Rufous-throated Tanager, Rufous-winged Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper, and Swallow Tanager, a variety of seedeaters, flowerpiercers, and finches including Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Chestnut-bellied (Lesser) Seedeater, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Rufous-naped Brush-Finch, Tricolored Brushfinch, and White-winged Brush-Finch and the endemic Black-winged Saltator.

We went to Antisana Reserve in hopes of seeing Andean Condors, which did not show themselves this year. We did have a distant view of 2 highly endangered Black-faced Ibis flying low across the valley. We also saw several highland specialties and other interesting birds including Silvery Grebe, Andean Teal, Cinereous Harrier, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Carunculated Caracara, Andean Coot, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Black-winged Ground-Dove, Shining Sunbeam, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Streak-backed Canastero, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Hooded Siskin, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, and Grassland Yellow-Finch. We also visited another highland area around Papallacta Pass, including the Cayambe-Coca Reserve above the pass and the Water Plant road near Papallacta village. We hoped to see Andean Condor, but again no luck. We did see another main target species, Rufous-belled Seedsnipe, with 3 individuals walking just below the parking lot at the top of the access road not more than 15 feet away when we first arrived. The scenary from this vantage point was fantastic, as is the great expansive of simply gorgeous tundra vegetation. Other highland birds we saw around Papallacta included Short-tailed Swift, Shining Sunbeam, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tawny Antpitta, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, White-banded Tyrannulet, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Black Flowerpiercer, and Pale-naped Brush-Finch.

While in the eastern Andes we went birding in the gardens around Guango Lodge, in the private forest reserves owned by Cabanas San Isidro, on the rocky trail along Guacamayos Ridge, the upper Loreto Road, and in El Para Reserve. We encountered some rainy weather while in the eastern Andes, especially the day at El Para where we were essentially rained out. The trails at El Para are somewhat steep and difficult in places anyway, but the rain made it worse. We went because the birding there can be fantastic on a good day. We did see some good birds, including Black-bellied Cuckoo, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, White-fronted Nunbird, Yellow-billed Nunbird, Lemon-throated Barbet, Little Woodpecker, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Black-faced Antbird, Black-faced Antthrush, White-browed Purpletuft, Chestnut-crowned Becard, Fulvous Shrike-Tanager, Green-and-Gold Tanager, Green Oropendola, and Olive Oropendola. There were a lot more great birds we saw the previous year that we missed this time around because of the weather. We enjoyed some great birding at Guango Lodge, around San Isidro, and elsewhere on the eastern slope. Notable birds included Torrent Duck, Wattled Guan, Sickle-billed Guan, White-capped Parrot, Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, 30 species of hummingbirds including White-bearded Hermit, Black-throated Hermit, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Glittering-throated Emerald, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Buff-tailed Coronet, Mountain Velvetbreast, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Glowing Puffleg, Booted Racket-taile, Mountain Avocetbill, Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, and Gorgeted Woodstar, along with great close-up looks at Masked Trogon, fleeting looks at Crested Quetzal, several woodpeckers including Lafrasnaye's Piculet, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Yellow-vented Woodpecker, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, and Powerful Woodpecker, a good variety of ovenbirds including Azara's Spinetail, Ash-browed Spinetail, Spotted Barbtail, Pearled Treerunner, and Streaked Tuftedcheek, several antbirds including Long-tailed Antbird and Black Antbird, great looks at Chestnut-crowned Antpitta and White-bellied Antpitta that have been conditioned to come out onto the trail for food at San Isidro, Dusky Piha, 35 species of flycatchers, Rufous Wren, Sharpe's Wren, Mountain Wren, Glossy-black Thrush, Black-billed Thrush, Turquoise Jay, Black-billed Peppershrike, Black-crested Warbler, 38 species of tanagers including Grass-green Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Black-eared Hemispingus, Masked Crimson Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Turquoise Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Yellow-bellied Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Black-capped Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, and Purple Honeycreeper, several seedeaters, flowerpiercers, and finches including Caqueta Seedeater, Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Slaty Brush-Finch, and Yellow-browed Sparrow, and a variety of icterids including Red-breasted Blackbird, Orange-backed Troupial, Subtropical Cacique, Mountain Cacique, and Russet-backed Oropendola. We also had great views of the mysterious San Isidro Owl, which is intermediate in appearance between Black-banded Owl and Black-and-white Owl and may be a species new to science rather than a hybrid because it is able to breed true.

Finally, we spent 4 nights at Napo Wildlife Center. While there we visited the 35-meter observation tower and the parrot clay lick, boated along blackwater creeks through varzea forest, and hiked trails through terra firma forest. The weather was overcast but not rainy at the observation tower, perfect for birding. Some of the birds we saw there were Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Re-bellied Macaw, Black-headed Parrot, Amazonian White-tailed Trogon, Black-tailed Trogon, White-necked Puffbird, White-fronted Nunbird, Gilded Barbet, Lettered Aracari, Ivory-billed Aracari, Many-banded Aracari, Channel-billed Toucan, White-throated Toucan, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Scaly-breasted Woodpecker, Chestnut Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Mouse-colored Antshrike, Pygmy Antwren, Plum-throated Cotinga, Spangled Cotinga, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Sirystes, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Violaceous Jay, Turquoise Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Opal-crowned Tanager, and Casqued Oropendola. We had great success at both parrot clay licks, where the birds came in by the hundreds. The day before, the parrots did not go onto the first clay lick at all. At the clay licks we saw Dusky-headed Parakeet, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Orange-cheeked Parrot, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned Amazon, and Mealy Amazon. We saw a great variety of birds from our dugout canoes as we paddled blackwater streams and even from the powerboat going down and back up the Napo River. Notable birds included the highly secretive Zigzag Heron sitting on a nest under an overhand along Anangu Creek, Least Bittern, Slender-billed Kite, Orange-breasted Falcon, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, lots of bizarre Hoatzins, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Pied Lapwing, Collared Plover, Great Potoo, Blackish Nightjar, Ladder-tailed Nightjar, 5 species of kingfishers including the harder to see Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher, White-eared Jacamar, White-chinned Jacamar, Black-fronted Nunbird, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaner, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Silvered Antbird, Dot-backed Antbird, White-winged Swallow, White-banded Swallow, Black-capped Donacobius, Buff-breasted Wren, Scaly-breasted Wren, Masked Crimson Tanager, Turquoise Tanager, Moriche Oriole, Orange-backed Troupial, and Oriole Blackbird. During several hikes through drier terra firma forest, we saw some additional species including notably great looks at Great Jacamar, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Dusky-throated Antshrike, Cinereous Antshrike, White-flanked Antwren, Rio Suno Antwren, Gray Antwren, Spot-winged Antbird, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Black-faced Antthrush, the amazing Black-necked Red-Cotinga displaying on a lek far back on a wet, muddy trail deep in the terra firma forest, Blue-backed Manakin, Wire-tailed Manakin, White-crowned Manakin, Orange-crested Manakin, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin,, the secretive White-necked Thrush, and Red-rumped Cacique. We heard the amazing song mimicry of Lawrence's Thrush but were never able to actually see this frustratingly difficult bird to find. In addition to birds, we also saw several mammals including a rarely seen tapir, Dwarf Squirrel, Night Monkey, Golden-mantled Tamarin, Brown Capuchin, Squirrel Monkey, and Red Howler Monkey.