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Whether you are an avid birder or just a hobbyist, this trip will not disappoint. World renowned Ornithologist, Dr. Heike Brieschke, knows the country and its birds very well, and will lead you up through the Andes at over 4,000 meters and down into the Amazon basin at 400 meters, including a variety of habitats in between. Traveling through the small, megadiverse country of Ecuador, this trip will offer tremendous opportunities to see a long list of the over 1,660 bird species found in the country (see this link for a full list of the birds that occur along this particular route – conservatively, we expect to encounter at least 400 species). Throughout the trip we will stay in comfortable lodges as we travel from one habitat to the next. Apart from the many bird species you will see, you will also be able to experience the vast plant diversity and some of the stunningly beautiful landscapes that Ecuador has to offer.
*(inclusions: all taxes; your international return airfare Toronto – Quito; all accommodations; all meals; all entrance fees; full- time multilingual Ornithologist guide; additional Spanish speaking Ornithological guide in the Amazon; private transportation with chauffeur, including airport transfers, canoe rides on the Napo River & smaller rivers; all guided activities in Shiripuno; and carbon offsets to counter the environmental impact of your trip).
*$600 CAD single supplement (or we can try to match you up with someone).
*A non-refundable deposit of $2,000 CAD is required at time of booking.
*Please advise us if you would like a quote if departing from a different location than Toronto.
Heike grew up in the countryside close to the small town of Bonn, Germany. Her interest in birds emerged at a very young age, leading her to study Biology in Bonn and later complete her PhD in Ornithology at the University of Frankfurt, including a one-year study of Sunbirds in South Africa. She then took on a position in the Ornithology Department at the Natural Museum and Research Institute Alexander Koenig/Bonn, during which time she was sent to Río Anchicayá, Colombia to direct a Scientific Field Station for two years. In 1993 Heike was sent to Ecuador to continue her field studies, when she ended up meeting her husband, Pedro, and settling in the country. She has been exploring and studying Ecuador’s bird life ever since, carrying out monthly monitoring studies in her and Pedro’s cloud forest reserve, called Mindo Lindo, and guiding birders from all over the world in the different ecosystems of the amazing country of Ecuador. Heike is fluent in German, English and Spanish.
Day 1 (Mon, Feb 12): Arrive in Quito (D)
Day 2 (Tues, Feb 13): Yanacocha & Bellavista (B, L, D)
Day 3 (Wed, Feb 14): Reserva Paz de las Aves & Mindo Lindo (B, L, D)
Day 4 (Thurs, Feb 15): Reserva Río Silanche (B, L, D)
Day 5 (Fri, Feb 16): Calacalí & Antisana National Park (B, L, D)
Day 6 (Sat, Feb 17): Drive to Wildsumaco (B, L, D)
Day 7 – 8 (Sun, Feb 18 & Mon, Feb 19): Wildsumaco (B, L, D)
Day 9 (Tue, Feb 20): Coca & Shiripuno (B, L, D)
Days 10 – 12 (Wed, Feb 21 – Fri, Feb 23): Shiripuno /Amazon Lowland Rainforest (B, L, D)
Day 13 (Sat, Feb 24): Travel to San Isidro Lodge (B, L, D)
Days 14 – 15 (Sun, Feb 25 – Mon, Feb 26): San Isidro Program (B, L, D)
Day 16 (Tue, Feb 27): Guango Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 17 – 18 (Wed, Feb 28 – Thu, Mar 1): High Cloud Forest (B, L, D)
Day 19 (Fri, Mar 2): Travel Home (B)
B = Breakfast; L = Lunch; D = Dinner
You will be met at the airport by our guide Heike and driver Luis Sandoval. The drive to your cosy hotel, Casa Magnolia, will take about half an hour. Later in the evening we will gather together to hear a briefing of what we are doing the following day and to share all of the necessary information about the tour starting first thing in the morning. Quito sits at over 2,800 meters (almost 10,000 feet) above sea level. You may feel the altitude a little right away, so take the opportunity to just relax and acclimatize. Accommodations: Casa Magnolia
An early start at 5:00am with a picnic breakfast packed, we will travel to our first birding destination – Yanacocha, located at about 3,600 meters. On the terrace of a newly built restaurant there, while enjoying our picnic breakfast, we will have time to observe high elevation hummingbird species at the feeders: the incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird, Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Puffleg, Shining Sunbeam, Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, and others. Later we will walk along a beautiful elfin forest and look out for Mountain-tanagers, especially the stunning Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, flowerpiercers, conebills, and Brush-finches. Shortly before midday, when the mist starts to settle in, we will leave for Bellavista Lodge. The ride will take about 2.5 hours. New species of hummingbirds will await us there: Buff-tailed Coronet, Collared Inca, Green Violetear, among others. The surroundings offer good opportunities to see different species of tanagers, Masked Trogon, Turquoise Jay and Plate-billed Mountain-toucan. Later in the afternoon we will head to Mindo to settle into our lodgings there. Accommodations: La Providencia de Mindo.
We will leave around 5:15am to arrive at Angel Paz’s Reserve “Paz de la Aves” before sunrise. First we will spend around one hour at the lek (courtship area) of the Andean Cock-of-the-rock. You will be amazed by how such a colourful bird can just vanish behind branches and leaves. Next you will get to see (& hear) Angel start his Antpitta show. Three to five species will show up, within easy range for photos. Then you will have a chance to see a Dark-backed Wood-quail, a nearly endemic Ecuadorian species and a lot of hummingbirds at feeders, where we will focus on seeing a Tawny-bellied Hermit and Wedge-billed Hummingbird. Afterwards, you will have an opportunity to enjoy a traditional country breakfast prepared by Angel’s family. Next we head for Heike’s own small cloud forest reserve, called Mindo Lindo. More stunning hummingbird species will make their appearance there – among them, the especially the colourful Velvet-purple Coronet, a species endemic to the Choco region, with a very limited altitudinal range. In the afternoon, there will be more opportunity to explore the trail system and see other bird species such as the impressive Golden-headed Quetzal. Accommodations: La Providencia de Mindo.
We will begin the day with another early start at 4:45am to travel to Río Silanche, a drive that will take about 1.5 hours. This lowland reserve harbours many new species within the woodcreepers, woodpeckers, antbirds, birds of prey, icterids, and so on. We’ll start at the canopy tower hoping to see Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Masked Tityra, Green Honeycreeper, Scarlet-breasted and Yellow-tufted Dacnis, the beautiful Bay-headed Tanager, and if we are lucky, we may even catch a glimpse of the male Red-capped Manakin. Later we will walk along the forest trails and keep our eyes out for more skulking undergrowth species. Early afternoon we drive slowly back towards the paved road and keep a look-out for birds of more open habitat. In the little town of Los Bancos we will help ourselves to a well earned late lunch at the restaurant, Mirador Río Blanco, which offers more chance to see tanagers and hummingbirds at feeders there. Then we will drive back to our lodgings in Mindo. Accommodations: La Providencia de Mindo.
After an early breakfast at our hotel, we will drive just over an hour to reach the arid region around the small town of Calacalí, where we will spend about an hour looking for birds who thrive in this extreme habitat: American Kestrel, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Purple-collared Woodstar, Spot-billed Ground-tyrant, Scrub Tanager, Cinereous Conebill, Ash-breasted Sierra-finch, and Grassland Yellow-finch. Next we head for Antisana National Park, which takes about a two-hour drive to the park entrance where we begin our birding activity. This will lead us the Mica lagoon, where our target species are: Silvery Grebe, Yellow-billed Pintail, Baird’s Sandpiper, Andean Lapwing, Variable Hawk, Carunculated Caracara, and – with much luck: Black-faced Ibis and Andean Condor, two of Ecuador’s rarest bird species. Our last stop will be at a typical highland restaurant, where while waiting for lunch, we will hope to see the biggest of the smallest: the Giant Hummingbird. Later in the afternoon we will leave for our hotel, Casa Magnolia. Accommodations: Casa Magnolia.
After breakfast, we head off on a longer drive that will bring us to Wildsumaco Lodge. This will be a change from the 4,000 meters altitude we spent time in yesterday, as we descend to the range between 1,300 and 1,600 meters today. On our way to the lodge, there will be opportunities to bird along the dirt road we are traveling on. We will also visit a specific area frequented by the elusive and swallow-like Cliff Flycatcher. Part of the afternoon we will spend in front of the hummingbird feeders hoping for: Green Hermit, Blue-fronted and Green-fronted Lancebill, Rufous-gaped Hillstar, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Wire-crested Thorntail, Black-throated and Violet-fronted Brilliant, Napo Sabrewing, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Gould’s Jewelfront, Many-spotted Hummingbird and others. Accommodations: Wildsumaco.
We will spend these two days in this birding paradise, exploring up and down the dirt road and enjoying the views into the canopy from the lodge’s balcony. Target species will include, among others, the Speckled Chachalaca, Plumbeous Pigeon, Gray-rumped Swift, Swallow-tailed Kite, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Collared Trogon, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Cuvier’s Toucan, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Lined Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, White-backed Fire-eye, Plain-backed Antpitta (at its feeding station), Short-tailed Antthrush, Dusky Spinetail, Black-billed Treehunter, White-crowned Manakin, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Olivaceous Greenlet, White-breasted Wood-wren, Bronze-green Euphonia, Blue-necked, Paradise and Turquoise Tanager and Magpie Tanager. Later in the evening, we will try our luck with species that are more difficult to observe, always hidden in dense vegetation, such as the Blackish Rail and different species of owls. Accommodations: Wildsumaco.
We will have a later breakfast this morning, before driving two hours to arrive at our next destination, Coca. Upon arrival around 10:00, we will be met by our guide and taken on another two hours drive to the Shiripuno Bridge, from which we will embark on a motorized canoe ride up the Shiripuno River, which will take us another two to four hours, depending on water levels. Regardless, the canoe ride will offer lots of opportunity to see colourful Amazonian lowland rainforest bird species, such as: the stout Spix’s Guan and Blue-throated Piping-guan, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Plumbeous Kite, Grey-fronted Dove, the impressing Blue-and-yellow Macaw and Scarlet Macaw, Red-bellied Macaw, Amazon Kingfisher, Black-fronted Nunbird, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Many-banded Araçari, Drab Water-tyrant, Great and Lesser Kiskadee, Gray-capped Flycatcher, Violaceous Jay, White-banded Swallow, Masked Crimson Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Russet-backed and Crested Oropendola. The rest of the afternoon we will bird around the lodge. The evening will bring us Pauraque and Tawny-bellied Screech-owl (at least we will be able to hear them). Accommodations: Shiripuno Lodge.
We will have three full days to explore the richness of the Amazon forest birdlife – but the ability to observe many of the bird species will have to be earned with sweat and patience. Sometimes we will walk for a long time without seeing anything and then suddenly we will encounter a mixed bird flock and will not know where to look first. Beyond walking the trail system, we will hike to a natural look-out over a vast area of dense rainforest as well visit an oxbow-lake and go for more rides up and down river by canoe. Of the many different species from the antbird family, we will try to see: White Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Black Hawk-eagle, Red-throated and Black Caracara, Spotted Sandpiper, Black-headed Parrot, Mealy Amazon, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Green-backed and Violaceous Trogon, Purplish and Great Jacamar, Gilded Barbet, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Plain-winged Antshrike, Amazonian Streaked Antwren, Grey Antbird, Yellow-crowned Tryannulet, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Spangled Cotinga, Blue-crowned Manakin, Black-tailed Tityra, Coraya Wren, Black-capped Donacobius, Green-and-gold Tanager, Yellow-bellied Dacnis, Green and Olive Oropendola among others. Accommodations: Shiripuno Lodge.
We have another opportunity on our ride back with the canoe to see more riparian bird species before we head on to Coca where we will be met again by our driver Don Luis. Then we head for San Isidro Lodge which will bring us to an altitude of about 2,000 meters, representing a significant change in the composition of bird species we will be able to observe. We will arrive late afternoon, with an opportunity to relax on a beautiful balcony in the hopes of seeing new species of hummingbirds at the feeders: Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Bronzy Inca, Long-tailed Sylph and Gorgeted Woodstar. Accommodations: San Isidro.
Over the course of these two days, we will be exploring the more open area around our lodgings, including the lookout platform, the dirt road leading to San Isidro, as well as the trail system. The lush and humid vegetation in the area harbours many new species for us, such as: the Crested Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Highland Motmot, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Streak-headed Antbird, White-bellied Antpitta (at its feeding station), Red-faced Spinetail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Barred Becard, Rufous-crowned Tody-flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Inca Jay, Plain-tailed Wren, Glossy-black Thrush, Subtropical Cacique, Canada Warbler, Saffron-crowned Tanager and Bluish Flowerpiercer. After a delicious dinner we will have the chance to observe the mysterious “San Isidro Owl”. Accommodations: San Isidro.
Before breakfast we will have one last opportunity to observe the wealth of species found at San Isidro. Then we will drive to Guango Lodge, about one hour away climbing up the Eastern Andes to an altitude of 2,700 meters. Again new hummingbird species await us, such as: the Tourmaline Sunangel, Glowing Puffleg, Mountain Velvetbreast (in the forest), and White-bellied Woodstar. The vegetation around this area is even more moist and lush than in San Isidro. And it will be cold – so a warm bed will be very welcome at night! Accommodations: Guango.
The open area of the pipeline trail as well as the forest trails and the river will offer excellent opportunities to observe some of the high cloud forest species of the Eastern Andes. Target species will be: Torrent Duck, Andean Guan, Fasciated Tiger-heron, White-capped Parrot, Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Streaked Tuftedcheek, White-banded Tyrannulet, Torrent Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Dusky Piha, White-capped Dipper, Mountain Wren, Black-capped Hemispingus, Grey-hooded Bush-tanager, Slaty Brushfinch, Russet-crowned Warbler, Spectacled Whitestart and Northern Mountain Cacique. We will also have the opportunity while staying at the lodge to explore the high, moist moist páramo of the antennae of Papallacta close to Guango. This special and unique habitat harbours species we still have yet to observe, such as: Andean Teal, Variable Hawk, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Andean Tit-Spinetail, White-chinnend Thistletail, Many-striped Canastero, Paramo Ground-tyrant, Red-rumped Bush-tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-tyrant, Grass Wren, Pale-naped Brushfinch. Late in the afternoon of day 18, we will return to the hotel in Quito for our final dinner together, during which we can discuss the many highlights of the trip and the tremendous number of new bird species now added to each of our lists! Accommodations: Guango.
Breakfast and an airport transfer will be ready for you based on the timing of your flight home, leaving at least four hours prior to your departure time. With that we will say good-bye, after enjoying such a wonderful time birding across this megadivere country together! Accommodations: Casa Magnolia.