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SEARCHING FOR CHOCO ENDEMICS:
THE NORTHWEST AND EASTERN SLOPE

The Yanacocha Reserve lies on the northwest flank of Volcán Pichincha at ca. 3200-3400 m above sea level and is known for being the home of a critically endangered hummingbird, the Black-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis). Along the trails visitors can obtain point-blank views of many bird species including Sword-billed Hummingbird and the spectacular Great Saphirewing, two other species of puffleg (Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted) and a couple species of flowerpiercers (e.g., Glossy and Masked). Many other birds besides hummingbirds are also to be seen, with mixed species flocks dominated by various tanagers including spectacular mountain tanagers (Hooded, Scarlet-bellied, Black-chested, and Buff-breasted), Barred Fruiteater, Pearled Treerunner and many others. Pairs and family group of notably tame Andean Guans are also regular.

The Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserveis an excellent place for every bird-watcher who wants to observe birds in a Cloud Forest. The 700 hectare private reserve is inhabited by rare and endemic birds. Hummingbirds and tanagers, toucans and antpittas, all vie for your attention, and could keep any dedicated naturalist enthused for a lifetime of observation. The area has won the Audubon Christmas Bird Count for the highest number of bird species seen in one day! And now, with the recent declaration of the road from Nono – Tandayapa – San Tadeo as the first Ecoroute in Ecuador, more habitat will be protected for birds. There are always great birds to see, be it a good tanager flock, specialty birds like Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and Tanager-Finch.

The Paz de las Antpittas Reserve is a unique place where you can experience a man calling out 3 species of antpitta, which he does using their individual names. Maria is a Giant Antpitta, Willy and Esmeraldas are Yellow-breasted Antpittas, and there are also Moustached Antpittas. But there are other special birds to see here besides the antpittas. It is probable that the first birds seen will be at the amazing Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek,. Beautiful Jays, while uncommon, are sometimes seen too. At the hummingbird feeders, White-bellied Woodstar and Purple-bibbed Whitetip can sometimes be seen. Other exotic birds that can often be seen are Toucan Barbet, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Sickle-winged Guan, a Black-chinned Mountain Tanager and Blue-winged Mountain Tanager. The Mindo Loma Reserve was created to preserve the distinct habitats of this cloud forest. In this forest we have different eco-systems that contain various species in danger of extinction. Mindo Loma is influenced by two important areas, "El Choco" and "Los Andes". Here you can observe a great variety of species like Crimson-Mantled woodpecker, Wedge-Billed Hummingbird, Mountain-wood creeper, Masked-Trogon, Lineated-Foleage Gleaner, Purple-Throated Woodstar, Golden-Naped tanager, Sycle-Winged Guan, Black-Chined Mountain Tanager, Pale-Mandible Aracari, Flamed-Faced Tanager, Berill-Spangle Tanager, Roufus-Tailed Hummingbird, Plate-Billed Mountain, Toucan, Hoarry-Puffleg, Velvet-Purple Coronet, Scaled-Fruitteater, White-Faced Number, Glistening-Green Tanager and Rusty-winged barbtailed.

At 300 to 350 MASL (984 - 1148 ft) the Silanche Reserve is a low altitude private cloud forest and bird sanctuary. This placed is owned and protected by the Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation in an effort to preserve the threaten forest in this internationally defined Important Bird Area (IBA). The reserve is a must visit place for the great variety of Chocó endemics that can be seen here such as the Purple-chested Hummingbird, the Chocó Trogon, the Double-banded Graytail, the Griscom's Antwren, the Stub-tailed Antbird, the Black-tipped Cotinga, the Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, the Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, the Scarlet-and-white Tanager, and the Blue-whiskered Tanager. The Pahuma Orchid Reserve has an extension of 650 hectareas and lies between 1.960 msnm and 2.900 msnm. The vegetation of the mountainous forest is abundant and home of the great quantity of plants epiphytes, included bromeliads, mosses ferns and it protects more than 270 species of orchids, of which 9 are endemic.

"This amazing habitat is home to a large number of rare and endemic bird species, and in 2004 the reserve was designated an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. A bird list of 150 species has been compiled since 2000 including Torrent Duck, White-tailed Hillstar, Gorgeted Sunangel, Booted Racket-tail, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Giant Antpitta and Andean Cock-of-the-rock. Guango Lodge lies at an elevation of 2,700 m.a.s.l. on the eastern Andean slope. This area is centered in a zone classified as humid temperate forest. Some of the birds that are seen regularly at Guango Lodge include Andean Guan, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Turquoise Jay, Scarlet-bellied, Lacrimose, Buff-breasted and Hooded Mountain-Tanagers, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Black-headed, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus and Slaty Bursh-Finch. Guango Lodge's hummingbird feeders here attract some exciting hummers on a regular basis, including species like Mountain Velvetbreast, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Golden-breasted and Glowing Pufflegs, Mountain Avocetbill, and White-bellied and Gorgeted Woodstars.

Cabañas San Isidro and its immediate surroundings now boast a bird list of about 310 species. San Isidro Lodge is situated at about 2050 meters above sea level, but the trails lead through habitats from 2,400 meters all the way down to 1,850 meters providing birders is an ideal opportunity to observe Andean birds from the lower reaches of the temperate zone down into the heart of the subtropical zone. Birds such as Highland Tinamou, Greater Scythebill, Bicolored Antvireo, Peruvian and Giant Antpittas, and White-rimmed Brush-Finch are a few of the exciting rarities that live at San Isidro Lodge.

The White-faced Nunbird might even put in an appearance as it has been seen several times at San Isidro. Birds regularly seen near the lodge are White-capped Parrot, Powerful Woodpecker, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Inca Jay, Black-billed Peppershrike, Andean Solitaire or Saffron-crowned Tanager. When hiking the surrounding trails look out for Sickle-winged Guan, Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, Masked Trogon, Highland Motmot, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Streak-capped and Striped Treehunters, Long-tailed Antbird (a bamboo specialist), Chestnut-crowned, White-bellied and Slate-crowned Antpittas, Barred Antthrush, Marble-faced & Variegated Bristle-Tyrants and Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Black-chested Fruiteater, Dusky Piha, Pale-footed Swallow, Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, a wonderful selection of colorful tanager species including Red-hooded and White-capped and Northern Mountain and Subtropical Caciques. Other birds often seen include Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Plain-breasted, Barred and White-rumped Hawks, and Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Sparkling Violetear, Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Buff-tailed (the rare eastern flavescens race) and Chestnut-breasted Coronets, Tyrian Metaltail, Long-tailed Sylph and Gorgeted Woodstar. San Isidro and its surroundings abound with nightbirds, including Andean Potoo (rare, but sometimes staked-out), Rufous-bellied Nighthawk (almost every dawn and dusk around the cabins) and Rufous-banded and Mottled Owls.

The Antisana Ecological Reserve is a great place to observe the Andean condor as well as the Ecuadorian Hummingbird. Other birds that are easy to spot are the Carunculated Cara-Cara, the Black headed Ibis and the Andean Gull but with a little bit of luck one can also spot Aplomado Falcon, Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Snipe, Rufous-Bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Blue-Mantled Thornbill, Glowing Puffleg, Many-Striped Canastero, Stout-Billed Cinclodes, Tawny Antpitta, Paramo Ground-Tyrant, Brown-Backed Chat-Tyrant, Red-Crested Cotinga, Grass Wren and Black-Backed Bush-Tanager.

This is our most popular birding tour. From the high mountains of Yanacocha Reserve at 3500m (11,482 ft.) to the lowlands of the Silanche Reserve at 300m (984 ft.), this tour provides you with the possibility to explore a variety of habitats hosting a plethora of endemic bird species! Besides amazing birding this tour also provides comfortable lodging, for example at Septimo Paraiso Lodge in Mindo, only a two-hour drive from Quito.

The Choco traverses the length of western Colombia and Ecuador, although most of the endemic Choco species occur no further south than El Oro province. The area is formed by high peaks and the Pacific slope of the Colombian Andes in Narino, stretching south into Ecuador, embracing the westernmost volcanic peaks south to Canar and Azuay, with just a few species occurring in the Cordillera de Chilla.

Some overlap with the North Central Andes , Endemic Bird Area (EBA), may occur in parts of northern Ecuador, although the species endemic to this latter area all inhabit higher altitudes, primarily above 2500 m. (8202 ft.). In the Pacific coastal lowland, this EBA extends throughout the Colombian Choco into northern Esmeraldas province and continues along the base of the Andes in the provinces of Pichincha, Los Rios, and northern Guayas.

The Choco EBA covers an area of approximately 60,000 sq. km. (23 sq. miles) and boasts the largest number of range-restricted birds (61 species) of all the world's EBAs. The area supports a large number of species restricted to the tropical lowlands and lower subtropical foothills, with the remainder primarily confined to the subtropical zone and up to around 3000m (9842 ft) on some of the higher peaks in Colombia's western Andes. All of these restricted-range species occur in humid and wet forest-dominated habitats.

Itinerary:

Day 01: Arrival in Quito

Arrival in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, which lies at 2.800m altitude above sea level. We meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. Accommodation in Quito.

 





 

Day 2 Yanacocha Ecological Reserve

After an early breakfast in your hotel, then depart for Yanacocha Reserve we head toward the Yanacocha Ecological Reserve located on the North side of Volcano Guagua Pichincha at 3600m/11,483 feet. The Yanacocha Ecological Reserve is famous for its high-elevation specialties, and we will spend the morning birding the Trocha Inca Trail. Here we will see at least ten species of hummingbirds, and the mixed feeding flocks we will encounter will add many more tantalizing birds to the list! You have good chances to spot Barred Fruiteater, Great Sapphirewing, Golden breasted and Sapphire vented Pufflegs, Sword billed Hummingbirds, and many more. We will have a picnic lunch in these amazing surroundings before we begin the drive to Mindo via the Old Nono-Mindo Road. This road offers spectacular views of the forest and excellent birding, with the possibility of spotting sought-after birds such as Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper. We will then spend a night in Mindo, where we will spend the next four nights.

Day 03 Tandayapa Valley

After an early breakfast we will drive to the Tandayapa Valley, where the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve is located. Our target species will include Plate-billed Mountain Toucan, Toucan Barbet, and one of the most rare and sought-after birds: the Tanager Finch. After lunch, we will relax near the feeders and enjoy up to 20 species of hummingbirds, including Brown and Collared Incas, Violet-tailed Sylph, and Booted Rackettail. Accommodation in Mindo.

Day 04 Paz de las Antpittas Reserve, Mindo Loma Reserve & Milpe Bird Sanctuary

Early this morning we will head to the Paz de las Antpittas Reserve to observe the Andean Cock of the Rocks at their lek, where males assemble during the mating season and engage in competitive displays to attract females. Afterwards we will join Angel (the owner of the reserve) as she draws her "charges" in for breakfast: Maria the Giant Antpitta, Willi the Yellow-breasted Antpitta, and Susan the Moustached Antpitta! We will then enjoy our own breakfast, and on the way back to the lodge we will make a stop at Mindo Loma Reserve to look for Black-chinned Mountain Tanager and Hoary Puffleg. After lunch we will have about an hour to "chill out" before visiting the Milpe Bird Sanctuary in the afternoon to search for Choco endemics such as Moss-backed, Rufous-throated, and Glistening-green Tanagers, as well as Club-winged Manakin. Accommodation in Mindo.

Day 05 Silanche Reserve

After an early breakfast, we will drive downslope to the Silanche Reserve. At 1000 feet (305m), this is the lowest preserve we will visit, and we will spend a few hours at the Canopy Tower looking for Choco endemics such as Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Rufous-winged and Blue-whiskered Tanagers. Accommodation in Mindo.

 

Day 06 Oilbird Cave, Pahuma Orchid Reserve, Eastern Andean Slopes

After breakfast we'll spend the morning at the Oilbird Cave, where we hope to get memorable views of this cryptic bird! In the afternoon we will drive back up into the Andean highland with a stop on the way at Pahuma Orchid Reserve to see the White-tailed Hillstar. Later we cross the Andean Valley and continue to Pifo and on the transoceanic highway over Papallacta Pass down the Eastern Andean slopes. We'll then check in at Guango Lodge, where the many feeders provide in-your-face views of Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Tourmaline Sunangel, and Sword-billed Hummingbird, White bellied Woodstar, Mountain Avocetbill. Accommodation at Guango Lodge.

Day 07 Polylepsis Forest and Suco Lake

After an early breakfast, we will begin the 30-minute drive to the Polylepis Forest to look for Giant Conebill, Tawny Antpitta, and Andean Tit-Spinetail, among others! We'll take a short hike to walk to Suco Lake to find Silvery Grebe, Andean Coot, and Andean Ruddy Duck, Giant Conebill, then head up the mountain to the famous radio towers at an elevation of over 14,000 feet (4260m) to look for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. Later we return to Guango Lodge for lunch before we drive to Cabanas San Isidro where we will spend the night.

Day 8 San Isidro Lodge

After breakfast we will make a special effort to find the White-bellied Antpitta, then spend the day exploring the lodge's trails, enjoying Inca Jay, Highland Motmot, and Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, among others. After dinner we will search for the lodge's famous "Mystery Owl", similar to the Black-banded but most definitely a new species to science! Accommodation at San Isidro Lodge.

Day 9 Guacamayos Ride and Cosango River

After an early breakfast we will embark on a 30-minute drive to the Guacamayos Ridge, where we will search for target species such as Greater Scythebill, Black-billed Mountain Toucan, White-capped Tanager, and Rufous-headed Pygmy-tyrant. On our way back to the lodge we will make a stop along the Cosanga River to look for Torrent Duck. After lunch at the lodge we will drive back up the Andean slopes to Quito. Accommodation in Quito.

Day 10 Birds of the Andes – Antizana National Park

Today, we will visit the Antizana National Park, which is a spectacular place to observe Andean Condor, Black-faced Ibis, Giant Hummingbird, and Ecuadorian Hillstar, in addition to many other specialties of the Paramo (the Andean Highlands). Accommodation in Quito.

Day 11 Transfer out or Extension

According to your international flight times we will accompany you in a transfer to Mariscal Sucre airport to take your flight home.
Please note that this tour may be combined with an extension tour to the Amazon Basin or the Galapagos Islands before or after the tour.


Prices 2017 per person (minimum 02 people)
In a double room: US$ 3190,- per person
Single room supplement: US$ 740,-

Please contact us for prices for the tour for 1 traveler or groups.

Tour prices include: all transfers in private transportation, excursions and overland tours as mentioned above accompanied by a specialist bilingual guide (English/Spanish – other languages upon request only), accommodation based on double rooms, meals outside Quito, and entrance fees to all reserves visited.

Tour prices do not include: international airport taxes (Quito ca. US$ 43 per person; ca. Guayaquil US$ 28), personal equipment and items, travel insurance, extra charge for single rooms, tips, personal expenses, beverages, meals in Quito, anything not mentioned in the program.

NB: Please read all itineraries as a guide only. All routes and programs can change without notice due to National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes, safety reasons and the wildlife encountered during the travel. Flexibility is the key to the success of any tour. Nevertheless the safety and the interest of our passengers is always our first priority.


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