This excursion was an opportunistic side trip out of Quito done in a 32-hour period. Mid-September is not the ideal season for visiting the cloud forest in Mindo, but the 12th and 13th were the dates that I was able to fit in my work/airline schedule.
I appreciated every aspect of the stay at Las Gralarias. I like the fact that it is a biological research station and a conservation project with a hospitality component, so its raison d’être is conservation and not tourism. But the housing and the food were excellent, the hummingbird feeders right on our veranda were spectacular, and the welcome we received from Jane Lyons and the bird guiding were without a fault.
We arranged the driver and vehicle through Las Gralarias so that we were picked up at our Quito hotel in the morning and dropped off again the following afternoon. The drive itself through the Andes was amazing for me, as this was my first time in South America. Most of the road was paved and in excellent condition although full of curves, but the final part of the drive is over a one-lane gravel path that follows a ridge.
I experienced the cloud forest first hand as the drizzle and misting commenced in the early afternoon. We saw plenty of birds although mostly not in good light because of the rain. It did not rain the next morning, (we even saw some blue sky), but around noon the clouds rolled in. My guide said that this was typical cloud forest weather.
Highlights for me were the hummingbirds, the Crested Quetzal, the Masked Trogon, and the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan which all came out in the open for close looks. Other birds like Spillman’s Tapaculo and Azara’s Spinetail we could hear all around us but got just one-second visual sightings because they were almost always hidden behind foliage. I was very glad that I had downloaded the Las Gralarias species list and reviewed them in my field guide in advance of the trip.
One other amazing sight which I will never forget was hundreds of different moths of all colors and sizes which gathered in the evening on the outside walls of our lodging. A number of new moth species have been discovered at Las Gralarias.
Reserva Las Gralarias species list seen/heard 12-13 September 2006.
Taxonomy follows The Birds of Ecuador by Ridgely and Greenfield, 2001.
Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
Band-tailed Pigeon - Columba fasciata
White-throated Quail-Dove - Geotrygon frenata (guide saw, I failed to locate)
Maroon-tailed Parakeet - Pyrrhura melanura
Red-billed Parrot - Pionus sordidus (heard)
Squirrel Cuckoo - Piaya cayana
White-collared Swift - Streptoprocne zonaris
Tawny-bellied Hermit - Phaethornis syrmatophorus
Green Violetear - Colibri thalassinus
Sparkling Violetear - Colibri coruscans
Speckled Hummingbird - Adelomyia melanogenys
Empress Brilliant - Heliodoxa imperatrix
Fawn-breasted Brilliant - Heliodoxa rubinoides
Brown Inca - Coeligena wilsoni
Collared Inca - Coeligena torquata
Buff-tailed Coronet - Boissonneaua flavescens
Velvet-purple Coronet - Boissonneaua jardini
Gorgeted Sunangel - Heliangelus strophianus
Booted Racket-tail- Ocreatus underwoodii
Violet-tailed Sylph - Aglaiocercus coelestis
Purple-throated Woodstar - Philodice mitchellii
Crested Quetzal - Pharomachrus antisianus
Masked Trogon - Trogon personatus
Toucan Barbet - Semnornis ramphastinus
Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan - Andigena laminirostris
Powerful Woodpecker - Campephilus pollens (heard pecking, not seen)
Azara’s Spinetail - Synallaxis azarae (heard often, got one good look)
Spotted Barbtail - Premnoplex brunnescens (heard and saw)
Lineated Foliage-gleaner - Syndactyla subalaris (heard and saw briefly)
Strong-billed Woodcreeper - Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus
Montane Woodcreeper - Lepidocolaptes lachrymiger
Yellow-breasted Antpitta - Grallaria flavotincta (ID by sound, heard often, not seen)
Spillmann’s Tapaculo - Scytalopus spillmanni (heard often, got one short look)
Ornate Flycatcher - Myiotriccus ornatus
Flavescent Flycatcher - Myiophobus flavicans
Smoke-colored Pewee - Contopus fumigatus
Green-and-black Fruiteater - Pipreola riefferii
Brown-capped Vireo - Vireo leucophrys
Andean Solitaire - Myadestes ralloides (heard often, one glimpse)
Blue-and-white Swallow - Notiochelidon cyanoleuca
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren - Henicorhina leucophrys (heard often, got several good looks)
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat - Geothlypis semiflava (heard often, one good look)
Slate-throated Whitestart - Myioborus miniatus
Russet-crowned Warbler - Basileuterus coronatus
Masked Flowerpiercer - Diglossa cyanea
White-sided Flowerpiercer - Diglossa albilatera
Golden Tanager - Tangara arthus
Beryl-spangled Tanager - Tangara nigroviridis
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager - Anisognathus somptuosus
Dusky Bush-Tanager - Chlorospingus semifuscus
Black-and-white Seedeater - Sporophila luctuosa
Yellow-bellied Seedeater - Sporophila nigricollis
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch - Buarremon brunneinucha
Rufous-collared Sparrow - Zonotrichia capensis