Getting there: One of the hardest things to do in the Upper Amazon of Ecuador is find good accommodation and forest far enough away from civilization to be fairly unimpacted by human activity and hunting, but close enough to get there in a day. Getting to Shiripuno from Quito takes exactly one days’ worth of travel, with great stuff along the way.
Jaymi, Tim, and I have spent many birding trips together in the past. We’ve traveled Ecuador together on 3 other occasions from the Northwest to the Southeast. These past few years we’ve grown up a bit, some of us have serious jobs, serious studies, and we all have serious girlfriends. So, before our girlfriends joined us for the Copalinga and Vilcabamba portions of our group trip, we decided that we need some time for just the guys. I knew Fernando Vaca from when we guided together at Sacha Lodge. Over the last 2 years I lived in Quito Shiripuno was a hot topic of conversation and we’d always wanted to go. Fernando was free for the week and already in with a college group, so we called him up and off we went!
Now, he had warned us that it was a bit of a haul to get there, so I will warn the general audience here that to arrive is, indeed, a long trek. But, with Amazonian Umbrellabirds, Fiery Topaz, Capybaras, and Tapir on the trip, it’s was surprising how fast the time flew!
First, the flight leaves at 7am arriving Coca at 8 am. Breakfast is served in Coca at Hotel Aucas, then a 3 hour truck ride down the via Aucas gets you to the shores of the Shiripuno river. The last leg is an awesome 4 hour trip down the Shiripuno to the Research Station.
Accommodation: The Lodge charges $90 per day per person for a nice bed, bug nets, running water, spectacularly good indigenous food (all 3 meals), and a guide, which is likely to be Fernando. And it should be! Fernando knows all the territories and takes pride in the development and knowledge of the property. I recommend asking for him specifically, though I am sure the other guys working there know a lot about the flora and fauna, as well. Flights to Coca are separate.
Trails: This is trail birding at its finest! There is no canopy walkway or tower, and you won’t need one. The main reasons for coming to Shiripuno include the understory flocks, antbirds at swarms, Cracids, Puffbirds, Quetzal, and too many other things to mention here. The habitat is perfect for picking up all the birds that are much harder to get at other, heavily visited, more expensive lodges in the Northern Amazonian Region of Ecuador. For those folks who want a real feel for flocks and swarms, this is it.
Pests: Unless you are a bit squimish about large insects...you know who you are ; )....than there is little here in the way of pesky mosquitoes and biting insects IF you stay on the trail. We were anxious to get off the trail with Fernando to check for nests, find new territories, etc., so we all got completely nailed with chiggers. But if you’re just walking he trails and not bushwalking half the time like we were, no worries.
Day 1 – Transfer to Shiripuno, water was low so total travel time was up by about an hour.
Day 2 – We birded the Wallace short loop and nearest parts of Carue, had breakfast, then went all the way out the Kolibri trail to the back of the property before lunch.
Day 3 – A Bit of rain int he morning while birding the Carue&Wilson big loop before lunch. Afternoon we did the Bates Trail and some riverside stuff. We did a night hike.
Day 4 – Lots of Rain today. Only had a few on and off hours of birding the main trails. Night hike.
Day 5 – Birded all over the Carue, Wallace, and Wilson Trails. Beautiful day with tons of antswarms! Night hike.
Day 6 – Little morning last ditch birding and transfer back to Quito.
It is extremely uncharacteristic of me not to put a complete list of the birds we saw, but I am still traveling, still birding, and one entire Northern Peru trip report behind, and falling fast! So, I will put down the biggest highlights of the trip, including all Thamnophilids, Furnariids, and other choice target birds we were gunning for.
White-throated Tinamou – sleeping on a roost
Variegated Tinamou (H) – great song
Nocturnal Curassow – nice views lit up while singing!
Salvin’s Curassow (H)
5 species of Macaw
Tawny-bellied Screech Owl
Rufous Potoo – The first record for Shiripuno and VERY close
5 species Trogons
Spotted Puffbird – videotaoped copulating by Fernando!
7 species of Woodcreeper including Ocellated, Striped, Lineated, and White-chinned!
Undulated Antshrike (H) – several, but none responded
Rio Suno Antwren
Spot-backed (Terra Firme) Antbird
3 species Tolmomyias Flatbills
Black-necked Red Cotinga
7 species Manakins
These are but the highlights. Trip total came to well over 250 species!
Can’t forget this section! Brazilian Tapir, Capybara, Pygmy Marmoset, and Dusky Titi Monkeys all pur in great appearances.
I’m a bit of a herpetophile, too.
Frogs – Hyla caucarata, Hyla boans, Osteocephalus taurines, Osteocephauls planiceps, Osteocephalus yasuni, Cochranella mitae, Ishocnemus quixensis, Leptodactylus pentadactylus
Snakes – Oxybelis argenteus
Lizards – Amazonian Bearded Dragon...don’t know the common names of the others...sorry!