Northwest Ecuador 18-24th June & Eastern Highlands 28th & 29th June 2005

Published by Sam Woods/Tropical Birding (sam AT

Participants: Sam Woods (leader), Bob Edwards, Mike Inskip, Graham Mant, Steve Taylor.


Photos with this report (click to enlarge)

Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan
Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan
White-faced Nunbird
White-faced Nunbird
Broad-billed Motmot
Broad-billed Motmot
Andean Condor
Andean Condor
Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager
Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager
Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe
Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe

Tropical Birding Custom Tour

Full report, with more photos, available to view on the Tropical Birding website:

Despite this trip being in the dry season and supposedly the low season for birds, it turned out to be a phenomenal trip and one of the most enjoyable I have had. We recorded an impressive total of over 340 species (320 of which were seen), including 30 Choco endemics. Some of the impressive species seen were a showy White-faced Nunbird, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, Moustached & Scaled Antpittas and a rare sighting of a Black Solitaire all at Tandayapa Bird Lodge, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis at Pedro Vicente Maldonado, Brown-billed Scythebill and Club-winged Manakin at Milpe, the first site record of Andean Condor at Calacali near Quito, Rufous-banded Owl, Toucan Barbet and Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan in the Upper Tandayapa Valley, Hoary Puffleg near Mindo, Beautiful Jay and Andean Cock-of-the-Rock along the Nono-Mindo Road and a few Swallow-tailed Nightjars at Yanacocha. It is certainly a trip that I will not forget for a very, very long time!


18th June am Tandayapa Bird Lodge pm Nono-Mindo Road
19th June Rio Silanche, Pedro Vicente Maldonado
20th June Upper Tandayapa Valley
21st June Milpe pm Mindo area
22nd June am Calacali pm Nono-Mindo Road
23rd June Yanacocha
24th June am Tandayapa Bird Lodge pm Nono-Mindo Road & Upper Tandayapa Valley

Tour Summary:

18th June

The tour started really well when only five minutes after leaving Tandayapa lodge at first light, we encountered a Rufous-breasted Antthrush feeding along the Potoo Trail (in company with the usual Chestnut-capped Brush-finches feeding in the same area), once again illustrating how good the trails are for this highly-sought after bird. Happy that we had seen this target bird so early we proceeded along the trails only to encounter a Scaled Antpitta feeding along the same trail further up. At this point with such luck before the day had barely begun, I started to think maybe this trip was set to be something special, and I was proved very right! We also saw some of the more usual species such as a fine male Golden-winged Manakin, a few Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrants and Rusty-winged & Spotted Barbtails in addition to an Olivaceous Piha, before meeting up with Steve (one of the other Tropical Birding guides), who had some mind-blowing news - there was a calling White-faced Nunbird on the Toucan Trail. Having broken the news to us gently, by shoving his full-frame photo of the bird in our faces, we headed straight back up there with him to show us where he had seen it. Despite the fact this involved a rapid, fairly steep climb up a narrow trail there were no complaints, we were all only too happy to have a chance at this rarely seen bird (so much so that we all ignored a close calling Golden-headed Quetzal as we raced towards the area). On reaching the area the tension was obvious amongst all, although slightly relieved when after only a few minutes we heard the White-faced Nunbird calling nearby and with a little gentle persuasion using a recording of the bird, it flew in and perched on an open branch for us all to see and savor to the full (see photo in main trip report on Tropical Birding website ).

After spending some time here recovering from the rapid climb and enjoying great views of the bird calling we reluctantly left the Nunbird and headed back towards Tandayapa Bird Lodge for a well-deserved lunch after a great mornings birding. The morning was not over by a long way however, and soon after leaving the nunbird we flushed a bird up in front of us and were soon enjoying excellent views of a cute Cloud-forest Pygmy Owl which posed very nicely for Steve's camcorder (see photo in main trip report on Tropical Birding website), before we left it in peace and carried on back towards the lodge for lunch (although we were now in serious danger of missing lunch altogether with all the birds we were seeing), and barely had time to catch our breath when a juvenile Moustached Antpitta appeared on the trail in front of us and allowed us to follow it for five minutes, giving everyone good views of what is normally a very difficult bird.

We finally arrived at the lodge tired but elated after a truly memorable morning at Tandayapa. After lunch we decided to head down the old Nono-Mindo road with the chance of Cock-of-the Rocks and other interesting birds. Soon after driving up the road we scanned the river below and were soon watching a pair of the hoped-for Torrent Ducks while a magnificent Black-and-Chestnut Eagle was seen soaring overhead. We then went to the staked out Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek which, although quieter than usual, still afforded us some nice views of this incredible bird. As we waited for the Cock-of-the-Rocks to start displaying a pair of multi-colored Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans flew in and proceeded to feed in a nearby sucropia, providing a very welcome distraction from waiting for the lek to start. We then drove back towards the lodge, stopping briefly to enjoy several good views of a spectacular male Lyre-tailed Nightjar that is regularly seen in the area, which was a really great way to end an amazing days birding.

19th June

Day two of the tour saw us heading west from Tandayapa to the lowland forest near the town of Pedro Vicente Maldonado (PVM). The drop in altitude from 1750-1900m at Tandayapa, to around 400m at PVM brought us many new birds typical of the lowland forest there, which sadly is now very rare in the northwest. This has led to the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation purchasing some land there earlier this year to set up a bird reserve. The day was spent cruising the road investigating the forest fragments along the way, that despite much recent deforestation in the area still hold many very interesting and exciting birds. We soon got a flavor of these early on when a mixed flock passed by close to the road and no sooner had we begun to scan through it when we were treated to good scope views of one of PVM's star birds-the globally threatened Scarlet-breasted Dacnis along with some other commoner birds such as Olivaceous Piculet, Plain & Streaked Xenops, Spotted & Streak-headed Woodcreepers, Dusky-faced Tanager, Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher, Guira, Blue-necked & Golden-hooded Tanagers and Black-striped & Orange-billed Sparrows. Satisfied that we had started well with a sighting of the Dacnis we headed further along the road picking up Pale-mandibled Aracari, some Snowy-throated Kingbirds, Pacific Antwrens and Ringed Kingfishers along the way. The afternoon around the newly purchased reserve produced some really interesting birds such as a Dusky Pigeon (a Choco specialty) close to the car, a nice Broad-billed Motmot perched in the open for all to enjoy and photograph (see photo in main trip report on Tropical Birding website ), a few Orange-fronted Barbets in one of the seemingly constant mixed flocks there, a couple of Purple-throated Fruitcrows, a Scarlet-rumped Cacique, noisy lekking White-bearded Manakins (complete with their fire-cracker-like display sounds) and a couple of skulking Dusky Antbirds. A familiar sound in the roadside forest sent us rushing in there armed with a mini-disc that helped us coax in an unbelievably confiding Black-headed Antthrush, which was still being talked of by everyone at the end of the trip (despite the many rare and interesting birds seen after this one). The bird simply just kept coming in to check us out giving us all a very memorable encounter with this shy denizen of the forest floor.

Yet more mixed flocks in the area allowed us to add some other species such as Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, glowing Yellow-tufted Dacnises, Cinnamon Becard, Yellow-margined Flatbill and Tawny-crested, White-shouldered & White-lined Tanagers. A very skulking White-throated Spadebill by the road frustrated a few of us by remaining hidden, while a toucan flock late in the afternoon produced both Choco & Chestnut-mandibled Toucan sat side by side allowing good comparison of these two very similar species, while a male Western White-tailed Trogon put in an appearance nearby. A Buff-rumped Warbler feeding in the road late in the day made up for missing them on the river earlier on. We then headed back towards Tandayapa with just enough time to stop and enjoy a calling Bright-rumped Attila, a single White-ringed Flycatcher and a flock of ten Swallow Tanagers perched by the roadside on the return journey.

20th June

The whole day was spent focusing on the subtropical birds of the Upper Tandayapa Valley (at an altitude of around 2300m), although before we even reached the Upper Valley we were treated to close views of a female Lyre-tailed Nightjar perched in the car headlights. The Upper Valley has some very special birds, although unfortunately we were frustrated by some of them such as Toucan Barbets which seemed strangely silent on the day, and a close calling Ocellated Tapaculo simply refused to emerge from dense cover (although see later for more on both these species). However some other good birds were seen such as a Hook-billed Kite passing low overhead, several noisy flocks of Turquoise Jays, unusually good views of two Spillman's Tapaculos, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, many Dusky Bush-Tanagers, Rufous Spinetail, several small parties of Grass-Green Tanagers and good prolonged views of a group of the local Black-chinned Mountain-Tanagers (see photo in main trip report on Tropical Birding website ),in a mixed flock with Pearled Treerunners and a striking Streaked Tuftedcheek, (the Black-chinneds being an unusual sighting in this area as they are more ordinarily seen at lower altitudes).

Other birds seen in the area included a flock of White-capped Parrots flying low overhead, a single Strong-billed Woodcreeper, a few Gorgeted Sunangels (an endemic hummingbird to the Choco region), Long-tailed Antbird and a stunning male Green-and-Black Fruiteater sat quietly by the road. We then decided to linger in the Upper Valley after dark to search for some of its interesting nightbirds such as the Swallow-tailed Nightjar which sometimes breeds in the area. Unfortunately we were frustrated by the nightjar (although see later), not even hearing one, although our time was far from wasted when after playing the call of Rufous-banded Owl in the slim hope it may call back, one flew in right next to us without making a sound and we quickly turned the spotlight onto the bird allowing Steve to video this seldom seen owl at close quarters.

21st June

Today we headed for the foothill forest of Milpe, (altitude around 1100m), another Mindo Cloudforest Foundation reserve, near to the town of Los Bancos west of Tandayapa. Soon after arriving we saw one of the Choco endemics we had come to see, Choco Warbler, singing by the roadside, before we headed towards the reserve trails to look for some other Milpe specialties. Although there was enough time to pause at the hummingbird feeders before then to see some species we had not yet seen, such as the Choco endemics Purple-bibbed Whitetip & White-whiskered Hermit in addition to Green-crowned Brilliant, Green Thorntail and Green-crowned Woodnymph. Not long after entering the forest we caught up with another superb Choco speciality-a spectacular male Club-winged Manakin which gave good views at the lek on the reserve. We then headed down another reserve trail and tried speculative tape-playing for one of Milpe's scarcer birds, the Brown-billed Scythebill. It shocked us by immediately responding to the tape, by flying in and perching low down, allowing all of us to enjoy great views of its absurdly curved bill. Soon after we heard yet another of our target species for this area-the elusive Esmeraldas Antbird, which proved typically tricky to see, although most of us managed to get good, close views after a little effort. Some mixed flocks in the area produced some more widespread species such as Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Tawny-breasted Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant and the ridiculously brightly-colored Flame-faced Tanager sharing a tree with two Gray-and-Gold Tanagers, (another Choco specialty). After watching a calling Laughing Falcon perched by the Milpe road we decided to head for an area near Mindo for some other Choco species. Soon after arriving there we were soon enjoying the spectacle of seemingly dozens of Velvet-purple Coronets at the hummingbird feeders along with another regional endemic, the Empress Brilliant (a bird we would normally have expected to see at Tandayapa's feeders although were strangely absent while we were there). We had barely had the chance to begin appreciating these two stunning gems, when a small indistinctive hummer briefly appeared at the feeders only to move on before we could be sure of its identity. Fortunately within 20 minutes the bird returned, showed really well, and proved that our suspicions were right-the bird was indeed a Hoary Puffleg, a really difficult Choco species that had never previously been recorded at the feeders there. Although its fair to say it is not the most colorful hummer in the World, what it lacks in color it makes up for in scarcity! Clearly our good luck had still not run out. We lingered here until dusk and were treated to several more views of the Puffleg while a pair of calling Toucan Barbets had us rushing out and frantically scanning the trees before we fortunately found them perched distantly in the treetops, which made up at least a little for missing them in the Upper Tandayapa Valley a few days earlier. At dusk the the hoped-for Rufous-bellied Nighthawk put in a brief appearance over the car park and was a nice way to end what had been a good day all round.

22nd June

The morning was spent around the dusty, dry arid highlands near Calacali (at an altitude of around 2800m), between Tandayapa and Quito. The area is home to some specialist species, not least White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant, a scarce globally threatened species. Soon after arriving and noticing that the characteristic Agave plants were in flower a Giant Hummingbird put in an appearance there, and a pair of Band-tailed Seedeaters were seen by the car park in addition to the usual Tufted Tit-Tyrants and Golden-rumped Euphonias in the same area. We then headed up the track checking out the small bushes alongside the track and were soon rewarded with another of Calacali's specialties, the Purple-collared Woodstar which unfortunately continued to evade one of us for the whole morning there despite a number of sightings of this scarce, seasonal species. We also picked up some of the other birds that are typical of this habitat (and therefore unlikely elsewhere on the tour), such as Ash-breasted Sierra-finch, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Hooded Siskin, Common Ground-dove, Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant and Rusty Flowerpiercer. This area can be notable for getting good views of some raptors, with this day being no exception when we saw the usual American Kestrels, Variable Hawks, a single Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and a pair of White-throated Hawks, (an austral migrant to Calacali). However the star raptor was another bird, which Bob announced with one of the biggest understatements in birding history, with the immortal line 'does anyone fancy a condor?', before we all had great views of these massive, highly distinctive birds passing low overhead. These 2 Andean Condors constitute the first site record for Calacali and is the first record in the vicinity of Quito for many, many years (Condors have declined in Ecuador in recent years), so we were genuimely very lucky to have seen them there. We also managed to get good views of at least three White-tailed Shrike-Tyrants (see photo in main trip report on Tropical Birding website ), and also saw two Burrowing Owls (which are a scarce bird there), so we had enjoyed yet another bird-packed morning.

After enjoying another fantastic lunch at Tandayapa Bird Lodge, we decided to head back down the old Nono-Mindo road for another chance at Beautiful Jay, which we had missed a few days before. Before we had even reached the road we had good views of our second Olivaceous Piha of the trip just below the lodge, and no sooner had we started driving down the Nono road than we had to make a rapid stop after a Beautiful Jay had flown across the road in front of the car and after a brief, frantic search we found two others sitting close to the road living up to there well-deserved name. Having seen this stunning endemic so quickly we decided to carry on down the road stopping to pick up a few White-capped Dippers bouncing between several boulders on a mountain stream (a bird which was on everyone's wish list), an unusually obliging Narino Tapaculo and also a Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant which we had heard calling from the car. We then ensured an early night for our early morning drive to Yanacocha the next day.

23rd June

Today we left the lodge at an ungodly hour to give us a chance of arriving at the temperate forest reserve of Yanacocha (altitude around 3500m), in time to try for some of its special nightbirds. Well before we had even reached the reserve we encountered a number of Band-winged Nightjars flying off the road ahead of us, and we stopped on the edge of the reserve so that we could all enjoy some good perched views of them. As we headed up the track to an area where we hoped to see the White-throated Screech-owl we stumbled into first a male Swallow-tailed Nightjar that flushed in front of us (complete with rediculous tail), and then a female perched on the ground that everyone could see. Unfortunately neither the Imperial Snipes or White-throated Screech-owls performed as hoped, although the early arrival meant we were on site for when the first Ocellated Tapaculos began calling for the day and we were soon enjoying close views of this superb, highly sought-after bird right by the track. We had a really special bird-packed morning at Yanacocha, with flock after flock passing us by so that the early start and long morning were quickly forgotten with all the action going on around us. On reaching the end viewpoint we were soon treated to the sight of Sword-billed Hummingbird feeding there complete with its extraordinarily long bill, in addition to some other special hummingbird species for this altitude such as Golden-breasted & Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, Shining Sunbeam and Buff-winged Starfrontlet. We then decided to walk down the forest trail there to increase our chances of seeing one of the Rufous Antpittas that frequent the area, which can be a difficult bird to see despite their apparent abundance by voice. As we started down the trail we all had great views of a juvenile Stripe-headed Brush-finch being fed by an adult and within five minutes were rewarded with really good views of a Rufous Antpitta feeding in the middle of the trail that allowed everyone plenty of time to enjoy it. Walking the forest trail appeared to pay off as we encountered birds all the way along it as there were a few mobile flocks constantly in the area which held birds such as White-banded & White-throated Tyrannulets, Scarlet-bellied, Hooded & Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers, Smoky Bush-Tyrants, a pair of Barred Fruiteaters, Bar-bellied Woodpeckers, Rufous Wrens, Blue-backed Conebills and Spectacled Whitestarts. Along the same trail the usually skulking Unicolored Tapaculo gave good views for some of us and also had some nice views of a Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, the rediculously-named Superciliaried Hemispingus and White-browed Spinetail in the same area. We then had second views of Stripe-headed Brush-finch before emerging back on the main trail where we added some other hummingbirds such as Tyrian Metaltails and a single Mountain Velvetbreast before we returned to the end feeders to add a stunning Rainbow-bearded Thornbill which we had missed on our earlier visit to them, pausing briefly to admire a Crowned Chat-Tyrant on the way there (see photo in main trip report on Tropical Birding website ).

It was a shock to see our driver walking this far up the trail complete with our boxed breakfast strapped onto his back, so that we all enjoyed the strange experience of corn flakes, tea and coffee to the sight of Sword-billed Hummingbirds and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs while everyone expressed their genuine thanks to Maria at the lodge for providing such a good spread and to Rodrigo, our driver, for doggedly heading down the trail with this welcome treat for us. Walking back along the trail towards the car after our late breakfast we managed to add yet more species including Andean Guan, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant and Rufous-naped Brush-finch. On reaching the car we tucked into our lunch, satisfied with a great mornings birding at Yanacocha, before we headed back towards the lodge along the Nono-Mindo road. We made sure that we stopped along the way for the regular Red-crested Cotingas just outside the reserve, also seeing White-crested Elaenia and Purple-backed Thornbill nearby and more surprisingly, three Carunculated Caracaras cruising along the hillside above us. We then headed straight for the Cock-of-the-Rock lek along the Nono-Mindo road (briefly stopping to admire a Short-eared Owl quartering a copse by the roadside), and again had nice scope views of a dazzling male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, a great way to end any day!

24th June

After an evening chat the group decided we would spend our last free day together in the northwest working the Tandayapa Bird Lodge trails for the morning to look in particular for Quetzals which had strangely eluded us so far, and then go back to the Upper Tandayapa Valley to search again for Toucan Barbets and other birds (as we had only managed poor views up until then of the barbet). The trails were strangely quiet compared to our first stunning morning there, although I guess anything would seem quiet compared to that amazing mornings birding! However we did pick up some new birds such as Wedge-billed Hummingbird at the lek site along the trail, a pair of Uniform Antshrikes performed well in a small feeding flock with Slaty Antwren, and the hoped for Golden-headed Quetzal put in a brief appearance, although the undoubted star bird of the morning was unfortunately only seen by one of us, a stunning Black Solitaire, the first recorded sighting of this scarce Choco endemic at Tandayapa for well over three years. Despite a concerted effort the bird unfortunately remained hidden. After lunch we then headed towards the Upper Tandayapa Valley first birding the Nono-Mindo road beyond Tandayapa Pass, where a large feeding flock added Sepia-Brown Wren and Black-crested Warbler to the trip list and more views were obtained of Collared Incas, Grass-Green Tanagers, Blue-and-Black Tanagers, Capped Conebills and Streaked Tuftedcheeks. We then spent the last part of the northwest tour birding around the Tandayapa Pass and enjoyed some really special, colorful birds to finish on, including more views of a pair of Plate-billed Mountain-Toucans very close to the road, prolonged views of a bright-red Crimson-mantled Woodpecker feeding in moss-laden roadside branches, a pair of noisy Sickle-winged Guans and best of all, a pair of very obliging Toucan Barbets finally satisfying everyone with their last gasp showy appearance. We then headed back to the lodge at the end of the tour, where we had amassed a total of over 320 species, including 30 Choco endemics, in addition to some really special birds which everyone had the chance to enjoy. It was a really enjoyable tour for us all and I think it is fair to say we hope to do this again some day!

Eastern Highlands Extension 28th & 29th June 2005

28th June Antisana
29th June Papallacta Pass & Guango Lodge

With the promise of Seedsnipes and Condors the group decided when they arrived at Tandayapa to extend their tour to cover some areas on the East slope of the Andes to try and see some species peculiar to the high-montane paramo grasslands there. They were not disappointed!

Tour Summary:

28th June

We arrived at the highland reserve of Antisana, (altitude around 3800-4000m), early and soon encountered a pair of statuesque Red-crested Cotingas sitting quietly by the roadside in addition to a few gaudy Shining Sunbeams. A short drive further up the road found us watching a Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant perched on roadside fenceposts, to add to the White-tailed we had seen earlier on the main tour. Sharing the same field as the Shrike-Tyrant was a couple of Paramo Ground-Tyrants and the first of many, many Carunculated Caracaras for the day, which despite their abundance remain simply one of the most showy and stunning raptors in Ecuador. We also had several views of a couple of Tawny Antpittas feeding in the open in a roadside ploughed field, proving once again that they really are one of the easiest of the Antpittas to see and therefore somewhat atypical for this family! Despite the fact that we jammed into a very lucky sighting of Andean Condor at Calacali on the main tour, everyone was still keen on seeing more, and soon after arriving we soon picked up a female roosting on a favored nearby cliff. After getting good views of the bird perched (see photo in main trip report on Tropical Birding website ), it was agreed that it was difficult to fully appreciate the size of this lone, raptor whereupon the bird took to the air and passed right over our heads banking this way and that allowing us to see the brilliant white upper wing 'shields' that characterize the species and to really fully comprehend the awesome size of the bird (well illustrated when the bird dwarfed some nearby cows!)

A low adult Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle (the first of three seen on the day), seen shortly afterwards appeared uncharacteristically small in comparison. We soon picked up some other classic highland species by the road as we headed further in to the reserve, such as Paramo Pipit (Ecuador's only pipit species), Stout-billed & Bar-winged Cinclodes, Plumbeous Sierra-finch and Plain-colored Seedeater. A stop by a scenic rushing mountain stream produced good views of Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant and our first pair of excellent Ecuadorian Hillstars for the day. Surely one of the most stunning of all Ecuadorian hummers and one that is almost wholly confined to Ecuador. We then drove onto the wide open, arid paramo grasslands for which the reserve is important, with seemingly miles of grasslands stretching away onto the mountains in the distance. This area is one of the few strongholds for the striking Black-faced Ibis in Ecuador, one of our target species for the extension. Within a short time of reaching this area, we spotted a distant Ibis just over the crest of the hill and it took no persuasion before we were heading off in the direction of the bird and soon enjoying great views of a pair feeding in the paramo before they took to the air where they were no less impressive before the original two were soon joined in the air by 8 others, a great spectacle to see. This same area also appeared to be covered with noisy Andean Lapwings that were always quick to announce their presence if we drove by too close. After another view of a flyby Andean Condor we made a brief lunch stop by a secluded mountain lake and then decided to investigate the special high-montane waterbirds around the lake. Soon after lunch two Andean Gulls floated into view at the water's edge (the first of four seen), and we soon noticed a number of Silvery Grebes on the lake (an impressive total of 48 were seen by the end of the day), in addition to a few Andean Teals dabbling on the lake shore. We then moved to another section of the lake, (when some of the group picked up an Aplomado Falcon that flew by at lightning speed), where we saw a couple of Andean Ruddy-ducks, more Silvery Grebes and added Yellow-billed Pintail for the trip. At this point we started to slowly head back towards Quito, pausing briefly at some hummingbird feeders where the resident pair of Ecuadorian Hillstars stood guard by their abundant source of food. Although the day was completed nicely when we encountered another pair of Andean Condors once more flying around in the valley close to us and then perching together on the cliff face for photos when some agreed that with such fantastic views this had been the bird of the trip, (although you will never get me to to accept that over the stunning views of the awesome White-faced Nunbird at Tandayapa!)

29th June

This was quite simply one of the those days when things seemed well & truly against us (our luck simply had to run out eventually, particularly considering the run of fortune we had enjoyed until then) - near torrential rain greeted us as we approached the 4000m-high Papallacta Pass and although it seemed difficult to believe it was possible, it actually worsened the closer we got. There was only one thing for it - hole up at the amazing hummingbird feeders at Guango Lodge and wait for it to clear. There was only one thing wrong with this plan, after several hours there there was absolutely no sign of it clearing at all! However our time at Guango was definitely not wasted as the feeders there were incredible, with an impressive 13 species recorded. I soon got wind of this when I went to fetch someone to open the gates to let us in and a Glowing Puffleg zipped past in front of my nose, prompting me to run back to get the others. There was a brief moment of panic that it may have moved off, before we were treated to repeated views of this scarce hummer at the lodge feeders at extremely close range, even pausing to perch on the end of my telescope at one point! We then concentrated on some of the other more usual hummingbirds there such as Chestnut-breasted & Buff-tailed Coronets, Long-tailed Sylphs, Collared Incas, Tourmaline Sunangels, Mountain Velvetbreasts, Sword-billed Hummingbirds (no less impressive for having previously seen them at Yanacocha), Tyrian Metaltails, Great Sapphirewings and White-bellied Woodstars. Although the star hummingbird to put in an appearance was undoubtedly the female of the rarely seen Gorgeted Woodstar that came in and perched unobtrusively near the feeders. When there was an eventual lapse in the constant heavy rain that dogged us all day, we headed straight down the lodge trail only to be dogged again by constant, heavy rain, though we did manage to see a few Spectacled Whitestarts, White-banded Tyrannulets and added Black-capped Hemispingus to the trip list, before we retreated back to the lodge once more. After another brief respite in the rain (although in hindsight I think we imagined this to make ourselves feel better), we decided to check out the Polylepis woodland near the pass for some of the special species there, which unfortunately proved elusive in the rain, although we did manage to pick up a White-chinned Thistletail there. A short check of another area in heavy rain produced lucky views of the very skulking, seldom-seen Paramo Tapaculo for most of the group, and after some time we finally saw a few Many-striped Canasteros (ordinarily a much easier bird than on this cursed day!) It was then decided that we would head up the high road to look for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes, despite the apparently completely inappropriate weather conditions, as it was one bird that the whole group agreed was very high on their wish lists for the trip. So there we were heading up into even heavier rain, accompanying cloud, a little thick fog thrown in as we edged higher, and even a smattering of snow on the ground, in what appeared to be a completely futile attempt at seeing what is not always an easy bird in ideal conditions, when the driver pointed out this bird perched within a few meters of the car which quite amazingly turned out to be a stunning Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe (see photo in main trip report on Tropical Birding website ). We then sat and admired this classic highland bird, before it took to the air and cried out its evocative far-carrying call before disappearing away from us all together into the mist. With everyone pretty cold and damp from the day and with such a great bird squeezed out of the day late on, it was agreed we would head back for the warmth and comforts of Quito, happy that we had seen one of the main target birds for the trip, just in the nick of time!

Species Lists

Over 340 species were recorded throughout the whole trip (over 320 seen).

Taxonomy and nomenclature follow Ridgely, Robert S. and Paul J. Greenfield. The Birds of Ecuador. 2001. Ithica, NY: Comstock Publishing.

Names in bold are Chocó Restricted Range Species, (birds found only in northwest Ecuador and southwest Colombia), as listed in The Birds of Ecuador. Although in The Birds of Ecuador they separate lowland and highland endemics, listing them separately, we have treated them here as one endemic group. 30 Chocó endemics were seen on the tour.

Species with an * by them are globally threatened species as listed by Birdlife International.

Species with an H next to them were only heard on the tour.

Little Tinamou Crypturellus soui H
Torrent Duck Merganetta armata
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Andean Condor Vultur gryphus (Near Threatened)
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Hook-billed Kite Chondrohierax uncinatus
Swallow-tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus
Plain-breasted Hawk Accipiter ventralis
Black-chested Buzzard-eagle Geranoaetus melanoleucus
Carunculated Caracara Phalcoboenus carunculatus
White-throated Hawk Buteo albigula
Variable Hawk Buteo polyosoma
Roadside Hawk Buteo magnirostris
Black-and-Chestnut Eagle Oroaetus isidori (Near Threatened)
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Laughing Falcon Herpetotheres cachinnans
Sickle-winged Guan Chamaepetes goudotii
Andean Guan Penelope montagnii
Rufous-fronted Wood-quail Odontophorus erythrops H
Andean Coot Fulica ardesiaca
White-throated Crake Laterallus albigularis H
Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe Attagis gayi
Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata
Ruddy Pigeon Columba subvinacea
Plumbeous Pigeon Columba plumbea
Dusky Pigeon Columba goodsoni
Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata
Common Ground-dove Columbina passerina
White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi
Pallid Dove Leptotila pallida
White-throated Quail-dove Geotrygon frenata
Maroon-tailed Parakeet Pyrrhura melanura
Pacific Parrotlet Forpus coelestis
Red-billed Parrot Pionus sordidus
White-capped Parrot Pionus seniloides
Bronze-winged Parrot Pionus chalcopterus
Scaly-naped Amazon Amazona mercenaria
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana
Little Cuckoo Piaya minuta
Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani
Striped Cuckoo Tapera naevia
Rufescent Screech Owl Otus ingens H
White-throated Screech-Owl Otus albogularis H
*Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium nubicola (Vulnerable)
Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia
Mottled Owl Strix virgataH
Rufous-banded Owl Strix albitarsis
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus
Rufous-bellied Nighthawk Lurocalis rufiventris
Pauraque Nyctidromus albicollis
Band-winged Nightjar Caprimulgus longirostris
Swallow-tailed Nightjar Uropsalis segmentata
Lyre-tailed Nightjar Uropsalis lyra
White-collared Swift Streptoprocne zonaris
Chestnut-collared Swift Streptoprocne rutilus
Gray-rumped Swift Chaetura cinereiventris
White-tipped Swift Aeronautes montivagus
White-whiskered Hermit Phaethornis yaruqui
Tawny-bellied Hermit Phaethornis syrmatophorus
Green-fronted Lancebill Doryfera ludovicae
Brown Violetear Colibri delphinae
Green Violetear Colibri thalassinus
Sparkling Violetear Colibri coruscans
Green Thorntail Popelairia conversii
Green-crowned Woodnymph Thalurania fannyi
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Amazilia tzacatl
Andean Emerald Amazilia franciae
Purple-chested Hummingbird Amazilia rosenbergi
Speckled Hummingbird Adelomyia melanogenys
Purple-bibbed Whitetip Adelomyia melanogenys
Empress Brilliant Heliodoxa imperatrix
Green-crowned Brilliant Heliodoxa jacula
Fawn-breasted Brilliant Heliodoxa rubinoides
Giant Hummingbird Patagona gigas
Shining Sunbeam Aglaeactis cupripennis
Mountain Velvetbreast Lafresnaya lafresnayi
Great Sapphirewing Pterophanes cyanopterus
Brown Inca Coeligena wilsoni
Collared Inca Coeligena torquata
Buff-winged Starfrontlet Coeligena lutetiae
Sword-billed Hummingbird Ensifera ensifera
Buff-tailed Coronet Boissonneaua flavescens
Chestnut-breasted Coronet Boissonneaua matthewsii
Velvet-purple Coronet Boissonneaua jardini
Gorgeted Sunangel Heliangelus strophianus
Sapphire-vented Puffleg Eriocnemis luciani
Golden-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis mosquera
Hoary Puffleg Haplophaedia lugens (Near Threatened)
Glowing Puffleg Eriocnemis vestitus
Booted Racket-tail Ocreatus underwoodii
Black-tailed Trainbearer Lesbia victoriae
Purple-backed Thornbill Ramphomicron microrhynchum
Tyrian Metaltail Metallura tyrianthina
Rainbow-bearded Thornbill Chalcostigma herrani
Long-tailed Sylph Aglaiocercus kingi
Violet-tailed Sylph Aglaiocercus coelestis
Purple-crowned Fairy Heliothryx barroti
Purple-throated Woodstar Calliphlox mitchellii
Purple-collared Woodstar Myrtis fanny
White-bellied Woodstar Chaetocerus mulsant
Gorgeted Woodstar Chaetocercus heliodor
Tourmaline Sunangel Heliangelus exortis
Golden-headed Quetzal Pharomachrus auriceps
Western White-tailed Trogon Trogon chionurus
Masked Trogon Trogon personatus
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata
Green Kingfisher Chloroceryle americana
Broad-billed Motmot Electron platyrhynchum
Rufous-tailed Jacamar Galbula ruficauda H
White-faced Nunbird Hapaloptila castanea
Orange-fronted Barbet Capito squamatus(Near Threatened)
Red-headed Barbet Eubucco bourcierii
Toucan Barbet Semnornis ramphastinus (Near Threatened)
Crimson-rumped Toucanet Aulacorhynchus haematopygus
Pale-mandibled Aracari Pteroglossus erythropygius
Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan
Andigena laminirostris (Near Threatened)
Choco Toucan
Ramphastos brevis
Chestnut-mandibled Toucan Ramphastos swainsonii
Olivaceous Piculet Picumnus olivaceus
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker Piculus rivolii
Golden-Olive Woodpecker Piculus rubiginosus
Lineated Woodpecker Dryocopus lineatus
Black-cheeked Woodpecker Melanerpes pucherani
Red-rumped Woodpecker Veniliornis kirkii
Bar-bellied Woodpecker Veniliornis nigriceps
Scarlet-backed Woodpecker Veniliornis callonotus
Powerful Woodpecker Campephilus pollens
Pacific Hornero Furnarius cinnamomeus
Azara's Spinetail Synallaxis azarae
Slaty Spinetail Synallaxis brachyura
Rufous Spinetail Synallaxis unirufa
White-browed Spinetail Hellmayrea gularis
Red-faced Spinetail Cranioleuca erythrops
Double-banded Graytail Xenerpestes minlosi
Streaked Tuftedcheek Pseudocolaptes boissonneautii
White-chinned Thistletail Schizoeaca fuliginosa
Many-striped Canastero Asthenes flammulata
Pearled Treerunner Margarornis squamiger
Spotted Barbtail Premnoplex brunnescens
Rusty-winged Barbtail Premnornis guttuligera
Lineated Foliage-gleaner Syndactyla subalaris
Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner Anabacerthia variegaticeps
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner Philydor rufus
Striped Treehunter Thripadectes holostictus
Streak-capped Treehunter Thripadectes virgaticeps
Streaked Xenops Xenops rutilans
Plain Xenops Xenops minutus
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper Glyphorynchus spirurus
Strong-billed Woodcreeper Xiphocolaptes promeropirhynchus
Spotted Woodcreeper Xiphorhynchus erythropygius
Streak-headed Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes souleyetii
Montane Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes lacrymiger
Brown-billed Scythebill Campylorhamphus pusillus
Uniform Antshrike Thamnophilus unicolor
Western Slaty-Antshrike Thamnophilus atrinucha H
Pacific Antwren Myrmotherula pacifica
Slaty Antwren Myrmotherula schisticolor
Long-tailed Antbird Drymophila caudata
Dusky Antbird Cercomacra tyrannina
Immaculate Antbird Myrmeciza immaculata
Chestnut-backed Antbird Myrmeciza exsul
Esmeraldas Antbird Myrmeciza nigricauda
Black-headed Antthrush Formicarius nigricapillus
Rufous-breasted Anttrush Formicarius rufipectus
Scaled Antpitta Grallaria guatimalensis
*Moustached Antpitta Grallaria alleni (Endangered)
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta Grallaria ruficapilla H
Rufous Antpitta Grallaria rufula
Tawny Antpitta Grallaria quitensis
Ochre-breasted Antpitta Grallaricula flavirostris H
Unicolored Tapaculo Scytalopus unicolor
Narino Tapaculo Scytalopus vicinior
Spillman's Tapaculo Scytalopus spillmanni
Ocellated Tapaculo Acropternis orthonyx
Paramo Tapaculo Scytalopus canus
Sooty-headed Tyrannulet Phyllomyias griseiceps
Golden-faced Tyrannulet Zimmerius chrysops
Brown-capped Tyrannulet Ornithion brunneicapillum
Southern Beardless Tyrannulet Camptostoma obsoletum
White-crested Elaenia Elaenia albiceps
White-throated Tyrannulet Mecocerculus leucophrys
White-banded Tyrannulet Mecocerculus stictopterus
White-tailed Tyrannulet Mecocerculus poecilocercus
Tufted Tit-tyrant Anairetes parulus
Streak-necked Flycatcher Mionectes striaticollis
Olive-striped Flycatcher Mionectes olivaceus
Slaty-capped Flycatcher Leptopogon superciliaris
Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant Pseudotriccus pelzelni
Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant Pseudotriccus ruficeps
Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant Myiornis atricapillus H
Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant Lophotriccus pileatus
Black-headed Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum nigriceps
Common Tody-Flycatcher Todirostrum cinereum
Yellow-margined Flatbill Tolmomyias flavotectus
White-throated Spadebill Platyrinchus mystaceus
Tawny-breasted Flycatcher Myiobius villosus
Flavescent Flycatcher Myiophobus flavicans
Cinnamon Flycatcher Pyrrhomyias cinnamomea
Smoke-colored Pewee Contopus fumigatus
Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca fumicolor
Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca rufipectoralis
Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca cinnamomeiventris
Crowned Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca frontalis
Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant Silvicultrix diadema
Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant Myiotheretes striaticollisH
Smoky Bush-Tyrant Myiotheretes fumigatus
*White-tailed Shrike-tyrant Agriornis andicola (Vulnerable)
Spot-billed Ground-tyrant Muscisaxicola maculirostris
Masked Water-Tyrant Fluvicola nengeta
Bright-rumped Attila Attila spadiceus
Dusky-capped Flycatcher Myiarchus tuberculifer
Boat-billed Flycatcher Megarynchus pitangua
Social Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis
Rusty-margined Flycatcher Myiozetetes cayanensis
White-ringed Flycatcher Conopias albovittata
Streaked Flycatcher Myiodynastes maculatus
Golden-crowned Flycatcher Myiodynastes chrysocephalus
Tropical Kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus
Snowy-throated Kingbird Tyrannus niveigularis
Cinnamon Becard Pachyramphus cinnamomeus
White-winged Becard Pachyramphus polychopterus
Masked Tityra Tityra semifasciata
Red-crested Cotinga Ampelion rubrocristata
Barred Fruiteater Pipreola arcuata
Green-and-Black Fruiteater Pipreola riefferii
Scaled Fruiteater Ampelioides tschudiiH
Olivaceous Piha Lathria cryptolophus
Purple-throated Fruitcrow Querula purpurata
Andean Cock-of-the-rock Rupicola peruviana
Golden-winged Manakin Masius chrysopterus
White-bearded Manakin Manacus manacus
Club-winged Manakin Machaeropterus deliciosus
Turquoise Jay Cyanolyca turcosa
Beautiful Jay Cyanolyca pulchra (Near Threatened)
Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus
Brown-capped Vireo Vireo leucophrys
Lesser Greenlet Hylophilus decurtatus
Andean Solitaire Myadestes ralloides H
Black Solitaire Entomodestes coracinus
Great Thrush Turdus fuscater
Glossy-black Thrush Turdus serranus
Ecuadorian Thrush Turdus maculirostris
White-capped Dipper Cinclus leucocephalus
Brown-bellied Swallow Notiochelidon murina
Blue-and-White Swallow Notiochelidon cyanoleuca
White-thighed Swallow Neochelidon tibialis
Southern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx ruficollis
Band-backed Wren Campylorhynchus zonatus
Rufous Wren Cinnycerthia unirufa
Sepia-Brown Wren Cinnycerthia olivascens
Bay Wren Thryothorus nigricapillus
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Gray-breasted Wood-wren Henicorhina leucophrys
Southern Nightingale-wren Microcerculus marginatus
Tropical Gnatcatcher Polioptila plumbea
Tropical Parula Parula pitiayumi
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat Geothlypis semiflava
Slate-throated Whitetstart Myioborus miniatus
Spectacled Whitestart Myioborus melanocephalus
Black-crested Warbler Basileuterus nigrocristatus
Choco Warbler Basileuterus chlorophrys
Three-striped Warbler Basileuterus tristriatus
Russet-crowned Warbler Basileuterus coronatus
Buff-rumped Warbler Basileuterus fulvicauda
Bananaquit Coereba flaveola
Purple Honeycreeper Cyanerpes caeruleus
Green Honeycreeper Chlorophanes spiza
Yellow-tufted Dacnis Dacnis egregia
*Scarlet-breasted Dacnis Dacnis berlepschi (Vulnerable)
Cinereous Conebill Conirostrum cinereum
Blue-backed Conebill Conirostrum sitticolor
Capped Conebill Conirostrum albifrons
Masked Flowerpiercer Diglossopis cyanea
Glossy Flowerpiercer Diglossa lafresnayii
Black Flowerpiercer Diglossa humeralis
White-sided Flowerpiercer Diglossa albilatera
Rusty Flowerpiercer Diglossa sittoides
Guira Tanager Hemithraupis guira
Fawn-breasted Tanager Pipraeidea melanonota
Thick-billed Euphonia Euphonia laniirostris
Golden-rumped Euphonia Euphonia cyanocephala
Orange-bellied Euphonia Euphonia xanthogaster
Gray-and-Gold Tanager Tangara palmeri
Golden Tanager Tangara arthus
Silver-throated Tanager Tangara icterocephala
Flame-faced Tanager Tangara parzudakii
Golden-naped Tanager Tangara ruficervix
Metallic-green Tanager Tangara labradorides
Beryl-spangled Tanager Tangara nigroviridis
Blue-and-Black Tanager Tangara vassorii
Black-capped Tanager Tangara heinei
Blue-necked Tanager Tangara cyanicollis
Golden-hooded Tanager Tangara larvata
Bay-headed Tanager Tangara gyrola
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager Anisognathus igniventris
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager Anisognathus somptuosus
Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager Anisognathus notabilis
Hooded Mountain-Tanager Buthraupis montana
Black-chested Mountain-Tanager Buthraupis eximia
Grass-green Tanager Chlorornis riefferii
Swallow Tanager Tersina viridis
Blue-gray Tanager Thraupis episcopus
Palm Tanager Thraupis palmarum
Blue-capped Tanager Thraupis cyanocephala
Lemon-rumped Tanager Ramphocelus icteronotus
Ochre-breasted Tanager Chlorothraupis stolzmanni
Dusky-faced Tanager Mitrospingus cassinii
White-lined Tanager Tachyphonus rufus
White-shouldered Tanager Tachyphonus luctuosus
Tawny-crested Tanager Tachyphonus delatrii
Dusky Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus semifuscus
Yellow-throated Bush-tanager Chlorospingus flavigularis
Black-capped Hemispingus Hemispingus atropileus
Superciliaried Hemispingus Hemispingus superciliaris
Western Hemispingus Hemispingus ochraceus H
Buff-throated Saltator Saltator maximus
Black-winged Saltator Saltator atripennis
Blue-black Grassquit Volatinia jacarina
Yellow-faced Grassquit Tiaris olivacea
Variable Seedeater Sporophila corvina
Yellow-bellied Seedeater Sporophila nigricollis
Plain-colored Seedeater Catamenia inornata
Band-tailed Seedeater Catamenia analis
Ash-breasted Sierra-finch Phrygilus plebejus
Grassland Yellow-Finch Sicalis luteola
Rufous-naped Brush-finch Atlapetes latinuchus
Tricolored Brush-finch Atlapetes tricolor
White-winged Brush-finch Atlapetes leucopterus
Chestnut-capped Brush-finch Buarremon brunneinucha
Stripe-headed Brush-finch Buarremon torquatus
Orange-billed Sparrow Arremon aurantiirostris
Black-striped Sparrow Arremonops conirostris
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis
Scarlet-rumped Cacique Cacicus microrhynchus
Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis
Scrub Blackbird Dives warszewiczi
Yellow-tailed Oriole Icterus mesomelas
Hooded Siskin Carduelis magellanica
Yellow-bellied Siskin Carduelis xanthogastra
House Sparrow Passer domesticus