Recordings can be found at http://www.xeno-canto.org/profiles.php?country=Ecuador
On February 10th 2005 I set off to Ecuador to investigate singing behaviour of Grey-breasted Wood-wren (H.leucophrys) in relationship to habitat use for the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. Whenever singing activity was low, mostly during the afternoon, or whenever big feeding flocks passed by I concentrated on setting a new (personal) record:
1) triple my life list, and
2) see as many new birds for the least amount of money.
In between the countless times I got lost, soaked to the bone, attacked by herds of peccaries, got stuck because of mudslides, roadblocks or both, I managed to see 788 birds in 4 months, of which 780 were new.
As most of the sites are well documented in literature or other trip reports, I will only treat a few relatively unknown places, or places where I encountered some (personally) special birds.
Bilsa (400m) 12th till 19th of February
Bilsa is a biological research and volunteering station($15) of fundacion Jatun Sacha in the Mache-Chindul reserve, Northwest Ecuador. To get there I had to drive 3 hours on a muddy road to la Ye, where I spent the night at a friendly family with nice views on a small lagoon where I managed to get some bad recordings of a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail and Choco Poorwill. The next day I had to travel 4 hours on a mule into the reserve. As I was stubborn enough to walk the whole journey through the mud (â€œwhen this mule can walk all the way, I can walk all the wayâ€) I arrived completely exhausted. The next morning I woke up and found myself confronted with my first tropical experience. It was overwhelming! In my first feeding flock ever, I only managed to identify Red-billed Scythebill, and Pacific Antwren. I went completely mad, flipping page after page to find the antbird I had just seen..not knowing whether it even was an antbird! At the end of the day I was exhausted, frustrated and depressed.
During the following days I managed to identify some more birds and even found time to enjoy a few beautiful ones, such as Red Capped Manakin on senderro verde, Green Manakin at Rio Ducha and off course a few amazing Long-wattled Umbrellabirds, the specialty of Bilsa and quite numerous. On one occasion I got lost because Id followed the wrong stream, but in the remaining light I saw a very nice Crested Guan, and found the trail back in time to make it back to the station before dark.
The last days I encountered some nice birds, such as the rare Dagua Thrush, a silent Tapaculo, probably Choco and a nice big lek of White-bearded Manakins.
East-slope: El Chaco / Yanayacu / Guacamayos - Several visits between February and May
Yanayacu (2100 m)
I stayed at the Yanayacu biology station ($15), near Cosanga, in between trips to my other researchsites. By now they have a satellite internet connection, a bar and probably a yacuzzi, but I settled for a hammock, electricity, Harolds stupid jokes and San Isidros trails through beautiful, undisturbed cloudforest. I saw a nest of Barred Hawk, White-rumped Hawk, several flocks of Barred Parakeet, Gorgeted Woodstar, White-bellied Antpitta, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Black-capped Tanager, Plushcap and the Bicolored Antvireo.
El Chaco (1500 m)
I visited the village of El Chaco, on the Quito-Lago Agrio road a couple of times and stayed in hotel Jeruzaleum ($6). During my third visit I was finally able to make my self clear to the owners son, that I was not interested in adventure, kayaking or hurtling down a very rusty cable, just 500 m away from Ecuadors highest waterfall, the San Rafael Falls. So they led me stay at their finca with some remaining patches of forest adjacent to it.
There were some nice tanager flocks in this area including Blue-browed, Golden-eared and Orange-eared Tanager, loads of Andean Cock-of-the-rocks and I recorded 2 Rufescent Screech-Owls.
Guacamayos (2300) 23th of April
Just 30 minutes by bus south from Cosanga starts the Guacamayos ridge. Theres a small trail for maintenance of the oil-pipeline. Beside some curious common-wooly monkeys, I got some nice recordings of Moustached Antpitta and good views of Olivaceous Piha. The rest of the walk was too foggy.
West-slope: Tandayapa / Mindo/ Milpe - Several visits between February and May
The Tandayapa valley boost an extraordinary amount of beautiful birds. I visited the biology station of Bellavista($10) twice and made small trips to the feeders at Tandayapa bird lodge and Toni’s place. My personal favourites: Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Western Hemisphingus, Crested Quetzal, beautifully honking Toucan Barbets, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Beautiful Jay, Giant Antpitta, Ocellated Tapaculo, calling loudly 1m beside the trail, Scaled Fruiteater, and very red Andean Cock-of-the-rock (my first!, it was a shock!).
Unfortunately, the biological station was out of use, because the original owner had decided to turn it into a tourist resort. Luckily, I could stay at Ãl Monte, ecolodge for a reasonable price. Walking down the road from their office I encountered a very nice dendroica-warbler. Having ripped the color plates out of my Birds of Ecuador I identified it as Bay-breasted Warbler, in transitional plumage. At the lodge I realized it was the 4th record of Ecuador. 2 days later I found a Golden-winged Warbler, another rarity, at the fruiting trees of the biological station. Other highlights: 2 Torrent Ducks at rio Nambillo, a Sunbittern, Dark-backed Wood-Quail, Green-fronted Lancebill and some beautiful views of Rufous-breasted Antthrush.
Milpe (1100m) 20th of March
I took a day trip to the famous leks of Club-winged Manakin at Milpe Cloudforest. What a truly amazing behavior those birds show, the high-speed motion of the wings, the mechanical soundsany woman would fall for it. A Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Choco Warbler, Yellow-bellied Antpitta, Ochre-breasted and the strange Moss-backed Tanager, finished the day..though I had to wait 4 hours for the guard to return in order to get my backpack back that Id stored in the entrance building.
Mindo Loma (1200m)
Those hummingbirds! Aaaahhhhhhhhh
Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant
Coastal Ecuador: Cojimies / Machalilla / Isla de la Plata / Salinas
Cojimies 17th till 19th of March
10 hours by bus, 1 hour walk and one hour by dugout canoe through one of the last remnants of Mangroves in Ecuador and youll find your self in the village of Bolivar. Located on a island just of the coast near Cojimies, there some excellent floodplains to watch waders, including Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, Collared Plover and even a Dunlin, between dozens of Western and Semi-palmated Sandpipers.
Salinas 6th of June
I visited Ben Haasse in Salinas and he was so kind to take me on a tour through Ecuasal for some specialties as: Gray Gull, Elegant Tern, South American Tern, Stilt Sandpiper, Peruvian Pelican
Machalilla 1st till the 5th of June
National park Machilalla near the town of Puerto Lopez is quite interesting, due to the steep change in habitat. Within a few kilometres youll find semi-desert and tropical systems and in between a strange mixture, resulting in bromeliad-barring cacti. Some highlights: West Peruvian Dove, Blue Ground-Dove, Elegant Crescent-chest, Gray-breasted Flycatcher and Ochraceous Attila, actively pumping its tail
Isla de la Plata 2nd of June
As a cheap alternative to the Galapagos, this island boost some nice seabird colonies and is one of two islands in the world were Waved Albatrosses breed. I saw 3 of them together with three types of Boobies and beautiful Red-billed Tropicbirds, nesting under a big rock
South-East Ecuador: Tapichalaca / Bombuscaro
Tapichalaca (2500m) 2nd till 5th of April
Home to the Jocotoco Antpitta where I enjoyed the first morning in the feeder some close encounters with a Chestnut-naped Antpitta. Its quite amazing to observe an antpitta close-by when youre only used to robins and thrushes. Unfortunately this Chestnut-naped, was probably the reason that the Jocotoco disappeared from one side of the ridge and havent been seen at the feeding station for 2 years. On the other side of the ridge Jocotoco is confronted with hours and hours of playback by birders who pay an awful lot of money to get a glimpse of it. Having no idea about the functionality of the vocalizations that are played to the bird, its not so strange that, at the moment, therere only 2 known territories. Its just a matter of time till conservation claims its next victim.
Luckily for me, there was a day without playbacks and I was able to hear some distant calls of this evolutionary relict. Besides the jocotoco, I made some nice recordings of Barred Antthrush and Golden-plumed Parakeet, and saw a female Swallow-tailed Nightjar, beautiful Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Barred Fruiteater, Bearded Guan, Pale-footed Swallow, and a spectacular Red-hooded Tanager, near the Quebrada Honda
Rio Bombuscaro (1100m) 7th till 11th of April
The rangers at the station near the entrance of the park let me stay in a small cabin for little money ($4). There are simply to many highlights, so I just sum them up Gray Tinamou, Fasciated Tiger-Heron, White-necked Parakeet, Foothill Screech-Owl, Rufescent Screech-Owl, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Plain-backed Antpitta, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Guira Tanager, Swallow-Tanager, Slaty Finch, Olive Finch, Paradise Tanager.
South-west Ecuador: Jorupe / El Limo / Celica
Jorupe (500m) 16th of April
Jorupe is a new Fundacion Jocotoco resereve and located few km east of Macara. Some interesting birds: Ochre-bellied Dove, Long-billed Starthroat, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, White-tailed Jay
Celica (2200m) 17th till 20th of April
This site is a bit of a disappointment as it illustrates the problem of deforestation in all its facets. Yet I was able to see: Gray-backed Hawk, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Wire-crested Thorntail, Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaner, Silver-backed Tanager.
El Limo (1100m) 20th till 24th of April
Just outside the town are some nice patches of cloud forest and a ridge where you can see lots of raptors between 10 and 12 A.M. such as Great Black-Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Bat Falcon and a King Vulture, Also: Emerald-bellied Woodnymph, White-vented Plumeleteer and Chapman's Antshrike.
Shiripuno (250m) 20th till 25th of May
Shiripuno was truly spectacular! 4 hours by bus south from Coca runs the Rio Shiripuno. 5 hours downstream through virgin forest by motorized canoe and youll find yourself at Fernandos lodge. Just 10m behind the lodge starts a beautiful old varzea forest and across the river you will find tierra firm and a clay lick. I stayed there for 5 amazing days, so a tapir, loads of jaguar prints, 6 species of monkeys and several mind-blowing frogs. I got scared by a herd of over a 100 peccaries, passing at high speed less then a meter from the tree I had sought refuge. And off course there were birds, loads of birds, especially in very, very large flocks. I saw over 200 birds in just 5 days, of which 5 species of Tinamou, Capped Heron, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Hoatzin, Black-headed Parrot, Scarlet Macaw, Ocellated Poorwill, Gould's Jewelfront, Brown Jacamar, Long-billed Woodcreeper, White-chinned Woodcreeper, White-plumed Antbird (never thought they existed!), Hairy-crested Antbird, Ochre-striped Antpitta, White-browed Purpletuft, Wire-tailed Manakin, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Casqued Oropendola and a Buff-tailed Sicklebill were some highlights.
Little Blue Heron
South American Tern
West Peruvian Dove
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
Amazonian White-tailed Trogon
Western White-tailed Trogon
Amazonian Violaceous Trogon
Northern Violaceous Trogon
Equatorial Rufous-vented Tapaculo
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Southern Nightingale Wren
Highland Hepatic Tanager
Masked Crimson Tanager