What a trip! I almost always say that starting out, because any day in the field is better than a day in the city. These two days were, in a word, exceptional, however, and soared above all expectations we had. The three of us (Suzanne, Luis, and I) had met each other about two years ago. We all work in tourism here in Ecuador, and had been wanted to spend some time birding together. We finally got our schedules together, even if it was for just two days, and enjoyed the trip very, very much. Great company, and great birds.
We headed out of Quito at 6am the morning of the 15th, and made our way straight to the Milpe reserve, arriving at approximately 7:30. This al depends on road conditions, but the Quito-Esmeraldas highway is well maintained, and we breezed, with only one small landslide to navigate on the way.
The Milpe reserve is located at kilometer marker 91, off the main highway. There is a small, hexagonal, church, on the right side of the road, at the right-hand turn. It is a small dirt road, but easy to find given these two landmarks. The entrance to the reserve is about 200 meters from the highway. The habitat is somewhat disturbed, mixed secondary/primary forest, at 1050m elevation. The birding is very good, with some of the target species present being Club-winged Manakin, Choco Warbler, and Moss-backed Tanager.
We had a good morning here, the weather holding out and giving us decent flocks until about noon, when we decided it was lunchtime. Some of the highlights we encountered here were Brown-billed Scythebill, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, Club-winged Manakin, and Choco Warbler.
From here we headed to Sachatamia, back up the highway near the Mindo turnoff, at around kilometer marker 75. The food here is excellent, and Luis organized our overnight stay here. A great place and highly recommended for both convenience and great accomodation. After lunch we attempted to head down to the Los Bancos road for some more foothill birding, but we got rained out. It was raining incredibly hard most of the way down, and back up, so we decided to spend a few minutes birding the Sachatamia property. The bird activity was pretty scarce, aside from the amazing hummingbird display at the feeders, but we did see two South American Coatimundi, which were great, Golden-winged Manakin, and Orange-crested Flycatcher.
The following morning we awoke at 5am, had breakfast at 5:30, and were out the door, headed down to lower elevations, by 6 sharp. We headed directly to the Rio Silanche Reserve. This area is not as easy to find, initially, as the turnoff to Milpe. To reach the reserve itself, go don the main highway until reaching kilometer marker 126, then continue on another 400 meters, give or take. You will see a dirt road heading off to the right, at an angle, near a small store and a couple wooden shacks/houses. Take this dirt track (high clearance recommended) for another 7 kms, following the arrowed signs indicating Rio Silanche, until you see the large bamboo gates on your left. The trip from Sachatamia took a little over an hour, and we were out of the car, birding, by 7:15am.
The habitat here is Choco lower foothill/lowland forest, and the birding was some of the best any of us had ever had in (I think we would all agree) our lives. We managed to record 158 species, over 150 seen, before we had to pull ourselves away for lunch and the return trip home, at 1pm. It was superb, and we highly recommend this stop to any and everyone. Some of the more interesting birds seen included Purple-chested Hummingbird, Double-banded Graytail, Black-striped Woodcreeper, numerous Antwrens, Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Western Sirystes, Rufous Piha, Red-capped Manakin, Dagua Thrush, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Emerald, Blue-whiskered, and Rufous-winged Tanagers, among many other great birds.
On the way back to Quito we stopped for lunch at Mindo Loma, from about 2pm to 3:30pm. We made it back to Quito by 5:00. Mindo Loma continues to be the place for Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, and we had some other great birds around the main house.
Little Tinamou (H)
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift
Western White-tailed Trogon
Northern Violaceous Trogon
Southern Rough-winged Swallow