This is the detailed itinerary of a birdwatching trip to Ecuador made by myself and my wife in 2013.
To see a list of the birds seen on this trip click here
Saturday 26th October 2013
Depart Norwich airport 06:30 local time. Arrive Amsterdam airport 08:00 local time (1hour time difference). Depart Amsterdam airport on KLM flight to Quito, arriving 14:30 local time. Met by driver at airport and transfer to Quito for overnight – arrive hotel 17:00 local time. (Quito has a new airport as of February 2013 which is some way from the city. A somewhat long and tiresome transfer after our long flight).
Sunday 27th October 2013
Met at hotel by our birdwatcher / guide Gustavo Canas and departed 07:30 for Yanacocha. (Gustavo proved to be a very pleasant person with good birding skills and, importantly, was also a very safe driver – in contrast to many of his fellow countrymen).
We walked the track for 2-3km to the end, to the hummingbird feeders. We had our first Sword-billed Hummingbird here. On the way out it was slightly cloudy but dry. Gradually it became more and more misty and then drizzly. On our way back visibility was about 10m. We departed Yanacocha after seeing our first Antpitta – coming to worms.
After leaving Yanacocha we moved on to our base for the next two nights, Tandayapa. We arrived at 17:00. On the way to Tandayapa we stopped several times for some birding, including along the River Alambi.
Monday 28th October 2013
Spent the morning at Tandayapa mainly on the upper balcony, birdwatching and doing multi flash hummingbird photography. The hummingbirds did not disappoint, and Tandayapa proved to be the busiest place for these flying gems we encountered anywhere on our trip.
After lunch, we had a trip to the nearby Bellavista, and stayed there from 14:30-17:30, returning to Tandayapa for dinner. After this meal we returned to Bellavista. This evening trip was to see the newly described species of mustelid carnivore, the Olingito. Here, we were grateful to Gustavo for his knowledge of the staff at Bellavista since only guests staying at Bellavista are normally permitted to see the Olingito.
The animal itself comes to bananas put out for it and although it was very good to see it, no one is allowed to use flash photography, and as a result my images are very poor as the animal was illuminated by a very low power torch.
A dry, reasonably clear morning. Progressively increasing low cloud, then heavy drizzle from 15:00 onwards for the rest of the day.
Tuesday 29th October, 2013
Pre-dawn visit to the hide at Tandayapa. After breakfast visit to Bellavista. Then worked our way down hill, calling at Alambi hummingbird feeders. Then on to Septimo Paraiso via Sachatamia hummingbird feeders.
A dry start then misty with cloud, drizzle and rain.
Wednesday 30th October 2013
Early morning start (06:30) for Milpe reserve. Stayed there until 16:00. Spent lot of time with multiflash hummingird photography. We also had a good walk on the reserve.
We then went on to Sachatamia for a couple of hours birding before returning to Septimo Paraiso for dinner.
After dinner we had a brief trip to Sachatamia for the spectacular Black and White Owl which can be found around the lodge.
Dry all day. Mild. Some sun at times. Generally cloudy.
Thursday 31st October 2013
04:40 departure from Septimo Paraiso for the Angel Paz de las Aves reserve. Met at the site at 05:45 by Angel himself. We walked to the ‘new’ Cock of the Rock lek. Then drive up hill to Angel’s house where Rodrigo, Angel’s brother, took over the guiding. We then walked down the hillside to a place where we could sit and view the birds. Rodrigo showed skills as good as his brother at calling the much wanted birds including the Antpittas.
We then had a slow walk back up the hill to Angel’s house where a light breakfast was had. Then it was back to Septimo Paraiso for lunch.
After lunch we had a brief visit to Sachatamia and then had another visit to Milpe for the afternoon before returning to Septimo Paraiso for overnight.
Heavy drizzle to start, at the Cock of the Rock lek, then dry with some sun. Later, misty and fog by evening. Mild.
Friday 1st November 2013
Morning at Septimo Paraiso. Then on to Rio Silanche, arriving 14:00. Stayed until 18:00. Spent much of this time at the tower. Then returned to Septimo Paraiso.
Dry, sunny and warm at first, cloud later.
Saturday 2nd November 2013
Depart Septimo Paraiso at 05:30. Arrive Rio Silanche 06:45. Had a walk around the trail then spent time at the tower, having boxed breakfast there.
Departed Rio Silanche 10:00. Drive to Los Blancos then over to Rio Palenque, at lower altitude on the west. Arrive here at 14:30. We were to stay here for one night but in retrospect it would have been nice to have more time here – it was quiet, secluded and had a good selection of birds.
Walked around the trail before dinner.
Dry, cloudy most of the day. Cleared a little by sunset. As in most of the places we stayed at on our trip we were the only guests present. This didn’t bother us but it was somewhat strange to be the only people around at times.
Sunday 3rd November 2013
Walking round Rio Palenque from 06:00 – 11:00. Then depart for El Paraiso Maldonado for overnight.
Dry and cloudy most of the day. Mild. Nice sunset.
Monday 4th November 2013
Depart hotel El Paraiso 06:00. To Mashpi. We were not allowed in to the hotel grounds at Mashpi so had to content ourselves with walking along the lanes nearby. We then proceeded to the crater hotel at Pululuha – one of many active volcanoes in Ecuador. This was, without doubt, the most modern and well equipped accommodation of our trip. We arrived at the hotel at 17:30, and had a look around the town before arriving at the hotel.
It was here that Gustavo left us and we had a driver only for the rest of the tour apart from birding guides hired at the lodges we were due to stay at.
Generally cloudy all day. Mild at low altitude then cloud with some wind at the crater.
Tuesday 5th November 2013
Trip to Antisana then on to Termas Papallacta. We left the crater hotel at 06:00 with our new driver. We drove to Antisana as far as Mica Lake, pausing en route to look at a Condor nest, and the birds on the paramo. We arrived at the lake at 10:00. Initially a clear bright day soon deteriorated to a thunderstorm. We walked towards the lake from the car park before being driven back to the car by the rain.
It was an impressive place with the high paramo over seen by the snow capped peak of the Antisana volcano.
We drove on to the Termas Papallacta hotel, arriving at 18:00.
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Early morning start with driver to the Papallacta Pass and antennae to try for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. We paused at the Papallacta lake en route. Arriving at the antennae at 08:15 we stayed until 10:45. Alas no Seedsnipe!
Then we made our way to some of the Polylepis forest nearby before returning to our hotel.
Quite a clear start then increasing cloud from 11:00 with rain from 12:00 – 15:00. Then dry. Afternoon spent around hotel grounds.
Thursday 7th November 2013
06:00 departure with driver to Papallacta Pass and antennae for another attempt on Seedsnipe. The antennae are at about 4500m and walking was testing with the thin air. We stayed another 2 ½ hours again, but again failed to locate the target bird. The views, however, in the wonderful morning light were spectacular with 3 snow-capped volcanoes in view.
Returning to our hotel to collect our bags, we moved on at 11:00 for our next destination, Guango Lodge, our base for the next 3 nights. Our driver, Freedie, left us at Guango and we would have a new driver to take us on from Guango in 3 day’s time.
Arrived at Guango at 11:45 .
We spent most of the afternoon birdwatching in the grounds of the lodge with the focus on hummingbird photography.
We also had a walk down to the nearby river and were successful in finding Torrent Duck amongst other birds.
Dry and sunny to start, heavy evening shower.
Friday 8th November 2013
Day at Guango Lodge. Got up 06:30. Spent all day in the grounds with the ‘focus’ on hummingbird photography. We were both below par physically due to a viral illness we had both contracted and made us less able than usual to have a full day’s birding.
Dry with sunny spells. Later cloudy with some rain.
Saturday 9th November 2013
Guango Lodge all day. We hired a local guide, Pablo – a young man with great enthusiasm. A delightful chap. We were both, however, still less than our best and we did what we could. We walked along the ‘pipeline’ trail.
Dry all day after overnight rain.
Saturday 10th November 2013
07:00 walk to river before being picked up by our new driver, Diego. We then drove further down the eastern slope of the Andes in the direction of the Amazon basin. We arrived at our base for the next two nights, Wildsumaco at 12:00. We checked in and then began birding in the grounds of the lodge. Time was also spent at the hummingbird feeders.
Showery with some heavy rain. Noticeably warmer with the fall in altitude.
Monday 11th November 2013
Wildsumaco. Today we hired the services of Jonas Nielsson, joint owner of Wildlsumaco, and Ecuador’s number one bird lister. We walked one of the long trails in the property and also had two more Antpitta feeding experiences.
Wildsumaco is a pleasant and modern accommodation and it was a very comfortable place to stay.
Dry all day. Heavy overnight rain last night. Some sun, slightly windy in the afternoon.
Tuesday 12th November 2013
Depart Wildsumaco 09:00 for San Isidro, arriving noon. Found to have faulty shock absorber on arrival so driver took car back to Quito for repair.
Day spent walking around San Isidro.
Mainly dry and cloudy. Slight drizzle late morning / early afternoon. Failed to locate the ‘San Isidro owl’ in the evening.
Wednesday 13th November 2013
San Isidro. Began with feeding trips to two Antpitta species. Guided all day by local guide Marcello – reasonable guide but limited English. Walked down road from entrance to San Isidro for 2-3km.
Dismal day weather wise – much rain, often heavy.
Thursday 14th November 2013
San Isidro – early start for Antpitta feeding session again before time in grounds with photography. Then depart 09:30 for return to Quito airport for flight home. We had time to stop at Papallacta Pass antennae for a third time in order to finally see the Seedsnipe. On the two previous trips, the weather there had been excellent. On this occasion, the weather was atrocious. Howling gale with heavy rain and it was very cold – impossible viewing conditions. Regretfully we cut our losses and carried on to Quito, arriving at the airport at 11:30.
We flew from Quito 17:30 to Guyaquil on the coast. After a refueling stop we carried on back to Amsterdam arriving approximately 14:00 next day local time then a later flight back to Norwich.
Impression – Ecuador has a huge range of birds to see. It is a spectacular country with some really impressive scenery. The road system while good in places is often slow and the roads narrow. The locals can drive like bats out of hell. However, the people were universally friendly and helpful. Accommodation was variable with often small rooms. As I have already said we were often the only guests. We would not return to Termas Papallacta – staff there were unhelpful especially to our driver. San Isidro was very friendly, as was Guango. Rio Palenque was also a very enjoyable place to stay with quite a rustic setting.