"Just a short note after my first trip with Bird Holidays to say how much I enjoyed the experience. The itinerary in Ecuador, the birding, the accommodation and food were all excellent... I was particularly grateful for all the hard work you and Edison put into making sure everyone in the party had the best views possible of all the birds."...... Mr F, Ilkley, August 2007
Purple-throated Woodstar, Paul Kingsnorth 2009
click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up - easier to print - no photos
The diversity of habitats in this small South American country, where the equator crosses the Andes, results in an extraordinary variety of bird species. Almost 1600 have been recorded in an area roughly the size of the UK. On this tour of the highlands and Pacific slope we will visit many different habitats: coast, wetlands, semi-desert, lowland dry forest, sub-tropical forest, temperate forest, high altitude polylepis woodland and paramo.
We will visit the ‘Reserva Bird Holidays’ at Yanacocha, where we have created a new reserve by planting native trees to restore an area of cloud forest. The motivation was to offset our carbon dioxide emissions, but the spin-off means that there is a reserve that will in time become more attractive to birds and mammals.
We have chosen four excellent lodges and hotels to make your stay as comfortable as possible. On the coast at Machalilla we will watch Blue-footed Boobies, and search for the Elegant Crescentchest. At Tinalandia there are Torrent Ducks and various exciting nightbirds. Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano, is a great place to see one of Ecuador’s most sought-after birds, the Ecuadorian Hillstar, whilst nearby Antisana is the domain of the Andean Condor. Finally, the Mindo area needs little introduction. It is the hummingbird world capital, it is a great place to watch lekking Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks and you can see Giant Antpittas at point blank range, making it one of the best birding areas in the New World.
If this is not enough for you, we are happy to arrange an extension to one of Ecuador’s famous Amazonian lodges with their excellent local guides, or a cruise around Galapagos in the company of an expert crew.
Our flight will arrive at Guayaquil early in the morning, and we will drive to Machalilla on the west coast. We will stop en route at Salinas, where we can watch Chilean Flamingos, alongside Grey Gull, Elegant Tern and up to twenty species of wader. Our home for four nights is the excellent Manta Raya Lodge, at the edge of Machalilla National Park. The park was formed in the 1970s to protect dry lowland forest and arid scrub at the northern tip of the Atacama Desert, as well as the seabird island of La Plata.
In the forest along the Rio Ayampe, we will look for endemic Grey-backed Hawk and Saffron Siskin, as well as Baron’s Hermit, Amazilia Hummingbird, Ecuadorian Piculet and Grey-and-gold Warbler. Many species in the arid cactus scrub are endemic to northern Peru and south-west Ecuador, a region known as Tumbesia. These include Anthony’s Nightjar, Peruvian Pygmy-owl, Short-tailed Field-tyrant, Necklaced Spinetail, Collared Antshrike and White-edged Oriole.
The highlight of our time at Machalilla will be the visit to La Plata island. During the two hour boat trip we can expect several sightings of Humpback Whale. On arrival, we will be greeted by a few tame Collared Warbling-finches. As we walk along marked trails we will be surrounded by nesting Blue-footed Boobies, their foot-raising display being the source of much amusement. We can watch Nazca Boobies (a recent split from Masked Booby) at their colony. Red-billed Tropicbirds and Magnificent Frigatebirds distract us as they play in updrafts above the cliffs. But our greatest prize is the Waved Albatross. This bird breeds only on Isla Espanola in the Galapagos archipelago and Isla La Plata. As we are visiting midway through their breeding cycle, we have a chance of seeing both adults and small chicks.
On day six we will head inland, stopping at Chone Lake en route to Tinalandia. Birding here is quite different to anywhere else we will visit. Thousands of wetland birds include nine species of heron, Wood Stork, White-cheeked Pintail, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Wattled Jacana and Black-necked Stilt.
One of the original eco-tourist lodges in the country, Tinalandia is ideally situated to break our journey to the highlands. It offers fantastic birding in extensive grounds and surrounding foothills. We can expect Swallow-tailed Kite, White-whiskered Hermit, Green Thorntail, Orange-fronted Barbet, Pale-mandibled Aracari, Black-cheeked Woodpecker, Yellow-tufted Dacnis and Swallow-tanager. From a nearby bridge we should see Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper. In the evening we will look for Choco Screech-owl, Black-and-white Owl, Common Pauraque, Lyre-tailed Nightjar and Common Potoo. We will spend a full day and a morning here before driving into the Andes.
Our home for the next three nights is the Hosteria La Cienega, a magnificent hotel which was once the family home of naturalist explorer, Alexander von Humboldt. In the grounds of the hotel we will look for Black-tailed Trainbearer, Streak-throated Bush-tyrant and Blue-and-yellow Tanager, as well as enjoying magnificent views of Cotopaxi.
On the first day here we will drive into Cotopaxi National Park. At 19,347 feet, Cotopaxi is the world’s highest active volcano. We can ascend to about 12,000 feet on graded roads in search of various high altitude specialists. On the lower slopes we will look for Tawny Antpitta, Andean Tit-spinetail and White-chinned Thistletail. On a high altitude lake there are breeding Andean Teal, Andean Coot, Andean Lapwing and Andean Gull. The greatest prize is the Ecuadorian Hillstar, a remarkable hummingbird which feeds almost exclusively at the flowers of the Chuquiragua shrub.
Our second full day in the area will be visiting Antisana, a mountain area surrounded by spectacular Andean peaks. This is the home of Andean Condor. Other birds include Black-faced Ibis and Silvery Grebe, whilst Giant Hummingbirds feed at the flowers of terrestrial bromeliads.
On day 11 we will leave La Cienega and drive to Mindo, visiting temperate woodland at Yanacocha on the north slope of Pichincha volcano, en route. Colourful birds here include Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, whilst hummingbirds are a speciality. Sword-billed Hummingbird is regular, and we have a chance of the critically endangered Black-breasted Puffleg. We will visit the adjacent ‘Reserva Bird Holidays’ where we can check on how our re-forestation project is progressing.
Our final five nights will be based at the excellent Sachatamia Lodge, a new lodge with superb grounds and ideally located for visits to the sites around Mindo. Foremost is a lek of the incredible Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. At the same site there are Giant, Moustached and Yellow-breasted Antpittas, all ‘trained’ by the farmer to come for grubs that he throws them!
Mindo is the world capital of hummingbirds. Feeders at our lodge attract Tawny-bellied Hermit, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Western Emerald, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Velvet-purple Coronet and Booted Rackettail. Every change in elevation reveals different species. High in the hills there are Purple-throated Woodstar, Violet-tailed Sylph, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Andean Emerald, Collared Inca and the fantastic Empress Brilliant. During the whole trip we can expect about fifty species of hummingbird!
When we can drag ourselves away from the feeders we will search for Toucan Barbet, Sunbittern, Cloud-forest Pygmy-owl, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, Crested and Golden-headed Quetzal, Rufous Motmot, Choco Toucan, Powerful Woodpecker, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Moss-backed Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-tanager, Slate-throated Whitestart, and a myriad other birds which make Mindo one of the world’s top birding locations.
Finally, on day 15 we will drive for two hours back to Quito airport for our flight home.
On most days breakfast will be at 7am, giving us plenty of time in the productive morning period. On two mornings there will very early starts. The climate is mostly temperate, making the birding a pleasure. The high altitude in the Andes affects some people and not others. Here we will take two vehicles so that it will always be possible to descend if necessary. In high altitude areas the pace will be very slow. During the rest of the trip, the pace will be fairly relaxed; there are so many birds there is no need to rush around. When visiting La Plata Island there are ‘wet landings’ on a sandy beach so you will have to remove shoes and socks and roll up your trousers. The sea can be bumpy and you may get wet, although you quickly dry once on land.
Full board accommodation is provided, with four nights at the Manta Raya Lodge, Machalilla, two nights at Tinalandia, three nights at the Hosteria La Cienega, Cotopaxi and five nights at the Sachatamia Lodge, Mindo. All are of a high standard, with en suite bathrooms. Packed lunches will be taken when we are away in the middle of the day.
PRICE INCLUDES …..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 9th, ending with breakfast on 23rd), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by coach, boat trip, reserve entrance fees, international flights and airport taxes.
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flights from most UK airports (via Amsterdam) to Guayaquil and returning from Quito using the scheduled services of KLM. Outbound flight departs early evening, return flight arrives back mid-morning.
16 nights including
two overnight flights:
Maximum group size:
Cost with discount
(if you book before
30th June 2012):
8th to 24th September 2012
12 clients with one leader
and a local guide
£3960 per person sharing
£4110 per person sharing
A ground only price is available. Please contact our office
click here to see the photographs in our Ecuador Album
above is an assortment of photographs taken during our recent trips to Ecuador (photographs by P Willoughby, Ian Brookes)
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