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Day 1 - 22nd Feb
Everyone met at Heathrow Airport for our early morning departure to Madrid. With snow during the night the plane was delayed as it had to be de-iced. This delay almost cost us our connection in Madrid and we only just made it to our forwarding flight to Quito, Ecuador. After a long uneventful flight and several films we arrived at Quito Airport where we soon met up with our local guide Juan Carlos. We then boarded our very comfortable coach and set off to Juan’s lodge where we had a lovely meal before retiring early to bed ready for a 5.00am breakfast.
Day 2 - 23rd Feb
After an early morning breakfast we set off in the dark so as to get through Quito before the traffic got heavy. We then took the windy road towards Yanacocha where we saw plenty of Great Thrushes, Brown-bellied Swallows and a superb Carunculated Caracara. A brief roadside stop produced our first hummingbird with Sparkling Violetear and we then found Black Flowerpiercer and a very attractive Red-crested Cotinga sat right on the top of a tree as is usual for this family. Continuing on, and just before arriving at Yanacocha we spotted an immature Carunculated Caracara. From here we set off on a walk while also admiring the fantastic scenery that included forests, mountains and even volcanoes all set off by a clear blue sky. It wasn’t long before we added our first tanager species with a couple of gaudy Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers and then a Rufous-naped Brush-Finch and some more hummers that included, Saphire-vented Puffleg, Tyrian Metaltail, Great Saphirewing and Buff-winged Starfrontlet. We then got excellent close views of a Band-winged Nightjar as it took off from beside the path and flew right over our heads. In the trees we located a very attractive Barred Fruiteater, plus Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Cinereous and Blue-backed Conebill and a Golden-crowned Tanager; the latter not staying long enough for everyone to see properly. Further on and we came across White-browed Spinetail, a difficult Purple-bibbed White-Tip and then if you were in the right position a pair of very nice Rufous Antpittas. Glossy and Masked Flowerpiercers appeared as well as White-throated Tyrannulet and our first Golden-breasted Puffleg. Arriving at the last group of feeders set up in the forest we were all amazed as hummingbirds flitted back and forth just a few feet away. New species here include a superb Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and then the daddy of all hummingbirds the outrageous Sword-billed Hummingbird – simply unbelievable! A search of the nearby forest managed to find Streaked Tuftedcheek, Unicoloured Tapaculo, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Rufous Wrens, Spectacled Whitestarts and another Golden-crowned Tanager amongst others. The clouds rolled in and we slowly started to make our way back. After our picnic lunch we drove along the old Nono Mindo road towards our destination of Bellavista Lodge. We made quite a few roadside stops and short walks along the way and amongst our highlights were a couple of Beautiful Jays, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Southern Yellow Grosbeak, Blue-capped Tanager, Golden-headed Quetzal, White-capped Dipper, Short-eared Owl, Azara’s Spinetail, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant and others including Black Phoebe, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Three-striped Warblers, Tri-coloured Brush-Finch and Blackburnian Warbler. The last stop of the day just six kilometres from our lodge was made when Ian spotted a fabulous male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. We all got out of the coach and saw a female fly across the road and also added Yellow-bellied Seedeater to our day list. Finally we arrived at the rustic Bellavista where the last few minutes of daylight saw several of the group add another four or five species of hummingbird. We will all see these jewels again in the morning. After dinner and our checklist we rounded off our first full day with Juan spotlighting a Common Potoo sat on the aerial of our lodge. Our light-hearted competition will see a running daily total of the following:
Hummingbirds – 16 Tanagers - 4
Day 3 - 24th Feb
After an early morning hot drink to get us going we went for a little pre-breakfast birding. Beside the restaurant we got to grips with a bunch of hummers that included Violet-tailed Sylph, Booted Racket-Tail, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Speckled Hummingbird and Purple-throated Woodstar. We then watched a very close mouse-like Spillman’s Tapaculo right out on the open pathway, and nearby a Russet-crowned Warbler and a couple of Turquoise Jays. Moving on to the other feeders we soon added Gorgeted Sunangel, Collared Inca and Green Violetear. We then took a short walk on one of the nearby trails. A male Masked Trogon was spotted and then we all got good views of a Grey-breasted Wood-Wren after which we retraced our steps and had a look along the entrance road to the lodge. A Golden-headed Quetzal was heard and eventually glimpsed high up in the canopy and several Masked Flowerpiercers showed well. We then struggled with a Streak-necked Flycatcher while a Striped Treehunter gave superb views. Several tanager species worked the tree tops and these included Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Blue-capped and Golden. It was then time for breakfast so we made our way slowly back. After breakfast we boarded our coach and drove to a slightly higher elevation. The sky was clear and the sun out but as is usual this was to be only short lived. Walking a section of road we started off with a couple of distant Hook-billed Kites but the forest seemed decidedly quiet! As the weather changed and the cloud rolled into the trees we began to get a little activity. Rufous Spinetail was followed by Montane Woodcreeper, Dusky Bush-Tanagers, a perched Green-fronted Lancebill found by Linda and then a couple of very showy Green-and-black Fruiteaters.
The sun then came out again and we walked another section of road. Several gorgeous Grass Green Tanagers were seen and then one of our main target species a Plate-billed Mountain Toucan. Back on the coach we made our way back towards the lodge. A roadside stop had us out again and we found Cinnamon Flycatcher, Russet-crowned Warbler, White-tailed Tyrannulet and then to everyones delight Ian spotted a fabulous Toucan Barbet.
We watched two of these stunning birds at very close quarters, which was simply fantastic. Back on the coach we moved on further and another stop had us out and this time we were looking at a couple of Beautiful Jays flying way below us, then a Black-crested Warbler showed well followed by brief views of Plushcap and then a Golden and a Flame-faced Tanager sat beside each other. A Plate-billed Mountain Toucan then flew in and gave a wonderful performance before we returned to the lodge for lunch. After lunch we had a look at the hummingbird feeders again and managed to add Andean Emerald, Brown Inca and Empress Brilliant to our ever expanding hummer list. We then boarded the coach and drove a few kilometres downhill to the house of Tony Nunnery and his wife. We were welcome onto the veranda and here we were soon enthralled by hundreds of hummingbirds coming to the feeders spread out in the garden. There were dozens of Booted Racket-tails in fact about sixteen species were present and while we sipped a hot drink we were pleased to add such delights as the outrageously beautiful Velvet-purple Coronet, Purple-bibbed Whitetips, Western Emerald, White-bellied Woodstar and Tawny-bellied Hermit. Several tanagers appeared in the tree tops and these included Blue-winged Mountain and Golden-naped. We decided to end the day further down the valley so after a short drive we parked by the small town and took a short walk. A Slate-throated Whitestart was spotted along with Tri-coloured Brush-Finch but the real highlight and a fantastic end to our day was the male Lyre-tailed Nightjar which was spotlighted hovering over our heads with tail streamers flowing it was likened to an exploding firework! What an end to the day.
Hummingbirds – 29 Tanagers - 10
Day 4 - 25th Feb
Our pre breakfast birding saw us set off in the dark. We drove a short distance up hill and then walked a section of road. Just a few people in the group managed to see a Scissor-tailed Nightjar which flew a short distance before disappearing into the forest. Everyone then got fantastic views of two Rufous-bellied Nighthawks which flew back and forth allowing Juan to spotlight the underneath of the birds and so produce exceptional looks at the colour of this bird. We then walked a section of narrower road. The highlight of the birds seen was pretty obvious with a pair of Ocellated Tapaculos seen by all at just ten feet away. There were also lots of Dusky Bush-Tanagers, Grass-green and Black-and-blue Tanagers, Montane Woodcreeper and we got wonderful views of an initially very elusive Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant. Returning for breakfast we then collected our luggage and set off towards our next destination. Several roadside stops were made with the first producing a flock that contained Beryl-spangled, Golden and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers as well as Plushcap, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Pearled Treerunner, Spotted Barbtail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Capped Conebill, Brown-capped Vireo and some Sepia-brown Wrens. Our next mixed flock added Metallic-green and Glistening-green Tanagers as well as a lovely! Tarantula. As we drove towards our lunch stop we also noted Roadside Hawks and several Tropical Kingbirds. Our lunch was taken at a small lodge that of course had hummingbird feeders. Here we enjoyed seeing lots of Velvet-purple Coronets, Violet-tailed Sylphs, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Buff-tailed Coronets, Brown Inca, Purple-throated Woodstar and in the surrounding trees up to four Masked Trogons, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Slate-throated Whitestart, Mountain Wren and finally the bird we were waiting for a superb Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager. Leaving this lodge we then continued our journey to Septimo Paraiso (seventh heaven) our lodge for the next three nights. We decided to walk the approach road and soon found Broad-billed Motmot, Golden-headed Quetzal, Ruddy Pigeon and heard Golden-winged Manakin and Barred Forest-Falcon. At the hummingbird feeders we saw amongst others a White-whiskered Hermit, Green-crowned Woodnymph and White-necked Jacobin. Once settled into our wonderful rooms we had a quick hot drink and then took another look along the entrance track. A Scaly-throated Foliage-Gleaner was found as well as a couple of female Golden-winged Manakins. The rain then started so we returned but not before finding a pair of Slaty Spinetails and a Cinnamon Becard ending another great day.
Hummingbirds – 32 Tanagers – 24
Day 5 - 26th Feb
After an early breakfast we set off towards the Pedro Vincente Maldanado Road. Once there we got out and the birding commenced at an almost overwhelming pace. Everywhere we looked there was something different; Lemon-rumped Tanagers were common and there was Blue-grey, Palm, Silver-throated and Blue-necked just to get the ball rolling. In the grasses we had Lesser Seed-Finch and Yellow-bellied and Variable Seedeaters while a perched hummingbird turned out to be Violet-bellied. A Bananaquit was seen as was Alder Flycatcher, Common Tody-Flycatcher and Golden-faced and Brown-capped Tyrannulet, while a Bay Wren proved a little elusive.
Slowly moving on we found a couple of Pale-billed Aracaris and beside a pond a Striated Heron and two White-thighed Swallows. We then got excellent looks at a superb Scarlet-breasted Dacnis plus a pair of Pacific Antwrens, Purple-crowned Fairy, Buff-throated and Black-winged Saltators. Another hundred yards on and we got to grips with Yellow-tufted and Blue Dacnis, Grey-and-gold, White-lined, Dusky-faced and Golden-hooded Tanagers, brief views of Tawny-crested Tanager, a Lineated Woodpecker, Masked Tityra, Social and Rusty-margined Flycatcher and then a fly past by two Choco Toucans. A little further and we came across Dot-winged Antwren, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-tailed and Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Lesser Greenlet, an elusive Chestnut-backed Antbird and then superb views of both Purple-throated Fruitcrow and Choco Trogon. Grey-rumped Swifts flew around and a Green Thorntail was added to the hummer list while beside the coach we saw two Pacific Hornero’s and Olive-crowned Yellowthroat. Several parrots flying over and calling had included Bronze-winged Parrot, Red-masked Parakeet and Pacific Parrotlets. After a little snack we then walked up a track to an area of forest. Along the way we found White-bearded Manakins, Thick-billed Euphonia, Red-headed Barbet, Swainson’s Thrush and Cinnamon Becard while further up a mixed flock kept us going with Scarlet-browed, Guira, White-shouldered and Bay-headed Tanagers, Orange-bellied and White-vented Euphonias, Olivaceous Piculet, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Purple and Green Honeycreepers, Blue-crowned Manakin plus Slate-throated Gnatcatcher and Grey-mantled Wren. Unfortunately a Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo was only seen by two of the group. We then returned to the coach caught our breath and had our picnic lunch. Afterwards we took a drive to a different area of forest but on arrival it started to rain. A group of Maroon-tailed Parakeets were watched before we had to take cover and while sat in the coach a gorgeous Swallow-tailed Kite was seen to fly past. With the rain easing a little we decided to walk the road back towards a river. Along the way we spotted Streak-headed Woodcreepers and a fantastic Plumbeous Kite sat right on the top of a tall tree. Brief views were then had of Tawny-crested Tanager before we boarded the coach and returned to the forest we had been in earlier. Once there we walked up towards the top seeing a few bits and pieces along the way. Near the top we found a small flock and this time it held an immature male Scarlet-and-white Tanager as well as two Emerald Tanagers and some Yellow-bellied Siskins. It was now time to make our way down and continue back to our lodge. After an evening meal and checklist we took a short walk into the gardens where near the entrance gate we got stunning views of a perched Mottled Owl plus some very attractive moths including a huge Rothchild’s Cicropia. Yet another excellent days birding full of wonderful memories.
Hummingbirds - 36 Tanagers - 49
Day 6 - 27th Feb
This morning after breakfast we walked through the gardens towards the entrance gate. In the forest we got to see a pair of Golden-winged Manakins, Buff-throated Foliage Gleaner, Golden-headed Quetzal and then a small flock of tanagers that included White-winged, Golden-naped, Beryl-spangled, Blue-necked, Metallic-green and Golden Tanagers. Further along the track we came across another feeding flock which contained Scaled Fruiteater, and flighty Yellow-collared Chlorophonia. We then boarded our coach and set off to an area near Los Bancos. On arrival here it was a little misty but one of the first birds found by John was a Moss-backed Tanager, shortly followed by Grey-rumped Swifts, Ornate Flycatchers, Squirrel Cuckoo and Masked Tityra. Further on we scoped a singing Ochre-breasted Tanager and enjoyed some excellent fly by’s from Swallow-tailed Kites. A Choco Toucan was watched as was Pale-mandibled Aracari. A nice selection of birds later included two Black-striped Sparrows, Tri-coloured Brush-Finch a Fawn-breasted Tanager, Yellow-tufted Dacnis, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker and White-thighed Swallows. After a little refreshment we checked another section of wood beside the road and here we found Choco Warbler, Olivaceous Piculet, Tropical Parula and a very nice Slate-coloured Grosbeak. We then drove to a small reserve and first walked up to a couple of hummingbird feeders. Green-crowned Woodnymph, White-whiskered Hermit and Green-crowned Brilliant were all present and after a look at these we set off on a small circular route through the forest. We all got excellent views of Club-winged Manakins, plus more Choco Warblers, Pale-vented Thrush and a Plain Xenops. Returning to the coach another Moss-backed Tanager was seen. It was time to leave the area so we drove back towards our lodge but first stopping at a café with yet more feeders. As we enjoyed a welcome hot drink we got to see lots of hummers including Green-crowned Woodnymph, Green-crowned Brilliant, Rufous-tailed, Green Thorntail, White-whiskered Hermit, Andean Emerald, Booted Racket-tail and then a superb Long-billed Starthroat. Leaving here we returned to our hotel for lunch. Afterwards we went out on a short drive to a couple of rivers where despite the rain we found Spotted Sandpiper, Red-faced Spinetail, American Redstart, Scale-crested Pygmy Tyrant, Golden-faced Tyrannulet and Pale-mandibled Aracari. As it was still raining we decided to return to the café and this time we saw much the same hummers but on the banana feeders were very close views of Ecuadorian Thrush, Silver-throated, Bay-headed, Yellow-rumped, Golden and Blue-necked Tanagers plus Black-cheeked Woodpecker and Orange-bellied Euphonia. Just before dusk we left and returned back to our lodge.
Hummingbirds - 38 Tanagers - 54
Day 7 - 28th Feb
We had a very early breakfast and then set off in the dark where it wasn’t long before we arrived at the start of our forty minute walk. Within minutes the daylight appeared and as we followed a track through fields we then zigzagged our way up into the forest. Juan and Ian managed to see a Rufous-breasted Antthrush but it soon disappeared into cover. On reaching the top and catching our breaths we were then treated to the amazing antics of five or six male Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks noisily displaying at their lek site, well worth the walk! Having enjoyed these superb birds of the (western) red race we slowly made our way back down towards more open ground. On the way an Esmeralda’s Antbird was seen by most but a Wedge-billed Hummingbird was only seen by two of the group. Beside the forest edge we then got to see a Rufous Motmot, Spotted Woodcreeper and then Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Red-faced Spinetail, a brief Scarlet-rumped Cacique and the start of a few tanagers of which the highlight was three excellent Rufous-throated and a couple of Summer Tanagers. Moving on we then got close views of Southern Nightingale-Wren and a very large Guayaquil Woodpecker plus perched views of a Green-fronted Lancebill. We then returned to our lodge and packed our luggage ready for leaving. A few in the group got to see a Long-tailed Antbird which was on the boardwalk heading to their rooms while others simply enjoyed the hummingbird garden prior to our departure. We then set off towards Quito. A stop along the way proved very productive when we got superb views of two Beautiful Jays and then Fawn-breasted Brilliant and an excellent White-tailed Hillstar of the western race. A Stripe-throated Hermit and Speckled Hummingbird also put in an appearance as we ate our picnic lunch. Our next stop was on a fairly barren looking hillside overlooking the outskirts of Quito. Here we walked a small track and got to see Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Common Ground-Dove, two American Kestrels, a very attractive Golden-rumped Euphonia and a surprise with five Grassland Yellowfinches. Continuing on we made our way around the edge of Quito and on towards the Papallacta pass that would cross high over the Andes at 15,000 feet. Another stop was made in a residential area where a search of some gardens soon produced a pair of Blue-and-yellow Tanagers, as well as Tropical Mockingbird, some stunning Vermillion Flycatchers, Sparkling Violetear, Western Emerald and a Rusty Flowerpiercer. Back in the bus we started to make our way up towards the mountains. Another stop and a short walk along a lovely flower scented valley found us a Shinning Sunbeam which was then chased of by a Giant Hummingbird, another Black-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, more Sparkling Violetears, lots of Great Thrushes and then two Red-crested Cotingas, Black Flowerpeircer, a couple of Carunculated Caracaras, a fly over Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant and finally some of the group saw a Tawny Antpitta. Back onto the coach we travelled ever upwards, where the scenery became progressively more impressive. A stop to photograph the snow covered mountains also found us Stout-billed and Bar-winged Cinclodes, Andean Tit-Spinetail and Plumbeous Sierra-Finch. Just another half an hour and as dusk was falling we spotted a Band-winged Nightjar on the road in front. We stopped and spotlighted the bird on the cliff edge where we had superb views. We then descended into Termas and duly arrived at our wonderful lodge with its hot thermal pools set amongst our very nice cabins. After an excellent evening meal and once we had done the checklist most of us enjoyed a relaxed soak in one of the hot pools under the night time stars.
Hummingbirds - 43 Tanagers - 60
Day 8 – 1st March
This morning we had a short walk to an area of scrub land just outside the lodge complex. Slightly chilly to start with we soon found a Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant and then Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager followed by two Pale-naped Brush-Finches and then a superb Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager. We also found the ever impressive Sword-billed Hummingbird as well as Red-crested Cotingas and Cinereous Conebills. Walking back for breakfast we noted lots of Brown-bellied Swallows apparently nesting or roosting under the eaves. Breakfast over and once we had gathered our luggage and boarded the coach we set off towards San Isidro. As the road followed a river through a winding valley we were ever vigilant for the master of the white water, and as we came to a lovely open section of the river there on some boulders were a family of
Torrent Ducks, mum, dad and two young who gave an exceptionally good show. Moving on we called in to Guango Lodge where we were soon watching hummingbird feeders. Tourmaline Sunangels were common followed by Tyrian Metaltails and then Long-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, a Chestnut-breasted Coronet and one Sword-billed Hummingbird. We then took a walk along the edge of the wooded valley behind the lodge. Pretty quiet at first things soon changed when we came across a mixed feeding flock. Blue-and-black Tanagers were seen with Grey-headed Bush-Tanagers, a couple of Plushcaps, then Black-eared and Black-capped Hemispingus, plus a Slaty Brush-Finch. As we walked back a White-rumped Hawk was seen circling around before it landed in a tree briefly. Back at Guango Lodge we had a hot drink and then after enjoying more hummer activity we continued on our way. It began to rain and we got held up by some welding work that had to be done on a river bridge. Eventually we arrived at a restaurant for lunch and here we enjoyed some local trout which was the house speciality. The rain then cleared and we continued on. A stop for a potential raptor sat on a tree top turned out to be just a Band-tailed Pigeon but beside it a host of tanagers got our pulses racing and we soon found Saffron-crowned and Black-capped Tanagers as well as several others and a White-crested Elaenia. Continuing our journey we arrived at San Isidro lodge and went straight down towards the restaurant to shelter from the rain. Chestnut-breasted Coronets were easily seen and a White-tailed Hillstar this time of the eastern race sat for all to view. We also saw Bronzy Inca, Long-tailed Sylph and Collared Inca. With the rain stopping we moved into our cabins and then met for a walk along the entrance road. Russet-backed Oropendolas performed their display beside huge penduline type nests and then in the woods we found a small flock that held Canada Warbler, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Streak-capped Treehunter and Olive-backed Woodcreeper. As we slowly walked on, we also got Glossy-black and then Pale-eyed Thrush, while a Highland Motmot was only seen by a few as it glided silently across the road in front of us. Two very high flying Scaly-naped Parrots never made it onto our list but in the trees beside us a couple of Smoky Bush-Tyrants showed well. We then waited until dusk at which time a Rufous-bellied Nighthawk flew over and just as we were about to leave a Rufous-banded Owl did the same and glided over our heads and away. Returning to the lodge just in time for dinner one of the guards beckoned us with his torch and there sat in a small tree was the infamous (San Isidro Owl) a Ciccaba species which is still awaiting full species status but looks like something between Black-banded and Black-and-white Owl, what a fitting way to end a long but very productive day.
Hummingbirds - 48 Tanagers - 64
Day 9 - 2nd March
This morning we took a packed breakfast and set off early to get to the Loreto Road. Just as we reached the start of the road Gordon spotted a Black-capped Donacobius sat on a wire, so we all got out and had superb views of this lowland species before driving a little further up the road and stopping for our breakfast. While here we saw a couple of distant Silver-beaked Tanagers, Yellow-browed Sparrow and Black-billed Thrush plus Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters and Tropical Parula. We then walked our first section of road and soon found a pair of Lined Antshrikes, Greyish Saltator and then excellent views of Swallow and Magpie Tanagers, and then on a flowering tree we had Violet-fronted Brilliant and several delicate Wire-crested Thorntails and a Golden-tailed Saphire. We also had two fly pasts by a pair of Military Macaws with the second showing allowing us to get some colour and details on the birds. Moving on a little we came across a beautiful Spot-breasted Woodpecker, a pair of Thrush-like Wrens, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Black-and-white Seedeater, a superb male Wire-crested Thorntail and then our first outrageous looking Paradise Tanager – what a bird! The next stop found us Yellow-rumped Caciques, a Spotted Tanager and an Olivaceous Greenlet. From the top of a river bridge we watched a Fasciated Tiger-Heron plus hoards of butterflies. As we drove along in the coach Ian spotted a Yellow-tufted Woodpecker which we all got out and had great views of as well as several Olivaceous Siskins. Further stops got us swamped by birds such as Red-headed Barbet, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Scarlet Tanagers, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, White-winged Becard, Cerulean and Blackpoll Warbler, lots of Paradise Tanagers, two Green-and-Gold Tanagers, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Ash-brown Spinetail, Spectacled Bristled Tyrant, Olivaceous Woodcreeper and Yellow-throated Brush-Finches - Wow! We had to get back to the Guacamayos Ridge before the workers closed off the road, so we turned around and made a short walk in the other direction. A perched hummer caused a little confusion but turned out to be a White-vented Plumeleteer. Back on the coach we made a stop for our picnic lunch and here we saw up to four Cliff Flycatchers. We then drove up to the ridge and although the drizzle had started we continued our walk and soon produced Inca Jays then a flock that contained Hooded Mountain-Tanagers, Subtropical Caciques, a Handsome Flycatcher and Bluish Flowerpiercer. Further on we watched a showy Dusky Piha and then a distant Black-billed Mountain-Toucan. Returning to our lodge a Broad-winged Hawk was spotted sat on a post and after a superb evening meal we got fantastic views of two (San Isidro Owls).
Hummingbirds - 52 Tanagers - 76
Day 10 – 3rd March
This morning we set off early for the 2 ½ hour journey to the Coca Falls. We arrived on time and enjoyed our excellent packed breakfast. We were soon birding the grounds of the entrance to this reserve. Chestnut-collared Swifts could actually be seen showing the chestnut while a small area of trees produced Black-necked Tanagers and a superb male Black-faced Dacnis. Yellow-browed Sparrows were also seen and lots of the eastern race of Blue-grey Tanager with the white in the wings. We then made our way into the forest and towards the Coca Waterfall. Several Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks were seen very well and this time they were of a different eastern race where the males were much more orange than the previous birds we saw. As we slowly moved on past a small area of Helliconias a White-tipped Sicklebill flew past calling but because no one really saw it that well we decided it should not go on our list. The warden then had to machete a tree out of the track, at which time a small flock was found which contained mostly Orange-eared Tanagers, as well as Cerulean and Blackpoll Warbler. Nearby a very showy Lemon-browed Flycatcher was seen by all before we crossed a couple of streams and finally reached the very impressive Coca Waterfalls. As we admired the tons of crashing water we managed to see a few White-tipped Swifts passing back and forth. Returning back the way we came there seemed to be a little more activity and after Ian spotted a toucanet fly through the trees, a little perseverance soon paid off when we got scope views of a Chestnut-tipped Toucanet high in the canopy. Moving on, some flowers held a couple of White-tailed Hillstars and in the trees above us we saw a male Golden-collared Honeycreeper and a female Yellow-bellied Dacnis. A small flock then appeared and we managed to pick out several Golden-eared Tanagers, Orange-eared Tanager and then a little more difficult were both Variegated and Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant. We made our way back towards the coach seeing another showier group of Golden-eared Tanagers and a Green Hermit, while Bill had got excellent views of a Coppery-chested Jacamar. After our lunch we left and drove through very impressive scenery back to Guango Lodge. A Plain-breasted Hawk was seen well along the way and as we crossed a river two Torrent Ducks were spotted. On reaching the lodge we walked the area of fields beside a small tract of woodland. A Stripe-headed Brush-Finch proved difficult and was only seen by a few, while Blue-and-Black Tanagers showed exceptionally well. We walked down towards a stream and saw little else bar brief views of Black-crested and Russet-crowned Warblers. But as we returned up the hill towards the lodge a pair of Lacrimose Mountain-Tanagers were found and gave a super showing
low in front of us accompanied by an equally showy White-banded Tyrannulet. Very pleased with this Juan then went into overdrive as he heard a Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan call from the near hillside. It wasn’t long before we located three birds and enjoyed prolonged scope views and so completed our trio of possible mountain-toucans an excellent way to end the day. Well almost as we then drove to our lodge set amongst the thermal pools where the day was ended in style with a soak in the steaming hot pools right outside our cabins.
Hummingbirds - 52 Tanagers - 82
Day 11 – 4th March
Today was to be a bit of a struggle to start with as the weather tried it’s very best to beat us. A short walk before breakfast found us Sword-billed Hummingbird, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager and Red-crested Cotinga before the rain started and we retreated back into the lodge grounds. Stood on a bridge over a small stream several hummers were noted coming to flowers and those of us who stuck it out got to see Veridian Metaltail, Tyrian Metaltail, Mountain Velvetbreast and Sparkling Violetear. After breakfast we packed our luggage onto the coach and had another brief look around the grounds. A Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet was seen as well as a damp Shinning Sunbeam that looked somewhat like a Cinnamon Flycatcher sat in a bush!! Ha Ha! We then set off towards the paramo an area a lot of us had been looking forward to. Just outside the lodge on a pond we saw Andean Gull and a pair of Andean Teal, while a larger lake held a single Neotropic Cormorant somewhat out of place. On reaching the start of the area we wanted to bird the rain had got harder and it was impossible to bird. From the windows and quick dashes outside we managed to see Many-striped Canastero and Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant. We decided to try a lower altitude as it had now begun to snow! Along the way another stop produced good views of Paramo Pipit, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch and many Great Thrushes. We continued driving down but things didn’t really get better so we turned around and headed back. The weather did ease a little and a Blue-mantled Thornbill was spotted by Bill and we all managed to see it. Further up brief views were had of a Tawny Antpitta but our target was to be at the top which was now covered in snow. Wilson got the coach there and freezing cold and at 14,000 feet we set out to search the area. The snow and sleet returned but those who stuck it out were rewarded with views of five Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe.
Back on the bus we tried to dry out and then had our lunch. Afterwards the snow stopped and it began to clear up nicely. We decided to walk part of the road back down. A Paramo Ground-Tyrant proved to be very tame and we then found Plain-coloured Seedeaters, and lots of Tawny Antpittas, surely the easiest Antpitta to see in the world. A Variable Hawk flew past and then in one spot we got to see almost beside each other a Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, White-chinned Thistletail and a superb Ecuadorian Hillstar. As the weather was now warming up we continued our walk seeing Andean Tit-Spinetail and Many-striped Canastero. With nothing much different being found we then drove towards a small patch of Polyepsis forest. A quick stop along the way had us out with the scopes and looking at three Red-rumped Chat-Tyrants and then our best find at the forest was just as we were about to leave when Juan spotted a young Great-horned Owl sat amongst the trees. Driving further downhill a last ditch attempt at another section of forest had us walk slowly along the road. Several Shinning Sunbeams were seen and then we were successful with our target species as everyone got views of four Giant Conebills a perfect end to what turned out to be a superb day.
Hummingbirds - 55 Tanagers - 83
Day 12 – 5th March
Our last morning had us set off after breakfast to the fairly nearby reserve of Antisana. A quick look around Juan’s garden first, found us Saffron Finch, Hooded Siskin and flying Black-tailed Trainbearers. On the way up to Antisana we stopped and soon found Black-billed Shrike-Tyrants, Shinning Sunbeams and then on some distant cliffs we scoped a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. Further up a Giant Hummingbird was spotted and then overhead a low flying Andean Condor caused a lot of excitement. We then continued higher getting more views of Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle while distant scope views of a lake produced Andean Gulls and Yellow-billed Pintail. We then drove right to the top of the open moor land where Carunculated Caracaras were common, several Andean Lapwings were seen and an Andean Fox was spotted in a ditch beside the road. A flock of Black-faced Ibis then took off and a few of them landed nearby where we had superb views. Continuing on we soon arrived at a lake where rafts of Silvery Grebes and Andean Coots were scoped as well as Andean Teal, both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and in the sedges beside us a confiding Grass Wren. Looking around the other side of the lake we managed to find a group of Andean Ducks before it was time to tuck into our picnic lunch. After this we boarded our coach and slowly returned. A falcon seen mobbing a Variable Hawk may well have been an Aplomado Falcon but further down there was no mistaking the three huge adult Andean Condors which were circling the valley in front of us. Extremely happy with this we drove out of the reserve back towards Quito. With time to spare we decided to check out and area of gardens and sure enough and almost straight away we found our target bird and the last of our tanagers, an obliging Scrub Tanager. Alan also caught up with the Tropical Mockingbird so all was perfect as we ended the tour and drove to Quito Airport. A thunderstorm delayed our departure by a couple of hours and the following morning this meant us missing our connection from Madrid to London. No worries! and not long to wait we were on the next flight to Heathrow where we concluded an absolutely fabulous tour. This tour with an emphasis on seeing as many hummingbird and tanager species as possible was conceived between Juan Carlos and myself and both of us and everyone else on the tour agreed it was an even bigger success than we had anticipated. Superb accommodation, great food, varied habitats, a luxury coach, excellent driver – those thermal hot pools and an endless array of fantastic birds resulted in simply fabulous tour.
Our little competition ended with the following results which were just fantastic!
Hummingbirds – 55 species seen Tanagers – 84 species seen
My greatest thanks go to Juan Carlos who was faultless, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and a friend to all.
And to Wilson the most perfect driver and host you could ask for.
I would also like to thank everyone on this tour for making it such fun and a pleasure to lead. And to John and Brian who allowed me use of a couple of their photos.