Ecuador | Birding the Chocó-Andes Region with SAAS

Ecuador | Birding the Chocó-Andes Region with SAAS

About this trip

An extraordinary abundance of bird life inhabits the forests of northwestern Ecuador. Amid cloud forest, rainforest, páramo, and the eastern and western slopes of the Andes Mountains, you’ll seek out as many of the country’s 1,640-plus species as possible with assistance from your expert guide on this 10-day adventure. In particular, much of the avifauna you’ll encounter is endemic to the Chocó region, while other species are more easily found here than any place else. Along the way, attend a presentation by a local ornithologist, view the snow-capped Antisana Volcano, and straddle the equator at the Middle of the World Monument.

Highlights

  • Explore the Chocó ecoregion across a variety of protected areas, including Yanacocha Biological Reserve, Alambi Cloud Forest Reserve, Milpe Bird Sanctuary, Antisana Ecological Reserve, and others.
  • Visit the famed Refugio Paz de las Aves, known as a haven for antpittas and Andean Cocks-of-the-rock.
  • Meet a representative from a community project dedicated to restoring the habitat of the Black-breasted Puffleg, the official emblematic bird of Quito.
  • Bird the Mashpi-Amagusa Reserve for target species like the Rose-faced Parrot, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Chocó Vireo, Moss-backed Tanager, and Indigo Flowerpiercer.

Quito

Oct 25, 2022

Upon arrival in Quito, you'll be met by your guide and transported to the hotel. Check-in is available starting at 2 p.m.

Overnight at Rincon de Puembo

Mindo

Oct 26, 2022

Depart from the hotel early in the morning toward Mindo via the Yanacocha and Quinde Eco-route for birding. Arrive to Yanacocha, a moss-clad temperate forest and Polylepis woodland on the side of Volcán Pichincha located at an altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. Yanacocha is the last refuge of the emblematic bird of Quito, the Black-breasted Puffleg (categorized as critically endangered). Among other birds seen in the area are the Black-chested and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, the Golden-breasted and Sapphire-vented Pufflegs, the Great Sapphirewing and Sword-billed Hummingbird. Enjoy lunch at the reserve and continue through the Eco-route. There will be several stops to watch some of the birds, like the Toucan Barbet, the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and the Beautiful Jay. While heading down to a lower altitude, we will be getting into the subtropical forest and seeing some other birds, like the Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager and White-winged Brush-Finch. Visit Alambi Cloud Forest Reserve for hummingbird observation. The reserve sits over two major valleys and covers a large range of altitudes (4,750 to 7,210 feet) with several different habitats. Alambi has a recorded list of 250 species of birds, and 32 hummingbirds seen either at the feeders or in the reserve. Continue to Mindo for check-in, program orientation, dinner and overnight.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sachatamia

Mindo

Oct 27, 2022

This morning, visit Milpe Bird Sanctuary, located in the subtropical rainforest. Milpe Bird Sanctuary covers 49 acres with an altitudinal range of 3,350 to 3,770 feet. Located in the Chocó Andean foothills, Los Bancos Milpe is in a BirdLife International-defined Important Bird Area (IBA), and birding guides consider this one of the finest sites in all of Ecuador. Many of the most spectacular Chocó endemics are protected here, including the Plumbeous Forest-Falcon, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Glistening-green Tanager, Chocó Trogon, Club-winged Manakin, and Long-wattled Umbrellabird, to name just a few. This site is also known for sightings of the rare Moss-backed Tanager. In the afternoon, visit the San Tadeo feeders, where we can easily see a dozen different tanagers, aracaris, toucanets, and barbets. Continue to the hotel for dinner.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sachatamia

Mindo

Oct 28, 2022

Mashpi-Amagusa is the last foothill-forest that directly connects to the lower subtropical western forest of Ecuador. Its unique location makes it particularly attractive for birders looking for the highest biodiversity regions with Chocó-endemic birds. The altitude range is 2,450 to 5,600 feet. Chocó endemics that can be seen in the reserve or along the road: Rose-faced Parrot, Orange-fronted Barbet, Toucan Barbet, Orange-breasted Fruiteater, Moss-backed Tanager, Chocó Vireo, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, and brightly colored passerines like the Indigo Flowerpiercer. Enjoy a boxed lunch during the excursion. In the afternoon, return to the lodge.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sachatamia

Mindo

Oct 29, 2022

Depart early from the hotel for the one-hour drive to Pedro Vicente Maldonado, where the Río Silanche Reserve is located. This important site is one of the last remaining accessible forest remnants found in this key life zone. It is situated in a hilly lowland forest at an altitude between 985 and 1,150 feet. The main feature at Río Silanche is its incredible birding, with mixed-species foraging flocks that are packed with many important Chocó regional endemic species. We will spend much of the day here searching for species like the Purple-chested Hummingbird, Gray-and-gold Tanager, Orange-fronted Barbet, Stub-tailed Antbird, Black-tipped Cotinga, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Scarlet-and-white Tanager, and Blue-whiskered Tanager. Continue to Mirador Río Blanco for lunch. This place is a birder's dream and great for seeing tanagers. Return to the lodge in the late afternoon.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sachatamia

Sangolqui

Oct 30, 2022

Early in the morning, depart towards Refugio Paz de las Aves located near Nanegalito (13 miles northeast of Mindo, at 4,590 feet). Angel Paz is the owner of this magical place, and he is a resident of the Nanegalito area who decided to protect his property and convert it into an antpitta and cock-of-the-rock sanctuary. In recent years, the reserve has become popular, as it is easy to spot at least three species of antipittas there: Great, Yellow-breasted and Moustached Antpitta. Other birds seen in the area are the Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals. En route, make an additional stop in Quito at the Mitad del Mundo Monument and then continue to the hotel in Sangolquí. Enjoy dinner and an overnight stay there.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Hacienda La Carriona

Cosanga

Oct 31, 2022

Spend the full morning birding along the trails at Antisana Ecological Reserve (11,500 feet). Located between the Andes and the Amazon lowlands, the privately owned Antisana Ecological Reserve's 297,000 acres have varied ecological zones ranging from páramo to lowland rainforest. More than 70 bird species can be found here, including the Andean Condor, Giant Hummingbird, Carunculated Caracara, Black-faced Ibis, Speckled Teal, Andean Duck, Silvery Grebe, Slate-colored Coot, Andean Gull, Andean Lapwing, and Aplomado Falcon. The snow-capped Antisana Volcano is the fourth highest peak in Ecuador, with an altitude of 18,900 feet, adding to the breathtaking Andean scenery that can be enjoyed along the lower elevation trails. In the afternoon, continue to Cabañas San Isidro. This private reserve forms an important bridge between the Antisana and Gran Sumaco Reserves, and the area boasts a bird list of about 330 species, many of which are more easily found here than anywhere else in the country.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at San Isidro Lodge

Cosanga

Nov 1, 2022

Explore the area accompanied by your guide. San Isidro Lodge is situated at about 6,726 feet above sea level, but the trails lead through elevations ranging from 7,874 feet all the way down to 6,069 feet, making this an ideal base to observe Andean birds from the lower reaches of the temperate zone down into the heart of the subtropical zone. Among the rarities here are the Highland Tinamou, Bicolored Antvireo, Peruvian Antpitta, and White-faced Nunbird. Commonly spotted species include the Powerful Woodpecker, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Inca Jay, Black-billed Peppershrike, Wattled Guan, and Glossy-black Thrush. Look for Sickle-winged Guan, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Streak-capped and Striped Treehunters, Long-tailed Antbird, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Black-chested Fruiteater, Pale-footed Swallow, and a variety of colorful tanagers among the mixed understory.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at San Isidro Lodge

Quito

Nov 2, 2022

After breakfast, check out of San Isidro and continue to Guango Lodge. Located about one hour away from San Isidro, Guango lies at an elevation of about 8,858 feet on Ecuador's eastern slope. This area is classified as humid temperate forest, a habitat distinctly different from San Isidro and characterized by its more stunted trees, thicker canopy, cooler climate, and different bird and plant composition. The hummingbird feeders here are especially popular, with some of the more noteworthy species to see being the Mountain Velvetbreast, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, Golden-breasted and Glowing Pufflegs, Mountain Avocetbill, and White-bellied and Gorgeted Woodstars. Other birds of particular interest that are seen regularly include the Andean Guan, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Turquoise Jay, Scarlet-bellied, Lacrimose, Buff-breasted and Hooded Mountain-Tanagers, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Black-headed, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus and Slaty Brush-Finch. Have lunch at Guango and, in the afternoon, continue through the Cumbayá Valley to Quito. Enjoy a lecture given by a local ornithologist, and learn more about some of the several species seen throughout the program. This evening, reflect on the journey during a farewell dinner.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Rincon de Puembo

Departure

Nov 3, 2022

After breakfast, travel to the airport for your flights home.

Breakfast- included