Mark Pretti Nature Tours, L.L.C.

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The Birds and Natural History of Northern Ecuador   the high Andes and the east and west slopes

Future dates TBA

With roughly 1600 species of birds, over 16,000 known plants, and almost 400 species of mammals, Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.  Considering its relatively small size, it may harbor more species per square mile than any other country.  Ocean currents, an equatorial latitude, and the rugged Andes combine to create climate variations that support great biogeographic diversity as well as a high regional endemism.  Coastal beaches and mangrove lagoons, lowland tropical forests, tropical deciduous forest, Amazonian rain forest, Andean foothill and cloudforests, high elevation paramo, and peaks over 20,000 feet all contribute to the beauty and richness of the country. 

We’ll begin our trip in the northwestern lowlands, foothills, and cloudforest where we’ll spend two nights each at the lodges of Tinalandia, Septimo Paraiso, and Tandayapa.  In addition to birding at the lodges, we’ll also visit the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation's Milpe Reserve and make a visit to the must-see “antpittas and more” show at the home of Angel Paz.  In the northwest, we’ll find a great variety of species, including several regional endemics.  Possibilities include pallid dove, bronze-winged and red-billed parrots, red-rumped woodpecker, Choco warbler and toucan, Pacific parotlet and antwren, dusky-faced and rufous-throated tanagers, yellow-tufted dacnis, red-faced spinetail, toucan barbet, plate-billed mountain toucan, possibly four to six species of antpittas, and perhaps two dozen species of hummingbirds. Along the way we'll also learn about the general ecology of Andean foothill and cloud forests.

From Tandayapa, we’ll travel to the eastern slope of the Andes to the temperate forests of Guango Lodge.  At almost 9000 ft., Guango is a great spot for torrent duck, white-capped dipper, various mountain-tanagers, gray-breasted mountain-toucan, powerful woodpecker, dusky piha, rufous antpitta, several species of chat-tyrants and brush-finches, and many hummers, including the improbable sword-billed. From Guango we'll make a trip to nearby Papallacta Pass where we’ll look for several high Andean specialists such as Ecuadorian hillstar, plumbeous Sierra-finch, black-chested buzzard eagle, variable hawk, tawny antpitta, stout-billed and bar-winged cinclodes, Andean tit-spinetail, many-striped canastero, and the local prize, rufous-bellied seedsnipe. 

We’ll next visit Cabanas San Isidro, which, at about 6500 feet, is the transition zone between temperate and subtropical habitats.  From the comfortable lodge, which has great rooms and food, we’ll search for species that occur only on the eastern slope as well as more widespread species.  These include speckle-faced (white-capped) parrot, powerful woodpecker, rufous-crowned tody-flycatcher, pale-edged flycatcher, green-and-black fruiteater, inca jay, black-billed peppershrike, barred becard, Andean solitaire, bluish flowerpiercer, saffron-crowned and many other tanagers, crested and golden-headed quetzals, and as many as 10 species of hummingbirds.  We’ll also make a day trip to lower elevations at Guacamayos Ridge where we’ll have chances to see species like greater scythebill, golden-eyed flowerpiercer, grass-green tanager, rufous-headed pygmy-tyrant, fruiteaters, and more.  In addition to white-bellied antpittas that come to worm feeders at San Isidro, in 2011, they had a rare Peruvian antpitta coming in.

We’ll conclude our journey with a day trip to the high elevation paramo of the Antisana Reserve.  In this wild area of shrubs, vast grasslands, cushion plants, and a high altitude lake, Laguna Micacocha, we’ll have good chances to see many species that we won’t find elsewhere such as giant hummingbird, Andean condor, cinereous harrier, aplomado falcon, red-crested cotinga, black-winged ground-dove, paramo pipit, black-faced ibis, and a suite of other high elevation birds.  

The cost will be about $3400 per person, double occupancy, and includes all lodging, meals, admissions and transportation from Quito.  Limited to 8 participants. 

Detailed itinerary and references available upon request.

Greater Scythebill and Blue-winged Mountain-tanager by Misty Vaughn 

Last updated: February 08, 2017.