ECUADOR – SACHATAMIA LODGE
7–17 January 2017
This fantastic new tour to Ecuador is based at a luxury rainforest lodge with en-suite rooms and a swimming pool for six nights, with a further three nights in Quito. In Quito we will visit reserves to look for Andean Condor, Black-faced Ibis and Sword-billed Hummingbird, whilst excursion highlights from the lodge may include Torrent Duck, Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, Giant Antpitta and Andean Cock-of-the-rock.
Day 1 We will take a flight from London to Quito International Airport, from where we will make the 20-minute transfer to Puembo Birding Garden for a two-night stay.
Day 2 After an early breakfast at Puembo Birding Garden, we will be met by our guide and driver to pay a visit to the Antisana Ecological Reserve, a great highland and grassland Paramo area up to 3000 metres above sea level. Categorized by Birdlife as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, the reserve holds such species as the endangered and magnificent Andean Condor, the restricted Ecuadorian population of Black-faced Ibis, Carunculated Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Chestnut-winged and Stout-billed Cinclodes, Paramo Pipit, Many-striped Canastero, Andean Tit-spinetail, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Shining Sunbeam, Tyrian Metaltail, Tawny Antpitta, Spectacled Redstart, Black-crested Warbler, Cinereous Conebill, Tufted Tit-tyrant, Plumbeous Sierra-finch, Black Flowerpiercer, White-crested Elaenia and Plain-capped Ground-tyrant. By midday we will be eating our packed lunches in front of Lake Mica, where we hope to add Ruddy (Andean) Duck, Andean Gull, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Teal, Silvery Grebe, Andean Lapwing, Slate-coloured Coot and, during the boreal migration season, Baird’s and Pectoral Sandpipers may also be seen. In the afternoon we will return to Puembo Birding Garden and augment our lists by birding the grounds. The well-stocked feeders attract such species as Saffron Finch, Shiny Cowbird, Scrub Tanager and numerous hummingbirds, including Giant Hummingbird, Western Emerald, Sparkling Violetear and Rufous-tailed Hummingbird.
Day 3 We will take another early breakfast this morning before leaving Puembo Birding Garden and heading northwest to pay a visit to Yanacocha Reserve in the foothills of the Ruku-Pichincha Volcano (4700 metres above sea level). One of the highlights of Yanacocha is its hummingbirds, and species we hope to see include Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Great Sapphirewing, Mountain Velvetbreast, the endangered and Ecuadorian endemic Black-breasted Puffleg and Purple-backed and Rainbow-bearded Thornbills. To add to the colourful spectacle, some of the most beautiful inhabitants of the forest are the mountain-tanagers, and we hope to see Scarlet-bellied, Buff-breasted, Hooded and Black-chested Mountain-tanagers during the course of our visit. Other species we may encounter here include Rufous Wren, White-banded Tyrannulet and Yellow-breasted Brush-finch. We will enjoy lunch in the field before continuing our birding on the famous Nono–Mindo road, along which we will make several stops, particularly if we come across flocks containing Blue-winged Mountain-tanager and Golden, Black-capped, Metallic-green, Blue-and-black and Beryl-spangled Tanagers. In the late afternoon we will arrive at Sachatamia Lodge in the middle of the cloud forest at 1700m elevation, our base for the next six nights.
Day 4 This morning we will head towards the Tandayapa area for our first visit to the cloud forest, a habitat filled with moss, orchids and bromeliads – and new birds! Birding along the roads in this area, we will search for Choco endemic and endangered species such as Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, Toucan Barbet and Beautiful Jay. Other birds we hope to find include Strong-billed and Montane Woodcreepers, Streak-headed Antbird, White-capped Dipper, the amazing Torrent Duck, Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, Masked Trogon, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker and Torrent Tyrannulet. Taking lunch back at Sachatamia Lodge will enable us to enjoy the hummingbird feeders, where we should pick up such delightful species as Velvet-purple Coronet, Violet-tailed Sylph, Empress Brilliant, Purple-bibbed Whitetip and Gorgeted Sunangel. In the afternoon we will walk the trails at Sachatamia looking for more special species including the endemic Dusky Chlorospingus and Choco Toucan. Dusky Spinetail, Collared (Pale-mandibled) Aracari, Flame-faced and Saffron-crowned Tanagers can also all be found here.
Day 5 This morning may provide some of the most memorable birding of the trip, but we will need to be ready by around 05.00 to head to a reserve to see the spectacular Andean Cock-of-the-rock displaying at a lek. As if that isn’t enough, once the lek has finished, we will spend time looking for some of the most sought-after birds in the Neotropics – the antpittas. Yellow-breasted Antpitta (endemic and endangered), Moustached Antpitta, Giant Antpitta (endangered) and Ochre-breasted Antpitta all occur in this area. We may also see the endemic and endangered Dark-backed Wood-quail, while the spectacular Orange-breasted Fruiteater and Black-chinned Mountain-tanager are also both target species here. After our early-morning efforts, we will be more than ready for breakfast, and we will eat at the reserve, where the food comes highly recommended. Suitably refreshed, we will continue to bird the local area as we work our way back to Sachatamia. In the afternoon we will spend some time birding the Miraflores–Bellavista road, looking for Powerful Woodpecker, Grass-green Tanager, Flammulated Treehunter, the endemic Nariño Tapaculo, Russet-crowned Warbler, Rufous-crowned Tody-flycatcher, Turquoise Jay, White-faced Nunbird, Cloud-forest Pygmy-owl and Common Potoo.
Day 6 Today we will head to the lowlands of the Choco region, one of the most endangered tropical forests in the world. The Rio Silanche Bird Sanctuary canopy tower is a really good place to spot mega-rarities; possibilities include the endemic and endangered Blue-whiskered Tanager and Rose-faced Parrot, other endemic species such as Pallid Dove and Purple-chested Hummingbird, Plumbeous Hawk and Scarlet-browed Tanager. The trails in this area offer the chance to pick up some of the skulky inhabitants of the understorey and mid-canopy: the endemic Stub-tailed Antbird and Checker-throated, White-flanked and Moustached Antwrens, amongst others. After a packed lunch in the field, we will spend the afternoon in the surroundings of Sachatamia or near Mindo, looking for species which could include Guayaquil Woodpecker and Long-wattled Umbrellabird.
Day 7 Our destination today will be Milpe Bird Sanctuary to look for manakins. The endemic Club-winged Manakin is the main target, but the reserve also holds Golden-winged and White-bearded Manakins. Other target species in this area will include Blue-tailed Trogon, Golden-bellied (Choco) Warbler, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Bronze-winged Parrot, Brown-billed Scythebill, Three-striped Warbler, Black-striped Sparrow, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Barred and Cinnamon Becards, while the hummingbird feeders are good for Green Thorntail, Purple-throated Woodstar and White-whiskered Hermit. Afterwards we will go for a meal in the Mirador del Rio Blanco Restaurant, where the fruit feeders are famous for Rufous-throated Tanager, Crimson-rumped Toucanet and Black-cheeked Woodpecker. In the afternoon we will visit the renowned town of Mindo, where we will see how ecotourism and birding have changed the lives of local people; we will also have a chance to admire the amazing evergreen landscapes in this valley and perhaps enjoy a local coffee.
Day 8 For the first part of today we will focus on montane birds. We will pay a second visit to Tandayapa Valley, where there is always something to see, from Black-and-chestnut Eagle to Spillmann’s Tapaculo, Azara’s Spinetail, Cinnamon Flycatcher and Slaty-backed Chat-tyrant. We will have lunch at Sachatamia and will spend our final afternoon at the lodge walking around the trails, hoping to catch up with any species we may have missed.
Day 9 Our final day in the region will by no means see us resting on our laurels; we have a good chance of adding more endemic and endangered species to our lists as we make an early start to visit the famous Mashpi Biodiversity Reserve. Target birds here will include Black Solitaire, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Moss-backed and Glistening-green Tanagers, Uniform Treehunter and the mega-rare Choco Vireo. Rufous-brown Solitaire has also been recorded in the area. Again, we will have a packed lunch in the field before setting off towards Quito. We will make some birding stops en route, especially in the dry area near the Middle of the World, to search for the endangered White-tailed Shrike-tyrant, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Vermilion Flycatcher, American Kestrel and Tropical Mockingbird. In the late afternoon we will arrive back at the Puembo Birding Garden for our final overnight stay.
Day 10 There may be some time to check out the feeders in the grounds of Puembo before transferring to Quito International Airport for our overnight flight to London.
Day 11 Arrival back in the UK at the end of the tour.
General Information The climate can be variable due to the range of altitudes from cold in the highlands to hot and humid in lowland forests. Rain can be expected at any time. There are a number of health requirements and you are advised to refer to your doctor for specific advice. Little physical effort is required except at altitude although the heat and humidity can be tiring. Visas are not required for EU citizens. Expect 250–300 species.
Group size Minimum number for tour to run: 6; maximum group size: 10 with 1 leader.