CHILE

Mindo: specialties of Northwestern Ecuador

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In the northwestern corner of Ecuador, the mega-diverse Chocó eco-region reaches into the country. This kind of cloud forest and rainforest habitat ranges from Eastern Panama, through western Colombia, into northwestern Ecuador. Due to its geographic isolation, being squeezed between the Pacific Ocean and the high Andes Mountains, this area is a high endemism hotspot for both flora and fauna, making it an absolutely fascinating destination for nature enthusiasts.

During our trip we will travel along a wide altitudinal gradient, from high altitude cloud forest at Yanacocha (2800m) to humid lowland rainforest at Río Silanche (350m). Because of its incredible diversity of bird species and it being easily accessible from Quito, the area generally referred to as Mindo, is on the wishlist of most birders. As we will see on the trip, with only short distances between reserves, the habitat changes gradually, producing distinct shifts in the birds seen at each spot. Our itinerary will allow everyone ample opportunities for close encounters with over 30 species of hummingbirds, more than 20 colorful tanagers, numerous antpittas and many more charismatic species.

If you would like to keep exploring the avian marvels of Ecuador, we offer an extension to this tour that explores the contrasting eastern slope of the Andes. The physical barrier that the Andes impose has produces a myriad of ‘sister species’ as counterparts to what we see in Mindo. This extension visits three fantastic reserves, brimming with wildlife.

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  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
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RESUMEN ITINERARIO:

Day 1: Quito

Day 2: Yanacocha Reserve

Day 3: Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge

Day 4: Refugio Paz de las Aves

Day 5: Río Silanche Reserve

Day 6: 23 de Junio and Milpe Bird Sanctuary

Day 7: Amagusa/Mashpi Reserve

Day 8: High Andean Paramo and return to Quito

 

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Exploring a wide altitudinal gradient of the mega-diverse Chocó eco-region of northwestern Ecuador.
  • Over 30 species of hummingbirds, over 20 species of tanagers and numerous antpittas.
  • More than 200 species in only 8 days.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THIS TOUR?
  • Accommodation at the listed hotel or similar (confirmation of final hotel when booking)
  • All meals
  • Private transport in comfortable van
  • Entrance fees to all mentioned reserves
  • Specialist bilingual birding guide
What is not included in this tour?
  • International flights to Quito
  • Travel insurance
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • A la carte meals
  • Bank transfer fees
  • Extra luggage fees
  • Additional nights of accommodation
  1. Day 1: Quito

    After arriving in Quito your guide will meet you for dinner at our lodging for the night, the Puembo Bird Garden, a short distance from the airport. This hotel is a great starting point to relax after a long flight and get familiarized with common species at the backyard fruit and hummingbird feeders. Dinner will be a chance for everyone to meet and discuss the itinerary for the trip. Night at Puembo Bird Garden.

  2. Day 2: Yanacocha Reserve

    After an early breakfast we will make our way to the Yanacocha Reserve, which protects a large swath of high elevation cloud forest west of Quito. Here we will look for highland specialists like: Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tyrian Metaltail, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Shining Sunbeam and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager. One of the specialties of the reserve is the Black-breasted Puffleg, a minute and critically endangered hummingbird. Among the lush understory or crossing the trails we can find comical-looking Tawny and Rufous Antpittas.

    After a light lunch we will start our gradual descent down the western slope of the Andes, by way of the famous Nono-Mindo road. Along the way stops will be made to look for White-capped Dippers and mixed flocks of tanagers. During the afternoon we will arrive at our accommodation Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge. After enjoying a lovely dinner, with those who are up for a nocturnal jaunt, we will head out to look for owls and potoos. Dinner and night at Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge.

  3. Day 3: Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge

    During the morning we will walk the lodge’s excellent trail circuit. First up will be some of their hides, that are great spots for hard-to-find species like Dark-backed Wood-Quail and White-throated Quail-Dove. The grounds of the lodge are also a good area for the Chocó specialties, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet and White-faced Nunbird.

    After lunch at the lodge we will spend some time relaxing by the hummingbird feeders. A great time to get to know the numerous species at this altitude and get some photos of: Andean Emerald, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Brown Inca, Collared Inca, Gorgeted Sunangel, Violet-tailed Sylph and Booted Racket-tail. During the afternoon we will continue exploring the lodge’s extensive circuit of trails in search of mixed flocks of tanagers and Furnarids. The ground of the lodge are a great place to look for the sought-after Ocellated Tapaculo. Dinner and night at Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge.

  4. Day 4: Refugio Paz de las Aves

    Today we head to the famous Refugio Paz de las Aves at dawn to experience the incredible displays of the Andean Cock-of-the-rock. Dozens of males display in a small group of trees trying get the attention of a female, showing off their brilliant reddish-orange plumage of the males that are bursts of color in the dusky forest. The loud raucous calls saturate the dawn environment, making it a truly mesmerizing experience.

    After this spectacle we will have breakfast at the refugio, surrounded by hummingbird and tanager feeders. But now is when the real show will begin. The owner of this property, Angel Paz, has become somewhat of a legend as the foremost ‘Antpitta-whisperer’. At different spots on his property he has ‘trained’ various Antpitta species to approach when called by their name for a worm breakfast. This is a rare opportunity to get great looks at the skulking Giant, Yellow-bellied, Moustached and Ochre-breasted Antpittas. Truly incredible!

    Then, as we enjoy our lunch, we will once again be surrounded by tanager and hummingbird feeders, where we can enjoy the views of Toucan Barbets, Crimson-rumped Toucanets, and numerous tanagers and euphonias. Then we will make the short drive to our accommodation, the picturesque Sachatamia Lodge. The afternoon will be spent exploring the trails of the lodge in search of mixed flocks. Dinner and night at Sachatamia Lodge.

  5. Day 5: Río Silanche Reserve

    This morning we will make our way west, to lower elevation, at the Río Silanche Reserve. This area protects a large portion of humid lowland rainforest – one of the few remaining of this size in the area. Many Chocó specialties are found here, such as Rose-faced Parrot, Lita and Chocó Woodpeckers, Chocó Toucan, Chocó Trogon, and the stunning Scarlet-breasted Dacnis. One of the main attractions of the reserve is its canopy observation tower, giving us eye-level views of species that would be hard to glimpse from below, such as Blue-whiskered, Tawny-crested, Golden-hooded, Palm, Blue-necked, Bay-headed and White-shouldered Tanagers. The trails of the reserve are also fantastic for large mixed flocks. With some luck we may glimpse a Little Tinamou or spot a silent Lanceolated Monklet (what a great name!).

    We will also make stops along the more open areas of the access road in search of species like Striped Cuckoo and Hooked-billed Kite. Dinner and night at Sachatamia Lodge.

  6. Day 6: 23 de Junio and Milpe Bird Sanctuary

    One of the most charismatic species of the Mindo area is the Long-wattled Umbrellabird, a large cotinga, all sating black, with some very particular features. This bird looks like it has an umbrella over its head and a long ‘rope’ of feathers hanging from its throat (almost as long as its body!). Today we will have an early start to the day and head to the 23 de Junio reserve, where a community conservation project is working to protect with fascinating species. The land they are protecting has a lek, and males arrive at dawn to perform their peculiar display.

    At midday we will make our way to the Milpe Bird Sanctuary for more Chocó specialties and have lunch surrounded by hummingbird and tanager feeders (you make have detected a theme here). Among the frequent hummer visitors we can see, there are Green Thorntails, White-necked Jacobins, Purple-bibbed Whitetips, Green-crowned Brilliants, Crowned Woodnymphs, Andean Emeralds and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds. At the fruit feeders, it is common to see Collared Araçari, Golden, White-shouldered and Silver-throated Tanagers, and Yellow-throated and Choco Toucans. Possibly the most exciting species at the reserve are two species of Manakin, the Club-winged and White-bearded Manakins. As we walk the trails, we will be listening for their mechanical sounding ‘snaps’ they make during a display and hopefully get a glimpse of this spectacle. Dinner and night at Sachatamia Lodge.

  7. Day 7: Amagusa/Mashpi Reserve

    Today we visit the Mashpi/Amagusa Reserve, protecting mid-elevation subtropical forest. This relatively new protected area has a new suite of Chocó specialties for our trip that are hard to find anywhere else. Here we will be searching for the Chocó Vireo (only recently discovered in Ecuador), Indigo Flowerpiercer, Black Solitaire and Orange-breasted Fruiteater. Additionally, the fruit feeders here attract some of the most colorful tanagers of them all, such as the Glistening-green, Moss-backed, Golden-naped, Golden y Flame-faced Tanagers.

    The owners of this reserve are a local family. We will spend the day with them learning from their knowledge of the specialties of the place. Dinner and night at Sachatamia Lodge.

  8. Day 8: High Andean Paragmo and return to Quito

    As we near the end of the trip, this morning will be flexible and be used to search for any species we may have missed thus far. With this in mind, we will have a relaxed morning walking the trails of the lodge or visiting nearby reserves to this end.

    After lunch at the lodge we will start heading back to Quito, this time by a different route, to search for some high elevation Paramo species like the Red-crested Cotinga and Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant. To mark the closing of this incredible trip we will have a farewell dinner and share the highlights of the trip. Night at Puembo Bird Garden and end of trip.

    Almorzaremos en el Lodge y por la tarde emprenderemos la vuelta hacia Quito, aprovechando de parar nuevamente en la Reserva Yanacocha para encontrar especies con las que no hayamos tenido suerte durante la primera visita. Noche en Quito.