Birding Galapagos Islands

Birding Galapagos Islands
Birding for Conservation

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Forest Flacon at Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve

Forest Falcon at Lalo Loor Reserve

My wife and I visited Lalo Loor Reserve October 3rd 2012 and were greeted by a group of Army Ants that were being followed by Bicolor Antbird, Plain-brown Woodcreepers, Ecuadorian Thrush, White-wiskered Hermit, Gray-and-gold Warbler, and a group of Smooth-billed Anies. 

 Bicolor Antbird

 White-wiskered Puffbird

 Plain-brown Woodcreeper

Gray-and-gold Warbler

The feeding frenzy of the flock was suddenly disrupted by a Forest Falcon sp. that barely missed a plump Bicolor Antbird.  This was a very exiting moment for the birds and for us!  Our exitement grew even further  as we could not identify this species of Falcon.  I quickly took some videos of the bird and now we are still wondering about the bird I.D.

In the video you can see the bird tail with two white bands and  the white iris which are characteristics of a Lined Forest Falcon which are not present in the west.  In the west side is the Plumbeous Forest Falcon which has one white band on the tail and a dark iris.

Last but not least, a great surprise for us when we spotted a new bird that we had not seen before: Brownish Twistwing.  This long tailed bird looked at a distance like a female Collared Trogon but upon closer looks we got this rare new bird.

Brownish Twistwing

Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve is located near the town of Pedernales only five hours from Quito, it is managed by the Ceiba Fundation.  For more information go here:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Military Macaws at Sumaco National Park in Ecuador

I have visited the Sumaco National Park areas in the past but recently I discovered that the local community of Pacto Sumaco has a cabaña to provide rustic lodging for birders.  I decided to help them get started and organized a bird watching tour that would include a night stay at their cabaña.  At first I was a bit nervous about lodging in a remote and rustic setting, but after visiting the place I decided that the risk would be compensated with a beautiful scenery that the place offered. 

Sumaco Volcano

The day finally arrived and we were greeted by the two locals who helped us carry our gear to the cabaña that is located at 15 minutes walk from their community.  We left our car and walked on a log trail that took us through deforested land that had a few trees left which provided some shelter for the local birds.  The trail was a bit difficult from the unevenness of the tree steps that kept us above the surrounding mud.  When we arrived to the cabaña we were greeted by three friendly women who would take care of feeding us for the next 24 hours.  

Trails at Pacto Sumaco

Since the cabaña has two large rooms we split the group into male and female dorms.  This was totally different than our previous arrangements of privacy but it seemed as a small sacrifice to get into this area.  The cabaña has a second floor which serves as a viewing platform to the Sumaco Mountain and the surrounding protected forest.  There are also some hammocks that allow you to appreciate all of this from a different perspective.

Hammoc Photo

An afternoon walk on the trail which continued away from the community produced a few new birds for the trip list including: Cerulean Warbler, White-bellied Woodstar, a mating pair of maroon-tailed Parakeets, Black-crowned Tityra, Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant, Crested Oropendola, Lafresnayes Piculet, and a pair of Collared Trogons.  The most interesting show started upon our return to the cabaña when we witness the return of many Macaws and parrots to roosting trees near the cabaña.

Chestnut-fronted Macaw

The evening came and dinner was served with candle lights and the local night frog orchestra.  After working on our bird list for the day we retired early in preparation for an early start.   The beds where comfortable and properly setup with mosquito nets to prevent the annoying buzzing disturbance for a restful night.  Before daybreak I could hear the wakeup calls of the Pauraque, the Wattled Guan, and a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl.  I could not rest more so got up before daybreak to identify more clearly another owl which turn out to be one of our own trying to call a Tropical Screech Owl.  Soon enough many other birds joined the waking day: amongst them numerous parakeets, parrots, and Macaws.  The fly-bys started and soon all the members were up and enjoying a morning spectacled of Mealy Amazon, Red-billed Parrots, Maroon-tailed Parakeets, White-eyed Parakeet, Military Macaws and finally an incredible close fly-by of the Military Macaws.

 Military Macaw flying above the Pacto Sumaco Cabaña

If you want to experience these wonderful birds and sights then contact the Pacto Sumaco community ( or take one of our spectacular tours that visit the East and West slopes of Ecuador.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Recinto 23 de Junio - Long-wattled Umbrellabird Helps Conservation

Much of the forest on the west side of the Andes has been destroyed by agriculture´s great pressure on the eco-systems that support our beautiful neotropical birds.  Many people from the south of Ecuador migrated to the west slopes and settled in this ground more than 30 years ago in their search of fertile land.  Their dream was to cut the tress, sell the wood, and make room for pastures and cows.  This story repeated itself as an eco going through the land, and the damage spread through our forest like termites on a dead tree.  These migrating Ecuadorians began their dream life with the destruction of primary forests without knowledge of the negative effects that this would bring to our eco-systems. 

We birders can make positive impact on these people by doing what we like most that is: Bird Watching. 

Our visit to Recinto 23 de Junio (at 40 minutes from Los Bancos) was to see the Long-wattled Umbrellabird and we saw four males and a female.  We also saw 48 other species making that day a record breaking day!  In addition our guide Luis Ajila and his family became the envy of the community when we ask them to provide us with more services than the usual Umbrellabird watch, such as lunch and a guide for the rest of the day.  Every time a birder goes to this place and pays money to see the birds and other services, everybody in this small community become more aware of the economic value of conservation.

Here are some of  the best birds and pictures of the day:

          The Long-wattled Umbrellabird


               The Band-backed Wren

          The Flame-faced Tanager

The Golden-headed Quetzal with a lizard on his mouth.

          The Laughing Falcon

         The Yellow-bellied Eleina

To setup a visit on your own please contact Luis Ajila at cell phone 081030948.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bridwatching Galapagos Isabela

We started in Santa Cruz and rose early, had breakfast, a sea sickness pill, went to the bathroom, and took the boat ride by 7:30 am  to Isabela. This is a three hour fast boat ride that can make you sick if you are not used to boating in the ocean. It is a good idea to skip breakfast, take the seasickness pill, go to the bathroom, and sit somewhere near the rear of the boats where the movements are less violent; also never look down so keep your head up and look at the horizon. Unfortunately someone had to use the bathroom in the middle of our ride so the boat had to stop! This was a big mistake and many people got very sick; there should be a big sign that prohibits people from taking these boats unless they go to the bathroom first!

We arrived to Puerto Villamil in Isabela and scanned the de docks for any flying creatures. We immediately spotted many avian companions including Magnificent Frigates, Blue-footed Boobies and a couple of Galapagos penguins that played hide and seek between the boats along the docks.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Galapagos Penguin

Blue-footed Boobies

On the right hand side of the docks we found the Concha Perla Trail that takes you through the local mangrove trees which form tunnels that lead to a nice snorkeling hideaway. The trail was a perfect hide for a couple of Yellow warblers that followed us along the trail jumping from trees to tree.

Yellow Warbler 

At the end of the trail we got a spectacular view of the mangroves, the lava rock that formed a protected sea lake, the sea, and the blue skies, all magically surrounding a perfect snorkeling spot. At the edge of the lava we could see some Lava herons that disputed a particular observation point.

On our way out we spotted a new finch that had a different song and looked differently, later we found that this was a vegetarian finch.  See Darwins Fiches blog for more info on finches

From the entrance to Concha Perla we took a $1 ride straight to the best and cheapest hotel in the Island: Hostal Rincon de George. We made this comfortable and new hostal our basis of operation for the next days.

A few minutes away from our hotel we were shocked by the white sandy beaches and equally shocked by the birds. The Wimbrel received us with open wings and put a nice show under bright sunny conditions.


As we approached an observation tower at the edge of the sea, we were welcomed by a group of Marine Iguanas taking shade under the steps of the tower.

The observation tower was a marvelous place to see a large flock of Brown noddies dispute the best spots over some lava rocks.
Brown noddies

We continued walking on the beach and this also paid off with the exiting company of the following birds:

White-rumped Sandpiper
Thanks to Grant McCreary for correcting this ID to
Black-bellied Plover shown here on an alternate plumage

Wandering Tattler

American Oystercatcher 

Ruddy turnstone 


We ended the day with a short swim in the warm ocean waters while the sun went down on the horizon.

The next day we rose early and went back to the sea observation tower where we got a great parade of penguins and Blue-footed boobies.

Galapagos penguin

Later we took the amazing Volcan Sierra Negra tour and we came up with a new set of birds from this higher altitude zone. More on this amazing volcano later but for now here are the birds:

Galapgaos Martin

Vermilion Flycatcher

Small tree finch

Warbler finch

Woodpecker Finch

Small Ground Finch

Yellow Warbler

Smooth-billed Ani

Galapagos Flycatcher

On our way back to the town we surprised the Galapagos Hawk that was being chased by a mocking bird. There was a lot of noise from the mocking birds in the scene!

Galapagos Hawk

On our third day at Isabela we explored some the inland lakes next to the town starting with Laguna Salinas where we encounter the first White-checked pintail.

White-checked pintail 

The show was stolen by a mother Black-necked Stilt and her young.  Look carefully at the babies next to the red legs.

Black-necked Stilt

We continued exploring this area and we entered a trail that leads to the Giant Tortoise Reproduction Center. This little known trail winds around some amazing ponds, mangroves and dry forest that provide wonderful opportunities for photographing birds. Here is a nice collection of photos taken near Poza Baltazar area including:

Greater Flamingo

Common Gallinule

Black-necked Stilt

Semipalmated plover

White-cheeked pintail

In the afternoon we visited the Wall of Tears and stopped along the way to take some pictures of more flamingos and finches:

Greater Flamingo

Small ground finches

Common Catus Finch

So there you have it, the amazing Isablela was our favorite!