Birding Galapagos Islands

Birding Galapagos Islands
Birding for Conservation

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guacamayo Ridge - Cordillera Guacamayo Birding

This trail begins at the highest point in the highway that goes from Baeza to Tena past the town of Cosanga at the Mirador La Virgen.  The trail begins at 2800 meters and goes down to 1900 meters where it joins a trail made by the oil pipe that leads to the next pumping station at Sarayacu; it is possible to reach this pumping station by following the oil pipe.  This is part of the Antisana Reserve and forms a biological corridor to the Sumaco National Park.  It is a great place for birding but the trail is slippery with an uneven floor.  This is a very good place to see the following birds:

      The Black-billed Mountain Toucan

                 The Highland Motmot

              The Green-and-black Fuiteater

           The Yellow-rumped Cacique

This makes for a great stop before dropping down to the eastern lowlands.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Birding the East Slope - Guango and San Isidro

These two well renowned birding spots are a must visit place for all birders.  The owners Carmen and Mitch are veterans of conservation and Birdwatching.  Carmen and her Ecuadorinan family have been pioneers of the East slopes and now are conserving 660 hectars at San Isidro with and additional 550 hectars of co-owned land of adjacent forest.  Mitch has been birding all his life starting in Florida and recently has been working with Field Guides since 1997.

Guango is located just 15 minutes (11 km) down from the Papallacta town and lies at 2700 meters of altitude where some spectacular humming birds abound.  This place is also famous for the Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan and the Torrent Ducks.  Here are the most spectacular photos taken at Guango:

              The Tourmaline Sunangel

      The Sword-billed Hummingbird

             The White-capped Dipper

                     The Torrent Duck

Cabañas San Isidro are located approximately one hour further down the main highway that goes to Tena, well past the town of Baeza (about 20 minutes) and just before the small town of Cosanga.  It lies at 2050 meters altitude and the surrounding forest ranges from 1850 to 2400 meters of altitude.  The lodge itself  is home for many birds, including Carmen and Mitch :), like the famous Black-and-white Owl, the noisy Inca Jays, the cool Masked Trogon, the White-bellied Antpitta, and specialty hummingbirds like the Bronzy Inca, the Collared Inca, and the Long-tailed Sylph.  Here are the best pictures of these birds:

The Black-and-white Owl

               The Inca Jay

           The Masked Trogon

             The White-bellied Antpitta

                   The Bronzy Inca

                 The Collared Inca

                 The Long-tailed Sylph

In summary if you haven´t been there then you must go there.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Papallacta Pass Antennas and Lakes – Cayambe-Coca Reserve

This amazing place at 4000 meters altitude (13,100 ft) is part of the Cayambe-Coca Reserve and lies at the top of the mountain range on the road that goes to Papallacta and Baeza. Its entrance is at the highest point in the highway before the descent begins and is on the left hand side when going towards Papallacta. There is a dirt road that leads to the park entrance check-point. If no one is at the chained gate, then open it and continue to the building to pay the park entrance fee, $5 for foreigners. This road is a great place to bird for the high altitude birds and also to admire the magical eco-system that the high altitude on the way up to the antennas.

          The Bar-winged Cinclodes

          The Stout-billed Cinclodes

          The Many-striped Canastero

           The Andean Tit- spinetail

      The magic Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe

                The Variable Hawk

     The Tawny Antpitta probably a juvenile.

This is truly a magical eco-system and must be visited!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve - Birding Inside a Volcano

The Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve is our home and provides excellent birding for those looking for birds in the Inter-Andean valleys.  In the past, these valleys where filled with forest but the heavy population density have destroyed them since the Spanish arrived.  The Puluahua Reserve is home of a small piece of that forest that disappeared long ago.  There are many birds found in this area that are difficult to find elsewhere but specifically our Rusty-breasted Antpitta steals the show.  This special bird can be found in southern Ecuador and only in the Pululahua Volcano on the northern side of Ecuador.  Some people have commented that this bird needs to be reclassified since it appears to be different of the other Antpittas found in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.  Here are a few birds found during this years birding tours:

The Rusty-breasted Antpitta - Grallaricula ferrugineipectus

The Rufous-chested Tanager - Tlypopses ornata

The Golden-crowned Tanager - Iridosornis rufivertex

The Cinereus Conebill - Conirostrum cinereum

The Plushcap - Catamblyrhynchus diadema

The Red-headed Cotinga - Ampelion rubrocristatus

And here is an amazing picture of FIGHT-IN-FLIGHT of two visitors the Variable Hawk and the Caranculated Caracara:

The altitude variation in the reserve range from 1800 meters to 3200 meters so there is a large bird list to work with and many places within the reserve have different birds.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mindo Birding Capital of Ecuador and Yellow House

Without a doubt the town of Mindo is a perfect place to base birding trips for the northwest slopes of Ecuador.  This small town is filled with hostals, birding guides, and birding-tour-offers that one could spend more than a week birding around the many private and government reserves that surround the town.  For this reason we have chosen the Garzon Family and their Yellow House farm as our base for the tours on the nearby slopes.

This picture was taken by Mike Bergin of 1000birds and states that a protected forest assure the supply of water.

This welcoming place has five wonderful well marked trails that provide choice birding spots that overlook the town of Mindo.

The 200 hectares of forest protected by this family provide ample space to see a great variety of birds like the Streaked Flycatcher.

        The Masked Water-tyrant

The Common Potoo around the farm house:

The Mindo-Nambillo Gorvernment Reserve of 19,200 ha extends to the south east of Mindo providing a huge protected area for the birds in these lands.

Here are some of the most fascinating birds found around Mindo.

Black-and-White Hawk Eagle:

The Choco Tucan:

Golden-winged Manakin

And also humming birds like the White-necked Jacobin

The Green-crowened-Woodnymph

The Mindo area has won three consecutive years the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

Download the 109th Christmas Bird count here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Heavy Oil Pipeline OCP - Birding Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados

The OCP was the latest heavy oil pipeline that cut our country from the Amazon to the port of Esmeraldas.  This very large oil pipe (20" diameter or 80 cm) was designed to follow a straight route from east to west cutting through many forest reserves on its way.  This pipe cuts through the Cayambe Coca Reserve, the Antisana Reserve, the Cuenca Alta del Guayllabamba, and one of the most Important Bird Areas IBA the Mindo-Nambillo reserve.  The danger of oil spillage is constant due to high sismic risk and land slides due to excessive deforestation.  For this reason there must be access roads and well maitained trails that provide access to the pipeline and this provides for easy access to interesting areas inside the forest where we can find wonderful birds. 

Here are some pictures at a private reserve managed by Mindo Cloud Forest which is cut by this pipeline; it is found on the EcoRuta about 15 minutes from the San Tadeo entrance. 

The Black-billed Mountain Toucan

The Barred-fruiteater

The Pearled-treerunner

For more information on this reserve contact Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation

Friday, April 2, 2010

Mangaloma Reserve - Primary Forest near Choco Region

The Mangaloma Reserve is owned and protected by two nature-caring people who are very interested in the health and well beeing of all living things.  This private reserve continues to surprise birders with some very exotic-choco endemic birds like the Banded Ground Cuckoo, the Long-wattled Umbrelabird, and the lastest find of the Roufus-crowned Atnpitta.  Although I have not had the luck to see these birds in my trips to this reserve I will share some other wonderful birds below.

     Indigo-crowned Quail Dove:

     The Plumbeus Kite

     The Maked Tityra

     The Green Kingfisher

The bird list for this reserve seems endless.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Refugio Paz de las Aves - Birding for Conservation - Day 2

Global warming has many causes but today all of them point to the human race.  We are the cause of the current destruction of our home!  Government´s can´t stop it, organizations can´t stop it, and most people only talk about it.  Angel, Rodrigo, and the rest of their family are one of the few pioneers that have dedicated their last 5 years of their life to sustainable tourism.  In doing so they have become a perfect example of conservation though birding and by birders.  Visit his site and support his project

This birdwatchers paradise is a must see for those who believe that birdwatching = conservation

Here are some spectacular pictures I gathered in my recent visits. 

The show starts very early at 5:30 am when we descend in the dark to the house of the majestic Cock of the Rock.  This wonderful bird wakes up early every day to begin a courtship display of sounds and valet-like dance flapping their wings and ducking their body.  The dance and song contest goes on until some of the most successful male dancers convince the females to follow them to more private forest quarters.

Meet one of the male dancers the  Andean Cock-of-the-Rock - Rupicola peruviana

Second we will meet the Antpitta family that lurks in the forest and come out at a breakfast call.

Maria is a Giant-Antpitta

Willie a Yellow-breasted Antpitta

Jose is a shy Moustached-Antpitta

Next we will meet the family that hangs out at the fruit table set in bright colors and delicious fruits to attract them to the feast:

The Toucan Barbet joins in with a seven colored suit!

The Black-chinned-Mountain-Tanager follows with a four color outfit.

The next invite displays a three color suit: meet the Crimson-rumped-Toucanet Aulacorhynchus-haematopygus
The next guess shows a beautiful olive suit with yellow rays; the pretigious Olivaceous-Phia - Snowornis-cryptolophus

Look at the moss-crown of this distinguished guest!

When this guest shows up with her dark suit and bad manners; all other invites flee!

Finally when the feast is finished we move upward along the path where we met the Quail family who came out to the beck and call of food.

Food run by the Dark-backed-Wood.Quail - Odontophorus-erythrops

Finally as we puffed our way up near the top of the forest we find that yet another sweet feast has been set up for the local hummer family.  Here are some of the elusive guest that agreed to be photographed:.

Empress Brillant

Brown-Inca - Coeligena wilsoni

Great-billed-Hermit - Phaethornis-malaris

And so many guest that we lost track of their names.

In the end we were also very hungry and were invited by the Paz family to a typical breakfast with coffee and bolon, typical plantain ball with cheese and spices.  Just as we were filling up the "tortillas de viento" came along to complete this wonderful gluttonous visit of birds and food!