13 - 29 July 2000
by Roger Boyd
The trip was arranged by Roger L. Boyd through Mercedes Revadeneira
Neblina Forest. Mercedes suggested the itinerary that we used,
all the arrangements and provided the transportation, drivers and
There was a total of 8 of us from Kansas and one from Colorado in our
We were very pleased with our experience, accommodations, food, driver,
most of all, our guide Lelis Navarrete. We also had a very
local guide at Sacha: Oscar Tapuy. This was, by far, our best
(out of 5) ever to South America. We highly recommend Neblina
to you. We located 568 species of which 66 were only heard.
in this list were 76 tanagers and allies, 70 flycatcher and 48
species. A species list is appended to the end of this trip
Some of the group were visiting relatives and/or friends in Ecuador and Paraguay before hand so we all planned to assemble at the Sebastian Hotel for the first evening. We talked briefly about breakfast arrangements, our pick-up time, and what to expect on the first leg of the adventure.
We assembled for breakfast in the Hotel restaurant at 5:30 am and were in the 12 passenger van and on the road by 6:00 am. We stopped first along the northern edge of Quito in the foothills of Volcan Pichincha. Here we saw our first of many humingbirds: Sparkling Violetear, Giant Hummingbird, and Black-tailed Trainbearer. We also had several arid brushy species like Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Plain-colored Seedeater, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Cinerous Conebill and Hooded Siskin.
After turning off the old and famous Nono-Mindo Road we did some walking up the road in the lower elevations and saw our first of many spinetails with Azara’s being the first, followed by Slaty. We saw a number of other species including Black-necked and Golden Tanagers, but perhaps the best bird for this segment was a Fasciated Tiger-Heron skulking along in the vegetation on the banks of a small stream below the road. Our next stop was for a box lunch on the deck of Tony Nunnery’s house. I counted 20 hummingbird feeders off of the deck and in the various trees in the yard.
We had a total of 15 species on those feeders by the end of lunch. For me, the most spectacular were the Violet-tailed Sylph, Collared Inca, and Purple-throated Woodstar. We also had great views of Crimson-mantled Woodpecker in the back yard and a Black-and-Chestnut Eagle circling low over the house. Upon reaching Bella Vista some of us took a late afternoon hike down the road. We saw a number of great birds including Sickle-winged Guan and Spillman’s Tapaculo at 15 ft away. At dusk we had a single Scissor-tailed Nightjar respond to a tape recording. Bella Vista is described as a quaint little lodge with delicious vegetarian meals. It certainly met our expectations. It was a short but lovely stay.
Bella Vista also has very active hummingbird feeders and we had 10 species present. The dawn chorus was marvelous with Crested Quetzal, Plate-billed Mt-Toucan, Spillman’s Tapaculo, Toucan Barbet, Flammulated Treehunter, Masked Trogon, Beautiful and Turquoise Jay. We took a short hike before breakfast and recorded 45 species, mostly new for the trip. Some of the highlights were Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Pearl Treerunner, Grass-green, Beryl-spangled, Blue-and-black, and Flame-faced Tanagers.
After breakfast we walked the road to the Science Center near the lodge and then took the rest of the day to work our way along the Nono-Mindo Road in order to arrive at Mindo Gardens for Dinner and overnight in their lovely bungalows. Some of the most interesting finds were Gorgeted Sunangel, Golden-headed Quetzal, Narino Tapaculo(again at 15 ft), and Ornate Flycatcher. After arriving at the Gardens several of us went to the far side of the town of Mindo to look for nightjars. We had several Rufous-bellied Nightjars swoop by and had 4 Lyre-tailed Nightjars flying around. One female nearly landed on our heads in response to the male tape recording. The dinner meal was outstanding and everyone went to bed very contented.
Today, after a quick breakfast, we left at 5:00 am to travel to the nearby area of Pedro Vicente Maldonado to work the patches of choco habitat. We spent most of the day walking up and down a single hill that had a series of very productive trees along the road edge.
Some of the more interesting species we saw were Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Slate-capped Shrike-Vireo, Scale-crowned and Black-capped Pygmy-Tyrant, Dusky Pigeon, White-thighed Swallow, Cinnamon, Red-rumped and Choco Woodpeckers, Orange-fronted Barbet, Scarlet-browed, Tawny-crested, Emerald, Blue-whiskered, Blue-necked, White-lined, Silver-throated, and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers. On the way back to Mindo we stopped at another remnant forest and saw Buff-fronted, Scaly-throated and Lineated Foliage-gleaners, Pacific Tuftedcheek, Club-winged Manakin, Moss-backed and Glistening-green Tanagers. We had a total of 128 species for the day and ended the day with another exquisite meal at Mindo Gardens.
Today we started at the top of the hill at the blacktop and walked down the road to Mindo. The van followed in case anyone was tired. Some of the highlights were Little Cuckoo, Golden-headed Quetzal, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, Red-headed Barbet, Streak-capped Treehunter, Uniform Antshrike, Flavescent Flycatcher building a nest with moss, Chestnut-capped and Tricolored Brush-finch. Late in the afternoon we drove back to Sebastian Hotel in Quito
We had an early departure towards the east. Our first stop was at a brushy rock quarry near Cumbaya where we saw a Short-eared Owl as well as Plain-colored and Band-tailed Seedeater and Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch. Our next stop was at the base of the mountains and there we saw a number of new species including Red-crested Cotinga, Black-tailed and Green-tailed Trainbearer, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanagers and above on the ridge, Carunculated Caracara and two Andean Condors soaring along. At the very summit of Pappallacta Pass we were on the side road that leads to all of the microwave towers.
There at 14,530 ft elevation and with the help of two European birders we spotted two Rufous-breasted Seedsnipe. We slowly walked back down the road to the main highway. In the Paramo zone we had great looks at Tawny Antpitta, Blue-mantled Thornbill and Many-striped Canastero. We arrived at Termas de Papallacta early enough to find Sword-billed Hummingbird, Viridian and Tyrian Metaltail, Shining Sunbeam, and Cinerous Conebill. After a tremendous dinner of trucha it was time to thoroughly relax in the natural hot springs in the lovely garden setting of Hotel La Posada.
This morning we again had an early start. We went above the hotel in some great elfin forest areas, arriving before dawn. As we walked back towards the hotel we watched the sun rise on the snow capped Volcan Antisana across the valley. What a marvelous view! We also had marvelous views of Scarlet-bellied, Black-chested, Masked, Blue-winged, and Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanagers, Black-backed Bush-Tanagers, Pale-naped Brush-finch, Glossy Flower-piercer, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, and to cap it off great looks at several Plushcaps.
We returned for breakfast and then headed out for the eastern foothills. In route we found several Torrent Ducks and White-capped Dipper in Rio Papallacta. Upon arriving at San Isidro at 1:30 we ate our lunch amidst the calls and fly-bys of oropendolas and caciques as well as a raft of hummingbirds at the feeders . We moved into our rooms and some of us headed out for afternoon exploration until dark. Some of the highlights were Rufous-crowned Tody-tyrant, Long-tailed Antbird, Black-eared Hemispingus, Olivaceous Siskins, Black-capped Tanager and White-capped Parrot. At dusk we heard and finally saw a Rufous-banded Owl.
Today we travelled to nearby Guacamayo Ridge at 6,800 ft. Initially it was drizzling but we did have a nice flock that included Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Rufous Wren, Black-capped Hemispingus, Pearled Treerunner, Black-crested and Citrine Warbler, and Grass-green Tanager. Further down the hill we saw three Hooded Mountain-tanagers. Several more kilometers downhill we got below the clouds and out of the rain long enough to find a few new species. Some of the best included White-backed Fire-eye, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Black-capped, Saffron-crowned and Flame-faced Tanager. After some work we were able to see Rufous-vented Tapaculo. The meals that we had while at San Isidro were excellent.
In the morning we walked along the entrance road in front of San Isidro Lodge. We had 55 species before noon including Crested Quetzal, Azara Spinetail, Black-chested Fruiteater, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Bronze-olive Pygmy-Tyrant, and Handsome Flycatcher. After lunch we headed back to Quito. On the way we stopped at a new lodge called Guango Lodge. Along the river out back we picked up Tourmaline Sunangel, Purple-backed Thornbill, Grey-hooded Bush-tanager, and Slaty Brush-finch.
Today we traveled down the Old Chiriboga road on our way to Tinalandia. It turned out to be a long rough road but with a number of good birds along the way. On the eastern side of the pass we saw an Aplomado Falcon. High up on the western slope we saw Saffire-vented Puffleg, Mountain Velvetbreast, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Ash-colored Tapaculo, Golden-crowned Tanager, Stripe-headed and Rufous-naped Brush-finch. Lower down we found Superciliated Hemispingus and Yellow-bellied Chat-tyrant. Several of us were able to scamper down a still incline along the trans-Andean pipeline to an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock lek. The last flock for the day contained a Star-chested Treerunuer. We arrived at Tinalandia just in time for a delicious dinner that evening.
Today we had all morning to bird the Tinalandia grounds. Some of the new species were White-tipped Sicklebill, White-whiskered Hermit, Rufous Motmot, White-whiskered Puffbird, White-eyed Trogon, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Streak-headed and Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Masked Water-tyrant, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Band-backed Wren, Equadorian Thrush, and Slaty-capped Shrike-vireo. After lunch we returned to Sebastian Hotel in Quito in time to do some shopping.
We departed Quito at 11:30 am for a 40 min. flight to the petroleum boom town of Coca. We arrived in a downpour and were concerned about how long it might last. We finally left at 1:30 pm in long motorized boats down the Napo River for 3 hr. It rained the first hour or so. Down the river we saw the typical birds like White-winged and White-banded Swallows, Yellow-billed Tern, Swallow-wing Puffbird, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, Oriole Blackbird, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Drab Water-Tyrant and others. We finally disembarked from the canoe at about 4:30 pm. and walked for about 30 minutes through the jungle towards Sacha Lodge. Perhaps the best find along the boardwalk was a roosting Spectacled Owl and several large troops of Squirrel Monkeys. We then arrived at a dock and took dug out canoes across the lake or cocha to the actual lodge. We arrived at 5pm. We settled into our cabins just in time for dinner.
Our first morning there we awoke to rain and the dawn chorus including Common Potoo, Barred and Buff-throated Woodcreeper. We headed off for the canopy tower which is about 130 ft high, but unfortunately it kept raining and we finally returned about 8 am, soaked. By 10 am it quit raining and so several of us headed back to the tower. It rained again briefly but we persevered and when it finally quit raining we were able to see a number of birds. Some of the best were Gilded Barbet (recently split from Black-spotted), Many-banded Aracari, Dugand’s Antwren, Slender-footed Tyrannulet, Spangled Cotinga and a King Vulture that landed in our tree just 20 feet over our heads.
On our way back to the Lodge we were delayed by a number of skulkers such as Cinereous and Dusky-throated Antshrike, Gray and Plumbeous Antbirds, White-flanked Antwren and finally a pair of Black-faced Antthrushes in the middle of the trail. After lunch we canoed across the lake and walked the boardwalk again. Some of the highlights wereWhite-eared Jacamar, Chestnut, Spot-breasted and Crimson-crested Woodpecker, and Scarlet-crowned Barbet, and roosting Greater Potoo and Tawny-bellied Screech-owl.
We then walked along the river to a cleared pasture and found a pair of very agitated Southern Lapwings, Fork-tailed Flycatchers, a pair and single juvenile Orange-fronted Plushcrown, a single Amazonian Umbrellabird, Bare-necked Fruitcrows, a pair of Red-breasted Blackbirds (reminding us of our meadowlarks in Kansas), an Undulated Tinamou nest with 4 eggs, and to top it off, a Brown Jacamar. After dinner Lelis, Oscar and I went out to night light some roosting birds. We found 5 Marbled Wood-Quail, a Long-billed Woodcreeper, Short-billed Leaftosser, and finally an adult and juvenile Great Tinamou balancing on a limb on their metatarsi rather than grasping the branch with their toes.
Rise and shine to the early morning chorus again. We hurriedly took off across the lake in dug outs and birded down the boardwalk, picking up White-shouldered and Silvered Antbird, and Yellow-headed Caracara. We traveled down river several miles to visit a parrot lek. When we arrived the parrots were fairly jumpy so we didn’t stay long. There were 150 Dusky-headed Parakeets, 20 Yellow-crowned Parrot, 10 Blue-headed Parrot and 10 Mealy Parrots.
We then traveled upriver to two different seasonally flooded varzea forest island habitats. The first location contained fairly young growth. Some of the best finds there were Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Lesser Hornero, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, River Tyrannulet, White-bellied, Rufous-backed and Dark-breasted Spinetail, Black-and-white Antbird, and Orange-headed Tanager. On the second, older island we added Chapman’s Swift, Dark-billed Cuckoo, Little Woodpecker, Plain-crowned Spinetail, Castelnau’s Antshrike, Spotted Tody-flycatcher, Large Elaenia, Fuscous Flycatcher, and Wing-barred Seedeater. On the boardwalk again, we added Spot-backed Antbird among others. After lunch several of us headed out on some more trails. Probably the best birds were Noble Antthrush at a close distance, Dusky-throated Antshrike and Blue-crowned Manakin.
We headed out for the tower with flashlights at 5:30 am. We wanted to be on the tower at sunrise and stay until the next group arrived. Shortly before arriving at the tower we found a Crested Owl roosting about 30 ft off the trail. On the tower we saw 40 species in about an hour. Some of the best ones were Golden-tailed Sapphire, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Red-stained, Cream-colored and Scale-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow-margined and Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Opal-crowned, Opal-rumped, Turquoise, Green-and-gold, and Masked Crimson Tanager.
On the way back to the Lodge we added Grayish Mourner, Cinnamon Attila, Wire-tailed Manakin, Pygmy and Ornate Antwren, Cinnamon Dwarf-tyrant, and Red-rumped Cacique. After lunch several of us went out at mid-afternoon and picked up a number of birds including Straight-billed Hermit. We made one last ascent of the tower before sunset. Bat Falcon was the only new species from the tower but in the dark on the way back we heard a pair of Laughing Falcon and Buckley’s Forest-falcon and spotlighted a roosting Cinnamon Woodcreeper.
We left the lodge at 630 and boarded the boat and headed back to
Coca. Along the way we had a great look at a Ladder-tailed
Night-jar. We flew
to Quito and spent some time shopping. Some of the group
for other parts of Ecuador upon return and the rest of us flew home the