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20 August - 7 September 1999

by Richard Fairbank

I visited Ecuador with Michael Grunwell for three weeks in August and September 1999.  Michael visited the Galapagos for 4 days during the first week (see appendix), an option my finances didn’t allow.  I had visited Ecuador in 1986 and both Michael & I had been to Peru in 1984 but neither of us had visited the Neotropics for nearly 10 years.  We were therefore somewhat rusty on bird ID and had forgotten how frustrating most views of hummingbirds were!  The trip was relatively inexpensive, costing me approx. £1000 (including airfares from England).

Most of the sites visited are covered in some detail in A Guide to Bird-watching in Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands by Williams, Best & Heijnen.  Trip reports were scrutinised, particularly those on Blake Maybank’s repository (  Plates from the Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia by Hilty & Brown were the main ID reference, with notes made on additional species from various sources but particularly Ridgley & Tudor’s Birds of South America.  An Ecuadorian field guide would have been much appreciated although its lack provides an excuse for any ID errors!  Taping was spectacularly unsuccessful on most occasions it was attempted, which goes some way to explaining our lack of success with many skulking species.  Birds new for me are marked by *.

Thanks to Michael for his company during the trip, Tom Love for his while we were at Bellavista, Tony Nunnery and Iain Campbell for sharing time in the field (and floor space) with me and particularly Helke and Pedro for making us so welcome at Mindo Lindo.

Michael & I arrived in Quito at 10 pm on the evening of 19 August. Nowhere at the airport would change pounds sterling which could have been a slight problem.  We stayed in the Hotel Aeropuerto conveniently located immediately outside the airport entrance, although the location was the only good thing about this place.  We picked up a pre-booked car from Budget the next morning and set off for Bellavista, arriving just over two hours later

Bellavista (20-21 August).

An interestingly constructed but very basic timber lodge located rather precariously on a ridge-top, surrounded by good forest, although many of the trails were quite steep.  It seemed expensive to stay at, considering the lack of facilities, although the staff were friendly and the hummingbird feeders on the porch superb.  We joined up with Tom Love who had arrived at Bellavista shortly before us and enjoyed his company for the next three days.  An afternoon was spent on the porch at Loma Linda, 2-3 kms below Bellavista, talking to bird guide Tony Nunnery and admiring the view from his porch and the hummers at his feeders.  The potoos, were spotlighted mid evening from the road, one just below Bellavista and one just above Bellavista.  They were a new family for me and something I’d wanted to see for many years.

Birds seen (by me unless noted otherwise):

Roadside Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Wattled Guan h
Sickle-winged Guan 1
Band-tailed Pigeon 7
Eared Dove 1
*White-throated Quail Dove 1 at bottom of trail O
Red-billed Parrot 12
Scaly-naped Amazon 2 badly
*Common Potoo 2 spotlighted
White-collared Swift 20
Green Violetear 1
Sparkling Violetear 3
Speckled Hummingbird 7
*Fawn-breasted Brilliant 2
Collared Inca 8
Buff-tailed Coronet 20
*Gorgetted Sunangel 3
Booted Racket-tail 1 at Loma Linda
Green-tailed Trainbearer 1 at Loma Linda
Violet-tailed Sylph 1 male
*Purple-throated Woodstar 1 male at Bellavista & 1 female with 2 young in nest at Loma Linda
White-bellied Woodstar 1
Masked Trogon 1
Plate-billed Mountain Toucan 5
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker 2
Azara’s Spinetail 1
Rufous Spinetail 1
Streaked Tuftedcheek 3
Pearled Treerunner 3
*Striped Treehunter 1
*Tyrannine Woodcreeper 1
Montane Woodcreeper 1
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta 1 seen well and several h along start of Nanegalitos Road
White-tailed Tyrannulet 1
Rufous-headed Pigmy-Tyrant 1
Cinnamon Flycatcher 2
Flavescent Flycatcher 2
Smoke-coloured Pewee 1
Golden-crowned Flycatcher 2
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush 1
Glossy-black Thrush 1
Blue and White Swallow 24
Sepia-brown Wren 1
Grey-breasted Wood-Wren 2
Slate-throated Whitestart 3
Capped Conebill 1
Bluish Flowerpiercer 1
Masked Flowerpiercer 1
Orange-bellied Euphonia 1
Golden Tanager 1
Golden-naped Tanager 2
Beryl-spangled Tanager 8
Blue and Black Tanager 7
Black-capped Tanager 2
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager 16
Grass-green Tanager 3
Blue-capped Tanager 1
Dusky Bush-Tanager 12
Black-winged Saltator 1
Rufous-collared Sparrow 12.

Mindo (22 August).

We left Bellavista in the dark, driving down to the lyre-tailed nightjar site just beyond Tandayapa for dawn.  We then drove on to Mindo concentrating on the track to the big hotel being built a few kms below the obelisk on the right.  Birding was good here and we reluctantly left late morning for Los Bancos.  We returned to Mindo for a late lunch, by which time it was quite hot in the valley, briefly looked at the hotel track again and called in at Mindo Lindo but nobody was home.  We returned to Loma Linda along the old Mindo road, stopping on occasion and encountering one particularly large bird flock.  Michael and Tom left at dusk, returning to Quito with the car.

Birds seen:

Turkey Vulture 8
American Swallow-tailed Kite 8
Band-tailed Pigeon 3
Plumbeous Pigeon 1
White-tipped Dove 1
Smooth-billed Ani 1
White-whiskered Hermit 1
Brown Violetear 1
Green Violetear 1
*Andean Emerald 1 near obelisk
*Brown Inca 1
Violet-tailed Sylph 1 female
White-bellied Woodstar 1
Rufous Motmot (Michael & Tom only)
Golden-headed Quetzal 2
Masked Trogon 2
Red-headed Barbet 2
Toucan Barbet 1
Plate-billed Mountain Toucan 2 (Old Road)
Golden-olive Woodpecker 1
Pacific Hornero 1
Red-faced Spinetail 2
Streaked Tuftedcheek 1 (Old Road)
Pearled Treerunner 2
Lineated Foliage-gleaner 1
Montane Woodcreeper 2
*Golden-faced Tyrannulet 1 at Los Bancos
White-tailed Tyrannulet 1
Ornate Flycatcher 4
Cinnamon Flycatcher 3 (Old Road)
Smoke-coloured Pewee 4
Dusky-capped Flycatcher 2
Tropical Kingbird 6
Cinnamon Becard 1
Turquoise Jay 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Andean Solitaire 2
Great Thrush 1 (Old Road)
Blue and White Swallow 50
Southern Rough-winged Swallow 10
Grey-breasted Wood-Wren 2
Slate-throated Whitestart 8
Three-striped Warbler 1
Capped Conebill 1
Masked Flowerpiercer 2
Fawn-breasted Tanager 2
Glistening-green Tanager 4
Golden Tanager 6
Flame-faced Tanager 3
*Metallic-green Tanager 4
Beryl-spangled Tanager 5
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager 6
Hooded Mountain-Tanager 3 (Old Road)
Swallow Tanager 3
Lemon-rumped Tanager 4
Dusky Bush-Tanager 3
Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager 1
Variable Seedeater 1 male
Yellow-bellied Seedeater 1
Tricoloured Brush-Finch 2
Rufous-collared Sparrow 10.

Los Bancos Road (22 August & 7 September).

After a morning at Mindo we reluctantly left for the gazebo track near km 73 on the Los Bancos road.  The track is on the right hand side of the road when coming from Mindo, on a slight left hand bend immediately after a small village.  A large wooded gazebo is set back slightly from the road on the right just before the bend though is easier to spot from the opposite direction.  Thetrack is rough in places and we drove little more than a km down it, to the first forest patch on the right, and probably walked a further 2 kms along it.  Despite being in the middle of the day a couple of hours walking along the track between the small forest patches proved to be excellent.

We returned to the Los Bancos Road for another couple of hours on 7 September, arriving at mid morning. The weather wasn’t so good, with periods of rain, but the area produced some quite different birds to the first visit.  We then ate in Mindo, stopped briefly at the new hotel track (but saw little) and returned to Quito.  I dropped Michael off on the outskirts and after seeing him into a taxi drove up to Yanacocha, arriving just before dusk.

Birds seen:

American Black Vulture 3
Turkey Vulture 1
Squirrel Cuckoo 2
White-collared Swift 20
Spectacled Foliage-gleaner 1
*Pacific Tuftedcheek 2
Slaty Antwren 2?
*Golden-faced Tyrannulet 1
Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant 1
Ornate Flycatcher 8
Smoke-coloured Pewee 3
Social Flycatcher 1
Streaked Flycatcher 2
Golden-crowned Flycatcher 2
Dusky-capped Flycatcher 2
Tropical Kingbird 6
Cinnamon Becard 1
Brown-capped Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Pale-vented Thrush 1
*Ecuadorian Thrush 1
Blue and White Swallow 5
Tropical Parula 4
Russet-crowned Warbler 2
Bananaquit 1
Orange-bellied Euphonia 8
Glistening-green Tanager 1
*Rufous-throated Tanager 1
Blue-necked Tanager 2
Silver-throated Tanager 5
Flame-faced Tanager 3
Blue-necked Tanager 2
Bay-headed Tanager 3
*Moss-backed Tanager 1
Blue-grey Tanager 6
Lemon-rumped Tanager 7
White-shouldered Tanager 2
Dusky Bush-Tanager 3
Black-winged Saltator 1
Black and White Seedeater 1
Yellow-bellied Seedeater 2
Hooded Siskin 1.

Loma Linda & Tandayapa (23-25 August).

I had originally planned to stay in Mindo while Michael was on the Galapagos but was not overly keen on it as most of the good birding sites were a fair walk from the town.  As an alternative Tony Nunnery kindly allowed me to stay with him at Loma Linda.  This offered good birding, literally from the porch, a breathtaking view and excellent company.  On the first morning Tony & I climbed down a rather steep track Tony was cutting to the Tandayapa River, returning to spend the afternoon around his house (which has a magnificent view) and a couple of trails behind it.  The next day I followed a well established trail down to the Tandayapa River and up to a clearing on an adjacent hillside and the final morning I walked down to Tandayapa to meet Iain Campbell.  Iain was completing the building of an impressive new tourist lodge at Tandayapa and, through Tony, had offered to give me a lift back to Quito.  After an afternoon walking the trails at Tandayapa with Iain it became apparent that the lift he’d offered wasn’t going to materialise and we and his Ecuadorian girlfriend hitched back into Quito where they kindly put me up for the night.  The female Purple-throated Woodstar with 2 young at her nest were a particular delight, being visible from the porch.  On the 2nd day I was at Loma Linda the young left the nest although remained in a tree near it for the rest of my stay.  See for more information on Tandayapa Lodge and this region.

Birds seen:

Turkey Vulture 1
Roadside Hawk 1
Barred Forest-Falcon 1
Wattled Guan h
Sickle-winged Guan 4
Band-tailed Pigeon 20
Plumbeous Pigeon 2
Red-billed Parrot 6
White-collared Swift 5
Chestnut-collared Swift 6
Rufous-bellied Nighthawk 2 below Loma Linda one dusk
*Lyre-tailed Nightjar 1 male along old Nono road 1.5-2.5 kms past Tandayapa one dusk & 3 one dawn
Tawny-bellied Hermit 2
Green-fronted Lancebill 1
Brown Violetear 1
Green Violetear 11
Sparkling Violetear 4
(Western) Blue-tailed Emerald 8
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird 4
Speckled Hummingbird 11
Fawn-breasted Brilliant 2
Collared Inca 2
Buff-tailed Coronet 3
Gorgetted Sunangel 3
Booted Racket-tail 4
Green-tailed Trainbearer 1
Purple-throated Woodstar 4+
quetzal sp. 2 (golden-headed?)
Masked Trogon 3
Red-headed Barbet 3
Toucan Barbet 3
Crimson-rumped Toucanet 1
Plate-billed Mountain Toucan 1
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker 1
Golden-olive Woodpecker 1
*Yellow-vented Woodpecker 1
Azara’s Spinetail 2
Rufous Spinetail 1
Streaked Tuftedcheek 1
Pacific Tuftedcheek
Spotted Barbtail 1
Lineated Foliage-gleaner 1?
*Striped Woodhaunter 2
Striped Treehunter
Tyrannine Woodcreeper 2
Strong-billed Woodcreeper 1
Montane Woodcreeper 5
Long-tailed Antbird 1
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta
White-tailed Tyrannulet 3
Torrent Tyrannulet 2
Streak-necked Flycatcher 1
*Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrant 1
Smoke-coloured Pewee 7
Black Phoebe 3
Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant 1
Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant 1
Golden-crowned Flycatcher 6
Green and Black Fruiteater 1
Andean Cock of the Rock 2f
Golden-winged Manakin 1
*Beautiful Jay 2
Andean Solitaire h
Blue and White Swallow 50
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Grey-breasted Wood-Wren 6
Tropical Parula 3
Olive-crowned Yellowthroat 1
Slate-throated Whitestart 13
Three-striped Warbler 2
Black-crested Warbler 1
Russet-crowned Warbler 5
Capped Conebill 10
White-sided Flowerpiercer 5
*Yellow-collared Chlorophonia 1 (on ridge opposite Loma Linda)
Thick-billed Euphonia 1
Golden-rumped Euphonia 2
Orange-bellied Euphonia 1
Golden Tanager 32
Golden-naped Tanager 16
Beryl-spangled Tanager 4
Black-capped Tanager 2
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager 14
Blue-grey Tanager 2
Blue-capped Tanager 4
Lemon-rumped Tanager 1
Black-winged Saltator 3
Blue-black Grassquit 11
Black and White Seedeater 2
Yellow-bellied Seedeater 15
Tricoloured Brush-Finch 5
*White-winged Brush-Finch 3
Rufous-collared Sparrow 20
Giant Cowbird 3.

Yanacocha (26 August & 7-8 September).

Yanacocha was an area I’d tried to visit on my earlier trip to Ecuador but hadn’t managed to find the right place.  Once back in Quito Iain had arranged for a taxi driver to take us to Yanacocha for a few hours on the morning of 26 August.  As the taxi driver had been there before I was relatively confident of us not getting lost and it was actually fairly straightforward when one knew the way (I’d gone too high previously).  Birdquest, led by Paul Coopmans, were already in the field when we arrived, their breakfast table looking rather incongruous on a mountainside in the middle of nowhere!  After unsuccessfully chasing after a couple of species they had seen we went our own way and after about an hour Iain found an Ocellated Tapaculo in tangled bamboo just below the track.  I eventually got a stunningly good, but brief, view of it after scrambling down the rather steep slope.  Iain and I returned to Quito and after visiting a bank (to change my pounds) I then met up with Michael, back from the Galapagos, at the not-to-be recommended Hotel Aeropuerto.

I revisited Yanacocha for my last morning (Michael having returned to Quito for a good nights sleep as he was going into work straight from the airport when we got back).  I managed to find my way to Yanacocha with no problems, arriving in thick cloud with about an hour of light left.  I saw little in this time and had a reasonable night in the car just inside the compound.  The following morning I saw a couple of the birds we hadn’t found on the earlier visit (but no more tapaculos).  Some impressive activity from the nearby Volcan Pichincha provided a memorable finish to the trip.

Birds seen:

Carunculated Caracara 2
Band-tailed Pigeon 1
Eared Dove 4
Short-eared Owl 1
Mountain Velvetbreast 4
Great Sapphirewing 4
*Buff-winged Starfrontlet 3
Sapphire-vented Puffleg 7
*Golden-breasted Puffleg 1
Black-tailed Trainbearer 2
Purple-backed Thornbill 4
Tyrian Metaltail 4
Bar-bellied Woodpecker 1
Pearled Treerunner 3
Tawny Antpitta 3
Blackish Tapaculo h
Spillman’s Tapaculo h
*Ocellated Tapaculo 1
White-throated Tyrannulet 1
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant 1
Red-crested Cotinga 3
Barred Fruiteater 1
Great Thrush 40
Brown-bellied Swallow 2
Blue and White Swallow 5
Rufous Wren 9
Spectacled Whitestart 1
Cinereous Conebill 2
Masked Flowerpiercer 2
Glossy Flowerpiercer 15
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager 7
Hooded Mountain-Tanager 4
*Black-chested Mountain-Tanager 2
Superciliaried Hemispingus 2
Tricoloured Brush-Finch 5
Rufous-collared Sparrow 2.

Cajanuma (27-29 August).

Michael and I got the early morning flight from Quito to La Toma airport and a shared taxi into Loja where we stayed in the Hotel Acapulco.  This was reasonably priced, very clean, quiet and friendly.  One of the receptionists ran us down to the southern taxi terminal where we negotiated a charter to Cajanuma, arriving there mid morning.  On arrival at the ranger station we got a permit valid for a week.  We spent the next two and a half days commuting from Loja to Cajanuma.  The journey took about 45 minutes and we arrived soon after dawn (having to wake the guard at the entrance to release a chain across the road) and left just before dusk, although this prevented us from trying for any night birds and we may have been better served to have taken a supply of food with us and stayed in the basic accommodation at the ranger station.  On 29th we just had the morning at Cajanuma, before returning to Loja.  The cloud forest at Cajanuma was very nice to walk in and we spent a lot of time on the Antejos loop and the first km of the other trails.  We were generally lucky with the weather, but bird densities seemed extremely low (as the following list indicates).  The road below the ranger station was particularly disappointing.  The sunangels caused particular confusion, is more than one species present?

Birds seen:

Band-tailed Pigeon flocks totalling 75 one evening
Chestnut-collared Swift 20
Buff-winged Starfrontlet 1
Chestnut-breasted Coronet 1
*Purple-throated Sunangel 1+ (with iridescent blue-purple throat)
flame-throated sunangel 3? (with iridescent yellow-orange-red throats)
Sapphire-vented Puffleg 2
Green-tailed Trainbearer 2
Purple-backed Thornbill 2
Tyrian Metaltail 2
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker 1
Pacific Hornero 2 on road to Loja)
Azara’s Spinetail 1
Rufous Spinetail 1
*White-browed Spinetail 1
*Mouse-coloured Thistletail 1
Streaked Tuftedcheek 1
Pearled Treerunner 8
Lineated Foliage-gleaner 1
*Flammulated Treehunter 1
Chestnut-crowned Antpitta heard
*Chestnut-naped Antpitta 3
Rufous Antpitta 5
White-crested Elania 1
White-banded Tyrannulet 7
Tufted Tit-Tyrant 1
Cinnamon Flycatcher 1
Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant 4
Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant 1
Smoky Bush-Tyrant 1
Red-crested Cotinga 1
Barred Fruiteater 3
Turquoise Jay 2
Great Thrush 18
Brown-bellied Swallow 20
Blue and White Swallow 25
Rufous Wren 17
*Plain-tailed Wren 2
Mountain Wren 1
Spectacled Whitestart 6
Citrine Warbler 2
Blue-backed Conebill 2
Masked Flowerpiercer 6
Glossy Flowerpiercer 3
Black Flowerpiercer 2
White-sided Flowerpiercer 1
Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia 2
Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager 4
Hooded Mountain-Tanager 4
Blue-capped Tanager 2
Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager 2
Black-capped Hemispingus 2
Plushcap 2
Pale-naped Brush-Finch 4
Rufous-naped Brush-Finch 6
Rufous-collared Sparrow 10.

Zamora (29 August).

Returning to Loja we investigated buses to Zamora but rather than wait a couple of hours for the next one we decided to take a taxi (which wasn’t actually much more expensive).  We arrived in Zamora mid afternoon and after checking into Hotel Gimyfa International walked the short distance down to the river and birded along its banks to the road bridge until dusk.  We saw a number of birds that were new for the trip, but all were fairly common ones.  Michael revisited the area on the morning of 31st but saw little that was different.

Birds seen:

American Black Vulture 5
Turkey Vulture 1
American Kestrel 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Feral Rock Pigeon 2
Mottle-backed Elania 1 (Michael only)
Social Flycatcher 1
Tropical Kingbird 4
Black-billed Thrush 5
Blue and White Swallow 20
White-banded Swallow 2
Thrush-like Wren 1
House Wren 6
Bananaquit 2
Yellow-bellied Dacnis 1
Blue-necked Tanager 1
Blue-grey Tanager 13
Silver-beaked Tanager 8
Yellow-browed Sparrow 9
Blue-black Grassquit 2
Chestnut-bellied Seedeater 1 (Michael only)
Yellow-rumped Cacique 12
House Sparrow 5.

Rio Bombuscaro (30 August to 1 September).

The entrance was reached each day by taxi (in <30 minutes), which we then arranged to collect us just before dusk.  This worked very well and the one occasion our driver couldn’t make it he sent a friend instead.  Most of our time was spent between the entrance and the ranger station, in the forest immediately behind it and along the river just after it.  On one occasion I spent all morning walking 3-4 kms along the river to a clearing (where it promptly started to rain, wet weather not being unusual at this site).  We were not asked for our permit until our last morning.  The range didn’t seemed concerned that it was only valid for Cajanuma, although I wasn’t convinced that he could read very well!  We took a taxi back to Loja intending to stop in suitable habitat on the way.  In the event we made a couple of stops which produced little and just seemed to hit really suitable habitat when the heavens opened and we opted to continue to Loja.  We again stayed in the excellent Hotel Acapulco.

Birds seen:

Turkey Vulture 2
American Swallow-tailed Kite 4
Plumbeous Kite 1,Roadside Hawk 1
Barred Forest-Falcon 1
American Kestrel 1
*Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail 1 hurried across the trail near entrance
Plumbeous Pigeon 1
Grey-fronted Dove 1
Military Macaw 6 flew over entrance (Michael only)
White-eyed Parakeet 25-75 daily
Squirrel Cuckoo 3
Smooth-billed Ani 9 along entrance road
Grey-rumped Swift 6
Green Hermit 1 behind ranger station
Fork-tailed Woodnymph 3
*Highland Motmot 1 flew across the river by the entrance
Coppery-chested Jacamar 2 pairs between entrance and ranger station
Black-streaked Puffbird 1 between entrance and ranger station
Red-headed Barbet 6
Ash-browed Spinetail 3
Spotted Barbtail 1
Montane Foliage-gleaner 2
xenops 1 (presumed Streaked)
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper 1
Olive-backed Woodcreeper 1
Yellow-breasted Antwren 2
Scale-backed Antbird 2 males
Streak-necked Flycatcher 1
Slaty-capped Flycatcher 3
Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant 4
Fulvous-breasted Flatbill 1 (Michael only)
Yellow-olive Flycatcher 2
Ornate Flycatcher 18
Tawny-breasted Flycatcher 1
Black Phoebe 1 by river
Rufous-tailed Tyrant 1 seen each day by entrance
Social Flycatcher 1
Lemon-browed Flycatcher 5 (in one flock)
Golden-crowned Flycatcher 2
Tropical Kingbird 7
Masked Tityra 2
Amazonian Umbrellabird 2 or 3 between entrance and ranger station
Andean Cock of the Rock 1 male
1 imm male and 2 females
all beyond the ranger station
Blue-rumped Manakin 6 (mostly males behind ranger station)
*Striped Manakin 1 male & 1 female between entrance and ranger station
Green Jay 14
Andean Solitaire 2
Black-billed Thrush 1 along entrance road
White-necked Thrush 1
Blue and White Swallow 40
Southern Rough-winged Swallow 18
White-breasted Wood-Wren 8
Tropical Parula 9
Slate-throated Whitestart 22
Bananaquit 3
Blue Dacnis 2
Black-faced Dacnis 1 male
Thick-billed Euphonia 1 male
Orange-bellied Euphonia 4
Orange-eared Tanager 4
Golden Tanager 25
Golden-eared Tanager 2
Blue-necked Tanager 14
Paradise Tanager 17
Green and Gold Tanager 2
Spotted Tanager 2
Yellow-bellied Tanager 2
Bay-headed Tanager 6
Silver-beaked Tanager 6
White-winged Tanager 1 male
Common Bush-Tanager 4
Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager 40
Buff-throated Saltator 1
Yellow-bellied Seedeater 1
Olive Finch 4
Crested Oropendola 1
Subtropical Cacique 4.

La Toma airport (2 September).

We arranged a shared taxi to take us from Loja to La Toma airport early on the morning of our departure.  We wandered around the scrub outside the airport before and after check-in seeing a few dry country birds that were new for the trip.

Birds seen:

Pacific Parrotlet 2 flew over
Smooth-billed Ani 4
Ferruginous Pigmy Owl 1
Pacific Hornero 4
Vermillion Flycatcher 1
Long-tailed Mockingbird 5
Southern Rough-winged Swallow 2
Fasciated Wren 2
Tropical Gnatcatcher 2
Saffron Finch 2
Shiny Cowbird 4.

Cotopaxi (2-3 September).

Back in Quito we picked up a car and headed south to Cotopaxi, arriving early afternoon.  Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe caused some initial problems as the green bins we’d been told to look out for had been painted white, but a pair were eventually found on the more barren slopes a couple of kms below the upper car-park.  Most of the other birds were around Laguna de Limpiopungo.  On my previous visit to Cotopaxi (in summer 1986) we’d slept in one of the refugios close to the laguna.  They were in considerable disrepair, making that no longer an option so we slept in the car nearby and were glad to have decent sleeping bags.  The following morning was spent birding the same general areas and seeing similar birds (including another pair of seedsnipe).  We then left to drive to Papallacta.

Birds seen:

Andean Teal 22
Yellow-billed Pintail 5
Puna Hawk 2
Carunculated Caracara 6
American Kestrel 1
Andean Coot 22
Greater Yellowlegs 7
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Baird’s Sandpiper 19
*Noble Snipe 7
*Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe 4
Andean Lapwing 60
Andean Gull 18
Feral Rock Pigeon 10
Black-winged Ground Dove 1
Ecuadorian Hillstar 10
Black-tailed Trainbearer 1
Stout-billed Cinclodes 9
Bar-winged Cinclodes 16
Streak-backed Canastero 1
Tawny Antpitta 3
Tufted Tit-Tyrant 1
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant 3
Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant 32
*White-browed Ground-Tyrant 13
Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant 1
Great Thrush 15
Grass Wren 1
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch 18
Tricoloured Brush-Finch 1
Rufous-collared Sparrow 1.

Papallacta Pass (3 and 6 September).

We arrived at Papallacta at lunch time and stopped in a few places before and after the summit.  The weather was not very good and few birds were in evidence so we decided to continue and try some sites on the way to Baeza.  About halfway there we found the road to be blocked while a van was recovered from having crashed down a steep slope.  This took over 2 hours and we did not get going again until just before dusk.  We arrived in Baeza early evening, having initially missed the turning in the dark.  We stayed in the pleasant, but basic, Hotel Samay, making it our base for 3 nights.

On our return on 6th we left Baeza at dawn and stopped a number of times on the way up to Papallacta checking for dippers before finally seeing a pair under a large metal bridge which took the road over a large tributary.  A stop in Papallacta village failed to produce any Sword-billed Hummingbirds on the numerous datura flowers and a stop just outside town for Mountain Avocetbill was equally unsuccessful.  We then walked sections of the road up to the pass, in equally indifferent weather to that experienced on our earlier visit.  The pass itself was covered in cloud and we quickly returned to Quito and the west slope.

Birds seen:

Yellow-billed Pintail 1
Black-chested Eagle 3
Puna Hawk 3
Carunculated Caracara 2
American Kestrel 2
Upland Sandpiper 3
Feral Rock Pigeon 10
Eared Dove 1
Shining Sunbeam 2
Mountain Velvetbreast 2
*Viridian Metaltail 1
Blue-mantled Thornbill 1 badly
*Rainbow-bearded Thornbill 1
Bar-bellied Woodpecker 1
Stout-billed Cinclodes 1
Bar-winged Cinclodes 2
White-chinned Thistletail 2
Pearled Treerunner 5
Tawny Antpitta 3
White-throated Tyrannulet 3
White-banded Tyrannulet 4
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant 1
Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant 1
Green Jay 1
Great Thrush 26
White-capped Dipper 2
Brown-bellied Swallow 4
Blue and White Swallow 10
Rufous Wren 1
Mountain Wren 1
Spectacled Whitestart 5
Black-crested Warbler 1
Cinereous Conebill 4
Black Flowerpiercer 8
Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager 1
Black-backed Bush-Tanager 6
Superciliaried Hemispingus 1
Southern Yellow Grosbeak 1
Plain-coloured Seedeater 1
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch 4
Pale-naped Brush-Finch 1
Rufous-collared Sparrow 41.

Cabanas San Isidro & Huacamayos Ridge (4-5 September).

We left Baeza just before dawn, driving to Cabanas San Isidro in about an hour.  The main Tena road was very muddy in places and the track up to San Isidro even more so, although we managed in our saloon car (with one or two anxious moments).  The state of the road made us reluctant to travel far in the dark so we left San Isidro for the main road before dusk.  Scanning the main river at regular intervals each day produced one male Torrent Duck on one occasion.  It is possible, but very expensive, to stay at Cabanas San Isidro.  We had arranged to use the trails for $10 per person per day.  This too seemed rather expensive as the trails were badly in need of maintenance (the famous log trail being under at least 6 inches of mud in several places).  Our impressions of Cabanas San Isidro were not helped by seeing practically no birds of interest during our day there (probably not helped by a malfunctioning microphone and almost continual heavy rain in the morning).  Our intention to spend four days in the area was soon put to the test and after a birdless morning at Huacamayos Ridge (in perfect weather) and an afternoon dodging heavy showers along the dirt road past San Isidro (where we actually saw more birds) we decided to head back to the west slope.  This area was the biggest disappointment of the trip, perhaps we should have persevered, but in the event our leaving the area early was to be the best decision of the trip.

Birds seen (H = Huacamayos):

Torrent Duck 1
Spotted Sandpiper 4
Band-tailed Pigeon 5 (H)
White-throated Quail Dove 1 (log trail)
Speckle-faced Parrot 30 (H)
Scaly-naped Amazon 2
Squirrel Cuckoo 1
White-collared Swift 35 (H
zoomed over the ridge
almost the best thing seen in the area!)
Chestnut-collared Swift 20
Speckled Hummingbird 4
Bronzy Inca M
Collared Inca 3
Long-tailed Sylph 7
Crested Quetzal 1 male
Golden-headed Quetzal 1 female
Highland Motmot 2 (one on Cock-of-the-Rock trail and one on trail behind house)
Emerald Toucanet 1
Crimson-mantled Woodpecker 4
Yellow-vented Woodpecker 1
Powerful Woodpecker
Azara’s Spinetail 1
Rufous Spinetail 1
Streaked Tuftedcheek 1
Pearled Treerunner 12
Lineated Foliage-gleaner 1
Montane Foliage-gleaner 3
Montane Woodcreeper 10
Long-tailed Antbird 1
chestnut-naped antpitta ? (a call thought to be from this species was heard from bamboo above road at Huacamayos)
White-tailed Tyrannulet 4
*Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet 1
Torrent Tyranulet 4
Streak-necked Flycatcher 2
Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant 1
Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrant 5
Cinnamon Flycatcher 4
Flavescent Flycatcher 1
Handsome Flycatcher 4
Smoke-coloured Pewee 2
Black Phoebe 2
Smoky Bush-Tyrant 2
*Pale-edged Flycatcher 4
Golden-crowned Flycatcher 1
Tropical Kingbird 10
Green and Black Fruiteater 4
Green Jay 14
Black-billed Peppershrike 4
Brown-capped Vireo 1
Great Thrush 4
Blue and White Swallow 40
Mountain Wren 4
Grey-breasted Wood-Wren 4
Slate-throated Whitestart 4
Spectacled Whitestart 10
Three-striped Warbler 2
Black-crested Warbler 2
Russet-crowned Warbler 1
Capped Conebill 2
Bluish Flowerpiercer 11
Masked Flowerpiercer 2
White-sided Flowerpiercer 6
Fawn-breasted Tanager 2
Orange-bellied Euphonia 5
Saffron-crowned Tanager 26
Flame-faced Tanager 7
Golden-naped Tanager 2
Beryl-spangled Tanager 12
Blue and Black Tanager 2 (H)
Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager 3
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager 5
Hooded Mountain-Tanager 2
Grass-green Tanager 1
Blue-grey Tanager 4
Common Bush-Tanager 5
Black-eared Hemispingus 2
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch 2
Rufous-collared Sparrow 60
Russet-backed Oropendola 25
Mountain Cacique 10
Olivaceous Siskin 5.

Mindo Lindo (6-7 September).

We put our disappointment with San Isidro to good use by returning to the west slope.  We arrived at Mindo Lindo from Papallacta early afternoon, were immediately made welcome by Pedro and taken to the Club-winged Manakin lek, being shown a female Long-wattled Umbrellabird (which had been in residence for just over a week) on the way.  Three hours in the area of the lek only produced a female but this too worked to our advantage (not that it seemed like it at the time).  We stayed with Pedro and Helke in a nice cabin they occasionally rent out and were invited up for supper and made to feel a part of the family by them.  Before an excellent breakfast we had excellent views of the manakins lekking (birds of the trip) and saw a male Scaled Fruiteater.  Soon after we found a roosting Pigmy Owl which was being mobbed by tanagers which, I’m told, ‘must have been’ the newly described Cloud-forest Pigmy Owl!  Despite covering only a small area (we were never more than 10 minutes walk from the house), an impressive list of birds have been recorded at Mindo Lindo.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and in many ways Mindo Lindo was the highlight of the trip.  Mindo Lindo is not far from the Mindo obolisk.  More information can be obtained from Tandayapa Lodge.

Birds seen:

Turkey Vulture 1
Maroon-tailed Parakeet 10 seen by Michael
Red-billed Parrot 5
*Cloud Forest Pigmy Owl 1
White-collared Swift 5
Tawny-bellied Hermit 1
Green-crowned Woodnymph 1
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird 1
Fawn-breasted Brilliant 1
Brown Inca 1
Booted Racket-tail 1 male
Golden-headed Quetzal 2
Masked Trogon 2
Red-headed Barbet 1
Azara’s Spinetail 1
Red-faced Spinetail 2
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner 1
Strong-billed Woodcreeper 1
Montane Woodcreeper 3
Smoke-coloured Pewee 2
*Scaled Fruiteater 1 male
*Long-wattled Umbrellabird 1 female
*Club-winged Manakin 4 males (lekking) & 1 female
Brown-capped Vireo 2
Grey-breasted Wood-Wren 1
Tropical Parula 2
Slate-throated Whitestart 2
Orange-bellied Euphonia 1
Rufous-throated Tanager 1
Golden Tanager 6
Golden-naped Tanager 5
Beryl-spangled Tanager 4
Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager 1
White-winged Tanager 1 male
Dusky Bush-Tanager 1
Black-winged Saltator 1
Tricoloured Brush-Finch 4
Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch 2
Rufous-collared Sparrow 2.

APPENDIX:  Birds seen by Michael Grunwell on Galapagos

Birds seen on 4 day/3 Night "Northern circuit" cruise on MV Santa Cruz 23-26 August 1999

Itinerary Site code
Day 1 : 23rd August  Flew into Baltra airport late am, short bus transfer to boat in Baltra Harbour
 NS Short sail to North Seymour Island.
 NS Afternoon 2 hours on North Seymour Island
  Overnight sailing to Bartholomew/Bartolome Island (Islet off NE corner of Santiago/James)

Day 2 : 24th August Bart. Early morning stroll up top of hill on Bartholomew
 Bart. Morning Zodiac (Panga) ride to get penguin
 James Lunchtime sail to western side of James
 James Walk around trails on James
  Overnight sailing to Tower Island/Genovesa

Day 3 : 25th August Tower Early morning cruise into Darwin bay at SE corner of Tower.
 Tower Morning stroll around seabird colonies on W side of Darwin Bay.
 Tower Afternoon walk from Prince Phillip's steps to NE cliff top storm petrel colonies
  Overnight sailing to Santa Cruz

Day 4 : 26th August SC Early morning sailing into Acadamy Bay/main town on Santa Cruz
 SC Bus ride to centre of Island, walk around tortoise site; a newly opened up farm area where half a dozen wild giant tortoises are easy to see.  A nearby restaurant visited for lunch (roosting barn owl).
 SC Bus ride north to (pedestrian-only) ferry onto Baltra Island
 SC Bus back to Baltra Airport for flight back to mainland

Key:  f  Seen easily or fairly easily, no count  c :  Common/very common  a :  Abundant
English Name NS Bart James Tower SC Notes
Galapagos Penguin - 6 Not easy to see here, mostly brief views swimming, but one out on rock close to Panga
Waved Albatross  -  - 1  - One bird seen twice in flight at NE corner of Tower
White-winged/Gould's Petrel  -  - 1  - Pale gadfly seen close to ship on W side of James (id based on book/range)
Dark-rumped/Hawaiian Petrel  -  -  - 500+ Large flocks on sea in early morning approach to Acadamy Bay
Audubon's Shearwater f f f f f Always some seen whenever at sea
Elliot's Storm-petrel c f c f f Always some around boat throughout islands
Wedge-rumped Storm-petrel  -  -  - a Only identified for sure on Tower where sky was literally black with 1 million birds breeding
Red-billed Tropicbird 50     100   Mostly at nest cliffs
Magnificent Frigatebird c f f 2 f Not supposed to occur on Tower but at least some females seen
Great Frigatebird c f f f f
Blue-footed Booby c f c c f
Masked Booby f f f c  -
Red-footed Booby c  - Only seen on and around Tower
Brown Pelican f f f f f
Great Blue Heron 1 1 1  -
Cattle egret 1  - 1 c -
Lava Heron  - 3+ - 1 - Not that easy
Yellow-crowned Night Heron 1  - 2 2 -
Galapagos Hawk 1  - 1 - Not guaranteed
Whimbrel 1
Wandering Tattler 1 5 2 -
Ruddy Turnstone 2 -
Sanderling 2 -
American Oystercatcher 1 1
Lava Gull 1 6+ Rare; only a handful seen on Tower
Swallow-tailed Gull 100+ 300+ Superb, initially mistaken for egret in flight
Common Noddy c f f f f  
Galapagos Dove 1 3 c f Dinky; very easy on Tower
Smooth-billed Ani 2 f Unfortunately present
Barn Owl 1 1 bird roosting in restaurant eaves
Short-eared Owl 1 Feeds entirely on storm petrels on Tower
Vermillion Flycatcher 1 One from bus
Galapagos Flycatcher 2 Obliging birds but not seen other than on James
Galapagos Mockingbird 3 c Very easy on Tower
Large Ground-finch 3 Fairly easy to find on Tower
Medium Ground-finch 1 c Common at the tortoise site
Small Ground-finch 2 3 5 a By far the commonest of the imaginatively-named ground finches.
Sharp-beaked Ground -finch c Replaces small GF on Tower
Large Cactus-finch 4+ Fairly easy to find on Tower
Small Tree-finch 3 Hard to find, sweated through tons of ground finches at tortoise site.
Warbler Finch 4 Easy on Tower
Yellow Warbler f 5 f f f Everywhere: plays role of pipits etc.


Richard Fairbank,
West Sussex

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