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6 - 15 August 1997

by Mark Welford

Preliminary biogeographic field survey of Bellavista, Ecuador

The following is an extended summary of a preliminary biogeographic field survey of Bellavista, Ecuador and birding trip up Yanacocha that I completed this summer (I apologize for any typos).  I saw a total of 124 species of which 43 were life birds for me.  Although this is a small number of birds, I stayed in Bellavista for 7 days while my only other birding was done on the volcano -- Yanacocha.

Observers: Mark Welford (accompanied on Yanacocha by John Rollins, and by Dave Johnson while at Bellavista)


 August 6: Statesboro, GA to Quito via Miami
 August 7: Yanacocha 5:45 a.m.  - 1:30 p.m.; drove to Bellavista
 August 8-14: Bellavista
 August 15: Quito to Miami to Statesboro, GA

This was my second trip to Ecuador and having been once before I organized this myself.  I arranged for accommodation with Richard Parsons at Bellavista and transport to and from Bellavista via the web and e-mail ( or, and booked my hotel ($14 per night), the Alston in downtown Quito also using the inter-net ( and fax.  My trip up Yanacocha was also arranged with John Rollins using the convenience of e-mail.  The entire trip including airfare cost me $1125.00 -- my flight alone was $768.00.  If we then ignore the flight cost -- the land cost was $367/10 days or $36.70 a day.  I prefer to calculate the cost of a trip as dollars spent per bird or life bird, in this case, the trip cost $1125/43 or $26.16 per life bird which in my book is excellent.  Last year I went to Ecuador with DeLaney Ecotours and it cost me $3000 (including airfare) for 10 days but I did see 320 lifers -- this is a return of $9.37 per bird but this year I found and identified the birds.  In my mind this year's trip was far, far more rewarding, I learnt far more because I was not being simply shown the birds.  However, I must say as a birdguide Dale DeLaney is excellent.  Usual disclaimers: no financial or other connections to author, publisher, etc.

In the report below
* (#) = life bird,
H = heard,
(m) = male,
(f) = female,
# = more than 10,
and I = immature.


John Rollins arrived at 5:45 a.m.  (we had finalized our trip up Yanacocha the evening before) to pick me up in his truck.  We drove through deserted Quito up to Yanacocha taking the Nono road.  Birds seen in several ravines still within Quito included:
2 Azara's Spinetail  # Masked Flower-piercer 
# Great Thrush  2 Black-crested Warbler 
#Black-tailed Trainbearer  2 Blue-backed Conebill 
4 Cinerous Conebill  5 Rock Dove
4 Sapphire-vented Puffleg *(1)  5 Spectacled Redstart
2 White-banded Tyrannulet  1 Pale-napped Brush-Finch
1 Southern Yellow-Grosbeak  3 White-throated Tyrannulet 
# Rufous-collared Sparrow  1 Sparkling Violet-ear
3 Superciliared Hemispingus  2 Crowned Chat-tyrant *(2)

Rather tragically much of the ravine flora is being cut and developed as Quito grows up toward the col on the Nono road. Once on the dirt road going up Yanacocha we passed through a farmyard and proceeded up to the water-collection facility and its two gates. Luckily the attendant was there to open them and we proceeded to the end of the road. We then birded up to

and through the first water tunnel but returned before reaching the second tunnel. The vegetation of the area can be described as temperate or montane (dwarf) cloud forest -- it is not, though, polylepis woodland. According to John this was one of the best days his has had on Yanacocha -- the variety and number hummingbirds were spectacular. We saw the following:
2 Barred Fruiteater *(3)  # Black Flower-piercer 
2 Black-chested Mountain-Tanager *(4) -
# Black-tailed Trainbearer  # Blue and Black Tanager 
2 Brown-backed Chat-tyrant  # Brown-bellied Swallow
3 Buff-winged Starfrontlet *(5)  2 Great Sapphirewing *(6) 
# Green-tailed Trainbearer *(7)  2 Hooded Mountain-Tanager 
3 Hooded Siskin  1 Mountain Avocetbill *(8)
# Purple-backed Thornbill *(9)  Poss. Rainbow-bearded Thornbill 
1 Red-backed Hawk  2 Red-crested Cotinga
2 Rufous-naped Brush-Finch  10 Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager 
1 Shining Sunbeam  2 Streak-throated Bush-tyrant
1 Stripe-headed Brush-Finch *(10)  # Tyrian Metaltail *(11) 
2 White-crested Elaenia *(12)  2 Stout-billed Cinclodes 
1 Bar-bellied Woodpecker *(13) -

During the drive down we saw a PLAIN-COLORED SEEDEATER *(14). After hurriedly returning to my hotel, the Hotel Alston, in downtown Quito I was picked by Juan Ventimilla, who I had met the previous year and is owner and operator of Avemundo Tours. He is regularly used by Richard to transfer groups to Bellavista (he is also an excellent driver and guide [fax: 593-2-521-532]). We arrived at Bellavista at 3:30 p.m. I should note that the 600 hectare Bellavista reserve consists of approximately 40% untouched primary montane cloud forest, 40% selectively cut for timber, and the remaining 20% is pasture, with some regenerating forest. Over 230 species of birds have been seen within the reserve. Because of the area's proximity to Quito (Quito is only 30 kilometers away as the crow flies) the surrounding forest is being clear-cut at a fast pace to create pastures for cattle. As a result, the landscape is composed of varying size patches of pristine cloud forest, selectively cut forest, forest edge, managed forest, road, and cow pasture, and cow pasture with living fence posts. After a quick cup of tea I birded around the lodge and down the Helaconia trail. Birds seen included:
#Buff-tailed Coronet  1 Gorgeted Sunangel
# Band-tailed Pigeon  2 Blue-capped Tanager 
1 Sparkling Violet-ear  # Dusky Bush-Tanager
2 Toucan Barbet  4 Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan 
1 Collared Inca  3 Speckled Hummingbird
3 Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager  Fawn-breasted Brilliant *(15) (f)

This small set of birds was certainly a very pleasant re-introduction to the fantastic bird fauna of the area. At about 6:15 p.m. I ventured up the Mindo road accompanied by two Swedes where we found the following in fading light:
H Chestnut-crowned Antpitta  H 1 Swallow-tailed Nightjar *(16) 
H Gray-breasted Wood-Wren -

Although I only heard the NIGHTJAR -- what a call, incredible, beauty and haunting all in one.


Although very tired I birded the Mindo road above the lodge from 6:45 - 7:30 a.m. and had the following:
# Andean Solitaire  1 Rufous Spinetail
1 Black-crested Warbler  1 Ocellated Tapaculo *(17) 
2 Slate-throated Redstart  1 Striped Cuckoo
2 Red-billed Parrot *(18)  3 Grass-green Tanager
5 Plumbeous Pigeon  2 Tyrannine Woodcreeper *(19) 
1 Plain-breasted Hawk *(20)  2 Blue-and-white Swallow
4 Spillman's Tapaculo *(21) -

The OCELLATED TAPACULO and GRASS-GREENS were seen opposite Krabbe's finca: I was able to approach the OCELLATED TAPACULO as close as 15 ft while it called from within a bank of bamboo. Returning to the lodge along the Mindo road for breakfast at 8:00 a.m. I saw:
2 Dusky Bush-Tanager  1 Golden Tanager
H Smoke-colored Pewee  1 Spot-crowned Woodcreeper *(22) 
H Gray-breasted Wood-Wren  + resident hummers at feeders

The remainder of the morning was spent exploring the Helaconia trail and Nanegalito road above its junction with the Mindo road. The Helaconia trail originates at the lodge and transverses across the adjacent steep slope and ends with a steep ascent of the ridge to the Nanegalito road -- this latter portion is not for the faint-of-hearted or unfit. Unfortunately, the trail yielded only BLUE-AND-BLACK TANAGERS. Once on the road things improved:
3 Cinnamon Flycatcher  1 White-collared Swift 
2 Squirrel Cuckoo  2 Brown-capped Vireo
2 Tricolored Brush-Finch  2 Streak-necked Flycatcher 
# Slate-throated Redstart -

One small flock included the following:
# Golden-naped Tanager  1 Strong-billed Woodcreeper 
# Masked Flower-piercer  2 White-sided Flower-piercer 
4 Rufous-chested Tanager *(23) -

While descending the Mindo road on the way back to the lodge for 2:00 p.m. lunch I also saw the following:
2 Sickle-winged Guan *(24)  1 Beryl-spangled Tanager 
2 Plumbeous Pigeon  1 Glossy-black Thrush
2 Green and Black Fruiteater *(25)  1 White-throated Quail-Dove *(26) 
# Azara's Spinetail (Heard)  # Rufous-collared Sparrow
2 Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager -

The food at Bellavista is excellent, furthermore it comes in huge portions and there are usually plenty of extras for seconds. It is vegetatian so if you like dead meat beware. The food is also served communally, you will share your table with other quests which is neat, and this usually leads to stimulating conversation. Both Richard, the owner, and Laurie, the lodge manager, join the quests for each meal making the whole experience like an extended family get-together.

I returned to the Mindo road after 6:00 p.m. and saw or heard the following:
H Plain-tailed Wren  # Narino Tapaculo *(27) 
4 Russet-backed Oropendola  2 Swallow-tailed Nightjar

and around 9:20 p.m. while at the lodge several of us heard one COMMON POTOO *(28) and one RUFESCENT SCREECH-OWL *(29) or rather the sub-sp. colombianus of the RUFESCENT.


In poor light, two SWALLOW-TAILED NIGHTJARS, a male and female were heard and observed at kilometer marker 63 on Mindo road (1 Km above Bellavista) between 5:30-5:45 a.m. by myself, Dave Johnson, Richard, Laurie, and a father and daughter - John and Penny. This location is at approximately 2150 meters in elevation yet 150 meters below any other known occurrences. At this location we also heard 1 COMMON POTOO. We then walked further up the Mindo road and heard at the pasture where the Giant Antpitta trail begins a possible DARK-FRONTED WOOD-QUAIL. While waiting for the dawn chorus we saw:
1 Band-winged Nightjar *(30)  1 Rufous-bellied Nighthawk *(31)

the nightjar flew within 5 ft of where I was sitting while the nighthawk hawked for insects over Krabbe valley in front of us. We watched it on and off for 5 minutes -- a neat sight. A second male SWALLOW-TAILED was heard calling 1 km north of the first Krabbe finca pair. The elevation at this junction is approximately 2300 meters, the lower known limit of SWALLOW-TAILED NIGHTJARS. In addition, up to 3 Common Potoos (Nyctibius griseus), and 1 Mottled Owl (Ciccaba virgata), and 1 Rufescent Screech-Owl (Otus ingens) were also heard at this location throughout the duration of my stay. In all three cases these species are known from lower elevations i.e., 1900, 2000 and 1700 meters respectively. While returning to the lodge for breakfast we also saw in addition to the commoner species:
1 Streaked Tuftedcheek  Golden-headed Quetzal (m)
2 Speckle-faced Parrot  8 Scaly-naped Parrot
1 Masked Trogon -

After breakfast I walked about 2 miles down the Mindo road towards Tandyapa birding along the route. The most interesting birding occurred immediately beneath the lodge where I found:
3 Flame-faced Tanager *(32)  1 Spot-crowned Woodcreeper 
1 Crimson-mantled Woodpecker  # Masked Flower-piercer
+ common species -

Back at the lodge for lunch I saw:
1 Beryl-spangled Tanager  # White-collared Swift
# Chestnut-collared Swift  3 Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager

After a great lunch I ventured up the Helaconia trail to the Grass trail which leads through a vegetating ex-cattle pasture. Here in the pasture I saw in one flock:
1 Slate-throated Redstart  # Dusky Bush-Tanager
2 Golden-naped Tanager  # Black and Blue Tanager

and upon emerging from the trail onto the Nanegalito road I located 2 BARRED HAWKS circling about 500 ft up. Both called incessantly. I probably watched them for 3 minutes before they glided off in the direction of Mindo. From here I made my way to the Giant Antpitta trail where I saw and heard the following:
2 Toucan Barbet  # Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager 
# Masked Flower-piercer  # Dusky Bush-Tanager
3 Spillman's Tapaculo  3 Beryl-spangled Tanager 
# Plain-tailed Wren -

As I was leaving the trail a WHITE-RUMPED HAWK *(33) flew at eye level over the pasture while calling softly, although I had seen one the previous year, that was fleeting look, while this was really neat -- the white rump was clearly visible. I then made my way back down to the lodge and once again found 3 GRASS-GREEN TANAGER feeding on the edge of a recent landslide immediately opposite Krabbe's finca. The landslide itself has not re-vegetated yet. This was to become a common scene, repeated each and every day.

Back at the lodge I spent a lazy afternoon writing up my notes for the week but did manage a short walk to the stream shower on the Helaconia trail where I saw 1 CROWNED CHAT-TYRANT, m ORANGE-BELLIED EUPHONIA, and h WHITE-THROATED QUAIL-DOVE. Later on the same day beginning at 6:26 p.m. both SWALLOW-TAILED NIGHTJARS were observed again at kilometer marker 63. The male was first heard, then observed sailing over the Mindo road and out 50-100 meters out over Krabbe Valley while spreading its long tail streamers. The male bird was mostly observed hunting silently by weaving among emergent vegetation with only occasional wing flaps over an old, stabilized landslide. The landslide was covered with a dense ground cover of shrubs and bamboo with a scattered mix of young emergent 5-7 meter high trees immediately adjacent to the road where the landslide terminated.. Each hunting flight lasted between 25-30 seconds whereupon the male would return to a particularly densely foliated area approximately 80m up the hillside where it would call again. It would then call for 2-3 minutes before repeating its hunting flights. A female with its diagnostic deeply forked tail was observed as the light faded (~6:40 p.m.) on August 9; at one point the female was chased by the male for about 25 seconds. The possible pair ceased hunting and calling at 6:45 p.m. Thereafter, the male and occasionally the female were located each day for the duration of my stay, both in the morning and evening, at this same location.


Early in the morning both Dave and myself found the NIGHTJARS adjacent to Krabbe's finca, and heard for the first time a MOTTLED OWL *(34) there. Further up the valley at the pasture where the Giant Antpitta trail begins we saw:
1 Rufous-bellied Nighthawk  1 Red-crested Cotinga 
2 Russet-crowned Warbler  + commoner sp.

Returning to the lodge we saw:
3 Grass-green Tanager  Green and Black Fruiteater 
1 Masked Trogon -

After a huge, three helping breakfast I ventured along the Helaconia trail and found the following:
1 Tawny-bellied Hermit  1 Russet-crowned Warbler 
2 White-throated Quail-Dove -


I approached within 15 ft of the WHITE-THROATED QUAIL-DOVE, and watched it call while bobbing it's head and cocking it's tail. The bird sat only 3 ft from the trail.

In the afternoon I walked down the Mindo road towards Tandyapa for a couple of miles, but once again the best birding was had just beneath the lodge past the turn in the road. This bend is just 150 meters south of the lodge and it was here I saw my first BEAUTIFUL JAY *(35). Just around the bend I encountered a good mixed-species flock:
2 Flame-faced Tanager  # Dusky Bush-Tanager 
1 Streak-necked Flycatcher  4 Turquoise Jay
2 Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager  1 Golden Tanager
1 Spot-crowned Woodcreeper  2 Orange-bellied Euphonia

Further down the road I found a CRIMSON-MANTLED WOODPECKER and 2 TOUCAN BARBET. I was able to observe the BARBETS feeding for sometime. They would slide along each branch they explored and diagonally lunge for fruit below branch level. Each berry picked was rolled in their beaks several times before swallowing -- I could even see the tongue tasting the fruit. Having explored each branch they would either hop clumsily or fly heavily to the next branch. Upon finding a fruiting tree they would call antiphonically and call again before flying to the next tree but while feeding they were quiet. In the late afternoon I took a stroll along the Helaconia trail to the stream shower and saw 1 PEARLED TREERUNNER, 1 RUSSET-CROWNED WARBLER, 1 SLATE-THROATED REDSTART, and 1 CROWNED CHAT-TYRANT.


An early start (5:00 a.m.) for me and Dave got us the following at Krabbe's finca:
1 Rufous-bellied Nighthawk  # Andean Solitaire 
2 Grass-green Tanager -

and the following at Giant Antpitta trail and pasture:
H Andean Pygmy-Owl *(36)  # Gray-breasted Wood-Wren 
1 Golden-headed Quetzal  1 Russet-crowned Warbler
1 Spectacled Redstart  3 Plain-tailed Wren
H Common Potoo -

Leaving early I missed a flock of 30+ BARRED PARAKEET. After breakfast we were joined by Jeremy, Dave's son while we explored the Nanegalito road. We observed a mixed flock of swifts for over 30 minutes finding the following:
# Gray-rumped Swift  1 Chestnut-banded Swift 
1 White-tipped Swift *(37)  3 Blue and White Swallow 
# White-collared Swift -

In addition we located the following in one rather loose flock:
Barred Becard *(38)  1 Cinammon Flycatcher 
1 Tricolored Brush-Finch  1 Brown-capped Vireo

while in another we found:
# Golden-naped Tanager  1 Grass-green Tanager 
2 Beryl-spangled Tanager  1 Pearled Treerunner
1 Plush-capped Finch *(39)  2 Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager 
# Blue-and-black Tanager -

Nearby we located a MASKED TROGON via it's ventriloquist-like call, a SLATE-THROATED REDSTART, 1 CROWNED CHAT-TYRANT, and saw 2 SCALY-NAPED PARROTS fly overhead. Back at the lodge at 5:15 p.m. me and Dave ventured down the Mindo road. We found 1 SQUIRREL CUCKOO, 1 WHITE-TAILED TYRANNULET, a GREEN-and-BLACK FRUITEATER, and a CINAMMON FLYCATCHER feeding a fledged young on a branch. At 6:25 p.m. we found a calling male SWALLOW-TAILED NIGHTJAR and later a female flying just above the Mindo road a mile or two above the village of Tandyapa. Both were observed at 1950 meters in elevation. The female approached as close as 3 meters. Both birds were found in an area that has been severely degraded by logging, quarrying and the creation of pasture for cattle.

Only a few remnant patches of cloud forest remain at this location.


Getting up at 4:00 a.m. me and Dave were rewarded with fantastic views of the stars, Jupiter and Io, and Europa, and the galaxy --Andromeda. By the way, Richard or one of his staff, usually Laurie made coffee or left hot water (with tea bags) in thermos for us to consume before we went owling each morning. A greatly appreciated service. After taking in the stars, we proceeded up to the pasture and Giant Antpitta trail where we saw heard and saw the following:
1 Common Potoo  H Rufous-banded Owl *(40) 
1 Montane Woodcreeper  # Red-billed Parrot
2 Plain-tailed Wren  # Narino Tapaculo
2 Spillman's Tapaculo  # Dusky Bush-Tanager
1 Russet-crowned Warbler  2 Golden-naped Tanager
1 Beryl-spangled Tanager  2 Plumbeous Pigeons (On Road)

The Owl was particularly neat and unexpected, we heard it's series of 5-6 light-toned hoots followed by one gruff hoot on-and-off for 2-3 minutes. After breakfast we birded the Nanegolita road and found a typical selection of species with one notable addition a dog with half it's nose hanging off. Disgusting!! In the late afternoon, Dave, Jeremy and myself birded the Helaconia trail and found the following:
1 Green Violet-ear  1 White-sided Flower-piercer
7 Russet-backed Oropendola  2 Rufous-headed Pygmy-tyrant *(41)

The PYGMY-TYRANT had eluded my efforts to find it since arriving at Bellavista, but with Dave's help I got it -- it's bill clapping is quite distinctive. In the evening, we took some people to hear and see the SWALLOW-TAILED NIGHTJAR, which politely appeared right on cue at 6:35 p.m. Dave and myself then proceeded up to Krabbe's finca where we heard 1 MOTTLED OWL and 2 COMMON POTOO's. We even got the OWL to response to a tape.


Getting up early Dave and me went down to Dave's finca -- a parcel of land he brought to extend the Bellavista reserve. Here between 5:30 - 5:51 a.m. we heard 1 MOTTLED OWL and 3 COMMON POTOO'S. As the light improved we went and explored the Discovery trail that winds through his property. We found the following at an elevation of 1950 meters:
1 Crested Quetzal *(42)  # Masked Flower-piercer 
1 Smoke-colored Pewee  2 Montane Woodcreeper
1 Russet-crowned Oropendola  2 Russet-crowned Warbler 
1 Three-striped Warbler  2 Orange-bellied Euphonia
1 Crimson-rumped Toucanet  2 White-vented Plumelteer *(43)

We found one pair of MASKED FLOWER-PIERCERS making a nest, while the WOODCREEPER was observed feeding a beetle to a fledged youngest sitting in a bromeliad bundle. In addition, the pair of RUSSET-CROWNED WARBLERS were observed being harried by the THREE-STRIPED WARBLER while they tried to feed young at the base of a tree. From the Discovery trail we drove and birded down to Tandyapa and saw:
1 Plain-breasted Hawk  1 Tricolored Brush-Finch 
# Green Violet-ear  # Great Thrush
1 Booted Racket-tail (Dave Only)  1 Hook-billed Kite

This was it for Dave and Jeremy, they had to leave -- Dave though went off for 10 days into the Amazon. I did little the rest of the day.


After an early morning hike up to the pasture I left for Quito. I did see though on the hike:
1 Rufous-bellied Nighthawk  H Common Potoo
1 Long-tailed Antbird  H Chestnut-crowned Antpitta 
6 Turquoise Jay  1 Sickle-winged Guan
H Masked Trogon  1 Rufous-chested Tanager

All told my stay at Bellavista was great - the birding, company and food were excellent. It is a "must see" and I hope to return to conduct some biogeographic research there.

Mark R. Welford, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of Geography
Associate Editor-designate Journal of Geography
responsible for Physical Geography
Dept. of Geology & Geography
Georgia Southern University PHONE: (912) 871-1154
Stateboro, GA 30460-8149 FAX: (912) 681-0668
Research Interests
- Fluvial Geomorphology
- Geodynamics and Biogeography of highy dissected Cloud Forest
- Environmental Ethics
Life is short: enjoy it, travel widely, and you will have no regrets."

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