The tropical foothills of the eastern Andes together with the lowlands of the Amazon basin boast some of the most impressive biodiversity worldwide. Bird wise, the area is arguably the most species-rich in the world. The Wildsumaco Wildlife Sanctuary bird list alone surpasses 500 species while the number of bird species recorded at Sani Lodge is approaching 600! The tour will focus on finding as many species and local specialties as possible by visiting multiple habitats within the Amazonian basin. Although the list of possible targets is immense here, a couple iconic species that we will target include; Hoatzin, Zigzag, Capped and Agami Herons, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Sungrebe, Scarlet, Blue-and-yellow, Chestnut-fronted and Red-bellied Macaws, Gould’s Jewelfront, Wire-crested Thorntail, Great and Long-tailed Potoo, White-throated, Black-mandibled and Channel-billed Toucans, Many-banded and Ivory-billed Aracaris, American Pygmy and Green-and-rufous Kingfishers, Gilded and Scarlet-crowned Barbets, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Cinnamon Attila, Screaming Piha, Golden-headed and Orange-crowned Manakins, Bare-necked Fruitcrow and dozens of antbird species!
Cinereous, Undulated, Variegated Tinamou, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Speckled Chachalaca, Marbled Wood Quail, Anhinga, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Agami, Boat-billed, Capped and Zigzag Heron, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, King Vulture, Slender-billed Kite, Slate-colored and White Hawk, Harpy and Crested Eagle (both very rare), Black and Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Red-throated, Black and Yellow-headed Caracara, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Chestnut-headed, Black-banded and Grey-breasted Crake, Sungrebe, Yellow-billed Tern, Blue-and-yellow, Scarlet, Chestnut-fronted and Red-bellied Macaw, Dusky-headed and Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet, Black-headed, Orange-cheeked and Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned, Orange-winged and Southern Mealy Amazon, Hoatzin, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Greater Ani, Tawny-bellied Screech Owl, Black-banded Owl, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Great and Long-tailed Potoo, Fiery Topaz (rare), Ecuadorian Piedtail, Peruvian Racket-tail, White-tailed Hillstar, Black-throated Brilliant, Gould’s Jewelfront, Gorgeted Woodstar, Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Black-tailed, Green-backed and Amazonian Trogon, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfisher, Amazonian Motmot, White-eared, Yellow-billed, White-chinned, Coppery-chested and Great Jacamar, White-necked, Chestnut-capped and Collared Puffbird, Lanceolated Monklet, Brown Nunlet, Black-fronted, White-fronted and Yellow-billed Nunbird, Scarlet-crowned, Gilded and Lemon-throated Barbet, Black-mandibled, White-throated and Channel-billed Toucan, Golden-collared Toucanet, Lettered, Chestnut-eared, Many-banded and Ivory-billed Aracari, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, White-throated, Golden-green, Spot-breasted, Scale-breasted, Chestnut, Cream-colored, Rufous-headed, Ringed and Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Barred, Lined, Mouse-colored, Castelnau’s, Russet, Dusky-throated and Cinereous Antshrike, Yasuni, Ornate, Rufous-tailed, Pygmy, Moustached, Plain-throated, Dugand’s and Yellow-breasted Antwren, White-backed Fire-eye, White-browed, Black-faced, Black-and-white, Silvered, Plumbeous, Sooty, White-plumed, Lunulated, Spot-backed, Dot-backed and Scale-backed Antbird, Black-spotted and Reddish-winged Bare-eye, Ash-throated and Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Plain-backed, Ochre-striped and Thrush-like Antpitta, Rusty-belted and White-crowned Tapaculo, Rufous-capped, Short-tailed and Striated Antthrush, Black-tailed Leaftosser, Lesser Hornero, White-bellied and Parker’s Spinetail, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Chestnut-winged Hookbill, Cinnamon-rumped Foliage-gleaner, Long-billed, Cinnamon-throated, Amazonian Barred and Black-banded Woodcreeper, Ringed Antpipit, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, Slender-footed and Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Double-banded Pygmy Tyrant, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, Golden-winged Tody-Flycatcher, Brownish Twistwing, Orange-eyed Flycatcher, Drab Water Tyrant, Citron-bellied Attila, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Plum-throated and Spangled Cotinga, Screaming Piha, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, Blue-rumped, White-bearded, Blue-backed, Wire-tailed and Golden-headed Manakin, Wing-barred Piprites, Violaceous Jay, Coraya Wren, Black-capped Donacobius, Red-capped Cardinal, Flame-crested, Yellow-bellied, Paradise, Opal-rumped and Opal-crowned Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Olive Oropendola.
Brown Woolley Monkey, Common Squirrel Monkey White-fronted Capuchin, Golden-mantled and Napo Tamarin, Pygmy Marmoset, Dusky Titi, Red Howler, Monk Saki, White-bellied Spider Monkey, Black Agouti
Subtropical cloud-forest, tropical foothill forest, Rio Napo river-edge forest, Rio Napo river islands, Amazon terrafirme forest, Amazon varzea forest, Amazon riparian habitat and blackwater lagoons
Pleasant in the subtropics and foothills, warmer and more humid in the Amazon lowlands
Easy to moderate pace
Day 1: Arrival in Quito, transfer to San Isidro
Guests arriving at Quito airport for our Ecuador birding tour will be transported to Cabañas San Isidro. Here they will meet their Rockjumper tour leader and fellow participants continuing onwards from our Eastern Andes: Paramo & cloud forest group. Time permitting we will do some late afternoon birding around the grounds. After dinner we will search for the San Isidro ‘Mystery Owl, a possible future split of Black-banded Owl.
Day 2: Cabanas San Isidro to Wildsumaco via the Loreto Road
Cabañas San Isidro is a privately owned reserve that protects large tracts of pristine subtropical cloud forest at roughly 2 100m (6 800ft). In the early morning we will bird the gardens for species attracted by the insect smorgasbord around the garden lights. At night the lights attract insects and during the morning we have a good chance to observe a feeding frenzy of insectivorous birds. Species that frequently attend these parties include Inca Jay, Masked Trogon, Subtropical Cacique, Russet-backed Oropendula, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Black-billed Peppershrike, Slate-throated and Spectacled Whitestart, Brown-capped Vireo, Russet-crowned Warbler, Black-eared Hemispingus, Mountain Wren, Common Bush Tanager, Pale-edged and Cinnamon Flycatchers, Smoke-colored Pewee, Montane and Olive-backed Woodcreepers and White-tailed Tyrannulet to mention but a few. At mid-morning we will travel to lower elevations of the eastern Andes, birding along the Loreto Road. Here we will make several birding stops targeting specialties such as Blackish Nightjar, Cliff Flycatcher, the scarce Striolated Puffbird, rare Orange-breasted Falcon, and mixed-species flocks that may contain Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer, Yellow-throated, Orange-eared and Golden-eared Tanagers, Bronze-green Euphonia, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Russet Antshrike and Yellow-breasted Antwren. In the afternoon we settle in at Wildsumaco Lodge to enjoy the numerous hummingbirds that come to the feeders at the lodge deck.
Day 3 & 4: Wildsumaco
The Wildsumaco Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the eastern foothills at the base of the impressive Sumaco Volcano (1 500m / 5 000ft). It is a prime birding site with great lodging, an extensive trail system and excellent cuisine where we will spend two full days of birding! The lodge feeders attract a great variety of hummingbirds, and if we are lucky we might get upwards of 15 species! Local specialties that attend the feeders include the rare Gould’s Jewelfront, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Napo Sabrewing, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Black-throated Brilliant, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Booted Racket-tail (the local sub-species has orange leg puffs), Many-spotted Hummingbird, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Green Hermit, White-tailed Hillstar, rare Blue-fronted Lancebill and the stunning Wire-crested Thorntail, while the verbena flowers in the garden often attract Violet-headed Hummingbird and Gorgeted Woodstar. The viewing from the lodge deck is excellent, with Swallow-tailed Kite and Chestnut-fronted Macaw frequently flying over. Military Macaw is also a possibility, though less common. The Cecropia trees attract various tanagers and other goodies such as Red-headed Barbet, Crested Oropendola and Golden-collared Toucanet. A banana feeder usually attracts a small troop of the adorable Napo Tamarin (a distinctive sub-species of Black-mantle Tamarin which is often considered a full species). Mixed flocks in the garden can be productive, with species including Olivaceous Greenlet, Golden-faced and Ecuadorian Tyrannulets, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Paradise, Blue-necked, Spotted, Bay-headed and Yellow-bellied Tanagers, Golden-collared Honeycreeper and Tropical Parula. Lined Antshrike, Blackish Antbird and Black-billed Treehunter are often found in the garden. The trails at Wildsumaco provide excellent forest birding, although many of our targets are in fact rare species and forest birds in general can be tricky to observe. We will search for both Plain-backed and Ochre-breasted Antpitta, species that the local bird guides have been able to attract in the past by putting out earthworms. Both Fiery-throated and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater are present, but move around a lot and are therefore rarely encountered. White-crowned and Blue-rumped Manakins are more frequently seen at their territories while the local Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant is often vocal from the high canopy. With a little luck we may find Grey-tailed Piha or Yellow-throated Spadebill, both rare Wildsumaco specialities. We will also carefully check the understory flocks that could hold such sought after species as Plain-winged Antwren and White-streaked Antvireo. Other understory skulkers include Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Northern White-crowned Tapaculo, Short-tailed Antthrush, Wing-banded Wren, Foothill Antwren, Spot-backed Antbird, Dusky Spinetail and Spotted Nightingale-Thrush. Birding along the road is far easier compared to the forest interior, with species like Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Black-mandibled Toucan, Silver-beaked, Swallow and Magpie Tanagers, Lemon-browed and Olive-chested Flycatchers, Scaled Pigeon and Yellow-cheeked Becard all being regular. The road side banks provide the near-endemic Coppery-chested Jacamar with a nesting site, and we certainly hope to get good views of this species during our time here on our Ecuador birding tour.
Day 5: Wildsumaco to Sani Lodge via Coca
In the early morning we will make a short birding stop at a bamboo patch lower down the Pacto Sumaco road for specialties that may include Large-headed Flatbill, Euler’s Flycatcher, Black-and-white Tody-Tyrant, White-winged Becard and Yellow Tyrannulet. Time permitting we might make other birding stops along the Loreto Road, but our time is generally dictated by the departure of our motorised canoe in Coca. From Coca we will continue our journey into the deep Amazon with a 2 – 3 hour boat trip along the Rio Napo. While the boat travels relatively quickly, it will be possible to pick up a number of new species from the boat, including Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Yellow-headed and Black Caracaras, Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, the scarce Pied Plover, White-banded and White-winged Swallows, Grey-breasted Martin and Swallow-winged Puffbird. Disembarking our motorised oat, we have a short walk on a raised platform through the rainforest to reach the Challuacocha Lake and switch to a non-motorized canoe ride to our lodge. The pristine habitat is absolutely superb, and we could find the likes of Undulated Tinamou, Scarlet and Blue-and-yellow Macaws, Green-backed and Black-tailed Trogons, White-chinned, White-eared and Great Jacamars, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Black-fronted Nunbird, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Salvin’s Curassow, Silvered, Plumbeous, White-shouldered and Dot-backed Antbirds, Amazonian Streaked Antwren, Yellow-crowned Eleania, Lesser Kiskadee, Red-capped Cardinal, Black-capped Donacobius and even the odd-looking Hoatzin! Mammals are well represented along the Añangu Creek, we will certainly run into some primates, but a family group of Giant Otter would certainly be first prize!
Day 6, 7, & 8: Sani Lodge
We have three full days of our Ecuador birding tour to explore this top notch lodge in the heart of Amazonia. Few other lodges on Earth offer the diversity that Sani Lodge does; excellent accommodation, fine dining and all the birds that one can handle, and more! Together with our local guides we will establish the best birding plan for each day, trying to find as many species as possible. Aside from birding around the lodge itself, we will also visit a variety of micro-habitats within the Amazon rainforest by private canoe. The Kichwa-Añangu community that owns the land and runs the lodge has not hunted on the property for more than 20 years, the well represented wildlife is testament to this fact. On one of our days here, we will bird excellent terra firme forest, the most species rich habitat of the Amazon basin. Cocha Antshrike sits highest on our priority list, as Sani Lodge is one of the only reliable sites on earth to see this highly range restricted species. Other highly sought-after species include Amazonian and Green-backed Trogons, White-crowned and Western Striped Manakins, Yellow-billed Jacamar, Brown Nunlet, Rufous-capped and Striated Antthrush, Ochre-striped and Thrush-like Antpittas, Scaly-breasted Woodpecker, Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper; there are far too many species to mention here! An understory mixed-flock may produce Long-winged, White-flanked, Rufous-tailed and Yasuni Antwrens, Cinereous and Dusky-throated Antshrikes, Olive-backed Foliage-gleaner, Long-billed Gnatwren and Tawny-crowned Greenlet. If we run into swarming army ants we will hit the proverbial: Reddish-winged Bare-eye, White-plumed, Sooty, Lunulated, Scale-backed, White-cheeked and Spot-backed Antbird are species that frequently attend ant swarms, so let’s hope we get to witness such a spectacular feeding frenzy! After lunch we may venture out on the canoes again, or make an afternoon visit to the canopy tower. The canopy tower is another of the many highlights of Sani Lodge, located in pristine terra firme forest. At dawn we shall walk the trail to the tower which can be very productive, such rarities as Wire-tailed Manakin, Banded Antbird and Collared Puffbird being seen frequently. In the past few years Grey-winged Trumpeters have been seen regularly seen along this stretch, although they are generally shy and difficult to see. The main canopy tower itself is a spectacular structure (over 30m high!), and allows us an unparalleled opportunity to view canopy species that would otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to see from the ground. A myriad of parrots, macaws, tanagers, toucans, barbets, cotingas, woodpeckers and raptors can be expected during a morning’s birding from the tower. Our afternoon birding will again depend on what species we desire, so we may explore the nearby forest trails or take another canoe ride through one of the creeks searching for the rare Zigzag Heron that’s best seen at dusk. On another day we will head over to the Rio Napo islands. These islands, with early succession growth host an interesting array of avifauna, many of which are strictly tied to the island only. Specialists that we will be searching for include Olive-spotted Hummingbird, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, Black-and-white Antbird, White-bellied and Parker’s Spinetails, Lesser Hornero, Castelnau’s Antshrike, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Fuscous Flycatcher, River Tyrannulet, Orange-headed Tanager and the beautiful Oriole Blackbird. Nearby parrot clay licks often host Yellow-crowned and Southern Mealy Amazons, Blue-headed and Orange-cheeked Parrots, Dusky-headed and Cobalt-winged Parakeets and the scarce Scarlet-shouldered Parakeet!
Day 9: Sani Lodge to Quito, final departures
Today we will depart Sani Lodge before dawn and bird our way out along the Challuacocha Lake. During this canoe ride we have a last chance to add some new forest dwelling species to our list. After arriving at the banks of the Rio Napo, we will switch to our motorized canoes and head up river to the city of Coca. From Coca we will take a short internal flight back to Quito where the tour will conclude.