My first trip to South America - Ecuador

I recently went on an 18 day vacation to Ecuador. I left Vancouver on a flight with Aeromexico via Mexico City. It was my first trip to South America and I felt I would love it. The trip would consists of visiting the subtropical and temperate cloud forests, subtropics and eastern foothills, paramo and amazon. It was intended to sample as much different species as possible, since they vary so much by elevation and from region to region.

Part 1

After arriving in Quito the first stop was our hotel “Hotel Quito.” The first bird I saw was an American Kestrel. It was a different subspecies than the ones in Canada but not too exotic. There was a Rufous-collared Sparrow and Eared Dove, Great Thrush and Sparkling Violetear. These were about the most common birds in urban Quito I was soon to discover. The bird that awed me the most that day was a Black-tailed Trainbearer (a hummer with a long tail. I even found a sparkling Violetear feeding a chick in a nest which was neat to see.

After a nice lunch in the old city at San Ignacio Restaurant (where the waiter said not to leave your phone on the table due to pickpockets) we went to Quito Botanical Gardens. Actually a funny thing happened. We went into a church near the restaurant. It was a beautiful basilica open to tourists. We walked around and as soon as we entered a nice looking older gentleman came up to us and said he was a priest and would be happy to show us around. His english was very good and we happily followed him around as he described all the architecture. At the end of the tour he said he would like some money for the church. I thought it was strange but I gave him 5$. He then said that's too little and he wanted more. I knew right away that was a scam, he was no priest and we said "no" and left. I felt a bit dumb to be taken so easily and from then on was more aware. He must run a nice racket in there. I should have picked up on an earlier cue when he said he would be happy to walk around town with us showing us the sights. Come to think of it a man that preys on people that enter a church is a new kind of low.

Anyways back to the botanical gardens, the admission was only 3.50$ each. In the gardens we saw Black-tailed Trainbearer, Sparkling Violetear, gorgeous Masked Flowerpiercers, Black Flowerpiercers, Blue Gray and Summer Tanagers, Blackburnian Warblers, Hooded Siskins, Great Thrushes, Southern-Beardless Tyrannulets, Brown-bellied Swallows, Cinerous Conebill, White-crested Elaenias.

Masked Flowerpiercer at Quito Botanical Gardens - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Blue-gray Tanager at Quito Botanical Garden - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Great Thrush at Quito Botanical Garden - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We met up with our guide Paul Greenfield (who co-wrote and illustrated the book: “The Birds of Ecuador”) and stopped on a side street in the Cununyacu Area outside of Quito where we saw Golden Grosbeaks, Tropical Mockingbirds, Scrub Tanagers and Saffron Finches, just to name a few. 

At the next stop after leaving Quito on Sigsipumba Rd in the Pifo Area we found some Blue and Yellow Tanagers, Azara’s Spinetails, Tufted Tit-Tyrants, Tawny Antpittas, a Tennessee Warbler, Band-tailed Seedeaters, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finches, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrants and a Rusty Flowerpiercer.

As we continued on and drove into the Paramo (about 60 Km from Quito)  we saw 2 Carunculated Caracaras and an Andean Tit-Spinetail and some pretty Spectacled Redstarts. I also found a Viridian Metaltail hummingbird. As we continued on we stopped at Papallacta Lake. Here we found some Yellow-billed Pintail and some Andean Teals, Neotropic Cormorants and Spotted Sandpipers. I was awed by the landscape in the high elevation Andes (Paramo). It was at times hard to breath though especially when we were at heights of 13000-14,000 feet.

We next went to Guango Lodge. I loved this place because of all the hummers! We saw the famous Swordbill Hummingbirds. It is the only hummer that has a bill longer than its body. I had been anxious to see one since booking our trip. We also saw Tourmaline Sunangels, Buff-tailed Coronets, Collared Incas, Speckled Hummingbirds, Long-tailed Sylphs (a stunner), Chestnut-breasted Coronets and White-bellied Woodstar. At the end of my 18 days I would walk away with seeing 48 species of Hummers and this was just the start of a true feast for the eyes. 

Sword-billed Hummingbird at Guango Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Long-tailed Sylph at Guango Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

At Guango we also got a taste of our first mixed flocks. The disdain and joy of every Tropical birder. I loved my first mix flock but also quickly learnt why they can be frustrating. The birds move through so quickly and it’s tough to get on them all, especially if you don’t know what they all are!. Some of the birds in that first mixed flock were: Slaty-brush Finches, Pearled Tree Runners, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Blue-and-black Tanager , Gray-hooded Bush Tanager and Black-eared Hemisphingus. Here we also saw Mountain Caciques. We then went down to the river and looked for Torrent Ducks but they were nesting, so we didn’t see any here but we did find White-capped Dippers. We also found Torrent Tyrannulets and a different subspecies (white winged) of Black Phoebe.

Buff-tailed Coronet at Guango Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

On a few random roadside stops we found a couple of Smoke-colored Pewees, Crimson Mantled woodpeckers, Inca Jays, Turquoise Jays, Saffron-crowned Tanagers, Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers, Hooded Mountain Tanagers, Ruddy Pigeon, White-throated Quail-Dove, Palm Tanager, Smooth-billed Anis and more.

Smooth-billed Anis en route to San Isidro - Photo: Melissa Hafting

One of the worst memories I had of my trip to Ecuador happened early on in my trip. I was forced to watch 3 men who had a bull tied to their truck blocking the road. The men were beating this large bull that refused to get into their truck. I didn’t blame the bull for being stubborn. For one, they were trying to make it walk up a small hill and over a metal door with holes in it. Cattle and Horses don’t like that. I know as I’ve worked with them in my veterinary medicine career and on many farms. They beat it with a wooden stick hard until it broke over the animal’s head. Then they whipped it until it bled with a rope. The guide and I screamed for them to stop but it was futile. The bull would not move. They don’t walk on those types of wrong ramps. They then prodded him with a rubber pipe and hit him hard on the side and rung his tail so hard in a knot until he finally went into the trunk. It was horrific animal cruelty and made me tear up. That poor animal. Many people in Ecuador (about 60% live below the poverty line and education and health care is not free), so you see many stray dogs and many starving dogs. People are having trouble just feeding themselves and their kids with a corrupt government but the people are still generally very friendly and this was out of the norm.

After that we arrived on Day 3 at our next birding lodge San Isidro. Here we saw a Broad-winged Hawk. We also saw a Fawn-breasted Brilliant. At night we found the Mystery Owl (San Isidro Owl), which was amazing to see. This is a bird that is still not named by science but it resembles a hybrid between a Black-banded Owl and a Black-and-white Owl. It occurs at a higher elevation than either of these species and its song sounds more like a Black-and-white Owl. He was hunting moths under a light and I was able to snap this photo.

Mystery Owl (San Isidro Owl) - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Fawn-breasted Brilliant at Cabanas San Isidro Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Black-eared Hemisphingus at Cabanas San Isidro - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Other thrills we had were seeing the elegant Crested Quetzal, The Dusky Piha, Masked Trogon and Flavescent Flycatcher. Our guide said that in 40 years of birding Ecuador he’s never had such close views of this flycatcher as he did with us. Other good birds I had there were a Handsome Flycatcher, Rusty-winged Barbtail, Black-capped Tanager, Rufous Banded Owl, Wattling Guan, Sickle-winged Guan and the beautiful Torrent Ducks which were on Rio Cosanga!! I had wanted to see Torrent Ducks since I was a young kid who watched nature shows. I loved how they jumped into rushing water. The male and female are so uniquely beautiful too. Seeing them was all I had dreamt of. They were in a stream off the Loreto Rd with White-capped Dippers, Black Phoebes and Torrent Tyrannulets!.

Male and Female Torrent Ducks - Photos: Melissa Hafting

I also got my first looks at the Southern Emerald (Andean) Toucanet, Black Crested Warbler, Bronzy Inca, the uncommon Gorgeted Woodstar (a bee sized hummer)  and Roadside Hawk. We heard but never saw Chestnut-crowned Antpittas and saw so much more here. I can't recommend this place more. It was my favorite lodge that we stayed in during our time in Ecuador.

Gorgeted Woodstar at Cabanas San Isidro Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Speckled Hummingbird at San Isidro - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Roadside Hawks were common at San Isidro Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

One thing I won’t ever forget was sitting on the deck and having a Chestnut-breasted Coronet hummingbird come and tap its bill on my nails (that were covered in red nail polish) and then sit on my lap for a few brief seconds!. He was trying to drink from my nails which he thought were flowers!. It was a memory I’ll treasure forever.

A Chestnut-breasted Coronet at San Isidro came and tapped my nails and sat on my lap - Photo: Melissa Hafting

It rained the full three nights we were here and some days it was a real downpour but usually it would break for a few hours. We really did not care as we dressed for the extreme rain in full waterproof gear and never got wet. Each morning we got up at 5 am and had breakfast at 5:30 am and were out the door birding at 6am. We would finish the day by 6:30pm and be exhausted. However, every day brought something new and made it all worth while.The food at San Isidro Lodge was authentic and fabulous. Each meal began with a soup (that sometimes you put popcorn in - a typical Ecuadorian tradition), then a meal that contained plantain, beans, meat/fish and rice, followed by a yummy dessert. One of the funnest things we did was birding from the deck of the lodge in the rain. You never knew what would pop up next , like the Broad-winged Hawk, Inca Jay and Masked Trogon below.

Broad-winged Hawk at Cabanas San Isidro Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

This Masked Trogon popped right up on the deck to say hi to me at San Isidro! - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Green Jay (Inca) at San Isidro Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

In the day we saw a Montane Wood Creeper and at night a Kikajou (that reminded me of a Lemur). At San Isidro we birded on the road called Sendero Las Chaucheras Rd. The rooms were very cold at night. They gave us hot water bottles and warm blankets to keep us cozy at night but it was still pretty frigid, as there was no heat. One of my fave birds I saw there was the Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher. Its brilliant Orange throat and yellow belly with reddish cap and blue nape and diminutive size made it something special to behold. For most people though seeing the secretive White-bellied Antpitta is the highlight and main reason they come to San Isidro. The lodge (as many do in Ecuador with different Antpittas) feeds him worms and he comes to the delight of birders and photographers

Montane Woodcreeper eating a bug at San Isidro - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Montane Woodcreeper at San Isidro - Photo: Melissa Hafting

A walk through the cloud forest near San Isidro - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We were hoping for drier weather as we arrived at our next lodge at Wildsumaco. It was further south and at a lower elevation on the east slope of the foothills. On the drive there we saw a dangerous mudslide that we had to get through. It was very scary as it was high up on a hill on a very windy road. In general the roads are very good in Ecuador and the people drive well. Quito is an exception, especially in the roundabouts. However, all over even on the winding highways people pass in dangerous curves or even when oncoming traffic is coming close and fast. That’s the only scary part about driving in Ecuador. 

En route to Wildsumaco Lodge it was a beautiful drive along the Loreto Rd and we stopped at a rest stop and saw Swallow-tailed Kites, Silver-beaked Tanagers, Violaceous Jays and a Cliff Flycatcher. We took another stop at Cabana Cascada Hollin where we saw the beautiful Red-headed Barbet, White-tailed Hillstar, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Banaquit and cool-looking Squirrel Cuckoo.

Squirrel Cuckoo at Cabana Cascada Hollin - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We pulled up to Wildsumaco and were glad to feel the warmer air on our skin. The staff here were all friendly and the food tasty just as it had been at the fancier San Isidro. Each morning began again at 5:30am here after a quick breakfast where we would gather around a white sheet that was covered in bugs. The bugs were attracted to the sheet by a bright light. Here is where we saw some of the best birds of the trip: a Copper Chested Jacamar, White-chested Puffbird, the cool Musician Wren and the Antpitta-like Chestnut-crowned Gnateaters, Ruddy Quail-Dove and Peruvian Warbling Antbird (which was rare for the site). We birded several trails at Wildsumaco where we discovered very cool things like randomly finding a White-crowned Manakin lek and seeing the ultra cool Andean Cock-of-the Rocks which were eating fruit and nuts.

White-chested Puffbird here for the bugs at Wildsumaco - Photo: Melissa Hafting

White-breasted Wood-Wren attracted to bugs at the sheet at Wildsumaco - Photo: Melissa Hafting

White-backed Fire-eye attracted to the sheet at Wildsumaco - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Yellow-breasted Antwren attracted to bugs at sheet at Wildsumaco - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner attracted to bugs at the sheet at Wildsumaco - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Male Black-faced Antbird coming for the bugs at Wildsumaco - Photo: Melissa Hafting

My favourite moment of my entire trip came when I sat for hours waiting for an Ochre-breasted and Plain-backed Antpitta and rarely seen White-crowned Tapaculo to come out. They also brought their friends a Spotted Nightingale-Thrush and Orange-billed Sparrow. It was so funny as we were in the company of this awesome doctor from California named Wayne and every time he got up to leave and was about ten stairs up leaving I called him back only to get a new bird for him each time. I don’t think I ever laughed so hard with a stranger. It was all of our second attempt to see the Plain-backed Antpitta so when he finally appeared on the second day after a 5 hour wait and Wayne’s coming and going, not only was I laughing but had a few happy tears in my eyes. A truly special moment. Talking to Wayne later it was also the highlight of his trip. By the way, locals call the Ochre-breasted Antpitta "Shakira" because of the cute way he shakes his belly before he eats. See this video HERE to see what I mean.

"Shakira" the Ochre-breasted Antpitta at Wildsumaco - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Spotted-Nightingale at Wildsumaco Lodge - Photos: Melissa Hafting

This Plain-backed Antpitta's delayed arrival generated lots of laughs - Photo: Melissa Hafting

It was at Wildsumaco where I saw Toucans for the first time in my life. The first ones I saw were the Black-mandibled or Yellow-throated Toucans. One day while searching around we ran into a troupe of Napo Tamarin Monkeys and one had a baby on its back. This was the first of 9 species of Monkeys I would see on my trip. So far I had only seen one Kinkajou, 1 Agouti and a few Squirrels. One of the greatest things about Wildsumaco were the Hummingbirds, Tanagers, Euphonias and Chlorophonias. They were so bright and beautiful. Here we were lucky to see some of the rarer forest hummers like the Ecuadorian Piedtail, Napo Sabrewing, Brown Violetear, Black-throated Mango and Green Hermit. We also saw really cool ones with unique long tails and orange socks like the Booted (Peruvian) Racket-Tail and Wire Crested Thorntail. I really loved the Gould’s Jewelfront. I could go on and on about the stunning Hummingbirds. Up to this point I had seen 30 species. I love these prismatic gems.

Napo Tamarin Monkeys at Wildsumaco Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Near the lodge I ran into Gilded Barbets, Green-backed Trogon (which looks bright blue with a yellow belly) and some Many-banded Aracari. The Tanagers that really blew me away were the Paradise Tanager and The Golden Tanager. I was also equally blown away by the Blue-napped Chlorophonia, Thick-billed and Orange Euphonia and an Ornate Flycatcher.

As I said earlier I had to quickly learn how hard but rewarding mixed flocks could be. They move through really quick. It’s impossible to get on all species but you try to get on as many as possible. You also to try to keep moving with the flock while doing so. By this time I had quite a bit of practice after doing this at San Isidro. It’s a great way to get lifers. I can see why some with little patience and those who don’t want to invest in a chiropractor would prefer to stay away from this activity but I loved it. It was a highlight and my fave activity of the trip. In one flock for instance I would see a Cerulean Warbler, Canada Warbler, several Blackburnians; several species of Tanagers, Euphonias, a few Honeycreepers, Furnariids, Flycatchers, Chlorospinguses, Chlorophonias, Woodpeckers and the list goes on. It’s totally crazy and wonderful at the same time. You just don’t know where to look it all happens so fast

After leaving Wildsumaco, after a lovely 3 day stay, we were on our way to the Paramo. At a rest stop on the Loreto Rd by a river we found a Fasciated Tiger-Heron, a couple Southern Rough-winged Swallows and some Violaceous Jays. The Heron was truly cool looking and the only “ardeidae” of the trip at this point in the trip.

Fasciated Tiger-Heron on the Loreto Rd - Photo: Melissa Hafting

While driving on the Loreto Rd en route up to the Paramo and Papallacta area we found a Gray-headed Kite, Black Caracara, Sickle-winged Guan,Golden-eared and Orange-eared Tanager (truly striking). We also saw a fairly rare Tawny-bellied Hermit. I say “rare” because these type of hummers rarely come to feeders.

We pulled up to the Termas de Pappallacta Hotel. It was a beautiful hotel with hot springs but it wasn’t made for birders and didn’t have the authenticity of the other birding lodges we had stayed at. It however had the closest proximity to the Papallacta and Paramo area. However I’d rather drive 39 mins extra next time and stay at Guango Lodge. Anyways, we got up at dawn and drove up to 13,000 feet to look for the difficult and rare Mountain Tanagers. We found Scarlet-bellied and Buff-breasted but rain hampered our search. We ended up finding some of the high elevation hummers like the Shining Sunbeam, the Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Tyrian Metaltail, Viridian Metaltail, Great Sapphirewing and Mountain Velvetbreast just to name a few. Our guide had spotted a Blue-mantled Thornbill that we couldn’t get on sadly. He is the high elevation rare hummer that literally hops on the ground to feed, due to the lack of oxygen at 14,000 feet. We also found Blue-backed Conebills, Black-backed Bush-Tanagers, Agile Tit-Tyrants, Pale-naped Brush-Finches and White-banded and White-throated Tyrannulets.

The next morning we skipped breakfast and drove a dirt road up high into the Andes while it was still dark. Here we found some Band-winged Nightjars sitting all on the road. We next went up again to the area where there is Antennas in the Cayambe-Coca National Park where the elevation is 14,000 feet. We were here to look for the Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. It was windy and foggy and freezing cold with some rain and snow. I was all bundled up and warm enough with my layers, toque and gloves but viewing conditions were far from ideal. Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe are tough to find on a good day like our Ptarmigan in North Amercica. We ended up hearing a Seedsnipe but despite hard searching could sadly never locate him. We did however find Plumbeous Sierra Finches, Stout-billed and Chestnut-winged Cincloides. Even though I took prescribed medication called “Diamox” to help prevent altitude sickness I still had trouble catching my breath and had to walk slower. I also had a mild headache.I was hoping to see a Spectacled Bear and Mountain Tapir here but sadly did not.

Waterfall at Cayambe-Coca National Park at Papallacta - Photo: Melissa Hafting

The next day we departed to Antisana in search of Andean Condors and other high elevation specialties. As soon as we pulled into Antisana National Park I was struck by the beauty. The majestic rolling hills and tundra landscape was so pretty. Here we found many lifers including: Ecuadorian Hillstar (including a female at a nest with a chick), Paramo Pipit, Plain-capped Seedeater, Andean Gull, Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant, Andean Tit-Spinetail, Silvery Grebe, Andean Duck, Variable Hawk and the beautiful Andean Lapwing (I think it's prettier than the Southern) and Black-faced Ibis. There were also Alpacas just strutting around which was neat to see. There was tons of Carunculated Caracaras and Plumbeouse-Sierra Finches everywhere which was neat to see.

Ecuadorian Hillstar (chick on nest) - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Paramo Pipit at Antisana - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Carunculaed Caracara at Antisana - Photo:  Melissa Hafing

Andean Gull at Antisana Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Slate-colored Coot at Antisana - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Silvery Grebe at Antisana - Photo: Melissa Hafting

The views of Antisana and the grassy paramo - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We also had great views of a Tawny Antpitta singing and got to see a juvenile Andean Condor perched on the cliff across Tambo Condor restaurant and also there was a Black-Chested Buzzard Eagle on a nest which was neat to see. The other cool bird I saw here while having lunch was the largest Hummingbird in the world: The Giant Hummingbird (who is an incredible 9.1 inches!). He is about the same length as a Starling!

Giant Hummingbird (the largest hummer in the world) at Antisana - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Tawny-bellied Antpitta at Antisana - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Inside Antisana National Park I was lucky to see an Andean Fox (Culpeo Zorro) close to the car, which was so beautiful. He just sat there and looked at me. He looked more like a jackal, being the size of a coyote. It was another moving magical moment.

Andean Fox (Culpeo Zorro) at Antisana Nat'l Park - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Variable Hawk carrying a Tropical Rabbit - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant at Antisana - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Later on I got some nice photos of elegant Black-faced Ibis that allowed me to approach close. Here I also got stunning flybys of adult Andean Condors. The stunning views of the Antisana volcano with snow at the peak was a beautiful backdrop to the soaring Andean Condors. I truly could have stayed there for a few days.

Black-faced Ibis at Antisana - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Female and Male Plumbeous Sierra Finches at Antisana - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Stout-billed Cincloides at Antisana - Photos: Melissa Hafting

The next morning we got up and rode the gondola (Telerifiqo) up to 13,300 feet above Quito. Here we were looking for high elevation (Paramo) type birds. I ran into more Ecuadorian Hillstars, a Great Sapphirewing, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Agile Tit-Tyrants, Many-striped Canesteros and Sedge Wrens (that behave very much unlike ours in North America). I also got some lifers here like the Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, the Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant and Paramo Seedeater. 

The next day I went to Puembo before my trip to the Amazon. Here I took a rest day and saw some birds I had never seen before like the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and Western Emerald making the # of hummer species I’d seen to date to be an incredible 43. I also saw other lifers like the Shiny Cowbird, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Black-and-White Seedeater and more Scrub Tanagers than the eyes could handle.

Saffron Finch in Puembo - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Golden Grosbeak in Puembo - Photo: Melissa Hafting

There was a violent revolution in Venezuela and millions of Venezuelans fled over to Columbia and some were trying to get into Ecuador. We noticed the heavy police presence and while birding had to go through several quick and easy military police check points while driving that were also in place to protect against drug cartel movement.

Part 2

Now a new adventure would begin we were off to the Amazon. We  boarded our plane on “Tame Airlines” and was en route to the Amazon via the city of Coca and a couple of boat rides (one motorized and one not). I was eagerly awaiting the more tropical birds, water birds and mammals. In all areas of Ecuador the birds vary so much by region and elevation and that’s especially true of the Amazon.

The weather was 32 C when I deplaned in Coca. The hot humid air hit me right away and was a nice change from the colder rainy days I had on the East Slope. I left the airport with high hopes. 

We hopped in a motorized river boat for a 2 hour boat ride on the river. There is no road access to Napo Wildlife Centre. When we got to the Kichwa Indigenous Community called "Anangu" we met our guides and were put in canoes where we were paddled down a stream for over an hour to the lodge that is located on a lake deep within Yasuni National Park. The sounds of birds and insects and even frogs blew me away the moment I entered the jungle. We met our birding guide Marcello Andy. He showed us a Blackfronted Nunbird, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, Rufous-beaded Woodpecker, Leafcutter Ants (like you see on nature documentaries) and Dusky Titi Monkeys. I even saw a Tropical Screech-Owl! One of the coolest things was seeing nesting Chestnut-eared Aracaris. It was also cool walking through the jungle being serenaded by Undulated Tinamous and White-shouldered Antbirds.

Dusky Titi Monkeys - The first monkeys I saw in the Amazon - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Leafcutter Ants - Photo: Melissa Hafting

The next day we took a motor boat to a clay lick where we saw Yellow-crowned Parrots and Mealy Parrots and Blue-headed Parrots that came down to eat minerals. On the way there we saw Amazonian Umbrellabirds from the boat. We then walked a trail to a 40m high tower. It is not for the faint of heart from almost every level, from midway to the top of the canopy different birds would occur. Here highlights were the Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak, Plumbeous Kite, the beautiful Lemon-throated Barbet, Purplish Jacamar, the amazing Opal-rumped and Opal-crowned Tanagers and the tiny Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher.

The first clay lick that is visible by boat only at Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Mealy (Amazon) Parrots on the boat accessible clay lick in Yasuni National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Blue-headed and Mealy Parrots at the clay lick in Yasuni - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Plumbeous Kite viewed from the tower at Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Black-headed Parrot viewed from the tower at Yasuni - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Yellow-tufted Woodpecker viewed from the tower at Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Purplish Jacamar from the tower at Yasuni - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Yellow-bellied Dacnis (distant crop) taken from tower in Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

There was really something special about getting up before dawn and seeing the stunning sunrise on the Napo River. Maybe sunrises are only better on the Serengeti but I have yet to go there. Here I thought California sunsets were the best... well they play second fiddle to the ones I saw at Yasuni National Park!. The weather was a sweltering 34C and sunny and very humid. So you sweated a lot. A couple showers a day were needed just to feel comfortable. The mosquitoes were rampant and despite wearing 30% DEET repellent and long pants and shirts I still got bitten a lot. I really should have wore my insect outfit I bought but felt self conscious, since no one else wore those beekeeper like suits. I won’t be self conscious next time! Prior to my trip I was vaccinated with a Yellow Fever Vaccine and was on anti-Malaria pills so didn't worry too much.

Broad-billed Motmot in Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Streaked Flycatcher in the Amazon - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Cinnamon Attila viewed from the canoe - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Later that afternoon I visited the second clay lick in Yasuni National Park. It’s the famous one you can walk to where Macaws come to. BC Young Birder Liron Gerstman had gone there a couple of years ago and got some incredible award winning shots there. It was fascinating and amazing to see the parrots come down to bathe and get their minerals. However when we first arrived at the clay lick there was a deadly poisonous snake there called a “Fer-de Lance.” It had caught a Cobalt-winged Parakeet and it delayed the Parrots from returning to the lick. 2.5 hours later when the snake had finally swallowed the parrot whole and slowly moved away the birds began to come. As I waited I ate some passionfruit. It was yummy but when you crack it open it looks like you are about to slurp up little frog eggs.

Fer-de-Lance Snake killing a Cobalt-winged Parakeet - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Two days prior a jaguar had visited the clay lick. BC Young birders Liam Singh and Ian Harland had been lucky enough to photograph a Jaguar here last year. I had no such luck. However seeing all the Cobalt-winged Parakeets, Orange-cheeked Parrots, Black-headed Parrots come in huge numbers was crazy. And when they flew away almost hitting our heads after 40 mins the giant Scarlet Macaws slowly came in. Seeing parrots like this up close was so cool. In Ecuador during the east slope portion I saw many parrots but mostly at a distance nothing like this!. I took several photos of the Macaws and other Parrots and didn’t leave until the last Macaw left the lick.

Cobalt-winged Parakeets at the clay lick at Yasuni National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Orange-cheeked Parrots and Cobalt-winged Parakeets - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Cobalt-winged Parakeets and Orange-cheeked Parrots at Yasuni Clay Lick - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Scarlet Macaws at the clay lick at Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

While travelling through the Amazon I realized even more how many diverse birds, wildlife, mammals, reptiles and insects it held and why it is vital to conserve it. Just outside Yasuni National Park you will see oil exploration and deforestation of this sacred ecosystem. The Indigenous peoples like the Kichwa are working hard to put an end to this but money talks. Sadly more and more species are becoming extirpated and extinct.

Slate-colored Hawk viewed from the canoe - Photo: Melissa Hafting

There is nothing like walking through the jungle and hearing all the sounds from the Howler Monkeys to the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls and insects. I couldn’t imagine this place silent but with climate change, deforestation and oil and gas exploration and extraction causing contamination of water bodies, it is a very real possibility.

This is a very physically demanding and tiring place but if you are able I hope you can come here to experience it. Napo Wildlife Centre even has an elevator to transport handicapped people to the top of the canopy to view birds. I believe this is the only place in the world to do so. Anyways, needless to say I admire David Attenborough slugging it through the Amazon in his 90’s and hope someday to be able to do the same at that age.

Ladder-tailed Nightjar on the banks of the Napo River in the Amazon - Photo: Melissa Hafting

As I said before it takes a 7 km paddle ride via canoe after a 2 hour motor boat ride to get to Napo Wildlife Centre in Yasuni National Park. It’s truly a peaceful and serene ride and makes you want to cut off your internet connection and just appreciate the really important things in life. It is on this side transport river channel with black water where mosquitoe larvae can’t hatch that I saw my lifer Great Potoo.

Napo Wildlife Centre Lodge (Yasuni) - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Great Potoo at Yasuni National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafiting

At night we canoed down the small river channel and we were met by streams of fish-eating bats flying fast by us. At times it seemed that they would almost hit us! We also saw a Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl down low. Fireflies guided our way back safely to our cabanas. It was something out of a fairytale like the childhood tales of Fern Gully.

Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl viewed from canoe at night - Photo: Melissa Hafting

There was so much that awed me in the Amazon. For instance why were the eyes of the Tropical Screech-Owl yellow but those of the Tawny-bellied and others brown?. How did the tiny Zigzag Heron survive with all the larger predators around like other Herons and Monkeys that could eat it?. I am guessing that is why he is only active at night!. I also learnt how hard it was to see Hummingbirds in the Amazonian Rain forest without a feeder. You have about 1 second and 1/2 to make the ID .... if you are lucky!. While being paddled to Napo Lodge I also fell in love with the Blue Morpho Butterflies (that guided us everywhere) and the White-Capuchin, Squirrel, Woolly and endemic Golden-mantled Tamarin Monkeys that called this place Home.

Masked-crimson Tanager at Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

The next day we paddled to and walked the “Tiputuni Trail.” This trail is located near to the Napo Wildlife Centre and here we found fresh Jaguar tracks. Apparently one was seen on the trail for 40 mins 2 days before. It was a little unnerving that we were walking in the same direction of the Jaguar. I asked the guide what protection he had if we were to run into the cat with the strongest bite in the world. The guide said “Nothing. They only kill people in Brazil.” I mean in bear country here in Canada we at least have bear spray and maybe some bangers. The guide’s radio was broken, so all we had was my survival whistle! Haha. Oh well ever onwards in thick clay mud. If the cat wanted to attack there would be no outrunning it.

Jaguar track in Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

At the end of this trail we found a Black-necked Red-Cotinga Lek. These contingas are stunningly brilliant red and black birds.

Black-necked Red-Cotinga at Lek - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We also found a Golden-headed Manakin Lek and got to watch them moonwalk for their females. This trail was good for Manakins. We saw: Dwarf-tyrant Manakins, White-crowned, Blue-crowned and Blue-backed Manakins. From the canoe we also saw White-bearded and Orange-crowned Manakins.

Blue-crowned Manakin at Yasuni - Photo: Melissa Hafting

White-crowned Manakin at Lek - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We paddled on to the lake in front of Napo Lodge and saw a large Black Caiman.

Black Caiman at Napo Wildlife Centre - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We then had a tasty lunch at the lodge in the company of White-winged Swallows and Red-capped Cardinals and were then back on the lake.

White-winged Swallow at Napo Lodge - Photo: Melissa Hfating

On the lake we saw some stunning Capped and Rufescant Tiger-Herons. Since first studying the Birds of Ecuador Field Guide I had really wanted to see a Capped Heron. They are so pretty and unique, as are all the herons there. We got to see a tiny Zigzag Heron on a nest and  Rufescant Tiger-Heron on one was as well, which was incredible!. Zigzags are nocturnal and very hard to see in the day. We also saw some pretty and noisy Black-capped Donacobiuses.

Black-capped Donacobius at Napo Wildlife Centre (Yasuni) - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Zigzag Heron on a nest in Yasuni National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Rufescent Tiger-Heron in Yasuni National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

We then paddled to the 36m Forest Tower. It was amazing to see how hard the guides and paddlers work to make the experience special for the birders and wildlife enthusiasts. I truly was grateful for their hard work.

Guide paddling through the  Amazon inside Yasuni National Park - Photos: Melissa Hafting

We climbed the 36 m tower in the heat and here we looked high above the canopy at all the birds and landscape. We saw Howler Monkeys and White-necked Puffbirds, Bat Falcon, Gilded Barbet, Red-throated Caracara, Ivory-billed Aracari, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, King Vulture, Cream-colored and Scale-breasted Woodpeckers and the stunningly blue Plum-throated and Spangled Cotingas. We also saw the huge White-throated Toucan!

Gilded Barbet at the top of the canopy viewed from Forest Tower at Napo Wildlife Ctr - Photo: Melissa Hafting

White-necked Puffbird atop the Forest Tower at Napo - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Ivory-billed Aracari at Napo Wildlife Centre Forest Tower - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Female Scale-breasted Woodpecker at the Forest Tower at Yasuni - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Howler Monkeys way up high in the canopy - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Blue-and-yellow Macaw taken from the Napo Forest Tower - Photo: Melissa Hafting

On the way back to the lodge from the canoe we ran into a family of Giant Otters. It was an animal I had wanted to see for many years. Giant Otters are endangered with less than 5000 left in the wild. The otters we saw seemed more scared of us (even though they were huge) and we saw them and heard them scream and dive away with their pup before we could get any good photos. I can’t get over how big their heads were! What truly cool animals. They can even kill large Caimans! A few mins after this we saw a juvenile Snail Kite fly right over us. As we kept travelling back to the lodge the sunny 32C weather quickly turned to a torrential downpour with lightning and thunder and we hurried back in ponchos. All the while we were escorted in the dark by fish-eating bats and fireflies. It was kind of cool and scary at the same time!.

Hoatzin: One of the funniest birds we saw on our trip! - Photo: Melissa Hafting

On the second to last day we climbed up another tower near the Kichwa Anangu Village. This tower was 45 m high and on the way up we got great views of Wire-tailed Manakin. At the top we saw Thrush-like Wren and close ups of Opal-crowned and Opal-rumped Tanagers, Green-backed Trogons, Greater Yellow-headed Vultures, Lettered Aracari and Yellow-bellied and Blue Dacnis. We also saw uncommon Red-legged Honeycreepers and King Vultures. On the ground we saw a large-eyed Sooty Antbird.

Opal-crowned Tanager atop the canopy tower at Yasuni National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Green-backed Trogon atop the canopy tower at Yasuni National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Lettered Aracari at tower at Napo - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Male Cream-colored Woodpecker above the canopy at Napo - Photos: Melissa Hafting

Many-banded Aracari atop the canopy at Napo - Photo: Melissa Hafting

After several hours here we decided to take the boat to the River Islands. Here we looked for the island specialties like Olive-spotted Hummingbird. We saw quite a few birds like the Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, Parker’s Spinetail and Orange-headed Tanager and Ruddy Ground-Dove. We were surprised to see a Burrowing Owl sitting on a log on a sandy beach! They are very uncommon in the Amazon! Behind him were 2 perched Yellow-headed Caracaras. We also saw a Little Woodpecker, Fuscuous Flycatcher and Spotted Tody-Flycatcher and the rare Bicolored Conebill, just to name a few.

Ruddy Ground-Dove on the River Island - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Cocoi Heron in the Amazon - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Yellow-headed Caracaras on the River Island - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Our guide did something we didn’t like here. He heard a Gray-breasted Crake and proceeded to stamp the ground with his feet to try and flush it. He asked us to join him but we refused. We knew we wouldn’t see the crake without flushing it but didn’t want to harass it to do so. Flushing rails for a view or photo is just unethical. The guide quickly complied but I sure feel bad for those crakes who must endure that daily just so birders can get their “tick.”

During our siesta we went up the forest tower again and saw White-winged Becards, Collared Puffbird, Lettered Aracari, Green Oropendolas, White-fronted Nunbirds and the very cool Yellow-billed and White-chinned Jacamars.

Collared Puffbird at Yasuni Nat'l Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Yellow-billed Jacamar at Yasuni National Park - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Orange-backed Troupial at Napo - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Getting back and birding by canoe was my favourite thing to do. You could see birds up close and not disturb them like the Wattled Jacanas, Hoatzins, American Pygmy (so cute!), Green-and-Rufous and Ringed Kingfishers, Herons, Blue-throated Piping and Spix’s Guans. One day we also had tiny Spider Monkeys come down low to say “Hi” to us as well. It was a truly magical place with daily wonderful encounters. One of the coolest birds we saw while paddling was the Long-billed Woodcreeper! I had never seen a bird with such a long bill. We also owled/night-birded from the boat and got great views of owls, potoos and Ladder-tailed Nightjars.

Imm. Wattled Jacana at Napo Wildlife Centre - Photo: Melissa Hafting

The next day we visited a second river island where we saw pretty Pied Lapwings and cute Collated Plovers. We also saw Oriole Blackbirds, Castlenau’s Antshrike, Spot-breasted Woodpecker and the Olive-Spotted Hummingbird. The guide had to use a machete to cut through and get to an area where we could see the Olive-Spotted Hummingbird. It took over an hour and after many soon to be painful chigger and mosquito bites I got good looks at the Olive-Spotted Hummingbird. My friend Brian Stech had asked me to get a photo of it. He had seen it but never got a photo. After great effort I came away with a marginal record shot of a rather plain hummingbird. It made me rethink if it was worth all the effort. It hurt to walk after and a fiery rash developed from the chiggers. Hopefully my friend Brian would be happy! Haha.

Pied Lapwing on the River Islands on the Napo River - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Olive-spotted Hummer (this shot was not worth the Chigger bites!) on a River Island - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Collared Plover on the River Islands on the Napo River - Photos: Melissa Hafting

On the last day in the Amazon, as we were preparing to leave; another group on a canoe along the small river creek saw a jaguar! We were quite sad as we wished we could see it too and join them but it was not possible. To add insult to injury another group had seen a rare Pink River Dolphin twenty minutes earlier than us where we had just been. It’s all luck but these were two animals I had desperately wanted to see since childhood. I really could not complain too much and it just gave me more to look forward to on a return trip to the Amazon of South America. I still needed sloths and Tapirs so I had to come back!. I had an amazing once in a lifetime trip to the Amazon and to Ecuador and I wouldn’t have changed a minute of it. Well that’s not true. almost everyone I met in Ecuador thought I spoke Spanish and spoke to me in Spanish. I guess because of my skin tone. I’ve experienced the same in TX and MX. I’ll try to learn more of the language before I return next time :).

I ended up getting 462 species of the 471 seen on my 18 day trip throughout Ecuador. I also saw 48 species of Hummingbirds and 225 species of birds in the Amazon.

Southern Lapwing was the bird I woke up to every morning by the lodge - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Sunset over the Amazon in Orellana, Ecuador - Photo: Melissa Hafting

I wanted to say a big thank you to all the people who gave me invaluable info to help make my trip successful including Mike and Sharon Toochin, Peter Candido (who let me borrow his field guide/plate book),  Brian Stech, Roger Foxall, Nigel Eggers and Daniele Mitchell.

Here is a list of animals I saw:

Red Squirrel
Napo Tamarin Monkeys
White Capuchin Monkeys
Howler Monkeys
Dusky Titi Monkeys
Golden-mantled Tamarin Monkeys
Squirrel Monkeys
Woolly Monkey
Giant Otters
Andean Fox
Black Caiman
Fer-de-lance Snake
Ornate Whorltail-Iguana
Catesby's snail-eater Snake
Yellow-spotted River-Turtle 
Here is a list of the birds I saw (* = non-lifers):
  1. Sparkling Violetear
  2. Rufous-collared Sparrow
  3. Great Thrush
  4. Black Vulture*
  5. Black-tailed Trainbearer
  6. American Kestrel*
  7. Peregrine Falcon
  8. Eared Dove
  9. Masked Flowerpiercer
  10. Black Flowerpiercer
  11. Blue-Gray Tanager
  12. Hooded Siskin
  13. Brown-bellied Swallow
  14. Cinerous Conebill
  15. Blackburnian Warbler*
  16. Swainson’s Thrush*
  17. White-crested Elaenia
  18. Southern Beardless Tyrannulet
  19. Summer Tanager*
  20. Vermilion Flycatcher*
  21. Saffron Finch
  22. Scrub Tanager
  23. Tropical Kingbird*
  24. Golden Grosbeak
  25. Blue-and-white Swallow
  26. Blue and Yellow Tanager
  27. Tawny Antpitta
  28. Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch
  29. Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant
  30. Tennessee Warbler*
  31. Azara’s Spinetail
  32. Rusty Flowerpiercer
  33. Band-tailed Seedeater
  34. Carunculated Cararaca
  35. Andean Tit-Spinetail
  36. Viridian Metaltail
  37. Many striped Canestero
  38. Yellow-billed Pintail
  39. Andean Teal
  40. Neotropic Cormorant*
  41. Spotted Sandpiper*
  42. Long-tailed Sylph
  43. Sword-billed Hummingbird
  44. Collared Inca
  45. Tourmaline Sunangel
  46. Buff-tailed Coronet
  47. Chestnut-breasted Coronet
  48. Speckled Hummingbird
  49. White-bellied Woodstar
  50. Slaty Brush-Finch
  51. Pearled Tree Runner
  52. Rufous-breasted Flycatcher
  53. Black-capped Hemisphingus
  54. Black-eared Hemisphingus
  55. Black-and-blue Tanager
  56. Gray-hooded Bush Tanager
  57. Northern Mountain Cacique
  58. Black Phoebe * (different Subsp.)
  59. White-capped Dipper
  60. Torrent Tyrannulet
  61. Crimson-mantled Woodpecker
  62. Turquoise Jay
  63. Inca Jay
  64. Spectacled Redstart (Whitestart)
  65. Saffron-crowned Tanager
  66. Blue-winged Mountain Tanager
  67. Hooded Mountain Tanager
  68. Smoke-coloured Pewee
  69. Palm Tanager
  70. Smooth-billed Ani
  71. Broad-winged Hawk*
  72. Fawn-breasted Brilliant
  73. Montane Wood Creeper
  74. Black-billed PepperShrike
  75. Canada Warbler*
  76. Golden-crowned Flycatcher
  77. Russet-backed Oropendola
  78. Olive-backed Woodcreeper
  79. Scarlet-rumped (Sub-tropical) Cacique
  80. Brown-capped Vireo
  81. Masked Trogon
  82. White-tailed Tyrannulet
  83. Rose-breasted Grosbeak*
  84. Pale-edged Flycatcher
  85. Black-created Warbler
  86. Bronzy Inca
  87. Common Chlorospingus
  88. Mountain Wren
  89. Beryl-spangled Tanager
  90. Flavescent Flycatcher
  91. Cinnamon Flycatcher
  92. Green and black Fruiteater
  93. Andean Solitaire
  94. Bluish Flowerpiercer
  95. Southern Emerald Toucanet (Andean)
  96. Glossy Black Thrush
  97. Black Tapaculo (heard)
  98. Plain-tailed Wren
  99. Red-billed Parrot
  100. White-capped (Speckle-faced) Parrot
  101. Streak-headed Antbird (heard)
  102. Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher
  103. Capped Conebill
  104. Flame-faced Tanager
  105. Gorgeted Woodstar
  106. Roadside Hawk
  107. Southern Lapwing
  108. Golden-headed Quetzal
  109. Torrent Duck
  110. White-throated Quail-Dove
  111. Scaly-naped (Amazon) Parrot
  112. Grey-breasted Wood Wren (heard)
  113. Crested Quetzal
  114. White-crowned Tapaculo
  115. Long-tailed Tapaculo
  116. Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (heard)
  117. Russet-crowned Warbler
  118. Dusky Piha
  119. Handsome Flycatcher
  120. Smoky-brown Woodpecker
  121. Rusty-winged Barbtail
  122. Black-capped Tanager
  123. Sickle-winged Guan
  124. Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet
  125. Olive-sided Flycatcher
  126. San Isidro Owl (Mystery Owl)
  127. White-banded Tyrannulet
  128. White bellied Antpitta
  129. Rufous-banded Owl
  130. Wattled Guan
  131. Swallow-tailed Kite
  132. Violaceous Jay
  133. Western Wood-Pewee*
  134. Silver-beaked Tanager
  135. Cliff Flycatcher
  136. Swallow-tailed Kite
  137. Many Spotted Hummingbird
  138. White-tailed Hillstar
  139. Squirrel Cuckoo
  140. Golden-tailed Sapphire
  141. Fork-tailed Woodnymph
  142. Red-headed Barbet
  143. Bananaquit
  144. House Wren*
  145. Yellow-browed Sparrow
  146. Yellow-rumped Cacique
  147. Crested Oropendola
  148. Wire-crested Thorntail
  149. Peruvian Racket-Tail
  150. Violet-headed Hummingbird
  151. Violet-fronted Brilliant
  152. Yellow-throated Toucan
  153. Maroon-tailed Parakeet
  154. Black-throated Brilliant
  155. Ruddy Pigeon
  156. Plumbeous Pigeon
  157. Dark-breasted Spinetail
  158. Yellow-throated Toucan
  159. White-collared Swift
  160. Peruvian Warbling Antbird
  161. White-backed Fire-Eye
  162. White-breasted Wood Wren
  163. Lined Antshrike
  164. Montane Foliage Gleaner
  165. Plain Antvireo
  166. Collared Trogon
  167. Black-billed Tree Hunter
  168. Coppery Chested Jacamar
  169. Ruddy Quail Dove
  170. Blue-necked Tanager
  171. Eastern Wood-Pewee*
  172. Red-eyed Vireo*
  173. Chestnut-fronted Macaw
  174. Yellow-throated Chlorospingus
  175. Ornate Flycatcher
  176. Scarlet Tanager
  177. Scale-breasted Pygmy-Tyrant
  178. Paradise Tanager
  179. Greyish Saltator
  180. Gilded Barbet
  181. Chestnut-crowned Gnateater
  182. Brown Violetear
  183. Golden-collared Toucanet (heard)
  184. Gould’s Jewelfront
  185. Napo Sabrewing
  186. White-necked Jacobin
  187. Green Hermit
  188. Thick-billed Euphonia
  189. Orange-bellied Euphonia
  190. Bronze-green Euphonia
  191. Blue-naped Chlorophonia
  192. Tropical Parula
  193. Many-banded Aracari
  194. Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
  195. Ochre-breasted Antpitta
  196. Golden Tanager
  197. Green and Gold Tanager
  198. Rufous-vented White-Tip
  199. Yellow-tufted woodpecker
  200. Magpie Tanager
  201. White-lined Tanager
  202. Chestnut-bellied Seedeater
  203. Golden-faced Tyrannulet
  204. Lafresnaye’s Piculet
  205. Spotted Nightingale-Thrush
  206. White-chested Swift
  207. Short-tailed Ant-thrush
  208. Black-faced Antbird
  209. Plain-backed Antpitta
  210. Buff-frontage foliage-gleaner
  211. Musician Wren
  212. Chestnut-crowned Gnateater
  213. Blackish Antbird (heard)
  214. White-chested Puffbird
  215. Crimson-crested Woodpecker
  216. White-crowned Manakin
  217. Gray-headed Kite
  218. Green-backed Trogon
  219. Slaty-capped Flycatcher
  220. Purple Honeycreeper
  221. Cerulean Warbler
  222. Rufous-naped Greenlet
  223. Black-billed Thrush
  224. Olive-striped Flycatcher
  225. Ecuadorian Piedtail
  226. Black-throated Mango
  227. White-chinned Swift
  228. Short-crested Flycatcher
  229. Yellow-breasted Antwren
  230. Large-headed Flatbill
  231. White-eyed Parakeet
  232. Black Caracara
  233. Fasciated Heron
  234. Southern Rough-winged Swallow
  235. Golden-eared Tanager
  236. Orange-eared Tanager
  237. Yellow-bellied Seedeater
  238. Band-tailed Pigeon*
  239. Shining Sunbeam
  240. Linneated Foliage-Gleaner
  241. Agile Tit-Tyrant
  242. White-banded Tyrannulet
  243. Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager
  244. Blue-backed Conebill
  245. Black-backed Bush-Tanager
  246. Pale-naped Brush-Finch
  247. Great Sapphirewing
  248. White-throated Tyrannulet
  249. Buff-winged Starfrontlet
  250. Tyrian Metaltail
  251. Mountain Veltvetbreast
  252. Rufous-bellied Seed-snipe
  253. Plumbeous Sierra-Finch
  254. Stout-billed Cincloides
  255. Plain-capped Cincloides
  256. Band-winged Nightjar
  257. Rainbow-Bearded Thornbill
  258. Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager
  259. Andean Condor
  260. Andean Gull
  261. Variable Hawk
  262. Ecuadorian Hillstar
  263. Paramo Pipit
  264. Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant
  265. Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe
  266. Silvery Grebe
  267. Slate-coloured Coot
  268. Black-faced Ibis
  269. Andean Duck
  270. Plumbeous Sierra-Finch
  271. Andean Lapwing
  272. Plain-coloured Seedeater
  273. Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle
  274. Giant Hummingbird
  275. White-throated Tyrannulet
  276. Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant
  277. Paramo Seedeater
  278. Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant
  279. Great Egret*
  280. Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  281. Western Emerald
  282. Golden-rumped Euphonia
  283. Shiny Cowbird
  284. Black-and-White Seedeater
  285. Black-fronted Nunbird
  286. Great Kiskadee*
  287. Scarlet-crowned Barbet
  288. Chestnut-eared Aracari
  289. Gray-capped Flycatcher
  290. Undulated Tinamou (heard)
  291. White-shouldered Antbird
  292. Black-banded Woodcreeper
  293. Rufous-headed Woodpecker
  294. Black-tailed Tityra
  295. Boat-billed Flycatcher
  296. Giant Cowbird
  297. Great-fronted Dove (heard)
  298. Yellow-crowned (Amazon) Parrot
  299. Spix’s Guan
  300. Tropical Screech-Owl
  301. Gray-breasted Martin
  302. Fork-tailed Palm-Swift
  303. Orange-winged Parrot
  304. Black-winged Ground-Dove
  305. White-banded Swallow
  306. Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
  307. Mealy Amazon Parrot
  308. Blue-headed Parrot
  309. Plumbeous Kite
  310. White-shouldered Antshrike
  311. Amazonian Umbrellabird
  312. Scaly-breasted Wren
  313. Thrush-like Wren
  314. Spot-backed Antbird
  315. Opal-rumped Tanager
  316. Piratical Flycatcher
  317. Opal-crowned Tanager
  318. Green Honeycreeper
  319. Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher
  320. Golden-bellied Euphonia
  321. Black-headed Parrot
  322. Black-eared Fairy
  323. Red-stained Woodpecker
  324. Turquoise Tanager
  325. Lemon-throated Barbet
  326. Duida Woodcreeper
  327. White-lored Tyrannulet
  328. Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak
  329. Orange-fronted Plushcrown
  330. Slate-coloured Hawk
  331. Long-billed Gnatwren
  332. Yellow-browed Antbird
  333. Chestnut-crowned Foliage-Gleaner
  334. Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher
  335. Amazonian Trogon
  336. Broad-billed Motmot
  337. Purplish Jacamar
  338. Cobalt-winged Parakeet
  339. Mouse-coloured Antshrike
  340. Ladder-tailed Nightjar
  341. Scarlet Macaw
  342. Orange-cheeked Parrot
  343. Snowy Egret
  344. Cocoi Heron
  345. Orange-backed Troupial
  346. Cream-colored Woodpecker
  347. Cinereous Tinamou (heard)
  348. Red-bellied Macaw
  349. Great Potoo
  350. Zigzag Heron
  351. Rufous-billed Flatbill
  352. Greater Ani
  353. Hauxwell’s Thrush (heard)
  354. Dwarf-tyrant Manakin
  355. Orange-crowned Manakin
  356. White-throated Toucan
  357. Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher
  358. Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl
  359. Boat-billed Heron
  360. White-winged Swallow
  361. Red-capped Cardinal
  362. Black-capped Donacobius
  363. Lesser Kiskadee
  364. Long-billed Woodcreeper
  365. Streaked Flycatcher
  366. Short-tailed Swift
  367. Pail-vented Pigeon
  368. Roseate Spoonbill*
  369. Long-billed Starthroat
  370. Blue-throated Piping Guan
  371. Spot-winged Antbird
  372. Gray-cowled Wood Rail (heard)
  373. Spot-winged Antbird
  374. Speckled Chachalaca
  375. Channel-billed Toucan
  376. Ringed Woodpecker
  377. Hoatzin
  378. Blue-crowned Trogon (heard)
  379. Cinnamon Attila
  380. Blue-and-yellow Macaw
  381. Grey-hooded Tanager
  382. Yellow-crowned Elaenia
  383. Dot-backed Antbird
  384. Ringed Kingfisher*
  385. Buff-breasted Wren
  386. Chestnut-capped Puffbird
  387. Silvered Antbird
  388. Plumbeous Antbird
  389. Rufescent Tiger-Heron
  390. Striated Heron
  391. Sulphury Flycatcher
  392. Wattled Jacana
  393. American Pygmy Kingfisher
  394. Anhinga*
  395. White-chinned Jacamar
  396. Amazonian Streaked-Antwren
  397. Masked Crimson Tanager
  398. Capped Heron
  399. Social Flycatcher
  400. Lawrence’s Thrush (heard)
  401. White-necked Thrush
  402. Blue-crowned Manakin
  403. Red-necked Woodpecker
  404. Yellow-billed Jacamar
  405. Great Tinamou
  406. Sapphire Quail-Dove (heard)
  407. Collared Puffbird
  408. Golden-headed Manakin
  409. Bright-rumped Attila
  410. Blue-backed Manakin
  411. White-necked Puffbird
  412. Scale-breasted Woodpecker
  413. Bare-necked Fruitcrow
  414. Snail Kite
  415. Plum-throated Cotinga
  416. Gray-rumped Swift
  417. White-fronted Nunbird
  418. Ivory-bilked Aracari
  419. Bat Falcon
  420. Dusky-throated Antshrike
  421. Black-necked Red-Cotinga
  422. Wire-tailed Manakin
  423. White-bearded Manakin
  424. Green Oropendola
  425. Red-legged Honeycreeper
  426. Rufous-bellied Euphonia
  427. Black-winged Ground-Dove
  428. Blue Dacnis
  429. Yellow-bellied Dacnis
  430. Spangled Continga
  431. White-vented Euphonia
  432. Lettered Aracari
  433. Variegated Tinamou (heard)
  434. King Vulture
  435. Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
  436. Citron-bellied Attila
  437. White-winged Becard
  438. Yellow-breasted Flycatcher*
  439. Yellow-headed Caracara
  440. Cattle Egret*
  441. Little Woodpecker
  442. Ruddy Ground-Dove
  443. Fusuous Flycatcher
  444. Parker’s Spinetail
  445. Spotted Tody-Flycatcher
  446. White-bellied Spinetail
  447. Castlenau’s Antshrike
  448. Orange-headed Tanager
  449. Bicolored Conebill
  450. Burrowing Owl*
  451. Gray-breasted Crake
  452. Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant
  453. Sooty Antbird
  454. Olive-spotted Hummingbird
  455. Collared Plover
  456. Pied Lapwing
  457. Spot-breasted Woodpecker
  458. Oriole Blackbird
  459. Blackpoll Warbler*
  460. Caqueta Seedeater
  461. Olive Oropendola (heard)
  462. Rufous-tailed Flatbill


  1. Great summary of what was clearly an incredible trip! I'm so happy that you got to experience this incredible part of the world. Amazing photos, birds and memories!

    1. thanks so much liron for your kind words. your first trip to napo was definitely an inspiration!

  2. What a trip. I don’t know which is more spectacular, your list or the stunning photos! You’ll have memories to last a lifetime. I agree, people in Ecuador are charming and worth visiting for that reason alone.

    1. thanks q! it's so cool we were in ecuador at the same time! i can't wait to see more of your beautiful photos! the ones you have sent me so far are incredible and since you visited different areas you have seen many different birds i didnt see. i added 6 more photos to this report for some reason they never appeared when i originally published it :)

  3. Great post, Mel, and with so many great pictures. As an intro to my own first trip to Ecuador this fall, it couldn't be better. You've managed to get me really keyed-up for a fantastic tour. Thanks.

    1. thanks george that is awesome that you are going there this fall. you will love it so much!

  4. Amazing Trip and trip summary.So many birds , so many incredible photos.I love the Aracari's, and Ochre breasted Antpitta(just to name a few), Thanks for the great recap!

    1. thanks so much rob. i just noticed that 6 photos were missing under the wildsumaco section so have re-added them. thanks for looking and for such a nice comment. I know it's a very long-winded trip report!

  5. Felt like being there with you, your narrative so beautifully illustrated! Kept thinking "how many birds?" to arrive at end to see the very impressive list. thank you for so generously sharing your trip(s).

    1. aww thanks annie that is so sweet of you! all the best

  6. Amazing report on what sounded like an amazing trip. It’s astounding just reading about the variety of hummingbirds you saw in addition to all the other birds! Amazing photos, loved some of the woodpecker shots very different than what you see here!

    1. Thanks so much yes we did really good on the different Woodpecker species! Cheers

  7. The last time I checked awesome was spelled A-W-E-S-O-M-E !!!! No Dusky Thrush, but OMG what you had instead. Beautiful photos as always. Can't even begin to pick out favorites. There would be many. So happy for you...

    1. Aww thanks so much Blair yes sadly I missed the dusky thrush but can’t complain! Hope you had an amazing trip to Hawaii!

  8. Love this. So many lifers and great pics. I love the sword-billed hummer.

  9. If success is measured in sightings numbers you certainly had a phenomenal birding adventure. So many different birds WOW. It is amazing to see all the outstanding photos you got. Great report, thanks for sharing, and congrats on such memorable birding trip.

  10. Congrats on your fantastic trip Mel!! All of your photos are phenomenal and I really enjoyed reading this post! South America is on the top of my list of places that I would like to go, so this post is very helpful for me and I learned a lot about Ecuadorian birding! Hopefully you get to go back sometime and see a jaguar :)

    1. Thank you so much Isaac for your kindness! I really hope you get to South America soon! And yes I hope to go back myself and see a jaguar ;) and more regional birds. Thanks again for reading and hope you are well!


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