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BEST OF ECUADOR

Tuesday 11th November - Thursday 27th November 2008

Mark Van Beirs

Our first Best of Ecuador tour visited a wide range of habitats, all within a fairly short distance from the capital Quito. We wandered from the Pacific lowlands through the subtropical and temperate forests of the western slopes of the Andes, gorged ourselves on the amazing high mountain paramo habitat of Antisana and Papallacta, filled our notebooks with birds seen in the Amazonian lowland forests and ended the tour in the temperate and subtropical slopes of the eastern Andes. We recorded an amazing 559 species in this small country that undeniably offers the best of the ’Bird Continent’ with most species of birds per square mile in the World! One of the highlights of this tour is the visit to the ‘antpitta’ show of Angel Paz in the cloud forest near Mindo. Not only did we get heart-stopping views of two Giant Antpittas but even the well-groomed Yellow-breasted Antpitta and the ultra shy Moustached Antpitta performed brilliantly! It is simply an amazing experience to see these shy forest floor denizens take a juicy earthworm from Angel’s hand! This superb place can only be really appreciated if you spent many, many hours looking for antpittas in the ‘pre-Angel’ era! The amazing selection of hummingbird feeders in all the visited bioregions definitely added greatly to the enjoyment of the tour, as many of these hyper active jewels are usually really hard to observe. We saw an incredible total of 65 species of hummingbirds. We experienced many other delightful moments with observations of marvels like Torrent Duck, Andean Condor (the bird of the Andes), the rarely seen Plumbeous Hawk, the dashing Aplomado Falcon, Wattled Guan, Chestnut-headed Crake, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, the superb Military Macaw, Cloud Forest Pygmy Owl, San Isidro Owl, the astounding Rufous Potoo, Fiery Topaz, Gould’s Jewelfront, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Pavonine Quetzal (THE BIRD OF THE TRIP), the hard to see Lanceolated Monklet, the fine Lemon-throated Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, the smashing Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, the gorgeous Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Citron-bellied Attila, Scaled and cracking Orange-breasted Fruiteaters, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Western Striped and Club-winged Manakins, Spotted Nightingale-Thrush, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis, Glistening-green, Grey-and-gold, Blue-whiskered, Rufous-winged and Golden-crowned Tanagers, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Plushcap, the awesome Tanager Finch and the localized Ecuadorian Cacique.