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Birdquest’s Southern Ecuador birding tour explores the extraordinarily rich southern region of South America's most popular country for birdwatching. This exciting tour, which is the most comprehensive tour of the region available, focuses on the many specialities of Southern Ecuador, including the Tumbesian endemics, Jocotoco Antpitta and Orange-throated Tanager.
Wednesday 17th January —
Thursday 1st February 2018
Southwestern Ecuador Extension: Thursday 1st February — Saturday 3rd February (3 days)
Leaders: Juan Carlos Calvachi and Eduardo Patrial
Group Size Limit: 9
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly comfortable accommodations
When Atahualpa and his Inca warriors headed north on their way to Quito some five centuries ago, little did they know about the avian riches inhabiting the rugged mountain ridges and valleys they crossed in present day southern Ecuador. Here two major life zones show a high degree of regional endemism in both fauna and flora, and harbour a host of very local and little known birds. Fringed by the dry Atacama desert of coastal Peru to the south and by the earth’s wettest rainforests in northwestern Ecuador and western Colombia to the north, the deciduous and semi-humid lowlands and foothills of the country’s southwest are characterized by a highly distinct avifauna. Barely explored ornithologically until the expeditions of Cherrie and Chapman in the early days of the 20th century, this region was long neglected by birdwatchers, in spite of being home to over 40 endemic species, shared only with adjacent parts of northern Peru.
This enjoyable tour goes in search of numerous specialities that are restricted to southern Ecuador and northern Peru, as well as many more widespread South American birds, making for an enormous bird list. Ours is the ultimate itinerary in this bird-rich region, taking in more of the regional specialities than any other. Nowadays we spend an extra day in the Eastern Foothills of the Cordillera del Condor as more and more exciting birds have been found in the newly created Maycu Reserve.
From Guayaquil, the tour starting point, we head for Ecuador’s far south and the Buenaventura Reserve near Piñas and the Jorupe reserve further to the southwest. We have designed our visit to coincide with the annual rains when the otherwise dry and dusty hillsides turn to a verdant green. At this time of year resident birds such as Chapman’s Antshrike and Watkins’s Antpitta fill the air with their relentless songs, joined by breeding visitors such as Grey-capped Cuckoo and Black-and-white Tanager. In a variety of habitats ranging from scrubby desert through deciduous forests to evergreen woodland we will seek out many of the area’s specialities, including such exciting birds as West Peruvian Screech-Owl, Blackish-headed Spinetail and Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner. In addition, the complex topography of this region has resulted in a narrow tongue of humid cloud forest extending southwards along the lower, ocean-facing Andean slopes. This is home to the endemic El Oro Parakeet, the awesome Long-wattled Umbrellabird and many species of more northerly affinities.
After spending time in the far southwest we shall drive over the Andes to
Tapichalaca, Nangaritza, Zamora and Loja, our bases for sampling the epiphyte-laden temperate, subtropical and foothill forests on the east slope of the Andes and home to a wide range of montane species.
Amidst the majestic mountain scenery of Podocarpus National Park and the adjacent Tapichalaca reserve we can marvel at the sight of dazzling hummingbirds and gorgeous tanagers, and we also stand an excellent chance of encountering such specialities as the threatened Bearded Guan, the highly localized Neblina Metaltail and the resplendent Rainbow Starfrontlet. We shall also seek the recently discovered Jocotoco Antpitta, a species so distinct that ornithologists created a new genus in which to place it, and with habitat requirements so specific that it is still known only from a very narrow elevational zone.
Still further east, we will venture up the Río Nangaritza to seek the legendary Orange-throated Tanager at a newly discovered and easily accessible locality. Recently we added an extra day to our itinerary so we can explore more of this fantastic, species-rich region with its Amazonian affinities, something that has a major impact on our final bird list!
Our next port of call will be a patch of high elevation forest near Saraguro, to the north of Loja, where the enigmatic Crescent-faced Antpitta and the rare Red-faced Parrot occur in very low density.
Afterwards we will descend into a dry inter-Andean valley where we will visit the recently established Yunguilla Reserve, the realm of the critically endangered Pale-headed Brush-Finch, which was rediscovered here in 1998.
Finally, in the El Cajas area, we shall visit the cloudforests in search of the endemic Violet-throated Metaltail and numerous other denizens of this bird-rich environment, whilst at higher elevations we shall find many typical paramo birds amidst the scenic grandeur of the mighty Andes.
By the time we return to Guayaquil we shall have experienced a remarkable range of habitats at first hand, been thrilled by the dramatic scenery of the Andes and watched a superb variety of birds including some of the least known in South America.
During the optional extension we will explore some dry habitats in southwestern Ecuador as we look for some regional endemics and other specialities of the arid lowlands, including the endemic Esmeraldas Woodstar.
Birdquest has operated tours to Ecuador since 1989.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good or medium standard. At Buenaventura, Jorupe (Urraca) and Tapichalaca we will stay at the lodges at the reserve headquarters, which are designed for visiting birdwatchers and each has seven rooms with bunk beds and private bathrooms. All are located inside the reserves, thereby eliminating long drives to reach the birding habitat. Road transport is by small coach and roads are variable in quality.
Walking: The walking effort is easy for the most part, but there is some moderate grade walking and two optional walks on more strenuous trails.
Climate: Rather variable. At low and middle altitudes it is typically warm or hot, with a mixture of dry and sunny weather interspersed with overcast and rainy periods. At high elevations it is generally cool (but it can be cold and damp in the early morning). It will often be rather humid, especially at lower elevations.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £3970, €4680, $5200 Guayaquil/Guayaquil. Southwestern Ecuador Extension: £530, €620, $690.
Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £297, €350, $389. Extension: £80, €95, $105.
There are only a limited number of rooms at the small reserve lodges of Buenaventura, Jorupe (Urraca) and Tapichalaca, where we spend a total of six nights. There is no single supplement at these locations, but singles are provided free of additional charge if available at the time.
Deposit: £500, €600, $650. Extension: £50, €60, $70.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
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