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SOUTHERN ECUADOR

Sunday 26th January - Friday 14th February 2014

Jon King

An amazing Pacific Royal Flycatcher (Jonathan Newman)

An amazing Pacific Royal Flycatcher (Jonathan Newman)

Few tours can visit such an amazing diversity of habitats in such a small area: deciduous Tumbesian forest and woodlands, southern Chocó wet forest, paramo, Andean cloud forest, Amazonian foothill forest, semi-desert scrub, and coastal lagoons, marshes and beaches. Our 2014 Southern Ecuador tour was very successful in finding the charismatic avian specialties in all these habitats of this fascinating region, and our species total for the trip, with 627 species seen and an additional 49 species heard, smashed previous records for this circuit. The visit was timed to coincide with the Tumbesian rains and the start of the breeding season, however as seems to be the case everywhere in the World these days, the climate timing was atypical this year, and several areas were unseasonably dry. Clearly this made no significant difference to our success rate finding birds however! The nationwide road improvement program helped us to move around more easily than ever, and staying at the Jocotoco Foundation’s excellent birding lodges was very pleasurable and the great conservation work of this organisation was hugely appreciated by all. The Jocotoco Antpitta is the number one spectacle of the tour, and we were not disappointed, with protracted views of adults feeding a two-month-old juvenile. This species was voted bird of the trip by participants by a comfortable margin. Our visit to the foothills of the Cordillera del Condor was also a very special part of the tour, made all the better by staying an extra day. This added greatly to the diversity of our species list, and we had huge success in seeing the unique Orange-throated Tanager at what is by far the premier site for this species. Another staple of this tour is being able to take a short walk from a comfortable lodge and be standing at the lek of one of the continent’s most fascinating cotingas, the endangered Long-wattled Umbrellabird, the male’s extreme wattle being as long as the entire body of the bird! We found 66 species of hummingbirds, a remarkable total for such a small area, including such ultra-localised target species as Esmereldas Woodstar, and Neblina and Violet-throated metaltails. Potential mega-skulkers proved to be a highlight, with exceptional views of Crescent-faced and Plain-backed antpittas, and El Oro and Ocellated tapaculos, among others. The food was almost universally excellent and highly praised, especially at the more remote lodges, and combined with fantastic mountain panoramas, traditional villages and other diverse elements, helped make this a very memorable tour.

The sensational Jocotoco Antpitta (Jon King)

The sensational Jocotoco Antpitta (Jon King)