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SOUTHERN ECUADOR

Sunday 18th January - Friday 6th February 2015

János Oláh

Jocotoco Antpitta (János Oláh)

Jocotoco Antpitta (János Oláh)

Ecuador is a country where birders must return! We have an amazingly comprehensive tour in the north – Ultimate Ecuador - covering most available habitats and usually recording over 800 species. However our Southern Ecuador tours offers even more! Often not recognized by birders what an absolutely amazing selection of special birds can be seen in this part of the country. Our tour was designed to cover all gettable specialties in the region and as a result it superbly complement the tour in the north. In addition to the many key birds this part of the country now offers a wide range of lodges catering for birders. Most of these lodges are owned and run by the fantastic Jocotoco Foundation which was created after the discovery of a large and unique antpitta in 1997: the Jocotoco Antpitta. If you have not visited Southern Ecuador yet, all I can suggest is to do it as soon as you can! Our last year’s tour smashed previous records with 627 species but on our recent tour we had a wide range of special birds amongst a total of 665 species – a new record again! Out of this amazing total, 626 bird species were seen and 39 birds were heard only. This year highlights included goodies like Grey, Pale-browed and Andean Tinamous, Wattled Guan, Grey-backed Hawk, Rufous-necked Wood Rail, Ochre-bellied Dove, White-throated Quail-Dove, Grey-capped Cuckoo, White-throated and West Peruvian Screech Owls, Band-bellied, Black-and-white and Rufous-banded Owls, Anthony’s Nightjar, White-tipped Sicklebills, Tumbes Hummingbird, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Rainbow Starfrontlet, Violet-throated and Neblina Metaltails, Flame-throated Sunangel, Little, Short-tailed and Esmeraldas Woodstars, Ecuadorian Trogon, Coppery-chested Jacamars, Lanceolated Monklet, Grey-breasted and Black-billed Mountain Toucans, Ecuadorian Piculet, White-throated Woodpecker, Golden-plumed, El Oro and Grey-cheeked Parakeets, Blackish-headed Spinetail, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, Collared and Chapman’s Antshrikes, Grey-headed Antbird, Jocotoco, Watkins’s and Crescent-faced Antpittas, Ocellated Tapaculo, Foothill Elaenia, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant, Grey-and-white and Red-billed Tyrannulets, White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-and-white and Golden-winged Tody-Flycatchers, Olive-chested and Grey-breasted Flycatchers, White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant, Jelski’s Chat-Tyrant, Baird’s Flycatcher, Fiery-throated Fruiteater, Amazonian and Long-wattled Umbrellabirds, Western Striped and Blue-rumped Manakins, Pacific Royal Flycatcher, White-tailed Jay, Chestnut-collared Swallow, Plumbeous-backed and Maranon Thrushes, Saffron Siskin, Olive Finch, White-headed and Pale-headed Brush Finches, Orange-throated, Black-and-white and Blue-browed Tanagers, Tit-like Dacnis, Giant Conebill, Sulphur-throated Finch, Large-billed and Black-billed Seed Finches.

No doubt Ecuador is one of the top birding destinations in South America and the southern part of the county has more globally threatened species then any other part of the country. Our itinerary is continuously changing as the growing birding circuit has seen a lot of changes in the last 10 years here. It was not long ago when the new site for Orange-throated Tanager was found and this unique species had to be incorporated to the tour immediately – and as usual Birdquest was amongst the first companies to do so! The famous antpitta feeding - which was started by the legendary Angel Paz in the north - is also a feature here and the once mythical Jocotoco Antpitta is now readily available in the Tapichalaca Reserve which was created immediately after the discovery of the species. In the fantastic lodges throughout one can stay right in the superb habitat in a comfortable way and surrounded by all the special birds. The habitat diversity is equally amazing in the south and we have visited 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 visit is timed to coincide with the start of the Tumbesian rains and the start of the breeding season but this year January was unseasonably wet so we did get some unexpected rain at certain places. It started off as an El Nino year but experts say it is due next year.

Hummingbirds were a main feature of the tour and although the Ultimate tour records the highest number on any Birdquest tours, the quality in terms of range restricted birds is higher in the south. The many different habitats and the good selection of feeders resulted an incredible total of 64 species of hummingbirds! Two endemic hummingbirds can be only seen here, the Violet-throated Metailtail and the Esmeraldas Woodstar. The latter is the prime target of our short extension. Those who had the time to do this addition were not disappointed as we had magical encounters with this tiny bird. Other ‘family’ totals to highlight this year’s tour were 4 species of seen tinamous; 14 species of pigeons including the rare Ochre-bellied Dove; 14 species of nightbirds which included eight species of owls; 15 species of woodpeckers; 7 species of antpittas; 13 species of thrushes and 54 species of tanagers which included many sought-after birds like the Orange-throated Tanager.

Pale-browed Tinamou (János Oláh)

Pale-browed Tinamou (János Oláh)