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ULTIMATE ECUADOR

Friday 7th October - Monday 31st October 2016

János Oláh

Now here's a real Neotropical birding 'holy grail' bird, the variously named Rufous-crowned Antpitta, Gnatpitta or Pittasoma. Now available (maybe for a limited period only?) on this tour (János Oláh).

Now here's a real Neotropical birding 'holy grail' bird, the variously named Rufous-crowned Antpitta, Gnatpitta or Pittasoma. Now available (maybe for a limited period only?) on this tour (János Oláh).

This year saw a new itinerary for this already amazing tour, which included a visit to Playa de Oro in the Choco lowlands helping us to see even more localised and hard-to-find birds then ever. This new locations also yielded two new birds for Birdquest in the form of Choco Woodpecker and Yellow-green Bush Tanager, both of which are very difficult to track down unless at one of the very few new sites they have been reported from recently. Our Ultimate Ecuador tour concentrates on the northern part of the country and together with the Amazonia extension it offers a big bird list – usually over 800 species! This year we set a new record for Birdquest in Ecuador recording 891 species of which 825 were seen! Even the main tour itself with a mere 16 full days of birding recorded 720 species and the two-base Amazonia extension had a good number of additions. We certainly had an amazing list of special birds with over 215 Birdquest ‘diamond’ birds. The very best highlights this year included birds like Salvin’s Curassow, Wattled Guan, Agami Heron, Zigzag Heron, Ecuadorian Rail, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, San Isidro and Crested Owls, Oilbird, Rufous and Andean Potoos, Swallow-tailed and Lyre-tailed Nightjars, Choco Poorwill, Buff-tailed and White-tipped Sicklebills, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Fiery Topaz, Blue-headed Sapphire, Hoary Puffleg, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Choco and Slaty-tailed Trogons, Purplish Jacamar, Lanceolated Monklet, Black-breasted, Chestnut-capped and Collared Puffbirds, Five-coloured Barbet and Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed-, Black-billed and Grey-breasted Mountain Toucans, Choco, Lita, Cinnamon and Ringed Woodpeckers, Rose-faced Parrot, Great Green Macaw, Sapayoa, Brown-billed Scythebill, Cocha and Fulvous Antshrikes, White-streaked Antvireo, Yasuni-, Foothill, Rio Suno and Yellow-breasted Antwrens, Banded-, Yellow-browed-, Stub-tailed-, Lunulated- , Spotted- and Dot-backed Antbirds, Black-spotted and Reddish-winged Bare-Eyes, Giant, Streak-chested and Plain-backed Antpittas, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Rufous-crowned Pittasoma, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Foothill Elaenia, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Olive-chested Flycatchers, Dusky-chested Flycatcher, Citron-bellied Attila, Orange-breasted and Fiery-throated Fruiteaters, Black-tipped-, Black-necked Red-, Purple-throated-, Plum.throated and Blue Cotingas, Grey-tailed and Dusky Pihas, Blue-rumped-, Green-, Wire-tailed- and Orange-crested Manakins, Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, White-browed Purpletuft, Rufous-naped and Olivaceous Greenlets, Beautiful Jay, Grey-mantled-, Buff-breasted-, Wing-banded and Musician Wrens, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Spotted Nightingale Thrush, Lawrence’sand Hauxwell’s Thrushes, Casqued Oropendola, Yellow.green Bush Tanager, Fulvous-crested, Moss-backed, Golden-chested, Black-chested Mountain-, Golden-crowned, Purplish-mantled, Glistening-green, Blue-whiskered, Blue-browed, Lemon-spectacled and Scarlet-and-white Tanagers, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis and Indigo Flowerpiercer.

Undoubtedly Ecuador is one of the top birding destinations in South America. Nowadays Colombia is safe to travel in and a lot of birders go there for all the endemics, however, for relative size, travelling distances and habitat access nothing matches Ecuador! Our itinerary is continuously changing and will be different again next year as we will have a new extension visiting the remote Shiripuno Lodge and Sani Lodge. The nowadays world famous antpitta farm, which is now much more than just antpitta feeding, was started by the legendary Angel Paz and as usual our visit to his reserve was a tour highlight! Another new location was the Mashpi Chocolate Farm, on the west slope, where the enigmatic Rufous-crowned Antpitta or Pittasoma has been fed for almost a year now. We managed to see it but it was not as ‘easy’ as most people would expect with a ‘habituated’ bird as after hours of searching we had to wade into an ant-swarm to see him!

In the Andes and especially in western and eastern lowlands we found a great diversity of antpittas, antthrushes, antshrikes, antwrens and antbirds and recorded a staggering total of 80 species of them. Especially numerous the antwrens were with 18 species. Hummingbirds were a main feature too and certainly Birdquest records the biggest numbers of these tiny jewels on this particular tour from all our destinations around the New World. Visiting various elevations and many different habitats and a multitude of hummingbird feeders resulted a total of 77 species of hummingbirds! This list included species like scarce Hoary Puffleg, the localised Blue-headed Sapphire, the diminutive Wire-crested Thorntail, the amazing Sword-billed Hummingbird, the difficult-to-find Tooth-billed Hummingbird, the shiny Velvet-purple Coronet, the lovely Violet-tailed Sylph, the huge Giant Hummingbird and the heliconia specialist White-tipped Sicklebill. Other ‘family’ totals to highlight this year’s tour were 5 species of kingfishers; 22 species of woodpeckers including Choco; 14 species of toucans which included three species of mountain toucans, 18 species of cotingas with outstanding views of Black-tipped, Blue and Purple-throated Cotingas; a total of 96 flycatchers excluding becards nowadays. The most amazing group this year however was the tanagers and allies as we recorded 107 species and seen such sough-after ones like Golden-chested, Bluw-whiskered, Blue-browed Tanagers and Scarlet-breasted Dacnis. We also managed to see 21 species of nightbirds, which included Oilbird, four potoos, ten nightjars and six owls.

Giant Antpitta used to be a dream possibility for most birders in Ecuador...not any more! We often see it like this (János Oláh).

Giant Antpitta used to be a dream possibility for most birders in Ecuador...not any more! We often see it like this (János Oláh).