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SOUTHERN ECUADOR

Monday 18th January - Sunday 31st January 2016

Eustace Barnes

This year’s tour to some of the best reserves in Southern Ecuador gave us yet another record breaking tour. The stars of the show all surpassed expectations with unbeatable performances from a Crescent-faced Antpitta, a male Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Jocotoco Antpittas and Orange-throated Tanagers.

The tour seemed to be heading for trouble with the threat of El Nino hanging over us. Indeed there were torrential rains around Guayaquil and exceptional dryness in the eastern foothills but inspite of this we had a spectacular time and found a higher proportion of target species than on all previous tours. We did work hard right up until the last minute but the birding was continuously great and every moment a pleasure. The principal targets all put on great performances with an unforgettable time watching a displaying Long-wattled Umbrellabird just above our heads, several large groups of noisy Orange-throated Tanagers, a very cooperative Crescent-faced Antpitta hopping around in front of us and a pair of huge Jocotoco Antpittas watching us with mild amusement.

Apart from the headliners, the pair of Grey Tinamous at Copalinga provided a special experience of a rarely seen species as did the Pale-browed Tinamous and Ochre-bellied Dove at Jorupe. Our morning on Cerro Toledo with Masked Mountain Tanager and Neblina Metaltail was very memorable and the Dusky Piha at Tapichalaca put on a good performance. The foothill forests at Yankuam had us birding from dawn until dusk with busy flocks of tanagers plus Buckley’s Forest Falcon, Purplish Jacamar, Foothill Elaenia and a pair of nesting Fiery-throated Fruiteaters keeping us entertained during our stay. A patient watch at Acanama was rewarded with a pair of Red-faced Parrots, a pair of Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucans and several Turquoise Jays. After a prolonged search at Yunguilla we found a singing Pale-headed Brush-Finch and a small flock of Saffron Siskins. Las Cajas National Park is a spectacular setting for some great birding while searching for, and finding all of our target species plus an Andean Potoo. Finally, our time on the coast produced an Esmeraldas Woodstar and in the last couple of hours of birding the rarely seen Grey-capped Cuckoo! Unforgettable tour highlights but by no means all of them in an outstanding tour!