Day 1: Arrival In Quito
Our Grand Ecuador birding tour begins with an evening orientation at our hotel. Night in Quito.
Day 2: Yanacocha and Tandayapa
We begin our tour by visiting Yanacocha in the morning. On the backside of the Pichincha volcano, Yanacocha is a superb birding area that offers species such as Andean Guan, Stout-billed Cinclodes and Golden-crowned Tanager. Yanacocha is also a hummingbirder's delight, with more than 10 species likely, including Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Golden-breasted Puffleg, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill and Tyrian Metaltail. The Black-breasted Puffleg, a rare endemic known only in this area, is occasionally found here. We travel on to Tandayapa Lodge for lunch, taking in the multitude of hummingbird species and individuals which should be visiting the hummingbird feeders there, and then head to the cloud forest near Bellavista Lodge hoping to add yet one more hummingbird species to this hummingbird-filled day: Gorgeted Sunangel. Finally, we head to Sachatamia Lodge for a three night stay. Night at Sachatamia Lodge.
Days 3 and 4: Nono - Mindo area: Rio Silanche and Milpe Bird Sanctuary
Over the next 2 days, we will bird the Rio Silanche area, Milpe Bird Sanctuary and the area near Bellavista. There are a number of very special birds to be found and we devote most of the day to sampling the tremendous diversity of this region. Some special birds that we hope to see include Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan and Grass-green Tanager. Night at Sachatamia Lodge.
Days 5: Nono – Mindo area: Paz de las Aves and on to Guango Lodge
The entire morning will be spent at Paz de las Aves, the private reserve owned by the man who invented the revolutionary concept of feeding antpittas to make them less elusive. The forested areas are home to an incredible diversity of Pacific slope birds including Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Toucan Barbet and Black-winged Saltator. In recent years three species of antpitta - Giant, Yellow-breasted and Moustached - have been coming to feeding spots where earthworms are provided and we have an excellent chance of seeing these very elusive species. We wind our way up the slopes east of Quito to Papallacta Pass, where the 4000 meter high páramo holds a fascinating group of high-altitude species. We hope to see, among others, Many-striped Canastero, Tawny Antpitta, and with a lot of luck perhaps, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar and an Andean Condor or two (we depend on there being clear conditions with no mist up at the pass).
At Guango Lodge we will look for the spectacular Sword-billed Hummingbird, Tourmaline Sunangel, and perhaps Gorgeted Woodstar and with incredible luck maybe even Mountain Avocetbill. Night in Guango Lodge.
Day 6: Guango Lodge
At and near Guango Lodge, we should be looking for a host of new species - Slaty Brush-Finch, Masked Trogon, Andean Guan, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Turquoise and Inca Jays, Mountain Cacique, Dusky Piha, Glowing Puffleg and, with luck, a real prize, Mountain Avocetbill. If we were unable to visit Papallacta Pass yesterday, we will have a second opportunity today. Night in Guango Lodge.
Day 7: San Isidro
We leave Guango and travel further down the eastern slopes to the superb Cabañas San Isidro. Hummingbirds are well represented, including Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Long-tailed Sylph. Mixed-species flocks pass through the forest, quetzals call from the canopy, army ants attract a host of followers. The mystery owl is still present - it looks much like a Black-banded Owl, but not quite right! The list of goodies seems endless and includes Green-and-black Fruiteater, White-capped Parrot, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Black-billed Peppershrike, and Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer. Night at San Isidro.
Day 8: San Isidro to Wildsumaco Lodge
We bird the Guacamayos Ridge near San Isidro and then head downslope to Parque Nacional Sumaco for a picnic lunch, before traveling on to Wildsumaco Lodge for a three night stay. The hummingbird feeders at Wildsumaco Lodge are spectacular and host yet another set of species that will add to our growing hummingbird list for the tour. Night at Wildsumaco Lodge.
Days 9 & 10: Wildsumaco Lodge
Wildsumaco Lodge has gained a reputation for its tremendous birding potential. Some of the great birds we look for include Amazonian Umbrellabird, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Bronze-green Euphonia, Wire-crested Thorntail, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Orange-eared Tanager and much more. The birdlist at the lodge is well over 400 species, an incredibly rich avifauna. Whilst here we visit the Antpitta and Face Trails, and forest hummingbird feeders. Nights at Wildsumaco Lodge.
Day 11: Travel to Amazon Lowlands
After breakfast at Wildsumaco, we head to Coca, with a few short birding stops on the way. Arriving at Coca, we take a motorized canoe ride down the Napo River. The rainforests here are among the most complex of biological communities, and the many different habitats collectively boast over 500 bird species. This region, on the eastern slope of the Andes, is in the tropical lowlands of Western Amazonia. Our lodge lies in the heart of this wilderness, deep within the Ecuadorian Amazon and alongside a small lake, where floating water hyacinths and grasses obscure the shores. To the north lies the Cuyabeno Reserve and along the southern border stretches vast Yasuni National Park. In the corridor between, located on 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of untouched rainforest lies our lodge, home to 1,500 species of trees, hundreds of climbing vines, and exotic flowers, as well as over 500 species of birds, 13 species of monkeys and 1,000 species of butterflies. As we travel the river, zigzagging our way around the many sandbars, we look for some of the river birds such as Black Skimmer, Yellow-billed Tern and Black Caracara. There is also an observation tower that will give you a bird's eye view across the thousands of shades of green and a chance to see a host of new birds. Night at our Amazonian lodge.
Days 12 to 14: Amazon Lowlands
During our stay, which for many will be the highlight of our trip, we take daily hikes and canoe trips to trails along the lake and river. These excursions will give us a chance to observe a wide variety of birds and mammal species. There are a number of very rare and localized birds to be found here such as White-lored Antpitta, Long-tailed and Rufous Potoos, Cocha Antshrike, Varzea Schiffornis, Parker’s Spinetail, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, and much more. Mammals are well represented, and include such choice species as Brazilian Tapir, Giant River Otter and even Jaguar. Nights at our Amazonian lodge.
Day 15: Return to Quito
In the morning, we take motorized canoes back to Coca and our return flight to Quito, arriving around noontime. The afternoon is free for sightseeing in Quito or exploring areas near the capital. Night in Quito.
Day 16: Departure
Our Grand Ecuador birding tour ends today as we make our flight connections home.