Time to escape from Quito for what will be a busy day of birding! Today we will want to rise early and get on our way since we have a variety of habitats that we will want to explore. Our drive to Guango Lodge will initially lead us through the drier central valley where we will pass through a mix of agricultural zones and native chaparral forests before rising up steeply to the high and (often) windswept paramo. Among the many bird possibilities, we will be particularly on the lookout for Andean Condor (sometimes hard), Carunculated Caracara, Andean Gull, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Scrub & Blue-and-yellow Tanagers and Southern Yellow-Grosbeak. If there were a day to have your camera ready, this would be it – on clear days the scenery is spectacular, with superb views of the snow-capped Volcán Antisana, and seemingly endless high Andean mountain-scapes harboring a backdrop of textures that make for an unforgettable birding setting. This area, known as the Papallacta Pass by birders, is rich in paramo birdlife, and with the proper weather, you can expect to see some of the following: Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tawny Antpitta, Many-striped Canastero, White-chinned Thistletail, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, some interesting seedeaters, and even Giant Conebill (with a bit of luck, up in the Polylepis woodlands). The Papallacta Pass is right on the continental divide, and once we finish up with our paramobirding, we will work our way down the east-slope – Amazonian drainage now – towards Guango Lodge. On the way we will pass through some beautiful high-elevation temperate forests where we will have a chance to stop and soak in this birdy zone; some of the possibilities include Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Viridian Metaltail, Red-crested Cotinga, Black-backed Bush-Tanager, just to name a very few. We aim to arrive to Guango Lodge for a hot, sit-down lunch, where the hummingbird feeders that will be dripping with species such as Tourmaline Sunangel, Sword-billed Hummingbird and White-bellied Woodstar.
After lunch we’ll devote our afternoon birding to the trails and spectacular hummingbird feeders at Guango Lodge. On the grounds at Guango we frequently run into some of the best temperate forest flocks on any of our tours in Ecuador; in a matter of minutes it isn’t uncommon to see Bar-bellied Woodpecker, White-banded Tyrannulet, Blue-backed Conebill, Black-capped and Black-eared Hemispingus, Slaty and Pale-naped Brush-Finch, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, several species of mountain-tanager and even Plushcap. We will always have our eye out for other particularly local or aesthetic highlights, and Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan and Mountain Avocetbill are among them.
Before it gets too late it will be time to turn our sights down-slope for an 1 ½ hour drive to Cabañas San Isidro. We will shoot to arrive in time to get settled into our rooms and even try and spotlight a Rufous-bellied Nighthawk at dusk before what will certainly be a delicious dinner. Assuming the weather cooperates, we will want to try a short night walk after dinner - right between the cabins and the dining room - in search of the “mystery owl”. This is a gorgeous owl that may one day prove to be a new species to science. Night at Cabañas San Isidro.
We plan to start the morning off with some birding right around the lodge, where we often find it hard to pull ourselves away… the birds just sometimes keep coming. Some of the regulars include Montane and Olive-backed Woodcreepers, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Inca Jay, Bluish Flowerpiercer and Subtropical Cacique! After about an hour of this, we will want to visit the Antpitta feeders, where you will likely see White-bellied Antpitta only feet away, and maybe even the very rare Peruvian (!). The rest of the morning will be spent birding the ample trail system and forested roadside at Cabañas San Isidro, where Long-tailed Antbirds, Plain-tailed Wrens and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonias await.
After lunch at the lodge (and possibly an afternoon break), we can choose any of the trails that sprawl out from the lodge (or even the roadside) for a second crack at flocks and other activity… quetzals or maybe a fruiteater anybody? The true beauty of the day is that we have no need for vehicle commutes - any longer than a few minutes - so birding along slowly on foot (surrounded by rich habitat) is something that we will take full advantage of. We may even want to try a spot near the lodge for Andean Potoo and Rufous-banded Owl. Night at Cabañas San Isidro.
We will get up early and head to the Loreto Road (or to Coca Falls) where we will spend the day birding this scenic zone. In the eastern foothills the birding possibilities really explode, with a new sets of tanagers, antbirds, and others. Considering that this is one of the most biologically diverse spots on the planet we will want to spend a full day exploring these rich forested slopes. Assuming weather cooperates, we will have a long list of potential species. Here are some dreamy names to whet your appetite: White-backed Fire-eye, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Golden-eared, Orange-eared and Paradise Tanagers, and Golden-collared Honeycreeper. We might even luck into a fruiteater or two! We will want to bring along a packed lunch in order to take full advantage of our day in the field. Night at Cabañas San Isidro.
Morning birding the beautiful Guacamayos ridge trail – only about 20 minutes from the lodge by vehicle - where some of the birds we hope to see include Green-and-black Fruiteater, Handsome Flycatcher, Rufous Wren, Turquoise Jay, Grass-green Tanager, a few species of skulking tapaculos (and maybe even an Ocellated) and Northern Mountain-Cacique. While not as common, but still regularly seen here, some of the other harder possibilities include Greater Scythebill, Dusky Piha and Black-billed Mountain-Toucan. The forest here is simply enchanting and an even that no birder wants to miss when visiting the San Isidro area. Afternoon birding the trails at San Isidro.Night San Isidro.
Depending on the guide’s plan for the day, we may bird in the morning and enjoy one last meal at Cabañas San Isidro, or choose to bring along a box lunch for our birding drive back to Quito to give us a chance at cleaning-up some of the missed species we had searched for on the first day. Night in Quito.
The quote includes: Four nights full board at Cabañas San Isidro, extra box lunch on first day, entrance fees (Cayambe-Coca National Park and Guacamayos ridge trail), transportation and professional birding guide services according to option chosen (if you choose option 3 the itinerary will vary as you will not have a guide or transportation all days) and all taxes. The quote does not include: Extra drinks (sodas, beers, wines, etc.), insurance, Coca Falls entrance fee, extra expensesfor delayed baggage arrival, tips and other personal expenses (laundry, phone calls, etc.).