Monday, May 08, 2017

Birding in Ecuador - Information and Logistics

Whenever my wife and I go birding abroad we regularly search the internet first to find out possible places where we could stay and birding areas we could visit. We are what could be termed as "budgetarians" when it comes to traveling overseas. Which basically means we don't avail the services of professional bird tour companies. We pretty much do stuff on our own. That said, here are some information on our experience in Ecuador:

Accommodations:

Puembo Birding Garden ( https://puembobirdinggarden.com/ ) is a cozy place not far from the international airport. Mercedes, the owner, really made us feel at home. Being an expert birder herself, she recommended the places we should visit and even provided a driver/guide for us. As the name implies, the place has a garden where there are feeders for hummingbirds, seed-eating birds and fruit-eaters. Scrub Tanagers, Eared Doves, Rufous-collared Sparrows and Black-tailed Trainbearers are sure sightings here.


Sachatamia Lodge ( http://www.sachatamia.com/ ) is another favorite of birders. It has a main building with rooms upstairs and also several cottages within its property. They also have feeders for hummingbirds and fruit-eating birds. The forest and waterfalls hosts many different kinds of birds. The cuisine at the restaurant is quite good. A little bit of quirkiness is that you have to remove your shoes and put on a cloth covering on your feet before entering the main building which houses the office/concierge and the restaurant.


Birding Places:

Alambi Cloud Forest Reserve ( http://www.alambicloudforest.com/) is a hummingbird heaven about an hour away from Quito. There is an entrance fee of $5 per person.


Bellavista Reserve and Lodge ( http://www.bellavistacloudforest.com/ ) really is a lodging place and is favorite stop over of tours and birders. It is located in the Tandayapa Valley which is famous as a top birding destination. We just did a short visit here and purchased the birds of Bellavista book.


San Tadeo Birdwatching (they don't have a website) is a comparatively new and small birding spot not far from the Sachatamia Lodge. It is famous for the various kinds of tanagers and hummingbirds that come to their feeders. The entrance fee is $5 per person.


El Mirador Rio Blanco ( https://www.faintlake.com/trips/EC/Mirador.html ) is a restaurant and hostel that caters to birders. Patricio, the owner, is an avid birder himself. Food is good in this place with good views of the feeders.


Milpe Bird Sanctuary (they don't have a website but a good resource is here: http://www.exoticbirding.com/ecuador/milpe-sanctuary/description.html )
Entrance fee here is $12 per person. Inside the sanctuary are several trails which harbor bird species of lower elevation forests. The road going to/from the sanctuary is also rife with birds.

Refugio Paz de las Aves   ( http://www.refugiopazdelasaves.com/ ) is internationally known to birders. Here sightings of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is guaranteed. Seeing four different species of Antpittas is also a strong possibility. The entrance fee is $35 per person.


Antisana Ecological Reserve is a huge grassland with a lake high up in the Andes. It has an elevation of more 3500 masl.  Again they don't have a website but here is an informative link http://www.exoticbirding.com/ecuador/antisana/description.html . Located inside the Antisana Ecological Reserve is the Tambo Condor Restaurant. This is the best place to observe the Andean Condor. Food is not bad too.


Transportation:

The airline we used was Copa. It has a stopover in Panama City which we availed by staying one extra day to do some birding in Panama.

Our transportation had been provided by the lodges we stayed in for a fee. Puembo Birding Garden was responsible for picking us up and taking us to the airport. They were also the ones who contacted Luis, who did not only drive for us but acted as our bird guide as well. Sachatamia Lodge provided the car and driver to take us to the Refugio Paz de las Aves.

Summary:

Apparently the last half of April was the onset of the birding off-season. Mercedes of the Puembo Birding Garden admitted to us. Rain had been pouring almost on a daily basis thus limiting our birding outings. It could also be a factor but it was holy week when we came to Ecuador and it being a predominantly Catholic country, such a time was devoted to spirituality. Maybe that was why the fruit feeders were not replenished the three days we stayed at the Sachatamia Lodge (which included both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday).

All in all it was still a productive trip for us, adding about 100 new species to our lifelist. Big thanks goes to Luis our driver/guide and excellent spotter.

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