Ecuador has the highest bird species concentration per square meter in the world and the eastern slopes are a vivid example. As we travel towards the Amazon basin this trips mixes high paramo with lower lush temperate subtropical species. This area is home to some of the most impressive species from the iconic Andean Condor to the new Owl subspecies San Isidro Owl. Across multiple elevation you will surely be amazed by the wide array of bird species contained in the Cayambe-Coca Reserve.
Along the way, as we approach Papallacta, the scenery will be beautiful. Towards Papallacta Pass the air temperature cools as we reach paramo scenery with extensive grassland and low shrubs with scenic cliffs all around and andes mountain views, this is home to Andean condor and Andean Bear. On clear days it is possible to have breathtaking views of snow capped Cotopaxi, Antisana and other high andes mountains.
We will explore some of this papallacta area surrounded by beautiful paramo scenery Some specialties in this area will include Giant Conebill, Andean Snipe, Stout-billed Cinclodes, Red-crested Cotinga, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Variable Hawk, and the much sought after Red-rumped Bush Tyrant.
We will travel from Quito for around 1 hour and 30 minutes to Guango Lodge, a special stop and a high altitude hummingbird haven, at the trails we must check the river at many spots for the very special Torrent Duck for sure this is the best place for this special bird sometimes seen with the whole family.
Guango Lodge will give us the chance in the Eastern Slopes to see some high altitude hummingbird species such as the impressive Sword-billed Hummingbird the only bird with its beak longer than its body , or the exact opposite the mountain Avocetbill with the shortest beak or the special Tourmaline Sunangel, the hummingbird array will be quite impressive.
Soon we will start making our way downslope for an 1 ½ hour drive to Cabañas San Isidro one of our favorite places in the Eastern Slopes with superb birding and a beautiful lodge, ah! food and service are amazing too.
We will try to arrive in time to get settled and look for the Rufous-bellied Nighthawk at dusk before what will certainly be a delicious dinner. But definitely the main prize will be the San Isidro Owl. This is the new subspecies of the Black-banded Owl called San Isidro Owl it is so special that we have 6 or 7 individuals registered only and studies are still in progress financed by the lodge, you can hear it hooting from dining room terrace.
Night at Cabañas San Isidro.
We will start the morning with some birding around the lodge, where we often find many of the special species including. Some of the regular visitors include Olive-backed and montane Woodcreepers, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Bluish Flowerpiercer and the super common and colorful Inca Jay and Subtropical Cacique that often even come even to the terraces furniture. After about an hour of this, we will want to visit the Antpitta feeders, where you will very likely see the White-bellied Antpitta only a few feet away. But probably the best photography opportunities are offered at the lodges terrace where birds come to feed from the insects attracted to the lamps from the night before, one could easily spend a whole day there, some of the species that come to the terrace are Inca Jay, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Common bush tanager, Subtropical cacique, Russet-backed oropendola, Summer tanager, Gray-breasted wood wren, Barred Becard, White-crested Elaenia, Pale-edged flycatcher, golden-crowned flycatcher, Marble-faced bristle tyrant, handsome flycatcher, blackburnian warbler, Rufous-breasted flycatcher, Streak-necked flycatcher, Crimson-mantled woodpecker, Yellow-vented woodpecker, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Montane-woodcreeper, Streaked tuftedcheek, this terrace is like a playground for birders.
We will also spend the morning birding the ample trail system and the roadside at Cabañas San Isidro, where it is possible to spot the tiny plain-tailed wrens, or long-tailed antbirds, but one of the specialties here is the white-capped tanager normally found only in the trails.
After lunch we can spend time in the ample and beautiful trail system but time in the afternoon is wisely spent at the hummingbird deck which has the best light in the eastern slopes for perfect in-flight hummingbird photography to get those special species such as the Bronzy Inca, Speckled Hummingbird, Long-tailed Hummingbird, Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Fawn-breasted brilliant, Gorgeted woodstar feeding from flowers and in-flight. Yes, we will set it up for you later as night falls we can look for Andean Potoo and Rufous-banded Owl.
Night at Cabañas San Isidro.
After spending the morning in San Isidro we will look towards Wild Sumaco. We will drive for about 2 hours to reach Wild Sumaco, a premier destination for bird lovers with around 522 bird species and wildlife in general.
Wild Sumaco offers excellent opportunities to find foothill Screech Owl, and Band-bellied Owl at night, as well as some special species such as Napo Sabrewing, Andean Motmot, White-chested Puffbird, Black-streaked Puffbird, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, White-crowned Tapaculo, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Lined Antshrike, Plain-backed Antpitta, White-crowned Manakin or the much sought after Coppery-chested Jacamar. But some of the flag birds in this area are the Black-mandibled Toucans and Military Macaws just to mention a few species.
Set on a ridge in the Andes' Eastern Foothills, Wildsumaco Lodge offers amazing views across the Valley to the Andes mountains. On clear days the distant snow-covered andes mountains can be seen Antisana, Tungurahua and even the Altar. Often Sumaco Volcano can be seen peeking through the clouds in the distance providing such an amazing view.
Wild Sumaco offers an amazing trail network and simply strolling along is a pleasure.
The view from the deck is breathtaking, and our trails and scenery, Wild Sumaco trail system is just beautiful and well kept and provide endless opportunities for photographers. The hummingbird feeders and flower near the deck offer perfect opportunities to photograph some specialties such the White-tipped Sicklebill, Wire-crested Thorntail, Booted racket tail east version with brownish boots, Violet-fronted brilliant, or Black-throated brilliant.
Overnight at Wild Sumaco.
This will be another amazing day to explore what Wild Sumaco has to offer, we will keep looking for those special species in the superb trails, the deck and the road as well since it also offers some interesting options.
This afternoon we will start our way to Narupa Reserve and will stay overnight, 1 km away from the reserve entrance so we will be ready next day for an early birding at this beautiful reserve.
Overnight at Hollin River Waterfall Lodge.
Early morning exploring Narupa Reserve which is part of Jocotoco Foundation which is working hard to save our forests and is part of the world land trust, Narupa offers a beautiful trail that runs along the river and offers a home to the endangered cerulean warbler one of the fastest declining americas migratory birds. Narupa covers 1871 acres and includes andean foothill rain forest, this is one of the most beautiful reserves you will ever visit, the beauty of the forest, its river ,strolling along its trails with multiple lookout overlooking the river and the forest in the background will provide some unforgettable images for you to keep,puma footprints and checking camera traps with the park rangers will remind you how important this reserve is for wildlife.
Those cameras keep track of all species found in the reserve, the list of mammals is extensive and include Pumas, the Endangered Bush Dog, Tyras, Ocelots, and Tapirs.
As well as being beautiful this reserve offers a great site for birding including the almost extinct Harpy Eagle, Magpie Tanager, Swallow Tanager, Wattled Guan, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Red-billed Parrot, the super endangered military Macaw, Collared Trogon, Lineated Woodpecker, Crested Quetzal, Coppery-chested Jacamar, Channel-billed Toucan, White-crowned Manakin, just to mention a few.
When we leave Narupa Reserve we will make a couple of stops along the way to look for some specialties such as the Orange-breasted Falcon and the cliff Flycatcher then we will make a stop at San Isidro to have lunch and relax at the terrance and then continue our way back to Quito,we will try to arrive in Quito around 19:00 pm.