Arrive to Quito and transfer to Hotel Quito.
This Foundación Jocotoco reserve is located in the elfin forest in the slopes of Pichincha Volcano. The main trail is easy and the birds are amazing. Some of the birds you can see are: Scarlet-bellied and Black-chested Mountain-Tanagers, Great Sapphirewing, Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Pufflegs, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird all regular, Black-breasted Puffleg can also be seen here occasionally. On the Old Nono-Mindo it could be White-capped Dipper, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrants, Beautiful Jay
We’ll visit a new and exciting site in the western foothills, where such scarce species as Choco Vireo, Indigo Flowerpiercer, Esmeraldas Antbird, and both Rufous-brown and Black Solitaires have been discovered in recent times. It also provides our best shot at the endemic and gorgeous Orange-breasted Fruiteater, that is surprisingly numerous here, along with Glistening-green and Moss-backed Tanagers, and Pacific (Buffy) Tuftedcheek. We’ll try to arrive at the lodge before dark to get views of the incredible hummingbird feeders, which can attract as many as twenty species in an hour, including Violet-tailed Sylph, Brown Inca, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Western Emerald, and Purple-throated Woodstar.
Paz de Aves and the Upper Tandayapa Valley
This now-famous antpitta reserve near Mindo will be a highlight of the tour. Here, a local farmer has started hand-feeding Giant, Moustached, and Yellow-breasted Antpittas with amazing success. We also have a chance to see other Chocó specialties, including Velvet-purple Coronet, Empress Brilliant, and Orange-breasted Fruiteater. In the afternoon you can walk through road on the upper Tandayapa valley to look for: Tanager Finch, Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan.
Milpe – Canandé
This Mindo Cloudforest Foundation (MCF) reserve is one of the best birding sites in Ecuador. Over a dozen Chocó endemics have been recorded at Milpe, though the highlight for many visitors is the lek of Club-winged Manakins, using their wings to make buzzing sounds to impress females. Other targets here include Choco Trogon, and Ochre-breasted and Rufous-throated Tanagers.
Afterwards we move to Canandé reserve. Most of the drive is through degraded habitat and plantations but you can try to do some birding stops to make the long drive a bit more interesting. Some good birds during the drive include: Short-tailed Hawk, Ecuadorian Ground-dove, Snowy-throated Kingbird, Swallow Tanager, Pacific Hornero. We arrived at the lodge at mid afternoon. In the afternoon you can walk around the Tawny-faced-Quail-trail where you can find: Red-capped Manakin, Rufous Piha, Scarlet-thighed Dacnis, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Chocó Poorwill.
Rio Canandé, up to the Mirador
One of the best birding at Rio Canandé is done during the hike up to the mirador. Various raptors species are seen more easily from the mirador. Recent observations of the 2 extremely rare Banded Ground-cuckoo are all coming from the ridge. Sightings of this enigmatic species are getting more regular at Rio Canandé and the local guides have estimated at least three territories along the main trail to the mirador. The best chance for the rare and local Golden-chested Tanager is on top of the ridge were it has a territory. Some of the birds you can see are: Chestnut-backed Antbirds, Broad-billed Sapayoa, Band-tailed Barbthroat, White-whiskered Puffbird, Blue-crowned Manakin, Ornate Hawk-eagle!, Gray-backed Hawk, Black-tipped Cotinga, Great Jacamars!
The Botrosa Road
It is approximately a 45 min. drive from the lodge and it start just after passing the tiny village of Hoja Blanca. Because birding is mainly done from the road perched birds and canopy flocks can be easier to see then from inside the forest. Sadly, the forest along the road is cut down. Black Hawk-eagle, Zone-tailed Hawk, Long-tailed Tyrants, Lanceolated Monklet!, King Vulture, Barred Puffbird, Scarlet-breasted Dacnis. Pacific Flatbill, Greenish Elaenia, Black-striped Woodcreeper, Blue-whiskered Tanager, White-bearded Manakin, Slaty Spinetail, and Laughing Falcons are all chances.
Rio Canandé to Tundaloma
After a few hours more of birding, we’ll head back to Tundaloma Lodge for only one night. There should be time in the afternoon for some birding around the lodge, where we might see the rare Brown Wood-Rail, Blue Cotinga, White-necked Puffbird or Red-legged Honeycreeper.
Tundaloma to Playa de Oro
We’ll start the morning birding secondary forest patches, which can still be quite good for Five-colored Barbet, Black-tipped and Blue Cotingas, Black-breasted Puffbird, and sometimes even the super rare Yellow-eared Toucanet. Later, we’ll drive to the village of Selva Alegre, and take a motorized canoe for about 2 hours to Playa de Oro Lodge. The lodge is somewhat basic, but it’s location near pristine Chocó lowland rainforest makes staying here for three nights well worthwhile.
Playa de Oro is a remote village along the Rio Santiago in the province of Esmeraldas. The community of Playa de Oro runs a lodge named “Campamento Tigrillo” located about 20 minutes upstream from the village. It is as remote as you can get into the Ecuadorian Chocó. Sadly, it is also one of the last parts of truly pristine Chocó rainforest left in Ecuador. Canoe rides, rustic accommodation, local food, local guides and hikes into remote forest will give you a real “expedition” experience.
The area has many superb trails, but many of them are moderately to strenuous. You can bird mainly around the lodge picking the easy and flattish trails.
Day 10 & 11
Playa de Oro
Most of the best birding here is along narrow forest trails. While it can be challenging, the rewards are some of rarest of the Chocó endemics. Shy game birds like Baudó Guan, Tawny-faced Quail, and Berlepsch’s Tinamou are seen more easily here than anywhere else. Streak-chested Antpitta is quite common, and even the rare and beautiful Rufous-crowned Antpitta is seen here occasionally. This is arguably the best place in Ecuador to see the enigmatic Sapayoa, which recent research has shown to be a monotypic family very closely related to the Old World broadbills. You’ll sort through all mixed-species flocks looking for Slate-throated Gnatcatcher, Scarlet-and-white and Lemon-spectacled Tanagers, Orange-fronted Barbet, and more.
A few “standard species” like Ringed and Green Kingfisher, Snowy Egret, Osprey, Swallow-tailed Kite and Neotropical Cormorant can be seen during the canoe ride.
The flock behind the lodge normally seen daily holds some times Broad-billed Sapayoa but normally we find Tawny-crowned Greenlet, Dot-winged Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, Checker-throated Antwren, Griscom’s Antwren, Lemon-spectacled Tanager, Tawny-crested Tanager, Dusky-faced Tanager, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher, Pacific Flatbill, Sulphur-rumped Myiobius, Tawnyfaced Gnatwren, Stripe-throated Wren, Western Woodhaunter and Western Slaty Antshrike.
The Pueblo trail starts behind the lodge and after a 2 hours walk you get to the village of Playa de Oro. The first stretch of the trail is flat and this is worth birding. The Santo del Peña trail is perhaps the best birding trail in the area. It starts on the opposite side of the river and you will need a canoe ride to get there. The start of the trail goes through semi-flooded forest and gradually goes up into the foothills. After a few steeps climbs you reach a kind of plateau that stays flat for most of the time. From here you can get Golden-chested Tanager (higher parts of the Angostura trail has this species as well). About halfway there is a viewpoint that can be very rewarding.
After this point the trail soon meets up with the Cascada trail. You can either walk the same route back or have someone pick you up with the canoe at the start of the Cascada trail. Lanceolated Monklet, Black-headed Antthrush, Great Jacamar, Lita Woodpecker Scarlet-browed Tanager, Lemon-spectacled Tanager, Slate-throated Gnatcatcher and Ochre-breasted Tanager are all options here. The Paila trail starts behind the lodge and continuous on upstream and here is where you have good chances of great things like Ocellated Antbird, Rufous-crowned Antpitta, Choco Poorwill and many more.
Playa de Oro to Chical
You’ll spend the first hours of the morning birding around Playa de Oro and the road to Lita to clean up on whatever birds you still need, before heading up the hill to a new site, the road to Chical. This recently discovered birding road provides a good chance at species very rare in Ecuador, such as the gorgeous Fulvous-dotted Treerunner (which can be delightfully common here), Purplish-mantled Tanager, Hoary Puffleg, and Black Solitaire. We’ll spend one night in the Hacienda Primavera, a beautiful new hotel about 30 minutes from the main birding area.
Chical Road to Quito
One more time you can go up a few kilometers for the Hacienda to try for this rare species before starting the road back to Quito. While it is a fairly long drive back, there is plenty to see along the way like on the dryer valleys where you’ll look for Blue-headed Sapphire in the scrub. A short stop at Laguna San Pablo to look for Ecuadorian Rail and Subtropical Doradito is needed before finally arriving in Quito.
Departure, you will be taken to the airport, we know, with a big smile on your face after birding Ecuador and it’s amazing places.
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Choco Lowlands & Northern Ecuador Rates
Please enquire with the Canandé Lodge.
All meals as indicated
All land transportation
Tour Does Not Include:
Airport departure tax (if required)
Expenses of a personal nature such as laundry, phone calls, extra drinks and snacks, souvenirs, etc.
For booking, please enquire with the Canandé Lodge contact form and mention the “Choco Lowlands & Northern Ecuador 14 Day Trip.”
Choco Lowlands & North Ecuador Quito, Ecuador14 Day Birdwatching Program | 14D / 13N
This two week tour of the JocoToco Foundation Reserves is fantastic for birding opportunities. While we traverse the reserves, you will be on the look for many endemic and endangered birds protected by the foundation. Birds you may see include Mountain-Tanagers, Great Sapphirewings, Sapphire-vented and Golden-breasted Pufflegs plus many many others.