Ecuador | Birding the Eastern Slopes and Amazon Rainforest

Ecuador | Birding the Eastern Slopes and Amazon Rainforest

About this trip

An extraordinary abundance of bird life inhabits the forests of northern Ecuador and the Ecuadorian Amazon. Amid cloud forest, rainforest, páramo, and the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains, you’ll seek out as many of the country’s 1,640-plus species as possible with assistance from your expert guide. Explore the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, before descending into the primary forests of a private ecological reserve in the heart of the Amazon Basin. Seek out a variety of neotropical resident and migrant avian species, plus mammals, amphibians, insects, and more.

Highlights

  • Explore northern Ecuador across a variety of protected areas, including Antisana Ecological Reserve, San Isidro Lodge and lush cloud reserve, Sacha Lodge’s 5,000-acre private ecological reserve, and others.
  • Search for a mix of high- and low-elevation species in Sumaco, including the Blue-browed Tanager, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Coppery-chested Jacamar, and over 30 species of hummingbirds.
  • Take a canopy walk high in the treetops and observe birds such as Scarlet and Red-bellied Macaws, Many-banded Aracari, Magpie Tanager, Gilded Barbet, and Yellow-rumped Cacique.
  • Canoe through the flooded Amazon forest while watching for birds, monkeys, sloths, caimans, river otters, and other wildlife.
  • Trek through trails of pristine terra firme forest, orchids, bromeliads, palm trees, and 150-foot kapok trees.

Meet your leader

Stan Walens

Stan Walens began birding after graduate school and hasn’t stopped for a minute since. His early years as a birder in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia involved owl population surveys and documenting hawk and warbler migrations. But once he moved to San Diego, he became an avid seawatcher. He has collected almost-daily observations of seabird populations in San Diego County for nearly 40 years, and for over 25 years organized pelagic trips out of San Diego. His professional work as an archaeologist and psychological anthropologist focuses on the art, rituals, and religions of the indigenous cultures of North and Central America. He is a classical musician who plays 13 instruments, and during those rare moments when not birding, can be found listening to opera.

Puembo

Sep 30, 2024

Upon arrival at the Quito airport, you'll be met outside the secured area of the airport and transferred to the hotel. Most flights arrive in the evening. No meals are included on this day. Quito's elevation ranges from 9,223 to 9,883 feet but the elevation at Puembo is about 7,500. To minimize your chances of experiencing altitude sickness, try to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, consume high-carbohydrate foods, avoid alcohol and fatty foods, and avoid strenuous exercise at high elevations. Check in starts at 2 p.m.

Overnight at Rincon de Puembo

Cosanga

Oct 1, 2024

Spend a full morning birding along the trails at the privately owned Antisana Ecological Reserve (11,500 feet), whose varied ecological zones range from páramo to lowland rainforest. More than 70 bird species can be found here, including the Andean Condor, Giant Hummingbird, Carunculated Caracara, Black-faced Ibis, Speckled Teal, Andean Duck, Silvery Grebe, Slate-colored Coot, Andean Gull, Andean Lapwing, and Aplomado Falcon. At 18,900 feet, the snow-capped Antisana Volcano is the fourth highest peak in Ecuador, adding to the breathtaking Andean scenery that can be enjoyed along the lower elevation trails. In the afternoon, continue to San Isidro Lodge. The lodge's private reserve forms an important bridge between the Antisana and Gran Sumaco Reserves, and the area boasts a bird list of about 330 species, many of which are more easily found here than anywhere else in the country.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at San Isidro Lodge

Cosanga

Oct 2, 2024

The cloud forest reserve at San Isidro Lodge encompasses nearly 3,000 acres on the eastern slope of the Andes at an elevational range of 6,069 to 7,874 feet, making this an ideal base to observe Andean birds from the lower reaches of the temperate zone down into the heart of the subtropical zone. Nearly 500 species have been recorded in the area, and several-such as the mysterious "San Isidro" Owl and Peruvian Antpitta-are extremely local and rare. Birds regularly encountered include Wattled and Sickle-winged Guans, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Southern Emerald-Toucanet, Powerful and Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers, Speckle-faced Parrot, Chestnut-crowned and White-bellied Antpittas, the beautiful Rufous-crowned Tody-Flycatcher, Black-billed Peppershrike, Green (Inca) Jay, Saffron-crowned Tanager, and Chestnut-breasted Chlorophonia.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at San Isidro Lodge

Sumaco

Oct 3, 2024

Continue birding this morning. Later, depart downslope for WildSumaco Lodge, birding en route.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Wild Sumaco Lodge

Sumaco

Oct 4, 2024

The eastern foothills of the Andes is one of the finest and most threatened areas for birding in Ecuador. About 500 bird species have been seen within the WildSumaco Wildlife Sanctuary and neighboring areas. This area stretches from Loreto Road (where the main highway crosses Rio Pucuno, elevation 3,800 ft) up to the border of Gran Sumaco National Park (5,200 ft). The road passing through the reserve offers great road birding, and this is one of many areas from which to see mixed flocks. Possibilities here include Blue-browed Tanager, Yellow-breasted Antwren, and Coppery-chested Jacamar. Many colorful species of tanager may be accompanied by Ecuadorian Tyrannulet and the recently described Foothill Elaenia; sometimes the Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater makes an appearance. We'll also see North American migrants and over 30 species of hummingbird. At night, Band-bellied Owl, Rufescent Screech-Owl, and Foothill Screech-Owl often call from nearby.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Wild Sumaco Lodge

Amazon

Oct 5, 2024

Depart this morning and head downslope to Coca, birding en route. From Coca, board a motorized canoe down the Napo River, take a short rainforest hike, and a small canoe crossing of Lake Pilchicocha to Sacha Lodge (a 2.5 hour journey). Of the incredible 1,600 bird species recorded in Ecuador, 600 (37 percent) have been seen at Sacha Lodge. That's almost 7 percent of the species found in the entire world! Enjoy observing birds at the mini tower and the butterfly house before dinner at the lodge. Species that are likely to be spotted in the Sacha Reserve include the prehistoric looking Hoatzin, Crested Owl, Red-bellied Macaw, Cinnamon Atilla, Crane Hawk, and American Pygmy Kingfisher. After dinner, accompany your naturalist guide on a walk through the rainforest to view some of the hundreds of different species of animals that can only be found at night. (The order of activities is subject to change due to weather conditions and current wildlife sightings.)

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sacha Lodge

Amazon

Oct 6, 2024

Begin the day on the Liana Chica Trail to arrive at the canopy walk for spectacular views of the rainforest and the many different species of birds, such as Scarlet and Red-bellied Macaws, Many-banded Aracari, Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, Common Potoo, Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Magpie Tanager, Gilded Barbet, and Yellow-rumped Cacique. The canopy walk is designed to be a self-standing rigid suspension and is one of only a few in the world. Located within Sacha's private reserve, two miles from the shores of the Rio Napo and one mile from the lodge, the bird walk gives you the opportunity for an up-close view of the rainforest canopy. After the canopy walk, take the Liana Grande Trail through terra firma and igapo forest habitats where native guides will explain different species of medicinal plants that have been used in their culture for hundreds of years. Liana Grande will turn into the Higueron Trail, which will take you through pristine primary forest with huge kapok and fig trees towering hundreds of feet above your head. After lunch, choose to take a leisurely hike along the Rio Napo where you may spot the Rufescent Tiger-Heron, or the more challenging hike on the Leoncillo Trail where you may see the elusive dusky titi monkey. The trails will lead you back to the main boardwalk for your final hike and canoe ride to the lodge.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sacha Lodge

Amazon

Oct 7, 2024

Depart from the lodge after breakfast, and begin the hike on Lagartococha Trail. This trail offers the chance to learn more about the indigenous communities of the region and their relationship with the forest. After arriving at Lake Lagartococha, take a tranquil canoe ride through a natural swamp, which is home to anacondas, caimans, and capybaras. After the canoe ride, a walk on the other side of Largatococha provides the opportunity to spot capuchin or squirrel monkeys playfully jumping through the trees. Return from the walk and head back to the lodge for a refreshing dip in the lake, or a nice relaxing nap in your personal hammock on your private balcony. After lunch, if desired, your local guide will teach you how to fish for the infamous razor toothed piranha. In the afternoon, embark on a silent canoe ride through the flooded Amazonian forest to spot the shy and elusive Giant River Otter, as well as the incredibly well camouflaged three toed sloth. After a ride through the flooded forest, arrive at Sacha's 135-foot wooden tower built around an ancient Kapok tree. View many bird species, such as Cream-colored Woodpecker, Opal-crowned Tanager, Green-backed Trogon, and Chestnut-eared Aracari. A canoe ride back through the flooded forest at night makes for a different sensory experience; listen to the symphony of frogs, insects, and nocturnal birds calling, see the glowing eyes of the caimans, and watch for the several species of bats flying overhead. Arrive back at Lake Pilchicocha to the welcoming lights of Sacha Lodge.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sacha Lodge

Amazon

Oct 8, 2024

Begin the day at the Yasuni National Park Parrot Lick and learn about the life and habits of the local parrot population. The parrot lick is an exposed clay bank where several different species, including Blue-headed Parrot, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, and Dusky-headed Parakeet, gather in the morning hours. When weather conditions are ideal (sunny and dry), the parrots can often be seen perching on and eating the exposed clay. This activity is strictly weather-dependent since the parrots do not appear when it rains. In case of rain, we will try to visit the lick the next day and activities will be substituted accordingly. In the afternoon, hike along the Liana Chica Trail, arriving at the canopy walk for spectacular views of the rainforest and many species of birds, such as Purplish Jacamar, Plum-throated Cotinga, Turquoise Tanager, and more. Designed to be a self-standing rigid suspension, the canopy walk is one of only a few in the world! Located within the private Sacha Reserve, two miles from the shores of the Río Napo and one mile from the lodge, the bird walk gives visitors the opportunity to get an up-close and personal view of the rainforest canopy and its inhabitants.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Sacha Lodge

Puembo

Oct 9, 2024

Rise early for breakfast and check-out, and then return to Coca for your flight to Quito. You will be met and transferred to your hotel. Lunch and the afternoon are on own until gathering together for a festive Farewell Dinner at your hotel. Should you have an evening flight out tonight, you will be transferred to the Quito International Airport for your flight(s) home at the appropriate time.

Breakfast-Dinner included
Overnight at Rincon de Puembo

Oct 10, 2024

This morning you will be transferred to the Quito International Airport for your flight(s) home