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We’ll be Rendezvousing south of the equator for the first time on this 10-day trip! We expect to see a mind-blowing 350 species of birds—or more!—and all at a relatively easy birding pace.

Northwestern Ecuador and the east slope of the Andes boasts mega biodiversity. We could see 35 hummingbird species, five trogons and quetzals, 70-plus tanagers, the Andean cock-of the rock, and so much more.

Guides

BWD Managing Editor Dawn Hewitt

BWD Managing Editor Dawn Hewitt

Our local guide for the trip will be Lelis Navarrete, who literally wrote the book on the birds of Ecuador: Fieldbook of the Birds of Ecuador (ProAves, 2013). Lelis actually co-discovered the Jocotoco antpitta—a new species—in 1997. He can identify 8,000 bird songs and vocalizations of more than 2,800 bird species in South America. Lelis has guided in Ecuador and throughout South America for more than 25 years and is considered by many to be the top bird guide in South America. On a daily basis, Lelis finds birds no other guide finds.

Our BWD guide will be managing editor Dawn Hewitt. Although this will be her first trip to Ecuador, she has birded Colombia twice, southern Mexico three times, and Belize, and will serve as the lone BWD guide on the Costa Rica Reader Rendezvous in November 2018. She has been a serious birder since 1979, and will do her best to make sure all attendees have the most satisfying trip of a lifetime.

Highlight species

Hummingbirds: booted racquet-tail, swordbill hummingbird, shinning sunbeam, green thorntail, tourmaline and gorgeted sunangels; green-crowned, fawn-breasted, and empress brilliants; velvet-purple and chestnut-breasted coronets; purple-bibbed whitetip; white-tailed and Ecuadorian hillstar

Blue-winged Mountain Tanager by J. Drummond

Tanagers: golden, flame-faced, beryl-spangled, golden-naped, black-capped, scarlet-browed, and gray-and-gold; scarlet-breasted and scarlet-thighed dacnises; scarlet-bellied, blue-winged, black-chinned, lacrimose, hooded, black-chested, and buff-breasted mountain tanagers

More birds:

  • San Isidro/black-and-white owl
  • Andean cock-of-the-rock
  • Toucan barbet
  • Crested and golden-headed quetzal
  • Choco, white-tailed, and masked trogons
  • Plate-billed and gray-breasted mountain-toucans
  • Turquoise jay
  • Green-and-black, barred, and scaled fruiteaters
  • Golden-winged and club-winged manakins
  • Moustached, yellow-breasted, giant, and ochre-breasted antpitta
  • And about 300 more!

Abridged Itinerary

Day 1, February 6: Arrive in Quito (airport code UIO) at any time. A driver will pick you up and take you to a nearby 4.5 star hotel. Most flights arrive after dark, so don’t count on birding upon arrival.

Day 2: A short drive to Mindo in northwestern Ecuador, where we will bird at nearby locations. If we had all the time in the world, we could find 500 species here! We will spend four nights in this lodge. Mindo is at 0 degrees, 3 minutes south latitude.

Day 3: A morning drive to Rio Silanche Reserve, and afternoon birding at other key sites on our way back to Mindo.

 Day 4: Morning birding at Paz de Las Aves; afternoon birding around Mindo—or rest. Paz de Las Aves is considered by many to be one of the Top 10 birding sites in the world!

White-bellied Woodstar by Joseph C. Boone / Wikimedia

Day 5: Full day birding in the Tandayapa Valley—world famous for hummingbirds. Ten or more species can usually be found at a single feeder!

Day 6: Morning forest birding at Milpe Reserve; lunch with fantastic feeders overlooking a forested canyon, and late afternoon drive back to Quito, where we will spend the night.

Day 7: Morning birding the High Andes; afternoon birding at the world-famous San Isidro Reserve. We will spend two nights here.

Day 8: A full day of birding at San Isidro: beautiful grounds and trails, and after dark, a mystery owl! The birding infrastructure at this lodge and reserve are hard to beat, and so are the birds. Have you ever watched an antpitta feeding station? Our night likely will wrap up with finding the yet unnamed San Isidro Owl. (A species split from the black-and-white owl is expected.)

Day 9: Final morning of birding at San Isidro; a midday drive to Guango for afternoon birding, then a return to Quito. By now, our trip list will probably exceed 350 bird species. After lunch, we drive to Guango to wrap up our birding adventure with a short walk at the Guango Reserve, where we can add a number of high montane species. We may have supper at the Guango Reserve, or we may head back to our hotel (about 30 minutes away) for our final supper as a group.

Day 10, February 15: Arrange your flight home at any time today, and we will have a driver take you to the Quito airport (code UIO). Breakfast is included as your final meal.

Overview

Andean Cock of the Rock by Bill Bouton / Wikimedia

Our small group will be traveling in a mini-bus. Within three hours of driving from Quito, it’s possible to find 400 species of birds. We will explore the top birding sites in northwestern Ecuador, and then move east of Quito to the top birding sites on the eastern slope of the Andes. This route will provide a mix of habitats, including páramo grasslands (above the tree line), tropical lowland rainforests, and montane forests. Because we will be based in just two locations, we will spend more time birding and less time in the vehicle. The longest continuous drives are about 90 minutes, and most other days we’ll have an hour-long ride or less.

What to Expect

The temperatures in February are very pleasant, with highs on most days in the high 60s, and nighttime lows in the 50s. On our day in the lowlands, we might see temperatures in the 80s. We do not anticipate rain at this time of year, but bring rain gear just in case. Most days will involve easy walking at a birder’s pace on trails that are mostly in good condition. At two sites we are likely to encounter a few slick, muddy slopes, but we will take it easy there. Most days will involve several hours of walking at a birder’s pace, plus additional walks (usually less than 100 yards) from the vehicle to find key species. This isn’t the right trip for those with mobility challenges, although none of our hikes will be strenuous.

Spanning the equator, Ecuador enjoys about 12 hours of daylight year round. (Quito is 0 degrees, 14 minutes south latitude.) In February, the sun rises around 6:30 a.m., and sets around 6:30 p.m. Ecuador is on central standard time all year long. Each day will involve an early start, and we’ll bird until 5 or 6 p.m.—back in time for supper and the checklist tally. We will have one or two short, optional nocturnal outings.

Travel Insurance

Bird Watcher’s Digest is pleased to recommend Travelex Insurance Services for your travel insurance needs. You can simply call 800-228-9792 or follow the link on the Reader Rendezvous page of our website. Mention location number 35-0159.

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