Ecuador: Eastern Slope of the Andes Jan 29—Feb 08, 2018
Posted by Paul Greenfield
The Andes Cordillera is far more than just a gigantic South American mountain range. The massive ‘wall’ that makes up the Andes forms an incredible mega-rich mosaic of diverse life-zones, ecosystems, habitats, and niches that are home to a mind-boggling concentration of living organisms. It was this concentration, with a special focus on its diverse birdlife, that we set out to explore and experience during our weeklong Ecuador: Eastern Slope of the Andes tour.
We followed a transect that took us from the tropical lowlands—at the town of Francisco de Orellana (Coca), located in the Amazon Basin—constantly traveling upslope into the eastern foothills near Sumaco Volcano and farther up into the cooler subtropics and temperate zones to finally ascend to the tundra-like ‘alpine zone’ into páramo grassland, Polylepis woodland, and up to a rather barren peak at 14,000 ft. above sea level. We were able to admire the colossal Antisana Volcano glacier from three distinct vantage points every step of the way, from the Amazonian foothills to the elfin high-Andean forests until, on our final day, we stood at its base at Antisana National Park…magnificent! Each area we explored and each day brought new and memorable adventures as we compiled an impressive collection of bird species. There were many challenges along with incredible rewards as we birded in a diversity of conditions along roadsides, forest trails, overlooking ravines and torrent rivers, walking over cold and windy high páramo ridges, sitting before nectar feeders and worm feeding ‘stations,’ and even spotting birds from our vehicle—and there were many highlights.
Our stay at Wildsumaco Lodge, where it was rather uncharacteristically warm and dry, still managed to produce many fine sightings: Greater Yellow-headed Vulture; Scaled Pigeon; active nectar feeders with Brown and Sparkling violetears; Wire-crested Thorntail; Peruvian (Booted) Rackettail; Rufous-vented Whitetip; Black-throated and Violet-fronted brilliants; Gould’s Jewelfront; Violet-headed Hummingbird; Napo Sabrewing; Fork-tailed Woodnymph; Many-spotted Hummingbird and Golden-tailed Sapphire; Coppery-chested Jacamar; Gilded and Red-headed barbets; Yellow-tufted and Crimson-bellied woodpeckers; Barred Forest-Falcon; Black Caracara; Maroon-tailed Parakeet; and Military and Chestnut-fronted macaws that showed nicely. Our forest worm-feeding ‘session’ served up pairs of Plain-backed and Ochre-breasted antpittas, a wonderful Short-tailed Antthrush, and a Gray-cheeked Thrush. Additionally, Ornate Flycatcher, White-crowned Manakin, Yellow-cheeked Becard, Olivaceous Greenlet, Inca and Violaceous jays, Cerulean Warbler, and Blue-necked and Paradise tanagers were just a few more of the species we enjoyed.
Read Paul’s full report in his Field Report.