Birding the Amazon Foothills & Lowlands – International Birding Expeditions

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Birding the Amazon Foothills & Lowlands

Birding the Amazon Foothills & Lowlands

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Birding the Amazon Foothills & Lowlands – Targeting Rarities while including the common ones

The Amazon lowlands represent some of the most tremendous forests still standing in the world today. Unfortunately, as you will notice as we travel between reserves, much of the remaining high-quality accessible forest lies within reserves. Visiting reserves gives local actors the necessary motivation and means to further conserve these places instead of exploiting them for natural resources in a consumptive manner. The Amazon lowlands are diverse with different major habitat types, and ideally all deserved to be properly birded. So naturally, part of our strategy when thoroughly birding the Amazon lowlands is going to be to visit various places. On top of that, some places can not be properly birded in a brief visit.  This two week birding trip is designed to find a large number of species not obtainable by birding an extended period in just one general location, while minimizing non-birding travel time. Join Birding the Amazon Foothills & Lowlands – Targeting Rarities while including the common ones and you will have very full list of birds ticked or photographed in the Amazon. Seasoned International Birders experienced in South America will find this itinerary just as useful as birders visiting South America for their first time. We also use Community tourism lodging and / or lodging in areas where visitors from ecotourism are crucial to their continued conservation.

  • Destination
  • Included
    entrance fees
    Food (3 meals daily)
    Personal Guide
    Professional bilingual guide specialized in birds and natural areas
    Professional touristic transport
  • Not Included
    alcoholic beverages
    extra activities

Tour Plan


Day 1: Arrival to Quito

Welcome to Ecuador! After exiting the airport the ride to the hotel in Pifo is the perfect place to unwind from the flight and prepare for lots of nature and photographs! Anxious birders can get a head start by visiting the Chaquinan and picking up some Interandean species if their flights arrive in time. Night: Pifo

Day 2: Cosanga, Narupa Reserve, & Wild Sumaco

  Breakfast today is in Cosanga. After eating and quickly taking in the surrounding birds, our first foothill destination, Narupa Jocotoco Reserve, will be just a bit further down the road. Between Narupa Reserve, Wild Sumaco, and Rio Bigal, the Amazon foothill birding will be solid.We will arrive to Sumaco in time for some roadside birding before dinner. At nights, when weather and our energy levels cooperate, night walks will be offered. Everywhere has different nocturnal species and with diligence, we will see quite a variety. Night: Wild Sumaco Lodge

Day 3: Wild Sumaco Lodge & Loreto

The area directly around the parking lot is lit by a strong lamp during the night and birds that can be difficult to see come out to clean up the insects that came to the light. This is be a good opportunity to try to photograph these otherwise difficult insectivores and if we arrive early enough we can see what insects were attracted in. Around 8, it will be antpitta feeding time. Local staff maintain a worm-feeding station that attracts Plain-backed Antpitta and Ochre-breasted Antpitta along with a few surprises will show up for breakfast. Then, we will walk the trail system, looking for rare birds like Yellow-throated Spadebill, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Blue-rumped Manakin, Green-backed Becard, etc. From here, we will head to Rio Bigal’s Reserve for a few nights. Night: Rio Bigal

Day 4: Rio Bigal

Rio Bigal is a wild foothill / lowland site ranging between 450 – 1000 masl with specialties like Pink-throated Brilliant, Pavonine Quetzal, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Foothill Stipplethroat, and Olive Tanager. All the large Amazonian raptors are possible here. They have caught plenty of large mammal and bird on their camera traps (including Nocturnal Currasows and Jaguars). Our efforts today birding in this pristine chunk of forest should pay off nicely with lots of coveted rare birds possible. Night: Rio Bigal

Day 5: Rio Bigal & Napo Wildlife Center

We will leave Bigal in the morning so we meet NWC staff on time to enter deep into the Amazon lowlands! After a 2 hour covered canoe ride down the River Napo in luxury, we will switch to a smaller canoe and bird our way into Napo Wildlife Center’s territory. Their hotel is situated on an amazing Black water lagoon and the reason we are here will be obvious before we can even get started! Napo Wildlife Center has the highest birdlist of any one concise point in the country according to Ebird (followed closely be Shiripuno Lodge which is next on our trip!) Night: Napo Wildlife Center

Day 6: Napo Wildlife Center

Today, we will take advantageous of NWC’s hilly terra firme. There is a nice Black-necked Red-Cotinga lek which will hopefully be active if we can make it to the right spot by the right time. After that, we will start looking for manakins (and finding everything else along the way of course) until we are ready to come back and eat lunch. In the afternoon, we will take advantage of their large observation tower to get us up above the canopy. Night: Napo Wildlife Center

Day 7: Napo Wildlife Center & Eden Lodge

A highlight activity in the Amazon is visiting more active clay licks like the ones maintained by Napo Wildlife Center staff. We will visit these clay licks and  several islands on the river napo today. The islands represent one of the most distinct birding habitats present in the amazon and are a must visit. We will arrange for Eden Lodge staff to pick us up where Napo Wildlife Center’s canoe drops us off and transfer us into Eden Lodge after properly exploring the Napo River. Night: Eden Lodge

Day 8: Eden Lodge & Limoncocha Biological Reserve

Visiting Eden Lodge avoids losing a morning of birding due to normal logistics when visiting Amazon lodges (NWC’s typical protocol is to send their guests back to Coca after giving them an early breakfast on leaving day on a high speed canoe that does not stop for birds). We will bird the trail system in Eden until lunch time and then transfer by canoe ride to Puerta Nueva Provedencia, where a van will be waiting to take us to Limoncocha. Limoncocha has a very nice black water system that should feel a bit different from NWC’s lagoon. Our primary targets here are going to be Pale-eyed Blackbird, Horned Screamer and Zigzag heron. While we look for those, we should clean up many of the black-water species we should have missed. Night: Limoncocha

Day 9: Limoncocha & Shiripuno Lodge

One last early spin around the lagoon to see if anything new shows up will give us one more chance at the Pale-eyed Blackbird and other black-water species. Then we will head back towards Coca and then south towards the Shiripuno River. The Shiripuno River is an access point to Woarani territory, which is protected federally as the Woarani Bioethnic Reserve. People need permission from the Woarani indigenous group in order to enter and the checkpoint assures this, keeping out poachers and illegal loggers. The only people who really enter this reserve are the indigenous and ecotourists. The other side of the checkpoint is a complete gem! This is our best place for mammals (although mammals are always hard to see, they are definitely here), many birds, and even more bugs! Upon arrival (3-4 hours on average down the forested river) we can either do a short walk or relax near the cabins before dinner. Night: Shiripuno Lodge

Day 10: Shiripuno Lodge

The order of our activities will be dictated by the level of the river. The Shiripuno River can be very dynamic, able to raise or lower meters in less than a day. The lookout trail floods when the river is too high, but one morning we will walk the trail either way. This amazing trail is reached by a short canoe ride from the lodge. It is one of my favorite trails in the whole country, in part because it may hold great surprises mammal-wise. It also features an amazing view of the amazon lowlands for only forest as fas as one can see. Many rare birds have territories here, with Red-and-Green Macaws or eagles being a particular realistic hope. This is one of the trails more likely to produce Spider Monkeys and 4 species more are very possible on just one walk. After lunch, we will look for rarities like Spotted Puffbird and flocks, while making sure to walk through territories of different species of manakins and many other types of bird. At night, we will look for Nocturnal Currasow. Night: Shiripuno Lodge

Day 11: Shiripuno Lodge

In the morning we will look for target rarities (the bird-list here is overly-impressive, our best strategy is to just go looking for what shows up, giving priority to the rare ones), looking for mixed flocks and everything else along the way. I will suggest taking advantage of this forest for as long as you can, only stopping to eat until the afternoon when we will have a relaxing activity of birding from the canoe along the river. One of the afternoon’s highlights will hopefully be macaws (Blue-and-Yellow and Red-bellied mainly) frequenting the Moriche swamp nearby the lodge. Night: Shiripuno Lodge

Day 12: Shiripuno Lodge & Gareno Lodge

Today, we start off as the sun comes up, floating down the river without the motor so we can hear the sounds of the forest as it wakes up. Apart from the auditory experience, this can be good for monkeys along the river early or maybe currasows along the beaches when they are exposed. If we are really lucky, this time of day is when large terrestrial mammals are most possible (tapirs or a jaguar crossing the river, for example). After breakfast, we will head west, first by canoe and then by 4x4 trucks, until we get to Gareno Lodge. We will spend what is left of the day birding the road near the lodge, which is a surprisingly distinct habitat. Night: Gareno Lodge

Day 13: Gareno Lodge

Gareno Lodge is on indigenous community land, rather close to their community. The land is preserved by them and for them. They are excellent hunters and a walk through the incredibly large terra firme forest reflects this. There are not many large mammals or game birds, but there are some very rare birds here. Our visit here and in Shiripuno Lodge also directly benefits the local communities of indigenous Woarani who do not have many economic opportunities apart from working for people who would destroy the forest (oil and timber companies) and ecotourism. The first targets of the morning will be the Fiery Topaz hummingbird and the nocturnal Rufous Potoo, hopefully on a day-perch. After this we will walk the main trail and check the Harpy Eagle territory. Many rare birds may potentailly present themselves on this walk. We will take a box lunch with us and be in the forest most of the day. In the afternoon, we will bird the road close to where the Harpy eagle trail is, which can be good for birds that like the edge like Orange-backed Tropial, Magpie Tanager, Brown Jacamar, etc. Night: Gareno Lodge

Day 14: Gareno Lodge, Misahualli, & Pailon del Diablo

We can try the Fiery Topaz again if desired or we will choose were to bird based on what we still need to tick off for the first couple hours of the day. In Misahaulli, we will take on last canoe ride around a small lagoon looking for Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Sungrebe and whatever else presents itself. We will make one last stop in Archidona at a hummingbird garden and one more in Narupayacu, bolstering greatly that portion of our list. Both gardens employ Verbena bushes and feeders which just bustle with the charismatic little birds! Both of these places will have lowland and foothill hummers we may have missed until now. A short walk in Narupayacu may also give us some nice surprises to finish out our trip, like Coppery-chested Jacamar. Night: Rio Verde

Day 15: Rio Verde, The Smuggler’s Route, Cascada San Pablo & Return to Quito

We will spend our last day birding along the Smugglers route looking for foothill species we may have missed earlier in the trip like Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Red-winged Wood-Rail, Short-billed Chlorospingus, White-tipped Sicklebill, etc. Sometime after lunch we will head back to Quito. From Baños the drive to Quito is an average of 3.5 hours.

Cost per person:

• Small group Price: Inquire for quote • Large group Price: $ 5,320 • Set Departure Price: $ 4,880 Single person supplementary $750 *Exact Itinerary may be forced to change slightly based on weather conditions or unexpected events such as land slides.

What to Bring:

• Sunscreen • Herbal bug spray • Long breathable clothing • Water-resistant wind-resistant clothing • Hat or buff for warm weather and cold weather • Water bottle • Poncho or light rain jacket • Camera with rain protection (e.g. drybag) • Flashlight • Comfortable hiking shoes, rubber gum boots, and crocs • Binoculars
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