If you enjoy seeing birds then Ecuador is a very good place to go. It’s a relatively small country (the size of the state of Colorado) and has 1,663 bird species (compared to 990 in the United States). Per square mile there are more bird species in Ecuador than anywhere else in the world (if I figured that one out correctly). Clearly, our trip to Ecuador had to include time to see birds!
First, we searched for arranged, guided bird-watching trips but knew most were priced beyond what we could afford. After a lot of research, the perfect solution appeared. Our friends, Jo and Louise, and we all booked a week at Reserva Las Gralarias, a not-for-proft organization preserving this bird-rich natural habitat near Mindo, Ecuador. Our days would be spent birdwatching with Marcelo Quipo, our guide, along with our driver, Milton. We would birdwatch every day and come back in the late afternoons to Las Gralarias, relax by the fire in the sitting room, have a lovely dinner, and spend the nights there.
Jane Lyons, the founder of Las Gralarias, suggested a schedule that included seeing a wide variety of birds in different terrains.
We climbed up slick paths in the forests and were rewarded with sightings of 3 different antpittas, dark-backed wood-quail, golden-naped tanager, and others.
Even on days when the clouds settled over us, we had great sightings of powerful woodpeckers, golden-headed quetzal, crimson-mantled woodcreeper, hooked-billed kite, and many more.
Most birds could easily be seen with binoculars, but photography with our small cameras was limited. Marcelo took this photo of the Masked Trogon with Joe’s iPhone and his spotting scope.
One day we drove some distance to see some unusual species of birds, such as cock of the rock, but our favorite of the day were oilbirds in a grotto. The oilbirds perch on rock walls during most of the day and search for fruits at night. They fly using echolocation like bats.
The Toucan Barbet flew in to a clearing with feeders, waiting for an opportunity to dine on bananas.
The hummingbird feeders at Las Gralarias provided relaxation and great bird viewing. We perched on chairs with cameras and binoculars in hand and watched a dazzling array of hummingbirds.
The hummingbirds all have amazing names like Brown Violetear (photo), Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Tyrian Metaltail, Saphire-vented Puffleg, Shining Sunbeam, Black-tailed Trainbearer, …
We stayed in the 3-bedroom guesthouse at Las Gralarias; relaxed on the terrace; watched the birds at the feeders; and, when the sun got low, we went inside and Marcelo lit a fire in the fireplace for us.
The week at Las Gralarias exceeded our expectations. We saw over 200 bird species due to our brilliant guide, and many plants and animals we’d not known. Staying at a comfortable lodge with good hosts and wonderful food was an extra bonus.
Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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We are planning a trip to Ecuador next spring. Love your pictures. Did you rent a car or how did you travel around? Thinking about a few weeks in Ecuador and also Galapagos. Would welcome any tips or ideas you have as we also thing a birding tour is way to expensive. We usually try to contact a local guide for a day or two.
I have just planned my own non-tour solo trip to NW Ecuador. Going in January for just 10 days. 3 nights – mostly transit – in Quito and then at two lodges. Will use a guide from Quito to Bellavista to do the ecoroute birding. Then, will just use the guides at the lodges. But, to see more birds, better to have a guide with you for the entire trip. I like figuring out bird species on my own so this should work for me. Enjoy your planning!
Sounds like a good plan. We had an Ecuador bird book but the number of birds was a little overwhelming at first and made it harder for us to ID. That’s when some knowledgeable guidance came in handy. Have a great time on your trip! It sounds wonderful.
Enquire as to prices for staying in birding lodges and having a local guide lead you. It may not be as high as you think. Also, there is a lot of bird watching to do at those lodges on your own. We were astounded with how many birds came to the feeders or were easily seen in the nearby woods or in walks down the road. But – having a guide meant that we saw birds we would never have seen on our own and we could also learn a lot more about them. Birds are plentiful in many areas and it really helped to have binoculars and an Ecuador bird book. Enjoy!
How can I get in touch with Marcello Quipo?
Our bird guide Marcelo Quipo’s email and Ecuador phone number are: email@example.com
Jane Lyon made all the arrangements for us and we couldn’t be more pleased with her services and remarkable knowledge of the area. Her website is: http://reservalasgralarias.com/lodging_11.html
We hope we have answered your question and that you are able to connect.
Thank you. You travel as I enjoy traveling. As an aside: and please don’t take offense – do you get any monetary benefit from mentioning in your blog the name of places where you have stayed or the name of guides or others who helped you? I don’t think it matters but it is always good to know. There is a travel site I use and they expressly remind you that they have commercial relationships with sources mentioned – but they are still useful sources for me. By the way, I had trouble reaching Jane and when I ultimately did, after much time had passed, it was really too late in the game for me. Also, her link from her webpage to her email didn’t work. It would have been interesting if I been able to make contact.
Thx for asking. Good question. No, we have no commercial relationship, do not accept advertising, and don’t receive any form of remuneration. We want to avoid such conflicts of interest and remain independent.
Appreciate response. Thanks.
Thanks for the information. I decided that I was already too far down the road in my own ‘curating’ and will continue as planned. Staying at two bird lodges that look lovely and I like the people with whom I have corresponded. Where did you stay in Quito? I am wanting a place in the city for 2 nights on arrival and one at the airport for my last night. I only have 1 1/2 days to visit Quito. I think I will focus on contemporary art and crafts or … .
You are welcome. We stayed at Hotel Zentrum in Quito, well located by good restaurants, funky, and inexpensive. We don’t know if it is still open, but you can try their website: http://www.hostalzentrum.com
You had a great time. What are the zoom capabilities on your camera lens?
Yes, we did. Here’s the answer to your question and a link: Optical zoom is 3.6, digital zoom is 14x
here’s the link to the camera: https://www.dpreview.com/products/sony/compacts/sony_dscrx100m2/specifications
Fantastic photos, especially of the hummingbirds.
It seems this was the perfect way to go bird-watching in Ecuador. Just my kind of trip. 🙂
Very nice! Glad that worked out well.