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You are here:2.3.1 Chiriboga Road and Rio Guajalito Reserve

2.3.1 Chiriboga Road and Rio Guajalito Reserve

The construction of the Chiriboga road commenced in 1919 and the road originally connected Quito with Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, formerly known as Santo Domingo de los Colorados.  Its original distance was 100 km, but with the opening of the new Aloag-Santo Domingo highway in 1969, the Chiriboga road was left with very little vehicle traffic.   The Trans-Ecuadorian oil pipeline runs beside the Chiriboga road, and most of the land along the road has been dedicated to farming and ranching activity.   Only the steepest terrain remaining holds the original forest habitat.  This is also true for the more remote areas far away from the road and the protected forest by the Rio Guajalito Reserve.  This road covers a change in elevation from 900 m to 3450m. 

The 1000 hectare of privately protected forest Rio Guajalito Reserve is supported by several owners including the Salvatierra Foundation, Jocotoco Foundation, Birds and Conservation and other Ecuadorian citizens supporting the conservation efforts for the area.  The elevation of the Guajalito Reserve ranges from 1800 m to 2200 m.

 

Habitat.

Chiriboga Road

Temperate Forest, Upper, Middle and Lower Montane Forest.

 

Rio Guajalito Reserve

Middle Montane Forest.

 

Logistics.

Chiriboga Road and Rio Guajalito Reserve.

The Chiriboga road is served by a bus only once a day.   The bus leaves from Quito in the afternoons 3:00 pm from the Ave. El Transito and Julian Estrella Street.   The same bus returns to Quito from beyond Rio Guajalito reserve starting at 7:00 am.

The bus services thus will be extremely difficult to use to bird the different elevations along the Chiriboga road.   Bus transportation can be used to reach the Rio Gaujalito reserve if you plan a stay, bird the reserve, and then return later to Quito.

The Rio Guajalito Reserve can be accessed by means of the Chiriboga road.   The site is located some 53 km from Quito.   To arrange a stay at the Rio Guajalito Research Station, you should call Vlastimil Zak, who is the manager and owner of the station.  His cell phone number 098416281. The facilities are basic with shared bathrooms and 3 private rooms without private bathrooms.   There is a big house with a general dormitory with room for 12 persons.   You can also ask for help from the Foundation Salvatierra manager, Xavier Robayo, whose cell phone number 095872237.   These gentlemen could also help you with updated information regarding the bus schedule and the road conditions.

The road does not require a four wheel drive vehicle, but a high clearance vehicle is required.   A pickup truck or an SUV could be hired from Quito, and that way you can be assured of transportation returning to Quito or continue on to Tinalandia Lodge if you wish.

 

Birding.

Chiriboga Road and Rio Guajalito Reserve.

(Click here to download Map. Chiriboga road).

Starting in the South-west side Quito city at the intersection of Ave. Vencedores de Pichincha and Luis Francisco López, you drive along the Luis Francisco López street to the west for four blocks until the intersection, about 360 m, with Julian Estrella street.   Here turn to the left and take Julian Estrella towards south for 1.6 km.  At this point, turn to your right on El Tránsito Avenue.  There will be many buses parked along this street.   Continue along Ave. El Tránsito for 200 meters and turn to the left at the street heading south.  Do not cross the bridge.   Follow the creek on your right for 230 meters. At this point the road will get you across the creek and from here onward the creek will be on your left. Drive for 400 meters where you will reach the Carlos Freile Street.  Follow Carlos Freile street for 1.46 km ignoring the tricky side streets.   Stay in the Carlos Freile Street, even when it looks narrow and more poorly surfaced than others.  Do NOT go up the hill to the right. Continue along Carlos   Freile Street for 400 meters more and at this point there is a narrow fork.  Go to the right as the left is a dead end.  Take the road going up as this will be the start of the Chiriboga road in Quito at point 0.0 km.

Continuing up the hill through farmland for 7.0 km you will find a scrubby patch of forest just along the road which will finish after some 700 meters at 7.7 km from Quito.  This can prove interesting but there are no real specialties at this spot.  Another 2.5 km, or 9.2 km from Quito, you will drive through the small Village of San Juan.  As you leave this small town at 9.3 km from Quito, there will be a fork in the road.  Avoid the right hand side road as it goes to farmland.   Take the left road heading down to the lowlands.   You have crossed the Chiriboga pass at this point. Another 3.9 km from here, or 13.2 km from Quito, the forest stretches for a long distance until 15.1 km from Quito.  At a narrow bend there will be a small house on the left side.  This stretch is a good forest to look for the Andean Guan, Agile Tit-tyrant, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager and Golden-crowned Tanager. The forest continues in good condition with a few very disturbed and scattered patches for a good distance until 23.3 km from Quito.   The forest along the road before you reach the “El Corazón” Oil Pumping Station is particularly good for the rare western race of the Chestnut-naped Antpitta and Andean Pygmy-Owl.   Beyond the pumping station there is also a good stretch of forest until you reach the Chiriboga River at 28.5 km from Quito.   From this spot there is less good habitat until you get to the bridge over the river at 29.7 km from Quito.   The section described above could be considered to be the upper Chiriboga road.

After the bridge over the Chiriboga River at 29.7 km from Quito most of the habitat has been converted to pastureland.   Between 31.4 and 31.8 km from Quito a narrow creek supports a stretch of tall forest along the river.   Along this section look for Andean Cock-of-the-rock, and White-capped Dipper.  The small village of Chiriboga is along the road at 37.5 km from Quito.  At 38.7 km from Quito there is a fork in the road.  Avoid the right hand turn as it goes to a forestry program plot with exotic tree species called “La Favorita”.   From this fork the habitat is very poor for the first 700 meters, then between 39. 4 km and 41.7 km from Quito there will be a stretch of road with interesting forest and some of the birds that can also be seen at the Rio Guajalito reserve.  At the fork 41.0 km from Quito stay to your right.  From here onwards the habitat is pretty much farmland and 46.9 km from Quito you will reach to a group of houses.  These basic looking houses are the Rio Guajalito Research Station.

From the Rio Guajalito Research Station you reset to 0.0 km.  There is a nice forest trail starting just behind the houses with the hummingbird feeders by the research station being the best place in Ecuador to look for the little known and range restricted Hoary Puffleg.  After only 300 meters along the main road heading to Santo Domingo, the forest is in good condition and you can walk and bird the tall forest along the road for at least 4 km.   Here the birding can be exceptional.  Only 2.0 km from the Rio Guajalito RS there is a side road descending to the right  from the main road.   This is a service road for the oil pipe line and you must ask for permission to enter this forest at the Rio Guajalito RS.   With good forest on both sides you can follow the pipeline for almost 1.2 km before the trail descends steeply towards the Guajalito River.  The forest along this side road is a private property and also has an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek.  Ask for permission to visit, and be guided to it at the Rio Guajalito Research Station. The Rio Guajalito area is worthwhile exploring for more than a day.  Many Chocó endemics occur here: Beautiful Jay, Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, Toucan Barbet and many other species found in the Tandayapa and Mindo Valleys.  The Rio Guajalito Reserve and the section of the Chiriboga road running along it are considered to be Middle Chiriboga Road.

Once you leave the Rio Guajalito Research Station toward Santo Domingo, the forest ends right by the ridge over a pass at 6.3 km from Rio Guajalito RS.  From this point the habitat is highly fragmented with several forest patches along the way.   Between 9.0 km to 9.9 km from Rio Guajalito RS and also between 12.5 km to 12.9 km from Rio Guajalito RS are these two short forest stretches that can be a good spot to look for the Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager and the Orange-breasted Fruiteater.  Another section to look for the Fruiteater is between 15.5 km and 15.9 km from the Rio Guajalito RS.   The Chiriboga road might have several forks like the ones at 29.9 or 30.4 km from the Guajalito RS, but all you have to do is always stay to the left hand forks.   The lower part of the Chiriboga road is quite developed and disturbed and the best birding section is below 32.0 km from the Rio Guajalito RS.  Here around a narrow bridge all the way down to the Toachi River at 36.7 km from the Rio Guajalito RS, the forest along this section has a few farmland pieces and some second-growth but the steep terrain retains forest in good condition.  The Lanceolated Monklet is one of the important birds to look for along this area.  At 34.5 km from Guajalito RS at a vertical wall on the right side, and at 36.0 km at a bend before a house, look at dusk for the Lyre-tailed Nightjar on display. The lowest part, at 36.3 km from Guajalito, and before getting to the bridge over the Toachi River which is 36.7 km from Guajalito, look for the Andean Cock-of-the-rock.   Along the river you should look for Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper on the river rocks.  The Aloag-Santo   Domingo Highway is located at 36. 9 km from Rio Guajalito RS, and from this point you could go back to the highlands or continue to the lowlands visiting Tinalandia Lodge and the Rio Palenque Reserve.

 

Birds to look for

Upper Chiriboga road.

Second-growth   (2G), Forest (F), Grasslands (G).

Common: Agile Tit-Tyrant (2G,F), Blue-backed   Conebill (F), Azara´s Spinetail (2G),  Superciliaried Hemispingus (F),   Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (2G,F), Plain-colored Seedeater   (G, 2G).

Uncommon: Andean   Guan (F), Sapphire-vented Puffleg (2G, F), Tyrian Metaltail (2G, F), Great   Sapphirewing (F),Sword-billed Hummingbird (F), Golden-breasted Puffleg (F),   Purple-backed Thornbill (F), Bar-bellied Woodpecker (F), White-browed Spinetail   (2G,F), Long-tailed Antbird (2G), Rufous   Antpitta (F), Chestnut-naped   Antpitta (F), Crowned Chat-Tyrant (F), Smoky Bush-Tyrant (2G,F), Barred Becard (2G,F), Capped Conebill (2G,F),Golden-crowned Tanager (F), Glossy-black   Thrush (F), Stripe-headed Brush-Finch (2G,F).

Rare: Andean   Pygmy-Owl (F), Ocellated Tapaculo (F), Barred Fruiteater (F).

 

Birds to look for

Rio Guajalito Reserve, middle Chiriboga road.

Second-growth   (2G), Forest (F), hummingbird feeders (hf)

Common: Toucan Barbet (2G,F), White-tailed Tyrannulet (2G),   (F), Slaty-capped Flycatcher (2G), (F), Beryl-spangled Tanager (2G,F), Golden Tanager (2G, F), Flame-faced Tanager   (2G, F), Golden-naped Tanager (2G, F), Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager (2G,   F).

Uncommon: Barred Hawk (F), Rufous-bellied Nighthawk (2G, F),   Barred Parakeet (2G, F), Red-billed Parrot (2G,F), Collared Inca (hf), Gorgeted Sunangel (F),Hoary Puffleg (hf), Purple-throated   Woodstar (2G,F), White-bellied Woodstar (hf), Crimson-rumped Toucanet   (2G, F),  Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan (2G, F), Crimson-mantled   Woodpecker (2G, F), Golden-headed   Quetzal (2G,F), Strong-billed Woodcreeper (F), Tyrannine Woodcreeper (F),  Spotted   Barbtail (2G, F), Rusty-winged Barbtail (2G, F), Lineated   Foliage-gleaner (2G,F), Streak-capped Treehunter (2G, F), Uniform   Antshrike  (2G), ), Spillmann's Tapaculo (2G, F), Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant (F), Andean Cock-of-the-rock (F), Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush (2G, F),   Plushcap (2G, F).

Rare: Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl (F), Powerful Woodpecker   (F), Beautiful Jay (2G, F).

  

Birds to look for

Lower Chiriboga road.

Second-growth   (2G), Forest (F), Rivers (R).

Common: Red-billed   Parrot (2G, F), Slaty   Spinetail (2G) , Red-faced   Spinetail (2G, F), Montane Woodcreeper (2G, F), Ornate Flycatcher (2G, F), Flavescent   Flycatcher (2G, F), Brown-capped Vireo (2G, F),  Three-striped Warbler (2G, F), Orange-bellied   Euphonia (2G, F), Golden Tanager (2G, F), Black-winged Saltator (2G, F), Chocó Brush-Finch (2G, F).

Uncommon: Torrent Duck (R), Fasciated Tiger-Heron (R), Lyre-tailed Nightjar (2G, F), Tawny-bellied Hermit (2G, F), Andean Emerald (2G, F), Violet-tailed   Sylph (2G, F), Red-headed   Barbet (2G, F), Crimson-rumped   Toucanet (2G, F), Smoky-brown   Woodpecker (2G, F), Scaly-throated   Foliage-gleaner (2G, F), Spotted Barbtail (2G, F), Uniform Antshrike (F), Immaculate Antbird (F), Andean Cock-of-the-rock   (2G, F), Whiskered Wren (2G), White-capped   Dipper (R), Andean   Solitaire (2G, F).

Rare: Lanceolated Monklet (2G, F), Orange-breasted   Fruiteater (2G, F), Golden-winged   Manakin (F), Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager ( F).

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.

 

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