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You are here:3.4 San Pablo Lake and Yaguarcocha Lake

3.4 San Pablo Lake and Yaguarcocha Lake

San Pablo, the second biggest lake in Ecuador, and the Yaguarcocha Lakes are located north Quito and very close to the Pan American Highway. San Pablo Lake, at 2670 m is very close to Otavalo city and Yaguarcocha Lake, at 2200 m, is close to the city of Ibarra. There is no current protection status for either of these two lakes. Nevertheless they are important for waterbirds than can easily be seen on a short detour on your way to other northern birding destinations such us Cerro Mongus, Páramo de “El Angel” and Alto Tambo.

 

Habitat.

Inter-Andean lakes.

 

Logistics.

San Pablo Lake.

The Pan American Highway runs very close to the San Pablo Lake. When coming from Quito, you will see it on your right hand side. There are plenty of buses running from Quito to Otavalo. You can drop off from the bus at any place and explore the lake. Most of the good birding sites are close to the highway and there is much good accommodation in Otovalo.  Should you take the bus to Otovalo, you could hire a taxi or pickup truck to bird the lake or could choose to stay at one of the resorts facing the lake.  One of the fine resorts with good habitat to look for birds is the expensive Puerto Lago Resort.  Looking for the few bird specialties of the lake doesn´t require a long time and a couple of hours in the area should be more than enough. Try to bird the site early in the morning or late the afternoon.

 

Logistics.

Yaguarcocha  Lake.

The Pan American Highway runs very close to the Yaguarcocha Lake. When coming from Ibarra you will see the lake on your right hand side. There are plenty of buses running from Ibarra to Tulcan/ Lita San Lorenzo. To enter the lake there is only one single entrance and ideally you should hire a taxi or pickup truck to drive around the lake. This you can make with no much problem from the nearby city of Ibarra. Like the birding at San   PabloLake, looking for the few bird specialties of the lake shouldn’t require a lot of time.   Again the best time to bird this lake is early in the morning or late in the afternoon.  

 

Birding.

San Pablo Lake.

To visit the San Pablo Lake you can leave from Guayllabamaba Valley or from Cayambe once you visit the Oyacachi Cloud Forest.

From Guayllabamba turn off along the Pan American Highway. For these directions please see the Guayllabamaba Valley or Oyacachi Cloud Forest chapter for birding instructions.  From Guayllabamba drive along the Guayllabamba bypass for 3.5 km. At this point you will reach a driving circle and the first exit on you right switches back to town of Guayllamaba.   The next exit goes to Cayambe and the last exit goes to Otavalo-Ibarra via Tabacundo.   To get to San PabloLake from Quito/Guayllabamba, the best route is via Tabacundo.   From the Guayllabamba driving circle which is 0.0 km, continue for 26.8 km.  Before leaving the small town of Tabacundo you will find a turn-off to your left.  Take this turn as it is a short cut that will take you back to the Pan American highway in 10.2 km, avoiding Cayambe which is 3.2 km ahead if you do not turn.  After reaching the Pan American Highway you will be 37 km from the Guayllabamba driving circle.   The place where this side road joins the Pan American highway is known as the “Nudo de Mojanda-Cajas”.

This point will be a new point of reference on our way to San Pablo Lake. Reset your odometer to 0.0 km for future references.

(Click here to download Map. San Pablo & Yaguarcocha Lakes).

If continuing from Oyacachi cloud forest you have to return to where the dirt side road to Oyacachi starts along the Guayllabamba-Cayambe highway 0.0 km. Take the highway heading north to Cayambe and in just 6.0 km you will reach the Cayambe urban area along a four lane avenue and carry on until the end of it for some 0.9 km more. Here in the small roundabout take the main exit to northwest. A mere 0.17 km will take you to a major highway crossroads or 7.7 km from the Oyacachi side road entrance. Here turn to your right, heading north for a further 3.8 km or 11.5 km from the Oyacachi side road entrance. The intersection you will find here is known as the “Nudo de Mojanda-Cajas”. We will use this spot as a new point of reference to reach the San Pablo Lake with Nudo de Mojanda-Cajas at 0.0 km.

From the “Nudo de Mojanda-Cajas” drive for 11.8 km towards Otavalo.   There will be a sharp turn to the right heading to Puerto Lago Resort.   A very short, 0.3 km drive down this road will take you along the Puerto Lago road and to the edge of the San Pablo Lake.  Stop here and look for birds on the lake shore opposite the Puerto Lago Resort.  The reeds in this area are a good place to look for the Subtropical Doradito and the Ecuadorian Rail.

The reeds inside the Puerto Lago grounds are also a good place for the same birds.   To be allowed to visit the resort grounds you will have be a guest of the hotel or to ask permission to enter the hotel facility. During August and September there is an outstanding concentration of Blue-and-white Swallows and Gray-breasted Martins.

From the entrance to Puerto Lago, drive another 2.0 km toward Otavalo or 13.8 km from “Nudo de Mojanda Cajas”. At this point there will be a side road to your right. This road goes along and around the lake shore.  Drive this road looking for the best places to watch for birds. A good place is at 1.6 km from the highway where a series of docks and buildings are right by the water. Approach the water and bird from the edge. Once you return to the Pan American highway drive for 2 km more or 16 km from the “Nudo de Mojanda-Cajas”.  You will turn at the first street on your left as you enter Otavalo to get to the highway.  Go on into town if you want to visit the famed Indian market for which Otavalo is noted.

 

Birds to look for

San Pablo Lake.

Pastures   (P), Cultivated fields (CF), Reeds (Ree), Lake (L).

Common: Pied-billed Grebe (L), Andean Teal (L),   Yellow-billed Pintail (L), American Kestrel (P,CF), Andean Coot (L), Eared   Dove (P,CF), Sparkling Violetear (P,CF), Great Thrush (P,CF), Blue-and-white   Swallow (P,CF), Band-tailed Seedeater (P,CF), Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch.

Uncommon: Andean Ruddy-Duck (L), Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle   (P,CF),  Andean Gull (L), Andean   Lapwing (P), Ecuadorian Rail (Ree), Black-tailed Trainbearer (P,CF),   Vermilion Flycatcher (P,CF), Cinereous Conebill (CF), Blue-and-yellow Tanager   (CF).

Rare: Blue-winged Teal (L),   Southern Lapwing (P), Subtropical Doradito (Ree).

 

 

Birding.                                                                                 

Yaguarcocha  Lake.

From Otavalo drive for 24.8 km to the town of Ibarra.  Arriving at this point there will be a roundabout.  Take the left exit avoiding entry into downtown signed “Centro”.   Drive for 4.9 km along the Pan Amercian Highway and you will be at the entrance to Yaguarcocha Lake.   As you drive down to the lake by turning to the left you will see the “Totora” reeds at close range.  Drive toward them, park, and look for the Subtropical Doradito and the Ecuadorian Rail.  You can continue driving around the lake looking for birds and the most suitable reeds for the specialties.   After visiting the Yaguarcocha Lake, you can continue further north heading to the lowlands in the west, or to the Páramo de El Angel and Cerro Mongus. Drive for 19.3 km along the Pan American highway and after descending to the bottom of a low valley you will get to a fork.   The left sharp turn heads to the western lowlands, the right hand side road straight ahead goes towards the Colombian border and the Páramo de El Angel and Cerro Mongus sites.

 

Birds to look for

Yaguarcocha  Lake.

Pastures   (P), Cultivated fields (CF), Reeds (Ree).

Common: Pied-billed Grebe (L), Andean Teal (L), Black-crowned   Night-Heron (Ree), American Kestrel (P,CF), Andean Coot (L), Eared Dove (P,CF),   Sparkling Violetear (P,CF), Great Thrush (P,CF), Blue-and-white Swallow (P,CF),   Band-tailed Seedeater (P,CF), Ash-breasted Sierra Finch (P,CF).

Uncommon: Andean Ruddy-Duck (L), Striated Heron (Ree),Black-chested   Buzzard-Eagle (P,CF),  Andean Gull (L),   Andean Lapwing (P), Ecuadorian Rail (Ree), Black-tailed Trainbearer (P,CF),   Vermilion Flycatcher (P,CF), Cinereous Conebill (CF), Blue-and-yellow Tanager   (CF).

Rare: Subtropical Doradito (Ree).

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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