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You are here:4.2.7 Guacamayos Ridge

4.2.7 Guacamayos Ridge

The famous Guacamayos ridge is a middle montane forest area part of the 120,000 hectares  Antisana Ecological Reserve.  This trail was used by the first explorers and settlers traveling to the eastern lowlands, and for a long time it was a public mule trail until the EcuadorianState declared the area part of the Antisana Reserve. 

The E45 highway runs between the Antisana Ecological Reserve and the 190,562 hectare Sumaco National Park. It not only connects the Ecuadorian reserves for more than 10 km of road stretch, but provides access to many different areas found between 2150 m and 1700 m of elevation.  The bird list from the Guacamayos ridge, including this stretch of E45 highway by the Sumaco National Park and Antisana Ecological Reserve, includes some 350+ bird species.



Middle Montane Forest.



Guacamayos Ridge

There is plenty of bus transportation running along the Troncal Amazonica, or E45 highway.  You can easily get a bus from Quito heading to Baeza and Cosanga in the Quitumbe Bus Terminal.  Ask for bus lines heading to Baeza and Tena.  Alternatively, you can also jump in one of these buses after your visit to San Isidro Lodge, in front of the entrance along the E45 highway.

A vehicle is not necessary to bird the Guacamayos ridge trail, but having one will certainly facilitate your birding along the 10 km of road stretch running between the SumacoNational Park and the Antisana Ecological Reserve.  You could hire a taxi or pickup truck from Baeza or coordinate transportation to this site with help from Cabañas San Isidro staff.

In order to visit the Guacamayos ridge trail, you must to pay a $10US entrance fee for foreigners and a $3US for Ecuadorian residents.  There is no ranger station at the start of the trail, but the Cabañas San Isidro administration has an arrangement with the National Park Service System, and you can purchase tickets at the lodge.  Make sure you have your tickets with you for when you visit the trail.  If you find a park ranger along the trail you will be asked to show your tickets and if you do not have them with you, you will be asked to leave.   Another option is register and buy your tickets at a lower elevation ranger station at the end of the reserve along the E45 highway located at 1700 m of elevation.  This way is not recommended, as you will consume valuable birding time and could find that the rangers are not in the station for when you show up there.  They may have already left on patrol and you might find them later on along the Guacamayos ridge trail.



Guacamayos Ridge.

You can visit the Guacamayos ridge area after visiting the San Isidro Lodge, in fact Cabañas San Isidro are by far the closest place to stay and visit the site.  You could also stay in Baeza and visit the ridge from there.  To get instructions as for how to find to this site, please see the birding instructions on the respective chapter on how to get there. Continuing from the entrance road to Cabañas San Isidro (0.0 km) when you drive along the E45 toward the eastern lowlands you will go by the small town of Cosanga and the Cosanga River after only 1.0 km.  Here on the bridge over the CosangaRiver you can look for the Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper.  From this point you will start climbing the ridge for another 7.1 km or 8.1 km from the entrance road to Cabañas San Isidro.  Here you will arrive at the summit of this section of the road. Near the virgin shrine there is an overlook to view the eastern lowlands and treetops below the road. 

(Click here to download Map. Guacamayos Ridge).

This overlook is the beginning of the Guacamayos trail.  Park by the shrine. The Guacamayos Ridge trail begins at the 2150 m, and at the  beginning the trails goes up for a very short while and then gently descends for approximately 2.5 km until reaching 1840 m in elevation.  Here the trail intersects an oil pipe line.  It is possible to continue along the trail to the far south side of the mountain, but I have never attempted this, as birding your way down would take an entire day.

The trail is difficult to walk because of the rocks carpeting the path.  It can be slick during or after a rain.  Many of the birds occurring in Cabañas San Isidro can be seen here but there are a handful of new specialty birds.

The first part, close to the highway, is good for White-throated Quail-Dove, Crested Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Emerald Toucanet, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan, Powerful Woodpecker, Rufous Spinetail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Spotted Barbtail, Striped Treehunter, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Greater Scythebill, Barred Antthrush, Moustached Antpitta, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Ash-colored Tapaculo, Spillmann's Tapaculo, Ocellated Tapaculo, Rufous-breasted Flycatcher, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Handsome Flycatcher, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, Barred Fruiteater, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Black-chested Fruiteater, Dusky Piha, Plain-tailed Wren, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Citrine Warbler, Capped Conebill, Blue-and-black Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Red-hooded Tanager, Black-capped Hemispingus, Plushcap, Masked Saltator, Slaty Brush-Finch, White-rimmed Brush-Finch, Northern Mountain-Cacique and Yellow-billed Cacique. Note, however, that of these species occur at low densities.

The middle section of the trail, at around 1910 m along a small stream, is a good place to look for the local and rare Emerald-bellied Puffleg.  The last section of the trail is good for White-faced Nunbird , Sepia-brown Wren, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Golden-naped Tanager, Golden Tanager, Oleaginous Hemispingus and Rufous-crested Tanager.  There are even recent records for the Black Tinamou from the area below the pipeline.

Back at the overlook by the shrine look for fly-bys of Barred Parakeet, Scaly-naped Amazon, Smoky Bush-Tyrant, and many of the treetop dwellers from the first section of the Guacamayos ridge.  During the night the first canyon down from the shrine toward Cosanga is a good place to look for the Andean Potoo.

Continuing down the ridge toward the eastern lowlands there is forest on both sides of the road.  At times the road side can be very birdy, while at other times it seems dead.  When you descend along the E45 highway, there are up-slopes on the left and down-slopes on your right.  Once you reach a point where the slope view reverses to up-slopes on the right and down-slopes on the left, look during the night for: White-throated Screech-Owl, Andean Potoo, Band-winged Nightjar and Swallow-tailed Nightjar.

During the daylight hours, for the first 1 km down this road, search especially for Black-billed Mountain-Toucan and White-capped Tanager.  The forest edge along any of the gullies and streams along the road are good place to look for the Green-fronted Lancebill and White-tailed Hillstar.  The lower stretches, about 10 km down the highway, near the Sumaco National Park ranger station at 1729m, are good places for  Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Bicolored Antvireo, White-backed Fire-eye, Orange-eared Tanager, Golden-eared Tanager, Blue-browed Tanager and Vermilion Tanager

Some 70 meters down the road from the ranger station and on the left side of the road, there is an obscure trail that you could follow to find some of the inside forest birds.


Birds to look for

Guacamayos Ridge.

SecondGrowthForest (2GF), Forest   (F), Rivers (R).

Common: Band-winged Nightjar (2GF),  Masked Trogon (2GF,F), Emerald Toucanet   (2GF,F), Streaked Tuftedcheek (2GF,F), Pearled Treerunner (2GF,F), Spotted   Barbtail (2GF,F), Montane Foliage-gleaner (2GF,F), Olive-backed Woodcreeper   (2GF,F),  Spillmann's Tapaculo (2GF,F),   Rufous-breasted Flycatcher (2GF,F), Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant (2GF,F), Smoky   Bush-Tyrant (2GF,F), Green-and-black Fruiteater (2GF,F), Plain-tailed Wren   (2GF), Capped Conebill (2GF,F), Blue-and-black Tanager (2GF,F),   Beryl-spangled Tanager (2GF,F), Golden-naped Tanager (2GF,F), Golden Tanager   (2GF,F), Oleaginous Hemispingus (2GF,F), Rufous-crested Tanager (2GF,F),   Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager (2GF,F), Hooded Mountain-Tanager (2GF,F),   Grass-green Tanager (2GF,F), Northern Mountain-Cacique (2GF,F), Yellow-billed   Cacique (2GF,F).

Uncommon: White-throated Quail-Dove (F), White-throated Screech-Owl (F),   Swallow-tailed Nightjar (2GF,F), Barred Parakeet (2GF,F), Scaly-naped Amazon   (2GF,F), Green-fronted Lancebill (2GF,F),    White-tailed Hillstar (2GF,F), Crested Quetzal (F), Black-billed   Mountain-Toucan (2GF,F), Powerful Woodpecker (2GF,F),  Rufous Spinetail (2GF,F), Buff-fronted   Foliage-gleaner (2GF,F), Striped Treehunter (2GF,F),  Tyrannine Woodcreeper (2GF,F), Strong-billed   Woodcreeper (2GF,F), White-backed Fire-eye (2GF,F), Slate-crowned Antpitta   (2GF,F), Ash-colored Tapaculo (2GF,F), Spillmann's Tapaculo (2GF,F), Handsome   Flycatcher (2GF,F),  Slaty-backed   Chat-Tyrant (2GF,F),  Barred Fruiteater   (2GF,F),  Black-chested Fruiteater   (2GF,F), Dusky Piha (F), Chestnut-breasted Wren (2GF,F),  Sepia-brown Wren (2GF,F),  Citrine Warbler (2GF,F), Red-hooded Tanager   (F), White-capped Tanager (F), Black-capped Hemispingus (2GF,F), Orange-eared   Tanager (2GF,F), Golden-eared Tanager (2GF,F), Blue-browed Tanager (2GF,F),   Plushcap (2GF,F).

Rare: Black Tinamou (F), Andean Potoo (F), White-faced Nunbird (F),  Emerald-bellied Puffleg (F), Greater   Scythebill (F), Bicolored Antvireo (F),    Barred Antthrush (F), Moustached Antpitta (F), Chestnut-naped Antpitta   (F), Ocellated Tapaculo (F), Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager (F), Vermilion   Tanager (F), Masked Saltator (F), Slaty Brush-Finch (F), White-rimmed   Brush-Finch (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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