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You are here:5.2.1 Loja Airport. Catamayo Valley

5.2.1 Loja Airport. Catamayo Valley

The small town of Catamayo , known locally as “La Toma”,  is located in a valley some 45 minutes from Loja city.  Catamayo was the only suitable place to build an airport to serve the city of Loja.  The dry lowland valley has been turned into sugar cane fields thanks the irrigation.  The hilly areas in the surrounding still have the natural habitat that once dominated the entire region. The area has no conservation status at all but harsh dry conditions make it hard to develop.  Goat herding is prominent but, nevertheless a handful of Tumbesian endemic bird species can be encountered in the valley.  The airport is located at an elevation of 1200 meters.



Andean Montane Scrub



Loja Airport. Catamayo Valley

No special arrangements are needed to visit any of the areas in the valley. As with many of the birding trips to the extreme south of Ecuador arriving in Loja airport, you should arrange for private transportation to wait for you upon your arrival. There is taxi service at the airport and you can hire one to bird, go to Catamayo downtown and catch a bus from there or go to Loja Bus terminal.



Loja Airport. Catamayo Valley

You could start birding from the Catatmayo airport parking lot where some common Tumbesian endemic species occur, look for Croaking Ground-Dove, Pacific Parrotlet, Pacific Hornero, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Vermilion Flycatcher, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Fasciated Wren and Thick-billed Euphonia.

(Click here to download Map. Loja Airport. Catamayo Valley)

Drive out the airport drive way until you get to the main road.  Turning left take you to Catamayo-Loja and turning right you go toward Cariamanga-Utuana-Macará.  Turn toward Cariamanga and drive for 0.5 km.  At this point you will see a gate on the left side.  Park here and continue on foot past the gate.  Follow the dirt road away from the highway and turn right on the first trail heading out to the right.  Explore the slopes and concentrate where the vegetation is thickest.   The scrubby habitat along this area is quite productive and you could find:  Andean Tinamou, Amazilia Hummingbird, Collared Antshrike, Elegant Crescentchest, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Parrot-billed Seedeater, Drab Seedeater and Tumbes Sparrow.

The rocky and bare terrain should be searched for Short-tailed Field-Tyrant and Band-tailed Sierra-Finch.  Toward the end of the rainy season, Tumbes Hummingbird can rarely show up in the valley.

Returning back to the highway you could drive 4.2 km, or 4.7 km from the airport.  At this point you will see a dirt road on your left before arriving at a bridge.  Take this road and drive, looking for birds along the scrubby forest where you can see almost all the species mentioned before. If you wish to go to Utuana and Macará you can continue along the highway.  The city of Macará is 143 km away from Catamayo.  And the small town of Utuana is 96 km away from Catamayo.

Return to the Catamayo airport entrance road 0.0 km and drive toward Catamayo for 0.7 km. Here you will find a fork in the road.  Take the right hand road and drive for 0.2 km, or 1.1 km from the airport.  Here at the crossroad, turn to your right and drive for 1.7 km, or 2.8 km from the airport.  Here you will arrive at a roundabout.  Reset your odometer to 0.0 km for future references. Avoid going down to the left since this road goes back to Catamayo downtown. You can also explore downtown Catamayo for in some of the abandoned houses and during season is possible to find active nesting colonies of Chestnut-collared Swallow.

Take the road heading up the hill and drive for 3.1 km.  Here you will find a toll booth.  Continue driving for another 8.1 km, or 11.1 km from Catamayo.  Here you reach a fork.  The right hand road is the old road heading to Loja and should be avoided.  Continue along the main road to the left and drive for another 5.7 km, or 16.8 km Catamayo.  At this point, at an elevation of 2350 meters, there is a Virgen shrine on your right.  Walk along the Second-growth edge with the shrine at your back.  Once you start going up the hill, you can see a trail heading into woodland.  While birding this short second-growth, you should look for:  Rainbow Starfrontlet, Purple-throated Sunangel, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Black-crested Warbler, Black-cowled Saltator and Bay-crowned Brush-Finch.

Drive 5.2 km, or 22.0 km from Catamayo.  At this point you will be cross over a pass and will start descending toward Loja city.   Continue driving for 11.9 km, or 33.9 km from Catamayo. Remain on the obvious main road without taking any exist.  Here you will be in Loja city on the roundabout in front of the bus terminal.

From here you can choose to head further south to Cajanuma entrance of Podocarpus NP, Vilcabamba and Tapichalaca or head toward Zamora city and the birding site due east across the Andes.


Birds to look for

Loja Airport. Catamayo Valley

Dry Mountain Scrub (DMS), Wet Mountain Scrub (WMS).

Common: Croaking   Ground-Dove (DMS),Pacific Hornero (DMS),  Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet   (DMS), Long-tailed Mockingbird (DMS), White-crested Elaenia (WMS), White-throated Tyrannulet (WMS), Vermilion Flycatcher (DMS), Gray-breasted Martin (DMS), Blue-and-white Swallow (DMS, WMS), Fasciated Wren (DMS), Thick-billed Euphonia (DMS), Blue-black Grassquit (DMS), Scrub Blackbird (DMS), Groove--billed Ani (DMS), Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant   (DMS), Tropical Gnatcatcher (DMS), Black-crested Warbler (WMS), Bananaquit (DMS), Blue-gray Tanager (DMS).

 Uncommon:   Pacific Parrotlet (DMS), Chestnut-throated   Seedeater (DMS), Rainbow Starfrontlet (WMS), Purple-throated Sunangel (WMS), Green-tailed Trainbearer (WMS), Amazilia Hummingbird (DMS), Collared Antshrike (DMS), Chestnut-crowned Antpitta (WMS), Elegant Crescentchest (DMS), Short-tailed Field-Tyrant (DMS), Drab Seedeater (DMS).

Rare: Andean   Tinamou (DMS), Tumbes Hummingbird (DMS), Parrot-billed Seedeater (DMS), Band-tailed Sierra-Finch (DMS), Black-cowled Saltator (WMS), Bay-crowned Brush-Finch (WMS).

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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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