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You are here:5.3.1 Tapichalaca Reserve

5.3.1 Tapichalaca Reserve

The Tapichalaca Reserve is owned and managed by the Jocotoco Foundation.  The reserve is approximately 5000 hectares in size, and there are plans to increase it to 10000 hectares.  It is adjacent to the southern part of Podocarpus National Park, which increases its conservation value. This reserve is located in Zamora Chinchipe Province.  The reserve lands are located at elevations between 1800 m to 3500 m.  As of January, 2009, reserve staff and visitors had recorded 285+ bird species, with some additional 25 species occurring in the region, but just outside the reserve.  The Jocotoco Foundation is the leading organization protecting lands for the most threatened and endangered bird species in Ecuador.



Elfin Forest, Temperate Forest, Upper Montane Forest and Middle Montane Forest.



Tapichalaca Reserve

The Tapichalaca Reserve can be accessed from Loja-Valladolid from any of the other birding sites described in this book from this region.  There is regular bus transportation from Loja to Zumba from both directions.  You can get these buses from the bus terminal in Loja City, located at the intersection of Avenues Gran Colombia and Isidro Ayora.  Should you take a bus to Tapichalaca, you can drop off at the Casa Simpson Lodge.   Here you can bird the reserve on foot.  A high clearance vehicle is not needed but is recommended until the road work is finished.  Completion is due in 2011.

Visitors will be asked to pay the US $10 or $2 for Ecuadorians as entrance ticket fee and registration.

The reserve can only be visited upon request and permission from the Jocotoco Foundation / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Phone: 02-2457090 in within working hours, Monday to Friday).  The foundation will schedule your visit and make sure the park rangers and the lodge staff know about your visit.



Tapichalaca Reserve

If you are continuing from your visit to Vilcabamba and Zolanda and Cerro Toledo please see the birding instructions on the respective subchapter telling how to get here.

Starting the Yangana plaza 0.0 km for future references continue toward Zumba and drive for 1.1 km.  At this point you will see a narrow road on your left.  This rough looking road is the entrance road to Cerro Toledo. Continue toward Zumba 13.4 km, or 14.5 km from Yangana.  At this point the road enters the Podocarpus NP at its southernmost part.  The next 2.2 km along the road, or 16.7 km from Yangana are a good place to look for:  Tawny-breasted Tinamou, Bearded Guan, Golden-plumed Parakeet, Scaly-naped Amazon as well as many other birds that can also be seen inside the Tapichalaca Reserve.  Drive another 3.8 km, or 20.5 km from Yangana.  Here you will cross over the continental divide and start heading down along the eastern flank of the eastern Andes into the Marañon drainage.

Drive 4.4 km, or 24.9 km from Yangana.  The habitat along the road is a good place to look for Glowing Puffleg, Blue-backed Conebill, Golden-crowned Tanager, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager and Pale-naped Brush-Finch. Only 0.5 km farther, or 25.4 km from Yangana, you will be entering the Tapichalaca Reserve and leaving the park. The stream along here is also known as Quebrada de los Muertos.  Look here for White-capped Dipper. The forest around here is a good place to look for birds.

(Click here to download Map. Tapichalaca Reserve)

Drive another 2.0 km, or 27.4 km from Yangana. Here you will arrive to the top of a lower pass.   This site is known as “Ventanillas”. Here in the forest along the road edge you can find Black-headed Hemispingus, and during the night entering the forest on your right you can try for White-throated Screech-Owl and Rufous-banded Owl.  

This area has two different trails on the right and both begin at the same spot along the highway.  The first trail enters the forest and continues almost level for quite a good distance, but most of the birds here can also be seen along the Quebrada Honda and Jocotoco Antpitta trails.  The second trails climbs along the ridge beginning at an elevation of 2600 meters and reaches the treeline elfin forest at an elevation of 3450 meters.  To visit the treeline along this trail you have to endure a long and strenuous hike of about 2.5 km each way.  You must be accompanied by a park ranger and basically spend the entire day going up, looking for birds, and return. Some of the best birds from the elfin forest on top are: Andean Snipe, Imperial Snipe, Neblina Metaltail, Mouse-colored Thistletail, Páramo Tapaculo, Masked Mountain-Tanager and Black-chested Mountain-Tanager.

Continuing on for 2.1 km, or 29.5 km from Yangana you will see small abandoned house on your right, and the beginning of a path on your left.  The path on your left is the famous Quebrada Honda trail.  Here, back in 1997, the Jocotoco Antpitta was discovered. One of the mornings during your visit should be devoted to look for birds along this path and the Jocotoco Antpitta trail

A short distance from the highway you will reach a ridge where you can see down to a different valley.  The first wax palm-trees you can see down the valley have artificial nest boxes on them.  Golden-plumed Parakeets use these nest boxes from November to May.  The parakeets can be seen in Tapichalca until the end of June.  The birds then become scarcer until November when they show up again for the next breeding season.  Hiking along the Quebrada Honda trail is a great place to look for: Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Orange-banded Flycatcher, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Grass-green Tanager and Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager.

After some 800 meters along the Quebrada Honda trail you will see the beginning of the Jocotoco Antpitta trail.  The Quebrada Honda path continues for a short while and then turns into a mule trail.  Along the rougher but still fairly level part of the Quebrada Honda trail we have also recorded Crested Becard, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Red-hooded Tanager and Páramo Seedeater.

The Jocotoco Antpitta trail will take you to where the rare antpitta can be seen as it is been earthworm fed by park ranger Franco Mendoza.  Beware that you can only see Franco feeding the antpittas only if you are staying at Casa Simpson, and that tape play back for the Jocotoco Antpitta is strictly forbidden.This wonderful and easy walking trail goes through forest and eventually reaches a fork where you can return back to the lodge or continue deeper along Piha trail.   I recommend taking the Jocotoco Antpitta trail until this fork and return to the highway by retracing your steps.  This is a much easier and less strenuous way.  On this forest Jocotoco trail at the blind, look mainly for: White-throated Quail-Dove. Also along this trail look for Bearded Guan, White-throated Screech-Owl, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Ruddy Spinetail, Barred Antthrush, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Rufous Antpitta, Slate-crowned Antpitta, Chusquea Tapaculo, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant , Black-capped Hemispingus, Plushcap, Northern Mountain-Cacique and Yellow-billed Cacique.

Continuing down the road another 0.9 km, or 30.4 km from Yangana, you will see a shrine on your right.  This is the start of a trail cutting through dense vegetation along the top of the ridge.  This trail is part of the old mule track that connected Yangana with Valladolid prior the building of the road.  The second growth and road cuts around this area should be searched for Rufous-capped Thornbill.

Driving further for 0.3 km, or 30.7 km from Yangana you can see the Casa Simpson driveway on your left.  Here at the road cut by the driveway at times you can see the Swallow-tailed Nightjar during the evening after dark.  At times the forest around the lodge can be quite birdy, especially in the early mornings.

The hummingbird feeders at the lodge should be a place to study the species that visit.  Here look for: Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Flame-throated Sunangel, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Long-tailed Sylph and White-bellied Woodstar.

Near Casa Simpson there is a blind where Chusquea Tapaculo and Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch are commonly seen.  Behind this blind there is a trail that should be searched on rainy days for the Undulated Antpitta, which can be seen walking along it.

The Piha trail, though difficult and steep, is where White-faced Nunbird, Black-billed Mountain-Toucan and Dusky Piha had been recorded.

At the Casa Simpson driveway entrance, reset your odometer to 0.0 km for future references.  Drive down the road for 0.8 km toward Valladolid.  At this point there is a deep gulley on the right side of the road.  During the nights, look here for the Andean Potoo.

Driving another 4.2 km down the road, or 5.0 km from Casa Simpson, there is a patch of forest on your left.  This is the area where fellow birder Bert Harrison located Peruvian Antpitta.

Continuing another 1.6 km, or 6.6 km from Casa Simpson, to a point 7.4 km the lodge can be very productive at times.  Here along the forest edge look for flocks and fruiting trees searching for: White-breasted Parakeet, Lyre-tailed Nightjar (at dusk), Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Golden-naped Tanager, Blue-browed Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager and Rufous-crested Tanager.

The forest patches along the big bend located 7.4 km away from Casa Simpson should be searched particularly for Crimson-bellied Woodpecker and Olivaceous Piha.

Driving on for 3.0 km, or 10.4 km from Casa Simpson, you will be crossing a bridge before getting to the small town of Valladolid. The swampy grassland slightly ahead on the right, and the open bushy habitat, are a place to look for Blackish Rail, Marañon Thrush and Silver-backed Tanager.

Continue straight ahead on the road another 0.6 km until crossing the town, or 11.0 km from Casa Simpson.  At this point there is fork in the road.  The left fork takes you to Tapala, and the main road ahead continues toward Zumba.  This point will be a future references point to visit these sites.


Birds to look for

Tapichalaca Reserve

Second-growth (2G), Stunted Forest (SF), Forest (F), Hummingbird   feeders (hf), Pastures (P).

Common: Amethyst-throated Sunangel (hf), Flame-throated Sunangel (hf), Long-tailed Sylph (hf), Neblina Metaltail (SF), Chestnut-breasted Coronet (hf), White-bellied Woodstar (hf), Masked Trogon (2G,F), Mouse-colored Thistletail (SF), Páramo Tapaculo (SF), Chusquea Tapaculo (F), White-banded Tyrannulet (2G,F), Rufous Wren (2G,F), Saffron-crowned Tanager (2G,F), Flame-faced Tanager (2G,F), Metallic-green Tanager (2G,F), Silver-backed Tanager (2G), Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager (2G,F), Hooded Mountain-Tanager (F), Pale-naped Brush-Finch (2G), Chestnut-capped   Brush-Finch (F), Spectacled   Whitestart (2G,F), Black-crested Warbler (2G,F), Northern Mountain-Cacique (2G,F).  

Uncommon: Bearded Guan (F), Imperial Snipe (SF), White-throated Quail-Dove (F), Golden-plumed Parakeet (2G,F), White-breasted Parakeet (2G,F), Scaly-naped Amazon (2G,F), White-throated Screech-Owl   (F), Rufous-banded   Owl (F), Swallow-tailed   Nightjar (2G,F), Lyre-tailed Nightjar (2G,F), ), Speckled Hummingbird (hf), Rufous-capped Thornbill (hf), Glowing Puffleg (2G), Collared Inca  (hf), Mountain Velvetbreast (hf), Fawn-breasted Brilliant (hf), Gray-breasted   Mountain-Toucan (F),   Bar-bellied Woodpecker (F),   Ruddy Spinetail (F),   Chestnut-naped Antpitta (F), Rufous Antpitta (F), Slate-crowned Antpitta (F), Black-capped Tyrannulet (2G,F), Black-throated Tody-Tyrant   (2G,F), Orange-banded Flycatcher (2G,F), Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant (F), Yellow-bellied Chat-Tyrant   (2G,F), Rufous-tailed Tyrant (2G), Lemon-browed Flycatcher (2G,F), Olivaceous Piha (F), Barred Becard (2G,F), Mountain Wren (2G,F), Marañon Thrush (2G), Pale-footed Swallow (F), Blue-backed Conebill (2G,F), Golden-naped Tanager (2G,F), Golden-crowned Tanager (2G,F), Buff-breasted   Mountain-Tanager (2G,F), Grass-green Tanager (F), Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager (2G,F), Red-hooded Tanager (F), White-capped Tanager (2G,F), Black-headed Hemispingus (2G,F), Black-capped Hemispingus (F), Plushcap (2G,F), Citrine Warbler (2G,F), Yellow-billed Cacique (2G,F).

Rare: Tawny-breasted Tinamou (F), Blackish Rail (P), Andean Potoo (F), White-faced Nunbird (F), Black-billed   Mountain-Toucan (F),   Crimson-bellied Woodpecker (F), Barred Antthrush (F), Undulated Antpitta (F), Jocotoco Antpitta (F), Peruvian Antpitta (F), Crested Becard (F), Chestnut-crested Cotinga (2G,F), Blue-browed Tanager (2G,F), Rufous-crested Tanager (2G,F), Masked Mountain-Tanager (SF), Black-chested   Mountain-Tanager (SF),   Páramo Seedeater (2G).


For a complete Tapichalaca Bird list visit Bird List-Tapichalaca.

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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