I’ve been home from Ecuador for a few weeks now and thought it was time to reminisce about the wonderful month that my groups and I got to spend in the incredibly bird-rich nation of Ecuador. This was my fifth visit to Ecuador and despite the fact that I have now spent more than 12 months in the beautiful Andean nation the bird life continues to amaze me.
A Carunculated Caracara in the spectacular Antisana reserve.
After meeting in Quito, each tour started in the northwest part of the country where we focused our efforts on the amazing diversity of hummingbirds. Our first stop was a high elevation cloud forest reserve where we found some beautiful hummingbirds to start the trip including the Great Sapphirewing and Sapphire-vented Puffleg.
By the time the trip was over most of the participants had photographed over 30 species of the tiny flying jewels known as hummingbirds (including Booted Rackettail’s, Buff-tailed Coronet’s and Violet-tailed Sylph’s as seen below).
A Buff-tailed Coronet in northwestern Ecuador. Multi-flash is an amazing technique!
A male Red-headed Barbet at a feeder setup.
Always a favourite – the male Booted Racket-tail.
From our base in the Tandayapa Valley we made a few day trips to visit nearby photography hot-spots. We even managed photos of some really cool species like the Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Toucan Barbet and Blue-winged Mountain tanager. Everyone also got fantastic shots of the gorgeous Masked Trogon. But above all else we focused on photographing hummingbirds using my patented multi-flash techniques.
A male Masked Trogon with his breakfast.
Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers are “gratifyingly numerous”.
One of our morning excursions was spent visiting the famous Mindo area where we spent some time photographing a few different species of hummingbirds that are present at this lower elevation. Among the new birds that we found and photographed were Green-crowned Brilliants, Green-crowned Woodnymphs and one of my favourite Ecuadorian Hummingbirds – the Velvet-purple Coronet. We also got some great looks at a few beautiful Tanagers and had an incredible encounter with a group of lekking Club-winged Manakins.
After three days in the northwest we moved on through the central valley to our stopover for the night. Our afternoon shoot produced some great images of Sparkling Violetears and some even managed to nail the Black-tailed Trainbearer. Bright and early the next morning we traveled up to the incredible Antisana reserve. At this amazing high elevation site we spotted Andean Condors soaring from their cliffs, Carunculated Caracaras loafing in the grasslands, Black-faced Ibis, and a variety of other birds. The scenery may have stolen the show however as the views and setting was spectacular.
Carunculated Caracara’s were easy targets at Antisana.
What a site to see a male Andean Condor soaring around his cliff.
We had spectacular views up at Antisana.
After a great morning up at Antisana we drove across and over the Papallacta Pass (where on one of the trips we had spectacular views of the Antisana Volcano) to eventually arrive at our third lodge of the trip. From Sword-billed Hummingbirds to Torrent Ducks and from Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes to Turquoise Jays it was hard to know where to point our lenses!
The Torrent Duck family.
Our final stop on the regular portion of the tour was a little bit further down the eastern slope. Here we were in for a real treat – the Black-banded Owl (see below). We also got great photo opportunities for Montane Woodcreepers, Inca Jays and the cute little White-bellied Antpitta.
Gray-breasted Wood Wren
A mysterious looking Black-banded Owl.
After 6 spectacular days on the East Slope we traveled further down the slope into the Ecuadorian lowlands and prepared to travel into the Amazon Rainforest. We then took a boat nearly 100km down river deep into the jungle. After a few hours we arrived at our wonderful jungle lodge where we would spend the next 4 days.
During our stay in the Amazon we had incredible opportunities to photograph 4 species of Kingfishers as well as crazy birds like Hoatzin’s, Donocobius, Macaws, Woodpeckers, Toucans and Aracaris, Owls and even Parrots that were coming to a local site to eat clay. It really was an amazing experience for us all.
What a weirdo! The Hoatzin.
Tropical Screech Owl
We had incredible looks at the gorgeous Agami Heron.
American Pygmy Kingfisher
Cormorants at sunset
Our two amazing Amazon guides. What a team!
Eventually all good things must come to an end and we had to return to Quito to catch our flights home. It truly was a fantastic trip. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some of the things that a few of the participants had to say below.
I will definitely be running this trip again in Jan/Feb of 2015. I will have dates available and will be taking deposits in the upcoming few weeks. If you are interested in reserving a space on the trip make sure to get in touch soon as I am certain that the 12 spaces available (2 tours) will sell out fast. Send me an email if you want to be put on the trips wish list.
TO JOIN THE WISH LIST FOR ECUADOR 2015 - CLICK HERE
“The great thing about going with Glenn is that the trip size is small and you are going with the master himself. I was pleased that Glenn was focused on his guests and not intent on getting his own photos. I was also amazed at how hard he worked to get us the right setups and the time he took placing the props for our pictures. Most of all, I appreciate the new photo techniques I learned from Glenn. When I sent my pictures back in emails, my friends could instantly see the impact that just a few hours with Glenn had on my photos. Glenn is a real people person and you will not retreat a trip with him. And, oh yes, the places we stayed were all first rate and the food was terrific. As a couple who have spent the last 12 years doing several first rate international trips a year, I can tell you that Glenn ranks in the top five percent of tours we have taken.”
E.H. (Ecuador, 2014)
“Glenn Bartley is a great bird photographer, a really good birder, he knows Neotropical birds, he speaks Spanish, he’s strong, and in case that’s not enough, he’s a nice guy. If you want to photograph birds in Latin America as Keith does (or if you just want to see Neotrops really well as I do), there is no better person to travel with than Glenn.”
S.K. (Ecuador, 2014)
“I want to thank you again for a wonderful trip, we learned so much and had so many opportunities to see different areas of Ecuador. It is a beautiful country and even in the walks where we did not see many birds we saw amazing scenery. I have a hard time describing to everyone how diverse and gorgeous Ecuador is, and we did not see but a small part of the country. Steve and I both learned a lot from you and Jess, now we just have to use those skills. Thank you again for your time and patience, and we look forward to joining you again.”
E.L. (Ecuador, 2014)
“Glenn Bartley gets you to the best locations for bird photography and then helps you to get the best shots. This is what counts if you really want the experience. The Ecuador trip is highly recommended as one of the most comprehensive trips that one can expect.”
D.O. (Ecuador, 2014)
Group #1 in the Amazon
Group #2 at Antisana
***SPECIAL NOTE – I PUT MY CLIENTS NEEDS FIRST ON MY WORKSHOPS AND I SHOOT VERY LITTLE MYSELF. AS A RESULT MANY OF THE IMAGES ABOVE ARE FROM PREVIOUS TRIPS***