A trip to Mindo Valley, Ecuador 2009

 

 
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Mindo is a small town with 3,000 inhabitants situated about two hours drive north-west of Quito. It is considered one of the best birding destinations in Ecuador. I therefore asked at my hotel in Quito if they could help me organize a trip to Mindo. Surprisingly, the receptionists had not heard about birding trips to Mindo. But they managed to make a one-day guide reservation with Quito Turistico, or, as it turned out, more like a rental taxi for a day. The next day two persons arrived in an small car at 8.30 in the morning. One driver (Johan) and one guide / English speaker (Paulo). Interestingly, when we approached Mindo, they admitted neither of them had been to this region of the country before. But they were nice, no problems there, and made sure I got to visit three very nice locations.

First, we went to the Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge (altitude 2200 meters), where I was able to join a guided rainforest walk in the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, arranged by the logde. Nothing much to be seen in terms of birds, but it was a nice stroll through the dense rainforest. Luckily, there were lots of hummers at the feeders outside the lodge. After lunch at Bellavista, we drove to Alambi Logde, or hummingbird paradise, as it was also called. Here they had nice gardens with many feeders. Saw lots of hummers here also, but low-light photographic conditions around the feeders made it difficult to obtain any decent photos. As Alambi Lodge (altitude -1400 m) is situated at lower altitude than Bellavista, this site had several lower-altitude hummer species. Next we drove to Mindo Town (altitude 1200 m), and spent an hour or so at Hotel el Descanso. Enjoying a drink on the porch, the Hummingbird Garden at the Hotel el Descanso was an excellent site for spotting hummers. We were back in Quito at 19.00, after an excellent day in the Mindo Valley.

Mindo is a mountainous watershed situated in the western slopes of the Andes, where two of the most biologically diverse ecoregions in the world meet: the Chocoan lowlands and the Tropical Andes. In this transitional area - which covers an area of 268 square kilometers (103 sq mi) and ranges from 960–3,440 metres (3,150–11,290 ft) above sea level - three rivers (Mindo, Saloya and Cinto) and hundreds of streams irrigate the landscape, which consists of a patchwork of cloud forests, secondary forests, agricultural land, and human settlements. Set in beautiful cloud-forest, Mindo attracts birdwatchers first and foremost, but also has attractions for other tourists. Mindo is recoqnized as a birding hotspot for hummers. It is said you can see up to 30 hummer species in one hour here!

 

 

Hummingbird (Green-crowned Woodnymph) in Mindo rainforest

Small city towards Mindo Valley

 

Small city towards Mindo Valley

Dinner at a country-side restaurtant between Mindo and Quito with the driver and guide

 

Country-side restaurtant

Roadwork Ecuador

 

Toward Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

Bellavista Lodge in Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

 

Bellavista Lodge. Altitude 2200 meters / 7200 feets

Mindo Town

 

Mindo Town

Mindo Town

 

Mindo Town

Heliconia, also known as lobster-claw, wild plantain or false bird-of-paradise, Bellavista cloud rain-forest

 

Masked Trogon (Trogon personatus), Bellavista

Mindo butterfly, Bellavista

 

Tree fern, Bellavista Cloud Forest

Speckled Hummingbird (Adelomyia melanogenys), Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

 

 

Hummingbirds (Violet-tailed Sylph Aglaiocerus coelestis and Collared Inca Coeligena torquata), Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

Inexperienced with hummingbird photography, it was surprisingly difficult to get good images of these birds. With low-light conditions beneath the rainforest canopy, and fast-moving and very small objects, most of my photos got blurry. Even using a good and sharp low-light lens, the Nikon 300mm f/4 ED IF AF-S with the Nikon D90 camera, did not help. In retrospect, I should have planned better and prepared in advance for this kind of photography. To no comfort, the web is full of similar, low-quality images of hummers from Mindo and Ecuador. For a future trip, I think using a high-ISO performance DX camera like the Nikon D7200 in combination with one of the newer telephoto zoom lenses and a monopod is the way to go. Of course, a sturdy tripod will always help, but a lightweight monopod is easier to carry around and probably a better travel companion.

 

Confirmed hummingbirds (by local guides or by photos posted on BirdNet)

  • White-necked Jacobin
  • White-whiskered Hermit
  • Green Violetear
  • Speckled Hummingbird
  • Green-crowned Brilliant
  • Purple-throated Woodstar
  • Green-crowned Woodnymph
  • Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
  • Andean Emerald
  • Collared Inca
  • Buff-tailed Coronet
  • Gorgeted Sunangel
  • Fawn-breasted Brilliant
  • Violet-tailed Sylph
  • Booted Racket-tail
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I probably saw about 20-25 species of hummingbirds this day. But being unable to get photos of many species, and not having a field guide or being accompanied by a professional guide, the exact number is not possible to tell. Some other bird species observed:

Masked Trogon, White-tailed Tyrannulet, Green- and black Fruiteater, Masked Flowerpiercer, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Golden Tanager, White-tipped Dove, and several additional Tanager-species

Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve, Mindo Valley

 

A walk through Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

Gorgeted Sunangel Heliangelus stroph

 

Gorgeted Sunangel Heliangelus stroph

White-necked Jacobin (Florisuga mellivora), Mindo

 

Collared Inca (Coeligena torquata), Bellavista

Fawn-breasted Brilliant (Heliodoxa rubinoides), Bellavista

 

Fawn-breasted Brilliant (Heliodoxa rubinoides), Bellavista

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilla tzacatl), Mindo

 

The tail of the Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii), Bellavista

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilla tzacatl), Mindo

 

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilla tzacatl), Mindo

Green-crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania fannyi), Mindo

 

Green-crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania fannyi), Mindo

White-whiskered Hermit (Phaethornis yaruqui), Alambi Lodge

 

Violet-tailed Sylph (Aglaiocerus coelestis), Bellavista

Andean Emerald (Amazilla franciae), Alambi Lodge

 

Andean Emerald (Amazilla franciae), Alambi Lodge

 

Speckled Hummingbird (Adelomyia melan), Bellavista

 

Speckled Hummingbird (Adelomyia melan), Bellavista

 

Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescencs), Bellavista

 

 

Buff-tailed Coronet (Boissonneaua flavescencs), Bellavista

Green-crowned Brilliant (Heliodoxa jacula), Alambi Lodge

 

Purple-throated Woodstar (Calliphlox mitchellii), Alambi Lodge

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Mindo

 

Green-crowned Woodnymph (Thalurania fannyi), Mindo