Birding Antisana, Ecuador

Guest post by Kathi Borgmann

Antisana Volcano ©Kathi Borgmann

Antisana Volcano ©Kathi Borgmann

The Antisana Ecological Reserve can easily be reached via a day trip from Quito. Given the frequent afternoon weather, it is best to arrive early in the morning to improve your chances of having an unobstructed view of the massive peak of Antisana. Antisana rises to a height of 18,891 ft (5,758 m) and is absolutely stunning! Outside of the views, the birding is also excellent. Antisana is essentially THE place to see the threatened Ecuadorian population of Black-faced Ibis. Although this species has not been officially split from the Black-faced Ibis which occurs throughout the Andes from Peru to Argentina, this population exists in isolation in the high Andes in Ecuador. As soon as we arrived in the flat open valley with Antisana looming above us we spotted 8 Andean Black-faced Ibis right next to the road. In this same area Carunculated Caracaras fill the grasslands like herds of cattle, seriously they were everywhere! We counted 52 Carunculated Caracaras and I bet our count was low! Andean Gulls join the Caracaras on the grasslands as well.

Black-faced Ibis Antisana ©Brian Zwiebel

Black-faced Ibis ©Brian Zwiebel

Antisana Reserve ©Larua Kammermeier

The grasslands of Antisana Reserve. Antisana Reserve ©Larua Kammermeier

Antisana is also a great place to go looking for the Ecuadorian Hillstar, Black-winged Ground-Dove, Silvery Grebe, and Andean Condor. We came across two female Ecuadorian Hillstars (very nearly endemic to Ecuador with a small handful of records from southernmost Colombia) along the road up to the park. The first place to check for the hummingbird is 3 km after the second checkpoint at a concrete bridge. There is a small trail that parallels the creek here. Check the hillside for flowering Chuquiragua bushes. Along the creek we also saw Black-winged Ground-Dove and Stout-billed Cinclodes (both Stout-billed and Chestnut-winged Cinclodes species are in the park but Stout-billed was more numerous). We also saw one female Ecuadorian Hillstar at the abandoned house on the right side of the road as you head further into the park. Silvery Grebes can be seen on the lake just past the final checkpoint and parking area. To get a view of the lake and the grebes walk down the road to the first trail junction before the road heads uphill. After a short distance on the trail you can get good views of the lake although a spotting scope is needed to see the grebes from the trail. Look for the Silvery Grebes along the shoreline. Andean Condors can be seen soaring around Antisana and Jocotoco’s Antisanilla Reserve. A new nest was just discovered along the cliffs in Antisanilla and they estimate that at least 30 individuals call the reserve home.

Andean Condor ©Laura Kammermeier

Andean Condor ©Laura Kammermeier

Before reaching the park entrance you will also want to make a quick stop at the Tambo Condor Restaurant (-0.459139, -78.323218). A Giant Hummingbird makes regular visits to the feeder here.

For the last two years, Kathi Borgmann has been birding nearly every day in nearly every country in the Americas. Read more about her adventures on her blog, Birds of Passage.