Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

The guided hike

Below is a map of the various trails at Bellavista.  (Click on the image for a larger version; use the “back” button on your browser to return to this page.)  I don’t remember precisely, but I think we walked from the Dome clockwise along north along R, east on the road (the liveliest birding, in part because you could see the birds at the edges of the road), and back to the Dome on W.  Or perhaps we went counter-clockwise—I can’t quite remember.


Amateurs that we are, we didn’t struggle to get many photos of the birds we saw on the hike.  You can get a sense of the environs from this photo.  Challenge enough just to spot a bird nestled in the deep foliage and get my binos on it.  Z has always been a terrific spotter of birds; he then directs me to them and I clinch the ID.  Well, I learned something important about myself as one half of this normally strong birding duo.  When I’m not familiar with the birds and I’m in a heavily vegetated area, all I have is the frustration and stress of trying to find the dang things without the fun of scoring the ID.  Ah, well.  Good to know, I guess.  I should have brushed up my bino skills before venturing into challenging, dense, dark habitats.

Zell was able to get a photo of one hummingbird on the hike:  a Buff-tailed Coronet.


Despite my frustrations, we still saw a good number of new birds on our nearly 4-hour hike.  Here’s the list, in the order we saw/heard them, with links to good photos on the Internet (still looking for a good White-tailed Tyrannulet photo…).

  • Red-billed Parrotthe only member of its genus with a bright red bill
  • White-throated Quail-Dovesome consider the Ecuador birds, more dark-headed and -breasted, to be a separate species
  • Plate-billed Mountain-Toucanits series of nasal rising calls and its large size made it easy to spot
  • Azara’s Spinetailnamed for Felix de Azara, a Spanish military officer, an engineer, and a naturalist (what a combo!)
  • Golden Tanagermany were present and their bright yellow coloring made it easy even for me to spot them
  • Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager—these beauties were relatively common and relatively easy to spot
  • Grass-green Tanageralthough this brilliantly colored bird seems easy to spot, it blended in well with the foliage
  • Blue-and-black Tanagerthe highest-ranging of its genus; tends to lean down over branches to glean insects
  • Dusky Bush-Tanager—this genus has very drab members, compared to the other tanagers
  • Beryl-spangled Tanagera brilliantly colored bird, named for the mineral in emeralds and aquamarines
  • Plumbeous Pigeon“plumbeous” refers to its leaden gray color
  • Masked Trogonon the male, you can see the eponymous mask
  • Montane Woodcreeperas woodpeckers do, these birds use their stiff tails as props on a tree trunk as they search for bugs
  • White-tailed Tyrannuleta very small member of the flycatcher family
  • Masked Flowerpiercerthese birds cheat the flower’s strategy of trading pollen for nectar by piercing the flower at its base, bypassing the pollen

Continued on p. 3; click below.

5 Responses to Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve

  1. shamda says:

    I was in Bellavista late in April. It is truly wonderful. I am not particularly a bird person and went for an overnight and was very happy to have gone. Given what you write, I suspect Mindo might be better if you’re going for a couple of nights because there is more to do. Not that I couldn’t have done another night at Bellavista! It is one of the most relaxing places I have ever been. Very beautiful. I didn’t think I would get mesmerized by hundreds of hummingbirds but I did! The more I watched them the more fascinated I got. The rest of the birding wasn’t spectacular when I was there but the trails are magnificent and the staff is extremely accomodating to all levels of physical rediness. I was tempted to go zip lining but after falling off the trail and being saved by the vines I rolled into, I decided to forgo it for this particular trip.
    You’ll be happy with either I suspect. Ecuador is a beautiful country!

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  2. John & Jan Belz says:

    My wife & I are doing the same Road Scholar trip this coming March. Like you, we plan to arrive in Quito a couple of days (actually 3 nights) ahead of the program. We too are birders. We’re thinking of two nights in the Andes/cloud forests. Do you wish you had had more time to spend at the Bellavista lodge? Would two nights there be overkill? Any other birding recommendations outside of Quito?

    Your blog is excellent. We have shared it with several other couples we know that will join us on the Tip Top III. You’ve done us all a real service. Thank you.

    Tina writes:

    Excellent decision to arrive in Quito a bit early. There’s so much to do in the city and in day trips out and about. I could easily have spent 2 full days (rather than our 1 half-day) at Bellavista. (My husband, who is not quite so excited about birds, might have had a different opinion—although he really enjoyed our time there.) I would imagine the morning chorus is something to behold. There’s a lot of hiking trails available at various levels of difficulty. One caveat—you’ll be there during a wetter time than we were. So be sure to be prepared for rain (although not as much rain as you would find in a rain forest). The rain can be cumbersome for the humans and their optics, but the birding is spectacular once the rain stops. If it’s sufficiently wet/muddy, I think they provide Wellie-type boots for some of the trails. Given the naturalist’s schedule when we were there, they offered at least 2 guided hikes a day. I could have done the same hike many times, since there was so much to see and hear and it was all new to me. Be sure to purchase the small pamphlet on birds of Bellavista, available at the office. Definitely worth it to narrow down the likely options of what you’re seeing.

    On the other hand, if you want to do more than birding, you might look into Mindo (which is just a bit further down/up the road). They have rafting, zip lines, a canopy cable car over the river, and lots of birds too. From what I’ve heard folks say, Bellavista is primarily good for harder-core birders while the Mindo area let you do a variety of things during your stay.

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  3. Nell says:

    Tina thank you for the information. I’ve left a message with my Travel Agent to see if they will handle booking Bella Vista for us.

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  4. Nell< says:

    When you booked your tour to the Cloud Forest how was the payment arranged. I’m somewhat concerned about the request for a check that is to be mailed or overnighted to a US bank in another state than the one they live in.

    Tina wrote back:

    Our trip to Ecuador/the Galápagos Islands was organized through Elderhostel (now Exploritas). They worked with a US travel agency (Holbrook Travel) that had direct connections with the various operators in Ecuador. So for our day trip to Bellavista, we simply gave a credit card number to the Holbrook agent and she handled the reservations. But many of the tour operators based in Ecuador are not set up to accept US credit cards (or, if they are, they tend to charge a hefty transaction fee). As a result, people from outside the country who deal directly with businesses in Ecuador often have to do a SWIFT money transfer to move money from one country to another. This is a perfectly appropriate way to send money (your bank should know all about it). But it is a bit unnerving, since the funds leave your bank account and (seem to) just disappear temporarily. So you really have to trust the folks you’re dealing with. If you are working directly with the Bellavista folks, I found them to be very straightforward and reliable. They operate a lodge that gets good reviews; their reputation is important to them and I’ve seen no evidence of problems on their end. If, however, you’re booking it through a 3rd party, you might do some searching on the Internet to see if others have had good dealings with that organization. Personally, I have found the TripAdvisor travel forum to be extremely knowledgeable and helpful. This URL should take you directly to the Ecuador forum, where you can search for whatever information you might want or post your own question: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g294307-i2253-Ecuador.html.

    The international transfer of money is an anxiety-provoking process. You’re wise to be cautious up front.

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  5. shamba says:

    great post! i’m going to quito in a couple of weeks and have been trying to decide what to do with 4 days in quito. bellavista is high on the list – along with otavolo. i’m thinking of an overnight in bellavists – does it seem like a good idea to you (having been there)? i’m not a knowledable birder but i like looking at them. with a guide i’m sure i’ll learn more and likely get more intersted! i also love taking photos. i have asthma (no really serious attacks – yet) and my back isn’t great but i’m working on strengthening it before the trip. i think i’m going to the same islands that you went to but on a different boat. any suggestions appreciated.

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