The Antpitta Trip

Monday, February 28

Today was our scheduled excursion to Angel Paz’s reserve to look for Andean Cock-of-the-Rock and see his tame antpittas. We did hear the alarm go off at 4 am, so all was well. It didn’t take long to dress and collect our stuff in order to meet Andrea downstairs before the 4:30 am departure time. Along with us we had a driver who would take us to the various locations on our itinerary. It took 40 minutes to drive out the dirt road to the main highway, then we carried on until the turn-off to the Refugio de las Aves.

Once at the parking area we donned our rubber boots, collected our “boxed” breakfast, and headed down the trail. It was still dark so we used our headlamps while Andrea had a powerful flashlight. It took us quite a while to negotiate the trail, due to its being dark and also muddy in spots. However we did hear a Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl calling.

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

We arrived at the Cock-of-the-Rock lek and settled down to wait, eating part of our breakfast while it was still dark. Not too long after we arrived, a couple named Kim and Bert (from Nashville) arrived, as well as another couple from Cleveland, travelling with the Tropical Birding company. It wasn’t too long before we first heard, then saw the bird with its spectacular red bulbous head. We watched two Cocks-of-the-Rock for quite a while before the guides said we should go back along the trail to hopefully see the antpittas.

We had already met Angel and his brother Rodrigo, who had collected cups of big worms and were now looking for the various birds. Apparently Maria, the famous Giant Antpitta, has not been seen for a few weeks, so Angel suspects she is on a nest somewhere. (“Maternity leave”, we called it.) Rodrigo did locate the Moustached Antpitta, Susan, with her boyfriend José. Susan was much tamer so we could see her quite well, but José hung back.

Moustached Antpitta

When we were finished there we headed up to Angel’s farm where he grows organic blackberries. These berries are much larger than the ones we are familiar with from home, and their vines have no thorns. At this point we sat and watched the hummingbird feeders where Paul logged six new species. We then walked back along the trail to where the truck was. When we first arrived it had been dark, but now we could see that we were on the top of a hill overlooking a small farm in the valley below. A very lovely setting, especially as it was warm and sunny. Our “traditional breakfast” consisted of bolones, which were round balls of corn and plantain stuffed with chicken, and empanadas.

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager
Crimson-rumped Toucanet
Golden-headed Quetzal

After breakfast we bought a wooden bowl with a picture of the Moustached Antpitta painted on it, then we all loaded into the cars to travel a bit further along the road to see another species, the Yellow-breasted Antpitta. Once again Angel came through and we all got quite a good view of the bird.

On the way back to the main road, Andrea stopped beside a road cut and there, roosting right beside the road, was a Lyre-tailed Nightjar. The bird itself is rather ugly-looking but it has amazingly long tail feathers.

Lyre-tailed Nightjar

Our next stop of the day was the Alambi nature reserve, to view tanagers and more hummingbirds. Yet more birds were here to greet us so we had a good time. The garden was lovely, with a large poinsettia plant, numerous citrus trees, and other shrubs. There were six hummingbird feeders which attracted loads of birds, and a railing with bananas to attract tanagers. After we had been there a while, we headed further along the road to the Pahuma Orchid Reserve. It didn’t take long to get there, and it turned out to be a nice walk in the valley bottom. Although there were not many blooming orchids, all of the plants were labelled. Before we left we walked a short distance along a trail to see a waterfall.

Violet-tailed Sylph

Back at Alambi we sat and watched the hummers and tanagers while eating our lunch. Broccoli soup followed by cooked diced carrots and beets, potato cakes, sliced avocado, and some sort of meat. We also had fresh lemonade to drink, which was delicious. After lunch we watched the birds for a while, adding more new species, then headed back to Bellavista.


As we turned on to the dirt road, the rain started, and it rained steadily for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We made ourselves a cup of tea and spent some time catching up with our notes. We also had showers, which felt really good. Dinner was at 7 pm, and when we arrived at the restaurant we found we weren’t alone. There was a couple from South Dakota and their daughter, who is living in Quito. We started with chicken soup followed by potato chips, tomato, and fajitas with spinach and feta.

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