Birding Seventh Heaven… Septimo Paraiso
Looking back on it, I still cannot believe how action-packed my second day in Ecuador was. As dawn broke, I admired killer cloudforest birds like barbets, toucanets, mountain-tanagers, and cocks-of-the-rock at Paz de Las Aves. After lunch, I saw seedeaters aplenty in magnificent Mindo. Yet instead of snatching a much-needed siesta, our merry band of birders (I, David Ringer, and Renato and Paola of Pululuhua Hostal) set out for seventh heaven. Such is the English translation of Septimo Paraiso, a sublime ecolodge devoted to responsible and sustainable tourism.
Septimo Paraiso has stunning facilities and an opulent restaurant, but it should come as no surprise that we were there for the birds. Septimo Paraiso Cloud Forest Reserve is a private protected area encompassing 420 hectares of pre-montane and montane cloud forest and approximately 328 species of truly tremendous birds, along with all manner of cool flora and fauna.
We followed one of Septimo’s myriad trails up, down, and through some magical habitat. Honestly, the trail was somewhat heavenly. As we ascended a wooded ridge, exceptional birds like Plumbeous Pigeon, Yellow-collared Chlorophonia, Montane Woodcreeper, Pacific Tuftedcheek, and Black-winged Saltator turned up in the intermittent rain. Somewhere in the canopy, an Andean Solitaire sang sweetly but surreptitiously, in the way that solitaires often do.
At the confluence of various streams in a low basin, flycatchers flew fast and furious; the ones we identified (no more than half the species we encountered) included Ornate, Tawny-breasted, and Golden-crowned Flycatchers. One hates to dwell on the ones that got away but I remember one large raptor hidden like a ninja in a tree right above us. How it managed to slink off unseen I’ll never know. At least we got glimpses of a Three-striped Warbler, another Basileuterus for our burgeoning bird list.
At some point, the trails plunged into tall stands of bamboo, harboring secretive wrens and what not. We emerged into clearings favored by Tropical Parulas, Slate-throated Whitestarts, Tropical Kingbirds, and terrific tanangers like Golden, Beryl-spangled, Blue-necked, Dusky-bush, and, of course, Lemon-rumped.
Septimo features a really cool covered boardwalk that traverses wet lowlands to connect the forest trails to the sumptuous pool area. Even in the fading light, we could make out all sorts of sweet species, including both Red-headed and Toucan Barbet. Pacific Horneros hopped about everywhere but they were far more camera shy than one, at least this one, would expect. After enjoying at least a superficial scan of the forest, we decided to end the day at Septimo Paraiso’s spectacular hummingbird garden. The hummingbirds were so numerous, diverse, and confiding that they’ve earned their own, well-deserved post. But before I start working on that, I should highlight my favorite non-hummingbird sightings in the area. The first of these was a large, messy nest populated by numerous Red-faced Spinetails. That was fun to observe but paled in comparison to the mighty Strong-billed Woodcreeper. This bird, the largest of the woodcreepers, was massive, especially in comparison to the fairy-like hummers. That I viewed my first one there at the seventh heaven of birding made the experience all the more memorable!