El Refugio Birding
El Refugio has a good deal to offer birders. The lodge is situated between two very different areas, both easily accessible. Intag Cloud Forest Reserve, is just a 40-minute walk away, or 10 minutes by car, plus a five-minute walk along a forest trail. Siempre Verde, the road to which begins just a mile from the lodge, is at a higher elevation and features a different set of birds.
Intag Cloud Forest Reserve, with more than 350 hectares of forest, some primary, and many kilometers of trails, has a list of more than 225 species. Highlights include crimson-rumped toucanet, toucan barbet, red-headed barbet, white-faced nunbird, both quetzals, impressive numbers of tanagers and hummingbirds, as well as a cock-of-the-rock lek.
The four-mile road to Siempre Verde, a compound owned by a school in the US, is for walking or a four-wheel vehicle. It rises some 500 meters to the reserve itself. Along the way birders may see toucan barbets, jays, trogons, warblers, southern lapwings, black-and-chestnut eagle, plate-billed mountain-toucan, bamboo specialists, such as ocellated tapaculo and plain-tailed wren. Inside the reserve itself, look for the powerful woodpecker, Andean and sickle-winged guans, and an array of high-altitude tanagers.
A bit further afield, back along the road from Otavalo, Neblina Reserve, which begins about a mile past the community La Delicia, with another rise in elevation, offers other opportunities: several species of mountain- and other high altitude tanagers, red-crested cotinga, sword-billed hummingbird, several colorful conebill and flowerpiercer species. Various tapaculos have been spotted there, as well as giant antpitta.
El Refugio itself has a list of some 150 species. Highlights include lyre-tailed nightjar, common potoo, torrent duck, white-capped dipper, mottled owl. Twenty species, mostly tanagers, have visited the banana platforms adjacent to the main lodge.
We can provide a guide to help you find the birds in these places, as well as binoculars.