Finca Palmonte, Ecuador

09 December 2019 – 27 December 2019

Fabian Schneider and Nina Perret-Gentil

We did three weeks of volunteering in the Finca Palmonte. We mainly watched the birds early in the morning and a bit in the afternoon.

Visited Sites

Finca Palmonte

Finca Palmonte is really a hidden gem! It is a 80 ha private nature reserve with a finca managed by a Swiss-Ecuadorian couple, located on the eastern slope of the Andes in the Ecological Corridor Llanganates-Sangay. The reserve consists mainly of cloud forests, but you can find also some more open grazing areas with some bushes and isolated trees. Even if a majority of the forest directly around the Finca is secondary, it is nonetheless magnificent (trees full of mosses and epiphytes of all kinds) and with an incredible biodiversity. The garden alone is completely fascinating with almost 100 species of orchids.

For the moment only the garden and the Access Road are easily accessible. The other trails are not yet signposted and clear, but you don't have to go very far to see many interesting species.

Some species such as Rufous-breasted Antthrush (Formicarius rufipectus), Blackish Antbird (Cercomacroides nigrescens), Red-headed Barbet (Eubucco bourcierii) or Ash-browed Spinetail (Cranioleuca curtata) are omnipresent in the forests around Finca. The same with Andean Cock-of-the-Rock (Rupicola peruvianus), for which the reserve even holds a lek. Lafresnaye's Piculet (Picumnus lafresnayi), Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner (Philydor rufum), Eastern Ornate Flycatcher (Myiotriccus phoenicurus) or Fulvous-breasted Flatbill (Rhynchocyclus fulvipectus) are also regularly encountered.

In addition to the species observed during our stay, the owners photographed in the reserve several interesting species such as Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori), Black Solitary Hawk (Buteogallus solitarius), Lyre-tailed Nightjar (Uropsalis lyra), Deep-blue Flowerpiercer (Diglossa glauca) and White-capped Tanager (Sericossypha albocristata).

Site map - [letters in brackets refer to the map]

Access Road

The best is to reach the Access Road via the old mule track down of the Finca (Shortcut; see "Garden map"). One of the first area of interest is on the curve with the pastures with the small ponds on your right (A). Sometimes kingfishers or Fasciated Tiger-heron (Tigrisoma fasciatum) could be observed around the water. This open area with some isolated trees (as well as the other open areas just above and below) are good for the Lemon-browed Flycatcher (Conopias cinchoneti) or Dark-breasted Spinetail (Synallaxis albigularis). All the woodlands along the left side of the road are good for mixed-flocks, especially at the level of the first curve. A few tens of meters further, where the forest on the right comes closer to the road (after the second curve), is a nice spot  for mixed-flocks as well. There, I heard once a Plain-backed Antpitta (Grallaria haplonota) in the wooded slope on the right. The area with lots of bamboos just before the old chicken house (B) is very interesting. There, Short-billed Bush-tanager (Chlorospingus parvirostris) is present and I encountered once an Amazonian Woodhaunter (Automolus subulatus) and a couple of Coppery-chested Jacamar (Galbula pastazae). Lower down, the terrain is flatter with lemon orchards and grassy areas with small bushes (C). In the last stretch of road right before the gate you have a good view of the bushy and grassy area. In addition to the common species of these habitats, I observed also Dusky Spinetail (Synallaxis moesta), Bran-colored Flycatcher (Myiophobus fasciatus), Yellow-bellied Tanager (Tangara xanthogastra) and Chestnut-bellied Seed-finch (Sporophila angolensis). When you cross the gate, you can go down to the left to a flatter forest on the river bank (D). This forest is really beautiful and holds many interesting species such as Short-billed Bush-tanager (Chlorospingus parvirostris) or Fulvous-breasted Flatbill (Rhynchocyclus fulvipectus). I also heard a Scaled Antpitta (Grallaria guatimalensis) at the end of the descent. 

Streamcreeper Trail

The trail that go down south of the Finca is a little bit less interesting than the other surrounding places. However it seems really good for the Streamcreeper (Lochmias nematura). This species can be encountered in the flooded undergrowth espacially just after crossing the first creek (E) in the early morning. If you continue, you will arrive in a pasture where you have a good clearance to watch the regular mixed-flocks (F). When you continue after this open area in the forest along the river (G), you pass again in good habitat for the Streamcreeper (Lochmias nematura).

Cock-of-the-rock Trail

This trail is the continuation of the Access Road that go east of the Finca. The start of the forest, around the small swampy area (H), is good for the mixed-flocks. I regularly saw Fulvous-breasted Flatbill (Rhynchocyclus fulvipectus) there. At dawn, I heard regularly Scaled Antpitta (Grallaria guatimalensis), White-crowned Tapaculo (Scytalopus atratus) and I saw Rufous-bellied Nighthawk (Lurocalis rufiventris) and Green-fronted Lancebill (Doryfera ludovicae) from this same spot. The way up in the forest is good for the insectivore mixed-flocks, especially between the second and the third curve (I). I observed also once two Black-streaked Puffbirds (Malacoptila fulvogularis) at the second curve. The forest here, as well as most forested areas around the Finca holds many Rufous-breasted Antthrush (Formicarius rufipectus). When you continue up, you arrive in the pasture on the top of the ridge. The big bording trees and the bushy area on the left side (J) hosted important concentrations of migratory birds such as Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea), many Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca) and Swainson's Thrush (Catharus swainsoni). The area on the right of the end of the forest (K) is just as well worth it. From the pasture, I heard once a Wattled Guan (Aburria aburri) in the forest above.

Garden Map - [number in brackets refer to the map]

The garden alone is worth the detour! You can encounter many nice species. Some common ones are Golden-eared Tanager (Tangara chrysotis), Orange-eared Tanager (Chlorochrysa calliparaea), Spotted Tanager (Tangara punctata) and Paradise Tanager (Tangara chilensis). Some less frequently observed were Red-billed Parrot (Pionus sordidus), Equatorial Greytail (Xenerpestes singularis), Golden-collared Honeycreeper (Iridophanes pulcherrimus) or Olivaceous Siskin (Spinus olivaceus). 

Around the Finca, there are two feeders for the hummingbirds that are visited almost exclusively by Violet-fronted Brilliant (Heliodoxa leadbeateri) and Booted Racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii). Sometimes White-tailed Hillstar (Urochroa leucura) can be seen in the garden and more rarely White-tipped Sickelbill (Eutoxeres aquila).

The garden is also home to many wintering birds coming from the Northern Hemisphera; mainly Swainson's Thrush (Catharus swainsoni), Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) and Summer Tanager, but also Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi), Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus) or Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea).

The old mule track (Shortcut) down of the Finca (1) is probably one of the best place around the garden to observe the birds. Not only do mixed-flocks often pass by, but the clearance to observe them is very favourable, especially from the bench. Interesting species observed there included Yellow-breasted Antwren (Herpsilochmus axillaris), Rufous-rumped Antwren (Euchrepomis callinota), Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet (Phyllomyias plumbeiceps), Ecuadorian Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes gualaquizae), Black-and-white Becard (Pachyramphus albogriseus) and Olivaceous Greenlet (Hylophilus olivaceus). North American species are also common around. From the garden, there is an opening in the vegetation that also allows to see this wooded area (2). The nearby biggest tree is always worth looking at the birds on it. I observed there Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet (Phyllomyias plumbeiceps), Ecuadorian Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes gualaquizae), Lemon-browed Flycatcher (Conopias cinchoneti), Grey-mantled Wren (Odontorchilus branickii) or White-winged Tanager (Piranga leucoptera). The west end of the garden (3) is a good place to watch the mixed-flocks in the canopy. In the southern part of the garden below the dinning room, a small "window" in the vegetation with a basic bench (4) also allows to observe the mixed-flocks on the other side of the creek. Near the oldest house, fruit trees (5) were attracting many tanagers and co. easily observable from the second floor of this house.

Behind the water tanks (6), there is a good viewpoint and large trees covered with epiphytes that often attract mixed-flocks with many furnariidae like sometimes Equatorial Greytail (Xenerpestes singularis).

Target species

  • Wattled Guan Aburria aburri

    Apparently rare: seen once and heard once

  • White-tipped Sicklebill Eutoxeres aquila

    Apparently rare

  • White-tailed Hillstar Urochroa leucura

    Seen irregularly around the Finca and in the nearby undergrowth

  • Band-bellied Owl Pulsatrix melanota

    Heard once from the Finca

  • Coppery-chested Jacamar Galbula pastazae

    Encountered irregularly along the Access road

  • Black-streaked Puffbird Malacoptila fulvogularis

    Seen once

  • Plain-backed Antpitta Grallaria haplonota

    Heard once

  • Streamcreeper Lochmias nematura

    Probably relatively common in the swampy undergrowth South of the Finca between the two rivers

  • Equatorial Greytail Xenerpestes singularis

    Seen irregularly around the Finca

  • Andean Cock-of-the-rock Rupicola peruvianus

    Common

  • Ecuadorian Tyrannulet Phylloscartes gualaquizae

    Seen irregularly around the Finca

  • Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet Phyllomyias plumbeiceps

    Seen twice around the Finca

  • Lemon-browed Flycatcher Conopias cinchoneti

    Uncommon around the Finca and the Access road

  • Grey-mantled Wren Odontorchilus branickii

    Seen once around the Finca

  • Short-billed Bush-Tanager Chlorospingus parvirostris

    Uncommon in the lower part of the Access road

  • Cerulean Warbler Setophaga cerulea

    Surprisingly common (espacially around the Finca and at the ridge)

  • White-winged Tanager Piranga leucoptera

    Seen twice around the Finca

  • Golden-collared Honeycreeper Iridophanes pulcherrimus

    Rather rare

  • Orange-eared Tanager Chlorochrysa calliparaea

    Common

  • Golden-eared Tanager Tangara chrysotis

    Common

How to get there

Finca Palmonte is located near the road Baños-Puyo (23 km from Baños), Area San Francisco-La Palmera. 

To access the reserve, it is essential to contact before coming Arlette and Alexandre, either via e-mail or via WhatsApp (+593 (0)99 717 94 68). You cannot reach directly the reserve by public transport or with your own car but they will organize your trip from Baños (Baños de Agua Santa), the nearest city or elswhere.

Facilities & accommodation

The Finca has 5 rooms and can host up to 8 people. There is electricity and hot water but no wi-fi. They can provide meals (the food is varied and very good, espacially the amazing breakfasts ;-)).

Local guides

No local guide known (Arlette and Alex know mostly about orchids and insects, but they are interested in all wildlife).

Other wildlife observed

In addition to numerous insects, the nature reserve is home to several spectacular mammals. Even though the easiest to observe are the Amazon Darf Squirrel (Microsciurus flaviventer) and Red-tailed Squirrel (Notosciurus granatensis), the mammals list includes Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus), Puma (Puma concolor), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), Mountain tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), Mountain Paca (Cuniculus taczanowskii) and Olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina).

Species List

Order: systematic | alphabetic | highlights first