Photo by Michael Fogden Male Violet-tailed Sylph
*August-September 2022: Private 8-day birding tour Ecuador East Slope and Amazon:
“The trip was excellent; that guide is in a league of his own! I had 500 species and I do not count birds heard only; he must have had at least 550-580. Really quite impressive. Also Remigio was really good and together with Pajarito the remero found a lot of amazing stuff in the Amazon. The lodges are fantastic and in amazing locations; it is impressive how much they can offer in terms of comfort, delicious food and good internet connectivity. Napo is one of the most amazing lodges/resorts I've been in my whole life; truly a magical experience arriving there by canoe… The birds...... Ah the birds! We had dips of course, but plenty of great stuff. Horned Screamers along the river; Zigzag Heron at the lodge creek; sungrebes galore; San Isidro owl; king vultures; salvin's curassow; cotingas, tityras, potoos, nightjars, macaws, parrots, and overwhelming numbers of Tyrannidae, Thraupidae and Furnariidae! I am still working on the proper ID according to different taxonomies. All in all a fantastic experience! Thank you so much for organizing it." 20 August-2 September, 2022, EL, New York, USA.
*June 2022: Private 13-day tour northern Ecuador. “Birding on the west side netted us 205 species! This is the most we have ever seen in one area. This was largely due to the great eyes and ears of the guides who worked so well together. What one didn’t see, the other did. Overall, we saw 369 species in Ecuador, of which 277 species were lifers for us. The last morning we saw the Andean Condor which was a great way to finish up! It even snowed while we were on the paramo! Not unusual for us but first time for Gabriel seeing it snowing. A day on the Napo river was also a real treat… We had a super time at your place! The accommodations were amazing, the food was fantastic and the birding magnificent. We are very grateful. It was also special to meet you (finally) and see how much you have accomplished there. I’m hoping our connection continues in the months and years to come, especially as you help us plan future trips to the Chocó and other destinations in S. America." 27 June – 9 July 2022. DD&AP, Ontario, Canada
*May, 2022: Private 15-day private tour in Southern Ecuador, “I very much enjoyed my time with both guides. Of my several trips to Ecuador, this was the most bird-rich of all of them. Both guides were enjoyable companions in the field and I appreciate their good cheer, their companionship and the wonderful birds they found.” 24 May – 7 June 2022, JR, Oregon, USA
*March 2022: Private 10-day birding tour of Mindo cloud forest and Antisana paramo. “Thank you again for the amazing trip and the incredible birds. The last two days have been fantastic. We eventually connected with the Torrent Duck and had great success in Antisana with Black-faced Ibises, Tawny Antpitta and plenty more goodies.” “Thanks again for your wonderful hospitality and tour. I enjoyed reading your newsletter as well.” 28 February - 10 March 2022. EL & JN, New York City, NY USA.
*February 2022: Private 10-day tour birding tour of southern Ecuador. “OMG!!!! The birds have been GREAT!!! The guide is doing great. Getting us on some rarities and BEAUTIFUL birds. Of course almost all are life birds for me but Bill is tallying about 75-80 so far. Thank you for the 1st class coming down on the airline. It was GREAT. The whole trip. 248 species including Tawny Antpitta today. Can’t go wrong with ending the trip with that. We are already planning the next trip…All did a great job. Thank you for all the arrangements. Made the trip a breeze.” 11-20 February 2022, JG, MT, USA.
*February 2022: Private birding tour of southern Ecuador. "I wanted to let you know how much we loved the trip. It was wonderful to get traveling again, and this was just what I needed. The birds were spectacular. We're planning to get back at some point, but we have to figure out the right place to go next. Maybe up north in the Choco, maybe the San Ysidro circuit. I have 820 Ecuador birds at this point. We'll chat you up as time goes on, Thanks again! Hope you're all well and safe from COVID."
11-20 February 2022, WF, New York, USA.
*January-February 2022: Private 22-day tour birding tour of southern Ecuador. “We back home and shoveling snow! Very smooth pick up and testing thanks to Milton and had a very pleasant drive to Antisana next morning where he found a few species to add to the list and found us a lifer in Andean Ibis (8). We really enjoyed traveling and chatting with him. The trip as a whole has been great. Could have used a bit less rain but, as you said, no avalanches …We did however have one first for us and that was when the road out of Yankuam began rocking back and forth around 15-20 cm for about 10 seconds. The 6.5 epicenter was in northeastern Peru. We really enjoyed staying in the various lodges where we had our own quiet space and the staff were very attentive and careful in terms of masks etc. Great trails and generally plenty to see and enjoy. Based on the trip done with you last year there were 30 lifers for me on the list. I hoped with the targeted approach to our list I would add about 40-45 lifers. Well we had 536 species with 79 lifers for me… I have attached the list of what we saw. The guide was really amazing in terms of his hearing, vision, and knowledge of where to find species. He focused hard on our life birds as is clear from the results. His appetite is also amazing but he remains svelte – oh to have that metabolism. He looked after us very well, even if he did work us hard - which is of course as we wished it to be.” 19 January-10 February 2022, AH, Canada.
*January 2022: Private birding tour of Mindo area. "We passed our Covid tests 😊 and are on our way to the Galapagos! We can’t thank you enough for such a special stay in Mindo. Come recheck on the Texas birds sometime. We’d love to host you in Rockport. A special thanks to Milton. He stuck right with us until the last nostril was swabbed and tucked in its proper tube. He’s a special young man and we wouldn’t be on our way without his help." 13-19 January 2022, D&MA, Austin, TX, USA.
*December 2021: Private birding tour of Mindo area. “Hi Jane, I had a wonderful time – thank you for everything!!! I loved all the birds I saw. I was STUNNED by some of them. So great. I still haven’t gone through all my photos, nor have I even figured out what lifers I got. So I’ll have fun this week. Both Milton and Segundo were GREAT. Milton is just wonderful. So nice and helpful. Segundo’s bird skills are like magic! It was such a privilege to be with them. I went to the Quito airport hotel on Saturday. Five minutes to the airport via a shuttle. The covid testing process was fine, although there were a LOT of people getting tested so it took a while to get through. I got my negative result back within an hour. They check that before you can even get into the airport. I will send you some photos when I get through them all. Thank you again for the amazing visit!!” 27-31 December 2021, SR, Nashville, TN, USA.
*November 2021: Birding tour of Mindo. "Hi Jane, We are back home but the afterglow of our amazing tours in Ecuador is still present. We loved visiting Las Gralarias, and seeing your beautiful birds. Mauricio was an excellent guide. We will certainly pass this on to birding friends heading to Ecuador. I know why you chose to live in Ecuador, what a beautiful country. Happy holidays." 28 November, 2021, SJ, Sonoma, CA, USA.
*November 2021: Private owling tour. “Hi Jane, I wanted to let you know that I had a great trip. I saw the two Galapagos owls. Your rabbit call worked, but not at the craters but the garbage dump. I saw a Wilson’s snipe at media luna. We saw 13 species of owls, including all my targets and heard 2 other species. I really enjoyed the guide's company and appreciate his humor and great knowledge. I had the most fun with Tawny-bellied because it was in a very dense thicket and it took a lot of creeping around under vines to get a view. Similarly Crested owl ( eastern) who was very quiet and mobile and stayed high in the canopy. To be honest they are all wonderful! Thanks again for all your help.” 22-27 November 2021, IT, Portland, OR, USA
*November 2021: Private 8-day birding trip of northeastern and northwestern Ecuador.
“It sure was a one-of-a-kind trip! And I think the hummingbirds were always popular. We’re all excited to have about 15 hummer species here — paltry compared to the crazy hummer diversity in northern Ecuador!! Thanks for coordinating everything! I hope this Covid thing is finally passing…! I was impressed how well Ecuador was handling the pandemic.” 10-17 November 2021, DD, AZ, USA
*February-March 2021: Private birding tour of 15 days to southern Ecuador.
"We saw some fantastic things like a pale-browed tinamou with babies and good looks at Watkin’s Antpitta. The itinerary has been great and we really like our guide. He is enthusiastic and knowledgeable and a pleasure to travel with. His identification of bird calls (including the most obscure chips) is fantastic and we have seen many species - even ones that are very rare or hard to see, such as Buff-fronted Owl last night, Neblina metaltail, Pale-headed Brush-finch and of course Jocotoco. We especially appreciate his willingness to speak Spanish with us and put up with our not-always perfect grammar. We spent over an hour watching an Oso feeding and walking and looking for more food on a hillside. The guide spotted it and we pulled over and watched it through my spotting scope and the boys took photos. 6 new life birds too today. We liked the snacks you sent. We are very happy with everything about this trip and would be happy to write a review." 13 March 2021, JB, AZ, USA
*September 2020: Private birding tour of 8 days to remote Choco and en route sites.
"Wonderful trip overall. Birding was fantastic. Best birds seen and photographed: Plumbeous Hawk, Ecuadorian Rail, Tawny-faced Quail, Tooth-billed Hummingbird, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Fulvous-dotted Treerunner, Subtropical Doradito, Sapayoa, Black Solitaire, Five-colored Barbet, much much more!" Sept 2020, JS, CA, USA
*February-March 2020: Private birding tour of 28 days to southern Ecuador and northern Peru.
"Hi Jane, This was a terrific trip! Thanks for all your help in setting this up. All the logistics worked out great. All birding lodges and hotels were fine except the hotel in Tarapoto (muddy entry drive) and in Jaen (noisy city). Mauricio was a terrific guide, expert birder, could handle problems well, and really nice guy. We really enjoyed spending 19 days with him. We also enjoyed our first 9 days without a guide at Buenaventura, Tapachalaca Reserve, and Jorupe Reserve. We enjoyed finding the birds at each place. I hope you and your staff are all staying healthy and doing well. Take care." RF, Austin TX.
15-21 October 2018: “We greatly enjoyed the tour. Everything was great, our expectations were exceeded. .. I'm already trying to figure out how to get back and visit some other regions in Ecuador. Our guide was awesome. Thanks again, we'll definitely let you know when we're headed back to Ecuador.” B&DB, Arlington, TX, USA
10-25 Sept 2018: “Deb and I want to thank you for the fantastic itinerary you set up for us. I just finished doing a summary of the trip and the bird count in the NW was 322 species. Our short tour in the Amazon resulted in 138 species plus seven species of monkeys and a great experience with giant otters. Both guides were amazing, their hearing and eyesight phenomenal…. Overall, a fantastic experience in a beautiful country with great birding and wonderful people. Thank you so much. Happy Birding.” T&DM, Beaufort, S.C., USA
13 - 28 March 2017: “Our southern Ecuador tour was a very good trip. We were very lucky with the weather. Mauricio did a great job of finding many birds for us. He is an excellent driver…and one of the best 'spotters' we've birded with. All the accommodations were very nice…” V&BM, Azle, TX, USA
27 December 2016 – 2 January 2017: “Wow! Had an amazing time here. The birds are awesome, Jane is so knowledgeable, interesting and funny, and the staff are fantastic. We’ve loved the hummingbirds in particular and we had the most incredible evening with Segundo searching for frogs – his eyesight and agility are super-human! Loved his enthusiasm too! Thanks are also due to Nick for breaking us in on the first two days and showing us lots of birds, and to Javier for his amazing culinary skills. Also Rolando for his driving, spotting and friendly disposition! A great place with lovely people – long may it stay that way.” A&JP, Dunedin, New Zealand
25-27 December 2016: “We traveled from Michigan to spend Christmas here at Las Gralarias. Thank you Jane and staff for a wonderful refuge from the snow. The trails and grounds were spectacular. We can’t thank the staff enough for the delicious meals and comfortable stay. Wonderful birding and nature trails made this visit wonderful. Jane is an inspiration –the way she continues to support the habitat of the cloud forests. Thank you.” D&PK, Spring Lake, MI, USA.
27 June 2016: “Such a lovely adventure here at Las Gralarias. Gracias por presentarme a tantos pajaros. ! Qué gusto era encontrarme con otra Tejana fabulosa!” LM, Washington, D.C.
8 June 2016: “Splendid. Absolutely splendid. This is indeed a dream come true. We have loved every minute of our week here. Thank you so very much.” D&LB, Armidale, Australia.
5 June 2016: Thank you Jane and everyone else here for a wonderful time. You and your hard work and imagination have turned this into a remarkable place. We hope to be back soon.” T&CC, Glendale, AZ, USA
14 May 2016: “We have had a splendid and entirely comfortable stay here, and have been most impressed by the facilities and the staff. The food has always been delicious…Thank you very much for everything, even the Red-capped Manakin, and for all your superb organization of our visit to Ecuador.” AF, Paphos, Cyprus
8 May 2016: “This place is beautiful! Thank you so much for all your hard work to keep this place that way. The staff here is amazing and I plan on coming back in the future. I’ll miss the pups! Thanks again.” AR, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
8 May 2016: “Thank you Jane and all of the staff at Las Gralarias. You are all amazing and this is a wonderful place. Thank you for the life-changing experience and for all of your kindness.” AW, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
8 May 2016: “THANK YOU!!! You always make my students and me feel so very welcome. You’ve managed to introduce 14 students to the culture and ecology of the cloud forest in a wonderful way. Muchas gracias!” ES, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
8 May 2016: “You guys are some of the best human beings on the planet! You have the biggest hearts and I cannot thank you enough for your service and hospitality. Individual thanks to the kitchen for making and preparing vegetarian/lactose-free food for me, to Segundo for cleaning the trails to the river, to Gera for serving us incredible food and always being attentive, and to Jane for just being an incredible woman in general. I hope to make it back to Reserva Las Gralarias at some point in my life. Keep doing what you’re doing here. Good luck to all the staff and their children. Once again, I cannot thank you guys enough. Muchas gracias.” HN, Grand Rapids, MI. USA
8 May 2016: “Thanks so much to the staff here at the reserve. You guys have been so accommodating to us and I really appreciate the love. You’re the best and I hope the future brings more wildlife, more experiences, more memories and more happiness. Thanks again.” WM, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
5 May 2016: “To all at Reserva Las Gralarias: We cannot give you enough thanks for the wonderful care and company you provided us with over the past week. I personally thank you for making my first trip to Ecuador one that will always bring back warm memories. The world appreciates your efforts put towards this unique ecosystem and the conservation of so many species. I hope to be back someday soon. With love.” HF, MI, USA
8 May 2016: “I had such an amazing time here. Thank you so much!! Muchas gracias!” TP, MI, USA
13 February 2016: “Thank you for a wonderful time. We had a great time birding and enjoyed your lovely place.” SF & BD, Georgetown, TX, USA
13 February 2016: “Thank you for such a lovely time in a wonderful tranquil setting. The staff and Jane made us feel so welcome. Loved the birding – truly a highlight for someone from the Pacific coast.” KL, Seattle, WA, USA.
13 February 2016: “Splendid birds, good food, a comfy bed, a hot shower – all good to the n-th degree. And the knowledge and interest of our guides was superb.” WP, Nanaima, BC, Canada
10 February 2016: “Thanks for the hummingbirds and the lovely foods, the rainy dreams and misty woods, thanks for keeping Eden alive, and now we’re off to our muddy drives.” DP, Austin, TX, USA
12 September 2016: “Thanks for a truly memorable trip.” IW, London, UK
17-30 September 2016: “Thank you for organizing our trip to Ecuador. In was fantastic everything went as planned. And Mauricio did again an excellent job in finding birds and taking care of us. I’m now sorting all our pictures and prepare a visit report that I’ll send you in due course. Many thanks and hope to see you again. Greetings.” A&T Hendriks, Holland.
27 June 2016: “Thank you for an excellent birding holiday. We saw about 200 species and loved it all!” JS, UK and Washington, D.C.
27 June 2016: “Good guides, good views, good food, good company, and comfortable surroundings with birds, birds, birds!! Many thanks.” J&BV, Washington, D.C.
8 June 2016: “Splendid. Absolutely splendid. This is indeed a dream come true. We have loved every minute of our week here. Thank you so very much. Best wishes.” D&LB, Australia
5 June 2016: “Thank you Jane and everyone else here for a wonderful time. You and your hard work and imagination have turned pasture into a remarkable place. We hope to be back soon.” C&TC, Arizona, USA
14 May 2016: “We have had a splendid and entirely comfortable stay here, and have been most impressed by the facilities and the staff. The food has always been delicious, if occasionally rather too generous for our meagre appetites. Thank you very much for everything, even the Red-capped Manakin, and for all your superb organization of our visit to Ecuador.” AF, Cyprus
15-30 November 2015: “Sorry for the delay in contacting you. I have been catching up with Xmas preparations in between editing the 10000+ photos I took. Firstly I must thank you so much for the wonderful trip you arranged for me. I have memories which will last a lifetime. Marcelo was a brilliant guide always making sure I had a clear view of each new bird. I saw 468 new birds during our 15 days together which with the 307 birds I saw in my previous 2 weeks in Ecuador made a staggering total of 775. Please also thank Jorge who was a very good driver. I always enjoyed a safe and comfortable ride no matter what the road surface was like. Yourself and your staff were very welcoming at Las Gralarias and I particularly enjoyed the meals Rosa prepared. You have a beautiful home and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay with you. The itinerary you composed for me was amazing. The lodges were all excellent as well as each having its own individuality. As always in Ecuador the food was very tasty and incredibly varied with some fruits and vegetables which were new to me. However the flora and fauna supplied my most vivid memories. Ecuador must be the only country where you can experience such a wide variety of habitats and ecological niches in such a small area.
It took me two years to plan my trip and I did a large amount of research to ensure its success. After considering a number of companies I am so pleased that I chose Mindo Bird Tours - your flexibility to meet my varied needs, friendly and helpful advice, and your attention to detail made you the perfect choice. I can and will wholeheartedly recommend you to others. I am also happy to be contacted by email should any future clients wish further details. Many many thanks.” BR, London, UK.
“Wow, we had an amazing trip! We got over 50 lifers and some amazing sightings, like hundreds of Mississippi Kites on migration, fantastic views (and photos!) of several endemics and near-endemics, and a nest of the rare Antioqua Bristle-Tyrant ( sooo excited)...Our driver, Joan, was fantastic and we highly recommend using him in Colombia when possible. Not only was he a very safe and efficient driver, he was also a super nice guy and very interested in the birds, and he knew many special spots to find specific species....Well, we are exhausted but happy. Just downloading my photos now, can't wait to start going through them. I'll send you a note when they are available to view. And now it is finally spring migration here (although interestingly we saw many, many northern migrants on the trip..). I think our personal trip list was over 280. Thanks for all the planning!” JZ & AB, New York City, NY, USA
“The trip was just wonderful. All of your arrangements worked out perfectly. The driver from Sta Marta to El Dorado and beyond was excellent and very pleasant to talk with. (He told me it is very unusual for him to be able to talk at length with his passengers and he really enjoyed it. Cute!)
We loved both the funky Hotel Minca and the beautiful El Dorado lodge and our balcony rooms. Probably no one enjoys balconies more than we do. We ate very well and had no problems with food. I did not get sick. That's two years in a row. A miracle. We are of course thinking about next year and considering returning to Ecuador. Birding in Colombia was amazing and we saw many of the endemics. Total for trip was 177 species. Always hard to say which are the best birds but here is a short list:
Black and chestnut eagle
Lined and Ruddy Quail-Doves
Sta Marta Parakeet
Tyrian Metaltail (A bird I have wanted to see since 1st trip to Ecuador in 2007) - We had many great looks at this bird
White tailed Starfrontlet
Sta Marta Woodstar
Sta Marta Saberwing
White tipped Quetzal
Groove Billed Toucanet
Grey throated Leaftosser
Rusty-Headed and Streak-Capped Spinetails
Blackish and Brown-Rumped Tapaculo (both seen and heard)
Black throated Tody Tyrant
Golden breasted Fruiteater
Sta Marta Mountain Tanager
Sta Marta Brush Finch
White lored Warbler
Thanks a million for your help." JP, TX, USA
19 October – 1 November 2014: “Exceeded expectation, both in terms of birds seen and hospitality received. Superb bird guide. Food wonderful. Very restful. Hope to be back.” RL, E. Lothian, UK
19 October – 1 November 2014: “Many thanks for the excellent food, hospitality and birding. It was great to feel so well looked after, in such a special corner of the world.” MH, Dorset, UK
6-13 September 2014: “We had an unbelievable stay at Las Gralarias. The staff looked after us very well, clean house, friendly and quiet. Many birds in the park and we made many pictures. Mauricio found them and we photographed. Also our tours out of the reserve were fantastic. A truly good stay. We can recommend to any bird lover.” A&TH, Netherlands
12 August 2014: “This has been the most amazing and wonderful ten days. Las Gralarias is a fabulous place to stay and bird and our guide was a marvel. We can’t wait to come back!” TD&AB, Los Angeles, CA, USA
“London seems very strange after the beauty of the rain forest. But now that jetlag has faded, we wanted to thank you so much for a truly wonderful Ecuadorian bird experience. It was an amazing week and not just the birds (although they were incredible). But the lodge was so comfortable, the food really delicious and the walks around your forest so lovely. And what made the whole trip so memorable was Gabriel's charming company and vast knowledge of birds. He was kind, thoughtful and answered patiently all of our many questions about the birds we saw - and we learned so much from him about the beautiful country of Ecuador. Your organisation of our trip was efficient and without a hitch. It is always a bit stressful travelling such a distance but we felt very safe and secure in your hands which was a great reassurance. If you ever do come to London please get in touch and we can thank you properly over a glass of wine.” JC&DC, London, UK 26 July - 1 August 2014
“Thank you for arranging the Galapagos visit and great birding with Mauricio. It is always a delight to see you. Barbara loved the hummers. My best regards and many thanks.” RD & BP, Austin, Texas, USA 27 June – 8 July 2014
“We had a wonderful time on our adventure. Everything went flawlessly, from the way the lodges took care of my dietary requests, to the superb birding. We dug out some real rarities, and the photo ops were second to none. I ended up with 127 life birds out of about 430 (!) total in 10 days. I still have to tally up the final count. Looking forward to birding with MBT again soon.” 20-30 August 2013, BF, New York City, USA 27 June – 8 July 2014
“We are now waiting in Santiago for the long flight home. Just wanted to thank you for a really great trip! Both sites were beyond expectations. We saw almost all our targets at each. The Amazon was particularly good (really good local guide there) and we saw three new antpittas: ochre-striped, white-lored and thrush-like. The last few days were also good, of course we still could not get the crescent-faced antpitta, but got the rainbow-bearded at Yanacocha - this plus sunbittern and lyre-tailed nightjar near Mindo rounded things off! 78 lifers altogether!” 2 - 19 April 2013, S&TB, Australia
“We have been safely back home for just over a week now and it has taken that time to properly recover from jet lag and get back into the swing of life here in Scotland... It has also taken us about a week to actually begin to absorb and assimilate all the truly amazing experiences we had on our trip - we absolutely have very fond memories of our time in Ecuador from start to finish. We wouldn't have changed anything and everything went smoothly. Thanks for arranging a great trip for us and we loved Las Gralarias and found it very welcoming with great food and you were a wonderful host, and of course Tuomas was just fantastic and we really enjoyed his company. We were glad we opted for the private guide at Napo as it definitely benefited our species list and we had a great time there. The Papallacta hot springs was a great way to finish. The new airport was slightly chaotic as you forecast, but nothing too drastic, just a very slow moving queue, but we made our connection in Madrid with no problem. We were really happy with our species list as got almost everything we really wanted in each place. Many thanks again and keep up the GREAT work you are doing.” 2-21 Feb 2013, AG & DA, Scotland
"This is just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed my stay at Las Gralarias and the Mindo Tour. I had a wonderful experience…The guide was a remarkable birder, and a most enjoyable field companion. His scientific bent is a real asset, and adds to the credibility of what you are accomplishing. Meeting you and getting a glimpse of the wonderful work you are doing and facilitating was a treat… Please keep me informed of any new group tours you might develop.” 16-25 Nov 2012, JR, Oregon, USA
"The Galapagos went beautifully; all our transfers were perfect...The boat and the guide were top notch and I've got 1500 shots to go through. I had 51 species in the islands with 25 lifers, including 9 of the finches...even got some target species, including Short Eared Owl, Galapagos Flycatcher. and Galapagos Rail... Thanks to you and everyone at the Reserve for making us feel at home and for providing such an easy, hassle free experience. I'm going to arrange an east slope trip, either next year or early 2014, so I'll be talking to you. Thanks again for everything." 5-21 July 2012, B&JF, New York, USA
"We had a great day en route and in Quito. The restaurant was great. Enjoyed the cathedrals. The adventure continues. We had a wonderful time at your place. You have a great staff who work with care and energy. I think that is because of your care and leadership. You create a great atmosphere where everyone is motivated and having fun. Take care." 23 June - 6 July 2012, C&F S, Austin, Texas
"First of all a belated "thank you" for the great bird tour we had last November in Southern Ecuador with your expert guide. It was beyond our expectations. Not only did we see so many beautiful species but just viewing the scenery was amazing. Most of the lodges were beautiful with amazing grounds and views. Thanks for putting such a great tour together. The guide was the nicest and one of most knowledgeable guides (persons) we have met. Numerous times he mentioned how much he enjoyed working for you. You took good care of us!!!" 25 November - 11 December 2011, R&NK, Oregon, USA
"I thought I would send you a bit of feedback of our recent tour: the guide was excellent!!!!!!!! His birding skills... are exceptional. His enthusiasm and conscientiousness were ever-present. He always went out of his way to make sure that each and everyone of us "got the bird" and he would remember who may have not gotten a good look the next time we saw it and made sure that they were first up that time!!! He is certainly a "serious birder" but he remains casual and with a good sense of humor at all times.... I could go on.....but I am sure you get the message!!! The driver was cautious and consciencious. He always would make an extra effort to make sure everyone was comfortable and happy....The tour was very well planned...I would recommend Mindo Bird Tours without hesitation. Thank you for your efforts......and keep up the good work!!!!!!!!! 26 Nov-11 Dec 2011, DC & PMcC
“I had a great time in Ecuador and the Galapagos and am very pleased with what I saw and how you arranged the trip. I was especially impressed that you had booked the hotel room for the whole day for me on the day I left, so I didn't have to check out until I was ready to go to the airport in the late afternoon. I spent much of that day in the Botanic Garden and saw one new species, Scrub Tanager, and photographed several others that I had seen but not got pictures of (or only poor shots) so I was quite pleased with myself. It was a long trip home as I had most of a day in Santiago at the airport. I think it was about 70 hours from waking up on my last morning in Quito to when I got to bed after getting home, though of course I had some quite good sleeps on flights in between. I do have one ID question: what is the name of the blue butterfly with orange wing spots that features on your new T-shirt design? I have some good photos of it but can't remember its name. Best wishes to you and all your staff for 2012 - I hope …your business continues to flourish.” 12 October – 12 November, 2011, MB, Australia
"Thank you for your wonderful trip report, it was comprehensive, full of great pictures and informative. We have just got through all of our pictures and have some unknowns that we are going to send you, yet all in all, the trip was a great experience for us both. We would like to send you and Jane trip a trip report so you may upload it on the MBT website, we can provide pics as well, but many are not as beautiful in the camera as they are on the computer screen! We look forward to touring with you soon, we were happy in all respects and want to make sure both you and Mindo Bird Tours get the credit for superior guiding, excellence in planning and attention to detail. As soon as I am ready to go with pics and all, I will send you a draft to upload to the website. Send my greetings to Lorena, Jane and Miguel.” 9-28 June 2011, AS, New Jersey, USA.
“What a wonderful time. The birding was matched only by the meals and the wonderful company! Thank you so much for putting together this tour for myself and my father.” 2 January 2011, GL, Urbana, Illinois, USA
“It would be very difficult to exceed my expectations for this trip, but so far that has been the case. I expected great birds. But more than birds – great food! Great guests we have come to know, terrific guides, very comfortable lodging. Your hospitality made us feel at home immediately. You have been great to work with us in planning this trip of a lifetime. Many, many thanks!” 2 January 2011, DL, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA.
“I would like to wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year and to thank you for an excellent trip... Please would you pass on my best wishes for a very happy new year to the staff and thank the guide for showing us the birds so successfully. He did a great job. We were both delighted with the trip and hope to travel again with you some time.” 27 December 2010, BP, Belgium
"We had a wonderful trip to S. Ecuador. Everything you arranged worked out perfectly. Juan Carlos is wonderful and we really enjoyed meeting him. He was prompt, cordial, helpful, and very pleasant. The drivers to and from Copalinga were great, too. We loved Copalinga and enjoyed being able to stay put there for 11 days. Saw great birds. Catherine is the best and she cooked wonderful meals for us. My sister came back to El Paso with me for a few days, so we are going to start thinking about the next trip (probably Dec. 2011). Hope you have a very happy and healthy new year." 17-30 December 2010, JP, El Paso, TX, USA.
“My apologies for taking so long to say a huge thank you for organising so much of the recent trip. There have been a number of things for me catch up on not least that I was very keen to assess the success of the trip ! It is ridiculous in more ways than one but I have doublechecked and the total number of lifers since first hitting Sao Paulo was exactly 800 ! And how about quality ?! And I have to take full credit for everything ! What an arrogant conceited young man will surely be your reaction. But think about it. I did recognise early on in our correspondence that you were perfect for the job, that you could be relied upon completely to make a thorough itinerary which would produce 300 of them in Ecuador plus another couple of hundred or so in Peru and Colombia (by the way I do not seem to have Diego's report ) and that arrangements would be practically flawless so yes all credit due to myself for making such a wise decision. HA. Between the two of us I have to admit that your selection of guides played a large part in the operation, of course being outstanding. With all sincerity I am very grateful to you for a heck of a lot. Many thanks indeed for everything. Let me wish you continuing success and that you will especially enjoy good health throughout the coming year.” 19 September - 16 December 2010, CC, South Africa.
“Thanks for a wonderful week – warm hospitality, exciting “new” interesting birds, beautiful lodge & surroundings! Hope to come back again.” 26 November 2010, AM, Lafayette Hill, PA,USA
“With much appreciation we had an excellent time in Ecuador. Thanks for making our stay comfortable and delicious. We´ve added hundreds of birds to our life list. ´Til next time!” 26 November 2010, JD´A & KH, San Mateo, CA, USA
"Just wanted to again thank you from both Marcia and I for arranging such a wonderful tour of Northwestern Ecuador, wonderful and knowledgeable bird guide with expertise allowed us to identify approximately 350 birds during our week trip. Las Gralarias Guest House was very comfortable and the meals were great. We enjoyed all the different reserves and areas of birding that were included in the tour. We will have many enjoyable memories of our stay and experiences during the week. We hope to be able to join another bird tour next year in Ecuador and will contact you to make those arrangements. In the mean time - Happy Birding - keep the bears away -." 25-31 October 2010, NR, New York City, NY, USA.
“This has been a delightful trip, with the different lodges and habitats…The guide was a perfect fit for us…Thanks for putting all this together for us and –it was good to see you again!” 16 June 2010, K&DW, Panama.
“Thanks so much for organizing our recent Colombia trip - it was a great success! Special thanks for re-organizing the last few days - all went smoothly and we had no hassles. Sorry for delay in emailing you, but we stopped in Chile on the way home to look for endemics! When we get sorted out will send you a list of sightings at the various places in s. Ecuador.” 27 May – 14 June 2010, S&TB, Queensland, Australia (See private un-guided Southern Ecuador trip report: at http://www.surfbirds.com/trip_report.php?id=1856
"We had a fabulous time in Brazil. The birding was unbelievable, the lodging was just great and all the transfers, airplanes, and guides were perfect. We had great food in both places. We had not a drop of rain the whole trip. The Pantanal is a very special place and Cristalino Jungle Lodge is just an amazing place to stay. My Portuguese really came in handy during the trip and I was very glad I studied. Thanks for all your detailed work in putting the trip together for us. It was the best ever." 5-20 June 2010, JEP, Texas, USA
"Thanks so much for organizing our recent rip - it was a great success! Special thanks for re-organizing the last few days - all went smoothly and we had no hassles. Sorry for delay in emailing you, but we stopped in Chile on the way home to look for endemics! When we get sorted out will send you a list of sightings at the various places in s. Ecuador." 27 May - 14 June 2010, S&TB, Queensland, Australia
“Thanks for a wonderful experience. The birding was great, your facilities were exceptional, the transportation was excellent, and the guide was outstanding. Nancy wants to thank you for your adaptation to her special food needs. The food was also fantastic. We certainly will recommend your place to our friends. It will be our number one choice in the Mindo area. We are so glad you made our arrangements. We know at low season when we are the only ones it would have been easier to not have bothered. It certainly was one of the best experiences of our trip. “ 21 May 2010, JS, Illinois, USA
“Just wanted to thank you again for setting us up with such a great trip in Ecuador. Your planning came off with perfection. You did such a great job and are such a gracious hostess…Hope we can return…” 15 April – 1 May 2010, SS, Austin, TX
“Just wanted to thank you again for you great facility and hospitality! I'll be mentioning Las Gralarias in some blogs I'll be doing on my Ecuador trip. And I may get in touch with you within the next year about a trip for my wife and I to Machu Picchu. I'll send you a picture of the screech and and maybe a few others after I get them processed.” 17 January 2010, BM, Helena, MT, USA
"All went according to schedule for our return trip, even arrived early in Miami but that just meant that our six hour layover stretched to seven hours. Traveling on miles leads to some strange time tables. We certainly had a wonderful trip, thanks largely to your efforts. Our stay at Las Gralarias was special- you have done a superb job of providing what travelers want and need, making everyone feel quite at home. And spoiled. The accommodations are most inviting and comfortable, the food excellent, and the general atmosphere warm and welcoming. We are very glad we started our trip at your lodge. The other stops on our tour certainly lived up to expectations, but don't quite match the luxury you provide. Overall, our trip could not have been better, superb guiding, leadership that fit our birding style very well. He could not have been more patient with my slow walking, which did at least speed up a bit over time. His interest in taping and photography allowed us the time to see birds well, not just a quick glance and on to the next. That's something that can be hard to do in a group when others are eager for the next tick. I particularly appreciated his habit of naming every bird he hears, every time he hears it. He has already sent us some photographs that we'll delight in showing. Too bad the umbrellabird went by too quickly for a shot but we had a very good look, and that bird is now at the top of my list! Our thanks for all your efforts in making our birding trip the delight that it was. We'd love to come back- there's always more to see in Ecuador!" 11 January 2010, R&SR, Tucson, AZ, USA
"Our trip to Chile was just amazing. We saw wonderful birds, had fabulous weather, saw beautiful sights, and all your planning worked out just perfectly. Thanks so much for a great trip with such smooth and easy connections and transfers....I must say that our driver from Ruta 9 was exceptionally nice and accommodating. I always have a hard time picking one "best species". Some of the best were Green backed Firecrown; Moustached Turca; Chucao Tapaculo; Austral pygmy owl; Austral parakeet; Black throated Huet Huet; Magellanic Penguin; Chiloe Wigeon; Tawny-throated Dotterel; Yellow-bridled Finch; and more! Road conditions were very good (except the last few miles to Torres) and all the drivers were excellent, especially Alvaro...Thanks again for helping us put together a wonderful trip to a most beautiful country. I loved the Chileans! They have lots of spark and personality and a great sense of humor....We really did love Tinquilco! You are absolutely right, it was off the beaten path and we loved our little cabin...Carlos gave us the cabin that was farthest from the main lodge and it had a great view of the lake. ...Birding right on their property was good and the lake was very pretty. We had a resident Fire-eyed Diucon right outside our window -- that alone kept us warm on cold mornings. Also it had a little kitchen and we could make tea in the morning. .. Las Torres was great. Rooms were very comfortable and the location was great. They had huge buffets every morning and evening, so we had no problems eating. We had a very nice waiter who took special care of us and loved speaking Spanish with me! He only charged us half price for meals because we didn't eat any meat! ...You really picked perfect spots for us and got us right in the middle of the birds. We love that." 16-30 Dec 2009, J&MP, El Paso, TX, USA
"Thanks for everything! All went very smooth, even Tapichalaca – I arrived earlier then expected, there was too much rain so no stops along the way. I did see many birds and even more important, photographed at least 130 species including 8 species of Antpitta! Not too bad. Have to come back to photograph the remainder of the 1600 species. Friends of mine will visit Ecuador next year, will recommend Mindo Bird Tours to them." 7-22 December 2009, MG, Holland
"Sublime stay in a truly special place. A real sense of wilderness when out on the trails on my own. A great hostess who really knows the meaning of the word hospitality. Many thanks." 18-21 Nov 2009, RV, Aberlady, Scotland, UK
"This has been a wonderful trip made more so by the professional nature of the owner and staff. I have been all over the world and yet this is my first experience in South America. It was wonderful." 9-18 Nov 2009, JS, Wilmot, Ohio, USA
"Thank you for your love of nature and the fabulous job you have done in preserving a bit of paradise here at Las Gralarias. This has been a trip of a lifetime! The birds and the adventures have been wonderful. The food and the service have spoiled us, and all the staff have become like family. Keep up the great work...Thanks you so much!" 9- 18 November 2009, VC, Wilmot, Ohio, USA
"Sooo good to see you, Jane, after the passage of five years! Las Gralarias is a bit of heaven, whether the sun shines too much or the fog settles in for days. Everyone raves about the food! We do too, especially the brownies with strawberry ice cream...chicken curry, the crepes, the cobbler...I could go on... I had never been anywhere in Latin America where the moths were so abundant! We celebrated the list of (about) 30!! skipper species. It took work but it was worth it!! The TANAGER FINCH coup-de-grace!, super guide, interested in everything. We delight in your sense of humor and your dedication to protecting this place called Ecuador. Richard wants to thank you for the genuine quiet at night (his first good sleep in Ecuador since Sept. 28), the comfy beds, the large bars of soap, real wash cloths and space to lounge around in...Many thanks to you and your staff." 21-25 Oct 2009, SS&RL, Washington, USA.
"Thanks for a great stay. Fine food, wonderful birds, and a gracious staff." 21 Sept 2009, J&SC, Medina, TX, USA
"What a wonderful place, warm and caring people. The food was wonderful especially for a vegetarian. Thank you Jane for a memorable trip. The photography was great!" Sept 2009, AM, Chicago, IL, USA
"Enjoyed ourselves immensely. Great food and great birding." July 2009, M&JH, Danville, KY, USA
“Thank you for a wonderful week! Good food, very comfortable lodging and BIRDS!! Unforgettable!” 28 July – “ August 2009, MS, Berkeley, CA, USA
“We had a wonderful visit, so comfortable with great food and service… and of course great organization, advice and hospitality... We saw some great birds, including all the antpittas! Thanks so much – we really hope to visit again! Keep up the great work!” 20 May – 8 June 2009, S&TB, Brisbane, Australia
“Thanks so much for your hospitality and all the marvelous food. The birds and their habitats were stupendous, breathtaking. Thanks also to Gabriel for all his patience and experience. We had a fantastic time.” 21-25 April 2009, TR&AW, New York City, NY, USA
"This was a good start to what looks to be an excellent tour of Ecuador. Wonderful food, outstanding birds and very pleasant people.” 27 January -15 February 2009, S&JD, Ontario, Canada
“We have just returned from our Quito/Galapagos trip and I wanted to write and thank you for the excellent time we had in Mindo. We really loved all of it. The cloud forest was so beautiful and the hummingbirds were to die for. To tell the truth we wished we had stayed longer at Mindo and less at Otavalo. The latter was interesting and a very nice hotel but we would have liked to have had more time to look for birds at your place. I cannot thank you enough for the care you took over our stay and, in particular, about my diet. We thought the food was just wonderful and very much appreciated. I have to say that the Flamingo…was exceptionally well organised and efficient and also gave us excellent food…. We thought the islands were magic and, if anything, exceeded our expectations. None of us was seasick and we had a great bunch of fellow passengers. I hope we might make it your way again. We really did love Ecuador….We wish you very, very well in that lovely place of yours, happy Christmas, and we thank you again so very much for a great experience.” Dec 2008, S&DA, UK
“We had a remarkable trip, and will always remember our first visit to Ecuador fondly….I'm sure that you've already heard from Charley, but we comfortably broke the 400 bird mark on our final day… Charley’s knowledge of the birds was remarkable, and his energy level was really something to see…Mynor and Juan Carlos were sure and reliable drivers, and made that aspect of the trip simple as well. We thought that Las Gralarias was a remarkable property and lodge. You have much to be proud of there.” 1-14 Nov 2008, M&TM, Elgin, TX, USA
“Thank you for planning an extraordinary experience! I loved it all…I loved all the habitats we visited and cannot say enough about the experience at La Selva with Jose. This was my first trip birding outside of the US and I hope to visit you again. Great, great time! Many thanks.” 12-21 Sept 2008, LK, New York City, NY, USA
“We had an excellent trip in the Mindo area during August and September….Our final count was 483 species including the Galapagos islands with 300 species seen during the Mindo leg…We are interested in another trip to Ecuador. We would like to go on the trip from Paramo to the Jungle this time…” 17 Aug-5 Sept 2008, W&KH, Canada
Owner of Ecuador Bird Tours and Mindo Bird Tours
Jane became infected with birding as a child in Austin, Texas when her father showed her her first Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Years later she realized birds were her passion and, while gazing at her first saltator during a birding tour at Rancho El Cielito, Mexico, it dawned on her that the neotropics were in fact birding-heaven-on-earth. She worked for 8 years as the Wildlife Coordinator at the Austin Nature Center and 5 years for the National Audubon Society as the Regional Representative for Texas and Latin America where she was especially involved in conservation efforts for the Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo.
After co-leading various birding tours to Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Ecuador and numerous personal birding trips to and field research in Brazil, Panama and Venezuela, Jane was ready to move to bird-rich South America. In 1993 she moved to Montevideo, Uruguay to work for the U.S. Department of State as Associate Director for Natural Resources Programs in Uruguay and Argentina – a job with the side benefit of over 3 years of birding time throughout southern South America. In 1996 she was offered a job in Quito, Ecuador as Head of the Americas Region of the Cambridge, UK-based BirdLife International. One of her main jobs at BirdLife was to launch the Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program in South America. This is what caused her to return to Mindo. In 1997 she as the representative of BirdLife along with the community of Mindo, the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment and local BirdLife Partner CECIA officially declared Mindo as South America´s first IBA. By May 1999 Jane had sold her house in Texas and moved to Mindo. She is still enthralled with the amazing birdlife found among the cloud forests of the northwestern Andes and is still 100% committed to bird and habitat conservation.
Jane has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude and an M.A. in Spanish, ABD in Comparative Literature (Spanish, French and Portuguese), and a PhD in Biogeography from the University of Texas at Austin. She served for 7 years on the Board of Directors of Ecuador's Jocotoco Foundation and for 3 years as a project reviewer for the Ecuadorian endangered species research program Biobecas. In 1998 she purchased the first 19 acres of land in Mindo and named it Reserva Las Gralarias.
She currently is the majority owner of Mindo Bird Tours and Ecuador Bird Tours and also of the now 1500-acre Reserva Las Gralarias. She serves as Vice-President of the Board of the Las Gralarias Foundation, Inc. She was the first President of Jocotours Cia Ltda, and also works as a consultant for birding tourism and supervisor for graduate student and other field research projects. Her favorite pastimes include hiking the trails at Reserva Las Gralarias, where she is constantly delighted to observe new creatures large and small, new plants of all kinds and mind-boggling biodiversity, plus of course birding throughout Ecuador and Peru. She has co-authored numerous papers and several books and regularly writes articles and columns for the newsletters of the Las Gralarias Foundation. A_new_species_to_Ecuador_Dec_2010.pdf
Jane A. Lyons, Ph.D.