Verde Cocha is a new location for birders on the temperate West Slope - but one that is well worth a visit and overnight stay (or two). The property borders the Yanacocha Reserve on Volcan Pichincha and extends downslope to La Sierra - one of the small communities on the old Nono-Mindo road between Nono and Tandayapa. The lodge is one hour from Quito and is at 9,500 feet - thus a similar elevation to Quito and a good place to acclimatize prior to going up to Yanacocha.
As of February 2006 the lodge has three guest rooms in the main building, each with private bath - but they are building some cabins next to the lodge to accomodate larger groups. The food (mostly trout) and service there was excellent. NOTE: this is not a "drive-up" location, as there is a locked gate half-way up the 5 km. track that leads from the Nono-Mindo road at La Sierra to the lodge - you need to make reservations so that someone will be there to open the gate for you.
The road is a bit rough in places, so a high-clearance vehicle is needed, and if very wet, 4WD may be necessary; the Lodge has a Range Rover that can be used to pick you up.
There is great potential for many of the high-elevation specialties to be found there:- In early February I saw a male Black-breasted Puffleg in remnant habitat close to the lodge, and a male was mist-netted while visiting the lodge's feeders in October and November (see pics here). The numerous small marshes are home to Noble Snipe, plus Barred Fruiteaters were very vocal during our visit - and you can track them down here, unlike up at Yanacocha. The feeders in the garden host Tyrian Metaltail, Sword-billed Hummingbird (four males and one female were regular visitors during our brief stay), Buff-tailed Coronet, Green and Sparkling Violetears, Collared Inca, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Speckled Hummingbird, White-bellied Woodstar, and hordes of Mountain Velvetbreasts:
As of Feb 2006 they have a couple of staff who know the birds quite well, but are not trained birding guides; they can take you to all the good places, but are not familiar with all of the potential target species. The checklist looks as though it is based upon what should be there rather than on what has actually been recorded - even so, some of the birds that are probably there mouth-watering! Note that the more-remote higher areas can only be reached by a long, steep hike, or on horse-/llama-back.
The Photographs: all the photos used on this page (except the top one!) are UNCROPPED, so that you can see just how good are the opportunities to get some wonderful images. I used a hand-held inexpensive 70-300mm zoom on my Canon Digital Rebel (first model) - thus shooting effectively at c.110-460mm due to the 1.6 conversion factor for this camera model's CCD dimensions.
The Lodge, from the garden; the restaurant is on the left, with the courtyard in the center and the kitchen (with outdoor clay oven!) is on the right - the guest rooms are behind the restaurant:
The view from the courtyard, across the garden; beyond the garden there is a lower meadow, then a path down to a forested stream-bed (they plan to place another covered mirador at the edge of the meadow, overlooking the stream.) The cloud-covered ridge extends upwards to the right, where it meets the Yanacocha Reserve:
Sheridan in the garden mirador, looking at hummers on the feeder in the small shrub to the right:
Below are a few uncropped pics I took while sitting where Sheridan is at the mirador above:
2007: the new lower deck that overlooks the wooded creek bottom - a great place to see birds:
Taken from the doorway of the lounge:
Willie waits for the perfect pose from a male Buff-winged Starfrontlet and a female Collared Inca:
So you want to see Sword-billed Hummingbird? - this pic was taken from inside the restaurant while eating lunch...
This feeder is also hanging outside the restaurant:
On the edge of the garden you can find favoured perches where more-natural images can be obtained (remember that this pic is uncropped):
Click here and click here to see more hummingbird pics from Verde Cocha, and click here to see a lovely 2007 portrait of their most-famous hummingbird resident; click here to see another garden bird.
You can contact Verde Cocha directly, or use my preferred Ground Agent for everything and anything in Ecuador: BirdEcuador.