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By Eduardo Ormaeche
10 October – 9 November 2018
Our last 2018 Peru trip was an incredible adventure! Not always does one have the chance to travel for 31 days across such a megadiverse country as Peru. For a full month we experienced and enjoyed this birding and photographic private tour, trying to get as many bird photos as possible, but without rushing and mainly being concerned about the quality of the photos and the quality of the bird species seen. We managed to see 496 bird species (with an additional 18 species heard only), including 62 species of hummingbirds, 65 species of tanagers and allies, and 32 country endemics, as well as a large number of species shared with one other country only.
The list of species seen probably includes the best that this country has to offer, including some most-wanted species such as Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch, Bearded Mountaineer, Giant Hummingbird, Grass-green, Golden-collared, and Slaty Tanagers, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Pavonine Quetzal, Razor-billed Curassow, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Hoatzin, Horned Screamer, Golden-collared Toucanet, Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher, Peruvian Recurvebill, Blue-headed Macaw, Blue-and-yellow, Scarlet, and Red-and-green Macaws at the Blanquillo clay lick, White-throated Jacamar, Andean Cock-of-the rock, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Many-colored Rush Tyrant, Peruvian Plantcutter, Rufous Flycatcher, Tumbes Tyrant, Little Inca Finch, Marvelous Spatuletail, Lulu’s Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Bar-winged Wood Wren, the enigmatic Long-whiskered Owlet, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Rufous-crested Coquette, Peruvian Piedtail, Koepcke’s Hermit, Wire-crested Thorntail, Cinnamon Screech-Owl, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Chestnut, Rusty-tinged, and Ochre-fronted Antpittas, Sungrebe, Rufous-breasted Wood Quail, Oilbird, Humboldt Penguin, and Inca Tern.
We also managed to record 26 species of mammals, a record for any of our Peru tours! We enjoyed great views of Black Spider Monkey, Emperor Tamarin, Ocelot, River Otter, and Lowland Tapir during our most spectacular wildlife encounters. We also delighted in the gastronomy, scenery, and culture, which all made our trip an unforgettable experience.
Day 1, 10 October 2018. Flight to Cusco, transfer to Ollantaytambo
We started our tour with an early flight from Lima to the city of Cusco. After we arrived we went straight to get breakfast in order to have enough energy for the rest of the day. After breakfast we left the city and headed for the ancient archaeological complex of Tambomachay. The habitat above Tambomachay is a reliable place for two endemic targets: Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch and Creamy-crested Spinetail. We had excellent views of both targets, and our mission for the morning was accomplished successfully. In addition to these two goodies we also experienced a nice introduction to birding in the Andes with views of Mountain Caracara, Puna Ibis, Andean Gull, Spot-winged Pigeon, Shining Sunbeam, Andean Flicker, Rufous-webbed Bush Tyrant, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Cinereous Conebill, Chiguanco Thrush, Tit-like Dacnis, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Peruvian Sierra Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Golden-billed Saltator, and Hooded Siskin. On the way out or the area we managed to see a pair of Andean Geese.
Our next birding venue was Piuray Lake where, we hoped, we might find Silvery Grebe. Unfortunately it was not around, but we managed to see our first Many-colored Rush Tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird as well as a few waterfowl species such as Puna Teal, Yellow-billed Teal, and Andean Duck.
Then we continued our drive toward the picturesque town of Ollantaytambo, situated at 2792 meters (9160 feet) along the Sacred Valley of the Incas (the Urubamba Valley). After an hour we were in the grounds of our comfortable hotel in Ollantaytambo, the Pakaritampu. We planned to spend the rest of the afternoon trying to photograph the endemic and range-restricted Bearded Mountaineer. Despite initial rumors that the hummingbird was not coming to the garden it did not take long to have a male feeding in his usual flowers. It was great! We also had nice views of White-bellied Hummingbird, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Spot-winged Pigeon, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Golden-billed Saltator, Band-tailed Seedeater, and Rusty Flowerpiercer. After some great birding we ended the day with a tasty dinner in the hotel restaurant, and then we were ready for the next day’s adventures.
Day 2, 11 October 2018. Birding the Ollantaytambo surroundings
We left Ollantaytambo early in the morning to explore the lower parts of the Abra Malaga, a road leading up a high mountain pass at 4200 meters (13,779feet). Our plan was to spend the whole day exploring the temperate cloudforest below the pass, which is rich in bird diversity and mixed-flock activity. You can always have a plan, of course – however, we certainly cannot control the weather. This fact is well known, but it was hard this time.
We left Ollantaytambo in a slight drizzle, but as soon as we arrived at the pass we had rain the whole day without a stop. It was quite frustrating because we knew what jewels we were missing. We were lucky to see a Tit-like Dacnis below the pass, and we had a glimpse of the endemic Cuzco Brushfinch before it disappeared, getting out of the heavy rain. We could not stay and decided to keep going, looking for further birding possibilities down the road away from the bad weather. Fortunately the decision was a correct one, as we found a recently-new birding site called IPAL Inka Jungle Ecolodge, which offers perhaps the most accessible place in the country for Swallow-tailed Hummingbird. However, although this hummingbird is rather common in Brazil and other Southern South American tours it is rare and very restricted in Peru, with no more than a handful of confirmed sightings in the Urubamba Valley. We were lucky to see one individual during our entire stay there. As time passed and the weather was getting worse we decided to go back to Ollantaytambo and make a plan for the next day.
Day 3, 12 October 2018. Abra Malaga, transfer to Cusco
In the morning it was not raining, so our plan was to explore the famous Polylepis forest on the Abra Malaga. This is one the most famous sites for birding in Peru in the high Andes, as the place holds several range-restricted species, including the Critically Endangered (IUCN) Royal Cinclodes. The plan was to drive up the pass, walk to the ridge, bird on the way down to the Polylepis forest, get back to the car, and, time and weather permitting, bird down the road again, looking for the species we had missed the previous day because of the weather. We could not have had a better plan and neither a better start. We arrived at the pass and started the walk up to the ridge among the Polylepis trees and bushes. We enjoyed some 20 minutes of glorious weather, with nice views of Tit-like Dacnis, D’Orbigny Chat-Tyrant, White-browed Tit-Spinetail, and Giant Conebill. But suddenly the pass started to get foggy and the wind and rain came and showed no mercy. We waited for several hours, but it got worse and worse, and we sadly realized that the day and the chances to see all the specialists were again lost for us. So we continued the drive back to Cusco. As a consolation prize we managed to get good views of Paramo Pipit, the endemic Junin Canastero near the pass, and the endemic White-tufted Sunbeam at its usual site at Peñas. We arrived in Cusco and, as always, went to our favorite restaurant in town, the Incanto. Here we tried to forget our sorrows over a nice meal and a cold beer.
Day 4, 13 October 2018. Transfer to Wayqecha Biological Station
Today we started our Manu adventure. During the next few days we would descend from the Andes to the heart of the Amazon rainforest on one of the most scenic and dramatical birding drives in South America. The Manu Road connects the Andes of Cusco and Paucartambo with the Amazon lowlands in the Madre de Dios state. The road provides different habitats and different altitudinal ranges from 3600 meters (11800 feet) to 500 meters (1640 feet) elevation, and 1000 species of birds have been recorded here, making the Manu Road one of the birdiest places on earth. We left Cusco and drove towards Huacarpay Lake, where we looked immediately for the endemic Rusty-fronted Canastero, which allowed great views. Other interesting species included Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Plumbeous Rail, Yellow-billed Pintail, Band-tailed Seedeater, Many-colored Rush Tyrant, and Wren-like Rushbird. We then continued our drive toward Paucartambo. The drive was long over the mountains, but we had good views of Creamy-winged Cinclodes, Peruvian Sierra Finch, Mourning Sierra Finch, Andean Flicker, Rufous-webbed Bush Tyrant, Cinereous Conebill, and a nice view of Aplomado Falcon.
Once at Abra Acjanaco at 3600 meters (11800 feet), which is the official entrance of the Manu National Park, we started birding for most of the afternoon, finding species such as White-browed Conebill, Creamy-crested Spinetail, White-throated Tyrannulet, Moustached Flowerpiercer, Red-crested Cotinga, Sierran Elaenia, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, and Hooded Mountain Tanager.
We very much enjoyed our second full day without rain. Soon we arrived to the Wayqecha Biological Station to spend two nights. Unfortunately there was not much activity at the hummingbird feeders, and the few birds we saw to end the day were Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Great Thrush, Masked Flowerpiercer, Sierran Elaenia, Tyrian Metaltail, and Amethyst-throated Sunangel. In the evening we had a visit of Andean Fox around the lodge grounds.
Day 5, 14 October 2018. Wayqecha Biological Station
We left the lodge at dawn to search for the first set of birds by the tunnels. We spent a great morning, enjoying bird species such as Golden-collared Tanager, Barred Becard, Band-tailed Fruiteater, Andean Guan, Band-tailed Pigeon, White-collared Swift, Chestnut-collared Swift, and Rufous-capped Thornbill. The endemic Marcapata Spinetail and Pearled Treerunner were also seen nicely by the tunnels, as well as White-banded Tyrannulet, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, and Blue-banded Toucanet. By the end of the day the forest around Wayqecha became very foggy once more, but not before we had found the most-wanted Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, which, even though we didn’t get a good photo, still showed well.
Day 6, 15 October 2018. Transfer to Cock of the Rock Lodge
We left the Wayqecha Biological Station in the morning and drove to Pillahuata. Our first target here was the endemic Red-and-white Antpitta, but unfortunately, despite all our efforts and although we heard it, it could not be found. We did, however, see numerous birds around Pillahuata, including White-banded Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, Smoke-colored Pewee, Andean Solitaire, Pale-legged Warbler, Capped Conebill, Pearled Treerunner, White-collared Jay, Azara’s Spinetail, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Long-tailed Sylph, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Slaty Tanager, Black-eared Hemispingus, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Rufous-chested Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Spectacled and Slate-throated Whitestarts, Orange-eared Tanager, Versicolored Barbet, and Andean Motmot.
We arrived at the Cock of the Rock Lodge (CORL) at 1400 meters (4600 feet) elevation in time to enjoy the hummingbird feeders. Here we had great views of Bronzy Inca, Green Hermit, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Rufous-booted Racket-tail, Sparkling Violetear, White-bellied Woodstar, Many-spotted Hummingbird, the beautiful Wire-crested Thorntail, and Fork-tailed Woodnymph. The endemic and elusive Peruvian Piedtail was the last bird we saw; it showed very well to end a great day.
The lodge was full of guests, and there were several birding groups looking for owls (after dinner and without any success), so we decided to wait until the next evening to have fewer visitors at the lodge.
Day 7, 16 October 2018. Cock of the Rock Lodge
The next day we spend the whole morning at CORL, enjoying the feeders and the birds that came to the garden. We had great views of Paradise Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Golden Tanager, Spotted Tanager, Golden-eared Tanager, Blue-grey Tanager, Palm Tanager, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Dusky-green and Russet-backed Oropendolas, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Grey-eared Brushfinch, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Streak Xenops, Marbled-faced Bristle Tyrant, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Eastern Wood Pewee, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Bush Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Yellow-browed Sparrow, White-tipped Dove, and the elusive Brown Tinamou.
In the afternoon, we went to visit the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek and saw at least 12 males displaying at close distance. It was great to see the national bird of Peru displaying so well. After watching these colorful birds for a long time we drove to the stakeout (El Mirador) and waited until dusk for Lyre-tailed Nightjar. We were lucky to watch a cooperative, fully-adult male for several minutes, allowing great views. Then we returned to the lodge for another overnight.
Day 8, 17 October 2018. Cock of the Rock Lodge
We spent one more day exploring the area above CORL. Early in the morning we tried to find the endemic Cerulean-capped Manakin on the CORL trail, but we had a brief silhouette fly-by view only. We managed, however, to get good but brief views of Yungas Manakin and also enjoyed Marbled-faced Bristle Tyrant, White-capped Dipper, Speckled Chachalaca, Andean Motmot, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Black Phoebe, Torrent Tyrannulet, Plumbeous Pigeon, and Squirrel Cuckoo. We looked for large raptors at the stakeout but did not find any, but we had a fly-by view of Scaly-naped Amazon.
We also had a good selection of wildlife during our stay at CORL. Just around the garden we saw Bolivian Squirrel, Large-headed Capuchin, and Central American Agouti. During our drive back to the lodge we encountered Peruvian Woolly Monkey.
Day 9, 18 October 2018. Transfer to Villa Carmen Biological Station
After three nights at CORL we left and explored the road to Pilcopata and Villa Carmen Biological Station. We started the day with good views of Plumbeous Kite, Stripe-chested Antwren, Yellow-breasted Warbling Antbird, Ornate Antwren, Two-banded Warbler, Red-billed Scythebill, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Lanceolated Monklet, Bat Falcon, Cabanis’s Spinetail, Streaked Flycatcher, a female Amazonian Umbrellabird, Magpie Tanager, Swallow Tanager, and Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch.
By noon we arrived in the Patria sector just outside of the Manu National Park, where there are a few local communities. We found our first Violaceous Jay, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, Neotropical Palm Swift, Roadside Hawk, and House Wren along the road. Back in the national park we continued our drive to the Villa Carmen Biological Station for a two-night stay.
After lunch we managed to see some interesting species around the lodge, such as Black-capped Donacobius, Hoatzin, Blue-headed Parrot, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Purplish Jay, Lineated Woodpecker, Black-fronted Nunbird, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Pale-legged Hornero, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Blue-throated Piping Guan, and a Common Potoo roosting at daytime
Once again it started to rain after few days of peace and calm, so we had a break for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately we could not look for owls that night.
Day 10, 19 October 2018. Villa Carmen Biological Station
Today we explored the bamboo trail at Villa Carmen and managed to get some good species such as White-lined Antbird, Brown-rumped Foliage-gleaner, Red-billed Scythebill, Dot-winged Antwren, Moustached Wren, and Olivaceous Flatbill. Suddenly we heard a response from the elusive Peruvian Recurvebill, which came twice flying into the bush in response to the tape. We were told that the staff of Villa Carmen had started feeding tinamous and Amazonian Antpitta, but unfortunately there is no fixed time to look for them and it’s a matter of waiting at the feeders, as the birds can come to feed at any time of the day. We tried waiting for Amazonian Antpitta, but after 40 minutes without any luck we left. However, we did see the reently-split Rothschild’s Grosbeak while waiting for the antpitta. After birding along the Villa Carmen trails we headed back to the road, looking for the endemic Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher, and it didn’t take long to see a nice male in front of us. We then returned to the lodge in time to get lunch, when suddently heavy rain started again and continued non-stop for the rest of the afternoon. This was a shame indeed, considering the wasted time and the birds we were missing due to a few days of rain. As it turned out, though, this was nothing yet…
Day 11, 20 October 2018. Transfer to Manu Wildlife Center
Today we left the Villa Carmen Biological Station toward the port of Atalaya. On the way to Atalaya and not far from its stakeout we found a very responsive White-browed Antbird. We arrived at the port in time to catch our boat to sail along the Alto Madre de Dios River for our seven-hour boat trip to the Manu Wildlife Center (MWC), entering the Amazon rainforest in the Manu and Madre de Dios lowlands. The boat trip provided species such as Fasciated Tiger Heron, White-banded Swallow, White-winged Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Pied Plover, Black Caracara, and Southern Crested Caracara. We made a stop where we normally get our box lunch and enjoy the hummingbirds at the flowers. It was very hot, but we managed to get good views of Blue-tailed Emerald and the uncommon Festive Coquette.
We arrived at MWC in the afternoon and we checked into our rooms and still had enough light left to do some birding. There were some nice hummingbirds in the garden, including another male Festive Coquette, White-necked Jacobin, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Scarlet Macaw, Purplish Jay, Black-fronted Nunbird, and Lineated Woodpecker.
At night we had a good view of Tawny-bellied Screech Owl around the lodge clearing, and Crested Owl was heard calling close but did not came to the tape.
Day 12, 21 October 2018. Manu Wildlife Center
We left the lodge early in the morning to witness the daily macaw activity at the Blanquillo Macaw Clay lick. On the way to the clay lick we managed to find Razor-billed Curassow. Once we arrived at the hide we had breakfast and waited until the parrots flew in, including Blue-headed Parrot, Orange-cheeked Parrot, Yellow-crowned and Southern Mealy Amazons, Dusky-headed Parakeet, and White-eyed Parakeet. It was wonderful to see these species socializing and ingesting the clay in a unique show of color and sound. After some time we watched the large number of Red-and-green Macaws and Chestnut-fronted Macaws coming to the clay lick. They started to congregate in the top of the trees, and after they felt safe enough they decided to descend and ingest the clay. It was an amazing show indeed, and we were also very lucky with the weather this morning. We thoroughly enjoyed the large number of parrots and macaws here.
We also managed to see Horned Screamer and Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher here, among others.
We returned to the lodge to have a break before continuing our schedule for the day by visiting Cocha Camungo (an old oxbow lake) in the afternoon. It had been a good decision to bird Cocha Camungo in the afternoon, because we had to wait for some midday rain to pass, but by 3 p.m. it was clear again. Once at Cocha Camungo we enjoyed Rufescent Tiger Heron, Sungrebe, Hoatzin, Pale-vented Pigeon, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Dusky-headed Parakeet, Wattled Jacana, Neotropical Palm Swift, and the localized Purus Jacamar
We were lucky to also encounter a group of Giant Otters that passed near our boat, providing great views. After a great ride around the lake we returned to MWC, but before we arrived at the lodge we found a large flock of Sand-colored Nighthawks flying above the Madre de Dios River.
Day 13, 22 October 2018. Manu Wildlife Center
Today we explored the tower trail at MWC. We had a great day with good views of several forest birds, such as Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Amazonian Motmot, Black-tailed Trogon, Common Scale-backed Antbird, Bluish-slate Antshrike, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, and Elegant Woodcreeper, while a group of the most-wanted Pale-winged Trumpeter at close distance was probably one of the highlights of the trip. We climbed the tower at the big Ceiba tree and had views of several Chestnut-eared Aracaris, White-throated Toucan, Blue-and-yellow and Scarlet Macaws, and Plumbeous Kite. But suddenly the skies literally opened and it rained, endlessly. But it was not only rain, and what followed was officially the beginning of the rainy season with a tropical storm which unleashed thunder and lighting and more rain without stop until late in the evening.
Day 14, 23 October 2018. Transfer to Los Amigos Biological Station
The rain continued during the following morning, which was the day we were leaving MWC. We had been hoping to be able to visit the Blanquillo tower, the highest observation tower in the entire Amazon basin, in the morning, but this plan was washed out by rain again. There was no way we could climb the 50-meter-high scaffolding tower in these weather conditions. So, sad but grateful for what we had seen, we started our boat transfer to the Los Amigos Biological Station, officially the Centro de Investigación y Capacitación Río Los Amigos (CICRA). With the river high the boat ride took less time than anticipated, and after about five hours we arrived at CICRA for a three-night stay.
Our time at CICRA was better than at MWC in terms of birding and wildlife. Even though we had rain every day in the midmorning and during the afternoons we managed to take advantage of the two full days at CICRA. We explored the bamboo and terra-firme forest trails, getting some good bird species such as Lemon-throated Barbet, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Purple Honeycreeper, Straight-billed, Lineated, Wedge-billed, and Elegant Woodcreepers, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow-green Vireo, Moustached Wren, Black-fronted Nunbird, Violaceous Jay, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, Blue-headed Macaw, Fiery-capped Manakin, Grey Antbird, White-throated Jacamar, and Undulated Tinamou around the lodge clearing.
Day 15, 24 October 2018. Los Amigos Biological Station
CICRA is perhaps of one the best places in Peru to see New World monkeys. During our two full days here we saw Black-capped Squirrel Monkey, Weddell’s Saddle-back Tamarin, Brown Titi Monkey, Black-faced Black Spider Monkey, Large-headed Capuchin, and Emperor Tamarin. We explored the terra-firme forest trails, getting good views of Pale-winged Trumpeter (again), Great Tinamou, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, Broad-billed Motmot, Rufous Motmot, Spix’s Guan, Collared Trogon, White-flanked Antwren, Golden-collared Toucanet, Plumbeous Antbird, and the most-wanted Pavonine Quetzal. We were trying for a calling, sneaky Blue-crowned Manakin, when suddenly a Lowland Tapir came trotting toward us at good speed in the middle of the trail. We literally had to move off the trail, but once it was really close to us it went into the forest. It was magic indeed and my best Lowland Tapir encounter ever! We had rain in the afternoon again, so we could not explore the trails as planned, looking for owls and other wildlife.
Day 16, 25 October 2018. Los Amigos Biological Station
On our second full day at CICRA we explored the bamboo trail, adding more species such as White-lined Antbird, Long-crested Pygmy Tyrant, and Dusky-tailed Flatbill. Manu Antbird was heard, but it did not come to the tape. Razor-billed Curassow gave good views as well. We returned to the lodge through the terra-firme forest, adding Ringed Antpipit (with chicks) and Rufous-capped Antthrush. In the evening we had great views of Ocellated Poorwill and Pauraque around the clearing not far from the main campus. After dinner it started to rain again.
Day 17, 26 October 2018. Transfer to Puerto Maldonado
Today we left CICRA and had a six-hour boat trip to Laberinto. Fortunately the water level was high on the river, and the trip was faster than we had thought. Once in Laberinto we transferred to Puerto Maldonado, where we spent a night at the Hotel Cabaña Quinta.
After a couple of weeks of limited electricity, internet, and air conditioning the comfort was very welcome. We had dinner at the hotel and then went to bed to get ready for the long next day.
Day 18, 27 October 2018. Birding the Cachuela Road, flight to Lima
Today we had an easy start, having breakfast at the hotel and then heading to the Cachuela Road for a couple of hours before catching our domestic flight to Lima. On the Cachuela Road we had good views of Barred Antshrike, Double-collared Seedeater, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Roadside Hawk, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Southern Lapwing, Limpkin, Amazonian Motmot, Black-fronted Nunbird, and Amazon Kingfisher. Then we flew to Lima and transferred to our hotel in Miraflores.
Day 19, 28 October 2018. Flight to Chiclayo, birding Bosque de Pomac
We had to be ready for a very early start, meeting at the airport at 4 a.m. to connect with our domestic flight to the northern city of Chiclayo. During the flight we realized that we had the company of the manager of the Peruvian national football team, the Argentinean Ricardo Gareca, who was flying on the same plane together with other directors of the Peruvian Football Federation. We arrived at Chiclayo, headed to our hotel, and, even though we could not yet check in, went straight for breakfast and coffee. We noted that the football people were following us, because they were sitting a few meters from us, enjoying the delicious breakfast as well.
After breakfast we headed to the Bosque de Pomac Historic Sanctuary, probably the largest Algarrobo (Prosopis pallida), a mesquite-like forest, in the country. We spent the whole morning exploring Bosque de Pomac and finding its more common species, including the endemic Cinereous Finch, Collared Warbling Finch, Grey-and-white Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy Tyrant, Superciliaried Wren, Fasciated Wren, Pacific Hornero, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Necklaced Spinetail, Amazilia Hummingbird, Pacific Pygmy Owl, and Pacific Parrotlet.
We returned to Chiclayo to get a late lunch and then had a break in the afternoon after our very early start. For dinner we went to our favorite restaurant in Chiclayo, Fiesta Gourmet, and as soon as we arrived we noted the restaurant had some police restriction, and several football fans were outside the restaurant trying to get an autograph and a photo with the manager of the Peruvian national football team. We crossed paths with him all day long! We enjoyed our delicious lunch and took the opportunity to get a photo with the popular Ricardo Gareca. Then we returned to the hotel and ended the day in order to be ready for another early start in the morning.
Day 20, 29 October 2018. Birding Bosque de Pomac
Today we went back to Bosque de Pomac before dawn, and as soon we arrived, we drove toward the Arbol Milenario (“millennial tree”) and tried for West Peruvian Screech Owl. Fortunately we managed to have a great view of one bird in response to the tape. After breakfast we explored the whole Bosque de Pomac and finding all our targets, namely Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, White-edged Oriole, White-tailed Jay, Baird’s Flycatcher, and Collared Antshrike, as well the handsome and endemic Tumbes Tyrant and Rufous Flycatcher. Then we drove toward the Cerro Las Salinas sector, where we had good views of the endemic Coastal Miner and the localized Tumbes Swallow. We also saw Guayaquil Squirrel and two endemic and good-looking reptiles, Peru Desert Tegu and False Monitor. Finally we explored a habitat on the opposite side of the La Leche River, which we reached with the help of the park guards, who switched our vehicle for an old 4×4 jeep. The park guard took us to a new site to which the endemic Peruvian Plantcutter seems have moved during this time of year, and it was true. Not long after we arrived we recorded at least five different males and a female. This endemic species is found only in this limited habitat in the north-western Peru lowlands. Unfortunately the algarrobo has vanished from this area due to intense pressure from illegal charcoal harvesting.
After having found all our targets we left Bosque de Pomac and headed to Lambayeque for lunch and then to our lodge for the night, Los Horcones de Túcume. This is a rustic but charming lodge at the entrance to the impressive “Valley of the Pyramids” Túcume Archaeological Complex. Here it was nice and quiet. After dinner we walked around the site, finding Burrowing Owl, Pacific Pygmy Owl, and Common Opossum.
Day 21, 30 October 2018. Birding Abra Porculla, transfer to Jaén
Today we left Los Horcones de Túcume and headed to the famous Abra Porculla. This is the lowest mountain pass in the country at 2137 meters (7011feet). Here we had a good morning, tracking targets such as Three-banded and Grey-and-gold Warblers, White-winged and Bay-crowned Brushfinches, Tumbesian Tyrannulet, Black-cowled Saltator, Chapman’s Antshrike, Plumbeous-backed Thrush, Elegant Crescentchest, and Ecuadorian Piculet. We spent the whole morning here and then we headed to Jaén in the lowlands of the Cajamarca state. Our plan was to stay in Jaén in order to explore the Bosque de Yanahuanca the next day.
Day 22, 31 October 2018. Birding Bosque de Yanahuanca, transfer to Huembo
Bosque de Yanahuanca is a relatively new birding site near Jaén that provides all Jaén specialties that are restricted to this part of the Marañon Valley. After breakfast we started to explore the reserve, looking for Streaked Saltator, Red Pileated Finch, Purple-throated Euphonia, Northern Slaty Antshrike, Dull-colored Grassquit, Drab Seedeater, Black-capped Sparrow, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Buff-bellied Tanager, and both the localized Maranon Crescentchest and elusive Maranon Spinetail.
After midmorning we headed to the Bagua Chica Road, where we found the endemic and localized Little Inca Finch as well as Tropical Gnatcatcher. We continued our trip along the low Utcubamba Valley and finally arrived at the Huembo hummingbird feeding center and lodge for an overnight.
Huembo is a well-known hummingbird feeding center run by ECOAN, the Peruvian NGO that runs several conservation projects in the Andes of Peru. Huembo started to host visitors a couple of years ago. They offer basic but comfortable accommodation, far from city light pollution and surrounded by birds. The night sky was quite a show, with views of Orion and Jupiter through the scope. We went to bed dreaming about Marvelous Spatuletail.
Day 23, 1 November 2018. Birding Huembo, transfer to Abra Patricia
We were happy to hear that the male Marvelous Spatuletail was back at the feeders after several months of absence, which had not happened since 2008. We were absolutely overwhelmed with the hummingbird species here, including the male Marvelous Spatuletail, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Sparking Violetear, Lesser Violetear, Bronzy Inca, White-bellied Woodstar, White-bellied Hummingbird, Andean Emerald, and a Green-tailed Trainbearer in the flowering shrubbery. We spent hours photographing hummingbirds and also getting good views of Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner, Sierran Elaenia, Rusty Flowerpiercer, and Northern White-crowned Tapaculo. We saw flocks of Mitred Parakeet flying by, but sadly they did not perch.
After a great morning, we left Huembo and headed to the famous Abra Patricia Reserve to stay at the Owlet Lodge for three nights. Unfortunately, after few days of a weather break, we arrived at the lodge once more with the rain.
The hummingbird feeders at the lodge were busy, providing views of Collared Inca, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, Bronzy Inca, and Chestnut-breasted Coronet. Due the overcast weather conditions in the area the bird activity was good during our whole stay at the Owlet Lodge.
We decided to walk down the Owlet Trail during our first afternoon, trying to find this mythical endemic. The walk extends for more than one kilometer along the steep terrain of the cloudforest of Abra Patricia; however, the trail is in good shape, which helps to make it possible. During our walk down the Owlet Trail we scored with the endemic and most-wanted Ochre-fronted Antpitta. Other birds included Cinnamon Flycatcher, Great Thrush, Striped Treehunter, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, the endemic Lulu’s Tody-Flycatcher, Olive Tufted Flycatcher, and the secretive Rufous-vented Tapaculo. Unfortunately we only heard Long-whiskered Owlet, but we could not see it this time, despite all our efforts.
Day 24, 2 November 2018. Owlet Lodge
Today we spent about an hour birding around the lodge clearing before we went to explore the area below the Owlet Lodge and the Fundo Alto Nieva private reserve. After an early breakfast we saw Masked, White-sided, and Bluish Flowerpiercers, Flame-faced and Blue-and-black Tanagers, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Spectacled Whitestart, Yellow-breasted Brushfinch, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Blue-and-white Swallow, Grass-green Tanager, Great Thrush, Variable Antshrike, and the endemic Chestnut Antpitta at the worm feeders at the lodge. After this great start we drove about five kilometers to the Royal Sunangel ridge, but sadly only I got a brief glimpse of this spectacular endemic. But we were surprised to see White-tailed Hillstar feeding at the flowering bush on which usually the Royal Sunangel is feeding. This is a very rare species in Peru with few confirmed records in the country, which only come from this area. It is apparently seasonal in the area. Then we went to visit Fundo Alto Nieva, and the hummingbird feeders there gave us a full view of Royal Sunangel, Greenish Puffleg, Peruvian Racket-tail, and Violet-fronted Brilliant. The fruit feeders provided Blue-winged Mountain Tanager and Black-faced Tanager. We also found Rufous-tailed Tyrant at the entrance to the Royal Sunangel Trail and the secretive and localized Bar-winged Wood Wren by the road.
In the afternoon we returned to Fundo Alto Nieva to attend the worm feeders and wait for another view of Ochre-fronted Antpitta. It took about an hour, but finally it showed nicely for us. After the anpitta we walked uphill to look for the localized Cinnamon Screech Owl. We waited until dark and then managed to get good views of one individual in response to the tape. We returned to the lodge for dinner and enjoyed the large diversity of moth species that are seen around the lodge lights every night.
Day 25, 3 November 2018. Owlet Lodge
On our last day at the Owlet Lodge we attended the worm feeders to look for the endemic Rusty-tinged Antpitta, which showed well. We then explored the Grallaria Trail, adding Common Bush Tanager, Black-eared Hemispingus, Sepia-brown Wren, Rufous Spinetail, Mountain Wren, Black-throated Toucanet, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Mottled-cheeked and Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulets, the endemic Inca Flycatcher, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Montane Woodcreeper, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Russet-crowned Warbler, Peruvian Tyrannulet, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Glossy-black Thrush, Band-tailed Pigeon, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, and Scaly-naped Amazon flying by. We heard Golden-headed Quetzal and White-eared Solitaire, but they did not show this time
In the late afternoon we walked the Owlet Trail once more, all the way to the end to the 2000-meter marker, and right after dark we were rewarded with incredible views of the poorly-known Long-whiskered Owlet. In addition to this individual we heard three more at different points along the trail.
Day 26, 4 November 2018. Transfer to the Waqanki Lodge
After three nights we left the Owlet Lodge and the Amazonas state to get into the tropical lowlands of the San Martín state, the last state we would visit on this trip. We arrived in the area known as Afluente, but considering that we had seen most of the tanagers species that occur there already at CORL, we spent only a short time there, finding only Subtropical Cacique, Magpie Tanager, Slate-throated Whitestart, Tropical Parula, and Bay-headed Tanager. We stopped for lunch at the Yacumama restaurant and tourist complex, where we enjoyed good views of Black-billed Thrush, Blue Ground Dove, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Black-fronted Nunbird, the endemic Huallaga Tanager, Black Caracara, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers, Purple-throated Euphonia, Palm Tanager, and Gilded Barbet. After lunch we headed to the Waqanki Lodge in Moyobamba for a two-night stay. At our arrival at the lodge we immediately had close-up views of the striking Rufous-crested Coquette in the Verbenacea bushes in front of our rooms. We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to photograph some of these fast-flying jewels. In the process we also had good views of Violet-headed Hummingbird, White-chinned Sapphire, and Amethyst Woodstar.
Day 27, 5 November 2018. Waqanki Lodge
In the morning we visited the Waqanki hummingbird feeders and enjoyed Grey-breasted Sabrewing, White-necked Jacobin, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Rufous-crested Coquette, Black-throated Mango, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, and Golden-tailed Sapphire. We spent the morning photographing hummingbirds and also had good views of other birds, such as Huallaga Tanager, Blue-headed Parrot, Black-billed Thrush, Blue Ground Dove, Blue Dacnis, Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift, Neotropical Palm Swift, Plumbeous Kite, Roadside Hawk, and Speckled Chachalaca.
In the afternoon we came back to the feeders and fortunately were able to add Black-throated Hermit, Reddish Hermit, and Long-tailed Hermit, which had not been seen in the morning. Later we walked around the Waqanki Lodge clearing and added Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Grey-capped Flycatcher, Blue-black Grassquit, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Ruddy Ground Dove, Yellow-rumped Cacique, and Crested and Russet-backed Oropendolas.
After dinner we tried to call in some owls, but the night was very quiet.
Day 28, 6 November 2018. Birding Humedales del Rio Romero, transfer to Moyobamba
The next day we planned to visit the Romero River that is a tributary of the Mayo River and offers canoe rides along its narrow black waters. It is a nice experience to get a break of the long drives and provides some tropical lowland species and, with luck, some interesting wildlife as well. After breakfast we left Waqanki and headed to Posic and then to Humedales del Rio Romero at Santa Elena, where our canoe was waiting for us. We spent two hours on the boat and managed to see several of the usual suspects such as Limpkin, Cocoi Heron, Amazon, Green and Ringed Kingfisher, Striated Heron, Grey-necked Wood Rail, and a few new additions in form of Green-backed Trogon, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Band-tailed Antbird, Silvered Antbird, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, and Sungrebe. We were also lucky to see a sleeping Brown-throated Sloth and Brazilian Porcupine along with several Black-capped Squirrel Monkeys and Large-headed Capuchin.
After the boat ride we returned to Waqanki and, of course, got a lot of rain again, so our plans about spending the rest of the day again at Yacumama were spoiled once more by the weather. Somewhat disappointed we left Waqanki and drove to Moyobamba to the Puerto Mirador Hotel. In the evening we found Tropical Screech Owl and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl on the hotel grounds.
Day 29, 7 November 2018. Arena Blanca Reserve, transfer to Tarapoto
We had another early start driving toward Aguas Verdes. Our plan was be at the Arena Blanca Reserve at 6 a.m. Immediately after arrival we went to the hide, from where we had excellent views of Little Tinamou, Orange-billed Sparrow, and Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail. Sadly we were not able to find the hoped-for Cinereous Tinamou.
The hummingbird feeders provided several species we had already seen, namely Many-spotted Hummingbird, Golden-tailed Sapphire, and Fork-tailed Woodnymph, but there was a new addition to our list, the uncommon Blue-fronted Lancebill. Other species around the feeders included Western Striolated Puffbird, Lined Antshrike, Piratic Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, and Swainson’s Thrush, and there also was much more rain. Fortunately we had managed to see the wood quail and the tinamou before the rain started, but our plans to go back to Yacumama to look for Point-tailed Palmcreeper were again rained out.
We drove back toward Moyobamba and continued the drive to Tarapoto. On the way we stopped at the Quisquirumi bridge to check the Oilbirds, and we saw Yellow-rumped Cacique, Crested Oropendola, and White-eyed Parakeet during this brief stop as well. Then we continued to Tarapoto, where we stayed at the comfortable Rio Shilcayo Hotel.
Day 30, 8 November 2018. Koepcke’s Hermit Feeding Station, flight to Lima
The next day we visited the Koepcke’s Hermit Feeding Station as our last official birding activity in northern Peru before we transferred to the airport to connect with our domestic flight to Lima. Fortunately it was not raining! But the bird activity was quiet and slow along the forest trails. Our main target here was to get to the lek of the handsome Golden-headed Manakin. We had to walk quite a bit along a steep trail, but it was well worth it! We observed at least five different males at close distance. The hummingbird feeders provided great views of Gould’s Jewelfront, Blue-fronted Lancebill, the endemic Koepcke’s Hermit, and Black-bellied Thorntail.
After enjoying the hummingbirds we returned to Tarapoto for lunch before we transferred to the airport. Our flight to Lima was smooth. We stayed at the Hotel Limaq near the airport and had a good rest before our final day in Lima.
Day 31, 9 November 2018. Birding Pucusana and Pantanos de Villa, departure
Our final day had arrived, and it could not have been better. We went south of Lima to the fishing village of Pucusana to look for coastal birds. This is one of the closest places to Lima where Humboldt Penguins can be seen from land. Not long after we had arrived at the stakeout we had good views of Humboldt Penguin as well Inca Tern and Belcher’s Gull.
From the harbor we took a fishing boat for our usual ride around Pucusana Island. The water was a bit rough next to the rocky cliffs of the island, but the skilled boatman took us close enough to allow us to enjoy Red-legged Cormorant, Guanay Cormorant, Humboldt Penguin, Inca Tern, Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, Ruddy Turnstone, a single Surfbird, and Blackish Oystercatcher. We also had great views of South American Sea Lions.
Pantanos de Villa was our last port of call, where we managed to still add some new species to the trip list, namely Grey-headed Gull, a couple of thousand Franklin’s Gulls, Cinnamon Teal, White-tufted Grebe, White-cheeked Pintail, Black Skimmer, Andean Coot, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer, Kelp Gull, and Amazilia Hummingbird.
Here on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, with thousands of birds in the background, and before returning to Lima to catch our international flights home, we ended a 31-day trip all over the country, an incredible trip that we would like to repeat as soon as possible. Indeed it was a great adventure for birders, photographers, and wildlife lovers. Despite the weather conditions we faced throughout the trip we tried to take as much advantage as possible of every great location, and we did well in terms of the amazing quality of the species we saw and photographed. What an incredible tour!
Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included.