Peru: Northwest & Abra Patricia Mountains Trip Report, August 2018

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By Eduardo Ormaeche

July/August 2018


Our 2018 Peru: Northwest and Abra Patricia Mountains tour was perhaps one of the most memorable trips we have done in this country in recent years. On the clients’ request it was preceded by a three-day pre-tour birding the greater Lima area and by an eight-day extension to south Peru. It was an incredible trip, which allowed us to explore different natural regions and ecosystems of this wonderful country. The group met in Lima, Peru’s capital, and from there we explored the four main natural areas that the department of Lima can provide, namely the coast of the Pacific Ocean and coastal freshwater wetlands, the Lomas, a unique ecosystem located in the middle of the desert – one of the driest on earth – that stretches along the Pacific coast, which provides abundant vegetation during the austral winter, the arid western slopes of the Andes, and finally the high elevations of the Andes at the base of snow-capped mountains.

After some wonderful birding in the Lima area we continued the tour on the northern Peru birding route comprising Birding Ecotours’ scheduled-departure Northwest and Abra Patricia Mountains tour, which took us to visit the Tumbesian tropical dry forests and mesquite forest in the north-western part of Peru, a very sensitive area, due to high rates of deforestation, and the last habitat of dozens of range-restricted species. We continued crossing the Andes through the lowest mountain pass in Peru, the famous Abra Porculla, where one can see a small number of good-quality, range-restricted species shared only with adjacent Ecuador. We explored the mid-Marañón dry forest in the northern lowlands of the department of Cajamarca, where we also found a good number of range- restricted species. We continue birding the Utcubamba Valley in the dry and humid areas, reaching the cloudforest or lush montane forest in the Amazonas department and spending no less than four days at the famous Owlet Lodge. Later we continued the trip to the San Martín department, exploring the upper tropical Amazon lowlands and birding in a mix of secondary growth forest, lush rainforest, and grasslands, which also provided great birds.

After two weeks in northern Peru we flew to Lima and from there to Puerto Maldonado in south-eastern Peru, where we spent four days in the Tambopata National Reserve. Here we were able to visit the famous Chuncho Macaw Clay Lick and witness one of the greatest wildlife and birding experiences by admiring a large number of macaws and parrots visiting the clay lick. We also explored some terra-firme forest trails and climbed the canopy tower to admire the Amazon rainforest canopy. Finally we traveled to Cusco, where we had two days for exploring the dry slopes of Ollantaytambo, Huacarpay Lake, and the famous Machu Picchu archaeological site.

This was a memorable trip with a great group of people, full of fun. and with many wonderful and memorable moments. We managed to see 601 bird species, including 57 hummingbirds, 22 parrots, and 81 tanagers and allies, while an additional 19 species were heard only. The number includes 31 country endemics, 50 species shared with one adjacent country only, and several species with a very restricted distribution range that face conservation threats.

Detailed Report 

Day 1, 23 July 2018. Lomas de Lachay National Reserve and Wetlands of Ventanilla

Our trip began with an early start to visit the Lomas de Lachay National Reserve. This reserve expands across an area of 5035 hectares and is located along the Pacific desert at 105 kilometers north of Lima. The reserve protects the Lomas habitat, a very unique seasonal ecosystem found along the coast of Peru and Chile. The Lomas exist as a result of a combination of coastal climate factors and subject to a peculiar geography which produces, in an almost rainless desert, heavy clouds, fog, and mist called garúa. Garúa rolls in from the nearby Pacific Ocean, and the moisture condenses when it reaches the Andes. The garúa fog and mist is most common during the humid season from approximately June to November. The moisture, especially in the humid season, gives life to abundant vegetation on these desert oases and attracts the fauna of the region, including birds on altitudinal migration (coming from the Andes) and austral migrants that come from southern South America at this time of year.

When we arrived at Lomas de Lachay it was incredibly cloudy and drizzling, and we had to wait for a while until the fog slowly disappeared. Our first birds even before the entrance to the reserve were Burrowing Owl, the endemic Coastal Miner, Band-tailed Sierra Finch, and Least Seedsnipe. After the checkpoint we found Peruvian Pipit, Peruvian Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow, House Wren, Vermilion Flycatcher, Chiguanco Thrush, large numbers of Eared Doves, Croaking Ground Dove, Black-lored Yellowthroat, a single Short-tailed Field Tyrant, and a good number of Andean Tinamous at very close distance. After we had left the reserve and while birding the main track back to the major highway we scored with one of the special targets of the trip, Tawny-throated Dotterel. We saw a group of two quite some distance away, but, even though we had incredible scope views, they were too distant to be photographed as we wished. However, Andy did manage to get a nice photo of one of them. We also saw a nice pair of Dark-faced Ground Tyrants here as well.

Then we moved to the opposite and drier area of the reserve, only to find that the short and narrow road that used to serve as a bridge over a huge ditch had been completely washed out by the last summer rains. Consequently the access to the Guayabito sector of the reserve was impossible by car, and it was hopeless to reach the site for the Cactus Canastero on foot during the time we still had available for today.

Therefore we left the area and headed to Chancay, where we had a tasty lunch, and then made our way back to Lima. During a brief birding stop at the Wetlands of Ventanilla in the northern suburbs of Lima we had good views of Black-necked Stilt, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cinnamon Teal, and White-cheeked Pintail, but the highlight was the selection of shorebirds, which included Hudsonian Godwit, Whimbrel, Willet, Greater Yellowlegs, and Killdeer. 

Day 2, 24 July2018. The Santa Eulalia Road

We left Lima very early in the morning to explore the famous Santa Eulalia Road in the mountains above Lima in the Huarochirí Province. This road, which connects the village of Santa Eulalia with a series of remote Andean towns and villages, provides scenery and landscapes that leave one breathless as well a very good selection of bird species of the west slope of the Andes, including several Peruvian endemics and range-restricted birds.

After we reached a point at 2000 meters elevation we stopped the vehicle and started birding, finding Streaked Tit-Spinetail, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, and one of our major targets of the day, the endemic Great Inca Finch.

We continued to gain altitude until we reached 3400 meters elevation near the town of San Pedro de Casta. The morning provided us with many good birds, including the endemic Black-necked Woodpecker, the endemic Rusty-bellied Brushfinch, Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant, Giant Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail, Andean Swift, Mourning Sierra Finch, and Greyish Miner in addition to Variable Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Golden Grosbeak, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Black-winged Ground Dove, Peruvian Pygmy Owl, Scrub Blackbird, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, and a distant view of Andean Condor. Amazingly, despite the time of day, we managed to find the endemic and seldom-seen Rufous-breasted Warbling Finch, which provided good views for all participants. This is by far one of the rarest and most localized birds in the entire Andes.

With all these goodies in the bag we continued our trip along the incredible Central Highway, which was, however, completely congested by maniac drivers, toward the small town of San Mateo at 3300 meters elevation. We spent the night there in order to acclimatize ourselves for the next day’s adventure.

Day 3, 25 July 2018. Marcapomacocha

We left San Mateo after a good but light breakfast and drove until we reached Casapalca at 4500 meters elevation, the access to the famous Marcapomacocha zone. Some of our participants were amazed by the good number of species found even at this high elevation. We started the day with good views of Mountain Caracara, Andean Swallow, Creamy-winged Cinclodes, and Ash-breasted Sierra Finch, which were followed by Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Peruvian Sierra Finch, Black Siskin, Bright-rumped Yellow Finch, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Andean Goose, and eventually by probably the main target of the trip, Diademed Sandpiper-Plover.

We followed the road, getting up to the high pass at 4700 meters just below the Rajuntay snow-capped mountain, at 5475meters the highest peak of the Cordillera La Viuda. We birded along the road and found the endemic Dark-winged Miner, Buff-breasted Earthcreeper, White-winged Diuca Finch, Andean Flicker, and Grey-breasted Seedsnipe. We also managed to see some distant waterfowl, including the handsome Crested Duck. But perhaps two of the highlights of the day, after the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, were the endemic White-bellied Cinclodes, which showed incredibly well, and Olivaceous Thornbill, which, due to its habit to forage just above the ground, left all participants perplexed.

After dealing once more with horrible traffic we arrived back in Lima at our comfortable hotel in Miraflores. 

Day 4, 26 July 2018. Start of the set-departure tour: Pucusana and Pantanos de Villa

Today we went to explore the southern coast of Lima at the fishing village of Pucusana. We had a great time, enjoying Humboldt Current specialists such as the gorgeous Inca Tern, Belcher’s Gull, and Humboldt Penguin. We also had excellent views of Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, Red-legged Cormorant, Guanay Cormorant, and the endemic Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes.

A boat ride around Pucusana Island provided Blue-footed Booby, Surfbird, Ruddy Turnstone, Blackish Oystercatcher, and hundreds of Peruvian Pelicans and Peruvian Boobies. We also saw a small colony of South American Sea Lions.

Later we moved to the Pantanos de Villa Wildlife Refuge. Extending over 264 hectares, this Ramsar site provides shelter and food for migratory species that pass along the coast of Peru during the boreal winter and also holds resident species. Here we quickly found all our targets, including the gorgeous Many-colored Rush Tyrant.

Other targets seen were White-tufted, Pied-billed, and Great Grebes, American Oystercatcher, Grey Gull, Grey-hooded Gull, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Peruvian Thick-knee, and Wren-like Rushbird. There also were many Andean Coots, Common Gallinule, White-cheeked Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, and Andean Duck.

After leaving the Pantanos de Villa Wildlife Refuge we headed to the Lima airport to connect with our domestic flight to the northern city of Chiclayo.

Day 5, 27 July 2018. Bosque de Pomac

Today we explored the mesquite forest of Bosque de Pomac, its 6100 hectares of protected mesquite forest not even being half of the 15000 hectares it used to be 20 years ago. This site does not only have importance for birds as one of the last refuges for the “algarrobo blanco” (Propopis pallida) forest but also as the archaeological center of the Pre-Hispanic Sicán civilization, which flourished in the area from the 8th to the 14th century.

We arrived in time to have our field breakfast, and after that we explored the Plantcutter Trail, getting fantastic views of species such as Necklaced Spinetail, Superciliaried Wren, Fasciated Wren, Tumbes Tyrant, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet, Amazilia Hummingbird, Collared Antshrike, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Grey-and-white Tyrannulet, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Cinereous Finch, Pacific Parrotlet, White-tailed Jay, Peruvian Pygmy Owl, Long-tailed Mockingbird, and Rufous Flycatcher.

Then we moved to a different zone of the reserve near Las Salinas, where we managed to get good views of Golden-olive Woodcreeper and Tumbes Swallow. Finally we explored a different trail, where I was lucky enough to spot a nice male Peruvian Plantcutter, which allowed good views for everyone.

In the afternoon we explored the coast of Chiclayo but found only a few old friends and not much that was new for the day.

Day 6, 28 July 2018. Refugio de Vida Silvestre Laquipampa, transfer to Los Horcones Lodge

We had a rather early start, heading for the Refugio de Vida Silvestre Laquipampa. The road was in really bad condition, and it took us more than two hours to get to the site for the White-winged Guan. As soon as we arrived at the spot we could hear at least two White-winged Guans calling from the seasonally-green slopes of the reserve. While we were trying to scan the slopes with our scopes in order to localize the bird, our driver was setting up breakfast for us. Suddenly one White-winged Guan came and perched in front of him, allowing views for two participants that were with him at that moment. By the time we noted what was happening and arrived back at the van the bird sadly had vanished, leaving us heartbroken. No matter how hard we tried, it did not show up again. Well, we would have left Chiclayo at 4:00 a.m. instead of 4:30 a.m. if we had known that the road was in such bad shape. However, other birds showed very well, including Chapman’s Antshrike, Elegant Crescentchest, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Smoke-colored Pewee, Speckle-breasted Wren, Grey-and-gold Warbler, Red-masked Parakeet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy Tyrant, Short-tailed (Tumbes) Swift, Tropical Parula, and Sooty-crowned Flycatcher. One of the best sightings was a male Ecuadorian Seedeater, a very rare resident in the country, which was initially a Peru country tick for me for any Birding Ecotours tour (as “Blue Seedeater”), until I later realized that the former Blue Seedeater had been split into two species, Ecuadorian Seedeater in Colombia and Peru and Cabanis’s Seedeater in Mexico and Central America, which I had seen a few years ago in northern Central America. A great bonus!

After a wonderful morning in Laquipampa we headed to Los Horcones Lodge, a nice and rustic lodge located at the entrance of the Túcume archaeological site, a famous Pre-Hispanic complex from 1100 AC, which was built by the extinct Sicán civilization.

After dinner we tried for West Peruvian Screech Owl around the property, but we only found a few Pacific Pygmy Owls and Burrowing Owls. We also were walking in front of one of the trunk pyramids of the Túcume Valley of the Pyramids under the moonlight, which was a very nice picture indeed.

Day 7, 29 July 2018. Abra Porculla pass, transfer to Jaén

Today in the morning we headed to the Abra Porculla pass, which is the lowest mountain pass in the Peruvian Andes.  Here we had good views of Grey-and-gold Warbler, White-winged Brushfinch, Three-banded Warbler, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Tumbesian Tyrannulet, and Black-cowled Saltator.

By mid- morning we started the long drive to Jaén, and we arrived there with enough time to do some birding for a few common Marañón specials such as Tropical Gnatcatcher, Tawny-crowned Pygmy Tyrant, Chinchipe Spinetail, Purple-throated Euphonia, and Red Pileated Finch, as well as a couple of Pacific Pygmy Owls.

Day 8, 30 July 2018. Bosque de Yanahuanca, Bagua Chica road, Utcubamba Valley

The next day we left Jaén before dawn to drive to Bosque de Yanahuanca. This recently-opened private reserve holds several regional target species, and we were lucky enough to find most of them in one morning. We found Black-capped Sparrow, Streaked Saltator, the striking Maranon Crescentchest, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Northern Slaty Antshrike, Collared Antshrike, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Inca Jay, Ecuadorian Ground Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-lined Tanager, Maranon Thrush, Hook-billed Kite, and Pearl Kite.

Unfortunately we could not find Little Inca Finch, so we had to leave and try for plan B. For plan B we went to its classic site along the Bagua Chica road. Looking for Little Inca Finch in the scrub by the main road in the heat of the day was not an easy task, and in addition to the heat we also had to face fast car traffic. The rate of deforestation along the road is more than scary, and we were very concerned about the future of the last patches of natural xerophytic scrub, which is the habitat of several endemic species. However, our efforts paid off well with scope views of Little Inca Finch, a Peruvian endemic restricted to the lowlands of the department of Cajamarca.

We continued the trip and crossed the Marañón River into the Amazonas department. A few minutes later we arrived at the lower Utcubamba Valley, where we looked for Pied Plover, Collared Plover, Amazon Kingfisher, Yellow-browed Sparrow, and Fasciated Tiger Heron. We had very nice views of all of them.

Finally we headed toward the town of Chachapoyas, where we spent the night in a comfortable hotel.

Day 9, 31 July 2018. Huembo hummingbird feeding center, transfer to the Owlet Lodge

Our first location for today’s birding was the famous Huembo hummingbird feeding center, built by ECOAN to protect the habitat of and one of the most accessible sites for the endemic and most-wanted Marvelous Spatuletail. Surprisingly the striking adult male had not been attending the feeders for over a month, although since 2008 the bird has been seen daily on the feeders. We were told, however, that there was the possibility to see a male along a forest trail near Pomacochas, so we did not have any other option than to do it the old way, like back before the Huembo times.

We tried along the trail and easily found a single female and two juvenile Marvelous Spatuletails, with full spatules but with shorter streamers. We tried very hard, but the full male adult showed very elusively, giving just a few glimpses to some of the participants. We managed to see a single Purple-throated Sunangel along this trail as well.

Then we returned to Huembo, where we managed good views of White-bellied Hummingbird, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Bronzy Inca, Lesser Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Little Woodstar, Andean Emerald, and Green-tailed Trainbearer. Other birds here included Yellow-breasted Brushfinch, Sierran and Highland Elaenias, Rusty Flowerpiercer, and a few Mitred Parakeets flying by.

We left Huembo and headed to the famous Abra Patricia Reserve in the humid montane forest of the Amazonas department. We soon arrived there to spend four nights at the famous Owlet Lodge.

Days 10 – 12, 1 – 3 August 2018. Owlet Lodge

Our visit here was divided into two main activities: 1) Explore the lodge grounds and forest trails and 2) explore the road below the lodge, including the Royal Sunangel ridge and the new private reserve Fundo Alto Nieva.

During our stay we managed to see many great bird species. Pale-edged Flycatcher, Montane Woodcreeper, White-sided, Masked, and Bluish Flowerpiercers, Drab Hemispingus, Beryl-spangled, Blue-capped, and Flame-faced Tanagers, Mottle-cheeked and Peruvian Tyrannulets, Azara’s Spinetail, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Blue-and-white Swallow, and House Wren were all found just around the lodge clearing and the parking area.

During our second afternoon we walked the Owlet Trail and found Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Rufous-crested Tanager, Citrine Warbler, and Olive tufted Flycatcher. We waited until dark to try for the endemic and legendary Long-whiskered Owlet. It took a while and some effort, but suddenly we scored with full views of this poorly-known species. We were happy and returned to the lodge to celebrate with some Cusqueñas (a super-premium local lager) and pisco sours.

The next morning before breakfast we found a male Swallow-tailed Nightjar near the kitchen, which, attracted by the kitchen light, was hunting moths. It was an awesome start. After breakfast we attended the Chestnut Antpitta feeding session at the new worm feeder. It did not take long to have killer views of this localized endemic.

When we started birding below the lodge we found some good species such as Metallic-green Tanager, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer, Flame-faced Tanager, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Streak-necked Flycatcher, and Rufous-tailed Tyrant. We tried for Bar-winged Wood Wren along the Sunangel Trail without success, but then we had good but short views of one individual near the road. We also had nice views of Green-fronted Lancebill and Peruvian Racket-tail, but only a few of us managed to get a glimpse of the male Royal Sunangel, which was very scarce along the road.

Then we visited the Fundo Alto Nieva private reserve, where we saw a few new hummingbirds, namely Greenish Puffleg and Violet-fronted Brilliant. We also had great views of Blue-winged Mountain Tanagers at the reserve’s fruit feeders and, surprisingly, a couple of Black-faced Tanagers, which are more common in the flat, open grasslands in the Moyobamba lowlands. Before we left the reserve we had incredible views of the endemic Speckle-chested Piculet, which was enjoyed by everybody. Later in the afternoon we returned to the Fundo Alto Nieva reserve to look for the endemic Ochre-fronted Antpitta, but unfortunately the weather was very bad with heavy rain, and the bird didn’t show despite our long wait, getting wet in the rain for almost 30 minutes. The weather did not improve, so we returned to the lodge

The last day at the lodge was devoted to exploring the lodge trails including the circular Grallaria Trail, and we did very well choosing this circuit. The activity started very slow, but suddenly we started to see lots of birds, including Cinnamon Flycatcher, Mountain Wren, Sepia-brown Wren, Black-eared Hemispingus, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Rufous Spinetail, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Grass-green Tanager, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Olive-tufted Flycatcher, Black-throated Toucanet, Variable Antshrike, and Russet-crowned Warbler and had killer views of the endemic and elusive Rufous-vented Tapaculo. However, the highlights of the morning were without doubt the handsome Scaled Fruiteater and the scarce Red-hooded Tanager. We also attended the worm feeder again, and this time had cracker views of the endemic Rusty-tinged Antpitta.

We had heavy rain on the last afternoon, so we just birded around the lodge clearing and enjoyed the hummingbird feeders and some good tea and coffee. There were nice views of Collared Inca, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar, and the impressive Sword-billed Hummingbird.

Day 13, 4 August 2018, Afluente, Yacumama, and transfer to Moyobamba

Bidding the Owlet Lodge a sad farewell we headed to Afluente. Here we encountered a different set of lowland species, including a mega mixed flock with Grey-mantled Wren, Paradise Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, White-winged Tanager, Spotted Tanager, Golden Tanager, Golden-eared Tanager, Peruvian Tyrannulet, and Magpie Tanager. We also managed to see Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Black-capped Donacobius, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Sickle-winged Guan, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Red-billed Parrot (flying by only), Subtropical Cacique, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Streaked Xenops, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Brown-capped Vireo, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Orange-bellied Euphonia, and Slate-throated Whitestart.

We left Afluente and the buffer zone of the Alto-Mayo Reserve Zone and crossed into the San Martín department. Here we passed several rural communities along the main road on our way to the Complejo Turístico Yacumama. This is an interesting place where locals come to enjoy the food, walks along the river, and some fishing. But it also has some well-forested tracks and trails, where we found good species such as Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Burnished-buff Tanager, White-winged Becard, Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Blue-crowned Trogon, Black-fronted Nunbird, Black Caracara, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Neotropical Palm Swift, Gilded Barbet, and the most-wanted Point-tailed Palmcreeper.

We left Yacumama and headed to Moyobamba for two nights at the Waqanki Lodge. We arrived in the afternoon with enough time to enjoy the surroundings of the lodge and the hummingbird feeders. At the latter we had great views of a number of male hummers, namely Rufous-crested Coquette, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Black-throated Hermit, Great-billed Hermit, Black-throated Mango, White-necked Jacobin, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, and White-chinned Sapphire.

Day 14, 5 August 2018. Waqanki

The next day we explored the forest trail above Waqanki Lodge, finding Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Short-crested Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, and Grey-capped and Social Flycatchers. We also saw Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Blue Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper, Green Honeycreeper, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Yellow-bellied Tanager, White-lored Tyrannulet, Yellow-crested Tanager, Peruvian Warbling Antbird, Spot-winged Antbird, White-necked Thrush, Buff-rumped Warbler, Broad-billed Motmot, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Varzea Thrush, Purple-throated Euphonia, and Green-backed Trogon.

In the afternoon we enjoyed Amethyst Woodstar near our cabins before we went to explore the surroundings of Moyobamba, where we were successful with Buff-throated and Greyish Saltators, Yellow-bellied and Small-billed Elaenias, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch, Lineated Woodpecker, Little Woodpecker, Purple Gallinule, and Masked Duck.

Day 15. 6 August 2018. Reserva Arena Blanca

Before dawn some of our participants found a Tropical Screech Owl around the cabins. We left the lodge quite early, heading toward the Arena Blanca Reserve. We left in the dark, and suddenly we stopped in the middle of the road when we found a Mussurana (a large snake) eating a boa constrictor. The mussurana is well known to prey on other snakes, feeding even on venomous snakes like the Fer-de-lance. Most surprising was the fact that the mussurana started to regurgitate the dead boa, which was truly amazing. Fortunately the snake was not hit by an inconsiderate driver who did not reduce his speed while the snake was leaving the road.

Soon we arrived at the Reserva Arena Blanca, where we spent the morning. We arrived in good time to see the birds at the feeding station, first Little Tinamou, which was followed by Cinereous Tinamou, Orange-billed Sparrow, and Ruddy Quail Dove. We had super views of all of them. Then we were distracted by some birds around the clearing, Red-billed Tyrannulet and Northern Chestnut-tailed Antbird. We also tried for Golden-collared Toucanet, but with not success. A nice and busy hummingbird session was had with Wire-crested Thorntail, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Black-throated Mango, and several White-necked Jacobins and Fork-tailed Woodnymphs. The time passed quickly, until the owner of the reserve informed us that Rufous-breasted Wood Quail was on the way to the feeding station. We went straight to the hide and waited until a family convoy showed up nicely for us. What great views of this hard-to-see bird! Sadly, soon a Grey-cowled Wood Rail chased the wood quails away from the food, but it was still funny to see.

After leaving the reserve we also encountered Dark-breasted Spinetail, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, and Thrush-like Wren while we were on our way back to Yacumama for lunch, where we saw all the species that we had seen on the previous day.

In the afternoon we moved to the Hotel Puerto Mirador in town, where we saw the usual suspects like Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, the endemic Huallaga Tanager, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, and Tropical Screech Owl at night. 

Day 16, 7 August 2018. Transfer to Tarapoto, Aconavit hummingbird center

Today we left Moyobamba after a good breakfast in the hotel and headed north to Tarapoto. En route we stopped at the Oilbird bridge, where we managed to get decent views of this monotypic family as well as of a few Crested Oropendolas and White-eyed Parakeets.

We arrived at Tarapoto and immediately headed to the Aconavit hummingbird feeding center, but an inconvenient road construction made us lose almost an hour. Still we arrived at the reserve with enough time to see the hummingbird feeders, and fortunately we enjoyed amazing views of the endemic Koepcke’s Hermit, Gould’s Jewelfront, and Golden-tailed Sapphire. Other new birds that were observed during our brief stay here were Violaceous Jay, Thrush-like Wren, Green-backed Trogon, Black-fronted Nunbird, and Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers, and David managed to spot a single male Golden-headed Manakin.

We left the reserve to drive back to Tarapoto, and on the way we saw some White-tipped Swifts, Cliff Flycatchers, and a very brief view of a single Carmiol’s Tanager that crossed the road and sang inside the bushes. The views were so brief that the bird was barely tickable. 

Day 17, 8 August 2018. End of the set-departure tour, transfer to Puerto Maldonado

The following morning we said goodbye to one of our participants, who ended the trip in Tarapoto a day early. The rest of us once more made our way to the Aconavit hummingbird center. This time we met the person in charge of the site, and he took us through the reserve trails. With his help we actually managed to find a Golden-headed Manakin lek, where at least five different males were displaying above our heads – which was wonderful indeed. In the same sector we also saw the secretive Pale-tailed Barbthroat. On the way back from the lek we enjoyed Musician Wren and a single Fiery-capped Manakin.

After a couple of hours birding at the reserve we transferred to the airport to connect with our flight to Lima, where we met two new participants to join us for the Amazon leg of the trip. Then we flew to Puerto Maldonado in the Amazon lowlands of south-eastern Peru. After a long flight but without any inconveniences we arrived at Puerto Maldonado, the capital of the Madre de Dios department, late in the afternoon with only time to transfer to our hotel. 

Day 18, 9 August 2018. La Cachuela Road, transfer to Chuncho Lodge

Today we started the Amazon/south-eastern Peru custom leg of our trip with birding La Cachuela Road, where we easily found our main target, the localized White-throated Jacamar. We also managed to see Southern Lapwing, Hoatzin, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, Plumbeous Kite, Southern Caracara, Pale-vented Pigeon, Amazonian Motmot, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, and Chestnut-vented Conebill.

According to schedule we left the Cachuela Road and returned to the hotel, where we were picked up by the Chuncho Lodge staff to transfer us by car and river to the recently-opened Chuncho Lodge along the shores of the Tambopata River and close to the Chuncho Macaw Clay Lick in the Tambopata National Reserve. Along the land trip we managed to get excellent views of King Vulture, which was a special bird for David, and good views of Zone-tailed Hawk as well.

We arrived at the lodge at lunchtime. The people of the lodge were waiting for us with a bird they had found apparently injured, but the bird only had some sticky seeds under its wings and thus was not capable to fly. The staff had found the bird near the kitchen, had cleaned up its wings, and had put it in a box to feed it and wait for it to recover. When we arrived they were keen to show it to us and asked us to release it. The bird was a Chestnut-capped Puffbird. We admired it and then released it to everybody’s joy. It was interesting that the bird was counted by some of the tour participants. Birding around the lodge in the afternoon we had good views of Blue-throated Piping Guan, Red-throated Caracara, and Chestnut-fronted Macaw around the clearing. From the bank of the river we managed to see Moustached Wren, White-banded Swallow, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, White-winged Swallow, and Drab Water Tyrant. We also found Purplish Jay and our first Blue-and-yellow Macaw. 

Day 19, 10 August 2018. Chuncho Macaw Clay Lick

In the morning we left the lodge very early to get into the Tambopata National Reserve and visit the macaw clay lick. We stopped the boat in front of the clay lick, where there were other boats from other lodges as well. We quickly enjoyed our packed breakfast and were very lucky when the first parrots decided to perch on the clay lick just in front of us. We were delighted with views of Blue-headed Parrot, Orange-cheeked Parrot, Yellow-crowned Amazon, Southern Mealy Amazon, and Dusky-headed Parakeet, followed by Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Blue-headed Macaw, Scarlet Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, and Blue-and-yellow Macaw. We had a great morning session with these birds. At the clay lick we also saw Southern Yellowthroat.

We returned to the lodge and on the way had good views of Capped Heron, Pied Plover, Great Black Hawk, Ornate Hawk-Eagle (seen only by some of us flying by), Wood Stork, Orinoco Goose, Large-billed Tern, and Yellow-billed Tern. Back at the lodge after lunch and some rest we explored a few of the trails, but there was not much activity except White-throated Toucan, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Black-faced Antthrush, Reddish Hermit, White-fronted Nunbird, and several Undulated Tinamous calling.

Day 20, 11 August 2018. Chuncho Lodge

We tried the lodge’s canopy tower in the morning, getting good views of Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Black-crowned Tityra, a flock of Chestnut-eared Aracaris, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Black-capped Parakeet, Southern Mealy Amazon, White-throated Toucan, Slate-colored Hawk, Double-toothed Kite, Bat Falcon, Grey-rumped Swift, and Yellow-rumped Cacique. As soon as it got hot and the sweat bees showed up we descended from the tower and birded along the trails, seeing Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper, Spot-winged Antbird, Southern Chestnut-tailed Antbird, Large Elaenia, and Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher, as well as Buff-throated Woodcreeper. Late in the afternoon we watched Sand-colored Nighthawks flying above the river before dusk. At dusk we had a short boat ride along the river, finding Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Pauraque, and Common Potoo. We also noticed fresh jaguar tracks on the sandbar while photographing nightjars.

Day 21, 12 August 2018. Chuncho Lodge

Our last day at Chuncho Lodge was dedicated to exploring some of the forest trails, where we managed to find Striated Antbird, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Black-faced Antthrush, Red-necked Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Turquoise Tanager, Brown-winged Schiffornis, the striking male Band-tailed Manakin, Plain-crowned Spinetail, Striolated Puffbird, and a female Black-tailed Trogon. During the afternoon we enjoyed Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper, Yellow-billed Nunbird, Speckled Chachalaca, Great Antshrike, Streaked Flycatcher, Masked Tityra, and Epaulet Oriole. After dinner we tried to track down a Crested Owl near the lodge without success, but we scored with brilliant views of Tawny-bellied Screech Owl. 

Day 22, 13 August 2018. Flight to Cusco, birding the Cusco area, train to Aguas Calientes

Today we transferred back to Puerto Maldonado. During the drive some of us had great views of Sunbittern by the road. We arrived at the Puerto Maldonado airport and said goodbye to most of the participants, while a few of us continued on the last leg of the trip, flying to Cusco for two full days of easy birding

The day was beautiful. We went to Huacarpay Lake and started to check the arid slopes and the Peruvian pepper trees here for Blue-and-yellow Tanager, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Chiguanco Thrush, White-crested Elaenia, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Band-tailed Seedeater, Andean Flicker, and Giant Hummingbird. Around the lake we spotted Yellow-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck, Puna Teal, Cinnamon Teal, and White-tufted Grebe. We had incredible views of Plumbeous Rail, Many-colored Rush Tyrant, and Wren-like Rushbird. Other birds included Yellow-winged Blackbird, American Kestrel, and Variable Hawk.

We left Huacarpay Lake and headed straight for Ollantaytambo, where we had lunch at the Hotel Pakaritampu. After a tasty meal we spent a couple of hours birding around the hotel garden, where after several minutes we found our main target, the endemic Bearded Mountaineer. We also saw Spot-winged Pigeon, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Sparkling Violetear, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Golden-billed Saltator, White-bellied Hummingbird, Hooded Siskin, and Greenish Yellow Finch here.

Then we went to the train station to connect with our train to Aguas Calientes. During the train ride we managed to see a few Torrent Ducks on the rapids of the Urubamba River. We arrived at Aguas Calientes in the evening.

Day 23, 14 August 2018. Machu Picchu, birding the Camino Peatonal

Today we visited the legendary archaeological site of Machu Picchu. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”, Machu Picchu is a vast pre-Columbian Inca site built in the 15th century. It is an incredible place to visit, but unfortunately it is extremely crowded, especially during this time of year. Our main agenda was to have the chance to see the site, get a photo of us there, and just take a brief walk along some of the Inca monuments. We didn’t plan on doing the whole tour, instead we tried to complete our visit as quickly as possible in order to have time to do some birding outside of the ruins.

Even though we had bus tickets to get back to town we decided to walk all the way – fortunately downhill – to Aguas Calientes, following the Camino Peatonal (Pedestrian Trail). Our choice was rewarded with great views of White-winged Black Tyrant, Pale-legged Warbler, and the endemic Inca Wren, which performed extremely well for us – after making us suffer.

And finally there was the bird of the trip for the leader: We had a fabulous family of the uncommon and hard-to-see Stripe-faced Wood Quail crossing the trail two meters in front of us, with a male glowing in the sunlight! This was not only an incredible moment but also a most-wanted lifer for the leader after many years of birding and visiting the southern Andes.

Before arriving back in Aguas Calientes we also found Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Torrent Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Mitred Parakeet, Golden-naped Tanager, Andean Guan, Barred Becard, and Dusky-green Oropendola.

After lunch we took the train to Ollantaytambo and then drove back to Cusco, where we had our final dinner at Incanto, our favorite restaurant in town.

Day 24, 15 August 2018. Departure

Our tour sadly came to an end today. We transferred to the airport to connect with our flight to Lima, where we said farewell after an incredible 24-day trip which had been highly memorable, full of laughs and joy, and with wonderful people enjoying birds, wildlife, culture, gastronomy, and the spirit of travel.

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included.



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