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DAY 1 THURSDAY 31st JULY
Everyone met on time at Heathrow for our 7.30am flight to Madrid. Here we had a short wait for our connecting flight to Lima and were soon on our way to South America. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we flew for some five hours over the Amazon, and it was fascinating to see such a vast landscape of trees and rivers beneath us. We arrived in Lima just as the sun was setting and met our guides Kevin Easley and Ramiro Yabar, who took us to our comfortable hotel for an overnight stay.
DAY 2 FRIDAY 1st AUGUST
After breakfast we met outside the hotel, where in a few minutes we saw a Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Scrub Blackbird, American Kestrel, Osprey, and both Pacific and Eared Dove.
From here we drove to Pantanos de Villa Marshes on the outskirts of Lima. The road went through the suburbs of Lima, before following the coast for a few kilometres. Our first Peruvian Booby and Peruvian Pelicans were seen skimming the tops of the huge waves out in the Pacific Ocean. At the marshes new birds came quickly and around the first small pool we saw Southern House Wren, Puna Ibis, Andean Coot, Blue-and-White Swallow, White-cheeked Pintail, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Cinnamon Teal, Vermillion Flycatcher and a few Pied-billed Grebes. A gathering of gulls on the far bank held Kelp, Band-tailed, Grey-hooded and the immaculate Grey Gull. Around the scrubby area slightly further inland we saw several Black Vultures perched on top of a line of tall palm trees, American Kestrel and Burrowing Owl. Possibly one of the birds of the day was a fabulous Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, which gave great views around the reeds, and in the same area we had a few rather skulky Wren-like Rushbirds. We returned to the park entrance and paused to watch a flock of Groove-billed Ani along the roadside. From the car park we saw a solitary Harris' Hawk perched on a tree, several Killdeer, a stunning Peruvian Meadowlark, Black-necked Stilt, and both Snowy and Great Egret. Then we walked to a tower hide overlooking a large lagoon, and saw a close Plumbeous Rail, as well as Striated Heron, Great Grebe, Osprey, Croaking Ground-Dove and a Scrub Blackbird. Along the main road we saw our first Puna Teal and Andean Duck, as well as more White-cheeked Pintails, Franklin's Gull, Andean Coot and White-tufted Grebes. We drove further south and stopped in a rather arid area of dry scrub, with scattered bushes. It was getting quite hot by now, but we took our time and worked the area for several hours, finding some good birds, including a superb Short-tailed Field-Tyrant that kept running along the ground ahead of us, and it took quite a while to obtain decent views of it. A distant perched raptor opened up a debate as to its identification, before we got close enough to see that it was a Variable Hawk. We spread out along the flat, dusty plain and found an assortment of other birds including Coastal Miner and a flock of Collared Warbling-Finches, as well as Band-tailed, Drab and Parrot-billed Seedeaters. and a few Blue-black Grassquits. We also had good views of a Croaking Ground-Dove and a few fantastic Peruvian Thick-Knees. After a good picnic lunch we walked towards the road and had a male Peruvian Sheartail fly over, showing his long tail streamers. We drove further south to the lagoons at Las Salinas, and saw Grassland Yellow-Finch, Andean Duck, Andean Coot, a brief Least Bittern, Great Grebe and a few more White-tufted Grebes. Then, we made a slight diversion to bird around the edge of a village, which had lots of vegetation in contrast to the dry surrounding plains. We had a great time, seeing Cinereous Conebill, Streaked Saltator, Chestnut-throated Seedeater, Variable Hawk, Shiny Cowbird, Blue-black Grassquit, Plumbeous Rail, Cinereous Harrier, Tropical Kingbird, Groove-billed Ani, Rufous-collared Sparrow, female Peruvian Sheartail and a nice Amazilia Hummingbird. All too soon it was time to leave this good little area and we headed to our hotel at Paracas, through the hot and dusty northern section of the Atacama Desert.
DAY 3 SATURDAY 2nd AUGUST
After breakfast we drove the short distance to Paracas National Park. We walked to the tower hide, seeing a Coastal Miner scurrying along the path in front of us. Scanning the shoreline produced flocks of Chilean Flamingo as well as loads of Peruvian Pelicans. There were lots of Peruvian Boobies flying low across the bay, with some landing on the waters' surface. There was a nice selection of shorebirds present, including Snowy and Semipalmated Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Grey Plover, American Oystercatcher, Western Sandpiper, as well as a solitary Peruvian Tern perched on a sandbank. We also saw several superb Grey Gulls and more Great Grebes out in the bay. We went next to the harbour, but it was too misty for the boat to leave so we returned to Paracas NP and went to `La Cathedral'. As we pulled up, a Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes was seen and showed really well on the cliff top. The view here was amazing as we looked across at the really high sheer cliffs. Below us, we watched in amazement at the stunning Inca Terns flying around and we found some perched on ledges quite close to us.
Peruvian Boobies were everywhere, Red-legged Cormorants were also stunning and a single Blackish Oystercatcher was found on the rocks below. We returned to the harbour and finally boarded our boat for a trip round the Ballestas Islands. What an experience! We sailed close to the cliffs where we obtained fantastic views of more Inca Terns, Peruvian Booby and Blackish Oystercatchers. Our first Southern Sealions were impressive as they lounged on the rocks at the waters' edge. One rocky little bay held a flock of 12 Surfbirds, another Blackish Oystercatcher and a couple of American Oystercatchers. A single Blue-footed Booby crossed in front of the boat and disappeared into the distance. As we crossed the open water to some more distant islands, a Chilean Skua was spotted sat on the water and we had crippling views of this unexpected bird - which was a lifer for Kev and Ramiro. The next set of islands had Guanay Cormorants, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, Humboldt Penguins, and huge numbers of Peruvian Boobies. But it was the overall experience of seeing the cliffs crammed with birds and the smell of the guano that will live long in the memory. Our `driver' took us close into the rocks so we could get exceptionally close views of everything. But all too soon our time was up and we had to return to the mainland. We had some very close Peruvian Pelicans and Peruvian Terns as we entered the harbour. We returned to the hotel for lunch, where in the gardens we were able to scope a fine Amazilia Hummingbird, and we also saw a Blue-black Grassquit, Vermillion Flycatcher and Rufous-collared Sparrow. After lunch we followed the Pan American Highway back to Lima. On the way we saw many of the same birds as yesterday, including Andean Coot, Peruvian Meadowlark, Great Grebe, Cinnamon Teal, as well as a flock of Grassland Yellow Finches at some pools. At the scrubby area where we stopped yesterday, everyone saw several Parrot-billed Seedeaters and a small flock of Collared Warbling-Finches, to round off a truly great days birding. Tired and hungry after a long drive, we arrived at our hotel in Lima in plenty of time for our evening meal.
DAY 4 SUNDAY 3rd AUGUST
This morning we had a very early breakfast before driving to the airport in readiness for our 5.45am flight to Cusco. The flight lasted about an hour and took us over the Andes, and we had some good views of the immense snow-capped mountains. On arrival, we went straight to Huacarpay Lake, some 40 minutes out of Cusco. As soon as we pulled up we saw a rather impressive Aplomado Falcon perched in a field. Out on the marsh we saw Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Gull, Andean Lapwing, Cinereous Harrier, Band-tailed Seedeater, Andean Negrito, Pectoral Sandpiper, Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, Wren-like Rushird, and Yellow-shouldered Blackbird, with several huge White-collared Swifts flying overhead. Moving on to the scrubby hillside behind, we found Greenish Yellow-Finch, Bare-faced Ground Dove, Chiguanco Thrush, Rufous-collared Sparrow and a perched Variable Hawk. Just around the corner we found the endemic Rusty-fronted Canastero, an absolutely stunning endemic Bearded Mountaineer, Blue-and-Yellow Tanager, a nice Black-throated Flowerpiercer, and several Sparkling Violetears. On the next hill we saw a Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant, and on a nearby ploughed field was a Rufous-naped Gound-Tyrant. In some bushes a smart White-browed Chat- Tyrant was perched, whilst a stunning Andean Flicker was heard calling before being located on a boulder up on the hillside. Overhead, John picked up an awesome Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle as it flew over and gave us great views. Behind us an adult and juvenile Mountain Caracara flew by. Slightly further on we walked up onto a thorn-scrub covered hillside and had another Bearded Mountaineer, as well as Giant Hummingbird, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, more Band-tailed Seedeaters, and several more Blue-and-Yellow Tanagers. The view from here was simply outstanding, but unfortunately Kevin B was a little too preoccupied with this and walked into a rather evil looking cactus! As we drove to our picnic lunch stop, Kev spotted something on the hillside, which turned out to be our only Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant of the trip.
Our lunch stop produced Plumbeous Rail, Puna Ibis and Speckled Teal on the marsh below. So once we were all `fed and watered' we walked back down the road, and saw the Giant Hummingbird again, much to Ray's delight. This was quickly followed by a Golden-billed Saltator and an Ashy-breasted Sierra Finch all in the same little area. Then, further along the path we found a female Green-tailed Trainbearer, before finally striking gold with the extremely difficult and skulking Streak-fronted Thornbird that provided us with the most difficult examination of our birding skills to date! With this under our belts, we drove around the lake one last time, seeing more Puna Teal and Andean Lapwings before returning to our hotel in Cusco around mid-afternoon, where we had several hours off for relaxation and sightseeing.
DAY 5 MONDAY 4th AUGUST
We stopped at Huacarpay Lake very briefly this morning, seeing all the same birds as yesterday including Andean Lapwing and Puna Teal. But we did not linger as we had a long drive to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. We made many stops throughout the day, the first of which was to look at a flock of Spot-winged Pigeons, and a short distance from here we watched three excellent Mountain Caracaras fly across the valley below us. The road crossed several dry valleys, before we pulled in just beyond a little village. We had a great time here, seeing a Black-throated Flowerpiercer, several stunning Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Shining Sunbeam, Cinereous Conebill, a few totally superb Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finches, as well as a Mourning Sierra-Finch and Golden-billed Saltator. Then, some distance further on, we found a flock of Tawny-throated Dotterel, and in the same field both Slender-billed and Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant. Whilst just around the corner, we saw a pair of White-winged Cinclodes, as well as a flock of Ash-breasted Sierra-Finches. Around mid-morning, the rain came in quite heavy with thick mist. Most of us `dozed' through this period, but eventually it lifted slightly as we stopped in a small village. From the bridge we saw Torrent Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe, an immature Variable Hawk, Blue-and-Yellow Tanager and Brown-bellied Swallow. As the road wound upwards, we stopped at various places where the forest was still quite dense, but a lot of the trees have been felled revealing large open patches. In one such area we had a stunning Tyrian Metaltail.
We stopped for our packed lunch along the road and fortunately the sun came out. After our break, we found a pair of Creamy-crested Spinetails on the road up to the high pass. A little higher up and we abruptly stopped the coach when a few birds flew across the road in front of us. Here we had our first real experience of sorting through a mixed-species flock on this trip, and we found White-crested and Sierran Elaenia, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Moustached Flowerpiercer, Sedge Wren, Great Thrush and White-throated Tyrannulet. It was still misty, but this didn't deter us and just around the corner we saw our first stunning Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager and a lone Golden-collared Tanager in the same flock. Then we descended the eastern slope of the Andes on the Upper Manu Road where bird activity increased markedly, and we saw Fulvous Wren, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Andean Guan, Shining Sunbeam, Blue-capped Tanager, Masked Flowerpiercer and a nice Rust-and-Yellow Tanager. At one point we stopped to overlook a densely forested gorge, and saw a superb Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan that flew out of the trees and landed long enough for us to scope it. Wow! Further down we stopped for a perched Hooded Mountain-Tanager by road and then discovered a flock containing Andean Guan, the absolutely stunning Grass-green Tanager, Mountain Cacique and Violet-throated Starfrontlet. Our last stop of the day was just before dark, when our only Blue-banded Toucanet was seen from the coach, before arriving at the famous Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge in darkness at 6.30pm. After we had sorted the rooms out, we met in the dining hall for a delicious evening meal and to do our bird list - by candlelight of course!
DAY 6 TUESDAY 5th AUGUST
We were all up early this morning, and walked excitedly up the road to the hide. We arrived at 5.20am and settled in, waiting impatiently for the sun to rise. As the light slowly began to creep over the hills, we heard and then saw a superb male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock perched just 30 feet away. Wow! Over the course of the next hour we watched several males displaying, and calling to a couple of attendant females. It was a fantastic experience to observe these stunning birds at such close quarters. The males brightened up even the darkest, shadiest areas of the canopy!
Then we walked up the road and birds were literally everywhere - we didn't know where to look first! The early morning chill was soon replaced by warm sunshine and clear skies and the conditions were perfect. The common Smoke-coloured Pewee was seen at the top of a dead tree, whilst a beautiful Cinnamon Flycatcher followed us. Then we had a Streak-necked Flycatcher, Orange-bellied Euphonia, and a Buff-throated Saltator. A large flock held the incredible Paradise Tanager, Blue-headed Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, a stunning Versicoloured Barbet, and Olive-backed Woodcreeper. Nearby we saw a Two-banded Warbler, Olivaceous Siskin, Streaked Flycatcher, Slate-coloured Redstart, whilst a Dark-faced Brush-Finch skulked in the shadows. A couple of Dusky-green Oropendola flew into a large tree and fed for a while, allowing most of us some good scope views. Whilst behind us we found Three-striped Warbler, Black-eared Hemispingus, and a nice Azara's Spinetail that was calling from some dense scrub for ages before we all saw it well. Another flock held Fawn-breasted and Golden-naped Tanager, whilst a Spotted Tanager flew into the next tree, and joined several Golden Tanagers and a fine Blue-necked Tanager. We had a good look at this group of stunning birds, looking for the entire world like a bunch of avian jewels lighting up the canopy! Other species we saw included Golden-olive Woodpecker Yellow-throated Bush Tanager, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, and whilst returning for our 8.00am breakfast, a Yungas Manakin appeared. As we ate a great breakfast, we saw outside on the feeders a Violet-fronted Brilliant and Versicoloured Barbet, as well as Blue-grey, Buff-throated and Golden Tanager. Then, once we had all had enough food, our superb driver Carlos drove us back up the winding road a few kilometers, and we birded the road most of the way down. All around were hundreds of stunning and very beautiful butterflies, which were a pleasant distraction from the birds. Over the hills we saw a distant Solitary Eagle, whilst a skulking Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant appeared next to us. Then a Yellow-throated Tanager was seen, followed by a brilliant Orange-eared Tanager and Golden-collared Honeycreeper, and whilst watching these, a Striped Treehunter flew in. This particular hillside was `jumping', and we also found a pair of exquisite Barred Becards, as well as a Stripe-chested Antwren, and a Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager was seen at the top of a close tree, whilst a Brown-capped Vireo fed behind us. Finally another flock held Beryl-spangled and Saffron-crowned Tanagers. Back at the lodge for lunch, we watched the activity on the feeders and saw Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Paradise Tanager, Beryl-Spangled Tanager and Golden Tanager, whilst Violet-fronted Brilliants fed just a few inches from us. Also in the grounds were Brown Capuchin, Tayra and Aguti. After lunch we split into two groups and worked the bamboo forest and trails behind the lodge. Ramiro's group saw Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Olive-backed Foliage-Gleaner, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, a brief and skulking Chestnut-breasted Wren and a very secretive White-backed Fire-Eye, whilst a Barred Forest-Falcon flew over. Kev's group saw Highland Motmot, Orange-eared Tanager, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant and a Spotted Barbtail. What a day!
DAY 7 WEDNESDAY 6th AUGUST
This morning we went out at 5.30pm in order to drive several kilometers up the Manu Road. At our first stop we found an Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, a cracking White-eared Solitaire, a pair of Masked Trogons, a superb Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, female Barred Fruiteater, Brown-capped Vireo, and a Golden-crowned Flycatcher. The next area had Rusty-winged Barbtail, Yellow-whiskered Bush-Tanager, Oleaginous Hemispingus and Buff-thighed Puffleg. We worked the ravine, everyone eventually seeing a skulking Maroon-chested Chat-Tyrant, and a Bolivian Tapaculo creeping low through the undergrowth. Overhead, a few Chestnut-collared Swifts flew over. At lunch, in the gardens of the lodge, we saw a Many-spotted Hummingbird on the feeders, a female Long-tailed Sylph put in a brief appearance, and a male Stripe-chested Antwren showed well. Several Paradise Tanagers flew in and were joined by a Beryl-spangled Tanager. As we walked up the path towards the road, a Dusky-green Oropendola gave crippling views in the trees around the lodge. We then moved 300 metres down the road to Paradise Lodge for the night. At the entrance we saw a Little Ground-Tyrant and Marbled-faced Bristle-Tyrant on the hillside above. In the grounds, we saw several Russet-backed Oropendolas building their nests high up in a tree, Mottle-backed Elaenia, Southern Rough-winged Swallow and a Yellow-bellied Elaenia. Then after sorting out our luggage, we drove up the road again and it began to drizzle. We stopped the coach by the hide and saw a cracking male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock just before it started to rain very heavily. Eventually it stopped and we walked up the road, seeing a Uniform Antshrike, a very attractive Ash-browed Spinetail, Yellow-throated Tanager, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Slaty Tanager, Masked Trogon, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, and a Highland Motmot perched on the rocks in the river. Overhead, a flock of Scaly-naped Parrots flew quickly over. At dusk we watched in amazement as a fantastic Lyre-tailed Nightjar flew up and down the Manu Road, with its incredibly long tail-streamers. You really have to see this bird to believe it! Whilst watching this, a Rufescent Screech Owl began calling and Kev eventually managed to get the spotlight on it. What a great ending to another fantastic day's birding.
DAY 8 THURSDAY 7th AUGUST
This morning as we loaded the bags onto the coach, we saw the Mottled-backed Elaenia again perched on a nearby tree - this time Peter and John managed to see it as they had spent the night back at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge and missed this bird yesterday. Whilst watching this, a couple of Speckled Chachalacas flew in and gave great views right next to us. They were perched no more than 20 feet away, just on the other side of our parked bus and were totally oblivious to our presence. So, we drove down the road a short way and stopped to work a particular stretch of forest. Here we saw a Magpie Tanager, and in the same area we found a Squirrel Cuckoo. Our attention was diverted by a flock of Chestnut-fronted Macaws that flew into the top of a tree and posed beautifully so we could have a good look at them in the telescope. Meanwhile, Kev and Ramiro had been busy, finding us a Warbling Antwren, quickly followed by a pair of extremely skulking Cabanis' Spinetail. Then a superb Chestnut-backed Antshrike was found, that at first proved hard to locate but eventually gave good views and was even scoped as it sang from a horizontal bamboo stalk on the hillside above us. Just around the corner we could look down on an area of secondary growth, seeing Yellow-browed Sparrow, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Tropical Kingbird and Orange-bellied Euphonia. Then we boarded the coach, stopping briefly for a close Roadside Hawk. Our next stop was at a small bridge surrounded by dense jungle, with moss covered trees all around. We walked back up the road a short way through a steep sided cutting, finding Ornate Flycatcher, several Orange-eared Tanagers, Blue-crowned Trogon, Violaceous Jay, Bananaquit and a Fasciated Tiger-Heron on the banks of the fast flowing river below. Walking down the road, we bumped into a flock containing Slaty Tanager, several Paradise Tanagers, Montane Foliage-Gleaner and a few Yellow-throated Bush-Tanagers. A little further down the road, we saw a Russet Antshrike and a pair of Crimson-crested Woodpeckers. The next flock we found contained Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Blue Dacnis, Green-and-Gold and Yellow-crested Tanager, whilst a few hundred yards further on we saw a Dot-winged Antwren, Plain-crowned Spinetail and Red-billed Scythebill. Meanwhile, over a distant hill we saw 4 immaculate Swallow-tailed Kites soaring in company with a Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, and whilst watching these Kev found a distant, but still stunning male Plum-throated Cotinga. The forest eventually gave way to some rice-fields at one stage and we stopped for a look. What a good decision that turned out to be, as we saw possibly the first record of Black-bellied Whistling Duck for the region. This was a great area and without walking more than 100 yards from the coach we found Giant Cowbird, Smooth-billed Ani, Chestnut-bellied Seedfinch, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Black-billed Thrush, Pale-vented Pigeon, Blue-black Grassquit, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Fork-tailed Palm-Swift, Short-crested Flycatcher, Grayish Saltator, Purplish Jay and Chestnut-bellied Seedeater. We stopped in town to buy wellington boots and other bits `n' pieces before heading on to the last stage of our journey before reaching Amazonia Lodge. The road followed the Alto Rio de Madre and the scenery was spectacular. We got some great views of several excellent Blue-headed Macaws, as well as Swallow-wing, Long-tailed Tyrant, Crested Oropendola and a perched Double-toothed Kite.Eventually, we arrived at the river crossing, put the bags onboard the boat and sailed downriver for 10 minutes, seeing another Fasciated Tiger-Heron, White-winged Swallow, Yellow-rumped Cacique and a flock of Sand-coloured Nighthawks. Once we had arrived safely on the opposite bank, we walked through the forest in the gathering gloom and arrived at Amazonia Lodge at dusk. It was a great relief to finally arrive, and after settling into our rooms we enjoyed another delicious evening meal. That night we went to sleep to the sound of a Pauraque calling outside our rooms.
DAY 9 FRIDAY 8th AUGUST
Breakfast was at 5.30am and we were out birding a short while later. This was our first day at Amazonia Lodge, and we were all excited as to the possible bird species that awaited us. The grounds comprised various trails that covered all the different habitats, ranging from the oxbow lake, across rivers and streams to Bamboo forest and lush tropical rainforest. We decided to split the group into two, with Ramiro's group heading into the bamboo forest, and Kevin's group heading along the oxbow lake and jeep track. Just after breakfast we all saw a Grey-breasted Sabrewing on the feeder at the lodge, as well as a stunning male Rufous-crested Cocquette feeding around the bushes in the garden. Heading into the bamboo forest, via a small river and little bridge, we saw a Grey-capped Flycatcher, Turquoise Tanager, Green Honeycreeper, Long-tailed Tyrant, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Red-stained Woodpecker, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Red-eyed (Chibi) Vireo, and heard a Horned Screamer in the distance. Following the trails through the bamboo forest and stopping when we heard something good (thanks to Ramiro) produced a superb pair of White-lined Antbirds, Dusky-headed Parrot, Pygmy Antwren, Crested Oropendola, Dot-winged Antwren, whilst 3 Spix's Guan flew in and landed in a nearby tree. Looking at the hillside over the river produced our first stunning Amazonian Oropendola, and a brief Chestnut-eared Aracari. In a nearby stretch of bamboo we caught up with a Dusky-cheeked Foliage-Gleaner that crept furtively through the canopy, but which eventually gave really good views. Other species seen include a close male Black-throated Mango, White-necked Jacobin, Little Woodpecker, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, male Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, Short-crested Flycatcher, Forest Elaenia, Black-fronted Nunbird, and a good close Large-headed Flatbill. And then we hit a purple patch (!) with some very good birds all found around the same stretch of perhaps 40 yards of forest. First we had a Bluish-slate Antshrike, then a stunning pair of Bamboo Antshrike, an immaculate White-cheeked Tody Flycatcher, Manu Antbird, Goeldi's Antbird, Sepia-capped Flycatcher, and a Great Antshrike that took some work but we were eventually rewarded with good views. Moving on as it was nearly lunchtime, we got brief views of a Crimson-crested Woodpecker, as well as a Cobalt-winged Parrot and a White-lored Euphonia. Kevin's' group found a superb Agami Heron and a Sungrebe along the oxbow lake, with lots of Hoatzins in the trees.
In the forest, they heard Little, Undulated and Black-capped Tinamou. Further along the lake a Rufescent Tiger-Heron was spotted, whilst other species seen include Speckled Chachalaca, Rufous-sided Crake and Grey-necked Wood-Rail in quick succession. Moving on, they next saw a Cobalt-winged Parakeet. Other species were numerous and included Emerald Toucanet, Pale-legged Hornero, Plain Xenops, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Plain-winged Antshrike, Bluish-slate Antshrike, Pygmy Antwren, Stripe-chested Antwren, and a Chestnut-tailed Antbird. A pair of Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrants showed exceptionally well, as did a Pink-throated Becard. We all eventually arrived back at Amazonia Lodge for lunch, and in the gardens we had a lovely male Rufous-bellied Euphonia, as well as Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Red-capped Cardinal and lots of Masked Crimson Tanagers coming to the feeders. After lunch we had an hour and a half just to relax, but some of the group took a short walk to the nearby oxbow lake in a successful search for the Sungrebe. Also here were several Hoatzins sunning themselves on the waterside trees, whilst a Cinereous Tinamou was seen briefly by Kevin B as it walked across the path in front of him. At 3pm Ramiro's group walked to the dry forest - this area being quite open with lots of large leafless trees, and is a complete contrast to the surrounding rain forest. Here we found Yellow-bellied Dacnis, Rufous-tailed Xenops, Grey-capped Flycatcher, a superb Black-tailed Trogon, female Plum-throated Cotinga, Johannes' Tody-Tyrant and a Solitary Cacique. We then walked back to the small tower overlooking the marsh, where a pair of excellent Rufous-sided Crakes showed well right below us, and a Black-capped Donacobius popped up from the dense vegetation and perched in full view for ages. We left at dusk for a welcoming hot shower before our evening meal, and whilst this was going on a fabulous Long-tailed Potoo was found and showed well to a few of the group. Kev's group went to the river in the afternoon and saw Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers, Masked Tityra, Sunbittern, Violaceous and White-tailed Trogon, Magpie Tanager, Rufescent Tiger-Heron and a 45 minute wait produced some good views of an excellent Rusty-belted Tapaculo. That evening during the log, a Tawny-bellied Screech Owl was heard, but despite our best efforts remained hidden from view.
DAY 10 SATURDAY 9th AUGUST
This morning we woke to the sound of heavy rain, which continued for a good hour or so after breakfast. As we sat on the verandah, we watched two male Rufous-crested Cocquettes zipping around and frequently perching on the bushes in front of us. There was also Violet-headed Hummingbird, Amethyst Woodstar and Grey-breasted Sabrewing to look at. The rain eventually stopped and Ramiro's group walked over to the oxbow lake. Along the approach path were a few bedraggled and very sodden Blue-headed Parrots perched at the top of a dead tree. At the oxbow lake, we saw a pair of Blue-crowned Trogons and a party of 4 Chestnut-eared Aracari in a tree behind some roosting Hoatzins. Then Ramiro heard a bird calling in the jungle behind us and we eventually saw a crippling Thrush-like Antpitta. It came right out into an open area and just stood motionless for several minutes. But unfortunately the rains returned with a vengeance and we quickly walked back to the lodge through the waterlogged tracks. Kevin's group tried to walk to the bamboo forest, but they were thwarted by the high water level, seeing a lovely Lemon-throated Barbet, as well as Great Antshrike, Little Woodpecker, Johannes' Tody Tyrant, Blue-throated Piping Guan and Silvered Antbird.
In the gardens at lunch time, we all saw a Fork-tailed Woodnymph fly in and linger around one of the large flowering bushes, and a superb Pale-legged Hornero, that skulked under the bushes and remained hidden for ages until it finally decided to walk right out onto the lawn in plain view. After lunch, the rain finally stopped and Ramiro's group walked up the mountain behind the lodge, to the canopy tower. It was a steep, muddy walk with the bottom path submerged in several inches of water, and we took our time as the trails were very slippery in places. When we eventually arrived at the tower, the birding was a little slow. However, we still saw Blue and Yellow-bellied Dacnis, female Plum-throated Cotinga and both Green and Purple Honeycreepers around a flowering tree. A Yellow-margined Flycatcher flew into the tree behind, and we also saw Golden-tailed Sapphire and Black-tailed Trogon, whilst a couple flocks of White-eyed Parakeets flew over. Frustratingly, a few Military Macaws flew across the top half of the mountain, but were rather obscured by the mist. But, the views across the valley and up on the mountain were simply superb. Our visit here was cut short, as the rain came returned and it would stay with us for the rest of the day. Kevin's group tried to cross the river once again, but the water had risen too far, with Mr E getting stuck in the mud mid-stream! However the birds were good: White-browed Antbird, Pectoral Sparrow, Yellow-browed Tyrant and a fine Crimson-crested Woodpecker. On the way back to the lodge, a Spider Monkey was seen, as well as Chestnut-vented Conebill, Fine-barred Piculet and Lineated Woodcreeper. Whilst doing the daily bird log this evening, we eventually managed to see the Tawny-bellied Screech Owl by torchlight, as it sat calling from the huge tree in the middle of the lawn.
DAY 11 SUNDAY 10th AUGUST
This morning the rain actually stopped whilst we were eating breakfast, and it was to remain dry and overcast all day. Ramiro's group headed down to the floodplain area, seeing a brief Ringed Antpipit on the way. We came across a fruiting tree which was positively jumping with birds. Over the course of an hour we had a nice Hauxwell's Thrush, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Black-faced Dacnis, Lemon-throated Barbet, White-necked Thrush, Scarlet-hooded Barbet, Olive-striped Flycatcher and a Buff-throated Saltator. It was really good to just stand in one spot and watch the birds flying in to feed right in front of us, all the while being totally unconcerned with our presence. Moving on, we followed the path to a narrow creek where we had the first of several Black-tailed Trogons, and other species included Chestnut-crowned Foliage-Gleaner, White-tailed and Blue-crowned Trogons, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Dot-winged Antwren, White-lored Tyrannulet, a nice Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Rufous-tailed Foliage-Gleaner, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Band-tailed Antbird and three Blue-and-Yellow Macaws gave stunning views as they flew over calling. Roz found a Thrush-like Wren which showed well, and a Bare-necked Fruitcrow flew into a tree near the path. Once at the river, a quick scan revealed our first superb Large-billed Tern, as well as a Little Ground-Tyrant on the island, Yellow-billed Tern, Cocoi Heron, and several White-banded Swallows flying overhead. Then we followed the trail inland seeing an endemic Fine-barred Piculet, which was scoped by all of us. Nearby, a White-browed Antbird skulked in the shadows, whilst a very small and exquisite Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant was also scoped. Along the return walk we had a nice Pectoral Sparrow, White-lined and Chestnut-tailed Antbirds, and an Ocellated Woodcreeper all in one little area. Then we got back to the lodge for a really great lunch. We had a good couple of hours rest, during which time I found a Common Potoo at its daytime roost and 5 Chestnut-eared Aracari's visited the gardens. Hummingbirds around the flowering bushes and feeders in the garden included Golden-tailed Sapphire and Amethyst Woodstar. We then followed the jeep track, seeing a pair of superb Blue-headed Macaws perched for a while on a dead tree, whilst a Cinerous Tinamou crossed the track ahead of us. A strange call led us to a stunning Red-throated Caracara, whilst we also saw Emerald Toucanet, Double-toothed Kite and managed to get excellent scope views of a superb a Barred Forest-Falcon. Along the ox-bow lake we were treated to great views of a Rufescent Tiger-Heron and a Blackish Rail eventually showed at the marsh. What a day!
Meanwhile, Kevin's group had had a really successful day, seeing Spix's Guan, Little Cuckoo, Koepcke's Hermit, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper, Ornate Antwren, Black-throated Antbird and Thrush-like Antpitta.
DAY 12 MONDAY 11th AUGUST
We left the wonderful Amazonia Lodge this morning, on our 7+ hour boat ride down to the Manu Wildlife Centre. But not before we fitted in a spot of last minute birding around the trails. Kevin's group caught up with Ringed Antpipit, had a superb Tiny Hawk that Mike picked up, and also saw a superb Black-spotted Bare-Eye. Ramiro's group started off with a brief Grey-fronted Dove and heard a Moustached Wren. Then we heard a Fire-capped Manakin and walked off the path, with only Kathy seeing it perched for a few seconds. However, our attention was diverted to a calling Black-faced Ant-thrush right behind us. It came to within a few feet and gave very good views, as it walked through the undergrowth. Just a hundred yards further along the path and we bumped into a flock containing Yellow-bellied Tanager, female Black-capped Becard and Red-eyed Vireo. Then we all assembled at the river and boarded our boat. It was a fantastic trip and we saw many good birds. There were 7 Fasciated Tiger-Herons and Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns were seen frequently. On the treetops we saw several Swallow-wings, and other species included White-banded Swallow and Short-tailed Swift. We landed briefly at the riverbank for a 'bush stop', before arriving at Boca Manu for a rest and whilst here, most of the group saw a Bat Falcon perched in a large tree and a superb flyover King Vulture. Continuing downriver, we saw Collared Plover and Pied Lapwing perched along the edges of the river, before a few Great Black Hawks flew over. Capped Heron was possibly the best bird of the day, before we saw several Blue-and-Yellow, Scarlet and Red-and-Green Macaws flying overhead. The sight of these beautiful birds flying over the Amazon rainforest was simply magical. More Bat Falcons were seen on the tree tops, and good numbers of Sand-coloured Nighthawks were flying around, with some seen perched on a fallen dead tree along the riverbank. A fine Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift flew over, as did a few Brown-chested Martins. A Least Grebe was an unusual find, whilst Short-tailed Hawk was more expected. At one point we pulled over to view a flock of Tui Parakeets coming to the riverbank for clay, before eventually arriving at the Manu Wildlife Centre by mid-afternoon. After we had got settled in to our rooms we walked along one of the trails to the 140 feet high canopy tower. The view was amazing and we saw some great birds, including Striolated Puffbird, Casqued Oropendola, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Wing-barred Piprites, Mealy Parrot, and a pair of Cuvier's Toucan.
DAY 13 TUESDAY 12th AUGUST
This morning we took an eagerly anticipated pre-dawn boat down river to the Blanquillo Macaw Lick. We arrived after a 45 minute journey and moored up to a floating hide in the middle of the wide river. On the way down we saw the exquisite Cocoi and Capped Herons, as well as a few Black Skimmers (which are prime candidates to be split in the near future) and a pair of Orinoco Geese. Soon after our arrival, flocks of Blue-headed Parrots flew in and landed on the riverbank. They were quickly followed by a few White-eyed Parakeets, several Mealy Parrots, a few Yellow-crowned and Orange-cheeked Parrots, and several diminutive Tui Parakeets. It was some spectacle and we all felt privileged to watch this wonder of nature. All of a sudden everything flew off, and we were able to eat our packed breakfast. A short while later, Red-and-Green Macaws started to arrive in one's and two's; perching in the trees before flying down to the riverbank, where they started excavating the mineral deposits for their digestion. They remained for quite a while and we were able to watch them at leisure and delight in their antics as they fought for position on the roots hanging in front of the mineral deposits. Once they had departed, we left and headed a few minutes up river to a trail. Here we found the superb Purus Jacamar, with four perched in a tree and giving excellent views. Also here were Black-tailed Tityra, Spectacled Owl, Lesser Kiskadee, Blue Dacnis, Turquoise Tanager, and some of the group was fortunate to see a Pale-winged Trumpeter cross the path ahead. Back at the lodge, whilst in the dining hall we saw a White-bearded Hermit at the feeder outside, and a short while later a Rufous-breasted Hermit called in briefly. We then went downriver again and walked along a forested trail for 10 minutes to an oxbow lake. Here we boarded a punt and cruised quietly around the lake. First of all we saw a Horned Screamer perched in the distance, but then another appeared closer and we got really good views as we cruised slowly by. Other species seen included both Lesser and Greater Kiskadee side by side, Dusky-headed Parakeets, Wattled Jacana, Little Cuckoo, Green Kingfisher, Anhinga and several Hoatzins. Then a superb Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher flew by and landed on a near branch. Above it in the riverside trees we saw an Amazonian Streaked-Antwren and a couple of Blue-throated Piping Guans, whilst out on the lake we also saw Ringed Kingfisher, Least Grebe, Muscovy Duck and a Black Caiman. But the real stars were the 6 Giant Otters that swam all around us in a very inquisitive fashion. As we landed, a Plumbeous Antbird showed for some of the group.
DAY 14 WEDS 13th AUGUST
After breakfast we walked to the canopy tower. The sun was just rising and birds sang all around as we walked somewhat carefully up the steps of the 140 foot high tower. At the top, a pair of Sirystes was singing right next to us, but our attention was soon drawn to an immense Crested Eagle perched in a distant tree. This was an awesome eagle, and it's a pity the photo does not do this fabulous bird justice, but it certainly had Kevin E twitching! A bromeliad on 'our' tree attracted a Needle-billed Hermit and a fantastic Opal-crowned Tanager. Over the course of the next couple of hours we also saw Masked Tityra, Pygmy Antwren, White-bellied Parrot, Gilded Barbet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Chestnut-mandibled Aracari and Cuvier's Toucan. A small flock below us held Dusky-capped Greenlet, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Long-winged Antwren, Spot-winged Antshrike and White-shouldered Tanager. A Chestnut-winged Foliage-Gleaner creeping around the trunk of a densely foliaged tree showed well, as did a nice Olivaceous Woodcreeper. A Cream-coloured Woodpecker was very impressive as it landed right next to us and gave stunning views, and several Mealy Parrots flew over. Kevin's group stayed and saw a Swainson's Flycatcher and Grey-headed Kite. Their walk produced Sooty Antbird, Plumbeous Antbird, Dull-capped (white-eyed) Attila, and Thrush-like Wren. Ramiro's group left first and walked the grid, seeing Plain-brown Woodcreeper and White-throated Antbird around an ant swarm. Next up was a little flock containing Long-winged Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, Plain Xenops and Spix's Woodcreeper. We also saw a Round-tailed Manakin very well, plus Rufous-bellied Euphonia, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, and heard an Amazonian Antpitta.
After lunch some of the group walked to the Tapir Lick, seeing White-fronted Nunbird, a brief Blue-backed Manakin, as well as close Tawny-throated Leaftosser, and a Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin that stayed motionless high above us in the canopy. Also seen were Crimson-winged Foliage-gleaner, Purple-throated Fruitcrow and a superb Paradise Jacamar. We arrived at the Tapir Lick late in the afternoon and settled into the individual `tents' formed by mosquito nets hanging over a mattress. It was quite comfortable as we lay down overlooking the lick - possibly too relaxing for some, as the snores betrayed one or two people! Those of us awake saw a Red-brocket Deer, as well as a Blue-throated Piping Guan perched in a tree next to us, and we heard a Silky-tailed Nightjar calling. Most of us left at 10pm for the hour long walk back to the lodge, whilst Kevin B stayed late and saw the Tapir and a brief Silky-tailed Nightjar. Kevin's group walked Trail X and the grid in the afternoon seeing a Screaming Piha, White-throated Antbird, Black-faced Antthrush and a Black-faced Antbird.
DAY 15 THURSDAY 14th AUGUST
This morning Kevin's group walked the trails behind the lodge, whilst Ramiro took a group downriver to the bamboo forest. Ramiro's group had a great time in the bamboo, seeing star birds such as Brown-rumped Foliage-Gleaner, Bamboo Antshrike, Flammulated Bamboo-Tyrant, Rufous-headed Woodpecker and Plain Softail, whilst a Rufous-capped Nunlet flew in and landed close by.
Kevin's group walked upriver, seeing a pair of Chestnut-eared Aracari, Goeldi's Antbird and Dot-winged Antwren. A Greyish Mourner was seen high up in the canopy, along with a stunning Turquoise Tanager. We eventually found a Blue-crowned Motmot, and then had a Red-billed Scythebill, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and Striated Antbird together. Something skulking among a thicket in a small area of bamboo turned out to be a Blackish Antbird, and we had good views of a pair. As we left the bamboo we noticed an army ant swarm and following it were several stunning birds. A Black-spotted Bare-eye appeared, followed by a fantastic Hairy-crested Antbird and a Grey-necked Wood Rail ran across the trail behind us. Moving inland, a Red-necked Woodpecker was heard in the distance and eventually flew right over our heads and landed on a bare branch high up. In the same area we also had a Swainson's Flycatcher and a cracking Green-and-Gold Tanager. A few hundred yards away we got great views of a pair of Band-tailed Manakins, as well as a pair of Black-spotted Bare-eyes perched for a few seconds in the open on a horizontal branch. Wow! Further along the track, a little flock held Plain Xenops, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager and a Grey Antwren. We then stalked a Screaming Piha and got great views in the scope. What a great song! Another flock held Collared Trogon, Yellow-crested Tanager, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Spot-winged Antshrike and Long-winged Antwren. We then bumped into Ramiro's group and they found a Screaming Piha, Plain-throated Antwren, Rufous-fronted Antthrush and Manu Antbird. In the afternoon, Kevin's group visited the bamboo, after a couple of hours off over lunch. As soon as we arrived, a Moustached Wren appeared, and a fine Emperor Tamarin Monkey was found by Carlos. It was still very hot and bird activity was slow, however a pair of Plain Softails showed well as they foraged above us in the canopy, and a pair of Rufous-breasted Piculets were seen. But that was it, apart from a Starred Wood-Quail that we flushed from the path and scoped deep in the shadows. Ramiro's group had a Yellow-billed Nunbird and a Blue-crowned Manakin, whilst several Pale-winged Trumpeters crossed the path in front of them, and they also saw Cinereous and Greyish Mourner.
DAY 16 FRIDAY 15th AUGUST
We left Manu Wildlife Centre at 5.30am and went upriver by boat for a couple of hours to the airfield. On the way we saw a flock of 93 Wood Storks on the riverbank, with an immature and rather huge Jabiru right in the middle of them. We also saw a Grey-fronted Dove, much to Tony's great pleasure. Other birds seen on the cruise upriver included Yellow-billed Terns, a few Black Skimmers, Muscovy Duck, Crane Hawk, Sunbittern and Greater Yellow-headed Vulture. The 8-seater airplane took the first half of our group back to Cusco, where they went to some ruins and had a leisurely morning around the city. The rest of us still in the Amazon walked some nearby trails, where even in the heat saw Grey Antwren, White-lored Euphonia, a pair of White-winged Becards, Chestnut-vented Conebill, a superb Chestnut-capped Puffird, Troupial and Plain Xenops.
The 30 minute flight to Cusco was pretty exciting, affording us great views over the Amazon and Andes. On arrival in Cusco we all met up at the airport and drove to Huypo Lake, a very picturesque setting, surrounded by the mighty Andean mountain range. We scanned the lake edge and found a pair of delightful Andean Goose perched amongst some of the commoner waterfowl. We walked down the hill and got closer, picking up a nice Silvery Grebe, as well as Andean Gull, Puna Teal, Andean Duck, Yellow-shouldered Blackbird, and a White-browed Chat-Tyrant.
A nice Hooded Siskin was seen well in a nearby tree. Then we drove to Urabamba, where in the grounds of our excellent hotel we saw a superb Black-backed Grosbeak and a White-bellied Hummingbird. That evening, at dinner, we were treated to some traditional Peruvian folk music and to some dancing by certain members of the group - and you know who I mean!!
DAY 17 SATURDAY 16th AUGUST
We left our hotel very early at 3.15am and drove to Abra Malaga. We arrived just after dawn, and birded various areas from the road. We had just left our coach when a nice Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant was seen perched nearby, quickly followed by a Barred Fruiteater. In the valley below, a couple of Hooded Mountain-Tanagers were in company with a few Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, whilst a Glossy Black Thrush showed closer. Our first flock was right by the road and included Masked Flowerpiercer, Marcapata Spinetail, Citrine Warbler and Drab Hemispingus. There were several other species present but they didn't show well enough, before they all flew away quickly across the steep sided valley. We walked back up the road in the direction the flock went, seeing a Rufous-capped Thornbill feeding on some flowers. We relocated the flock again a short while later and this time saw a superb Blue-backed Conebill, the endemic Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant, a cracking Violet-throated Starfrontlet on some flowers below us with an Amethyst-throated Sunangel behind us, the endemic Cusco Brushfinch, Mountain Wren and a White-banded Tyrannulet. We drove up a little higher, finding another flock containing Superciliared Hemispingus, Pearled Treerunner, Spectacled Redstart and a Sierran Elaenia, and whilst watching these a pair of Inca Wrens was spotted in the same area. Then, I picked up Sword-billed Hummingbird feeding on some flowers across the narrow valley, and eventually a pair were seen by some of the group 'swordfighting' in mid air and briefly feeding on some flowers, but despite further searching were not seen again. Just as we were about to board the coach, we saw some movement below us which led us to our first Chestnut-bellied Mountain Tanager, and Kev spotted a brilliant Red-crested Cotinga in the same tree. Further up the road we searched an area of bamboo and struck gold with Parodi's Hemispingus, a fine Plushcap Finch, and a superb and unexpected male Purple-backed Thornbill - all within a few minutes of each other. And a little way on we heard a Puna Thistletail which remained hidden, but had close views of a Line-fronted Canastero and Tyrian Metaltail. Higher up again, we saw a Puna Ground-Tyrant, a pair of excellent Andean Ibis, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, brief Paramo Pipit, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Streak-throated Canastero, and the first of many Bar-winged Cinclodes. By now it was 12.00 and most of the group began the strenuous walk to the Polylepsis Forest, while the rest birded from the road. The trek to the forest peaked at 14,466 feet before being all downhill! But it was really worth it, not only for some extremely specialized birds, but also for the fantastic scenery. Surrounded by snow covered peaks, we made our way into the forest, first of all seeing a superb Royal Cinclodes. Then an awesome Stripe-headed Antpitta started calling and we eventually got crippling views of it perched in a tree. Walking across the steep hillside just a few hundred yards then produced a Tawny Tit-Spinetail, whilst a pair of White-winged Diuca-Finch fed on the hillside below us. Finally, we really worked hard to get good views of a pair of Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrants - and so we had `cleaned up' on all the specialities this very species area had to offer. The long walk down through the valley was also productive with Rufous-webbed Tyrant, D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant and a flock of Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch. We took plenty of time to rest and admire the scenery. The other group struck the jackpot with Andean Condor and Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant. Eventually we all met up at the bus, way down at the bottom of the valley, before we drove to our lovely Inca-styled hotel in Ollantaytambo.
DAY 18 SUNDAY 17th AUGUST
After breakfast we had a quick look around the gardens, seeing Golden-billed Saltator, Giant Hummingbird and Green-tailed Trainbearer. Then we walked down the road and boarded the train for Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu. Before the train had even departed we saw a pair of Torrent Ducks perched on some rocks in the middle of the fast flowing river. Not a bad start! The journey itself took 1h 20mins and the scenery was outstanding, with mountains all the way. From the train we saw a pair of White-capped Dippers, several more Torrent Ducks, Torrent Tyrannulet, Peregrine Falcon and Mountain Caracara. On arrival at Aguas Calientes, we found a flowering tree with a pair of Silver-backed Tanagers, Saffron-crowned Tanager, and a Green and White Hummingbird. We walked down the road and boarded a bus for the twenty minute journey up the mountain to the famous Machu Picchu. We had a guided tour around this 'lost city of the Incas', and our guides knowledge of the history and culture was amazing. It was a magical experience with the surrounding mountain peaks covered in mist, and we had plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere.
At lunchtime, we ordered some snacks from the café at the entrance, and whilst here an immature but nonetheless awesome Andean Condor flew over. As we all reached for our binoculars and scopes, everyone else in the area became aware of our excitement and word soon got around that it was indeed a condor that was flying overhead! Non-birders, tourists and even the staff seemed impressed! What a setting to see this rather impressive bird - and it wasn't until later, when Ramiro told us that he had never seen one here in twelve visits that we realized how lucky we were. Once it had disappeared we headed off back down the mountain, seeing a White-winged Tyrant on the way. The bus dropped us off half way down and we had a great couple of hours birding. First of all, a Black-backed Grosbeak flew into the trees above us before Ramiro called in a stunning Masked Fruiteater. Then a Chestnut-breasted Coronet flew around us, before a Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet was seen. Walking down the road a little way, we found a big flock containing Capped Conebill, Blue Dacnis, Brown-capped Vireo, Barred Becard, Streaked Xenops, Gould's Inca, at least three Ocellated Piculets, Yellow-bellied Elaenia and a Sclater's Tyrannulet. Shortly after a flock of Mitred Parakeets were found perched in the trees by the track, but proved quite difficult to pick up in the dense foliage. We eventually reached the valley floor and walked back into town, seeing a pair of Torrent Ducks with two chicks perched on some boulders in the fast flowing river. We walked up the hill to a hotel in town that had extensive grounds and which held Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, a Green-and-White Hummingbird that visited one of the feeders, Green Violetear, Booted Rackettail, Masked Fruiteater and Chestnut-breasted Coronet. The train journey back to Ollantaytambo was uneventful except for the superb scenery and we were met by our driver Carlos, who took us back to Cusco for the night.
DAY 19 MONDAY 18th AUGUST
After breakfast we flew back over the Andes to Lima and transferred to our hotel for lunch and to freshen up in readiness for our return to England. Whilst at Lima airport, it was unfortunate that Kevin had to fly straight out on his journey back to Costa Rica, due to a change in airline schedules. He had been a truly superb guide, an exceptional birder, and someone I am proud to call a friend. Later that day, Ramiro and Carlos took us back to Lima airport where we said our goodbyes. Everything went without a hitch and we were soon away on our overnight flight to London via Madrid, where we arrived the next day.