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Northern Peru and Rio Napo area (Ecuadorian Amazonia)- Dec 12th 2004 - Jan 19th 2005,
Martin van den Berg and Resi Damhuis
This is a bird report from a trip we made in Northern Peru from December 12th 2004 until January 4th 2005 and our stay at the Yarina and Yuturi lodges from January 8th until 19th in the Rio Napo area (Ecuadorian Amazonia).
We used KLM to fly from Amsterdam to Lima and return from Quito to Amsterdam, which cost us about 1100 euro each. With Lan Peru we booked internet tickets for about 225 US$ each between Lima and Quito. Service with both airlines was good, on time and Lan Peru used a good and new plane. Being a frequent flyers it was extremely easy to get two upgrades for our tickets in the lounge at Amsterdam Airport.
The Northern Peru part of our trip was made on our own and we hired a 4WD with National Cars in Lima. The 4WD was almost new and we never had a flat tyre, which is amazing considering the bad conditions of some roads. At the time it was the only car rental agency that gave unlimited mileage. The rental for the whole period was about 1500 US $, but this was an arrangement made through internet. In Lima we understood that normally National Cars also charges you for extra kilometers driven per day. So it pays to make you reservation through internet with National Cars. A disadvantage of renting a car in Lima was the fact that we had to drive first two days to Cajamarca and again back from Chiclayo.
During the whole trip we made extensive use of Thomas Valqui's "Where to Watch Birds in Peru". We found the guide very useful, although sometimes descriptions e.g. around Abra Patricia were already out of date due to rapid deforestation. In general, we could find the locations described rather easily, although the distances given were not always correct. However, in combination with the maps shown in the book we could sort it out relatively easy.
We only used a professional bird guide to find the White Winged Guan in Quebrada Limon as suggested in Valqui's guide. We considered going to the Orange-throated Tanager, but we decided against it for three reasons. Firstly, the price seems to be a kind of rip off for what is offered. Secondly, we would spend an additional fortnight in Amazonian habitat at the Yarina and Yuturi lodges in the Rio Napo area, Ecuador. Thirdly, we were running out of time and 2 to 3 days for this species was quite some investment at the time.
We never encountered any problems while driving in Northern Peru. We found the people extremely friendly, but must admit that as we both speak Spanish it must have helped a lot to sort out things. Minor problems on the east side of the Andes were cash machines that did not work and limited availability of petrol with octane level 90, the minimum level required for our 4WD. However, getting your petrol tank filled whenever possible and thinking a bit ahead made this problem not serious. Once we had to drive back from La Florida to Pedro Ruiz to fill up, as no 90 petrol is available in La Florida. This is a bit of problem if you want to visit Abra Patricia from La Florida, but you can easily go up for three days there once filled up in Pedro Ruiz. Roads were pretty bad at times, and the road from Cajamarca - Celendin - to Pedro Ruiz was an adventure, especially the Maranon valley part. Shortly after our trip we heard that the road between Celendin and Leimebamba has been closed for a longer time period and I guess we were lucky.
The second part of the trip was made to the Yuturi and Yarina lodges, which are both situated in the Ecuadorian Rio Napo area. The Yarina is approximately one hour by boat from Coca. To reach Coca you have to make a half hour flight from Quito. Several airlines make this flight with modern airplanes. The Yarina lodge is situated in a private wildlife reserve with both primary and secondary forest, a small laguna and a small river nearby. The lodge is built near a ridge with primary forest with on the other side an extensive swamp. All area's are excellent for birds and due to the protection inside the reserve obersrving 5 to 8 monkey species would be easy in a couple of days. The Yuturi lodge is a lodge, which is deep inside Ecuadorian Amazonia and not that far from the Peruvian border. With respect to bird species the area is at least similar to the well known La Selva lodge, but cheaper. Being friends with the owner we have been coming in the Yuturi area for more than a decade now and made bird inventories in the area. If you want to know more about the species in the Yuturi area, please write us for a pdf file of the booklet describing the species and the various habitats and trails in the region. Having a specialized bird guide is very essential for the Yuturi area and Jaime Grefa is permanently stationed at the Yuturi lodge as a guide. He knows his species very well, both by sight and sound, and a 4-5 day visit with him to the area should easily produce 250 species. Over the years we found together around 500 species in the Yuturi area so far. To contact the Yuturi and Yarina lodges see email and website below.
Our report was made with the database program Birdrecorder 3.2. Records were stored in a Palm M515 at the end of each day and in the field, and transferred to the database at home. If the number of individuals is not mentioned we used the following quantitative indications: scarce = 2-10, common = 11-100, abundant > 100 individuals. We realize that the perception of these indications is relative, but these categories are used in the Birdrecorder program and we decided to connect this with our own qualitative estimations.
In addition we used an Apple iPod 15 GB with recordings of: The birds of Southwest Ecuador by P. Coopmans et al., Songs of the Antbirds by P.R. Isler and B.M. Whitney, Voices of Andean Birds - Birds of the Hill Forest and Birds of the Cloudforest by Th. Schulenberg, Voices of Amazonian Birds volume 1,2 and 3. All CD's could be easily downloaded with iTunes with names of the species automatically downloaded when connected to internet. From the DVD of N. Krabbe and J. Nilllson - Birds of Ecuador - we downloaded selected families and species. In addition, Sjoerd Mayer provided us kindly with a pre-version of his DVD The Birds of Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay, from which we downloaded the sounds of a number of North Peruvian specialties. For play back in the field we used an Alecto WSP-36 minispeaker. This is cheap, effective and also turned out to withstand 1.5 meter depth of water for at least five minutes! Without any doubt the iPod has the great advantage of a fast search of species recordings that are on the CDs and DVDs. In addition, it allows to make a selection of sounds in a seperate directory (On-the-Go) e.g. the evening before going to a site. However, note that recording with the iPod in the field with one of its complementary microphones or even with a small directional microphone is not sensitive enough. Don't buy these microphones as these are a rip-off! For this purpose we used a mini-disc player separately. However, the large collection of sounds mentioned above made this usually not necessary when searching for bird species at known sites.
For a number of locations and sites we have entered the coordinates in the list of observations. In the field we use a handheld Magellan Sport Trak Pro and while driving we used a windscreen attachable holder. Before leaving home we loaded the regions with the MapSend Worldwide Basemap which included most important roads in Peru, but also show the altitude profile along a given road. Estimated projection error for both valleys and open terrain was approximately 10-20 meters.
With respect to hotels, we found it easy to find good to moderate hotels during our whole trip in Peru, but we must also admit that we were not traveling on a low budget and usually went to some 'top end' hotels in the cities described e.g. in The Lonely Planet paying between approximately 15 and 50 US$ for a double, usually including breakfast.
At the end of the trip in the Maraņon and Rio Napo areas we had observed approximately 493 species, of course depending on the number of species that you count from recent splits or lumps. For simplicity reasons we just followed the Birdrecorder database and with respect to either splitting or lumping of species we consider live to relative to really worry about this too much!
To contact the Yuturi or Yarina lodges email to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to their website at www.yuturilodge.com.
For more information about this report and the trip you can contact us at: Martin van den Berg and Resi Damhuis. Albert van Dalsumlaan 147, 3584 HC Utrecht, The Netherlands or at email@example.com
Trip photos and notes
Full species lists (pdf 150KB)