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|A Report from birdtours.co.uk|
Northern Peru, October/November 2005,
Cajamarca - Celendin
Celendin – Balsas – Leymebamba
Abra Barra Negro
Utcubamba River Valley
La Florida area
Cordillera del Colan (Abra Patricia)
Morro de Calzadas
This report details a 2½ weeks birding trip to Northern Peru in October/November 2005. I was accompanied by Luc Bekaert, Luc van Gompel, Vital Van Gorp and the brothers Jos & Staf Elsermans.
Peru is a special place, from the rich Humboldt Current and the majestic Andes, to the lush Amazon rainforest. Between these extremes are dry forest, high elevation grasslands and cloud forests that result in an unsurpassed geographic and climatic diversity that is reflected in the high number of bird species. Indeed, with nearly 1,800 species recorded within its borders, Peru runs head to head with Colombia in being the country with the largest number of bird species in the world.
Unlike other top ranking Neotropical birding destinations, such as Ecuador and Costa Rica, Peru has vast tracts of forest and wilderness untouched by civilisation; two-thirds of the Manu Biosphere Reserve, for example, is completely unexplored.
The rainforests of the south-eastern corner of Peru in Manu and Tambopata are famous for their immense bird diversity.
In 2002 we made a trip to the coast of Peru and to Manu. But quality birding can also be had in the north of the country where so many endemic and range-restricted species are available. Northern Peru is one of the least-known and most endemic-rich areas of South America, with many recently described species from the Andes and the Marañon basin.
The trip encompassed northern Peru and also Marcapomacocha near Lima, where we dipped the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover in 2002. Our trip was a real success with most of the target birds seen well and over 35 Peruvian endemic species recorded.
FLIGHT AND VISA
We booked our flight from Brussels to Lima for € 830 with Iberia. This flight took approximately 13 hours and went via Madrid. The flights were punctual and trouble free.
As with most South American countries you do not need a visa for Peru if you intend to stay no more than 90 days.
When you're leaving Peru, you are required to pay a departure tax of US$28. Domestic flights are pretty cheap in Peru between main cities and daily, saving a lot of driving time.
The unit of currency in Peru is the Sole (S/.). The exchange rate in November 2005 was about 3.75 to the US$.
One can easily change US dollars everywhere in the cities, although this is unnecessary, because US dollars are accepted in every shop and restaurant. Credit cards: Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in the large shops of Lima and Chiclayo.
FOOD AND DRINK
Peruvian food is distinctive and is generally good. Stay away from uncooked fruits and vegetables that you haven't peeled yourself, and don't use ice. Mineral water and bottled drinks are available throughout the country and in all restaurants of course the traditional ‘Pisco Sour’. There appears to be no need to book hotels in advance since Wim ten Have had not booked rooms and had no problem finding hotels. There are restaurants in every town, but away from the towns food is difficult to come by.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Peru has been labelled off-limits because of its politics and the activities of the Sendero Iluminoso, the Shining Path guerrillas. Nowadays Peru has effectively contained or eliminated the guerrilla groups that kept most birders away for much of the 1990s. Like hundreds of birders before us, we never felt threatened nor had safety concerns other than taking the normal precautions against pickpockets and purse snatching in Lima or Chiclayo.
The people in Peru are in general both friendly and helpful, making for a pleasant and relatively hassle-free trip.
With caution you should not anticipate any problems. During our drive through the country we had several encounters with roadblocks, but we experienced no problems from the police.
The usual tropical health problems present themselves on a trip to Peru, compounded by the possible joys of altitude sickness, which can be a three days horrible illness if unconditioned.
For vaccinations consult your own doctor for up to date advice. There is a small chance of malaria in the lowlands.
Be sure to get enough malaria tablets for your trip, and do take them.
It is advisable to take a good medical kit with you as you are sometimes along way away from the nearest largest town. Mosquitoes (Amazonian lowlands) and flies are sometimes a problem.
Insect repellent is necessary here. Spray your socks and pant-legs liberally with an insect repellent before going a field and take a soapy bath upon returning.
Most people in Peru speak little or no English. A short study of names of food in Spanish before departure will be of benefit to the traveller. At gas stations sign language for a fill-up and reading the total on the pump works fine.
Asking for directions may be a nightmare if you don't understand Spanish.
Always carry a Spanish-English dictionary. With just a slight knowledge of the language you will make out with few problems.
Peru has a temperate climate but with wide differences between day and night. Given the country’s broad range of habitats and climate zones, there cannot really be any recommendations as to when is the best time to come, but there are clearly months when not to come.
Generally you have to take into account that the rainy season in most of the Andes and to the east of them lasts from October through March with a peak from December through February. Having said this, during our trip in northern Peru we only had four days with some rain!
At high altitudes conditions range from cool to decidedly cold. Required clothing: lightweight linens with a raincoat.
A light overcoat is necessary at night, particularly in the Altiplano and the puna.
A hat is recommended in the mountains and necessary in the Amazonian lowlands. The tropical sun is intense at altitude.
However the weather in Peru is unpredictable. At anytime of year at higher elevations, there may be rain and mist.
Downpours can occur everywhere in Peru, but especially in the tropical zone they can last for hours.
An umbrella and rubber boots are a must in the Amazonian lowlands!
Many parts of the country are easily accessible by public transport, but unfortunately this is not the case for most of the more interesting parts we wanted to visit. So it's best to hire a car if you can afford it. For car rental, you will need a major credit card and a passport. In the cities taxis are abundant and cheap, usually running at a fixed price within certain boundaries.
We used Wim ten Have’s Tanager Tours for the whole trip.
These varied from very good to appalling. Peru has few roads and only 5% of them are paved. The Pan-American Highway along the coast is very good, but the main roads in Peru are generally rather bad.
BIRD SONGS & EQUIPMENT
B & L Coffey, Bird Songs and Calls from South East Peru.
Tom Schulenberg, Voices of Amazonian Birds, Volumes 1, 2 & 3.
Tom Schulenberg, Voices of Andean Birds, Volumes 1 & 2.
Simon Grove, Bird Songs of South East Peru.
A tape recorder is essential if you want to catch sight of secretive species like antbirds, antthrushes, antpittas and tapaculos.
A good torch is a must. A telescope is useful at lakes and very useful for viewing canopy species especially from roadsides. Clothing can be T-shirt and short anywhere, except on the summit of Marcapomacocha where a sweater is more comfortable.
As anyone who has birded the Neotropics knows, the Tyrant-Flycatchers present the most identification problems, consequently many birds remained unidentified. A combination of range, altitude and habitat can aid identification, but ultimately the most useful tool for difficult genera is call recognition.
I have decided to follow the English names of James F. Clements (Birds of the World, A Check List, Fifth Edition, 2000).
Maps of Peru can be obtained at the airports or from bookshops in Lima. The standard of the maps is not too high, and all the roads are not shown on them, but they do give you a bit of an idea as where to stay.
In 2002 I bought a map at a gas station: "Lima 2000", a fairly good road map. Usually I draw maps of important sites, but the birding areas are so well described in the available reports (see references) and on the Internet that there is little point in giving exact locations for birds.
The following list of birds we saw frequently and if you spend any sort of time in the right habitats you will too:
Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Band-tailed Pigeon, Pacific Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Groove-billed Ani, White-collared Swift, Pale-legged Hornero, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Gray-breasted Martin, Blue-and-white Swallow, House Wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Swainson’s Thrush, Chiguanco Thrush, Great Thrush, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Hooded Siskin, Canada Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Bananaquit, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Saffron Finch, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Streaked Saltator.
The list of birds mentioned in the daily log, which follows, is purely taken at random from each day’s events highlighting some of the more interesting species. For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.
Hostal Mami Panchita
Av. Frederico Gallesi 198
San Miguel - Lima 32
James F. Clements. Birds of the World. A Check List, Fifth Edition.
James F. Clements and Noam Shany. A Field Guide to the Birds of Peru.
John S. Dunning. South American Birds, a Photographic Aid to Identification.
John Fjeldsa and Niels Krabbe. Birds of the High Andes.
Frank Rheindt. A Birdwatcher’s Site Guide to Peru.
Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield. The Birds of Ecuador.Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor.
The Birds of South America, Volume I, The Oscine Passerines.
Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor. The Birds of South America, Volume II, The Suboscine Passerines.
Thomas Valqui. Where to Watch Birds in Peru.
Nigel Wheatley. Where to watch birds in South America.
“A Field Guide to the Birds of Peru” is the first complete guide of Peru. For depth of coverage and documentation, this field guide does not compare with the magnificent two-volume “The Birds of Ecuador”.
In the meantime the book fills a need, although hardly the “huge gap in our knowledge of South American ornithology” indicated on the back cover.
However the book will be useful because, for the first time, all of the species in Peru are illustrated under one cover.
With no range maps and a highly abbreviated text, the book’s merit rests much more on its illustrations than on its supporting text, although it has no subspecies treatment.
Colin Bushell. Northern Peru June and November 2002.
Henk Hendriks. North and Central Peru. 29th July – 25th August 2005.
John Hornbuckle. The Birds of Abra Patricia, San Martin, north Peru.
Nigel Wheatley. A Birding Trip to North Peru and a few sites down south November 16 – December 9, 2002.
October 27 Chaam * Brussels * Madrid * Lima
October 28 Lima * Cajamarca * San Marcos * Cajamarca
October 29 Cajamarca * Río Chonta area * Cruz Conga * Celendin
October 30 Celendin * Balsas (Marañon Valley) * Leymebamba
October 31 Leymebamba * Abra Barra Negro * Utcubamba Valley (Hacienda Chillo)
November 1 Utcubamba Valley * Pedro Ruiz * La Florida
November 2 La Florida * Abra Patricia * La Florida
November 3 La Florida * Abra Patricia * Nueva Cajamarca
November 4 Nueva Cajamarca * Aguas Verdes * Segunda Jerusalen * Moyobamba
November 5 Moyobamba * Morro de Calzadas * Moyobamba
November 6 Moyobamba * Abra Patricia * La Florida
November 7 La Florida * Lago Pomacochas * Bagua Chica * Jaen
November 8 Jaen * Tamborapa * Abra Porculla * Olmos
November 9 Olmos * Abra Porculla * Olmos
November 10 Olmos * Limon * Quebrada Frejollilo * Olmos * Chiclayo
November 11 Chiclayo * Batan Grande * Bosque de Pomac * Chiclayo * Chimote * Lima
November 12 Lima * Marcapomacocha * Lima * Madrid
November 13 Madrid * Barcelona * Brussels * Chaam
These notes are only information supplementary to Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”, the excellent and essential guide to the bird sites we visited. For a detailed report of species and numbers please refer to the systematic list at the end of this report.
Accommodation: A hotel in Cajamarca. We stayed at Hostal Santa Rosa.
Chapter F, site 1.2 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
A very reliable spot for the extremely localized endemic GREAT SPINETAIL. This recently rediscovered big Furnarid lives in a large valley with cacti-clad slopes near San Marcos.
Species seen here:
Black Vulture, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, American Kestrel, Band-tailed Pigeon, Striped Cuckoo, Scrub Nightjar, Spot-throated Hummingbird, Amazilia Hummingbird, Purple-collared Woodstar, Black-necked Woodpecker, GREAT SPINETAIL, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Vermilion Flycatcher, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, Fasciated Wren, House Wren, Hooded Siskin, Hepatic Tanager, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, BUFF-BRIDLED INCA-FINCH, Golden-bellied Grosbeak.
Chapter F, site 1.1 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
A very reliable spot for the extremely localized endemic GRAY-BELLIED COMET. This little-known and endangered hummingbird known only from a few scattered localities in this region can be found in this canyon visiting the bromeliads along the river.
Species seen here:
Giant Hummingbird, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Tyrian Metaltail, GRAY-BELLIED COMET, White-winged Cinclodes, Torrent Tyrannulet, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Mountain Wren, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Plain-coloured Seedeater, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Golden-bellied Saltator, Golden-bellied Grosbeak.
ROUTE CAJAMARCA - CELENDIN
Accommodation: A hotel in Celendin. We stayed at Hotel Celendin in Celendin.
The drive between Cajamarca and Celendin leads through spectacular high Andean scenery, with patches of remnant humid forest and polylepis scrub. On the high plateau, where much of the original habitat has been cleared over the years for agriculture, one can find amongst the fields patches of forest and scrub with luck WHITE-TAILED SHRIKE-TYRANT, PLAIN-TAILED and RUFOUS-BREASTED WARBLING-FINCH and the cajamarcae race of RUFOUS ANTPITTA.
Chapter F, site 1.6 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
We stopped here to search for the endemic Rufous-eared Brush-Finch, but we did not find the bird.
Species seen here:
Andean Swift, Shining Sunbeam, BLACK METALTAIL, Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail, Vermilion Flycatcher, JELSKI’S CHAT-TYRANT, Streak-throated Chat-Tyrant, Brown-bellied Swallow, Great Thrush, Hooded Siskin, Black-crested Warbler, Cinereous Conebill, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch, Golden-billed Saltator.
Chapter F, site 1.6 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
Species seen here:
Puna Hawk, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Andean Lapwing, Andean Flicker, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, RUFOUS ANTPITTA, Vermilion Flycatcher, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, WHITE-TAILED SHRIKE-TYRANT, Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant, Rufous-webbed Tyrant, Paramo Pipit, House Wren, Chiguanco Thrush, Great Thrush, Hooded Siskin, Spectacled Redstart, Cinereous Conebill, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
CELENDIN – BALSAS - LEYMEBAMBA
Accommodation: Camping in Balsas or Hospedaje Laguna de los Cóndores in Leymebamba.
Chapter F, site 2.1 & 2.3 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
We did this famous stretch of road in one day, a long and hard trip.
Species seen here:
Neotropic Cormorant (Balsas), Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Short-tailed Hawk, Puna Hawk, American Kestrel, Andean Lapwing, Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, Band-tailed Pigeon, PERUVIAN PIGEON (Balsas), Eared Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, Bare-faced Ground-Dove, White-tipped Pigeon, Mitred Parakeet, YELLOW-FACED PARROTLET (Balsas), Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Striped Cuckoo, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, SPOT-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, Andean Emerald, Shining Sunbeam, Green-tailed Trainbearer, BLACK-NECKED WOODPECKER, Andean Flicker, Azara’s Spinetail, BARON’S SPINETAIL, CHESTNUT-BACKED THORNBIRD (Marañon Valley), Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Vermilion Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Brown-bellied Swallow, Fasciated Wren, Mountain Wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Chiguanco Thrush, Great Thrush, MARAÑON THRUSH (Balsas), MARAÑON GNATCATCHER, Green Jay, Hooded Siskin, Cinereous Conebill, Hepatic Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager (Balsas) , Palm Tanager (Balsas), Purple-throated Euphonia (Balsas), GRAY-WINGED INCA-FINCH, BUFF-BRIDLED INCA-FINCH, Blue-black Grassquit (Balsas), Band-tailed Seedeater, Paramo Seedeater, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Streaked Saltator, Golden-bellied Grosbeak, Peruvian Meadowlark.
ABRA BARRA NEGRO
Accommodation: Hospedaje Laguna de los Cóndores in Leymebamba.
Chapter F, site 2.4 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
In the remnant patches of cloud forest at Abra Barra Negro two Peruvian endemics, COPPERY METALTAIL and RUSSET-MANTLED SOFTAIL can be found. Other birds here include WHITE-CHINNED THISTLETAIL, the obscura race of RUFOUS ANTPITTA and LARGE-FOOTED TAPACULO.
Species seen here:
Mountain Caracara, Andean Gull, Shining Sunbeam, Mountain Velvetbreast, RAINBOW STARFRONTLET, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Purple-throated Sunangel, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Azara’s Spinetail, RUSSET-MANTLED SOFTTAIL, Montane Woodcreeper, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, White-backed Fire-eye, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Large-footed Tapaculo, Red-crested Cotinga, White-crested Elaenia, Sierran Elaenia, White-banded Tyrannulet, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, Andean Swallow, House Wren, Chiguanco Thrush, Great Thrush, Spectacled Redstart, Citrine Warbler, Cinereous Conebill, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Blue-capped Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Rusty Flowerpiercer, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Bluish Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Streaked Saltator.
UTCUBAMBA RIVER VALLEY
Accommodation: Hospedaje Laguna de los Cóndores in Leymebamba or Hostal Estancia Chillo in the Utcubamba Valley.
Chapter F, site 2.5 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
The spectacular canyon between Leymebamba end Pedro Ruiz is a good place to see the Fasciated Tiger-Heron along the river.
Species seen here:
Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Hook-billed Kite, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, American Kestrel, Spotted Sandpiper, White-tipped Dove, Mitred Parakeet, Smooth-billed Ani, Chestnut-collared Swift, White-collared Swift, White-tipped Swift, White-bellied Hummingbird, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Ringed Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, SPECKLE-CHESTED PICULET, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, BLACK-NECKED WOODPECKER, Chestnut-crowned Antpitta, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Torrent Tyrannulet, Rufous-winged Tyrannulet, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Tropical Pewee, Black Phoebe, Rufous Casiornis, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Andean Swallow, White-capped Dipper, House Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Chiguanco Thrush, MARAÑON THRUSH, MARAÑON GNATCATCHER, Purple-throated Euphonia, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Red-eyed Vireo, Hooded Siskin, Masked Yellowthroat, Canada Warbler, BUFF-BELLIED TANAGER, Blue-gray Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Silver-backed Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Streaked Saltator, Buff-throated Saltator, Golden-bellied Grosbeak, Russet-backed Oropendola.
LA FLORIDA AREA
Accommodation: Hotel Puerto Pumas in La Florida.
Chapter F, site 3.1 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
When you stay in La Florida it is worth a visit as it has some high Andean species at only 200m in elevation.
Species seen here:
Cocoi Heron, Striated Heron, Puna Ibis, White-cheeked Pintail, Plumbeous Rail, Common Moorhen, Andean Lapwing, White-bellied Hummingbird, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Barn Swallow, Peruvian Meadowlark (Valqui mentions Red-breasted Meadowlark near this lake).
RIO CHIDO TRAIL
Chapter F, site 3.3 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
The last years a large part of the forest along this trail has been destroyed. It is still worth a visit, but for how long!
Species seen/heard here:
Cattle Egret, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, American Kestrel, Mitred Parakeet, Speckle-faced Parrot, Sparkling Violetear, White-bellied Hummingbird, Collared Inca, MARVELLOUS SPATULETAIL (nearby at site 3.2), Black-throated Toucanet, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, PALE-BILLED ANTPITTA, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Blue-and-white Swallow, House Wren, Green Jay, Lesser Goldfinch, Olivaceous Siskin, Spectacled Redstart, Red-hooded Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Silver-backed Tanager, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch.
CORDILLERA DEL COLAN
Accommodation: Hotel Puerto Pumas in La Florida.
Abra Patricia is a pass in the Cordillera del Colan connecting the drier Marañon drainage to the wet "Amazonian" side of the Andes. A fine paved highway traverses this pass before descending through excellent temperate, subtropical and upper tropical rainforest. The famous Abra Patricia area holds a wide range of cloud forest species, amongst them many specialities, and the stunted ridge top forests a little lower down are home to such little-known birds as ROYAL SUNANGEL, BAR-WINGED WOOD-WREN, CINNAMON-BREASTED TODY-TYRANT and the enigmatic LONG-WHISKERED OWLET. As the road winds down, upper tropical species can be found around Afluente, including the endemic ASH-THROATED ANTWREN and SPECKLE-CHESTED PICULET, whilst continuing further still to Tarapoto gives a good variety of lowland species more typical of Amazonia. We spent four days in this area.
ABRA PATRICIA – VALLE HERMOSO
Chapter F, site 4.1 & 4.2 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
Species seen here:
Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, White-throated Hawk, American Kestrel, Andean Guan, Plumbeous Rail, Band-tailed Pigeon, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-tipped Swift, Wire-crested Thorntail, Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy Inca, Collared Inca, Sword-billed Hummingbird, ROYAL SUNANGEL, EMERALD-BELLIED PUFFLEG, Booted Racket-tail, Black-tailed Trainbearer, Long-tailed Sylph, Golden-headed Quetzal, Black-throated Toucanet, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Speckle-chested Piculet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Azara’s Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, Plain Xenops, Streaked Xenops, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Montane Woodcreeper, Long-tailed Antbird, White-backed Fire-eye, RUFOUS-VENTED TAPACULO, White-crowned Tapaculo, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Barred Fruiteater, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, White-crested Elaenia, Sierran Elaenia, Inca Flycatcher, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Ashy-headed Tyrannulet, LULU’S TODY-TYRANT, CINNAMON-BREASTED TODY-TYRANT, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Cliff Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Barred Becard, Blue-and-white Swallow, Gray-mantled Wren, Sharpe’s Wren, House Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, BAR-WINGED WOOD-WREN, Andean Solitaire, White-eared Solitaire, Great Thrush, Andean Slaty-Thrush, Green Jay, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Slate-throated Redstart, Spectacled Redstart, Citrine Warbler, Three-striped Warbler, Capped Conebill, Black-faced Tanager, White-capped Tanager, Common Bush-Tanager, Rufous-chested Tanager, Rufous-crested Tanager, Blue-capped Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Silver-backed Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Black-faced Dacnis, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Grayish Saltator.
Chapter F, site 4.5 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
Species seen here:
Torrent Duck, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Bat Falcon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Pale-vented Pigeon, Plumbeous Pigeon, White-eyed Parakeet, Squirrel Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, White-collared Swift, White-tipped Swift, Green Hermit, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Wire-crested Thorntail, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, ECUADORIAN PIEDTAIL, Golden-headed Quetzal, Versicoloured Barbet, Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Black-mandibled Toucan, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Speckle-chested Piculet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Ash-browed Spinetail, Plain Xenops, Equatorial Graytail, Pearled Treerunner, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Lined Antshrike, Uniform Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Blackish Antbird, Warbling Antbird, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, Scaled Fruiteater, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Golden-winged Manakin, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Spectacled Bristle-Tyrant, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Ornate Flycatcher, Bran-Coloured Flycatcher, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Black-capped Becard, Masked Tityra, Blue-and-white Swallow, White-banded Swallow, Thrush-like Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Scaly-breasted Wren, Spotted Nightingale-Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Great Thrush, Glossy Black-Thrush, Andean Slaty-Thrush, Black-billed Thrush, Green Jay, Olivaceous Greenlet, Canada Warbler, Slate-throated Redstart, Bananaquit, Magpie Tanager, Common Bush-Tanager, Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, White-winged Tanager, VERMILION TANAGER, HUALLAGA TANAGER, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Thick-billed Euphonia, Orange-eared Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager, Golden Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Yellow-bellied Tanager, Spotted Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Metallic-green Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, Blue-and-black Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, Black-and-white Seedeater, Olivaceous Siskin, Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Mountain Cacique.
Accommodation: Camping here or Hotel Continental in Nueva Cajamarca.
Chapter F, site 4.6 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
Species seen here:
Scaled Pigeon, Band-tailed Pigeon, Pale-vented Pigeon, Blue Ground-dove, White-eyed Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Smooth-billed Ani, Blue-fronted Lancebill, NAPO SABREWING, Violaceous Trogon, Gilded Barbet, NORTHERN CHESTNUT-TAILED ANTBIRD, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Tropical Kingbird, Black-capped Donacobius, House Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Black-billed Thrush, Canada Warbler, Bananaquit, Black-faced Tanager, Magpie Tanager, White-lined Tanager, HUALLAGA TANAGER, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, Black-faced Dacnis, Blue Dacnis, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Buff-throated Saltator, Orange-backed Troupial, Yellow-rumped Cacique.
MORRO DE CALZADAS
Accommodation: A hotel in Rioja or Moyobamba. We stayed at Hotel Marco Antonio in Moyobamba.
Chapter F, site 5.2 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
The main target on this isolated forested outcrop is the recently described MISHANA TYRANNULET. We spent one day at this isolated peak. A few of us even made it to the ridge.
Species seen here:
Great Tinamou, Little Tinamou, Swallow-tailed Kite, Roadside Hawk, Black Caracara, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-collared Swift, Koepcke’s Hermit, Green-fronted Lancebill, Blue-crowned Trogon, Ringed Kingfisher, Swallow-wing, Lettered Aracari, Golden-collared Toucanet, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Red-stained Woodpecker, Gilded Barbet, Common Thornbird, Plain Xenops, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Lineated Woodcreeper, Plain-winged Antshrike, Warbling Antbird, Screaming Piha, Fiery-capped Manakin, Wing-barred Piprites, Mouse-coloured Tyrannulet, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, MISHANA TYRANNULET, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Gray-crowned Flycatcher, White-throated Spadebill, Flavescent Flycatcher, Short-crested Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Piratic Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, Thrush-like Wren, Coraya Wren, Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, Scaly-breasted Wren, Swainson’s Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Tropical Parula, Canada Warbler, Bananaquit, Black-faced Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, White-lined Tanager, HUALLAGA TANAGER, Palm Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Paradise Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager, Bay-headed Tanager, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper, Swallow-Tanager, Buff-throated Saltator.
Accommodation: Royal Palace Suite Hotel.
Chapter F, site 7.3 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
In the thorn scrub just outside Jaen local endemics like CHINCHIPE SPINETAIL, MARAÑON SLATY-ANTSHRIKE, MARAÑON CRESCENT-CHEST, LITTLE INCA-FINCH and the local race of COLLARED ANTSHRIKE can be found.
We spent a few hours in the late afternoon at this place.
Species seen here:
Roadside Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Croaking Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, White-eyed Parakeet, Lesser Nighthawk, Tumbes Swift, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, CHINCHIPE SPINETAIL, MARAÑON SLATY-ANTSHRIKE, MARAÑON CRESCENT-CHEST, Tumbes Tyrannulet, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Gray-breasted Martin, Tropical Gnatcatcher, House Sparrow, Olivaceous Siskin, Bananaquit, Red-crested Finch, LITTLE INCA-FINCH, Blue-black Grassquit, Black-capped Sparrow, Drab Seedeater, Saffron Finch, Streaked Saltator.
Accommodation: Royal Palace Suite Hotel in Jaen.
Chapter F, site 7.4 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
The dry dense scrub near this town is good for a few specialities like MARAÑON SPINETAIL, CHINCHIPE SPINETAIL,MARAÑON SLATY-ANTSHRIKE, MARAÑON CRESCENT-CHEST and Yellow-cheeked Becard.
Species seen here:
Tataupa Tinamou, Black Vulture, Bicoloured Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Blue Ground-Dove, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Gray-chinned Hermit (race zonura), Spot-throated Hummingbird, MARAÑON SPINETAIL, CHINCHIPE SPINETAIL, Plain Xenops, Streaked Xenops, MARAÑON SLATY-ANTSHRIKE, MARAÑON CRESCENT-CHEST, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Tumbes Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Yellow-cheeked Becard, Black-and-white Becard, Speckle-breasted Wren, Green Jay, Red-eyed Vireo, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Olivaceous Siskin, Bananaquit, Guira Tanager, Hepatic Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Blue-black Grassquit, Drab Seedeater, Saffron Finch, Black-capped Sparrow, Streaked Saltator, Yellow-tailed Oriole.
Accommodation: Hotel Remanso in Olmos.
Chapter E, 4 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
We spent some time in the Olmos area visiting dry forest patches and a marshy area.
Species seen here:
Striated Heron, Spotted Rail, Plumbeous Rail, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Pacific Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Red-masked Parakeet, Groove-billed Ani, Burrowing Owl, Scrub Nightjar, Amazilia Hummingbird, White-bellied Woodstar, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Pale-legged Hornero, Necklaced Spinetail, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Collared Antshrike, Tumbes Tyrannulet, Vermilion Flycatcher, TUMBES TYRANT, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Baird’s Flycatcher, Fasciated Wren, Superciliated Wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Bananaquit, Drab Seedeater, Saffron Finch, Black-capped Sparrow, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Peruvian Meadowlark, Scrub Blackbird, Shiny Cowbird.
Accommodation: Hotel Remanso in Olmos.
Chapter E, site 4.3 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
Abra Porculla is the lowest pass in the Peruvian Andes (2150 m). The shrubby gulleys here support the elusive PIURA CHAT-TYRANT as well as several other localized species.
Species seen here:
Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Red-backed Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Gray-chinned (“Porculla”) Hermit, Amazilia Hummingbird, Purple-collared Woodstar, White-bellied Woodstar, Ecuadorian Piculet, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaner, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, Chapman’s Antshrike, WATKINS’ ANTPITTA, Elegant Crescent-chest, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Tumbes Tyrannulet, PIURA CHAT-TYRANT, Superciliated Wren, Mountain Wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Chiguanco Thrush, Hooded Siskin, Slate-throated Redstart, Black-crested Warbler, Three-banded Warbler, Summer Tanager, Purple-throated Euphonia, Bay-crowned Brush-Finch, White-winged Brush-Finch, Black-cowled Saltator.
QUEBRADA FREJOLILLO (LIMÓN)
Accommodation: Hotel Remanso in Olmos.
Chapter E, site 4.2 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
Discovered in dry northwestern Peru in the 19th century and generally presumed extinct for a century hereafter the endangered WHITE-WINGED GUAN was only rediscovered a quarter of century ago in a small number of wooded valleys in the west Andean Foothills. The dry deciduous forests near Olmos still hold one of these populations.
This remote canyon is one of the best places to find these birds.
Species seen here:
King Vulture, WHITE-WINGED GUAN, Peruvian Thicknee, Eared Dove, Pacific Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, Pacific Parrotlet, West-Peruvian Screech-Owl, Striped Owl, Chimney Swift, Tumbes Hummingbird, Amazilia Hummingbird, Long-billed Starthroat, Purple-collared Woodstar, Ecuadorian Piculet, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Pale-legged Hornero, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Collared Antshrike, Elegant Crescent-chest, Tumbes Tyrannulet, Gray-and-white Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Tropical (“Tumbes”) Pewee, Vermilion Flycatcher, TUMBES TYRANT, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Sooty-crowned Flycatcher, Baird’s Flycatcher, Chestnut-collared Swallow, Fasciated Wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Tropical Gnatcatcher (western white-faced form), White-tailed Jay, Tropical Parula, AMERICAN REDSTART, Gray-and-gold Warbler, Three-banded Warbler, Bananaquit, Hepatic Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, CINEREOUS FINCH, White-headed Brush-Finch, Bay-crowned Brush-Finch, TUMBES SPARROW, Rufous-collared Sparrow, White-edged Oriole.
BATAN GRANDE (BOSQUE POMAC)
Accommodation: A hotel in Chiclayo. We stayed at Hostal Santa Victoria.
Chapter E, site 5.3 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
Bosque Pomac, a 6000 ha reserve with a considerable chunk of prosopis woodland, which mainly protects archaeological sites such as Batán Grande, is the site for PERUVIAN PLANTCUTTER as well as RUFOUS FLYCATCHER. The area is also a great place to find the localized TUMBES SWALLOW.
Species seen here:
Savannah Hawk, Burrowing Owl, Amazilia Hummingbird, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Pale-legged Hornero, Necklaced Spinetail, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Collared Antshrike, PERUVIAN PLANTCUTTER, Tumbes Tyrannulet, Gray-and-white Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Vermilion Flycatcher, RUFOUS FLYCATCHER, Baird’s Flycatcher, Fasciated Wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Masked Yellowthroat, Bananaquit, Thick-billed Euphonia, CINEREOUS FINCH, Collared Warbling-Finch, Tumbes Sparrow, White-edged Oriole.
Accommodation: A hotel in Lima. We stayed at Hostal Mama Panchita.
Chapter D, site 1.1 in Thomas Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”.
Marcapomacocha is famous for the enigmatic DIADEMED SANDPIPER-PLOVER, but is also home to such denizens as the very rare WHITE-BELLIED CINCLODES, up to eight species of Ground-Tyrants including Black-fronted Ground-Tyrant, and other species including Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Olivaceous Thornbill and BLACK-BREASTED HILLSTAR.
Marcapomacocha is high-altitude birding at its extreme: 4,500 m. Take it easy here, and drink lots of fluids.
Species seen here included:
Andean Goose, Andean Condor, Red-backed Hawk, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Andean Lapwing, DIADEMED SANDPIPER-PLOVER, Puna Snipe, BLACK-BREASTED HILLSTAR, Plain-breasted Earthcreeper, Bar-winged Cinclodes, White-winged Cinclodes, WHITE-BELLIED CINCLODES, Streaked Tit-Spinetail, Dark-winged Canastero, Streak-throated Canastero, JUNIN CANASTERO, Stripe-headed Antpitta, White-fronted Ground-Tyrant, Black Siskin, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, White-winged Diuca-Finch, Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch.
Thursday 27 October
A long early morning flight to Peru with Iberia was a conventional enough start to our journey. We had a short respite in our trip with a stopover at Madrid and landed in the clouds of Lima at 17.30. Following the punctual arrival a minibus taxi transferred us to the Dutch-owned Mami Panchita Hostal, where Wim ten Have was waiting for us. It was already three years ago that we made a trip with him to Manu and Abra Malaga.
Friday 28 October
an early morning wake up call at 3.35, followed by breakfast, we departed
to the airport. Our 6.30 Condor flight was somewhat delayed, but in no
time at all we had left the coastal mist behind, and were soaring over
the stunning snow capped Andes. In less than an hour we flew to the colonial
city of Cajamarca. At 8.00 a.m. we arrived in a sunny Cajamarca, where
a few centuries ago the Inca Atahualpa met his death at the hands of the
Juvenal Ccahuana was waiting for us with his minibus, this time also our driver as three years ago and an amazing birder himself nowadays. From the small airport we immediately headed to San Marcos, one of the very few known areas where Great Spinetail can be found regularly.
It took us quite some time, because the road was blocked and we had to make a large detour on a long, bone-shaking road to get to San Marcos. We did not exactly go to the place as mentioned in Valqui’s “Where to watch birds in Peru”, because Juve had found another site, much easier to explore.
It was very hot here and we had to search a long time on these cacti-clad slopes before we had good views of a cooperative Great Spinetail at the nest, a bird recently rediscovered, and our first endemic of the trip. We spent a few hours at this site and amongst the other birds seen here were Striped Cuckoo, Spot-throated Hummingbird, Purple-collared Woodstar, Black-necked Woodpecker, White-winged Black-Tyrant and the endemic Buff-bridled Inca-Finch.
Hereafter we headed to Cajamarca, where we checked into Hostal Santa Rosa. In the late afternoon we headed to a nearby canyon, the ‘Cajamarca Quebrada’ where we searched in vain for the Unicoloured Tapaculo, although we heard the bird a few times. A bit disappointed we returned to Cajamarca, where we had dinner in a restaurant at the Plaza de Armas, where we drank our first Pisco Sour of the trip.
Saturday 29 October
At 6 o’clock we left Cajamarca to drive to the Rio Chonta valley, to search for the enigmatic Gray-bellied Comet, known from this area for some time. Realising that in an apparently almost featureless valley, vegetated gullies are normally a haven for birds, we decided to spend some time there. The hunch paid off as after an hour or so a fine Grey-bellied Comet was watched feeding at some flowers at the edge of a small waterfall.
Amongst the other birds we encountered in this valley were Giant Hummingbird, Green-tailed Trainbearer, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Golden-billed Saltator and Golden-bellied Grosbeak. En route I had a brief view of a Rufous-webbed Tyrant along the road.
Hereafter we began on our long trip to Celendin, stopping at a place 35 km from Cajamarca where we searched in vain for Rufous-eared Brush-Finch. However we were compensated by “Marañon” Black-crested Tit-Tyrant and diligent searching resulted also in great close-ups of the rare Jelski’s Chat-Tyrant.
Then we headed to some tiny remnant patches of polylepis and shrubs and we were hardly out of the bus when Juve heard a ‘Cajamarca’ Rufous Antpitta calling. We spent more than a half hour near bushes where the Antpitta was calling and could not find the bird. Sometimes I want to go straight back home.
Moving up we had fantastic ‘scope views of the rare White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant at less than 20 metres and we were even able to compare the bird with a Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, obligingly sitting on the top of a pole only 10 metres from the White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant. With most of our target birds seen we left the paramo and descended to Celendin, where we booked a room at the Plaza de Armas in Hotel Celendin.
Sunday 30 October
Up at 5.00 and off at 5.30 and up again in the Andes. Today a very long trip via the Marañon Valley to Leymebamba.
En route to the mighty Marañon Canyon we made a few stops adding Andean Lapwing, Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, Bare-faced Ground-dove, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Baron’s Spinetail and Paramo Seedeater to our fast growing bird list.
We again saw here the endemic Buff-bridled Inca-Finch.
Once over the pass we descended the spectacular Marañon Valley on a narrow and winding road next to some stomach-churning virtually vertical drop-offs. The scenery here was incredible!
We made a stop at El Limon and had no problem in finding the endemic Gray-winged Inca-Finch and the Marañon Gnatcatcher. Near their basket-like nests we also had good views of the endemic Chestnut-backed Thornbird.
We then descended to the arid bottom of the valley and made a stop near the river, where we saw some Peruvian Pigeons in the top of the trees. Just before arriving in Balsas we had amazing good views of the rare Yellow-faced Parrotlet and an obligingly Short-Tailed Hawk in the top of a tree.
We made a stop in the tiny settlement Balsas, where a man was walking stark-naked in the streets. It was scorching hot of course, but we did not feel the need to undress ourselves. In Balsas we successfully searched for the Marañon Thrush.
We then left Balsas and headed to Abra Barra Negro, a high pass, which separates the Marañon Valley from the Utcubamba Valley. Driving up the hair-raising switchbacks on the eastern slope of the canyon, we enjoyed some of South America’s most awesome scenery. When we arrived at the “Black Mud Pass” Abra Barra Negro it was raining heavily and we decided not to stop here and drive on to Leymebamba. Just before dusk we arrived in the small town of Leymebamba, where we checked into Hospedaje Laguna de Los Cóndores.
Monday 31 October
After a very early breakfast we left Leymebamba at 4.45 for the 15 kilometres back to Abra Barra Negro. A few stretches of cloud forest remain here and fast-moving flocks and plenty of other birds made this a good start of the day. We saw here no less than 5 species of flowerpiercers and quite a few hummers amongst them Mountain Velvetbreast, the beautiful Rainbow Starfrontlet, an amazing Sword-billed Hummingbird repeatedly returning to the same flowers and Purple-throated Sunangel. We had hoped to see here the endemic Coppery Metaltail, but alas we dipped.
A pair of the little-known Russet-mantled Softtails were seen very well along the road and amongst the other birds seen here were Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Large-footed and BlackishTapaculo (heard), Red-crested Cotinga, Sierran Elaenia, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Spectacled Redstart, the very distinctive, all grey insignis form of the Superciliaried Hemispingus, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Rusty and Masked Flowerpiercer. When the bird activity abated we returned to Leymebamba, picking up our stuff at the Hospedaje.
We then drove north following the rushing Utcubamba River. We made a few roadside stops at forest patches and Hook-billed Kite, Chestnut-collared Swift, Rufous-winged Tyrannulet, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Golden-rumped Euphonia, and the endemic Buff-bellied Tanager were added to a rapidly growing list.
At 15.30 we arrived at the rustic Hostal Estancia Chillo, where we drank a couple of beers. Hereafter we wanted to make a stroll along the Utcubamba River, but the rain drove us back into the cover of our hotel, but not before we had seen a Marañon Thrush. The owner of the Hostal ensured us that there was a daytime roost of Koepcke’s Screech-Owl in the trees in front of the hostal, but we could not find this most-wanted bird. We had a delicious meal at the estancia and I can recommend this place to everybody.
Tuesday 1 November
Next morning consistent heavy rain sabotaged birding during the first hours of the morning. We then left the estancia and headed to Pedro Ruiz, still following the Utcubamba River. Carefully scrutinizing the river we saw a few Fasciated Tiger-Herons, the tiny Torrent Tyrannulet, Black Phoebe and a Torrent Duck.
The morning also produced White-bellied Hummingbird, Speckle-chested Piculet, Black-necked Woodpecker, Rufous Casiornis, Marañon Thrush, Marañon Gnatcatcher, Masked Yellowthroat, Purple-throated Euphonia and Russet-backed Oropendola, to name but a few.
After an early lunch at Pedro Ruiz we set off to Pomacochas. Not far from Pomacochas Juve knew a spot right along the main road, where the world’s most spectacular hummingbird, the Marvellous Spatuletail easily could be seen, maybe the most important objective of our northern Peru trip, a semi-mythical bird that I’ve dreamed about for years.
We spent only 10 minutes on the ridge above some bushes with orange flowers (rosemary plants), when Juve discovered a male, but before we had seen the bird, it was already gone. 10 minutes later the thrilling male was back and I was even able to get the bird in my telescope and examine the tiny bird with those amazing spatulas bobbing behind it, as it darted from flower to flower. Other birds we saw here were Sparkling Violetear and Rufous-capped Antshrike.
At 3.00 o’clock we arrived in Pomacochas and checked into the fancy Hotel Puerto Pumas. Hereafter we headed to the Río Chido Trail and were very disappointed when we arrived there. The habitat was very degraded, and it would take quite some exploration to find good patches. Luckily Juve had been here in August and went straight away to the trail, where he had seen a Pale-billed Antpitta. We heard a Pale-billed Antpitta, but it was sadly well out of range. We spent a few hours in this area and amongst the birds we encountered were Speckle-faced Parrot, Black-throated Toucanet, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Red-hooded, Flame-faced, Blue-and-black and Silver-backed Tanager and Rusty Flowerpiercer.
Wednesday 2 November
After a comfortable night at the hotel we were up at 4.30 and at 5.00 we headed to the lush cloud-forests of the Cordillera del Colan. We made a stop at the mountain pass known by birders as "Abra Patricia". When we arrived at the pass it rained and we had to sit in the bus in the rain until well past 8.00 when we could stand the frustration no longer and ventured outside. Some time later the rain stopped and the birding really started.
In this forest full of red bromeliads and fern we encountered many flocks. Our walks along a bamboo-choked trail at the pass rewarded us with close-ups of Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Long-tailed Antbird, Inca Flycatcher and Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, while mixed flocks included such goodies as Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Montane Woodcreeper, Green-and-black Fruiteater, White-sided Flowerpiercer and Masked Flowerpiercer. We heard a few Rufous-vented Tapaculos and Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant, but were not able to spot them.
Dropping down in elevation we found amongst many others Gray-mantled Wren and Andean Slaty-Thrush and the often elusive Rufous-tailed Tyrant was common. The tanager guild was well represented and contained Black-faced Tanager, Rufous-chested Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager and Silver-backed Tanager, while hummingbirds included the diminutive Emerald-bellied Puffleg, the spectacular Wire-crested Thorntail, the endemic Royal Sunangel and Long-tailed Sylph.
The most spectacular of all though was the single large and jay-like White-capped Tanager calling from the top of a tree, which was seen by all – this is a rare species which is seldom seen – luck was really with us.
Then we returned to hotel Puerto Pumas for dinner and a few ice-cold ones.
Thursday 3 November
During the night, we received quite a bit of rain, but we awoke to clear blue skies and lower temperatures. It was chilly, but it was sunny all day and we had no mist at all. On our way to Abra Patricia we made a stop near a restaurant, because some people desperately needed to visit a toilet. Luck was with us, because in the nearby trees we discovered a group of Golden-collared Honeycreepers, a bird I should have seen a long time ago in South America.
We made a stop at the “owlet ridge”. Birding the exceptionally muddy trail produced Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant, but again we could not locate the bird! We continued to bird the Cordillera del Colan all day, exploring the lower elevations around Afluente for mixed species sampling a long list of birds. This area was one of the highlights of the trip: great views of Bat Falcon, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Equatorial Graytail, Lined Antshrike, Golden-faced Tyrannulet and Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet and several species of tanager including White-winged, Huallaga, Orange-eared, Green-and-gold, Golden-eared and Metallic-green Tanager.
Highlight of the day however was the highly-wanted superb Vermilion Tanager (another former nemesis bird for me) in a flock of tanagers. From the Afluente area we travelled east to spend the night in Hotel Continental at Nueva Cajamarca.
Friday 4 November
The next day, a leisurely start at Aguas Verdes, produced some important birds for the trip: Blue-fronted Lancebill, Napo Sabrewing, Gilded Barbet and Northern Chestnut-tailed Antbird. Hereafter we spent a few hours on a very muddy trail near Aguas Verdes. Many of the birds here were the same as we saw yesterday, but inevitably we found a few new ones amongst them Plain Antvireo, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Spotted Nightingale-Thrush and Spotted Tanager.
The long drive to Moyobamba was broken up with a productive birding stop at the savannah near Segunda Jerusalen, and we picked up such specialities as Rufous Casiornis, Black-billed Seed-Finch and Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch, in addition to more ordinary birds such as Snail Kite, Black-capped Donacobius, Common Thornbird and Chestnut-throated Seedeater.
We pulled into Moyobamba at about 6.00 p.m. and checked into the nice Hotel Marco Antonio and enjoyed an excellent meal in an adjoining restaurant.
Saturday 5 November
The next day we started early for Morro de Calzadas – a small reserve of varillal forest surrounding an isolated hill west of Moyobamba. An early start helped us to avoid the hiking crowds and no doubt contributed to the long list of birds that we saw here. Our main target was the Mishana Tyrannulet and within a half hour we had seen no less than 4 birds.
A few of us managed to walk to the top, but their efforts did not bring any new birds to the list.
Working the semi-deciduous mountain forest was not easy, but we eventually managed to locate Koepcke’s Hermit, Green-fronted Lancebill, Lettered Aracari, Golden-collared Toucanet, LaFresnaye’s Piculet, Red-stained Woodpecker, Fiery-capped Manakin, Wing-barred Piprites, Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, White-throated Spadebill and Swallow-Tanager.
In the late afternoon we spent some time at a marshy area near Moyobamba adding Blue-winged Parrotlet, Dull-coloured Grassquit and Orange-backed Troupial to our birding tally.
We then returned to our hotel in Moyobamba to enjoy a cool beer, followed by a relaxing dinner and a lively log call.
Sunday 6 November
Next morning tracing our route back towards Abra Patricia, a morning at Afluente proved very productive, and a large mixed species flock kept us busy for a while, as it contained such birds as Versicoloured Barbet, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, in addition to the colourful palette of tanagers we had already familiarized ourselves with a few days earlier. Other species of interest we located in the Afluente area were Dark-breasted & Ash-browed Spinetail, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Golden-winged Manakin, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher and the rare Spectacled Bristle-Tyrant. Some of us also enjoyed good views of a Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant, an uncommon foothill speciality.
At Abra Patricia at the ‘owlet’ ridge we had excellent eye-level views of the shy Bar-winged Wood-Wren. Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant finally surrendered and we spotted a pair in the bushes along the road, two absolute beauties. Then again dark clouds gathered overhead and the first drops of rain started to fall and this wasn't too much fun, but it already was late afternoon and we headed to Hotel Puerto Pumas.
Monday 7 November
The break of dawn found us standing on the shore of Laguna Pomacochas. Species observed at this lake were Puna Ibis, White-cheeked Pintail, Plumbeous Rail, Grassland Yellow-Finch and Peruvian Meadowlark. Valqui mentions Red-breasted Meadowlark in his book, but the birds we saw were certainly Peruvian Meadowlark.
Just outside La Florida we spent some time on a very steep hill, trying to find the Curve-billed Tinamou. We heard the bird and could of course not locate the bird. The slopes were too steep, sometimes very dangerous and the bird could hide anywhere.
Very disappointed we continued on towards Bagua Chica through a very contrasting landscape to that to which we had become accustomed. We did pass through some areas of good habitat where we made occasional stops in the heat and found species such as Pale-legged Hornero, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant and Short-tailed Field-Tyrant. In the cactus desert near Bagua Chica we had excellent views of the endemic Little Inca-Finch. Hereafter we headed to the bustling town of Jaen, where we checked into the Royal Palace Suite Hotel.
The late afternoon saw us on the narrow dirt road to Seminario. We spent the rest of the afternoon here exploring the arid lowland scrub. We found an amazing set of species in just more than an hour. We managed to see Chinchipe Spinetail, Marañon Slaty-Antshrike, Tumbes Tyrannulet, Little Inca-Finch, Black-capped Sparrow and Red-crested Finch.
However the ultimate bird had to be the beautiful Marañon Crescent-chest which was coaxed into view just a few metres from where we stood. In one hour we saw no less than 5 birds of this species, a world record I think.
After updating the day's list and dinner with a few excellent Cusquena beers, most of us decided to sleep.
Tuesday 8 November
morning we headed to Tamborapa and spent all morning birding a patch of
forest and scrub near this town.
Amongst the birds encountered near the creek were Tataupa Tinamou, Bicoloured Hawk, Marañon Spinetail, Chinchipe Spinetail, Marañon Slaty-Antshrike, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Yellow-Cheeked Becard, Speckle-breasted Wren, Guira Tanager, Black-capped Sparrow and Yellow-tailed Oriole.
Hereafter we returned to Jaen and had lunch there. Then we headed west into the Andes and made a short stop at Abra Porculla, the lowest pass in the Peruvian Andes. We birded the area till it was dark and we had excellent views of an Elegant Crescent-chest, a bird I had seen many years ago in south-western Ecuador. Amongst the other birds seen were the endemic Piura Chat-Tyrant, Three-banded Warbler, Bay-crowned Brush-Finch, White-winged Brush-Finch and Black-cowled Saltator.
Hereafter we headed to Olmos and at 19.30 we checked into Hotel Remanso.
Wednesday 9 November
6.30 found us at Abra Porculla. This low pass in the north Peruvian Andes superficially appears devoid of any birding habitat, but we found the birds to be very active near the pass.
Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Red-backed Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk soared overhead, while Line-cheeked Spinetail, Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaner, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner and Chapman’s Antshrike, Elegant Crescent-chest and Black-cowled Saltator were all logged before moving off in search of our main quarry here: Watkins’s Antpitta.
We searched in vain for this species, although we heard the bird a few times.
It was very hot today and we then headed back for Olmos, for a beer and early lunch and we decided to take a siesta from 12.00 till 15.00 hours. Hereafter we drove to an area of dry forest not far from Olmos. We made a long stroll in the forest and amongst the interesting birds seen were Red-masked Parakeet, Scrub Nightjar, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Neck-laced Spinetail, Collared Antshrike, Tumbes Tyrannulet, the handsome Tumbes Tyrant an endemic of semi-deserts in northwestern Peru, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Baird’s Flycatcher, Fasciated Wren, Superciliated Wren, Drab Seedeater and Black-capped Sparrow, most of them birds I had already seen on my trip to the Saint Elena peninsula in Ecuador in 1993.
On our way back to Olmos we made a stop at a roadside marsh, where we added Spotted Rail, a lifer for me, to the trip list.
We again spent the night at Hotel Remanso.
Thursday 10 November
Leaving our charming hotel in the middle of the night was made bearable when we approached the small village of Limon, the easiest and most reliable site for White-winged Guan. Lino Rico assisted us as a guide to find a bird, native only to this Andean bird paradise, considered as dead as a Great Auk, only a quarter of a century ago.
We spent all morning at Quebrada Frejolillo (Quebrada Limon). Lino took us straight to the area, where he knew a group was hanging around. Within 15 minutes of arriving we indeed saw several of these awesome black birds with their huge white wing patches moving through the trees, but it was far away.
We did not have much time to celebrate as the Quebrada was alive with birds, mostly of the Tumbesian avifauna.
New birds where added to the trip list quickly such as King Vulture, Striped Owl, Short-tailed Woodstar, Ecuadorian Piculet, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Gray-and-white Tyrannulet, Sooty-crowned Flycatcher, Chestnut-collared Swallow, White-tailed Jay, White-edged Oriole and the sprightly White-headed Brush-Finch.
Lino managed to find another group of White-winged Guans and now we could admire these very rare birds at less than 10 metres. On our way back to the village we saw a single Tumbes Hummingbird and we also added other warblers to the trip list here as well such as Tropical Parula, American Redstart, a very rare bird in Peru and Gray-and-gold Warbler.
We said goodbye to Lino and heading back towards the Pan-American highway, we stopped a few times at dry wadis, where we found Cinereous Finch and Tumbes Sparrow, lifers for all of us.
The final part of the trip took us to the coast. After a lunch in Olmos we headed to Chiclayo, where we checked into Hostal Santa Victoria.
Friday 11 November
This was essentially a driving day and at 5.30 we left Chiclayo and headed straight away to Batan Grande.
We spent only a short time here, because we had to drive back to Lima today. We quickly collected the desired birds here, Peruvian Plantcutter and Rufous Flycatcher, probably our last endemics, before moving on to Lima.
Amongst the other birds seen at Batan Grande were Necklaced Spinetail, Gray-and-white Tyrannulet, Cinereous Finch, Collared Warbling-Finch, Tumbes Sparrow and White-edged Oriole.
It was a long trip and we probably should have booked a flight from Chiclayo to Lima. En route to Lima we made a stop along the coast a few kilometres south of Chimote adding a few species to our bird list amongst them Peruvian Booby, a speeding Peregrine Falcon, Belcher’s Gull and Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, birds we of course had already seen on our 2002 trip. At 23.30 we arrived in Lima and again spent a very short night at Hostal Mami Panchita.
Saturday 12 November/Sunday 13 November
The last day’s birding involved a long drive into the Andes. We left Lima very early (3.30) in the morning for the 3½ hours bus trip to Marcapomacocha, the place where we dipped the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover three years ago. A magnificent morning awaited us when we arrived at the bogs with massive rock walls, razor-sharp ridges and high mountains all around us and also wonderful weather.
When we arrived at the stake-out, Juve pointed out the birds to us within 30 seconds and we were able to ‘scope at length three beautiful Diademed Sandpiper-Plovers. The Diademed Sandpiper-Plovers behaved like Killdeers, its abundant relative, standing perfectly still for extended periods and then moving very fast to another point of standing still.
We were close to the end of the trip and very lucky to see this rare, very local and declining species, a splendid finale to an excellent bird trip.
There were plenty of other birds to enliven the dramatic landscape as well and a few minutes later we were staring at the very rare White-bellied Cinclodes, unmistakable because of its size and the whiteness of its breast and belly.
An incredibly obliging Stripe-headed Antpitta hopped along the ground right in front of us and amongst the other birds seen here were Puna Snipe, Black-breasted Hillstar, Dark-winged Canastero, Junin Canastero, Black Siskin and White-winged Diuca-Finch.
The rest of the drive back to Lima that afternoon was relatively uneventful and at 6.00 p.m. we arrived at the airport.
We said goodbye to Juve and the next day after a smooth transatlantic flight, we arrived in Brussels safe and ‘sound’, although something I ate in a restaurant near Lima did not agree with me and I was a wreck when I finally was back in Holland.
Rusty-tinged Antpitta, Ochre-fronted Antpitta, Yellow-scarfed Tanager and Tumbes Swallow eluded us, but all-in-all northern Peru had certainly been everything I expected and more and I think we all agreed that the trip was a success.
This was due for the most part in a good group to travel with, but also due to the professionalism and caring attitude of Juve and Wim. We identified 506 species during these 17 days. We had some rain, but I think we all knew we could have had a lot more. Most of the rain fell during non-birding hours, so I can’t complain too much. I ended up with 82 lifers, a few more than I expected to see.
With such a vast bird list picking out my ten best birds of the trip is as always almost meaningless, but nevertheless a few that come instantly to mind include White-winged Guan, Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, Gray-bellied Comet, Marvellous Spatuletail, Great Spinetail, Russet-mantled Softtail, Mishana Tyrannulet, Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant, White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant and Vermilion Tanager, most of them endemics and lifers all of course.
Chaam, 15 February 2006,
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