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Peru - September 2000,
Colin Crooke 6 George St, Avoch, Ross-shire IV9 8PU
This was our first tour to Peru and it was a great success.
This tour focused on south-east Peru, with emphasis given to the Humboldt current seabirds on the Ballestas Islands, the cultural experience of flying over the Nasca Lines, the Amazon Rainforest in Tambopata and the Inca Trail through the Andes to Machu Picchu.
We recorded 385 species in Peru, including 11 that were "heard only". Our list was not the longest ever recorded in Peru but included a number of fantastic birds and trip highlights, including many endemics and range-restricted, rare, or just difficult-to-see species.
The following is a trip report detailing our daily activities and bird lists.
Friday, 1st September London/Madrid/Lima
We arrived and met without mishap at Heathrow Terminal 2 and boarded our early morning flight over to Madrid. Greeted by warm and sunny weather in the Spanish capital, we had a short wait before boarding our flight to Peru. Heading out over Portugal and the Atlantic, we eventually reached the coast of Brazil near the mouth of the Amazon. Over the rainforest, up over the Andes and finally down into the Peruvian capital of Lima, landing just before dusk after a long flight of over 11 hours.
We collected our baggage, changed some dollars into sols and were greeted by our local guide. From here we were driven the short distance into Miraflores and the pleasant Hotel Jose Antonio. Time for a quick beer or two before bed and a chance to meet Colin, Anne, Ian, Iris and Brian who had made their own way to Lima.
Saturday, 2nd September Pantanos/Pachacamac/Pucusana/Paracas
A day of all the P's! A fairly relaxed start after the long journey but still time for Pacific Dove, Southern House Wren, Bananaquit and Blue-Grey Tanager outside before breakfast although the latter two species were considered to be escapes. We were ready to leave at 8am and drove down through the suburbs of southern Lima to the marshes of Pantanos de Villa. Sandwiched between areas of very low quality housing and a huge noodle factory, Villa Marsh is a nice habitat which is very attractive for birds and a pleasant couple of hours followed with many species not to be seen for the duration of the rest of the tour. Highlights included Great Grebe, Peruvian Red-breasted Meadowlark, nesting Wren-like Rushbirds and a lone out-of-range Roseate Spoonbill.
Mid-morning - Pantanos de Villa: Great Grebe (15), Pied-billed Grebe (5), Neotropical Cormorant (40), White-cheeked Pintail (20), Cinnamon Teal (6), Andean Duck (3), Great Egret (1), Snowy Egret (50), Striated Heron (2), Little Blue Heron (2), Roseate Spoonbill (1), Black-crowned Night-heron (15), Cattle Egret (25), Puna Ibis (6), Black Vulture (50), Osprey (1), American Kestrel (1), Common Gallinule (130), Andean Coot (10), Peruvian Thicknee (3), Greater Yellowlegs (3), Spotted Sandpiper (2), Killdeer (7), South American Stilt (12), Band-tailed Gull (1), Gray-hooded Gull (55), Pacific Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove (4), Groove-billed Ani (2), Wren-like Rushbird (2), Many-coloured Rush-tyrant (2), Vermilion Flycatcher(1), Blue-and-White Swallow (20), Shiny Cowbird (2), Peruvian Red-breasted Meadowlark (14).
From the marshes we continued along a track for a short distance towards the sea to a sandy area noted for Peruvian Thick-knee. After a quick search Colin latched onto 3 of these attractive birds and we all had good telescope looks.
We continued south to the extensive pre-Incan ruins of Pachacamac, a visit which we'll drop for future tours, and then on to the fishing town of Pucusana. Here we had moved sufficiently far south to escape the depressing grey mist which surrounds Lima for 9 months of the year, and we were bathed in glorious sunshine (and surrounded by the ubiquitous Peruvian Pelicans!) whilst organising some boats to take us on the tour of the bay. Very much reliant on the fishing industry, Pucusana is full of local charm and colour and we quickly obtained great views of an early contender for bird of the tour - Inca Tern: surely one of the world's most beautiful terns. We added the attractive Gray Gull, Guanay, Red-legged and Neotropical Cormorants, Blackish Oystercatcher, Peruvian Tern and the endemic Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes.
Pucusana: Peruvian Pelican (80), Peruvian Booby (20), Guanay Cormorant (2), Red-legged Cormorant (1), Neotropical Cormorant (30), Blackish Oystercatcher (2), Surfbird (2), Ruddy Turnstone (15), Whimbrel (2), Spotted Sandpiper (1), Grey Gull (30), Band-tailed Gull (200), Grey-hooded Gull (4), Peruvian Tern (1), Inca Tern (80), Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes (2).
After a fish lunch we headed south again on the Pan-American Highway towards Paracas. Late afternoon we were stopped by the police who wanted to check our driver's licence. We took a chance to stretch our legs and, looking out over Pantanos de Puerto Viejo, we managed to add Wilson's Phalarope, Lesser Yellowlegs, Peregrine Falcon, Barn Swallow and White-tufted Grebe to our list. We arrived at the comfortable Hotel Paracas and after a pleasant meal completed the log call which revealed 59 species for the day. A very nice start, despite the Pachacamac ruins being a disappointment for most people.
Birds recorded en route to Paracas, including stop at Pantanos de Puerto Viejo: Great Grebe (1), Pied-billed Grebe (2), White-tufted Grebe (2), White-cheeked Pintail (15), Cinnamon Teal (4), Great Egret (4), Striated Heron (2), American black Vulture (30), Peregrine Falcon (1), Andean Coot (20), Common Gallinule (150), Killdear (1), Lesser Yellowlegs (3), South American Stilt (6), Vermillion Flycatcher (3), Barn Swallow (6), Blue and white Swallow (100), Long-tailed Mockingbird (4), Red-breasted Meadowlark (4).
Sunday, 3rd September Ballestas Islands/Nasca Lines
We made an early start before breakfast to look for some of the specialities in the dry scrub behind the hotel. Our main target was the impressive and local Peruvian Sheartail. Initially it was a struggle but eventually everybody had good views. Two Peruvian Thick-knees walked away from us through the scrub and gave excellent views. The wheatear-like Coastal Miner showed well and our other hummingbird target for the morning, the local Amazilia Hummingbird, proved no problem as did Cinerous Conebill. To finish, about half the group eventually saw the surprisingly elusive Short-tailed Field-Tyrant.
Birds recorded in desert, scrub and foreshore areas around Hotel Paracas: Olivaceous Cormorant (40), Peruvian Pelican (150), Peruvian Booby (250), Spotted Sandpiper (1), Peruvian Thick-knee (2), Peruvian Tern (2), Peruvian Sheartail (8), Amazilia Hummingbird (2), Coastal Miner (1), Short-tailed Field-Tyrant (1), Vermillion Flycatcher (2), Blue and white Swallow (40), Cinereous Corebill (2), Blue-black Grassquit (1), Rufous-collared Sparrow (25), House Sparrow (8).
Back to the hotel for breakfast, we boarded our speedboat for the ride to the Ballestas Islands at 8 o'clock. Just off the pier a large flock of Peruvian Boobies and pelicans were diving for baitfish. We sped out over the ocean and added American Oystercatcher before passing the famous and mysterious Candelabra figure carved into the cliff side.
Nearing the islands, we noted Sooty Shearwater skimming the waves. Cutting the outboards on arrival, we were bowled over with the sheer numbers of seabirds present. It was an awesome site! Grey Phalaropes were common on the sea and the odd Kelp Gull was spotted in amongst the abundant Band-tailed Gull, all feeding on small red crabs that were drifting just below the ocean surface. However, it was the Peruvian Booby and cormorant populations that made up the bulk of the seabird numbers. Rounding a small headland, we spotted a stray juvenile Blue-footed Booby from Galapagos in amongst his Peruvian cousins. Our next port of call was the large Southern Sea Lion colony and we sat bobbing on the waves watching and photographing these enchanting creatures for several minutes. We then spent a while searching for one of our main targets for the morning, Humboldt Penguin. We eventually found one in the surf and the bird clambered up onto the rocks allowing everybody excellent views and some decent photographic opportunities.
Heading out away from the islands for a while, we found the impressive Cape (Pintado) Petrel and a small storm petrel - Wilson's. Sadly around this time one or two people started to suffer from sea sickness but it was time to head back anyway and, once we were back in the calmer water in the leeward side of the headland, people were feeling better.
Birds recorded on boat trip to the Ballestas Islands: Humboldt Penguin (1), Sooty Shearwater (57), Pintado Petrel (46), Wilson's Petrel (3), Peruvian Pelican (400), Blue-footed Booby (2), Peruvian Booby (15,000), Guanay Cormorant (1500), Red-legged Cormorant (50), Neotropical Cormorant (30), Turkey Vulture (250), Osprey (1), American Oystercatcher (4), Blackish Oystercatcher (2), Surfbird (2), Ruddy Turnstone (6), Whimbrel (1), Grey Phalarope (280), Grey Gull (600), Band-tailed Gull (2500), Kelp Gull (80), Inca Tern (500), Peruvian Tern (2), South American Tern (1), Black Skimmer (2).
We collected our baggage from the hotel and drove, via a detour over Paracas Peninsula, to the small fishing village of Lagunillas. While passing the vehicle checkpoint we saw Chilean Flamingo at distance and on the beach near Lagunillas we added Least Sandpiper and Black-bellied Plover, despite the tide being quite high. We also watched a group of Turkey Vultures feeding on a dead Green Pacific Turtle.
Birds recorded in the Paracas National Park: Chilean Flamingo (10), Turkey Vulture (30), Black-bellied Plover (1), Least sandpiper (5), Spotted Sandpiper (1), Surfbird (3), Whimbrel (3), Ruddy Turnstone (4), Grey Gull (20), Band-tailed Gull (20), Kelp Gull (6).
We headed south towards Ica where we stopped for lunch. From the restaurant we had just a short drive to the small airport on the outskirts of Ica from where we were to catch our flight over the Nasca Lines. We took off at about 3.15pm in 2 aeroplanes and flew south at 7000 feet over the unbelievably inhospitable-looking but impressive coastal desert. Arriving over the famous lines, the afternoon light was perfect and the pilots did a great job in affording us views of these mysterious figures in the desert. Landing again in Ica we swapped thoughts and most agreed that it had been an interesting and thoroughly worthwhile experience.
Birds recorded en route to Nazca and around Nazca airstrip: Turkey Vulture (20), American Vestrel (3), Bay-winged Hawk (1), Groove-billed Ani (4), Amazilia Hummingbird (1), Vermillion Flycatcher (2), Barn Swallow (20), Long-tailed Mockingbird (12), Blue-black Grassquit (3), House Sparrow (1).
We had a long drive back to Lima so made tracks north. On arrival in Miraflores at 9.30pm some headed straight for bed while the rest of us had dinner to round off what had been a busy day.
Monday, 4th September Tambopata
A very early start today with breakfast at 4am. We were picked up by Sheila and Miguel and we were at the airport at 5am to check in for our flight to Puerto Maldonado, via Cusco. We soon climbed through the garúa mist and soared up over the Andes in bright morning sunlight. After a short stop in Cusco during which time we remained on the plane, we took off again, negotiated the Andean cordillera and then dropped in altitude over the cloud and then lowland Amazon rainforest. As we neared Maldonado the forest became less intact with cattle ranches and plantations of African Palm becoming evident. We landed in Maldonado in bright sunshine and pleasant warmth. We collected our baggage (including Mildred's potentially problematic red suitcase!) and saw Tropical Kingbird, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture and Red-capped Cardinal while loading our bus. We then drove through town to Puerto Tambopata, 1 km upstream of the Tambopata's confluence with the great Río Madre de Dios, Peru's principle Amazon tributary. We had just missed a friaje (a period of cold weather when cool air periodically floods down from the Andes between the months of May and September) so the weather was warm but fresh-feeling, lacking the high humidity so often evident here.
We set off upstream, enjoying the breeze in our hair and getting to grips with some of the commoner riverside birds: swallows, egrets and flycatchers plus Plumbeous Kite, Roadside Hawk and the attractive Chestnut-bellied Seedeater. We managed to approach a sizeable Spectacled Caiman quite closely and, over a large beach with exposed dead branches, we added Swallow-wing and the impressive Sand-coloured Nighthawk. We then had a surprise with 3 Horned Screamers in a large tree. These incredible beasts are more usually found around secluded oxbow lakes and were a very welcome addition to our list! 2 Red and Green Macaws were seen perched in a tree to provide us with our first sightings of the large macaws and shortly after 2 magnificent King Vultures were spotted in a thermal containing mainly Greater Yellow Headed Vultures with Plumbeous Kites.
Further upstream the sharp eyes of our motorist picked out a family of 4 Capybara, the world's largest rodent, wallowing in the mud at the side of the river. We added Magpie Tanager before arriving at Tambopata Jungle Lodge just before lunch. After an excellent buffet we settled into the cabins and had a short rest before taking to the trails for an introductory walk before darkness. Joselin and Monika showed us some medicinal plants and we also saw some interesting birds including Broad-billed Motmot, Black fronted and White-fronted Nunbirds and a Red Howler Monkey eating clay on the other side of the river.
Just before dinner we had a slide show and moving into the dining area, a Starred Wood-quail was heard calling off in the distance. The daily log was completed after dinner ( 64 species) and we retired to bed.
Puerto Maldonado, Río Tambopata, Tambopata Jungle Lodge: Great Tinamou (h), Undulated Tinamou (h), Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Horned Screamer (3), King Vulture (2), Black Vulture, Greater Yellow Headed Vulture, Plumbeous Kite, Roadside Hawk, Black Caracara, Red-throated Caracara, Bat Falcon (1), Starred Wood-quail (h), Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Pigeon (h), Plumbeous Pigeon (h), Gray-fronted Dove (h), Red and Green Macaw (2), Red-bellied Macaw, White-eyed Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Squirrel Cuckoo, Smooth-billed Ani, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (h), Sand-coloured Nighthawk (1), White-collared Swift, Neotropical Palm Swift, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Broad-billed Motmot, Blue-crowned Motmot (h), White-fronted Nunbird, Black-fronted Nunbird, Swallow-wing, Black-spotted Barbet (h), White-throated Toucan (h), Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaner, Black-faced Antthrush (h), Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, Drab Water Tyrant, Great & Lesser Kiskadees, Social Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, White-winged, White-banded, Barn & Southern Rough-winged Swallows, Violaceous Jay, Southern Nightingale-Wren (h), Green Honeycreeper, Blue Dacnis, Green and Gold, Blue-gray, Palm, Silver-beaked & Magpie Tanagers, Red-capped Cardinal, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Giant Cowbird, Crested & Russet-backed Oropendulas, Yellow-rumped Cacique.
Tuesday, 5th September TPL - Colpa
We met in the lodge clearing at dawn for a birding stint before breakfast. Activity gradually picked up with good views of both Rufous and Blue-crowned Motmots, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-browed Tody Flycatcher and Turquoise Tanager. At breakfast we saw Rufous-breasted Barbtail feeding on the Heliconia flowers and a pair of nesting Black-capped Becards.
Bird recorded at Tambopata Jungle Lodge: Red throated Caracara (2), Mealy Parrot (2), Blue-headed Parrot (1), Rufous-breasted Hermit (1), Blue-Crowned Trogon (2), Broad-billed Motmot (1), Rufous Motmot (1), Blue-crowned Motmot (1), Lemon-throated Barbet (1), Chestnut-crowned Foliage-Gleaner (1), Slender-footed Tyrannulet (2), Yellow-browed Tody Flycatcher (1), Black-capped Becard (2), Red-eyed Vireo (1), White-lored Euphonia (1), Green Honeycreeper (2), Blue Dacnis (1), Paradise Tanager (1), Turquoise Tanager (2), Blue-grey Tanager (6), Palm Tanager (2), Silver-beaked Tanager (6), Magpie Tanager (2), Buff-throated Saltator (1), Double-collared Seedeater (2), Giant Cowbird (1), Crested Oropendola (1) and Russet-backed Oropendola. (8).
We were on the river again heading upstream at just after 8am. A range of new birds made the journey full of interest again: Great Black Hawk perched at the water edge and Crimson-crested Woodpecker on a Balsa tree. In a rocky area we approached a roosting Ladder-tailed Nightjar and in the same area obtained good views of Pauraque. After stopping at the checkpoint at the confluence of the Malinowski, we headed up into the more branched areas of the upper Tambopata. We saw White-necked Puffbird, more macaws and Capybara, the stunning Capped Heron, the beautiful Bluish-fronted Jacamar and the graceful Swallow-tailed Kite. Both Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns were seen feeding over the river and we saw a couple of pairs of Orinoco Geese on the banks of the river.
Birds recorded from boat en route to camp site up river: Cocoi Heron (6), Great Egret (3), Snowy Egret (21), Capped Heron (2), Cattle Egret (1), Orinoco Goose (4), American Black Vulture (c50), Greater Yellow-headed Vulture (28), Swallow-tailed Kite (1), Plumbeous Kite (58), Roadside Hawk (1), Great-black Hawk (2), Red-throated Caracara (1), Black Caracara (1), Laughing Falcon (1) Bat Falcon (2), Blue-throated Piping Guan (1), Greater Yellowlegs (1), Spotted Sandpiper (2), Collared Plover (2), Yellow-billed Tern (8), Larged-billed Tern (1), Blue and yellow Macaw (7), Scarlet Macaw (10) Red and Green Macaw (38), Chestnut-fronted Macaw (16), White-eyed Parakeet (6), Dusky-headed Parakeet (4), Sand-coloured Nighthawk (c25), Pauraque (1), Ladder-tailed Nightjar (1), White-collared Swift(c25), Ringed kingfisher (1), Bluish-fronted Jacamar (2), Black-fronted Nunbird (2), White-necked Puffbird (1), Swallow-wing (6) White-throated Toucan (1), Linneated Woodpecker (1), Crimson-crested Woodpecker (2), Vermillion Flycatcher (2), Drab-Water Tyrant (2), Great Kiskadee (1), Lesser Kiskadee (4), Tropical Kingbird (10), Brown-chested Martin (2), White-winged Swallow (14), Southern rough-winged Swallow (36), Violaceous Jay (3), Giant Cowbird (16), Crested Oropendola (1), Russet-backed Oropendola (20) and Yellow-rumped Cacique (2).
Eventually we reached the clay lick and unloaded the canoes with all our food and camping gear. Leaving the staff to set up the camp, we crossed the river to the Tambopata Research Centre to walk some of the trials.
The rainforest here is magnificent and pristine, with a textbook high canopy and a relatively empty understorey. We split into 2 groups with Colin and Monika walking Trail C and joining C1 and Andy and Joseline taking C1. We quickly found an excellent bird at eye level just off to the left of the trail - Semicollared Puffbird. Some movement a few metres off the ground a bit further on drew our attention next - a family group of the enchanting Dusky Titi Monkey and, nearby, a pair of reasonably co-operative White-browed Antbirds. Probably the highlight of our walk though was a Sunbittern in a marshy channel - a real neotropical speciality.
Colin, Monika and the other half of the group explored Trail C, which meandered through tall primary forest. Birding in this habitat can be difficult and frustrating, but a chance-encounter with a mixed feeding flock can be very rewarding. As we listened to the haunting sounds of a troupe of red howler monkeys, we were soon marvelling at a small group of Spix's Gauns perched high in the canopy, followed by a dimunitive Double toothed Kite, almost invisible on its tree top perch. After several tantalising glimpses, we finally got onto a mixed feeding flock, which contained both Buff-throated and Chestnut-winged Foliage-Gleaners, a Straight-billed Woodcreeper and a Chestnut winged Hookbill. However, best of all was a close encounter with a gigantic Razorbilled Curassow, which provided everyone with an unforgettable experience.
TPL - Colpa: Great Tinamou (h), Little Tinamou (h), Undulated Tinamou (h), American Black Vulture (c15), Double-toothed Kite (1), Spix's Guan (4), Razor-billed Curassow (1), Sunbittern (1), Ruddy Pigeon (h), Plumbeous Pigeon (h), Gray-fronted Dove (h), Blue and Yellow Macaw (2), Scarlet Macaw(12), Red and Green Macaw (15), Chestnut-fronted Macaw (1), Blue-headed Parrot (6), Yellow-crowned Parrot (2), Pauraque (1), Blue-crowned Trogon (1), Black-fronted Nunbird (1), White-throated Toucan (7), Barred Woodcreeper (1), Buff-throated Woodcreeper (h),Chestnut-winged Hookbill (1), Chestnut-winged Foliage-Gleaner (1), Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner (1), White-browed Antbird (1), Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin (h), Southern Nightingale-Wren (h), Yellow-rumped Cacique (1).
We met back up at the end of the trails just as dusk was descending and crossed back over the river to our campsite, which had been transformed while we had been away. The lads had prepared an excellent supper and we completed the checklist before retiring to bed.
Wednesday, 6th September Colpa
We awoke pre-dawn and after a tea or coffee with some crackers and jam, made our way over the river and settled down to await the macaws. After heavy rain in the days leading up to our stay, the river was now receding, leaving a thick coating of sticky mud which made movement quite difficult! However, the day had dawned bright and sunny. As the sun cleared the tree line opposite, the activity really began. Hundreds of the big macaws were present, Red & Greens, Blue & Yellow (most people's favourite it seemed) and Scarlet, plus masses of assorted parrots and parakeets. One of the extremely rare and endangered Blue-headed Macaws was spotted in one of the bare trees overhanging the clay cliff and, unbelievably, was soon joined by a Razor-billed Curassow, a family of Spix's Guans and a Blue-throated Piping Guan. Then the curassow flew from the tree, scattering the hundreds of feeding macaws from the clay lick into a riot of tumultuous colour in the sky. This was fantastic - a remote part of the Peruvian Amazon at its breathtaking best. The Cracids (guans, chachalacas, curassows etc.) are some of the most vulnerable birds in lowland rainforest. The curassows in particular cannot withstand even a small amount of hunting pressure, and the numbers of these birds here is a good indicator that the forest is in pristine condition.
We returned to the camp for breakfast, and spent some time birding the second growth on the river island. We had views of Undulated Tinamou, Short-crested Flycatcher, White-necked Jacbin and Yellow-tufted Woodpecker among others.
After breakfast Andy took trail A along the cliff top in the bamboo where we found a good selection of new birds including Yellow-billed Nunbird, Great Antshrike responding well to tape, Long-winged Antwren and Dusky-throated Antshrike. At the lookout point we saw Long-tailed Tyrant and Crowned Slaty Flycatcher. The bird of the morning however was reserved for our walk back: a dapper and very obliging Grey-cheeked Nunlet.
Meanwhile, Colin explored Trail C with the rest of the group, going much further into the forest than the previous day. We were soon getting to grips with a group of Pale winged Trumpeters as they noisely strutted across the forest floor. However, they proved extremely difficult to see for such large birds. Somewhat easier was a solitary McConnell's Flycatcher and seven Green and Gold Tanagers, but a 'flushed' Little Tinamou was no more than a flurry of wing. A pair of Black-tailed Trogons were superb and a Striped Woodhunter was closely observed as it frantically gleaned for insects amongst a mass of dangling palm fronds. Unfortunately, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin remained just a noise and we were tantalisingly close to a Lawrence's Thrush which sang melodically, but remained hidden in thick vegetation. Finally, in what seemed like 'Antbird city', all thoughts of lunch vanished as we were soon getting to grips with Blackish, White-shouldered and White-browed Antbirds, a pair of Grey Antwrens and a Bluish-slate Antshrike. Plain-brown and Black-banded Woodcreeper, Plain Xenops, Round-tailed Manakin and Ruddy Flycathcer added to the diversity, as we were left wondering what we missed as the feeding flock eventually passed through.
After lunch Colin, Trish, Jeff, Jean and Sue went back onto the TRC trails with Colin while Andy went with everybody else upstream to a small, swift-flowing tributary of the Tambopata. Here, Brazilian Tapir footprints were everywhere and we enjoyed a bath in the clear water, spoilt only by the numerous biting sandflies.
Colin and his group meanwhile explored Trail A which wound its way through a mix of forest types, including areas of bamboo, which Andy's group had explored in the morning. Both Speckled Chachalacas and Blue-throated Piping Guans were common. Antbirds were numerous too, although many were frustratingly skulking. However, species identified included Black-throated, Warbling, Blackish and Plumbeous Antbirds and a female Great Antshrike was coaxed out of its hiding place. A pair of Bluish-fronted Jacamar were a delight and a Jacamar which does not fit with any described, was seen well. Perhaps a juvenile or possibly a 'new' species - either way we'll have to wait for the 'Birds of Peru'! A troupe of Dusky Titi Monkeys added to the experience and best of all in the fading light was an exceptionally close encounter with a troup of Night Monkeys which appeared as keen to see us, as we were to see them. A wonderful end to an unforgettable day.
In the evening we made a bonfire before dinner and after completing the daily checklist, retired to our tents under the glow of a resplendent Milky Way.
Colpa & TRC: Little Tinamou (2), Undulated Tinamou (3), Neotropical Cormorant, Anhinga, Cocoi Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Capped Heron, Black Vulture (30), Greater Yellow-headed Vulture (6), Plumbeous Kite, Roadside Hawk (1), Great Black Hawk, Black Caracara (2), Red-throated Caracara, Speckled Chachalaca (3), Spix's Guan (6), Blue-throated Piping Guan (7), Razor-billed Curassow (1), Pale-winged Trumpeter (6), Spotted Sandpiper, Yellow-billed Tern, Ruddy Pigeon (h), Gray-fronted Dove (1), Blue and Yellow Macaw (50), Scarlet Macaw (50), Red and Green Macaw (50), Chestnut-fronted Macaw (40), Red-bellied Macaw (30), Blue-headed Macaw (2), White-eyed Parakeet (200), Dusky-headed Parakeet(150), Cobalt-winged Parakeet (2) White-bellied Parrot (6), Orange-cheeked Parrot (30), Blue-headed Parrot (300), Yellow-crowned Parrot (25), Mealy Parrot (100), Squirrel Cuckoo (1), Sand-coloured Nighthawk Pauraque (1), White-collared Swift, White-bearded Hermit, Fork-tailed Palm Swift (1), White-necked Jacobin (1), Black-tailed Trogon (2), Blue-crowned Trogon (2), Ringed Kingfisher(1), Amazon Kingfishers, White-necked Puffbird (1), Rufous-necked Puffbird (1), Grey-cheeked Nunlet (1), Bluish-fronted Jacamar(2), Black-fronted Nunbird (1), Yellow-billed Nunbird, White-fronted Nunbird, Swallow-wing (1), Chestnut-eared Aracari (1), White-throated Toucan, Crimson-crested Woodpecker (1), Golden-olive Woodpecker, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (4), Plain-brown Woodcreeper (1), Black-banded Woodcreepers (1), Plain Xenops (1), Great Antshrike (1), Dusky-throated Antshrikes, Long-winged Antwren (2), Grey Antwrens (2), White-browed Antbird (1), White-shouldered Antibird (2), Blackish Artbird (3), Warbling Artbird (3), Black-throated Antbird (1), Plumbeous Antibird (1), Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin (h), Round-tailed Manakin (1), Mottle-backed Elaenia (1), Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher, Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher(1), McConnell's Flycatcher, Vermillion Flycatcher, Drab Water Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, Short-crested Flycatcher (1), Lesser Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Little Ground-tyrant (2), Masked Tityra (1), Brown-chested Martin, Gray-breasted Martin, White-winged Swallow, White-banded Swallow (4), Southern Rough-winged Swallows (2), Violaceous Jay (4), Lawrences Thrush (h), White-necked Thrush, Southern Nightingale-Wren (h), Housewren (1), Red-eyed Vireo (1), Green Honeycreeper (1), Green & Gold Tanager (4), Blue-gray (2), Palm Tanager (2), Silver-beaked Tanager (1), Swallow Tanager (3), Masked Crimson Tanager (4), Magpie Tanagers (4), Yellow-browed Sparrow, Crested Oropendola, Russet-backed Oropendola (6), Yellow-rumped Cacique (2).
Mammals recorded: Bolivian Squirrel (1), Southern Amazon Red Squirrel (1), Dusky Titi Monkey (3), Night Monkey (4).
Thursday, 7th September Colpa/Tambopata Jungle Lodge
An extremely heavy cloud burst woke most of us up in the early hours which was bad news as wet clay is not attractive to macaws and parrots. After tea and coffee most decided to make use of the trails again, with others deciding to relax around the camp site.
The atmosphere in the forest was fantastic with all the dripping leaves, although the light was quite poor. We had good views of Double-toothed Kite, Violaceous Trogon and Pygmy and White-flanked Antwrens, along with our best views of Squirrel Monkey and our only views of Saddle-backed Tamarin. In fact the kite was seen with the troop of Squirrel Monkeys - a common occurrence as the kite feeds on large canopy insects which the monkeys disturb with their movement.
Back at the camp opposite the clay lick there had been some activity but not as much as yesterday, and Chris had seen a Pale-legged Hornero on the beach.
Birds recorded around camp and Tambopata Research centre Trails; Little Tinamou (h), Undulated Tinamou (3), Cocoi Heron (1), American Black Vulture (25), Double-toothed Kite (1), Specked Chachalaca (1), Spix's Guan (1), Blue-throated Piping-Guan (1), Yellow-billed Tern (1), Blue and Yellow Macaw (20), Scarlet Macaw (10), Chestnut fronted Macaw (15), Red and Green Macaw (2), White-eyed Parakeet (2), Squirrel Cuckoo (2), Pauraque (1), White-collared Swift (20), White-bearded Hermit (1), Reddish Hermit (1), Violaceous Trogon (1), Black-tailed Trogon (1), Black-fronted Nunbird (1), Little Woodpecker (2), Cinnamon throated Woodpecker (1), Red-billed Scythebill (1), Pale-legged Hornero (1) Pygmy Antwren (1) White-flanked Antwren (1), Grey Antbird (1), White-shouldered Antbird (2) Warbling Antbird (1), Black-faced Antthrush (h), Southern-beardless Tyrannulet (1), Bran-coloured Flycatcher (1), Vermillion Flycatcher (1), Little Ground Tyrant (1), Grey-capped Flycatcher (1), Southern rough-winged Swallow (2), Purplish Jay (1), Red-eyed Virco (1), Silver-beaked Tanager (4), Yellow-browed Sparrow (5).
We packed up the campsite and headed back down the Tambopata - the journey of course being much quicker than the upstream leg. We arrived back at Tambopata Jungle Lodge in plenty of time for lunch.
Birds recorded on river journey: Neotropical Cormorant (1), Cocoi Heron (3), Great Egret (3), Snowy Egret (8), Capped Heron (2), Ornico Goose (6), King Vulture (1), Greater Yellow-headed Vulture (10), American Black Vulture (25), Plumbeous Kite (5), Great black Hawk (2), Black Caracara (3), Bat Falcon (2), Spotted Sandpiper (1), Yellow-billed Tern (1) Red and green Macaw (1) Scarlet Macaw (26), Smooth-billed ani (1), Black-fronted Nunbird (1), Drab Water-Tyrant (1), Lesser Kiskadee (1), Tropical Kingbird (4), White-winged Swallow (9), Southern roug-winged Swallow (2), Violaceous Jay (6), Giant Cowbird (6), Shiny Cowbird (3), Russet-backed Oropendola (10).
At 2.30 pm most of the group made the short canoe journey to the start of the walk leading to the oxbow lake of Condenado. As we followed the winding trail we passed through some superb tall primary forest, which was surprisingly active given the heat of the afternoon. An Undulated Tinamou was seen well as it 'froze' on the trail, but rather less obliging was a Cinnamon Attila as it quickly passed through the canopy. As the forest echoed to the calls of Screaming Pihas, we finally managed to glimpse one as it sat motionless, high in the canopy. Finally, arriving at the lake we boarded a floating pontoon, which proved to be an ideal birdwatching platform as we paddled slowly across the water. We were soon attracted to some strange calls coming from some overhanging trees, and a group of Hoatzin soon emerged, as they clumsily moved through the thick vegetation. However, even this was eclipsed as we watched a pair of Sungrebes, before they finally disappeared into the fringe of emergent vegetation. The lake of Condenado was undoubtedly a magical place.
As we returned to the forest, we marvelled at both White-throated and Yellow-ridged Toucans as they perched high in the canopy. More birds were observed as we followed the trail back to the river, but it wasn't until we got back to a partially cleared area on the river bank that we were able to enjoy prolonged views of a Long-billed Woodpecker in the mid-canopy.
Birds recorded at Tambopata Jungle Lodge, excursion to lake and night time boat trip: Undulated Tinamou (1), Sungrebe (2), American black Vulture (35), Greater yellow-headed Vulture (2), Plumbeous Pigeon (25), Grey-fronted Dove (1), White-eyed Parakeet (23), Cobalt-winged Parakeet (6), Blue-headed Parrot (1), White-bellied Parrot (5), Smooth-billed Ani (1), Hoatzin (7), Tropical Screech-Owl (h), Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl (h), Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl (h), Pauraque, Rufous-breasted Hermit (1), Black-tailed Trogan (2), Blue-crowned Trogon (1), Black-fronted Nunbird (1), Black-spotted Barbet (1), Chestnut-eared Aracari (2), Yellow-ridged Toucan (5), White-throated Toucan (3), Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (2), Crimson-crested Woodpecker (1), Long-billed Woodcreeper (1), Spix's Woodcreeper (1), Great Antshrike (h), Black-faced Antthrush (h), Screaming Piha (1 + 5 calling), Cinnamon Attila (1), White-winged Swallow (2), Violaceous Jay (4), Musician Wren (h), Epaulet Oriole (1), Crested Oropendola (1).
After dark we took to the canoe again for a caiman spotting session. We saw numerous Spectacled Caiman lying on the sandy beaches, the orange reflection given off by their eyes when illuminated by the spotlight belying their presence even at several hundred metres distance. After 20 minutes or so our motorist cut the motor and we drifted back downstream, listening to the Giant Bamboo Rats, Bull Frogs, Pauraques and Tawny-bellied and Tropical Screech Owls.
Friday, 8th September TPL/Cusco
A very early start was required this morning in order to be at the airport in Puerto Maldonado in time to check in for our flight to Cusco.
We woke up at 4am and we were ready to leave the dock at 4.30. Rain began to fall out of the darkness but luckily didn't last for too long. Dawn arrived quickly and as we rounded a bend in the river we were greeted with a stunning sight as the rising sun penetrated the mist hugging the river. It was one of those moments when it felt good to be alive!
We stopped briefly at a small clay lick where a couple of hundred Dusky-headed Parakeets were feeding and, nearby, we saw a pair of Black Skimmers.
Birds recorded on river journey and around Puerto Maldonado: Neotropical Cormorant (1), Cocoi Heron (1), Great Egret (1), Snowy Egret (1), Capped Heron (1), Cattle Egret (4), Orinoco Goose (2), American black Vulture (30), Greater-yellow-headed Vulture (5), Swallow-tailed Kite (2), Plumbeous Kite (2) Roadside Hawk (1), Great black Hawk (1), Bat Falcon (1), Spotted Sandpiper (2), Yellow-billed Tern (1), Large-billed Tern (1), Black Skimmer (2), Pale-vented Pigeon (4), Plumbeous Pigeon (10), Dusky headed Parakeet (200), Smooth-billed Ani (6), Great Kiskadee (1), Lesser Kiskadee (1), Brown chested Martin (1), White-winged Swallow (2), Southern rough-winged Swallow (7), Barn Swallow (10), Blue-grey Tanager (2), Palm Tanager (2), Magpie Tanager (1), Yellow-browed Sparrow (1), Giant Cowbird (8), Russet-backed Oropendola (25), Yellow-rumped Cacique (25).
We finally said goodbye to the Amazon lowlands as we took off for Cusco at 8.20 and we were up in the Andes before 9. Our guide for this section, Eddy Perez, was there to meet us and after loading the bus we drove the short distance up above the city to the Inca Tambo hotel. Plenty of Coca tea was provided on arrival to help counteract the altitude and we left the rest of the morning for relaxation.
We met at 1pm and drove to the El Truco restaurant in town. A large buffet was laid out for us and the food was excellent! Afterwards we embarked on a walking tour of the town, including the Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, San Blas, Museo de Santa Catalina and the Museo Palacio Municipal.
Birds recorded around Inca Tambo Hotel, Cusco: Red-backed Hawk (1), American Kestrel (1), Feral Tambo Pigeon (50), Bare-eyed Ground Dove (2), White-collared Swift (1), Andean Swift (10), Green-tailed Trainbearer (1), Rusty-fronted Canestero (1), Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant (1), White-browed Chat-Tyrant (2), Great Thrush (6), Band-tailed Seedeater (1), Rufous collared Sparrow (15), Hooded Siskin (2).
In the evening some of us went for a pizza in the town while others ate in the hotel and relaxed.
Saturday, 9th September Huacarpay/Pisac
We left the hotel at 7am and drove south-east through Cusco and then out on the Urcos road to Huacarpay.
We took a track adjacent to the railway track and skirted an area full of reeds. We had good looks at a selection of water birds and a majestic Black-chested Eagle soaring over a ridge was quickly identified.
Over the other side of the road we found Andean (White-winged) Negrito and had Many-coloured Rush-tyrant in the telescope briefly. Moving on to a dry gulley we found Cinereous Ground-tyrant, Blue and Yellow Tanager plus Sparkling Violetear, Giant Hummingbird and very brief views of Bearded Mountaineer.
We then had a tour of the pre-Incan ruins of Pikillacta and after lunch we drove down to the Sacred Valley and on up to the ruins of Pisac, situated in a fantastic position high up over the gushing Urubamba river. We took some photos of some local girls in their traditional dress then we split into 2 groups with some looking at the ruins with Eddy and some of us birded a very interesting looking gully.
Giant Hummingbird was seen well and, up to our right, a pair of Andean Flickers. The attractive Black-throated Flower-piercer caused some confusion for a while, and Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant showed very well. The highlights though were magnificent views of the endemic and stunning Bearded Mountaineer. The well-known site for this species is the gully that we searched earlier down near the lake but that site did not produce anywhere near the views that we obtained up here at Pisac. We surmised that although the quantity and quality of available bird reports has flourished in the last few years, it does encourage people to stick to well-worn trails, especially if they have time constraints, instead of seeking out fresh sites. It was a privilege to watch such a rare and local endemic and, on reflection, this was one of the birds of the tour.
We drove on back to Cusco with a brief stop at the craft shops next to Saqsaywaman. On arrival at the hotel we went through the briefing for the Inca Trail, had dinner and went to bed.
Huacarpay/Pisac/Cusco: White-tufted Grebe (1), Teal Speckled (25), Puna Teal (37), Cinnamon Teal (14), Yellow-billed Pintail (2), Black-crowned Night-heron (2), Snowy Egret (2), Puna Ibis (23), Black-chested Eagle (1), Mountain Caracara (2), Aplomado Falcon (1), American Kestrel(3), Common Gallinule (310), Andean Coot (62), Andean Lapwing,(1), Andean Gull (63), Rock Dove (30), Wilson's Phalarope (15), Eared Dove (4), Bare-faced Ground Dove (14), White-collared Swift (2), Sparkling Violetear (4), Giant Hummingbird (3), Bearded Mountaineer (2), Andean Flicker (6), Wren-like Rushbird (4), Streak-fronted Thornbird (1), Rusty-fronted Canastero (2), Many-coloured Rush-tyrant(2), Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant (5), House Wren (1), White-browed Chat-tyrant (2) Cinereous Ground-tyrant (3), White-winged Negrito (4), Barn Swallow (10), Great Thrush (4), Chiguanco Thrush (10), Yellow-winged Blackbird (20), Cinereous Conebill (1), Black-throated Flower-piercer (2), Blue and Yellow Tanager (3), Golden-billed Saltator (1), Band-tailed Seedeater (17), Peruvian Sierra-finch (18), Mourning Sierra-finch (20), Ash-breasted Sierra-finch (1), Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch (3), Puna Yellow-finch (12), Rufous-collared Sparrow (50) Hooded Siskin (1).
Sunday, 10th September Chilca-Patallacta
We had the unwanted baggage stored in the hotel and the bus loaded with all our trekking gear by 6.30. The talking had ended and we were finally off to start the trail! We drove out of Cusco, past Chinchero and on down into the Sacred Valley where we stopped in bustling Ollantaytambo for a maté de coca.
Birds recorded between Cusco and Chilca: Mountain Caracara (1), American Kestrel (3), Common Gallinule (1), Andean Gull (2), Eared Dove (8), Rock Dove (25), Andean Swallow (30), Brown-bellied Swallow (50), Great Thrush (4), Golden-billed Saltator (2), Peruvian Sierra-Finch (1), Rufous Collared Sparrow (20).
We drove on to Chilca where our large team of porters and camp staff were waiting for us. We watched them divide up their (reasonably heavy-looking!) loads and the morning train from Cusco to Machu Picchu passed as we set off on the trail. With the majority of trekkers walking the trail in 3 days and setting off from km. 88, we had the path to ourselves this morning as we found our trekking feet, so to speak.
I've struggled in other areas of South America, particularly in Ecuador, to get good views of Giant Hummingbird but, after yet more excellent views of this species on the path out of Chilca, I've come to the conclusion that the Sacred Valley must be one of the best areas for this bird. We also saw Green-tailed Trainbearer in the village and Golden-billed Saltator for those who had missed it in Cusco.
We continued on in quite dull conditions, along a path parallel to the Urubamba, but quite some distance above it. We saw White-capped Dipper, Torrent Tyrannulet and distant Torrent Duck, a species we were to get much better views of later on. In the scrub further on down the path we saw White-winged Black-tyrant well before dropping down to the bridge at km. 82 where a pair of Torrent Duck posed nicely for photographs.
Our lunch stop in the village of Miskay was preceded by a steep pull up through some pasture and woodland, where we saw the stunning Black-backed Grosbeak. After a tasty chicken lunch we moved on towards our campsite with the sky clearing all the time. In an area of eucalyptus we found Rust and Yellow Tanager before reaching the camp at around 3.30. We then had a very pleasant hour just to relax with hot tea served at 4.30, by which time the sky had cleared completely and we had great views up to the glacier on Nevado Veronica. At 5 we visited the interesting ruins of Patallacta with Eddy before dinner and the daily checklist. A good start to the trek, with the 6 ½ miles comfortably covered by everybody.
Inca Trail: Chilca - Patallacta: Torrent Duck (5), Mountain Caracara (1), American Kestrel (2), Barefaced Ground Dove (4), Eared Dove (14), Andean Swift (6), Giant Hummingbird (3), Green-tailed Trainbearer (3) , Sierran Elaenia (1), Torrent Tyrannulet (3), Black Phoebe (1), White-browed Chat-tyrant (4), White-winged Black-tyrant (3), Brown-bellied Swallow (10), Great Thrush (3), Chiguanco Thrush (2), White-capped Dipper (2), House Wren (4), Rust and Yellow Tanager (2), Golden-billed Saltator (4), Black-backed Grosbeak (1), Band-tailed Seedeater(40), Greenish Yellow-finch (30), Peruvian Sierra-finch (2), Rufous-collared Sparrow (100).
Monday, 11th September Patallacta - Llulluchapampa
A lovely clear morning greeted us today and we left the campsite at 7. Our path followed the bank of the rushing Cusichaca River, gaining altitude steadily.
Just before the small village of Hatunchaca, those at the back of the group saw Andean Condor soaring up to the right. This was a bonus - one of the highlights of birding in the Andes! The scrub in the village itself produced Rust and Yellow Tanager for those who had missed it yesterday, and stunning views of Great Sapphirewing, the blue in the wings iridescent in the early morning sunshine.
Huayllabamba was alive with hummingbirds and the serious climbing began shortly after. We turned through 90° and headed north up to the area known as Tres Piedras (three stones). Again hummingbird activity was high and for a lucky few the sighting of a Sword-billed Hummingbird rivalled the condor for the title of "bird of the morning"!
Our lunch stop was just up the path where the staff had laid out a nice spread in the sunshine.
With a fair amount of altitude still to gain, we set off again, anticipating the remnant Polylepis and elfin forest on the way up to the campsite. This section of forest did not disappoint! First we found White-browed Conebill and then the attractive Crowned Chat-tyrant. A mixed-species flock started to appear: White-throated Tyrannulet, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanager, Pearled Treerunner, Marcapata Spinetail and Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant - we didn't know where to look next!
Up on through the forest and finally out above the tree line to our camp at 3,600 metres. The avifauna had changed completely through the day and Plumbeous Sierra-finches and Bar-winged Cinclodes kept us company as we covered the last few hundred metres to our tents. There was just time to find the endemic Creamy-crested Spinetail above the camp before darkness fell to end a day full of great birds.
This was a long day with an altitude gain of just over 1,000 metres, and several consequentially tired limbs in the evening! A very cold night ensued, but for those who got up during the night, the clear Andean sky was simply stunning, with great views below the stars south across to the Huaynay range.
Patallacta - Llulluchapampa: Andean Condor (1), Puna Hawk (1), American Kestrel (2), Bare-faced Ground Dove (2), Mitred Parakeet (10), Andean Swift, Sparkling Violetcar (2), Giant Hummingbird (3), Shining Sunbeam (4), White-tufted Sunbeam (3), Great Sapphirewing (4), Sword-billed Hummingbird (1), Green-tailed Trainbearer (5), Tyrian Metaltail (2), Scaled Metaltail (8), Blue-mantled Thornbill (1), Andean Flicker (1), Bar-winged Cinclodes (25), Marcapata Spinetail (1), Creamy-crested Spinetail (2) , Pearled Treerunner (1), White-throated Tyrannulet (14), Tufted Tit-tyrant (2), Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant (3), Streak-necked Flycatcher(1), Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant (6), Crowned Chat-tyrant (1), White-browed Chat-tyrant (4), Streak-throated Bush-tyrant (1), White-winged Black-tyrant (4), Black Phoebe (2), Brown-bellied Swallow (3), Great Thrush (4), Chiguanco Thrush (2), House Wren (1), Spectacled Whitestart (2), Cinereous Conebill (24), White-browed Conebill (8), Black-throated Flower-piercer(3), Bluish Flower-piercer (1), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager (2), Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanager (1), Blue and Yellow Tanager (2), Rust and Yellow Tanager (5), Golden-billed Saltator (11), Band-tailed Seedeater(15), Plumbeous Sierra-finch (5), Rufous-collared Sparrow (80).
Tuesday, 12th September Llulluchapampa - Runcu Raccay
We were again ready to start walking at 7 for the final pull up to the highest point on the trek - the oft-talked-about Dead Woman's Pass at 4,200 metres. It was hard work in the thin air but everybody coped admirably. The views from the top were certainly worth it, and we took the opportunity to take a group photo.
Our lunch stop at Pacaymayu was already in view from the top of the pass and we steadily made our way down the steep path. Bird activity was low at this altitude and our efforts in trying to see Red-rumped Bush Tyrant ended in vain. Half-way down to lunch though we did see Red-crested Cotinga which turned out to be our only sighting of the tour. We passed a scenic waterfall just before lunch. The sun was quite strong here and the striking Moustached Flowerpiercer made its first appearance.
On up to our campsite at the ruins of Runcu Raccay, which we reached in very good time for an afternoon siesta. After tea Eddy told us all about the ruins. Also Tit-like Dacnis was found and everybody had excellent views of this extremely local bird.
Llulluchapampa - Runcu Raccay: Mountain Caracara (1), Puna Hawk (2), American Kestrel (1), Andean Swift (1), White-tufted Sunbeam (5), Great Sapphirewing (2), Scaled Metaltail (4), Bar-winged Cinclodes (16), Marcapata Spinetail (1), Creamy-crested Spinetail (2), Pearled Treerunner (1), Red-crested Cotinga (2), White-throated Tyrannulet (1), Tufted Tit-tyrant (1), Brown-bellied Swallow (33), Great Thrush (1), Chiguanco Thrush (2), Cinereous Conebill (4), Moustached Flower-piercer (4), Black-throated Flower-piercer (14), Tit-like Dacnis (1), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (2), Blue and Yellow Tanager (1), Plumbeous Sierra-finch (5), Peruvian Sierra-finch (1), Rufous-collared Sparrow (12).
Wednesday, 13th September Runcu Raccay - Phuyupatamarca
Into a routine now, packing sleeping bags into their liners and clearing the tents before breakfast had become second nature! We left the campsite at 7 enveloped in a dramatic scene with banks of cloud rolling up the valley. We huffed and puffed up to the top of the second pass at 3,950 metres, seeing a lovely little Grass Wren and the endemic Junin Canastero near the summit. During the walk down towards the ruins of Sayacmarca, we were unfortunately enveloped in mist, but this started to lift by the time we had finished our tour of the ruins. We dropped down in much clearer weather to the next ruins of Conchamarca, with good views again of Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Sword-billed Hummingbird and a new hummer in the form of Amethyst-throated Sunangel.
The trail became quite busy over the next section to lunch on the grassy knolls of Chaquicocha.
After lunch, about half of the group decided to move on towards the evening stop while the rest of us backtracked into the excellent forest just before our lunch stop, and our decision was wholly vindicated as we saw some of the best birds of the tour. We sensed a feeding flock approaching on the uphill side of the path and we managed to get ourselves organised on an ideal viewing platform as the flock leaders flicked into view. First to appear were several Three-striped Hemispingus, then Pearled Treerunner, Capped Conebill, the two mountain-tanagers then finally, the extremely local and rare Parodi's Hemispingus - what a bird! Finally, just when we thought things couldn't get better, the endemic Marcapata Spinetail and a Golden-collared Tanager flew into view. A spell-binding few minutes!
We moved on, back past our lunch stop and onto a wonderful section of the trail, the original Inca white granite pathway traversing the mountainside with tremendous views.
Views of the peculiar Puna Thistletail provided the bird highlight on the next stage of the walk, but we'll reserve our final opinions on this bird until we see the taxonomy in the new book.
We arrived at our camp site in the late afternoon. The views were fantastic with the sun setting over the mountains, illuminating the snow-capped peaks of the Vilcabamba range behind us.
Runcu Raccay - Phuyupatamarca: Mountain Caracara (1), Andean Gull (1), Mitred Parakeet (6), White-collared Swift (20), Andean Swift (30), Great Sapphirewing (5), Sword-billed Hummingbird (1), Amethyst-throated Sunangel (1), Scaled Metaltail (1), Pearled Treerunner (6), Marcapata Spinetail (3), Junin Canastero (1), Puna Thistletail (2), Unicoloured Tapaculo (2), White-throated Tyrannulet (7), Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant (3), Great Thrush (3), Chiguanco Thrush (1), Grass Wren (1), Paramo Pipit (1), Cinereous Conebill (1), Rusty Flowerpiercer (1), Moustached Flower-piercer (9), Black-throated Flower-piercer (1), Tit-like Dacnis (2), Golden-collared Tanager (3), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager (9), Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager (3), Three-striped Hemispingus (26), Parodi's Hemispingus (2), Golden-billed Saltator (1), Plumbeous Sierra-finch (11), Rufous-collared Sparrow (15).
Thursday, 14th September Phuyupatamarca - Machu Picchu
At some point in the early hours, cloud had come up from the valleys and we awoke to a dense grey mist.
This morning we had to say goodbye to our team of porters and camp staff who had provided excellent service during our time on trek. We gathered together some clothes and other goodies that the porters shared out by means of a raffle, the cooks and head porter having first pick. Indeed, the low point of the morning was a toss-up between the bad weather, and Colin Undrill's "Ipswich Town - Pride of Suffolk" sweater being snaffled up as first choice by the head cook. Little did he know....! We also gave the staff a well-deserved tip to divide out amongst themselves, before we set off downhill towards our goal, Machu Picchu.
Before long the light drizzle had stopped and we found the rare Unstreaked Tit-tyrant in a patch of Bamboo. More good birds followed including Andean Guan at a drinks stop, and several mixed-species feeding flocks.
By the time we reached our lunch stop at Huiñay Huayna at 2,700 metres the sun was shining. We visited the small natural history museum, had lunch then visited the beautiful ruins of Huiñay Huayna.
We continued on and passed the checkpoint to pay for our entrance into the historical sanctuary. The forest here was superb with some excellent birds: Mountain Velvetbreast, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Pale-legged Warbler, Blue-backed Conebill, Superciliared Hemispingus and Slaty Brush-finch. Up near the Gate of the Sun the endemic and attractive Inca Wren showed well and finally there we were, looking down upon the most famous archaeological site in the Americas, Machu Picchu. After one or two light showers during the afternoon the Lost City was now bathed in glorious sunshine. We strode down the royal road, some birding, others staring in amazement at the ruins and some heading as quickly as possible for a well deserved cold beer in the bar!
Our accommodation was in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge adjacent to the ruins. It was a delight to take a hot, powerful shower and then wrap up in a luxurious bath-robe - what a way to end the trek! We met in the bar for a drink and moved into the restaurant for dinner, after which we completed the daily log.
Phuyupatamarca - Machu Picchu: Short-tailed Hawk (1), Andean Guan (1), White-tipped Swift (4), Speckled Hummingbird (1), Great Sapphirewing (1), Long-tailed Sylph (1), Collared Inca (2), Mountain Velvetbreast (1), Scaled Metaltail (1), Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan (1), Azara's Spinetail (5), Marcapata Spinetail (4), Pearled Treerunner (5), White-throated Tyrannulet (10), White-banded Tyrannulet (8), Bolivian Tyrannulet (1), Sierran Elaenia (1), Highland Elaenia (1), Unstreaked Tit-tyrant (5), Streak-necked Flycatcher (6), Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant (3), White-winged Black-tyrant (1), Blue and White Swallow (40), Great Thrush (2), Chiguanco Thrush (2), Glossy-black Thrush (1), Inca Wren (2), House Wren (2), Mountain Wren (5), Paramo Pipit (1), Spectacled Whitestart (4), Pale-legged Warbler (3), Cinereous Conebill (1), Blue-backed Conebill (1), Rusty Flowerpiercer (1), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanage (3), Blue-gray Tanager (2), Hepatic Tanager (1), Blue-capped Tanager (8), Rust and Yellow Tanager (3), Black-capped Hemispingus (7), Superciliared Hemispingus (16), Slaty Brush-finch (8), Tricoloured Brush-finch (1), Plumbeous Sierra-finch (2), Rufous-collared Sparrow (20), Hooded Siskin (2).
Friday, 15th September Machu Picchu - Cusco
After an absolutely delicious buffet breakfast Eddy was there to meet us in the hotel reception at 8.00 for a tour of the ruins.
Eddy did a wonderful job explaining the history of this Inca citadel. The weather could have been brighter but in a way the banks of cloud rising up in the warm air from the Urubamba valley made this wonderful location even more dramatic. By late morning drizzle had descended which was a shame for the day-trippers, but by this time we had taken most of our photos and done our exploring of the ruins. We gathered again in the hotel for lunch before taking the bus down the winding road towards Aguas Calientes.
Birds recorded at Machu Picchu and Agua Calientes: Torrent Duck (5), Black and Chestnut Eagle (1), Rock Dove (20), Mitred Parakeet (30), Green Violetear (1), Green and White Hummingbird (2), White-bellied Hummingbird (1), Speckled Hummingbird (1), Shining Sunbeam (1), Booted Racket-Tail (1), Violet-throated Starfrontlet (1), Highland Motmot (1), Azara's Spintail (3), Southern beardless Tyrannulet (3), Sierran Elaenia (2), Highland Elaenia (1), Bolivian Tyrannulet (1), Streak-necked Flycatcher (4), Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant (2), White-winged Black-Tyrant Bush (5), Torrent Tyrannulet (5), Black Phoebe (3), Tropical Kingbird (1) , Blue and white Swallow (50), Chiguanco Thrush (3), White-capped Dipper (1), Inca Wren (1), House Wren (4), Grey-breasted Woodwren (1), Red-eyed Vireo (3), Tropical Parula (3), Slate-throated Whitestart (2), Spectacled Whitestart (2), Pale-legged Warbler (3), Cinereous Conebill (2), Rusty Flowerpiercer (1) , Fawn-breasted Tanager (2), Blue and yellow Tanager (1), Blue-grey Tanager (4), Blue-capped Tanager (3), Rust and yellow Tanager (5), Golden-billed Saltator (2), Tri-coloured Brushfinch (2), Dusky-green Oropendola (2), Rufous-collared Sparrow (30), Hooded Siskin (2).
Saturday, 16th September Cusco
A rest day in Cusco today with breakfast at leisure and a day of gentle city exploration, shopping and relaxing.
Birds recorded around Sacsayhuaman, Cusco: American Kestrel (2), Spot-winged Pigeon (3), Bare-faced Ground Dove (2), Yellow-billed Tit Tyrant (1), White-browed Chat-Tyrant (2), Social Flycatcher (1), Great Thrush (2), Chiguanco Thrush (2), Cinereous Conebill (7), Band-tailed Seedeater (4), Peruvian Sierra-Finch (2), Rufous-collared Sparrow (20), Hooded Siskin (8).
Sunday, 17th September Cusco - Lima
An early start for our transfer to the airport where we said goodbye to our excellent guide Eddy. The flight to Lima progressed smoothly and Sheila was there to meet us again. It seemed a long time ago that we had said goodbye to her back on the 4th!
We went to the hotel, quickly dumped our luggage and headed off to explore downtown Lima. A very interesting visit, made more so by Sheila's excellent knowledge and English. We went back to the hotel for lunch, freshened up in some day rooms then went to the National Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Pueblo Libre. Another excellent visit, and a lovely way to tie up our holiday in Peru.
Birds recorded during city tour of Lima; American black Vulture (30), Rock Dove (c100), Pacific Dove (50), Croaking Ground-Dove (25), Vermillion Flycatcher (5), House Sparrow (6).
Time now to transfer to the international airport in Callao after an excellent tour.
Monday 18th September London
After a smooth transatlantic flight and transfer in Madrid, we arrived in London and sadly bode our farewells.
Well it's been a hectic winter for both of us since arriving back from Peru late last summer.
Colin's starting to get ready for a busy spring and summer of field work up in the highlands, while Andy turns his attention to leading in Spain and France in April, May and June.
We've been hampered in the completion of this tour report by both being out of our respective offices for long periods of time this winter, and because of the continued delay to the publication of James Clements' "Birds of Peru". Inevitably there will be inconsistencies and the odd gap in the report until we've had chance to study the new book.
But what memories! There are some fantastic birds listed here, and we hope the report brings back some happy memories for you of a wonderful country.
If you have any questions at all regarding the report or the tour in general, please do not hesitate to contact us.
With all good wishes
Andy Tucker + Colin Crooke