We just completed another wonderful Peru birding trip. I absolutely love birding in this country with few other birding destinations offering the same variety and diversity of birding habitats and birds (country list in excess of 1800 birds which is incredible). Add to that the spectacular scenery, great wildlife and friendly people; this country does have it all. The birding habitats visited varied from dry coastal plains and scrub, short ocean boat cruise, high Andes with snow covered peaks and Polylepis Forest, Cloud forest and Bamboo on the famous Manu road and off course the Amazon. We ended up with a total of 538 birds with 38 species of Hummingbirds, 19 species of Macaws, Parrots and Parakeets , 32 Raptor species and 32 species of Antbirds, Antwren, Antshrike and Antpittas. And not to forget Machu Picchu – undoubtedly one of the highlights of the trip!
Day 1: Birding around Lima
After an early breakfast in our hotel in the heart of the Miraflores district of the bustling capital of Peru, our first birding stop was at the wetland marsh of Los Pantanos de Villa, a short drive to the south of the city. We walked along the reeds and waterways and our highlights here included Many-coloured Rush-tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird, Plumbeous Rail, Peruvian Meadowlark, Peruvian Thick-knee and Black Skimmer, along with others like Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Wilson’s Phalarope, American Oystercatcher, Little Blue Heron and Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
After a short drive further south we arrived at the colourful quaint fishing village of Pucusana. From here we did a 90 minute boat cruise out onto the Pacific Ocean, where the magic continued with hundreds of Inca Tern and Peruvian Booby on the cliffs close to the boat. We also saw Humboldt Penguin, Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Pelican and the endemic Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes. After lunch in a local restaurant we explored some of the local areas around San Andres with its scrubby semi-desert scrub vegetation and found the endemic Coastal Miner, Chestnut-throated Seedeater, Hooded Siskin, as well as our first hummingbird of the trip, the Purple-collared Woodstar. We then headed back to Lima for our first dinner together as a group and a good night’s sleep.
Day 2: Machu Picchu
After an early flight to Cusco we boarded a train for Machu Picchu. As we enjoyed the spectacular scenery we did mange a few nice birds like Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Andean Gull, Andean Lapwing, American Kestrel, Mountain Caracara, Torrent Duck, Yellow-billed Teal and Puna Ibis. After arriving at the station in Aguas Calientes town we had a short bus trip up to the entrance of Machu Picchu where we enjoyed this incredible natural wonder of the world, listening to the history and interesting facts told by our local guide. We did manage to see the endemic Inca Wren, Green-and-white Hummingbird, Sierran Elaenia, Blue-and-grey Tanager and Saffron-crowned Tanager. We took the bus back down to the small village and with a bit of time to spare before our train departed we decided to walk one of the river trails (actually part of the famous Inca trail). We had a couple of great mixed flocks and did see Streaked Xenops, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Thick-billed Euphonia, Silver-beaked, Palm and Blue-necked Tanager, Sclater’s and Mottled-cheeked Tyrannulet, Common Tody-flycatcher (actually quite rare in this part of Peru), Capped Conebill, Brown-capped Vireo, and Red-eyed (Chivi subspecies) Vireo. A scan of the river did produce a young Fasciated Tiger-heron, White-capped Dipper, Torrent Tyrannulet and Black Phoebe. Between the regular trains going past we did also see Roadside Hawk, Mitred Parakeet, Dusky-green Oropendola, Sparkling Violetear, Speckled-faced Parrot and White-tipped Dove. We caught the last train to Ollantaytambo where we enjoyed a great dinner and well-deserved rest.
Day 3: Abra Malaga Pass and Huaypo Lake
With an early start we made our way up the absolutely stunning Abra Malaga Pass with the highest point 4300m above sea level. Our first birding stop today was the Bamboo Forest as you descend on the Eastern slope where our 3 main targets were Parodi’s Hemispingus, Cuzco Brushfinch and Unstreaked Tit-tyrant. Before long we had all 3 and also found Grey-browed Brushfinch, Marcapata Spinetail, Black-capped Hemispingus, Plushcap, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied and Rufous-breasted Tanager, Andean and Brown-bellied Swallow, Red-crested Cotinga, White-throated and White-banded Tyrannulet and Andean Guan was a nice surprise.
We made our way back to the top of the pass from where actually hiked a few hundred meters higher to explore the Polylepis Forest. It is amazing as you feel out of breath even walking 30 paces forcing us to take frequent rest breaks, but this gives you a chance to enjoy the spectacular scenery and with the stunning sunshine weather we had beautiful views of the snow-covered peak called Veronica. It was a bit surreal walking through the snow between the Polylepis trees and the great birding was a big bonus. On the hike we saw Cream-winged and White-winged Cinclodes (Royal Cinclodes was calling and seen in flight only), Andean Goose, Crested Duck, Cinereous and Taczanowski’s Ground-tyrant, Plumbeous and Ash-breasted Sierra-finch, White-winged Diuca Finch, Striped-headed Antpitta, Ash-breasted Tit-tyrant, Giant Conebill, Brown-backed and Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant, White-browed Tit-spinetail and Olivaceous Thornbill. Junín Canastero was a great find, and everyone enjoyed seeing Andean Flicker perching in their peculiar way on an exposed rock not far from us. A quick stop further down produced the localised White-tufted Sunbeam, Tyrian Metaltail and Blue-and-yellow Tanager.
After lunch we spent an hour birding around Huaypo Lake where great views of Black-faced Ibis and Many-coloured Rush-tyrant greeted us. Here we found Yellow-winged Blackbird, Andean Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Yellow-billed and Cinnamon Teal, White-tufted Grebe, Ruddy Duck and Andean Coot. Aplomado Falcon was seen by all and we found an excellent spot for shorebirds and quickly added Solitary Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt, American Golden Plover and White-rumped Sandpiper. We arrived in Cusco by late afternoon and our very nice hotel was situated very close to the main square.
Day 4: Huacarpay Lake, San Salvador and down the Manu road
Our first stop for today was Huacarpay Lake not far from Cusco and soon after stopping we enjoyed great views of a Cinerous Harrier quartering low over the wetland. A walk along the edge of the marshy area produced Band-tailed Seedeater, Peruvian Sierra-finch, Olivaceous Siskin, Green-tailed and Black-tailed Trainbearer, Giant Hummingbird and Wren-like Rushbird. We had a beautiful flyby of an adult and juvenile Black-chested Buzzard-eagle and finally tracked down a calling Stripe-fronted Thornbird.
From here we did a detour and made our way up to the high elevation Lake San Salvador. En route a quick stop produced Golden-billed Saltator, Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant, Rusty-fronted Canastero, Variable Hawk and the beautiful Chestnut-breasted Mountain-finch. Once we reach the lake we easily found our two main targets – Giant Coot and Silvery Grebe. A Greater Yellowlegs was an unexpected bird and had great close-up vies of Mountain Caracara. Other nice birds we found in the area were Andean Flicker, Black-billed Shrike-tyrant, Rufous-webbed Bush-tyrant, Slender-billed Miner, Paramo Seedeater, Andean Goose and Ochre-naped Ground-tyrant. It was a long but very interesting detour and after enjoying a home-cooked lunch in a local restaurant in Paucartambo Town we arrived at the entrance of Manu National Park with great excitement and expectations about birding the famous Manu Road over the next few days.
Day 5: Wayqecha Biological Research Station and the Upper Manu Road
Manu National Park is known to have the highest biological diversity of any park in the world and this beautiful and very important park from a conservation point of view should be on every birder’s bucket list. We started off our day driving a little higher back up the road to try and find some of the high elevation specialists. In the short time we had up there we manged to see Masked Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Blue-and-black and Golden Collared Tanager, Slaty-backed Chat-tyrant, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Pearled Treerunner, Montane Woodcreeper, Masked Trogon, Golden-headed Quetzal, Mountain Wren, Superciliaried Hemispingus and Black-faced Brushfinch. A walk further down the road produced great views of a roosting Swallow-tailed Nightjar. Other nice birds were Collared Inca, Blue-breasted toucanet, Andean Parakeet, Greater Scythebill, White-collared Jay, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Inca Flycatcher, Citrine and Pale-legged Warbler, Puna Thistletail, Barred Becard, Blue-backed Conebill, Drab Hemispingus and Mountain Cacique.
After lunch we started slowly making our way down the road and picked up Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Andean Solitaire, Slaty, Rust-and-yellow and Blue-capped Tanager, Capped Conebill and Azara’s Spinetail. A little later on we found a brilliant mixed flock which included Pale-edged, Olive-streaked and Striped Treehunter, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Versicoloured Barbet, Yellow-throated, Saffron-crowned, Beryl-spangled, Russet-crowned and Three-striped Warbler, Deep Blue Flowerpiercer, Bolivian Tyrannulet and Black-eared Hemispingus to name a few. Chestnut-collared Swift, Green-fronted Lancebill and Long-tailed Sylph were also found in the area.
We had a memorable 10 minutes where there were 3 Golden-headed and 3 Crested Quetzals present at the same spot. Later on we found Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Yellow-throated Bush-tanager, Andean Motmot, White-eared Solitaire and a female Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Our final bird of the day was a displaying Lyre-tailed Nightjar. The famous Manu road truly lived up to its reputation and we still had a couple of days to go!
Day 6: Cock-of-the-Rock and the lower Manu road
We spent the day birding the Cloud Forest around the lodge and along the Manu Road. It only took us a short while to find our first flock which produced Yellow-throated, Beryl-spangled, Golden, Palm, Blue-grey and Silver-beaked Tanager, Orange-billed Euphonia, Streaked Xenops, Azara’s Spinetail, Uniform Antshrike, Golden-crowned Flycatcher and Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer. We found another female Andean Cock-of-the-Rock and had some nice Hummingbirds with Sparkling Violetear, Wire-crested Thorntail, Green Hermit, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Bronzy Inca and Booted Rackettail. It took us a while but everyone had good views of White-throated Antpitta and other nice birds seen this morning were Yungas Manakin, Paradise and Spotted Tanager, Golden-olive Woodpecker and Russet-backed Oropendola. Tayra, Large-headed Capuchin and Brown Agouti were new mammals for the trip.
As we left the lodge after lunch had brilliant views of a Bluish-fronted Jacamar before visiting the famous Cock-of-the-rock Lek where we had 7 males displaying. Good views of a hunting Solitary Eagle was enjoyed and other birds we saw were Plumbeous Pigeon, Brown Tinamou, Dusky Green Oropendola, White-headed Tapaculo, Stripe-throated Antwren, Moustached Wren, Variegated Flycatcher, Two-banded Warbler, Rufous-tailed Bush-tyrant and Blue-necked Tanager.
On the way back to lodge we had incredible close-up views of a Rufescent Screech-owl. What a great end to a wonderful day’s birding.
Day 7: Bamboo and lower Foothills
Before making our way further down the Manu Road we tried to find one more mixed flock and this proved to be a very good decision as we followed a nice flock for a while. Some of the specials we found in the flock and surrounding area were Masked Tityra, Spotted, Golden-eared, Blue-necked, Golden, Orange-eared and Black-goggled Tanager, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Golden-bellied and Three-streaked Warbler, Yellow-rumped, Yellow-breasted and Slaty Antwren, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Purple Honeycreeper, White-crested Elaenia, Black-bellied Thorntail, Marble-faced Tyrannulet, Grey-hooded Bush-tanager and Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant. It is amazing that you can walk in the forest for an hour without a single bird and then run into a stunning flock like this where it is all action for 45 minutes! Other good birds found were White-backed Fire-eye and Grey-mantled Wren.
The rest of the morning was spent in the Bamboo Forest where birding can be tricky and patience is required. We did end up with great birds which included Chestnut-breasted Wren, Stripe-chested, Yellow-breasted and Yellow-rumped Antwren, Ornate, Yellow-breasted, Dusky-capped, Cinnamon-faced, Lemon-browed and Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Red-billed Scythebill, Spot-winged Antbird, Crested Oropendola, Speckled Chachalaca and Yellow-breasted Warbling-antbird to name a few.
After another wonderful lunch at this very nice lodge it was time to head further down towards Villa Carmen Biological Station with Amazonian Umbrellabird, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied and Yellow-crested Tanager, Variegated Bristle-tyrant, Rufous-rumped and Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner, Lanceolated Monklet and Ash-browed Spinetail on the way. We still had time for some birding in the lower foothills where one stop produced Swallow Tanager, Fine-barred Piculet, Blue-headed Macaw, Plain-crowned Spinetail, Violaceous Jay, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, Long-tailed Tyrant, Little Woodpecker, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Magpie Tanager, Blue-headed Parrot, Plum-throated Cotinga, Fork-tailed Palm-swift, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Chestnut-eared Aracari and Yellow-rumped Cacique. What a great end to the day and a very nice preview of what was to come over the next few days in the Amazon.
Day 7: Amazonian Bamboo
After an early breakfast we decided to bird around the ponds close to the lodge before moving our focus to the extensive Bamboo Forest with many trails to explore. And we were in for a great start to the day with Hoatzin, White-winged Piping-guan, Spot-breasted, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Red-throated Caracara, Scarlet, Blue-and-yellow and Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Blue-headed Parrot, Limpkin, Purple Gallinule, White-eyed Parakeet and White-winged Swallow. There were a few good Hummingbirds around with Emerald-spangled Brilliant, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Blue-tailed Emerald and Rufous-crested Coquette.
Birding in the Bamboo can be very rewarding but time-consuming as you seldom encounter mixed flocks and have to focus on seeing birds one species at a time. We still had a great session with Fiery-crested Manakin, Dot-winged and White-eyed Antwren. Plain-winged, Spot-winged and Bamboo Antshrike, Goeldi’s Antbird, Reddish Hermit, Dusky-capped Greenlet, Cabanis’s Spinetail and Blue-crowned Trogon.
After a nice lunch we were back in the Bamboo and had another great time with Flammulated Bamboo-tyrant, Wedge-billed and Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Plain Softtail, Large-headed Flatbill, White-bearded Hermit, Grey-crowned and Sepia-capped Flycatcher and Pectoral Sparrow. Part of the trail was next to the river where we found Amazonian Motmot, Buff-rumped Warbler, Grey-hooded Wood-rail and a Great Tinamou which unfortunately quickly disappeared into the forest. An excursion after dinner produced Tawny-bellied Screech-owl and Common Pauraque.
Day 8: Early Bamboo and down the River Madre De Dios
We had time for an hour of birding before we had to depart and our main target was the Amazonian Antpitta which offered great views. A pair of Brazilian Teals were a surprise this far into Peru and with a quick walk in the Bamboo we found Red-breasted and Great-billed Hermit, Scaly-breasted Wren, Chestnut-tailed, Manu and White-lined Antbird. After a quick coffee were in the vehicle and were making our way to the River Madre de Dios as we had a 5 hour boat cruise down river to our next destination – Manu Wildlife Centre deep in the Peruvian Amazon.
Initially we found a few of the more common species like Coqui Heron, Fasciated Heron, Giant Cowbird, Amazon Kingfisher, Neotropic Cormorant and Anhinga as well as a few specials like Sunbittern, Green Kingfisher, Capped Heron, Horned Screamer, Razor-billed Curassow, Sand-coloured Nighthawk, Black Skimmer, Wood Stork and Pied Lapwing. We had really good raptors and ended up with Crane Hawk, Bat Falcon, Red-necked Caracara, Swallow-tailed Kite, Plumbeous Kite, Short-tailed Hawk, White Hawk, Turkey and Black Vulture and Great Black Hawk being harassed by a Roadside Hawk. Red-bellied Macaw, Neotropical Otter and Yellow-spotted Amazon Turtle were new additions for the different lists. We arrived at Manu Wildlife Center by late afternoon and enjoyed a great dinner as we talked about the exciting day waiting for us tomorrow.
Day 9: Macaw Clay Lick and Terra Firma
We were up early and back on the boat as we made our way further downstream to the famous Blanquillo Macaw Clay Lick. As it was still fairly dark when we departed we found Ladder-tailed Nightjar and in the forest patch on way Rusty-margined Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, White-browed Antbird, Thrush-like Wren, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Plain Tyrannulet, Golden-bellied Euphonia, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher and Grey Elaenia. At the clay lick we had a big flock of Cobalt-winged Parakeets, Blue-headed Parrot and later Red-and-green Macaw and watching them fly together at once is sighting no one in the group will ever forget. We also had Orange-cheeked Parrot, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Dusky-headed Parakeet, White-bellied and Yellow-crowned Parrot, Mealy Amazon and Tui Parakeet. Greater Yellow-headed Vulture flew overhead and other nice birds seen from the hide were Barred Antshrike, Black-crowned Tityra and White-throated Toucan. Collared Plover was seen on the way back to the lodge.
We had the rest of the day to explore the Terra Firma Forest with the many great trails from the center and even with the day already getting warm we found Dusky-throated Antshrike, Grey and Pygmy Antwren, Black-faced Antbird, Black-tailed Trogon, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, both White-fronted and Black-fronted Nunbird and White-winged Shrike Tanager before lunch. With only one day to explore this forest habitat we started our afternoon session early and started with great views of Amazonian and Broad-billed Motmot and Band-tailed Manakin. Ihambari Woodcreeper, Ruddy Quail-dove, Ihering’s Antwren, Bran-coloured Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Elaenia, White-bellied Tody-tyrant, Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher, Plumbeous Antbird and Fork-tailed Woodnymph were seen as well. Then we climbed the 144 steps up to the 42 metre high viewing platform built between the branches of a massive Lupuna tree. The view from up there is amazing and it offered us the chance to see Red-necked Woodpecker and Bright-rumped Atilla from up there. Amazonian Pygmy-owl was seen on the way back and there was reason to celebrate as this was bird number 1500 for a couple of birders in the group.
Day 10: Blanco Oxbow Lake and off to Puerto Maldonado
We were up early as we wanted to explore one of the Oxbow lakes nearby. These quiet backwaters offer a new habitat with a chance to see some of the more difficult to find birds found here. And the couple of hours slowly moving close to the water’s edge on a floating platform produced Greater Ani, Sungrebe, Grey-breasted Martin, Black-capped Donaocobius, Great Kiskadee, Rufescent Tiger-heron, Orange-backed Troupial, Wattled Jacana, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Amazonian Parrotlet, Anhinga, Yellow-billed and Great-billed Tern, Channel-billed Toucan, Pale-eyed Blackbird, Silvered Antbird and Amazonian Streaked Antwren. We also had great views of a family of Giant Otters.
The forest on the trail to the lake produced Dull-capped Atilla, Collared and Green-backed Trogon, Cinereous Mourner, Western Striolated Puffbird and the highlight of the morning, a Pale-winged Trumpeter. These impressive birds are now very rare due to hunting and habitat destruction and it is great to hear that they are increasing in number. The rest of the day was spent travelling but we still found Upland and Spotted Sandpiper, Collared Plover, Black and Southern Caracara, and Black-tailed Tityra en route. We arrived in Puerto Maldonado by late afternoon and enjoyed a wonderful meal in our hotel restaurant.
Day 11: Puerto Maldonado
We had a couple of hours to bird before our flight to Lima and quickly found Burrowing Owl while Ferruginous Pygmy-owl was a nice bonus. We also found Purus and White-throated Jacamar, Ruddy Ground-dove, White-lored Tyrannulet, Streaked Flycatcher, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Saffron Finch, Black-throated Antbird, Southern Lapwing, Laughing Falcon, Black-collared Hawk, Double-collared Seedeater, Chestnut-bellied Seedfinch and Red-breasted Meadowlark in the open woodland close to town.
We explored a patch of Swamp Forest which produced American Pygmy Kingfisher, Buff-breasted Wren, Slender-billed Kite, Gilded Barbet, Fiery-capped and Band-tailed Manakin, Straight-billed Woodcreeper and Undulated Tinamou. We made our way to the airport which was the end of a wonderful birding trip with a wonderful group!