Birdwatching in the center of Peru
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Perú is a country that defines diversity. Not only does it have over 1800 species of birds (making it one of the best countries for birding on the planet), it has habitats ranging from one of the driest deserts in the world, to one of the highest peaks in the Americas, to a huge swathe of virgin Rainforest that defies superlatives.
This tour targets a large number of endemic species that occur in the Andes of central Perú, with highlights like Golden backed mountain tanager (surely one of the best Tanagers in the world), the ultra rare Junin grebe and White bellied cinclodes, charismatic Inca finches and White cheeked cotinga. We will not ignore the more widespread species, and birds like Diademed sandpiper plover could beat out the endemics on the list of favorites. Add to that some of the best scenery anywhere, and you have a truly unforgettable tour.
This is quite an intense trip, and long drives and several very early starts are necessary.
CLIMATE: Warm and dry along the coast to very cold in the high Andes.
DIFFICULTY: Moderate, physically it is moderately demanding, with some mountain trail birding required.
Two days will be spent at a very high elevation up to 15800ft/4800m. Some very start and long drives are essential on this tour.
ACCOMMODATION: Mostly good to very good, but there will be one night in a very basic dorm-style guesthouse with a shared bathroom on the Satipo road. Staying here saves us hours of driving and give us a much better chance at some tough species.
- Specialized bilingual guide
- Private Transport
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN LIMA
After arriving in Perú’s large and bustling capital we will transfer to a hotel near the airport for
DAY 2: SANTA EULALIA VALLEY
We will spend today birding the Santa Eulalia valley, which offers an excellent transect of the dry West slope montane scrub over a wide elevational range. Here we have our first chance at a member of Perú’s flagship endemic genus in the form of Great inca finch, as well as a slew of other Peruvian endemics, including the rare Rufous breasted warbling finch, Bronze tailed comet and subdued Rusty bellied brush finch.
DAY 3: MARCAPOMACOCHA
Heading upwards from Santa Eulalia, we will get to some remnant Polylepis groves right as the sun is hitting them, the best time for us to look for the scarce and beautiful White cheeked cotinga.
Afterward we will scour the high elevation cushion plant bogs of Central Perú for two charismatic species, the ultra rare White bellied cinclodes (with a tiny population limited to a handful of high elevation bogs in Perú), and the beautiful patterned Diademed sandpiper plover DSP.
There is a far more up here to keep us entertained, though, with a goodly variety of Furnariids including the endemic Dark winged miner, along with it is more widespread cousins, Slender billed and Common miners, as well as Streak throated canastero, Plain breasted earthcreeper and another endemic, Junin canastero. White winged diuca finches, dapper black siskins, and huge hulking Andean geese are also likely.
In the afternoon we will drive to the base of the Satipo road near the city of Huancayo.
DAYS 4-5: THE SATIPO ROAD
This long and sinuous dirt road crosses numerous deep valleys that have contributed to the amazing endemism of the region.
Not only are there a number of known species found nowhere else, there are no less than three, and maybe as many as five, undescribed species that we will look for along this road. In order to save very long daily drives back ana forth to a hotel, we will spend one night in very basic guesthouse located near some of the best birding sites.
We will spend one morning around the Puente carrizales, where the endemic Fiery throated metaltail is usually easily found, in addition to some endemic Tapaculos (Tshudi’s, and an undescribed form of Large footed that may even be a new species), and the rare Eye ringed thistletail. We will also check out a back road for Marcapata spinetail and an undescribed Thornbird before heading back upslope to look for another undescribed Tapaculo and Black-breasted hill star.
Another early start will get us to the Acobamba valley soon after dawn, where we hope to see the strikingly patterned Black spectacled brush finch, the undescribed Mantaro wren, and a very distinctive sounding population of Azara’s spinetail that probably deserves species status.
The afternoon will be spent cleaning up on whatever we have missed and looking for another endemic, Brown flanked tanager. That afternoon, we will drive to the coffee town of Villa Rica, where we spend 2 nights.
DAY 6: VILLA RICA
The scattered shade coffee plantations in this foothill town offer surprisingly fun birding, with a whole suite of Amazonian species reaching the upper limit of their elevational range here.
We will look especially for the localized endemic Creamy bellied antwren, but won’t ignore other specialities like Ocellated piculet, Cabani’s spinetail, Lanceolated monklet, the tiny White bellied pygmy tyrant and Cerulean capped manakin.
In the afternoon we will swing by a reed filled lake where we have a good chance at the skulky Rufous sided crake and larger Blackish rail among a host of other wetland species.
DAY 7: VILLA RICA/LA OROYA
We have another morning to clean up on whatever we have missed around Villa Rica before working our way back upslope to the high mountain town of La Oroya.
Along the way we have a chance for the charismatic Torrent duck, Fasciated tiger heron and White capped dipper. We will spend the night in La Oroya.
DAY 8: LAKE JUNIN/HUANUCO
Today will be our day to search for one of the rarest birds on the planet, the critically endangered Junin grebe. Taking a boat out onto the lake should offer us a decent shot at it, though it takes time to pick it out from among all the Silvery grebes.
We will also bird the lakeside wetlands picking through the slew of ducks which can include Yellow billed and gorgeous Puna teals, Yellow billed pintail, and Andean ruddy duck. Scanning the pools, we should find some of the hardy shorebirds that call this high elevation lake home, such as Andean avocet and Puna plover.
The odd Chilean flamingo will add a dash of color to the mix, and drier slopes nearby host Short-billed and rarer Correndera pipits. In the afternoon we will transfer to the city of Huánuco for a three-night stay, which has the self proclaimed distinction of having the “best weather on earth”
DAYS 9-10: BOSQUE UNCHOG
Very early starts are required to get up to the mountains above Huánuco, where we will set out on our hike to this famous birding location.
The undoubted target of the morning is the large and indescribably beautiful Golden backed mountain tanager, but we won’t ignore the other endemics on tap here, including Bay vented cotinga, the handsome Rufous browed hemispingus, bland but impressively named Pardusco, and gorgeous Yellow scarfed and Golden collared tanagers.
We will also search for the localized Neblina tapaculo, and we have another shot at Brown flanked tanager on the ride down, if we missed it on the Satipo road. Two days are planned here to allow a decent chance to see all the key birds. If we are fortunate on our first day with the targets, the second day will be spent instead at the Paty trail and Carpish tunnel. These two well known Cloud forest sites are quite close to Huánuco.
The main targets will be two endemic Antpittas, Bay and Chestnut, two endemic fruiteaters, Band tailed and the stunning Masked, and the cute Unstreaked tit tyrant.
A variety of Tapaculos will also test our patience, with trilling, Rufous vented, and the hulking Large footed all possible. Overnights in Huánuco
DAY 11: HUANUCO/HUARAZ
If we have not had a chance to bird there yet, we will spend the morning at the Carpish tunnel before taking the rather long drive to Huaráz, on the West side of the magnificent Cordillera Blanca, the most beautiful mountains in Perú. We will spend 2 nights in Huaráz
DAY 12: HUASCARAN NATIONAL PARK/ABRA PORTUCHUELO
Huascarán at 22,205ft/6770m, is the highest peak in Perú, part of the serenely beautiful Cordillera Blanca. Not only are the mountains spectacular, so is the habitat and the birding.
We will check out a large Polylepis grove by a surreal turquoise lake for specialists like Stripe headed antpitta, Giant conebill, Tit like dacnis and the endemic Rufous eared brush finch, before heading higher to Abra Portuchuelo, where we could find the surprisingly bold Ancash tapaculo and have another chance at White cheeked cotinga.
Around the entrance to the park, we will bird some drier scrub, where we could see our first Rufous backed inca finches, Canyon canastero and Black metaltail are common.
DAY 13: HUAYLAS/PUEBLO LIBRE/HUACHO
The road to the small hamlet of Huaylas is perhaps the best place in the world to see two species of Inca finches, Great and Rufous backed. Both prefer dry slopes with abundant terrestrial bromeliads and are quite common at this site.
We could find Greenish yellow finches on the dry hillsides or a flock of Mountain parakeets screeching overhead. Afterwards we will make a quick stop at the small town of Pueblo Libre, where an undescribed subspecies of Creamy breasted canastero lives among the tall, columnar
DAY 14: LOMAS DE LACHAY/PANTANOS DE VILLA
You had be forgiven for thinking that the barren coastal plain near Lima is devoid of birdlife.
But visit one of the coastal hills (Lomas) near Lima and you will see a completely different
side of this barren landscape. Here there are patches of forest that survive entirely on
moisture from dense fog that forms during the wet season, and a number of birds that thrive
in this habitat. We will look for a quarter of Peruvian endemics here, Thick billed and Coastal
miners, Cactus canastero and Raimondi’s yellow finch, as well as a scattering of other
desert loving species such as Grayish miner and the diminutive Least seedsnipe. Afterwards
we will visit a wetter part of the coastal plain, the marshes of Pantanos de Villa, just south of
Lima. Here we have a chance for the nocturnal Peruvian thick knee lounging around in the
day time, the impressive Great grebe and a few species of Gulls and Shorebirds along the
beach. Since international flights typically leave Lima late in the evening, we will have day
use rooms for showering and repacking.
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