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Independent North Peru in a hire car

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Old Wednesday 29th November 2017, 20:24   #1
simmojunior
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Independent North Peru in a hire car

I had been planning on returning to South America this autumn for a long time as I had not been since a month's stint as a volunteer at San Isidro in Ecuador back in 2014 and longed for a neotropical bird fix. Seeing my tweets to this effect, Henry Cook got in touch suggesting we team up. After ruling out Colombia by bus due to the amount of time spent waiting around and northern Argentina by 4 X 4 due to the cost, we somehow settled on Northern Peru.

Recent Birdforum posts had suggested it was possible and Birdforum contributor, Steve Keen (thanks Steve for all your help!), had done it recently. However, despite a couple of valuable trip reports, I could not find a trip report of it being attempted by small hire car. We decided however we would give it a go. I convinced Henry that while I was far from fluent in Spanish, I knew just enough to get us by! My Spanish turned out to be just about enough but I would strongly advise against this trip without basic Spanish.

We purchased flights through STA Travel for c850 including the internal flights. The flights were UK to Chiclayo via Sao Paulo and Lima on 1st November 2017 (arriving evening of 2nd), Chiclayo to Lima on 23rd November and Lima to London via Madrid on 26th November (arriving 27th). We arranged a hire car (Toyota Yaris) online through Hertz Chiclayo for 770 from 2nd to 23rd including insurance. The hire car was reliable and in good condition though we could have done with higher clearance at times (read on!).

We stayed in hotels in towns ranging from 40 to 160 soles (10-40) between us for the night. Cheaper is definitely possible although we were keen to get the car off the road in to a garage in larger towns although we did not actually encounter any issues. The only exception was Fundo Alto Nieva, where we stayed on site for three nights. This cost 280 soles but included the excellent guiding of Kenny. The only other guides we used were Hilder at Akonabikh and some young guide for a couple of hours at Llanteria. These were included in the entrance fees. We also did a 10hr Kolibri pelagic out of Lima on 24th November, which cost an exorbitant $250 each. All other birding was done independently, relying on ebird and the Spencer and Matheve reports. We ate evening meals at restaurants but generally had a snack lunch and breakfast so as not to reduce birding time. Food was generally cheap. Total costs were around 2,400 each including flights.

Henry did all the driving for the trip. Henry's driving was really good and we encountered no serious issues with the police or especially bad driving (though tuk-tuks in towns were a good challenge for him!) etc...

The trip was a great success. I saw 624 species, of which 334 were lifers, and heard a further 49.

This report will try to summarise the trip. I think Henry is planning a report involving GPSs and directions that will be more useful to anyone else thinking of attempting this trip.

The flights went on time without incident. We did not have much chance for birding on the 2nd November. Lima airport was largely birdless apart from West Peruvian Dove in our 5 hour layover there and we arrived in Chiclayo just before dark. Plenty of birds flew over Chiclayo airport in the evening but I was focussed on understanding the Spanish car hire information. The only species I managed to identify were common birds like Blue-and-white Swallow and Scrub Blackbird. Therefore, I will start the day by day summaries from the 3rd November.
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Old Wednesday 29th November 2017, 20:56   #2
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3rd November: Bosque Pomac & Olmos

We were under the impression that Bosque Pomac did not open until 8 so were in no great hurry to leave the comfortable Hostal Villa Santa (85 soles for twin). Nevertheless, we headed out about 6 and quickly saw a Lesser Nighthawk swoop over the road.

As Henry got used to Peru's ridiculously high speed bumps, the 45 minute or so drive gave me a chance to enjoy my first looks at some of the common birds of the region including Long-tailed Mockingbird, Golden Grosbeak and Croaking Ground Dove.

We made some stops including an extended one by some fields near a river just north of Pitipo. This area was full of birds including a Savannah Hawk, at least 6 Peruvian Pygmy Owls, 3 Crested Caracara, 6 Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, 2 White-edged Orioles and the only Necklaced Spinetails of the trip. It was not even 8 by the time we had left this area and we had already seen 32 species.

We arrived at Bosque Pomac shortly afterwards, finding Grey-and-White Tyrannulet, White-tailed Jay and several surprise White-crested Elaenias by the entrance. We paid our 10 soles entrance fee and headed in to the reserve by car.

It was slow going as we kept stopping for new birds, such as Harris' Hawk, Variable Hawk and Pacific Parrotlet as well as a Sechuran Fox. This meant it was nearly 9 by the time we arrived in the area of the "Plantcutter" Trail and "Old Tree". We decided to walk the trail in search of the Plantcutter. Although we failed to find any Plantcutters, we did find 5 Golden-Olive Woodpecker, 5 Collared Antshrike, 3 Streak-headed Woodcreeper, 8+ Baird's Flycatcher, 8 Superciliated Wren, a Plumbeous-necked Thrush and a Bran-coloured Flycatcher. The walk back along the road produced a superb Rufous Flycatcher, Lineated Woodpecker, and a brief female Black-lored Yellowthroat. Great birding!

We reluctantly tore ourselves away to go further in to the reserve. We regularly stopped to scan the vast hirundine flock. We failed to find any Tumbes Swallows but were surprised to find at least 15 Cliff Swallows. We then tried the Salinas area where we immediately found Coastal Miner. As I walked to have a better look at it, Henry had a Sulphur-throated Finch fly away. As I was unsuccessfully looking for that, I found a Cinereous Finch but this did not stay long enough for Henry to see it. Frustrating stuff! We also saw a number of Purple-collared Woodstars and Henry saw a Short-tailed Woodstar as well.

We carried on through the reserve making further stops finding a showy Striped Cuckoo and a superb Pearl Kite. We however were short of time so had to leave earlier than we would have liked.

We arrived at La Vina reservoir to find it largely dry. We did however find the only American Golden Plover of the trip on a small pool as well as a Killdeer and Little Blue Heron.

After lunch in Olmos and a false alarm on the car, we headed towards the famous Quebrada Limon. Contrary to what we had been led to believe, the road was completely unsuited to a standard hire car. After getting stuck three times, we abandoned and eventually turned round. This caused one of the plates on the underside of the car to come loose. It was dark by the time we found a mechanic at the edge of Olmos. Thankfully, he was able to fix the problem and we headed in to town to the basic Maracuya Hotel for the night (80 soles for twin).

Not wanting to completely give up on going to Limon, we walked round town to try to arrange a combi to take us. None of the combi drivers were willing to. However, a guest in our hotel (overhearing my conversation with the receptionist) said he had a friend with a jeep that could take us. We eventually agreed that we would be picked up at 6am the next morning for 300 soles for the return trip. We knew we were being totally ripped off but at least we would have a chance for White-winged Guan the next day!
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Old Wednesday 29th November 2017, 23:28   #3
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Wooo! Hoped you'd do a report too. Go Simmo!
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Old Thursday 30th November 2017, 18:52   #4
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4th November: Quebrada Limon

Amazingly my Spanish had been sufficient and a man with a white truck arrived at our hotel at 6 to take us to Limon. With the benefit of the higher clearance, the journey took little over an hour so we arrived shortly after 7.

Immediately, we added new species to our trip list like Red-Masked Parakeet and White-tipped Dove. We headed straight for where we thought would give us the best chance of the White-winged Guans, rushing past many birds including a sound that we later identified as Pale-browed Tinamou. We were not to hear or see another so this was a mistake!

Just as Henry had clasped eyes on an Elegant Crescentchest, we heard the guans seemingly close by and rushed off to look for them. A frustrating hour or so ensued as we seemed amazingly close to several guans but could not see them! In hindsight, I think we were hearing echoes across the canyon. After an hour and a half or so, we decided to give up with the guans and at least find some other good birds while there was still morning activity.

This proved a good move as while it was slow going, we encountered some decent small flocks. Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant and Speckle-faced Wren were common and we also found Ecuadorian Piculet, Hepatic Tanager, stunning Elegant Crescentchest, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Tumbes Flycatcher and Tumbes Pewee. Best of all though was a responsive Whooping Motmot, which showed brilliantly, although unfortunately a calling Guayaquil Woodpecker remained hidden.

We stopped for some lunch by the river accompanied by a lovely Ringed Kingfisher before finding more flocks that contained, amongst other things, Grey-breasted Flycatcher, Thick-billed Euphonia and White-headed Brushfinch. As I searched for a Grey-and-gold Warbler seen by Henry, I enjoyed views of a superb Henna-hooded Foliage-Gleaner that Henry also managed to see. It did not take long for me to find a different Grey-and-gold Warbler so I could finally obtain the desired views.

After this excellent birding, we decided to give the guans one last shot though we were not feeling optimistic with it being 1pm. However, our pessimism was misplaced as climbing the canyon, we soon heard their distinctive calls and enjoyed decent if brief views of 4 of these special endangered birds. Mission complete!

That was not the end of the good birding as a more open area allowed views of Short-tailed Swift and Black-chested Buzzard Eagle over the forest. The more open scrub also contained Tumbes Sparrow and White-winged Brushfinch. We then headed back down towards the river and encountered a particularly large flock. The best birds here were a super pair of One-coloured Becards - not a species I expected to see on this trip!

Our remaining target species were more open country species like Tumbes Tyrant, Tumbes Hummingbird and Collared Warbling-Finch so we headed back down to the village. We failed to find any of these target species although we did see the only Laughing Falcon of the trip.

It was very hot along the access road so we rested for the final hour before the truck arrived right on cue at 4pm to pick us up. We headed back to our hotel in Olmos for a much needed rest before finding dinner in town that evening.
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Old Saturday 2nd December 2017, 08:10   #5
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5th November: Abra Porculla and Jaen

I will try to keep this a little shorter as I appreciate my last two updates have been a little long.

We had done well in the Tumbes but we had two gaping holes in our lists: Tumbes Tyrant and Tumbes Hummingbird. Therefore, although we were due to head over Abra Porculla to Jaen, we checked Ebird for any nearby spots that might fill it.

There was a recent sighting of the Tyrant along the main road 9 km south of Jaen so we decided to check it out. This was a brilliant move as almost immediately after arriving, I clasped eyes on a stunning Tumbes Tyrant. Soon after, Henry spotted a perched Tumbes Hummingbird! Job done, we headed off towards Abra Porculla.

Our first stop just before the pass produced further new birds like Ash-breasted Sierra Finch, Chapman's Antshrike and Three-banded Warbler. On arrival in Limon de Porcuya, we left the car in the village and walked up the hill past the school. Even in the village, there were new birds like Chiguanco Thrush, Black-cowled Saltator and Blue-and-Yellow Tanager.

We emerged on a shrubby hillside full of hummingbirds including Grey-chinned (Porculla) Hermit, Spot-throated Hummingbird and Purple-collared Woodstar. We followed a track to a birdy gully and, with the aid of the Pacific Pygmy Owl tape, managed to find Piura Chat-Tyrant, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Rufous-browed Peppershrike and Sooty-crowned Flycatcher.

We then walked to the area recommended by Matheve and here we added Line-cheeked Spinetail, Rufous-necked Foliage-Gleaner, Ecuadorian Piculet, Grey-browed Brushfinch and Bay-crowned Brushfinch. By mid morning, it was very hot and we had seen all our targets so headed back to the car, enjoying a low-flying Broad-winged Hawk on the way.

The 4 hour drive to Chamaya was uneventful although we did see our first Bare-faced Ground-Dove and Inca Jay of the trip. The searing heat meant we only searched for the Little Inca-Finch at Chamaya for half an hour before giving up until the next day although we did see Purple-throated Euphonia and the distinctive Maranon race of Tropical Gnatcatcher.

After abandoning a planned visit to Gotas de Agua due to the state of the road, we headed in to the frankly awful town of Jaen to find a hotel for the night. We were determined to get the car in to an off road garage so ended up choosing the horribly overpriced Hotel Casa del Sol (80 soles for single).

After a rest, we headed to Bosque de Yanahuanca for the last hour of light mainly to check it out for the morning. Here we found Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Drab Seedeater, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet and White-collared Seedeater. Despite it being poor second growth habitat, we decided we would return in the morning in the hope of finding some of the Maranon specialities.
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Old Saturday 2nd December 2017, 12:34   #6
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Good stuff so far, looking forward to more!
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Old Saturday 2nd December 2017, 15:26   #7
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Good stuff so far, looking forward to more!
Indeed.
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Old Saturday 2nd December 2017, 17:18   #8
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6th November: Jaen to Abra Patricia

It had rained overnight so, while passable, the track to Bosque de Yanahuanca was very slippery. We arrived shortly after 6 and immediately heard Tataupa Tinamou. However, it started to rain again soon after and we decided to get out of there rather than run the risk of getting stuck.

After this setback, we decided to head on to Tamborapa in order to find the specialities of the area but we were unable to find the trail. Unperturbed, we followed Spencer's instructions to Las Juntas, seeing Comb Duck fly over the river on route. This was a good decision as we found the trail at Las Juntas and it took as through some superb habitat - much better than Bosque de Yanahuanca!

A large mixed flock by the road contained several of our key targets like Buff-bellied Tanager, the Maranon form of Northern Slaty Antshrike, Red-pileated Finch and Dull-coloured Grasquit. Heading along the trail, we quickly found Ecuadorian Ground Dove, the Maranon form of Speckle-chested Wren, Sooty-crowned Flycatcher and a showy Brown-crested Flycatcher.

It was not long before, we heard the two sounds we were looking for: Maranon Crescentchest and Maranon Spinetail. The Crescentchests were very responsive and we had superb views of at least 4 but the Spinetails were more difficult and we only saw one. On the return walk, we added further new species like Green-backed Becard and Black-capped Sparrow. However, we only heard the Maranon (Chinchipe) form of Necklaced Spinetail.

After this morning's unexpected success, we headed back to Chamaya for another go at the pesky Little Inca Finch. The valley had a lot more birds than the day before but we could not find our main target. We did however manage to flush a Band-winged Nightjar and find Yellow-tailed Oriole, the "Shumba" form of Collared Antshrike and a shock Little Woodpecker.

We had a long drive ahead so after around an hour and a half decided to cut our losses. The five hour drive was fairly quiet for birds, although we had a very productive stop by the Utcubamba River. Here, we found a Fasciated Tiger Heron, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, White-winged Swallow, Silver-beaked Tanager and Torrent Tyrannulet, amongst other things.

We arrived at Fundo Alto Nieva shortly after 5, delighted to be back in the Andes. After taking our bags down the long entrance path and leaving the car at a nearby restaurant, we headed out for a short walk with Kenny, the resident guide.

Birds were not in abundance but we did see a superb Crested Quetzal, flyover Speckle-faced and Scaly-naped Parrots and the only Rufous-tailed Tyrant of the trip.

As the weather was good, we then headed along another trail for our first attempt at Long-whiskered Owlet. The walk down produced views of Green-and-Black Fruiteater and Andean Solitaire. Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Tanager and White-capped Tanager joined our burgeoning "heard only" list. Once we got to a small shelter, we waited until it got dark. We were joined by two other birds being guided by Omar Diaz, the only other birders we saw the whole time in the north.

After Kenny announced it was the right time, we walked up the slippery trail to the spot and he quietly played the tape. Immediately a Long-whiskered Owlet responded and Wilmer, another member of Fundo staff, spotted it sat in the open! It took Henry and I a while to get on to it, while the other birders were already photographing it! We need not have worried as we enjoyed superb prolonged views of this mega Owlet eating a beetle. This was only our fourth day's birding - how could we top that?!
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Old Sunday 3rd December 2017, 17:16   #9
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White-capped Tanager was on my heard-only list too, heard them every day at FAN but never saw the buggers!

Envious of your good views of the owlet. Congratulations!
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Old Monday 4th December 2017, 11:24   #10
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Nice report

We didn't do much of North Peru a few years ago - so interested in this for a possible future trip.
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Old Tuesday 5th December 2017, 14:19   #11
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...but were surprised to find at least 15 Cliff Swallows
I was also surprised by a Cliff Swallow, at Pomacochas Lake. Maybe they're more frequent than the field guide suggests, or it's a good year for them in Peru.
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Old Tuesday 5th December 2017, 18:59   #12
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7th: Fundo Alto Nieva and surrounds

After last night's success, we were up early this morning hoping for some night bird action. However, it was completely silent and there was not any sort of dawn chorus.

We met Kenny at 6.20 and headed with him with the two other birders we met last night to the Rusty-tinged Antpitta spot. The walk there was eerily quiet with only a single Andean Solitaire seen. It took quite a while for the Antpitta to come in but come in it did and we enjoyed superb views of it feeding on the mealworms Kenny had left out.

After enjoying the Antpitta for a while, we headed along the trail with Kenny. It was quiet with no large flocks but we did find Ornate Flycatcher, Uniform Antshrike, Olive-backed Woodpecker, a responsive White-backed Fire-eye and Sickle-winged Guan. Unfortunately, a calling White-eared Solitaire was unresponsive.

However, after an hour or so it started to rain quite heavily and we headed to a shelter by a hummingbird feeder. These were hardly buzzing but in the hour or so we were sheltering from the rain, we saw Bronzy Inca, Speckled Hummingbird, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Fawn-breasted Brilliant and Violet-fronted Brilliant.

As the rain died down, we headed out again. With a great deal of effort and a lot of walking, we found Bar-winged Wood-Wren, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Russet-crowned Warbler, Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Spotted Barbtail and Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet. Kenny saw a Hooded Tinamou rush across the path but I saw little more than a brown shape and Henry saw nothing at all. Frustrating!

Another trail in a more open area added Deep-Blue Flowerpiercer, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Flame-faced Tanager and Three-striped Warbler. By midday we were struggling to find birds amongst the rain so headed back to the room. Here I spotted a pair of Black-faced Tanagers - the only bird seen from the room at Fundo!

We needed to get some petrol and it was quiet, so we headed all the way down to Naranjos where we found a petrol station. As we were approaching the car, we saw a pair of Silver-backed Tanagers though the views of a probable Oleaginous Hemispingus were completely unsatisfactory.

The drive down to Naranjos produced a few widespread lowland species like Short-tailed Hawk and Yellow-rumped Cacique. On the way back, we stopped to look in the white sand forest at Aguas Verdes. Although this was quiet in the heat of the day, we found both Huallaga and White-lined Tanagers.

We then went to the Hummingbird feeders at Venceremos. These were much busier than those at Fundo and it was good to add both Booted Racket-tail and Tawny-bellied Hermit.

We arrived back at Fundo at 4pm, where we met Wilmer. As we set off, we somehow we bumped in to a superb Royal Sunangel in some stunted forest near the Cabins. The Ochre-fronted Antpitta took a while to show itself but eventually came in and provided superb views. We then walked round for over an hour failing to find a Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant Wilmer briefly heard or any sort of mixed flocks.

As it was getting dark, Kenny joined us as we looked for Cinnamon Screech Owl. It did not take long to hear them and eventually we enjoyed superb views.

Today had been really hard work but we had seen some truly amazing birds!
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Old Wednesday 6th December 2017, 19:41   #13
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8th November: Owlet Lodge

We set off early from Fundo Alto Nieva to Owlet Lodge with Kenny to explore the trails. However, when we got there we found the gate to be shut so we decided to bird the road just beyond the lodge.

This turned out to be a good move as we found 4 Emerald Toucanets together, a pair of Masked Trogon and, best of all, a superb Johnson's Tody-Flycatcher that eventually came in nicely to tape.

As we passed Owlet Lodge at around 7am, we noticed the gates were open. Henry ran off to get the car, seeing the trip's only Smoky-Brown Woodpecker on route, while I found a nice Montane Woodcreeper by the entrance. The walk along the entrance track added Collared Inca and Bluish and Masked Flowerpiercer to the day list.

We paid our exorbitant entrance fees (80 soles each) before heading to the canopy tower. The tower was very quiet in the fog as we saw little more than Scaly-naped Parrots. We decided to head on the appropriately named Grallaria trail. This also started quietly with only Rufous Spinetail and Streak-headed Antbird new in the first half an hour but then we heard the sound of Chestnut Antpitta. We left the tape on the path and after a little while, it came in very briefly but long enough for all of us to get binoculars to it. What a good start to the day!

Soon after we encountered our first proper large Amazonian bird flock. An exhilarating 20 minutes or so followed as we identified Flavescent Flycatcher, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Blue-capped Tanager, Common Bush-Tanager, Blue-and-Black Tanager, Sulphur-bellied Tyrannulet, Sharpe's Wren and Rufous-crested Tanager amongst the fast moving flock. Henry also saw Chestnut-breasted Wren but I only heard it.

Eventually we lost the flock and carried on on to a different trail past the car park. In the car park, we added another new species in the form of a smashing pair of Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch.

The other trail overlooked a wide valley and we heard a large number of mouth watering species including White-faced Nunbird, White-collared Jay and Black-throated Tody-Tyrant. None had the decency to show themselves.

In fact, we were struggling to see any birds until we encountered another even better flock. This had loads of birds including Inca Flycatcher, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Grey-hooded Bush-Tanager, Black-capped Tyrannulet, Streaked Xenops and Saffron-crowned Tanager. The highlight however was a pair of rarely seen Slaty Finch that showed absolutely brilliantly. Also present were a troop of rare Yellow-tailed Wooly Monkeys and a close-sounding Chestnut-crested Cotinga that refused to show itself despite extensive searching.

The long walk back to the lodge was predictably quieter although we did see a lovely Black-throated Tody-Tyrant and a responsive Variable Antshrike. It was already 2pm when we arrived back at the lodge and we had an extensive break by the lodge feeders. Here we added Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Woodstar and Sierran Elaenia to our ever growing list.

At about 3.30pm, we headed back to the canopy tower but were unable to find anything new so we decided to head back towards Fundo. Kenny heard some White-collared Jays from the car so we stopped to enjoy good views. We also found a pair of White-capped Dippers along the river.

After a break at Fundo, Henry and I headed along the road to the Mirador, where we enjoyed great views of the valley. Here we encountered our 3rd decent flock of the day. It did not contain much new but did produce 2 Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers and an Ashy-headed Tyrannulets. A little further on, we flushed a stunning White-eared Solitaire and enjoyed decent enough flight views.

That evening, Henry and I went searching for White-throated Scops Owls but drew a blank. Fundo Alto Nieva and Abra Patricia had been brilliant but we really needed more time as there was a lot still to find. However, we had to leave early the next morning as we had a booking at Arena Blanca.
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Old Thursday 7th December 2017, 13:07   #14
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Oooh, great stuff at Owlet Lodge! Many targets that I missed or couldn't get at FAN, but without private transport I wasn't able to squeeze a day or half day trip there into my itinerary. One always needs more time with tropical forest birding!
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Old Saturday 9th December 2017, 14:14   #15
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9th November: Arena Blanca, Yacumama and drive to Tarapoto

We set off stupidly early so we arrived at Arena Blanca well before 6am. We had arranged our visit the night before but due to some confusion Norbil, the owner, was waiting by the main road and we were waiting by the gate so we were not let in until after 6.30. This may have cost us a few species but the pouring rain cannot have helped.

Along the entrance track we saw numerous Huallaga Tanagers, Magpie Tanagers, several Swainson's Thrushes and a Hauxwell's Thrush amongst the more common Black-billed Thrushes. As soon as we got to the hide, we saw a lovely family party of Little Tinamou (a pair and two youngsters) and they stayed a while after Norbil put out grain. The next couple of hours were however quiet as neither the hoped for Cinereous Tinamou or Rufous-breasted Wood-Quails put in an appearance. We did however see a couple of Orange-billed Sparrows.

After a while, we decided to try the Hummingbird feeders while Norbil's wife waited in the hide in case something else came in. The hummingbird feeders were buzzing with activity. Here we saw a remarkable 18 species of Hummingbird! They were White-necked Jacobin, Green Hermit, Reddish Hermit, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Brown Violetear, Sparkling Violetear, Wire-crested Thorntail, Rufous-crested Coquette, Black-throated Brilliant, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Long-billed Starthroat, White-bellied Woodstar, Blue-tailed Emerald, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Sapphire-spangled Emerald and Golden-tailed Sapphire. Amazing stuff!

Our hour long hummingbird watch was only briefly interrupted by Norbil calling us over for superb looks at a lovely pair of the localised Zimmer's Antbird.

We returned to the hide for a bit longer adding Grey-necked Wood-Rail to our morning's haul. As it stopped raining, some more birds appeared in the area of the hummingbird feeders including Fork-tailed Palm-Swifts and Blue-headed Parrots overhead, a Western Wood-Peewee, 2 Scarlet Tanager, 3 Purple Honeycreeper and a Blue Dacnis.

As we had a long drive ahead of us, we had to tear ourselves away. The walk back through the white sand forest added Lined Antshrike, Fiery-capped Manakin and Dark-breasted Spinetail. However, Coraya Wren was only seen by Henry and our search for Uniform Crake drew a predictable blank.

Our next port of call was the bridge just before Aguas Verdes. Despite it being nearly midday, this was quite birdy with a large flock of Paradise Tanagers joined by a Turquoise Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis, Yellow-bellied Tanager and Variegated Bristle-Tyrant. In addition, we saw a distant Sickle-winged Guan impersonating a Torrent Duck by sitting on a rock in the river!

We then set off on the four hour drive towards Tarapoto seeing some lower country birds along the way including Black Caracara, Swallow-tailed Kite and the only Grey-headed Kite of the trip. We made a short stop at the ponds at Yacumama and despite the somewhat sterile habitat, we were able to find Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Red-capped Cardinal, Black-fronted Nunbird and Orange-bellied Euphonia. In addition, it was great to see a family party of adorable Saddleback Tamarins.

Our next stop was the chasm at Puente Quiscarrumi. Here we enjoyed great looks at over 60 Oilbirds, many active during the day! Also present here were a Giant Cowbird and Black-faced Tanager.

Due to several road blockages because of roadworks, it took quite a while to reach Tarapoto. The delays were however livened up by a few Chestnut-eared Aracaris. Eventually we reached Tarapoto and after a bit of searching, checked in to the Hostal Selva Mia (105 soles for a twin per night) near the centre of town.
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Old Sunday 10th December 2017, 09:35   #16
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10th November: Tarapoto Tunnel

We were up early and headed to the nearby Tarapoto Tunnel. At our first stop, the first bird we saw was a Koepcke's Hermit! In addition, we found Slaty-capped Flycatcher and Gilded Barbet. There were also several mystery Wood-Pewees and Henry had a brief Olive-chested Flycatcher but I did not see it.

We then moved on to the far side of the tunnel. This area was teeming with birds with Silver-beaked Tanager and Red-eyed Vireo both abundant. Amongst the better birds we saw were Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, a female Fiery-throated Fruiteater, beautiful Summer Tanagers, Ivory-billed Aracari, a brief White-throated Woodpecker that only I saw, Dusky-capped Greenlet and Chestnut-bellied Seedfinch. Also present were Buff-throated Saltator, Cliff Flycatcher, Green Honeycreeper, Scarlet Tanager, White-banded Swallow, Broad-winged Hawk and Bay-headed Tanager. It was also wonderful to see over 25 spectacular Swallow-tailed Kites migrating over the valley.

We then headed towards Konabikh only to find no one there despite the gates being open. Not wanting to trespass or get lost on the trails, we walked down along the road below the centre. This was fairly quiet apart from a very distant perched White Hawk and heard only Russet-crowned Crakes.

We then tried the next ridge along the road as Henry had read that it could be good for some of the specialities. It was not really safe to walk along the road here but some speculative tape playing somehow drew a response from a superb pair of the mega rare Plumbeous Euphonia!

After this success, we headed back to Konabikh where the resident manager Hilder had returned. We paid the overpriced entrance fees (40 soles each). We first looked for the roosting Long-tailed Potoo but there was unfortunately no sign although we did bump in to a Fulvous-crested Tanager.

Then Hilder took us towards the hummingbird feeders and canopy tower. These hummingbird feeders were also busy and in addition to the usual species, we saw a Great-billed Hermit, a couple of Koepcke's Hermits, 2 Blue-fronted Lancebills and several beautiful Gould's Jewelfronts. Unfortunately, it soon started to rain and it kept that way for several hours. There was nothing else for it but to sit it out at the tower. We did see a couple of small flocks mainly of just Paradise Tanagers but did also see Short-crested Flycatcher, Yellow-crested Tanager and numerous Violaceous Jays.

After a few hours, the rain died down and we headed with Hilder along the forest trails. These were fairly quiet although we did flush a Cinereous Tinamou that I got just about tickable views of and see 2 Plain-brown Woodcreepers. Best of all though was a Black-faced Antthrush that came in superbly to tape. Musician Wren and Nightingale Wren were both calling but could not be lured in to view.

Our next port of call was a superb Golden-headed Manakin lek and we had amazing views of at least 10 of these charismatic birds displaying. Hilder said there were other species that lek in the area but our search for these drew a blank probably because of the rain.

Hilder then suggested we go to a seed feeder in the hope of luring in Starred Wood-Quail or Cinereous Tinamou. An hour wait here however drew a blank.

Konabikh is a wonderful site with enormous potential for lowland species. Most extraordinarily, we were shown a photograph of a Nocturnal Currassow recently hunted in the area. Due to this potential, we made a change to our planned itinerary and arranged to come back early morning in two days time.

A brief stop back at the tunnel added Short-billed Honeycreeper but we were unable to find anything else new before we had to head back to Tarapoto.
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Old Sunday 10th December 2017, 10:52   #17
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10th November: Quebrada Upaquihua

Another early start saw us heading towards Quebrada Upaquihua with a large number of targets in mind. The day got off to a good start as we saw both Oriole Blackbird and Osprey from the road.

The access track was just about passable and we managed to get within 2km of the main trail before having to park up. We walked down the road towards the trail described by Matheve picking up a number of new species like Chestnut-bellied Seedeater, Pale-legged Hornero, Barred Antshrike, Planalto Hermit, Grey-rumped Swift, Stripe-chested Antwren, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Ruddy Pigeon and Yellow-bellied Elaenia. Frustratingly a number of birds were only heard including Amazonian Motmot, Tataupa Tinamou, Green-backed Trogon and White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant.

We then followed the trail described by Matheve. As I headed off trail in a predictably unsuccessful attempt to look for a calling Undulated Tinamou, Henry enjoyed good views of a Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin by the path. So frustrating!

Further up, we found a number of decent birds like a female Band-tailed Manakin, White-flanked Antwren, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Buff-breasted Wren, Flammulated Bamboo Tyrant, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Greyish Saltator and the local form of Northern Slaty Antshrike. However the trail went through some private property so we had to turn round by some houses.

We then had a very productive stop by a river where we found a responsive Bluish-fronted Jacamar. In addition, here we saw Sulphury Flycatcher, White-browed Antbird, Black-fronted Nunbird and Rufous Casiornis.

On another trail, we both had good views of a singing Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin as well as a skittish Crimson-crested Woodpecker and a flock that included Rufous-winged Antwren and an elusive Chestnut-throated Spinetail.

By this time it was very hot so the return walk to the car was a bit of a struggle but we did manage to add Black-and-white Tody Flycatcher to the list.

We then headed back along the access track towards the Huallaga River, stopping to enjoy good views of a Hook-billed Kite. The sandbanks in the Huallaga River contained a Black Skimmer and numerous Comb Ducks.

We tried to access the river at several places including by the Lago Lindo access road but this did not add anything new apart from the trip's only Swallow-winged Puffbird. We then debated whether to go to Juan Guerra, Laguna Riocuricocha or back to the tunnel. However, after our intense schedule for the last few days and with dark clouds above, we decided instead to write off the afternoon and go back to the hotel for a much needed nap.
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Old Saturday 16th December 2017, 07:53   #18
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12th November: Tarapoto Tunnel & Humedal del Indane

We had arranged with Hilder to enter Konabikh at 6.30 so headed off from Tarapoto shortly after 5. This gave us some time at the tunnel beforehand. Like two days ago, it was very birdy with a large flock including our first Peruvian Tyrannulet and a Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant. A close calling Green-backed Trogon did not really give meaningful views but we did have superb views of a Golden-collared Toucanet.

We then tore ourselves away and headed down to Konabikh. We then had an hour vigil at the seed feeder, which in hindsight was a mistake as despite a close calling Cinereous Tinamou, we drew a blank. We did though hear numerous other birds in the area and see both Speckled Chachalacha.

We then headed to the canopy tower and hummingbird feeders while Hilder went back to have his breakfast. There was not a great deal different from a few days ago but we did see Golden-bellied Euphonia and Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet. Henry also managed to tape in a Mouse-colored Antshrike but I was not with him at the time.

When Hilder returned, we heard a calling Great Jacamar, but we were not able to lure it in to view. We headed in to the forest, where despite plenty of birds calling, it was quite hard to see anything. We did though encounter a couple of small flocks in a couple of hours. These contained Dwarf Tyrant Manakin, Inambari Woodcreeper, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Plain-winged Antshrike, White-flanked Antwren, White-fronted Nunbird, Spot-winged Antbird, Carmiol's Tanager and Crimson-crested Woodpecker. However, the highlight was superb views of a shock Collared Puffbird - another example of the amazing potential of this place for Amazonian lowland species. A calling Thrush-like Antpitta came in close but did not show itself.

Hilder then took us to see the roosting Long-tailed Potoo. He had been out since before first light to make sure he found where it was roosting for us so we were very grateful.

It was past 11.30am when we left Konabikh and headed back up to the tunnel. It had gone very quiet so we did not stay long but we did see a brief Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher.

We then headed on the 2.5 hour drive towards Moyobamba. We decided to first visit Humedal del Indane using the instructions on Peru birds. The track was not great so we walked down the 700m or so. At the small pond, we found our main target in the form of 4 Masked Ducks and had superb views of a displaying male. Also present here was an Ocellated Crake, which unsurprisngly remained hidden in the grass, 4 Purple Gallinules and 2 Greater Anis.

We then headed towards Casa de Seizo (100 soles per night for twin) but we had some difficulty finding it and even accidentally checked in to Hospedaje Rumipata before realising our mistake. After wasting around an hour sorting everything out, we headed for a walk towards the entrance to Wakanki. The area was very birdy with abundant Social Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Black-billed Thrush and Huallaga Tanager amongst others.

Along the entrance track to Wakanki, we found a Lesser Elaenia, Blue-black Grassquit, Western Wood-Peewee and I had brief views of a flyby Varzea Thrush but Henry did not get on to it. Russet-crowned Crakes were calling but did not come in to tape.

Heading back in to Casa de Seizo, we encountered a large tree full of birds including both Lettered and Chestnut-eared Aracari, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker and a Crested Oropendola. We also saw some mystery all dark Caciques, which we identified the next day as Solitary Black Caciques. The only Plumbeous Kite of the trip also flew overhead.

We had an extended evening owling session but despite considerable effort, all we managed was a distant calling Band-bellied Owl that was completely unresponsive.

Last edited by simmojunior : Saturday 16th December 2017 at 09:56.
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Old Saturday 16th December 2017, 09:55   #19
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13th November: Moyobamba

We woke up this morning to pouring rain so abandoned our plans to hike up the ridge early morning. We waited but the rain never did stop so by 7.30 there was nothing else for it but to head to the hummingbird feeders at Wakanki, hoping there was shelter there.

We put on our waterproofs and headed in to the garden to be met by someone, who led us to the feeders. Luckily there was a canopy tower so we sheltered there for the next couple of hours.

The feeders were not especially busy but we did see Green Violetear, Black-throated Mango, Reddish Hermit, Long-billed Starthroat, Rufous-crested Coquette and Great-billed Hermit. Over the couple of hours, we encountered a few flocks from the tower, which included Yellow-green Vireo, Spotted Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Turquoise Tanager and Blue Dacnis amongst many other common species. Also here were Grey-capped Flycatcher, Buff-throated Saltator, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, flyover White-eyed Parakeet and Olive-sided Flycatcher.

By 11am, the rain died down a bit and a little walk produced White-shouldered Tanager, Hauxwell's Thrush, Piratic Flycatcher and Streaked Flycatcher. Unfortunately, it soon started to rain again so we headed back to Casa de Seizo. We then had a fairly long vigil from their veranda. Despite there being loads of birds, we did not find a great deal new apart from a superb Long-tailed Tyrant, and finally identifying the Solitary Black Caciques. A huge perched flock of around 150 Cobalt-winged Parakeets was also very nice.

By early afternoon, it had stopped raining again so we headed along the road above the hostel. Again, there was plenty of birds but they were not showing well and we were unable to find anything new in well over an hour and a half.

We decided to try Wakanki again, which proved to be a good move as we found an Alder Flycatcher along the access track. Along the trail to the feeders, I found an Olivaceous Woodcreeper, which took a while to get decent views of. Meanwhile, Henry was watching a White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, which had gone by the time I got there. While looking for it, I found a Blue-crowned Trogon and went to get Henry from the tower. Predictably, we were able to find the Blue-crowned Trogon again but not the White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant! Some further searching in the area, finally turned up one of our main targets in the form of a showy Mishana Tyrannulet.

We searched the garden and the entrance road quite extensively for Varzea Thrush but drew a blank. We had more luck with a taping attempt at Russet-crowned Crake as we both had reasonable views of it fly across a small track.
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Old Saturday 16th December 2017, 15:19   #20
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14th November: Moyobamba and Santa Elena road

We set off well before dark and headed up towards the ridge. We decided that we would get up as quickly as possible before activity died off and work our way down. Therefore, we did not see that many birds on the way up but did score Buff-rumped Warbler, Foothill Antwren, Peruvian Warbling Antbird and a superb Tawny-throated Leaftosser. We also heard Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo and Ornate Antwren amongst others but were not able to see them.

We were unable to make it to the top of the ridge as it was very degraded and all paths seemed to run past private homes. Not wanting to get in a sticky situation, we headed back down without seeing or hearing any Ash-throated Antwrens. However, in this area, we did see Reddish Hermit, a Black-throated Hermit at a lek and a White-necked Thrush. A Southern Nightingale Wren also finally came in to tape.

There was a lot less calling on the way down than on the way up but we still encountered a couple of flocks. The best of these was a very animated Tanager flock that contained Swallow Tanager, Masked Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager, Yellow-crested Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia and Spotted Tanager amongst others. Other birds seen included Plain Antvireo, White-flanked Antwren, Black-tailed Flycatcher, White-throated Spadebill, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin and a superb male Fiery-throated Fruiteater.

We then searched extensively for Painted Manakin along the Zigzag trail but had no luck. Despite the excellent habitat, this trail was very quiet probably due to the time of day with only an excellent Guira Tanager, Black-faced Tanager and Olive-sided Flycatcher to show for our extensive searching.

Closer to Wakanki, we found both Red-stained Woodpecker and Blue Ground-Dove. A quick trip in to the garden to pay our 20 soles each for the trail added Violet-headed Hummingbird to the list before we headed back to Seizo's for a much-needed rest.

At around 2.30 pm, we headed towards Rioja for some more relaxed birding. Our first stop was along a track by the main road next to some promising looking paddies. This area was indeed very birdy as we found White-winged Becard, Lettered Aracari, Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch, Rufous Casiornis, Wattled Jacana, Limpkin and, much to Henry's delight, a showy Varzea Thrush.

We then drove along the Santa Elena road making a number of stops in promising looking habitat. Although the paddyfields were not full of birds, we were still able to make several additions to the trip list over the next two hours including a brief Black-billed Seed-Finch, Great Black Hawk, Black-capped Donacobius, Eastern Kingbird, Amazon Kingfisher and Masked Tityra. The best bird though was a suprise male Lined Seedeater that perched nicely by the road.

We then headed back to Casa de Seizo, where we tried to search along the river for the Sunbittern Larry Sweetland had seen but had no luck. Night birding was also very quiet with nothing much calling apart from a few frogs.
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Old Friday 22nd December 2017, 14:17   #21
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15th November: Affluente & Huembo

Sorry for lack of updates - been really busy at work but I'll try to catch up now.

We left Casa de Seizo at around 5.30 and arrived at Llanteria shortly after 7. The journey there was uneventful apart from the only Orange-backed Troupial of the trip. As soon as I got out the car, the first bird I spotted was a Canada Warbler. Although they turned out to be pretty common here, it was a great start to the day. Also present in the car park amongst a small flock including Peruvian Tyrannulet, Ashy-throated Bush-Tanager and Bronze-green Euphonia.

We then paid the pricey entrance fees (30 soles each) to walk the trail and were accompanied by a young local guide. It was difficult to see much in the dense forest but we did find a Cock-of-the-rock and a Northern White-crowned Tapaculo came in nicely to tape. After some searching, we did find a decent if elusive and fast-moving flock. This held Versicolored Barbet, Tschudi's Woodcreeper, Ornate Antwren and Streaked Xenops. A calling Black-mandibled Toucan refused to show itself.

We then returned to the feeders to have our breakfast. These were quiet but a male Ecuadorian Piedtail was in regular attendance. Next, we tried to walk down the road towards Affluente village. This started off really quiet but on our return, we encountered a nesting pair of Golden Tanagers. While enjoying them, we found a cracking flock. This had Speckle-chested Piculet, Striped Woodhaunter, Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, female Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Black-and-white Becard and a variety of common tanagers.

Walking back up the hill past the garage, we found it to be very birdy despite it already being late morning. Highlights here included Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Grey-mantled Wren, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Ecuadorian Tyrannulet, Lined Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Rufous-tailed Antwren, Summer Tanager, Green-and-gold Tanager and Orange-eared Tanager. A calling Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant unfortunately remained hidden. There was also no sign of the hoped for Equatorial Greytail or Yellow-throated Tanager.

We had planned to leave by 12 to give us time at the top of Abra Patricia but did not tear ourselves away until 1.30 and we really needed much longer. When we got to the top of Abra Patricia, the weather was awful so we carried on straight to Huembo arriving after 3. Thankfully the weather had improved a bit so we paid another 30 soles entrance fee before heading straight to the feeders. Immediately on our arrival, we saw a male Marvellous Spatuletail - one of the best hummers and one of the main targets of the trip! It did not stay long but came back regularly over the next hour or so. Loads of other hummers were present including Andean Emerald, Little Woodstar, Bronzy Inca, Long-tailed Sylph and White-bellied Woodstar.

After the rain had stopped, we set off down the hill on a walk along the trails. Here we found Blackish Tapaculo, Sickle-winged Guan, Highland Elaenia, Alder Flycatcher, White-sided Flowerpiercer, Hepatic Tanager, Silver-backed Tanager and flyover flocks of Mitred Parakeet. At about 5.30, the rain started again so we headed back to Pomacochas and checked in to the very good value Hospedaje Brisas (30 soles per single room). What a day it had been!
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Old Friday 22nd December 2017, 15:15   #22
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16th November: San Lorenzo and Pomacochas Lake

We set off before dark and drove up towards San Lorenzo village. The road had recently been relaid so was in relatively good shape and we were able to drive right up to the football pitch.

We headed up the trail trying to get as high up as quickly as possible to give us as good a chance as possible of our main target for the day - the stunning Pale-billed Antpitta. However, our trip up the hill was interrupted by a calling Trilling Tapaculo and, with the aid of the tape, we enjoyed good views. Other birds seen on the way up to the first patch of bamboo we encountered included Peruvian Wren, Rufous Spinetail, Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager, Tyrian Metaltail, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Rufous-chested Tanager, Violet-throated Starfrontlet and a brief Mountain Velvetbreast that only I saw.

We tried the tape of the Pale-billed Antpitta at this first patch of bamboo but did not get any response. We did hear both Schulenberg's Wren and Chestnut-crowned Antpitta but they did not come in. Both these species were to taunt us the rest of the day as we saw neither despite hearing them regularly.

We next tried the grid reference in Matheve but the bamboo has been badly cut down and the only thing we saw was a Grey-browed Brush-finch that oddly came straight in to the Antpitta tape.

Further up the mountain, we finally found a decent patch of bamboo and a route inside it. It took a while to elicit a response but eventually we heard a Pale-billed Antpitta. A little more coaxing eventually lured it in to view and we had reasonable extended looks at this special bird.

After this success, the pressure was off and we could see what else we could find. We first headed a little further up the mountain before encountering a decent flock that contained Moustached Flowerpiercer, Unstreaked Tit-tyrant, Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant and Sierran Elaenia. We heard Golden-plumed Parakeet fly overhead but low cloud prevented us seeing them.

Heading back down the mountain, we encountered several further flocks. These had a variety of decent species including Russet-mantled Softail, Citrine Warbler, Blue-capped Tanager, Blue-backed Conebill, Capped Conebill, Black-capped Hemispingus, Drab Hemispingus, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Mountain Wren and Barred Becard. The most surprising bird though was a male Paramo Seedeater. We also successfully taped out Ash-colored Tapaculo. Henry also saw a Large-footed Tapaculo after I had stupidly walked away because I thought it was not coming in.

We got back to the car at about 2, over eight hours after we started walking. We were tired but it had been worth it!

We headed back for a rest before heading down towards the lake seeing Grassland Yellow Finch on route. There were few birds around by the shore apart from a couple of Sedge Wren. There was limited viewing so we decided to splurge all of 3 soles to take a tourist boat with some noisy Peruvian tourists. This was very pleasant but we did not see anything of any consequence.

On the advice of the boatman, we tried an area by the lake beyond the town. There was a path close to the water's edge so we gave it a go. We failed in our quest to find any snipe or rails but were absolutely thrilled to encounter a Subtropical Doradito in reeds near to the water. On an hours walk along the lake, we found numerous Yellow-bellied Seedeater, abundant Peruvian Meadowlark, a shock pair of Lafresnaye's Piculet (what were they doing so high in Eucalyptus??) and a female Marvellous Spatuletail.
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Old Saturday 23rd December 2017, 09:18   #23
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17th November: Kuelap and Leymebamba

Today was due to be the only non-birding day of our time in the north as we were visiting the spectacular hill fortress of Kuelap as well as travelling the fair distance between Pomacochas and Leymebamba.

We had a little bit of lie in and left at around 6.30. The journey along the mighty Utcubamba produced numerous Fasciated Tiger Herons and 2 female Torrent Ducks. We also saw 2 thrushes at a breakfast stop by the river but they remained too far away to clinch the identity and it was not safe to walk back along the road.

We arrived at Kuelap shortly after 9 and took the cable car up the hill (20 soles each) before paying our entrance fee to the site (another 20 soles each). We spent the next three or so hours exploring the remarkable Chachapoyan ruins and the spectacular views. Although birding was not the primary purpose, it was surprisingly good. Hummingbirds were a particular feature with Purple-throated Sunangel, Shining Sunbeam, Green-tailed Trainbearer, White-bellied Hummingbird and a brief Sword-billed Hummingbird that only I saw. Other birds we saw included 3 Black-throated Buzzard-Eagles, White-tipped Swift, Baron's Spinetail, Cinereous Conebill, Black-throated Flowerpiercer & Plain-colored Seedeater. Henry also saw a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta but this species continued to taunt me. I have seen it before in Ecuador so not the end of the world.

After leaving Kuelap, our next port of call was El Chillo lodge along the river valley in the hope of finding roosting Koepcke's Screech Owl. However, we found the lodge to be locked when we got there and were unable to find much in the area apart from a Buff-breasted Tanager. We made a number of stops along the beautiful valley but it was very hot and we were unable to find much of consequence.

We arrived in the charming town of Leymebamba that afternoon. It took us a while to find reasonable and reasonably priced accomodation but we eventually found the passable Hostel Petaca (40 soles for twin!) on the main square.

We then headed to the Kenticafe where we had good views of the various highland hummingbirds including a lovely Purple-throated Sunangel while sipping a hot chocolate.

We then headed on a scouting mission to Atuen to see how the road was for the next day (pretty good was the answer). I saw a brief Sharp-shinned Hawk chase some swallows while Henry was in the car. Further along the valley, we had decent views of a Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan in the fading light and heard Golden-headed Quetzal. After this nice end to the day, we headed back to Leymebamba for the night.
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Old Saturday 23rd December 2017, 10:22   #24
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18th November: Abra Barro Negro & Atuen

Unfortunately, we both woke up with some food poisoning after a dodgy meal the night before with Henry certainly feeling worse than I did. Nevertheless, we set off shortly after dawn for the famed Abra Barro Negro. We decided to skip the lower forest and headed up fairly high up the pass. At our first stop, we found Andean Lapwing, Many-striped Canastero, Yellow-breasted Brushfinch and Brown-bellied Swallow.

Our next stop was by an abandoned house at KM 399. Here we found Great Sapphirewing, White-chinned Thistletail, Rainbow Starfrontlet, White-throated Tyrannulet, Plumbeous Sierra Finch & Sapphire-vented Puffleg. We spent quite a bit of time trying to tape out a Rufous Antpitta (Leymebamba form) and I had reasonable views although unfortunately Henry was moving the tape at the time so did not see it.

We carried on further up the pass, stopping when we saw birds or reasonable forest patches. This proved a good tactic as we encountered Mountain Caracara, Variable Hawk & Aplomado Falcon. At a decent forest patch on the other side of the pass, we finally found our main target in the stunning form of a Coppery Metaltail. There was also a large flock here containing Brown-backed Chat-tyrant, Blue-backed Conebill, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Moustached Flowerpiercer, Pearled Treerunner and a showy pair of Red-crested Cotinga. Barred Fruiteater and Neblina Tapaculo were calling but they were unresponsive so we could not see them.

The forest was much quieter on the way back to Leymebamba so the only new bird was Andean Flicker on the drive back. After a walk round town, we had a decent nap in the hostel before heading to Atuen mid afternoon.

This was surprisingly productive as despite not encountering any sort of decent tanager flocks, we found quite a number of species. The definite highlight was some superb Andean Condors flying overhead - always such a treat. Other birds we found included Slaty-backed Nightingale-Thrush, a brief Blackpoll Warbler, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Brown-capped Vireo, Maroon-belted Chat-tyrant, female Golden-headed Quetzal, male Masked Trogon, White-sided Flowerpiercer and Beryl-spangled Tanager. A fruiting tree contained a number of good large birds including Hooded Mountain Tanager, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, White-collared Jay, Strong-billed Woodcreeper and Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan. It was also good to have great views of loads of Speckle-faced Parrots fly overhead.

We had plan to stay to look for nightbirds so headed back for an early night.
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Old Saturday 23rd December 2017, 19:34   #25
simmojunior
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19th November: Balsas and Celendin

We set off well before first light so we tried a bit of tape of owls along the road near the Kenticafe but this elicited no response. Further up the road, we stopped by a cliff where there had been a number of ebird records of Swallow-tailed Nightjar. Although we heard one briefly, we could not see it. This summed up a very disappointing trip for night birds.

However, once it got light, we headed to the first good patch of forest along the Abra Barro Negro road. Here we heard Rusty-breasted Antpitta and had a go at taping it. It came in close but I did not get any sort of tickable views before it went silent. I think Henry saw slightly more than I did but certainly did not have good views. There were loads of other birds in this forest patch including displaying Hooded Mountain Tanager, a showy family group of Russet-mantled Softails and Blue-backed Conebill but we were unable to find anything we had not already seen. There was no sight or sound of the hoped for Grass-Green Tanager (a real bogey bird of mine) and yet again we heard but did not see Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. Further up the pass, we tried to find Neblina Tapaculo in the place we heard it the day before but drew a blank. It had been a frustrating start to the day!

I had been worried about the drive down to Balsas but Henry's driving was pretty good and he got us through the crazy hairpins safely. We even saw Buff-bridled Inca-Finch from the road - they were to be pretty common all day. Arriving in Balsas, we tried various riverside roads and quickly found one of our main targets in the form of 3 Peruvian Pigeons.

At the other side of the river, we looked for Yellow-faced Parrotlet but despite a 3 hour search, we could not find any. My contribution to the search was somewhat limited as I was feeling quite unwell from the heat but I did find us Black-necked Woodpecker. There were also several Bare-faced Ground Doves, Drab Seedeaters and a few other common dry country birds.

We then headed up towards Hacienda Limon and took the unpaved road towards Lucma. This was in good condition so we were able to drive all the way to the football pitch. It had cooled down and I was feeling better so we took a track out the side of the football pitch towards the hill side. This was surprisingly birdy for the time of day and we found our main target of Grey-winged Inca-Finch without too much trouble. There were plenty of other birds easily lured in to view with the owl tape including White-winged Black-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Golden-billed Saltator, Pacific Elaenia, Tropical Pewee, Silver-backed Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Masked Yellowthroat, Andean Emerald & Maranon Gnatcatcher. Best of all though were 2 Maranon Thrush as by this point we were worrying that we had missed this species.

We had also hoped to find the endemic Chestnut-backed Thornbird but, although there were a few nests, we could not find any. We tried a few more spots towards Lucma village but by 4pm, we had to give up as we were unsure how long it would take to get up to Celendin and wanted to do it before dark.

In the end, it only took just over an hour. I was somewhat relieved that Henry was driving rather than me as there were several times we precariously passed vehicles going the other way along the cliff edge. Celendin was a much nicer town than expected. After checking in to the excellent value Hostal Villa Madrid (25 soles for single), I had a little walk and bought some fruit in the food market.

Last edited by simmojunior : Saturday 23rd December 2017 at 19:42.
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