Yanachaga Chemillén National Park, Peru (1 Viewer)

Thibaud

Well-known member
all birds in bold are birds you have seen, I presume?

Yes, of course, though for full disclosure, I personally saw the Marroon-Chested Ground-Dove (which was a lifer for me!) in another sector of the park, and the White-rumped Hawk on the other side of the valley, in an area outside the park boundary. And I only once caught a glimpse of the Bay Antpitta as I was coming back from washing in the quebrada by the guard house!
 

Thibaud

Well-known member
Have you considered uploading some of your landscape photos from this thread to the Gallery? I help with writing, and expanding, location articles on Opus. I am presently working on one for Yanachaga Chemillen National Park as a result of the interest generated by this thread. I could really use some good landscape shots to choose from for the location image.

Thanks Barney! So should I just upload the landscape shots at the start of this thread to the gallery?
 

Thibaud

Well-known member
Good stuff. So you have your own transport..?

Aha that's a good question. I guess I should explain what I'm doing here.
I've been associated with the Missouri Botanical Garden for a while. The MBG has an office in Oxapampa and every year they run a 2 month ecology field course for botany undergrads. This year, to switch it up a bit, they decided to add a course on bird ecology, and invited me to come run that.
Then of course the pandemic struck. But since by then I'd already seen some 400 species, my bosses came up with the idea of producing a catalogue of the birds of the National Park, which is what I've been working on since. So they've been helping me out, letting me tag along on plant collecting expeditions or dropping me off at various spots in order to let me complete the bird list, and try and get good photos of as many species as possible.

And indeed, while all the locations I describe are accessible to any visitor, the Garden's logistical help has made it all tremendously easier for me.
 

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Scotland
WOW Thibaud, I had no idea you had been so involved in the work out there, nor that you had been there so long.

What an amazing experience this must have been.

Good luck with producing the catalogue my friend.
 

sbarnhardt

Traveling man
Opus Editor
United States
I'd like to check with you to see if it's ok if I use one of the landscape photos for the Opus article?

Thanks!
 

Thibaud

Well-known member
Besides the park per se, there are a number of montane forest locations around Oxapampa that bear mentioning.
To the west are two great ACPs (Private Conservation Areas), both with delightful owners who are birders in their own right.
Bosque de Churumazú, right outside the small town of Chontbamba, is barely 15 minutes from Oxapampa and has a couple of nice trails. Despite its small size, it is connected to a larger tract of forest and in a couple of years it's already amassed a very respectable bird list. The whole valley, sitting around 1800 masl, is notable for having lowland species turn up at higher elevations than usual, for example Swallow Tanager, Ruddy Ground-Dove, Magpie Tanager, or White Hawk. I even had a Crowned Slaty Flycatcher right on the edge of town this summer! Two further example that are regularly seen at Churumazú are Black Hawk-Eagle and Chestnut-eared Araçari. This is also the best spot in the area for Chestnut-backed Antshrike (pic 1).
One headache that you'll likely become acquainted with when in the area is how to distinguish the endemic Green-and-White Hummingbird, from the nearly identical White-bellied Humminbird. Personally, I'm still not convinced that they're distinct species, but Churumazú is a reliable spot for the endemic.
Finally, I haven't seen either of those personnally, but Eduardo, the owner has photographed both Chestnut-crowned Gnateater and Mitred Parakeet, two species that are rarely reported elsewhere in the region.
Farther to the west, and perhaps 45 minutes from town, is El Palmeral, named for the abundant Dictyocaryum lamarckianum palms that grow in the area (it's one tree that is generally not cut down in the region as the local honeybees are very fond of its pollen). The trails are not as extensive and the bird list somewhat shorter but the house is absolutely gorgeous, and Patricia, the owner, rents out a couple rooms to visiting birders. It is also without doubt the best place to look for the endemic Creamy-bellied Antwren (pic 2).
Also, if you head there before dawn, the grassy wetlands and cane plantations a few km before arriving are a good spot to look for Striped Owl. Meanwhile, Blackish Rail is practically guaranteed. The latter is described as rare in Birds of Peru, but it's abundant in the area, even being found in the overgrown grasses of the abandoned airstrip that dissects Oxapampa!
Meanwhile, if you continue on the road past the entrance to El Palmeral, you enter a sector named La Suiza. The road continues for a dozen kilometers, crossing a river (make a right after the river) and going up a ridge to some stunted forest topping out at 2850. There aren't that many birds on the higher reaches, and all of those can be better seen in Santa Barbara (whill I'll cover in a later post).
However, the lower parts are very rich and birds, and several things seem to be easier to see on this side of the valley than they are on the other side, where San Alberto is. These include Golden Grosbeak (pic 3), Fawn-breasted Brilliant and Blackish Antbird. It's also a chance to see four flowerpiercer species side by side, namely Masked, Bluish, Deep-blue, and Rusty Flowerpiercer. At times, Hooded Tinamou can be quite vocal, though of course, good luck with actually seeing it! This may also be the best place in the area to connect with the White-rumped Hawk (I've seen it twice there - pic 4), and it's the only time in my life where I've seen a perched Short-tailed Hawk. It's also also one of only two spots where I've seen the scarce Rufous-capped Thornbill.
If you go south instead of west in Chontabamba, you'll get to the famous Ulcumano Ecolodge. It has been visited by a number of high-flying birders and has acquired quite an impressive bird list over the years, though I have to say that I had rather terrible luck both times I was there. The main draw there (which I haven't seen since I haven't spent a night here) is the Cloud-forest Screech-Owl.
Crossing back to the other side of the valley is the famous Carretera Antena that Josh mentioned. It's in absolutely dreadful condition, and should only be attempted with a sturdy 4x4 and a driver who knows what they're doing, and it will take about 1h30 to get to the ridge where the good stuff is. It seems to be the only place around here to see Mountain Velvetbreast. Along with the usual mountain suspects, keep an eye out for Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant , which is generally scarce around here, as well as Black-capped Tyrannulet. We also once startled a Swallow-tailed Nightjar that was on the road.
A bit farther east, on the old road to Villa Rica, is the Bosque de Sho'llet, a stunted forest on a ridge at 2400 masl. It has a lot of Chusquea, and both Barred Parakeet and Slaty Finch can be abundant if the bamboo is seeding. It's also good for Long-tailed Sylph, Glossy-black Thrush, and Variable Antshrike.
Some typical montane species which I've so far forgotten to mention are Band-tailed Pigeon, the delightful Cinnamon Flycatcher, and Smoke-colored Pewee.
Along with the ridge itself, I can recommend stopping around the km 4 marker on the road to Sho'llet. There's a nice mixed flock that hangs out around there, which has stuff that I've hardly seen elsewhere, Jet Manakin, Blue-browed Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, and Fulvous-breasted Flatbill (pic 5) in particular. There's also a roadcut where a pair of Cliff Flycatcher can often be seen hawking for insects.
Finally, the Laguna San Daniel, an hour to the north of Oxapampa, is another sector of the park that is sometimes advertised to tourists. However, the track to get there is not well marked and the lake is tiny, without any waterbirds. The only thing of note seem to be Yellow-rumped Woodpecker, with most of the records of the species for the region.
 

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THE_FERN

Well-known member
I too do not believe that green-and-white and white-bellied hummers are distinct. I'd love to be convinced otherwise...

[Edit] and I wish someone could point me to more info about the undescribed Abancay one too
 
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opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
How do you learn about those other areas? As you report shows, reports are a great source :) But there had to be some original source in the first place...

Also I may have missed it somewhere, but what was your logistic, did you rent a car, or got driven around to all the sites (as you describe you need a 4x4 with a driver for the hard one)?
 

dandsblair

David and Sarah
Great report

Great report with some really excellent birds.

How are things now in Peru? Just looking into possible trips to South American countries that are open to UK visitors.
 

cajanuma

Well-known member
There is also an interesting population of Stripe-Faced Wood-Quail (pic 4), which may represent an underscribed subspecies, separated from the specie's main range farther south.

I was in Yanachaga-Chemillen for 10 days or so in 2006 and those wood-quails were one of the most unexpected findings. At the time they had me completely baffled, Stripe-faced was only supposed to occur much further south and none of the guides at my disposal depicted the underparts as being this dark. In time and as better illustrations emerged, it became clear they were indeed Stripe-faced, it's nice to know there are now more sightings from there, and with such great documentation!

Looking forward to hearing about the lowlands at El Paujil, I did not manage to make it there but the potential seems incredible!
 

Thibaud

Well-known member
How do you learn about those other areas? As you report shows, reports are a great source :) But there had to be some original source in the first place...

Also I may have missed it somewhere, but what was your logistic, did you rent a car, or got driven around to all the sites (as you describe you need a 4x4 with a driver for the hard one)?

A good number of the spots I described already existed as eBird hotspots. The others I heard about from the local birders.

And yes I mentioned in an earlier message that the Missouri Botanical Garden, for which I've been working, has a 4x4, and they've been giving me lifts to these various places.
 

Thibaud

Well-known member
Great report with some really excellent birds.

How are things now in Peru? Just looking into possible trips to South American countries that are open to UK visitors.

Well, things are pretty calm in Pasco right now, and they did just reopen a few international flights starting last week. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if large chunks of the country went back into lockdown next month.
I would advise looking at Ecuador instead, where it seems that they're much farther along in terms of getting back to "normal".
 

Thibaud

Well-known member
I was in Yanachaga-Chemillen for 10 days or so in 2006 and those wood-quails were one of the most unexpected findings. At the time they had me completely baffled, Stripe-faced was only supposed to occur much further south and none of the guides at my disposal depicted the underparts as being this dark. In time and as better illustrations emerged, it became clear they were indeed Stripe-faced, it's nice to know there are now more sightings from there, and with such great documentation!

Looking forward to hearing about the lowlands at El Paujil, I did not manage to make it there but the potential seems incredible!

It's still basically only reported from a handful of locations, but it is clearly not uncommon in this small area.
I'm actually going out tomorrow with a couple of the locals who want to set mist nets and try to capture a quail to get some DNA samples!

And I'm going back to Paujil, to camp in the remotest section, next Wednesday, so I should come back with a few more species to add to the list :)
 

Thibaud

Well-known member
Huampal 1

For visitors with limited time and no 4x4, Huampal is problably the best bang for you buck. The station is just along the road, less than 2 hours north of Oxapampa, and any public transport headed to Pozuzo could drop you off there. However, it's really best visited between April and November, because landslides during the rainy season can block the road for days or even weeks on end.
As Jan mentioned, there is an Andean Cock-of-the Rock (pic 1) lek just by the campsite, and even away from the lek, you'll probably see a few birds out foraging wherever you go birding along the trails.
The most accessible trail starts from said campsite, and goes along the canyon, where you can see White-collared Swifts zipping by at high speeds or roosting along the rock faces. Then the trail zig-zags up the hill until it emerges on the road a couple of kilometers away.
There is often a mixed flock that forages in that area, containing things like Plain Antvireo, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo (pic 2), Gray-mantled Wren, the lovely and scarce Golden-eared Tanager (pic 3), or Yellow-throated Chlorospingus.
You should also brace yourself for an avalanche of tyrannids, including Olive-striped Flycatcher, Slaty-capped Flycatcher, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet (this area is probably one of the best spots to see this scarce Yungas species), Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, and the very loud Golden-crowned Flycatcher! A highlight for me was Wing-barred Piprites (pic 4), a pair of which always seemed to hang out in the last section of the trail, around the mirador.
Besides the most famous cotinga, Amazonian Umbrellabird (pic 5) is also common in the area. They're most usually seen flying along the canyon, but they aren't shy and can give good photo ops if you encounter them in the forest.
 

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Thibaud

Well-known member
Huampal 2

Once you come out of the trail and on the road, you can turn left and be back at the station in less than an hour, watching for Cliff Flycatcher and Lineated Woodpecker along the road, and for the resident pair of Torrent Duck sitting on the rocks in the river below.
Or you can turn right and continue birding along the road. Flocks here might contain White-winged Tanager, Black-goggled Tanager, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Three-striped Warbler, the stunning Orange-eared Tanager (pic 1) as well as the always delightful Golden Tanager. Plumbeous Pigeons also regularly fly overhead, while White-throated Quail-Doves flush from the roadsides. Continuing with flycatchers, pairs of Rufous-tailed Tyrant are regular near the rock faces and Lemon-browed Flycatchers (pic 2) perch on the top of small trees. Pairs of Slate-throated Redstarts are ubiquitous and will accompany you everywhere you go. Any time you pass by bamboo thickets, you may catch a glimpse of Blackish Antbird, while Dull-colored Grassquits feed by the roadside.
After about 2 kilometers, you will come to the Pan de Azucar trailhead, which goes down into the forest for about a kilometer before petering out. Going down that trail you'll likely hear the pretty song of the Chestnut-breasted Wren, though good luck with getting a good look! This is also a good spot for Foothill Stipplethroat and the endemic Peruvian Piedtail. You should also keep an eye out for Black-throated Brilliant (pic 3), which is uncommon in the region.
If you keep walking further still along the road, you'll start running into Brown Violetears defending their territories, perched on exposed dead branches and vocalizing constantly. Flocks around here are particularly good, with the scarce Rufescent Antshrike (pic 4), Rufous-rumped Antwren, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Yellow-crested Tanager or Red-billed Tyrannulet (pic 5).
I rarely cover more than 10 km in a day of birding on foot, so I never got much farther than that. But if you had a car, you could easily go birding farther along the road. If I recall correctly, it is some 25 km from the station to the park's edge, and all of it is beautiful forest, rising from 1000 to 1600 masl meters or so, and you may well find some other interesting foothill species that I missed.
 

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opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Wow, so many birds that we did not see!

I have spent a lot of time looking for places to go to the jungle, turns out going back to YC has always been a great option I overlooked!
 

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