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Northern endemics

20 September–4 October 2024

PPeru’s unspoilt northern Andes, the impressive Marañon river region and the cloud and elfin forests of Abra Patricia are home to a wealth of endemic and endangered species from the magnificent Marvelous Spatuletail to the bizarre Long-whiskered Owlet. This unforgettable tour will see us birding in tracts of virgin forest, coastal wetlands and semi-desert and we should see in excess of 450 species during our stay.

Day 1 Flight from London to Lima arriving in the evening. Overnight in Lima.

Day 2 We will catch an early flight crossing the Andes to Tarapoto on the eastern slope, arriving late this morning. Replete with picnic lunches, we will spend the afternoon birding in semi-deciduous woodland and xerophytic scrub south of town. The area is rich in species and in particular we will seek Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-manakin and the newly-described Varzea Thrush together with the huallagae race of Northern Slaty-antshrike. To see Pheasant Cuckoo and Chestnut-throated Spinetail we will need good fortune; however, other likely species include Speckled Chachalaca, Blue Ground Dove, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Blue-crowned Trogon, Ivory-billed, Chestnut-eared and Lettered Aracaris, Black-fronted Nunbird, Planalto Hermit, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Plain-crowned Spinetail, Stripe-chested Antwren, White-browed Antbird, White-bellied Pygmy Tyrant, Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant, Boat-billed and Piratic Flycatchers, Buff-breasted Wren, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Tropical Gnatcatcher and Chivi Vireo. Overnight in Tarapoto.

Day 3 This morning we will leave early to visit a mountain range known as “La Escalera” on the road to Yurimaguas. This is a newly-paved road that ascends a ridge visible from east of Tarapoto. Here we have a chance of seeing Koepckeʼs Hermit, Rose-fronted Parakeet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Dusky-chested Flycatcher, Blackish Pewee and Dotted Tanager among many others. The hummingbird feeders here are the main reason we will visit this site, but it is also one of the few localities in Peru where Plumbeous Euphonia can be found. En route to the lodge that will be our base for the next two nights we will make a stop at a gorge to see Oilbirds at a known roosting site.

Day 4 We may want to do some pre-dawn birding this morning, with a focus on nightbirds such as Rufous and Blackish Nightjars, Black-banded Owl and Tropical Screech Owl. We also hope to see the endemic Mishana Tyrannulet, Lesser Elaenia, Stripe-necked Tody-tyrant, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Rufous-fronted Thornbird and more. The valley near to the lodge has some interesting species, and the bulk of our afternoon will be spent at an amazing hummingbird garden where we should see quite a show. Many species are possible here including White-chinned and Golden-tailed Sapphires, White-necked Jacobin, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Black-throated Hermit and Rufous-crested Coquette. Occasionally we also find Stygian Owl here.

Day 5 Much of today will be spent travelling to Abra Patricia. We will, however, make a number of birding stops looking specifically for Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Pale-eyed Blackbird and Cinereous-breasted Spinetail together with other hummingbirds, wood-rails and tinamous at the Arenas Blancas feeders before arriving at our scenic lodge for a four-night stay.

Days 6–8 Each day we will visit different sites within the Abra Patricia area. From our lodge we will work an extensive trail system that is home to some of the least known Peruvian birds. The garden often holds roosting White-throated Screech Owl and Rufous-banded Owl and we may well encounter mixed tanager flocks including both Blue-browed and Metallic-green Tanagers. On the side trails we will look out for Johnson’s Tody-flycatcher, Tyrannine Woodcreeper and Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails. Each day we will bird various altitudinal zones between 1000–2200 metres. Endemic species will be high on our priority list and the forests here are home to Ash-throated Antwren, Bar-winged Wood Wren, Rufous-vented Tapaculo and Fine-barred Piculet. Two of the shyest denizens of the forest are the endemic Ochre-fronted and Rusty-tinged Antpittas, which will require both patience and good fortune to find here. We will also keep a lookout for Cinnamon-breasted Tody-tyrant, White-capped Parrot and Scaly-naped Amazon, Green-throated, White-capped and Yellow-scarfed Tanagers, Geoffroy’s Daggerbill, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Montane Woodcreeper, Streak-headed Antbird, Bicoloured Antvireo, Peruvian, Sulphur-bellied and Ecuadorian Tyrannulets, Fiery-throated and Scaled Fruiteaters, Lanceolated Monklet, Barred Becard, Sharpe’s Wren and Black-crested Warbler. The star nightbird of the area is, however, the enigmatic Long-whiskered Owlet. First discovered as recently as 1976, we will make a determined effort to find it on at least one evening, not ignoring the more attainable Cinnamon Screech Owl. Both have become easier to see with some local management at Alta Nieve, which also boasts antpitta worm feeders with the endemic Rusty-tinged and Ochre-fronted Antpittas sometimes in attendance. The hummingbird feeders have different species from our lodge, including Royal Sunangel. Roadside birding in lower-elevation tropical forest presents opportunities for a whole new avifauna. Specialities include the diminutive Speckle-chested Piculet, flamboyant Andean Cock-of-the-Rock and lekking Ecuadorian Piedtail hummingbirds. Mixed feeding flocks will hopefully include the endemic Black-bellied Tanager, feeding parties of Yellow-throated and Ashy-throated Bush Tanagers, the beautiful Versicoloured Barbet, the noisy Yellow-breasted Antwren, the restless Grey-mantled Wren and the easily-overlooked Equatorial Greytail. Other species which we will keep a lookout for include Ruddy and Plumbeous Pigeons, White-eyed Parakeet, Red-billed Parrot, Yellow-throated Toucan, Golden-olive and Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, Olivaceous and Olive-backed Woodcreepers, Ash-browed Spinetail, Montane and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners, Streaked Xenops, Lined Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Blackish Antbird, White-crowned Tapaculo, Golden-winged Manakin, Slaty-capped, Ornate and Olive-chested Flycatchers, Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant and Plumbeous-crowned Tyrannulet.

Day 9 Leaving at dawn, we will make a specific effort to find Pale-billed Antpitta in patches of good cloud forest along the San Lorenzo trail. We also have a chance of finding the equally elusive Russet-mantled Softtail. Later in the morning we will make a special visit to the Huembo Reserve in search of perhaps the star bird of the whole tour: Marvelous Spatuletail, which regularly comes into the feeders. Other species often found here include Little and White-bellied Woodstars, Andean Emerald and Bronzy Inca. After a final lunch at our lodge, we will head for the Jaen Utcubamba River, making several birding stops en route and keeping a special eye out for Fasciated Tiger Heron and Scrub Nightjar until finally reaching Jaen, our base for the next two nights.

Day 10 We will be in the field at first light, taking breakfast with us. Our principal target this morning is the beautiful, endemic Marañon Crescentchest. This particular area is extremely rich in Marañon endemic species and we hope to find Buff-bellied Tanager, Marañon and Chinchipe Spinetails, Sooty-crowned Flycatcher, Green-backed (Yellow-cheeked) Becard and Marañon Thrush. The distinct Marañon races of Speckle-breasted Wren and Black-capped Sparrow also occur as well as both Tataupa Tinamou and, rather bizarrely, Military Macaw. After lunch we will visit an area of desert to search for Little Inca-finch and some rice fields where both Spotted Rail and Paint-billed Crake occur.

Day 11 We will leave Jaen in the early morning and head for Abra Porculla, one of the lowest passes in the Andes. As always, we will make a number of birding stops including one particular side trail where we have a good chance of finding the very-rare and endemic Piura Chat-tyrant. Other species that we hope to see include Andean Tinamou, Chapman’s Antshrike, Three-banded Warbler, Black-cowled Saltator, White-winged and Bay-crowned Brushfinches and Yellow-bellied and Black-and-white Seedeaters. During the afternoon we will descend the west slope of the pass and drive to our country hotel, located next to the pre-Colombian archaeological site of Tucuman for a one-night stay. The garden is very good for Carob woodland birds.

Day 12 Our first birding stop will be the protected Carob woodland at Batan Grande. Endemic species here include Peruvian Plantcutter, Tumbes Tyrant and Rufous Flycatcher. Amongst the other birds we hope to find will be Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Baird’s Flycatcher, Superciliated Wren and Coastal Miner. During the afternoon we will visit Tinajones reservoir hoping to find Black-faced Ibis and any other waterfowl that may be present. We will then drive on to a charming ecolodge in the dry foothills of the western Andes for the final two nights of our stay, hoping to find a Peruvian Thick-knee along the way. After dark we will look for Peruvian Screech Owl in the grounds.

Day 13 We will leave early with a picnic breakfast and look for some special birds including Henna-hooded and Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaners, Ecuadorian Piculet, Ecuadorian Trogon and many other Tumbesian specialities. Returning to the lodge for lunch, we will have the afternoon to bird and photograph the tamer species such as Elegant Crescentchest, and this is one of the best places to see Spectacled Bear and Sechuran Fox visiting the open-air dining room. Invariably, several species of hummingbird bathe in the stream in front of the dining room and these may include Purple-collared and Short-tailed Woodstars, Tumbes, Oasis and Amazilia Hummingbirds, Long-billed Starthroat and Peruvian Sheartail. Below the lodge there is a water seep that attracts large groups of Sulphur-throated Finches out of the desert to drink, and we stand a good chance of finding the endemic White-winged Guan and Cinereous Finch. We will also visit some adjacent scrub looking out for the endemic Grey-breasted Flycatcher together with Grey-and-white Tyrannulet, Pacific Elaenia, Grey-and-gold Warbler and Tumbes Sparrow.

Day 14 If time permits we will make a quick stop on the coast. Our principal target will be the endangered Peruvian Tern. We also hope to find Peruvian Booby, Inca Tern and, if we are extremely fortunate, Waved Albatross. Our return journey then commences with an internal flight to Lima followed by an onward connection to London, arriving on Day 15.

General Information The climate is highly variable, from cool in the mountains to hot and humid in the forests. There are a number of special health requirements, so please consult your GP. The itinerary is fairly intense and a reasonable degree of fitness for walking is required; however, those who wish to can opt to relax at feeders in the lodge grounds where the itinerary permits. Accommodation will be in good quality hotels and in comfortable lodges with en-suite facilities. All lodges have private facilities.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader, 12 with 2 leaders

Long-whiskered Owlet

Long-whiskered Owlet

Recommended books available from NHBS