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Northern endemics

20 September–4 October 2018
20 September–4 October 2019

Peru’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 Marvellous 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 400 species during our stay.

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

Day 2 An early flight crossing the Andes to Tarapoto on the eastern slope arrives late 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 and Chestnut-throated Spinetails, Stripe-chested Antwren, White-browed Antbird, White-bellied Pygmy-tyrant, Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant, Olive-faced, Boat-billed and Piratic Flycatchers, Buff-breasted Wren, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Tropical Gnatcatcher and Chivi Vireo. Overnight in Tarapoto.

Day 3 The day begins with an early morning drive east climbing La Escalera ridge, one of the few locations in Peru where Plumbeous Euphonia occurs. Here we will seek out Koepcke’s Hermit, Rose-fronted Parakeet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Dusky-chested Flycatcher, Blackish Pewee and Dotted Tanager amongst a whole host of other species. Later we will drive to Moyobamba, birding en route, where one of the highlights will be an Oilbird gorge, to watch the world’s only nocturnal fruit-eating bird, which navigates by echo location, on their roosting ledges. Eventually we will arrive at Wakanki Lodge for a two night stay.

Day 4 A pre-dawn departure takes us to nearby Morro de Calzadas where our initial focus will be on nightbirds. Black-banded Owl and Tropical Screech-owl are regularly found here together with Rufous, Blackish and Spot-winged Nightjars. During the morning we will spend time seeking out the many flycatchers of the area including the endemic Mishana Tyrannulet, Lesser Elaenia and Stripe-necked Tody-tyrant together with Pale-breasted Spinetail and Rufous-fronted Thornbird before returning to our lodge. During the afternoon we will spend time enjoying the action in the hummingbird garden where White-chinned and Golden-tailed Sapphires, White-necked Jacobin, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Black-throated Hermit and the dazzling Rufous-crested Coquette are just some of the many species regularly seen.

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 before arriving at the scenic Owlet 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 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 Lulu’s Tody-tyrant, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, 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, Royal Sunangel, 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. We will also keep a look out for Cinnamon-breasted Tody-tyrant, White-capped and Scaly-naped Parrots, Straw-backed, White-capped and Yellow-scarfed Tanagers, Geoffroy’s Wedgebill, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Montane Woodcreeper, Long-tailed 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. Roadside birding in lower elevation tropical forest presents opportunities for a whole new avifauna. Specialities include the diminutive Speckled-chested Piculet, flamboyant Andean Cock-of-the-Rock and lekking Ecuadorian Piedtail hummingbirds. Mixed feeding flocks will hopefully include the endemic Huallaga 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 look out for include Ruddy and Plumbeous Pigeons, White-eyed Parakeet, Red-billed Parrot, Black-mandibled 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, Northern 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 second specific effort to find Rusty-tinged and Pale-billed Antpittas in patches of good cloud forest along the San Lorenzo trail. We also have a chance of finding the equally elusive Russet-mantled Softtail. Other possibilities here include Torrent Duck, Speckled Hummingbird, Mountain Velvetbreast, Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Golden-headed Quetzal, Grey-breasted Mountain-toucan, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, White-tailed and White-banded Tyrannulets, the endemic Inca Flycatcher, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, White-collared Jay, Andean Solitaire, White-capped, Silver-backed and Straw-backed Tanagers and we have an outside chance of finding the newly-described Johnson’s Tody-flycatcher in the chusquea bamboo. Later in the morning we make a special visit to the Huembo reserve in search of perhaps the star bird of the whole tour, Marvellous Spatuletail hummingbird, which regularly comes into the feeders. Other often found species here include Little and White-bellied Woodstars, Andean Emerald and Bronzy Inca. After a final lunch at Owlet Lodge, we head for the Jaen Utcubamba River making several birding stops and keeping a special eye out for Fasciated Tiger-heron 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 will hope to find Buff-bellied Tanager, Marañon and Necklaced (Chinchipe) Spinetails, Marañon Slaty-antshrike, Sooty-crowned Flycatcher, 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 searching 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 heading 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 will hope to see include Andean Tinamou, Ecuadorian Piculet, Chapman’s Antshrike, Rufous-necked and Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaners, Elegant Crescentchest, Three-banded Warbler, Black-cowled Saltator, White-winged and Bay-crowned Brush-finches and Yellow-bellied and Black-and-white Seedeaters. During the afternoon, we descend the west slope of the pass and drive to our country hotel north Chiclayo, 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, Necklaced Spinetail, Baird’s Flycatcher, Superciliaried 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 then drive onto the charming Chapparri 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-owls 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 may other Tumbesian specialties. Returning for lunch we have the afternoon to bird and photograph the tame birds such as Elegant Crescentchest and this is one of the best places to see Spectacled Bear and Sechuran Foxes visit the open-air dining room. Invariably several species of hummingbird bathe in the stream in front of the dining room and 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 Sooty-capped Flycatcher, Grey-and-white Tyrannulet, Pacific Elaenia, Grey-and-gold Warbler and Tumbes Sparrow.

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

General Information The climate is highly variable, from cold 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 so a reasonable degree of fitness for walking is required, especially as some walks are at high altitude. Accommodation will be in good quality hotels and in comfortable lodges with en-suite facilities or tents where indicated. Some lodges have no 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