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Andes and Amazon

1–20 September 2024

Peru is home to nearly 1800 species and is blessed with a great range of habitats, from the Andes at over 6000m to a huge diversity of forests including temperate and subtropical, where the Manu Biosphere Reserve is situated. We will spend six nights at Manu, arguably the best birdwatching location in the world. In addition, we will visit an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek and take a train ride to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

Day 1 Overnight flight from London Heathrow via Bogotá to Cusco, arriving on the morning of Day 2.

Day 2 On arrival in Cusco we will travel south with a picnic lunch to Huacarpay Lakes. Here we will see a wide variety of high Andean waterfowl and wetland birds. We will be specifically on the lookout for Wren-like Rushbird, Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, Puna Ibis, Andean Gull and Andean Negrito. Raptors we may see include Aplomado Falcon, Cinereous Harrier, Variable Hawk and Black-chested Buzzard-eagle. Two birds we will look for in the arid scrub around the lake are the endemic Rusty-fronted Canastero and Streak-fronted Thornbird. We should find the pretty endemic Bearded Mountaineer feeding in the tree tobacco along with Giant Hummingbird. In the late afternoon we will drive to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where we will spend the next four nights.

Day 3 We will make a very early start so that at dawn we will be able to witness the strange aerial display of Jameson’s Snipe. The rare Imperial Snipe is here too but is much more difficult to see. After breakfast we will work the humid temperate forest. Starting at a large patch of Chusquea bamboo, we should see Parodi’s Hemispingus and Puna Thistletail; both are endemics. Other possibilities during the day are Drab, Three-striped, Black-eared and Black-capped Hemispingus, Golden-collared Tanager, White-throated and White-banded Tyrannulets, Andean Ibis, White-rumped Hawk, Sierran Elaenia and another endemic, Marcapata Spinetail.

Day 4 A two-and-a-half-hour train ride will take us to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Even from the train we will birdwatch, looking for Torrent Duck and White-capped Dipper. We will then be taken on a guided tour of the ancient remains in the most stunning scenery, with White-tipped Swifts flying overhead. We will have a buffet lunch at the ruins and look for the endemic Inca Wren nearby before being bussed down to the train station for our return to Ollantaytambo.

Day 5 Taking a picnic breakfast with us, we will devote the whole of this morning to exploring the Polylepis woodland at Abra Malaga, a unique habitat at an altitude of over 4500 metres. Our major target bird here will be Royal Cinclodes, which was rediscovered here in the 1980s. Whilst on the valley floor we will search for a variety of ground-tyrants and sierra-finches. After a late picnic lunch we will concentrate on other local endemics on the west side including Creamy-crested Spinetail, Junín Canastero and White-tufted Sunbeam. Other possibilities include the additional endemics of Ash-breasted Tit-tyrant and White-browed Tit-spinetail plus Tawny Tit-spinetail, Giant Conebill, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Puna Tapaculo, Tit-like Dacnis, Blue-mantled Thornbill, Andean Condor, Thick-billed Siskin and more.

Day 6 Today we will make an early start and traverse the Andes, making selected stops in the highlands and inter-montane valleys and passing the megalithic terracing of the Inca ruins of Pisac before arriving at the last Andean pass, Ajcanacu. We will concentrate on the special birds of the highlands including canasteros, furnarids, sierra-finches, ground-tyrants, high-altitude hummingbirds, cinclodes, miners and much more. In the afternoon we will bird the upper limits of the eastern slopes as colourful Quechua peasant farmers pass by with livestock, creating a peaceful pastoral scene. Our target here will be the endemic Chestnut-breasted Mountain-finch. We should also see Andean Hillstar, Andean Flicker, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Chiguanco Thrush and more. A side stop along the Tres Cruces road may find us Scribble-tailed and Line-fronted Canasteros and the Puna subspecies of Sedge Wren, now considered a separate species by some authorities. We will then work our way down into the forests until we arrive at our birding lodge at 3000 metres for an overnight stay. There are many possibilities here and we hope to encounter mixed flocks of tanagers, flycatchers and furnarids. Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, White-collared Jay and Mountain Cacique are some of the many species we may see. In the evening we will visit a spot where Swallow-tailed Nightjar and Yungas Pygmy Owl occur.

Day 7 At breakfast we will be greeted by a varied dawn chorus including Red-and-white Antpitta. We will spend all day birding along the little-used road from our lodge down to 1600 metres. Some of the special birds in the pristine forest that flanks this stretch of road include Golden-plumed Parakeet, Diademed Tapaculo, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Andean Guan, Scaly-naped Amazon, Crimson-mantled and Bar-bellied Woodpeckers, White-throated Antpitta, Barred and Band-tailed Fruiteaters, Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher, Barred Becard, Pale-footed Swallow, Mountain Wren and Citrine Warbler. A wide variety of hummingbirds can be found in the area including Gould's Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Purple-backed Thornbill, Scaled Metaltail and White-bellied Woodstar. Eventually we will reach the comfortable Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, where we will spend the next three nights.

Days 8–9 We will spend these two days exploring the forests around Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. One morning we will visit one of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock leks to watch the strange mating dances of these spectacular birds. Other possibilities include Solitary Eagle, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Crested Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Black-streaked Puffbird, Blue-banded Toucanet, Olive-backed and Montane Woodcreepers, Spotted Barbtail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Uniform and Variable Antshrikes, Slaty Gnateater, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Scaled Fruiteater, Bolivian Tyrannulet, White-throated Spadebill, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer and two endemics: Inca Flycatcher and Blue-capped Tanager. In the evenings we will look for Rufescent Screech Owl, Rufous-banded Owl and Andean Potoo.

Day 10 After a dawn breakfast accompanied by the singing of Andean and White-eared Solitaires and Paradise Tanagers, we will leave the lodge and continue downwards to the 500-metre level. We will pay particular attention to the section between 1500 and 800 metres, as the forest remains largely untouched at this altitude while, in most of the rest of South America, the Andean slopes at this level have been deforested for cash crops such as tea, coffee and cocoa. Birds we may see in this area include Rufous-breasted Wood Quail, Speckle-faced Parrot, Chestnut-collared Swift, Peruvian Piedtail, Long-tailed Sylph, Lanceolated Monklet, Versicoloured Barbet, Rufescent Antshrike, Slaty Antwren, Rufous-lored Tyrannulet, Marble-faced Bristle Tyrant, Olive and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Dusky-green Oropendola, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, White-winged Tanager and Yellow-throated Chlorospingus. The next two nights will be spent at the famous and comfortable Amazonia Lodge.

Day 11 Amazonia Lodge is a family-run converted tea hacienda that has a bird list of over 650 species. The lodge is situated in the transitional zone at 500 metres, where the last low foothills of the Andes begin to flatten out into the lowland Amazon Basin proper. There are butterfly bushes that attract various hummingbird species, including the pretty Rufous-crested Coquette, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Blue-tailed Emerald, Black-eared Fairy and Wire-crested Thorntail. A canopy tower on the hill will enable us to watch canopy foothill flocks. During the day we will attempt to see as many of the specialities as possible, including Black-capped Tinamou, Blackish Rail, Hoatzin, Buckley’s Forest Falcon, Wattled Guan, Blue-headed and Military Macaws, Pheasant Cuckoo, Koepcke’s Hermit, Rufous-webbed Brilliant, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Fine-barred Piculet, Red-billed Scythebill, Dark-breasted Spinetail, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner, Bamboo and Chestnut-backed Antshrikes, Amazonian Antpitta, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Mottle-backed Elaenia, Red-billed Tyrannulet, Johannes’s Tody-tyrant, Yellow-browed and Black-backed Tody-flycatchers, Ornate Flycatcher, White-thighed Swallow, Two-banded Warbler, Black-faced Dacnis – the list just goes on! In the evening we will look for night birds, which may include Mottled and Black-banded Owls, Tawny-bellied Screech Owl and Great, Long-tailed and Common Potoos.

Day 12 We will spend some time doing some early-morning birding near the lodge. As the day warms up we will head down the Alto Madre des Dios River in our motorised canoes to its confluence with the Manu River, a journey of about four hours, and then on for another two hours to the comfortable Manu Wildlife Centre. During the journey we have the opportunity to see some typical riverside species, including Pied Lapwing, Collared Plover, Fasciated Tiger Heron, Orinoco Goose and Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns. Many parrot, macaw and bird of prey species may be seen flying over. We will be spending six nights at the wildlife centre.

Days 13–17 The wildlife centre is situated just upriver from the Blanquillo Macaw Lick, which we will visit one morning to observe, from floating hides, the spectacle of hundreds of parrots and macaws at close quarters. Here we will see the beautiful Orange-cheeked Parrot and perhaps the recently-described Amazonian Parrotlet. The rest of the time will be spent exploring the trail systems, which have been designed to visit different forest types. The area around the lodge has the most forest types anywhere in the Manu area and thus the highest biodiversity. Although investigation is in its early stages, it is anticipated that the lodge area holds more bird species than anywhere else of similar size on Earth! It already has a bird list of over 515 species and this is still growing! Large stands of bamboo hold many local and much-sought-after and unusual species including Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Manu, Striated and White-lined Antbirds, Flammulated Pygmy Tyrant, White-cheeked Tody-flycatcher, Brown-rumped Foliage-gleaner, Large-headed and Dusky-tailed Flatbills, Peruvian Recurvebill, Ihering’s Antwren and Ornate Stipplethroat. In the extensive varzea, terra firme and mature transitional floodplain forests we will look for Rufous-fronted Antthrush, Bartlett’s Tinamou, Razor-billed Curassow, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Sunbittern, Pavonine Quetzal, Purus Jacamar, Western Striolated Puffbird, Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Cream-coloured Woodpecker, Ocellated Woodcreeper, Ruddy Spinetail, Plain Softtail, Eastern Woodhaunter, Sclater’s Antwren, Banded and White-throated Antbirds, Ash-throated Gnateater, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Black-faced Cotinga, Ochre-bellied and Amazonian Royal Flycatchers, White-bellied Tody-tyrant, Musician Wren, Pale-eyed Blackbird and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. We will also visit ox-bow lakes where we hope to see Sungrebe, Agami Heron, Black-billed Seed Finch, Silvered Antbird and Grey-breasted and Rufous-sided Crakes, and where we may be fortunate enough to see one of the Giant Otter families that inhabit the area. Night birding may produce Amazonian Pygmy Owl, Spectacled Owl and Ocellated Poorwill. We will also visit a mineral lick that attracts guans and curassows.

Day 18 Sadly we must say goodbye to Manu Wildlife Centre and take an early morning boat downstream. Flocks of birds will pass over us in the early morning light and we may see a Capybara, the world’s largest rodent. Our destination is Boca Colorado, a frontier gold rush town, where we will take local transport for an hour to the Inambari River and then travel by paved road, with afternoon birding along the way, to the bustling frontier town of Puerto Maldonado, where we will stay overnight at a comfortable hotel.

Day 19 We will spend the morning birding around the airport and the road to Cusco. We should pick up a lot of new species in these few hours, including Red-breasted Meadowlark, Point-tailed Palmcreeper and White-tailed Kite. Other birds we will be on the lookout for include the range-restricted White-throated Jacamar, Black-banded Crake, Grassland Sparrow, Black-faced Tanager, Barred Antshrike, Southern Caracara, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Small-billed Tinamou and Rusty-margined and Sulphury Flycatchers. We will catch an afternoon flight to Lima, where we connect with our international flight home, arriving back in London on Day 20 at the end of the tour.

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. However, participants who wish to opt out of some days and relax at the lodges watching the feeders are welcome to do so where the itinerary allows. Accommodation will be in good quality hotels and in comfortable lodges with en-suite facilities. Amazonia Lodge has limited private facilities but shared toilets and showers are close by.

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

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Recommended books available from NHBS