Andes and Amazon
1–18 September 2015
Peru is home to nearly 1700 species and is blessed with a great range of habitats, from the Andes at over 7000m to a huge diversity of forests including temperate and subtropical, where the Manu 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 Flight from London Heathrow, via Amsterdam, to Lima arriving in the evening. Night in Lima.
Day 2 Today we will take an early morning flight to Cusco, then 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 the Sacred Valley of the Incas where we will spend the night in a hotel; this will put us in a good position for the next day's birding.
Day 3 We will make a very early start so that at dawn we will be able to witness the strange aerial display of Andean Snipe. The rare Imperial Snipe is here too but much more difficult to see. After breakfast we'll 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, Black-faced Ibis, White-rumped Hawk, Sierran Elaenia and two more endemics: Marcapata Spinetail and Inca Wren. In the evening we will return to Cusco for a two-night stay.
Day 4 A four-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 and look for the endemic Inca Wren and many other birds before returning by train to Cusco.
Day 5 Today we traverse the Andes, making selected stops in the intermontane valleys, before arriving at the last Andean pass – Ajcanacu. Andean Condors can sometimes be seen from here. In the afternoon we will bird the upper limits of the eastern slopes, working our way down into the forests until we arrive at Pillahuata Camp, still at 2800 metres. Possibilities here are many 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. Overnight in tents at the camp.
Day 6 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 camp down to 1600 metres. Some of the special birds in the pristine forest which flanks this stretch of road include Golden-plumed Parakeet, Diademed Tapaculo, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Andean Guan, Scaly-naped Parrot, Crimson-mantled and Bar-bellied Woodpeckers, Marcapata Spinetail, White-throated Antpitta, Barred and Band-tailed Fruiteaters, White-throated Tyrannulet, 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 Collared Inca, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Purple-backed Thornbill, Scaled Metaltail and White-bellied Woodstar. Eventually we will reach the rustic, but comfortable, Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, where we will spend the next two nights.
Day 7 We will spend the whole day exploring the forests around Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. In the 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 evening we will look for Rufescent Screech-owl, Rufous-banded Owl and Andean Potoo.
Day 8 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, Versicolored Barbet, Russet 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 Bush-tanager. The next two nights will be spent at the famous and comfortable Amazonia Lodge.
Day 9 This family-run converted tea hacienda has a bird list of over 500 species. 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, Rufous-crested Coquette, Golden-tailed Sapphire, 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 10 There will be 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 lodge.
Days 11–15 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 newly 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 515 and 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 and Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaners, Large-headed and Dusky-tailed Flatbills, Peruvian Recurvebill and Ihering's and Ornate Antwrens. In the extensive Varzea, Tierra Firme and Mature Transitional Floodplain Forests we will look for Rufous-fronted Antthrush, Bartlett's Tinamou, Razor-billed Currasow, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Sunbittern, Pavonine Quetzal, Purus Jacamar, Striolated Puffbird, Grey-cheeked Nunlet, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Ocellated Woodcreeper, Ruddy Spinetail, Plain Softtail, Striped Woodhaunter, Sclater's Antwren, Banded and White-throated Antbirds, Ash-throated Gnateater, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Black-faced Cotinga, Ochre-bellied and Royal Flycatchers, White-bellied Tody-tyrant, Musician Wren, Pale-eyed Blackbird and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. We will also visit ox-bow lakes where we will hope to see Sungrebe, Agami Heron, Large-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 which inhabit the area. Night birding may produce Amazonian Pygmy-owl, Spectacled Owl, Common Potoo and Ocellated Poorwill. We will also visit a mineral which attracts guans and currasows.
Day 16 Sadly we have to 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'll take local transport for an hour to the Inambari River and then by paved road to the bustling frontier town of Puerto Maldonado, with afternoon birding along the way, where we'll stay at our comfortable hotel.
Day 17 We take a morning flight to Lima where we catch our international return flight home arriving back in London on Day 18 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. Accommodation will be in good quality hotels and in comfortable lodges with en-suite facilities or tents where indicated. Some lodges and the tents have no private facilities.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 8 with 1 leader.