Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Lima, Lachay Hills, Wetlands of Ventanilla, Milloc, Santa Eulalia Canyon | Part 1
Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It offers bird lovers plenty of glimpses of some of the world’s rarest birds and animals. Also, with the Amazon rainforest and the Andes being so close, birds enthusiasts can take tours through the jungle and mountains to see these creatures in their natural habitats. As a tourist destination for birdwatching, the potential of Peru is enormous and must be traversed. There is a lot to explore; hence a single trip is not enough to discover all the wonders that Peru has to offer. With more than 1800 bird species, 106 of which are endemic, Peru is a real paradise of birdwatching! It has one of the most productive coastlines in the world for birdlife as well.No other destination offers quite so much variety of habitats and species in such a relatively small area. It is a one-stop destination for visitors to watch various kinds of birds and animals, and it’s worth it.
Honestly, as I prepared for my trip, I couldn’t help but wonder, but now I’m back, and we already made articles about birdwatching in Peru, animals to watch in Peru and even the best places to stay while birdwatching.
Today we are starting a new complete birdwatching 6 part series of Peru; we’ll talk about almost all places you can visit from Northern Peru to Central Peru. We traveled from Lima, Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Amazonia, The Manu Road, Lago Huarcapay, Paucartambo, and more. You can check out the entire series ->
Part A – The central highlands
This first part of my tour started in Peru’s capital Lima. I met with all other travelers for the first time and birded in the central highlands of the provinces Lima, Junín, and Huánuco, getting first impressions of the east slope cloud forests and the Peruvian coast.
Our guide was Alejandro Tello, a very sympathetic guy with good humor. He is a conservationist who has worked on Junín Grebe surveys, saving some of the last wetlands along the coast of Lima and informing the public with several booklets and leaflets. He speaks English very well and mainly guides around central Peru.
His girlfriend Janet Guerra accompanied us throughout this part of the trip and did not only make sure we’d have delicious food all the time (seriously, I’d never have thought south American diet could be so kind, after eating rice with chicken for almost a year in Ecuador), but she also had everything else under control and solved every problem in hardly any time. She must be one of the loveliest persons on earth.
Figure A.01: All the places where we birded or stayed during the first part
Also, with our driver Raúl, we hit the jackpot. Not only is he an enjoyable guy to be around, but he also has a bird list for Peru of over 1000 species! The three of them formed a dream team I can only recommend.
250 species seen; 3 heard
A1 – Day 1
Lomas de Lachay and Humedales de Ventanilla
Originally we had planned a pelagic for today, but when the captain had doubts about the weather, we quickly changed the plan and went to the Lomas de Lachay instead. But first, we had to wait for Demi to come out of the airport. I wish I could say the West Peruvian Doves on the airport car park would have been my first birds of the trip, but unfortunately, I had seen some roosting Rock Pigeons the anterior night. Damn!
As we waited for Demi, we all got to know each other. Actually, I had already met everyone but two people from our group, but many others saw each other in person for the first time today.
As soon as Demi was there, we started, and after a two-hour drive, we reached an extremely dusty valley where only cacti and a single tree grew. We soon heard our first Burrowing Owls and saw an American Kestrel, but had trouble finding the primary real target Cactus Canastero. Several Greyish Miners were calling, but we didn’t see anything. So we changed our spot and walked along some canyon, where we were finally rewarded with great views of this endemic bird. Also, finally, Burrowing Owls and Miners showed up. Demi also found a tiny scorpion under a rock.
With our first target nailed down, we moved on and drove towards the very humid parts of Lomas de Lachay. As soon as we drove up the entrance road towards the central part, though, we stopped for a Least Seedsnipe. We soon realized they were abundant in this region, and we saw several males display as well as several tiny chicks. Also, Coastal Miners were very common; some got lucky and saw the first Cinereous Harrier and Peruvian Thick-knee in the distance. Every 100m or so, one or two Burrowing Owl would sit next to the road. Once the desert landscape shifted towards a steppe landscape, flocks of Grassland Yellowfinches showed up, but never showed well enough to scan for Raimondi’s Yellowfinch. A few Yellowish Pipits displayed in the grasslands, and when we neared the official entrance, Peruvian Meadowlarks showed their bright redbreasts.
When we finally arrived at the carpark, it was extremely foggy and didn’t get better throughout our stay there. The gorgeous Vermilion Flycatchers soon caught our attention, as did the Rufous-collared Sparrows. Walking the trail, we could never see much further than the next 7m because of the fog. Thus all our encounters were pretty close ones. Cinereous Conebills were abundant, a Rusty
Flowerpiercer was a surprise as Alejandro wouldn’t have expected one down here. The best bird, however, was an Andean Tinamou that eventually appeared just next to the trail.
After this, we continued towards the Humedales de Ventanillas, where we immediately found about 30 Thick-Knees. On the water swam dozens of White-cheeked Pintails and Cinnamon Teals. Gallinules and Coots, Puna Ibises, Snowy Egrets, and Little Blue Herons wandered through the marshes, and a single Andean Gull had found its way down from the high Andes. By the way, there were some Black Widows in the plants to our feet, so be careful there.
We changed to another lagoon close-by and got beautiful encounters with hundreds of Black Skimmers. Some Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and Semipalmated Plovers were also seen, and those who were lucky glimpsed the first Many-colored Rush-Tyrant and Wren-like Rushbirds. The biggest surprise of the day was then finding two he biggest surprise of the day was then finding two Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. According to the range map of Birds of Peru, it only appears in the far north of Peru, but in the text, a small population around Lima is mentioned.
Bird of the day: Black Skimmer – 55 species seen
A2 – Day 2
Lower Santa Eulalia Canyon
In the morning, our start towards the Santa Eulalia Valley was delayed; first Alejandro couldn’t retrieve our trailer, as it was boxed in, then we immediately had a flat tire. So in the morning, we spent much time waiting in Lima, but we got to see the first Scrub Blackbirds, an Amazilia Hummingbird among some skyscrapers.
When we finally reached our first destination in the valley, we instantly found the cute Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, quirky Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, and got great comparison views of Croaking and Bare-faced Ground-Doves. The first endemic Black-necked Woodpecker showed up, as did the first Condor, however very high up. One of our targets, the Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, proved quite tricky, as it would occasionally call. Then out of nowhere, it called right next to us, and we found it perched in the bush just next to where we had stood. What a cute bird.
We followed on our way up the Andes seeing a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle or a Variable Hawk every now and then and finally reached a cool looking bridge with an impressive canyon passing below. Here Andean Swifts chased around as did some gorgeous Purple-collared Woodstars. However, the real treat of this site is the exciting and endemic Great Inca-Finch, of which we soon found two pairs. Also, some more of the stunning Black-necked Woodpeckers showed up.
When we arrived at Huachupampa, where we’d stay for the next two nights, it was already getting dark. We quickly found some of the charismatic Rusty-bellied Brush-Finches, before it got dark. But birding wasn’t over yet: Two Greater Band-winged Nightjars chased above the town, and during a quick night walk, we found them to be quite common in a small canyon just south of the city.
Bird of the day: Peruvian Pygmy-Owl 42 species seen; 22 new
A3 – Day 3
Higher Santa Eulalia Canyon
A very early morning start yielded a hawking Band-winged Nightjar over the road. Along our way, we stopped for several of the super-cool Torrent Ducks, White-capped Dippers, and the aptly-named Giant Hummingbird. The scenery of the impressive Andes was breathtaking, but sometimes even more breathtaking was seeing how close we were driving to some 85° droppings. But somehow, we also managed to get past trucks heading in the other direction. You were always happy when you were the one that stuck to the wall, and the other one had to pass on the canyon side. After two hours, we eventually arrived at the patch of polylepis forest, where White-cheeked Cotingas were to be expected, and actually, it didn’t take long until we found them. Usually, they’re shy and difficult to observe, but not this time, as we saw probably about a dozen, sometimes at pretty close range. Other highlights included Black Metaltails, Striated Earthcreeper, and another distant Condor. An Andean Flicker would prove to be a common sight during the following days, other than the very long-tailed Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetails, that only exist on the western slopes of the Peruvian Andes., as well as Peruvian and Mourning Sierra-Finches were abundant, but nevertheless lovely to look at. The rare Yellow-rumped Siskin, however, was quite a surprise, found by Florian.
On our way back to Huachupampa, we drove on the other side of the valley and every now and then stopped when a cute bird showed up. Amongst these were the easily recognizable Thick-billed Miner, tiny Mountain Parakeets, Streak-throated Bush- and Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, and several more Condors, but all quite distant. At the end of the day, we had seen a total of 12 Condors, but only three of them had been within photo distance. Our last stop then was at a place where the enigmatic and endangered Rufous-breasted Warbling-Finch is regularly found; however, we couldn’t find one. Another bird that gave us a hard time was the Canyon Canastero, which we frequently heard, but only after a long time eventually got to see it. Two Andean Tinamous, in contrast, would not only show at very close range but stayed in the open for more than half an hour! Also quite cooperative was another endemic species, the Bronze-tailed Comet. The extremely cute Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant however, belonged to the shy birds, only showing for a few seconds a couple of times.
On our way back to the village again, two Peruvian Pygmy-Owls were seen (but much further away, then the anterior day) and a night walk to the Nightjars produced superb views and photo options.
Bird of the day: Torrent Duck 51 species seen; 30 new
A4 – Day 4
Highlands of Marcapomacocha and Milloc wetlands
We started well before dusk and again had Peruvian Pygmy-Owl and Band-winged Nightjar on our list before the day had begun. Back we drove along the super steep slopes of yesterday and stopped somewhere along the road when a Black Metaltail sat nicely along the route. Unfortunately, it flew away before anybody got a picture, but several other beautiful birds were discovered, e.g., Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant, Greenish Yellowfinch, and yet another Andean Tinamou. Our destiny for the day, however, lays much higher. Our first target was the Milloc bog, where we searched successfully for Junin Canasteros and Puna Snipes. We then carried on towards the Marcapomacocha pass at about 4900m altitude. Not everybody handled this altitude well, and some stayed around the car. The others were treated to a Ground-Tyrant fest with Cinereous, Taczanowski’s, Puna, White-browed, Rufous-naped present. Also, groups of Andean Flickers were abundant, and White-winged Diuca-Finch not shy at all. An odd Olivaceous Thornbill hopped from one miniature flower to the next, and Mountain Caracaras flew over. However, the main target of this site stayed absent: White-bellied Cinclodes. After a while, we moved on, hoping for it at a second spot, where also another specialty could be found.
In contrast to the Cinclodes, we found it very fast, the extremely stunning Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. What a neat bird! A small group of Andean Ibises also flew over, and so we continued towards the last place where we’d have a chance for the White-winged Cinclodes. After a while of driving downhill and reaching a heavily trafficked road, we came to an unpromising, dumpster-like spot. And there it finally was searching for food in between plastic bags. Before we even could get decent pictures, it flew down the slope, and there it stayed, only allowing for bad pictures. Still, this might have been the rarest bird of the trip, with only about 250 mature individuals left!
Soon after, it dawned, and most of us slept during the four-hour drive towards Huancayo, where we stayed the night.
Bird of the day: Diademed Sandpiper-Plover 62 species seen, 1 heard; 29 new
A5 – Day 5
Chilifruta (Parihuanca Road)
As always an early morning start had us heading towards a very small village with the funny name Chilifruta. On the way, we made several stops to look at Torrent Ducks, several Ovenbirds like Cordilleran, Streak-backed, Streak-necked Canastero, and the cool-looking Plain-breasted Earthcreeper or unfearful Mountain Caracaras. We also found Andean Ibises to be very common. But our main goal was the birds of the cloud forest at lower elevations and one bird in special. So when we arrived near Chilifruta we headed straight into a patch of bamboo, only shortly stopping for Huanuco (Violet-throated) Starfrontlet or Spectacled Whitestart. Alejandro played a little playback and immediately got a response of the only very recently described Black-spectacled Brush-Finch, a species unknown to science until 1999. Its range is virtually just this valley, but here it is abundant. Other sweet bird popped out of the bushes, the coolest being White-browed Hemispingus, Plain-tailed Wren, and our first Pearled Treerunner. Also, White-eared Solitaires and Barred Fruiteaters called nearby but didn’t show. We tried for our next target and were rewarded as fast as the previous time, this time with stunning looks of the gorgeous Creamy-crested Spinetail. Several hummingbird species knew how to keep us busy: Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Mountain Velvetbreast, and Sparkling Violetear, however, unfortunately, no Fire-throated Metaltail. A White-throated Hawk also shot over. It was nice to finally get to see some more tropical looking species. After enjoying those colorful birds and probably a dozen of each the Brush-Finch and the Spinetail we drove back to try for some more highland specialists. Our main target was Taczanowski’s Tinamou which Alejandro had seen on several previous trips, but no luck with that. However, Shining Sunbeams, Black-throated Flowerpiercers, and D’Orbigny’s Chat-Tyrants were not bad either.
Further along the road, we made another stop, but birding here was very slow. Most luck had Micha when he found a White-collared Jay and Black-tailed Trainbearer, the others found White-browed Chat-Tyrants, White-throated Tyrannulet, a female Green-tailed Trainbearer, and the cool-looking Red-crested Cotinga. A tiny hummingbird showed up several times, always to disappear just when you’d point your lens at it. Only after about ten failed attempts did I get a distant shot and could ID it as a female Tyrian Metaltail (even though I’m not a 100 percent positive my picture actually shows the tiny hummingbird, that we’d chased for so long).
Bird of the day: Black-spectacled Brush-Finch 59 species seen, 2 heard; 29 new
I hope you enjoyed the first parts, hope to see you soon to check out the other parts. We’ll travel our path to Lomas de Lachay, Pucusana, Puerto Viejo, and Humedales de Ventanilla next. Do let me know if you have any questions.
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Lomas de Lachay, Pucusana, Puerto Viejo and Humedales de Ventanilla | Part 2
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – The Manu Road, Lago Huarcapay, Paucartambo, Pantiacolla | Part 3