Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – The Manu Road, Lago Huarcapay, Paucartambo, Pantiacolla | Part 3
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. I can’t say this enough, but Peru has everything for all bird watchers, at least once in their lifetime. To help everyone, we are trying to share our journey about our entire Peru birdwatching trip.
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.
Thank you for giving us so enough appreciation for the second part of Peru birdwatching. We wandered towards Lomas de Lachay, Pucusana, Puerto Viejo, and Humedales de Ventanilla on that one. As promised we are back with the next part. Check the second part here – Click Here.
Part B – The Manu Road
The second part of our trip started in the famous city of Cusco. Most tourists that land here are headed towards Machu Picchu, however, we went in exactly the other direction, towards the Manu biosphere reserve, almost as famous in birders as the Inca city in non-birders. The avifauna is incredible, over 1000 bird species are found along the Manu road. Of course, you need more time than we had to find almost all of them, but I think we did pretty well, considering we didn’t have the time to go really deep into the jungle.
Our guide was Alex Durand, an incredible birder. Actually Peruvian-birding.com calls him the best Peruvian guide. His eyes are just incredible and I don’t think there was a single sound he couldn’t identify! Also, he is a very funny guy, who likes to joke a lot. His English might not be as good as Alejandro’s, but you won’t have any problem talking to him or listening to him as he tells you about one of the over 1700 species of birds he has recorded in Peru alone. His mammal list is equally as impressive.
447 species seen, 58 heard; 406 new
B1 – Day 11
Lago Huarcapay to Paucartambo
We caught a plane from Lima to Cusco in the morning, where we were awaited by our new guide Alex Durand. After fastening our belongings on the roof of our bus we immediately started towards the Lago Huarcapay.
Many of the birds here were already familiar, like the ducks or coots. However, there were also many new birds. We had already had Plumbeous Rails and Black-tailed Trainbearers before, but here they showed much better. Yellow-winged Blackbirds were a new species, Micha found our first and only Band-tailed Sierra-Finch and a Streak-fronted Thornbird tried eluding our views for quite some time. Cinereous Harriers flew by on many occasions and in the reed, there was a constant movement of Many-colored Rush-Tyrants and Wren-like Rushbirds. A Rusty-fronted Canastero showed nicely, then we reached some very ancient ruins, predating the Incas. Here sat both Rufous-naped and Spot-billed Ground-Tyrants, when suddenly an interesting Hummingbird was noted. The tail pattern made it easy to ID this bird even in flight: An Bearded (Eastern) Mountaineer, one of our main targets.
Figure B.1: We drove from Cusco to the Lago Huarcapay, where we found Bearded (Eastern) Mountaineer. The following drive through the extremely dusty sierra yielded little, but a flock of 12 Tawny-throated Dotterels on our way to Paucartambo still made it unforgettable
When we returned to the bus, we glimpsed the Mountaineer the last time, but it hid behind some bushes, where Alex flushed it once again, but we didn’t get any better views at this site.
Then we started our journey along the famed Manu Road. Most of the drive was along the very dusty, very sparse landscape, seeing almost nothing at all. After a while we stopped in the middle of nowhere to have lunch. Some Rufous-naped and White-browed Ground-Tyrants and the absolute standard set of highland birds, consisting of Rufous-collared Sparrow, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch and Cinereous Conebill were all we found here. The moment we wanted to get on the bus again a flock of 12 birds showed up and flew to a nearby mountain ridge. It was clear this had been some sandpipers or something similar and Alex deducted it had to have been Tawny-throated Dotterels! We followed them to the ridge, but when we finally got into a good distance they flew off, only to land right next to
our bus. So we returned and had absolutely magnificent close-up views of these little shy and gorgeous birds.
When we returned to the bus also a huge flock of Andean Lapwing flew past. You never know what to expect when birding…
Bird of the day: Tawny-throated Dotterel — 53 species seen; 7 new
B2 – Day 12
Paucartambo to Manu Paradise Lodge
We had stayed the night in a small town called Paucartambo from which we started in the early morning and when we made our first stop it was still freezingly cold. One of the first birds we saw was a Creamy-crested Spinetail. Several Golden-billed Grosbeaks sat in the bushes and Cinnamon Flycatchers and Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrants competed for cutest bird present. Finally, we heard a Yungas Pygmy-Owl calling, but it was not easy at all to locate where the sounds came from. Eventually, Alex with his eagle-eye vision found it sitting very high up the slope in a conifer. In fact, there were two birds, one of them flew over the canyon and landed in a eucalyptus tree, where it was soon mobbed by 4 different hummingbird species: Shining Sunbeams, Tyrian Metaltails, Sparkling Violetears, and White-bellied Woodstars. Micha and Alex also heard some Barred Parakeets fly over.
We continued to a place that resembled the highlands around Milloc. Here our main targets were two furnariids, that Alex says he’s never seen at the same time. We played playbacks of Scribble-tailed Canastero and Puna Thistletail and only the Canastero responded soon, but wouldn’t show well. Other good birds here included a Great Sapphirewing, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, and Moustached Flowerpiercer.
The next stop we made this was due to a construction site along the road. Our bus had to wait 30 minutes before it could pass, but we were allowed to cross the bridge under construction by foot. Here we heard Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucans call and found some Black-faced Brush-Finches and White-browed Hemispinguses. Again Alex with his incredible eyes picked out a male Band-tailed Fruiteater, greatly camouflaged by its coloration in the leaves and little after we noticed there was actually also a female. And only 10m up the road sat a Barred Fruiteater.
Continuing down the road we reached a small settlement and very quickly found our main target here: 2 Red-and-white Antpittas at a very close range in the bamboo.
While driving further down the road we found a splendid Golden-headed Quetzal next to the road and therefore stopped and looked at what else we could find. Masked Trogons were common here and we could hear a Crested Quetzal on the other side of the valley. We had lunch, but then it started raining. We all retreated to the bus, but in that moment I noticed some movement in the trees, so we stayed. When the rain wouldn’t stop, but it became clear that this was probably a good flock we took our umbrellas (at least those who had theirs not in their suitcases on top of the bus) and what followed was pure gold. Even though it rained the entire time, I’ve probably never had as much fun while birding as today. The flock moved through at very close range and there were clearly some bird species that were in the front, others in the back end. And it moved through three times: down the road, back up and then again down the road, so we could scan it extensively. There were lots of cute flycatchers,
flashy tanagers and even a hummingbird, followed by bigger birds like jays, caciques, oropendolas, and woodpeckers, it was just perfect. In the end, we could identify 32 species that had belonged to that flock, plus several others, that were just there, but didn’t move with it, like the Trogon and the Quetzal. For a complete list of the birds in the flock, look here.
After the flock had disappeared the weather finally got better and we moved on, making different stops along the road for great birds like Blue-banded Toucanet, Andean Potoo or different tanager species, such as Slaty, Saffron-crowned Tanager. We heard Hooded and Brown Tinamous and had several sightings of our first primates, the Gray Woolly Monkeys before we eventually arrived at the Manu Paradise Lodge, where we would stay two nights.
At night hundreds of different moths could be found around the lodge restaurant, which was just an incredible sight, but a night walk around the lodge and the entrance road was fruitless with only a few cockroaches and crickets found.
Bird of the day: Golden-headed Quetzal — 84 species seen, 8 heard; 50 new picture
B3 – Day 13
Manu Paradise Lodge
Today we birded by walking along the Manu Road. We started near the lodge and stumbled upon many different birds pretty much everywhere. One of the first birds was the minuscule Ochre-faced tody-Tyrant, soon after followed some cool-looking tanagers like the Golden-naped, Beryl-spangled and Spotted Tanager. Andean Solitaires showed great while singing their strange song. Several good hummingbirds were found, like Booted Racket-tail, Green-fronted Lancebill, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Buff-thighed Puffleg (with whites thighs though). Masked Trogons were a very common sight again, as were the Gray Woolly Monkeys. At one point we heard some kind of catcalling just next to the road. Hoping this could be an Ocelot, Margay or something like this we spent nearly half an hour staring into the vegetation, even trying playback of its own
calls. When it finally emerged from the cover everybody had to laugh: It was a cute little feral kitty. How it got here we can’t tell, but we took it to a nearby police station up the road.
Thus we birded all day long, walking a while, then driving a little further and walking a little bit more. Sometimes we searched for specific birds, sometimes, we just looked at what we would find. One of our target species, for example, was the Black-streaked Puffbird. Alex knew several spots, where it was nearly guaranteed, but none showed up. Finally, we drove to one last place, where he’d only seen it once, but first, we found another very cool bird here: a Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Alex says it were actually two individuals) circling very low overhead! Soon after also the Puffbird called and then showed excellently. We returned to the lodge, stopping once again for the Andean Potoo, which we’d already seen the day before. Down at the lodge, we had a nice meal, enjoyed some hummingbird action around the feeders, and then birded the road just around the lodge. Two Large-headed Capuchins were a real treat before we found some interesting flycatchers: Variegated and Bran-colored Flycatcher, Lesser Elaenia and Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant.
After lunch, we relocated and drove back up the road with a very special place in mind. But first, we stumbled across a gorgeous Green Jay. Then we entered one of the most magnificent places on earth, a hide in front of which 12 unbelievable male Andean Cock-of-the-rocks were lekking. Most people come here very early in the morning, but this isn’t necessary, as they start lacking around 2-3 PM again. We watched this spectacle for more than an hour. A Bolivian Squirrel tried to distract us but kinda failed. After this amazing show, we reemerged from the hide and looked if we could find anything of interest here. Alex and some others stood talking in front of the hide, whereas some others (me included) walked a little when suddenly I noticed Alex gesturing wildly. We came back running, but that wasn’t necessary, as the bird he had spotted sat quietly on a branch in a very nearby tree. It was some kind of tiny falcon or hawk, in fact, we first thought it was a Tiny Hawk, but upon further inspection noticed it was a Semicollared Hawk, a species that Alex had seen previously only once! And it had been sitting there the entire time of their conversation and continued another half an hour, without taking much notice of us!
Shortly after Alex spotted another small raptor, but this time sitting in a faraway tree and blending in with its surrounding very well: A Sharp-shinned Hawk. Alex’ eyes truly are amazing.
We then finally proceeded for just two more target birds. When we drove around a corner, Alex stated this place looked promising and immediately spotted the next stunner, a Highland Motmot.
As it darkened Alex finally led us to some random spot along the road, positioned the scope to some random-looking branch and we waited. Then we heard it call. A few moments later we saw it fly. Meanwhile, the darkness kept coming, but there it was with its stupefyingly long tail feathers streaming behind it and it landed not only on the branch, which Alex had put in the scope but in exactly the aimed for a spot. The splendid Lyre-tailed Nightjar.
Picking a bird of the day today wasn’t easy today and Micha will probably never understand, why the majority finally picked another bird than the Nightjar 😛
Bird of the day: Andean Cock-of-the-rock – 78 species seen, 20 heard; 62 new
B4 – Day 14
Manu Paradise Lodge to Pantiacolla Lodge
Today was moving day, as we left Manu Paradise Lodge and drove towards Pantiacolla Lodge. The morning started with our bus being stuck in the mud in the entrance road of Manu Paradise Lodge and it was our luck that a heavy truck passed by. With its help, we got unstuck quickly and started towards the lowlands. However very soon we came along the first mixed flock and found dozens of new species with Manu Paradise Lodge just a few minutes away. A Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail called very close-by, while we watched the variety of Paradise, Blue-necked, Bay, Orange-eared, Golden-eared, Spotted and Golden Tanagers, Yellow-breasted and Yellow-rumped Antwren. Again the variety of hummingbirds was great with new ones like Peruvian Piedtail, Wire-crested Thorntail, as well as old ones like Green-fronted Lancebill and Chestnut-breasted Coronet. An Amazonian Umbrellabird was also around, but `unfortunately´ it was only a female bird. There were barbets, woodpeckers, woodcreepers, many kinds of flycatchers, and as if this wasn’t already enough a Tayra put in a short appearance too. The Manu road is just incredible.
We drove quite a long distance before stopping the next time, this time for species such as Ornate Flycatcher and Cerulean-capped Manakin, which unfortunately was only glimpsed by Micha. A little further down the road we abruptly stopped for some raptor sitting in a tree. Just like the Semi-collared Hawk of the day before this bird didn’t care a single bit for us and just like the hawk it put us into ID difficulties. Alex identified it as a Lined Forrest-Falcon, mainly due to it sitting completely in the open, something he had never yet seen in Barred Forest-Falcons, but with our photos, we had to change the ID towards the latter. Walking down the street we reached a place with a great view. Turkey Vultures and Plumbeous Kites circled overhead when Bernd suddenly discerned a dark silhouette several kilometers away. Even when watched through the scope it was still far away, so I have no clue how he had spotted it. This was one of his absolute dream birds (and of course for the others as well), this was the majestic Solitary Black Eagle!
The next time we stopped was for a tiny and beautiful endemic, the Black-backed Tody-Tyrant, but unfortunately, none responded to playback. However, we found plenty of other nice birds. Plumbeous Kites were circling the skies, a Golden-tailed Sapphire sat in the bamboo and Nadine spotted a beautiful Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle. I arrived just a second too late but found some Double-toothed Kites instead. Long-tailed Tyrants were also a treat to watch. In some nearby swamp, we found Chestnut-breasted Seedeater and Seed-Finch, as well as Smooth-billed Ani and a Green Honeycreeper.
We had arrived in the lowlands now and glimpsed the Rio Madre de Dios a few times, but before reaching Atalaya, where we’d get into our boats, we had one final stop to make. There was a dead tree with only very few branches left and if you looked closely you noticed one stump looked a little different than the others. It was the incredibly camouflaged Great Potoo! Another great treat at this site was the splendid Bluish-fronted Jacamar.
In Atalaya, we quickly transferred all our luggage and boarded two speedboats. Alex and 9 others went into the bigger one, meanwhile, I and 5 more took the smaller one. As I was the only one who had
previously birded in a similar region (the Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador I had to try to take Alex’ place for the duration of our boat trip. The boats were very different in speed, so often we lost each other out of sight and couldn’t show each other what we’d found. In the beginning, the first boat still waited to show us a juvenile Great Black-Hawk, but when they passed a group of capybaras my boat was just too far away to even notice this. Still, I think I did a good job and showed `my people´ almost all the species that Alex showed his people (minus Green Kingfisher), including Sand-colored Nighthawks, Swallow-winged Puffbirds and many species of parrots and macaws. A real treat was the many herons, especially the many Fasciated Tiger-Herons. I thought only my group would have seen the Capped Heron fly over, but somehow Alex and his group managed to see it too, as it flew over the river behind them. We also passed some Yellow-billed and Large-billed Terns, as well as a pair of Black Skimmers, before finally arriving at Pantiacolla Lodge.
Our first walk around the lodge grounds was a night walk, with a reduced group size and we were mainly searching for mammals, however, first we found a White-necked Jacobin sleeping, soon followed by some Curl-crested Aracaris and then two stunning Great Tinamous sleeping on branches! After a while, we also found a mammal, a Brown-eared Opossum. Soon after we spotted the second pair of smaller eyes in a tree, but never found out what they actually belonged to.
Bird of the day: Great Potoo — 133 species seen, 22 heard; 102 new
B5 – Day 15
We started the day at a nearby Parrot Clay lick. On our way, we’d already encountered a cool Razor-billed Curassow, but at the Clay lick, the parrots just wouldn’t descend from the farther away trees. We had Blue-headed Macaws fly over and Yellow-crowned Parrots between the Mealy and Blue-
headed Parrots and others, but the highlight of the site was a Solitary Sandpiper that showed much better than any of the parrot species. A Blue-throated Piping-Guan sat on an open branch and somewhere a Barred Forest-Falcon called, which might have been the cause for the parrots being shy. So we returned to the lodge, seeing another two Curassows and walked the Tinamou Trail, which proved very productive. Several Antbird species showed well, like Goeldi’s and White-lined Antbird. While everybody watched two Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls a Cinereous Tinamou crossed the trail in front of us, unfortunately only I saw it. When we stumbled upon some monkeys (Black-capped Squirrel Monkey, Brown Titi and Brown-backed Tamarin) I searched for Goeldi’s Monkey in vain, meanwhile most other got stunning looks at a Rufous-capped Nunlet. Black-tailed Trogons were common along the trail, meanwhile, a Broad-billed Motmot, Fire-throated Barbets, Spix’s Guan and Cuvier’s Toucan between others entertained.
During a lunch break back at the lodge a group of loud Red Howler Monkeys showed off beautifully, Scarlet and Blue-and-yellow Macaws landed in a nearby tree and I found a single Gray-fronted Dove in the local compost site.
Next, we tried the Oropendola Trail, where a Rufous Motmot, Red-necked Woodpeckers and a Black-tailed Leaftosser were the best finds. Afterwards, we had some free time, which I spent down at the river, where on a huge sandbank I found Yellow-browed Sparrow, Burrowing Owls, Vermilion Flycatchers and as it was getting dark dozens if not hundreds of Sand-colored Nighthawks.
After dinner, we made another night walk and not only found another Great Tinamou (and heard a Bartlett’s Tinamou at very close range) but also a tiny Bishop’s Mouse-Opossum. Some kind of rat on the trail got away without any chance for us to photograph or even ID it.
Bird of the day: Goeldi’s Antbird — 101 species seen, 24 heard; 65 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 Pantiacolla Lodge, Amazonia Lodge, Cusco next. Do let me know if you have any questions.
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Lago Titicaca, Colca Canyon | Part 5
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Pantiacolla Lodge, Amazonia Lodge, Cusco | Part 4