Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Lago Titicaca, Colca Canyon | Part 5
Peru has some notable birding sites near the city. The month of June or mid-July is the most suitable time to look at Peru birds, and so is the period September to mid-December. Late September to early October is customarily the peak time to look for Spectacled Bear. I can’t say this enough, but Peru has everything for all bird watchers, at least once in their existence. Various kinds of river island endemics, sand forest specialties, and localized birds are also found. These include Nocturnal and Wattled Curassows, Collared and Rufous-necked Puffbirds, Black Bushbird, Black-headed, Allpahuayo, and many more. 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. We already made enough articles about travelling Machu Pichu but this is going to be bird specific.
Thank you for giving us so enough appreciation for the fourth part of Peru birdwatching. We wandered towards Pantiacolla Lodge, Amazonia Lodge, Cusco on that one. As promised we are back with the next part. Check the third part here – Click Here.
Part C – Some Culture
For this third and last part of the journey, we didn’t have a bird guide. Of course, we had several guides who showed us around in Machu Picchu, Lago Titicaca or Paracas, but none of them knew more about birds than we did. All hotels and drives were self-organized (a big thank you here to my fellows, who did much more than I did). By the start of our tour 3 of us had already left us, because they had work to do in Germany. After Machu Picchu 5 more left us (but two of them rejoined us in Paracas), so most of the tour was done by five people only. As we had neither a private vehicle nor local knowledge we were often dependent on where the touristic guides would take us and then we’d see what we could make out of the situation. But quite a lot of the time was also spent visiting cultural sites for cultural (and not birding) purposes. For example, Machu Picchu is a must, but you won’t see many birds around the actual ruins, nor are there many birds in Nazca, but not having a look at the Nazca lines, while being so close just didn’t feel right. I’m sure that with a guide one could have seen many more new species, but I’m just happy with the tour we did and can only recommend it to others as well.
183 species seen, 38 new
C1 – Day 20
Marco had been standing in line since 4 AM so that we wouldn’t have to wait an eternity to catch a bus to the mystical Inca city of Machu Picchu, which left from 5 AM on. I am extremely thankful for that! After a short drive in the darkness we arrived at the gates, where already a big queue was forming, so we joined in. Nevertheless, we could do some birding, as there was bush right next to the entrance where several Red-eyed Vireos and Rust-and-yellow Tanagers were already searching for food. Marco then gave us a nice tour of the village and it was definitely not for birding that we had come here, so we only interrupted him once, when a Green-and-white Hummingbird showed up. Even though during the day we would see many more “green and white” hummingbirds this would be the only one we could securely identify (to distinguish it from the similar White-bellied Hummingbird try to get a glimpse at the underside of the tail!)
After having seen most of the ruins we decided to try and find some birds and went towards the Inca Trail in the southwest of the ruins. Here we soon found Azara’s Spinetails and heard our first Inca Wren. The only views I got were of a flying bird. A Speckled Hummingbird came close and far down in the valley flew some Mitred Parakeet flocks. Through the sky chased White-tipped Swifts and every now and then a Variable Hawk would show up. In the shrubs of the very steep hillsides, we found some White-winged Black-Tyrants, Streak-necked Flycatchers and Sierran Elaenias, every now and then also a Blue-capped Tanager and only once a Fawn-breasted Tanager.
While three of us stayed around the Inca Trail and ruins Demi and I went towards the mount Huayna Picchu, a mountain that was included in our ticket price, however with extremely steep slopes. We worked our way upwards and of course, looked out for birds meanwhile. Dozens of Green Violetears were calling, but difficult to locate (still we found about 6 birds), a Wren turned out not be the hoped-for Inca Wren, but a Fulvous Wren, also a new species (meanwhile around the Inca Trail Yvonne had more luck with former species). Another tricky bird was a brown flycatcher that showed very well but I couldn’t ID it until I was back home as a female White-winged Black-Tyrant. When we arrived at the
mountain top after 45 minutes we found butterflies to be abundant, but not birds. Some Rufous-collared Sparrows seemed to trust us completely and came close to just about 20cm. Then we spotted a silhouette sitting on a rock on the northeastern slope of Huayna Picchu and my first impression was Aplomado Falcon. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be a stunning Orange-breasted Falcon!
We made our way to get closer to it along a trail that leads towards a cave without the intention to ever go to the cave (which by the way is 4km away), but for some reason, the guard of the trail whistled us back after some 200m saying we were now already close enough to the falcon. I’ll never understand why we couldn’t go the final 50 meters from where the views would have been much better.
We returned to join the others at the entrance gate and took a bus down to the bridge that crosses the river, where we wanted to do some birding. And indeed we immediately found a flock along the road, containing some nice cloudforest species such as Blue-necked and Saffron-crowned Tanagers, one or two female Blue Dacnises and some confiding Golden-olive Woodpeckers.
Since we had a train to catch in the evening we started to walk back along the river not only seeing some river birds like Torrent Duck, Torrent Tyrannulet or White-capped Dipper but also some more cloud forest species like Golden-crowned Flycatcher, the charismatic Sclater’s Tyrannulet, rather brown-eyed Red-eyed Vireos and calling Thick-billed Euphonia.
After a meal and a bit of shopping we returned to Ollantaytambo by train, unfortunately, it was already dark as the river next to the rails is considered THE place to see loads of Torrent Ducks, with reports of up to 40 pairs being seen!
Bird of the day: Orange-breasted Falcon – 55 species seen; 10 new
C2 – Day 21
Ollantaytambo to Cusco
Together with our guide, Marco, we visited some historical sites today, seeing almost all bird species during the transits when driving from one site to the other. We started around some ruins in Ollantaytambo, where sometimes a Giant Hummingbird would fly over, then proceeded to the Maras Salt Mines, an interesting place to take pictures of the landscape, but almost no birds were encountered here. Next, we drove to an archeological site called Moray. Its purpose is not completely understood, but it is suspected to have been used by the Incas as a kind of experimental laboratory to find out which plant needed which environment. The only birds worth of note here were a couple of Burrowing Owls passed by car only a few kilometers down the road, a Black-tailed Trainbearer, and some Hooded Siskins.
Finally, we drove to Cusco, where we enjoyed the architecture, a drink and then took our night bus to Puno
Bird of the day: Rufous-collared Sparrow – 27 species seen; 0 new
C2 – Day 22
A small bus picked us up in the morning and brought us to the harbour of Puno. In the harbour swam lots of Andean Ruddy Ducks, Slate-colored Coots and a single Silvery Grebe. Our goal today was seeing a Titicaca Grebe, but we didn’t know how difficult it would be and if it would even be possible on the touristic tour we’d do. When after a few minutes the first Titicaca Grebe showed up we were all in an alarm mode. Then the second and third showed up and very soon I stopped counting. In the beginning, there were lots of Andean Ruddy Ducks, many White-tufted Grebes and every now and then a Titicaca Grebe, but the further we drove the more Titicaca Grebes and the less other birds showed up. I guess we saw more than 500 Titicaca Grebes that day. Also, Heinz and I glimpsed a single Wilson’s Phalarope.
After a while we reached the first scheduled destiny, the floating islands of the indigenous Uros. They build their islands out of reed and showed us how to do so. Meanwhile a Black-crowned Night-Heron walked up and walked through the people without any fear and watched the presentation at least as interested as the tourists. Behind the reedhouses of the Uros were also some equally confiding Puna Ibises. Apparently they are kind of the pets of the indigenous here.
We made a short ride with the traditional punts which we were told would be good for birdwatching, but in fact the only bird we saw was a single Titicaca Grebe and not even from up close, so this was definitely not worth the money we had to pay (plus we didn’t do anything else, just a short 50m trip onto the lake and back again).
We then proceeded to an island called Taquile, where different indigenous people live, who have a very interesting and colorful way of dressing, with funny-looking bobble hats. We found some birds like Andean Lapwings, White-winged (Spot-winged) Pigeons and Mourning, Ash-breasted and Peruvian Sierra-Finches, but nothing new. The most interesting birds were probably a Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant, Black-throated Flowerpiercers and some Bare-faced Ground-Doves of another subspecies than we had seen before.
The boat ride back was mostly boring. Again hundreds of Grebes, but nothing else. When we finally approached Puno again we drove through a reed canal, where some Many-colored Rush-Tyrants and Wren-like Rushbirds showed. At one point some waders were seen between ducks and coots and could be ID’ed as Baird’s Sandpiper and a lone Lesser Yellowlegs.
Upon arriving back at the harbour we discovered that there were also a few Titicaca Grebes swimming close to the shore…
Bird of the day: Titicaca Grebe – 40 species seen, 1 heard; 2 new
C4 – Day 23
Puno to Chivay
Today was kind of a transit day, we drove from Puno to Chivay making three stops on the way. We left early in the morning, I tried birding from the bus. It seemed on every telephone pole there was an American Kestrel but apart from that, not much seemed to be around. That was when I noticed two chickenlike silhouettes running across the deserted looking landscape. Based on location and size the only possibility was Ornate Tinamous. Nice find, but unfortunately not a great observation. This must have been somewhere around Juliaca.
The first stop on our way was made at Laguna Lagunillas, where Flamingos were advertised not only for us birders but for all the tourists. We hoped for one of the rarer flamingo species, but could only find Chileans. Thanks to Yvonnes scope we could also have good looks at good numbers of Andean Avocets, Puna Plovers, Baird’s Sandpipers, a Greater Yellowlegs and Giant Coots, but already after some 5 minutes, the bus driver wanted to get going. Man, this site had so much potential.
Our next stop was at a restaurant in a really tiny village of maybe three houses called Patahuasi. Whereas most people got something to eat we tried to find as many birds as possible in the 20 minutes we were given. There was a small puddle with some Andean Negritos, some Grassland Yellowfinches sat in the sparse grass and Ground-Doves often flew over at high speed. We found one sitting nearby and could identify it as our first Golden-spotted Ground-Dove. Then Bernd called us back to the puddle, where two Baird’s Sandpipers had arrived/emerged and were totally not shy at all. Meanwhile, Yvonne had found a Cordilleran Canastero nearby, but already again we had to get into the bus.
Our guide told us we might have a small chance of seeing some Vicuñas, when asked by some tourist how many there were in this region he replied, that there were about 20-30, giving away he actually had no clue. 5 minutes later we pulled over as ca. 20 Vicuñas stood beside the road…
On the way to our next stop, we passed some bogs with lots of highland ducks, coots, buses, and even some Avocets, but then I also noticed another small silhouette. Again this was clearly a Tinamou, but much smaller than the ones I’d seen before. So it could only be Darwin’s Nothura!
Our last stop before arriving at Chivay was made at a place called ‘Mirador de Los Andes’. Actually there were many places before where you could have had better views of the mountains of the region, but here was the highest pass, about at 4950 meters. A Viscacha was the best find here.
At last, we arrived in Chivay (around noon) and the plan of the tourist group to go to some Spa or whatever, but we had better plans and so we got to know the suburbs of Chivay. And soon we had found a river in the north of the city where a pair of Torrent Duck with a chick of the very dark race turmeric could be observed while driving. On the other side of the river stood some cacti and shrubs and here we found huge numbers of Giant Hummingbirds (sometimes 5 at once). Streaked Tit-Spinetails were new, as were the Creamy-breasted Canisters. A Greyish Miner was seen way better than at
the Lomas de Lachay and a Black Metaltail shot past. While trying to follow it we found two Andean Hill stars and a few Grassland Greenfinches sitting in the rocks.
Bird of the day: Baird’s Sandpiper – 60 species seen; 8 new
C5 – Day 24
Today we started early in the morning with a special destiny in mind: The `Cruz del Condor’ at the Colca Canyon. You can guess, why it’s called that. When we arrived it was still quiet and no condors were flying, because it was still shady inside the canyon. The first birds included Andean Hillstars, Andean Swifts, and Mourning Sierra-Finches. As soon as the sun finally lit up the canyon and the first Condor appeared this day became magical. After a bit of waiting several Condors came nearer and nearer to the hundreds of tourists and finally flew at eye level past the amazed crowd. Many times you even had to zoom out to get the birds completely in your picture. Something between 15-20 birds emerged from the canyon and we had incredible views of males, females and immatures. Every once in a while there was also a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle or Variable Hawk that would fly by.
After the spectacle had ended we drove back to Chivay, stopping once for some amazing scenery and some Creamy-breasted Canasteros and Streaked Tit-Spinetails.
We then drove towards Arequipa, at first using the same road we had used to come to Chivay. We passed the `Mirador de Los Andes’ and the highland bogs we’d noted the last time. Again there were several freshwater birds, like coots and ducks, but for a brief moment, I also glimpsed a Diademed Sandpiper-plover standing right next to the road. Whoa! We then stopped again at the restaurant at Patahuasi, but this time we were given less time and so we had to stay closer to the bus. Nevertheless, just behind the restaurant, I found a Canastero, that could be identified as Puna Canastero. It was elusive at first, but when I put on some playback it flew in less than a second and gave mouthwatering views! There was also a Miner, that might have been Puna Miner, but it flew away before we could get a good view.
When we arrived in Arequipa we stayed sometime around the `Plaza de las Armas’ enjoying the atmosphere, before we had to catch our night bus towards Nazca
Bird of the day: Andean Condor — 45 species seen; 1 new
I hope you enjoyed the previous parts, hope to see you soon to check out the other parts. We’ll travel our path to Nazca, Paracas, Islas de las Ballestas next. Do let me know if you have any questions.
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Nazca, Paracas, Islas de las Ballestas | Last Part 6
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Pantiacolla Lodge, Amazonia Lodge, Cusco | Part 4