Birding around Lima

Birding around Lima

Great Inca Finch, Santa Eualia Valley.

After all these years leading birding tours, I have met many people who had no idea of how productive and rewarding birding is around Lima. That’s right, you are reading well…..around Lima!

Despite the fact that it is located in the desert, between the Pacific Ocean and the western foothills of the Andes in what appears to be a non very productive habitat, it is possible to find about 350 species of birds, among which there are several endemic and rare to uncommon species of birds.

Let’s start by taking a look at the north of Lima, where I will mention places and species to look for, then I will continue by doing the same to the south of town and finally I will be talking about the locations east of town, at the Andes of Lima. At the coast, north and south there is a mix of habitats ranging from marine, desert, coastal marshes and beaches to riparian habitats and agricultural lands. At the east, towards the Andes, the habitat is quite different, varying from dry arid scrub, riparian areas, agricultural lands, streams, polylepis remnants to Puna grasslands and high Andean lakes, reaching elevations up to 12000 feet (4200 m).

Peruvian Thicknee at Lachay.

NORTH

Starting on the coast, 105 kms north of Lima is located the reserve of Lachay, literally an oasis in the middle of the desert. Each year, during the austral winter, the Pacific Ocean fog turns this place into a carpet of vegetation between the months of June to November where 55 species of birds have been recorded, among which the endemic Cactus Canastero, Thick-billed and Coastal Miner stand out. Also, other species such as Andean Tinamou, Raimondi Yellow-Finch, Peruvian Pipit, Peruvian Thicknee, Oasis and Amazilia Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail, Least Seedsnipe, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Burrowing Owl, Grayish Miner, Masked Yellowthroad, Collared Warbling-Finch, Mountain Parakeet among others can be found at the reserve of Lachay.

A little further north, about 20 minutes drive from the entrance to Lachay, there is a detour to the Lagoon of Paraiso, where it is possible to see large concentrations of Chilean Flamingos, also Cinnamon Teal, White-cheeked Pintail, Greater and Pied-billed Grebe, Common Gallinule, Slate-colored Coot, Peruvian Thicknee, and depending on the season several species of peeps and gulls among others.

If interested in visiting this spot, please be advised that robbery has occurred at this place in the past so be extremely cautious if you see some other people around.

Vermilion Flycatcher at the gardens around Villa.

If we continue a little further north, at km 175, passing the town of Huacho and near the ruins of the citadel of Caral, the oldest city in America is the Albufera de Medio Mundo. At this place there are some bungalows where to spend the night and with a list of approximately 100 species. Here it is possible also to see a similar avian fauna than at the Paraiso Lagoon including the endemic Surf Cinclodes. This new lodge could allow you to do a combined trip with Lachay, the Albufera and even to include a visit to the archeological site of Caral.

Finally, there are the Ventanilla wetlands, very close to the Jorge Chavez airport and the Wyndham Costa del Sol hotel, which can allow you to spend some time between flight connections or on your way back from a visit to Lachay. At this place, the birds compare with those like the Villa wetlands, the Paraiso lagoon and the Albufera area.

Humboldt Penguins at the Palomino Islands.

Another very interesting site that can be accessed from Lima in a morning, are the Palomino Islands where the main attraction is the Humboldt Penguin in addition to other typical species of the Humboldt current such as Peruvian Pelican, Guanay, Neotropical and Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Booby, Belcher’s, Kelp, Gray and Gray-hooded Gull, Inca Tern, among others. With luck, sometimes some pelagic birds like Sooty Shearwater, Peruvian Diving-Petrel among others. Also at this location there is a big colony of South America Sea Lions.

It is important to mention that while waiting to embark on this trip, you can visit the Arenilla area which is a place very close to the boarding point where you can see several of the above mentioned species along with some Nearctic migrants.

This trip is comparable with the famous trip to the Ballestas Islands in Paracas a 3 hours south of Lima where the biggest difference is the density of the bird colonies but the species are the same and it is a great alternative if you do not have the time to visit Paracas.

Chilean Flamingos and Black-necked Stilts resting at Ventanilla Wetlands.

SOUTH

South of Lima we have several options to bird as well. The first and closest point is an area known as the Villa marshes (Pantanos de Villa). A wetland area typical of the Pacific coast of Peru, which is a RAMSAR site in which approximately 130 species have been recorded and can be easily birded in one morning or one afternoon and combined with another destination in the south as Pucusana.

In Villa it is possible to see different species of waterfowl and other associated to these habitats such as Cinnamon Teal, White-cheeked Pintail, Pied-billed and Greater Grebe, Black-Crowned and Yellow-crested Night-Heron, Striated Heron, Peruvian Thicknee, Burrowing Owl, American Oystercatcher, Plumbeous Rail, Inca Tern, Guanay Cormorant, Peruvian Pelican, Slate-colored Coot, Common Gallinule, Wren-like Rushbird, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Peruvian Meadowlark among others.

At the beach, there are great opportunities to see Kelp, Belcher’s, Gray, Gray-Hooded Gull, Inca Tern, Neotropic, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorant, and others. This is also an excellent site to observe migratory birds during the winter, is not uncommon to see hundreds of Franklin Gulls, Sandwich and Elegant Tern, Western, Semipalmated, Least and Pectoral Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Willet to mention a few.

Amazilia Hummingbird around Puerto Viejo area.

In the residential area there are also interesting birds around the gardens, species such as Long-tailed Mockingbird, West Peruvian Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Scrub Blackbird, Shiny Cowbird, Blue-black Grassquit, Chestnut-throated Seedeater, Vermilion Flycatcher (including the dark sooty form that occurs almost exclusively in Lima!) Amazilia Hummingbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow among others are not hard to find. If you decided to visit this area, just be aware that you will be birding around people houses so please be respectful.

Continuing south on the Panamerican highway, at km 57 there is a detour to the small fishing village of Pucusana which is a good destination to see the Humboldt Penguin in addition to other Humboldt Current specialties such as Peruvian Booby, Blackish Oystercatcher, Inca Tern, Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Pelican, Surf Cinclodes among others.

To see the penguins you have two options. One is hiring a boat at the fishermen wharf which will take you in front to the roosting area of the penguins at the ocean. The ride could be a little bit rough, specially during the Austral winter. Make sure you ask for lifejackets and more importantly, you feel comfortable after checking at the boat and equipment available.

Adult Red-legged Cormorant and two young birds, Pucusana.

If you do not feel comfortable or do not want to take a boat ride, you can walk to the “mirador” (an overlook) and from there you can see the Penguins swimming like torpedoes from the cove to the ocean and swimming. I have seeing them bathing and frolicking for a while from this point several times! Whether you want to see them from the boat or from the mirador, the best time is early in the morning. Especially from the boat when ocean conditions are glassy early! The best time for me has been between 6 and 9 am.

Further south, at km 70 there are the wetlands of Puerto Viejo where you can find a similar avianfauna than the Villa wetlands. There are two points of access. The first leads towards a private condominium area where you can find Wren-like Rushbird, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Peruvian Meadowlark, Peruvian Thicknee, Peruvian Thicknee, Collared Warbling-Finch, Vermilion Flycatcher, among others. Inside the condominium there is a lagoon where you can see the same waterfowl that occurs at Villa but management can be very jealous and might not allow you to look at it, just ask and explain you are birders. The other point of access is back from the highway south at km 72 approximately and that road goes all the way to the beach where it ends by the sand and near a restaurant with basic facilities. This is a good spot to look for the Coastal Miner. If you walk to towards the beach, scan at the tidal line to look for Surf Cinclodes, which also occurs here. At this area you can also find other species such as American Oystercatcher, Gray Gull, Peruvian Booby, Red-legged Cormorant and others.

Inca Terns at Pucusana.

Further south, there is the fertile valley of Cañete where it is possible to find the Slender-billed Finch, a species that occurs mostly in Peru and reaches northern Chile. This species likes riparian vegetation and dense shrubs, for which this valley offers a great opportunity to see it near Lima. In addition to this species, it is possible to find other species such as the subspecies rufescens of the Bran-colord Flycatcher, Vermilion Flycatcher, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Bare-faced Ground-Dove, Andean Swift and others.

In the south there are also the Lomas de Asia, which are an excellent alternative to the Lomas de Lachay in the north with a similar avian fauna and where it is relatively easier to see the Thick-billed Miner and Raimondi Yellow-Finch than in Lachay, especially in the dry season. It is also possible to see many of the species that occur in Lachay with the exception of the Least Seedsnipe that is more predictable in Lachay. Keep in mind that to access the areas of to see some of these species you have to walk uphill on a path that can be a bit strenuous.

Diadem Sandpiper Plover, higher Santa Eulalia road.

EAST

To the east, on the way to the Central Andes is the Santa Eulalia Valley at the western slope, which is one of my favorite places in Lima to watch birds! Here we have registered approximately 200 species, among which are endemic species such as Black-necked Woodpecker, Bronze-tailed Comet, Black Metaltail, Black-breasted Hillstar, Junin Canastero, White-bellied Cinclodes, Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail, Thick -billed Miner, White-cheeked Cotinga, Great Inca Finch, Rusty-bellied Brush-Finch and the jewel of the crown, the Rufous-breasted Warbling-Finch. As this is not enough, there are very good chance to see other species such as Puna Tinamou, Torrent Duck, Diademed Sandpiper Plover, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Andean Condor, Falcon Aplomado, Koepcke’s Screech-Owl, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Bare-faced and Black-winged Ground-Dove, Spot-winged Pigeon, Giant Hummingbird, Olivaceous Thornbill, Giant Coot, Silvery Grebe, White-capped Dipper, Rufous-bellied and Great-breasted Seedsnipe, Streak-throated Canastero, Streak-headed Antpitta, Dorbigny’s and White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Mourning and Peruvian Sierra-Finch, and many more!

The endemic White-bellied Cinclodes at the high part of the Santa Eulalia road.

The best way to bird this area is by making this trip in two days to maximize the chances of seeing the greatest number of species. The first day you should start very early from Lima, by leaving at about 4 am to avoid traffic and concentrate on seeing the birds of the lower Santa Eulalia Valley all day, return to the village of Santa Eulalia (or spending the night at the community of Huachupampa in very basic accommodations) to spend the night and the next day leaving early in the morning to start looking for the birds of higher elevation. During the day, you will be gaining elevation while birding reaching the highest point at 4200 meters above sea level at the last stop. At about 2 pm it would be highly recommendable to start the drive back to Lima to avoid the dreadful traffic at the Central Highway.

It is important to bear in mind that for this trip it is essential to do a checkup with your physician and discuss the effects of the high elevation. For instance, some folks usually use Diamox in order to reduce the possibility of high altitude sickness. Also be aware that sometimes it is possible to find snow and experience very cold conditions.

Black-necked Woodpecker, lower Santa Eulalia road.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite trips and I recommend it with closed eyes, especially in two full days, the experience is unforgettable.

The next time you plan a trip to Peru and you discover the logistics require a few days in Lima before or after, do not worry about what to do because you have some great birding options of which you can definitely add new (and pretty cool!) birds to your list.

If you want more details about the logistics and birds of this trip, please do not hesitate to contact me at pepe@peperojasbirding.com.

In the meantime, stay healthy, be strong and bird a lot!

Cheers.

Pepe

Tambopata vs. Manu: The Ultimate Birding Smackdown

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              Blue-headed Macaw, Tambopata

During all my 25+ years guiding birding trips and doing field work, I’ve been asked countless times whether the birding is better in Manu or the Tambopata lowlands. The truth is that unless you are doing the Manu Road together with a trip to the lowlands of Manu, the options, in terms of birds are quite similar. BAM! There it is my birding friends, the cold, hard truth. However, there are important differences in trip logistics, time and cost that I’ll dive into here in hopes that this is helpful as you consider planning your next birding adventure to Southeastern Peru.

It is important to mention that this article compares the options of seeing birds in the lowlands of Tambopata and Manu in comparable areas of elevation and similar habitats. The foothills area and the transition area with the lowlands are not being considered, much less the Manu road, which will be covered in a separate article with these other areas..

For many years, Manu was considered “the mecca” of birding in southeastern Peru and there was no lack of reason for it because for many years the work carried out by Dr. John Therborgh and his Duke University team of students at the biological station of Cocha. Cashu, produced new discoveries in neotropical ecology including the description and rediscovery of new species of birds which began to generate the attention of the first groups of bird watchers from companies like Victor Emanuel Nature Tours that started bringing birders to this area. With the establishment of the Manu Lodge on the lowlands of the Manu River and the Cloud Forest Lodge at the foothills, the ideal conditions were found to start operating tourism in this area.

Over the years other lodges appeared in the lowlands area of ​​the Madre de Dios River that offer birding trips and are precisely subject of comparison in this article.

In addition, the richness of flora and fauna at Manu is spectacular, which greatly enhances the experience if one makes the trip by land from Cusco. As if this were not enough, Manu is one of the first national parks of Peru and is recognized as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

For these reasons, Tambopata remained eclipsed by Manu for many years and very few companies ventured to bring tourists to this area despite the fact that the offers of flora and fauna were comparable. There were very few lodges in the area, perhaps the most influential in the area were, Explorer’s Inn, the legendary lodge that was established as a hunting reserve for a while, until few years later, when the change of international regulations on flora and fauna put a banned on trophy hunting, forcing them to become the first natural history lodge in the Tambopata area. Then in 1989 when the Tambopata Research Center was established as headquarters of the macaws project several hours (7 hours) upstream near the largest macaw collpa known to man and in a totally pristine area, is that the region began to generate a little more attention, to the point that in 1992 was the basis of an evaluation of RAP team of Conservation International that produced very interesting results and began to attract a little more attention. Besides these lodges at Tambopata, there were a few more also at the Madre de Dios river.

It is important to note that Peru for many years was under a very complicated political situation, on the verge of civil war by a group of Maoist terrorists which kept tourism away. The situation improved markedly from 1992 with the dismantling of the dome which produced a remarkable change in the economy and stabilization of the country.

In order to discuss pros/cons of each place, I have decided to write about to three points, which I think are the most relevant. These are: access, attractions and bird species that are considered “Southeastern Peru Specialties”

        Orinoco Goose, Tambopata river

ACCESS

Maybe this is the most decisive point to make a decision on which of these two destinations to choose since to go to Manu, the logistics is much more complicated, it takes much more time and the cost is higher. To go to Tambopata, the process is much more direct and simple.

Below, I detail a little more the operations to access each site.

Manu

To go to Manu there are two options:

Option 1. You fly from Lima to Cusco and from there, enter by land from Cusco in trip that might take between 5 hours (to 8 hours including a few selected stops) to reach one of one of the lodges at the cloud forest where you will spend the night and visit a cock of the rocks lek in the afternoon or early before leaving for the port of Atalaya. After leaving, it will take 45 minutes from the cloud forest lodge to reach the port of Atalaya where you take a boat and from there 6 to 8 hours down the river until you reach Manu Wildlife Center or Tambo Blanquillo.

Personally it is a torture to make this trip directly knowing all the potential that exists in

the Manu road, because of that, it is important to do a trip JUST to bird the Manu road!

Option 2. You fly to Puerto Maldonado, then you have to travel by land approximately 4 and a half hours by land to get to Boca Colorado and take a boat for about 4-5 hours and from there take the boat trip to Manu Wildlife Center or another of the lodges nearby.

In both options it is recommended to spend at least one night in Puerto Maldonado. Before leaving to Manu and back to fly to Lima the next day.

In short, it takes at least a day and a half to two of a trip to get to one of the lodges and start birding. In addition of that, to at least one day in Puerto Maldonado to return to Lima and take international connections.

Tambopata

To go to Tambopata one flies from Lima in a commercial plane that has several departures a day and arrives directly at Puerto Maldonado from where there are many good options to start seeing birds. For example, in the area of ​​the Tambopata River there are lodges such as the legendary Explorer’s Inn and Posada Amazonas Lodge about two hours upstream. A little further up the river you can reach the Tambopata Research Center, which is located in a very pristine area with no human presence and where there are very good possibilities to appreciate spectacular fauna.

On the other hand, there are other options in the Madre de Dios river, such as CICRA and Las Piedras Lodge, which are accessible from Puerto Maldonado. Personally, I like to combine my trips with an extension to look for Rufous Twistwing and Acre Tody-Tyrant in addition to other species.

In summary, the access is direct and simple and in the same day one arrives at the destination that one wants to make birding. Less time in boats and in general the logistics is much more direct.

ATTRACTIONS

Both in Manu and in Tambopata there are several options that offer comparable alternatives of comfort and service for lodging as well as structures that will enhance your birding experience: plenty of trails for different habitats, oxbow lakes with catamarans, canopy towers, and clay licks (collpas) of mammals and psittacines.

It is precisely in the macaw clay licks where there are more notorious differences

between Tambopata and Manu. One of the biggest differences with the Manu clay licks is

with respect to the difference of species.

A very important detail is the seasonality that exists in this activity. During certain times of the year, the concentration of different species of psittacines that visit the clay licks varies. Also, the activity is sensitive to rain and cold fronts (friajes)

Manu

One of the most visited clay licks in Manu is the Blanquillo clay lick, after payment and coordination with the managers of Tambo Blanquillo Lodge. It is important to mention alsthat you must pay for each time you plan to go to observe the activity of the macaws.

The trip from Manu Wildlife Center takes 30-45 minutes by boat and usually leaves very early to arrive in time to the blind from where all the activity will be observed about 200 meters away.

The activity takes all the morning and breakfast is served at the blind while watching this amazing natural history show(this must be one of the best places to have breakfast in the world!) It is also important to mention that there are toilets in this blind, which can make your life easy

In terms of species you can see on average about 6 species of psittacines among which Red-and-Green and Chestnut-fronted Macaw stand out; Yellow-crowned, Mealy, Blue-headed and Orange-cheeked Parrots; Dusky-headed Parakeets and sometimes Toui Parakeets. Also, I know that at Manu Wildlife Center they have been working with Scarlet Macaws to use a collpa in the vicinity of the lodge with success.

        Blanquillo Claylick, Manu

Tambopata
To visit the Tambopata Research Center collpa implies to take a 5 minutes boat ride from the river port and a short hike to a designated area from where you can observe the activity. You must stay in this spot from the beginning until the end of the activity. Once it finishes, you take the boat back to the lodge to have breakfast and continue with the activities. Unlike Manu, the visits to the collpa are not subject of extra charge and one can come back as many times as desired. In this collpa there are registered 16 species of psittacines and on average it is possible to see up to 12 species in a span of 2 hours. Depending on the season it is possible to see: Red-and-Green, Scarlet, Blue-and-Yellow, Chestnut-fronted, Red-bellied and the rare Blue-headed Macaw; Mealy, Yellow-crowned, Blue-headed, Orange-cheeked and White-bellied Parrots; White-eyed and Dusky-headed Parakeets!

For many years,this claylick was the largest known by men and most spectacular! Until quite a few years ago when the river’s dynamics changed and the vegetation started to colonized it. This collpa has been the subject of many wildlife film and photography productions from organizations such as National Geographic, BBC Natural History Unit among others.

      El Chuncho claylick, Tambopata

At the Chuncho (Elias Aguirre) River, there is another claylick known as the Chuncho collpa, which is the most visited collpa currently in the region and with an impressive activity where the three species predominate of large macaws (Red-and-Green, Scarlet, Blue-and-Yellow Macaw) that are not seen in the Manu clay licks.

To visit it you must stay at some of the lodges nearby from where you will leave early in the morning until reaching the area where it is and after a short hike arrive to the designated area to watch the birds. Be aware that the boat ride from your lodge will vary depending where this is located along the Tambopata river.

Very close to Puerto Maldonado, there is also a small collpa (known as Collpa La Cachuela) which can be accessed by the road from the city. Be aware that you have to ask for permission to the family who lives there to go across their property to reach the area where you can see the birds . One of the “common” species in that collpa is precisely the Blue-headed Macaws and can be visited in a morning before going to the airport.

Also, around the Piedras River, there is another collpa with good activity of psittacines where the Red-and-Green Macaws also predominate.

In summary, the most diverse clay licks are in Tambopata.


White-throated Jacamar

SPECIES OF INTEREST

It is important to mention that there are some factors that affect the activity of birds. So for example we have that between the months of May and August the strong winds of the Patagonia arrive at the plain Amazonia lowering the temperature dramatically which has an impact on wildlife. Also, there are two well-marked seasons in this part of the

Amazonia The dry season (May – October), on which, especially in the warmer months, activity tends to be very slow. And the rainy season where is very good activity in general, as long as it does not rain there are very good chances to score great birds.

Many of these species can also be seen in the adjacent areas of Brazil and Bolivia, but access from Peru is much easier and the conservation of the forest is much better besides having much more offers of lodges.

Bamboo birds

Both Tambopata and Manu offer great opportunities to see this group of

birds that are a “must see” specialty of Southeastern Peru. In the Tambopata Research Center is where Andrew Kratter of LSU made his PhD study in bamboo birds. The bamboo forest is quite productive and you can see almost all the lowland and high terrace species that occur. At Manu there are also several options where to find the bamboo specialists.

Rufous-fronted Antthrush

Rediscovered by the legendary Ted Parker in Cocha Cashu, Manu, this species of formicarid was considered for some years a Peruvian endemic, until it was also found in the adjacent regions of Brazil and Bolivia, however it is still considered one of the ” must see species “in Peru and there is much better chance of seeing it here.

Both Tambopata and Manu offer good possibilities to see it, however, it is in Tambopata where there are greater options and territories of this species. On a trip I made to the Iñapari area on the border with Brazil, I was surprised at how common this species was!

Black-faced Cotinga

It is a little more predictable to see in Manu, although I have always seen it in some places of the Madre de Dios River near Puerto Maldonado like CICRA and Las Pierdas Lodge, the transoceanic highway and there are even reports around the city of Puerto Maldonado.

Scarlet-hooded Barbet

At ​​Manu area, this species is much more common near the foothills, however there are reports of some of the lodges in the lowlands, however in ​​the Tambopata Research Center it is quite predictable in the right habitat.

Purus Jacamar

This species is accessible at several of the sites to visit in Manu. In the same way in Tambopata, where it can even be seen around the city of Puerto Maldonado.

White-throated Jacamar

Best opportunities in the Tambopata area. For example, it is a common bird in the CICRA clearing and on one of the trails of the Tambopata Research Center. It is also quite common in some points of Puerto Maldonado.

Harpy eagle, Tambopata

Harpy Eagle

Although this is not a highly predictable species, there is a good chance of seeing this species in the Tambopata River area. For many years around the community of Infierno and Posada Amazonas Lodge were monitoring active nests of Harpy Ealges and recently in the grounds of Refugio Amazonas Lodge there is a couple that has been nesting consistently in recent years. Surprisingly in Manu this species is seldom seen.

In addition to these species, both Tambopata and Manu harbor healthy populations of many other species such as Blue-throated Guan Piping, Spix’s Guan, Razor-billed Curassow, Orinoco Goose, up to 16 species of psittacines among which, it is important to mention the Blue-headed Macaw and Amazonian Parrotlet; Pale-winged Trumpeters, Black, Black-and-White, Ornate Hawk-Eagle and Harpy Eagle and many others.

Razor-billed Curassows

It is important to mention that in both locations, unlike many other parts of the Amazon, there are also populations of very stable and healthy mammals that improve the overall experience. There are very good possibilities to see mammals such as Jaguar, Puma, Jaguarundi, Ocelot, Tapir, Giant River Otters, Capybaras, and up to 12 species of monkeys in Manu and 8 in Tambopata.

To choose a trip to Tambopata or Manu there are many operators who claim that their itineraries and visited sites are better than the competition, that they have better options to see more and better species and things of that type. There are also those that offer accommodation with 5 star services however the forest that surrounds them is not in good condition and you will not see important species. Be aware that many operators in Manu, tend to inflate what they sell by including birds and mammals in the cloud forest that you will not see at the lodges that this article focuses on, that is, lowlands lodges.

Manu is a great destination but to get there, it means you must have the time to invest for the traveling days. If you have the time, I will encourage you to do the whole Manu trip, starting by land from Cusco all the way down through the cloud forest and finally to reach the lowlands lodge. Have on mind that for this type of trip you will need at least 15 days in order to take your time and bird properly at the different elevations as well as the foothills and of course, the lowlands.

If you don’t have a lot of time and want to bird only the lowlands, then Tambopata will be your better choice because offers you the best possibility to maximize your birding experience and boost your birding list without the hassle of long traveling distances and missing any species.

Finally, the most important thing is to know that the comparison of species does not have very dramatic variations but rather the logistics and the time that can be spent in the field to look for the birds that one needs.

If you want to know more information please do not hesitate to send me an email.

Thank you

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Birdwatching in Peru


Foto: Pepe Rojas

Peru is one of the countries with some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. Not in vain has it been recognized as part of a group of 17 countries (known as megadiverse countries) where the greatest biodiversity of the world is concentrated. This comes as result of a series of geographical factors as well as the position of Peru within the continent that produce these surprising levels of biodiversity.

One of the highest components of this biodiversity are the birds. To date and according to the most recent version of the South American Classification Committee of the American Ornithologists Union, in Peru, there are 1800 species of birds registered, of which 106 are endemic, which makes it one of the countries with the largest bird species in the world, together with Colombia and Brazil, as well as one of the most desired destinations for bird watchers from all over the world.


Foto: Max Waugh

But with an extension of 1’285.00 of square kilometers covering the coast, the Andes and the lowlands of the Amazon, it is not easy to start planning a trip. Where to start? How do I do it? … It can be a bit overwhelming to think about these details before planning a trip to Peru unless you are taking an organized tour trip. Perhaps some of the things to consider are if this is going to be my first trip to South America, or if I have a list of target birds that I want to focus on or maybe just go out with an open mind and see what species I can find in the region I will be traveling.


Google earth

The starting point would be the three routes established by PROMPERÚ a few years ago to launch a campaign to promote bird watching in Peru and that is precisely the starting point of this article.

These routes were strategically designed dividing the country in the north, center and south to cover a series of habitats and altitudinal floors from the coast to the Andes and the Amazonian lowlands, each with unique characteristics that result in the wonderful diversity that we find in each one of them that certainly includes different endemic species and others of restricted ranges.

The Northern route includes the northeastern region of the Marañón, which is characterized by being an area of ​​high endemism and that includes Cajamarca, Amazonas and San Martín; the northwest region, which includes the dry forests and tropical forests of the Pacific of Tumbes, Piura, Chiclayo and part of Trujillo and the Amazonian region of Loreto which includes different sites of the Peruvian Amazon including both banks of the Amazon River.

Promperu

 

The Central route includes the departments of central Peru including Lima and the coastal region as well as the Andes near the city; Ancash and the area of the Callejón de Huaylas and Cordillera Blanca; Huánuco, Pasco and Junín that include a very interesting altitudinal gradient until reaching the low jungle part of Ucayali.

 

Promperu.

 

Finally the South route that includes the departments of Ica, Arequipa, Moquegua, Puno, Cusco and Madre de Dios. Part of it is located within one of the most diverse sites in the world and includes the Manu and Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, both sites recognized worldwide for their biodiversity records.

Promperu

 

 

These three routes will be precisely the starting point of this blog. We will talk about each one, the birds of interest, places to go, places to stay on the route, guides, etc.

Do not miss my next article, meanwhile be happy, stay strong and bird a lot!

Happy birding!

Pepe

The Mysterious Bamboo Birds of Southeastern Peru

During my seven years living in and researching the birds of Peru’s southeastern Amazon, I explored one of the more fascinating habitats in this mega-diverse ecosystem. The bamboo forests of Tambopata provide a unique home for a highly specialized group of birds.

The discovery of this niche was made by my birding hero, the late Ted Parker, after spending several seasons studying the avianfauna of the region. Ted was the best tropical ornithologist of his time and had the uncanny ability to detect very subtile differences in behavior among birds. He noticed that in these bamboo thickets there was something unusual happening – a pattern emerged that had never been recorded.

Parker’s observations inspired another ornithologist, Andrew Kratter, to complete a PhD dissertation on the subject. Based primarily in Tambopata over the course of several field seasons, Kratter determined 19 species of birds restricted to the bamboo forests. Summarizing  his methodology, he found three degrees of specialization:

  1. He defined “obligate bamboo users” those specialists entirely restricted to bamboo. This includes: Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Manu Antbird, Flammulated Pygmy-Tyrant, White-cheeked Tody-Tyrant, and Large-headed Flatbill.
  2. Next, he defined “near obligate bamboo users” which included those specialists that he found mostly mostly in bamboo and sometimes in other habitats. This includes: Peruvian Recurvebill, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-Gleaner, Brown-rumped Foliage-Gleaner, Bamboo Antshrike, White-lined Antbid, Goeldi’s Antbird, and Dusky-tailed Flatbill.
  3. Lastly, he defined “facultative bamboo users” as those birds that use bamboo as well as other habitats. This includes: Rufous-breasted Piculet, Red-billed Scythebill, Cabansi’s Spinetail, Ornate Antwren, Ihering’s Antwren, and Dot-wimged Antwren.

Lucky for me, nearly all of these birds could be seen in a single hike where I used to live!

But the story doesn’t end there. I’ve been traveling to Tambopata annually (some years for months at a time) for two decades. Over the last 10 years I’ve noted the disappearance of these birds with the corresponding die-off of the bamboo forests. For years I’ve wondered, are they gone? Are they just silent? The mystery of it all relentlessly nagged me, so much that I even briefly considered doing a PhD just to get to the bottom of it!

Fast forward another handful of years, and well the PhD didn’t happen. I decided instead to keep doing what I love and do best – being out in the field, studying and watching birds, and guiding birders to experience these incredible habitats.

Last year, while leading a tour in the Villa Carmen area of the Manu Road, I was floored to discover intact bamboo forest around on trails around the field station. It felt like I had been transported back in time to Tambopata – the thickets weren’t just back, but thriving. Would the birds be back, too?!

Forest surrounding Villa Carmen lodge, located along the Manu Road.

Up at dawn the next morning, I quickly ran out with my binoculars and within minutes had my answer. The bamboo birds were back! That morning I found 15 bamboo specialists during my hike. The forest had recovered, and it brought the birds with it.

That is, if they ever really left?

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Do you know what happened to the bamboo birds when their thickets disappeared? I’m still very curious about this topic and am interested to hear any ideas or observations by my birding friends.