Avocet Tours ‘famtour’ to Northern Peru

Northern Peru ‘Famtour’ Trip report ~ By Avery Bartels

The following is a report on my fam trip (familiarization trip) organized through PromPeru, the tourism board of Peru, in mid-November 2018. The trip was organized in conjunction with Greentours, a Peruvian tour company with many years of experience in birding tours in this avian-rich nation. Our guide was Wilson Diaz who is the owner of Greentours and as his company is the ground agent for Avocet Tours’ 2019 North Peru Tour it was an excellent chance for us to meet and finalize the route and logistics of the upcoming tour as well as of course offering myself the opportunity to see the route, infrastructure and many of the birds! Overall I was impressed with the lodges and hotels we stayed in and the itinerary offered up a plethora of superb bird species, many of which are country or regional endemics. Before the tour itself started I arranged privately for a vehicle and driver to explore the highlands of Central Peru above Lima. I then spent a day birding the coast south of Lima with one of the other participants of the fam trip before meeting up with the rest of the group that evening.

The fam-trip portion of my trip was a very condensed version of the first 10 days of the Avocet Tours’ 2019 North Peru Tour. The main purpose of the trip was to see the route and infrastructure rather than to track down all the birds and as such most sites did not receive the amount of time they warranted. That being said, over the course of the 10-day trip more than 425 species were tallied. In the following report, species endemic to Peru are in bold.

Day 1: Nov. 9 – Lima to Hachupampa (Santa Eulalia Valley)
At 4:30am I was met at my hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima by Julio Benites, my driver, cook, guide and all-round excellent companion for the next 3 days. Julio has been working in bird tourism for 20 years and knows all the routes and sites for target birds. Over my three days with him his knowledge would prove invaluable and I would have the pleasure of his excellent field breakfasts and lunches that he would prepare at the roadside while I was birding.

At 6:30 we arrived at our first stop in the lower Santa Eulalia valley. I don’t know which was more enjoyable, the birding or my breakfast of fresh fruit, granola and yoghurt followed by some nice rolls with ham and cheese, a cup of tea and lemonade. Yellow-billed Tit-tyrants and Oasis Hummingbirds were common while I also encountered my first Blue-and Yellow Tanager, Band-tailed Sierra-finch and two behemoths – Giant Hummingbird and Andean Condor! As we prepared to tuck in to our feast of a breakfast a pair of Black-necked Woodpeckers arrived, my first endemic! As Julio repacked the

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The Santa Eulalia Valley, Peru. Nov 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

vehicle I got nice looks at my first Peruvian Pygmy-owl. Working our way up the valley we picked up White-capped Dipper at the bridge below Huinco before arriving at “El Tunel”, the site for another endemic, the Great Inca Finch. It was very quiet when we arrived though I did find a few Bare-faced Ground-doves. Luckily Julio spotted the Inca-finches and came to retrieve me from where I had wandered up the road. After a few minutes I refound the pair foraging quietly down the steep slope below us. There was a little cluster of activity here as a small group of Mountain Parakeets loafed in the vegetation and the endemic Rusty-crowned Tit-spinetail and Rusty-bellied Brushfinch foraged nearby.

After an unsuccessful try for Thick-billed Miner we stopped on the Autisha bridge from where Julio spotted a pair of Torrent Ducks in the river far below. Carrying on up the switchbacks towards Huachupampa we made a couple more stops finding Andean Swifts overhead, Pied-crested Tit-tyrant and Collared Warbling-finch. I was surprised and delighted when an endemic Rufous-breasted Warbling-finch flew into a bush nearby giving nice back-on looks for about 15 seconds before dropping out of site. This is one of the tougher targets in the area so I was relieved to stumble upon it. While waiting for it to pop back up my only Spot-winged Pigeon flew past. More activity up the road revealed a White-browed Chat-tyrant.

In the afternoon we focussed our efforts on the area above Huachupampa known as the “Desvio (turnoff or detour) a Huachupampa” which is the classic spot for the Rufous-breasted Warbling-finch which we eventually did see again here. Also in attendance were two endemic hummingbirds that both showed nicely, perching close by – Black Metaltail and Bronze-tailed Comet. Mourning Sierra-finches where common here and a patch of good activity yielded my first Golden-billed Saltator, Black-winged Ground-dove and a covey of four Andean Tinamous! Three Andean Condors soared overhead as we were eating Julio’s superb lunch.

Day 2: Nov. 10 – Huachumpampa, Marcopomacocha Road, Ticlio Pass and Junin Lake
Another early start saw us leave Huachupampa and take a spectacular and not-for-the-faint-of-heart narrow mountain road up toward the high elevations of the Marcopomacocha road. On our way we spotted an Andean Fox and our first Vizcachas (sort of a cross between a large rabbit and a bushy-tailed woodrat). At 7:00am we arrived

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Views along the Marcopomacocha Road, Peru. Nov 10, 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

at the Polylepis forest at 3800m where the main target was the elusive White-cheeked Cotinga. A short but steep climb up to a flat area gave me a good vantage point and on my way up I spotted my only Stripe-headed Antpitta perched atop a rock along with many Cream-winged Cinclodes and Buff-bellied Earthcreepers. The forest itself was near birdless but I did spot a pair of d’Orbigny’s Chat-tyrants and a singing Canyon Canastero. Disappointed though unsurprised, I had to return down to the vehicle for breakfast without the Cotinga, en route spotting my first Peruvian Sierra-finches and a flyby Black Siskin of which I would see many more.

After a quick stop near a reservoir for Striated Earthcreeper we ascended to the first pass where we were fortunate to scope a trio of calling Puna Tinamou, one of the least seen high elevation specialties in this area. Streak-throated Canastero and White-fronted Ground-tyrant were added to the list as were the common Andean Flickers and Ash-breasted Sierra-finch before we arrived at Laguna Milloc. Here we scoped several waterfowl including Andean Geese, Crested and Andean Ducks, Yellow-billed Teal, White-tufted Grebe and Giant Coot. A Puna Snipe skulked in the damp grass near where we stopped the vehicle and a Mountain Caracara soared over the ridge. On the far side of the lake we stopped for a pair of Cordilleran Canasteros foraging out in the open.

Our next stop was the famous Pampa Curicocha, known as the most reliable site for White-bellied Cinclodes and sure enough as we were getting out of the vehicle a pair arrived and put on a nice show just downslope from us. By this point we were well over 4000m elevation and I was feeling quite bogged down by the elevation. At our next stop I took a brief walk around the pampa and tracked down a pair of beautiful Diademed Sandpiper-plovers. Once that was accomplished I slogged the 50m back to the vehicle where I had a lunch of hot soup that Julio had prepared but I couldn’t bring myself to setup the scope on a distant likely Dark-winged Miner, a move I would regret later as missed this species, my second dip on an endemic Miner after the Thick-billed the day before. A Grey-breasted Seedsnipe sat still beside the road here before we continued on towards the main highway and Ticlio Pass.

Shortly before we arrived at the main highway we stopped at a stakeout for Black-breasted Hillstar. In short order a male came in and fed on some flowers upslope before perching on the side of a boulder. Feeling better after my meal and a drop of a few hundred metres in elevation I clambered up the hillside and got superb scope views

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Puna Ibis, Peru. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

from 20m away! Just down the road we spent some time for Olivaceous Thornbill but dipped, instead picking up a pair of Taczanowski’s Ground-tyrants, my first definite White-winged Cinclodes and a pair of Variable Hawks soaring over. A mid-afternoon stop at Ticlio Pass was quiet but did add my first Andean Lapwing and Puna Ibis along with a few Andean Gulls.

After a couple hours of straight driving we arrived at Junin where, after a quick call with the local guide, Cesar, we decided to head straight to Ondores to try for the “Junin” Black Rail before dark. On the way out to Ondores I got our my first Andean Negritos and Chilean Flamingoes. While picking up Cesar in town an Andean Swallow flew over. Fighting the failing light we arrived at the rail site and within a minute Cesar had the Black Rail responding and in short order walking across the 2-foot wide cleared area! It repeated this a few times offering great views of a normally incredibly skulky species. A fine way to end a very long day!

Day 3: Nov. 11 – Junin Lake to Lima
After deciding against going out in the boat with Cesar to see the Junin Grebe we tried our luck from shore at Casapato. After some birding around the old research centre that turned up Burrowing Owl, Paramo Pipit, Black-billed Shrike-tyrant and Common Miner Julio and I had another wonderful breakfast. A Stroll down to the shoreline showed the water level to be very low which was not good news as the birds were well out and there was already a fair bit of heat haze. I spotted one definite Silvery Grebe and a second grebe a little further out but with the conditions it was impossible to determine the species though it did appear a little larger than the Silvery. Puna Teal and Chilean Flamingos were common here and in the nearby reeds I got good looks at both Wren-like Rushbird and a stunning Many-colored Rush-tyrant. As I started back towards the vehicle a Short-eared Owl flew by before ducking down into the reeds.

With a long drive ahead of us we left the lake and started on our way back towards Lima. After dipping on Junin Canastero along the Marcapomococha road Julio suggested a stop at a stakeout he knew. After a half hour of wandering around I was about to give up when suddenly one sang from the bunchgrass a little further up the valley. Elated, I tracked it down and watched it singing from atop a lichen-covered rock. As I was making my way over to it an Ornate Tinamou ran away from me before taking flight. Nearby a Short-billed Pipit gave snatches of song from another rock. Back by the vehicle a female Black-breasted Hillstar flew in to a perch on a cut bank.

Back at the Olivaceous Thornbill stakeout we again had no luck though I had my last meal with Julio, a local dish called Causa that is made with mashed golden potatoes and tuna salad. Delicious! It was then a ~4 hour drive down another incredible mountain road that fortunately was not too clogged with traffic and we arrived at the outskirts of Lima before the main rush hour and I was back at my hotel by 5:30pm.

Day 4: Nov. 12 – Lima to Pucusana and Puerto Viejo and Villa Marshes
I had arranged with one of the other participants on the fam tour, Chris Collins of Birding Ecotours, to go birding with him and a colleague of his to the area south of the

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Gorgeous Inca Terns. Pucusana, Peru. Nov 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

city so at 7:00 we met up with Eduardo Ormaeche and his friend who was at the wheel. After an hour and a quarter we arrived at the fishing town of Pucusana where we stopped in at an overlook for 20 minutes. Here we scope hundreds of Peruvian Boobies and Inca Terns along with dozens of Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Belcher’s Gulls and Peruvian Pelicans. An endemic Surf Cinclodes flew onto the rocks below us briefly as well. The undeniable highlight though was watching several Humboldt Penguins swimming and loafing in the surf below us! After this smorgasbord of goodies we drove down to the docks and took a small boat out for a 40 minute loop around the little island just offshore. Here we got more looks at the amazingly abundant seabirds we had spotted from the overlook as well as a few Blackish Oystercatchers and some Humboldt Penguins perched on the cliffs. South American Sea Lions loafed on the rocks and an inquisitive female swam past us a few metres away.

Back on dry land we continued southward to the Puerto Viejo marshes. Here we were hoping to track down Great Grebe along with other marsh birds that I had already seen at Junin such as Many-colored Rush-tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird. While we had no trouble getting the latter two we dipped on the Grebes. A Least Bittern was a nice surprise and Chris was a fan of the smart looking White-cheeked Pintails. Eduardo had mentioned we might get lucky and find a Coastal Miner, though given my luck with endemic miners so far I was sceptical. However, as we were walking back towards the vehicle Chris flushed one up and we got fantastic looks at it! Moving on to the nearby beach we got our first American Oystercatchers and Grey-hooded Gulls along with more prolonged views at another Surf Cinclodes.

Heading back north we stopped for a late lunch and got our first taste of Chicha Morada, a local sweetened corn drink that was quite pleasant. After eating we made our way to our last stop of the day, the Villa marshes. Thousands of Franklin’s Gulls were on the

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Villa Marshes near Lima, Peru. Nov 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

lagoon along with White-tufted Grebes, Andean Ducks, a few Kelp Gulls and many waders and shorebirds including a group of Whimbrel. A walk back into the scrub and desert beside the marshes provided the hoped for Peruvian Thick-knees as well as a surprise White-edged Oriole that Eduardo presumed was an escapee. More Many-colored Rush-tyrants foraged at the edge of the reed beds and we got our only Amazilia Hummingbird. As our driver was calling on us to get going back to Lima before the traffic got too bad Eduardo finally picked out a pair of sleeping Great Grebes, one of which deigned to raise its head briefly giving us better looks!

Back at the hotel we said goodbye to Eduardo and hello to those of the fam trip participants who had arrived along with Wilson Diaz, our guide for the next week.

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Great Grebe. Viejo Marshes, Peru. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

Day 5: Nov. 13 – Flight to Tarapoto, Laguna Ricuricocha and Pumarinri Lodge
After a mid-morning flight to Tarapoto in the Amazonian foothills of San Martin department we made a couple stops en route to our lodging for the night, the beautiful Pumarinri Lodge on the banks of the Rio Haullaga. Our first stop was an impromptu one at a small wetland after crossing the Tarapoto Bridge. Here we picked up our fist Limpkin, Hoatzin, Blue-winged Parrotlet and Black Caracara along with our only Spot-breasted Woodpecker and Greater Anis of the trip and a surprise Ringed Woodpecker. At mid-day we arrived at Laguna Curicocha where we scoped a couple dozen Comb Ducks on the lake along with a lone Least Grebe. An Amazon Kingfisher and a Snail Kite were hunting the shores. Along the road our local guide got us onto one of the local specialties a diminutive Flammulated Pygmy-tyrant. Some flowers produced our first Sapphire-spangled Emerald while Barred Antshrike, Mouse-colored Tyrannulet and Yellow-breasted Flycatcher (Flatbill) were seen as well. From the marsh a couple Rufous-sided Crakes were heard giving their distinctive calls. As we were loading into the vehicle another one of our targets, a Planalto Hermit made a split-second visit to some flowers right beside the van.

We finally arrived at the lodge in time for a late lunch during which a Great-billed Hermit and a Gray-breasted Sabrewing made appearances at the Heliconias below the

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Sparkling Violetear. Peru. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

dining area. After our meal we were entertained by a Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher in the canopy and several Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts overhead. A Black-throated Hermit was a surprise feeding on a flowering bush by the lodge. Hopping back in the van we drove a short distance to where we got in a boat for a couple hours of exploring the Rio Huallaga and a major tributary, the Rio Mayo. On the way we saw more Hoatzin, a Black-fronted Nunbird, several Chestnut-eared Aracaris, White-banded Swallow, a couple Drab Water-tyrants, Red-capped Cardinal and over 80 Sand-colored Nighthawks – both on their roosts and flying around! A Sloth was also spotted in the riverside canopy.

Day 6: Nov. 14 – Pumarinri – Cordillera Escalera Regional Conservation Area (Koepcke’s Hermit) – Waquanki Lodge
After an early breakfast at Pumarinri Lodge we drove north of Tarapoto into the Cordillera Escalera where the Aconibikh Reserve is located, protecting habitat for the Near Threatened Koepcke’s Hermit. En route it started to rain quite heavily so we pulled off at the El Mono y La Gata Restaurant where we birded from the covered dining area and enjoyed the spectacular view down into the valley below. Despite the rain we got several new birds including Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Bay-headed and Hepatic Tanagers. After about an hour we decided to carry on. The rain carried on for most of our visit to

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Pumarinri Lodge overlooking Huallaga River, Peru. Nov 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

the Aconibikh reserve so we spent most of our time enjoying the superb hummingbird feeders. Here we got up close and personal with the common Gould’s Jewelfronts and Golden-tailed Sapphires. A couple Blue-fronted Lancebill’s and a lone male Black-bellied Thorntail made an appearance as we waited. At last, the star of the show, the endemic Koepcke’s Hermit showed up visiting the feeders several times over the course of a minute or so. Apart from the hummingbirds the trees around us held Gilded Barbets, Magpie Tanager and Paradise Tanager. Some of the group decided to walk up to a lek of Golden-headed Manakin. En route they heard a rare Hairy-crested Antbird before enjoying nice views of the manakins. Unfortunately the Long-tailed Potoo was not on its regular roost. As we were leaving a Grayish Mourner made an appearance.

In the afternoon we made the transfer to the Waqanki Lodge near Moyobamba. Along the way we made a stop at the famous Cañon Quiscarrumi where we watched around 20 roosting Oilbirds in the narrow crevice below the bridge. A lone Andean Cock-of-the-Rock was also seen by some while White-eyed Parakeets, Russet-backed Oropendolas

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Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Peru. Photo: Chris Charlesworth

and Yellow-rumped Caciques were common. A Turquoise Tanager was spotted along with a couple equally gorgeous Swallow Tanagers.

Arriving at the Waquanki Lodge in the late afternoon we birded the beautiful grounds where several stunning Rufous-crested Coquettes dazzled in the verbena flowers. Violet-headed Hummingbirds and Blue-tailed Emeralds joined the show. Once we tore ourselves away from the Coquettes we found the endemic Black-bellied Tanager to be quite common and added several common lowland species such as Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Thick-billed Seed-finch, Buff-throated Saltator and Fork-tailed Palm-swift. As evening started setting in a Double-toothed Kite cruised over.

Day 7: Nov. 15 – Waquanki Lodge – Arena Blanca Reserve – Abra Patricia Owlet Lodge
Before daybreak a Band-bellied Owl was heard calling near the accommodations. After it got light enough we took a sojourn up to the hummingbird feeders located a few

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Rufous-crested Coquette. Waquanki Lodge, Peru. Nov 15, 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

hundred metres from the lodge along the way tracking down a calling Blue Ground-dove. At the feeders we encountered our first White-chinned Sapphires and more Rufous-Crested Coquettes though we were unsuccessful in luring a calling Mishana Tyrannulet into view. After yet another bumper breakfast we walked a trail behind the lodge in search of a few special birds. As we reached the forest a pair of Peruvian Warbling-antbirds were heard calling. With some persuasion from Wilson we were able to get them in our view. Further up the trail a Green-backed Trogon perched overhead while a Golden-collared Toucanet made a very brief appearance. We were hoping to track down the recently described and endemic Painted Manakin along this stretch and we could hear a male in the distance. In an attempt to get closer we retraced our steps and took a side trail. While the bird had gone quiet some in the group got looks at a female. At a clearing an obliging Mishana Tyrannulet passed through the sub canopy overhead along with a Yellow-bellied Tanager.

Back at the lodge I got quick looks at a tiny Short-tailed Pygmy-tyrant in the gardens before we packed our things and made our way to the Arena Blanca Reserve, located in a patch of white-sand forest at the foot of the Andes. Upon arrival we tried our luck with a couple spinetails, eventually getting satisfactory looks at both Cinereous-breasted and Dark-breasted near the entrance soon followed by a Lafresnaye’s Piculet. More hummingbird feeders here held most of the same species we had seen elsewhere but we did add a few Many-spotted Hummingbirds. While we were enjoying the action our cook was putting together a superb lunch which we duly consumed with gusto. Afterwards we digested for a while in the blind at the Tinamou feeding station. While the Tinamous usually only come in early in the morning we were entertained by a White-tipped Dove and an Orange-billed Sparrow. Before leaving we got fantastic looks at a Zimmer’s Antbird nearby.

A quick stop in the foothills produced an Ecuadorian Piedtail and Green Hermit at another set of hummingbird feeders and we could hear a Spotted Nightingale-thrush singing in the distance. Winding up the east slope of the Andes we were too pressed for

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Cliff Flycatcher. Peru. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

time to stop for the Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks and many east slope specialties possible and around 5pm we arrived at the Owlet Lodge at Abra Patricia. After quickly consulting with the local guide we decided against doing the hike down to look for the Long-whiskered Owlet as the current site for it was a 2km hike and we were all rather tired by this point. We spent most of what was left of daylight enjoying the hummingbirds at the feeders with Sword-billed Hummingbird, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, Long-tailed Sylph and the ubiquitous Chestnut-breasted Coronets stealing the show. A male Olivaceous Siskin foraged in the bushes nearby. As dusk started falling we walked a trail across the road from the lodge to where the local guide in short order got us all superb looks at a White-throated Screech-owl. Rufous-banded Owl and Rufous-bellied Nighthawk were heard.

Day 8: Nov. 16 – Abra Patricia and Fundo Alto Nieva to Huembo with night at Hacienda Achamaqui
After breakfast we spent a few hours birding the vicinity of the lodge and parking area. Activity was generally good and we found several of the highly sought after species of the area. Near the dining room we got nice looks at Lulu’s (Johnson’s) Tody-flycatcher along with our first Silvery Tanager. Moving down to the parking area it started to rain. After a 10 minute shower the rain let up and the birds came out with a flock passing through that held Drab Hemispingus, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Grass-green Tanager and a stunning Yellow-scarfed Tanager! This was followed by Black-throated Tody-tyrant and a couple Green-and-black Fruiteaters. While most of the group started down the road I ran back to get my rain jacket. As I made my way back to the group I noticed the Chestnut Antpitta hopping around its feeding station. We decided to go back and put the worms out for it but unfortunately it did not show up for the group though some people got looks at a Spotted Barbtail and I heard a distant Rusty-tinged Antpitta.

Mid-morning saw us hop in the van to drive a little ways down the road to Fundo Alto Nieva another site at slightly lower elevations. Here they feed two more endemic

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Forests near Abra Patricia, Peru. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Antpittas, Rusty-tinged and Ochre-fronted though we were arriving between feeding times so we did not get to see them. The hummingbird feeders held another much sought after near-endemic, the aptly named Royal Sunangel – an all deep blue hummingbird! Unfortunately our limited time here also meant we dipped on the near-endemic Bar-winged Wood-wren.

After lunch back at the Owlet Lodge we headed down into the Utcubamba valley where our destination was the Huembo Reserve, home of perhaps the most spectacular and hoped for hummingbird of all, the Marvellous Spatuletail! Upon arriving we were told that the feeders were currently full up with a group from China. No matter, we staked out a flowering bush and within minutes the incredible Marvellous Spatuletail was feeding in front of us! Another tough to find hummingbird, Little Woodstar, was perched patiently on a nearby twig. Eventually we made our way down to the feeders where we also got to view side-by-side the very similar White-bellied Hummingbird and Andean Emerald in between visits of the star attraction!

A couple hours of driving had us arriving shortly after dark at the Hacienda Achamaqui, a rather upscale Hacienda-style hotel in the countryside. After dinner we could hear a Common Pauraque calling from the grounds.

Day 9: Nov. 17 – Utcubamba Valley, Leymabamba, Abra Barro Negro and upper Marañon valley to Celendin                                                                                                      Today had a lot crammed into it as we covered two days’ worth of sites and a lot of

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Blue-and-yellow Tanager. Peru. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

windy road. A fuel break at a gas station near Yerbabuena ended up being extremely productive bird wise as we picked up several Marañon Thrushes, a pair of Buff-bellied Tanagers, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Golden Grosbeak and the “Marañon” subspecies of Tropical Gnatcatcher. An endemic Black-necked Woodpecker was heard calling upslope along with a couple Chestnut-crowned Antpittas. Passing through Leymabamba we started gaining elevation again. At a stakeout Wilson got us all good looks at Leymabamba Antpitta and a little further on we stopped on a ridge where we were soon looking at Moustached Flowerpiercer and a stunning Rainbow Starfrontlet. Wandering down a side road brought us to a mixed flock that held Streaked Tuftedcheek, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager and Yellow-scarfed Tanagers. Meanwhile, Gray-breasted Mountain-toucan and a Red-crested Cotinga provided nice scope views. Unfortunately the Large-footed Tapaculo that Wilson had found here on a previous trip did not respond.

Bad news ensued a little further down the road as we were informed that the road was closed for construction until 1pm. We decided to drive back to Leymabama for lunch where we had an interesting stroll around town as our meal was being prepared. Back on the road and past the road works we were well behind schedule and had missed out on another field lunch from our excellent cook though when we got to where they were awaiting us we did have a wonderful snack of a variety of fresh fruits and avocado. Shortly before this “second” lunch we stopped on the pass for a confiding Coppery

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Descending into the Maranon River Valley, Peru. Photo: Chris Charlesworth.

Metaltail and a brief Great Sapphirewing along with a mixed flock that held White-banded and Black-capped Tyrannulets, Superciliaried Hemispingus (white-bellied subspecies) and Blue-backed Conebill.

Fortified (as if we needed more food), we carried on down the incredibly windy, single-lane road that drops 2000+m down to the Marañon Valley proper. At last reaching the bridge over the Rio Marañon we quickly found a couple Peruvian Pigeons, a Marañon endemic along with a near-endemic Spot-throated Hummingbird and a Yellow-tailed Oriole. Driving up the other side of the valley we saw a few Bare-faced Ground-doves, Peruvian Meadowlarks and Buff-bridled Inca-finch.

Our final birding stop of the day was near an area called Hacienda Limon at a site for the incredibly restricted Gray-winged Inca-finch which we duly got great looks at as it sang from a bush nearby. Drab Seedeater and Croaking Ground-dove joined the trip list here but the Chestnut-backed Thornbird was only heard in the brief time we had to spend

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Gray-winged Inca-finch. El Limon, Peru. Nov 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

here.

Day 10: Nov. 18 – Celendin to Cajamarca, La Chonta Valley
On our last day of birding we left Celendin en route to Cajamarca where we would spend the final night of our trip. The mornings birding was confined to a few stops along the highland road that proved quite effective. At our first stop we were soon watching a fine pair of Jelski’s Chat-tyrants as well as a couple Yellow-billed Tit-tyrants, Black-throated Flowerpiercers and a nest-building pair of Line-cheeked (Baron’s) Spinetails. Our first of many Andean Flickers was scoped, Shining Sunbeams foraged at the flowering bushes and a pair of Rufous-chested Tanagers showed well before we moved on.

A Rufous-webbed Bush-tyrant perched on the wires beside the road had us pull over for a better look. While enjoying this highland species a White-tailed Shrike-tyrant flew by. We tracked it down for fairly distant scope views while a Plain-colored Seedeater proved more cooperative as it sang from atop a nearby shrub. We then made an unsuccessful stop for the endemic “Cajamarca” subspecies of Rufous Antpitta, a likely future split. One did call distantly a few times but no response was had from the forest patch we were prospecting.

A bird on a rock wall beside the road prompted our next stop where we got our first Cream-winged Cinclodes and Streak-throated Canasteros foraging side by side. A pair of Rufous-naped Ground-tyrants were spotted nearby along with a Plumbeous Sierra-finch.
A stakeout for Plain-tailed Warbling-finch at La Encañada was successful despite Wilson warnings us that he did not usually have good luck with it here. After finding our first Peruvian Sierra-finch and White-winged Cinclodes (building its nest in a roof of a nearby

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Looking for Gray-bellied Comet at La Chonta, Peru. Nov 2018. Photo: Avery Bartels.

habitation) we lucked into our quarry foraging quietly in the creek-side vegetation. We did not pick up the endemic Rufous-eared Brush-finch here though.

The best birding of the day was still ahead for us as we made our way to La Chonta valley after a lunch near the picturesque plaza in Cajamarca. Our target here was the extremely local and threatened Gray-bellied Comet. The principal part of this endemic hummingbirds range is in this one valley and earlier this year a fire destroyed around 80% of appropriate habit. Our first stop did not turn up anything. Fortunately, as we were driving along the Rio Chonta I spotted a Hummingbird perched on some weeds at the water’s edge – a female Grey-bellied Comet! It posed well, allowing most of the group photo opportunities. Further up the valley we birded for most of the remaining afternoon in the vicinity of a narrow canyon and here we found several Giant Hummingbirds, a couple Black Metaltails and at least two more Grey-bellied Comets – a male and a female. We also came across a very smart-looking Golden-billed Saltator and a couple cute Black-crested Tit-tyrants. Some of the group went around the corner to the far side of the canyon and were rewarded with another endemic, a Rusty-crowned Tit-spinetail, a species I had seen a few times in the Santa Eulalia Valley. As shadows fell over the valley floor we decided to head back to our lodgings in Cajamarca where we spent a relaxing evening in a quiet, rural hotel. Peru had been great to us and over the course of my 10 days I had encountered over 420 species, over a quarter of which were lifers for me! It whetted my appetite and I am already on the edge of my seat in anticipation of my return to the country for the fall 2019 tour!

Be sure to check Avocet Tours’ Avocet Tours Website for updates on our November 2019 tour to Northern Peru!

Written by Avery Bartels

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Tales and photographs of the adventures of Avocet Tours

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