Northern Peru's Cloud Forest Endemics Jul 06—17, 2013

Posted by Andrew Whittaker


Andrew Whittaker

Andrew Whittaker, a senior member of the VENT staff, has led VENT tours since 1993 throughout Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, Europe,...

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In this mecca for Andean cloud forest birding, our Northern Peru tour this year surpassed my wildest dreams, with 348 species! Huge roaming flocks of tanagers, with an incredible 46 species seen, covered every spectacular color combination imaginable, and 34 species of dazzling hummingbirds produced kaleidoscopic non-stop action at feeders. However, voted number one by the group was the holy grail of Neotropical birding, the Long-whiskered Owlet, which perched within meters of us (below eye level) and entertained us by leaping from one open bamboo perch to another!

Highlights came thick and fast including magical scope views of the poorly-known White-faced Nunbird, two different rarely seen Lanceolated Monklets, multiple breathtaking views of the stunning Yellow-scarfed Tanager, a close pair of Fiery-throated Fruiteaters, Golden-headed Quetzal, three endemic antpittas (Ochre-fronted, Rusty-tinged, and Chestnut), stellar studies of three Rufous-vented Tapaculos (endemic), the recently described endemic Johnson’s Tody-Flycatcher, and Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant. Hummingbirds included the stupendous male Marvelous Spatuletail (what a tail!), Rufous-crested Coquette, Royal Sunangel, Sword-billed, endearing White-bellied, and miniscule Little Woodstar. Some truly stunning tanagers included Vermilion, Hooded Mountain, White-winged, Flame-faced, Yellow-crested, Grass-green, Yellow-throated, Paradise, Golden, Saffron-crowned, Golden-naped, Blue-necked, and flocks of the odd looking huge White-capped. We were blessed as the top songster of the Andes, the Chestnut-breasted Wren, mesmerized us with its solo within just a few meters; this amazing musician has to be heard to be believed!

The well-kept forest trails at both lodges were brimming with incredible flowering orchids, and there is no better way to experience the shades and colors of countless bromeliads, mosses, and lichens festooning the trees than by climbing the wonderful Owlet Lodge canopy tower. On top, the view is breathtaking, as magnificent unbroken cloud forest unravels itself ridge after ridge as far as the eye can see.

Our exploration of lower elevations was very rewarding and produced scope studies of a magnificent White-rumped Hawk, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Speckle-chested Piculet, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, and countless mixed species flocks producing Scaled and Green-and-black fruiteaters, multiple male Andean Cocks-of-the-rock, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, stupendous Versicolored Barbet, Inca Jay, and Ornate Flycatcher. We were amazingly lucky to get the best views ever of such canopy species as Rufous-rumped Antwren and Gray-mantled Wren.

Close to our last stop at the new Fruiteater Lodge, we had a fantastic visit to the Oilbird cleft (adults and juvenile seen in scope and in flight) and a daytime perched Common Potoo. The lodge garden and hummingbird feeders rewarded us with 17 species of hummers including Rufous-crested Coquette. Highlights of the forested grounds were Band-bellied Owl, the newly described Mishana Tyrannulet, and the brilliant endemic Black-bellied Tanager. We also visited the incredible orchid garden, which seemed to display every size, shape, and color imaginable.

What a fantastic group! Thank you for accompanying me into this rich cloud forest paradise. I hope you’ll take home many wonderful birding memories. And I’d like to thank the staff at both lodges who took such good care of us. I can’t wait to return next year!