Northern Peru's Tumbes & Maranon Endemics Jun 27—Jul 04, 2014

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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VENT’s return to this spectacular corner of Northern Peru, which is full of Tumbes and Marañon endemics and unique habitats, was a fantastic success! We were blessed with great weather, superb birding, and wonderful field breakfasts and lunches. Imagine, as dawn breaks, sitting down at a large table with hot coffee, steaming hot fried eggs or pancakes, fresh fruit, yogurt, and fruit juice, and always with a stunning panoramic view. Thanks to our professional cook, Aurelio, this was a daily occurrence that we all loved, while the forest or desert critters awoke around us, with odd bird calls in the air. Of course, our binoculars were always close at hand for more lifers.

White-tailed Jay

White-tailed Jay— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

The unique habitats we visited allowed us to clean up on all those cool-looking endemics (and near-endemics), many poorly-known, so our final tally was an impressive 35 species, and an overall 171 species seen. Our adventure began at the now famous Chapparri Ecolodge, beautifully set into a large reserve of tropical deciduous forest and scrub full of Tumbes endemics. Feeders around the lodge graced us with looks at the endangered endemic White-winged Guan, the spectacular White-tailed Jay, Golden Grosbeak, White-edged Oriole, White-headed Brush-Finch, and Long-tailed Mockingbird. During our wonderful meal we were visited by a family of Sechuran Foxes. Late afternoon found us birding the shorter scrub where we soon found the spectacular Elegant Crescentchest, Collared Antshrike, the stunning Tumbes Tyrant, Tumbes Pewee, Superciliated Wren, Tumbes Sparrow, Cinereous Finch, and flocks of hundreds of the nomadic and much sought after Sulphur-throated Finch. As dusk approached, we watched several striking White-winged Guans feeding and flying around, displaying their amazing white wings, as they went to roost in the taller trees.

At dawn the following day we were rewarded with stellar views of a West Peruvian Screech-Owl that was responsive to playback in the daylight. At breakfast we enjoyed a breathtaking view of rich semi-deciduous forest, full of bromeliads and stretching as far as the eye could see—and, of course, birds were everywhere. Highlights included Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Ecuadorian Piculet, Henna-hooded and Rufous-necked foliage-gleaners, Baird’s and Gray-breasted flycatchers, Pacific Elaenia, Gray-and-gold Warbler, and White-winged Brush-Finch.

West Peruvian Screech-Owl

West Peruvian Screech-Owl— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Dropping down to Tinajones Reservoir, we found the odd-looking Peruvian Thick-Knee, the rare and endangered Black-faced Ibis, Comb Duck, White-cheeked Pintail, Great Grebe, and Peruvian Meadowlark. Late afternoon found us birding the Algorrobo woodlands and rolling sand dunes watching more endemics such as the most stunning Myiarchus flycatcher ever, the distinct Rufous Flycatcher, Coastal Miner, the endangered Tumbes Swallow (we even located a couple of nests), and Parrot-billed Seedeater. Evening saw us arriving in the quaint city of Olmos and our family-run hotel.

After a wonderful breakfast in the stark, dry desert scrub of La Questa Del Naupe, we were rewarded along this rich wadi with fantastic studies of Peruvian Plantcutter, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Necklaced Spinetail, Pacific Parrotlet, Tumbes Hummingbird, Tumbesian Tyrannulet, and a fantastic Solitary Eagle that flew close by and right overhead. After a midday break, with temperatures dropping in late afternoon, we visited a nearby marsh and had mega views of a rarely seen and very responsive Spotted Rail, Pacific Hornero, Black-lored Yellowthroat, and Fasciated Wren.

Peruvian Plantcutter, male

Peruvian Plantcutter, male— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Early morning found us driving up and climbing out of the Tumbes valley through the lowest pass in the Andes to yet another spectacular field breakfast overlooking Abra Porculla. Here, in the cooler, more humid and richer low cloudforests, a difficult-to-see endemic was seen right from our breakfast table: the much sought after Piura Chat-Tyrant. Flowers were abundant here, and we were delighted by several stunning male Peruvian Sheartails; other goodies included Chapman’s Antshrike, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Black-cowled Saltator, Bay-crowned Brush-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Rufous-chested Tanager, and Three-striped Warbler. After a fine field lunch, we drove up and over the top of the pass and began our descent into the rich Marañon drainage where another new set of exciting endemics awaited us. Our night was in Jaen, with a wonderful dinner by the hotel pool.

Pre-dawn found us owling and provided us with great looks at Peruvian Screech-Owl. At breakfast we were serenaded by Tataupa Tinamou. This more humid semi-deciduous forest was very birdy; the highlight for all was a Marañon Crescentchest, as it paraded around us on the ground at close range. Other great birds this morning included many endemics—Chichipe and Marañon spinetails, Speckle-breasted Wren, Buff-bellied Tanager—and several good looks at male and female Hook-billed Kite, Red Pileated Finch, Northern Slaty and Lined antshrikes, Yellow-cheeked and Black-and-white becards, Black-capped Sparrow (green backed form), and Marañon Thrush. Returning midafternoon, we took a break around the pool, ready for another early pre-dawn start.

Spotted Rail

Spotted Rail— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Our last morning found us in lush desert scrub watching displaying Lesser Nighthawks and the tiny Scrub Nightjar. The first few cool hours after dawn were extremely productive with Little Inca-Finch, Marañon Gnatcatcher, Spot-throated Hummingbird, the distinctive to be split endemic form of Collared Antshrike, Green Jay, Drab Seedeater, and, all around us, displaying Vermilion Flycatchers! Our drive back over the lowest pass in the Andes to Chiclayo was extremely picturesque, and we stopped off en route at the famous Tucume Pyramids and visited the excellent museum before catching our flight back to Lima.
What a tremendous group you all were! I immensely enjoyed immersing myself into this unique and highly endemic avifauna, from stark coastal and inland deserts to tropical deciduous, more humid semi-deciduous forests, and to the low cloud forests. It was a blast. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did, with all those fantastic field meals and countless special birding memories that we all shared! I also thank our excellent guide, driver, and cook, who took such good care of us all. I can’t wait to return next year to this birding paradise that is Northern Peru!