Cloud Forests of Northern Peru Post-trip to the Amazon River Cruise Feb 28—Mar 07, 2015

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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We experienced the ultimate in Andean Cloud Forest birding during an action-packed week of birdwatching. Our trip was filled with so many memorable moments and incredible highlights, ranging from the mega-rare White-faced Nunbird (voted top bird of the trip) to the lodge’s first ever White-throated Hawk. However, it’s impossible not to mention our amazing tanager overload, with 38 species covering every spectacular color combination imaginable, or our dazzling hummingbird show (if you love them as I do, then this is the trip for you!) producing 35 species including the stupendous Marvelous Spatuletail and a non-stop, iridescent kaleidoscope of colors at the feeders.

White-throated Hawk, juvenile

White-throated Hawk, juvenile— Photo: Andrew Whittaker


I always feel truly privileged to be able to see this pristine area and to experience its many moods (yes, even the chilly, damp evenings), and of course, even some rain too—the main reason for the abundance of unique birds and wildlife found here. My seventh visit was just as magical as my first. I find I have to pinch myself to remember just what a real treat this is, because the lodge is relatively new and the paved road that accesses this remote area is less than 30 years old. Furthermore, thanks to donations and income brought in by groups (like ours) and the hard work of many people, the Abra Patricia-Alto Nieve Private Conservation concession now preserves or manages nearly 25,000 acres of this lovely forested region. And, this lies adjacent to the Alto Río Mayo Protection Forest, which extends protection to nearly 450,000 acres, making for a pristine highland cloud forest.

The many trip highlights included magical scope views of the rarely seen White-throated Hawk, a juvenile and most certainly an early austral migrant (and a first for the lodge); a cooperative Cinnamon Screech-Owl; again, the striking Lanceolated Monklet; multiple breathtaking views of the stunning (endemic) Yellow-scarfed Tanager; a Golden-headed Quetzal pair; Tyrannine Woodcreeper; and again, stellar studies of the recently described (endemic) Johnson’s Tody-Flycatcher. Outstanding hummingbird studies included Royal Sunangel, the unbelievable Sword-billed Hummingbird, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Andean Emerald, Bronzy Inca, Booted Racket-tail, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, and the endearing White-bellied to miniscule female Little Woodstar.

Cinnamon Screech-Owl

Cinnamon Screech-Owl— Photo: Andrew Whittaker


Some of our truly stunning tanager sightings included the cool-looking, lethargic, and localized Vermilion; the incredible Flame-faced; Grass-green; Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager; Orange-eared; Silvery; Beryl-spangled; Metallic-green; Green-and-gold; Rufous-crested; Yellow-throated; Paradise; Golden; Saffron-crowned; Blue-necked; White-winged; and wonderful studies of flocks of the odd-looking, almost jay-like White-capped.

Our exploration of lower elevations along the road was also very rewarding and produced several close encounters with Andean-cock-of-the-rock, Sickle-winged Guan, Emerald (Blue-throated) Toucanet, Torrent Duck, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Masked Trogon, Green-and-black Fruiteater, countless mixed species flocks; breathtaking Versicolored Barbets, the endemic Inca Flycatcher, Golden-winged Manakin (sadly, not a male), Bar-winged Wood-Wren, Citrine Warbler, and the ever so well-behaved White-crowned Tapaculo. We were also amazingly lucky to get the best views ever of such canopy species as Gray-mantled Wren and Rufous-rumped Antwren.

Silvery Tanager

Silvery Tanager— Photo: Andrew Whittaker












From the Fruiteater Lodge we had an unforgettable visit to the Oilbird cleft where we saw adults and juveniles and heard their odd calls, too. The lodge garden and hummingbird feeders rewarded us with marvelous Band-bellied Owl and no less than 20 species of hummers including the fabulous Rufous-crested Coquette, Amethyst Woodstar, Golden-tailed Sapphire, and Black-throated Hermit. From the lodge’s forested grounds we saw the two newly described species, Mishana Tyrannulet, heard Varzea Thrush, and had daily encounters with the stunning endemic Black-bellied Tanager. The lodge’s foothill reserve produced goodies such as the recently described Inambari Woodcreeper, Black-and-White Tody-Flycatcher, the tiny Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-headed Manakin, Orange-billed Sparrow, and a neat Cerulean Warbler. For the botanists and even non-botanists amongst us, our visit to the incredible orchid garden was a true thrill. This is one of the best in the Neotropics (with over 450 species) with every size, shape, and color imaginable. Combined with the many we saw at Owlet Lodge, including that new miniscule species, we felt as if we were in orchid overdose!

What a fantastic group you all were! I very much enjoyed immersing myself in this exotic and rich Andean cloud forest and foothill avifauna. I hope that you all enjoyed it as much as I did. We shared so many fantastic, unique, and special birding memories. I would like to thank the two excellent lodge’s staff and guides who took such good care of us, too. I can’t wait to return next year to this birding paradise that is Northern Peru! I hope to see you all again on another wonderful VENT adventure.