Northern Peru's Tumbes & Maranon Endemics Jul 02—10, 2016

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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Spectacular as always, easy birding (with so many exciting Tumbes and Marañon endemics) combined with such unique and fascinating habitats can only make for a fantastically successful trip! We were blessed with great weather, superb birding, and amazing 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, while enjoying stunning panoramic views. Thanks again 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 and, of course, our binos always close at hand for more exciting lifers.

Elegant Crescentchest

Elegant Crescentchest— 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 34 species and overall 176 species seen. 

Our adventure began leaving Chiclayo, as we drove to the now famous Chaparri Ecolodge, beautifully set into its large reserve of tropical deciduous forest with an impressive backdrop of sandstone cliffs and scrub teeming with Tumbes endemics. We had a great introduction to the avifauna before our field lunch at Tinajones Reservoir where we saw Necklaced Spinetail, Short-tailed Field Tyrant, Fasciated Wren, Burrowing Owl, Peruvian Meadowlark, Great Grebe, Comb Duck, and White-cheeked Pinetail; we located the rare Black-faced Ibis too. Late afternoon the feeders around the lodge graced us with killer looks at the endangered endemic White-winged Guan, spectacular White-tailed Jays, Golden Grosbeak, White-edged Oriole, Pacific Hornero, and Long-tailed Mockingbird. During our wonderful dinner a very friendly Sechuran Fox graced us with a visit. Later, birding the shorter scrub, we soon found the spectacular Elegant Crescentchest, Collared Antshrike, stunning Tumbes Tyrant, 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, going in to roost in the taller trees and displaying their amazing white wings!

Tumbes Tyrant

Tumbes Tyrant— Photo: Andrew Whittaker


At dawn the following day, after a great breakfast, we had a hummingbird bonanza as they came in to drink and bathe: Purple-collared and Short-tailed woodstars, Tumbes Hummingbird, and Amazilia too. Birding around the lovely lodge valley rewarded us with stunning Scarlet-backed and Golden-olive woodpeckers, Red-masked Parakeet, the distinctive Bran-colored Flycatcher, Orange-crowned Euphonia, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Parrot-billed Seedeater, and the smart Plumbeous-backed Thrush. We were even lucky enough to spot the endemic Peruvian White-tailed Deer and observe the Spectacled Bear release project (the valley has a wild population of 30 + bears)! After dinner owling rewarded us with stellar views of a West Peruvian Screech-Owl which was very responsive to playback. 

At breakfast the next morning we had an incredible breathtaking view over rich semi-deciduous forest, full of bromeliads and stretching as far as the eye could see; and, of course, birds were everywhere. Highlights included Ecuadorian Trogon, Ecuadorian Piculet, Henna-hooded and Rufous-necked foliage-gleaners, Tumbes Pewee, Baird’s and Gray-breasted flycatchers, Pacific Elaenia, the magnificent Gray-and-gold Warbler (seen only by some), Black-capped Sparrow, and White-winged Brush-Finch.

West Peruvian Screech-Owl

West Peruvian Screech-Owl— Photo: Andrew Whittaker


Dropping down to the coastal Algorrobo woodlands and rolling sand dunes, we watched more endemics such as the most stunning Myiarchus flycatcher of all, the distinctive Rufous Flycatcher. We also had good looks at both Coastal Miner and the endangered Tumbes Swallow, followed by great scope studies of a roosting Lesser Nighthawk. 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, Tumbesian Tyrannulet, and several fantastic Variable Hawks of different color morphs. Following a midday break, as temperatures dropped, late afternoon we visited a nearby marsh with mega views of Plumbeous Rail; however, Spotted Rail would not play ball this time, only calling back hidden in the reeds. After some looking we were rewarded with the local Black-lored Yellowthroat and masses of stilts.  

Early morning found us driving and climbing in altitude out of the Tumbes valley through the lowest pass in the Andes to yet another spectacular field breakfast overlooking Abra Porculla. Here in cooler, more humid rich cloud forests we searched for the difficult to see and much sought-after Piura Chat-Tyrant. Flowers abounded here, and we were delighted by several stunning male Peruvian Sheartails displaying for us; other goodies included Chapman’s Antshrike, Line-cheeked Spinetail, Black-cowled Saltator, Bay-crowned Brush-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Black-and-white Seedeater, and Three-striped Warbler. After a fine field lunch we drove up and over the top of the pass at just above 2,000 m and began our descent into the rich Marañon drainage. Birding en route provided us with great looks at Streaked Saltator, Purple-throated Euphonia, and the wonderful Yellow-tailed Oriole, while observing the rich water birds in the rice paddies. Our night was in Jaen with a wonderful dinner by the hotel pool, as we awaited our introduction to another set of new and exciting endemics.

Peruvian Plantcutter

Peruvian Plantcutter— Photo: Andrew Whittaker


Pre-dawn found us waiting for a very heavy shower to pass at a new site, Bosque de Yanahuanca. At our breakfast we were serenaded by a Tataupa Tinamou as the rain subsided. This more humid semi-deciduous forest was very birdy; the highlight for all was a Maranon Crescentchest as it paraded around for us so well at such close range! Other great birds this morning included many endemics: both Chichipe and Maranon spinetails, the distinctive to be split endemic form of Collared Antshrike, Speckle-breasted Wren, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Red-crested Finch, the endemic Buff-bellied Tanager, and Maranon Thrush. However, intermittent rain and muddy trails forced us to move on to another site where we found both Northern Slaty and Lined antshrikes, a very responsive pair of Russet-crowned Crakes, and a stunning Yellow-cheeked Becard male.  Returning to our hotel by midafternoon, we took a break around the pool, ready for another early pre-dawn start.

Peruvian Sheartail

Peruvian Sheartail— Photo: Andrew Whittaker












Our last morning found us in lush desert scrub watching the tiny Scrub Nightjar. The first few cool hours after dawn were extremely productive with Little Inca-Finch, Maranon Gnatcatcher, Spot-throated Hummingbird, Green Jay, Drab Seedeater, and all around us displaying Vermilion Flycatchers! On an extremely picturesque drive back over the lowest pass in the Andes to Chiclayo, we passed the famous Tucume Pyramids, a major center of culture for the Lambayeque, Sican, Chimu, and Inca peoples, all of which inhabited the region at different times. These pyramids are known as Purgatory, and the valley in which they are found is generally known as the Valley of the Pyramids. Closer to Chiclayo we stopped to visit the excellent Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipan (Tumbas Reales de Sipan) with its exceptional exhibits of the most important archaeological remains of the Mochica Culture (which rose to prominence 0 to 600 AD) with exceptional gold figures and wonderful information on the history of this famous culture. We then drove to the airport where we caught our late afternoon flight back to Lima. In Lima we transferred to our airport hotel where we had a wonderful farewell meal and rested up in our day rooms before our homebound flights.

What a tremendous group you all were! I immensely enjoyed sharing with you this unique and highly endemic avifauna, from stark coastal and inland deserts to tropical deciduous, more humid semi-deciduous forests 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 together! I also thank our excellent cook, Aurelio, and driver who took such good care of us all.  I can’t wait to return to this birding paradise that is Northern Peru!