Cloud Forests of Northern Peru Pre-trip Amazon River Cruise Jan 05—13, 2017

Posted by Steve Hilty


Steve Hilty

Steve Hilty is the senior author of A Guide to the Birds of Colombia, and author of Birds of Venezuela, both by Princeton University Press, as well as the popular Birds of ...

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This was my sixth visit to this beautiful area, and despite persistently inclement weather, we saw many beautiful birds including an impressive lineup of tanagers and hummingbirds. In fact, we may have set a personal best (for me at least) for the most number of Tangara tanagers seen in a single day (12 species). And there were Andean Cock-of-the-rocks, Vermilion Tanagers, and oh, those hummingbirds—over 30 species, including a wonderful morning with Marvelous Spatuletails at a reserve an hour to the west of our lodging.

Sword-billed Hummingbird

Sword-billed Hummingbird— Photo: Steve Hilty


The weather was quite nice at the lower elevation Waqanki Lodge site (although it had rained heavily a few hours prior to the evening of our arrival). The following morning was overcast but pleasant, and there were many birds in the clearing and at the nearby hummingbird garden, as well as a few additions late in the morning on a walk up toward the forest. Following lunch we drove westward into the Andes and to the Owlet Lodge at Abra Patricia. A couple of days later we visited the HUEMBO Spatuletail Reserve. Birding always brings surprises, some frustrations, and exhilarating experiences, and this trip had all of those. Highlights will surely be dominated by hummingbirds and tanagers, and not everyone’s experience will be the same. But a few top birds, in addition to those mentioned above, included Masked Duck, Oilbird (many), Grass-green Tanager, Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Sword-billed Hummingbird and, of course, the honeycreepers, dacnises, and Paradise Tanagers at the Waqanki Lodge.

Visiting this remarkable area was long just a dream until a relatively new and paved road (finished in the early 1980s) finally linked northern Peru from west (Chiclayo) to east (Tarapoto). Furthermore, thanks to donations 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 of pristine highland forest. The lodge may be damp and cold (little oil heaters in the rooms would do wonders), but it provides access to a marvelous array of birds and habitats that we could not enjoy were it not located where it is.

The rain, again this year, did follow us back to Tarapoto and here (yes, once again) we encountered a flight delay, putting us into Lima a few hours late–but we made up for the delay with a terrific dinner at a local restaurant. All in time to begin our Amazon Cruise activities the next day.