Cloud Forests of Northern Peru Pre-trip Amazon River Cruise Feb 09—17, 2017
Posted by Andrew Whittaker
WOW! This fabulous tour truly is the real mecca of Andean cloud forest birding with almost 300 species recorded, including a staggering 39 dazzling species of hummingbirds and so many colorful mind-blowing tanagers! Voted the top two birds of the trip (with outstanding views of both) were the outrageous Spatuletail and, of course, the tiny, mythical, and cute Long-whiskered Owlet. I’m sure none of us will ever forget our drop-dead views of both of these mega and outstanding endemics, nor the hike for the Owlet! We were also incredibly fortunate to observe the antics of a male Spatuletail on its lek (a trip first); truly remarkable what it did with its tail when a female came in, mesmerizing her with his spatulets almost like the arms of a conductor of an orchestra as he elongated his neck upwards (like a bittern), showing off his brilliant shining gorget and matching crown! Thankfully, our impressive Owlet record continues and now stands as seen on 8 out of our last 10 trips! This tour is always a terrific hummingbird and tanager bonanza too (if you love them as I do, this is the trip for you); no less than 39 dazzling hummers this year produced a non-stop iridescent kaleidoscope of colors at lodge feeders and several other feeders we visited.
Our adventure began upon arrival in Tarapoto, and we drove to a nearby fine regional restaurant where we enjoyed tropical fruit juices and wonderful freshly grilled Paiche steaks (one of the best tasting Amazon fishes), a true river monster getting up to 250 kilos and really delicious! Afterwards we took the short drive to our lovely Moyobamba Lodge; along the way we had an unforgettable visit to the Oilbird cleft where we observed these odd birds well through the scope and also heard their odd calls too, as they flew around below us. As always, the lodge garden and hummingbird feeders were alive, rewarding us with a late afternoon hummingbird feast and all so close for wonderful photographic opportunities too. Highlights included fabulous male and female Rufous-crested Coquettes, the rare Many-spotted Hummingbird, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Black-throated Mango, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Long-billed Starthroat, Black-throated Hermit, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, White-chinned Sapphire, and both Amethyst and Little woodstars (a lovely male) and many more.
The pleasant forested grounds rewarded us with two newly described species: Mishana Tyrannulet, and we heard only the newly described Varzea Thrush too, as well as enjoying encounters with the stunning endemic Black-bellied Tanager. The following early morning after getting great looks at Band-bellied Owl before breakfast some of us explored the lodge’s foothill reserve which, as usual, was extremely birdy; we got a superb Guilded Barbet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Rufous Motmot, Spot-backed Antbird and, of course, brief views of Fiery-throated Fruiteater and stunning Black-and-White Tody-Flycatcher.