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BIG MONTH BIRDING PERU with Gunnar Engblom and special guests.


Big Month Peru - 35 Days of Continuous Birding

In 1998, Gunnar Engblom made Peru his home and started Kolibri Expeditions. Kolibri Expeditions is now a leading operator of birding and bird photography tours in Peru for all types of birders. We wanted to do something special to celebrate our 20 years in 2018; entering our 3rd decade. Kolibri Expeditions 2.0!

It would have been great to be able beat some record. We could perhaps have attempted to do a Big Day and get the record back to Peru, but after the jaw dropping number some dedicated birders got in Ecuador in 2015 (431 species), it does not feel it would even be possible to get close.

So what about a Peru Big Year? I had the privilege to set up the Peru birding part of Noah Strycker’s record breaking Big Year around the globe in 2015 in which he got 6042 species. Quite a few birders have now done Big Years covering the whole world, countries, states or counties, birding intensely for a whole calendar year. In Peru it would be quite possible to do a Big Year reaching 1500 species. But for me, this would be far too time consuming and also a constraint on work and social life. So I figured a month would be something I could get away with and also something that our clients could join, for parts of, or for the whole month, to celebrate Peru’s biodiversity together.

Iain Campbell and Nick Athanas of Tropical Birding got 1674 species in a month visiting 9 countries. Surely this could be bested with a wide ranging trip including several continents, but costs would be extremely high and it would be unlikely get anyone to sign up for such a tour.  So instead I concentrated on just one country - Peru. How many species are possible to record by an individual or a party in one country for one month? In the 90s, before eBird and Facebook-friends, Paul Salaman organized a tour to Colombia for a month and just over 1000 species. The biggest list for a tour over a calendar month was made by Rockjumper in Colombia in 2014 with Forrest Rowland leading and 1044 species.

Could Peru beat Colombia for a big month? Noah Strycker and I checked 784 species in 21 days during the rainy season in Peru (not ideal) during Noah’s Big Year. Arjan Dwarshuis and Miguel Lezama got 1001 species in 24 days (not rainy season) the year after, during Arjan’s new record breaking Big Year with 6848 species.

In 2018 on our first attempt we got 1006 species. We are now peparing for a record breaking 1100 in October 2019.  We are setting our mind to crush the Big Month record for a tour to one country and get the record to where it belongs - Peru! What, me biased? Nooo way! 😇

Here are some thoughts on how we shall try to pull this off:

  • Yes, you can join us: Obviously we want as many people as possible to hear this story and with more people joining I am sure we will make more noise. 
  • No checked-in luggage: In order to save time, everyone will travel with just carry-on luggage and a personal item on the flights. No time for check-in luggage and less time to stand waiting at a belt for a bag. High tech clothing, mini telescope and tripod, point and shoot camera, etc. Furthermore, practically all our vehicles with have a larger spotting scope and tripod.
    And if you think it can’t be done - that is travel with only a carry on for a month, this is what Noah Strycker packed for a full year birding around the world.
    Even without checked in luggage, the regulations on what you can bring on board is quite lax. You can actually have two “carry-ons” - one ordinary size cabin bag (height 45 cm). If you insist on checking in luggage, we will charge you an additional fee for lugggage on the flights as well as taxis or private transports to rendevous with the rest of the group. 
  • Scouting the Amazon: During the Southern section with Tambopata and Manu road, it is especially true for the lowlands that birds can be notoriously difficult to see. So during the Big Month, many Amazonian birds will be heard only. Obviously, this is not fun to someone who pays money to see birds. To remedy that, we shall start with 4 full days of Amazon lowland birding before the actual start on Oct. 1st. So from Sep. 27th - Sep. 30th we will check every birdable corner near Puerto Maldonado to maximize the list and stake out where our targets are for the start on October 1st.
  • Starting Big Month with Big Day: On Oct 1st, after 4 days of solid birding and most species seen in our surroundings, we shall start with a Big Day covering old Secondary lowland floodplain forest, some primary terra firme forest near Infierno, swamp forest known as aguajal, bamboo thickets, Moriche Palm swamps, lagoons, ponds, forest creeks, river, river islands, pastures and savannah like habitat. This mix, will have far more species than just continuous forest. The goal is to reach 300 species seen and heard by 1pm and fly to Cuzco at 1.40 pm. Between Cuzco and the top part of Manu road perhaps 40-50 species can be added, and putting the team in the range of a new Peru record (In July 2015,  Sean Williams recorded 345 species at Amigos field station in SE Peru).
  • Night travel: The most efficient way to move from one birding spot to another with no particular birding in between, and without losing birding time, is by night. It is also of course the most efficient time to get some rest. The truly hard core birders are good at this combo. But it takes some practice. Our dedicated driver and Gunnar will share driving to make sure we have sufficient rest.

    Because of this there are a few night drives scheduled and most flights are in the evening. This means that we need to catch up on sleep as we move. In my experience this does put a lot of stress to the party, but this can be mitigated by knowing up front which sections are to be done at night (this is specified in the day to day program below).  We recommend to carrying natrual sleep aides such as an inflatable neck pillow, sleeping mask, noise cancelling headphones, and apps designed for relaxation and meditation, such as Pzziz or Headspace.
  • Birding celebrities may be joining. In 2018 we were joined Trevor Hardaker from South Africa for the southern part of the trip. Noah Strycker was with us in the north. Finally, well known Colombia Birding guide and social media king, Diego Calderón from the Colombia is joined us for the Central Peru part. Joining celebrity birders shall be announced later.  
  • You don't have to join the full trip. You could just do a shor part of the tours. If you don’t have a lot of experience of South American birding, the extreme Central Peru part and perhaps even the Manu road section, are probably too intense, with little sleep and long drives, sometimes at night. Instead for South America first timers, we recommend the first five days around Puerto Maldonado and the various North Peru sections which are quite comfortable with plenty of time to see the birds, even though pace will be high.  Also, note that fixed meals is not a priority on the program. Here and there our driver will prepare food in the field, but there will be a lot of snacks served. Also bring some of your own supplies if this is of concern. 

Gunnar Engblom will be the main guide through-out, but there will also be local guides to help out as we go along.

  September 27 - 2019

If the departure dates don't fit you, please suggest another date.

Sep. 27th - Oct. 1st: Big Month Part 1, 4 Day Prep and the Biggest Day

The first 4 days before before the Big Month officially starts is preparation because the birds in the rainforest are hard to see, but easy to hear. To see them one must often lure them out with playback and if we are to be effective during the big month we want to limit this practice to birds that have not previously been seen by the group. Therefore, between Sep. 27th - 30th we shall scout the areas around Puerto Maldonado and use playback to see many of the antbirds and furnarids that will only be heard on Oct. 1st. This way on the first day of the Big Month, we can concentrate on racking up the numbers and start off in a grand way. During the Big Day attempt we will move fast as hearing the bird is to counting them on the Big Day and Big Month. We aim to get off to a great start with 300+ species on the first day only around Puerto Maldonado alone. Maybe more…

Some highlights that we shall both try to hear and try to see include Zig-Zag Heron, several owls and nightjars, Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Peruvian Recurvebill, White-cheeked Tody-Tyrant, Pheasant Cuckoo and many more.
To get an idea what we may see, have a look at this ebird generated checklist from the hotspots. All these birds are recorded within 10km from the center of Puerto Maldonado.

Tip: Download the BirdsEye app and search Puerto Maldonado. Set radius to 10 km, and a list of 600 species is generated with photos and all. You can do a lot with the free version, but it is well worth to get a subscription for many off line features, especially if you do a lot of travel to areas where you don't have full knowledge of the likely species. 

The preliminar program for the first 4 days presented below follows that of 2018. However, we may make changes in this program, as the road between Puerto Maldonado and Infierno is in poor shape and too much time is lost here. Lodging shall be basic for 2 of the nights because we want to be where there is good night birding. On the 27th and the 30th we sleep at Ecoaventuras Amazonicas, where Zig-Zag Heron, Spectacled Owl and Crested Owls are regular. On the 28th and 29th we sleep more comfortably at Puerto Maldonado in a nice hotel.  

Sep. 27th: Puerto Maldonado, Grasslands and Savannah

The start of the trip is with a flight via Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. You will be picked up by the local guide and start birding straight away at La Pastora with White-throated and Purus Jacamar among the specialties. 

Other birds include Small–billed Tinamou, Brazlian Teal, White-faced Whistling-Duck, Zig Zag Heron, Southern Lapwing, Black-banded and Grey-breasted Crakes, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Crested Caracara, White-throated and Purus Jacamar, Pheasant Cuckoo, Barred Antshrike, Peruvian Recurvebill, Rusty-margined and Sulphury Flycatchers, Grassland Sparrow, Black-faced Tanager and Red-breasted Blackbird.

At night we shall search for Zig-Zag Heron, Pheasant Cusco, Little, Spot-tailed and Rufous Nightjar and Striped Owl and other nocturnal birds of the savannah. We'll have a meal at EcoAmazonia and then return to Puerto Maldonado for an overnight stay.

Sep 28: Saona Lodge

Pre-dawn start from Puerto Maldonado to leave for Saona Lodge. The grounds near the lodge has proven very good for Peruvian Recurvebill and Rufous-headed Woodpecker. A Great Potoo has been seen recently,  just next to the building. The area is also good for Pale-winged Trumpeters.

There is a great trail system that includes both varzea forest as well as some terra firma. Special birds include Amazonian Pygmy-Owl, Undulated Antshrike, Pheasant Cuckoo, Cream-colored Woodpecker and the rare Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak.  We shall also bird the river lookouts and various patches of bamboo along the Infierno - Puerto Maldonad Road.

Sep 29: Saona Lodge and Puerto Maldonado

Additional morning at Saona Lodge learning all the rainforest species. 

Sep 30: Saona Lodge. 

We continue to work the trails at Saona Lodge and continue additional scouting near Puerto Maldonado. We shall make it an early dinner and an early night to catch a few hours of sleep at EcoAventuras.

Oct 1: The Big Day

We start night birding in the savannah near Puerto Maldonado at EcoAventuras Lodge, continuing with night birds at Saona Lodge. Here is the outline of the day:

  • 00.00-00.45. EcoAmazonia. Nocturnal birds.
  • 00.45-2.00. La Cachuela road for nocturnals.
  • 02.00-03.00. Drive to Saona.
  • 03.00-05.00. Walk through forest.
  • 05.00-06.00. Terra firme.
  • 06.00-08.30. Floodplain.
  • 08.30-09.00. Bamboo.
  • 09.00-09.30. To Infierno.
  • 09.30-10.30. Infierno road - Puerto Maldonado.
  • 10.30-11.15. Triunfo.
  • 11.15-11.30. To La Cachuela
  • 11.30-12.15. La Cachuela
  • 12.15-12.30 to Pastora.
  • 12.30-12.50. Pastora.
  • 12.50-13.25. Savannah species and aguajal.
  • 13:55. Flight from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco.
  • 14:40-16.00. Bird Huacarpay
  • 16.00-18.00. Upper part Manu road.

After 18.00 some night birding.

Big Month Part 2: Birding Manu Road, Abra Malaga and Apurimac Drainage

At 13:55pm we fly to Cusco for 40 minutes, and immediately head to Huacarpay lake. Some people may join up in Cuzco. 
We shall add several species of ducks, Andean Gull, Common Gallinule, Andean Coot, Andean Lapwing, Eared Dove,  Andean Flicker, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Wren-like Rush-Bird, Plumbeous Rail, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Sparkling VIoletear, Bearded Mountaineer, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Rusty-crowned Canastero, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Hooded Siskin, Golden-billed Saltator, Rufous-colored Sparrow, House Wren, Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Andean Negrito, Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant, Mountain Caracara, Cineroues Harrier, American Kestrel etc. 

We continue along the Manu road trying to pick up additional highland birds such as Spot-winged Pigeon, Bare-faced Ground-Dove, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, Giant Hummingbird, Moustached, Rusty and Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Andean Swift, Creamy-crested Spinetail, and many more, on the way to Wayqecha and some good nocturnals, including Yungas Pygmy-Owl, White-throated Screech-Owl, Rufous-banded Owl, Band-winged Nightjar and Swallow-tailed Nightjar. 

Oct 2: Wayqecha to Villa Carmen

Continue birding between Wayqecha, via Cock of the Rock Lodge to Villa Carmen. The area near Wayqecha is very good for Red-and-White Antpitta and Rufous-capped Thornbill. There are also often good tanager flocks which sometimes pass at close range for good photo opportunities. The flocks include Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Masked Flowerpiercer, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Pearled Treerunner and many more. Stopping at known sites for mixed species flocks and special regional endemics and specialties such as Black-backed Tody-Tyrant and Lancolated Monklet en route. Night at Villa Carmen 

Oct 3: Villa Carmen (great Bamboo) - via Amazonia Lodge 

Just next to Guadalupe is a fantastic bamboo trail that contains specials such as White-cheeked Tody-Tyrant, Large-headed Flatbill and Bamboo Foliagegleaner. Many bamboo birds that are absent at Saona Lodge on the Puerto Maldonado section can be found here. 

We continue to the Pilcopata-Atalaya Ridge and look for Blue-headed Macaw and foothill species such as Red-billed Tyrannulet, Fine-barred Piculet, Rufous-fronted Plush-crown and Yellow-billed Nunbird.

Later we shall visit Machu Wasi Lake with Horned Screamer, Black-capped Donacobius and Pale-eyed Blackbird, often very close. Capibaras are often be seen in this lake.

In the late afternoon we'll arrive to Amazonia  Lodge. On the famous jeep trail we also often see Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Undulated and Black-capped Tinamous, Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, Amazonian Antpitta and Fiery-capped Manakin. The feeders and flowering porterweed attracts many hummers including Rufous-crested Coquette, Amathyst Woodstar and Gould's Jewelfront. 

Oct 4: Amazonia Lodge - Pilcopata

We shall bird most of the day the grounds of Amazonia Lodge, particularly focus on the ridge forest above the lodge that has White-shouldered Antbird, Brownish-headed Antbird, Dusky-throated Antshrike, Sooty Antbird, Red-billed Tyrannulet, and many more.

In the afternoon we shall return to Pilcopata for an overnight stay. 

Oct 5: Pilcopata-Cock of the Rock Lodge

Depending on what we may have missed we shall go up the road or down the road, but eventually we shall reach well known Cock of the Rock. 

At Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge there are good feeders that attract a number of hummingbirds such as Many-spotted Hummingbird, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Booted Rackettail, Speckled Hummingbird, Wedge-billed Hummingbird and more. The flocks around here are often accompanied by the rare Yellow-rumped Antwren. Additionally, this is a good site for Cerulean-capped Manakin, Chestnut-breasted Wren,Yungas Manakin, Rufous-fronted Antthrush, Slaty Gnateater and Spotted Barbtail.

Oct 6: Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge - Drive to Ollantaytambo

We shall have plenty of time to target special birds that we are still missing and look for flocks as we drive back towards Cusco. Some of these may be Andean Potoo, Masked Trogon, Long-tailed Antbird, Stripe-chested Antwren, White-throated Antpitta, Solitary Eagle, Black-and-Chestnut Eagle, Hooded Tinamou, Rufous-breasted Woodquail and many more. After a long drive over the Andes which may add Slender-billed Miner and Plain-breasted Earthcreeper we get to Ollantaytambo to spend the night and to be closer to Abra Malaga for the following day. 

Oct 7: All day in Abra Malaga Area

This will possibly be one of the most productive days with unique birds. Abra Malaga has more than a hand full of good birds of the Polylepis woodland on the ridge, such as Royal Cinclodes, White-browed Tit-Spinetail, Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant, Puna Tapaculo, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Tit-like Dacnis, Andean Snipe, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Line-fronted Canastero and perhaps Andean Condor, all which are most likely only seen here. Also in  the wet temperate and subtropical cloud forest there are a number of good birds such as Plushcap, Parodi's Hemispingus, Marcapata Spinetail, Cusco Brush-Finch, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Barred Parakeet, Diademed Tapaculo, Puna Thistletail, and many more. In the late afternoon we descend to Ollantaytambo and drive to Limatambo. At night we shall check for Buff-fronted Owl. 

Oct 8: Salcantay road

Apurimac species such as Apurimac Brush-Finch, Apurimac Spinetail, Vilcabamba Tapaculo, Ampay Tapaculo Apurimac Screech-Owl and Pale-tailed Canastero, as well as endemic Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, White-tufted Sunbeam, Rusty-fronted Canastero, as well as White-eared Puffbird in the morning and then returning to Cusco to fly to Lima
At 16:33pm we fly to Lima arriving at 18:00pm. Those who continue to Paracas will arrive there before 10pm. 

Part 3: Two Pelagics and Tumbes 

The Humboldt Current is a nutrient rich feeding ground for pelagic bird species of all descriptions. A 5 AM start on the 9th of October should put us in the right place to see a lot of lifers. We may see the gems, such as: Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels. Swallow-tailed and Sabine´s Gulls. Waved, Black-browed and Salvin´s Albatross, Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Chilean and South Polar Skuas.

On the way back to Lima we shall try to see Slender-billed Finch and the local form of Bran-colored Flycatcher, as well as stopp for Lomas birds such as Thick-billed and Grayish Miner. Back to Lima to fly that evening to Tumbes in the north and cross the border to Huaquillas in Ecuador.

October 8th and 9th we bird the various habitats around Tumbes, including: Cotrina, Campo Verde, Cuacho and the Tumbes Mangroves. October 10thin the morning we do the warm water pelagic, before travelling to Piura in the afternoon to drop off those returning home and picking up our guests for the next leg.

Oct 8: Meet-up and Travel to Paracas

People joining this day need be at Lima airport at 5:45 pm to coordinate with our driver. We leave right after 6pm when the group from Cusco arrives. En route to Paracas we’ll make a stop for recently split (from Band-Winger Nightjar) Tschudi’s Nightjar. Our driver will have food and drinks ready for us in the vehicle. We’ll catch up on some sleep too. Night in Zarcillo Paradise

Oct 9: Pelagic From Paracas 

Today we are joined by sea bird virtuoso Trevor Hardaker. His sharp eyes will undoubtedly be an asset. With a 5 am start we will get all the pelagic birding done before the wind sets in with Sooty Shearwater, Cape Petrel, Markham´s, Hornby´s, White-vented, Wilson´s (Fuegan) and Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels. Swallow-tailed and Sabine´s Gulls. Waved, Gray-headed, Black-browed and Salvin´s Albatross. Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Chilean and South Polar Skuas and inner shore birds like Humboldt Penguin, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Blackish Oystercatcher, Inca Tern, Belcher's Gull, Surfbird, South American Tern, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants.

Species included In the afternoon birding are Peruvian Tern, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, Peruvian Pipit and Tschudi's Nightjar. Also a number of water birds and shorebirds at Pantanos de Villa. Evening flight to Tumbes with LATAM at 19:08 hrs. Sleep in Tumbes  

Oct 10: Day trip to  Cotrina - Campo Verde

Rather than intending to do a very long hike to El Caucho, we shall content ourselves with a day trip crossing the Ecuador/Peru border pre-dawn to reach Cotrina on the Peruvian side. From here we walk a couple of kilometers to Campo Verde birding on the way and specifically looking out for Pallid Dove, Olivaceous Piculet and Purple-crowned Fairy. We continue hiking towards El Caucho and back we hope to pick up some of the species that barely gets into Peru such as Rufous-headed Chachalaca, Barred Puffbird, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Pale-billed Aracari, White-whiskered Puffbird, Rufous-crowned Tody-Tyrant and Mantled Howler Monkeys

It is also a good stretch for Crested Guan, Watkin's Antpitta, Ochre-bellied Dove and Western Slaty-Antshrike. Back to Tumbes via a night visit at the Tumbes Mangroves which may reward us with Mangrove Rail, Red-necked Wood-Rail and Bare-throated Tiger-Heron. 

Oct 11. El Caucho and Tumbes Mangroves

We shall make a 3.30 AM start to visit the areas of El Caucho this morning. We have seen displaying Pacific Royal Flycatcher and Grey-backed Hawk in the past. Higher up birds like Henna-hooded Foliage-Gleaner, Grey-breasted Flycatcher, Blackish-headed Spinetail and Rufous-headed Chachalaca occur. Other birds include Slaty Becard, Ecuadorian Trogon, Grey-necked Parakeet, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Saffron Siskin, Three-banded Warbler, Orange-crowned Euphonia, White-edged Oriole, White-tailed Jay, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Collared Antshrike and many more. 

We leave this marvelous area and head to Tumbes again. In the afternoon perhaps we’ll make a fast visit to the mangroves for White Ibis, Mangrove Black Hawk, Mangrove (Yellow) Warbler, Masked Water-Tyrant, Tricolored Heron, Brown Pelican, Great-tailed Grackle and many others, before we leave for the beach resort Los Organos.

Oct 12: Organos Pelagic - Canchaque - Huancabamba

In the morning we venture into the warmer waters off Los Organos for several species of seabirds that are more difficult further south. In the past we have seen Galapagos Petrel, Parkinson's Petrel, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Galapagos Shearwater, Cook's Petrel, Black Storm-Petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird, Brown, Nazca, Masked and Red-footed Booby. This time of year we sometimes get spectacular views of Humpback Whales. 

We continue driving south making a short stop for Peruvian Plantcutter, Tumbes Tyrant, Rufous Flycatcher and Tumbes Swallow en route. In Piura, in the afternoon, we shall drop anyone who has only signed up for the Two Pelagics and Tumbes and have a flight to catch to Lima and pick up those who continue with the North Peru leg, Part 4.

Big Month Part 4: North Peru Birding Blitz, Piura - Tarapoto

Although the pace will be challenging we aim to see all the special birds on the itinerary. We start in Piura and continue with detours to Huancabamba and to Cajamarca and end in Tarapoto in 9 and a half days. 

This section is included in the Big Month Kolibri Expeditions organizes in 2018 as part of the 20 year anniversary. You may join for only this section for $2150 or you could join for full 35 days for $9500.  The trip starts at around 3:30-4:00 pm from Piura airport.

Oct 12: Piura - Huancabamba

You should be at Piura airport by 3:30 pm. We aim to leave Piura airport at 4 pm for a four - five hour drive to Huancabamba. We could make a few stops en route to try for Sulphur-throated Finch and White-headed Brush-FInch.

Oct 13: Huancabamba

North of Huancabamba is the Chinguela ridge. This is a seldom visited part of Peru by birders as it takes you off the main route and we should, quite rapidly, get many new birds for the Big Month, and anyone wanting to boost an impressive Peru list needs to add Chinguela sooner or later.  We need to get a very early start to get to the areas near the pass. Birds like Bearded Guan (uncommon), Red-faced Parrot (rare), Little Sunangel, Rainbow-bearded Thornbill, Neblina Metaltail, Glowing Puffleg, Buff-inged Starfrontlet, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Chestnut-naped Antpitta, Chusquea Tapaculo, Paramo Tapaculo, Mouse-colored Thistletail, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Orange-banded Flycatcher, Black-capped Hemispingus, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Black-headed Hemispingus, Pale-naped Brushfinch, Turquiose Jay, Yellow-billed Cacique and many more are possible.

In the afternoon we start to drive back towards the Cruz Blanca above Canchaque. This is a good spot for Grey-headed Antbird and Piura Hemispingus. A bit further down we shall look for Black-cowled Saltator and Chapman’s Antshrike. Night in Piura. 

Oct 14. Vice Mangroves and Quebrada Frejolillo

In the morning we shall visit Vice mangroves which is very good for a number of shorebirds and Peruvian Tern. Later we continue towards Olmos, on the way making a detour to try to get White-winged Guan at Quebrada Frejolillo. Other birds here include Baird’s Flycatcher, Pacific Elaenia, Parrot-billed Seedeater, Sulphur-throated Finch, Short-tailed Woodstar and others. Driving back we’ll try for Scrub Nightjar and West Peruvian Screech-Owl if it is still needed. Night in Olmos.

Oct 15: Porculla Pass - Jaen

Morning at Abra Porculla, with Piura Chat-Tyrant and Porculla Hermit as prime targets. Other birds that we should already have checked by now include Grey-and Gold Warber,  Black-cowled Saltator, Chapman’s Antshrike, Henna-hooded and Rufous-necked Foliagegleaners and Elegant Crescentchest.
We continue to Jaen and hope to get all the targets here such as Marañon Crescentchest, Marañon Spinetail, Tataupa Tinamou, Marañon (Northern) Slaty Antshrike, Ecuadorian Ground-Dove, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Little Inca-Finch, Yellow-tailed Oriole. At night we hope to pick up Marañon (Peruvian) Screech-Owl.
We continue to drive through the night to Bagua.

Oct 16: Bagua - Pomacochas. 

We will likely need to look for Shumbae Antshrike (split from Collared Antshrike) which inhabits similar habitat as Little Inca-Finch. The latter is easier to get in mornings, so we will head to a site close to Bagua first thing in the morning before we continue Pomacochas. 

En route to Leimebamba we may pick up Speckle-chested Piculet, Buff-bellied Tanager and Peruvian Pigeon.

At Huembo near Pomacochas we check the feeders for Marvelous Spatuletail, Andean Emerald, Little Woodstar, Bronzy Inca and many more. If there is time, we’ll do the San Lorenzo hike this day to have more time the following day at Abra Patricia area. 

Above San Lorenzo are Pale-billed Antpitta, Peruvian Treehunterschulenbergi ssp of Plain-tailed Wren, Rusty-Tinged Antpitta and possibly Chestnut-crested Cotinga. 

At night we shall look for Cinnamon Screech-Owl. Night in Pomacochas.

Oct 17: Abra Patricia

If we have done San Lorenzo already, we shall make an early start for the Abra Patricia pass some 50 minutes away. Birds that we look for here are Emerald-bellied Puffleg and Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant. A bit lower down is Fundo Alto Nieva which will also be our lodging. Here we find Rusty-tinged Antpitta, Ochre-fronted Antpitta, Royal Sunangel, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Greenish Puffleg, Long-tailed Sylph, White-capped Tanager, Bar-winged Wood-Wren, Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant and many more.

Lower down we bird the area of Afluentes for Ecuadorian Piedtail, Grey-chinned Hermit, Gray-manteled Wren, Equatorial Greytail, Streaked Xenops, Black-and-White Tody-Tyrant and many tanagers, . 

We return to Fundo Alto Nieva for dinner and a session with Long-whiskered Owlet - the mythical small owl which has recently been rediscovered. Here at Fundo Alto Nieva there are several territories.
There are only three rooms at Fundo, meaning there are no single rooms. Should the group become larger than 6 (unlikely) or if someone wants more comfort, it may be possible for some to stay at the Owlet Lodge at the Abra Patricia pass.

Oct 18: Aguas Verdes and Moyobamba

Next morning we start birding lower down near Aguas Verdes. Here there is a nice set up with feeders for Little and Cinereous Tinamous, Grey-necked Wood-Rail and Orange-billed Sparrow, as well as hummingbird feeders that attract a bunch of nice ones such as Wire-crested Thorntail and Black-throated Brilliant. This is also a good site for Northern Chestnut-tailed Antbird, Huallaga Tanager, Painted Manakin and Mishana Tyrannulet (undescribed form).  

We continue exploring the Moyobamba/Rioja savanna adding species like Buckley’s Forest Falcon, Yellow Tyrranulet, Russet-crowned Crake, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Pale-eyed Blackbird, Masked Duck, Black-billed Seed-Finch, Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Varzea Thrush, and at the feeders of Wakanqi Black-throated Hermit and Rufous-crested Coquette

Near Moyobamba is also good for owls and Nightjars including Band-bellied Owl, Black-and-White Owl, Stygian Owl, Blackish, Spot-tailed and Rufous Nightjars. While having dinner in the vehicle that our driver has prepared we shall continue to Tarapoto for the night, stopping briefly at the Oilbird colony at the side of the road. 

Oct 19: Tarapoto Region, Tunnel Quebrada Upaquihua + Tunnel + Drive to Bellavista and on to Plataforma

We start above Tarapoto at dawn trying to pick up Wattled Guan first thing, then bird the road for Blackish Pewee, Plumbeous Euphonia and Dotted Tanager. At km 24 there are feeders for Gould’s Jewelfront and Koepcke’s Hermit and a good trail that often has White-plumed Antbird and Golden-headed Manakin.
Mid-morning we’ll check some ponds for Comb Duck and Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks before leaving those who have flights to Lima at the airport. Those continuing the Big Month will carry on to Plataforma towards the south.

Big Month Part 5: Scarlet-banded Barbet

Plataforma, also known as Flor de Cafe, has become a popular site the last couple of years to see the recently discovered and spectacular Scarlet-banded Barbet. Since two years if became focus again as a totally new antbird, the Cordillera Azul Antbird - was found just a couple of 100 meters where experienced birders had birding for a few years. Just a small detour around the corner, Josh Beck founds a new Antbird. 

There is a bad muddty road up which can only be tackled with 4WD. Lodging is somewhat basic, but birding is extremely rewarding. This section of the Big Month will be accompanied by Noah Strycker.

Oct 19: Travel to Plataforma via Quebrada Upaquihua

Most guests will likely continue with our extensions to the Scarlet-banded Barbet site. We start birding the dry scrub of Upaquihua for Huallaga Slaty-Antshrike, Rufous Casiornis, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Chestnut-throated Spinetail and Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin. We shall arrive at Plataforma after dark and will immediately look for Subtropical Pygmy-Owl and Vermiculated Screech-Owl. 

Oct 20: Plataforma All Day

We have the full day to look for a variety of key birds such as Jet Antbird, a new species of Woodcreeper similar to Long-tailed Woodcreeper, Yungas Manakin,and Gray-tailed Piha, but the star bird will be Scarlet-banded Barbet. We’ll also look for the newly described Cordillera Azul Antbird, Sharpbill, Wing-banded Wren, Rufous-Brown Solitaire and many more. 

Oct 21: Plataforma - Tarapoto

Depending how well we have done at Plataforma verses Upaquihua we shall spend more time at either as we make our way to Tarapoto. Those continuing on the Iquitos extension will catch a 16:40 pm flight to Iquitos others will return to Lima. 

Big Month Part 6: Iquitos with Canopy Walkway, River Islands and White Sand Forest. 

We do a quick hop to Iquitos for a number of Amazonian speceis that are not in the South East, especially, the species of the white sand forests of Allpahuayo-MIshana reserve and those of the river islands. The Canopy Walkway near ExplorNapo will be a highlight on this section. 

Cost for just this section including two flights is $1200. Regular price for the full 35 days is $9500. Or join the full month plus prep  at $7500 before Nov 30th.

Oct 21: Tarapoto - Iquitos

Those already in North Peru shall fly from Tarapoto 16:40 pm with Peruvian Airlines to Iquitos. Anyone joining us today shall fly from Lima to connect with us. After arriving to Iquitos at nightfall, we shall be heading directly to Allpahuayo-Mishana reserve to look for White-winged and Rufous Potoo. We’ll have timed our visit perfectly for a next to full moon when potoos are particularly active. We’ll stay the night at a nearby lodge.

Oct 22: Allpahuayo - Mishana and Explornapo

In the early morning we shall look for all the specials at Allpahuayo-Mishana reserve, such as Allpahuayo Antbird, Ancient Antwren, Brown-banded Puffbird, Zimmer’s Antbird, Mishana Tyrannulet, in the early morning. There is also an undescribed form of Fuscous Flycatcher which is likely a new species. Then later transfer to Explornapo with possibly some stops at a river island on the way for special birds such as Lesser Hornero, White-bellied, Red-and-White and Parker's Spinetails, Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Castelnau's Antshrike, Black-and-White Antbird, Black-tailed Antbird, Lesser Wagtail-Tyrant, Riverside Tyrant, River Tyrannulet and Amazonian Umbrellabird. 

In the afternoon we shall look for Black-necked Red-Cotinga, Cinerous Antshrike and Spot-winged Antbird. We shall also target some more widespread Amazonian bird species that we may have missed on the Puerto Maldonado Big Day, or at Amazonia Lodge on the Manu road. At night we shall search for Nocturnal Curassow and any other nightbird still missing. 

Oct 23: Explornapo River Islands, Canopy Walkway and Nocturnal Curassow

Morning start with river islands holding Ash-breasted Antbird, Bicolored Conebill, Orange-eyed Flycatcher, Leaden Antwren, Bay Hornero and many others. We continue to target missed Amazonian birds during the rest of the day and in the afternoon we will transfer to the canopy walkway and spend the afternoon there. At night near the base of the canopy walkway, the Nocturnal Curassow can often be located.

Oct 24: Canopy Walkway, River Islands and Rio Nanay

Morning birding on the canopy walkway with Dugand’s Antwren, Pavonine Quetzal and Crested Eagle possible, before we head back to the lodge and back to Iquitos. We possibly do another river island on the way back. In the late afternoon we shall do trip on the black waters of Rio Nanay with species like Black-crested Antshrike, Orange-crowned Manakin, Cinnamon Attila and at dusk Band-tailed Night-Hawk. In the evening, 20:15pm, we fly to Lima with Peruvian Airlines arrving at 21:59pm.

Birding Central Peru Part 7 of Big Month Peru

Star birds include Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager, Cloud-Forest Screech-Owl and Black-spectacled Brush-Finch, Diademed Sandpiper-Plover and White-bellied Cinclodes. Visiting Satipo road, Oxapampa, Junin Lake, Unchog, Marcapomacocha and Santa Eulalia in a brutal pace. 

We expect takers of only this part to be at domestic arrivals at 9.40 pm to coordinate with driver. Speed is essential. Please note that there will be driving through the night. We recommend you carry a travel pillow you have tested before, because you will rely on it a lot.

Although pace will be fast, we shall try to SEE as many of the endemic birds as possible. Other more widespread birds will have less importance and no particular effort will be done to call in common birds. As for skulking endemics, we shall set a time-limit how much time we spend doing playback. The nature of the game is such that we may have to let some go with a heard only, but we shall give each a try at least. 

We recommend you to also carry bird calls and a small speaker so you can try on your own to call out the skulkers which the rest of the group may have given up on. 

Oct 24: Lima - Andamarca

Those who are doing the Iquitos program are arriving in Lima at 21:59 and if not you should meet up with our driver in the airport parking lot no later than 21:45. We shall drive all night on the Central Highway towards Concepcion, before heading on the old Satipo road and detour to Andamarca. You need a traveller sleeping pillow to be able to catch some sleep. We shall also rotate in the van every 90 minutes to allow so that the most comfortable seats can be shared.

Oct 25: Andamarca - Satipo road. Calabaza, Colibri Lodge

We're in the Andamarca valley a warm and dry valley in the Mantaro drainage. New species to science have been found here in recent years, some still remain to be named.  They are Black-spectacled Brush-Finch, a new Thryothorus wren "Mantaro Wren" and a new undescribed species of Thornbird "Mantaro Thornbird". Also, the form of Azara's Spinetail whose calls are completely different here and may well warrant species status.

Other specials include White-winged Black.Tyrant, Black-backed Grosbeak, Golden-billed Saltator, Black-and-White Seedeater and others. We shall also spend some time trying to Apurimac Screech-Owl, described as subspecies of Koepcke's Screech-Owl.

Heading over the pass towards the Satipo road proper we get into a more humid temperate area, where hopefully we find Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Unstreaked Tit-Spinetail, Taczanoswski’s Slaty Brush-Finch (a likely split from the ssp. in Ecuador) and the white-crowned weskei ssp. of Marcapata Spinetail.  

Later we shall be looking for Satipo Road specials such as Fiery-throated Metaltail, Eye-ringed Thistletail, obscura form of Rufous Antpitta (certainly a good species), Bay Antpitta, and the undescribed "Millpo" and Tchudi’s Tapaculo. We stay at the basic community lodge at Calabaza Colibri Lodge supporting the local community. At night, we shall look for Lyre-tailed Nightjar and White-throated Screech Owl.

Oct 26: Calabaza - La Merced

We shall spend most of day looking for flocks along the Satipo Road proper. The possibilities are enormous. Some say it is as diverse as Manu road. These include Sunbittern, Peruvian Tyrannulet, Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet, Versicolored Barbet, Solitary Eagle, Black-and-Chestnut Eagle, Golden-headed and Crested Quetzal, Cock-of-the-Rock, Torrent Duck, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer and many more.

We deliberately stay as long as possible on the Satipo Road where the diversity is high and then driving to La Merced after dark arriving at 9 pm or so. 

Oct 27: La Merced - Oxapampa

Above La Merced there is good habitat for Creamy-bellied Antwren, Fiery-throated and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater, and many other subtropical birds here. After a stake-out for White-browed Hermit, we continue to Oxapampa.

Here are some of the birds we shall be looking for in the vecinity of Oxapampa: 
Olive-tufted Flycatcher, Andean Guan, Scaly-naped Parrot, Black-winged Parrot, Barred Parakeet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Collared Inca, Pasco Antpitta, Bay Antpitta, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Lachrymose Tanager, Peruvian Wren and Strong-billed Woodcreeper. 

After looking for Cloud-forest Screech-Owl at two different spots we'll drive towards Junin. Possible overnight would be either La Merced (if we are late) or Tarma if we get the Owl early. 

Oct 28: Oxapampa - Junin-Huanuco

Although this is mostly a travel day, we shall make the best of it to also try to hit some good birds such as Ornate Tinamou and various species of Canasteros such as Streak-backed and Cordilleran Canastero.

In the afternoon we shall bird the Junin Lake, principally for Junin Grebe and Junin Rail, and also some of the endemics possible here such as Black-breasted HIllstar and Dark-winged Miner, and also Correndera and Short-billed Pipits. We make a stop at the Polylepis forests at Quichas for Stripe-headed Antpitta, Giant Conebill, Baron´s Spinetail, Thick-billed Siskin and Striated Earthcreeper. Drive to Huanuco arriving around 8 pm.

Oct 29: Unchog - Travel to La Oroya

Departure at 3:00am. It is necessary to do an early start to have a chance before daybreak for Swallow-tailed Nightjar and Andean Snipe. Key species are Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. Pardusco.  Rufous-browed Hemispingus and Bay-vented Cotinga are rare but very conspicuous when perched.

Other birds include Coppery Metaltail, Neblina and Large-footed TapaculoPlenge´s Thistletail, Many-striped and Line-fronted Canastero, Paramo Seedeaterand White-collared Jay.

In the afternoon as we drive via Huariaca to La Oroya where we shall look for Brown-flanked Tanager, Rufous-backed Inca-Finch and Black-crested Tit-Tyrant.

Oct 30: San Mateo - Santa Eulalia Canyon

We continue via Ticlio for White-bellied Cinclodes, Diademed Plover, Puna Snipe, Rufous-bellied and Gray-breasted Seedsnipes, Olivaceous Thornbill and White-winged Diuca-Finch.  Then on the side road to Marcapomacocha to target Diademed Sandpiper Plover before we descend the Santa Eulalia canyon. Stopping by the Polylepis we have a good chance to see White-cheeked Cotinga. Other Polylepis specialists include Striated Earthcreeper, Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail, Thick-billed and Black Siskins, Giant Conebill, Black Metaltail, etc.

More birding in the upper part of Santa Eulalia valley. Species we search for here, include Canyon Canastero and Rufous-breasted Warbling-Finch (rare).

On the way to Lima we have the chance of running into the following species: Black-necked Flicker, Oasis Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheertail, Bronze-tailed Comet, Great Inca-Finch, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Canyon Canastero, Rusty-bellied Brush-Finch, White-winged Cinclodes, Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant, Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail, Streaked Tit-Spinetail. 

Those who continue for the last day of the Big Month will fly to Arequipa with Avianca 20:13pm and stay in hotel in Arequipa.

Part 8. Birding Arequipa

The best full day birding tour one can make in Arequipa is to Laguna Salinas and Chiguata to see all three species of flamingos and birds of the Polylepis scrub, as well as Tamarugo Conebill and White-throated Earthcreeper. It is important to be altitude adapted for this tour as we shall spend the majority of the day at altitudes above 3700m up to 4300m

Oct 31. Birding Salinas and Chiguata

We leave Arequipa an hour before dawn to get to the Polylepis scrub above the village of Chiguata at break of dawn. A number of good birds can be found here such as Black-winged and Bare-faced Ground-Doves, Dark-winged (Creamy-winged) Canastero, Mountain Caracara, Andean Hillstar, Black Metaltail, Giant Hummingbird, White-throated, Plain-breasted and Straight-billed Earthcreepers, Cream-winged Cinclodes, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Canyon and Cordilleran Canastero, Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, CinereousGiant and Tamarugo Conebills and Peruvian Sierra-Finch. At the roadside we shall take our picnic breakfast while enjoying all the birds. Occassionally an Andean Condor will pass by. 

Higher up on at Lake Salinas, the main target is usually the three species of Flamingoes, Chilean, Andean and Puna Flamingos, however they are onlu there when there is water in the lake and this is not always the case. Water starts filling up in October-November and remains until May-June or so. But regardless, there are many other birds to look for such as Andean Goose, Yellow-billed Teal, Crested Duck, Puna Ibis, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean Avocet, Puna Snipe, Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, Andean Gull, Burrowing Owl, Common Miner, White-fronted, Ochre-naped and Puna Ground-Tyrants, Andean Negrito, Black-hooded Sierra-Finch and Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch. Rarer are Horned Coot and White-throated Sierra-Finch. We plan to make our visit at this extreme altitude relatively short, so we will soon make it back to lower altitudes to have a late picnic lunch trying to pick up species we may have missed on the way up.

We fly back to Lima in the late evening. Happy to have set a new Big Month record for a single country. 

Option: BIG MONTH BIRDING PERU with Gunnar Engblom and special guests. -- Days: 35
Price: US$ 9500

The full trip lasts 35 days and includes a 4 day prep trip in Puerto Maldonado. Price includes all flights, transport and food. Entrance and communal fees are not included and shall be paid at the spot. (Calculate between $120-$200). (Entrance fees are additional). Single supplement, when possible for the whole trip is $780.


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Telephone: +51-1- 652 76 89. From the US: 011-51-1- 652 76 89. Cell: 988 555 938 (Gunnar) or 999 007 886 (Elia Gallo) - Email: kolibriexp@gmail.com