Central Peru: High Andean Endemics

Puna Grasslands, Polylepis, The Satipo Road, Cloud Forest, West Slope Endemics, Flightless Grebe and Bosque Unchog.

Diademed-Sandpiper-PloverPhotographer: Ian Merrill

The dates for this trip have been chosen carefully to coincide with, what should be, the driest time of year. The mountains are lush and green. It’s hard to imagine a Birding tour that takes place in more dramatic surroundings as the Peruvian High Andes. Consider how many endemics to be seen and looked for in such astounding scenery of a grand scale, including The Huascaran National Park, The Satipo Road and its endemics, Lake Junín, and the Carpish Mountains, as well as an incursion to the most spectacular Oilbird cave in the world.

The tour is carefully designed to give you a chance at all the Central Peruvian High Andean Endemics and although North Peru Endemics Tour seem to be more popular, this trip takes in potential 50+ Peruvian endemics same as that tour and yet they are less well known and just as spectacular species. Imagine White-cheeked Cotinga, Bay-vented Cotinga, Pardusco, Junín Grebe, White-bellied Cinclodes and Golden-backed Mountain Tanager all in one trip!

Why North Peru is so popular and this tour not is a mystery


Day 1: ARRIVAL IN LIMA

Arrive in Lima. We will arrive in Lima in the early evening and make our transfer to a hotel nearby.

Day 2: LOMAS DE LACHAY TO SANTA EULALIA

Today we will visit the Lomas de Lachay, an area of low coastal hills that are covered in a unique ‘fog vegetation’ (i.e. the sparse plant life obtains its moisture almost entirely from condensation in this almost rainless landscape). Bare desert en route to the Lomas is home to the endemic Coastal Miner, whereas higher up in the hills we may find Grayish Miner and the endemic Thick-billed Miner. At times Least Seedsnipe, Tawny-throated Dotterel and Yellowish Pipit nest in this area, while other birds we may find on the green slopes of the Lomas are Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Variable Hawk, American Kestrel, Eared Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, Oasis and Amazilia Hummingbirds, Vermilion Flycatcher, Blue-and-white Swallow, Hooded Siskin, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow and Peruvian Meadowlark.

If we are fortunate we will even find the rare and nomadic Raimondi’s Yellow-Finch in this area. A short distance away is a desolate desert canyon, where among the sparse cacti and large boulders we shall look for the endemic Cactus Canastero, and in more open areas we shall keep an eye out for the small desert race nanodes of the Burrowing Owl. On the return journey we shall diligently search recently plowed fields for the cryptic Peruvian Thick-knee and the diminutive Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, while in hedges and brushy areas we may find Groove-billed Ani, as well as Parrot-billed and Chestnut-throated Seedeaters. We’ll carry on to our Country Hotel in Santa Eulalia. B: L: D

Day 3: SANTA EULALIA TO SAN MATEO

An early start along the dusty but spectacular Santa Eulalia road will take us high into the mountains above Lima. After crossing a bridge over a tremendous chasm we shall reach a shrubby hillside and small ravine where the rare and endemic Rufous-breasted Warbling-Finch is regularly seen. As the early morning sun hits the slopes we will be sorting through flocks of the much more numerous Mourning Sierra-Finches in the hopes of finding this elusive specialty.

Lower down we will enter a mosaic of small farms with irrigated fields and hedgerows, where we will check flowering bushes for the endemic Bronze-tailed Comet. Other endemics we will try to find here are Black-necked Woodpecker, Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail, Canyon Canastero and Rusty-bellied Brush-Finch. Tall groves of introduced Eucalyptus trees often hold the diminutive Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, and depending on weather conditions the majestic Andean Condor may take to the air. Descending farther, we reach the arid cactus-clad slopes, which are the home to another highly prized endemic, the Great Inca-Finch.

Other birds we will look for in the course of the day are Bare-faced Ground-Dove, White-tipped Dove, Andean Swift, Sparkling Violetear, Peruvian Sheartail, Purple-collared Woodstar, Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, House Wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, White-capped Dipper, Chiguanco Thrush, Cinereous Conebill, Blue-capped Tanager, Mourning Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Golden-bellied Saltator and Scrub Blackbird. In the afternoon we head up the central highway to our hotel at San Mateo. This is stage two of our acclimation to higher altitudes B: L: D

Day 4: MARCOPOMACOCHA TO CONCEPCION

We’ll leave San Mateo for the cold high-elevation bogs of Marcopomacocha which are home to one of the world’s most highly sought-after shorebirds, the exquisite Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. We shall gasp for air as we will be birding at an elevation of over 4500 meters, but the superb set of special birds to be found here will make our physical efforts well worth their while, and we should be perfectly acclimated. The scenery is without comparison, and at this time of year we can expect sun and a scattering of snow.

Another odd wader we will look for is the large Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, which often feeds amongst the peaceful llama and alpaca herds at our favorite birding bog. However, this partridge-like bird can, in spite of its size, blend in amazingly well with its inhospitable environment. We may well flush a startled Puna Snipe as we search through this often waterlogged habitat, hoping to find four high-altitude endemics: among boulder-strewn grassy areas we will look for the huge and endemic White-bellied Cinclodes (one of the most spectacular furnariids), flat areas hold Dark-winged Miner (endemic), the sparse flowers attract shimmering Black-breasted Hillstars (endemic), whilst in thick bunchgrass we will look for the strikingly-patterned Junín Canastero (endemic). Olivaceous Thornbills often walk on matted grass in search for their scarce insect prey, and other birds we may find in this scenic area include Andean Goose, Crested Duck, Mountain Caracara, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Andean Lapwing, Andean Flicker, Slender-billed Miner, Plain-breasted Earthcreeper, Cream-winged Cinclodes, Streak-throated Canastero, Puna, Plain-capped, Cinereous, White-fronted and Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrants, Andean Swallow, Correndera Pipit, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, White-winged Diuca-Finch and Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch. After this fantastic days birding amidst wonderful scenery, we’ll carry on to our comfortable country Hotel in Concepcion. B: L: D

Day 5: THE PARIHUANCA ROAD

Today we will travel the road to Parihuanca, where the recently discovered and described Black-goggled Brush-Finch occurs. We will pass through a fair amount of high-elevation country, in which we will look for any of the birds missed at Marcapomacocha. Remanant cloud forest patches hold an as yet un-described species of Pheugopedius Wren “Mantaro" related to Plain-tailed. Other birds we will look for include Creamy-crested Spinetail, Tschudi’s Tapaculo, a soon to be described species Phacellodomus Thornbird related to Streak-fronted and a distinct form of Azara’s Spinetail and an Asthenes Canastero related to Rusty-fronted. We’ll return to Concepcion for the night looking for Junín and Streak-backed Canastero and Striated Earthcreeper along the way. B: L: D

Day 6: CONCEPCION TO APAYA

The Satipo Road has become increasingly popular thanks to the discovery of some desirable species there. Creamy-crested Spinetail and the endemic Eye-ringed Thistletail will be some of the first birds we’ll try for along with an as yet un-described species of Scytolopus Tapaculo before ascending into the cloud forests where we hope to find the recently described endemic Junín Tapaculo. More regular fare should include Shining Sunbeam, Giant Hummingbird, Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Barred Fruiteater, Yellow-throated Tanager, Tyrian Metaltail, Red-crested Cotinga, Torrent Tyrannulet, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Sword-billed Hummingbird.

Additionally to these species it is possible to find the Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Bay Antpitta, Pearled Treerunner, Streaked Tuftedcheek and Rusty and Black-throated Flowerpiercers. However the elfin-forest habitat one of the reasons why we are here and we will target the endemic Eye-ringed Thistletail the obscura race of Rufous Antpitta and the beautiful Fire-throated Metaltail (endemic). In this area are soon to be described species of a white-capped Cranioleuca Spinetail, Black-backed Grosbeak, White-winged Black-Tyrant.. The community provides a room with 6 beds separated into two sections for privacy. There are washing facilities and a (cold) shower. There is a clean-shared flush toilet. There is usually electricity (via a small hydro plant water powered generator). If someone needs more privacy, there is a big football field where we will pitch tents for those who prefer. B: L: D

 Day 7: APAYA TO OXAPAMPA

After some morning birding at lower elevations of the Satipo road, particularly around we’ll Apaya after which we’ll head for Oxapampa and our comfortable cloud forest lodge for the night. B: L: D

Day 8: FULL DAY OXAPAMPA

The Lodge is surrounded by pristine Cloud forest and lies concealed between the mist and the dense green cover of the Andean cloud forests, surrounded by impressive views, white water streams and heavenly skies that only mountain ecosystems can offer. It’s inhabited by a remarkable biodiversity of flora and fauna (the bird species list reaches 170 species), among them several endemic to Peru. Trails have been designed for birders and observing the natural flora and diverse ecosystems that surround the lodge.

The endemic bird species include Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Green and White Hummingbird, Peruvian Wren, Chestnut Antpitta, and Inca flycatcher And some highlights like the Cloud Forest Screech Owl ( Perhaps the best place in the world to see this bird) and Golden – headed Quetzal. Among the most conspicuous birds we find a range of montane Tanagers such as Silver-backed Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Yellow-throated Tanager, Fawn-breasted Tanager amongst others. Other species of birds that characterize Andean cloud forests are also common in the lodge and in the near-by protected areas such as the Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, the Chestnut-crested Cotinga and White-eared Solitaire. B: L: D.

Day 9: OXAPAMPA TO JUNIN

Morning at the lodge then we head out back into the Andes. We’ll bird the coffee plantations around Villa Rica specifically looking for the endemic Creamy-bellied Antwren but also visit Lago Oconal to see what water birds are present – we often see Masked Duck here. We continue on and up and to the high altitudes of Lago Junin B: L: D.

 Day 10 LAKE JUNIN AND TO HUANUCO

Today we will take to the water in small boats on one of Peru’s largest lakes. Lago Junin or Chinchaycocha as the Incas called it is the home of the endemic Puna Grebe (also known as Junin Grebe). This bird is critically endangered and we will have to reach an area of floating reeds to have any chance of observing this species. There will be plenty of other Andean waterfowl such as Speckled and Puna Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail and Andean Duck. Puna Ibises and Andean Gulls are often present in large numbers and with luck we’ll see Andean Avocet as well. We will look for Junín Rail if the water levels are right. The reedy margins hold Wren-like Rushbird and Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant and we have a good chance of seeing them as well as Puna Plover and Plumbeous Rail. We will also do some birding on “terra-firme” in the fields surrounding the lake. Common Miner, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Andean Negrito, Short-billed Pipit and Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch are all possible here. In the afternoon we will make our way to Huanuco, and if time permits stopping for Rufous-backed Inca Finch along the way. B: L: D.

Day 11 and 12: THE CARPISH MOUNTAINS

Two full days to explore the forests near the Carpish Pass. We will walk the famous Paty Trail. After a few days in arid habitats birding the cloud- forest here will make a pleasant change. We shall encounter some mixed feeding flocks here and the diversity of birds in these humid habitats will be evident. Yellow-whiskered and Grey-hooded Bush-Tanagers, Black-capped, Oleaginous, Black-eared and Drab Hemispingus and Beryl-spangled Tanagers, Hooded, Lacrimose and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers could be seen. We will be alert for another attractive flock member here as well, but the Yellow-scarfed Tanager often passes unnoticed lower down as the rest of the birds utilize the higher strata of the trees. More challenging birding is required here and at other elevations to see Trilling, Large-footed and Rufous-vented Tapaculos and Rusty-breasted Antpitta.

During these periods when we diligently stalk some of these shy creatures there will undoubtedly be passing flocks that may divert our attention momentarily. Furnariids like Streaked Tuftedcheeks and Pearled Treerunners will appear in between the bromeliad festooned limbs of the moss-covered trees, Green-and-black and Band-tailed Fruiteaters give away their presence with the high pitched calls and with luck we’ll encounter the endemic Masked Fruiteater here as well. Peruvian Tyrannulet is just one of the other endemics to be found here as well as Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant, Inca Flycatcher and Peruvian Wrens.

Another species we will be particularly keen to find is the Masked Saltator. More widespread species typical of these subtropical forests in Central Peru that we may see include White-rumped Hawk, Powerful Woodpecker, Rufous Spinetail, Striped Treehunter, Uniform and Variable Antshrikes, Streak-headed Antbird (where bamboo is prevalent), Undulated Antpitta, White-tailed and Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulets, Streak-throated and Smoky Bush-Tyrants. A group of birds that is a great favorite of all birders - trogons - is well represented here with Golden-headed Quetzal and Masked Trogon and the irresistible Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan will add yet more color to an impressive cast of Neo-tropical gaudy bird species! We may be brought back down to earth with some of the warblers such as Citrine and Russet-crowned Warblers, but the next White-eared Solitaire may be just around the next corner! NightS in Huanuco B: L: D

Day 13: HUANUCO TO BOSQUE UNCHOG

Travel by bus and 4 x 4 jeep to the trailhead near Bosque Unchog. We’ll spend the afternoon nearby whilst our cook team sets up our tented camp complete with dining tent, folding tables and chairs and camp toilet facilities. Night in Camp. B:L:D

Day 14: BOSQUE UNCHOG

Bosque Unchog: Thanks to expeditions by the Louisiana State University, this site attained ornithological fame when 4 new species to science were discovered here in the nineteen seventies. The most attractive of these is the stunning Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. The others are not quite so fancy but both can be found in these isolated mountains. The Bay-vented Cotinga and the strange Pardusco are just two more of the special birds of Bosque Unchog. Obviously the remoteness of the area will dictate that we will have to camp, but this will be as comfortable as possible. Our field staff will prepare camp and food for us while we use our time to go birding.

There is much else to see here.. the Rufous-browed Hemispingus, and Coppery Metaltail are just two more Peruvian endemics that can be found a host of other species here: At the higher elevations we will have a chance of seeing the suitably named Neblina Tapaculo and at tree-line the Line-fronted Canastero. In the taller forests on the mountain we may see the obscura form of Rufous Antpitta that occurs on Unchog, probably a full species in its own right and definitely worth the effort that we will be making on one day at least. Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher, Golden-collared Tanager, Buff-breasted and Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanagers can be seen and they will be nice additions to our potentially spectacular list of tanagers here. We shall have a very busy day here with Swallow-tailed Nightjars near our camp, looking for Bay and Chestnut Antpittas, White-chinned Thistletail, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Mountain Velvetbreast. Night in Tented Camp. B:L:D.

 

Day 15: BOSQUE UNCHOG TO HUANUCO

A last mornings birding at this mythical birding locality, and then after lunch return to Huanuco stopping for the endemic Brown-flanked Tanager can be found, and hot showers where we stay in our comfortable hotel. B: L: D

Day 16: HUNAUCO TO HUARAZ

Today we will travel to the Callejon de Huaylas and the Huascaran National Park, crossing the divide of the two mountain ranges that dominate this part of the tour - the Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhuash. In the afternoon we’ll do some late high altitude birding for Ground-tyrants, Giant Coot, Gray-breasted and Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe. If time permits we’ll stop at the little visited major Inca archaeological site of Huánuco Viejo where we’ll see Andean Ibis and Band-tailed Sierra-Finch. We should be at the comfortable our hotel just after dark. Night at our hotel in the Carhuaz. B: L: D

Day 17 and 18: THE HUASCARAN NATIONAL PARK

Two full days birding the Andes of the Cordillera Blanca in the shadow of Peru’s highest peak Huascaran (second highest in the whole of the Andes). We will concentrate our birding efforts at Quebrada Llanganuco above the village of Yungay and the Polylepis groves here. It is not unusual to find Tit-like Dacnis where there are Gynoxis but it will be a bird endemic to Peru that will require some effort. The White-cheeked Cotinga is associated with mistletoe so we will locate its food-source as our best means of seeing this enigmatic bird. Other birds we may see here include Ancash Tapaculo (endemic) and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant in the Polylepis whilst Plain-tailed Warbling-Finch (endemic), Rufous-eared Brush-Finch (endemic) and Maranon Tit-Tyrants should be encountered.

We also have another chance at the endemic Rufous-backed Inca Finch should we have failed so far. We shall also make a special effort to find Pale-tailed Canastero (the cinnamon-tailed form occurs here), another endemic as well as more widespread Andean birds. Hummers like Rainbow Starfrontlet, Andean Hillstar and Blue-mantled Thornbill are possible and as in most habitats here in South America there is always a good selection of tyrant-flycatchers, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant and Jelski's Chat-Tyrant can be seen in the cover of forest patches and scrub but we’ll scan the open areas for those ground-tyrants as Spot-billed, Rufous-naped and White-browed Ground-Tyrants are here too. All nights in our comfortable hotel in the Carhuaz. B: L: D

Day 17 and 18: THE HUASCARAN NATIONAL PARK

Today we’ll drive to Lima but break our journey with some birding stops including Lago Conococha where Andean waterfowl will be our interest. We should see many Andean Geese, Andean Ibis as well as Giant Coots. We mays top to look for Bay-crowned Brush-Finch. On the way into Lima if time permits we amy visit the Laguna Paraiso for shorebirds, terns including Peruvian Tern and others. We’ll arrive in Lima in time for flights home. B: L:

 NOTE: The very nature of the isolated areas we will be visiting at Bosque Unchog means we will camp for 2 nights. Our camp crew will take care of everything. However, everyone must bring a good winter weight sleeping bag for the nights in camp. The camps are as comfortable as possible with dining tents and folding tables and chairs, plus individual sleeping tents with comfortable sleeping inflatable therma-rest mattresses’ Two toilet tents will be provided and hot water for washing in the morning and evening. Horses will carry our gear to camp and be available, if needed, for riding on up-hills back to camp after a long days birding. WE DO NOT WALK FAR AND CAMPING ENSURES WE SEE THE SPECIES.

Customer Testimonials

Jim Watt - Canada

I want to thank you very much for leading such an excellent trip to the high Andes this September. I had a great time and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I even survived the camping.

Jerry Wozniak - USA

Thank You For The Great Peru Trip. I Have To Give Full Credit Of Appreciation. Guide - Personable, Patient, Knowledgeable, Friendly, Sincere, Conscientious, Giving And Caring--And Silly. He Held It Altogether And Made It Memorable And Worthwhile. Kudos To Him. You Are Fortunate To Have A Great Guide.

Kent Lennert - USA

I have just finished the Central Peru trip with Fabrice and it was great. Fabrice did a great job and I would recommend him to anyone. Knows the birds and pleasant to be with.By the way, the Manu Expeditions crew on this trip is outstanding. The food in the field was the best. In fact everything they did for us was outstanding. Their field meals beat all meals in restaurants and hotels. My compliments to your staff.

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Comments

Thank You For The Great Peru Trip. I Have To Give Full Credit Of Appreciation. Guide - Personable, Patient, Knowledgeable, Friendly, Sincere, Conscientious, Giving And Caring--And Silly. He Held It Altogether And Made It Memorable And Worthwhile. Kudos To Him. You Are Fortunate To Have A Great Guide.

I have just finished the Central Peru trip with Fabrice and it was great. Fabrice did a great job and I would recommend him to anyone. Knows the birds and pleasant to be with.By the way, the Manu Expeditions crew on this trip is outstanding. The food in the field was the best. In fact everything they did for us was outstanding. Their field meals beat all meals in restaurants and hotels. My compliments to your staff.

I want to thank you very much for leading such an excellent trip to the high Andes this September. I had a great time and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I even survived the camping.

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