Northern Peru was once a mystical and unknown area for both birders and wildlife photographers alike. Today, however, after ground-breaking explorations by Manu Expeditions in the early 1990’s, this region is now well known and popular with the right infrastructure in place and well developed gardens that attract birds and wildlife. Of particular interest to this tour is the plethora of previously hard to find spectacular hummingbirds, which can now not only be seen well but also photographed.
The behavior, diversity and beauty of hummingbirds makes them amongst the most desired species for birders and photographers in South America and on this route we should encounter between 40-50 species. This tour is paced for photographers and will give you a great opportunity to capture images of many of these beautiful birds, including the ‘king of the hummers’ itself - the iconic Marvelous Spatuletail. Staying at good hotels and lodges throughout we will be right amongst the birds and of course we will not ignore the many other wonders to be found in this part of Peru, visiting several Manakin leks and tanager feeding stations during the tour.
Both a local birding expert and a wildlife photography expert will accompany you throughout the tour. Your guides will not only help you identify the myriad of species encountered, but also give you invaluable ‘in the field’ photographic tips and advice. The pace of this tour is aimed at maximizing photographic opportunities at all times. In the evenings there will be opportunities to review and discuss the images taken throughout the day.
Day 1: Arrival or Extra Coastal Photography
Arrival in Lima and overnight. The hotel may vary depending on your arrival time. If you choose to arrive a day early a spectacular coastal photography trip can be arranged for day 1 of the tour. We will take a boat trip around Pucusana Bay, south of Lima, which will allow great photographic opportunities with such photogenic target species as nesting Inca Terns, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, as well as Peruvian Boobies. We will also encounter Blackish Oystercatcher, Peruvian Pelican, Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, a variety of gull species and perhaps Humboldt Penguin. South American Sea-lions are common in breeding groups and we may see Marine Otter. We get very close to our targets and good photographic opportunities are guaranteed.
After a seafood lunch at a favorite restaurant we will continue to San Pedro and Lurin looking for shorebirds (waders), Peruvian Thicknee and maybe Peruvian Tern, Chestnut-collared Swallow and Pacific Bran-colored Flycatcher. Our last stop will be at Villa marshes, a small nature reserve on the outskirts of Lima. Here we will see Slate-colored Coot, Puna Ibis, Great and White-tufted Grebes, Cinnamon Teal, White-cheeked Pintail, Franklin's Gull, Gray-hooded Gull, Harris’s and Variable Hawk. Wren-like Rushbird and Many-colored Rush tyrant are also here along with Least Bittern. We will then return to your hotel in Lima later in the afternoon.
Day 2: Lima to Tarapoto
Our morning flight will arrive in time for lunch. After checking into our comfortable hotel, we will take an afternoon excursion to the nearby hills known as the Escalera, a ridge visible to the east of Tarapoto. Here we have a chance of seeing Koepckeʼs Hermit, a Peruvian endemic, as well as Rose-fronted Parakeet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Dusky-chested Flycatcher, Blackish Pewee and Dotted Tanager, among many others. A large White-tipped Swift colony will provide us with a real photographic challenge as we try to capture images of these fast-moving birds. We will also visit a waterfall where there is a chance of seeing Cock of the Rock, followed by our first visit to the Koepcke’s Hermit Centre. We’ll overnight at our tropical hotel in Tarapoto B:L:D
Day 3: Tarapoto to Moyobamba
At least 10 species of hummingbirds can be seen and photographed at the excellent feeders arranged near the observation tower. The star hummer here is Koepcke’s Hermit, a Peruvian endemic. Other species which we should encounter here are Great-billed Hermit, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Gould’s Jewelfront, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Festive Coquette, Amethyst-throated Woodstar, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Fork-tailed Woodnymph and even Napo Sabrewing and Black-throated Brilliant. Of course, not just hummingbirds are to be seen here and we can also visit Fiery-capped, Golden-headed and Blue–crowned Manakin leks. After a leisurely lunch at the feeders we will start to make our way to Waqanki lodge in Moyobamba. En route we will stop at the Quiscarrumi Bridge where we will find Oilbirds and hundreds of noisy White-eyed Parakeets. Night Waqanki Lodge B:L:D
Day 4 -6: Waqanki Lodge
Waqanki is a private family-run reserve in the Mayo Valley on the outskirts of Moyobamba. The lodge has spectacular hummingbird feeders where at least 15 species can be seen and photographed. Two special hummingbirds to be found here are the delightful Rufous-crested Coquette and the furtive Black-throated Hermit. White-necked Jacobins, now regarded as one of the most primitive of hummingbirds, make an interesting photographic study here in their varied plumages. Other hummers to be found include White-chinned Sapphire, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Blue-tailed Emerald, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Reddish Hermit, Black–throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Violet-headed Hummingbird and maybe even Rufous-throated Sapphire.
For those who wish to be diverted from the hummingbird display, we can explore the very birdy lodge garden and varied habitats nearby. We may want to do some pre-dawn birding and photography at the nearby Morro de Calzadas where we have regularly seen Black–banded and Tropical Screech Owls, as well as Rufous, Blackish and Spot-winged Nightjars. With the morning light we can also find here such species as the endemic Mishana Tyrannulet, Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Pale-breasted Spinetail, the newly described Varzea Thrush, Rufous-fronted Thornbird and more. Nearby savanna habitat could produce Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Pale-eyed Blackbird, Cinereous-breasted Spinetail and many others- we might even bump into a group of the critically endangered Alto Mayo Titi Monkeys. We will be sad to leave our time at this homely and comfortable lodge but more awaits! B:L:D
Day 7: Waqanki lodge to Abra Patricia
After starting our day in the savanna near to Waqanki lodge we will make our way to Abra Patricia, making another hummingbird photography stop en route. Some newly established hummingbird feeding stations will give us opportunities to photograph species such as Blue-fronted Lancebill, Green-fronted Lancebill, Green Hermit, Reddish Hermit, Black-throated Hermit, Napo Sabrewing, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, Rufous-crested Coquette, White-bellied Woodstar, Wire-crested Thorntail, Long-billed Starthroat, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Golden-tailed Sapphire and Fork-tailed Woodnymph. We will also visit a feeding station that attracts such elusive species as Rufous-breasted Woodquail, Cinereous Tinamou and Pectoral Sparrow. In the evening we will arrive at our destination for the next 4 days, the aptly named Owlet Lodge. B:L:D
Day 8 – 11: Abra Patricia
For the next four days we will be based at the comfortable Owlet lodge in Abra Patricia. We have come here mostly for hummingbirds and the feeders outside the rooms will not disappoint: Sword-billed Hummingbird, Collared Inca, Brown Violetear, Green Violetear, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, Speckled Hummingbird, Booted Raquet-tail, Long-tailed Sylph, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Fawn-breasted Brilliant are all to be found here. On one day we will leave early and head to the Huembo Marvelous Spatuletail reserve where we will have great photographic opportunities with this incredible Hummingbird which comes to the feeders here. Other hummingbird species, which we should also find here, include Little Woodstar, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Andean Emerald, Brown-Violetear, Bronzy Inca, White-bellied Woodstar and White-bellied Hummingbird. One additional advantage of being based at the Owlet lodge is that as well as having access to an extensive trail system around the lodge itself, we can also visit the Alto Nieve Reserve.
This area is a famous old collecting site and is home to some of the least known Peruvian birds. The feeders at Alto Nieve may produce Greenish Puffleg, the endemic Royal Sunangel, Green Hermit and more. For those who wish to go night birding, on at least one evening we will concentrate on a search for the legendary Long-whiskered Owlet, after which the lodge is named. We could also encounter Cinnamon Screech-owl as well as the White-throated Screech and Rufous-banded Owls, which are to be found in the lodge garden. During our four full days based here we should bump into delightful mixed flocks of tanagers, including such photogenic species as Blue-browed, Metallic-green, Straw-backed and White-capped Tanager. Exploring side trails we may see the newly described Johnson’s Tody-tyrant, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails and possibly even such elusive species as the endemic Ochre-fronted and Rusty-tinged Antpittas
Amongst the myriad of bird species to be found and photographed on the trails around the lodge we may see such exciting species as White-capped and Scaly-naped Parrots, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Streak-headed Antbird, Fiery-throated and Scaled Fruiteaters, Lanceolated Monklet, the endemic Fine-barred Piculet and Bar-winged Wood-wren, Black-crested Warbler, Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant and Bicolored Antvireo.
Further down-slope from Abra Patricia the road passes through beautiful lower upper-tropical forests where another set of new and exciting birds will await us in excellent roadside habitat. The most noteworthy specialties we might encounter here are the tiny Speckle-chested Piculet and the canopy-dwelling Ash-throated Antwren. Mixed flocks might include the beautiful Versicoloured Barbet, the noisy Yellow-breasted Antwren, the restless Grey-mantled Wren and the easily overlooked Equatorial Greytail. Other birds we may find in this 'purple patch' include White-eyed Parakeet, Red-billed Parrot, Black-mandibled Toucan, Golden-winged Manakin, Golden-olive and Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, Ash-browed Spinetail, Montane and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners, Lined Antshrike, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Blackish Antbird, White-crowned Tapaculo and Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant. Nights at Owlet Lodge. B:L:D
Day 12: Abra patricia to Lima
Sadly saying farewell to the Owlet lodge, we will drive to Tarapoto and then on to the airport for the noon flight to Lima and homeward connections. B.
My wife, Ann, and I were on the birding tour 17 July to 12 August and, without hesitation, have to say that it was one of the best trips that we have done concentrating on birding over the last 12 years or so
Thank you for this beautiful travel. All was perfect (as the first time). So thank you to Balvina and Barry. Our guides were very competent. And we had great exchanges with Richard, a very kind person. You may follow our adventures on Flickr - Bruno Conjeaud; I put on this website some of my pictures and I will send the best to Richard for Ohio Birding Festival. Andean Spirit Lodge is a very cool lodge specially with the possibility to go to see Condors.