Trip report: Peru: Manu and Machu Picchu custom tour (Sept-Oct 2016) by Tropical Birding

Guided by José Illanes.This was a custom tour.

The tour kicked off in the pretty, colonial city of Cusco in the Andes of Peru. The next morning we visited a high Andean lake, Huacarpay Lake, and saw Puna Ibis, Puna Teal, White-tufted Grebe, Giant Hummingbird and the Peruvian endemic Rusty-fronted Canastero. On the following day, we drove up to the infamous Manu Road, a hallowed birding venue in its own right. The drive up yielded some cracking specialties, like Creamy-crested Spinetail and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch. Spending days working our way slowly down the Manu Road from the Wayquecha Research Station down, we picked up a large selection of Andean birds, including White-collared Jay, Golden-headed Quetzal, Yungas Pygmy-Owl, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Inca Flycatcher, Blue-banded Toucanet and a daytime Andean Potoo, before arriving at the infamous Cock-of-the-rock Lodge. As well as the lodge’s namesake species, we also saw Versicolored Barbet, and a heady mix of tanagers; Paradise, Golden-eared and Orange-eared Tanagers among them, as well as Yungas Manakin, Brown Tinamou, Rufescent Screech-Owl and Andean Motmot. Continuing down the sinuous mountain road, we also added Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Yellow-throated Tanager, Amazonian Umbrellabird, and the ever-popular Lanceolated Monklet. At the end of the road we stayed at the wonderful Amazonia Lodge, where the birds were distinctly Amazonian in feel, rather than Andean; among the favorites were Blue-headed Macaw, Spix’s Guan, Bamboo Antshrike, Amazonian Antpitta, White-lined and Goeldi’s Antbird, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Fine-barred Piculet and the enigmatic Rufous-crested Coquette. A boat trip was required to reach our next stop, the legendary Manu Wildlife Centre, a place that anyone serious about birding in Peru feels the need to stay at, at some point! Birding here, (as always), was excellent, and produced Collared Puffbird, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Sclater’s Antwren, Golden-collared Toucanet, Curl-crested Aracari, Pavonine Quetzal, Spangled Cotinga and also Horned Screamer, Orinoco Goose, and Red-and-green Macaw. Before leaving the Amazon behind completely, we stopped near the Manu town of Puerto Maldonado where we found the very local White-throated Jacamar.

Soon after, we were back in the Andes, and higher than we had been before, with a visit to the dramatic Abra Malaga Pass (4300m/14,200ft.), the haunt of many high mountain specialties, like Andean Goose, Tit-like Dacnis, White-browed Conebill and White-tufted Sunbeam, and Bearded Mountaineer (photo above) which were all seen while there. Of course, the overall highlight for many was to visit the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, which is always every bit as good as it is expected to be. While staying in the area, we bookended our time there with some birding around Aguas Calientes too, adding plentiful birds to our ruins experience too, such as Saffron-crowned and Silvery Tanagers, Inca Wren and Masked Fruiteater. Finally, we visited the Peruvian coast near the capital Lima, to end our birding with some time at Pucusana and Pantano de Villa, where we had magnificent views of the local Inca Terns (photo page 2) as well as the local Seaside Cinclodes, Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Booby, and Peruvian Thick-knee. We also had great views of Humboldt Penguin, and Peruvian Diving-Petrel to round out a diverse tour; we had spent considerable time in the bird-loaded Andes, packed with specialties, and also spent time in the steamy lowlands of Manu, often sited as one of the most diverse areas for birds on Earth, and also taken in the Peruvian coast, which comes with its own discrete set of regional specialties. And that is not to forget the considerable non-avian attraction, the marvelous ruins of Machu Picchu (photo on front page), which were as resplendent as ever.

TOP BIRDS OF THE TOUR
(in no particular order)…

-As voted for by tour participants

1 Lanceolated Monklet
2 Hoatzin
3 Humboldt Penguin
4 Inca Tern
5 Andean Cock-of-the-rock
6 Andean Potoo
7 Bearded Mountaineer
8 Tui/Cobalt-winged Parakeets
9 Spangled Cotinga
10 Red-and-green Macaw
11 Crimson-mantled Woodpecker

FULL TRIP REPORT:
PERU: Manu and Machu Picchu Trip Report (PDF format 9.5 MB)