Trip report: Central Peru custom tour (August 2016)

Guided by Andrés Vásquez. This was a custom tour.

Central Peru is one darn special place, full of birds, full of contrasts, and full of breathtaking landscapes.

Birds: Peru ranks third in the World in terms of number of bird species, with nearly 1800! This is thanks, largely, to the diversity of bird habitats in the Andes Mountains, which we explored in detail even on this relatively short tour. The country hosts a large volume of endemic species and many range-restricted birds, many of which are located in Central Peru. We saw many of South America’s “Most Wanted” birds on this tour, like grandest of all the tanagers, the unquestionably spectacular Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager; the super-localized Junín Grebe, the jeweled Yellow-scarfed Tanager, the enigmatic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, the subtly beautiful Bay-vented Cotinga, and one of my personal favorites, the striking White-eared Solitaire. Other highlights included Coppery Metaltail, Black-breasted Hillstar, Rufous-bellied and Gray-breasted Seedsnipes, Puna and Andean Snipes, Great and Rufous-backed Inca-Finches, Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet, Masked Fruiteater, the rare and local Rufous-breasted Warbling-Finch, Andean and Ornate Tinamous, plus the scarce Thick-billed Siskin, Junín Canastero and 5 other endemic furnariids too.

Contrasts: From one day to the next we went from sea level, (birding coastal areas for Humboldt Penguin, Inca Terns, Peruvian Thick-Knee, Seaside Cinclodes, Peruvian Pelican and Peruvian Booby), and the next morning, finding ourselves above the tree line at nearly 4800m/15,750ft, looking for the extremely rare White-bellied Cinclodes, and the much-wanted and local Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. One night we were based in a fancy high-end hotel in Peru’s eclectic, seaside capital Lima, and the next we were in a rustic lodge in the highlands; Lima allowed us to taste some of the finest gastronomy on the continent, within one of the top ranked restaurants in all of South America, while in contrast some of the food in the more remote parts of the mountains was predictably less exotic, and plainer in comparison.

Landscapes: From the flat, barren, desert-like Pacific coastal plains to the humid foothill rainforests of the Amazon, to crossing over the impressive steep rocky Andean slopes and mountain tops, this area appeared to have it it all. We felt like we were in a fairy tale when passing by one of the numerous crystal-clear Andean lakes that lay in the middle of ice-crowned, jagged mountain peaks, and likewise, when we rode in a tiny boat within the freezing cold waters of Lake Junín. The sinuous rivers of the Amazon, and lush green slopes of the Andean foothills also held a beauty all of their own.

This was a short custom tour, an abbreviated version of our more comprehensive Central Peru tour, that in just 10 days covered all the varied landscapes and ecosystems mention above, and visited iconic birding places like Bosque Unchog, the Carpish tunnel, Marcapomacocha, the dry Santa Eulalia Valley, the Amazon foothills of Villa Rica, and the coastal birding paradise of Pucusana just south of Lima. We didn’t visit some other famous spots in the region, like the Satipo Road due to time limitations. I had the immense pleasure to guide a couple of friends again: Richard and Andrew Goldfarb, on our 8th tour together, and their 10th with Tropical Birding.

Central Peru custom tour Trip Report August 2016 (3.9 MB file)