Ayacucho has been totally forgotten by birders. This region, which was a strong-hold for the feared guerrillas of the Shining Path, is once again totally peaceful. The peasants that left their lands are returning. This trip over the newly paved road to Ayacucho and the search for the endemic Ayacucho Thistletail is an adventure. Maybe not the most exciting Peruvian endemic in terms of beauty, but a bird which has not been seen for a long long time. We can promise fantastic scenery on a little traveled road. The east slope from Ayacucho may hold surprises in form of undescribed taxa. While we are at it, we will visit Paracas - a Peninsula some 300 km south of Lima, where the upwelling of the cold current bring nutrients to support remarkably rich marine life, seabirds and sealions.
On the way to Ayacucho there are many endemics and we will try to get as many of them as possible, but we recommend that you allocate time for Cactus Canastero at Lomas de Lachay for this species and not count on seeing it on this route. Finding it can be rather time consuming. Many areas on our route are still not fully explored ornithologically.
Day 1. Pucusana and Puerto Viejo. Humboldt Penguin, Red-legged Cormorant, Inca Tern, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, Blackish Oystercatcher, Guanay Cormorant and Peruvian Pelican are all readily seen at Pucusana. Pantanos Puerto Viejo holds a number of wetland birds. Most notable of these are Great Grebe, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant and Plumbeous Rail. Nearby there is a very reliable stake-out for Peruvian Thickknee. In the afternoon we will search for Slender-billed Finch in Prosopis-shrubbery close to Pisco, and hopefully get good views of Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, Coastal Miner and the localized Peruvian Tern.
Overnight in basic hotel with private bath and hot water in Pisco.
Day 2. Early in the morning we will make a boat visit to the Ballestas Islands. You will get close views of many of the species mentioned for Pucusana, but also there is also the possibility to see Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Ringed and Markham´s Storm-Petrel. In mid morning we drive towards Ayacucho on a newly paved road. En route we will search for Pacific slope endemics like Raimondi´s Yellow-Finch, Cactus Canstero, Thick-billed Miner, Peruvian Sheartail and Black-necked Flicker. We will also pass some bogs where we will look for Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe and Puna Snipe. In the early afternoon we will arrive to a large Polylepis woodland. Birds of the Polylepis will include Giant Conebill, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Tit-like Dacnis and Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail. This Polylepis patch has never been thoroughly surveyed and it may well be that it could be the southern limit for species like White-cheeked Cotinga. We spend the night in Ayacucho, famous for its cathedral and religous festivity around easter.
Those that have chosen the two day program to Paracas will make a trip to Paracas Peninsula after the boat trip where South American Fur Seal and Chilean Flamingo can be seen. Also many migrating waders in season and with some luck Peruvian Tern. In the afternoon return to Lima.
Day 3. We will travel east on the road to San Francisco. Near Huari we pass some cactus habitat where the huancavelica race of Pale-tailed Canastero occurs (The Pale-tailed Canastero is under revision by Fjeldså et al and may well show to comprise three species). Further on, Taczanowski´s Tinamou is frequently seen in the roadside scrub and recently during one of our reccies to the area we found the peruvian endemics Bearded Mountaineer and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch. Ayacucho Thistletail (possible split from Vilcabamba Thistletail) will be the main target on this trip, but as we get to more humid treeline habitat we should also see Fire-throated Metaltail. We will particulary pay attention to Tapaculos in this region which could well represent new taxa. We will camp at a suitable site.
Day 4. Another mornings birding, rewarding us with species that can also be found on Manu road and Satipo road, before we return to Ayacucho. You could either travel back with the vehicle to Lima the following day or take a comfortable night bus back to Lima (8 hours and sleep on the bus).
We are currently looking into the possibility of extending the Ayacucho trip to inlcude a hike in Northern Vilcabamba mountains to access species like Vilcabamba Brush-Finch and Vilcabamba Thistletail (Vilcabambae form). The cloud forest birding will be outstanding. Consider adding at least three-four days to get a good sampling of the area.