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Trip Reports
North Peru October 2002
February 12, 2004
Joe Church, Harrisburg, PE

Peru – The Journal/Record

And now for the Northern Circuit

October 16, 2002 – I left Harrisburg at about 7:30 AM, driving to Baltimore to catch my American Airlines flight to Lima and to begin my “Travels With Gunnar.”  The scheduled flight time was for about 1:00 PM but there was a “Northeaster” riding up the coast and the Weather Service was predicting delays in flight times. The drive to BWI was rather wet and windy but by the time I arrived at BWI the winds had dropped and rain had let up some. The flight from Miami to Lima originated in Philadelphia so I thought maybe that flight might be delayed to. In the end neither flight was impacted much by the storm. I reached Lima at 9:35 PM but by the time I cleared immigration & customs and arrived at the Senorial Hotel it was about 11:00 PM. I noticed that the driving in Lima was similar driving in Quito … the “cut-off and honk” school of driving. I was glad Jorge was driving and not me. When I arrived at the hotel Ingrid, Helmut and Shoaib (Abe) were just getting in from dinner. They had taken a day jaunt up the coast with Victor and informed me we were heading out at 5:00 AM by taxi. I’m glad I fall asleep quickly.

October 17, 2002 – Up at 4:20 AM and ready for the cab at 5:00. With all of our stuff we needed two taxis. The taxis reminded me of the buses in Japan … made for people 5’-4” and shorter, tight fit but made it to the airport okay. The greater Lima area has to be huge, we drove for good half hour with very little traffic and we still seem to be in the city. We met Gunnar at the airport for our 7:00 AM flight to Chiclayo. The easiest way to describe Gunnar is to think of James Carville trading in his Louisiana accent for a Swedish one.  In Lima the weather was cloudy/hazy and in the 60’s due to the Humboldt Current. In Chiclayo they said expect “hot!”


Well they were right. Chiclayo is hot and the area around it is true desert. We hooked up with Tulio who was our driver and mechanic. He had driven up from Lima with the van the day before. He doesn’t speak English and since I don’t speak Spanish so not sure how the communicating will go but he is a very friendly guy … he’d make a good Santa.


We drove to Rafan (S07.01, W079.41, 12m). I’m not sure if there is a town there or not. Where we left the paved road there were a handful of houses, dwellings may be a better term, scattered about. They were generally the color of the sand that surrounded them. As we worked our way along the sandy track it reminded me of getting stuck in the loose sand in the desert in Southern California. Well we didn’t get stuck; Tulio and the van handled it just fine.  Our first “real” birding stop produced a fair number of birds. I’m not going to list them all but will list some that didn’t prove to be common on other parts of the trip as well:

Amazilia Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail, Purple-collared Woodstar, Peruvian Plantcutter, Rufous Flycatcher, Baird’s Flycatcher, Gray and White Tyrannulet, Coastal Miner, Fasciated Wren, Pearl Kite and Burrowing Owl.


Once we found the two target birds Gunnar suggested we head north, back to Chiclayo and then on to Bosque de Pomac at Batan Grande. 

At Bosque de Pomac the best birds were probably Collared Antshrike, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Superciliated Wren, Bran-colored Flycatcher and Harris’ Hawk. Before going back to Chiclayo we made a birding stop looking for the White-wing Guan. (Laquipampa, S06.21, W079.26, 600m). With the Guan being an early morning or late afternoon bird we arrived here late afternoon. We didn’t find the Guan but we did find Golden-olive Woodpecker, White-tailed Jays and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts.


We returned to Chiclayo and checked in at the Grand Hotel. There we met Ashley Banwell who had been doing some guiding for Gunnar. Ashley wanted a shot at the White-wing Guan and would stay with us until we reached Jaen where he would catch a bus to Cajamarca and then fly to Lima to go birding in other parts of the world.


The Grand Hotel was rather plush. At the desk they took my passport to make a copy but could not do that until the next morning, I didn’t like being without it. Abe suggested I do what he does, take along a half dozen copies to use in cases like this. Abe and I roomed together for the rest of the time he was on the trip. We didn’t get to bed until 11:00PM.


October 18, 2002 – Early start, up at 4:00AM. In the morning we returned to Bosque de Pomac where we found a Necklaced Spinetail, White-edged Oriole and we heard a Peruvian Pygmy-Owl. We then headed back toward Chiclayo and checked out of the Grand Hotel. I did have to ask for my passport, they had not put in room as promised. Back on the road we stopped at a “wet spot” where there were a variety of swallows, a Peruvian Meadowlark and Northern Caracara and then continued on to Puerto Eten (S06.55, W79.52, 4m). Here near the ocean were some small freshwater ponds. It had several of the herons and shorebirds that frequent the USA. The new bird for me there was the Wren-like Rushbird. We also had nice looks at a Snowy Plover.


After leaving Puerto Eten we headed north to Olmos.  We then continued northwest until we went off on to a rough hewn track that followed a mostly dry, wide riverbed. We were about two hours from Olmos at a place named Limon (S05.41, W079.45, 311m). At this point Gunnar tells us it is too late that afternoon to have any chance for the White-winged Guan. He said he was going to leave a message for the local guide and that we would go back to Olmos and return the next morning, requiring that we be on the road at 3:30 AM. Well, <grin> we rebelled. We were not going to ride for two hours on very dusty roads to get into Olmos at 8:00 PM, and dinner at 9:00 to then turn around and repeat the trip in the wee hours of the morning. We had tents and sleeping bags but we didn’t have food. Gunnar apparently wanted to return to Olmos and kept saying things like “comfortable bed” and “hot shower” but he didn’t sway us … the “mutiny at Limon” withstood all assaults. Gunnar finally negotiated with the local guide’s wife to feed us. There was very little food in this hamlet but she was able to scrounge up some eggs which she put over rice. She turned it into a very nice meal. While she was preparing the dinner we put up the tents and sleep pads that Abe and I had brought.  As we were working all the little kids in the hamlet showed up to watch us work. Ingrid was able to get them to tell her their names and it didn’t take too long before they were carrying on like most kids.


October 19, 2002 – We are on the trail before 5:00 AM so that we arrive at the site about dawn. It was probably only a couple kilometers but walking unfamiliar trails in the dark always seems to be a lot longer. The local guide got us to the site (S05.42, W079.43 446m) shortly after first light. It was only a few minutes and he pointed out two White-wing Guans across the valley. On the way back to camp we were able to turn up a few nice birds: White-headed and White-winged Brush-Finches, Pacific Elaenia, Tumbes Hummingbird, Yellow-tailed Oriole and Plumbeous-backed Thrush.


Back at camp two things occurred that I wish had not. I had asked Gunnar what a reasonable tip would be for the local guide. He said that he thought 10 soles per person would be fair. Ten soles is roughly $3. The going days wage in Peru for drivers is about 35 Soles or $10 a day. Gunnar was paying the man $20 as well. Well when Abe and I each gave him 10 Soles he was quite unhappy. He got into a rather heated discussion with Gunnar and what we learned in the end was that other tours such as VENT and Field Guides usually have Americans that tip him $10 to $20 each. I can understand his feeling upset but I think the real solution to this is for these local guides to set a fair and reasonable rate up front rather than negotiating after the fact and counting on tips when they may not be forthcoming. He could easily have set a rate of $10 or $20 per person and we would have paid it. Maybe $10 if the bird is not located and $20 if it is.


The other thing that occurred was while sitting on the top of the hill, not on the road, the van started to roll back without anyone in it. In the process of trying to help stop it I stepped on Ingrid’s foot fairly hard. It swelled up and bothered her for the rest of the day but thank goodness it was quite a bit better the next day.


After leaving Limon we worked our way back toward Olmos, wondering if we were going to have a motel room since we stood the place up the night before with our mutiny. Well they didn’t seem to be upset. The hotel was more basic than the Grand but it had rather interesting architecture. We found out later the owner had studied architecture and had cribbed from the Moroccans.


After checking in we took a trip to S05.40, W079.52, 165m for the Tumbes Sparrow. We found the sparrow, Striped Cuckoo, Short-tailed Woodstar and Variable Hawk but not much else. On the way back to Olmos we stopped at a place where they have been working to propagate birds such as the guans, currassows and toucans. They had in the wild Striped Owl on their property. We were unable to find them during the daylight hours but we returned that evening. Ashley found a perched Striped Owl and it was still sitting when we left. We also were able to call a Scrub Nightjar in with a tape.


October 20, 2002 – In the AM we went back to close to where we had been the previous day (S05.38, W079.50, 172m). We walked along a dry river bed and found almost nothing … from the birding perspective the morning was a bust. In the late morning we headed toward Jaen. Along the way we stopped at Limon de Porcuya (S05.53, W079.32, 1620m). We ended up climbing a rather steep hillside but then reverted to using the road. We found Bay-crowned Brush-Finch, Chapman’s Antshrike, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Black-cowled Saltator and the target bird, Elegant Crescentchest. We stopped to check a few more ravines along the way but did not find any thing of real interest.     


When we left Olmos we had been told it takes 3 hours to Jaen … Wrong! Most people in Peru do not wear watches and do not have the same conception of time that we had. Everything seems to “take a half an hour” when in reality usually takes more and sometimes much more. The travel time to Jaen from Olmos was roughly 5.5 hours not counting birding stops. We arrived in Jaen roughly about dinner time. We ate in a restaurant that was on the second floor and overlooked a town square. There was a bustle of activity, music playing and people having a great time. The only drawback were the ubiquitous “motorcycle taxis” that went on in a never ending loop.


Ingrid had located an “Internet” shop near the Hotel Prims and I went in to send an e-mail home to let Eileen know I was alive but Peru like the rest of the world, has learned that the Internet has bad days too. I was not able to get a message out that evening but did the following day.


October 21, 2002 – There are very few paved roads in Peru and driving from pothole to pothole quickly destroys vehicles and can create unexpected situations. In this case it was the van door. It was decided that since the van needed to have the door repaired we would first bird near a seminary in Jaen and then later take a rented car north to the Rio Tabaconas valley. In the early part of the day we turned up a few nice birds. We found Purple-throated Euphonias, Spot-throated Hummingbird, Red-crested Finch, Common Thornbird, Chinchipe Spinetail and almost accidentally Ashley located a Maranon Slaty-Antshrike.


The drive up to the Tabaconas valley was not particularly productive for the most part. It had been raining and continued to do so off and on. There were two drivers with us, the one drove to almost where we were going and then got out and went into a house. The other driver took us around that area but when we were heading back we picked the other driver back up. The one tended to drive with a bit too much enthusiasm. We did turn up two good birds including the target bird. We found a Speckle-breasted Wren and then at another spot known for Maranon Crescentchest we had to climb up the side of a hill. Gunnar, Abe and I were moving up together and Ashley was working his way up by another route. While looking at another bird I caught a glimpse or color flash that matched the scheme you would expect on the Maranon Crescentchest. We worked the area pretty thoroughly and were rewarded with movement through the brush and then a five second view out in the open, Maranon Crescentchest.  


Returning to Jaen we picked up the van and Ashley left to try to get a bus to Cajamarca. We headed to the Hotel Wilson which Gunnar thought was in Bagua Grande. We passed the road to Bagua Chica and continued 18 km to Bagua Grande. There we were informed it was in Bagua Chica (which was closer to where we wanted to be anyway). Well on the return Gunnar and Tulio missed the turn and went an additional 12 km before they realized it. By the time we got to the hotel it was late and we were pretty exhausted.


October 22, 2002 – We left the Wilson Hotel before daylight and headed north (downstream) along the Maranon River. We made a breakfast stop near the confluence of the Chinchipe and Maranon Rivers (S05.31, W078.33, 403m). While Tulio was heating water for coffee we went birding along a dirt track nearby. We turned up the first Inca-Finch of the trip, a Little Inca-Finch. There were 3 or 4 of them in the brush and one or another would pop up and give us a quick glimpse before dropping out of sight again. It took me 4 or 5 tries before getting the kind of look that is satisfying. As we headed back toward the van there was a perched Peruvian Pygmy-Owl. We had heard one previously but now we had a long look as well. While drinking our coffee and eating our breakfast, which consisted of “pan” (Spanish for bread), which is more like a sandwich bun than bread, butter and jam, we located a Brown-crested Flycatcher.


When we stopped in Muyo (S05.25, W078.27, 338m) Tulio had one of the spare ties fixed and put on the van. Within a half an hour of starting down the road a pothole flattened the same tire. There are very few paved roads in Peru. Many of the dirt roads are so rutted that you cannot drive very fast. In the mountains, on the switchbacks there are often signs of recent large landslides and often rocks lying in the middle of the road. Many of the roads (not the Oracuza Road which we were driving today) are made for only wide enough for one vehicle. On switchbacks this often required one vehicle to back up until they could find a wide enough spot that the other vehicle could get by. These kinds of things though rare in the USA are facts of life in most Latin American countries. I have had similar experiences in Ecuador.


While we waited on the van we did a little birding from the street. We found White-banded Swallows, Yellow-rumped Caciques and the race of the Blue-gray Tanager that has a prominent white shoulder patch.


While in Muyo Gunnar learned there had been a few recent armed robberies along the next stretch of road. As a precaution the police provided a man to ride “shotgun”. He wasn’t carrying a shot gun but he did have an automatic that with folding stock work as a machine pistol with a 30 round clip. It was a rather odd sensation to stop the van and get out looking for birds knowing that there was somebody fully armed nearby.


We made a few stops “under armed guard” on our way to Wawasi. At the first stop, (S05.17, W078.25, 439m) there were Magpie Tanagers, Turquoise Tanagers, Russet-back Oropendola , White-winged Becard and a Greater Yellow-headed Vulture. At the second stop (S05.17, W078.22) we ran into a nice “mixed flock”. There was a Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Golden-headed Manakin, Yellow-bellied and Green & Gold Tanagers and several different flycatchers. They included Olive-sided, Yellow-breasted (Olive-faced race) and Dusky-chested Flycatcher as well as a Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant. With Gunnar riding on the van roof he kicked again to indicate he heard birds. This stop (S05.15, W078.22, 620m) had a small flock as well that included both Blue and Yellow-bellied Dacnis, Black-billed Thrush and a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper.


After this last stop we made our way into Wawasi (S05.13, W078.21, 400m). Wawasi is a village belonging to the Aguaruna. Nearly everyone in the community came across the river to help us carry our equipment across. Like many of the places we have seen there was an abundance of kids. And like most kids, initially shy when you pull out a camera but after you click the first one and show them the picture of themselves on the monitor then they are want to be involved. An of course you have to have at least one clown in the pack.


It did not take long for them to help us move our stuff across the river, but moving us was a different story. I tried the first little stretch in my bare feet. I quickly decided I was going to sacrifice one pair of my tennis shoes to the cause. That worked much better and came in useful several times while staying in Wawasi since we forded the river and a tributary several times before we left there.


Once we forded the river we were at their village. They allowed us to use a building that was used by the whole community for some functions such as meetings. Since it was not well sealed Gunnar had us put up the tents inside the building so that we would have the insect netting to keep the bugs off as we slept. Personally it was not the mosquitoes that got to me but rather the sand flies on the morning of October 24 when we were waiting for the river to fall … more on that later.  


That evening they fed us their traditional foods. It was primarily a cabbage soup that went down well. Apparently, Gunnar thought that we needed more to eat so they agreed to add meat at the next evening meal.


October 23, 2002 – Well this was the day set aside for finding the Orange-throated Tanager. Let me digress. The tanager had been found on the land owned by the Aguaruna who were about a 7 hour drive down the Oracuza Road in an area where there is a “sacred” mountain known as Pena Blanca. The bird seems to be rather reliable in that area so tour groups began showing up. At first the local Aguaruna resisted this intrusion but after discussions with some tour leaders (Gunnar? Barry Walker?) It was agreed they would allow birders to come on to their land to look for the tanager at a fee of $20 per person. Since the Aguaruna knew the bird and its call they assisted the tours in finding the bird and seem to have a high success rate. Nearby clans of Aguaruna however felt the one’s near Pena Blanca, a sacred mountain to all Aguaruna, were getting revenue that they should all share in so a land dispute between them has recently broken out. Barry Walker had put out a notice to stay out of the area. Gunnar made contact with another Aguaruna leader who happens to be running for office as mayor of a town. He suggested that we try Wawasi, a community only 3 hours down the Oracuza Road. The bird was known to be in the general area at the higher elevations. On this day Ingrid chose to stay back in Wawasi, a smart move on her part. We had a local guide who lead us across the river and then back up the road we had come down the day before for 45 minutes to an hour. If we had known we were going that far we could have had Tulio drive us to where we left the road and began our ascent along a fair size stream. We didn’t know and the guide was not used to thinking in terms of motorized transportation. A loss of the first good birding hour of the day is hard to make up for and it hung over us as we walked. Once we were off the road and on the trail the walk was more pleasant but you get into a dilemma … do you push on keeping your focus on the target bird or do you stop and try to identify what you are hearing. Gunnar was focused on the Orange-throated Tanager because we were supposed to meet up with another guide in a village closer to where the bird was known to occur. We came to a point where we had to ford the stream. The guide showed us where to cross but Gunnar trying to avoid getting water in his boots went farther upstream to cross. Abe and I followed the guide, Helmut decided to stay put and not ford the stream. Once across we continued on toward the next village which took about an hour to reach. Once Gunnar hooked up with the guy who knew where the bird was we found that we had been fooled by “Peruvian time” again. He told us that the only way we had much chance in reaching the area was to camp in that village and get a very early start in the morning and we would get there sometime after noon. We were not prepared to stay overnight so we decided to skip the Orange-throated Tanager and head back to Wawasi. As we walked we found some men moving illegally cut timber down the stream.


When we reached the ford we found the Helmut had headed back. The concern that we had for him was the walk along the road, we were hoping he would not be a target for the robbers. We found out later that he had no problems and had not encountered anybody along the way. At the ford, while waiting for Gunnar to cross upstream, at the mimed urging of the local guide Abe and I went for a swim. It was rather refreshing since it was somewhat hot and humid.


Abe, not wanting to return along the road, asked if there was an alternate path. Well there was but taking it was a mixed blessing. We had to ford the stream again. It was very steep for a couple hundred meters and the dirt was loose making it tough going. Once I got started I had no intention of stopping until I reach a point where I would not lose ground by standing still and yet lose ground by sliding down the slope. If I had known what the alternate trail was going to be like I would have elected to take the road. Once we reached the top it was late afternoon and the birds became more active. There was a clearing where we finally found a few interesting birds. There were Masked and Black-crowned Tityra, Gilded Barbet and Opal-crowned Tanagers. We also heard as we neared the village Great and Little Tinamou, Chestnut-headed Crake and Blue-crowned Motmot. Following behind Abe and Gunnar I stepped into hole that was so deep that my foot did not find bottom even after sinking into it up to my hip. Luckily I didn’t get hurt at all but at that point I realized how much we take the availability of quick access to health care for granted.


When we returned to Wawasi I was sweaty and covered with dirt and grime. Ingrid told me there was a cold water shower available but I decided to grab a bar of soap and go down to the river. I stepped into the river and was bent over with the bar of soap sort of spot washing myself when a woman came down to the river. She went to where the water was moving rapidly. Reached down and secured a hold on the riverbed and let her feet get washed out from beneath her so that her body was completely underwater and the current scoured her as she kept her hold on the rocks. After about 30 seconds she stood back up and gave me a look that clearly said “that’s the way you do it.” So I followed suit. When I stood back up she gave me an approving nod and said “Si! Si!” as she climbed the bank. I’m pretty sure it was better than what the shower would have been.


That night we were given yucca with our dinner as well as chicken. The yucca had been grilled and I actually enjoyed the first few bites but it is so bland and starchy that by about the 8th bite I had had enough yucca to last through the trip.


October 24, 2002 - During the night it began to rain and it rained hard all night long. By about 5:00 AM it sounded like it had let up some so I ventured out to take a look at the river. It was way up and moving very rapidly, it was impassable. I set a rock down where the water level was and then checked it a half hour later. The river was dropping since the rain had let up and it was actually dropping pretty quickly. I went back out and checked again about 6:15 and it was still dropping. I figured then that we would cross the river that day but it would be a few hours before we would go. The next time I went to check the river I encountered two young girls sitting with umbrellas watching the river as they chatted. I decided to take photos of them as I approached them from behind. Once I was a little in front of them I decided to chance one more shot where they would see I was about to take their picture. I do not usually take pictures of people because they always look so posed or stiff.  I think I took one of the best pictures I have ever taken.  But the real credit belongs to the girls; they should be working as models.  


The river did continue to drop and by late morning we attempted to cross. Several of the Aguaruna picked up our gear and ventured out into the current. I had set my backpack down with my other gear and then watch with trepidation as the man in charge of the crossing handed my backpack to a girl I would estimate to be about 12 years old. In the pack were my binoculars, camera, GPS, traveler’s checks, airplane tickets and passport. For me it was sort of like a horror movie, you didn’t want to watch but at the same time I couldn’t help sneaking peeks. I should not have been worried; she was as sure footed as a mountain goat and quickly had my pack sitting on the opposite shore.


Prior to crossing the river I found a stick that looked to be about the right size to use as a walking stick while crossing. The village shaman who I’d guess was in his 70s walked up to me and took the stick shaking his head. He bent the stick to show me that it would not work well for the purpose that I intended. Within seconds a young man handed me a stick that was much more suitable for the task at hand. Soon we all had sticks to assist us.


When we had cross the river on the previous two days the river was less than but close to my knee. The return trip however the water was well up on my thighs and the current tried relentlessly to sweep our feet from beneath us. With the physical assistance from the villagers we all made it across without incident. I think for the next year or two in Ingrid’s mind this experience will be logged under the negative column.


Many of the villagers came across the river to wish us a safe trip. They were going to supply us with armed guards but two of the national policeman returned to escort us. Before leaving I purchased an old “gathering” bag that they use when out foraging for herbs and roots. The bags are crocheted by an elderly woman from the village.


When we left them Gunnar gave the village leader the fee that we would have paid if we had gone to Pena Blanca. I decided to also give a $20 tip, hell this was a people who in the not to distant past had a reputation for head-hunting. I figured the $20 might let me keep mine for awhile! Actually someday I’d like to back there for an even longer stay even if it means eating a lot more yucca.


We returned to Bagua Chica without incident and our police escort departed. The birding that day was rather slim. The only 4 birds I listed were a White-vented Euphonia, Olive-sided, Gray-crowned and Gray-capped Flycatchers. Leaving Bagua Chica we went to Bagua Grande and then began to ascend as we followed the path of the Rio Utcubamba. We went from about 400m to 2284m above sea level. The river looked like a Class 6 rapids that lasted for at least 50 km. That evening we reached the Puerto Pumas Lodge in Pomacochas/Florida.


October 25, 2002 – This was the base we would use for the next couple days. It was reasonably located to make jaunts up and over Abra Patricia. This morning we started out by going back through Florida and maybe a kilometer or two west of town. This is the area for one of the wonders of the bird world … the Marvelous Spatulatail. This is a hummer that has just 4 tail feathers. On the male the middle two are long and straight but the outer two are what make it “marvelous”. For about 10 cm they are just thin curved wires but at the tip they have an iridescent blue “spatula” about the size of a nickel. When the bird perches the two spatulas curve up to be in line with the bird itself. This morning we caught a couple fairly close looks at females but they don’t have the fancy outer tail feathers. The others were able to see a male at a long distance through a scope. We decided we would stop on our last day in the area and with the assistance of a local kid who guides people to a good spot we hoped to get a better look at a male.


In this same area we turned up a few more nice birds. They included Emerald Toucanet, Blue-capped Tanager, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Green Violetear, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Rufous-capped Antshrike. Both Scarlet-fronted and White-eyed Parakeets were in the area. We then went back through Florida and continued on up and over Abra Patricia (2310m). As we went down the other side we came to a patch of red flowers on the hillside. They were drawing in a number of different hummingbirds. We quickly found the Royal Sunangel, White-tailed Hillstar, White-bellied Woodstar, Speckled Hummingbird and Long-tailed Sylph. We continued down the road a few hundred meters or so and found the road blocked by a road crew removing a rather large landslide. We took this opportunity to do a bit of birding and walked back to the flowers. The only thing new we turned up was a Gray-breasted Wood-wren. Once we were able to get by the landslide we found Cliff Flycatchers, an Olivaceous Piha and heard but did not see the Bar-winged Wood-Wren. This was down over a slope where most of the path had disappeared in a landslide. Gunnar and Abe crossed on the remaining narrow lip, I chose to stay back. In the end none of us saw the bird. As we continued down the slope we made a few more stops and found a couple mixed flocks. They included Flame-faced and Saffron-crowned Tanagers, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Olive-backed Woodcreeper and Streaked Xenops. When we reached S05.40, W077.45, 1845m we encountered a mixed flock with a fair representation from the tanager family. Included were Orange-eared, Blue-browed, Golden-naped, Beryl-Spangled and Common Bush-Tanager. We also encountered Gray-mantled Wrens, Three-striped Warbler and Cinnamon Flycatcher.


About 4:00 PM it began to rain as we continued down slope. It let up enough that at 1200m we were able to locate an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Dusky-green Oropendola, Spotted Barbtail and a Bronze-green Euphonia.


At that point we made a rather bad call to continue on down the road to Rioja. It was another hour drive and by the time we arrived it was 7:00 PM. We ate our dinner while Gunnar went and made his phone calls. We then had a 3 hour drive back the hotel. It was after 11:00 PM when we pulled in and we had a 4:30 AM start time scheduled for the next morning.


October 26, 2002 - We began our birding this morning right at the top of Abra Patricia. (S05.42, W077.49, 2319m) There are a few trails there and with the higher altitude and habitat we went looking for antpittas but were unsuccessful except for hearing the Rusty-tinged Antpitta respond to the tape. We did find a Collared Inca, Long-tailed Antbird and a Rufous Spinetail. We continued eastward to S05.41, W077.47, 2092m. Here we have nice views of Hooded Mountain-Tanager, White-collared Jay, Bluish Flowerpiercer and a Golden-headed Quetzal. We also found a Maroon-chested Chat-Tyrant and a Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager; in both of these cases I would have preferred a better look. We moved down to S05.40, W077.46, 2000m where for a considerable amount of time we were stumped by a call and glimpses of a Spinetail that we could not identify. It was only when another bird appeared to be responding to the call when we recognized it as an Azara’s Spinetail. We believe what we may have been seeing was a young Azara’s and therefore the different call. I was able to get a very nice look at a Lulu’s Tody-tyrant. It came out into the open less than 5 meters from me and was giving a “scolding” call in response to my pishing. We also turned up Subtropical Caciques, Dusky-green Oropendola and an Inca (Green Jay). Later in the afternoon it rained and there was a mist that hung about us at times. We had agreed this would not be an extremely long day. We returned to Florida and around 5:00 PM they dropped me off while the rest went down to where we had originally found the Marvelous Spatulatail. We had agreed to an early start the next morning since we wanted to bird the Afluentes area.


October 27, 2002 – We started out about 4:00 AM. Ingrid decided to stay back today. We said we thought we would be back by 6:00 PM. It was raining on the way to Afluentes but by the time we arrived there it was just dripping a bit. At S05.40, W077.41, 1300m we found a very nice mixed flock. Hummers included Wire-crested Thorntail, Violet-headed Hummingbird and Golden-tailed Sapphire. Flycatchers included a Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Cinnamon and Cliff Flycatchers. It was the tanagers however that dominated the flock. There were Orange-bellied and Thick-billed Euphonia, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Spotted, Yellow-throated, Blue-necked, Golden, Palm and Golden-eared Tanagers. As we moved further down (S05.40, W077.40, 1127m) we found another nice flock. Tanagers here included Hualluga, Orange-eared and Turquoise Tanagers and a Purple Honeycreeper. Hummingbirds were Many-spotted Hummingbird and a Glittering-throated Emerald. This time the flycatchers included Slaty-capped and a nice Black and White Tody-Flycatcher. There was also a Lemon-throated Barbet, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, and a Rufous-tailed Xenops.


The next stop produced Ash-browed Spinetail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Glossy Black Thrush and Yellow-breasted Antwren. There were also three birds that the others had good looks at while I can only claim poor looks at best. They were Speckle-chested Piculet, Spectacled Bristle-Tyrant and Abe’s favorite bird the Red-ruffed Fruit-Crow.


We returned to the top of Abra Patricia and walked the trails again listening for Antpittas. We heard both Rusty-tinged and Rusty-breasted but neither would come in to the tape. As we were leaving we chased up a Swallow-tailed Night-jar. Gunnar wondered if it might be a Lyre-tailed but the only way you would convince me of that would be to show to me that it was an immature. The tail was about 2 times the length of the bird, not nearly as long as the books indicate for the Lyre-tail. Gunnar decided to play the tape of the two hoping to draw the bird out to one or the other songs. It never showed itself. By now it was dark and an owl had begun to call. Gunnar played the tape and after a few minutes a rather large owl zipped by. I didn’t see it but Gunnar and Abe caught a quick glimpse. We identified it by voice as being a Stygian Owl. (Based on e-mails this was later changed to a Rufous-banded Owl). By the time we left there it was 6:30 PM and we had nearly an hours drive. By the time we pulled in Ingrid was becoming concerned and rightfully so, we were more than an hour and a half later than we said. Sometimes Gunnar’s “birds, birds and more birds”, while is usually a good approach can become overdone, this in my opinion was one of those times.


I didn’t want to leave the Abra Patricia area, it was such a great place for birding. Gunnar had said we would be seeing a large number of species and he certainly pointed out a bunch while we were there.


October 28, 2002 – Today was mostly a travel day but we started the day off by picking up the local youth who is known as the kid who can get you to the Marvelous Spatulatail. He took us to S05.51, W078.00, 2200m. Within a few minutes we were getting very nice looks at a male in his entire splendor. The bird at times was within 10 meters or so. We also found Spectacled Redstarts and Pale-edged Flycatcher.


We headed down toward Pedro Ruiz but made a stop at S05.56, W077.57, 1360m looking for a Maranon Spinetail. As we walked along Ingrid and Helmut spotted a small hermit frequently some blue flowers where part of a bank had been cut away. After the hermit which we identified as being a Gray-chinned Hermit flew off another hummer appeared. This turned out to be a Spot-throated Hummingbird. The Hermit returned but suddenly a smaller hummer appeared and chased the Hermit off.


Here I transcribe directly from my hand written notes:


Latitude – S 05.55.670

Long. – W077.57.795  

Elevation – 1360 meters

Time – 9:30 to 9:55

Weather – Mostly sunny, approximately 70-75 degrees

Observers: Shoaib Tareen, Ingrid Grunwald, Helmut Schumann, Gunnar Engblom and Joe Church


On the road from Florida to Pedro Ruiz we stopped to look for the Maranon Spinetail. As we walked down the road where the hillside had been cut away there were some plants with blue flowers. Ingrid and Helmut found a Hermit and called our attention to it. After it left and we were trying to identify it with the field guides a second hummingbird arrived. This one was identified as a Spot-throated Hummingbird. The Hermit which we identified as a Gray-chinned Hermit returned but was quickly chased off by a smaller hummer. It was a female Woodstar. We had previously seen Purple-collared, Short-tailed and White-bellied Woodstar on the trip but this bird looked different. Gunnar commented on the uniform buffy/rufuos on the flanks with a white spot on the sides behind the wing. Abe commented on the short straight black bill. The bird departed and we pulled out the field guides. Birds of Ecuador showed female Little Woodstar and the female Gorgeted Woodstar as being the two possibilities. A few minutes later the Hermit returned but right on its tail was the Woodstar and again chased it away. This time we saw a black terminal tail band on the buff/cinnamon tail. There were no white tail markings. Gunnar again commented about the spots on the side of the bird behind the wings.


The top of the head and back were an iridescent green. The side of the face, (starting at the top) went from green to a buff eyebrow that leads into the buff on the sides. Between the buff eyebrow and the buff on the lower side of the face there was a black “mask” covering the eye area.  Near the shoulder area separating the green back from the buff/cinnamon was a small spot that in some light was almost white but not as white or as large as the spot behind the wing. The bird left but about 5 minutes later to again chase off the Hermit. It returned one more time and Abe took some video footage. I photographed the flowers it had been frequenting.


When we finally left that spot (mainly because a guy kept harassing Gunnar looking for money to buy booze) we began working our way toward Leiembamba. The vegetation went from green and lush to brown and dry. Even though it was quite arid we followed a raging river much of the distance. The only bird of note was a Torrent Duck.


We stayed at the Laguna de los Condores. The room was clean and rather basic but it had the second best bathroom (second only to Leguna Seca which is a resort) on the trip. There was an internal courtyard that was filled with a large garden and had handicrafts around the covered walkway surrounding the garden. Ingrid and Helmut went looking for a place to get a cup of coffee. They found the restaurant but it would not open until 7 PM. For some reason two teenagers, one girl, one boy, who were children of the owner decided to take pity on us. They made coffee for us and sold some of their mother’s bake goods to us. You could see that the kids were proud of themselves for running the ship while Mom was away. As we were eating some extremely good dessert Mom returned. She seemed pleased as well. We ate dinner there that evening as well … if I’m ever in need of a cook I want to remember to go back there.    


October 29, 2002 – When we left Leiembamba we started to ascent that peaked at 3400 meters in elevation. Along the way at the first stop we found a pair of Andean Guans, Brown-bellied Swallows and Scarlet-fronted Parakeets. At a second stop (S06.43, W077.51, 2830m) we were looking down into a shrubby area that contained Shining Sunbeams, Supercilliaried Hemispingus (White-bellied race), Mustached Flowerpiercer, Cloud-Forest Brush-Finch, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager and a pair of Andean Flickers. We made another quick stop at S06.43, W077.52, 3416m where we found a Coppery-naped Puffleg. We then began the descent toward Balsas where there is a bridge across the Maranon. At about 1700 meters in elevation we stopped to take a look for the Buff-bridled Inca –Finch. We were able to find it with little difficulty. When we reached S06.51, W077.59, 1270m it was from a bird standpoint apparent that we were in the Maranon River valley. We found Maranon Thrush, Yellow-faced Parrolet, and the Maranon subspecies of the Tropical Gnatcatcher. This bird may someday shortly reach species status. We also found White-bellied Hummingbird and Yellow-tailed Oriole.


In this area we were in a residential area that was about par for what I had seen of Peru. The people who saw us I think wondered why a handful of people invaded their town and were looking at everything through binoculars. After we left there we headed into Balsas. I can’t say I saw the whole town but what I saw there was a town that looked forgotten. Right at the bridge there was a small market that looked unkempt. People were lying around, others trying to beg, kids about when they should have been in school. This was the only place on the whole trip where I felt that the poverty was more than economic; there seem to be a poverty of spirit as well.


Leaving Balsas we had to again ascend the mountains to leave the Maranon Valley.


One of the birds we had hoped to see is the Peruvian Pigeon, another Maranon Valley specialty. Shortly after leaving Balsas there was one sitting on the very top of a tree not far from the road. This is easy birding when you pick up a life bird, an endemic without even getting out of the van.


At this point there was discussion about whether we should bird and camp or reduced the amount of time birding and push to make Celendin by nightfall. The night before we had agreed that we would bird our way along and that we would shoot for Celendin but may not reach there until late, even as late as 11:00 PM. After having spent a good part of the day climbing up mountainsides via switchbacks I think there was concern about additional driving on these kinds of roads in the dark. It was finally agreed that we would keep the birding short, take in a quick meal and get on the road to Celendin and get there before dark. From the little town where we ate we could see the very long series of switchbacks still awaiting us. Right at the town we were able to turn up the Gray-winged Inca-Finch, the Buff-bellied Tanager and the Chestnut-back Thornbird, which I can really only claim to have heard well, the few glimpses were not great.


We arrived at Celendin just as the last daylight was gone from the sky. There were only two hotels in Celendin and both were set up to serve traveling Peruvians rather than traveling foreigners. It was a very basic place with old, warped soft wood floors and burnt out light bulbs in the bathroom. Abe ran the hot water and it seem to take forever to warm up.


October 30, 2002 - In the morning there was no power in Celendin except at the gas stations which were running their own generators. Even the better hotel was in the dark. With a cool shower to wake me up, we were out of town before light. We took our time working our way to Cajamarca. It was raining when we started out but we birded a bit anyway. At the first stop (S06.58, W078.11, 3300m) an Andean Lapwing was buzzing a poor old chicken. Ingrid found (it may have been the banos bird) a spot where there was some activity. By the time we were finished we found a Striated Earthcreeper and a Sedge (Grass) Wren. We also found nearby a Black-tailed Trainbearer, Peruvian Sierra-Finch and a Mustached Flowerpiercer.


We continued down the pitted roads to a place that had Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant and Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant. We ate another lunch of pan and canned tuna and sardines at this spot. The next spot was rather more productive with Mourning Sierra-Finch, Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant, Mountain Caracara, Black-throated Flowerpiercer and Tufted Tit-Tyrant being added to the list.       


Our next stop was at a small pond where we found 3 Puna Ibis, two Speckled Teal (Yellow-billed) and a few Andean Gulls.


The final stop before Cajamarca, at S07.09, W078.25, 3100m, provided the Ash-breasted and Peruvian Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater and a couple Cinerous Conebills.


We stayed at the Leguna Seca Resort. It is located at the hot springs where Atahualpa the last Inca leader was resting after he defeated his half brother, when the Pizzaro brothers arrived and held him for ransom. Since we had daylight left we went into downtown Cajamarca and took a tour of the sites including the “ransom room” which was filled with gold items that the Spanish said had to be melted down into ingots. Much of the gold artwork was thus destroyed. The gold which was not plentiful around Cajamarca had to be sent up from Cusco and then in the end they killed the chieftain anyway. Ironically, in recent years one of the largest gold minds in Peru was located near Cajamarca.


While we were wandering the streets of Cajamarca Tulio was on his way back to Lima in the van. We would meet up with him again in “dos Dias”. The resort was just that, well manicured lawns, gardens and gardeners, and maids scurrying about. Although it was plush it seemed to be to now sort of be out of place with the rest of the trip. In ways I guess I had become accustom to a “basic” trip, this then seemed opulent. They did serve a great dinner.


October 31, 2002 – Now that we were vanless we hired two taxis to take us up along a creek that flowed toward Cajamarca. This is the only known area where you can find the Grey-bellied Comet. We had almost no trouble locating one working over a tree. It was so easy in fact that when we first saw it, it did not register as the target bird. We also found several nice species in the valley. We found White-winged Cinclodes, Peruvian and Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, Streaked-throated Bush-Tyrant and a sharp looking Black Metaltail. I believe this may have been Ingrid’s second banos bird.


In the afternoon we caught a flight back to Lima thus ending the Northern portion of the trip.


Before we parted I gave Gunnar my old Swift binoculars. There is a program run by the ABA that sends materials to Latin American countries which I had thought about giving the binoculars to. But Gunnar has some conservation projects in mind that involve local communities and I thought that he may be able put them to good use. He is trying to set up a project around the Marvelous Spatulatail and the Purple-backed Sunbeam. Being a hummingbird nut I certainly hope he succeeds.



Epilogue – A great trip, probably my best and in some ways most exciting vacation. Lots of good birds, trip total about 405, lifers about 212. I did well with the hummingbirds too. Weather was usually good and scenery was great and I took some great pictures. Even gave a slide presentation to co-workers. I enjoyed the kids, and the time in Wawasi. Hoping to do Kolibri’s La Montanita when I can free up the time and money … I need to see the Purple-backed Sunbeam!

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