Peru – Megadiverse for Cetaceans

If you’re fascinated with whales and dolphins, and live off a coastline that harbors over a third of all cetacean species in the world , you’d be crazy not trying to go out there and see them. If you don’t live here, let me introduce you to 15 species you can see off Peru. Maybe, you’d like to come to Peru and see some of them.

We are diversifying our business. Our love and your love for whales and dolphins can together build a new resource for whale/dolphin lovers and researchers alike.  How? We shall get our own boat, and you could be our sponsor with a payback that vastly surmount your modest investment.  I will give you a special offer which make you eligible to watch cetaceans at sea for FREE in Peru for the rest of your life plus many other bonus features. Interested? Scroll to the bottom. If not – scroll to the pictures.
Dusky Dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus

Some background to whale-watching in Peru

We have been running pelagic birdwatching trips since 2000 in Peru. Few people know that these trips originally were planned to be whale-watching trips.  I didn’t think there was enough market of visiting birders to Lima to make pelagic birding trips with a profit. Whales and dolphins were different. Everyone likes them and would like to see them in the wild. Lima with 8-9 million people should have a click  that may be interested and afford the trips.

I was right on one of the assumptions. There were a lot of people interested in whale-watching, BUT few people could afford the cost of 90 dollars.

The best strategy to at least see some cetaceans is  to make a transect to the 1000m depth line at around 32 nmiles in the hope of seeing some Cetaceans on the way.  You see, the cetaceans in Lima don’t have specific spots you can go to and expect to see one. Most are transient varying with the local occurrence of anchoveta banks and upwelling events bringing nutrients closer to the coast.  We saw cetaceans on every trip, but different species every time. If there are patterns of occurrence these are not very obvious.

Birders on the other hand loved the transect and saw all their target birds and more. This allowed us to raise the price of the pelagics in order to also go out when there were few birders on board and sell space to occasional Peruvian non-birders who just want to see some cetaceans at a lower price. It became somewhat a mission to allow Peruvians enjoy the wonders of nature.

Over the years we have had a lot of interesting observations.  In this blogpost I will go through some of the species we have seen during our trips.


We have seen five species of dolphins on our pelagics from Lima.  Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus and Dusky Dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus are the most numerous. Common Dolphin has recently been split to two species. The Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis and Long-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus capensis. There are also a few records of Risso’s Dolphin Grampus griseus.

Dusky Dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus

Dusky Dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus. Ignacio Garcia Godos

The dusky Dolphin is well known for being very acrobatic in the wild making high 3 meter leaps out of the water. They can gather in huge flocks of over 100 individuals around the schools of anchoveta. We see duskies on most of our trips.

Identification: This is a small dolphin (around 1.6m) with an extremely short beak. Easily recognized by its black and light gray pattern and the triangular falcate dorsal fin with a pale thumb-mark.

Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus

Bottle-nosed Dolphin Tursiops truncatus

Flipper as we all know it. Seeing wild Bottle-nosed Dolphins away from the aquariums is a treat.  They often approach the boat to bow-ride. We see Bottle-nosed Dolphins on most of our trips.

Identification: They reach around 3m and thus larger than the other frequently encountered dolphins species. The prominent falcate dorsal fin and even grayish coloration are other good field marks.

Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis

Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis. Photo: Ignacio Garcia Godos

The Short-beaked Common Dolphin is usually found in warmer waters. The photo is taken in Tumbes. It may be seen in Lima during Niño years or during the summer (January-February).
Identification: Short beak of course, but the other good mark is the mustard yellow side-patch and crisp contrast.

Long-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus capensis

Long-beaked Common Dolphin is the Common Dolphin most frequently seen on Lima Pelagics. It is bound to cold water of the Humboldt Current.

Identification: Longer bill. The distinct side pattern is shared with Short-beaked Common Dolphin, although the Long-beaked Common Dolphin has  more diffused pattern and the side patch more greenish-yellow in color.

Risso’s Dolphin Grampus griseus

Rissos Dolphin Grampus griseus. Mike Baird

Not very common in our waters, only a few records in Lima at deep water in June-July. Risso’s Dolphin can be found near the shelf edge where they feed on squid.

Identification: Identified on the heavily scared body. It has indistinct beak and a rounded head. The prominent (up to 50cm) dorsal fin makes it possible to mistake it for Bottle-nosed Dolphin and even Killer Whale at a distance, but the scared body usually gives it away. The scars are supposed to be caused by the teeth of other Risso’s Dolphins or the squid they pray on.

Burmeister’s Purpoise Phocoena spinipinnis

Burmeisters Porpoise Phocoena spinipinnis

Not a true dolphin, but a Porpoise. Burmeister’s Porpoise is supposedly one of the most common cetaceans in South America, yet it is very difficult too see, because it does not surface very conspicuously. Usually only the dorsal fin is seen. We have one record from the Lima pelagics in July close to Callao.  It is best looked for in very calm seas.
Identification: Small size and the triangular dorsal fin with small tubercles on the leading edge.

Baleen Whales

Lima has proved good to find baleen whales. The following species are found regularly. Bryde’s Whale Balenoptera edeni, Blue WhalBalaenopteridae musculus, Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus and  Sei Whale Balaenoptera borealis.

Bryde’s Whale Balenoptera edeni

Probable Brydes Whale Balaeoptera edeni

Bryde’s Whale is resident off Lima and the Peruvian coast. This 11-15 m roqual can be seen year around, but since it often keep low, has a short blow, and does not show the tail when diving, it is easiest to see in calm conditions (normally November- April).


Certainly, not straight forward to identify as its dorsal fin is very similar to Sei Whale.  The top photo is by no means certain to species, but as it was taken in February when Sei Whale would more likely be found Sub-antartic waters. The only way to safely identify Bryde’s whale is observing the three parallel ridges on the head.  See the picture below. Brydes Whale Balaenoptera edeni

Bryde’s Whale can be difficult to see well as it often is very erratic under water. It is hard to predict where it will show up next time it surfaces.

Sei Whales Balaenoptera borealis

possible Sei Whale - Balaenoptera borialis

Sei Whale only occurs on passage in Peruvian waters. Taken into account that it is so hard to identify it is very little known about its presence in Peru.  The above may or may not be a Sei Whale with a damaged dorsal fin – or it is again a Bryde’s Whale.

Identification: Sei Whale is 12-16 m and only has one central ridge on the head which separates it from Bryde’s Whale this way.  Unlike other Rorqual they often feed just under the surface, which results in that the blow hole and the dorsal fin appear simultaneously.

Blue Whale  Balaenopteridae musculus

Blue Whale Balaeoptera musculus dave and rose

Blue Whale is a magnificent animal. I have seen it a few times in Peru. Apparently there are two forms occurring. The normal 29 meter giant and a smaller pygmy form. This may or may not be the same Pygmy Blue Whale subspecies from the Indian Ocean.  I have seen both forms of Blue Whale going out from Lima.

Identification: Both forms have sky blue skin and a very tiny dorsal fin.  The bluish skin is typically covered with pale blotches. The normal Blue Whale often announce it presence with the huge blow that can reach 12m.  It has a long cylinder like body. Maybe the best way to illustrate how big this form of Blue Whale is checking out the BBC video with David Attenborough as narrator.

The mysterious pygmy Blue Whale of Peru.

The Pymgy Blue Whale occurs normally in the Indian Ocean and the West Pacific and is named as a subspecies of Blue Whale  and is sometimes is regarded as a full species.  In Nov 2005 researchers from  NOAA and Hadoram Shirihai recorded and photographed a pymgy form of Blue Whale about 300 nmiles off the Peruvian coast.  In an online detailed report about Cockillaria Petrels and the pygmy blue whale the characteristics  of this animal was registered.  Check the photo of the head of this Pygmy Blue Whale.
They noted an animal which was shorter, had a shorter rostrum and instead of the long tubular shape this looked like a GIANT tadpole.

Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus

Preparing for this article Ignacio Garcia Godos gave me the photo above. This Blue Whale was recorded between Hawaii and Manta, Ecuador on a NOAA expedition that Ignacio attended in 2005. It was supposed to be a regular blue whale.  It may be an artifact of the angle, but does this not correspond very well to the description above of the Pygmy Blue Whale?

In Nov 2007 on one of our pelagics we were around 30 nmiles out at sea and we were puzzled by 3-4 whales such as the one in the photo below. They had given away their presence from a distance with several blows, but these were short 3-4 meters high only and not at all the powerful plumes of the regular Blue Whale. At first I thought they were Bryde’s Whale because of small size similar to that of Bryde’s and that it kept low in the water and totally disappeared for a long while indicating deep submersions.
At closer range we could see that it lacked any pale mottling like the larger subspecies of Blue Whale as the photo by Mike Danzenbaker taken on this trip indicates.

Pygmy Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus bervicauda off Lima coast, Peru

Koen van Waerebeck thinks it may represent a non-described taxon that is resident in Peruvian Waters. Isn’t that exciting?

Take note that both this record and the record by Hadoram and NOAA team happened in November.  We are organizing a deep sea-pelagic on Nov 6, 2011 – if anyone is interested joining us on a search for the “mysterious pygmy blue whale of Peru”

Pygmy Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus ssp nov?

Pygmy Finwhale Peru Whalewatching in Peru is great because one may make important discoveries merely by taking photos and record position. In March 2007  we had 11 whales surrounding the boat.  I did not know what they were and therefore took lots of photos.

Identification: Prominent dorsal fin. Eventually, I could see the right side of the lower jaw, which is white and the best field mark for Fin Whale. But there were features that did not fit. They were dark in color without the pale line on top that normal Fin Whale is supposed to have. And they were small. Most individuals were around 14-16 m and a few larger up to 18-20 meters. Normal Finwhales are around 24 meters.

Again I sent my pictures to Koen Van Waerebeck.  He confirmed that this must be the Fin Whale which was hunted in the 20th century off Peru and thus most likely resident.  Koen wrote up a manuscript  (still in press) that was presented at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Anchorage in May 2007. I appeared as co-author by simply providing the pictures and the coordinates.

Pygmy FinWhale Lima

Other Whales

The other whales possible on Lima Pelagic whalewatching trips are Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae, Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus, Killer Whale Orcinus orca, Short-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala macrorhynchus and  Peruvian Beaked Whale Mesoplodon peruvianus.

Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae

Humpback breaching sequenceThe photo above was from  a November pelagic  in 2003. Whalewatching outfitters love Humpbacks – because they always put on a great show.  Although there is no breeding area in Lima or permanent winter population, they are often encountered on passage and sometimes they put on a show like this.

Identification: It is the easiest of all the big whales to identify. Long flippers with lots of white, showing huge fluke when diving with various amounts of white. No tail is like on other tail why tails should be photographed and deposited at one of the fluke picture repositories.  A friend of mine Ignacio Garcia-Godos has started a fluke catalogue for Peru.  We hope our continuous whalewatching pelagic trips will make new additions to the catalogue.
The dorsal fin is another good field mark as it has a hump in front of the fin. Hence its name.


Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus

Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus Alejandro Tabini

Sperm Whales are found far away from shore at the continental shelf where they feed on giant squid. It is always an exciting whale to look out for near our turn around point.


Very large toothed whale reaching up to 18m. The blow is directed forward. Very short dorsal fin,  Show its totally  black fluke when diving.

Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus Alejandro Tabini


Killer Whale Orcinus orca

Orca - Killer Whale. Miles Ritter

I have only seen Killer Whale once from Lima. It is a bit surprising that it is not more common regarding the enormous amounts of sea-lions present at Isla Palomino and at sea. I have been told it may be because of the straight coastline of Peru, there are few bays or sheltered areas where they can rest-

Identification: Male virtually unmistakable. The lack and w2hite pattern and the 6 ft (1.8m) tall dorsal fin gives it away immediately. The female with a smaller dorsal fin may be confused with Risso’s Dolphin or False Killer Whale (which is possible off Peru, but which we still have to find).

Short-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala macrorhynchus

Short-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala macrorhynchus

We only have two records of this Pilot Whale. Once on the same trip we saw Sperm Whale at the deep sea and once in Tumbes.


Peruvian Beaked Whale Mesoplodon peruvianus

Peruvian Beaked Whale Mesoplodon peruvianus

This little known small Beaked Whale was described in 1991 from a carcass on a beach in Peru by Reyes, Mead and Waerebeck. Additional specimens have been secured from sharkfishing by catch. Also, several sightings at sea between Mexico and Peru.  In July 2006 an unidentified small beaked whale was seen by Dylan Walker and myself on a pelagic tour from Callao.  We only saw a short triangular dorsal fin surrounded by a blackish back. We saw no white or other pale markings.

Identification: This is a very small beaked Whale. Only 5 meters long. That the male looks like the picture above is a hypothesis based on observations in the wild of individuals that look like this with a white field over the back. Presumably they are males Peruvian Beaked Whale, but it has not been proven. There are no specimens of the male. The female is uniform slaty in color and has a small but distinct melon on the head.

Special offer for whale and dolphin lovers.

Now you know what is awaiting you when you come to Peru and do whale-watching with us.  As mentioned at the beginning of this post, you have the possibility to be able to go on our whale-watching and pelagic birding trips for the rest of your life for free.  We are investing in our own boat.  You will help us as You’ll become a member in:

Kolibri Expeditions VIP Club

Your investment is:

500 US$

Seems like a lot of money?  By taking a few trips with us in Peru and elsewhere in South America, as Kolibri VIP you will regain you investment through a series of benefits. You don’t loose, we don’t have to borrow money and a permanent resource for nature lovers is created and puts Peru on the whale-watching map. Here are the benefits:

  • One free space on a Lima pelagic/whalewatching once we have the boat that  you can book on very short notice. You decide the date and we’ll run the pelagic – Value $175 to $1000  depending on the number of people taking part in the end.
  • One free space on a Lima pelagic/whalewatching trip any day of the year,  booked with minimum 9 months in advance. Value $175 to $1000  depending on the number of people taking part in the end.
  • Perpetually free 1 day pelagic/whalewatching on standby basis – this also applies if we arrange pelagic away from Lima.  Value $175 each time.
  • Perpetually 10% discount on all our tours – discounting the airfares and train tickets.  It will not only apply on Peru tours, but also on our international tours. On a two week tour this discount amounts to between $200-300
    We mostly do birdwatching tours, but we are also arranging standard nature tours and cultural tours.  Our activity is expanding also outside of Peru.
  • Perpetually free Lima day trips as long as there are 2 other paying clients.  Value around $150 per trip.

Read more about the background of this offer on this previous blogpost. It also relates to our environmental, conservation  and social commitment. The Special offer is valid until July 15. Extended to December 31, 2011.
Write me to sign up for the program or to ask questions how this can benefit you.

Our Whale-watching commitment

In the tropics in countries where regulations don’t exist, there are few operators of whalewatching who apply ethical standards to their operations. We are the difference to the rule.

  • We don’t harrass the animals. Always keep a distance and let the cetaceans come to us if they like.
  • We don’t do “swim with the sealions” or “swim with the dolphins” set-ups. Such practices are not allowed in for example the US. Why should we offer it here? We don’t care if the competitor does it and if there is no particular legislation against it. Furthermore, we find it utterly pointless to let our passengers bob around in lifejackets in the freezing Humboldt current.
  • we avoid to break up fish schools where dolphins feed.
  • we don’t seek out to get the dolphins bow-riding. If they come to us – fine – then we slow down to avoid accidents.
  • If the sea allows it, we will shut the engines when near the cetaceans
  • We collect observations and will share them with researchers from IMARPE (The Peruvian Sea Institute) and CEPEC (Centro Peruano de Estudios Cetológicos – Peruvian NGO directed by Koen Van Waerebeck, international specialist on Cetaceans often contracted by IWC). We will also publish the species lists and numbers of all outings.

Literature used for this article.

One can’t own too many books about Cetaceans. Here are some (affiliate) links to Amazon for the books that I have used to collect information for this article.

Addionally, an excellent book by Julio Reyes to learn about Peruvian Cetaceans in Spanish can be found for free pdf download here.

Photos used in this article with permission or Creative Commons license:  Humpback whale breaching – Image ID: sanc0605, NOAA’s Sanctuaries Collection, Dusky Dolphin (Lima, Peru) – Gunnar Engblom, Dusky Dolphin (Peru) – Ignacio Garcia-Godos, Bottle-nosed Dolphin (W Australia) –  Marj Kibby, Short-beaked Common Dolphin (North Peru) – Ignacio Garcia-Godos, Long–beaked Common Dolphin (Lima, Peru) – Gunnar Engblom,Burmeister’s, Probable Bryde’s Whale (Lima, Peru) – Gunnar Engblom, Bryde’s Whale (Lima, Peru) – Ignacio Garcia-Godos, possible Sei Whale – Gunnar Engblom, Blue Whale (California, US) – Dave Slater, BLue Whale (pygmy?) – Ignacio Garcia-Godos, Mystery Pygmy Blue Whale from Peru (Lima) – Mike Danzenbaker, Pygmy Fin Whale (possibly undescribed taxa, Lima, Peru) x 2- Gunnar Engblom,  Humpbacck Whale x 2 (Lima, Peru) – Gunnar Engblom, Sperm Whale x2 (Lima, Peru) – Alejandro Tabini, Killer Whale (BC, Canada) – Miles Ritter, Peruvian Beaked whale illustration from Whales, Dolphin’s and Porpoises By Mark Carwardine.

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Chumming on Pelagics

Gary Allport of Birdlife International recently placed a question on Seabird-News about chumming techniques to attract seabirds while doing pelagic birding. He was overwhelmed with replies and decided to summarize what he had learned in an article, which Gary has allowed to be shared and spread.  Therefore, his summary appears here in my blog. Thanks for sharing Gary.

General reviews and techniques

It seems that there are precious few actual written pieces on chumming, indeed the only two sources cited were Tony Pym’s posting of a floating chum block recipe and the piece on storm-petrel techniques in Bob Flood & Bryan Thomas’ excellent paper Identification of ‘black-and-white’ storm-petrels in Annexe 2 “Chum and chumming” (paper can be downloaded via the Scilly Pelagics website). I was also pointed to a useful discussion thread on BIrdforum .

Based on the fulsome thoughts of many I have pulled them together into the following groups of techniques:

  • Making a trail – dripping oil from a bottle, trailing chum in a mesh bag etc
  • Feeding – dead fish, frozen blocks etc
  • Holding birds as attractant
  • Using Dimethyl Sulphide

Plus some words of caution and trivia.

Some terms that Flood & Thomas (F&T) use which are good to keep for consistency are ‘Soft’ Chum, such as ground fresh fish, fish guts and livers, and ‘Hard’ chum such as fish bones and heads. Also “Chum-and-drift” the practice of working an area of sea using the wind or very slow steaming downwind to create a slick upwind and a scent trail downwind.

Making a trail

The method of attracting many seabirds to the boat for viewing is to use a combination of scent, slick and food items to lay a trail that draws birds and channels them into the boat. This can be done whilst steaming from place to place, or as a Chum-and-drift setup. The techniques are:

Oil bottle – in its simplest form this is done by punching a small hole into the base of a plastic water bottle full of fish oil and then tying some string around the neck and dangling it off the railings of the boat. There are more sophisticated versions using a pipe fixed into the neck of the bottle and a pinch bolt to regulate the flow but there were no mentions of write ups of exactly how to do this.

The quantities used seem to vary from several litres down to one pint for a day trip. I think this also reflects the type of oil used.

Many people use Cod Liver Oil (CLO) but there are lots of warnings that the CLO available for medicinal purposes are treated to remove the scent and are ineffective. No-one mentioned a good source of raw CLO, although some referred to Fish Oil Concentrate but it’s not clear what that is or how to get hold of it. Other fish oils mentioned were Tuna Oil and Menhaden Oil (Brian Patteson amongst others, mentions using the latter). Others use vegetable oil as a carrier or slick former, mixed either with CLO (3 litres CLO with 20 litres veg oil was one recipe) or with oils from tinned and bottled fishes. Anchovies, sardines and pilchards were mentioned although the general feeling was that these blends were not as effective as CLO. (One birder deliberately went out on an Anchovy fishing boat owner simply because he knew that the whole boat would form its own slick…). There is also a feeling from some that veg oils should never be used as they are not naturally occurring in the marine environment and their properties once mixed with seawater and cast onto birds’ plumage are unknown and could be harmful.

Soft chum – mashed fresh fish and oils mixed are trailed from the vessel when steaming or are used on a chum-and-drift. When steaming, frozen blocks are often trailed and these have a very high density of soft chum i.e. very little water frozen in, and are placed in a mesh bag (onion sacks were mentioned as good for this purpose by several people). In NZ the ‘Berley Bomb’, a commercially available grind up of salmon scraps frozen into 5kg blocks for fishing uses, works very well for this. Chunks of unfrozen soft chum are also used but it needs to be treble-bagged whilst steaming else it will all wash away very quickly. When adopting a chum-and-drift tactic for stormies then it is recommended to use unfrozen chum in a single bag secured just below the surface to create the slick (F&T). Fish livers also get special mention as they float and are especially attractive in their own right. These can be put whole into a mesh box (as is done off Kaikoura) or chopped up into tiny pieces (F&T) as part of the mix. Note that old or rotting fish is apparently not as attractive as fresh fish.

Popcorn is also used in the un/frozen blocks of soft chum either ground up into tiny pieces and infused with eau de chum thereby (F&T), or whole popcorn, mixed in and left to infuse of its own accord. The ground up popcorn is thought to carry the oil further on the surface and is apparently taken by storm petrels; it also has the advantage of attracting fewer gulls in this form if that’s what’s needed (see below). The intact popcorn also carries oil but less of it, is not taken by stormies but does attract gulls and several folk also mentioned that the pale floating grains help show up where the oil trail is lying when routing the boat back along existing oil trails, and in both finding and pointing out birds feeding along the trail. Rice bubbles and cornflakes have also been used but both seem to float below the surface film and drift less quickly than oil, get separated from the slick and so scatter the birds. Note that there are some who feel that any of these floating additives are not great for seabirds to eat, especially processed popcorn.

F&T highly recommend using a grinder to make soft chum. The exact details of the grinder are not given but heavy duty manual or motorized machines are available from the USA where it seems that there is a whole chum-based micro-industry – see for instance or . I think that these are just big meat grinders in truth so anything that’s used to make minced meat would do the trick I suspect.

Hard chum – a whole battery of fairly sordid things have been trailed behind boats in the name of slicking. Dead fish, especially large oily fishes which have been filleted, or just the heads, have been used with success. But there were also mentions of punctured sausages, beef suet, a rotting cabbage (not so stupid – see below) and a dead fulmar (well they are very oily and stinky…). One person mentioned following the slick from a dead Cuvier’s Beaked Whale. The key point though is that hard chum generally work best when the boat is steaming so that small chunks of chum get washed off and sit in the wake; not so good when the boat is at rest.

There were also the comments that laying trails only work in fairly calm sea conditions with light breezes that will carry the scent but not so rough that the oil slick gets dispersed too quickly before the birds get close enough. Note also you might have to wait 15-30 minutes before the first birds come gliding up the driftline.

Feeding birds

Food is generally used to bring birds closer in to the boat for closer and longer viewing – the holding of birds as an attractant in themselves is treated below.

Feeding of seabirds has been done in many, many different ways but mostly as some form of soft chum either thrown over the side or in mesh bags, wire mesh boxes etc. There are also the opportunistic approaches of other food sources such as trawlers or bait balls which are not covered here.

The main recent advance in this regard has been the use of soft chum frozen into blocks. This idea is mostly credited to Hadoram Shirihai and the most recent recipes used in the Pacific, and with further recommendations, are helpfully posted on Tony Pym’s website. However, a couple of people told me that shark divers have been using these frozen blocks for a very long time and they know them as “Chumsicles” (I was also told that chum is known as rubby-dubby by some shark fishers). The advantage of feeding with frozen blocks is that they can be made up so that they float so the food stays on the surface (most fish meat will quickly sink out of sight in sea water) and that the food will be gently dispersed over a period of time as the block defrosts. Birds can also feed directly off the chumsicle too, holding them close to the boat yet longer.

The key point here seems to be to ensure that there is a very large amount of freshwater used in the recipe in order to guarantee that the block will actually float when flung over the side. Several people reported that their lovingly made beautiful chumsicle simply sank like a stone into the depths much to their dismay. If fish dust and oil are used in the recipe then the chumsicle is quite light in itself and 25-30% water is fine but if pieces of fish and meal are used then there needs to be 50% freshwater plus 50% meal/pieces and oil to guarantee a floater. It was also pointed out that freshwater is less dense than seawater so do use fresh. 10-12 kilo blocks are recommended. The other point to think about before making the blocks is exactly how they will be carried onto the boat. Shaping them to fit into you cooler box is recommended! Also bag up and separate blocks in the cool box else they might all freeze together and then require hacking up on deck.

One other advantage of these blocks is that they are simple to use, less messy and smelly, and this can be helpful with certain boat owners who are not used to birders and their chums. To mention here also that a tarpaulin draped over the working area helps, and do take a pair of long arm rubber gloves to keep hands clean and so quickly free to grab the binocs.

The feeding technique is to drop a frozen block over the side then steam uplight and heave to at about 80 metres and wait. Birds will mostly come from downwind following the scent trail so note both wind direction and light carefully. Additional floating food such as livers or oil soaked popcorn can be tossed in once birds are around the boat. When birds are engaged in feeding from the block itself then closer approaches can be made.

The other food which I had never heard of as chum before is beef suet. This seems to work well since it floats, is cheap and easy to get hold of, is relatively easy to handle and can be used as either big blocks which birds have to come in to and tear pieces off, or cut right down to milled fine scale pieces which stormies like (Black, Leach’s and Band-rumped all mentioned, though Least did not take it). It does not carry scent so it needs to be used in tandem with other more smelly attractants.

Holding birds as an attractant

The above mentioned techniques will draw in many pelagic species which in themselves may help to attract other perhaps even more desirable birds. The key thing here is that both higher flying birds, which show above the horizon further away, and birds exhibiting feeding behaviours – hovering, dip diving or circling – will draw in birds that will not necessarily come to chum. Species mentioned were Skuas/Jaegers, several Pterodromas (Black-capped rarely comes to chum, Tahiti too).

It is clear that in some areas ‘less interesting’ species such as gulls or in some places frigates can be actively fed and thus held behind the boat for longer, indeed in the case of some gulls they can be drawn well offshore and kept by the boat to act as attractants. Popcorn and bread thrown from the back of the boat, actively feeding such species (on some pelagic trips there is a designated person simply doing this) to keep them tagging along helps to maintain a clamour of birds around the boat. In most circumstances this is thought to work well but there are certain circumstances where there are mixed views on this. Some people said that gulls, in particular, deter certain storm petrels and also some of the smaller alcids like Cassin’s Auklet, Xantus Murrelet.

Dimethyl Sulphide

I was rather surprised by the strong and uniformly negative response to my enquiry on this. Having looked at the paper on Tony Pym’s website (Nevitt & Bonadonna. here ) I was assuming that someone would have sussed out how to use it productively, but everyone who responded said that it is tricky to get hold of and only comes in a highly concentrated form. The liquid itself is quite dangerous and can apparently damage human sense of smell and it is supposed that it may have negative effects on birds (F&L). The recommendation is to steer clear.

I guess many of these problem are to do with the concentration of the DMS supplied commercially and having looked at the paper on Tony’s site it seems it does not easily dilute. The authors used Ethylene Glycol (best known as car antifreeze) to dilute it but there was no talk of its properties in oil. One person pointed out that it is widely used in the perfume industry and is the source of the smell of cabbage, indeed apparently the smell of cooked and rotting cabbage is actually DMS and one person even tried cabbage at sea but with no results (rotted and trailed). It sounds mad but one wonders if boiled cabbage steeped in oil might work?!

Some words of caution

There were wise words of caution expressed in some of the emails. Several stressed that chum is an attractant to things other than seabirds especially sharks and in certain places sea lions. The latter can be overzealous and are a potential hazard when in a small boat.

The other point is to please bear in mind the sensitivity of the birds especially when near to colonies and especially chumming breeding birds etc. Carrying gulls behind a boat out to a breeding island of vulnerable breeding species was also a caution expressed.

Trivia – chumming for the land-based seawatcher

I was also reminded of a hair-brained scheme mentioned in one of Anthony McGeehan’s articles, in Dutch Birding I think. He described a conversation with an old Irish coastal seawatcher who concocted the notion of “The Chum Cannon”. The idea was to fire a packet of chum offshore into an onshore wind, in order to bring seabirds, especially stormies, closer inshore of the seawatching point as the slick drifted closer on the breeze. At the time of the article I don’t think frozen chum had been thought of so the problem posed was how to propel what would effectively be a liquid – but with modern day thinking the concept of the frozen chum projectile might be a reality…

So I hope that that is a useful pull together of ideas. I am conscious that there are still quite a few things not covered, like recipes for chum and more of the actual practicalities (where do you get raw CLO? Can anyone recommend a specific chum grinder? etc) but as I say I hope that this helps to be going on with. It has certainly given me plenty of food for thought before heading off from Maputo again.

Finally Check out  Lima pelagics.





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Eight ideas to make birding huge.

Most of the time I am busy either guiding Kolibri Expeditions tours, making arrangements for the tours (although Victor has been relieving me some lately) and conversations via email with clients. But sometimes, I get ideas – that totally consume me. And it is particularly one of those ideas that have kept me off my own blog lately.
The idea of
And within Birdingblogs new ideas have formed.

I thought in this newsletter, that I’d present some of the ideas that have consumed me. It is not really sane to get this many ideas, but I hope that with considerable delegation at least some of these ideas can become something grand and live their own life and inspire others. Ideas do that!

You can’t own an idea.
The idea becomes everyone’s.

If you want to take part in any of this, check out the links of each item. Leave comments below or send me an email if you want contribute in any way.

1. – the idea.

After having finally understood the idea of blogging, I came to the conclusion that to have a successful birding blog one needed to

  • Supply top content
  • supply hot birding news
  • publish daily
  • upload lots of pictures
  • be somewhat provocative, edgy, funny or witty – some of the time
  • share – everywhere
  • build a community of followers in the social media platforms

But to be on top of things – and run a business at the same time is simply too much. The solution was to gather several writers to one blog. Even if we’ve slacked a bit lately, we are getting a lot of traffic – and the future looks very bright as GrrlScientist Deborah Bennu has been added to the team. A bit over a month ago, Charlie Moores, previously at 10000birds also joined us.  The other birdingbloggers on this site are Kenn Kaufman, Tom McKinney, Dawn Fine, Dale Forbes, Rebecca Nason, Rich Hoyer, György Szimuly, Susan Myers and myself. It is a great team. It is a bit intimidating to be among these great writers and photographers.  At the end of this post I shall present some of the work of my partner bloggers.

Don’t forget to  “Like” us on  Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS feed or by email. We are committed to provide you with top birding content every day.

2. Avistar Peru. Birding Festival in Lima Peru.

Avistar Peru logoI always felt it was sort of my duty to “teach” Peruvians about birding. How pretentious!
Fact remains. Can you imagine that there is no national organization for birders in Peru. In spite of this, there are some good signs that something is happening. I know of several local bird and nature clubs in Puerto Maldonado, Chiclayo and Iquitos. The Spanish language site is around position 28 on Fatbirder Top1000 website about birding and gets around 1200 unique page views daily. Surely, there is a latent interest among Peruvians to discover birding and nature in general.  Lima with 8 milion inhabitants is the place to start.

We are copying a concept already active in Sao Paolo, Brazil – Avistar Brasil. We shall bring Peruvian people who like nature together in the first Peruvian Birding Festival for the general public. During 3 days Nov 2-4 at PARQUE KENNEDY in Miraflores, there will be a trade fair with 22 stands, activities for kids, photo and art exhibitions and workshops covering topics such as the Wetlands of Pantanos de Villa, the water drainage of the Rimac valley and a call to start a Peruvian version of Audubon Society. During the weekend Nov 5-6 we shall do several excursions in the vicinity of Lima, including trips up the Santa Eulalia Valley to see the Condor and a pelagic. If you are around you don’t want to miss the opportunity. And if you have something to contribute to the workshops let us know. You find more information in this recent blogpost about Avistar Peru.
The Neotropical Ornithologicl Congress is held in Cusco Nov 8-14, why it is a good idea to combine the two events.

3. Birdingblogs top list

I am sure you have heard of Fatbirder Top 1000 and NatureBlogNetwork. Here you find an attempt to rank birding sites and natureblogs.  Having created the multi-author blog, I thought it would be great if we could share some of the lime-light with those birders who still blog on their own. They are quite heroic – and I admire them.  There are now over thirty birdingblogs signed up on the birdingblogs top list. If you have a blog about birding that you write yourself, please submit.  Read more about the idea and the rules for the toplist here.

4. World Birding Tour Network

This is a similar idea. Apart from getting overall and regional toplists for number of visitors to birdwatching tour operator sites, this idea when built out will become a bird tour operator directory. Useful, for clients – and useful for inter company relations.  There really should be more networking between birding companies.  Read more on the same blogpost as above and sign up to the toplist here.

5. Virtual BirdFair

Virtual BirdFair - Why not do the birdfair on line.

Virtual BirdFair – Why not do the birdfair on line?

Some of you may have seen this already last year.  I love the idea of the British Birdfair – where the birders can find everything they need at one place and at the same time there is loads of money collected for conservation. Participating does come at a price, though.  Not only does it become extremely expensive for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, but one carbon footprint we leave behind is huge.  What if there was an alternative way? Could you participate virtually?  How about an online virtual birdfair? Not a competition to the real thing, but as a compliment.  The idea is quite limitless. And again it would be used to raise money to a conservation project. Also, it does not need to cover only the British Birdfair, but all the major fairs and festivals around the world.  I’d like to get 10 people together that could develop this idea together. Check out more on the virtual birdfair in this blogpost. And do provide feedback, and let me know if you want to be on the team.

6. Satipo road Lodge

Show the community an example similar to their reality, which has become a booming eco-tourism project. Well, this is what Kolibri Expeditions did, when we brought 6 campesinos from Central Peru to Mindo in Ecuador.  Here are two older posts that gives you the right background to this idea.

Future birders on Satipo Road

Central Peru birding videos

The project is running well, and RainForest Partnership is doing important work in the area.  Right now there are 6 beds with linen in a temporary room, but the lodge will soon start to be built.  We  assist with booking for independent visitors.  It is essential that the visits are coordinated before arrival.

The area is in need of a new name. In Rainforest Partnership’s perspective Satipo road is not good to use when raising funds from non-birders. They have used the name Pampa Hermosa, which would have been logic as it is the name of the district covering all the communities. The problem is there is already two Pampa Hermosa in Peru known to the birders:  Pampa Hermosa near San Ramon, which has a lodge and a reserve with the same name nearby; and Pampa Hermosa in Ucayali, which is the last settlement to travel up the Cushabatay river to search for Scarlet-banded Barbet in mountains of Cordillera Azul. We don’t need yet another Pampa Hermosa.
On Kolibri Expeditions Facebook page you may now vote for a new alternative if you are on Facebook.  Vote here! I’ll be interested in seeing which of the 3 names proposed you prefer. Or maybe you will come up with a better suggestion.

7. Birding is changing.

This is an old post about “How to become a birder in the 21st Century“.  The notion that the birder of tomorrow (which is already here), is not so interested in only seeing. They want to photograph. Bring something home at the end of the day. An observation will only stick in memory – at best – and may be soon forgotten, but a photo sticks forever as it can be shared and it can be viewed over and over again.  We recently had a Thai group visiting us in Peru – and although they called themselves birders, they were more interested in photographing birds than getting a long list. My guess is that we shall see more of this. Our birding tours are now complemented with bird photography tours.

This means, if you allow me to return to the topic Avistar Peru above, that if we are to convert Peru’s masses to birders, we have to bird as much through cameras than binoculars.  When writing manuals for birding for beginners which we intend to do in Lima, the text should focus on what kind of cameras are good for birding. It is more likely the newbie invests first in a camera than a pair of binoculars.  If we old school birders don’t realize this, we will see birding getting less and less active users in the younger generations. But, if we adapt to the new reality, we could create armies of people that care about nature and are in need of birding services. Good for businesses (as mine), good for conservation and good for rural communities that have special birds.

8. Birding infrastructure, fidelity and innovation

I think, Peru will become the birding Mekka eventually. There are more birds here than anywhere else except for Colombia. The combination with archeology, fantastic food,  culture and great nature is simply unbeatable.  But it will not happen overnight and it is clear that the Peruvian State organ PromPeru won’t lead, although they have done some showy tradeshows the last decades. It is up to entrepreneurs with a broad vision to make it happen. We need more birders to come to Peru in order to make birding businesses profitable and allowing rural areas to opt for conservation and eco-tourism. But to get more visitors Peru needs more specific infrastructure for birders.

My idea is that we could do this together.  Peru is such a huge country that allows for many trips. If you consider using our services, you can save a lot of money when you sign up to Kolibri Expeditions’ VIP Club. This is a very novel idea and I’d like to get your feedback. Everone gains. You save money, Kolibri Expeditions secures future clients, infrastructure for birders is created and communities start caring about conserving nature as they provide services for visiting birders. I have prepared a VERY SPECIAL OFFER.  It is time limited, so you have best to act quickly.  Read more …………

The Birding Bloggers

Below follows the descriptions of the bloggers on birdingblogs.  The link on the name gives you the latest posts of that author. I also enclose one of my favorite posts for each blogger. Do check them out, because they are great posts.

Tom McKinneyTom McKinney has been birding for over 20 years and has birded on every continent, other than the continents he’s not yet been to. He is famed for having found Britain’s first Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler and then waking up and realising it had all been a beautiful, beautiful dream. When not birding he enjoys going to Ladbrokes and writing short biographical entries about himself in a 3rd person voice.
Here is a funny post about how to identify and mis-identify plugs.

Dale ForbesDale Forbes has always felt at home in nature.  He started birdwatching as a young kid. Then got in to ornithology. Then more conservation biology. He grew as a birder, loving it more with every day. He now works for Swarovski Optik making awesome toys for birders (product/marketing manager) and is an obsessed digiscoper.  Dale writes his regular post every Sunday. All his posts contain mindblowing digiscoping images, however the feature post I want to highlight here is slightly comical: British birders – a separate subspecies.

Kenn KaufmanKenn Kaufman was captivated by birds at the age of six, Kenn Kaufman burst onto the North American birding scene as a teenager, hitch-hiking around the continent in pursuit of new species; those adventures were later chronicled in a book, Kingbird Highway, which has become a cult classic. Kenn went on to lead birding tours on all seven continents and to become a prolific writer. He’s now a field editor for Audubon magazine, on the editorial board for WildBird, and a columnist for Birder’s World and Bird Watcher’s Digest. His own Kaufman Field Guides series includes volumes on North American birds in English and Spanish, the recently acclaimed second edition of Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding, butterflies and mammals. Kenn lives in northern Ohio with his wife, Kimberly, who is currently executive director of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. His most recent post on Birdingblogs about the new Warbler taxonomy hit the ceiling in numbers of hits. In spite of this, I’d like to highlight his environmental fight against windpower at the wrong place: Location matters.

Rebecca Nason is a passionate female bird photographer, birder & bird ringer currently based on the Suffolk coast, UK. She has been a freelance bird photographer, tour-leader & ecologist since 2005 after working on Fair Isle, Shetland as Assistant Warden & Seabird Officer for 2 years, a place she now regards as a second home! Rebecca enjoys world travel & promoting birds & conservation through imagery, tour-leading, ecology work & talks. Her photography is simply mind blowing. Jump into any of here posts and you will see. Here is a favorite of mine: The Puffins on Fair Isle.

Dawn Fine is a birder, a blogger, hiker, Nature lover, mushroom picker, Full-time RV-er since September 2001, Blogaholic and founder of “Birders who Blog, tweet and chirp”. Dawn is a master to connect with birders and nature lovers on Facebook and Twitter. She reads and comments on collossal amounts of blogs. She is our window to other bird bloggers, whom she shares with us once every month presenting awesome bloggers. It is quite hard to chose among such many brilliant presentations of other bloggers, but one that I like a lot is the recent one about Bathrobe Birder Robin Robinson of The Back Story – My controlled Chaos.

Rich Hoyer is first and foremost a birder whose subconscious registers and identifies every bird he hears, even when he isn’t birding. But he actually started keying out wildflowers , catching reptiles, and raising butterflies before he discovered birding at age 14, and has since branched out to enjoy photographing and identifying dragonflies, grasshoppers, spiders and almost anything else alive. For the past 13 years he has been leading birding and natural history tours for WINGS. Among his regular destinations are Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, the Galapagos, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Jamaica. Originally from Oregon, he currently lives in Tucson, Arizona. Rich has been blogging a lot about these places on Birdingblogs. They are all great posts. One recent post that was extremely useful to me was Digiscoping with an iPhone.

Charlie Moores has been blogging since 2004 and (he thinks) has not yet run out of things to talk about. He used to be on the prime birding site 10000birds, but now he is with us  and his own blog/podcast Talking Naturally as well.  We are very lucky to have him.  His conservation engagement is legendary. One of the most important posts this year is the one he wrote on Malta: How do we solve a problem like Maria Malta

is an evolutionary biologist, ornithologist and science writer. She write a science blog for the Guardian, another one for Nature, and a more personal blog at Scientopia. And now she writes at She has only been with us for three weeks, but we hope she shall provide some great articles about birds and science. The first one out was about the sex-life of White-throated Sparrows. It is not unusual that there are different reproduction strategies within a specific bird species, but here the strategy has been nailed down to a specific chromosome. Mind blowing article on science that everyone can understand.
György Szimuly aka Szimi from Hungary has provided marvelous photography from Hungary and elsewhere.  Szimi is fanatic about shorebirds and runs several blogs, webpages and Facebook groups on waders. He lives in Tata, which yearly is a spectacle with over 30000 over-wintering geese.  He covered exactly that topic in one of his initial posts: A city as a birding Hot Spot.
Susan Myers is a birdguide formerly for VENT and now for Tropical Birding and flung all over Asia as  guide on birding trips. She is the author of Birds of Borneo. On Birdingblogs she started off with some very popular posts on the best birds of Asia. Here is here first post in that series. The Fifty Best Birds of Asia.
Top photo: Junin and Silvery Grebe by Alejandro Tello.

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Kolibri Expeditions VIP Club

When I was a kid my dad made small contests with grand prices I could win.  Once I won a free hike at foot to Södertälje. The header above may sound a bit like my dad’s joke, but it isn’t. Because in this case, to get free birding in Peru, you will have to pay!
“What, if I pay” it isn’t free, is it?”

Well, you are not paying for that, some of your birding will be free – you are paying for something else.  You are paying for some other birding ahead of time. Let me explain.

Infrastructure Fund

One problem with the birding in Peru compared to for instance Ecuador is the lack of good lodges for birders in every corner of the country. Sure there are some, but there are far more areas which completely lack what birders need. I have long thought of a concept of building small lodges for birders in strategic areas of the country together with the local communities in some places, and with local campesinos in other areas where the community is not very strong.
Something like the network of ProAves Lodges in Colombia – but not necessarily owning the land – but to work in cooperation with the community. But the reality is of course that I don’t  have enough money to do something like this – and mostly the Non-Profits which have money for conservation and community development, very rarely choose to work with a commercial partner. So I thought:

What if our clients help us achieve this? After all, it would benefit all of us.

Client funded conservation and infrastructure.

If you have followed my previous newslettters, you know what I mean. I have asked the clients for donations to this or that project. So far we have done this.

1. Santos Montenegro and the Marvelous Spatuletail reserve. From our original client funded donation to purchase some land where Santos was seeing several males MST. Eventually, a lek was found at our reserve which was filmed by the BBC.

2. Satipo road goes to Mindo. Raising the money through the clients to take 6 campesinos to see Mindo and Tandayapa in Ecuador. The results from the trip can be seen in these videos.

3. A marathon for conservation.  I did fund-raising by running a Marathon to raise the money to Rainforest Partnership to build  a lodge on Satipo road for the community – and thus giving a tool for conservation and eco-tourism.

All this shows that money for worthy projects can be raised through clients. Our efforts in Central Peru is starting to take effect. In July the first part of the lodge project on Satipo road will be finished.

We will continue to support Santos and the Satipo road project. We shall be running training workshops  and prepare the local people of the proper use of hummingbird feeders.

We can take this one step further with the VIP club

New project.

The first  infrastructure project I have in mind is presented below. More will follow as the VIP club grows.

The perfect vessel for pelagics

The year has started with new stricter rules for the boats we have used in the past for operating pelagics.  The boats simply did not get permits. They were either the wrong dimensions or they lacked important security equipment according to the new regulations. The yacht and the catamaran we have used in the past were additionally too slow, and the speed boats were really not built for being out in any rough sea. Kolibri Expeditions have relied on working with boats that have  permit for tourism and were willing to venture the high seas.

Having talked to pelagic guru Hadoram Shirihai, he directed me to the solution of the boat used by the company Madeira Winds on Madeira, a fast assault boat – known as Rigid Inflatable Boat.  RIBs are like gigantic Zodiaks with a fiberglass keeled  bottom – very stable and extremely safe.  I knew that sooner or later I would have to invest in one.

UPDATE Dec 2011: We are now looking at a covered double glassfiber bottom boat with dimensions for 12 passengers. RIBs are great, but you need to be quite hardcore birders to enjoy the ride.

Our pelagics would last for 7-8 hours and include 3 hours  chumming – instead of 11-12 hours with the slow boat and only an hour chumming. Again, the trouble is money.

I  could write a business plan and present it to the bank, and would, if presented the right way, possibly also be granted.  But how could we know for certain that we would be able to sell the new product fast enough to pay our bills. In terms of investments, there are  many much more secure investments available that give great returns.  However, other investments would not solve the problems of infrastructure for birders.  Let’s face it, we would not start projects like this one as investments – but rather as innovation.  Innovation, makes the difference in the end.  One has to be a bit bold and daring, and it may be a thorny path to go down, but the rewards and recognition could make a difference in the end. And no one can accuse you for not having tried.  Innovation is far more interesting, in my opinion, than investment.

So again, I have been turning my previous fund-raising ideas around to try to come up with a formula that could both secure clients and raise the money for investing in infrastructure and other innovation by Kolibri Expeditions for birders in Peru. Are you ready to hear this?

The best birding deal you don’t want to miss.

In this deal, this is what we offer:

  • Perpetual 10% discount on all our tours – discounting the airfares and train tickets.  It will not only apply on Peru tours, but also on our international tours. On a two week tour this discount amounts to between $200-300
  • One free space on a Lima pelagic – you can book on very short term up to a month before the departure. (Once we have our own vessel). You decide the date and we’ll run the pelagic – Value $175 to $1000  depending on the number of people taking part in the end.
  • One free space on a Lima pelagic – on any date of the year, that you book minimum 9 months in advance. Value $175 to $1000  depending on the number of people taking part in the end.
  • Perpetually free 1 day pelagics  on standby basis – this also applies if we arrange pelagic away from Lima.  Value $175 each time
  • Perpetually free Lima day trips on standby basis as long as there are 2 other paying clients.  Value around $150 per trip

We have about 15-16 weeks of programs of run back to back, if you want to cover all corners of Peru. Add to this all our other programs to other countries, which will increase in the future.  If you travel with us 3 weeks per year for 10 years and take advantage of all the free trips mentioned above the value of the discount and the freebies easily amounts to $5,000  and more if you travel with us more frequently. This is an investment for the future.  You’ll be member of the Kolibri Expeditions VIP club.
You only pay once.
How much?

$500 !!


  • You are eligible to the free pelagic from this year, but for the 10% tour discount this starts in 2012. Thus the price for tours this year are not affected by this discount.
  • Limited time offer: You have to sign up to the program before July 15.  If you don’t you will have to wait to next year to sign up to a similar program, that will cost $100 more.
  • The Kolibri VIP discount is personal. If you want the discount for two people or more, the other people need to enroll as well.

We hope to get a couple of hundred people to sign up to this program.  But hurry. It is for limited time only. The offer to be part of Kolibri’s VIP club ends on July 15 extends to December 31, 2011.  All trips during 2012 will be elgible for the 10% discount and free Lima day tours as detailed above. Should you want to wait to join the VIP club in 2012 the cost will be $650 and discount and free tours will be aplicable in 2013.

Write me an email to:

We shall continue to build birding infrastructure, such as birding lodges in rural areas, creating small reserves, placing hummingbird feeders in strategic places and make birding workshops for locals.

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Upcoming trips and birding opportunities in Peru

Kolibri Expeditons is having a good year so far when it comes to bookings, but it is very uneven. We had 3 months of hardly any work to begin with, then a very busy April with myself in Colombia and several trips running in Peru including a large Thai group.  Now comes May and June and again it is slow. July and August again is very busy.  Therefore, I am forced to make a blogpost which chief purpose is to sell more. There are saleries and bills to pay also in the slow months, you know. On the other hand you are about to get some offers that rarely come back.  Are you ready.

May Marvelous Spatuletail and Long-whiskered Owlet

We are already over one third may. We have one client who got a very good deal on hiring car and driver for 10 days presently in Northern Peru and who will end on May 20 in Tarapoto.
Here is an offer.  Bird your way back to Chiclayo, Cajamarca or Lima for US$150 per person and day Max 10 days. If just one person you’d have car and driver for this price and if more than one person the price is per person including guide, basic lodging and food.   Try to beat that.  A fast check on shows flights with Continental to Lima from Miami for mere 380 dollars. The flight to Tarapoto is around $100.

Limited offer until May 18

June birding.

It looks as empty as May. But I hope there will be some people who take us up on the following offer.  Base price is $200 dollars per day per person 1-2 people $175 for three  and $150 when four people or more. Costs for flights and hotel upgrades may apply if you wish for additional services.

These prices are aplicable on budget tours in North Peru and Central Peru. Both programs support conservation initiatives in which Kolibri Expeditions is involved.
Two 8 day sample programs are here:

We are flexible for discounts also on other destinations in Peru.  Offer is valid until June 1.

Vilcambamba exploratory with Gunnar and Alex in June.

Chance of the lifetime to go birding with Alex Duran and Gunnar Engblom at low cost. We are interested in connecting Cusco with Machu Picchu overland and continue to explore the areas of birding around along Urubamba river and Vilcabamba mountains, where there now is a road between Quillabamba and San Francisco/Kimbiri on the Apurimac river. The road reaches altitudes of over 2500m, why it should be good for the endemic Vilcabamba Brush-Finch. Furthermore, there are recent range extension of Scimitar-winged Piha from this area.

Add all interesting birds from mid levels that were recently reported in Cotinga by Robins et al.,  such as Black Tinamou, Ashy Antwren, Shrike-like Cotinga and Ceruelan-capped Manakin, just to mention a few. Additionally, there is excellent bamboo with all the specialists of the region at lower altitudes and the possibility to continue furthe down river to Timpia passing the Pongo Mainique before reaching the Machiguenga community Sabeti Lodge, for Selva Cacique, fantastic macaw-licks and brilliant lowland birding.
Cost: $180/person and day. Main expedition in the core area  will last 6 days from Cusco, with possibility to do extensions to Abra Malaga, Machu Picchu and Sabeti Lodge.

July-August Birding.

July looks good. There are several trips that have a few availabilities.

Budget trips

Culture and Birding:


July 18-31. Manu Jaguar Safari – birding and mammal watching at its best.  Only two vacancies.


Join our celebrated Pelagics.

  • July 14 – Steve Howell is joining as client
  • Jully 25
  • August 9 – Peter Harrison is joining as client
  • August 16
  • August 22

September-October SALE

All trips in the calendar starting on dates in September or October sell at 20% discount when booked and 20% deposit paid before May 31.


The  Neotropical Ornithological Congress in in Peru between Nov 8-15. Kolibri Expeditions offer a number of tours around these days. Again check in the calendar – or talk to us (

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Birding on TED?

Birding will save the Planet

I don’t even know if birding can be mainstream, but TED seems to be a good venue to try.  Today is the deadline for the public to submit a one-minute video for an live audition in New York on May 24.  The best will go to the TED event in 2012 in California and many shall be shown on the TED video channel on YouTube.

So I put this little piece together. Hope you like it.

It is only one minute long, so you have time to watch it. This is only the intro, I am sure you want to know HOW Birding will Save the Planet? My hope is that the TED people will want to know this as well.

The idea is that birding is a much greener way to do tourism than traditional tourism and it give local communities both a chance to get an income as well as a reason why to conserve their forests. I will in a longer talk show examples of where birding contributes directly to the economy and the conservation, and easy strategies how communities can be involved. I will also show a strategy how we can make vast amount of people into birdwatchers in the 21st century. Hope to get the chance, TED!

To get an idea what kind of great talks that previously have been given, have look at these ones.

Graham Hill (Founder of Why I am a weekday vegetarian.

Sarah Kay: Spoken Word Poetry.

Chris Jordan: Amazing art based statistics showing the excesses of our society?

Top illustration.  Earth Day 2011 by Alice PopKorn on Flickr
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How to become world famous in a day?

Barn Owl get kicked

Either you do something sensational – or you do something really stupid. It is quite clear that the latter is far easier to bring you world fame. Take this football player from Panama, Luis Moreno, who plays for the Colombian team Deportivo Perreira, for instance. He kicked the Barn Owl, that lived on top of the Roberto Meléndez Stadium in Barranquilla and which home-team Junior Barranquilla had made official mascot. The Owl had  accidentally entered the football ground during the ongoing game and had just been hit by a ball, the game stopped and a few seconds later it got a final kick that looks gut-turning disgusting on the video-flcks on You Tube.
That was a very stupid thing to do – and now he is famous all over the world. Infamous is a better word.

But did Luis Moreno purposely kill the owl?

How could anyone sane be so incredibly cruel? Why would anyone want to hurt the mascot of the opposing team? Let’s analyze the situation.

  • Perreira is loosing 2-1 and only 14 minutes left to play. The owl is on the ground (the story does not tell us why) and get hit by a ball. I lies on the ground and will obviously obstruct the game.
  • The defender Moreno obviously never treated live birds and did not know what to do.
  • The heat of the situation, effectively loosing the game, and with very little time to equalize, he does a very stupid thing to get the bird over the sideline. He kicked it. Definitely not the action you and I as birders would take.

He says to the press he did not mean to hurt the bird and just wanted to get it over the sideline. I have no reason not to believe him.

  • You can see from the video that he stands still when he kicks the Owl and that he gets the whole foot under the owl, not shooting with the stretched ankle which is usual for try to hit the ball hard.
  • You can also see from the top photo that he leans back and has a very raised leg supporting his statement that he has been trying to shove the owl over the sideline.
  • The Owl, which has been hit three times – first by the ball and then by Moreno’s foot and the impact of hitting the ground, is taken into treatment. We still don’t know how it got on the ground in the first place. Did it fly into a window or something?
  • The first reports says the owl was OK basically OK. Nothing broken – but a bit in a shock.
  • The Owl dies 30 hours later in a state of shock. The cause of death that has been mentioned: Excessive handling.

In the end,  it was probably not Moreno who killed it but the sum of the hits, the shock and the handling. It was still a stupid thing to do!

After the incident Moreno will face suspension and fines from the Colombian Football Federation and has received death threats.  He says he is regretful, did not mean to harm the bird, and thinks the world is over-reacting. Best to leave this sad incident behind and get on with it, he adds.
Wrong, totally wrong strategy.

I have done a lot of stupid things in my life, often not realizing the consequences at the time of action. But seemingly none of my mistakes have been stupid enough to make me world famous.  What does one do for damage controle, when one does something stupid? Just ask for forgiveness does not put things right.

On top of everything his daughter is throwing out insults to left and right against Colombians in general on her Facebook,  becauseof the hate messages directed to her dad.

Uuuj! Social Media will only makes things worse.

Shouldn’t this guy start donating to animal welfare charities and do some penance work instead?

Put yourself in Luis Moreno’s owl-kicking shoes. What would you do if you were him?

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