South Florida Weekend. Visit from Peru by a (totally lost) Swedish birder

I spent a long weekend with my wife, Elita in southern Florida. I had to make some changes personally for my bank account in the US, and this was the principal cause of my trip. But business is always more fun if it can be combined with pleasure.

American Crow. Everglades. Photo Gunnar Engblom

American Crow. Everglades. Photo Gunnar Engblom

The car rental (Enterprise) had me fooled a bit. I thought I had managed a super rate on the internet with a vehicle for just around 20$ per day. But the rental guy kept on insisting that I would be sorry if I did not get the “optional insurance of some 20$ per day” and then kept on adding insurance after insurance, so the price of the car would be something like 70$ per day. Hmm. Not at one instance did he mention that I have a quite good insurance with my Visa Gold. Unfortunately, this only struck me after I given in with an end cost of some 50 dollars per day with tax included. Anyway 150 bucks for the 3 days was not too bad.

Before the trip, I had hoped to get some more birding done, but the first day, the arrival day, lost 3 hours due to a delay in Lima. I had already promised Elita, that we should go shopping, so with visits at International Mall and Mall of the Americas and Toys R Us not too far from the airport, time just vaporized. After getting completely lost trying to find our hotel it was close to 11 pm before I finally fount Hotel El Palacio in Fort Lauderdale.

If you know Florida, and you are a birder, you know I was completely lost here. Why the heck did I choose Ft Lauderdale if I wanted to have a good birding position? The best place to stay is naturally Hampstead, from where you have a good vantage point to the majority of birding sites in Southern Florida. However, El Palacio in Ft Lauderdale came up very nicely prised in my hotel searches, and the fact that they had gym and did not charge for parking helped to make me decide. (In the end I did not use the gym of course, but at least it was there.)

Late night and there was no way I could take up offer to join birding at Everglades at 6 AM. I had my alarm clock at 4.45, but the bed was too comfortable and the drive too long. Instead around 10 AM, I went for a long run in the vicinity of the hotel.

It turned out to be a very pleasant run, and I was even seeing some birds, most of which are extremely common for Florida birders, but if anyone is interested here is a link to my running blog, where the run is featured. There are actually a few ID features you birders can help me with. First there is a Canada Goose. The picture is very poor, but it seemed to me that the individual was very small, so I am suspecting it is a Cackling Goose, which I thought is rare in Florida. If anyone in Oakland Park, Ft Lauderdale want to check it out here are the GPS coordinates in the Royal Palm Park:


80° 9’55.46″W

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Chuck Geanangel, Rex Rowan, Roy Peterson and Carlos Ross kindly pointed me that any Canada goose south of Gainsville is not countable as it would not be wild. Jeez, what do I expect in a park pond!

There was also a pair long-necked Grebes quite distantly. The seemed to be too slender to be Pied-billed Grebe which I also saw on the run. I did not bring my binoculars and the 3x optical zoom did not do the job. Would Horned Grebe be a good guess? Is that a good bird?

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Roy Peterson says the grebe is most likely Horned Grebe.

Furthermore a pair distant ducks, with very pale backs. Again the camera could not make out what they are.  I am suspecting Canvasback. Is that at all possible?

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Carlos Ross suggests that the most likely candidate was Ring-necked Duck or Lesser Scaup. Canvasback would be very rare.

Everglades and sparrows.

On Sunday, after convincing my wife that we’d see some alligators if we’d go to Everglades, we took off late after lunch. I set the GPS for Flamingo and just followed directions on the map software on the Blackberry and wondered how I could survive without this gadget before. I did not realize how far it was!

I had before this trip decided that there were 3 species I wanted to see. And the best place to see all of them as I understood was in the Everglades.

My targets were Sparrows. Ever since I read Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway I was fascinated by the local populations of Sharp-tailed and Seaside Sparrows in Florida. I wanted to see as many of these as possible. Kenn relates that Dusky Seaside Sparrow is no more, and it was likely his site for Cape Sables Seaside Sparrow was gone as well.

Cape Sables is close to Flamingo and furthermore Roberto Torres kindly gave me directions for the Coastal Prairie Trail where both Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows can be seen. So Flamingo it was. Roberto gave me many other tips which I will have to try out some other time. However, the two hottest birds in Florida at that moment that Roberto mentioned, being chased by the local birders, had absolutely NO interest for me……..Tropical Kingbird and Neotropical Cormorant. WTF!
(Do I have to mention trash and bird in the same word for you to understand HOW COMMON these are here in Peru. Funny how all things are relative to time and space. Is this what Einstein meant?)

Entrance fee was 10 buck. There were several cars parked at a pond as we approached Flamingo – and there were other birders.

Birders in Florida, Everglades. Does anyone know the name of this pond?

Birders in Florida, Everglades. Does anyone know the name of this pond?

Incredible variety of nice birds in front of my eyes – none new to me, but still cool birds to see. There were several species of ducks.

Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal and Mallard, and also two female plumaged Northern Shovelers. Well, at least that is what the looked like to me, but not having seen one for about many years, and with no book at hand, I was only 99% sure. I was getting a bit shaky for a while, wondering that maybe I am committing a mistake here…maybe I am not recalling this right. Mallards have pretty broad bills, right – I thought for a few seconds and tried to get some pics through my binoculars.

Furthermore, there was Snowy, Little Blue, Tricolored and Green Heron and Great Egret.  A few very pink Roseate Spoonbills and several Woodstorks in a tree and then all of a sudden a belted Kingfisher flew in.

On the lake there was also Pied-billed Grebe. I heard someone mentioning Least Grebe as well, but I never saw it.

Drove almost all the way to Flamingo, but the last open pond on the right a few birders had stopped and looked at something. Stopped car and walked up to them. They had a beautiful Osprey in view that had just caught a fish.

As we watched another raptor flew in. I am not being too familiar with North American raptors noticed it shaped as a Goshawk of Europe. A heavy bodied Accipiter. Streaked below on white and white tail with black bands. It was too large and heavy for a Sharp-shinned Hawk. I suggested Coopers Hawk to the other birders, as it would be next size up in the Accipiter genus. The other birders did not know.

Studying the literature afterwards I conclude it could have been an juvenile Coopers Hawk, but more likely on distribution it was a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. David Sibley says Red-shouldered Hawk is Accipiter-like, and that coopers Hawk has proportionally a very long tail. It did not appear as extremely long-tailed bird to me, but rather compact and bulky, but yet Accipiter-like. As the observation was short, I would not bet my life on it. I understand Cooper’s Hawk is quite rare in the region, so local birders may want to check if the bird is still there. I’d be interested to know.

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Both Chuck Geanangel and Roy Peterson point out that Cooper’s Hawk is quite rare. I went through a bunch of pictures on the internet and Laura Graham also sent me a picture. I must conclude that my bird felt heavier than the Coopers pictures I am seeing and had a shorter tail. Thus, I am concluding young Red-shouldered Hawk. It was not so strange I did not know. It was my first one ever!

As we arrived to Flamingo only to be informed by a ranger that the Coastal Prairie Trail was closed for maintenance. Darn…

Instead the ranger said I could try the pond trail.


Well, at least no Sparrows. Instead Eastern Pheobe, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Harrier, Anhinga and another Osprey.

My wife finally saw an Alligator as I had promised. A stone fell from my chest!

With some Canadian birders from Toronto we find aptly a Canada Warbler after some intense pishing at the end of the saltgrass.

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Well that is what I thought. But again Chuck Geanangel  as well as Brad Bergstom underline that Canada warbler would be a very lucky find. Chuck said I should get a lottery ticket (LOL!). My description was of a warbler without wingbars, gray on the back (grayish) and all yellow below with streaks on the chestsides (which I extrapolated in my mind to cross the chest ….even that I only saw the bird sideways)  It also had an eye-ring. The eyering was broad and quite loose in shape. This only lead me to Canada Warbler. I was considering immature Yellow Warbler when I was questioned, but that is also a rare bird. Chuck came up with Praire Warbler. Not too bad. It fits perfectly to an immature female. My brain was playing with me, wanting me to put this bird into something I knew. Scrutinizing what I really saw I cannot say for certain I saw streaking across the chest and the gray back was not plumbeous gray as a Canada Warbler, but rather an olive gray that most likely appeared grayer than it was in the very late afternoon with poor light. I don’t complain as Praire Warbler was a lifer! That eyering was perfect!

Also a red-bellied Woodpecker flew over. They inform me that some birders had seen Sparrows on the Coastal Praire Trail in the morning and that the trail could be reached walking from the parking lot. But I was running out of time. On the way back to the parking lot I talk to a birder from Massachussets. Together we see a Red-tailed Hawk and an adult Red-shouldered Hawk with splendid orange underparts and a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.

I decided to approach the salt marsh habitat near the camp-ground. And yes, finally there were some sparrows there. Problem was that they pressed to the ground and only made short flights when flushed. They were making thin high pitched single note calls. I could not get them into view. Intense pishing, but that did not help and I was running out of light. Oh well, I have to come back and do this properly sometime. As I was walking back to the car, some sparrows were by the side of the road at the edge of the saltgrass vegetation. Finally, I saw it well. Supercillum, whitish or maybe yellow crownstripe (definitely saw yellow somewhere- could have been the lores), white malar, distinct heavily streaked underparts and flanks and a darker black spot on the central chest – Savannah Sparrow. Not quite the thing I was looking for, but at least I would not have to leave in uncertainty.

Birds seen:
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Cartle Egret
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Northern Shoveler 2 fem
Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
American Kestrel
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Harrier
Ring-billed Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Northern Mockingbird
Praire Warbler
Savanna Sparrow
American Crow

Thanks to all that have helped me and answered questions prior and after the trip. Additionally, to the people mentioned in the article, I had help from Renne Leatto who gave me sites for Bobcat (next time!) and Barbara Passmore who signed me up on Floridabirds. Also thanks to Michelle Matson, who also gave some bobcat tips on Facebook.

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Yellow-browed Bunting – gulbrynad sparv – just 3.5km from where I used to live in Sweden

I find it incredible to read about a new bird to Sweden very close – only 3.5km – to where I lived before emigrating to Peru. It almost makes me want to go twitching – fly the 11 400km to Järvafältet where I used to go birding in the 80s. The Sparrow is still twitchable as it since January 3 to January 13 has been seen daily.
I just did the flight with Google Earth and great to see these land features. I naturally checked the pictures on Artportalen – the Swedish equivalent to ebird, where I find a picture from my class mate and birding friend Tomas Lundquist. I am sure he does not mind me showing his picture here. I just wrote Tomas to ask for permission. (No see in over 10 years)

Yellow-browed Bunting, gulbrynad sparv, Emberiza chrysophrys. Photo: Tomas Lundquist.

Here is the slightly modified press-release from UPI:

More than 400 bird enthusiasts traveled to a Barkarby, North of Stockholm to see a rare yellow-browed bunting, a perching bird similar to a sparrow, on the first day January 4.

The seed-eating bird, which breeds in eastern Siberia and winters in central and southern China, had never been reported in Sweden before. It is a very rare wanderer to western Europe at all, with five sightings in Britain since 1998 along with a few in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the Swedish Ornithological Association said.

The pink-beaked, relatively large-headed bird — known for its bright-yellow eyebrow stripe — was first spotted in dry brush in the Stockholm suburb of Norra Järvafältet, the excited enthusiasts told the newspaper.’

There was a bit of turmoil in the camp, veteran ornithologist Henrik Waldenström told Expressen newspaper.

It was very crowded and as soon as the bird or someone else moved, then everyone started running, he said. Fortunately there were no outbreaks of actual violence, but the atmosphere was dramatic, to say the least.

The bird — whose upper parts are brown and heavily streaked and whose under parts are white with an orange hue on the flanks and some fine dark streaks — was still recorded today January 13“.

Great to see and hear from Henrik and Tomas this way. Henrik was somewhat like a mentor to me, as he was the leader of most of the birding excursions I took in the early 80s with Stockholm’s Ornithological Society (StOF) as a beginner (hardcore) birder. Tomas and I took the field course of Ecology at Tjärnö on the coast of SW Sweden one summer (1987 I think it was). On the way to get there, we twitched a Siberian Golden Plover, which included a rented car and a separate train/bus journey to get to Tjärnö – a significant cost for poor students! At that time it was my most expensive lifer!

Yellow-browed Bunting  is known with the scientific name Emberiza chrysophrys. The epithet read in Swedish could be pronounced with a Swedish accent “kryss-å-frys” – which literally means “tick-n-freeze” – how suitable!  Temperature in Stockhom right now is around freezing point -and I am enjoying 25 degrees Celsius and am going for a run shortly. On second thought, I think I will content myself with the Google Earth twitch I just did. Brrr!
Don’t think we shall get a mob of 400 Peruvian twitchers going crazy, if there all of a sudden would be a White-throated Sparrow showing up among the Rufous-collared Sparrows at el Olivar park – around 3.5km from my present home.

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One morning Unchog clean-up with Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager

Wednesday Jan 7, 2009.
Its not every birding day on our itinerary that has a 2.30 AM start, but to visit Unchog in just one day and have decent go at the Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager and the Rufous-browed Hemispingus in the rainy season and not to have to camp, does require extreme measures.

We had plenty of time on our hands to get to the start of the trail beyond the small village of Cochabamba and it turned out we needed all that time, due to delays in the morning and sliding off the track with one wheel and pushing the van back up again.  The road up to Unchog can be very slippery. Fortunately, the locals had done good maintenance and we got to our final destination – the end of the road – around 5.15 and it was still dark. Julio prepared breakfast and we had a good bowl of fruit salad, yogurt and granola, as well as freshly French pressed coffee from Alto Mayo in Northern Peru, before we started walking.  We had a gentle 50 meter rise, and then a 300m drop to get into prime habitat. On the way we saw Plenge’s Thistletail, and Many-striped Canastero. Sedge Wrens and Neblina Tapaculo were singing.
We reached “Hemispingus bend” just as a flock was forming with Pearled Treerunner, White-throated Tyrannulet, Citrine Warbler and the endemic Pardusco (one of the Carpish endemics), and almost immediately Andy Kratter stuttered,

Rufous-browed Hemispingus. Photo: Andy Kratter

“Ttheerre it is. The, the , the Hemispingus” as I was pointing out a beautiful Golden-collared Tanager. “Rufous-browed Hemispingus” he yelled to the others some 20-30 meters behind us. Everyone got brilliant views and Andy even got some pictures. This is a bird many groups often miss. Excellent start!
Reyes had continued down the trail to be on the lookout for GBMT. We soon caught up and stood looking out over a stunning forest and the sun playing with the canopy as the forest was warming up. We had probably not stood there for more than 20 minutes, when I saw some movement in a tree only some 20 meters in front of me. Now it was my time to stutter. Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. Everyone except Per Lundberg stood close and had great views. Per came rushing in from 50 meters down the trail and eventually also got good views.

It was only 8.15 and we had already seen the two most wanted birds on the trip.

Rufous-browed Hemispingus. Photo: Andy Kratter

The rest of the morning produced relatively few new birds. Some heard included Undulated Antpitta,  Obscure Rufous Antpitta (obscura form) and Tchudi’s Tapaculo. One of my best birds was a cooperative White-browed Spinetail. A bird I have seen only in Southern Ecuador and now a Peru tick!

We even managed to get some exercise. The 300m uphill got the heart beating. Julio had already prepared lunch. Spaguetti bolognaise. Uneventful, trip back to Huanuco and we continued to Junin via a stop en route for Brown-backed Inca-Finch, which was seen very well. Additionally, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant was seen briefly by myself.
In Junin at 4100m we stayed at a basic hotel and went out for a meal. In spite of the restaurant looking modest, the food was very tasty. I had trout.

English Birdnames

When birding with prominent North American ornithologists, who mostly use the scientific names as first choice, English bird names soon become a great topic for discussion. If “collecting” get lots of opinions (see the last posting) from birders and ornithologists alike, English birdnames give even more opinions. “Stability” is used as the number one argument in many cases favoring not to change a name, but in other cases “improvements” are necessary because the current name is “no good”. In many cases it gets very subjective. And to whom shall we (the public, the birders and the rest of the ornithologists) give mandate, to select the best set of names. No matter who does the job, there will always be discontent.
In recent years there has been some attempts to synchronize. International Ornithology Congress (IOC) has pointed a commission to standardize English bird names. This lead to the publication of “Birds of the World. Recommended English names” in 2006 by Frank Gil and Minturn Wright. The full list constantly revised and updated as new species are described or split can be found on IOC takes on English birdnames – this got be the right course to take. Not surprisingly, not all want to accept the international standardization. Notably, AOU with the two committees North American Checklist Committee (NACC) and South American Checklist Committee (SACC), has their own set of rules and many is some cases have different English names than those suggested by IOC. NACC took a vote to adopt IOC:s suggested changes of names of North American birds, but since the list also included spelling and hyphenation differences, all the changes were turned down in bulk.

The most eye-catching or (ear-catching) hard to swallow names and to take to tounge are the Myioborus White/Redstarts.  SACC insists on Redstart, while IOC favors Whitestart. “Start” is a germanic word meaning tail (also in old English). Anyone can see that the Myioborus have no red in its tail what so ever. It is the Painted Redstart, that occur in almost every North American birdbook with this same name, that makes so difficult for the Americans to accept the logical name-change. This has become a personal rant issue of mine – so beware before you klick on the link to put down your vote for your preference. Whitestart or Redstart?. Don’t take it too serious. It is just for fun! SACC is unjustly picked on. SACC has put forward Neotropical Ornithology light years by putting down a baseline for taxonomy and un-doubted distribution. However, maybe putting English names could be best appointed to the IOC committee especially formed for this purpose.
Andy Kratter is on the North American Checklist committee and was the only one who favored whitestart when NACC took a vote on whitestart/redstart. Andy, you are a hero!

There are a few other interesting cases. Northern Chestnut-tailed Antbird was described as such by the Islers and Whitney and favored by IOC, but SACC changed it to Zimmer’s Antbird. Why? Because a dominant number of the members of SACC do not like compound name with long geographic epitets. But geography can acutally be much more informative than combination of color and body parts of cryptic species with hardly no such difference or naming the bird after a person. In spite of SACCs decission I don’t think anyone has yet wanted to change the names of Northern/Southern Rough-winged Swallow or Northern/Southern Beardless Tyrannulet. Want to vote on this as well?

Another favorite case of mine is Lulu’s/Johnson’s Tody-Tyrant. In spite of normally favoring stability, SACC renamed this cute bird endemic to Peru, that already had a name both in the formal description as well as the published Birds of Peru by Clements and Shany. Surely Lulu is more catchy than Johnson. Vote here!

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This blog was originally posted on Bird Forum, Wednesday 6th August 2008, but I thought I lift it in to this blog as well and make some updates. I am still working on my next orignal blogpost.

Amaraka…. Que? – You know, the communal reserve next to Manu in Peru!

This year Kolibri Expeditions started working with the communities of the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve lying just next door to Manu. Going down the Alto Madre de Dios river Manu is to the left and Amarakaeri reserve to the right.
The birding has been just fantastic with birds like Black-faced Cotinga, Rufous-headed Woodpecker and Peruvian Recurvebill as regulars. They have four quite good lodges along the regular Manu route donated by the world bank and USAID and in spite of mostly having shared bath, they are very well built and have all the potential in world to become included in the standard route for birders in the future. BUT they need a partner and this is where Kolibri Expeditions comes in. In 2007 they had only 20 clients visiting the lodges – so they also understand that they need to find a new strategy to get more visitors to their lodges.. Still in 2008 their lodges have mainly remained empty. There are good reasons why birding may be the best way to market this new eco-destination.

1. It should be relatively easy to get volunteers to make complete birdlists and help get the communities focused on providing the essentials for birders, which comes down more to good trails than shower curtains. Volunteer’s please write me (

2. Birders are less likely to make a fuss about small organizational screw-ups as long as the birds are seen. You can probably appreciate the difficulties in running a lodge set-up where there are no roads, no telephone and no internet! Hard core birders would give the communities more time to sort out the operation without being classified as inferior service and loose out on the market even before they have gotten seriously started. As long as the birders see the birds, they will be mostly happy.

3. Many birders (but certainly not all) would like to spend less money birding in Manu, which has become very expensive in recent years – and thus the community budget alternative is an option. In light of the present economic crises, an inexpensive alternative is always welcome.

4. In spite of this, the community make more money on birders than on back-packers. The back-packers will choose other more streamlined budget operators most of the time, and the only way the community can compete in trying to catch the backpacker group is to lower the prices. The price are low and in the end there are not many backpackers that will chose an alternative that has not all the experience. Birders pay more.

5. Birders are very good at sharing good (and cheap) birding experiences with their friends and on-line. Thus, very soon could the community alternative in Manu become a winner.

Black-faced Cotinga – not uncommon at Blanco Lodge next to Manu Wildlife Center!! Photo: Gunnar Engblom

It is called Amarakaeri Communal reserve, but it is just nextdoor to Manu Wildlife Center and Blanquillo Lodges.

I know! Who shall remember the name of the reserve? Amara….what…

Amarakaeri ….if the indians would have known about marketing they should have called it Manu Community Reserve. Then people would understand that visiting Amara…whatever it is called …what?…yes Amarakaeri Communal Reserve is basically the same as visiting Manu.

It is the same route going down the Manu road and one ends up in Puerto Maldonado (or turn around back to Cusco – or fly from Boca Manu).

During 2008 Kolibri Expeditions made three trips to using all of the four lodges. In spite of the “expected” logistical problems, the birding result was brilliant. We are looking at ways to minimize logistical problems for 2009.

A short summery of the lodges in the Manu drainage.

Shintuya Lodge at the end of the road is just across from Pantiacolla Lodge. Birding along the road is very good passing very stands of Bamboo that has Ornate and Dot-winged Antwren, Yellow-billed Nunbird and hill forest with Red-billed Tyrannulet, Fine-barred Piculet, Military and Blue-headed Macaw, Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher and Cabani´s Spinetail.

Centro de Medicina Tradicional
has prime floodplain forest just behind the lodge and good flooded bambo/cane forest on the island in front. There is a mammal-lick, but it is not very well developed for visitors as yet, but may become a resource in the future.  Medicine Man/Curandero Matero Iglesias lives here. He performs cleaning rituals for his neighbours and occasional tourists. This is an interesting concept that should be developed as tourism attraction, especially for people staying for longer periods and want to have an insight in traditional medicine. At this point however, it is not very impressive, as the interaction with tourists is mainly an Ayawaska ceremony out of context. It is not really the thing we ought to promote.
WTF, Go-to-Peru-and-get-High-Tours. Awesome!

Birdwise some interesting birds have been found in 2008 such as a nest of Ornate-Hawk-Eagle Black-faced cotinga, Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Ocellated Poorwill, Dusky-cheecked Foliage-gleaner and Semi-collared Puffbird.

Charro Lodge is located on a seasonally flooded island halfway down from the airstrip at Boca Manu and the famous Macaw lick at Blanquillo. This is the best Varzea habitat I have seen in the Manu area. Hopefully, it the future we shall be able to have some sort of kayaking programs here in the boreal winter when the waterlevels are high.  Birding is very rewarding with key species such as Striolated Puffbird, Peruvian Recurvebill, Long-billed and Amazonian form of Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Red-billied Scythbill, Amzonian and Elusive Antpittas, Rufous-fronted Antthrush, White-cheecked Tody-tyrant and more. Furthermore, the varzea specialties such as Varzea Mourner and Plumbeous Antbird are quite common here.

The last Lodge on the route is Blanco Lodge, which is situated between Manu WildLifeCenter and the Blanquillo Macaw lick. It is thus strategically located for visits to Tapir lick, Otter lake and Macaw lick.
The lodge is the most comfortable of the four lodges as it has private bathrooms with showers,

The birds found here and the nearby bamboo trail with a good stable steel tower include Black-faced Cotinga, Sharpbill, Rufous-headed Woodpecker, White-cheecked Tody-Tyrant, Ash-throated Gnateater and Long-billed Woodcreeper.

Bottomline, the birds are there. There are still many logistical implementations that need to be done, but in the meantime the lodges are open for birders that wanting to save some bucks and still have the best birding of their lives. Long-time staying birders can work out volunteer status deals.

Budget Manu birding tour supporting local communities

For more information write me at or check Kolibri Expeditions bird tour page for a budget Manu birding holiday. This trip has a mixture of community lodges and more established lodges, in order not to miss out on any speciality of the area. In spite that the birding tour is 15 days, I would recommend to add a few more days for the cloud forest which deserves more time as well as Amigos Research Center at the end, which is a truly spectacular place.

You heard of Amarakaeri here…..don’t you forget that now!

Gunnar Engblom

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Blogging by email and networking.

I just set up a super secret email account from which I shall be able to send posts directly to my new WordPress blog on Kolibri Expeditions web-site. I guess this is part of the web 2.0 revolution…even if I got on this train late. Part of this strategy is to use networking as way to get to both potentially new clients as well as keeping in touch with and in the mind of clients in the past. Facebook is one of the best way to do this. My Facebook account is here, if you want to become my “friend” on facebook. In fact, it is not that necessary that we actually know each other. Facebook is a bit of voyeurism, but oneself decides really how much privacy is suitable to post. Some people use facebook strictly privately, while others use it, as I do, to create a new network with people with similar interest. In my case it is birding and specifically birding in Peru and South America. On facebook I have a bit over 200 “friends”. I think the order of some 400-500 “friends” would create a nice network


A few months ago I set up a twitter account and made my 200th posting today and have around 150 people following me. You can follow me too at Twitter could be considered micro-blogging. You tell the world what you are doing in 140 characters. Though many will just but daily activities such as “I am drinking coffee”, there are many people who use twitter as a fast means of telling their followers about a new blog post or sharing something interesting they have read.

Gunnar’s previous blogs

A couple of days ago I set up this blog. I have blogged before but usually far between. See some examples here: (English) (Spanish)

The present blog

This is however the first blog I do on the company page of Kolibri Expeditions Rather than having my web-master creating a new blogging tool specifically for my web-page, I decided to use one of the free ones available from and house it on our server. The people at the support section of my server provider kindly helped to upload the program. It is very convenient and there are already a lot functions and plug-ins available, The main idea is that the blog will:
1. Direct clients to our main part of the web-page. This way, we’d get more business.
2. Get more traffic period and thus better search engine position. With more traffic google ranks the web-site higher
3. Create new material which also helps to get more traffic as there will be more search engine keywords produced.
4. If I get a lot of readers, some online adds, can actually give some revenues at least to partly pay for the housing costs.

Today’s birding at Pantanos de Villa

Anyway, this blog was actually meant to tell you by sending an email that I have been birding with Eduardo Arrarte -the former Vice Minister of Tourism and his lovely wife Lieser today at Pantanos de Villa in an activity that I arranged open to the public. There were also two cultural tour guides that are learning about birding, and two other guys – one of them only 15 years old – that also ae new to birding. Great to be able to inspire new birders. This should be part of the mission of every birder. Share your knowledge.

Birds seen today included:
Peruvian Thickknee
Peruvian Meadowlark
Black-necked Stilt
Great Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
American Oystercatcher
Franklin’s Gull
Band-tailed Gull
Burrowing Owl
and many more.

Gunnar Engblom.

PS: I hope this works!!
PPS: Well, it didn’t. I had to post it the normal way. I wonder if it was because my secret account was an gmail account?

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Why is a Swedish bird tour operator selling binoculars in Peru?

I never thought I was going to sell binoculars, and indeed it is not and will never be my main principal activity. We are after all a birdwatching tour company and our business is guiding birders in Peru and elsewhere in South America. So how did I end up pushing binocs in Peru?

Peru is as safe as anywhere

Birding in Peru may have a reputation of not being very safe and I will always dispute this, showing examples of people who have lived in Lima and moved back to the States to find they all of a sudden get burglars or cars broken into. It can happen anywhere. Armed robbery is more traumatic, however…and you can be certain that to anyone it happens, that the same person will be telling the world that such and such place is very dangerous, even if it is a very rare event.

During our 10 years as a company in Peru it has only happened twice that hand-bags or luggage has been stolen from our clients. Of more concern are armed robberies. Not only is it a terrible experience for the people involved. They also loose the equipment for watching and photographing birds with. The last robbery was around 2 years ago near Pantanos de Villa.

Armed robberies are also detrimental to the tourism business as such and very serious events. Luckily, the Peruvian authorities are taken this serious and lots of actions have been taken. We have done a lot of follow up with authorities and police since and we always avoid the sensitive areas. The fact that there has not been any reports of such mishaps since 2 years, is a good sign that the area is safer today.

Stop the demand of stolen birding equipment

I also started investigated where the stolen goods go. It turns out that there is well known black market in Lima. Next question was: Who buys this stuff?  Who is willing to spend 500 dollars on a stolen pair of binoculars that would cost 1500 $ to buy new? When it became clear to me that there are actually guides – natural history guides in Iquitos, Tambopata and Manu – that has need of decent equipment, I knew we had to do something about this. If we could kill the demand on stolen binoculars, then birders would be a less likely target. First step was to let other tour operators know what happened and recommend they’d ask their guides of proof of purchase for their gear.

Vortex binoculars and telesccopes are becoming popular among Peruvian Birders.

After visiting the Rutland Bird Fair in 2007 making some contacts with Vortex, I realized that there was a small (indeed very small) market to import decent but inexpensive equipment to Peru. Vortex (and their line Eagle Optics) became a natural choice partly because of their good prices but more so their unusually good warranty.  The warranty states: In the event that your Vortex product requires service, no matter the cause, Vortex Optics will repair or replace the product at no charge to you. And the warranty is transferable.

Votex Fury 6.5x32

Votex Fury 6.5x32. My favorite for pelagics.

This is particularly good news for the Peruvian birder, who rarely has a insurance for optical equipment to cover for theft. Visiting birders with fancy equipment will be insured and does only have to pay a small deductible to replace their equipment in case of theft or accident. This is not the case for latino americanos, so such inexpensive option as with Vortex with yet great warranty is extremely valuable here.
Since last year, I have been importing around 50 binoculars and 7 telescopes.
The most popular model is Diamondback. It has 8x and 10×42 models and are priced at 249 resp 259 US$. They are totally water proof and very bright with BAK 4 prisms.
On the last order I received what I think shall be for me personally the ultimate pelagic binoculars. The 6.5×32 Vortex Fury on the picture above is extremely bright and has an impressive 3 feet close focus and amazing FOV of 445 ft at 1000 yards. It is a dream to look through with amazing definition.  I’ll keep these to myself. Did I mention the price? 329 US$ including tax. Wow!
UPDATE Feb 15, 2009: I found a review in the Audubon Magazine online. It confirms my opinion that this is an excellent pair of binoculars.
The telescopes are also nice. You get a nice 60mm 20-60x waterproof scope and decent tripod for 520$ The larger 80mm scope with a good sturdy tripod goes for around 720 US$.  There is an Extra Defintion glass version of the larger scope for 300$ more and then you are getting close in quality to the big names. And yes, the same warranty for the scopes and they are waterproof. What more can you ask for?
I just met with several Peruvian tour operators in Chiclayo for the annual Peru Nature Travel Market – and let everyone know that there is no need for any guide to buy stolen goods, when they can buy Vortex optics totally legally, with tax deductible receipts for businesses, less expensive and with outstanding warranty right here in Peru.
The above prices are those available in Peru. For other countries I can through the dealer prices I get, offer Vortex binoculars at very good prices. Contact me for details.
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On November 26, 2007, I took a series of photos of the coots at Pantanos de Villa. The variation is extreme and I suspect there may be genes in the population from other species. The question is which species?
The background is the strange coot I found at Pantanos de Villa on OCt 15, 2005 which has many traits of Red-gartered Coot Fulica armillata.


Normal Andean Coots should look more like the ones below
White or Yellow forehead with white

With yellow forehead and white bill

With Chestnut forehead and yellow and white bill
Or Chestnut forehead with almost completely yellow bill


But these ones are far from normal. Foreheads are less bulbous and orange or red in color.
Red forehead – yellow bill
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Orange forehead and Yellow bill
Red forehead with orange margins and completely yellow bill

Orange forhead and yellow and white bill.
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Recently Kolibri Expeditions started more specialized whale and dolphin safaris from Callao. We have since 2000 arranged full day pelagic trips to look for birds and during these trips we have often encountered Cetaceans (whales and doplhins collectively). However, 11-12 hours at sea is a bit too much for those that have the chief interest in watching mammals. Therefore since November 2006 we are arranging these shorter 5 hours trips with a speed boat.

During our long pelagic we are beginning to see patterns. It is quite clear that Humpbacks migrate along the coast Peru and passing Lima in October-November and February-March.

Humpback Whale breaching sequence during migration south. Lima, Nov 10,
2006. Photo: Gunnar Engblom

However, details about the ocurance of other whales in other seasons are still very little known. It is hoped, with these five hours trips on a regular basis, on which we will record position, numbers, species and activities of all cetaceans, that we will learn more about the movements of cetaceans off the coast of Callao.
During the month of January, we have seen many other cetaceans in the past including Sei, Fin and Bryde’s Whale – and the usual three species of dolphins (Common, Bottle-nosed and Dusky Dolphins). During January we be operating 5 hours whale and dolphin watching trips on January 6 and 14. On January 19 there will be a full day pelagic for birdwatchers, but the chance of seeing whales and dolphins on this trip is also a very good since we cover much more ground.

On Nov 30, 2006 we made our last trip.
Once again, we went out to sea trying to spot cetaceans. It was a fine day with good views. The cloud cover soon broke up and we saw the sun. Passing the guano Palomino island of Island we continue straigth out into the deep ocean.

In a distance we see a huge flock of birds. We decide to approach. There are Peruvian Boobies making kamikaze dives from some 30 meters up, lots of Inca Terns and Sooty Shearwaters, as well as a couple of Pelicans and many Gray Gulls.

And now to the left! What is that?
DOLPHINS!!! Lots of them!
All of a sudden there were hundreds of Dusky Dolphins around us.

This close-up of Dusky Dolphin shows the caracteristic absence of bottle-shape beak, the contrasting body pattern, and the falcate dorsal fin that is slightly paler towards the trailing edge.

But the trip was not over yet. We would encounter three such large concentrations of fish, dolphins and seabirds. There were at least 400 dolphins in total through the day.
Many very interesting birds were also seen.

Here is the localized White-vented Storm-Petrel. Other Storm-Petrels seen during the trip were Wedge-rumped and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels.

There were many Pomerine Jaegers about. They are the true pirates of the sea, chasing after other birds, bothering them in all ways possible like grabbing their feathers, untill the victim has to give up that recently caught anchoveta.

One of the most exciting birds according to the birdwatchers onboard was the Swallow-Tailed Gull. In one flock there were 29 individals and one Sabine’s Gull.

Everyone on board were amazed by the large numbers of Waved Albatross that we were seeing. Well over 30 individuals through-out the day. The Waved Albatross basically only breeds on one island in the Galapagos archipelago. There is a small insignificant numbers on La Plata island off the Ecuadorian coast.
But all individuals will pass some time in their life in Peruvian waters either as young birds or in between breeding attempts. Recently, it has been shown that there are less breeding pairs at Española than some 10 years ago. Apparantly adult mortality away from the colony is very high, so that the species should warrent critical threatened status. It seems that bycatch and intentional killing in Northern Peru is the big problem. See the BirdLife Internationals ongoing discussion about this species.

This individual was ringed. Click on the picture to see! Also this other picture also shows the same bird.
Back at Isla Palomino we encountered the huge sealion colony. In spite of being in the middle of the day there were surely more than 1000 individuals. In the late afternoon one can see between 5000-8000 sealions here.
On this picture the male is the one with the thick neck. The youngs will be born very shortly and there will be mating taking place almost immediately. The males need to be in a strategic place.
At the islands we encounter the yacht Melusine, which we usually use for our long full day pelagics. We shall run one of these long pelagic trips on January 19. with the Melusine.

Near Palomino island one usually find the most beautiful Cormorant in the world. Here the Red-legged Cormorant is collecting nesting material. This shot was taken a month ago, but we saw many of these cormorants on the trip.

Our circuit has almost come to an end, but before returning to shore we shall check out the penguins.
It is calculated that some 400 Penguins live on San Lorenzo islands. We saw around 100.
Back in the port around 1 PM we found Terns. Here are Elegant Tern and Sandwich Tern.

Finally, the most beautiful of all – Inca Tern.

Gunnar Engblom
Kolibri Expeditions
Birding Peru with Kolibri Expeditions
More Birds!

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Condors three hours from Lima in Santa Eulalia Canyon

Who would believe that there are condors only 3 hours from noisy metropolis Lima? Well it is true. Here in Santa Eulalia Canyon, we found on Dec 16, 2006 around 12 condors, close to the village of Huachupampa.

It is quite clear that the steep cliffs make an excellent overnight colony for the condors. Here they can easily find the thermal winds that will ascend them high enough to scan over the area of Santa Eulalia river and over the ridge to the Rimac river.

We know for a fact that there are at least 3-4 overnight cliffs in the canyon so there may be up to 50 condors in the whole area. And in difference from many other areas in Peru, they are doing well here. How do we know? Well, by establishing the ratio adults/juveniles one gets a good idea. When the ratio is >1 or more (more adults than young), the reproduction rate is low or the mortality of young is high and the population is therefore decreasing. When the ratio is 1 the population is more or less stable. When it is less than one (more young than adults) the conditions are either excellent and the population is increasing – or in some cases it can be a sign of adult mortality – but the latter would show in low overall numbers. In Santa Eulalia Canyon the population is certainly increasing. Of the 12 individuals we saw only 3 were adults.
The two individuals on the above photo are young birds

That this area has very good wildlife is indicated by the finding on our excursion of this cat. It is a Pampas Cat Leopardus pajeros. (Thanks to Javier Barrio and Eduardo Ormaeche for pointing in the right direction to its identity.)

Kolibri Expeditions has started a project of condor and wildlife watching in Santa Eulalia Canyon.

San Pedro de Casta village

Santa Eulalia Canyon

Santa Eulalia Canyon is not as famous as Colca, but it has very dramatic features. The drop in this picture is well over 1000m.

Santa Eulalia Canyon – the new Colca?

In 1995-96 when tourism to Peru started recovering around 8-10.000 people made the ardeous 10 hour trip to Chivay in Colca Canyon suffering from a dusty and bumpy road and a pass of over 5000m. In Chivay they stayed overnight at 3700m in basic hotels. Cold to the bones and altitude sickness for sure. Next day they had still a 2 hour trip on an even worse road to Cruz del Condor. But condors were almost 100% certain – and at close range. I personally doubt very much that anyone would have past through all that suffering if it was not for the guaranteed views of condors

In 10 years infrastructure has improved. Now there are first class hotels and part of the road has been sealed. Over 130.000 people visited Colca Canyon in 2006. You ask anyone in Peru, where one should see condors and they will send you to Colca Canyon. Now, one can hope for a development in Santa Eulalia Canyon similar to that of Colca. With eco-tourism the condor population in Peru could thrive and it could bring a very welcome income to the forgotten valleys along the Peruvian Andes

Please contact if you want to join us on a general natural history tour to watch for condores. This tour can be arranged at any time. The cost including transport, lodging and all food is only 99 US$/person – with a minimum of 4 people.

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This Pavonine Cuckoo was photographed at the Bamboo of Manu Amazon Lodge in 2004, formerly known as Manu Camping Lodge. Free hand digiscoping 1/4s. With Nikon Coolpix 4500. The Best shot selector is very useful!
Very extensive bamboo here with many good and difficult species.
Update 2009: Many good Manu options. I need to update some of the older itineraries.
Could be a good blog post. If interested in Manu, send me a line to

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