Although, the Sparkling Violetear is very common through-out the Andes, it is a magnificent and very photogenic hummer. Photo: Max Waugh.
Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan Andigena hypoglauca
Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan is a spectacular bird. We usually find it near Leimebamba.
Marañon Crescentchest Melanopareia maranonica
Crescentchests belongs to the Tapaculo family. They are very colorful. The Marañon Crescentchest is practically endemic to Peru, although it has recently been found across the Ecuadorian border at Zumba. It differs from Elegant Crescentchest of the West slope, which we also see on the North Peru trips, by prominent white markings in the wing and richer orange below.
Photo: Alex Durand.
West Peruvian Screech Owl Megascops roboratus pacificus
The Peruvian Screech-owl Otus roboratus consists of two subspecies roboratus of the Marañon valley and pacificus in woodlands on the Peruvian and Ecuadoran west slope of the Andes. Here is pacifcus, which is much smaller than roboratus, photographed at Chaparri Eco Lodge by Alex Durand.
Tumbes Tyrant Tumbesia salvini
Tumbes Tyrant is a pretty and active little tyrant closely related to Chat-tyrants. It is endemic to the Tumbesian region and has only recently been recorded in Ecuador on the boarder to Peru. We often see it at Chaparri or the White-winged Guan site called Quebrada Frejolillo. Photo: Alex Durand.
Emerald Toucanet Aulacorhynchus prasinus
Emerald Toucanet is sometimes regarded as 7 species The form in Peru belongs to Black-throated Toucanet Aulacorhynchus (prasinus) atrogularis. Photo by Max Waugh.
Purple-throated Sunangel Heliangelus viola.
Purple-throated Sunangel is another lovely hummingbird from North Peru. Perhaps it is easiest to see in Leimebamba at the feeders of KentiKafé. But it can also be seen around Pomacochas. Photo: Max Waugh.
Golden-tailed Sapphire Chrysuronia oenone.
This beautiful Golden-tailed Sapphire is photographed at Wakanqui near Moyobamba. Up to 18 species of Hummingbirds visit the feeders. It is truly spectacular. Photo: Max Waugh.
Ecuadorian Piculet Picumnis sclateri.
Piculets are diminutive small woodpeckers. And they are cute! North Peru has 3 species which are regularly seen, but sometimes hard to photograph. Alex Durand manage to photograph all three. Here is the Ecuadorian Piculet which we usually see at the White-winged Guan spot near Olmos.
Speckle-chested Piculet Picumnis steindachneri
The Speckle-chested Piculet has a very small range. It is endemic to Amazonas and San Martin departments in Peru. It is often seen at Afluentes near Abra Patricia, but it seems even more common along the Utcubamba river between Pedro Ruiz and Leimebamba. Here are photos of both male and female. Photos: Alex Durand.
Lafresnaye’s Piculet Picumnis lafresnayi
Lafresnaye’s Piculet can be found near Tarapoto. It is a lowland piculet and is quite common in the northern Amazon. Photo: Alex Durand.
Golden-headed Quetzal Pharomachrus auriceps
Some non-birders find it a bit surprising that there are Quetzals also in South America. They are just not Resplendent like in Costa Rica. There are three species in Peru. Two in the highlands and one in the lowland. Of the highland ones, the Golden-headed Quetzal is the most common. Photo: Max Waugh.
White-necked Jacobin Florisuga melivora.
White-necked Jacobin is a quite common Hummingbird in many parts of South America. It is nonetheless still a splendid species. This shot was taken at Wakanqui near Moyobamba. Photo: Max Waugh.
Pale-billed Antpitta Grallaria carrikeri.
Pale-billed Antpitta is perhaps one of the most enigmatic Antpittas in Peru. It used to be very difficult. Now however it is staked out above on Rio Chido headland near San Lorenzo – not far from Pomacochas. It lives in dense Chusquea bamboo patches. Photo: Alex Durand.
Lulu’s Tody-Flycatcher Poecilotriccus luluae
Beautiful little bird endemic to the dense scrub around Abra Patricia. It takes some time and patience to see it, but it responds well to playback. It is also known as Johnson’s Tody-Flycatcher. Photo: Max Waugh
Long-whiskered Owlet Xenoglaux loweryi.
Perhaps the most spectacular and the most enigmatic of all South American Owls. This was a bird which after its discovery in the seventies was not seen in the field by birders until 2007. Now it is regularly seen at the Owlet Lodge at Abra Patricia. Photo: Alex Durand.
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January-May is low season for us. Yes, it is part of the rainy season, but would you not rather have a few showers and around 300-400 species of birds seen in 8 days, than shoveling snow? Huh? And it does not rain all the time. Hand on heart – does rain stop you from birding in the UK, Scandinavia or Massachusetts? Birding in Peru is awesome any time of year.
Having said that, in Northern Peru the rains are not as intense as in the South. And it is the best time of year for seeing the Marvellous Spatuletail lekking.
Furthermore, a new site for Long-whiskered Owlet closer to Pomacochas has recently been found. No need to stay at the expensive lodge at Abra Patricia – unless you crave for such comfort (admittedly it is a very nice lodge!).
And when it comes to the South, we have introduced a new tour that use the new excellent Inter-oceanic Highway to get to Puerto Maldonado – with lots of birding on the way.
For Central Peru we offer inexpensive programs – and again continue offer these all year around.
As an outfitter I have made it our business to provide work for our staff through-out the year, but I admit this is a challenge during this period. So, here is the deal! I’ll give you some offers you can’t refuse and you come and do some birding with us. OK?
January is just around the corner, and although most trips have confirmed takers, we need one or two more people to make them worthwhile to run.
Jan 21-28.Budget North Peru 8 days. Max. $1400 Price may go down to $1090 if minimum 5 people. Young birders up to 25 years old pay $695 on any departure of this tour through-out the year.
Jan 31- Feb 7. Amazon birding for less. 8 days. Max. $1600 including return flights from Lima to Cusco. Price may go down to $1290 if minimum 5 people. Young birders up to 25 years old pay $895 on any departure of this tour through-out the year.
This last tour was done by Rick Wright of WINGS last September. Check out his comments in this video.
As for the trips between February and June, we offer 20% discount (excluding the cost of airtickets) if booked and paid deposit before Jan 7.
Our slogan: “Why pay more? Why see less?” is more true than ever!
Long-whiskered Owlet - Xenoglaux loweryi at Esperanza. Photo: Rich Hoyer
Three times this year at different localities. Yes, more people than ever before have seen the Long-whiskered Owlet this year at the now quite famous Esperanza site. As a tour operator and a promoter of community conservation initiatives, I am of course interested in providing a service to our clients that will give them a good shot to see this legendary bird. For background info about Long-whiskered Owlet please see my previous blog post on How to see the Long-whiskered Owlet.
Wait a minute, that does not make sense! First he writes a post how to see it, and now three ways how not to see it! Give me a break! It is no problem to see the Owlet, just follow the instructions, contact Noga Shanee and make the arrangements to trek into the mountains from Esperanza for several hours and then stay overnight at the hut – preferably two nights – then you should see it. And it is all very well, as long as you are used to run marathons, you are around 20-35 years old and don’t mind missing a whole bunch of endemics present at Abra Patricia. This is the main thing. The Esperanza site is not for everyone. Let me relate my experiences how not to see the Long-whiskered Owlet.
1. The Long-whiskered Owlet Lodge
Great name for a lodge! Just flavor those words – Long-whiskered Owlet Lodge! In spite of the name and in spite of the almost legendary discovery here by Nick Athanas and Frank Lambert in 2008, hardly anyone has actually seen the Owlet here. Some have heard it. A few have had very poor glimpses. I was at the Owlet Lodge in January when the news of the Shachar’s filming of the Owlet was released.
We did several unsuccessful night shifts trying to get it at the lodge. I did see my first Cinnamon Screech-Owl on this occassion. Since, the people at the Lodge, have a site where the Owlet has been seen (again briefly) and heard at close range which is only one hour from the road. Much closer and much more comfortable than Esperanza. The direction of the Owlet Lodge promise excellent comfort – and is charging their usual lodge fee also for camping. On my last visit in the area, I was told that the Lodge would not accept only a one night stay, but that booking of at least two nights was necessary. In the end I was told that the program could not be offered to us because bookings needed to be made two months in advance. One month prior to departure was not enough time! In the end we settled for buying trail permits. Only after I paid (cost $20 per person) for the permits for the group, was I informed that visiting hours on the trails was between 9 AM to 6 PM and valid for one day. In this case not particularly worth it.
RATINGS Owlet Lodge:
For Owlet: POOR
General Birding: EXCELLENT
For Groups: EXCELLENT, but make sure to make reservation at least 2 months ahead of time. Even individuals should book well in advance. Most of the time the lodge is empty, but they don’t have resources to let people just show up and stay there. Since, the irregularity of groups, they may even deny stay in spite it being empty, because of lack of staff.
Well, before listing all the reasons why I did not see the Owlet at Esperanza, I want to make clear that I really should have seen it, if only….
I got about 10 of those. I was at Esperanza at 3 PM a fine afternoon in June, but I was waiting for Thomas Love who was coming from Cajamarca to join me on this quest. He did not arrive…until 7 PM. I could have set off without him, but decided to wait. We only had one shot – that same night, so we had to try. We had some spaghetti that project manager Nestor and the people at Esperanza had prepared and then at 8 pm we set off with our guide Humberto on what was supposedly a three hour hike. It took us 6 hours just walking and walking and walking. It is true it was not the closest route, but our guide deemed it as less streneous in the dark. The trail was incredibly muddy (June is dry season!) and in horrendous conditions, due to the mules and horses carrying big logs from the forest. It is clear that logging is still very much the main source of income for the people here.
We heard no Owlet on the way, but I was surprised to hear Vermiculated Screech-Owl this high up. It called from an area that was at least 1500m altitude – probably more. When we arrived at 2 AM, Thomas was completely exhausted and needed a rest. I argued that our best be would be trying to see it just before dawn, since all owls make a territorial call before they go to bed. I was tired too, but since Humberto said it was only 15 minutes up the slope to the place where the Owlet was last seen, I figured I may just as well go up there, and then come down for Thomas at 04.30. After a much needed drink and sitting down for a few minutes, I was up on my feet again and walked a very steep trail for about 20 minutes. Just what I needed! Arriving at the spot there was an overhang rock that protected should it start to rain. So I told Humberto now joined by Ronald – who owns the hut – and probably has seen the owlet more times than any other living person on this planet – that I would stay there. The climb down and up once again would have done my in. It was cold but I was brought a blanket and a mattress to sit on. Incredible how service-minded these locals are.
Humberto and Ronald insisted I’d play the Owlet song at very loud volume and over and over again. I was very reluctant. I use playback a lot, but in my experience one very rarely succeed with too insistent trawling, and there is always a risk the bird will see your iPhone as a too tough opponent even before trying to defend the territory. I prefer to do playback when and if the bird has called spontaneously. When they do, it is because they are territorial and by logic it should be easier to see it, when it comes to investigate an intruder in its territory.
So a few bouts from me once in a while was all the trawling I did. Suddenly, there was a response. I made a few more bouts and it came closer calling only some 20-30 meters away – at the most.
Then I thought of Thomas. What if, I called it in to see it now, and then by the time Thomas joined me, it suddenly decided it had had enough and would not show again. I decided it would be very unethical if I would see it, and Thomas would not. After all he was paying me some to take him along. Furthermore, since Scandinavian birders do count heard birds, the Owlet was now on my list!
Thomas arrived a little after 5 AM, and the owlet was still calling. In spite of trying for the remaining hour of darkness, we would not see the Owlet. Somewhat comforting was that we saw Rusty-breasted Antpitta and only a couple of meters after I imitated its song. After breakfast we set off to walk back. Although we choose a shorter route back it still took us over 6 hours with hardly any decent birding on the way. The first part went through good forest, but it was too steep uphill to bird – us heavily panting at any possible break – hardly able to lift the binoculars. The second part was mostly downhill, but it totally open terrain. No birds at all, except in a bushy area of second growth a Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant.
In July our guide Juan Jose Chalco accompanied Rich Hoyer and Alan Grenon on a quest for the Owlet. They also arrived exhausted. Juan Jose hurt his foot, and after failing seeing the owlet in the evening, he needed to rest during the pre-dawn attempt. This is when the owlet was seen at only a few meters and photographed with a point and shoot camera by Rich Hoyer (photo above).
Summery: When trying for the owlet, make sure to have ample of time to get there and get sufficiently rested. Ideal is to have two nights, so you can enjoy some of the other birds in the area. There were both Barred Antthrush and Wattled Guan calling nearby, that we would have seen if we had had more time. We also missed Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey, which was my number one target apart from the Owlet.
For Owlet: VERY GOOD – in spite of us only hearing it.
General Birding: Good in the general area for the owlet, but VERY POOR in getting there.
For Groups: POOR. Our last of group of 4 clients and two guides would most likely have been too large. To make the trek in and out less physical, it would have been good to each have a mule to ride and also mules for the luggage. But the trail is in such poor conditions that even with a horse it would be difficult and potentially dangerous as clients could fall off the horses if not used to riding on such steep slopes.
3. LSU Trail – re-visited.
On my last trip in August, we could not visit Esperanza for various reasons. There was a workshop for the guides of Esperanza just during the time we had, and another group visiting, so in the end there was not enough staff nor space. Plan B did not work either, because first ECOAN (the owners of the Owlet Lodge) confirmed they would receive us and we would do a camp for one night at their new site and the second night stay at the lodge, and then all of a sudden they said they could not receive us because we had not done a booking two months ahead of time!!!! We contacted them with two weeks notice.
However, a new/old option was suddenly a very good option. In 2002 Dan Lane and others from Louisiana State University did a two months survey on the slopes of Cerro Patricia. There is still a good trail that enters this area known as the LSU trail. This area is within the protected area of Bosque Proteccion Alto Mayo. Turns out the same trail is also has one of the most attractive orchids of Peru – the endemic and threatened Phragmipedium kovachii.
There is a Peruvian NGO INIBICO that works with Orchid protection in the area and has the co-management concession of the protected area together with the Peruvian state conservation organ SERNANP (basically the continuation of INRENA). They also got the concession of the road building camp of Venceremos, where they are now implementing a biological station and park guard station, where it is also possible to stay. Once Venceremos gets well implemented with Hummingbird feeders, proper beds it shall be a great inexpensive alternative to stay. There are toilets and showers available.
Anyway, the LSU trail is still very birdy, so we put all our cards on trying to get the Owlet here. Again it was heard only, but the birds along the trail was just great. What about this list?
Ochre-fronted Antpitta seen and photographed
Rusty-tinged Antpitta seen
Gray-tailed Piha seen and photographed
Cinnamon Screech-Owl seen and photographed
Metallic Green Tanager
Yellow-rumped Antwren – extreme range extension
The best of all is that the trail is birdy all the way. It does not feel like a very strenuous walk because of this. There is not a lot of mule traffic, so the trail is in quite good conditions. Even better is that the local guys Juan Rojas and Roner Espinal who helped LSU during the two months in 2002 are now employed by INIBICO as park guards. They were our guides during the two days we employed. It felt like walking in Dan Lane’s footsteps at times as Juan and Roner were telling me: This is where we caught the first Owlet! I stayed out all night listening for the Owlet. Alex and the others heard it at fairly close range just above our camp at 1850m. But alas none of us saw it.
Juan and Roner will survey the forest to try to stake out the owlet for future groups. Eventually, there will be a hut to stay where we stayed, but for now camping is the only option or one may stay also at Roner’s dad’s (Pepe) place an hour below our camp. Anyone wanting to try this option should coordinate with Marco Leon of INIBICO.
RATINGS: LSU Trail
For Owlet: QUITE GOOD – in spite of us only hearing it. Roner and Juan should soon have it staked out.
Comfort: Reasonable at Venceremos. Camp on LSU trail (bring your own camping gear). The trail is much easier to walk and much birdier than the ESPERANZA set-up
General Birding: EXCELLENT! In fact there is no need to stay at the Owlet Lodge, nor use their trails if you do all the birding along the road and on this trail. There is a stake-out for Royal Sunangel on a short side trail at the beginning of the LSU trail.
For Groups: QUITE GOOD. There was no problem of our group of 6 people plus driver to stay at ESPERANZA and the 6 of us on the trail. We could easily have had yet one or two more couples. Also Marco Leon of INHIBICO was very accommodating.
We shall be using the LSU trail for our budget groups to Northern Peru – and offer the LSU trail as an alternative to the Owlet lodge – for those that would like to try for the Owlet on our standard North Peru departures – at least until the Owlet Lodge has a more secure stake out for Long-whiskered Owlet. Independent birders with lots of time should try both Esperanza and LSU trail options with two nights at each site. This way practically all of the Abra Patricia endemics will be seen – including all the Antpittas.
UPDATE Dec 2010: In October-November several groups have seen the Owlet at Abra Patricia on a new trail at the Owlet Lodge only about 1km from the lodge. Easier to get to than the other sites – and very good success-rate of seeing the bird. I tried again with my last group – and again very close with hearing it at close range -but alas now views this time either. Next time I nail, it. I would be surprised if we during 2011 should not be able to stake it out also nearer Venceremos/LSU trail.
In November 2003 Roger Ahlman came back to Lima after a Kolibri Expeditions trip ecstatic about having seen a lek of Marvelous Spatuletails. Several males dancing in mid-air with their tails over their heads. Santos Montenegro was the local kid (looked a kid but was already 23 at the time), who showed the lek to Roger and has been a protégé of Kolibri Expeditions since. Kolibri Expeditions raised the money so that Santos could purchase the area.
A sour aftertaste is that the BBC did not make effort to make sure this unique site was conserved for the future and paid Santos less than 300 dollars for the unique footage. I made a futile intent to write David Attenborough but had CERO response.
Here is an interview I did in November last year with Santos. I hope by sending around this interview it shall be possible to raise the $5000 necessary to make a visitor center and a community sustainable development project at Santos reserve.
Santos Montenegro Interview
When did you start watching birds, Santos?
Santos: Year 2000
And why? Why did you start watching birds?
I was curious. I was working in my chacra (field) up the Rio Chido trail, where I bumped into a man who was looking for the Marvelous Spatuletail. It was Rob Dover who has a tourism operator agency in Chachapoyas and three people more who were looking for Marvelous Spatuletail. I walked up to them because I was curious and they showed me a painting of the bird from the Birds of Peru
book to be published by Clements and Shany. I told them that at my chacra there are loads of them. (laughs).
Was that true, or an innocent lie?
Yes, it was true. There were lots there.
They were surprised to hear this, as they had spent 5 days without seeing the bird, and consequently decided to try the next day. At 6 Am they showed up at my house and together we went to my Chacra.
The lekking males can be seen December to May. Marvelous Spatuletail. Photo: Alejandro Tello
And they saw it.
And they were very happy.
How much did they pay you that time?
They gave me 200 soles (around 70 dollars).
Wow, 200 soles. They must have been very happy?
They were extremely happy. I was also very happy. They were some photographers who wanted to take a photograph of this little bird. They must have been very happy to pay 200 soles. (One of the photographers was James Hecht who managed to get the first good photographs of the species.)
What were you thinking? That much money for just a bird?
Indeed. I was thinking: Can that bird be worth that much? It completely changed my way of looking at birds. From that moment on I started looking for birds. It changed me. I went into the fields specifically looking for birds and I really liked birdwatching.
Later birdwatchers started looking for me. Roger Ahlman was shown 3 males in 2003. The next year I went with you to Abra Patricia and Tarapoto. You persuaded your clients to donate a birdbook to me.
There was another guide Edilberto that I had used previously, but he was not to be found when Roger went nor when I met you for the first time. I understand there was some competition between you.
Edilberto later moved to Lima. From that time on after going with you to the other places I really got into birding. And of course even more now.
How many birders have you guided?
Santos: Some 300 in total. Most of them have visited our reserve.
And then BBC came. When was this?
April 2008 and they stayed 3 weeks. Filming not only at the reserve but also the ECOAN:s visitor center at Huembo. The best place for filming was at our reserve.
How many days did they film there?
Around a week.
How much did they pay you? Were you with them the whole time
800 Soles (US$282) for the 3 weeks – during which I was practically with them the whole time.
But you did also have your salary from ECOAN at the same time – so it was extra money.
I still had to check on the visitors center an hour or so per day.
The pay I suppose could have been better considering how much your first group paid you for just a mornings work, but considering not too bad. What bugs me is that BBC did not offer any donation to the reserve where the lek is. What are the urgent actions needed to make the reserve easier to visit and how to diminish envy among your neighbours?
Leading water from above the reserve to the villagers would be a fantastic convincing action that would make all my neighbours in favour of the reserve.
Would the neighbours be committed?
Yes! I asked the president of the community. If we could get money to buy all the piping from the visitors that visit the reserve, would the community be in favour and provide the labour? Por Dios! That would be fantastic, he said.
They also have to commit to conservation. It would be put as a condition. They put aside some already forest area to join the reserve and in turn get the much needed water for the pastures. We’d make a meeting and everyone signs a document of commitment. It would be no problem.
Could there also be a visitor center there in the reserve? What is your vision.
That would be fantastic. It is until now the best place to observe the Spatuletail – and especially the lek. This could be a place where the community sells some handicrafts. Later there could be sales of food and drinks, and souvenirs.
Let’s see what the results of this interview could bring. Hopefully BBC will see it and may in conscience make a donation. Also the tourists visiting will be an asset for the community as we can ask them to bring gifts such as school material, clothes for the kids, etc – like some groups we brought in the past.
Yes the people were very happy because of this.
Do you think the fact that there is already ECOAN:s visitor center would mean competition for them or for you?
No, they would compliment each other. People like to see the birds also at the lek between December-May. This time of year is also good for Pale-billed Antpitta which sings only in the wetter season.
What is the estimated cost to lay down the tubing and how many meters would be needed?
It’s around 1500m of PVC 2 inch tubing that is needed. Have to calculate the exact cost of the material needed. But more or less $3000 should do the trick.
And for a basic observation platform with roof and a sales area, to start with without toilets. How much?
With the community members doing the work around 6000 soles ($2120)
So overall just a little above 5000 dollars to make a fantastic project with your neighbours!
Hire Santos as a guide!
I recommended Santos to ECOAN when they needed a person who could do bird surveys in the area. I also insisted he’d be contracted receiving the social benefits established by law. This has proven very important now that his wife is seriously ill and in public hospital in Chiclayo.
Santos is on a cross road in which he could start earning a much better salary as a birdguide. Unfortunately, we could not get a group together for June, but I just thought of another option for Santos. To start with he could join independent groups as a guide. He knows the birds between Pomacochas and Tarapoto very well after the trips he did with us. I hope some independent birders would take him along also all the way from Chiclayo so he gets experience along the full length of the road during June to mid-August 2010. Just cover his costs during the areas he does not yet know and pay him 35 dollars per day for the areas he knows. You can pride yourself of the making of a guide! I am sure Santos will become one of the great Peruvian bird guides very soon. Write me if you are interested at email@example.com so I can coordinate with Santos. You pay to Santos directly!
Santos is learning English with lessons on an MP3 player – but he could use some practice with bilingual birders. He does know all the bird names in English of the birds between Pomacochas and Tarapoto – and most the calls. He is the only birder I know that IDs the spatuletail on flight calls.
Ever since I read the news about Shachar Alterman’s discovery and filming of Long-whiskered Owlet near Esperanza on January 25, 2010, I had the intention to do a blog post interviewing Shachar. Finally got all the ingredients together – that is time in front of the computer and the inspiration.
First the facts.
The Long-whiskered Owlet Xenoglaux loweryi was first found on an LSU expedtition in 1976 and described in 1977. It should take until 2002 until Dan Lane and other LSU researchers obtained a recording of its song, after having mistnetted one and kept it in the tent overnight. In February 2007 David Geale and Juvenal Ccahuana managed to find and photograph one in the wild (outside a mistnet) for the first time but again far from the road on a gruelsome trail within the ECOAN conservation area at Abra Patricia. In May 2008 Frank Lambert and Nick Athanas found and recorded one 50 meter from the Long-whiskered Owlet Lodge. A few people have heard it at the Owlet Lodge since, but as far as I know no more sightings.
When I was with a group at the Abra Patricia Lodge, I check an email giving details about yet a new site for the Owlet, very close to Abra Patricia. The Long-whiskered Owlet had been video-filmed for the first time by Shachar Alterman.
I got a mail from Shachar the other day asking if I would not consider to bring birders to the Esperanza site where he filmed it. Interesting prospect! Could it really be possible to sell a trip including a long muddy walk, sleeping in a moist hut with lack of the cosy comforts of Abra Patricia Lodge just a stone’s throw away. After reading Shachar’s great account about his search for the Owlet (highly recommended reading), I was even less sure it could be done.
BUT…..Maybe, if one considered the following:
Lack of Owlets at the Owlet Lodge. Sure it has been recorded there and Nick Athanas and Frank Lambert got excellent views and recordings. But, after that very few people heard it and as far as I know the last two years noone has seen it. My last stay at the lodge coincided with the discovery at Esperanza. Yet no see and no hear during the beautiful moonlit night in January at the Owlet Lodge. And we did try a lot. We were tempted to go to for it, but the comforts of the lodge struck us paralized.
The hit rate has been very high at the Ezparanza.
The cost at Abra Patricia is now 120 dollars per person including meals. Not budget birder friendly.
So the type of person that would go would be someone that can support less comfort, does not mind hiking a muddy trail and someone that would like to spend less money.
How come you ended up going on the primate expedition? Did you specifically look for the owlet?
Shachar: I first visited Peru last July on a two-weeks birding trip with a local guide name Eduardo. Our main target species was the Owlet. We spent four or five nights in the LW Owlet lodge, and I only imagined hearing it once. On returning I published a small diary in an Israeli news-site. Noga Shanee, the co founder of the NPC read it and made contact, claiming they have the Lechucita in the forests near them. Of course I didn’t believe it a bit, but when she contacted me a couple of months later, looking for a birder to volunteer in a survey they were doing in some potential nature reserves, I jumped at the opportunity.
This led to a one month journey in some of the most remote corners of the north-eastern Andean slopes, and to many unforgettable birding and nature experiences (Read Shachar’s great tale on the Owlet expeditions here. ). The highlight of course was the discovery of the new LW Owlet’s population in the forests above La Esperanza on the 24th of January this year.
Tell me about the infrastructure at the camp site. Are there beds or mattresses to sleep on. Any cooking facilities? Can porters be arranged from Esperanza?
Shachar: Housing in La Esperanza is very basic. I slept in the volunteers’ apartment, but Noga, as part of her project, is insisting on Lodging the visitors in the house of the local village people – running water, matresses and food included. In the forest itself we all sleep in a forest hut, equipped with basic beds and matresses (a sleeping bag is still needed), with running water nearby and a burning fire to cook food on. No porters were hired, but you can hire horses to carry your equipment to the hut. The walk itself is steep and very muddy (boots are heavily needed), but in a slow pace you can make it in 3-4 hours. I did it with a heavily loaded backpack but it would have been much easier with a horse close by.
What other birds can be seen on a trail?
Shachar: Noga got a full list of birds watched regularly in and near the forest. I can mention a few: Rusty-tinged Antpitta (abundant and very responsive!), Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant, Rufous-banded Owl,Vermiculated Screech-Owl and White-throated Screech-Owl, along with the usual mixed flocks in these altitudes.
Lulu's Tody-Tyrant Photo: Shachar Alterman
It is worth mentioning that the forest is rich with other very interesting wildlife: the endemic Yellow-Tailed Wooley-Monkey and Nocturnal Monkeys, Ocelot (we ran into a mother and a cub the night we found the Lechucita) and the Spectacled Bear are seen quite regularly there.
What can you guarantee for a group that only have one shot – by staying one night at the campsite? I heard from my friend Noam Shany that he also saw the owlet recently. So could you go through the positive and negative sightings since January?
Shachar: As for the Owlet, I believe chances are very good, and frankly, can’t think of a better place. The night we found it, it took us less then an hour, and we heard at least another five. The following expedition succeeded on tracking it, but a second before lighting on it a group of nocturnal monkeys just scared it off… So they got only a glimpse of it flying. Noam Shany’s group spent 3 nights there, because it was heavily raining, but succeeded of seeing it for one second – ome meter away of the group! – before it took of. Noam told me he wants to go back there and have another go. Noga told me a 4th group went there and succeeded in seeing it very closely and for a longer time. So, by now the statistics are very very good – 4 out of 4, even though not all sightings were as satisfying as the one we had.
Noga: It is actually 5 times out of 5 now, as. I went to an area which is a little bit further and three individuals answered me simultaneously. The first time we heard it in June 2008, was never really confirmed, the guy didn’t use playback and couldn’t record it well enough to recognize, but he was sure that he had heard it. June may actually be a good month as it is supposed to be dry season and the trails will be easier to walk.
When it was recorded were there any common denominator of the weather conditions, full moon, overcast, rain, etc?
Noga: Nothing I can think of, from my experience during nights here in the forest, there are nights when the forest is all alive and noisy and nights where it seems totally abandoned. These can be consecutive nights, so I don’t think that it has much to do with the moon. We never tried to look for the owlet in the rain because her call is very quiet and we would not be able to hear it through the noise of the rain.
Has anyone tried to worm feed the Ochre-fronted Antpitta?
Shachar: Unfortunately no Ochre-Fronted Antpitta was located in these forests yet, so can’t tell you much about worm-feeding there.
The description of the lodging conditions at Esperanza in Shachar’s article does not sound too inviting when people could stay in Pomacochas or Abra Patricia very comfortably. I am sure many of my future groups would prefer a hotel than the basic overnight conditions in Esperanza – and opt only for one night in the forest hut. Is this at all possible?
Noga: Shachar was over reacting a bit, I lauged a lot while reading his shower description. It is not too bad. We would like the communities to have as much income as possible, but you are welcome to sleep in Pomacochas or Abra Patricia, come here in the morning and start walking to the forest. There is absolutely no problem with that.
Why is the Esperanza site better for the owlet than the Owlet trail at the Owlet lodge? Shachar: My answer is very simple: At La Esperanza you get to see the Owlet. At Abra Patricia Owlet Lodge you only pay for it;-). Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Owlet lodge, we saw a lot of great birds and the staff there were wonderful.
What are the chances of Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey? It is a species I have long wished to see, and it will certainly be a good bonus.
Noga: There are 6 groups of yellow tailed woolly monkeys living around the area where you would be visiting. There is a 99% chance of being next to at least one of the groups, however, they are sometimes very quiet and hard to see. Usually you can at least hear them, and we see them all the time. You would need a bit of luck, but it is probably the best place to see this species.
Noga, you mention Andean Night Monkey in one of your mails. What is that? A different form or a good species?
Noga: Aotus miconax, good species and endemic to Amazonas and San Martin,
Unstudied, Vulnerable, but very easy to see here.
Gunnar: Wow, another endemic monkey species the. I was not aware of this!
Someone ought set up monkey watching trips – as there are three endemic primate species in the region if one include also the Rio Mayo Titi-Monkey lower down.
Andean Night Monkey Aotus miconax. Photo Noga Shanee
What altitude is the Hut?
Noga: Altitude of the hut is about 1900m. Lower than Abra Patricia, although the trail goes up and down
Future of Yellow-tailed Whoolly Monkey and Long-whiskered Owlet at Esperanza?
I am not going to give you all the anwers because I don’t know. Let’s discuss the issue here in the comment section. Will birders pay at Abra Patricia when most species can be seen from the road or on the Esperanza trail?
I´ll only answer this question myself before letting you loose. A definite YES!! The fee is for using the trails, visiting the feeders and use of the observation tower is $US20 which I believe is a one time fee, although this should be checked. The trails give access to species like Cinnamon Screech-Owl, Wattled Guan, Royal Sunangel, Ochre-fronted Antpitta, Bay Antpitta, Bar-winged Woodwren, and Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant that still have not been recorded on the Esperanza trail. Also, the trails are very well maintained. Behind the lodge at I have seen the rare Rufous-vented Whitetip. The lodge area is also great for White-capped Tanager. Staying at the Lodge is 80 dollars per person plus 20$ for each meal (the trail fee included is included for those that stay at the lodge). In contrast staying at Esperanza is 20 soles per person (roughly $7.50 and 4 soles for meals ($1.50). I imagine that most birders shall end up staying at Abra Patricia anyway because comfort is just so much better, and even if one go to rough it for one night, most people want to come back to the comfort at Abra Patricia.
What do you think is the best strategy for the locals to get birders and primate lovers to stay at Esperanza? Is it viable to attract birders to this project with such basic conditions? Would you be willing to go? So should the new site be seen as a threat to existing eco-tourism business at Abra Patricia, which is empty during long periods? Interesting questions and even more interesting are your comments below.
….a lot of places …and I like you to come with me.
This past year immersing myself into social media, has been amazing getting to know so many birders on line. I would like to meet all of you. Although my year is not completely staked out, I’d like to give you an outline the birding trips and events I have lined up for myself. Maybe our paths shall cross somewhere. Or maybe you want to come along joining me on some of these adventures. I shall write more detailed blogposts presenting each of them. Let me know which you would like to hear more about in the comment section below and I will prioritize.
I have already knocked off a North Peru trip and two Tumbes itineraries with Pelagics in January. In February I was in Colombia with the family and managed to see a couple of nice new birds. (Blog post is practically ready, but need some photos – maybe someone can please lend me photos of Golden-ringed and Black and Gold Tanager?). I am planning to get a Colombia tour together for Januay 2011 if anyone is interested. Here is an old draft of a Colombia Tour, but I certainly will change some as there are now new exciting reserves that can be visited.
Marathon. May 2 and July 18
First on my agenda is Lima Marathon. One may ask what that has to do with birding, but it does. Last year I ran it for the first time and turned it into a fund-raiser for the community on Satipo road. A marathon for conservation. This activity made Rain Forest Partnership interested in starting a small project here. My training has not gone the way I wanted this year, but I am still running the Marathon. I shall be happy if I make it all the way around. So here is a pledge – the same as last year. I will run the Lima Marathon 42.195km on May 2 after sporadic training the last 10 weeks (interrupted by 2 weeks sickness and an injured knee) at 4h13min or less. 4 hours and 13 minutes makes an average speed of 6:00 min per kilometer, which is more or less the speed that I have managed on the long runs I have done so far.
Sign-up in the comment section. And if you have not made the donation from the pledge last year available yet to Rain Forest Partnership, let me know.
My personal goal is to qualify to Boston Marathon. It will not happen at this race, but I have already a new Marathon in my mind where I shall much better trained. Rio de Janeiro Marathon on July 18. That is one week before I turn 50. I have to run in 3:35. I have 14 more weeks to find my top form.
I guess it is the viking in me that always take me to the sea. Contrary to our Peruvian guides, I never get seasick – so I guide practically all of Kolibri Expeditions’ pelagics. Pelagics from Lima are very good with up to 5-6 species of Storm-Petrels seen regularly including the localized Markham’s and Ringed (Hornby’s) Storm-Petrel. The Critically Endangered Waved Albatross is seen on practically every trip. So far the following pelagic tours have clients booked and will thus surely run: May 6, July 19 and 26, Sep 9 and 25, Oct 2, Nov 13 and 26. There are a couple of more dates in the tour calendar but without bookings. Most of these dates have been put there because they are at the beginning or the end of a scheduled trip. Since all trips in Peru begin or end in Lima it is easy to add a pelagic tour – providing we get enough people to run it.
This is an idea that struck to me recently. Why not offer some tours that needs more assessment to people who would not normally come on birding tours, but are highly motivated birders. When testing new things, there may be things that will not work 100%. Therefore a pre-trip to the community lodges in the Manu area that are promoted this year with the help of bloggers ,will get a jumpstart by young birders on a promotrip.
The gain is on several levels.
Young birders get some guiding in the most difficult habitat to bird. The Amazon rainforest and at a reasonable price.
Our company keeps staff busy and paid, and while the revenue for the company is not great, there will be lots of important pieces of information of what works and what doesn’t on this pilot trip – to be implemented on the coming trips.
The communities get some revenue and the chance to set all right for more comfort demanding clients.
And it will be fun to bird with intense young birders up to 25 years old. I bet we shall make a monster list of birds seen – and that there will be very little sleep! There are 4 vacancies on the trip. Max age 25 years old.
If you don’t qualify age wise, check out all the fixed departures that supports the communities in the Manu area. Still very good value for money and a good cause.
Meet-up / Tweet-up in Lima May 29
@Burdr tweeted a few days ago that it would be wonderful to meet every birder that one has been connected with via Twitter, Facebook or the blog and I could not agree less. When I said so in my tweet-reply, @Burdr said: Let’s all meet in Peru. It clicked as an idea. Dawn Fine has arranged meeting with birders all over the US arranging meet-ups for birders that blog, tweet or chirp. We could do something similar in Lima.
Both locals and visitors and even clients – can meet up for some birding one morning every month. I am considering Saturday mornings when my wife works. That means that my two daughters (and our maid) would be joining us. Join Gunnar, Luciana and Anahi for the first birding meet-up on May 29. I hope to be able to do a meet up once every month or other month.
The training of a new Peruvian guide.
June 15-23 there is scheduled a trip to North Peru and the land of Marvelous Spatuletail. Santos Montenegro is a local campesino who has become interested in birds and in particular the Marvelous Spatuletail. He was the guy who found the displaying Spatultetail that was recently filmed by the BBC on land that was purchased by Santos with funds acquired by Kolibri Expeditions. I recently interview Santos to feature a blog about him and how he got interested in birds. Through help from our clients we have provided Santos with birdbook, binoculars and birdcalls so that he has learnt all the birds in the area so well that local conservation organization ECOAN employed him full time. In June he has holiday and time to join us on a full tour and in July he has to decide whether or not renew the contract with ECOAN or opt to become a bird guide. June 15-23 will be crucial. If you want to be part of forming a new local guide now you know.
British Bird Fair
August 20-22 it is time for the British Birdwatching Fair. Kolibri Expeditions have participated here every year since 2002 together with PromPeru, so we are sad to learn that PromPeru will not be putting up the stand this year. There may be stand for us anyway. I am waiting in anticipation for the decision by the organizers. In any case, I think I will go. It is a unique chance to meet up with clients and business partners. Especially after the Social Media boom, this event has the potential to become a giant meet-up, where you put person to a Facebook profile. Are you going to be at the BirdFair? Shall we meet up?
The biggest day!
September 1-13 . When I write this it is spring in the northern hemisphere and teams are forming to do Birdathons and big days all over for grand causes of bird conservation. Lots of fun, lots of coffee, adrenalin and speed birding.
How about transforming the idea to a business model in the bird richest area of the world? Is it at all possible? The Biggest Day tour!
Ted Parker and Scott Robinson set the world record of 331 species from Manu in 1982 – without motorized vehicle. The idea is to try to beat it or at least get very close to it at Amigos research Center between Manu and Tambopata. The trip will work as birding workshop where the participants will learn to seperate the Amazonian birds by sight and especially call the first 8 days. Day 9 is dress rehearsal, we form teams with the leaders who include guides Antonio Coral, Alex Durand and myself. All the teams should get over 300 species . The results are collected and analyzed before the gran finale on day 12. An attempt on the world record. Now the guides form a team together with one of the participants (a raffle will be made to select the person), while the rest form one or two teams to compete against the guides. Day 13 will be dedicated for the highlights once again and to see some of the elusive vocal species. Day 14 it is back to Puerto Maldonado and flight on to Lima or Cusco. Sound like fun?
All through October to November Hadoram Shirihai and David Beadle will travel in Peru with us on a private photographic expedition. I shall be guiding the first part in Puno, while Alex Durand does all the Manu area. At the end of the period, I shall be guiding again in Central Peru (Carpish and Satipo road).
Scarlet-banded Barbet in Sira Mountains
I have a request for a Scarlet-banded Barbet expedtion from David Matson and Dave Sargeant around Oct 22. There is a new Barbet from southern Sira mountains yet to be described – whether species or subspecies status remains to be seen. Our expedition goes from Puerto Inca further North, where there is access to the highest peaks and from where Kolibri Expeditions already has a good set-up with local contacts. Obviously we don’t know that there will be a Barbet here but since it is the same mountain range as the southern population and our site is right between that and the original site of Scarlet-banded Barbet, there is a very good chance. We get a good gradient of habitats as we reach the highest peaks of over 2000m. Other species that can be seen on this trip include the endemic Sira Tanager, (Peruvian) Horned Curassow (good species based on voice and genetic isolation soon to be split), Sharpbill, Rufous-brown Solitaire, Rufous-webbed Briliant, Creamy-bellied Antwren, White-plumed Antbird, Blue-headed Macaw, Curl-crested Aracari, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater, Wing-banded Wren and many more.
15 Antpittas – and hopefully Banded Ground Cuckoo.
In December I have set up a program that runs from Tarapoto in Peru to Quito in Ecuador and is aiming to pick up 15 species of Antpitta on the way (actually there are 17 species, of Antpittas possible I don’t want to press my luck). We already have three bookings on this trip, which include well known bird book author Klaus Malling Olsen. This will be an epic trip, with lots of endemics. It is especially suitable for those that birded Ecuador in the 90s and want to fill in the gaps as more and more sites for then elusive species have emerged. It is a completely different Ecuador for birding today. Many places have Antpittas feeders – following the success of Angel Paz and his by now world famous Giant Antpitta Maria. The tour runs Nov 28 to Dec 17, with the option to add an eastern Amazonian lowland program of 3-4 days.
That is it. Well not really… because I am also spending a week in May with the family at the beach in Piura as well as a likely holiday somewhere abroad with the family in July or August to be determined.
If you can’t join me, but still want to be birding in Peru during 2010, I suggest you take a look at our tour Calendar, where there are loads of different bird tours scheduled that you can choose from.
On June 18, I was on my way to Tarapoto with a group. Below Moyobamba at Quebrada Quiscarrumi and km 515.5 here is a bridge over this deep narrow gorge.
We stopped here because I heard hundreds of White-eyed Parakeets gathering to a roost at 5.30 pm and consequently I discovered the gorge. It was so dark in the bottom, it seemed likely it would have oilbirds. Not before long, they could be heard and seen from the bridge it self. As we stood there a couple of hundreds White-collared Swifts came swooshing by almost hitting our heads. We stuck around to 6.10.
On the past trip in November, the Oilbirds could be seen again. This time we made a stop in the middle of the day. Still, they could be seen quite easily. The pictures above were taken at this ocassion. Taken with tripod and 400mm lens from the bridge. The pics are cropped hard.
It may be the easiest Oilbirds to see in the world. Has anyone heard of oilbirds one can see simply from the road side like this.
I talked to some people in Moyobamba, who frequently works with tourists and no-one had heard of the possibility to see oilbirds here.
But they mentioned a cave that used to have oilbirds, but with a lot of visitors, the oilbirds had simply left. They speculated that the new site had been colonized by the birds who had left the cave?
What do you think?
Marvelous Spatuletail Photo: Gunnar Engblom. Photographed at Leymebamba on June 22, 2009
I am back from one of the best birding routes of the world, packed with endemics and spectacular species. I will have more time to blog now, as I have no birding trips coming up for a while. This week and next I shall make a series of blogs connected in one way or another to Nothern Peru. Come back daily to this page for more news. First out is a short picture summery about the last trip.
My recent tour to Northern Peru started off a bit nervously due to the violant clash against demonstrators and police just 5 days prior to our departure with over 30 dead (and probably more as numbers unfold). See my previous blog-post for more info on this unfortunate and sad news. We were to pass through this same area. Therefore at the start of the trip I decided it was probably better to just re-route the trip via Cajamarca and Balsas to get to Leymebamba, instead of the planned route via Jaen and Bagua, where potentially more problems could rise.
This was a mixed cultural and birding tour. I guided 3 women who had grown up together attending the same school. Only one of them, Laura, was a birder from start. Nancy and Jaynie were good sports and participated in the birding activities as well. Jaynie was not feeling too well part of the trip and took it easy at the serenity of the Abra Patricia Owlet Lodge while we were staying there. In 10 days we noted short of 300 species of birds, but we were not only birding as I just stated. We visited archeological sites and museums, such as the great Sipan Museum in Lambayeque, Tucume, Cajamarca, Leyemebamba Laguna de Condores musuem and Chachapoyas fortress Kuelap. In Lima we made visit to the Gold Musuem and National Museum in Lima. Right now the group is visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu with our guide Alex. Surely many birds are being added.
Lodging highlights were Chaparri and Abra Patricia Lodge, while finding a male Marvelous Spatuletail at the feeders across from the Museum in Leymebamba was the most exciting of all our birds seen.
Coming back to Lima with million things to do I am just posting some of my pictures below with short comments. Upcoming articles this week (tempted schedule….but in reality don’t be surprised if it takes longer!).
Birding Chaparri (Tuesday)
Birding Abra Patricia (Wednesday)
Culture in Northern Peru – combine birding and archeology (Thursday)
Hummingbird watching in Peru. Best places to watch hummingbirds. (Friday)
Long-tailed Mockingbird Chaparri. Photo: Gunnar Engblom
Striped Owl. Chaparri. Photo Gunnar Engblom
Rufous Flycatcher. Bosque Pomac. Photo Gunnar Engblom. Rufous Flycatcher is one of the most wanted endemic species in the region and generally uncommon to rare.
White-faced (Tropical) Gnatcatcher. Bosque Pomac. Photo Gunnar Engblom
Cinereous Finch. Bosque Pomac. Photo: Gunnar Engblom
Peruvian Plantcutter. Bosque Pomac. Photo: Gunnar Engblom The most threatened species in the region together with White-winged Guan.
White-winged Guan. Chaparri. Photo Gunnar Engblom
Royal Sunangel. Abra Patricia. Photo: Gunnar Engblom
If you are interested in a tour to Northern Peru, check out our extensive offering on our new summery North Peru tour page. There are both comfortable trips that combine birds and culture suitable for non-birding spouses, as well as more intense birding trips.
Best shots of Pelagic birds from Kolibri Expeditions pioneering Tumbes Pelagic.
This pelagic ran on June 24, 2008 from Punta Sal in Tumbes department and was the first pelagic we arranged in Northern Peru. The result was very satisfying. Indeed it was so satisfying that I immediately re-wrote our North Peru itineraries to also include an optional Tumbes pelagic.
On the trip we documented 2 species previously not photographed in Peruvian waters – Galapagos Petrel and White-faced Storm-Petrel. The later a lifer for me and the former a Peru tick. On March 18, 2009 we shall run the second pelagic. We hope to be able to photograph additional species on this trip, that previously are not documented. See Kolibri Expeditions pelagic web-page for more info.