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Northern Peru 25 Oct – 9 Nov 2008 led by Roger Ahlman with Kevin Easely, Jason Horn and Charlie Vogt 

With a 4:6 guide-to-passenger ratio this trip was bound to reap a bounty of specialties for northern Peru. Our itinerary actually passes through 6 endemic bird areas; Marañon, Tumbesian, Ecuador-Peru East Andes, Andean Ridge-top Forest, North-east Peruvian cordilleras, and Huallaga Valley! The triplist totaled 525 species seen and many more heard. We saw 30 Peruvian endemics and 2 were heard only. See detailed triplist. 

Highlights included Great Spinetail at San Marcos which was seen after great effort and finally corralling it. Slender-billed Miner is a bird I have searched for in vain many times in Ecuador so it was great to see 2 individuals on the way to Celendin probing about and flying off, like mini-Whimbrels! The drive from Celendin to Leimebamba is truly amazing, spanning an awesome diversity of landscape and habitats.The Scarlet-fronted Parakeets and Black-necked Woodpeckers, painted the desert scene of the Marañon Valley along with appearances of the Gray-winged and Buff-bridled Inca-Finch. Above in the elfin cloud forest at treeline we had rare cameos of Coppery Metaltail perching briefly on the treelet tops, (another one I missed on the last trip). Around Leimebamba, Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Yungas Pygmy-Owl, Andean & Golden-plumed Parakeet, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan and Golden-headed Quetzal. In the river along the road to el Chillo we observed Fasciated Tiger-Heron and Torrent Ducks. Arriving at the hacienda we were greeted by Koepke’s Screech-Owl roosting in a Cyprus by the front steps.

Outside La Florida/ Pomacochas after an afternoon’s effort with teasing fly-bys, we finally had a number of gripping views of the Marvelous Spatuletail the next morning with Santos Montenegros on his finca. This spectacular hummer appears to have a pair of small Morphos hovering behind it; those incredible spatules!

We arrived Abra Patricia to a rare clear afternoon laced with some beauties, a pair of Royal Sunangels, raucous White-capped Tanagers, Plain-breasted Hawk and Inca Flycatcher. That night the magic continued with perched and flying views of Andean Potoo and hooting of White-throated Screech-Owl and a Long-whiskered Owlet close to the trail! No show on the owlet but I got a great recording of it. Early morning on the Mono Trail yieled Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Jet Manakin, Variable Antshrike. Later down the road, Bar-winged Wood-wren and Chestnut-breasted Wren. The next day we worked the road down to Afluentes and Puente Aguas for Huallaga Tanager, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Vermillion Tanager and Versicolored Barbet.

On the road to Bagua Chica we had Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Marañon Spinetail, Speckle-breasted Wren. Near the town cemetery, Little Inca-Finch, Pacific Parrotlet & Pygmy-Owl, Collared Antshrike (Marañon subspecies), Red-crested Finch and Rufous-fronted Thornbird. Headed to Jaen in a roadside marsh, Spotted Rail, Rufous-sided Crake, Least Bittern (possibly 1st record for Marañon). Near Tamborapa Chinchipe Spinetail, Marañon; Spinetail, Slaty –Antshrike & Crescentchest as well as stunning views of Tataupa Tinamou lurking like a Plumbeous Rail in the undergrowth. Back near Jaen we spotted what we initially passed off as a Variable Hawk, however the back was dark and the rufous was on the shoulder. We eventually studied both light and dark morphs of a pair of White-tailed Hawks, apparently resident in the area. The species was previously only known from extreme SE Peru with a recent siting from Satipo, C Peru.

Having worked at Harvard’s MCZ, I was anxious to visit that mecca for zoologists, the legendary Porculla pass (2145m), epicenter of the Huancabamba Depression, the lowest point of the Andean Cordillera between Venezuela and Chile. Because of its low altitude, it forms both a biogeographic connection between the lowland forests of the Pacific coast and the Amazon basin, as well as an ecological barrier between the Northern Andes and Central Andes. It represents the most important filter and barrier affecting biotic migration in the Andes and according to Vuilleumier, probably accounts for a larger increase in bird species diversity than any other barrier along the Andes. Many bird species find their northern or southern limits here.

While the views are great at the pass, the vegetation ishighly degraded. However, down the west side at Limon de Porculla we birded forest patches and found Black-cowled Saltator, Bay-crowned Brush-Finch, Henna-hooded Folige-Gleaner, Porculla Hermit, Tumbesian Tyrannulet and Chapman’s Antshrike. The Elegant Crescentchests were ridiculously abundant and often in the open, so much harder in Ecuador. Late afternoon behind the Hotel El Remanso were Burrowing Owl, Short-tailed Field-Tyrant and Lesser Nighthawk. Back to the pass the next morning we saw all the same species plus Rufous-necked Foliage-Gleaner and Piura Chat-Tyrant. Down near Olmos, Baird’s Flycatcher, Gray-and-white Tyrannulet and Tumbes Sparrow. On a trail behind the Guan Center using Pygmy Owl playback we were mobbed by Crimson-breasted Finch, Collared Warbling-Finch, Rufous & Baird’s Flycatcher, Pacific Elaenia, Short-tailed Woodstar and Snowy-throated Kingbird as well as the Pacific Pygmy Owl itself! Also a pair of the unique Sechura Fox (Tumbesian endemic) paraded by. I had waited years to see this mythical mammal and did finally see it around Zapotillo, Ecuador in March

Early start to Quebrada Limon where we saw 15 Peruvian Thick-knees in the dry wash and heard the “Trilling” Lesser Nighthawks. A 45 min walk up the cliff-walled valley through dry forest got us to the guan area and we eventually had views of a total of 10 White-winged Guans in a number of areas perched and flying, painting the air with their white brushstrokes. Also seen were White-headed & White-winged Brush-Finch, Ecuadorian Piculet, Tumbes Pewee, Yellow-tailed & White-winged Orioles. A West Peruvian Screech-Owl crashed through the undergrowth and perched in a tree cavity. Late pm found us on the pacific coastline, among many shorebirds, Great Grebe, Waved Albatross and Peruvian Boobies on the horizon as well as cracking views of Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird and Coastal Miner. What a wonderfully contrasting day!

At Bosque Pomac we scrutinized and detected Tumbes Swallows at a distance. We had better views of the Rufous Flycatcher - a weird Myiarchus gone Becard. Also, Cinereous Finch and wonderfully confiding views of the Peruvian Plantcutter buzzsaw-singing on a small mangrove-like shrub. Afternoon drive to Chaparrí Lodge where we had King Vulture, Tumbes Hummingbird, Tumbes Tyrant, Short-eared Owl (1st record for the lodge), Scrub Nightjar, Purple-collared Woodstar and 100 Sulphur-throated Finch!


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