Cloud Forests of Northern Peru Post-trip to the Amazon River Cruise Jan 18—25, 2014

Posted by Steve Hilty

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Steve Hilty

Steve Hilty is the senior author of A Guide to the Birds of Colombia, and author of Birds of Venezuela, both by Princeton University Press, as well as the popular Birds of ...

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Few tours bring such a colorful and exciting mix of highland birds as the Abra Patricia area, as well as some of the most range-restricted species. This was my third visit to this area and I can say that each visit has been rather different—different weather, and a decidedly different mix of birds. Furthermore, many birds in cloud forest habitats are not easy to see; I think we all experienced some frustration, at some point, because birds that were in mixed species flocks were too far away, or moved too rapidly, or just seemed to spend most of their time behind leaves. However, one rainy day brought things back into balance when we encountered five mixed species flocks in a morning’s birding. This added immensely to our overall list.

Three of us, with Roberto, mounted an expedition to try and see the fabled Long-whiskered Owlet. Although it did not respond (did not even answer the playback), we spent an enjoyable evening in a very damp and lush valley listening to bird sounds, among them a Rufous-bellied Nighthawk overhead, and a shy little Ochre-fronted Antpitta that began calling in near total darkness. We did see the newly split Streak-headed (formerly Long-tailed) Antbird that evening, and just being in the area where the little owlet occurs was a lovely experience.

There were many highlights, and everyone will have a personal favorite—maybe the spatuletail, the Masked Ducks, the diminutive Rufous-capped Thornbill, the cute Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant, or the flash of an Andean Cock-of-the-rock shooting across the road. Or, maybe it was a Grass-green Tanager perched on an open branch, a Golden-collared Honeycreeper, or any of a dozen other beautiful tanagers. But, for me, and probably for many of you, the incredible pair of Crimson-bellied Woodpeckers we saw so close and so well the last morning was a highlight beyond comparison. This also is a species that I have seen precious few times during my 40 years of birding in the American Tropics.

We had rainy days, sunny days, some chilly evenings, and lots of lovely hummingbirds (13 species) at the Waqanki Lodge, and more in the Abra Patricia area. Birding always brings surprises, some frustrations, and some exhilarating experiences, and this trip had all of those. That we are even able to visit this beautiful area is a treat because the lodge is relatively new, the paved road was completed less than 30 years ago, and thanks to donations and the hard work of many people, the Alto Río May reserve now preserves some 25,000 acres of this lovely forested region, which gives us unparalleled access to a pristine area. I feel privileged to be able to see this area and to experience its many moods (yes, even the chilly, damp evenings) and the birds and wildlife that are found here. I hope that you enjoyed it too.