Cloud Forests of Northern Peru Post-trip to the Amazon River Cruise Mar 29—Apr 05, 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 offer such a colorful and exciting mix of highland birds, as well as some of the most range-restricted species, as the Abra Patricia area. This was my fourth 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 and I think we all experienced 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, we saw many beautiful birds—including an especially impressive lineup of tanagers—and the hummingbirds were simply amazing.

There were many highlights, and everyone will have a personal favorite—maybe the Band-bellied Owl, or Fiery-throated Fruiteater, or the Marvelous Spatuletails, or Lulu’s Tody-Tyrant, or the rare Chestnut-crested Cotinga, 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 group of dazzling Flame-faced Tanagers feeding on the fruit of a Schefflera, or a Golden-collared Honeycreeper in a Cecropia tree. For me, one of the highlights was, ironically, the tiny little Lanceolated Monklet, and it was the last new bird of the trip on the last morning. Of course, we spent a fabulous morning watching Marvelous Spatuletails and other hummingbirds at the nearby Huembo Reserve; it was difficult to reconcile the amazing maneuverability of this tiny bird, given its remarkably long tail flags. The fabled Long-whiskered Owlet called repeatedly one evening in a deep valley, but we were unable to locate it because it remained so high, in dense vegetation, and out of reach of our lights. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful evening with many interesting dusk sounds and a rare star-filled sky, and it was exciting just to be in the presence of this rarely seen bird.

We had rainy days, sunny days, some chilly evenings, and lots of lovely hummingbirds—17 species at the Waqanki Lodge—and many more in the Abra Patricia area and at the Huembo Reserve—some 40 species in all, and even more species of tanagers. 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 and the paved road that accesses this remote area is less than 30 years old. Furthermore, thanks to donations and the hard work of many people, the Abra Patricia-Alto Nieve Private Conservation concession now preserves or manages nearly 25,000 acres of this lovely forested region. And, this lies adjacent to the Alto Río Mayo Protection Forest, which extends protection to nearly 450,000 acres of pristine highland forest. 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.