Rob Williams is right up there among the very best tour leaders. His vast experience from lots of research and conservation projects and intimate knowledge of the country add lots of value compared to a tour leader who is “just” a good organiser, birder and guide. He is also great company, with a sublime sense of humour.
We start our series of Peru birding tours in the Cordillera Blanca, a veritable Andean Switzerland. The surrounding peaks contain Nevado Huascarán, Peru’s highest peak at 6,768m (22,200 ft). Aside from the spectacular scenery, a number of restricted species occur here including White-cheeked Cotinga, Ancash Tapaculo, Giant Conebill, Stripe-headed Antpitta and a host of endemic coastal species. We compliment our incredible extension by birding the coastal deserts for a host of endemics before embarking on one of the world’s premier pelagic trips.
Moving from Lima to Cusco for our Classic Andes and Manu Road tour, we will take in the scenic Apurimac River valley – the source of the mighty Amazon, the world’s largest river system – in search of some highly localised and rarely-seen endemics: Apurimac Spinetail and Apurimac Brush-Finch. Returning to Cusco, we climb the famous Manu Road before descending the eastern Andean slopes and birding through temperate zones and montane cloud forest, offering chances for an incredible variety of exceptional and endemic birds, including Cerulean-capped and Yungas Manakins, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, Blue-banded Toucanet, Spotted Barbtail, the outrageous Amazonian Umbrellabird, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Inca Flycatcher, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Golden-eyed Flowerpiercer and Peruvian Piedtail. We also visit an Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek site, where up to twenty males sometimes congregate, to watch the strange mating dance of these spectacular birds! With persistence, night birding in this area might yield the uncommon Napo and Rufescent Screech Owls, Rufous-banded Owl, Lyre-tailed Nightjar and possibly even Andean Potoo.
We complete this thorough examination of Southern Peru with four days of archaeological and birding exploration of the Sacred Valley and other Incan heritage covering Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Pisac, Moray, Lago Huaypo and perhaps the most famous tourist site in the world, Machu Picchu. Here we shall marvel at undoubtedly one of the finest architectural achievements of the New World.
Northern Peru hosts an abundance of highly sought-after endemic avifauna and this, combined with spectacular scenery and thriving local culture, makes for a very popular birding destination. Our suite of specially crafted Northern Peru tours starts with an extension in search of one of the worlds ‘newest’ and most rarely seen species, the Scarlet-banded Barbet. While no longer a dedicated expedition, this challenging tour offers the chance at a spectacularly rare and attractive species alongside a host of other species seldom seen on any tour, anywhere.
From our base in Tarapoto, we search for the tricky Dotted Tanager, rare Koepke’s Hermit and endemic Huallaga Tanager. We move slowly northwards, taking in Moyobamba and the highly localised endemic Ash-throated Antwren before spending a good number of days in the brilliant and little-known forests of Abra Patricia. Top bird species here include Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant, Royal Sunangel and the scarce White-capped Tanager, while in the fabulous Cloud forests we will target Long-whiskered Owlet, Lulu’s Tody-Flycatcher, Coppery Metaltail, White-chinned Thistletail, Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan and the elegant Swallow-tailed Nightjar. Near Pomacochas, we deliver one of the great highlights of the trip, Marvelous Spatuletail and Pale-billed Antpitta in a single day! Little Inca-Finch, Tumbes Swallow, the snazzy Sulphur-throated Finch and Grey-and-white Tyrannulet wait further down the road before we enter the Utcubamba Valley.
We have some time at the enchanting pre-Incan fortress of Kuelap, arguably as impressive as the famed Machu Picchu before continuing on our quest for another suite of endemics. Coppery Metaltail and the scarce Russet-mantled Softtail await at Abra Barra Negro before we descend the stunning Marañon Valley searching for Buff-bridled and Grey-winged Inca-Finches and Yellow-faced Parrotlet, Near the town of Cajamarca we are likely to add the recently rediscovered Grey-bellied Comet, and pick up the dazzling Black Metaltail too. After Cajamarca, we journey to the Pacific Coast, and the town of Trujillo, stopping to search for the endemic Great Spinetail en route.
Having reached the coast, we travel north to our base for the remainder of this Peru birding tour, Chaparri, deep in the Tumbes region. From here we shall explore a number of habitats, targeting White-winged Guan (until recently, believed to have been extinct, and with fewer than 300 birds estimated to survive in the wild), unique Peruvian Plantcutter, beautiful Marañon Crescentchest, Tumbes Hummingbird, Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaner, beautiful Elegant Crescentchest and Cinereous Finch.
Our short Purple-backed Sunbeam Extension takes us to two significant birding sites, Sinsicap and El Molino. Rarely birded, both these sites hold scarce or very localised species. Our time at Sinsicap will be dedicated to finding the endangered, endemic Russet-bellied Spinetail as well as provinding good chances for the endemic Black-necked Woodpecker, Bronze-tailed Comet, and the odd maculata race of Speckled Hummingbird, a possible future split. We shall then head further west until we reach the small village of El Molino. The highly localised Purple-backed Sunbeam is certainly not scarce, but very few birders have ever laid eyes on it simply due to the logistics involved in getting here. Aside from this vulnerable hummingbird, we may also find Great Spinetail and Rufous-chested Tanager here.