Rob Williams is the best guide I have ever birded with – wonderful birding and people skills.
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 exciting Manu Biosphere Encompassed tour provides and in-depth exploration of the Manu Biosphere Reserve, famed as possibly the most biodiverse place on Earth. From the lofty heights of the high Andes to vast tracts of pristine lowland rain forest, this tour transects an almost unimaginably diverse array of habitats and birdlife. Approximately 1,000 species of birds are known from this single biosphere reserve – nearly 10% of the world’s bird species in a single reserve!
Departing the historic city of Cusco, we head for the legendary Manu Road, dropping in at Lago Huacarpay for Rusty-fronted Canastero, Streak-fronted Thornbird and the prime target of the area; the gorgeous endemic Bearded Mountaineer. We climb to the highest parts of the 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, Peruvian Piedtail and a host of bamboo specialists such as Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Bamboo Antshrike and White-cheeked Tody-Flycatcher. 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.
Reaching the end of the Manu Road we take to boats to explore deeper into the lowland rain forests of the Manu. Using lodges and camps along the Manu and Madre de Dios Rivers we will be overwhelmed by the diversity of birdlife around us. From mobile towers, clay licks, oxbow lakes and bamboo forest to an extensive network of trails, there will be no boring moments ahead, spending several fabulous days in this avian wonderland. The number of star birds is mind-boggling, with over 560 species having been recorded here and such stellar potentials as Manu Antbird, Elusive Antpitta, Razor-billed Curassow, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Pavonine Quetzal, Purus Jacamar, Sunbittern, Sungrebe and Agami Heron, to name but a few! Other wildlife abound, including 13 species of monkey and chances for Brazilian Tapir, Collared and White-lipped Peccary, and even Jaguar!
Our Lake Titicaca & Arequipa Extension takes us to the arid highlands of south western Peru. Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, and Colca Canyon, the world’s deepest canyon will form an incredible backdrop to our birding here. Surrounded by the rich and colourful Quechuan culture we will seek out the hardy birds that survive in this stark and beautiful area.
Beginning at Lake Titicaca we will enjoy the flightless Titicaca Grebe amongst an abundance of waterbirds. We will then transit to the Colca Canyon area, famed for the eye-level viewing of Andean Condors and with a suite of high elevation birds like Canyon and Dark-winged Canastero, Andean Flicker and the impressive Giant Hummingbird. Crossing high mountain passes will give us a shot at seeing Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, before we end up in Arequipa. The area around this historic city has Polylepis forest harbouring many specials including Black Metaltail, Straight-billed and White-throated Earthcreeper and Thick-billed Siskin, while a saline lake may hold all three Andean flamingos: Chilean, Andean and James’s in addition to Andean Goose, Puna Plover and Andean Avocet.