Peru, Galapagos and Ecuadorian Amazon and highlands - 17th August - 8th September 2007

Published by Steve Arlow (birder.steve AT btinternet.com)

Participants: Steve & Sheryl Arlow

Comments

photo copyright Steve Arlow


Background / History (purpose of the trip)

The initial trip was just going to be the Galapagos for which several options for visiting were investigated. It soon became apparent that many companies were either over inflated in their costs, didn't do all of the islands or were only there for three or four days. I eventually decided to travel with Tropical Birding, an Ecuador based company that I had used for an Ecuador birding trip a few years beforehand. I then began looking at adding on bits and bobs to the trip and added on a visit to Machu Picchu in Peru prior to visiting the Galapagos. This adding and changing developed and with a trip to the Amazon in Ecuador being included which was then followed by a few days in the highlands. All of these additions and the chopping and changing were as a result of reading more and more trip reports and find new places to visit. This I was hoping would give us a great trip though in hindsight we could have done Machu Picchu after the Galapagos and visited the Manu which would have given me many more lifers than returning to the same area of Ecuador I had been to before.

Arrangements

Tanager Tours – When I visited Peru in June of this year we used this company and was impressed so I contacted them again to make the arrangements on the ground in terms of hotels in Lima and Cusco as well as drivers in those respective locations to take us out birding. Tanager can be contacted at www.tanagertours.com

Tropical Birding – I had previously used the services of Tropical Birding when I visited Ecuador in 2003 and as they were running trips out the Galapagos at a good rate I contacted them to make the arrangements. They also made the arrangements for the hotel in Quito, all transports, drivers to take us to Antisana, Guango Lodge and Cabanas San Isidro as well as getting us into Sacha Lodge in the Amazon. Everything went smoothly and I can highly recommend them when travelling to Ecuador and other destinations Worldwide. www.tropicalbirding.com

Trailfinders - A UK based Travel Company that has a very good reputation of finding good deals. I have often booked flights through Trailfinders along with car hires and have also found them most efficient. www.trailfinder.com

References

A Field guide to the Birds of Peru – James F. Clements and Noam Shany. Published by Lynx
At the time of writing this is the only comprehensive field guide to the country. I say comprehensive loosely as this field guide is woefully inadequate in terms of plate quality, accuracy, text and usability. Most of the plates are passable for identifying most birds but forget about families such as the tyrannies, some flycatchers, hummingbirds etc that can be written off if you don’t have a local guide to put you right. The nice looking plates are just that, nice looking plates. There are numerous errors in some of the features of some birds, which do not lend to firm field identification. Most of the plates are ‘okay’ but there are some truly dreadful illustrations, pelicans, swallows, siskins and the Rufous-crowned Tody-tyrant for instance, which look like they were drawn by a 5 year old wearing boxing gloves.

The plate layouts are also a mess. Several bird families can be found spread out over none consecutive and widely spaced pages. For instance ducks are on plate 6, 9 and 10. Even more bizarrely terns are spread out across plates 6, 9 and 23. It would seem that several plates are ‘fill the gap’ plates to cover missing or forgotten species. Plate 6 seems to be a dumping ground for these having pelicans, flamingos, penguin, coot, ducks, gulls, terns, petrels, cormorants and waders, an utter mess.

Just when you think there can’t be any more bad aspects to the book there are. Where the same species has been illustrated by different artists (White-bellied and Oasis Hummingbirds) they bear no resemblance to each other which raises the question, which one is accurate or are neither accurate, from experience it would be the latter of the two.

The text consists of not much more than four or five lines per species, which is just insufficient. There are also no range maps. The cost of this book is £40, which is extortionate considering what you’re getting for your money.

A new guide to the birds of Peru is due out in October 2007, which from early indications will be a far better book than this one and will almost certainly bring sales of this publication to an end. However until the publication of the new book this is the only guide to cover all of the birds of Peru so even a bad book is better than no book but in this case only just.

The Birds of Ecuador – Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield. Published by Helm
A hefty 2 volume guide, plates and short species accounts in one and more detailed information in the second. Another guide that was not taken to Peru but used in reference. The illustrations are reasonable but some plates are more than just a little overcrowded making ease of use and reference difficult at times. A better quality book than the Peru guide.

Birds, Mammals and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands – Andy Swah and Rob Still. Published by Helm
This photo guide is perhaps the best book to the islands. The authors have digital pasted images of photos of birds and animals found on the Galapagos to create a strange concoction though thankfully due to the small number of species found there it is not that bad to use. There are species included that have not actually been photographed on the islands, for instance the Black Tern is from the UK thus a totally different race to that actually recorded on the islands. This is presumably where the birds could not be photographed on the archipelago.

Birds of Northern South America, An Identification Guide – Robin Restall. Published by Helm
A new guide covering the countries of northern South America, including Ecuador but excluding Peru. Another well thought out guide, which is also split into two volumes. The plate’s volume is light on text and the some of the illustrations are a bit on the ropy side but have useful ‘pointers’ to relevant identification points.

Birds of South America, Non-Passerines – Jorge R. Rodriguez. Published by Collins
Covering all of South Americas non-passerines this guide has some of the better illustrations of Latin American species. Short text is on the facing page to the plates along with a range map. Again used as reference.

Eco-travellers guide to Ecuador
An okay book that has illustrations of the commoner birds and animals of Ecuador and the Galapagos. I didn’t use the book too often as a text reference but it seemed to fairly sound.

Where to watch birds in Peru
A very useful site guide with lots of information including site maps, directions, what birds are likely to be encountered and when. Was used to research some of the trip.

Trip reports - notably those posted on www.tropicalbirding.com and www.travellingbirder.com

Travel

• Fights: International & domestic

We flew with Air Iberia to Lima, via Madrid and again on the return flight from Quito, via Guayaquil and Madrid. This will be the last time I will fly with this airline as it has been consistently the worst carrier I've flown with. From past experience I decided to skip on the in-flight food, which has in the past been awful and it didn't look to good this time round. We ate biscuits that we had taken with us. The in flight movies were reasonable, if you could see the screens located at intervals along the cabin which shows the age of the 'fleet'. Newer transatlantic planes on other airlines have screens in the back of the seat in front and you can select your own movie. The announcements made by the cabin crew were both inaudible or not understood, Spanglish.

The worst aspect of Iberia however was the return flight. Bearing in mind that it is a transatlantic flight we boarded at Quito and flew to Guayaquil, 40 minutes in the wrong direction. Presumably it acts as part domestic carrier despite there being many of those in Ecuador already. In Guayaquil the non Spanish speaking passengers all remained in their seats as everyone else got off, we thought they were getting off at this was their final destination. We were then informed we had to get off whilst they refuelled the plane! We then had to stand in a corridor for three quarters of an hour whilst all of the hand luggage was put through x-ray again. This was a pointless exercise as it had all been x-rayed in Quito before getting on the plane in the first place and as we had been given transit cards what were they expecting to find, a part of the plane perhaps? We then walked straight through the airport lounge to the departure gate and commenced re-boarding the plane, it took that long to get through the farce.

In Peru we flew with LAN to and from Cusco and found the check in and flights to be efficient and far better than expected and with only a 50minute flight time the whole experience passed quickly. We also flew with LAN from Lima to Quito, which was just as good as the internal Peru flights. An airline that Iberia should learn from.

Peru Airports levy charges on not only International departures but also on domestic flights. The airport charges of $8 to go to Cusco and another $8 to return to Lima. $32 was charged to fly out of the country altogether. In Ecuador the departure tax is even steeper at $40.80 though there were no charges for internal flights. The flight to the Galapagos was a little longer than expected with a stop over for 50minutes at Guayaquil though this time we stayed on the plane whilst they refuelled. The airport at Baltra, Galapagos, was chaos and luggage claim is a free for all experience. Our return bound flight, again via a Guayaquil stop over, was interrupted soon after take off and we had to return to Guayaquil for a 3hour delay. Apparently the Air Iberia, them again, flight from Madrid had blown several tyres on landing and the runway had to be checked for damage, clear the tyre debris and get the plane out of the way.

The flight to Coca was with VIP who have their own small terminal at the airport and was efficient at checking in. The flight only took about 25minutes on a twin prop over the Amazon. Quick and easy flying.

Travel: On the ground
In Peru ground travel had been arranged by tanager Tours form birding and by the hotels for airport transfers. The roads in Peru to and from our birding destinations were good though a few places along the highway on the coast showed signs of earthquake stress. Traffic was obviously more hectic around Lima and Cusco. We had the services of Juve for our birding at Lake Huacarpay and his trustee Toyota 4x4 whilst in Lima we had Lucho and a large 4x4 Land Cruiser type thing. The ride was a little bouncy with the shock absorbers probably needing some work doing to them.

• In Quito, Ecuador we had the services of Renaldo and his car. He picked us up at the airport and the following day took us to Antisana. Driving around Quito was better than around Lima or Cusco and although busy it didn't have the same chaotic feel as Lima. Driving up to Guango Lodge and San Isidro was on good highway with little traffic and again with drivers arranged by Tropical Birding.

• Passports & Visa requirements – No Visas are required to visit Peru or Ecuador from the UK

Accommodation

• Hotels

Mami Panchita Hostel, Lima, Peru: I stayed here in June and found it to be a reasonable place to spend a few nights. The rooms a comfortable and en-suite. Downstairs there is a small bar and Internet access. The breakfast here was a basic affair but for a base of operations in Lima it sufficed. For rates and more information visit www.mamipanchita.com
Marani Hotel, Cusco, Peru: A comfortable, small hotel with its own courtyard. The rooms are spacious and comfortable though on both occasions we stayed we were up and gone before any breakfast could be tried. Little English is spoken but we managed to get by. The hotel is situated not far from one of the squares and plenty of restaurants. For more information visit www.hostalmarani.com
Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Inkaterra, Agua Calientes, Peru: This was the most expensive place we stayed at in Peru, and probably the whole trip, about £110 per night per person. There are plenty of far cheaper places to stay at whilst at Machu Picchu but this hotel has it’s own extensive grounds that are excellent for birding with several regional endemics. For this reason we decided to stay here. I booked well in advance directly with the hotel that were also able to book our train ticket, these were delivered to the Hotel Marani. The rooms are large and comfortable with open fireplaces and birds directly outside the front door. There are numerous trails that can be walked whilst there are hummingbird feeders and a small patio has feeders for tanagers. There are guided walks from the Eco office. The restaurant is large but the food is a little to gourmet for my taste. For more information visit www.inkaterra.com/en/machu-picchu.
Hotel Dann Carlton, Quito, Ecuador: This busy business hotel is situated in the middle of Quito and in flight path of the international airport. There’s a park and Botanical Gardens not far away, which we visited briefly one afternoon. The rooms at the hotel are pretty standard and comfortable. You have a choice of either a set meal in the restaurant or the buffet, both of which are quite reasonable. Tropical Birding arranged this hotel for the ABA conference. For more information on rates and rooms visit www.danncarltonquito.com

Lodges
Sacha Lodge, Napo, Ecuador: In 2003 I stayed at La Selva Lodge some 20 miles further along the Napo and comparisons between the two were made. Sacha has an advantage over La Selva in that I found the rooms, meals and general amenities were better. However I actually liked La Selva more because of it’s location, right on the lake front, it’s rustic charm and the fact that there birds right outside your door, which Sacha just didn’t seem to be able to match. This may well be due to the time of year; we visit La Selva in November as opposed to early September. Sacha would probably be better on site at the right time of year. Sacha’s rooms have lighting, overhead fans and a balcony with hammock overlooking the forest. La Selva by contrast had a single low wattage light bulb in the bathroom and kerosene lamps in the room. The buffet meals were very good at Sacha in a good restaurant area whilst La Selva we needed to have torches to be able to see what we were eating.

Sacha is situated back from an oxbow lake and about twenty minutes walk from the Napo river jetty via a boardwalk. Many of the birding excursions required a short canoe ride. To reach the wooden canopy tower a canoe ride is required. This is not a bad thing as many species that would not otherwise be seen can be found, i.e. Agami Heron. The wooden tower produced some excellent birds though as not in season was quieter than the equivalent at La Selva in November. Another reason for Sacha over returning to La Selva is the Canopy Walkway. A metal structure several hundred feet long which allows for greater scope in viewing canopy birds. I had been looking forward to this but actually found it disappointing. The birding was slow, again the time of year, but mainly because I actually didn’t like the walkway itself. Between the towers it’s a little bouncy and can be difficult to view from and being in the rainforest it simply just did not fit in. A wooden structure would be more suitable but I guess just not viable. We returned to the wooden tower after our initial visit but declined a return visit here. The birds seen were good but I just didn’t like it, personal taste I guess.

There are a number of good birding trails and the local guides know where the birds are, how they ever found roosting Marbled Wood-quail and Short-billed Leaftosser in the first place a marvel, especially as the Wood-quail are off the main path.

Around the lodge Dark-backed Tamarins can often be seen whilst right at the back of the end cabins are a family of Pygmy Marmosets. By the main lodge building is a colony of Caciques, which can be viewed at eye level by climbing to the internal viewing platform. Hoatzins can be found between the lodge and the lakeside platform.

Birding excursions can be made to the north side of the Rio Napo to the parrot licks and to visit the Great Potoo roost. Although we didn’t spend much time there the other side of the river is better for antbirds than around the trails from Sacha.

All in all Sacha has the edge over La Selva in terms of what’s available but La Selva wins the most accessible birds around the lodge side of things (sitting with cold drink in hand and watching Sand-coloured Nighthawks over the lake from the bar at La Selva swings it). For more information visit www.sachalodge.com

Guango Lodge, Ecuador: Situated on the east slope in the highlands and about 1½ hours from Quito this is a strange little place but a good place to spend some time. It is close to the main road though luckily the road is not that busy. This is a great place to watch hummingbirds; we had at least 10 species at the feeders alone. These included numerous Sword-billed Hummingbirds, Mountain Velvetbreasts (they favour the feeders around the car park over the hummer hussell and bussel by the patio), Mountain Avocetbill and Long-tailed Sylphs. There are several trails that can be explored and we found numerous species here.

The lodge have recently added their own Antpitta feeding station to the growing list of sites around Ecuador. Here were had excellent views of a Chestnut-crowned Antpitta that was viewed from the road. It was called in in the morning and showed well on and off for about half an hour. We stayed overnight, which was lucky as the afternoon was rained off. It was a little chilly here but the good food and fireplace made up for that. Visit www.cabanasanisidro.com for more information.

Cabanas San Isidro, Ecuador: This is a sister lodge to Guango Lodge, hence the same web address. This is a little lower in elevation than Guango and a further hour or so’s drive from there. There a numerous good trails that can be walked, a trail map is available when you arrive. There several hummingbird feeders which attract several different species not found at Guango.

There are two main reasons for visiting these cabanas and that’s the Mystery Owl and the two Antpittas that are fed each morning and evening. We had two Chestnut-crowned Antpittas together in the afternoon of our arrival and Yellow-breasted Antpitta the following morning. The owl comes can be found around the lights feeding on moths in the evenings, a good spotlight is needed. This is called the mystery owl as it shows characters that can be found in two owl species. These owls species however do not have range over laps so could not produce hybrid offspring. It is likely that the owl is a species in it’s own right though it has not been found anywhere else, only at these cabanas. Other excellent birds can obviously be found here and several days could be spent covering the area.

The rooms are excellent with birding right outside. Meals however were a little too gourmet, a straightforward meal would have been better. There is a ‘lounge’ with a pool table with a great view over to Guamacayos Ridge. For more information visit www.cabanasanisidro.com

Galapagos
The yacht ‘Fragata’: This small yacht, about 75feet long, with 8 double cabins undertakes numerous tours of the islands. This boat was chartered for the ABA conference and we were able to secure a double room. As a small yacht it is a little susceptible to rocking about a bit on the open sea and several of those on board were a little sea sick at some point. The meals by the crew were excellent and amongst the best of the entire trip. Excursions to the islands are made by small Pangas. The crew are very adept in getting people in and out of these. Anywhere on the boat can be used to view seabirds and I managed to find two Galapagos rarities from the bow within the space of half an hour, bring the rest of the passengers running. They have set routes which are detailed on their website www.yatefragata.com but can also be chartered.

Birding locations:

PERU

Lake Huacarpay: about ¾ hours drive from Cusco we visited directly from the airport with our driver Juve. The main purpose for visiting here is to search for Bearded Mountaineer. At the lake there is a look track, which gives good advantage points at various points. We found a pair of showy Mountaineers around a small stand of Eucalyptus trees located about ½ mile after taking the left turn after leaving the main highway. The lake is predominantly reed fringed and has a variety of wildfowl and other good birds. Of note we also saw Plumbeous Rail, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Many-coloured and Wren-like Rushbirds, Giant Hummingbird, Sparkling Violetear, Peruvian Sheartail, Puna Teal, Cinereous Harriers, White-browed Chat-tyrant and Bare-faced Ground Dove amongst others. Two or three hours is really all that is needed at the lake.

Machu Picchu: The main areas we covered for birding were the grounds of the Hotel Inkaterra and the walk back down from Machu Picchu itself. Birding at the hotel is very good with hummingbird feeders attracting Green-and-white Hummingbirds, Booted Racket-tail, Long-tailed Sylph, White-bellied Wood stars and Collared Incas (of the chestnut throated form) amongst the many Chestnut-breasted Coronets. The hotel is set in forest with numerous trails that can be walked in search of the 180 or so species that have been recorded here. The hotel also supplies many bananas’, which are placed out for tanagers. Whilst at the feeding stations we logged Saffron-crowned, Silver-backed, Hepatic, Blue-necked, Golden-naped, Blue-and-yellow, Blue-grey and Palm Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonias, Oropendolas, Cock-of-the-rock, Golden-olive Woodpecker and numerous other species.

Later in the afternoon we walked the red ‘birds’ trail and added Cinnamon Flycatcher, Tropical Parula, Mitred Parakeets, Golden-crowned Flycatcher, Barred Becard, Slate-throated Whitestarts, Russet-crowned Warblers, Black-backed Grosbeak and Chestnut-capped Brush-finch. Walking part of the same trail early the next morning gave us superb views of White-throated Quail-dove on the track and several Andean Guans.

The ruins of Machu Picchu themselves have few birds though Rufous-collared Sparrows were particularly tame here. Near to the entrance a White-winged Black-tyrant was perched up. The bamboo stand at the far end of the ruins is a good bet for Inca Wren. I found a family group in a small bamboo clump along with two Eleania species. You have the option of either getting the bus back down to town or walking down. We chose the latter. This was broken up into walking the road and walking the steps. It was a little late in the day but species seen included, Red-eyed Vireos, White-winged Black-tyrant, Azara’s Spinetails, Amethyst-throated Sunangel and an inquisitive Variable Antshrike. As it was hot we removed the low part of our zip off trousers. This turned out to be a mistake as even now, 4 weeks later, we have the marks of the two dozen chigger bites we both received. The river at the bottom of the valley gave us a female Torrent Duck, Torrent Tyrannulets and a Fasciated Tiger Heron all within 20 yards of each other. Note Torrent Ducks, Andean Swallows and several other species can be seen from the train whilst travelling to and from Machu Picchu and Cusco.

Pucasana: A small coastal fishing town, 1½ hours south of Lima, which is sheltered from the Pacific by some high cliffs. We visited a mirador above the town where we were able to scope out to sea. Red-legged Cormorants often flews close by along with numerous Peruvian Pelicans and Inca Terns. This is a good place to find Humboldt Penguin and we found a group ‘porpoising’. Several were scoped well just off the cliffs. Further out to sea a Peruvian Diving Petrel was found along with Sooty Shearwaters and a storm-petrel species (probably Wilson’s). The rocks below have Seaside Cinclodes whilst the cliffs nearby have nesting Inca Terns. The town’s harbour gave me photographic opportunities of Belcher’s Band-tailed and Grey Gulls and Peruvian Pelican.

Puerto Viejo: 40 minutes drive further south from Pucasana is a series of lagoons, which can easily viewed from a dirt track that dissects them. This is a good place to search for Great Grebe but we failed to find any. As compensation we had to make do with White-backed and Black-necked Stilts, Cinnamon Teals, White-cheeked Pintails, flocks of Wilson’s Phalaropes, Peruvian Meadowlarks, Semipalmated Plovers, Hudsonian Whimbrels, Killdeers, Spotted Sandpipers and White-tufted Grebes.

Further on is a low open area. We were dropped off on the far side with the instructions of walking through the orchards and plantations to the other side where we would meet up with the van. During this walk we had numerous Lesser Nighthawks in the scrub along with Tropical Mockingbird, many Vermillion Flycatchers, hundreds of seedeaters and siskins and many Crocking Ground Doves. We came across our target bird when we emerged on the other side of the plantations, a pair of stunning Peruvian Thicknees. After spending some time with these we re-orientated ourselves and headed for the van. Another pair of more distant thicknees were seen, though they could have been the same birds which had flown in that direction, and a fine Burrowing Owl.

ECUADOR

Antisana: This Paramo habitat location has some spectacular scenery and some superb birds. Between the two gates there is a scrub-covered hillside which we spent 45 minutes searching. We failed to find any Giant Hummingbirds but a Tawny Antpitta bounding along the road made up for that. We stopped here again on the return journey and had great views of Red-crested Cotinga, which we only saw briefly in the morning. A cliff face on the left as you go up the road, beyond the second gate/check point, is the nesting location of Andean Condors. I picked a juvenile sat out on the cliff, just look around the white ‘splatter’.

A small bridge crosses a small stream and this is another stopping off point. A track leads up the small gully, which is a good location to look for Ecuadorian Hillstar. We only saw these in flight. Other birds here included both the Cinclodes.

Once you continue up the track the habitat opens out into rolling plains where Andean Lapwings were common. Driving around the tracks here produced flocks of Baird’s Sandpipers, Caranculated Caracaras. Cinereous Harrier, several Aplomado Falcons, both the Cinclodes and Paramo Ground Tyrant. A stop at the Hacienda produced several Hillstars at the feeders. A distant Condor was seen from a viewpoint but two adults were seen well from the ‘gate’ down to the lake. The lake itself gave us excellent views of two Black-faced Ibis, an Aplomado Falcon, distant Silvery Grebe, Andean Teal and Yellow-billed Pintail.

Galapagos: The islands located in the east are younger than though found in the west. Due to tectonic plate shift the older islands have drifted away from the ‘hot spot’ and have been colonised sooner by plants and animal life. The islands of Santa Cruz and San Cristobal both have highlands covered in the lush forests in which many of the tree finches reside. The eastern islands of Hood and Genevosa are low and flat and have stunted plant life which suites nesting species such as frigatebirds and Red-footed Boobies. These islands have been around several million years longer than the islands in the west and as a result the lava fields have become weathered. Isabella and Fernandina are more of what is thought of as Galapagos, black lava fields and little plant life other than mangroves.

Most birding is done only at specific sites and as much time at these special places may be limited. However there is enough time to get and enjoy all the special birds these places have to offer. Much time is spent birding from the yacht between islands and clearly a good way of getting pelagic species.

Amazonia / Sacha Lodge, Guango Lodge & Cabanas San Isidro: See above

Guacamayos Ridge, San Isidro: I had high expectation for this trail but I would have to say that it was perhaps one of the worst trails I have ever birded. It started off promising enough with a decent level surface and steps up the hill from the car park/lay-by. However after reaching the top of the steps the trail then turned into a lengthy excursion of stumbling over boulders. It would seem that when the trail constructed they used lots of large round rocks as a surface. These were both slippery and uneven and we spent most of out time with our eyes on the ground so we didn’t go crashing because of a miss-step. We should have our eyes on the trees looking for birds. This was extremely frustrating.

The weather also hampered birding here. If it wasn’t raining thick mist shrouded the trees. At times visibility was limited to just a few metres where a good clearing was found. A good bird flock had been found at the beginning of the trail but after moving on the birds were hard to come by and I’m surprised we saw as much as we did, which wasn’t a lot. Horrible trail.

Paz de la Aves: This is a privately own patch of forest about one and half hours drive from Quito in the mid elevational area near Bella Vista accessed from the main highway. This is ‘the’ place to see Giant Antpitta. It is owned by Angel Paz who a few years ago had managed to ‘tame’ both Giant and Yellow-bellied Antpittas. Both these species will come in when called to be fed in the mornings along favoured trails. The Giant Antpitta, called Maria, even has its own viewing area, a shelter with some benches looking directly at its favoured stump. You have to arrive early in the morning as you head out down the steep trail well before it gets light. This forest is very good with viewing screens overlooking a Cock of the Rock lek and a feeding platform. Other difficult to obtain species here are Olivaceous Piha, Golden-headed Quetzal, Moustached Antpitta, Toucan Barbet, Plate-billed Mountain Toucan and Dark-backed Wood-quail. We saw some of these. At the top of the trail are some hummingbird feeders which attracted several species that we had not yet seen, such as Booted Racket-tail and Velvet-purple Coronet.

Los Blancos: The Mirador de Los Blancos is a restaurant with its own grounds that is located about 40minutes from Paz de la Aves. The staff here regularly put out bananas on the feeders just outside the window which attracts a whole array of tanagers, barbets and toucanets. For instance in just 20minutes the following species were logged, often in large numbers in some species; Golden, Silver-throated, Blue-necked, Flame-faced, Rufous-throated, Palm, Blue-grey Tanagers, Crimson-rumped Toucanet and Many-banded Aracari, Ecuadorian Thrush, Red-headed Barbets, Green Honeycreepers and Thick-billed Euphonias. The hummingbird feeders close by and around the patio at the back had dozens of hummers including several Green Thorntails and the stunning Fork-tailed Woodnymphs. There is a good view from the patio across the valley and if time allowed for exploration more species would surely have been found. This is an excellent place to have lunch and spend a few hours.

Local Guides

Juve – Back in June Juve was our driver around Peru but is also a very good guide and we were fortunate to have him again for our visit to Lake Huacarpay. It is a very nice guy, knows where the birds are and is very sharp in finding them. He speaks very little English but we got by with the universal language of pointing.

• At Sacha Lodge we had two guides, Andres’ and Miguel a local Indian, who both worked hard during a short three day stay. Andres knows where many of the special birds are and there were no language/communication problems. Miguel again had phenomenal skill in finding birds that both Andres and myself would struggle with. A laser pointer was employed to get you directly onto the bird though many times this was not really necessary. How these guys ever found roosting birds that are well off the set trails in the first place, let alone re-finding them to show to birders, and in the pitch black is amazing.

Iain Campbell, Tropical Birding: Iain is a fun birder to be with and his presence on the yacht ‘Fragata’ for the Galapagos trip was entertaining. From past experience I know he is an excellent guide, knowing if forest birds well though his presence on the Galapagos as a guide, for me at least, was not needed as most of the birds were pretty straightforward to identify. If you can’t identify a Swallow-tailed Gull or a Red-footed Booby then you’re in trouble and you’ll need a guide. Most of the more difficult birds, the finches, can be worked out with practice. Iain was on the trip more as a logistical organiser, ensuring buses, transport, etc were organised and as a representative for Tropical Birding for the ABA conference birders onboard. I did manage to find him a lifer though, Markham’s Storm Petrel so he was happy.

Daniel: he was a very good naturalist guide for the islands, a decent photographer with much enthusiasm and knowledge for his subject. From speaking to Iain he was by far and away the best guide for the islands that they had used and this was clear. Other groups and their guides we bumped into were calling Galapagos Hawks eagles and so on. If Daniel is your local guide then you’re onto a winner.

Weather

• Peru:
At both Lake Huacarpay and Machu Picchu it was clear, sunny and warm whilst on the coast it was generally overcast and a little cooler though not cold.
Ecuador: Antisana was bright and clear a little chilly due to the altitude. The Amazon was warm and a little humid though not overly hot which it had been the week before we arrived. It rained overnight on one occasion whilst we were there. It rained in the afternoon of the first days visit to Guango Lodge which hampered birding the trails though there were pauses long enough to allow decent hummingbird photos to be taken. It was chilly overnight. Next morning there was light rain but not the down pour it had been the previous day and even then it was only intermittent. It was sunny in the afternoon when we arrived at Cabanas San Isidro. This changed to rain the following morning, by 10am, and overcast. Rain was more persistent at Guacamayos Ridge with much hanging mist. Paz la Aves was warm and clear, perfect conditions.
Galapagos: generally cool and bright when in the coastal regions though a stiff breeze was often encountered, apart from around the islands in the west where it was calm, warm and bright, excellent conditions. In the highlands it was notably mistier though again not overly cold.

Health & Annoyances

• Malaria:
the only place that was a malaria risk during the whole trip would be at Sacha Lodge in the Amazon. For this we took Malarone for 2 weeks. This is an expensive anti malarial and only available on prescription.
Biting Insects: apart from a few mosquito bites at Paz de la Aves the only problem with insects, other than those that constantly buzz a few inches from your ears and eyes up the canopy towers at Sacha, were the Chiggers at Machu Picchu in Peru. We had taken the bottom parts of our zip off trousers off when walking down from the ruins and we both received multiple Chigger bites, which itched for weeks.

Money & Expenses

• Peru – Solies
• Ecuador – Dollars
• Euros – Madrid

Day to day to itinerary – overview

Friday 17th August – International Air Iberia flight to Lima via Madrid arrived early evening, overnight stay at Hotel Mami Panchita

Saturday 18th August – Early morning flight to Cusco followed by 1 hour drive to Lake Huacarpay for 4 hours birding. Late afternoon in Cusco and overnight at the Hotel Marani.

Sunday 19th August – Early morning departure on the Vistadome train to Agua Calientas/Machu Picchu. Afternoon spent birding the grounds of the hotel Inkaterra.

Monday 20th August – Morning at the Machu Picchu ruins followed by walking/birding down the road back to town. Vistadome train in mid afternoon back to Cusco where we overnighted at the Hotel Marani.

Tuesday 21st August – Morning flight to Lima where proceeded to fishing port of Pucasana south of the city where spent several hours photographing Inca Terns and gulls. This was followed by time at the lagoons and scrubland areas at Puerto Viejo. Overnighted again at the Hotel Mami Panchita.

Wednesday 22nd August – Early afternoon flight to Quito, Ecuador where transferred to the Hotel Dann Carlton on arrival with an hour spent birding a nearby park.

Thursday 23rd August – All day spent birding at Antisana with second night at the Hotel Dann Carlton

Friday 24th August – Morning flight transfer, via Guayaquil, to Baltra on the Galapagos. Boarded the yacht Fragata and birded late afternoon on the island of Seymour.

Saturday 25th August – Morning birding at the Santa Cruz Highlands in morning and visiting the Charles Darwin Centre in the after noon. Overnight cruise

Sunday 26th August – Morning birding San Cristobal followed by a sailing to Hood Island where we birding the Albatross colony.

Monday 27th August – Morning spent at Floreana / Santa Maria before setting sail for Isabela.

Tuesday 28th August – Birded the lava fields on Isabella

Wednesday 29th August – Birded the Lava fields on Fernandina before setting sail north round the top end of Isabela.

Thursday 30th August – Morning on the beach at Genovesa/Tower Island with afternoon visit to the petrel colony. Evening sailing to Santa Cruz.

Friday 31st August – Early morning on Bacha’s Beach, Santa Cruz before return to Baltra for flight to Quito via Guayaquil arriving at the Hotel Dann Carlton mid evening.

Saturday 1st September – Transfer to airport early morning for flight to Coca and early afternoon fast boat trip to Sacha Lodge where spent rest of afternoon birding

Sunday 2nd September – Morning at the Canopy Walkway with afternoon in canoe birding the lake, night Sacha Lodge

Monday 3rd September – Morning up the canopy tower followed by an afternoon walking the trails, night Sacha Lodge

Tuesday 4th September – Morning on the other side of the Napo at the parrot licks. Mid afternoon birding from the canoe and evening Canopy Tower visit, night Sacha Lodge

Wednesday 5th September – morning fast boat back to Coca for flight to Quito. On arrival early afternoon transferred to Guango Lodge where birding the hummingbird feeders.

Thursday 6th September
– Morning birding the trails at Guango Lodge before travelling to Cabanas San Isidro for the afternoon where birding the grounds.

Friday 7th September – Morning at Guacamayos Ridge in the wet before spending time around the lodge before returning to Quito for overnight at the Dann Carlton Hotel

Saturday 8th September – very early morning departure to Paz de la Aves where we birding the forest trails until 10am before ‘lunching’ at the Mirador Los Blancos. Returned to Quito early afternoon flight to Madrid, via Guayaquil.

Day-to-Day account

Note: Wednesday 15th August 2007
The day before we were to travel to Peru the country experienced a massive earthquake in the region of 7.9 on the Richter scale with the epicentre 100 or so miles south of Lima in the Ica region. This caused massive damage and fatalities in that area whilst buildings north in Lima were reported as ‘shaking violently’ The effects of the quake were felt as far away as Cusco, northern Chile and Bolivia. Tsunami warnings were issued but they were later withdrawn.

Obviously we were concerned that the early part of the trip would be disrupted but it was unknown as to the extent. I spent much of the day trying to find out if the flights were still going ahead on the 17th August as well as domestic air travel and if the hotel was still standing.

Given the extent of the catastrophe to the south our trip was clearly and understandably of a lower priority to many Peruvians trying to sort out the mess. However as several areas of Peru are highly dependant on tourism, i.e. Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca etc, the country would need to ensure that it’s tourism infrastructure was not affected too drastically.

From what information I obtained it appeared that it was business as usual in Lima so we proceeded with the flight.

Friday 17th August

We arrived in Lima after enduring a 12hour flight from Madrid with Air Iberia. The Hotel Mami Panchita had sent a driver to meet as at the airport. Passing through passport control, luggage claim, customs etc was just as drawn out as it was two months ago with the exception this time in that our luggage was out rather promptly. We arrived at the hotel with the proprietor remembering me from my last visit. We checked in, dumped our kit and headed off up the road for meal at the same restaurant as on my last visit. Again the meal was excellent and probable the best we had during our stay in Peru. There was no need for unpacking as we had to be up and away early next morning for our flight to Cusco.

Saturday 18th August

Our hotel driver took us to the airport and the check in process for Cusco was really easy and one of the best check in processes I’ve ever experienced. The flight was nice and short. At Cusco we were treated to Pan Pipes whilst we waited for our luggage to appear. Juve was there to greet us and we were soon on our way to Lake Huacarpay. We stopped off a local shop to get some water and then passed some flooded fields covered in Puna Ibis and Andean Gulls, which we intended to look at on our return. We made several stops on the first leg around the lake with the first bird call to be recognised being the Wren-like Rushbirds. These were a little easier to see than on my last Peruvian visit. We had spent a little time looking at Yellow-winged Blackbird, Andean Lapwing, American Kestrel, a Plumbeous Rail and Blue-and-yellow Tanagers when Juve picked out the target bird, Bearded Mountaineer. We viewed distantly as the bird fed at yellow flowers near the bottom of the nearby hillside.

We quickly moved closer and found that there were two birds, presumably a pair. They were favouring a small stand of about five Eucalyptus trees. They were mobile but we did get great views. Also here was a Peruvian Sheartail, numerous Chiguanaco Thrushes, Rusty-fronted Canastero and a White-browed Chat-tyrant. After probably an hour we pressed on around the lake interspersed with stops. Further birds included Short-billed and Rufous-naped Ground Tyrants, Giant Hummingbird (which used a barbed wire fence to perch on), Cinnamon Teal, Little Blue Heron, Cinereous Harriers, Band-tailed Sierra-finch, Band-tailed Seedeaters, Speckled Teals and a juvenile grebe which was probably a White-tufted but seemed to have the structure more akin to the northern hemisphere’s Red-necked Grebe.

By late morning we had seen probably all we were likely to see so headed off for the flooded fields. There were no gulls or ibis in sight due to people now working in the fields, should have stopped when we saw them. An hour later Juve had dropped us at the Hotel Marani, located in a very narrow cobbled street in Cusco. No English was spoken by the staff, and my Spanish is limited, so asking if our train tickets to Machu Picchu had been delivered was not understood.

We eventually got to our room and after a chill out session we headed off to the nearby square. After a brief look around the stands selling local brick-a-brack we found a restaurant and had a good meal. Back at the hotel our train tickets had finally arrived. An information pack for the hotel and Machu Picchu area. Rest of day relaxing and getting some rest.

Sunday 19th August

We had an early start for the train to Machu Picchu today. We got a taxi to the train station and made our way through to the ticket office. It is advisable to book your tickets in advance so you don’t have to queue up. That process looked a drawn out and long winded process. After hanging about for a while, and watching one of the trains depart, we were allowed to board our train. This was meant to be the more ‘plush’ Vistadome service which you pay more for but it wasn’t all that and probably not worth the extra expense. We had a table at our seats in our carriage and a supplied sandwich. The train took an age to get out of Cusco as it had to zig zag it’s way up the hillside. It was a little chilly on the train and as we were in the front carriage the constant sounding of the very loud horn, for the next three hours, was more than just an annoyance. Several interesting species were seen from the train with the best being the numerous Torrent Ducks.

On arrival at the other end Inkaterra were there to meet us. Our luggage was labelled for transport to the hotel. Everyone else to the laid on bus to the ruins but we were the only ones to go directly to the hotel. After checking in and being giving an introduction of the hotel, and a disagreement about walking the trails we were taken to our room, in a round about way. One of the things we found was that the staff were not too efficient. We were told we could not walk the trails on our own and had to join a group, which was no good for photography and got lost by the porter who didn’t know his way around the cabins as it was his first day.

After speaking to the environmental office it turned out we could walk the trails on our own, just not the Orchid one.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

After checking out the large room we headed out into the hotel grounds and watched the feeding station for a while. Here we had numerous tanagers though the best were Saffron-crowned, Blue-necked and Golden-naped Tanagers, they were superb. Another good bird to visit here was a female Cock of the Rock, which Sheryl found. Hummingbirds were very numerous with Chestnut-breasted Coronet being the most numerous. Of the scarcer species Green-and-white Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph and Booted Racket-tail were found at the feeders along the path towards the birding trail.

As the hotel is situated right above the railway line the blasting of train horns was a regular disturbance. Along the trail we did manage to located Black-backed and Golden-bellied Grosbeaks, Mitred Parakeets, Slate-throated Whitestarts, Cinnamon Flycatchers, several Tropical Parulas and Barred Becard.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

Later in the afternoon we walked the town, sorting out the tickets for the bus up to ruins and the tickets for the entrance to the ruins themselves. A bit of shopping was also done before we we retired back to the hotel. The hotel has set evening meals and ours was for 8pm so I had time to light a fire in the fireplace and showers were had.

The evening meal was a bit uninspiring and again the staff not knowing what they were doing regarding drinks just continued the theme of inability here.

Monday 20th August

It took about 15 minutes to walk from the hotel to where the buses depart in town for Machu Picchu. We had no problem boarding a waiting bus and transported to the ruins, a journey of about 20-25minutes. Even though it had only just gone 7am it was already pretty busy. It was a little chilly though this changed to hot during the course of the day. We spent 3hours walking the ruins which was spoilt a little by the number of people present and a good number of those on mobile phones, ‘guess where I’m calling you from’ calls. A White-winged Black-tyrant was by the entrance on arrival.

I spent a little time around the Bamboo at the far end of the ruins and with a little patient waiting a family group of stunning Inca Wrens responded to playback of their own song.

When we were leaving, at about 11am, one of the staff on site suddenly demanded that she look in my backpack whilst pointing to my camera saying I was a professional. Bearing in mind that the place was full of cameras and every one of them taking pictures of the ruins I was singled out as I had a larger lens (100-400mm zoom). I had only just swapped over the lens to take pictures of Rufous-collared Sparrows. Basically I refused to let her look in my bag unless she could give me good enough reason, which she didn’t, she just kept say wanted to look in the bag. Repeating the same thing over and over was not going to make it happen. She called over someone else who said that my camera was not professional and they had a disagreement over that. Whilst they were doing that we just continued on our way towards the exit.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

The second member of staff followed us and we were called into the office by the entrance/exit where more staff demanded to look in my bag. Again with no reason for it so I flatly refused. If they could give a good enough reason to look in the bag I would have allowed them. Because my bag was a little large, my 500mm lens was inside, and I had a tripod strapped to it I get the impression they thought I was a professional photographer out to make money from taking photos of the ruins. I was then told that the bag was too big and could not be taken in. I pointed out that we had already been in the 3hours and were leaving. The jobs worth behind the counter said that was not possible and kept repeating the same thing over and over, I couldn’t take my bag in, it’s not possible. They even threatened to call the Police, which I responded in agreement. They didn’t call the Police.

I believe that if they had seen my 500mm lens they would have tried to charge me to take it in, even though we were leaving and I had not used it in there. To get the best shots of the ruins you need a wide-angle lens, what the other 300 visitors were using, and not a 500mm lens that would only take pictures of a brick at a time. Didn’t make sense. I had brought the camera bag and lens with me as I didn’t want to leave it at the hotel or at the left luggage by the ruins entrance.

It seemed to me that just repeating the same thing over and over would get them what they wanted, which they didn’t. After a while I picked my bag up and walked out.

After this farce we were going to just get the bus back to town but eventually walked back down the mountain using both the steps and the road. It was quite hot by now by several interesting birds were seen, Azara’s Spinetail, Variable Antbirds, Red-eyed Vireos, Amethyst-throated Sunangel etc. With the temperature going up, the walking getting tougher we zipped off the bottoms of our trousers. This was a little refreshing by we ended up regretting it as we suffered numerous Chigger bites which itched for weeks.

At the river at the valley floor we came across a Fasciated Tiger Heron, female Torrent Duck and two Torrent Tyrannulets in quick succession. It took several hours to walk from the ruins to town so we had a break at one of the many restaurants before heading for the train station. Our luggage had been brought down from the hotel and we boarded the train at 3pm for the journey to Cusco. The seats were pretty basic and only forward facing, glad we paid the extra for the quality train and not paid for cheaper backpackers train service for the same amenities. We had some onboard entertainment though from the carriage staff in the form of a dance and a fashion show, bizarre.

We arrived back in Cusco well after dark and grabbed a taxi for 4soles to the hotel Marani. A quick dump of kit and to a nearby restaurant for a meal. Early to bed.

Tuesday 21st August

Continuing the theme of early mornings we were at the airport for flight to Lima at 6am. As with the flight here the checking process was efficient. We arrived after a 50minute flight at Lima and were met by our driver for the day, Lucho. We then headed off south of the city to the small fishing town of Pucasana. We saw a few knocked down walls and collapsed buildings as a result of the earthquake. As we passed through southern Lima flocks of Neotropical Cormorants were seen sat on telephone cables and lampposts and our only Kelp Gulls of the trip.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

At Pucasana we stopped at a mirador/view point overlooking cliffs and the Pacific where Red-legged Cormorants, Peruvian Boobies, Peruvian Pelicans, Inca Terns and Grey Gulls were seen flying past. Scoping out to sea produced a porpoising group of Humboldt Penguins, a fast flying Peruvian Diving Petrel, numerous Sooty Shearwaters, a storm petrel and a phalarope.

After a while we then moved to a nearby cliff where Inca Terns were nesting. I spent an hour here photographing these birds. In the waters below a penguin came in and a Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes was found on the rocks. From here we went to the towns harbour where we attracted a bit of interests by the locals as we watched and photographed the gathered Belcher’s Band-tailed and Grey Gulls, Peruvian Pelicans and Inca Terns.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

Mid afternoon we continued south for half an hour to some lagoons close to the highway where we searched in vain for Great Grebe. There were flocks of Wilson’s Phalaropes that made the visit down here worthwhile in itself. A few waders, Black-necked and White-backed Stilts, Killdeers, Spotted Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, were present and singing Peruvian Meadowlarks were elusive. A smart summer plumaged White-tufted Grebe and Cinnamon Teals added a bit of colour.

About 10 minutes further south still we were dropped off and instructed to walk back towards the lagoons. This would take us through plantations and low scrubland and semi desert. This was the site of one of the main target birds, Peruvian Thicknee. The next few hours brought us many many Chestnut-throated Seedeaters, Hooded Siskins and Vermillion Flycatchers. Amongst the many seedeaters Parrot-billed Seedeater was found though many more were probably went unnoticed amongst the flocks. Numerous Lesser Nighthawks were disturbed from the plantation though were difficult to pin down on the ground. Croaking Ground Doves were abundant whilst only one or two Long-tailed Mockingbirds were seen. It was only after we came out of the plantation and on the far side that our target was found, a superb pair of Peruvian Thicknees. There were watched for 20 minutes before they took flight. Nearby in the desert area a Burrowing Owl was seen well as well as possibly the same pair of thicknees, more distant now.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

We called it a day and headed back to the hotel Mami Panchita and a meal again at the same restaurant we started off at.

Wednesday 22nd August

This was primarily a travel day. We were able to have a lie in bed until 8am today. Following breakfast we were taken to Lima Airport where we checked in for our flight to Quito in Ecuador. As usual the check in process was easy and the flight departed at about 12.30pm. We arrived at Quito and were met by our driver, Ronaldo, and taken to the Hotel Dann Carlton. Ronaldo was a chatter and friendly individual.

We checked in at the hotel and went for a short walk to a nearby park for half an hour. Only a few birds were seen with Great Thrushes and Eared Doves being especially common. Of the less common species found Black-tailed Trainbearer was the pick of the bunch with a stunning male perched up for a few minutes.

The meal, a buffet, and subsequent meals at the hotel were all okay, nothing too great but plenty of it.

Thursday 23rd August

Midway between the two gates we walked the road and birded the scrubby hillside nearby. Several good birds were found but numbers and diversity were low as the sun had not yet hit the hillside. Of the birds seen Brown-backed Chat-tyrants, a brief Red-crested Cotinga, a Tawny Antpitta bounding along the track in front of us and a Black-chested Buzzard-eagle over head were the best.

The cliffs that dominate the other side of the valley about 15minutes further on are the breeding site of Andean Condor. I found a large juvenile sat by one of the white stained rocks. Nearby Black-billed Shrike-tyrant and an Andean Tit-spinetail were also seen.

At the obvious gully with a bridge over the stream beyond the second gate (rope) a lot of Caranculated Caracara’s we seen overhead. The gully gave us flight and silhouette views of Ecuadorian Hillstars whilst views of cinclodes here were much better.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

Over the hill and around the next bend the habitat really opens out into paramo and species such as cinclodes, Black-winged Ground Doves, Andean Lapwings become a lot more numerous. An immature male Cinereous Harrier was seen distantly as it hid amongst some tussock grass. Many small waders that were seen close to and flying around the boggy areas were soon identified as Baird’s Sandpipers. Caracara’s were numerous but there was a strange lack in Andean Gulls with none seen up here all day.

The Hacienda that is set way up in the paramo has feeders set out for Ecuadorian Hillstars and we saw at least 3-4 whilst we were here. Paramo Ground-tyrants and especially Stout-billed Cinclodes were photographed well here, as was a Black-winged Ground Dove that dropped in for a few minutes.

After half an hour we drove to a viewpoint looking towards Antisana Volcano where Condors were regularly seen. I had a few false starts with Variable/Puna type hawks but I eventually picked out a distant adult Andean Condor. The bird simply drifted across the horizon and was gone within minutes.

It was a little windy and cold here so we headed off to the lake. We had to make another stop at a checkpoint and whilst waiting to be let through I picked out two adult Andean Condors heading our way over the hillside. We clambered out and had great views of these birds for about 15minutes. When they eventually passed beyond the hillside we continued to the windswept lake. We failed to find any Black-faced Ibis on the way where they had been seen a week before. At the car park at the end of the road both the cinclodes showed well. Andean Coot, Yellow-billed Pintail and Andean Teals were showing well close to the lakeshore whilst Silvery Grebes were at the far end of the lake and not much more than just identifiable specs.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

We had a walk along the edge of the lake, which was a little damp but we had gone only 150yards or so when I heard the distinctive sound of calling ibis and a few seconds later I picked out two Black-faced Ibis stood on the embankment just above the lakeshore. Over then next half hour I carefully crept closer and was able to obtain some excellent photos. Whilst headed back towards Sheryl and the car a stunning Aplomado Falcon shot low past me which only I saw.

Back at the car we had a packed lunch whilst watching Plumbeous Sierra-finches. A van arrived and a group of birders clambered out. I let them know about the ibis, which were still there, in case they hadn’t yet found any, which they hadn’t. After lunch we headed back along the same track and encountered many more Caranculated Caracara’s and Andean Lapwings. Several Aplomado Falcons were frustratingly brief but none more so than the one that had been sat on a rock on the side of the track which we flushed as we approached. I didn’t see the bird until it was too late as I had been looking out in the other direction.

However all was not lost and a group of caracaras were found about 100yards from the track with a large falcon flying around with them. Within minutes we had excellent scope views of this bird. Job done.

By now the wind and cold persuaded us to head back towards the hotel though we did stop for a walk along the same stretch of road as first thing this morning. Little was seen apart from the same Red-crested Cotinga, which showed very well for a few minutes. We were back at the hotel by 5pm.

Friday 24th August

We departed the hotel at 7.30am with the group of American birders as part of the Tropical Birding trip out the Galapagos. There were brief introductions to the others in the group and Iain Campbell who was to be the tour guide. We were dropped off at the airport and went through the checking in process that took about an hour for the group. We were delayed for a little while but eventually we were boarding the plane to take us to the islands. We had a layover at Guayaquil for about 50minutes before continuing on for one and half hours to the island of Baltra. The control and luggage claim was entertaining and interspersed with our first Small and Medium Ground Finches and Galapagos Doves.

We met our Naturalist Guide Daniel, you can’t visit the islands without one and boarded a bus to the quay to take us to the yacht Fragata. At the quay Common Noddies, Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigatebirds flew around the harbour whilst sealions took up the benches intended for people waiting for their boat. We had a short introduction about the boat, safety and what to expect etc before we set sail for the island of Seymour. Blue-footed Boobies, Galapagos Shearwaters and White-vented Storm-petrels along with those species previously mentioned above were seen in the short crossing.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

A few boats were moored at the island and it wasn’t long before we were clambering into the small Panga’s and attempting a landing. Due to the tide we had to make a landing on rocks that was not as bad as it sounds though as some of the group were a little unsteady on their feet it was a little worrying for some. We were greeted by a Yellow-crowned Night Heron and groups of Swallow-tailed Gulls that just didn’t want to move. We had to climb around them to get to the trail. In summary of our first experiences of being on the Galapagos were excellent. Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds were nesting a point blank range as were Blue-footed Boobies. Galapagos Doves were tame on the path and a large mustard coloured Land Iguanas mooched about. I found a female Large Ground Finch which showed well for everyone. A Lava Gull flew over and small groups of small Marine Iguana’s were sunning themselves on the rocks. The surf gave us several Wandering Tattlers and many sealions, including a bull, were close to and actually on the path. A very bright male Yellow Warbler fed next to us, being totally unconcerned as to our presence. The early part of the trail was basically walking over boulders.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

By the time it was time to return to the boat the wind had got up which made getting into the Panga’s from the small and wet quay a little bit of a problem, especially with heavy and bulky camera bags. Whilst I waited my turn Lava Heron nearby feeding on crabs and nesting Swallow-tailed Gulls were all seen a very close range.

Once we were back on board the Fragata it was only a quick change of clothes before the dinner bell was rung. This was the first of excellent meals on board. The yacht set sail for it’s overnight cruise to Santa Cruz that was a little bit rocky due to choppy seas.

A slow start with the travelling but rounded off nicely with a wildlife spectacle, superb.

Saturday 25th August

The day got off to a bad start. Whilst coming down the internal stairs on the ‘Fragata’ my feet just went away from me and I landed very badly. Not to dwell to long on what had happened but panic ensued by the crew and some of the passengers as I apparently was unresponsive for a few minutes. When I regained consciousness there was much relief. I decided to skip breakfast but took a pain killer injection from the doctor that had been called over from the town we were moored at. My back felt uncomfortable but despite suggestions that I should not go to the island I still went. My progress this morning was a little slower than normal.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels were seen from the stern of the boat whilst waiting for the Panga’s. I noticed that storm-petrels quite readily came into the harbours and inshore waters throughout the trip.

The town of Puerto Ayora was interesting, a real tourist place with lots of shops to spend money in. There is a large statue of a Waved Albatross that was used as gathering point. In the bay were Wandering Tattlers, Turnstones and Hudsonian Whimbrels as well as many Sally Lightfoot crabs. Small Ground Finches were found around town and the first Galapagos Mockingbirds were seen perched on the town’s buildings.

We were driven by bus to the highlands to search for other endemic finches. These highlands are covered in forest and was mostly mist shrouded whilst we were there. A Small Tree Finch and a showy Galapagos Mockingbird vied for attention right by the bus.

We walked the trails opposite the drop off area and the real highlight was a Woodpecker Finch found using a stick to poke out a grub. This is actually an uncommon sight and something I would not have wanted to miss by staying on the boat. Other notable birds were several Warbling Finches and Galapagos Flycatchers. Small Tree Finches were abundant and a male Medium Tree Finch was watched for several minutes. There are a couple of large sink-holes here, created by long extinct volcanos.

Back on the bus we stopped at the Rancho Primicias where Giant Tortoises were found along with more mockingbirds and numerous Cattle Egrets. Galapagos Flycatchers were seen well here including a bird that fought with it’s own reflection in the mirror of a parked motor cycle. Another shop helped part us from our money.

Despite searching the regular haunts neither of the rails gave themselves up. We eventually headed back to town and the boat back to the ‘Fragata’. Again whilst waiting to board the boat a Lava Heron showed very well by the landing stage.

After dinner some of us returned to Puerto Ayora with the plan of meeting up later to get transport to the Charles Darwin Centre. In the meantime I spent several hours photographing a Striated Heron, Wandering Tattler, Whimbrel and the Sally Lightfoot crabs in the harbour. At the local fish quay, where the days catch is brought in, gutted and sold, Lava Gulls, Frigatebirds, Lava Heron, Pelicans and Great Blue Herons were all a point blank range.

We allowed half an hour to look at the shops and walk back to get the bus to the centre. Instead of a bus we had a series of taxi’s instead to travel the 5 miles or so. The Charles Darwin Centre is dedicated to the conservation of Giant Tortoises with the fame ‘Lonesome George’ being in residence though we didn’t see him. We did see several Yellow Warblers and Galapagos Flycatchers whilst walking the trails. The main target bird was soon found in the form of Cactus Finch. We were here until dusk and returned to the boat for the evening and another excellent meal. We overnight cruised to San Cristobal, which was again a bit like trying to sleep on a roller coaster.

Sunday 26th August

After breakfast we made a morning visit to the highlands of San Cristobal which to be honest was a little quiet. However we did score with two target birds here, San Cristobal Mockingbird and Vegetarian Finch. This was a brief visit to simply get these birds and further attempts at the rails/crakes proved fruitless. Much of the rest of the day was spent at sea as we sailed towards the island of Hood. Seawatching was done from the top deck and Band-rumped (Madeiran) Storm-petrels were seen alongside White-vented and Wedge-rumped Storm-petrels. Wedge-rumpeds were now easy to pick out with the naked eye due to their larger size, longer wings, deliberate flight action and the fact they didn’t dance on the waters surface. Numerous Galapagos Shearwaters were seen but excitement was had when Galapagos Petrels went past and the odd distant Waved Albatross. The voyage between islands took just over four hours. After a few hours seawatching I retired to the cabin for a nap.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

We were greeted at Hood by many Sealions and Hood Mockingbirds on the beach. Yellow Warblers seemed to be everywhere and groups of Marine Iguana’s were dotted around the coastal strip. The next few hours were amongst the best of the trip. Large Cactus Finch were almost ignored as we were entertained by the many Red-billed Tropicbirds chasing each other overhead, or the Waved Albatross and Nazca Booby colonies that we walked through. Many of the tropicbirds flew past at head height allowing some superb views and photo’s to be taken. The colony of Waved Albatrosses allowed close views of nest birds on or near the path whilst flying birds could be seen flying past at eye level along the cliffs at the blowhole. Swallow-tailed Gulls were often seen hanging in the updraft along the cliffs.

An adult Galapagos Hawk was found sat on a rock overlooking its chick still in its nest where it was trying out it’s still growing wings. It was just superb and it was a shame we didn’t have more time here.

Monday 27th August

The morning was spent in the highlands at the southern end of Isabella where a Vermillion Flycatcher, a potential split, and Medium Tree Finches were added to the increasing list. There were a lot of tree and ground finches up here. Back at the quay at around 10am a group of four or five Green Sea Turtles were seen well and red Marine Iguana’s were perfectly lit for photographs, marvellous. I was however feeling a little unwell as the pain killing injection from a few days ago was now wearing off and the pain was returning.

Back on board I went straight to the cabin where I didn’t emerge for the next 24hrs as I was rather ill. It was not seasickness though it may well have developed into that overnight as it got a bit rough. I was feeling so bad that I couldn’t even get out on deck to look at the last remaining endemic Mockingbird (Charles Mockingbird) which was visible on the nearby shoreline.

Tuesday 28th August
I didn’t emerge until mid morning. I found out that those that went out on the morning walk on Isabella picked up a few good birds, the best being Galapagos Penguin and Flightless Cormorant. However as we sat about in beautifully calm conditions and sunny weather a pair of Galapagos Penguins swam past giving great views. I was also able to distantly scope Flightless Cormorants. Flight for V formation Blue-footed Boobies made for further entertainment. An afternoon Panga trip out along the coastline gave us excellent views of both the Penguins and the Cormorants as well as many feeding, swimming and basking Marine Iguana’s. This evening we set sail for Fernandina on calm waters.

Wednesday 29th August

This island is what I had imagined the Galapagos to be, lava fields and calm blue seas. Early morning Panga trip and a landing on the island gave us quality views of two Galapagos Penguins and many Flightless Cormorants. The landing was a little slippery as it was a low tide and rocks were covered in slippery algae. However it was well worth it to walk out over the lava, and seeing the numerous splendid rock pools. On the island were two possibly three Galapagos Martins which gave excellent views and a Wandering Tattler that performed well in a rocky channel. Sharp-billed Ground Finch was another of finches to be added to the list. There were large gatherings of Marine Iguana’s and a splendid Pacific Green Turtle lazed in a calm cove. All too soon though it was time to go.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

The rest of the day was spent at sea. Between Isabella and Fernandina were flocks of phalaropes, mostly Red-necked but the odd Grey Phalarope was picked out. Common Noddies were watched fishing but one of the highlights of the trip was a family group of Bryde’s Whales which were watched for an hour though it seemed a lot less than that, time flies when you’re having fun.

We stopped at the north end of Isabella for our lunch and on the rocks were a group of six Galapagos Penguins. The cliffs here held numerous nesting seabirds, mostly Blue-footed Boobies that were watched plunge diving as a group.

After lunch we continued to motor around the north end of Isabella and I spent the whole time out seawatching. During this time I was able to get some fine photo’s of several storm-petrels and the very fine pterodroma, Galapagos Petrel. I was in the zone this afternoon as I found two quite rare birds for the islands, a Black/Parkinson’s Petrel seen by only a few that could get outside quick enough, and a Markham’s Storm Petrel which was seen by a few more a mere 20 minutes later at close range. In addition there was a shark species, a Manta Ray and a Sooty Shearwater. To finish the day off was a superb sunset.

Thursday 30th August,

Genovesa. For me the most anticipated island of the trip. For the first hour of daylight we could only view from the boat as we were moored beneath the cliffs. From the stern seabirds were all over the place, Swallow-tailed and Lava Gulls, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Blue-footed, Nazca and now Red-footed Boobies, frigatebirds, pelicans, shearwaters and storm-petrels. I was just itching to get to the beach.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

This was a wet landing, shoes off, trousers rolled up. On the beach Swallow-tailed Gulls were nesting at ridiculously close range whilst several pairs of Lava Gulls were vocal on our arrival. A sealion was feeding her pup whilst several others, including a bull, were scattered along the beach. Sharp-billed Ground Finches and Galapagos Doves were present and as usual were very tame. Red-footed Boobies were perched unconcerned close to the tide line. A Short-eared Owl was found at one end of the trail but it was injured and clearly was not in a good way. Most of the group wandered along the trail but I couldn’t get off the beach, many hundreds of photos were taken.

A sealion pup came up to see what I was, approaching to within a few inches. It was time to leave when another group of visitors arrived, much to my disappointment. A Manta Ray was seen briefly as it ‘flew’ under the boat.

An afternoon visit was made to other side of the bay where we climbed the Prince Phillip Stairs. Nazca and Red-footed Boobies were nesting on the top of the plateau. A male Large Ground Finch was watched attempting to get into a seed for about 5minutes. On the far side of the island is an amazing sight. This is a breeding location for Wedge-rumped Storm-petrels. Here in broad daylight were tens of thousands of storm-petrels flying about. Short-eared Owls are meant to be present where they hunt the petrels but we lucked out this time. We did see frigatebirds bouncing tropicbirds around by the end of their tails. A super experience. On return to the ‘Fragata’ we sailed south towards Santa Cruz. Seawatching produced more Galapagos Petrels but I didn’t stay out on deck that long this time round.

Friday 31st August

Last morning on the Galapagos. We had enough time to visit Bacha’s Beach on Santa Cruz. As we had spent a week around the islands I didn’t expect anything that we hadn’t seen previously so the camera and camcorder was left behind with Sheryl who elected to stay onboard. The small lagoon gave us Semipalmated Plover and a Least Sandpiper whilst a large flock of around 300 Blue-footed Boobies wheeled around in formation. However the highlight of the entire trip was a large female Pacific Green Turtle hauling her way back down the beach towards the sea after spending the night laying her eggs. We watched this spectacle for the next 45minutes when she reached her watery home. It was just a David Attenborough moment and I half expected him to appear with a film crew. I could have kicked myself for leaving the camera behind but I had a bad back………

After this we returned to the Fragata and onto Baltra and our flight back to Quito. We said our goodbyes to our guide and the crew who had done so well and hung around the airport as they sorted out baggage etc.

Eventually we landed at Guayaquil and again sat on the tarmac for 40minutes. However it was shortly after take off that we were given the good news by the Captain that we would have to return to Guayaquil due to an incident at Quito airport. We were delayed 3 hours so didn’t get in at Quito until after 8pm, should have been 5pm.

After the usual luggage claims, transport to the hotel it was after 9pm when we got to the restaurant.

Saturday 1st September

We were picked up at the hotel mid morning by Ronaldo and headed to the airport, via a Pharmacy as I was now suffering from a mild cold. The check in process at VIP airlines was easy enough. This small airline has its own terminal at one end of the runway. The plane to Coca was a twin prop and the flight was only 40minutes. After luggage claim we were met by Sacha Lodge reps and taken to their welcome house near the riverfront. Here the luggage was put into waterproof bags and loaded onto the fast canoes. In the courtyard was the only Black-breasted Mango of the trip. We were given our lifejackets and headed off at speed along the Rio Napo. There was not as much birdlife along the river as my last visit but it did include a Large-billed Tern that I had missed on my previous visit.

When we arrived at the lodge landing stage about 2 hours later we were greeted by hundreds of butterflies. Birds were around as well with Violaceous Jay’s, Piratic Flycatcher, Scarlet-headed and Guilded Barbets and Chestnut-eared Aracari’s. From here we then walked along the boardwalk for about 25minutes to the canoe shelter, where a White-chinned Jacamar showed very well. We were then paddled out into the lake and along one edge where Hoatzin’s were seen poorly and a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, which showed very well. Grey-chested Martins hawked over the lake. When we arrived at the lodge we had an introduction in the bar area before heading off to the room. After a quick orientation it was back to the main building where the cacique tree was the focal point for a little while. We walked down to the lakeside, seeing Hoatzins well on the way. Birdlife was a little quiet. Several Agouties were found wandering the grounds whilst one of the best sightings was of two Grey-necked Wood-rails in a small pool close to the boardwalk.

We paid a visit to the butterfly house, which was excellent.

Later on we went into the forest in the dark in search of some special roosting birds. Both were located a few metres away from the path which Sheryl found a little disconcerting, walking into branches, clambering over stumps and all in the pitch black, in the Amazon. The first birds seen were a pair of Marbled Wood-quail sat in branches above us looking like small owls and the second was a Short-billed Leaftosser in a gap in a large kapok. A scarce species to see in daytime let along at night. A third bird was seen during our night walk, a Tawny-bellied Screech-owl that showed very well in the spotlight beam. Not a bad start to the Amazon.

Sunday 2nd September

We left the lodge just after it was getting light and arrived at the metal canopy walkway at about 7am. This structure was disappointing and just so out of place in the forest. I just didn’t like it. Birding from the walkway was slow at best with many small black flies totally ignoring the insect repellent to buzz millimetres from our ears. During our morning here we did see some very good birds with the pick of the bunch being a family group of Ivory-billed Aracari’s, an Amazonian White-tailed Trogon, male Spangled Cotinga, Fasciated Antshrike, cute Orange-crowned Plushcrowns, a pair of White-throated Toucans, a stunning male Blue Dacnis, some even better Paradise Tanagers, a Dot-winged Antshrike, Green Honeycreepers, several bright tanager species, a Moriche Oriole, a Zimmer’s Flatbill, Red-stained Woodpecker and both Opal-browed and Opal-rumped Tanagers to name a few. However a noisy group that appeared on the central platform could probably be heard for miles and it was frustrating having to be so polite when I was trying, and failing, to get photos of the aracaris when they would get in the way and make a din.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

On the way back to the lodge we stopped at a Wire-tailed Manakin lek where two or three frustratingly mobile males meant that Sheryl had trouble getting onto them, perseverance though meant views were eventually obtained of at least two birds.

During the middle part of the day we visited the Pygmy Marmosets where we saw two on their favourite tree and a wander back into the forest where we heard again but did not see the manakins. On the walk back to the lodge I picked out two King Vultures drifted overhead. At 4pm we set off in the canoe and searched the flooded forest on the edge of the lake where numerous excellent species were seen. Highlights were the Silvered Antbirds, Short-billed Antwren, at least six Hoatzins, a juvenile Rufescent Tiger Heron, a Limpkin which Sheryl had trouble seeing despite it being three feet tall and in the open, a Green-and-Rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, a showy White-chinned Jacamar, a very well hidden Boat-billed Heron and Squirrel Monkeys were abundant as several inquisitive troops were seen at close range. A single White-faced Capuchin was seen briefly in the fading light. We also searched unsuccessfully for Paraque over the lake on the return paddle.

Monday 3rd September

The day started off with an early morning canoe ride across the lake and through the flooded forest with Boat-billed Flycatcher by the ‘dock’. This gave us one of the main target birds, brief but good views of an Agami Heron. We landed at the far end of the ‘creek’ and walked the short distance to the Wooden Tower. Here we spent much of the morning but unlike yesterday there was persistent mist for a few hours which hindered birding somewhat. However we did have very good views of, amongst others, Masked Crimson Tanager, several pairs of tip topping Golden-collared Toucanets, Eastern Syristes, Amazonian White-tailed Trogon, Black-tailed Tityra, female Plum-throated Cotinga, Blue Dacnis, Green-and-gold Tanagers, Guilded Barbets, a distant Laughing Falcon, a stunning Lemon-throated Barbet, Turquoise, Opal-rumped and Opal-browed Tanagers, a Three-toed Sloth and two White-necked Puffbirds. It was however still hard going with the midges. The return boat ride to the lodge gave us a similar array of species to yesterday; a Chestnut Woodpecker, Silvered Antbirds, an Orange-crested Manakin, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, at least six Hoatzins, a Scale-backed Antbird, Rufous-belled Hermits and a Spectacled Caiman.

Sacha Lodge during the late morning to early afternoon gave us Ringed Kingfisher, two Black-capped Donacobius on the lake, heard only Rufous-sided Crake, a Striated Heron. The fruiting tree outside our front door held several interesting species; Speckled Chachalaca, a Violaceous Jay, a Yellow-bellied Tanager (first and only one of the trip), Green-and-gold Tanagers, a pair of Green Honeycreepers, whilst Black Vultures soared overhead and an Agouti scampered across the path.

The afternoon walk through the forest to and around the Canopy Walkway didn’t produce large numbers of birds but did produce quality birds. It was hot and humid and I had left the heavy camera lens behind which didn’t prove to be a mistake, this time. We scored a number of very good birds, a Great Jacamar, a Brown Nunlet, a superb songster, the Musician Wren (smashing), a lek of 4+ Great-billed Hermits, several Poison Dart Frogs, an male Black-tailed Trogon, White-flanked Antwren, a Dusky-throated Antshrike, a Dwarf Squirrel and Strait-billed Hermit. However prize for the evening was the stunning Black-banded Owl, which was spot-lit in the dark. It was mobile and elusive and a lot of dashing into the forest, could have been running into allsorts of creepie crawlies, to get a view of it. Because of this clambering and stumbling about in the dark whilst looking up into the canopy Sheryl unfortunately missed the bird. We also tried for a calling Crested owl on the walk back to the lodge but failed to connect. Stunning fireflies, miniature fireworks, were all around. A tough but very good days birding.

Tuesday 4th September

Sheryl elected to remain at the lodge today whilst I went to the far side of the Rio Napo to the Varzea Forest and the parrot licks. The walk to the main landing stage from the canoe gave us views of Undulated Tinamou, albeit in flight, a Speckled Chachalaca and a roosting Common Potoo, high up in the canopy. On crossing the river a Coqoi Heron was seen along with Great and Snowy Egrets, several Spotted Sandpipers, three Oriole Blackbirds, a Yellow-headed Blackbird, 1000+ Sand Martins and a pair of Collared Plovers and the first stop was a large parrotlick close the river which I visited four years ago and like four years ago the presence of a bird of prey, a Roadside Hawk, spooked the parrots and they did not come down. They were seen in their hundreds in the surrounding trees however, Mealy and Yellow-crowned Amazons, Dusky-headed Parakeets and Blue-headed Parrots. A pair of Purple-throated Fruitcrows were nest building in the tree outside the viewing blind and a very showy Southern Nightingale Wren out on the bare path behind us.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

A short boat journey to the trail head to the second parrotlick gave me one of the birds of the trip, a roosting Great Potoo with chick. The youngster often pocking it’s head out from beneath the adult bird and looked anything but bird like. Superb. Also here were a couple of Black-fronted Nunbirds and two Amazon Kingfishers in the nearby creek. The walk to the parrotlick blind was over a cobbled path which we found easier to walk next to. Three Dusky Titi Monkeys were found soon after beginning the trail and a Chestnut Woodpecker hammered away at a tree close by. At the viewing area parakeets could be heard but not yet seen so in the meantime we set off into the forest again after a Sapphire Quail-dove. After a little work by the guides the bird was seen very well and what a stunner it was too. After what was probably an hour back at the viewing areas the Cobalt-winged Parakeets eventually came down, in their thousands. The sound and sight was tremendous. It took a little longer for Orange-cheeked Parrots to appear with probably no more than five showing up.

On the walk back to the canoe we had Lettered Aracari’s, completing the toucan set for the area, a Mouse-coloured Antshrike and three Black-headed Parrots. A displaying male White-bearded Manakin along the boardwalk was excellent, one of my favourite manakins. Not a bad morning. I was met back at the lodge landing stage an hour later by Sheryl with a drink in hand.

After lunch it was back into the canoe and back into the flooded forest. Many of the species already encountered were again seen with an addition being Smooth-billed Ani’s at the lodge. Black-capped Donacobius was again around the lake edges and the juvenile Night Heron was still in its roosting Palm. A Greater Yellow-headed Vulture was over the lake.

After a quite paddle through the forest we revisited the wooden tower for an afternoon session. It was a little quiet, bird wise that is, other birders present were anything but quiet. The Sloth was still present, a White-tailed Trogon was seen distantly as was a perched Yellow-headed Vulture. Fruitcrows and oropendolas were around though none very close though a simply stunning male Plum-throated Cotinga in our tree was the highlight of the return visit. The canoe ride back through the flooded forest in the failing light gave us a Spix’s Guan whilst we eventually saw a hunting Paraque over the lake. Excellent day.

Wednesday 5th September

Today we leave Sacha and head back to Cocoa. We have an early breakfast and head off in the canoe ahead of the main party that would also be leaving today. From the canoe we had three Greater Ani’s, two Red-capped Cardinals, five Hoatzins, 10+ Short-tailed Swifts and Blue-and-white Swallows. Along the boardwalk we were still picking up quality birds with a Dark-billed Cuckoo, White-chinned Jacamar, two Black-spotted Bare-eyes and a White-throated Thrush, three Black-fronted Nunbirds. Whilst watching the bare-eyes it became apparent why these antbirds were so close to the boardwalk, there was an Army Ant Swarm right on the boardwalk and we were standing in it. It very nearly became ants in the pants. Further along the boardwalk we came across an Ochre-breasted Flycatcher and at the river there was a flock of Bare-necked Fruitcrows, a Grey-necked Woodrail in the creek and a female Plum-throated Cotinga. Yesterdays Common Potoo was again on the same perch.

The fast canoe ride back along the Rio Napo was largely uneventful with the highlights being five Greater Yellow-headed Vultures, a Greater Ani, White-banded Swallows and singles on both Yellow-headed Caracara and Osprey. On arriving back at Coca what was presumably the same Large-billed Tern from a few days ago was seen again only this time we were able to watch it for a lot longer, a smart tern.

We spent about ¾ of an hour sorting things out in Coca before being taken to airport for the 20minute flight to Quito. At least five Ruddy Ground Doves were seen from the plane as we sped along the runway. We were met at Quito by our driver and was soon heading towards Guango Lodge. The weather quickly went from bright and sunny at Quito to torrential rain in the mountains. It was still raining two hours later when we arrived at the lodge.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

On arriving it was one of the occasions that you need to get your gear to the reception and check in but you get distracted by the birds. By the car park were a few hummingbird feeders which had several species buzzing around them however on reaching the patio areas outside the lodge the feeders here just blow you away. Where ever you looked there were hummingbirds. After a frantic 20minutes I managed to get 6 feet closer to the lodge door. We quickly checked in and took our luggage to our room upstairs and came immediately back outside. From the balcony it was possible to watch, in the rain though we were dry, dozens upon dozens of hummers zipping all over the place whilst another type of feeder was taken over by Masked Flowerpiercers. Of the hummingbirds numbers were difficult to estimate and I’ll leave that to the species account though the following species were seen well; Sword-billed Hummingbird (3+), Chestnut-breasted Coronets (20+), Tyrian Metaltails (10+), White-bellied Hillstars (10+), Collared Incas (10-12), Long-tailed Sylphs (2+), Buff-winged Coronets (5+), Tourmaline Sunangels (6+) and one Speckled Hummingbird. At least 50 Masked Flowerpiercers were present as was a vocal House Wren and Slaty Brush Finch. Despite the rain I decided to explore the trails and all I got, apart from a Spectacled Whitestart and a Wing-banded Tyrannulet, was wet. Oh well.

The evening was cold and we were thankful of the fire in the dinning room/lounge downstairs and the extra blankets on the beds.

Thursday 6th September

I was up early and eager but it was still raining on and off. The same species of hummingbirds were outside though now included a number of Buff-tailed Coronets. Watching hummers at the feeders only inches from you is just such a fantastic experience but we managed to drag ourselves onto one of the trails when the rain eased off a little. This gave us another hummingbird which doesn’t come to the feeders, a male Purple-backed Thornbill though the poor conditions probably didn’t do it justice. A couple of Turquoise Jays were stunning. However rain again stopped play and returned to the lodge to find a coach of birders from the ABA conference had arrived. After breakfast we returned to the hummingbird feeders where we soon added couple more to the growing hummer list, Mountain Avocetbill and Mountain Velvetbreast.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

The lodge had recently begun feeding an Antpitta at a nearby bamboo clump and it was here that one of the staff called in a superb Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. This bird was just superb despite being close to the road and having to watch out for fast moving cars, seems strange that this skulking bird should be fed so close to the main highway. Despite the many birders present from the coach everyone was able to get excellent views and the bird was not put off its breakfast by the gathering, another highlight of the trip.

By now the rain had stopped so we returned to the birding trails and found several small bird flocks with Black-faced Hemispingus, Blue-backed and Capped Conebill, Russet-crowned Warblers, Pearled Treerunners, a family party of Plain-tailed Wrens which I called out of the undergrowth by recording and playing back their own voices, Lacrimose and Hooded Mountain-tanagers, Dusky Piha, Crowned Yellow Warblers, Mountain Wrens, Dusky-capped Bush Tanagers, Wing-banded Tyrannulets, Montane Caciques, Slaty Brush Finches, some confiding Spectacled Whitestarts and a Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant.

After lunch we headed off along the road towards Cabanas San Isidro. We were greeted at the car park and shown to our rooms. It was clear there was quite a bit of bird activity as many of the numerous birders were out and about. We began at the recreation room balcony where we had fine views of more hummingbirds, five Bronzy Incas, numerous Collared Incas and Green Violetear. However a brief purple patch brought us fine views of Green Jays, two Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers, which later seen from the back of our cabin, Montane Woodcreeper and Subtropical Cacique. At just before 4pm were had gathered close to the dining room ready to go looking for the hoped for Antpittas. First up and only about 10yards from where we were standing were two tame Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. Had both of them in the frame in the video camera at one point. After this spectacle we moved another nearby area and tried for a calling White-bellied Antpitta but we were not successful on this occasion, we would have to try again in the morning.

In the tree by the entrance path to the dining room were a number of birds including a very fine Tufted Cheek, numerous Streaked-necked Flycatchers, White-crested Eleania and female Masked Trogon sat right out in the open in perfect light. This bird had a large tick just below its chin. Later in the evening I had a short walk along on the trails and had several Russet-crowned Warblers and a Highland Motmot before it got to dark to see anything.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

After a very pleasant shower we headed off to dinner and looked forward to getting the San Isidro Mystery Owl soon afterwards. At 8pm on walking back to the cabin one of the staff called us over and in the spotlight we could see the bird sat at the top of a palm tree. It was a fair distance but it stayed here for about 10minutes before flying into the night. With this success everyone retired to their respective rooms but I remained out in the dark with spotlight and camera determined to get a photo of the bird. Two hours later and getting a little despondent one of the staff, who had only just passed me, called me down the path. There sat at close range and virtually outside my cabin was the owl. After rattling off some pictures in the spotlight I went and got Sheryl out of bed to see the bird. It really is a special looking bird. Five minutes later it flew into the night again and I called it a day.

Friday 7th September

Woke this morning to looming rain clouds. We missed the Chestnut-crowned Antpittas as we were watching the feeders near the White-bellied Antpitta site. The bird could be heard calling. As the small crowd then gathered for ‘the show’ a Long-tailed Antbird appeared briefly. There was quite a long wait but the bird eventually appeared on the path and showed well but was clearly nervous because of the gathered birders. After it showed itself several times the others headed away leaving just Sheryl and myself. Just as I was thinking that the show was over it reappeared back out in the open on the path where it stayed for several minutes at a time, with just the two of us and the guide. This was much better as there was less noise with no one else here and the bird was much more relaxed, a great display. By the time we gave up it had begun to rain.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

Despite the rain there was a good flurry of birds which included two woodcreeper species, several Grey-breasted Wood-wrens, Masked Trogon, Green Jays, a tanager flock including a Beryl-spangled, a couple of Cinnamon Flycatchers, a Bluish Flowerpiercer, an Azara’s Spinetail and a Brown-capped Vireo. Today was going to be our only chance of visiting the Guayacamos Ridge so despite the not to favourable conditions we set off on the road. En-route we had a flock of around 70 Chestnut-collared Swifts.

The ridge trail was disappointing. When it wasn’t raining there was thick mist and when it was clear the poor trail quality meant you had to keep your eyes on the ground so you didn’t trip over anything. Despite this we managed an hour here and some good birds were seen with Powerful Woodpecker, the ever stunning Grass-green Tanagers, three or more Rufous Wrens, a Rufous-headed Pygmy-tyrant, a Slaty-backed Chat-tyrant and a flock of Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanagers being the pick of the birds seen. After an hour here I decided to give up and do an hours birding back at San Isidro before heading back towards Quito.

In the hour or so here I did manage to find a Black-billed Peppershrike and another Brown-capped Vireo as well as some of the birds seen earlier in the morning. Due to the ongoing rain we decided to call it a day and head back to Quito where we arrived at about 6pm.

Saturday 8th September

Today, our last day, was one of the most anticipated of the whole trip. We were picked up very early by our driver and we headed off towards Paz de la Aves. We arrived in the dark with only just a hint of light above the horizon. Even then a group of birders were already setting out into the forest. I had packed my headlamp but Sheryl still had hers handy which was helpful as for much of the trail down into the valley it was pitch black. That still didn’t stop us seeing a Yellow-breasted Antpitta bounding along the path in front of us half way down, not a bad start. We arrived at a screen where the earlier group of birders had now gathered. On the other side came the sounds from a special bird. Just a few metres in front of us were several lekking male Andean Cock of the Rocks, bright scarlet red. We watched these for half hour or so before moving to another blind where fruit was staked out. As it would take a while for birds to arrive we headed back up the path where a lone Dark-backed Wood-quail suddenly appeared at our feet. This bird, a female, was totally unconcerned about us and walked between us to reach the forest on the other side of the track. A few birds later and we returned to the blind where a Crimson-rumped Toucanet and a Golden-headed Quetzal were now showing.

I realised that the batteries on my camera were very low and as there was a risk that they could pack up and the moment I would need them the most I made a swift dash with a guide, back to the car. It was uphill all the way and it was totally knackering but all in all the turn around time was about 25minutes which was good going.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

On return to the blind an Olivaceous Piha was showing but it was soon time for the main event. We all returned back up the trail to a viewing area whilst the guides went round the nearby corner. Calls of ‘Maria Maria Maria’ could be heard as they called a special bird in for its breakfast of worms. Ten minutes later the guides appeared back around the corner. A couple of minutes later still ‘Maria’ appeared and swiftly bound her way to her favourite feeding stump. Here, only metres away, was a Giant Antpitta. Once the holy grail of Antpittas with few people actually seeing one. It was a little bit of show with Angel Aves, the owner of the forest, even fed her directly from his hand. To my knowledge there are no other Giant Antpittas that are so readily available anywhere.

After Maria had finished her breakfast she turned and bounded off into the forest. Without doubt the bird of the trip.

After this the rest of the morning at Paz de la Aves would pale in comparison with a family party of Dark-backed Wood-quail being the only other real highlight from the forest. At the top of the trail are a number of hummingbird feeders and we rested here after the climb out of the valley. More hummingbirds made it onto the list. Some here were familiar but Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Purple-bibbed Whitetip, Andean Emerald, Booted Racket-tail, Purple-throated Woodstars, Fawn-breasted and Empress Brilliant and the stunning Velvet-purple Coronet were additions. Excellent stuff. Back at the car we happily paid the bargain fee of $15 per person.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

Our last birding stop of the trip was the Mirador Los Blancos, a restaurant about 20miles up the road in the town of Los Blancos. This was recommended to us due to both good food and good bird feeders. On arrival I was again distracted by the activity outside and Sheryl was left to order dinner. The feeders right outside the window attracted a myriad of stunning tanagers and all at point blank range whilst the hummingbird feeders on the balcony at the back had a host of hummers in attendance. Of the tanagers present Golden, Silver-throated and Blue-grey were the commonest present with at least 40 Golden Tanagers at any one time. Other tanagers visiting included Palm, Blue-necked, Lemon-rumped, Flame-faced and Rufous-throated. More than just tanagers were attracted to the fruit put out with Ecuadorian Thrush, Many-banded Aracari, Crimson-rumped Toucanet, a stunning Red-headed Barbet, Black-cheeked Woodpecker or two, several Green Honeycreepers, Orange-bellied and Thick-billed Euphonias. My excellent meal, one of the best of the trip, was not appreciated as much as it should have as I was soon back outside photographing the hummingbirds where Green Thorntails, White-whiskered Hermits and Green-crowned Woodnymphs, simply stunning, were additions to the hummer list.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

A male Variable Seedeater, several Cattle Egrets and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner were seen from the balcony just before the fog rolled in. It was at this time we began the journey back to Quito and the flight back to London. We thanked our driver for his efforts over the past few days and made our way through, relatively easily, through check-in. However the long journey home was made worse by a lengthy and totally illogical lay over in Guayaquil which was in the opposite direction.

On a whole the trip was a success with many target birds seen and some stunning places visited with Maria the Giant Antpitta on the final morning being a truly fantastic send off.

The biggest negative point was the accident on the boat in the Galapagos that has put me off boats for quite sometime which has led me to cancel an Antarctica trip. Hopefully my uneasiness with boats will pass and I will get back onto the water and amongst the worlds seabirds.

photo copyright Steve Arlow

Species Lists

PERU section

1. White-tufted Grebe
A juvenile of what can really have only been this species was at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug. a splendid adult was at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug.

2. Wilson’s Storm-petrel
A distant petrel species was seen from the viewpoint at Pucasana on 21st Aug was probably this species.

3. Peruvian Diving-petrel

A distant singleton was seen from the viewpoint at Pucasana on 21st Aug was easily identifiable by its Little Auk impression.

4. Sooty Shearwater

At least 15 or more were seen going distantly south past the view point at Pucasana on 21st Aug

5. Peruvian Booby

Several dozen were seen from the car as we drove south from Lima as they skimmed past the coastline on the 21st Aug. many, 150+ at least, were seen from the viewpoint at Pucasana later the same morning.

6. Peruvian Pelican

Approximately 40+ were seen from the car as we drove south from Lima on 21st Aug whilst many were seen cruising past the viewpoint at Pucasana later the same morning. At the nearby town harbour at least a dozen or so were very approachable at the fish market allowing some good photographic opportunity.

7. Neotropical Cormorant

Hundreds were sat on telegraph wires along the highway south of Lima on 21st Aug. Surprisingly none were recorded at Pucasana or Puerto Viejo later in the day.

8. Red-legged Cormorant

Only about eight were seen from the viewpoint at Pucasana on 21st Aug

9. Humboldt Penguin

A minimum of at least five were seen from the viewpoint at Pucasana which included seeing a group porpoising on 21st Aug.

10. Puna Ibis

100+were in flooded fields next the main highway near Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug. Three were noted from the train to Machu Picchu from Cusco on the 19th Aug whilst the Lagoons at Puerto Viejo on the coast only held a surprisingly small number of two on 21st Aug.

11. Great Egret

At least 30 were seen from the van during the drive south of Lima on 21st Aug whilst only one was at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo later the same day.

12. Snowy Egret

At least 10 were seen from the van during the drive south of Lima on 21st Aug whilst only one was at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo later the same day.

13. Cattle Egret

Lake Huacarpay had at least five on 18th Aug whilst 25 or so were noted from the Cusco to Machu Picchu train the next day. 20+ were at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug.

14. Little Blue Heron

One was at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug was followed by one at the Puerto Viejo Lagoons on 21st Aug

15. Striated Heron

One at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug was the only Peruvian bird seen

16. Fasciated Tiger Heron

A near adult was found amongst the boulders along the river by the bridge after coming out from the bottom of the mountain trail down from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug.

17. White-cheeked Pintail

Twelve were present at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug.

18. Cinnamon Teal

Lake Huacarpay had 12+, mostly sleeping, on Aug 18th whilst the lagoons at Puerto Viejo had 15+, mostly not sleeping, on 21st Aug

19. Andean Teal

Lake Huacarpay held three birds on the 18th Aug.

20. Puna Teal

Lake Huacarpay had 12+ on Aug 18th

21. Torrent Duck

A total of 21 were counted from the Cusco to Machu Picchu train on 19th Aug. In contrast a single female was found just outside of town along the river by the bridge the next day.

22. Andean Duck

One was seen from the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu on the 19th Aug whilst three were at the lagoons of Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug.

23. Black Vulture

During the van ride to Pucasana south of Lima at 15+ were noted on 19th Aug

24 Cinereous Harrier

A ringtail was noted at several points around Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug

25. American Kestrel

Three were at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug. Six were seen from the train whilst travelling from Cusco to Machu Picchu on the 19th Aug. 2+ were seen from the car as we drove south from Lima on the 21st Aug whilst one was at Puerto Viejo later the same day.

26. Mountain Caracara

One flew over Machu Picchu early morningg on 20th Aug

27. Andean Guan

Two were along the main birding trail in the grounds of the Inkaterra Hotel at Aguas Calientes early morning on 19th Aug

28 Andean Coot

At least 40+ were present around Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug. Many were at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 20th Aug though were generally difficult to see.

29. Moorhen

Five were noted at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug whilst the lagoons at Puerto Viejo had birds present on 21st Aug

30. Plumbeous Rail

One showed well by the roadside at Lake Huacarpay for a few minutes on 18th Aug

31. Black-necked Stilt

The lagoons at Puerto Viejo had at least six birds on 21st Aug

32. White-backed Stilt

Three were with the Black-necked Stilts at the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

33. Peruvian Thick-knee

A very fine pair we found on the rough ground south of the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug. What were probably the same pair were relocated closer to the van about half an hour after they flew off in that direction.

34. Andean Lapwing

Lake Huacarpay held at least 12 of these smart lapwings on the 18th Aug. 12 were seen from the Cusco to Machu Picchu Train on the 19th Aug

35. Semipalmated Plover

Only one was found at the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

36. Killdeer

A minimum of four were seen from the van south of Lima on 21st Aug with five at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo the later same day

37. Spotted Sandpiper

Four were found at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug

38. Greater Yellowlegs

Only one was found at the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

39. Hudsonian Whimbrel

Only one was found at the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

40. Red-necked Phalarope

A phalarope seen distantly flying past the view point at Pucasana on 21st Aug was probably this species as they are far commoner that Grey/Red- Phalaropes in the region.

41. Wilson’s Phalarope

One of the Peru highlights for me was the flock of 62 birds present on one of the closest lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug

42. Grey-headed Gull

Several were noted flying over the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 19th Aug

43. Andean Gull

200+ were in flooded fields along the main highway on the approach to Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug though none were actually present on the lake. On the return drive all the birds had disappeared. 25 were seen from the Cusco to Machu Picchu train on 19th Aug.

44. Grey Gull

This attractive gull was seen well in the harbour at the fishing town of Pucasana on the 19th Aug where 5 or 6 birds were present. The only other bird noted was one from the van during the drive south from Lima the same day.

45. Kelp Gull

Surprisingly only recorded from the van as we headed south out of Lima on the 19th Aug with at least 20+ noted

46. Belcher’s Band-tailed Gull

40+ were seen from the van as we headed south of Lima towards Pucasana on 19th Aug. Many, 60+ or more, were present around the towns harbour with numerous birds allowing superb photographic opportunities.

47. Inca Tern

A small colony was easily watched from close to the viewpoint at Pucasana on 21st Aug, stunning birds

48. Plumbeous Pigeon

One was at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

49. Pacific Dove

Four were noted during the Cusco to Machu Picchu train journey on 19th Aug. Ten were with Croaking Ground Doves in the scrubby areas south of the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug. In addition 10+ were seen from the van south of Lima on 21st Aug.

50. Bare-faced Ground Dove

One was seen in flight only at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug.

51. Croaking Ground Dove

At Puerto Viejo at least 50 were present in the scrub south of the lagoons on 21st Aug.

52. Ruddy Ground Dove

One was seen during the train journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu on 19th Aug

53. White-throated Quail-dove

A cracking bird was seen wandering out on the path early morning on 20th Aug at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes, definitely worth an early rise for.

54. Mitred Parakeet

8-10 flew over the forested trails at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug were probably the same roving flock that was seen the next day along by the river the other side of town.

55. Burrowing Owl

One was found in the late evening on the open scrubland south of the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

56. Lesser Nighthawk

Four, probably more present, were flushed from the scrub south of the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

57. White-bellied Hummingbird

Only one was found at the hummingbird feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

58. Green-and-white Hummingbird

One or two were seen around the hummingbird feeders of the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug with one the following day. One was also found along the trail whilst walking down to town from Machu Picchu on the 20th Aug.

59.Speckled Hummingbird

At least one, minimum, was seen at the hummingbird feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th & 20th Aug

60. Green Violet-ear

One was found along the mountain trail as we descended from Machu Picchu back towards town on 20th Aug

61. Sparkling Violet-ear

Two were at the hummingbird feeders of the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug with one the following morning

62. Booted Racket-tail

One was seen briefly at the hummingbird feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug


63. Amethyst-throated Sunangel

A male was seen briefly as we walked down the mountain from Machu Picchu back towards town on the 20th Aug.

64. Collared Inca

The birds at Inkaterra Hotel, Aguas Calientes where of the rusty-orange breasted banded form, white elsewhere, with 5+ estimated on 19th & 20th Aug

65. Long-tailed Sylph

One was seen briefly at the hummingbird feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

66. Chestnut-breasted Coronet

The most aggressive hummer at the feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes. 15+ were estimated on the 19th Aug with about the same number the following morning. These birds had a little habit of flicking their wings open upon landing, a slightly protracted wing stretch.

67. Giant Hummingbird

One frequented a barbed wire fence on the side of Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug

68. Bearded Mountaineer

One of the Peruvian target birds. A pair, which put on an extended showing, were found around the Eucalyptus trees at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug with a further singleton found further around the lake.

69. Peruvian Sheartail

A male was seen briefly in the Eucalyptus trees at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug.

70. White-bellied Woodstar

Only one was found at the hummingbird feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

71. Golden-olive Woodpecker

One paid a brief visit to the trees by the tanager feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

72. Andean Flicker

Five were seen from the train when we travelled from Cusco to Machu Picchu on 19th Aug.

73. Coastal Miner

Only one was found in the open areas south of the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug

74. Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes

One was seen briefly on rocks below the breeding Inca Tern colony at Pucasana on 21st Aug

75. White-winged Cinclodes

One was seen from the Cusco to Agues Calientes train on 19th Aug

76. Rusty-fronted Canastero

Two of these elusive birds were seen at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug

77. Azara’s Spinetail

Two were found during the walk to the mountain from Machu Picchu back to town on 20th Aug.

78. Wren-like Rushbird

At least 2+ were heard in the reeded areas around Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug, they were the first recognisable sound on leaving the van, they sound like stones being knocked together. Five or more were heard and seen well at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug. They were far easier here to see that at Lake Huacarpay or at Lake Junin during the June Central Andes trip.

79. Many-coloured Rush-tyrant

Only one was seen briefly in the reeded area of Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug

80. Variable Antshrike

A fine and inquisitive pair were found midway down the mountain trail from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug

81. Cock-of-the-rock

A female was found in the grounds of the Inkaterra Hotel, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

82. Torrent Tyrannulet

Four were seen from the train during the journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu on 19th Aug. A further four birds were then found the next day upriver from the edge of town by the bridge.

83. Tufted Tit-tyrant

One was found along the trail down the mountain from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug

84. White-crested Eleania

At least two were found along the trail down the mountain from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug

85. Sierran Eleania

Two were in the bamboo at Machu Picchu on 20th Aug with a single later the same morning down along the mountain trail

86. Large Eleania

Singles were seen in the bamboo at Machu Picchu and along the mountain trail on 20th Aug

87. White-tailed Tyrannulet

Singles were seen along the forest trail at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug and along the mountain trail down from Machu Picchu the following morning.

88. Streak-necked Flycatcher

Two were along the forested trails of the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

89. White-browed Chat-tyrant

Three were found around Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug, a smashing bird

90. Vermillion Flycatcher

This stunning flycatcher, note both sexes are cool looking birds, was found in good numbers in the scrubby area south of the lagoons at Puerto Viejo where a conservative estimate at 20+ was made.

91. Cinnamon Flycatcher

One of these smart little flycatchers was found along one of the forested trails at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug.

92. Short-tailed Field-tyrant

Two were in the scrubby area south of the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug

93. Rufous-naped Ground-tyrant

Two were at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug

94. Short-billed Ground Tyrant

Two were found around the edge of Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug

95. White-winged Black-tyrant

One was perched by the entrance to Machu Picchu early morning of the 20th Aug with what was probably the same bid seen a few hours later was we descended the mountain trail.

96. Black Phoebe

Two were seen from the train whilst travelling from Cusco to Machu Picchu on 19th Aug whilst a single bird was seen on a roof in town in the morning of the 20th Aug.

97. Smoke-coloured Pewee

One was at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

98. Tropical Kingbird

Two were seen in tall trees along the road just out of town on 20th Aug

99. Golden-crowned Flycatcher

Only one was found along the forested trails at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

100. Barred Becard

A male was in the grounds of the Inkaterra Hotel, Aguas Calientes along one of the forest trails on 19th Aug.

101. Blue-and-white Swallow

Five were noted from the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu on 19th Aug. Five were over the river opposite the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes the same morning. 5+ were also noted at the lagoons of Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug

102. Peruvian Martin

At least 500+ were seen from the Cusco to Machu Picchu Train on the 19th Aug, often in large flocks.

103. Inca Wren

A pair were persuaded to come out of the bamboo at Machu Picchu on 20th Aug, a stunning wren

104. House Wren

At the hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes at least 2+ were present around the cabins on 19th & 20th Aug. We were greeted in the morning with a vocal songster right outside our cabin door. A further bird was seen briefly along the mountain trail down from Machu Picchu on the 20th Aug.

105. Long-tailed Mockingbird

Only one was seen, at the scrubby area south of Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

106. Chiguanco Thrush

A common species. 15+ were seen at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug, was noted at many, probably 50+, from the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu on 19th Aug. Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes held two on 19th Aug and one the following day reflecting the more open habitat preference of the specie.

107. White-capped Dipper

Two were seen from the Cusco to Machu Picchu train on the 19th Aug

108. Red-eyed Vireo

One was along one of the forested trails at the Inkaterra Hotel, Machu Picchu on 19th Aug. The walk down the mountain trail from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug resulted in two birds.

109. Slate-throated Whitestart

Two along the main forested trail at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

110. Tropical Parula

Two of these wonderful sprites were seen well along the forested trails of the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

111. Russet-crowned Warbler

Three were found along a productive stretch of forest trail at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

112. Cinereous Conebill

One was found along the mountain trail down from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug

113. Rufous-collared Sparrow

One of the commonest and most widespread birds of the trip, i.e. 50+ at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug and 20+ Machu Picchu on 20th Aug

114. House Sparrow

The lagoons at Puerto Viejo, south of Lima, held the only birds noted with a respectable gathering of approximately 50+ birds in 21st Aug

115. Band-tailed Seedeater

At least 10+ were at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug. One was along the mountain trail during the walk to town from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug.

116.Chestnut-throated Seedeater

Hundreds were present in the scrubby areas south of the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug

117. Blue-and-yellow Tanager

Amongst the first birds of the trip with 2+ only metres from the van when we arrived at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug. 2-3 were then seen at the feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra on 19th & 20th Aug.

118.Blue-grey Tanager

The commonest tanager at the feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes with 20+ on the 19th & 20th Aug. An additional two were seen during the walk down from Machu Picchu on the 20th Aug. Note that both the plain and white-wing barred birds occur here

119. Palm Tanager
Small numbers at the tanager feeders at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes with 3+ on 19th & 20th Aug

120. Rusty Flowerpiercer

One was seen briefly in the grounds of the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

121. Masked Flowerpiercer

A solitary bird was at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug where it was seen briefly only

122. Hepatic Tanager

A female was seen briefly at the tanager feeders in the grounds of the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

123. White-shouldered Tanager

One was seen briefly along the mountain trail down from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug

124. Silver-backed Tanager

An uninspiring tanager this one with 3+ at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th & 20th Aug

125. Thick-billed Euphonia

Reasonably common at Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientas with 8+ on the 19th & 20th Aug

126. Saffron-crowned Tanager

Yet another stunning tanager seen well at the Hotel Inkaterra, Agues Calientes where at least five were present on 19th & 20th Aug

127. Blue-necked Tanager

This stunning tanager was found at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes grounds in good numbers on both 19th & 20th Aug, i.e. 6+ on the former date around the tanager feeders. An additional two were seen during the walk down from Machu Picchu on the 20th Aug

128. Golden-naped Tanager

Less common than the other tanagers at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes, only appearing every 20 minutes or so on the 19th Aug with probably no more than two birds being seen

129. Chestnut-crowned Brush Finch

Two were seen for only a few minutes at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug

130. Golden-bellied Grosbeak

Three replaced the Black-backed Grosbeaks in the same patch of forest in the grounds of the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 20th Aug.

131. Black-backed Grosbeak

A pair were seen well along the main birding trail at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug. One was then seen along the trail down the mountain from Machu Picchu the next day


132. Drab Seedeater

Many were amongst the hundreds of mixed seedeaters and siskins in the scrub south of the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

133. Dull-coloured Seedeater

One was along the trail down from Machu Picchu on 20th Aug whilst 30+ were found in the camp site midway between the town and the bridge over the river the same morning,

134. Parrot-billed Seedeater

Despite all the seedeaters present on one was found in the scrubby area south of the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

135. Hooded Siskin

Four were at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug and three were at Machu Picchu on the 20th Aug however several hundred were estimated in the scrubby area south of the Puerto Viejo lagoons on the 21st Aug.

136. Blue-black Grassquit

Many were amongst the hundreds of seedeaters and siskins in the scrub south of the Puerto Viejo lagoons on 21st Aug

137. Band-tailed Sierra-finch

One was seen in the morning at Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug

138. Dusky-green Oropendola

Singles were seen at the Hotel Inkaterra, Aguas Calientes on 19th Aug and along the road out of town towards the bridge over the river the next day

139. Peruvian Meadowlark

Four were found at the lagoons at Puerto Viejo on 21st Aug

140. Yellow-winged Blackbird

Two or three were at the reeded area of Lake Huacarpay on 18th Aug

photo copyright Steve Arlow

GALAPAGOS Section

1. Brown Pelican
Fairly common around the islands during the whole trip, often providing excellent photographic opportunities

2. Flightless Cormorant
Nine were seen at Fernandina during the morning’s excursion on 28th Aug whilst in excess of 30 were seen during the afternoon at the same location. 20+ were at Fernandina on 29th Aug. This species is only likely to be encountered at the younger western islands.

3. Galapagos Penguin
The first two seen from the Fragata mid morning on the 28th Aug at Fernandina which were followed a little later by two more. A pair were then seen well on rocks during the afternoons Panga ride. Six were then seen together at the northern end of Isabela on the 29th Aug.

4. Waved Albatross
First encountered from the Fragata whilst sailing from San Cristobal towards Hood on 26th Aug. However these birds paled in comparison when we were able to walk amongst the breeding colony on Hood later the same afternoon. The only other bird seen away from the breeding colony was one off the north coast of Isabela on 29th Aug.

5. Parkinson’s/Black Petrel
One seen by only the lucky few who were able to get on deck quick enough after I picked out this bird whilst sailing towards Genovesa on 29th Aug.

6. Sooty Shearwater
A solitary bird found by myself whilst trying to relocate the Parkinson’s Petrel on the 29th Aug.

7. Galapagos Shearwater
Fairly abundant throughout the trip, seen daily in varying numbers from the Fragata, i.e. 15+ during the sailing from San Cristobal to Hood on 26th Aug and 60+ during the sailing from Genovesa to Santa Cruz on the 30th Aug.

8. Galapagos/Dark-rumped Petrel
A cracking bird, all pterodroma are. The first were found during the sailing from San Cristobal to Hood on the 26th Aug with 12 seen. A superb tally of 33 were seen during the sailing from the north end of Isabela to Genovesa on the 29th Aug. We came across a couple of small flocks of 6-8 birds whilst several birds came very close to the bow of the boat allowing excellent photographic opportunities. Eight were seen on sailing from Genovesa to Santa Cruz on the 30th Aug.

9. Wedge-rumped Storm-petrel
Common to very common locally. Was easily picked out amongst the commoner White-vented Storm-petrels early into the trip by its larger size and obviously different flight and feeding behaviour. A shear spectacle was witnessed on the island of Genovesa on the 29th Aug where the colony of day flying birds must have numbered in the tens of thousands.

10. Band-rumped/Madeiran Storm-petrel
Only two seen during the whole trip, picked out amongst the White-vented Storm-petrels on the sailing from San Cristobal to Hood on 26th Aug. almost certainly under recorded amongst the many White-venteds.

11. White-vented/Elliot’s Storm-petrel
Common, seen throughout the trip from the Fragata. Often seen in the bays and just a few feet from the yacht.

12. Markham’s Storm-petrel
I found a single bird with Wedge-rumped Storm-petrels during my purple patch on the Fragata during the sailing from the north end of Isabela to Genevosa on the 29th Aug. Again only seen by the few who were on deck at the time.

13. Great Frigatebird
Recorded on North Seymour on 24th Aug in the nesting colonies with Magnificent Frigatebirds. After this date all frigatebirds seen were not always attributed to species though was probably present on Genovesa on 29th Aug.

14. Magnificent Frigatebird
Common throughout the trip with nesting birds seen at close quarters at colonies such as North Seymour on 24th Aug

15. Red-footed Booby
Only found on Genevosa on the 29th Aug where many were seen on the cliffs from the Fragata and whilst walking the island. Both brown and white colour morphs were present though the brown morph predominated.

16. Nazca Booby
Hundreds were present on the island gem of Hood on the 26th Aug. Apart from scattered individuals the only other concentrations were on Genevosa on 29th Aug where ‘many’ were encountered at close range.

17. Blue-footed Booby
Commonest of the boobies with birds seen most places and daily. Breeding birds were seen on North Seymour, Hood and Genevosa whilst flocks were often encountered elsewhere, i.e. the hundreds cruising around Bacha’s Beach, Santa Cruise on out final morning on the 31st Aug.

18. Swallow-tailed Gull
This stunning gull was first encountered a very close range when we landed on North Seymour on the 24th Aug. at least eight birds were present on the rocks that just didn’t want to move out the way. One was seen during the sailing from San Cristobal to Hood however a minimum of around 40 were present on Hood that afternoon. Numerous birds were seen riding the updraft of the cliffs. Apart from one at sea on the 29th Aug many were at the island of Genevosa on 30th Aug where at least 50 were noted along the cliffs and beaches. The nesting birds on the beach were particularly photogenic. Just superb birds

19. Lava Gull
This rare gull was first seen on North Seymour on our first afternoon on the 26th Aug when one flew over our heads. One was then at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz during the morning excursion on 25th Aug with five there again at the fish market later in the afternoon. Two were seen from the Fragata during the sailing from north Isabela to Genovesa on the 29th Aug. The beach at Genevosa on the 30th Aug produced a couple of vocal pairs.

20. Red-billed Tropicbird
One seen from the Fragata, without a it’s tail streamers, during the crossing from San Cristobal to Hood on the 26th Aug. was the forerunner of these superb birds. Hood itself had wheeling flocks with an estimated 70+ seen during our afternoon excursion. No further birds were seen until we reached Genevosa on the 30th Aug where 25+ were seen around the cliffs.

21. Common/Brown Noddy
Fairly abundant. Five were off the Baltra Quay on our first day, 24th Aug. Many were seen from the Fragata at North Seymour later the same afternoon. Apart from many scattered single figures the only other count of note was of 20+ off Fernandina on 29th Aug.

22. Common Tern
One was noted during the sailing from north Isabela to Genevosa on the 29th Aug.

23. Great Blue Heron
Only recorded at the fish market in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz on 25th Aug where three were seen a very close range

24. Great Egret
One was seen distantly from the Fragata flying over the lava fields on Isabela on 28th Aug.

25. Cattle Egret
Twenty or more were in the highlands of Santa Cruz on 25th Aug whilst numerous birds, probably in excess of 25+, were seen going to roost in the late evening light same day. Three on Floreana on 27th Aug were the only other birds found in the islands.

26. Yellow-crowned Night Heron
A subadult was in amongst the rocks when we landed on North Seymour in the afternoon of the 24th Aug whilst another was in amongst the Mangroves near the fish market in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz on 25th Aug.

27. Striated Heron
Three were fishing in the rock pools made by the low tide off the ‘beachfront’ at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz on 25th Aug whilst two were doing the same thing on Fernandina on 29th Aug.

28. Lava Heron
The first seen was on North Seymour in the evening of the 24th Aug where it was seen making short work of a Sally lightfoot crab. One was then in the harbour of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz on the 25th Aug where it was seen fishing from small boats. Two were around the fish market in Puerto Ayora later the same day. Singles were then seen on Fernandina on 29th Aug and on Genevosa on 30th Aug.

29. Turnstone
One was in the harbour of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz on 25th Aug whilst Fernandina had one on 29th Aug and Bacha’s Beach, Santa had two on our last morning, 31st Aug.

30. American Oystercatcher
Two were on Hood on the 26th Aug followed by a pair with a small fluffy chick on the island of Fernandina on the 29th Aug

31. Semipalmated Plover
Singletons were found in a rock pool on Fernandina on 29th Aug and in a small pool behind Bacha’s Beach, Santa Cruz early in the morning of 31st Aug.

32. Hudsonian Whimbrel
One’s and two’s were seen at scattered localities from across the islands, generally in coastal rock pools. Confiding birds were present in pools made by a low tide along the beachfront of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz on 25th Aug

33. Wandering Tattler
This cracking wader was first encountered in the rocks pools created by a low tide on North Seymour on 24th Aug. Two were also in rock pools at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz on 25th Aug. Single were then recorded at San Cristobal on 26th Aug, Hood on 26th Aug and on Genovesa on 30th Aug. Two were in rock pools on Fernandina on 29thAug where one showed very well for the camera.

34. Least Sandpiper
One was on one of the small pools at Bacha’s Beach, Santa Cruz on 31st Aug.

35. Red-necked Phalarope
Many hundreds were seen between the islands of Fernandina and Isabela on the 29th Aug

36. Red/Grey Phalarope
One was identified amongst the Red-necked Phalaropes between Fernandina and Isabela on the 29th Aug. With the amount of phalaropes present almost certainly under recorded.

37. Galapagos Hawk
An adult was photographed on rocks close to it’s nest, where a much grown chick was present, on the island of Hood on 26th Aug. the only other bird seen was one on Fernandina on 29th Aug.

38. Short-eared Owl
A rather battered and unwell looking individual found sheltering above the beach on Genovesa on 30th Aug.

39. Galapagos Dove
Common and widespread throughout the islands being found on most days in varying numbers. The first birds seen were at Baltra Airport on arrival on 24th Aug but were out shone by the ridiculously approachable pair on North Seymour later the same day. Approachability in these smart birds was a feature throughout the visit. Most birds encountered were often in pairs though the highest day count was of 40, at least, on Genovesa on 30th Aug. If there was a rustling coming from the undergrowth, it was a Galapagos Dove.

40. Smooth-billed Ani
The first seen were two at Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz on 25th Aug followed by another two on San Cristobal on 26th Aug and then the final three on Floreana on the 27th Aug.

41. Galapagos Martin
After missing one at Baltra airport on arrival we came across four very showy individuals on Fernandina on the 29th Aug.

42. Vermillion Flycatcher
I found a male, possible a split, in the highlands of Floreana on 27th Aug

43. Galapagos Flycatcher
Two were in the Santa Cruz highlands on 25th Aug at the tortoise reserve. Four were at the Darwin Centre the same afternoon. Two were on Floreana on 27th Aug whilst the last of the trip was on Bacha’s Beach, Santa Cruz on the last day, 31st Aug.

44. Yellow Warbler
Common and widespread. After the first on North Seymour, where it simply shone in the superb light conditions, many were seen from across the islands, not always recorded. 12 were at the Darwin Centre, Santa Cruz on 25th Aug, many were on Hood 26th Aug, nine were on Fernandina on 29th Aug and 8+ were at Bacha’s Beach, Santa Cruz on 31st Aug.

45. San Cristobal Mockingbird
Three were found in the highland of San Cristobal on 26h Aug

46. Galapagos Mockingbird
Widespread and relatively common. Five were around Puerto Ayora and 6+ at the Darwin Centre on Santa Cruz, both on 25th Aug. between 1-4 were then noted at several locations and islands between 26th and 30th Aug.

47. Hood Mockingbird
At least six of this island endemic was seen on Hood on 26th Aug.

48. Large Ground Finch
A female was on North Seymour on 24th Aug. This was followed by a much more co-operative female at the Tortoise reserve in the Santa Cruz highlands on the 25th Aug where it shared a tiny field/plot with both Small and medium ground finches. A male was found on Genevosa on 30th Aug, which was likewise very co-operative. Amongst the best of the ‘Darwin finches’.

49. Small Ground Finch
Commonest and most widespread of the ‘Darwin finches’. First recorded outside the Baltra airport terminal on our arrival on the 24th Aug and then subsequently seen at numerous locations and in various habitats. Largest gatherings were of 50+ in the harbour of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz on 25th Aug.

50. Medium Ground Finch
Fairly widespread and probably not always records. First recorded outside the Baltra airport terminal on our arrival on the 24th Aug and then subsequently seen a several locations with many noted on Floreana on 27th Aug.

51. Sharp-beaked Ground Finch
One in Mangroves on Fernandina on 29th Aug was followed by 5+ on the beach at Genevosa on 30th Aug.

52. Cactus Finch
Four were found amongst the commoner Small and Medium Ground Finches at the Darwin Centre on Santa Cruz in the late afternoon of the 25th Aug.

53. Large Cactus Finch
One was seen briefly on Hood on 26th Aug, I was preoccupied with the Red-billed Tropicbirds at the time.

54. Vegetarian Finch
Three were on San Cristobal on 26th Aug, an uninspiring endemic

55. Large Tree Finch
One was in the Santa Cruz highlands on 25th Aug

56. Medium Tree Finch
Three were found in the highlands of Floreana on 27th Aug.

57. Small Tree Finch
Seven were in the highlands, near the sinkholes, of Santa Cruz on 25th Aug. Many, probably 40+, were in the highlands of San Cristobal on 26th Aug and several were on Floreana on 27th Aug.

58. Woodpecker Finch
One in the highlands of Santa Cruz on 25th Aug was watching using a tool, an activity that is apparently not often seen.

59. Warbler Finch
Three were in the highlands of Santa Cruz on 25th Aug. A single was at the Darwin Centre later the same day. Seven were found on San Cristobal on 26th Aug whilst Hood had three on 26th Aug and Genovesa had two on 30th Aug.

Non-Avians

Marine Iguana

The different islands have there own very different populations ranging from rather small and grey animals on North Seymour, to large reddish creatures on Floreana. The largest concentrations were found on Fernandina where ‘crowds’ were found basking in the sun. A rather large and old looking male seen on Fernandina on the 29th Aug

Land Iguana
A couple of rather large mustard yellow males and a couple of smaller less bright females were found on North Seymour on 24th Aug.

Lava Lizard
Numerous colour varieties were encountered on Hood and Fernandina

Pacific Green/Marine Turtle
One was seen briefly from the Fragata on the 6th Aug. Five were then seen well from the quayside on Floreana on the 27th Aug. One was again seen from the Fragata on the 28th Aug whilst four, including one in a small tidal inlet, were on Fernandina on 29th Aug. However the very best was saved to last and on Bacha’s Beach, Santa Cruz on our very last morning. A large female turtle was watched dragging herself down the beach towards the sea after spending the night laying her eggs in the sand. This special moment was not recorded however as I had left both the camera and camcorder back on the boat thinking there wouldn’t be anything else to see that we hadn’t already seen, whata mistaka to make. At least it’s stored in the memory.

Giant Tortoise
Probably about 10 were seen at the tortoise reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz on 25th Aug

Sealions/Fur Seals
To be honest I didn’t really pay much attention to where I recorded the Sealions and the Fur Seals though North Seymour had a good population of the latter including a number of bulls. On Genevosa on the 30th Aug a Sea Lion pup was watching suckling from his mother and I was investigated by another.

Bryde’s Whale
A family group was seen in waters midway between Fernandina and Isabella on the 29th Aug

Manta Ray
One swam under the Panga as we approached the beach at Genovesa on 30th Aug.

Shark Sp.
One was seen briefly by only Sheryl and myself from the Fragata on the 29thAug whilst sailing from north Isabela to Genevosa

Marine Fish
A marine rock pool created by the low tide on Fernandina on 29th Aug was teaming with a multitude of colourful fish.

Ocean Sunfish
At least eight were seen from the Fragata in waters close to the north end of Isabela on the 29th Aug.

photo copyright Steve Arlow


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