Day 1: An early-morning flight to Lima via Madrid followed by a night in a Lima hotel.
Day 2: Another early-morning flight, this time to Cusco in the Andes where we were met by the people from Manu Expedititons including our guide for the trip, Dr Frank Lambert. Now it was time for the hour or so drive to Huacarpay Lakes for our first serious birding.
On arrival at the first lake we immediately picked up two Plumbeous Rails (and a Common Moorhen!) in a marsh plus the first of many Rufous-collared Sparrows. Reedbeds held Yellow-winged Blackbirds and Wren-like Rushbirds. Truly a star of this habitat is the Many-colored Rush-tyrant and we saw at least five of these superb birds. A look at the sky overhead added White-collared Swifts and American Kestrels. First, we concentrated on a scrubby hillside quickly getting Rusty-fronted Canastero, our first of many endemics seen on this trip. We soon added a second endemic when we found our first hummingbird of the trip, a Bearded Mountaineer. Our second hummer soon followed and was somewhat larger: a Giant Hummingbird. The hillside also gave us Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant and our first of many tanagers: a superb male Blue-and-yellow Tanager.
On the largest lake we added Andean Gull, Andean Coot and Andean Duck, so we were sure we knew where we were! plus a pair of White-tufted Grebes showed well. Walking along the lake edge, rock grassland bordering open water on one side and scrub-covered hillside on the other, new birds came thick and fast: two Andean Flickers and an Andean Lapwing fed on the grass as did a Rufous-naped Ground-tyrant. Green-tailed Trainbearer, White-browed Chat-tyrant, White-crested Elaenia, Ash-breasted Sierra-finch and Cinereous Conebill were found feeding in small trees and bushes. A Cattle Egret inserted a brief glimpse of more familiar European birding before South America again took over with three Hooded Siskins, Bare-eyed Ground-doves, Fulvous Wren, White-browed Ground-tyrant and Greenish Yellow-finch. A large tyrannid on a tall, thin, stick was soon identified as a hard-to-get Gray-bellied Shrike-tyrant.
We then drove round the lake to a small marshy pool for lunch. Whilst the drivers set up a table, chairs and all the food we scanned the water. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs fed amongst Cinammon Teal, Andean Coot, Speckled Teal and Puna Teal. Yellow-billed Pintails sat and stood by the waterside and Spot-winged Pigeons flew overhead. A Puna Ibis put in an appearance as did a Black-billed Shrike-tyrant and a few Eared Doves. Chiguanco Thrushes were abundant.
En route to our hotel we stopped when a couple of raptors were spotted from the moving bus. A good time to stop as we all hads the chance to admire three Black-chested Buzzard-eagles soaring overhead, plus Brown-chested Swallows and Andean Swifts feeding around a mountainside.
At the hotel we were soon birding around the lush gardens picking up more new birds: White-bellied Hummingbirds, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, a superb Black-backed Grosbeak, and a pair of Torrent Tyrranulets in addition to some birds we had seen earlier in the day.
Slate-throated Whitestart, copyright Martin Tribe
Day 3: Today we had quite a long drive up into the high mountains. We stopped on the way up and exited the bus to find it was pretty cold outside. Gloves and hats soon appeared. We had stopped at a site for White-tufted Sunbeam and we soon had seen at least three of these beautiful hummingbirds. A bird atop a tree turned out to be a Red-crested Cotinga and a singing bird lower down in the same tree was a Golden-billed Saltator. Quality birds but the best was to come. Frank played the call of Stripe-headed Antpitta and soon we were watching this great bird down to a couple of metres. Personally, I was very surprised at how large a bird it was. I had expected something much smaller. The first of quite a few Bar-winged Cincloides put in an appearance quickly superceeded when Gill spotted three birds very high overhead. These turned out to be Andean Ibis and, although distant, were good birds to get. A short drive later we stopped again by a grassy mountainside and quickly found a couple of the endemic Junin Canastero singing on the low grass. Our final stop before our target location was necessitated by two Mountain Caracaras sitting by the side of the road.
At the top of our mountain, although overshadowed by even higher mountains, we stopped for breakfast. We were at Abra Malaga at 4300m but everyone seemed OK. Bolstered by food and the sight of 33 Puna Ibis and four Andean Lapwings, plus more Mountain Caracaras and what was probably our three earlier-seen Andean Ibis flying past just below us calling loudly, we began the slow walk up the slope to get to the valley beyond. More Bar-winged Cincloides were seen soon followed by Tacanowski's and Cinereous Ground-tyrants, Plumbeous Sierra-finches and our main target species, Streak-fronted Canasetero. We made it to the top, an assent of only about 40 metres, and were rewarded with stupendous views of a huge valley and a huge snow-capped mountain. Truly a spectacular location to be in made even more special when Dave spotted two birds circling above the mountain in front of us. These were the hoped-for Andean Condors! An adult and a juvenile.
Time to begin the descent to the Polylepis woodland, a tree endemic of the Andean Paramos , location of some much-wanted endemic and rare species. We started with a surprisingly-confiding Puna Tapaculo, well, confiding for a tapaculo! At least it was in the open for a while. Plain-colored Seedeaters were found in our first scattered Polylepis trees but our target birds were in the denser woodland. The first bird to be found was a beautiful Tawny Tit-spinetail that came pretty close and showed very well. This was soon followed by Ash-breasted Tit-tyrant and two superb D'Orbigny's Chat-tyrants plus another Puna Tapaculo. However, these were overshadowed by our main target species found feeding quietly beneath the trees. It is very hard to see Royal Cincloides as they have very small, scattered populations and now very rare, with a population of probably only about 300 individuals in the world, but we managed it. Having seen this great bird we then added another endemic to the list in the form of White-browed Tit-tyrant. Birdfinders was certainly living up to it's name and reputation.
The rest of the walk down, after leaving the trees, was quiet but we did see Variable Hawk, the lovely Peruvian Sierra-finch and Blue-mantled Thornbill. After lunch we wandered only a couple of metres when we found another endemic: Chestnut-breasted Mountain-finch. Seeing this bird would save us time tomorrow as we had another site for it but it took some getting to. Some of us also picked up Tyrian Metaltail here, feeding on flowers only inches from the path.
Peruvian Pelican, copyright Martin Tribe
Day 4: Today we left Cusco to drive the Manu Road, a very long track more than a road but one that is quite well used despite its rough nature. Our first stop was when I shouted that we had just past an Andean Ibis sitting on the ground. We piled out of the bus and managed to get everyone on the bird.. It was hard to see for some because it was closer than most people expected! We found another Andean Ibis hiding in some reads and had a nice comparison with a Puna Ibis. Andean Lapwings provided the supporting cast. Despite his extensive experience in Peru Frank said he had never seen Andean Ibis so well.
Next stop was a rather barren and arid field where we found three Slender-billed Miners and a Spot-billed Ground-tyrant. A raptor appeared over a ridge and we all got onto Cinereous Harrier.
We stopped in a town to refuel and spent some time on the bridge over the river. Common Peruvian birds were seen here: Black Phoebe, Torrent Tyrranulet, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Chiguanco Thrush and, of course, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
Then it was back to serious birding and the hunt for the next endemic. A bush and tree strewn valley was the site and bird-filled it proved to be. Our target was soon seen, four Creamy-crested Spinetails, exceptionally good-looking birds I must say. Flower-covered trees held Tufted Tit-tyrant and White-tufted Sunbeam plus a Crimson-mantled Woodpecker and a White-bellied Woodstar.
Back on the road until we reached the border of Manu Cloud Forest Reserve at Tres Cruces. Whilst the drivers set up the table and cooked lunch we walked down a path to see what we could find. Black-throated Flowerpiercers were again found as was Moustached Flowerpiercer, soon followed by a very attractive Grass Wren. Then came Scribble-tailed Canastero, performing for us nicely in the grass, more D'Orbingy's Chat-tyrants, three Cinereous Conebills, White-throated Tyrranulet, Tufted Tit-tyrant and Mountain Caracara.
This evening we were to camp high in the mountains. As ever, our superb drivers did all the work and set up the tents whilst we went birding. Our first stop gave us the first of many Shining Sunbeams. A calling bird was tracked down and found to be a diminutive Black-throated Tody-tyrant. Mountains species continued to be found: Sierran Elaenia, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Great Thrush and Dark-faced Brush-finch. Near the camp we had a small flock of tanagers comprising Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanagers and Golden-collared Tanagers.
Time for a drive a little way down the mountain and we hit a bird flock. This is where the excitement and tension really mount. Lotso of birds, mixed flock, moving quickly. So much to see and identify as bird names are called from all directions. Blue-capped Tanagers were found as was a Streak-throated Bush-tyrant. We were distracted by two beautiful Gray-breasted Mountain-toucans but were soon back with Hooded Tanager and Capped Conebill. A male Gould's Inca was found, a very good-looking hummer, plus White-crested Elaenia and Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanagers. A Long-tailed Sylph was spotted as were three Blue-and-black Tanagers, Superciliared Hemispingus and Pearled Treerunner. A very-attractive endemic was our next target and Marcapata Spinetail was soon on the ever-growing list. Then it was time for another flock and it all started again! White-banded Tyrranulet, Mountain Wren, Rust-and-yellow Tanager, Citrine Warbler and Spectacled Whitestart were all new for the trip.
Almost our last bird was a real gem. At a secret site we were led down a path and one individual of our target species was seen briefly by a couple of people in front but quickly disppeared. Had we missed our only chance? Frank walked down the path and soon called quietly that we should come down. We descended as quicklyas possible and the whole group was soon admiring a truly special bird. At a distance of about five metres we watched a Red-and-white Antpitta in the open, showing superbly. A very special moment for all of us.
The last birds seen in daylight were two Andean Guans and the last bird of the day was seen when we walked the road in the dark. An owl flew right over our heads and we were all surprised, and admittedly slightly disappointed, to note that it was a Barn Owl, albeit of the contempta race!
Peruvian Booby, copyright Martin Tribe
Day 5: A pre-dawn gathering saw us standing only metres from our tents listening for Swallow-tailed Nightjar. One bird flew past giving rather brief views and we heard drumming Andean Snipe.
We were heading down the mountain aiming for the famous Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. It was quite a way to go and we had a lot of birding to do. Forest birding here is definitely a case of bursts of excitement interspersed with periods of no birds at all unless we were at a specific site for a specific bird. So, our first flock appeared and we sorted through Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanagers, Blue-and-yellow Tanagers, Grass-green Tanager, Hooded Tanager and Black-backed Grosbeak. Shing Sunbeams were seen at all stops and we soon also picked up Azara's Spinetail, Great Thrush and Mountain Cacique. Two birds half-hidden in a bush turned out to be White-collared Jays. Our next stop added the very nice Rufous-breasted Chat-tyrant and our first of many Cinammon Flycatchers, another classy-looking bird. These were soon followed by two Andean Guans and another of our target birds, a Barred Fruiteater.
This was the situation along most of the road: stops when we saw a flock and lots of birds to look at. Next stop gave us many of the same birds, a good thing as some people had birds they still needed to catch up with plus Glossy-black Thrush and Masked Flowerpiercer. A stop looking down the valley gave us yet another flock including two Pearled Treerunners, Barred Becard and Smoke-colored Pewee.
We stopped on a corner and Frank played a call. The bird we were looking for could be seen here he said. Could be? Within seconds a superb male Golden-headed Quetzal flew straight over our heads and sat in a tree above us, easily 'scopable. In the next few tens of metres we saw six of these birds! In this area we also found a Strong-billed Woodcreeper, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Mountain Wren, Fawn-breasted Tanager and Slaty Tanager. A little further on we picked up a distant flying Black-and-chestnut Eagle, soon followed by Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher and a very beautiful Maroon-chested Chat-tyrant.
Now it was time to stop of lunch. Stop? We had a hummingbird that kept whizzing in and out and we had to identify it so our periods of sitting down didn't last long. WE saw it well and identified it as Buff-thighed Puffleg. During this time we also found Bolivian Tyrranulet and two Montane Woodcreepers.
Back on the road, well, walking down the road another flock was encountered that included, amongst those we had already seen but were happy to see again, new birds in the form of Yellow-whiskered Bush-tanager, Rufous-chested Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Brown-capped Vireo and Pale-edged Flycatcher. Chestnut-collared Swifts flew overhead and a close adult Black-and-chestnut Eagle showed well.
Then we hit a small problem: a traffic jam! There had been a landslide about a kilometre down the road from us and no-one could pass. Fortunately a group of workers were on the scene to rebuild the road. Not a problem as while they did that we went birding and came across some good birds: Beryl-spangled Tanager, Ochre-faced Tody-tyrant, Yellow-throated Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia and noisy, fly-past Scaly-naped Amazons. We also managed to lure into view a Southern White-crowned Tapaculo. By now the road had been repaired but we took the precaution of walking over the rebuilt section and the bus followed us!
Not long later we stopped again and found, you guessed it, another flock of birds. Common Bush-tanager was added to our ever-growing list as was Versicolored Barbet, Blue-winged Mountain-tanager and Black-capped Hemispingus.
Our final stop of the day was at dusk. We were told to stand looking up a wooded mountainside and wait. About fifteen minutes later we gave a collective gasp as an adult male Lyre-tailed Nightjar suddenly appeared from the wood, circled over head and disappeared back into the forest. A great end to another great day and satisfied we headed down the road to the Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge.
Blue-gray Tanager, copyright Martin Tribe
Day 6: Dawn saw us breakfasting and birding the lodge garden. As we watched birds began coming in or moving through: Golden Tanager, Paradise Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager and Buff-throated Saltator. The garden had a few hummingbird feeders and these attracted Violet-fronted Brilliant, Wire-crested Thorntail, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Sparkling Violetear, Wedge-billed Hummingbird and Booted Racket-tail. We also had our first Speckled Chachalacas and our first Bananaquit.
Then it was time for the reason people come here, the Cock-of-the-Rock lek. As the door to the viewing platform was opened we were immediately faced with a male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. We filed in and sat down to watch three dispalying males, superb birds. In the trees we also found Russet-crowned Warbler and Slate-throated Whitestart. Walking up the road it was again flock time and we found Streak-necked Flycatcher, Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant, Orange-eared Tanager, Spotted Tanager and Yellow-throated Bush-tanager. In a dark gap in the trees, after some intense searching, we were delighted to locate a male Yungas Manakin.
Walking further up the road we encountered individual birds and more flocks: Tropical Kingbirds, Social Flycatchers, Gray-mantled Wren, Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Three-striped Warbler, Black-goggled Tanager, Yellow-breasted Antwren and some Brown Cappuchin monkeys. Various other stops added more great birds: Crested Quetzal, Streaked Flycatcher, Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant and Golden-crowned Flycatcher.
We made a short drive up the road to a rocky and wooded steep mountainside split by a river. In almost no time we had found a pair of the much-wanted White-capped Dipper and a couple of Black Phoebes. We could hear our target bird calling, and it came close, we our hoped-for Andean Solitaire did not want to show! We had, eventually, to give up but were more than pleased when a Bronzy Inca appeared and fed on some flowers by the roadside.
Heading back down the road for lunch at the lodge we added Inca Jay and Blue-necked Tanager to our lists.
After lunch we walked around the grounds of the lodge. The vegetation was thick and finding species was not easy but with perseverance we were successful. Our first new bird was Tropical Parula. Then we picked up Fulvous-breasted Flatbill and Black-eared Hemispingus. Then , with work, we managed to see a very elusive Slaty Gnateater, Trevor's four-thousandth life bird! Back at the lodge Frank found a Stripe-breasted Antwren, soon joined by a second, and an Andean Slaty-thrush.
Then it was time to go back up the mountain road. The first thing we found was a Woolly Monkey, which apparently are hard-to-see and not common. Dusky-green Oropendolas kept flying up and down the valley and we found our first Russet-backed Oropendola (much more common lower down). Mixed flocks were again encountered and again we enjoyed the colourful tanagers. New birds were Blue Dacnis, Purple Honeycreeper, Montane Foliage-gleaner and Olive-backed Woodcreeper. At another of Frank's many sites we found Ash-browed Spinetail but were soon distracted by a large mixed flock of mostly tanagers. Bay-headed Tanager was new for the list as was the quite-rare Yellow-rumped Antwren. Olivaceous Siskins were amongst the tanagers as was a Slaty-capped Flycatcher.
We continued higher up the mountain and were rewarded with a hoped-for Highland Motmot, with a startling turquiose crown, showing very well plus a Blue-banded Toucanet and a female Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Our final stop of the day was when we heard Andean Solitaire again and we eventually saw two birds albeit rather briefly.
After dinner we gathered at the lodge entrance and played the call of Rufescent Screech-owl. A bird replied but sounded like it was way across the valley. However, Frank knew better and soon located a calling bird in the lodge grounds, sitting on an open branch right next to the path! This bird has a very quiet call but was happy to show itself very well.
Rufescent Screech-owl, copyright Martin Tribe
Day 7: Just after dawn we walked down the mountain by the side of a river. A Highland Motmot was seen briefly and we admired another pair of White-capped Dippers. A bus ride took us further down to a specific site for what seemed to be one of the world's most elusive birds: Cabani's Spinetail. We could hear them and got very brief views but they really are skulkers! Eventually most of us had seen enough bits of bird to be able to identify the whole. A little further down we added Warbling Antbird, heard and saw a Chestnut-backed Antshrike and admired two Bluish-fronted Jacamars. In a more open area, where an old landslide had cleared the vegetation and thick vegetation had not returned, we picked up Yellow-browed Sparrow, Brown-chested Martin, Chestnut-bellied Seedeater and Violaceous Jay. We also picke dup our first Plumbeous Kite here.
Another bird flock added Streaked Xenops, Two-banded Warbler and White-winged Tanager.
Near a rocky outcrop we stopped as we heard a never-to-be-seen Chestnut-breasted Wren. It came close but never came out. Most frustrating. However, all was not lost as we admired a superb Ornate Flycatcher and found Cusco Warbler (split from Golden-bellied Warbler and now an endemic). Nearby we picked up Magpie Tanager and a pair of Long-tailed Tyrants. Our first Southern Rough-winged Swallows put in an appearance and we found Gray-capped Flycatcher and Black-faced Dacnis.
Then it was time for a long drive down to the river for a crossing to reach Amazonia Lodge. The temperature in the village from where we caught the boat was hot! Our first Yellow-rumped Cacique sat on a roof and Blue-gray Tanagers built a nest in a nearby house. The river crossing took only about ten minutes but in that time we picked up Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Vermilion Flycatcher, White-winged Swallow and Purplish Jay. We were soon walking the couple of kilometres through the lowland forest to the lodge. The walk was slow, due to both heat and finding birds: Black-tailed Trogon, Undulated Tinamou and Crimson-crested Woodpecker took our attention. Then four very-noisy Red-throated Caracaras flew overhead and landed in trees above us, a Squirrel Cuckoo was found high in the trees, a Gray-breasted Woodrail ran across the path and we found a single Bamboo Antshrike and a Blue-black Grosbeak.
At the lodge we were immediately directed to a large tree to see a roosting Gray Potoo. The gardens held Red-capped Cardinals and Masked Crimson Tanagers. There are numerous small flowering bushes that attracted hummers and we soon found a beautful male Fork-tailed Woodnymph. Beneath the bushes we found a Pale-legged Hornero and a Little Cuckoo was found in a tree. A Gray-fronted Dove walked across the grass, two Chestnut-fronted Macaws flew overhead soon followed by a pair of Blue-and-yellow Macaws and a male Golden-tailed Sapphire was attracted to the flowers.
After getting settled we took a short walk through the forest to a small stream. Here we had our first Hoatzins, six noisy and obvious birds and a Purple Gallinule. Soon we tracked down Blackish Antbird in a bush and a Silvered Antbird feeding on the water's edge. A Rufous-breasted Hermit flew past, a Black-throated Antbird was found and a Chestnut-eared Aracari flew over and landed in a tree. We walked back up the trail we had arrive don earlier and added Band-tailed Antbird and found more Speckled Chacalacas. Frank heard an Amazonian Antpitta and I was lucky enough to be in just the right position when it walked across a small opening behind a fallen tree. We all had more luck with a Black-faced Antthrush that walked rail-like across the leaf-littered ground and showed exceptionally well.
Back at the lodge we were agreeing to time for dinner when a beautiful Gould's Jewelfront suddenly appeared on a hummingbird feeder right next to us. Walking back to where we were sleeping we had our first Black-faced Nunbird and, after dinner, we heard and had good views of a Tawny-bellied Screech-owl and a flypast Short-tailed Nighthawk.
Day 8: We had the whole day at Amazonia Lodge and new birds were soon found starting with Blue-headed Parrots flying overhead and a Blue-tailed Emerald feeding on the flowers. Black-billed Thrush was found as we watched the nesting Yellow-rumped Caciques. A bird atop a nearby tree turned out to be a Masked Tityra and as we watched this we found a Blue-throated Piping-guan in another tree and noticed at least 11 Swallow-tailed Kites soaring in the distance.
As we investigated the forest around the lodge we found Little Woodpecker, Dusk-headed Parakeet and a Brown Agouti. Searching the understorey we found a Rusty-belted Tapaculo and nearby Buff-throated Woodcreeper and, sitting quietly deep in a bush, a Semi-collared Puffbird. The forest kept producing new species for us: Goeldi's Antbird, Blue-crowned Trogon and Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers. A small raptor flew into a tree and was easily identifiable as a Laughing Falcon. Two Cinereous Tinamous were found on the path and our first Crested Oropendola was seen feeding in a tree. Black-throated Toucanet was next to be added soon followed by Greater Yellow-headed Vulture soaring overhead.
Continuing along the forest trails we hit a foliage-gleaner few minutes: Olive-backed, Chesnut-winged and Chestnut-capped Foliage-gleaners, followed by Juruá Woodcreeper, Long-winged Antwren, Pygmy Antwren and Lineated Woodcreeper. Back at the lodge there is a hummingbird feeder away from the main buildings in the forest. Sitting here we picked up Gray-breasted Sabrewing, a White-bearded Hermit that saw us, moved to within one metre of us and hovered facing us, and, our target bird, the endemic Koepcke's Hermit. Back out in the gardens, a male Rufous-crested Coquette was found feeding on the flowers and a pair of Thick-billed Euphonias visited their nest in a nearby tree.
At lunchtime John and I went for a walk along the main path. We had two good birds, neither of which we were expecting. The first was a huge turkey-like blue bird walking through the forest: a Razor-billed Curassow. Delighted and surprised by this bird we didn't think we see much else, especially considering the time of day. However, we were proved wrong when we came across a Collared Forest-falcon sitting in the open.
We returned to the sites for these two birds that afternoon with the rest of the group but didn't relocate the birds. We did get some cracking birds though: a superb Band-tailed Manakin, Grayish Saltator, Yellow-crowned Tyrranulet, White-lored Euphonia, Yellow-bellied Dacnis and Zimmer's Tolmomyias. And there was more to come as these birds proved to be part of a very large flock. Yellow-crested Tanager was found, then White-winged Shrike-tanager and Black-capped Becard. A Black-eared Fairy fly-catched above us and a Slender-billed Xenops added to the flock species, soon followed by White-shouldered Tanager.
The walk back to the lodge was also productive with White-lined Antbird and Southern Chestnut-tailed Antbird, Olivaceous Woodcreeper and, best of all, found by Frank and sitting low in a bush a few metres into the forest and gently calling, a Thrush-like Antpitta. It stayed still for all to see and was still there went we had all moved on.
Day 9: Next morning we started birding a new trail and soon had another Little Woodpecker, Green Honeycreeper and two Olive-faced Flycatchers. A few Chestnut-fronted Macaws were in evidence and we admired these just before finding a pair of Lineated Woodpeckers. Overhead were various swifts and we identified both Gray-rumped and Pale-rumped Swifts. A Palm Tanager boosted the already-large tanager list and we had our first Great Kiskadees. Five Red-and-green Macaws flew overhead and Yellow-tufted Woodpecker was found nearby. Our final new bird at Amazonia Lodge was Black-banded Woodcreeper.
Now it was time for the boat trip to Manu Wildlife Centre. It was to be a long journey, in the end taking almost eight and a half hours. The weather was hot and sunny and we birded all the way. The splendid Amazon Kingfisher put into the shade the somewhat duller Drab Water-tyrant. Fasciated Tiger-herons were seen occassionally and Black Caracaras favoured feeding on the shoreline, as did Great Black Hawks. The expected egrets were present: Snowy, Great and Striated, but we were more interested in their cousins: Cocoi Heron and Capped Heron (a very strange looking heron!). Waders were few but we found the two we wanted: Collared Plover and Pied Lapwing. White-banded Swallows are very classy birds and we saw plenty of them, along with the much more common White-winged Swallows. Giant Cowbirds fed along the shore and both Amazon and Large-billed Terns showed well, the latter is a superb bird, one of my top birds of the trip. Both Gray and Crane Hawks were seen by the river shore but were not as obvious as two huge Horned Screamers walking slowly along a sandy bar. Flocks of Short-tailed Swifts were seen to live up to their name. We encountered two flocks, of about 25 and 35 birds respectively, of Sand-colored Nighthawks, either roosting on dead tress lying in the river or flying along the river. Muscovy Ducks were eventually found and we saw Swallow-wings sitting high in the riverside trees. A stork proved some excitement but it was 'just' a Wood Stork and as we got nearer to Manu we began seeing our first Scarlet Macaws. We briefly stopped at the village of Boca Manu to change engines as our first one was suffering problems.. Fortunately the boatmen carried a spare and had it changed in about half an hour, whilst we drank cool drinks in a shop in the village.
As we got out of the boat at Manu Wildlife Centre we came across two men carrying a catfish they had just caught. It was about four feet long and very heavy. We ate it later that week! The final new bird of the day was in the gardens of Manu Wildlife Centre, Cinammon-throated Woodcreeper.
Day 10: Today we all received a surprise. A weather system known as a 'Friaje' (pronounced free ah ha) had settled over the Amazon overnight and brought with it cold air. Non of us expected to be birding in the Amazon rainforest whilst wearing multiple layers of clothing, and in some cases, gloves and woolly hats! The cool was pleasant enough but it had a negative affect on the birds and we had three days of lower-than-usual species numbers.
Not to be detered by cold weather, well, about 15 degC during the day, we headed into the rainforest. First we found Red-necked Woodpecker and could hear White-throated Toucans. Our first antbird was White-flanked Antwren followed by Plain-throated Antwren. Red-crowned Ant-tanagers are birds of understory forest and we found a pair of them soon followed by our first White-faced Nunbird. Whenever a woodcreeper was seen it was tracked and identified. We had two in quick succession: Buff-throated and Elegant. A Needle-billed Hermit was found sitting quietly in the forest and a Black-spotted Bare-eye made a very brief appearance. Then back to antbirds with Gray Antwren being found. High above us Black Spider Monkeys moved through the trees and Mealy Parrots screeched overhead. Time for another antbird: Black-faced Antbird this time. Still looking high in the trees we found a Band-tailed Manakin lek and watched these lovely little birds doing their dance along the thin upper branches. A small woocreeper was found that turned out to be Wedge-billed and, after some superb spotting by Frank, we added the diminutive Dwarf Tyrant-manakin to the list. We might have seen Chestnut-eared Aracaris before but not a group of four causing mayhem as they raided the nests of Yellow-rumped Caciques.
Looking over the river from the lodge we spotted some grey-winged birds that were Bare-necked Fruitcrows and found another Blue-throated Piping-guan. In the lodge gardens we saw another Rufous-breasted Hermit and added Reddish Hermit to our already huge list. Time for lunch.
Lunch was interrupted by two things. One was the semi-tame female brazilian Tapir that sometimes walked around the lodges. She was a big beast! The second was a White-vented Euphonia.
In the afternoon we had many of the antbirds we had seen in the morning plus two Rufous-tailed Flatbills (an uncommon species), Brown-mandibled Aracari, Black-bellied Cuckoo, a very nice Great Jacamar, Purple-throated Fruitcrows, Long-tailed Woodcreeper, Black-crowned Tityra and White-faced Cappuchin monkeys.
Day 11: Today we set off in the boat down the river to a clay lick named Tambo Blanquillo. We had to get there early to be in the hide before the parrots and macaws came in. A breakfast of pancakes and syrup was served as we looked through the already-large parrot flocks. There were hundreds if not thousands of birds present, mainly Blue-headed Parrots, but we soon found Mealy Parrots, Red-and-green Macaws, Blue-and-yellow Macaws, and one of our target species here, Orange-cheeked Parrot. Amongst the Mealys we also found a few Yellow-crowned Amazons. Unfortunately despite gathering in huge numbers the birds did not come to the lick because as they were about to desend an adult and juvenile Great Black Hawk appeared and proceeded to walk through the grass or sit on trees calling loudly.
Surrounding the hides is low vegetation including grasses and damp-loving plants, although the river no longer flows beneath the hide. Birds seemed to like this habitat and we had a singing Yellow-browed Sparrow, Chestnut-bellied and Double-collared Seedeaters, Blue-black Grassquit and Little Ground-tyrant. A yellow bird kept briefly appearing and disappearing but eventually showed well as a Subtropical Doradito. As we walked back to the boat we had more seedeaters and a small raptor sitting on top of a thin tree was our first Bat Falcon.
We headed back along the river to an area of forest that had a much greater than usual density of bamboo. This habitat has certain species not found in the rest of the forest, species referred to as bamboo specialists. The trail is known as the 'antthrush trail'. Of course, there are antbirds here and we soon located a singing male Dot-winged Antwren right above the path. This was followed a little later by a White-lined Antbird. Birds here were not seen in flocks but usually singley or in pairs. We next found a bamboo specialist in the form of Bamboo (Dusky-cheeked) Foliage-gleaner and then a Dark-billed Cuckoo sititng quietly in a tree not far above our heads. Another bamboo specialist was added to the list with the discovery of a Large-headed Flatbill and we heard, but sadly did not manage to see, Manu Antbird. The rare Dusky-tailed Flatbill was next to fall to our searching and as we searched for this bird a lone Rufous-capped Nunlet was located. Another foliage-gleaner was soon added to our list: Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaner and we found a pair of Dusky-headed Parakeets. Perhaps the most surprising bird was found when a large bird was seen flying into a tree, again almost just above our heads. We could see it was a raptor and soon realised we had a Gray-breasted Goshawk, a good find and with a better view than the experienced Frank had ever seen before.
Then it was back to MWC for lunch and a spot of garden birding. I managed to catch up with the previously-elusive Plain-capped Spinetail and we found Ochre-bellied Flycatcher, some very close Scarlet Macaws, close enough for one to bite a hole in Vaughan's wellie, so they were used to humans! A large spotted bird was a Thrush-like Wren and a sudden flash of bright orange-red turned out to be a Band-tailed Manakin.
In the afternoon we walked the Ccollpa (sic) Trail in the rain. Despite the sounds of heavy rain not much water made it through the canopy of leaves. We again found a sitting Needle-billed Hermit and our first Grayish Mourner.. New for the trip were Golden-olive Woodpecker, Scaly-breasted Woodpecker, White-winged Shrike-tanager and Pink-throated Becard.
Day 12: This morning we headed to an oxbow lake. The short walk from the river to the lake brought us in contact with a vigorous flock of birds and as well as the aleardy-seen Paradise and Masked Crimson Tanagers we had Turquoise and Green-and-gold Tanagers. Another burst of colour was seen when a Gilded Barbet came through with the flock and we managed to track down a White-eyed Attila. A grey bird turned out to be a Syristes and some saw a Wing-barred Piprites. The flock also contained a Blue-crowned Motmot, Hauxwell's Thrush, Black-tailed Tityra and Yellow-bellied Dacnis. A little further on we added Lettered Aracari and Ruddy Pigeon.
The boat that was to take us on Cocha Blano, the oxbow lake, was a flat rectangle with low chairs arranged in rows of three. As the boat was being prepared we scanned the lake noting Wattled Jacanas, Hoatzins and a Black-collared Hawk. A Rufous-and-green Kingfisher was seen flying across the water and, in the distance, we could see a family of Giant Otters. Our regular river boatmen we also the crew for the oxbow raft and they punted us gently and almost silently over the shallow water. Both Amazonian and Large-billed Terns were present as were Least Grebes and Muscovy Ducks. Wattled Jacanas were common, walking on the lily pads sometimes right next to the raft. Two Sungrebes were a highlight for all as were close views of the Giant Otters. The otters followed the raft almost the entire journey, occasionally raising their heads and necks out of the water and barking at us. Lesser Kiskadees were seen closely and we glided past Black Caiman and Limpkins. A small bird feeding on thin overhanging branches was an Amazonian Streaked Antwren and our first Pale-vented Pigeons sat in trees and flew over the water.
Three Greater Anis were found and we were lucky enough to come across a pair of Green Ibis. A Bat Falcon flew past and a Gray-breasted Woodrail fed in an open patch by the lakeshore. The eerie sound of Horned Screamers echoed across the lake and silent Rufescent Tiger-herons sat in low trees eyeing the water. The final new bird for the trip was a Bran-colored Flycatcher.
>From the river boat heading back to MWC we saw a lounging White Caiman and, most exciting, three Orinoco Geese, aspecies we hoped to see but which are getting hard to find.
Back at MWC we walked in the forest in The Grid. A couple of Collared Trogons were found as were a couple of Gilded Barbets. Screaming Pihas were calling all over the place and we tracked down one seeing a quite-dull grey bird making a very loud noise. We came across our first Casqued Oropendola quickly followed by a Red-stained Woodpecker. A female White-throated Antbird was next to be found, then Spot-winged Antshrike, Lemon-throated Barbet and finally Dusky-capped Greenlet.
After lunch it was time to ascend the 30m canopy tower, climbing up a spiral metal staircase that wobbled nicely. At the top are two wooden platforms, one about a metre and a half above the other. It is best to keep a balanced number of people on each as it is a long way down! Getting into the canopy is essential to find some rainforest species that never go below the canopy and to see anything flying overhead. Our tree was fruiting and was particularly popular with Cobalt-winged Parakeets, amongst whom we found Tui Parakeet. A 'scoped distant bird was identifed as a White-browed Purpletuft and the sky held Fork-tailed Palm-swifts, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture and an impressive adult King Vulture (we later had a juvenile fly over as well).. Scanning the trees we found Great Jacamar, White-lored and Rufous-bellied Euphonias. A flowering tree was a feeding site for hummers: White-chinned Sapphire and White-necked Jacobin (a very classy bird) were new to the list.. A Bare-necked Fruitcrow wa snesting nearby as one or two kept appearing with nest material in their beaks. Another Bat Falcon was seen and we found a Chestnut-winged Foliage-gleaner. Things got particularly exciting when someone found a Cream-colored Woodpecker, one of those birds everyone wants to see. It showed extremely well and was surprisingly yellow rather than cream coloured.
Our tree then hosted a Short-crested Flycatcher but we were distracted when we had both Channel-billed Toucan and White-throated Toucan. Apparently one has a slightly larger bill than the other but even when seen one after the other this is not a reliable fieldmark. However, they call completely differently so we could be sure of our identifications. Another Red-stained Woodpecker was found followed by a Ringed Woodpecker. Someone noticed that a bird had quietly appeared in our tree and we all admired a White-necked Puffbird, then another and another! Three in one tree, our tree, and nice and close. A group of about 50 White-eyed Parrots flew past and then a Red-necked Woodpecker joined our ever-growing woodpecker list. The final bird seen from the canopy tower was a nice Double-toothed Kite.
The walk through the forest was made in failing light and we could hear Starred Wood-quail and Amazonian Pygmy-owls calling. Back in the lodge gardens we located a pygmy-owl sitting in a tree and showing well in the torchlight.
Day 13: This morning was warmer than the last few days and it looked like the friaje had moved on. We headed back to the canopy tower to see what else we could find. A highlight was a Southern Tamandua, a species of anteater with golden fur. As well as many of yesterday's species we found another puffbird, this time Striolated Puffbird, eventually seeing two or perhaps three individuals plus three Slate-colored Hawks, Brown-mandibled Aracari and Plum-throated Cotinga. A hummingbird was seen to be fly catching in a large open area and we admired this Long-billed Starthroat as it chased flys around the sky, occasionally giving us flashes of irridescence. Two small groups of White-bellied Parrots shot past and we had above-the-bird views of a Band-tailed Manakin. Frank located a Short-tailed Pygmy-tyrant, a tiny bird that is ther smallest passerine in the world. Finally, at the base of the tower after the long descent we had excellent views of a pair of Plumbeous Antbirds.
We then did a quick visit to The Grid where there are always new birds to be found. As usual we were checking all woodcreepers and as we watched a Wedge-billed we found the much-larger Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper. Then we had good views of a pair of Dusky-throated Antshrikes followed by a sudden stop as a group of Pale-winged Trumpeters walked across the path in front of us. Then it was back to a bit of colour with Amazonian White-tailed Trogon and White-throated Woodpecker. A flock included many species we had seen before plus the uncommon Rufous-tailed Foliage-gleaner. The last new bird of the morning was also with this flock: Yellow-crested Tanager.
After lunch we went to another oxbow lake for two special birds. Between the river and the oxbow we had great views of a Black-spotted Bare-eye. The species of this oxbow were very like the last oxbow but no otters this time. We did get yet another Sungrebe. As we moved slowly and silently through the water, under a clear sky and warm sun, we were checking all birds, especially those that looked all black. However a black bird was not our first new bird. As we cruised past a colony of Yellow-rumped Caciques we came across target species number 1: Purus Jacamar, sitting on an open branch over the lake. Then it was time for the return trip and all eyes were looking for black birds. Two new trip species were seen as we searched, one of one bush, one on the next bush along! They were Great Seedfinch and Lesser Seedfinch. As we watched these Frank spotted a small bird in front of them and called White-lored Tyrranulet, another new bird. As we approached the dock we saw a distant black bird. We docked and 'scoped it and sure enough there was target number 2: a male Pale-eyed Blackbird. There was a female close by and then the male flew towards us and then another male appeared and sat just across the lake from us. What a good end to the trip, but it was not the end. Something was calling loudly across the water and we soon located it and saw it was a fine male Spix's Guan. A great end to another bird-filled day.
Day 14: We started the day back at the Antthrush trail and with a female Goeldi's Antbird. We heard and actually saw well two Cabani's Spinetails and came across a White-backed Fire-eye. Bamboo Foliage-gleaner was again seen followed by another target bamboo specialist, the beautiful Rufous-headed Woodpecker. Just below the woodpecker we spotted a Rufous-breasted Piculet. A little further on and Vaughan found a good bird: Peruvian Recurvebill, a much-wanted species for all. Despite putting in a lot of effort we did not manage to Rufous-fronted Antthrush or Manu Antbird but we did finish the morning with two impressive Red-billed Scythebills and a pair of Great Antshrikes.
This afternoon we again did the Ccollpa Trail. We had a cracking start when, as we crossed the bridge, a Sunbittern flushed and sat on a nearby branch before flying down stream. Some way into the forest and we came across four Broad-billed Motmots high in the trees and then found another mixed flock including yet another new tanager, Yellow-bellied Tanager. As we checked this flock a Golden-green Woodpecker was found plus another Rufous-tailed Flatbill. Finally, as we walked back in the fading light, we stopped and waited, and admired a Rufous-capped Antthrush as it walked slowly across the path, stopped to look at us, then disappeared into the undergrowth.
After dinner we were out in the lodge gardens playing the growling call of Great Potoo. We had heard them othe rnights but not managed to see one. Suddenly there it was. A huge Great Potoo on a nice open stump, posing beautifully in the torchlight. Pretty well everyone staying at the lodge came out to have a look and to borrow binoculars to admire this bird.
Tomorrow we were due to leave Manu Wildlife Centre and fly back to Cusco. I say due because we had heard that the plane from Boca Manu had been out of action for the last few days and the only way out was a very long boat ride followed by driving the Manu Road non-stop! Twenty-four hours minimum, probably longer. Not something to look forward to. We had to wait to see what would happen.
Day 15: The day dawned sunny and warm again and we heard that a plane had been chartered from Lima to fly down via Cusco and pick us up. We were all mightily relieved. We had about three hours to enjoy the boat trip up river to Boca Manu seeing the usual species plus Swallow-tanager and an adult and three young Capybaras. The walk from the river to the airfield gave us a Pale-winged Trumpeter, one that had been domesticated by the locals, and which liked to walk around with us hoping for food!
The airfield is a mile-long strip of grass surrounded by forest. The terminal is a raised, open sided hut with a small radio in it and a set of scales large enough to take bags and people. The luggage transport system is two wheelbarrows. We particularly enjoyed the domestic geese on the runway. The runway also held two Upland Sandpiper and six Smooth-billed Anis lurked around the edges in the scrubby bushes.
Since the plane took only eight people at a time, and us plus other flyers totalled 40+, we had to do the flight in groups. The first group flew out and left three of us to do a spot of birding. Nothing new was added but we did see Roadside Hawk, Gray Hawk and a King Vulture, and lots of Plumbeous Kites.
Day 16: Today we were at Cusco railway station just after dawn for the train to Machu Picchu. The train is very confortable and each carriage is self-contained with two staff, one man, one woman, on hand to serve food and take care of us. Of course, our main interest was the river we were to go past, a river that could sometimes be described as a torrent!
The train leaves Cusco using a series of switchbacks. It goes up one line. Stops, Reverses up another. Stops. Goes forward up the next, and continues this until it is out of the bowl that houses the city of Cusco. Then it's the run down to Machu Picchu through farmland and rocky gorges. Things got exciting when we reached Ollantaytambo Station, where we stopped along side the river. Our attention was attracted by a White-browed Chat-tyrant, a bird we had seen before, but this led to the finding of our first White-winged Cincloides and then came the shout, Torrent Duck! And there was one of the most-wanted birds of the tour, a male Torrent Duck on a rock in the middle of the river. A superb bird and one we had thought we might get only glimpses of as the train went past. However, by the end of the day we had seen 17 males, 14 females and six young, some from the roadside in Machu Picchu. We bird we did only glimpse, but fortunately had seen before, was White-capped Dipper, not uncommon on the river but not easy to see from a moving train.
After taking a short-cut through the tourist-catching sellers we got on the bus and were soon up at the famous ruins. Andean Swallows were common and we soon found one of our target birds, White-tipped Swift. A juvenile Mountain Caracara was about and seemed unafraid of all the tourists as it sat next to one of our group. After exploring the ruins and taking many photographs we went for lunch. As we ate and looked out of the window we added another bird to the list: White-winged Black-tyrant. Then it was time for a short walk down the road to hunt for Inca Wren. Frank warned us that we had to be quick when the bird came in and that it moves a lot and stays low and undercover. A few minutes later we were watching a beautiful Inca Wren feeding happily in a tree above our heads showing very well!
We took the bus back down into the valley and were dropped off by a bridge over the river with the aim of walking back to town. This was a good idea! First we had Mitred Parakeets flying past, then found a nesthole of Golden-olive Woodpecker, with an adult flying to and from it and a juvenile looking down at us. As we enjoyed these birds some tanagers were spotted in a nearby tree and yet more species were added to the list: Golden-naped Tanager and Silver-backed Tanager. By the railway we added Inca Flycatcher and White-eared Solitaire, then the bird we all wanted just because of its name: Oleaginous Hemispingus. Then a warbler was found and we carefully examined its supercilium and so had our first Pale-legged Warbler. Torrent Ducks were seen well on the river and a pair of Variable Antshrikes added to the antbird list. Some flowering trees attracted hummers, first a Gould's Inca, then Purple-throated Sunangel, and then the endemic Green-and-white Hummingbird.. We also admired a fine Black-chested Buzzard -eagle as it flew across the road and against the cliffs, and then John shouted Andean Condor. Frank's face when he saw John was right and that bad weather higher up had forced two condors low down, as was a picture!
The final highlight of the day was on the train back to Cusco. The sound of piped Peruvian music over the intercom turned into Kylie Minogue and the young lady cabin crew member walked down the carriage modelling some alpaca clothing. Then the man followed, adn this carried on for almost an hour. A fashion show on the train! Lots of clapping, cheering and photographing ensued! A great way to pass the time when it is dark outside.
Day 17: We took an early-morning flight to Lima where we saw a flock of 100+ Pacific Doves by the airport. We were to see many more. Driving down the coast we noted that all the lamp-posts held Neotropic Cormorants and beneath them were white patches of guano! The sea was rough and Peruvian Boobies were seen soaring over the waves while Band-tailed and Kelp Gulls flew along the shoreline.
Our first stop was a sandy area not far from the coast. It took only a minute or two for us to find two Peruvian Thick-knees standing quietly in the scrub-covered land. Then it was on to a site Frank had heard of but had not been too. We drove along the dry arid edge of the Atacama Desert until we found what looked like a dried lake with quite a lot of scrubby bushes. The ground was extraordinary in that it was cracked, as one would expect a dry lake bed to be, but the cracks were half a metre deep and often covered in vegetation. This made for interesting birding! Despite the challenges of the surface we were walking on we had some great birds here: Short-tailed Field-tyrant, Croaking Ground-dove and bright-orange Vermillion Flycatcher. We were seeking hummers here to and soon had both Amazilia Hummingbird and the hoped-for Peruvian Sheartail.
Next we made a stop by the shore when someone called cetaceans. There were 20+ Inshore Bottle-nosed Dolphins not far offshore and lots of birds on the beach: 100+ Gray Gulls, Kelp Gulls, Blackish Oystercatcher and Hudsonian Whimbrel. Out ot sea where Peruvian Boobies, Inca Terns and a lone Red-legged Cormorant.
We stopped for lunch at a seafood restaurant overlooking some rocky mudflats. The mud was seething with migrant waders. Wilson's Phalaropes, hundreds of Least Sandpipers, Semiplamated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Hudsonian Whimbrels, Ruddy Turnstones, Black-bellied Plovers, a few Surfbirds, a few Red Knot, even a Curlew Sandpiper, which was unexpected and a Sanderling - the second record for Peru! There was also many Gray-headed, band-tailed and Kelp Gulls here and offshore were 1000+ Peruvian Boobies diving into the sea.
We then drove to our htoel but were soon out again driving through the desert to the coast. En route, on the edge of town, we picked up three Coastal Miners. Then we were at the rocky cliff edge with the desert behind us and the Pacific in front of us. Inca Terns sat on rocks beneath us and flew around right in front of us and, after a short walk, we were soon watching our first Peruvian Seaside Cincloides, sometimes called Surf Cincloides. Continuing our walk along the cliff-top we saw more Gray, Band-tailed and Kelp Gulls, and found, on a wave-splashed rock, two Peruvian Seaside Cincloides showing exceptionally well but being harassed by an American Oystercatcher who did not like them being on his rock!
Day 18: We began the day early as usual and recorded our first House Sparrows of the trip. Today we were going out on a boat to the Ballestas Islands. First we did a short drive up the coast to see what we could find. In another sandy-scrubby area we found a Burrowing Owl, sitting on a bush, another Peruvian Thick-knee, Long-tailed Mockingbird, three Lesser Nighthawks, seen very well in flight and then sitting on the ground, plus another new bird: Oasis Hummingbird.
We boarded the boat in glorious weather and headed out to sea. In front of us was a huge flock of cormorants and we drove through them seeing literally thousands of Guanay and Neotropic Cormorants plus the usual Peruvian Boobies. There must have been 10000+ birds here. Inca Terns flew overhead, gulls soared around the boat and Peruvian Pelicans watched from the rocks. We soon reached the islands, which were covered with Guanay Cormorants, and you could smell them! We quickly found Humbolt Penguins, at least 40 individuals on the rock, plus close views of Peruvian Booby, Inca Tern, Red-legged Cormorants and Guanay Cormorants.
Having circled the islands we then headed out to sea for a pelagic. Soon we were seeing Elliot's Storm-petrels and Sooty Shearwaters. We found a Markham's Storm-petrel and a Wilson's Storm-petrel, then a Chilean Skua. Small flocks of Grey (Red) Phalaropes kept flying past and Inca Terns were always around. A flock of seven large gulls on the water caused mayhem we when realised they were Swallow-tailed Gulls, birds everyone wanted to see! What a trip.
Sadly, we now had the long drive back to Lima. We again stopped at the fish restaurant and again saw many hundreds of birds. New birds were Peruvian Tern, Western and Baird's Sandpipers, and Greater Yellowlegs. Out to sea was a flock of 10000+ Peruvian Boobies stretching across half the horizon! Another stop added out first dark-headed gull, a Laughing Gull. Another stop was unexpected but worth it as there were 25 Peruvian Thick-knees in a loose flock by the side of the road.
Our final Peruvian birding was at a marsh by the roadside. A beautiful Peruvian Meadowlark sang from a fence post and White-cheeked Pintails floated on the water. A Killdeer was also found here along with birds we had seen before.
So, there you have it. Splits and various taxonomic indecisions aside we recorded a group total of 576 species. For me, never having been to South or Central America, 510 were lifers! Huge thanks must go to Manu Expeditions for the superb ground arrangements and even more thanks to Frank Lambert, the best guide I have ever been with and without whom our list would have been considerably smaller. Also, huge thanks to Birdfinders for arranging yet another excellent and well-organised tour.