Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Anyone in possession of a pair of binoculars ought to have them confiscated and destroyed if they do not dream of one day filling them with the reality bending apparition of a male Marvellous spatuletail. So, with a few spare weeks in my South American summer I headed to the north of Peru. Until a few years ago this area was considered too difficult or dangerous to consider visiting. This is now not the case, the area has been visited by many birders, including regular visits by Gunnar Engblom’s Kolibri tours. Besides this spectacular hummer my route would allow me to try for some arid coastal species and the Abra Patricia and arid Maranon valley specialties as well as searching for widespread but scarce trans-Andean birds. Travelling alone without private transport I did not have time to attempt the sort of circuit that would allow me to try for more than one Inca finch or sought after hummers such as Purple-backed sunbeam and Grey-tailed comet. I decided to limit myself to sites along the Olmos-Rioja road with a short diversion to try for White-winged guan. As is always the case on trips which rely on public transport my itinerary was a little fluid and with the benefit of hindsight I would have done a few things differently.
Costs and logistics
Birding independently in this area of Peru is very cheap. Including busses to and from Lima I spent less than $300. For this much money I ate as much as I wanted and always slept in a bed with a roof over my head. I doubt I ate a meal that cost more than $2. I have not included costs for individual hostels (or even the names of hostels in this report, there is nothing memorable about most of them) but in any case none cost more than $5 per night. Upon arrival in a town where I wanted to spend the night I would generally just ask someone with a motortaxi to take me the cheapest hostel. In some areas there is no conveniently located hostel. In these areas it is necessary to stay at restaurants. Banish any notion of pretty little bourgeois cafes with Michelin stars, these establishments exist to serve truck drivers and generally have a spare room with a bed, and enough floor space for someone else if there are two of you. No-one I met spoke any English so some basic Spanish is essential, my Spanish is very basic but usually was sufficient. I saw no other birders or gringos, the latter a nice change from elsewhere in Peru.
I made much use of notes made for me by Dave Edwards who followed a similar itinerary a few years ago, since which little has changed. As always Nigel Wheatley's Where to Watch Birds in South America was present to provide the necessary superlatives to inspire and direct the birding activity. Notes on the Kolibri website proved useful too. I also read Frank Reinds excellent little book before setting out. It should be noted that some of the information in this book is now out date. For instance it is now not possible to try for Orange-throated tanager as FR describes, the bird can now only be seen, with prior arrangement, in association with Gunnar Engblom. This and the considerable additional costs involved, as well as time constraints meant that this bird was not possible for me (this time anyway…).
14th June: Arrive Lima, night bus to Chiclayo
15th June: Arrive Chiclayo, travel to Olmos.
16th June: Birding km 109, ill.
17th June: Bus to Rioja.
18th June: Birding Rioja, travel to Aguas Verdes
19th June: Birding Aguas Verdes
20th June: Birding Aguas Verdes
21st June: Birding Aguas Verdes, travel to La Florida
22nd June: Marvellous spatuletail, travel back to Alta Nieve
23rd June: Birding Alta Nieve
24th June: Birding Alta Nieve
25th June: Birding Alta Nieve, travel to la Florida
26th June: Rio Chido trail, travel to Bagua Chica
27th June: Birding Bagua Chica, travel to Jaen, birding Balsahuaycu
28th June: Birding Jaen, travel to Chiclayo
29th June: Birding El Rafan, travel to Olmos
30th June: Birding km 109, travel to Quebrada Limon
1st July: Birding Quebrada Limon, return to Lima
The route is shown on Map 1.
Since the trip described in this report formed a small section of a much longer trip which included time at other east slope sites (e.g. The Manu Road) I neglected to keep a comprehensive list for this section of the trip. Consequently, rather than display an incomplete list at the end of this trip report I have here simply mentioned some of the most notable or typical species seen and highlighted their names. Hopefully this will make them easy to find amongst the inconsequential waffle. A few of the highlighted species I did not see, this is made clear in the surrounding text.
I arrived from Cusco on the overnight bus and spent the day with some friends in Lima. In the evening I headed to the bus station and caught one of the many overnight busses for the long journey north to Chiclayo. Long distance busses in Peru are comfortable affairs with air conditioning and toilets, food is usually provided and sub-titled films are shown.
The bus rolled into Chiclayo mid morning and I headed for the Plaza de armas (main square) to find a hostel. I like to be near the centre of town, a few streets from the centre of town is as cheap as anywhere. I checked into some adequate accommodation, had a cold shower, and went to find the office of the White-winged guan project team. After an hour or three of detective work I found it, I missed the staff since they had just left for the captive breeding centre near Olmos (100km to the north), but apparently they would be happy for me to visit them there. I headed back to the hostel, rapidly checked out and caught a cab to the taxi collectivo stop for Olmos. Taxi collectivos are essentially taxis which wait at designated points till they are full and then head to one given destination. They are almost as cheap as busses and much faster.
We arrived in Olmos a few hours later and headed to the hospital for a meal. I had met a nurse in the vehicle and noting my gaunt frame she had taken pity on me and invited me in for food. I put up some bed curtains and the like in exchange. After this I caught a motortaxi to the guan breeding centre at km 109 on the road heading north out of Olmos. It was getting dark when I arrived and I was disappointed to find that the staff were out for the evening. While fruitlessly waiting I picked up a few common birds: Savannah hawk, Harris hawk, Pacific hornero, Saffron finch and Scrub blackbird. Reluctantly I returned to Olmos and checked into my second hostel of the day. I then had the worst meal I had in all of Peru, a sort of cold gritty stew. I was hungry so ate until I discovered the pork was rather raw and then retired to bed.
I awoke before dawn to find the stew repeating itself on me, a thorough tour of the human digestive tract had not changed its appearance in the slightest. I am not usually ill, this was the only time in my whole four month trip, and I decided I should get over it and head back to the guan centre at km 109. Upon arrival necessity forced me to dive under the nearest tree, which held a shocked looking Peruvian pygmy owl. The staff at the guan centre let me in and after a chat I crossed the road to bird the thorny scrub. A maze of trails crossed the flat ground between the road and the hills a few kms away to the east. This was my first time in this eco-region and I picked up quite a few of my available target birds as I dashed between trees to squat. Amazilia hummingbird, Scarlet backed woodpecker, Streak-headed woodcreeper, Collared antshrike, Short-tailed field tyrant, Baird’s flycatcher, Grey and white tyrannulet and Fasciated, Superciliated and Speckle-breasted wrens were the most notable. A great looking selection of species. As the sun rose I began to feel even more awful and went back to bed.
After discussions with the guan centre staff it became clear that the most convenient time to see the guans would be in a few weeks time, so I made my plans to leave for Rioja the next day. Feeling a little better in the evening I walked back down the road a few kms towards Olmos to a point where the low hills cross the road. Wandering about the hills where the vegetation was sparser I added Tumbes sparrow and Cinereous finch.
Feeling bad, but better than the previous day, I hitched a lift back to just south of Olmos to the junction of the road which heads west. Busses from Chiclayo heading to Rioja or Tarapoto pass here from 9:30 onwards. The rest of the day was spent on the bus; I arrived in Rioja in the early evening. I planned to start at Rioja and work back down the road to Olmos (safer than leaving one long journey for the last day when a mechanical fault could cause havoc in the itinerary). Till nearly midnight I was given a grand tour of the town by a doctor whom I had met over my chicken dinner and who thought I was here to buy birds, not look at them! After turning down many amazonas parrots, monkeys and daughters on the excuse that it would be to cold for them in England I eventually got to bed.
Some inadequate knowledge had led me to believe that I had to go as far east as Rioja for Huallaga tanager, this I discovered later was wrong. However on this day I did not know that and awoke at dawn to catch a motor taxi out of town in search out this, the day’s target species. I birded the trees and forest fragments along the road west of Rioja for most of the morning before hitching a lift back to town. Being a Ramphocelus this was ideal habitat and I was soon watching a small flock of Huallaga tanager. A Gould’s jewelfront was a nice find and Oriole blackbird was new too. Other species seen included Dark-billed cuckoo, Blue-chinned sapphire, Giant antshrike, Barred antshrike, Red headed cardinal, White-vented euphonia and Titi monkey.
After some lunch I packed and left on a collectivo in the direction of Aguas Verdes. None of the collectivos were going further than the next town so the journey had to be done in a number of stages. I arrived at Aguas Verdes late afternoon and with the aid of a toothless gent located the restaurant named Ven y Veras; it is at the western most end of town. The owner remembered both FR and DE (of whom he did a very convincing impression) and over some rum we agreed that I could stay in the spare room for free as long as I ate three meals a day at the restaurant. The food was great, and generally involved a lot of beef whatever the meal: one breakfast I asked for a change from steak and received an Aitkin’s fantasy dish: the beef omelette!
Ven y Veras is conveniently situated on the western end of the village where good forest begins. I started birding the road-side forest at dawn, returning mid-morning for a rushed breakfast and to pick up my packed lunch. The first hour or so were rather slow with just White-browed antbird and Streaked flycatcher. A few kilometres further up the hill things picked up nicely when I found flock containing the localised Speckle-chested piculet and Olive and Rufous-crested tanagers along with many other species typical of this altitude. This flock often frequented the area where there is a small trail on the left heading into the forest.
After breakfast I hitched back up the hill to this trail, it was very easy to hitch short lifts up and down the road. The trail was unproductive so I continued up hill adding Rufous-tailed tyrant. Just west (up hill away from Aguas Verdes) of a bridge named Pte Serraneyaeu a trail left the road on the right (approx 1300masl). This trail and the area just above the bridge I found very productive. It was raining when I first tried this trail so I sheltered with a family and their mules beneath a large rock at the start of the trail. Together we found a female Cock of the Rock and Black-billed treehunter. They and everyone else I met offered to show me a Cock of the rock lek. A canopy flock often viewable from the bridge was dominated by tanagers and contained many typical east slope species e.g. White-winged tanager. The high cliff just below the bridge held a pair of Cliff flycatchers. After doing the trail I continued up the road a little to a small village and found a couple of male Cock of the rocks before birding slowly downhill. Green hermit and, 1km from Ven y Veras, a Rufous-capped nunlet were the most notable species. Though there is a heavy police presence along the road they strongly recommended I did not venture out on foot alone after dark, due to bandits.
Pre-breakfast I hot footed it to the trail near the flock with the piculet and found three Amazonian umbrellabirds sat in a tree. After this I headed down hill (Gilded barbet) for some food. After the food I hitched up to the small village a few kms beyond the bridge (approx 1400masl) and continued west. On the edge of the village I was surprised to see Huallaga tanager, a species I later saw on the edge of Aguas Verdes too. The birding here was good, I picked up Golden-tailed sapphire, Lined antshrike and White-crowned tapaculo as well as two of my target species: the weird Equatorial greytail and Ecuadorian piedtail. I later saw this super hummer just below the village as well. It always stayed very close to vertical sections of cliff where it spent much of its time hovering under vegetation clinging to the rock face.
I spent much of the afternoon on the trail by the bridge. At the start of the trail a non-tanager canopy flock held Versicolored barbet (a species I had missed on the Manu road, though a different race to those occurring there), Yellow-breasted antwren and Ecuadorian tyrannulet. The birds spent most of their time in one tree. Whilst I was watching the flock a pick-up truck stopped by the roadside and some men with chainsaws got out, I headed off down the track but was shocked when I returned a couple of hours later to find they were loading my three tick tree (or rather pieces of it) into the truck! The trail had produced an Olive finch which eventually showed well. The mammal list was helped along by a group of Coati and an Agouti, which I was served for dinner.
It was time for a different pre-breakfast tactic so I booted about in the long grass on the edge of the village and found a Rufous-sided crake. After food I hitched back up to the trail by the bridge where I was very pleased to find Yellow-throated spadebill and also Olivaceous greenlet, as well as the treehunter from the other day. Back on the road again I found a White-necked Jacobin and a number of mixed species flocks containing birds such as Streaked xenops and Ashy-throated bush-tanager. In dense vegetation of the left of the road (when heading west) between the bridge and the village I found a pair of Black and white tody-tyrants. Though the female gave good views the male stubbornly refused to show. Close to here I also enjoyed Inca flycatcher and Grey-chinned hermit. Ash-throated antwren, a species recently described and only known from Jesus del Monte, has recently been seen along the road above Aguas Verdes. Unfortunately I was not so fortunate.
I decided to move to accommodation further west at Alta Nieve (approx 1850masl) in the afternoon. I left at about 3pm in a lorry, unfortunately I wasn’t concentrating and missed the village, an hour or so passed and I realised I would be better off staying in the vehicle till it arrived in Pomacocha, the town, also known as La Florida, where Marvellous spatuletail occurs. I stayed in the hostel on the same side of the road as the police station where my room had the interesting combination of bed, toilet and shower, but no sink!
I awoke at dawn and chartered a motortaxi west of the village in the direction of the Rio Chido. Near where the river goes under the road I found a female Marvellous spatuletail feeding by the roadside. My self finding wishes fulfilled I now wanted to witness the lek so went off to find Edilberto. His house is hard to find but I located his parents quickly, they live in the isolated two storey house on the left of road (when heading west out of La Florida) approximately a kilometre before you get to the Rio Chido. They fetched their son and we got in a motortaxi and headed out to the site. He charges a non-negotiable $50 to take you to the site for a morning. Unfortunately he has no formal agreement with the landowner who arrived and angrily told us we were trespassing. He demanded a further $5 for himself; he is obviously unaware how much Edilberto receives. This is one situation which tour companies who regularly visit this site really should formally resolve. The land is un-protected and there is nothing to stop the land owner completing the clearance of his land.
The lek is on the edge of a tiny forest patch in a fairly open bush. Viewing is from the bank above. The two resident adult males spent most of their time sat in the base of the lek bush out of sight; one could easily walk past and not even notice they were there. For an hour nothing happened and I had to content myself with views of a female in a nearby tree and a few passing birds: Andean guan, Emerald toucanet and Blue-browed tanager. All of a sudden the two males rose through and out of the bush. They flew vertically, facing each other an inch apart with their bills pointed straight up. Above their heads the two outer tail feathers were crossed and the spatulas, which were almost as large as the bird’s bodies, were constantly flicked rapidly. The remaining two tail feathers are long, straight and pointed, these were held in a V below the birds. The show was over in seconds and was too much to take in. I had to stay and watch it repeated a number of times before I could get my head round it. The males also occasionally left the bush to feed on nearby flowers.
I decided I should head back to Alta Nieve and save the Rio Chido trail for another day so caught a lift in a car heading east. Alta Nieve is a small string of houses close to some of the least known birds in South America. The restaurant is somewhat isolated at the eastern end of the village near a large concrete sign explaining how the forest is important as a watershed etc. The same arrangement was made here as at Ven y Veras and after some food I headed out to bird the forest east of the restaurant. Here I found Sickle-winged guan, Booted racket-tail, Bronzy inca, Bar-bellied woodpecker, Spotted barbtail, Jet manakin and Golden-faced tyrannulet. Tanager flocks contained species such as Yellow-throated and Metallic green. A short period of clear sky slowed down the bird activity but produced Swallow-tailed kite.
It is the weird stunted ridgeline forest at and just west of Alta Nieve for which this area is famous. Here palms are abundant (the substrate is white sand) and the trees are draped in moss reminding one of forest 1000 metres higher. Close to ground level a tangle of mossy roots and Chusquea bamboo form an impenetrable understory. My target species were those restricted to this forest and I started trying for them, mostly using the sit and wait tactic, on this day.
In the village an extremely muddy trail heads off to the right (when heading west) through a cleared area, I quickly gave up on this for fear of never being seen again; the sinking never seemed to stop! A pair of Black-faced tanager which frequented the village were new for me. Just beyond the western tip of the village on a sharp left-hand bend two trails head off to the right into the forest. One follows the ridge whilst the other headed down hill through the forest for a kilometre or so to a small cleared area. It continued through this cleared area to another forest patch, and then to another cleared area and so on. Once on the valley bottom it is very muddy (knee deep and more). I saw very few birds in many hours sat on these trails, but they did produce a number of the target species.
A large canopy flock was usually to be found at the start of this trail containing Green and black fruithunter, and many tanagers e.g. Blue-naped chlorophonia, Flame-faced tanager and Blue-winged mountain tanager. I spent a few hours sat on the trail and whistled out a Russet-mantled softail, which eventually showed surprisingly well; though I did not see anything else. I continued up the road and quickly found a small flock of stunning Vermilion tanagers. Grey-hooded bush tanager and Smoky brown woodpecker left far less impression on me and with the sky clearing and bird activity not what it had been I sat down to eat my lunch overlooking a gorge. My relaxed lunch was suddenly interrupted by a massive blue hummingbird: Royal sunangel! Rice flew in all directions as I chased it up and down the roadside securing excellent views. Feeling very smug I headed back towards the trails.
On the walk back I heard jay-like screeching coming from the other side of the valley, this could surely only be one thing; I charged down a short nearby trail which I knew led to a clearing with views over the opposite slope and to my delight, I was correct! Three White-capped tanagers, difficult birds anywhere, were sat in palms calling noisily. Though the birds were a little distant their powder white caps were like beacons.
Bird activity increased and I saw Andean and the spectacular White-eared solitaire as well as Glowing puffleg. I then spent a couple of hours sat on the ridgeline trail. This led to excellent views of perched Royal sunangel (which I then saw daily here) and Cliff flycatcher. The last hours of the day were spent sat on the lower trail. Amazingly the White-capped tanagers had followed me here and I was able to get prolonged views of five birds, some of them very close, a fitting end to a great day.
It was going to be tough to beat the previous day, but the first hour managed just that! Dawn found me sat on the lower trail, the sitting tactic worked a treat again when I saw one of the two mythical beasts of this forest: Ochre-fronted antpitta, close to ground level in some Chusquea bamboo. Whilst punching myself in the face to check I was not dreaming a tiny bird low in a tree nearby caught my attention. I was then treated to the recently described Lulu’s tody tyrant. A big fan of anything tody or tyrant this species had been one of my most wanted endemics and did not disappoint.
The rest of the day was always going to be poor by comparison, and with sunny weather quickly developing it seemed for a while I might only see White-tipped swift. A good trail leaving the road to the left at km361 just west of a large house (which is on the right when heading west) was found and explored with a boy from the house to show me the way. A large flock held birds such as Hooded mountain tanager and Pearled treerunner. I birded a long way up the road through good looking forest though saw little, presumable mainly due to the weather. After this I hitched back to the lower trail for more sitting in the last hours of the day and saw only Oleaginous hemispingus and a flock of Green jays.
In the evening I spoke to the man who lives in the last house (on the left when heading west) in the village about owls. He knew about the tiny owl with the whiskers, Long-whiskered owlet (the other mythical beast), and produced a medium sized potato to indicate the size. He said that it was only worth trying to see it on very cloudy nights, and this night was far from cloudy. Nonetheless we agreed that I could return at between 7 and 8 for a short night walk. This I did though my torch was not working well. We saw one owl which appeared to be a screech owl, based on size and shape.
I awoke early to be on the trails at dawn. Neither the sitting nor the whistling produced anything. A Rusty-tinged antpitta was heard and whistled in close, but the terrain meant I could not get in to try and see it. Though I heard woodwrens daily and managed to whistle most of them out, they all turned out to be Grey-breasted and not the desired Bar-winged. I headed back for breakfast, on my way I found a small flock containing (bizarrely) a male Yellow-cheeked becard and the little known Cinnamon-breasted tody tyrant. The latter stayed a couple of metres above the ground where it foraged on the edge of the flock with which it seemed to be only loosely associating.
After breakfast I hitched back to the trail at km361, it proved much more productive in the duller weather. In the large flock, which now held Grass-green tanager, a Tyrannine woodcreeper showed well. Along the stream I found Collared inca, Maroon-chested chat tyrant, Andean tyrant and Trilling tapaculo. Further up the path there was a mixed flock of Crimson-mantled woodpeckers, White-collared jays and Mountain caciques.
The sun was now shining so after lunch I decided to head to La Florida so that I could do the Rio Chido trail the next morning.
The Rio Chido trail was terrible and a complete waste of time, I wished I had stayed at Alta Nieve another half day. I walked for hours until I reached a small village and saw Green jay, Oleaginous hemispingus, Buff-breasted mountain tanager and virtually nothing else. My main trouble was finding any trees.
I left for Bagua Chica soon after midday, my mind now set on the arid Maranon valley specials. Despite having to get a number of different rides I got to the town with an hour of daylight left. I decided to check out my site for the next morning, the scrub by the road which heads north from the town square. Shortly after leaving town there are some low vegetation covered hills where there seems to be no shortage of suitable vegetation. Little inca finch was easily found feeding by the roadside along with a couple of species of seedeater. My top target bagged I set about enjoying the birding, finding Brown-crested flycatcher and Streaked saltator of the highly distinctive peruvianus race, restricted to the Maranon valley. Just before dusk I saw Spot-throated hummingbird, truly one of the worst hummers ever.
I returned to the same site at dawn in search of Maranon crescentchest and quickly saw all the birds of the previous evening. I took a drivable track on the right that led gradually up a small hill; much rubbish had been dumped along the first hundred metres or so. Fasciated wren reminded me of Olmos but I was clearly in the Maranon valley: the next two birds were Maranon gnatcatcher and Maranon crescentchest. The former was common whilst the latter showed quite well low in the vegetation. Further up the track a small area of trees produced only Common thornbird and Red-crested finch so I headed back to town picking up a Speckle-breasted wren of the local race sclateri on the way.
I ate a good meal and caught a mini-bus to Jaen. There I dumped my stuff in a hostel and caught a collectivo 10km to the village of Balsahuayca to try for Maranon thrush. Here I found a trail heading up a valley. After passing some houses and orchards there was natural vegetation once more, mostly taller than that at Bagua Chica. The blazing mid-afternoon sun meant minimal bird activity and I was surprised to find a spectacular Maranon crescentchest sitting a couple of metres up a tree engrossed in a territory dispute with another individual, not what you expect from a tapaculo! The tree was totally bare and the bird allowed really close approach and stunning views. Once back on the ground it once again became a tapaculo and disappeared from sight. After many hours of searching, and after I had almost given up hope I located a single Maranon thrush in the orchards, a good looking thrush. I took a long time getting back to the road, someone had let the dogs out so I spent about half an hour up a tree before building up the courage to grab a stick and make a run for it.
Before dawn I took a motortaxi north from Jaen in search of the highly distinctive leucogaster race of Maranon slaty antshrike. After 10km or so I noticed a driveable track to the left and decided to get out and walk. The first couple of kilometres were fields and houses with Striped cuckoo, purple-throated euphonia, Yellow-tailed oriole and many dogs. I fought my way through the packs of hounds with a large stick till I arrived at good habitat where I found a couple of pairs of the desired antshrike. Here as well I found the highly distinctive nigriceps race of Black-capped sparrow, another taxon restricted to the Maranon valley. The path eventually moved onto a plateau with low vegetation where I found Little inca finch and Maranon crescentchest.
My return to the road was again slow, my dog-stick had got lost whilst creeping through some tangles. Thankfully I found a man with a large gun who accompanied me past the dogs to the road. Unfortunately he could not be persuaded to cull a few of the mangy mutts. With an extra day I would have explored further north of Jaen in search of Maranon and Chinchipe spinetails. Once back in town I caught a bus to Chiclayo, arriving late evening.
While it was still dark I caught a taxi to the bus stop for local busses south, then a bus as far as the turning for El Rafan. Once there I got in a collectivo which eventually filled up with people and left for the village. Unfortunately the driver was not as kind as the staff on the bus and didn’t tell me when we got to my desired destination! After some arguing I got driven back to El Rafan where I got out and walked the 1 kilometre back down the track (east from the village i.e. back towards the main road) to the pocket sized patch of acacias. Many of the trees are within an enclosure (made from the branches of many more trees) and this appears to be the best area. Despite the small size of the area it took a couple of hours before I found my two target birds. First was a pair of the weird Peruvian plantcutter feeding quietly on leaves, then soon after the first of two Rufous flycatchers. A Coastal miner on the sandy track was a useful tick and I found Sulphur-throated finch and a fox before heading back to the village.
It took hours before there was a lift back to the main road, I amused myself by discussing plantcutters with locals and scrutinising the hirundine flocks in vain for Peruvian martin. After catching a bus back to Chiclayo I headed back to the guan centre just north of Olmos.
Dawn saw me birding the scrub across the road from the breeding centre where I saw again most of the species that I had seen on my previous visit here, though with the addition of a stunning pair of White-tailed jays. I also went back to the area where the hills cross the road to investigate the area more thoroughly. This proved a good plan, I quickly found some spinetail nests accompanied by their owners the Necklaced spinetail. Another Rufous flycatcher was found and soon a Tumbes tyrant flew in to the same tree! This delicate flycatcher had been my main target of the day so I was very pleased.
In the late afternoon I headed back to Olmos to catch my lift to Quebrada Limon. The only way to get to this village by public transport is on the lorry which goes nightly from Chiclayo, to Olmos and on through the night round a number of tiny villages in rural Piura. The lorry has an open back which is piled high with vegetables, dry produce and building materials, people and birders have to perch on the rim. The lorry stops briefly at a car battery re-charging shop in Olmos sometime between 4 and 8pm; I was picked up at 7. The shop is on the right when heading north through Olmos shortly after entering the town. It is less than a hundred metres past the first main turning to the left leading to the bulk of the town (do not take this turning, an arch is visible over this road). See Map 2 for "details".
It was a long cold journey on the lorry, I was eventually dropped at the end of a track at about midnight and told Quebrada Limon was only a short walk away. Thankfully after only a few minutes I woke up some dogs that woke up some children who led me to the home of Senior Lino Rico, who keeps an eye on the nearby guans. He allowed me to sleep on the dirt floor of his house for what was left of the night.
Lino Rico’s son woke me an hour before dawn and we left for the guan site. We arrived just before dawn and sat to wait for daylight. With the first light a pair of White-winged guan flew across the valley and perched high in a large tree where they showed well. Exhausted and elated I thanked the man and we went off birding. Though we did not see the guans again there were plenty of other good birds. White-tailed jays were much in evidence and the open understorey revealed White-winged and White-headed brushfinches as well as the nominate race of Black-capped sparrow. Grey and gold warbler, Three-banded warbler and a pair of Highland hepatic tanager were seen. Some loud tapping gave away a Guayaquil woodpecker and I found the uninspiring Tumbes hummingbird and Red-masked parakeet. More widespread lowland species seen included Blue-crowned motmot and Black-tailed trogon. We headed back to the village and I returned to Olmos with some of the guan centre staff who had arrived to check on Lino Rico. I took a bus back to Chiclayo and returned to Lima by night bus arriving midday on the 2nd.
The maps (thumbnails above) are not to scale, other books have better maps.
Map 1. Locations of towns mentioned in text.
Map 2. Olmos, showing the location of the battery re-charging shop where a lift to Quebrada Limon can be caught. Only the two thickest lines are roads, the other four are pointers.