DETAILED ITINERARY - AMAZON BIRDS
Amazon Watch – Manu Biosphere 7 days:
Explore Manu National Park: Cloud forest, Oxbow Lakes, Tapir & Macaw Clay Licks.
Bird Tours Day 0: Lima-Cusco (3360m)
Depending on arrival time in Lima we either transfer to our hotel in Lima or connect to Cusco.
Bird Tours Day 1: Cusco to Paradise Lodge (Lower Manu cloud forest 1400m)
Today we will leave early, first driving through scenic intermontane valleys. We will make selected stops at the Lupaca pre-Inca cemetery and Paucartambo village. Reaching a high mountain pass at Ajanaco, we will begin our journey into a vast intact wilderness area as we descend along the sinuous road that will take us to the Manu foothills. Along this extraordinary altitudinal transect, new wildlife species continually appear whilst others drop out. Initially, the steep Andean slopes are clad in stunted forest, temperate shrubbery, and wet paramo. Here we may well encounter such high-elevation species as the Mountain Caracara, Shining Sunbeam and Moustached Flower-piercers. A little lower in elevation, where the magnificent cloud forests begin, we will look out for beautiful orchids and the famous Andean Cock-of-the-Rock at the Lek, proclaimed as Peru´s national bird. With a little luck, we will see a Woolly Monkey and Brown Capuchin Monkeys. We will stay for one night at the Paradise Lodge. Optional night walk in Lower Manu Cloud Forest. L:D.
Bird Tours Day 2: Paradise Lodge to Hummingbird Lodge
After a final morning in the cloud forest, we will descend further down the Manu road to Port Atalaya. From here we will continue our river journey, down the Alto Madre de Dios River, leaving behind the green ridges of the foothills as we delve deeper into the humid lowlands. Here in the strict confines of the Manu Biosphere, we ,ay see Black Skimmers, Sand-coloured Nighthawks, and the bizarre Orinoco Goose on the sandbars. Careful scanning of the river edge may reveal the Great Black-Hawk or the reddish brown of a Capybara, the world´s largest rodent. With just a little luck on our side, we should also be able to spot the stately Razor-billed Curassow, a species driven to near-extinction in large parts of Amazonia but still reasonably common here. Raucous Blue-and yellow, Scarlet and Red-and-green Macaws fly overhead, clothed in a range of colours. Eventually we will arrive at the comfortable Hummingbird Lodge, where we will stay for one night, with an optional night walk. B:L:D.
Bird Tours Day 3: Hummingbird Lodge to Matsiguenka Camping Lodge
Today we will continue our river journey. Eventually we will reach the clay-laden waters of the meandering Manu River and head upstream. Here in the strict confines of Manu National Park, Black spider Monkeys, Bolivian squirrel Monkeys and the bizarre Orinoco Goose nest on the sandbars, whilst Black Caiman and White Caimans lazily sun themselves nearby. Careful scanning of the river edge may reveal a Great Black-Hawk, the flash of a Sunbittern, or the reddish brown of a Capybara, the world´s largest rodent. With just a little luck on our side we should also be able to spot the stately Jaguar (Panthera onca), a species driven to near-extinction in large parts of Amazonia but still reasonably common here. Raucous Blue-and yellow, Scarlet and Red-and-green Macaws float overhead, clothed in a riot of colours. Today before to arrive to our camping lodge we will explore the trails and the small tower good place to enjoy the scenery at Otorongo Oxbow Lake. Late in the afternoon we will arrive at the comfortable Matsiguenka Camping Lodge where we will stay for two nights, with optional night walks. Here we will meet the Matsiguenka natives B:L:D.
Bird Tours Day 4: Exploring Salvador Oxbow Lake
We will awake to a Red Howler Monkey (Alouatta sara) announcing the new day with its loud song. During the first hours of the day many shy understorey inhabitants proclaim their territorial rights with their characteristic songs. Located in the vast virgin rainforest of Manu National Park, the Matsiguenka Camping Lodge provides access to several distinct habitats, including the nearby Salvador Oxbow Lake. Here a small catamaran allows us to float gently along the banks of the lake and marvel at its sensational bird and animal life. We even have a very good chance of encountering a friendly family group of the endangered Giant Otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) actively fishing in their aquatic environment, clumsy Hoatzins clambering about in giant arum plants, and Black-capped Donacobiuses performing their loud duets, whilst overhead Blue-headed, Yellow-crowned and Mealy Parrots squawk their way to and from their roosts. Entering the primeval Amazonian forest is a strange and captivating experience. Lianas hang in loops and tangles from the canopy, through which the biggest trees emerge to stand in full sunlight. We will rise early each morning as most forest inhabitants are at their peak of activity from around dawn to about midday. Mammals also roam the forest and Manu National Park is probably the best place to see a large variety of New World primates. As many as thirteen species of monkey share the canopy, and regularly-seen species include the Bolivian Squirrel Monkey, the curious Brown and White-fronted Capuchin Monkey, the acrobatic Black Spider Monkey, the little Saddle-back Tamarin and the lethargic Red Howler. These forests are the most accessible in all of Amazonia for the incomparable Emperor Tamarin. Night at Matsiguenka Camping Lodge, optional night walk. B:L:D.
Bird Tours Day 5: Matsiguenka Camping Lodge to Amazon Wildlife Center
After some final time in Manu National Park, we will travel back down the Manu River to its junction with the Alto Madre de Dios River. Here the water changes from quiet and tea brown to clear and fast-flowing. After travelling down the Madre de Dios River we will come to Amazon Wildlife Center, with a bird list of over 657 species, situated just upriver from the Blanquillo Macaw Clay Lick. The rest of our time will be spent exploring the extensive trail systems which have been designed to visit different forest types. There will be an optional visit to the large mammal clay lick here, which can attract tapirs, peccaries and maybe even a jaguar. It also attracts Guans, Curasows, Chachalacas as well as Rose-fronted and Rock Parakeets and Dusky-billed Parrotlet. Amazon Wildlife Center Lodge will be our base for the next three nights, with optional night walks. B:L:D.
Bird Tours Day 6: Macaw Clay Lick & Tapir Clay Lick
We will start early in the morning by travelling 40 minutes downriver to the most spectacular and the biggest macaw clay lick, which features up to 100 Red-and-green Macaws, where we will observe the spectacle of hundreds of parrots and parakeets very close to our blinds. Here we will also see the beautiful Orange-cheeked Parrrot, Blue-headed Parrot, as well as Mealy and Yellow-crowned Parrots. Smaller visitors include White-eyed, Cobalt-winged, and Tui Parakeets. We will use a blind (hide) to get close to the birds. We will eat breakfast at the blind. The noise alone is incredible and the sight of these brightly colored birds at the lick is not to be forgotten. In this afternoon we will walk about 50 minutes through the forest to a large mammal clay lick where tapirs (Tapirus terrestris), the largest South American land mammal, regularly come for minerals. At night, Red-brocket Deer, Bicolor-spined Porcupine, Paca and other animals share these minerals, which are necessary for digestion. There is a large, raised blind here equipped with mattresses and mosquito nets for those who want to spend the night in comfort observing these nocturnal creatures. During the day, several species of Rose-fronted and Rock Parakeets and Dusky-billed Parrotlet as well as Spix´s and Blue-throated Pinping Guans, Ruddy and Plumbeous Pigeons, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Razor-billed Curassow and White-lipped and Collared Pecaries, Southern Amazon Red Squirrel, Amazon Dwarf Squirrel, Brown Agouti, Red Howler and Black Spider Monkeys regularly visit the clay lick. Night at the Amazon Wildlife Center. B:L:D.
Bird Tours Day 7: Amazon Wildlife Center to Cusco
Starting early this morning on our comfortable boat, we will have one last look at the numerous parrot flocks for which Manu is famous. The first part of our journey down the Madre de Dios River will give us another opportunity to see riverside wildlife activity. Leaving our boat, we will take a local car from Boca Colorado to Port Carlos. We will cross the Inanvari River with a local boat, then we´ll drive back to Cusco, transfer you to your hotel, and your tour of Manu National Park ends. B:L.
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About the Birding Areas Lowland Rainforest – Amazon Bird Peru
All of the lowland rainforest we will bird lies in the remote department of Madre de Dios, among the richest areas for birds in western Amazonia. Here we will visit a variety of habitats, from riverine sandbars and bamboo stands (of a giant species of the genus Guadua) to old oxbow lakes or cochasand well-drained terra firme forest. Manu Wildlife Center, on a high bank above the Rio Madre de Dios, is in a small clearing punctuated by some big, bromelia-clad trees (where oropendulas, caciques, Chestnut-fronted Macaws, and occasionally Chestnut-eared Aracaris nest).
The dawn chorus includes the duets of Gray-necked Wood-Rails; the feeders, vervains, and heliconias in the gardens attract hermits and other hummingbirds. Amazonian Pygmy Owls call from the edge of the clearing. It is a convenient two-minute walk from the lodge to the boat landing, our gateway to a number of alluring trails, especially to a forest with big bamboo stands. This habitat supports such bamboo specialists as the Pavonine Cuckoo (active aftera rainyperiod), Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Red-billed Scythebill, Peruvian Recurvebill (rare), Bamboo Antshrike, Ornate Antwren (rare), White-lined, Manu watch birds, Yellow-breasted Warbling- and Striated antbirds, Dusky-tailed and Large-headed flatbills, and Flammulated Bamboo-Tyrants (rare). The nearby Antthrush Trail is named for the very local Rufous-fronted Antthrush, endemic to southeastern Peru, which can be seen along the trail. However, it is increasingly scarce and more often heard than seen. Next to the clearing at Manu Wildlife Center, a network of trails passes through beautiful, tall transitional forest as well as to moriche palms.
Only fifteen minutes from the lodge is the canopy platform. Reached by a sturdy metal spiral staircase, the platform itself is about 100-feet high, within the spreading branches of a Ceiba tree. On past tours here, we have had marvelous sightings of everything from nesting Double-toothed Kites (in our tree!), a male Pavonine Quetzal that we called into view, and a long list of fruit-eating species (including both guans, both big toucans, Ivory-billed and Curl-crested aracaris, and Spangled and Purple-throated cotingas) to some species that are very difficult to see from the ground, which associate with mixed flocks, e.g., Sclaterʼs Antwren (in direct comparison with Pygmy Antwren!) and Chestnut-shouldered Antwren and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. Along other trails, huge fruiting fig trees (ojes) attract Blue-throated Piping- and Spixʼs guans in addition to impressive numbers of monkeys and the occasional Tayra.
In fact, monkeys can be encountered throughout the forest, from large mixed troops of bold Black Spiders, Red Howlers, Common Squirrel Monkeys, and Brown Capuchins to furtive Saddleback and ornate Emperor tamarins scurrying through the canopy. Dusk oftens brings out a singing Ocellated Poorwill, Great Potoo, and Crested Owl, the latter often right from the clearing. Trails along hilly ridges take us from the lodge through rich terra firme forest and to the interior collpa, or Tapir Lick. This gorgeous forest offers our best chances for such terra firme species as Bartlettʼs and Variegated tinamous, Blue-backed Manakin, and such “obligate” army ant followers as Sooty, White-throated, and Hairy-crested antbirds, and the rare Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo. The lick itself attracts shy forest species, from Black-capped and Red-crowned parakeets and Dusky-billed Parrotlet to curassows, guans, and the huge Brazilian Tapir. Travel along the Madre de Dios is not only cool and relaxing, it offers good birding. Pied Lapwings, Collared Plovers, Large-billed Terns, and Sand-colored Nighthawks abound on the sandbars, punctuated occasionally by a Sunbittern or a family group of Horned Screamers or Orinoco Geese. Raptors perch on dead branches, and here and there, macaws are stationed in trees overhanging the riverbank. At any moment, a Red Howler Monkey could quietly descend the red cut bank to drink from a calm backwater or a Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle could sail overhead.
White Caimans bask at the edge on sunny days, and with lots of luck (and constant scanning) we could even encounter a jaguar. A huge Horned Screamer photographed on Cocha Blanco by participants David & Judy Smith. Weʼll also visit two oxbow lakes, or cochas, where weʼll search the edges from a stable, floating catamaran platform. Possible sightings here include Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Green Ibis, Horned Screamer, Muscovy Duck, close Hoatzins, Gray-breasted Crake, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy kingfishers, Purus Jacamar, Black-billed Seed-Finch, and Pale-eyed Blackbird, as well as a playful troop of Giant Otters. Overlooking the end of one of the cochas is the 150-foot-high Camungo canopy platform, also reached by sturdy metal staircase and offering dramatic views of the lake and nearby forest treetops. The platform itself, nestled among the branches of another giant Ceiba that emerges above the canopy, is big and steady, with good views in all directions. Itʼs the perfect place to scan the distant treetops for raptors, cotingas, toucans, tanagers, parrots, and puffbirds.
We have called Amazonian Pygmy-Owls, Curl-crested Aracaris, and Lemon-throated Barbets right into “our tree” here and marveled at the constant turnover of species that use all the canopy perches, including a seemingly constant parade of colorful tanagers. Another one of the areaʼs foremost features is its relative proximity to the Blanquillo Macaw Lick. From our lodge, weʼre only 40 minutes by river from one of the most thrilling avian phenomena—an active riverside ccollpa, where hundreds of psittacids from up to a dozen different species come to ingest the minerals seeping from the clay cliff face (assuming weather and predators do not keep them away). The Madre de Dios River has recently changed course and our blind is currently located on an island just across a backwater from the ccollpa. At the Blanquillo lick, shortly after dawn, parrots gathered in the trees above the bank begin to descend to line the vegetation overhanging the cliff. Then, Blue-headed Parrots and other smaller psittacids fly down to the vertical clay face. All the while large Amazon parrots and dozens of macaws (usually Red-and-green but sometimes also Scarlet and Blue-and-yellow) are building their numbers in the trees above. Ultimately, after much circling to investigate, they too begin to venture down onto the open bank to cling and consume a beakful or two of the mineral-rich clay, a vital part of their diet, now thought to aid in the digestion of certain toxic fruits. The constant coming and going of these colorful birds, their sudden eruptions from the bank to wheel in the soft morning light, the din of their incessant vocalizations all combine to produce an unforgettable effect. Indeed, for some it constitutes the highlight of the trip.