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Rich Hoyer on his just-completed tour, Peru: Machu Picchu and the Manu-Kosñipata Road

November 27: Rich Hoyer on his just-completed tour, Peru: Machu Picchu and the Manu-Kosñipata Road

Breathtaking views of Machu Picchu were just the beginning of this year’s highlights of the tour to the department of Cusco, Peru. We had a full morning’s tour at the ruins with a delightful local guide who didn’t mind our interruptions to see Inca Wren and scan the skies for swifts.

After our tour of the ruins, a walk along the Urubamba River resulted in many great birds, such as Andean Motmot, White-tipped Swift, and Collared Inca, with a pair of Torrent Ducks particularly memorable.

Then began our drive over the mountains and down the Kosñipata Valley, darting in and out of the boundary of Manu National Park – and thence began a daily barrage of lovely scenery and some truly memorable bird experiences. At Wayqecha Biological Station some new hummingbird feeders were already starting to attract customers, and the most common species was the exquisite Amethyst-throated Sunangel.

Mixed flocks at these higher elevations contained many colorful birds such as Golden-collared Tanager and the favorite Grass-green Tanager, which we each saw just once. But the equally stunning Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager was in nearly every flock, often posing for great views and photos.

At our mid-elevation stop, mentionable highlights were two Solitary Eagles – one flying by quickly over us and another soaring at length below – and the Buff-tailed Sicklebill that appeared at staked-out clump of pendant Heliconia flowers (something which you always try but rarely succeed at). A big surprise was a Rufous-breasted Antthrush that had been singing below the road behind a curtain of impenetrable foliage. But a lucky hole and a well-pitched whistle made it pop up where we could even put the spotting scope on it.

One of the main attractions at our mid-elevation lodge is the Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek, and we paid an early morning visit and experienced one of the world’s most amazing products of evolution.

Our stay at Villa Carmen was a treat with the very comfortable rooms and great food. Perhaps the most mind-blowing thing we witnessed there was the Pheasant Cuckoo that flew towards us over a hundred yards across the Piñi Piñi River at Los Amigos, landing in a bamboo thicket just a few yards away from our astonished faces. No one expected that to happen! We added a huge number of species from the garden, the main road, and the trails passing through bamboo and other types of forest. A quietly calling trogon with an odd voice teased us for several minutes before we discovered a motionless fledgling Blue-crowned Trogon just a few feet right over our heads.

The butterflies were out of this world, for example the Panacea prola (Red Flasher) that landed on most of the participants as we paused on one of the trails.

Another fun surprise find was a Black Hawk-Eagle on our last day as we began the drive back to Cusco. It was perched at eye-level just a few yards off the road, and it sat there rather indignantly as we tried to get perfect photos between the passings of noisy motorbikes and local taxis that drove between our parked bus and the bird.

It was a particularly fun group of participants, and our wonderful driver Eliazar did a great job of keeping the bus clean and working and us safe and on time.

Posted: November 27, 2017