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WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Peru: Rainforest Lodges of the Madre de Dios

2018 Narrative

In Brief: Our tour to the Rainforest Lodges of Southeastern Peru began with a bumpy start due to delays at the Lima airport, but that actually added 15 species of costal and western Peruvian species to our list of over 350 species that we wouldn’t have had a chance to see, including lovely Inca Terns, multiple plumages of Belcher’s Gull, Blackish Oystercatcher, and Amazilia Hummingbird. Once we were finally at Los Amigos Birding Lodge, the birding action was almost non-stop. We walked miles of trails where surprises were around every corner. The tour highlight came early in our stay there when a rarely seen Hairy-crested Antbird emerged from its ant swarm and sang out in the open at length, long enough for some video of its amazing song.

In Detail: The good birding actually began before we arrived, during the boat trip to Los Amigos, where we passed by a small clay click used by Blue-headed and Orange-cheeked Parrots and many Dusky-headed Parakeets. We had a pair of awesome Horned Screamers on a beach and some amazingly well camouflaged Sand-colored Nighthawks and migrant Pectoral Sandpipers, and before we knew it, the 220 steps up the lodge were before us.

Our first full morning took us down the “Camino” trail, where we were beset by a mixed flock that came and went, first in the canopy, followed by a wave in the understory, then reappeared in the canopy, and finally dissipated, providing over some forty minutes of euphoric madness. Most of the species showed well several times – including White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Rufous-tailed Foliage-gleaner, Spot-winged Antshrike, Wing-barred Piprites, White-eyed Antwren, and many more. Farther down the trail, another highlight was a pair of Musician Wrens that darted back and forth across the trail, while the male belted out his utterly enchanting song at very close range. On another trail and around the lodge clearing that afternoon we saw our first Squirrel Cuckoo, and various woodcreepers showed well, while the family of Undulated Tinamous walked across the lawn near our cabins.

On the next day, during our walk with the fabulous Hairy-crested Antbird, a pair of Golden-collared Toucanets played hard-to-get in the canopy, eventually perching for extended scope views. A Rufous-capped Nunlet appeared silently next to the trail at eye-level and remained motionless for many minutes. The scarce Black-faced Cotinga showed really well on this same walk. In the afternoon, we noticed a pair of Rufous Motmots that could be seen near the top of the staircase with some regularity. Later, a Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl posed nicely before we headed down to the far end of the trail to spend time trying to see a Rufous-fronted Antthrush. Some of us eventually saw the movement of a bird walking behind a tree, but it otherwise kept its distance, though we certainly heard it very well.

We really enjoyed our boat ride on Cocha Lobo, where we observed two of the tour’s favorites: a few families of the bizarre Hoatzin were very cooperative, while a trio of Black-capped Donacobius performed a most amusing display which tickled our boatmen so much that they were talking about it for days afterward.

Some of our most productive birding was spent at the lofty overlook of the magnificent Madre de Dios River right by our rooms. While flycatchers, tanagers, parrots, and many other species paraded by, a trusty pair of the extremely adorable White-throated Jacamars was always present, and a Roadside Hawk had its favorite perch, even chasing off a Laughing Falcon one day. An evening around the rooms produced a Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, while another nearby walk had a Black-banded Owl. Another night search down at the beach resulted in distant calling Ladder-tailed Nightjars, a pair of Ocellated Poorwills perched unusually on an open cane by the river, and a dramatic fly-over of a Great Potoo.

On our last morning’s hike, we enjoyed another marvelous display of Musician Wren’s virtuosity followed by a Lawrence’s Thrush showing off its ability to mimic the entire rainforest. An amazing collection of several Bare-necked Fruitcrows flying around in the canopy preceded our only Yellow-billed Nunbirds for the tour. In the same afternoon we returned to the same trail to confirm a pair of Chestnut-headed Crakes, seeing a family of Starred Wood-Quail charge us at very close range, as well as getting great views of the elusive Bamboo Antshrike. In the later afternoon we stumbled upon a still Chestnut-capped Puffbird while hiking to a distant overlook where a Fork-tailed Woodnymph showed its colors and a Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaner teased us from the undergrowth, eventually showing itself. On the return at dusk a Gray Tinamou sang its rare long song from very close range, and an amazingly cooperative Crested Owl appeared on an open branch as night fell.

The week at Los Amigos vanished before our very eyes, and we headed upriver to our second lodge. The Blanquillo clay lick there was an amazing spectacle of ten species of cacophonous parrots. We were disappointed to find the canopy tower under construction, but we got a second boat ride out of it; the boat rides on the quiet oxbow lakes were highlighted by a Giant Otter family and spectacular looks at a group of the strange and huge Horned Screamer, as well as the specialty Purus Jacamars and White-eyed Blackbirds. A Little Ground-Tyrant on the beach by our lodge was a good find, and a well-seen King Vulture and lovely Wattled Jacanas were further highlights. A final morning walk at the lodge was productive, and a male Vermilion Flycatcher, Southern Emerald-Toucanet at a very low elevation, a Green-backed Trogon, and extremely confiding Squirrel Cuckoos were the highlights on it. Also memorable from the Blanquillo area were the puddle parties of butterflies, with dozens of whites, sulphurs, swallowtails, and brushfoots on the beaches.

With the return to Lima requiring a day and a half of travel, the birding highlights hadn’t come to an end yet: the boat ride revealed a pair of Gray-cowled Wood-Rails on the beach; and then on the drive to Puerto Maldonado we stopped and backed up to admire a wintering Brazilian Teal in a wet ditch only to discover the tour’s only Sunbitterns. A pair that had been foraging on the muddy shore flushed up to a fallen tree, and we waited there until one flew back down, showing off one of the more incredible wing patterns on any bird in the world. We also had a few hours before our mid-day flight to bird along a back road near Puerto Maldonado where we had great views of a Black-tailed Trogon pair, a pair of Yellow-crowned Tyrannulets at super close range, Sapphire-spangled Emeralds showing their colors, and a very responsive Point-tailed Palmcreeper lured out of its Mauritia palm grove. Adding to the mammal list were a troop of Saddleback Tamarins darting in the trees.

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