Skip to navigation, or go to main content.

WINGS Birding Tours – Narrative

Peru: Rainforest Lodges of the Madre de Dios

2019 Narrative

In Brief: We had many delightful bird and wildlife experiences on this year’s tour to Los Amigos Birding Lodge/Biological Station and the Madre de Dios River. With 331 species seen, along with an additional 44 heard (six of which were the rarely seen but vocally distinctive and enchanting tinamous), highlights were so numerous there could be no consensus on what the top bird of the tour was. Garnering the most votes, but not by much, was Black-faced Cotinga. It may not be a super showy member of the family, but we all saw and heard it extremely well and appreciated it for its status as a very local species and a specialty of this very location. Loved for its stunning beauty and surprise as a rare bird was the adult Agami Heron on our boat paddle around Cocha Lobo. A pair of Black-banded Owls responded quickly to our solicitations on our one night walk, and as we proceeded to tally three more species of owls, the Black-bandeds continued their raucous hooting, seeming to follow us down the trail. A Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle was a good bird to get from the overlook near our rooms, and we were able to watch it perched for some time at a great distance. We had several mixed flocks, but it was the Inambari Woodcreeper in one that was particularly memorable as Alan’s 5000th world life bird. After our week at Los Amigos, we had a relaxing and enjoyable boat ride upriver to the Tambo Blanquillo area where Red-and-green Macaws and Blue-headed Parrot positively glowing in the morning light were unforgettable. We enjoyed another delightful paddle as well, this time around the much larger Cocha Camungo where we managed to find one Pale-eyed Blackbird and a plethora of very close, animated Purus Jacamars. Besides birds, we saw eight species of monkeys, including the super adorable Emperor Tamarin right by our rooms. A huge pink toe tarantula elicited many reactions, but it was a sight to behold in any event. And of course, myriad delightful beetles, at least 30 butterflies that we put names to, and the profusion of tropical plants made for a real Madre de Dios rainforest experience.

In Detail: With a flawless and timely flight and transfer to Laberinto, we enjoyed a leisurely boat ride to our home for the next week, arriving before dark and seeing a pair of Horned Screamers and a large roost of Sand-colored Nighthawks along the way.

We didn’t have to go far on our first day at Los Amigo to get overwhelmed by the diversity of birds. We had our only close and perched Scarlet Macaws this morning, a close fly-by of the scarce Blue-headed Macaw, Black-tailed Trogon in the canopy, and White-throated Jacamars at eye-level by our rooms. We had our first sighting of Black-faced Cotinga down the floodplain forest trail, but we didn’t know if that might be our only glimpse, high in the canopy. We flushed at least three Chestnut-capped Puffbirds on our long walk, getting amazing views of this hard-to-detect species. Back by our rooms in the afternoon, a Golden-collared Toucanet performed in one of the smaller trees, and the soon-to-be familiar Undulated Tinamous walked across the lawn, very much unlike their secretive cousins.

On our second day, we did a long walk through bamboo and some of the taller terra firme forest, and a prize here was a Black-bellied Cuckoo, rarely seen at Los Amigos. In the bamboo, we managed to see Moustached Wren, never easy, though we heard them every day. Birding around the clearing and overlook was as productive as always, and this day we had a gorgeous male Plum-throated Cotinga as well as a Lawrence’s Thrush, the only day we would see this amazing mimic. Rufous Motmots were active right at the edge of the clearing, and during lunch, a Gould’s Jewelfront came to the feeder outside the cafeteria several times. In the afternoon we stood vigil at a fruiting melastome not far down the Carretera trail, where Round-tailed and Fiery-capped Manakins were the prizes.

Our third day didn’t look good weather-wise at first. In the early morning, we still managed to get a Barred Forest-Falcon to fly across the old airstrip and sing from a hidden perch, and a Yellow-billed Nunbird at close range was a good find before a good, heavy rain set in. It didn’t last, but the threat of rain never seemed far, so we stayed close to the rooms much of the time, which is how we spotted the Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle during one of the pauses in rain. The same could be said for Red-necked Woodpeckers, which came by our rooms, while the Black-fronted Nunbirds and Swallow Tanagers could be counted on always being nearby. We did manage to get out in the afternoon, and while a sighting of Chestnut-eared Aracari was very good, even more satisfying was a Black-faced Cotinga that perched at length on an open branch for views through the spotting scope. But perhaps the most memorable experience this afternoon was listening to the incredible song of a Musician Wren in the undergrowth next to the trail, while a few managed decent glimpses of the furtive creature.

The passage of a cold front on our fourth day was an experience not to be forgotten. The day actually started quite fine, though few people actually managed to see the Rufous-fronted Antthrush that teased us for so long. But along the way, we were incredibly lucky to have several Amazonian Parrotlets feeding high in a fig tree and even luckier when all but one flew and that one was visible and viewable through the scope for many minutes. We also had mixed flocks that contained the Inambari Woodcreeper, as well as Spot-winged Antshrikes. Not long before the rain started we were treated to an extremely cooperative Plain-throated Antwren in the understory, and as the temperature dropped about 10 degrees and the rain started, we made a beeline for the lodge, along the way flushing a group of Pale-winged Trumpeters at close range, where they had been in the trail right behind a large tree. We couldn’t leave the shelter of our cabins much the rest of the day thanks to the nearly continuous rain, but Blue-throated Piping-Guan still made for a memorable sighting in the clearing.

The cold front finally passed – an early morning shower was all that remained on our fifth day at Los Amigos, and temperatures were amazingly pleasant all day. Birds were incredibly active all day too, and we had over 150 species of birds by day’s end. At the airstrip, Blue-and-yellow Macaws were putting on a show in the palms, while in the bamboo we teased out the very local Long-crested Pygmy-Tyrant and bold White-lined Antbirds. Starred Wood-Quail and Chestnut-headed Crake were more secretive, though some people actually had views of the latter. We had better views of Slate-colored Hawk (having had one fly over the river at a great distance early in the tour), but the best activity was back by the rooms. A fruiting melastome there had a very confiding and gorgeous male Fiery-capped Manakin as well as Purple Honeycreeper. Bluish-fronted Jacamars were foraging from the rope barrier, Russet-backed Oropendolas were always passing by close overhead, and a pair of Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher came down to reasonable heights in the clearing’s citrus trees.

The main highlights on our final full day at Los Amigos were on the boat ride we took on Cocha Lobo. By far the most beautiful bird was the Agami Heron, but the numerous and tame Hoatzins really stole the show. A pair of Ivory-billed Aracari, curious Black-capped Donacobius, soaring King Vulture and Gray-headed Kite, and a Green-and-rufous Kingfisher were also really good finds. We birded on our way back from the lake, seeing Semicollared Puffbirds, a Great Jacamar, Band-tailed Manakin in a known lek, a cooperative White-winged Shrike-Tanager in a mixed flock, and a scarce migrant Dark-billed Cuckoo. After dinner owling resulted in Tawny-bellied Screech-Owls (which we had already seen near the cabins), the pair of Black-banded Owls, a very responsive Crested Owl, and a pair of Mottled Owls that simply didn’t want to be seen.

We bid farewell to the Rufous Motmots that finally the whole group got to see and worked our way casually to the boat dock for the next adventure. Before then a Scaly-breasted Wren was lured into sight, the normally canopy-dwelling White-lored Tyrannulet came down for all to see, and a Rufous-breasted Piculet magically appeared right next to the group for one last Los Amigos bird. The boat ride was a good change from all day on the trails, and many species of birds, including several Yellow-spotted River Turtles and our only Capped Herons kept things interesting. Upon arriving at Tambo Blanquillo we soon found Spotted Tody-Flycatchers and were surprised by a Tropical Screech-Owl that responded vocally and flew in while it was still daytime.

Our one full day at Tambo Blanquillo was a full one. The parrot lick/collpa was the morning highlight, which actually started with an Upland Sandpiper on the beach and a Chestnut Woodpecker along the trail as we rushed on to the blind. At the blind, Blue-headed Parrot, Red-and-green Macaw, and White-eyed Parakeets made an impression, as did a Magpie Tanager feeding on red berries, looking for all the world like a Red-billed Pied-Tanager wannabe. We then visited Cocha Camungo twice, the first time climbing to the canopy platform where an Amazonian Pygmy-Owl came into our very tree and perched the whole time right at eye level. The stingless bees finally drove us out of the tree, but we returned in the late afternoon for a delightful, bug-free boat ride where we were entertained by several new birds, including the Purus Jacamars, Pale-eyed Blackbird, several Sungrebes, and the bizarre social activity and sounds of Greater Anis.

Dawn on of our last full day of birding was productive right around our rooms, with a family of Yellow-tufted Woodpeckers chasing off a troop of Chestnut-eared Aracaris, pair of Green Ibis making lots of noise, and a Crimson-crested Woodpecker pair by the dining hall. We also strolled a ways down the trail, finally seeing Western Striolated-Puffbird (which we had heard on four previous days) and having a face-to-face experience with a particularly bold Black-faced Antbird. We then undertook the adventure to return to civilization, and on the boat ride back had even better views of Sand-colored Nighthawk as well as a pair of the declining Orinoco Goose.

One last morning of birding on roadside outside of Puerto Maldonado still added new species – a Little Woodpecker, Sulphury Flycatcher, and Barred Antshrike appeared to us on the Infierno Road, and then at the Cachuela fish ponds migrant Wilson’s Phalaropes were a nice surprise, while the Rusty-margined Flycatchers were expected here at the edge of their range. And with that 331st species, we began the process of returning home.

Updated: n/a