MOUNTAINS OF MANU, PERU
We include here information for those interested in the Field Guides Mountains of Manu, Peru tour: !a general introduction to the tour ! a description of the birding areas to be visited on the tour ! an abbreviated daily itinerary with some indication of the nature of each dayʼs birding outings Those who register for the tour will be sent this additional material:
!an annotated list of the birds recorded on a previous yearʼs Field Guides trip to the area, with comments by guide(s) on notable species or sightings (may be downloaded from our web site). !a detailed information bulletin with important
logistical information and answers to questions regarding accommodations, air arrangements, clothing, currency, customs and immigration, documents, health precautions, and personal items ! a reference list. !a Field Guides checklist for preparing for and keeping track of the birds we see on the tour. !after the conclusion of the tour, a list of birds seen on the tour.
Manu Biosphere Reserve, incorporating Manu National Park and a couple of contiguous conservation tracts, is a vast, spell-binding wilderness (the size of Massachusetts!) in southeastern Peru, home of the Rio Madre de Dios, Mother of God, a major tributary of the Amazon. Replete with some of the richest flora and fauna to be found anywhere in South America, it offers the uncontained possibilities of an entire humid Andean Slope ecosystem, from golden grasslands of the puna zone down the eastern Andean slope through cloaking montane cloudforest to seemingly endless lowland rainforest.
This tour offers a rich transect of the incredibly “birdy” road from above Cusco down to the Alto Madre de Dios in the
rich upper-tropical zone, some of the best birding in the world. The tour combines five nights based in the cloudforest at 4600 feet (1400m), from which we bird up and down the road, with five nights in the rich upper-tropical foothills at 1600 feet (500m), based at the enchanting Amazonia Lodge (with its network of trails through varzea, transitional, and terra firme rainforest). We also plan to spend one night this year at Wayqecha Biological Station, at 9800 feet (3000m), on our return to Cusco, thus allowing us an opportunity to bird the high-elevation forest early and late. Each lodge we use offers pleasant sleeping, hot-water showers, good food, and good service right in the midst of excellent birding—with no camping involved. This tour represents our most thorough, relaxed, and comfortable coverage of montane Manu, one of our favorite birding locales.
The scenery alone would be reason to take this tour—the copses of treeline forest that plunge down the east slope, becoming taller and wetter and more cloaking at mid-elevations, secreting streams and waterfalls and rushing rivers, in places completely covering the narrow road that snakes downslope. There are precious few places in South America where one can transect comparably undisturbed forest on the diverse east slope of the Andes. And at Amazonia Lodge the view from the open-air dining room is to forested foothill ridges that rise dramatically right behind the lodge.
But the birds too are genuinely breathtaking—from glowing male Andean Cocks-of-the-rock and electric Plumthroated Cotingas to wonderfully camouflaged Yungas Pygmy-Owls, mottled in rufous, browns, and grays; from subtly beautiful Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucans gulping big fruits in the temperate forest to dazzlingly brilliant Paradise Tanagers consuming the abundant melastome berries of the middle-elevation forest edge, along with dozens of other tanagers in mixed-species flocks, a phenomenon for which the east-Andean slope is justifiably famous; from Whitecapped Dippers along mountain streams to Fasciated Tiger-Herons along foothill rivers to Rufescent Tiger-Herons around lowland oxbow lakes; from sunning Hoatzins with their shaggy crests to a fabulous array of hummingbirds (including glistening Golden-tailed Sapphires and Rufous-crested Coquettes!) feeding on the vervain just outside our rooms; from virtuoso Chestnut-breasted Wrens and Andean Solitaires to piercingly resonant White-eared Solitaires and Olive Finches “shouting” above the sound of rushing water, to mellow and persistent Tawny-bellied Screech-Owls that soothe us to sleep each night in the quiet lowlands; from shy tinamous and antpittas that circle us furtively in response to playback, to the aberrant Rusty-belted Tapaculo that continues to sing defiantly as we watch it; from big male Amazonian Umbrellabirds atop canopy trees to diminutive Black-backed Tody-Flycatchers flitting actively in the roadside shrubbery.
Weʼll seek numerous range-restricted specialties, from Blue-headed Macaw, Bearded Mountaineer, Scarlet-hooded Barbet, Creamy-crested, Cabanisʼs, and Marcapata spinetails, Rusty-fronted Canastero, Red-and-white Antpitta, Slaty
Gnateater, Yungas and Cerulean-capped manakins, Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet (first described in 1997), Yellow-crested Tanager, and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch to a few bamboo specialties, more typical of lower elevations in southwestern Amazonia, including Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner, Bamboo Antshrike, and Goeldiʼs, White-lined, and Manu antbirds. So rich is this forest transect that a new species of tanager was recently documented right along the road we bird and still awaits being formally described! In two weeks of birding we should encounter more than 400 species of birds, including some of the fanciest and most sought-after in the Neotropics.
This tour may be combined with our MACHU PICCHU & ABRA MALAGA I tour, July 2018.
About the Physical Requirements & Pace: The purpose of this tour is to enjoy some of the richest birding on the east
slope of the Andes while comfortably based at some wonderful lodges that give access to a wide range of elevations. To maximize the quality of our experience, weʼll have early starts that allow us to be in the field shortly after dawn, when activity is at its peak. While based at our montane lodge(s), weʼll typically be up pre-dawn with an early breakfast (usually 5:00 or 5:30 a.m.). Weʼll bird the ribbon of road through wilderness—mostly walking downhill—sometimes having our bus drop us off and then pick us up an hour or so later. We also plan to take some montane trails that get us into the forest for some forest-interior specialties that are tough to see from the road. These trails are good but can be steep and slippery in hilly terrain; a walking stick might be welcome here. Weʼll either return to the lodge for lunch or have a picnic lunch (on days that we are birding farther afield). Most of our montane birding will be along the road through the forest, where birding can be tough but viewing is usually excellent for a group. Temperatures are usually cool and invigorating at higher elevations on the east slope, but can be downright hot in the lowlands; consider that you may be on your feet walking for 6+ hours a day.
On a typical day at Amazonia Lodge (where it is warm and humid during the day, cooling off at night), weʼll again start
early (breakfast at 5:30) and bird mostly along trails for the morning, returning to our lodge for lunch (12:00 or 12:30) and a break during the heat of the day, then going back out in the afternoon. Along the trails, weʼll typically move at a snailʼs pace, walking quietly, watching the ground for tinamous, listening for the slightest growl that could betray the presence of an army ant swarm with its attendant followers or a shower of petals or seeds from the canopy that could alert us to the presence of a flock of parrots or a troop of monkeys. We will use playback to call in some fabulous skulkers that might otherwise go unseen. And, in the process, weʼll do considerable standing around just watching. For such situations many participants recommend carrying a portable, folding stool; the opportunity to sit in comfort periodically can reduce fatigue substantially. Most trails are on relatively flat ground, but one trail we will be walking ascends the slopes of the ridge behind the lodge, and is quite steep in places. While trails can be muddy and hilly in places, nowhere will we move very rapidly. Still, to fully participate, you should have reasonable balance and the ability to walk at a steady pace for 30 minutes to an hour.
In part to break up the long drive back to Cusco and in part to buffer against a period of excessive sun (!), rain or fog, weʼve decided to divide our stay in the cloudforest into two segments—four nights on the way down and two nights on the way back up. By our second stay in the cloudforest zone, weʼll have a good sense of how to prioritize our time on our final two days of birding in these cool Andes. There will be some night-birding options near each of our lodges. If you are uncertain about whether this tour is a good match for your abilities, please donʼt hesitate to contact our office; if they cannot directly answer your queries, they will put you in touch with the guide amazon birds.