This past July 2019 we had our latest bird photo tour to northern Peru. It was a private tour a for Chinese-Canadian couple who were very interested in photographing the Marvelous Spatuletail.
We started the trip on July 16 in the city of Tarapoto, staying at the fabulous Sumaj Lodge, by the El Sauce lake. There, we had great views and photographs of Hoatzins, Pale-legged Hornero, Orange-backed Troupial, and Black-throated Mango.
Then, we visited the ACONABIKH private reserve, a place created to protect the endemic and very rare Koepcke’s Hermit. We spent about two hours there, photographing the Koepcke’s Hermit, along with other interesting birds like Black-throated Mango, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Gould’s Brilliant (Jewelfront), and White-necked Jacobin.
That same day, after having a packed lunch, we moved to our next lodge near the city of Moyobamba. The lodge here (Waqanki Lodge) is located by a nice patch of mountain forest with a great bird diversity. They have fruit feeders for tanagers, hummingbird feeders, and a three story canopy tower.
At the Waqanki’s fruit feeders we had great views of Huallaga (Black-bellied) Tanager, and several Purple-throated Euphonias.
The hummingbirds at the feeders were very active. Among the most common ones are the Fork-tailed Woodnymph and the Golden-tailed Sapphire.
But the most photogenic one is definetively the male Rufous-crested Coquette, with two males posing for our lenses the whole afternoon.
This morning we visited the Tahuisco Tower, near the city center of Moyobamba. The morning was sunny, and we had the sun facing us, but we managed to have somo good pictures of Humboldt’s (Lettered) Aracari, a very cooperative Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher, Blue-necked Tanager, and a Swallow-tailed Kite.
We spent the rest of the day birding the gardens of the lodge and photographing at the hummingbird feeders. During the afternoon we took two hours to visit the Waqanki’s Orchid Garden. The garden looks pretty much like natural habitat, and has more than 150 orchid species. Not all species bloom at the same time of the year, so there are flowers all year long.
In the evening, we drove along a road just outside the city looking for owls, but we coudn’t find any.
We spent the first hours of the morning trying to find a Fiery-throated Fruiteater, but the bird turn out to be elusive this time, and we had to give up. After breakfast we took the highway towards the mountains of the Alto Mayo Protection Forest. Our first stop along the road was at some rice paddies near the city of Rioja, where we were looking for the rare Paint-billed Crake. We tried at several places, until we had a response to the playback. After about half an hour of trying, we finally found one crake, and the bird was really very close to us. We played the call several times from different locations, but the bird didn’t wanted to show up.
The morning wasn’t really going very well for photography, so we decided to move to our next stop earlier that scheduled, looking for better photo opportunities. Our next stop was at the Arena Blanca Reserve, where we had a wonderful time photographing hummingbirds and tanagers like Wire-crested Thorntail, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Blue-tailed Emerald, Paradise Tanager, Blue-necked Tanager, White-lined Tanager, Orange-bellied Euphonia, and many others.
We spent the day photographing at the hummingbird feeders of the Abra Patricia Owlet Lodge. We had great views and shots of Green Violetear, Long-tailed Sylph, Speckled Hummingbird, White-bellied Woodstar, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, and Collared Inca.
Early in the morning we visited the antpitta feeding station, just by the Abra Patricia Owlet Lodge. It really did not take to long to have great views of Rusty-tinged and Chestnut Anpittas coming very close to us (they we so close that the 300 mm lenses were too long !!!).
By mid-morning we moved to the Fundo Alto Nieva private reserve, for a visit to the hummingbird feeders. Specialties here are Booted Rackettail, and Greenish Puffleg. We only had a brief view of a Royal Sunangel, that did not stayed long enought for photographs.
Late in the afternoon we went out owling around Fundo Alto Nieva. After a couple of hours looking for owls, we found a nice looking and very cooperative Cinnamon Screech-owl. This one posed for our lenses for a few minutes.
This morning we drove down the Alto Mayo road to the La Llanteria hummingbird feeding station. Our goal here was to photograph Green Hermit and Ecuadorian Piedtail. It took some patience, but we had excellent pictures of both birds.
In the afternoon, we explored the trails around the Abra Patricia Owlet lodge. Near the canopy tower we had great photo oportunities with Peruvian Tyrannulet, Variable Antshrike, Streak-headed Antbird, Green-and-black Fruiteater, and Rufous Spinetail.
These two days at Huembo Lodge requiered a lot of patience, since the client´s main goal was to take the best possible pictures of the Marveous Spatuletail. We were at the hummingbird feeders the two full days, waiting for the right photo opportunity. We tried different techniques and locations, the natural light wasn´t very good so we tried shots with and without flash. Finally, after a lot of effort, we had quite a few good pictures of the Spatuletail.
Around the Huembo gardens we had great photo opportunities with Silver-backed Tanager and others.
We spent several days at the comfortable Kentitambo Lodge, near the town of Leymebamba. From there, we explored the mountain forests between 2800 and 3200 meters of elevation. Our goal was to find flocks of mixed species with Grass-green Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanager, Yellow-scarfed Tanager, Moustached Flowerpiercer, Masked Flowerpiercer, Shining Sunbeam, and others.
During our visit to the Rio Atuen valley we had great views of Grey-breasted Mountain-toucan, Peruvian Citrine Warbler, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, and Crimson-mantled Woodpecker.
Another of our goals in the Leymebamba area was to photograph the beautiful Rainbow Starfrontlet, which we accomplished during our last morning in the area.
On our way back from Leymebamba to Huembo Lodge we had the chance to see and photograph a male Torrent Duck at short distance. Also, a male Yellow-bellied Seedeater showed very well.
Since the main interest of the clients was the Marvelous Spatuletail, we spent two more days at Huembo Lodge, trying to get the Spatuletail “perfect picture”.
Last day of the trip. Today, we drove to the closest airport in the city of Jaén for the flight back home.
If you want to experience the joys of bird photography in northern Peru, check out this itinerary https://greentours.com.pe/2019/10/03/northern-peru-bird-photography-tour-2/