Day 1: Arrive Lima
On arrival in Lima we transfer to our Hotel in the Miraflores district of Lima. If time permits, we walk to a cliff lookout onto the Pacific Ocean, for Band-tailed, Kelp and Gray Gulls, Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, and Guanay and Neotropical Cormorants. Common and widespread lowland birds are here – Southern House Wren, Pacific and Eared Doves, Blue-gray Tanager, Bananaquit, Blue-and-white Swallow, American Kestrel, Tropical Kingbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and perhaps most intriguing - the two morphs of Vermilion Flycatcher, the usual and superb red morph and the odd and highly local black morph.
Day 2: Pucusana
Today we travel south along the coast to the fishing village of Pucusana where we take a boat trip around the harbour for good views of seabirds and with luck a Southern Sealion or the rare endemic Marine Otter. Just outside the harbour we could find Peruvian Boobies, Guanay Cormorants as well as Inca Terns, Red-legged Cormorants and a few Humboldt Penguins. The rocky shores hold Blackish Oystercatcher and Seaside Cinclodes, the most marine of all passerines. Wetlands in the area are home to the impressive Great Grebe as well as herons, ducks, ibises, and waders. Reeds fringing pools hold Many-coloured Rush-Tyrants and Wren-like Rushbirds. Night in Miraflores district of Lima.
Day 3: Urubamba
This morning we fly to Cusco, arriving and transferring to the Sacred Valley to acclimatize to the altitude while doing some easy birding. Several species of hummingbirds occur here, including Giant, largest hummer in the world, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Great Sapphirewing, Shining Sunbeam, and the marvelous Bearded Mountaineer. White-winged Cinclodes, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga and Blue-and-yellow Tanager occur in the dry scrubby hillsides, and maybe a Puna Hawk or a Mountain Caracara will glide overhead. Overnight in Sacred Valley.
Day 4: Abra Malaga
Full day visit to Abra Malaga, at 14,200 ft (4230 m) the low point along a ridge of rugged peaks; buffering the upper limits of these habitats is the starkly beautiful puna grassland dotted with llamas, alpacas, and the very occasional cluster of stone houses, corrals, and fences erected by Quechua-speaking families who are somehow accustomed to prospering in what seems to most visitors an inhospitable environment. The bird life includes many species endemic to a small geographic area in southern Peru. We look especially for White-browed Tit-Spinetail and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant, and we should find White-winged Diuca-Finch, Giant Conebill, Tit-like Dacnis, Blue-mantled and Purple-backed Thornbills, and if we are exceptionally lucky the critically endangered Royal Cinclodes. Overnight in Sacred Valley.
Day 5: Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu
We transfer to the Ollantaytambo station to catch the train to Machu Picchu. The journey takes about three and a half hours. In the latter stages we travel beside the Urubamba River where Torrent Ducks, White-capped Dippers and Torrent Tyrannulets occur. Arriving in the town of Aguas Calientes, we check in to our hotel before we take the bus up to Machu Picchu ruins. Here we take a guided tour of key sites, learning about what is known and ideas about the unknown. After the tour we can explore some more, soak up the atmosphere, or search for a few birds, notably the endemic Inca Wren. Night in Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.
Day 6: Machu Picchu
Pre-breakfast birding in the hotel gardens gives us a chance for species such as Gould’s Inca, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch and Highland Motmot. After a fine buffet breakfast there will be another opportunity to visit Machu Picchu for those who wish, or more birding in the hotel grounds where good mixed species flocks are regularly found. After lunch we take the train back to Cusco. Night in Cusco.
Day 7: To Pillahuata
We make an early start today as we travel along the Manu road. We first visit nearby Huarcapay Lake, which holds several species of duck and waterbirds, migrant shorebirds and Andean Gulls. The reedbeds hold Plumbeous Rails, Many-coloured Rush-Tyrants and Yellow-winged Blackbird. The nearby scrub will be carefully birded in search of highlights such as Speckle-fronted Thornbird and Rusty-fronted Canastero. Other possibilities include Andean Negrito, Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant and various seedeaters and sierra-finches. We have a packed lunch en route and bird all day, arriving at our lodge at Pillahuata at 2743 m, in late afternoon. We make stops at the tombs of Ninamarca where, in addition to fascinating pre-Inca ruins and a spectacular view, we may find Andean Flicker. Moving on we bird a series of scrubby ravines where Creamy-crested Spinetail and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch are both possible. The Puna zone holds Andean Lapwing, Paramo Pipit and various other specialties. We continue the trip driving through the Andes stopping when we see something of interest. At Acjanaco at 3450 m, we look for Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan, Andean Guan, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, a wide variety of hummingbirds, Collared Jay, Mountain Cacique, fruiteaters and flycatchers. Night at our comfortable lodge at Pillahuata.
Day 8: To Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge
We leave our lodge and begin to descend in altitude, passing through ever more lush vegetation as we drive down towards the Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, for a three-night stay. We bird our way down the upper road searching for mixed species flocks which can hold manakins, Grass-green Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, hemispinguses, flowerpiercers, Black-throated Tody-Flycatcher, Barred Fruiteater, White-banded Tyrannulets and much more. If we are lucky we may see Peruvian Treehunter, Golden-plumed Parakeet or Greater Scythebill. Red-and-white Antpitta is a possibility, as are Diademed Tapaculo and Golden-collared Tanager.
Days 9-10: Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge
We spend two days birding this marvelous area. One morning we make an early start to visit the Cock-of-the-Rock lek at dawn. Here we should witness one of the most impressive spectacles of the natural world as up to a dozen bright orange males dance and scream in the midstorey of the forest. We spend quality birding time both above and below the lodge along the road in this lower temperate zone, and our birdlist will be impressive - quetzals, Amazonian Umbrellabird, solitaires, gnateaters, barbets, many tanagers, a host of hummingbirds, and diverse mixed species flocks. Nights at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge.
Day 11: Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge to Amazonia Lodge
We start early and bird our way down the lower Manu road, pausing every few kms or whenever we find a mixed species flock. The drive gives us a great day’s birding with ever changing bird communities as we descend. We arrive at the Amazonia Lodge for our two night stay with time to enjoy birding in the lodge grounds. Night at Amazonia Lodge.
Day 12: Amazonia Lodge
A former tea plantation, the delightful Amazonia Lodge is a birder’s paradise. The forest around the lodge is in various stages of regrowth, and therefore has a high diversity of wildlife. Several species of antbirds occur here - Black, Band-tailed, Warbling, Southern Chestnut-tailed, White-browed and Spot-backed - as well as several choice species such as Black-capped Tinamou, Fiery-capped and Band-tailed Manakins, Rufous-crested Coquette, Wire-crested Thorntail, Amethyst Woodstar, Fine-barred Piculet, and Johannes’s Tody-Tyrant. Military Macaws are possible, and we’ll keep an eye and ear out for them as they fly across the canopy. The ridge above the lodge holds the endemic Koepcke’s Hermit, Ocellated Woodcreeper, Spectacled Bristle-Tyrant and Golden-bellied Warbler, and White Hawk and Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle may catch a thermal and soar over the ridge. Around the lodge are Black-banded Owl, Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, and Common and Long-tailed Potoos. Night at Amazonia Lodge.
Day 13: Amazonia Lodge to Manu Wildlife Centre
We leave the Amazonia Lodge and head by vehicle and boat to our next destination, the equally delightful Manu Wildlife Centre where we spend the next three nights.
Days 14-15: Manu Wildlife Centre
Possibilities here are seemingly infinite. The area around an oxbow lake holds Straight-billed Woodcreeper, River Tyrannulet, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Pale-eyed Blackbird, the bizarre Hoatzin, Black-capped Donacobius, Black-collared Hawk, Little Cuckoo, as well as waterbirds such as Anhinga, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Green Ibis, Limpkin, Sungrebe and Wattled Jacana. We have a chance of seeing the endangered Giant Otter. Across the river from the lodge is a stand of Guadua bamboo, a very special habitat occupied by very special birds - Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Nunlet, Peruvian Recurvebill, Bamboo Antshrike, and Manu, Striated, and Goeldi’s Antbirds. The forest along the river holds several woodpeckers, woodcreepers, foliage-gleaners, tanagers and wrens, possibly Pavonine Quetzal, curious birds such as Plain Softtail and Orange-fronted Plushcrown, and the scarce and very local Rufous-fronted Antthrush. There is a canopy tower at the centre, and sightings from the tower into the canopy can be superlative - several species of raptors, parrots, toucans and aracaris, flycatchers, tanagers, and possibly Purple-throated Cotinga. Another feature of the centre is a Round-tailed Manakin lek, which we visit in the hope of seeing the flamboyant males in full display. Great Potoos occur around the lodge, and we should hear their odd growling calls at night. Brazilian Tapirs come to a salt lick close to the lodge, and with luck we could glimpse this elusive denizen of the deep forest. We end our visit to the centre with an impressive list of birds as well as lots of other wildlife. Nights in the Manu Wildlife Centre.
Day 16: Manu Wildlife Centre to Puerto Maldonado
Today we travel down the Manu River to the town of Laberinto, and then take a bus to Puerto Maldonado where we spend the night.
Day 17: Travel to Lima, Lomas de Lachay and Departure
We catch a morning flight to Lima, where on arrival we board a vehicle and travel north along the coast to the Lomas De Lachay reserve 105 km north of Lima. These coastal hills are an oasis in the desert, seasonally covered in a fog-bank that provides water for annuals and xerophytic plants like cactus and agaves. Many very special birds occur here; Thick-billed, Coastal and Grayish Miners, Least Seedsnipe, Collared Warbling-Finch, Tawny-throated Dotterel and many more. We then have an evening transfer to the airport for flights home from Lima.