July 22, 2022
Laura and I had done quite well along the Satipo Road and in the Andamarca Valley but there were a few species that we had not been able to track down. I left on my own before dawn on July 22nd, making decent time navigating the bumpy dirt road from the lowlands back towards Calabaza. It was a beautiful cool morning by the time that I arrived at my chosen destination - the road leading to the Andamarca Valley south of Calabaza. I stopped around 5 km south of town, at an elevation of approximately 2700 m.
|Above Calabaza, Junín, Peru|
Two species were top of mind: the Oxapampa Antpitta and the Junin Tapaculo. I had heard the antpitta during our first morning along the Satipo Road, but the tapaculo would be completely new. Both of these species are known from limited areas in the eastern Peruvian Andes - indeed, the road south of Calabaza is probably the easiest place to find them both.
Exiting the car, I heard some excited chips coming from down the hillside. I was floored to see a Yellow-scarfed Tanager making the vocalizations! This is an absolutely beautiful species, and one of my top ten most wanted birds for Peru. It is an endemic to this country, finding habitat in montane forests on the eastern slope. It isn't supposed to be particularly rare, but just look at it. Wow!
|Yellow-scarfed Tanager - above Calabaza, Junín, Peru|
My luck continued as I played some speculative playback for the Junin Tapaculo at a decent looking stream crossing. Immediately I had a response, and a few minutes later I observed the little skulker beside the road. True to tapaculo fashion, photography was impossible but I came away with some excellent recordings.
Moments later, the first Oxapampa Antpittas of the day called from down the steep slope. One cooperated and I gawked at it for several moments. This was the best photo that I could manage, given my camera setup, dense undergrowth and low light levels. Still, I was thrilled, especially since only three other photos of this species exist on eBird.
|Oxapampa Antpitta - above Calabaza, Junín, Peru|
I backtracked to Calabaza and lower elevation forests since I had now cleaned up in the areas above 2100 m. The morning was warming quickly but I managed to rustle up a few nice mixed flocks along the road between 2000 m and 1200 m in elevation.
Among the flock constituents were my first Inca Flycatchers, Peruvian Tyrannulets and a White-eared Solitaire. The latter species was, sadly, a heard-only (Laura and I would rectify this later, though!).
|Inca Flycatcher - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
One particular flock was chock-full of tanagers and other colorful birds, including Yellow-throated, Orange-eared and Saffron-crowned Tanagers, Deep-blue Flowerpiercers, and a pair of Crested Quetzals. A little further along, a Sunbittern skulked beside the river.
|Yellow-throated Tanager - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Crested Quetzal - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Yellow-throated Chlorospingus - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Slaty-capped Flycatcher - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Montane Foliage-gleaner - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
Really, though, it was the butterflies that impressed me the most. Late morning is the perfect time for these lepidopterans to be active, and several stream crossings were littered with them. Below are a few of my favourites.
|Perisama tristrigosa - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Altinote sp. - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Lymanopoda panacea - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Leptophobia sp. - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Orange-spot Duke (Siseme neurodes) - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Orange Mapwing (Hypanartia lethe) - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Steroma modesta - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
Other insects were present including this dancer (Argia
sp.) and an unidentified geometer moth. I love one of the Spanish names for damselfies: caballitos del diablo (devil ponies).
|Unidentified geometer moth - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Argia sp. - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
The sun was shining high in the sky and so I made my way back down to the town of Satipo to reconvene with Laura at the hotel. It had been an excellent morning!
July 23, 2022
When Laura and I allocated ten weeks for our Peru trip, I went back and forth on how to plan an itinerary to maximize our experience in this incredibly biodiverse country. Two and a half months is enough time, if you are a hardcore birder/lister, to visit most major regions in Peru. But in the end, Laura and I resolved to only explore parts of central and southern Peru. In general I do not like blitzing through an area, only spending the minimum amount of time to see the special birds of the region before moving on. There is something to be said for taking our time in an area and getting to know it a little bit. And besides, Peru is the sort of place where you could spend a lifetime and only scratch the surface.
|Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
We also refrain from hiring guides for most of the trip since we prefer the thrill of self-discovery, going at our own pace, only using a little bit of playback when necessary, and saving money. Having a guide makes it so much easier to visit a site for the least amount of time necessary to clean up all the target species. We don't know of the best spots and so we have to take more time to track down all these birds on our own.
Often, we have booked two nights in areas where guided birding groups stay for one, or four nights in a place where these tours sojourn for two or three nights. This means that we are missing out on the entirety of northern Peru and all of its fantastic birds, but we will be back to visit that region on a separate trip, I'm sure.
|White-crowned Manakin - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
All of this is a long way of saying that Laura and I still had one more full day to explore Satipo Road, even though our target lists were dwindling quickly. And I must say, it was pretty fun to bird the mixed flocks at the low and middle elevations of the road without feeling rushed.
|White-bellied Woodstar - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
Laura and I savoured a relaxed morning of foothill birding, focusing on the elevations between around 1200 m and 1800 m where the forest along the Satipo Road is still mostly intact. Though the mixed flocks did not blow us away or anything, we had a lot of highlights when it was all said and done.
The winner of the Bird Of The Day challenge for both of us was our lifer Versicolored Barbet. The colours on these things are a bit ridiculous, without much rhyme or reason as to the design. The Versicolored Barbet is an east slope species, found in Peru and northern Bolivia.
|Versicolored Barbet - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
An early highlight was a flyover Black-and-chestnut Eagle which was a new species for Laura. It was a bit distant and difficult to fully appreciate, but one does not complain when it comes to epic species such as this. Some of my favourite birds are the big eagles of the Neotropics and the Black-and-chestnut is right up there for me with the likes of Harpy and Crested Eagle (and Solitary Eagle, but I'm pretty sure they don't exist).
|Black-and-chestnut Eagle - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
When it came to spotting umbrellabirds, Laura was on it. She found a few different individuals perching quietly beside the road.
|Amazonian Umbrellabird - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
|Amazonian Umbrellabird - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
The Versicolored Barbet was not the only new species for us. We also bumped into our first Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, and heard-only Cerulean-capped Manakin and Brown Tinamou. Luckily, we would have more chances at the endemic manakin in upcoming days.
|Olive-backed Woodcreeper - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
The tanager flocks held quite a few beauties, though my number one target, the Blue-browed Tanager, did not appear. This bird was becoming a bit of a nemesis...
A small group of Paradise Tanagers showed near the lower elevations that we explored. This is a bird that looked like it was designed for a paint-by-numbers art project, ages 3-5.
|Paradise Tanager - Satipo Road, Junín, Peru|
With another successful day in the books, Laura and I retreated to the air conditioning of our hotel in Satipo for our final night in the town. In the morning we had plans for a sleep-in (like the lazy birders we are), followed by a drive to the La Merced area and Hacienda Armorique.