PERU: Cuzco to Lima, 4 – 11 Sept 1999

Robin Brace and I arranged to join Gunnar Engblom on a collecting expedition in Bosque Ampay, after our fieldwork in Beni, Bolivia. In the event Gunnar was too busy to come, but sent his van / minibus, driver and assistant Goyo to meet us at Cuzco. As he insisted the vehicle had to be back in Lima by 10th , we only had time to visit Bosque Ampay and the Rio Apurimac Valley, spending the rest of the time driving to Lima with some birding stops. Bosque Ampay was good, meriting longer than we had available, but the Apurimac Valley was disappointing. Our final day was spent going up to Marcapomacocha Road, with Gunnar and Mikko Pyhala, returning down the Santa Eleulia Road.

Daily Log

Sept 4            Flew La Paz to Cuzco, arriving 10.30. Met by Goyo, rang Gunnar to confirm arrangements and accept his price of $380 for the trip to Lima. Bought provisions and left town at 13.45 for Abancay. Good road most of way but reached major road-works at 17.00; unable to proceed past the tranca till 18.00. Birded scrubby hillside there at c.3500m:-

Aplomado Falcon

Andean Swift

Rusty-fronted Canastero

Ringed Warbling-Finch

Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch

Band-tailed Seedeater

Peruvian Sierra-Finch

Long slow climb on bad road, passing Huanipaca turn on right at 18.30 - had intended to go to Huanipaca to visit the good humid forest 1hr further on where Spectacled Bear was said to be common, but decided time was too short. Reached Abancay at 20.00, night at basic Hostal Residencial Leonidas; good chicken and chips nearby.

Sept 5            05.30 start, to Bosque Ampay entrance in error then back to church in town where we left our bags with the nuns, returned to Ampay, birded in eucalypts and scrub below HQ at Goyo’s insistence, with little reward. Spent rest of day walking up to Laguna Chica, through podocarpus forest to Laguna Grande, then back down the main trail to the HQ, arriving at 17.00. The most interesting bird was the undescribed species of tapaculo, a form of Andean (see Fjeldsa & Krabbe, 1990) which responded well to play-back, others included:-

Plain-breasted Hawk

Mitred Parakeet

Shining & White-tufted Sunbeams

Mountain Velvetbreast

Sword-billed Hummingbird

Black-tailed Trainbearer

Andean Hillstar

Apurimac & Creamy-crested Spinetails

Rusty-fronted Canastero

Straight-billed Earthcreeper

Undulated & Stripe-headed Antpittas heard

Red-crested Cotinga

Tufted Tit-Tyrant

Rufous-breasted & White-browed Chat-Tyrant

Rufous-webbed Tyrant

Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant

White-capped Dipper

Cinereous & White-browed Conebills

Rust-and-yellow Tanager

Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager

Rusty Flowerpiercer

Plumbeous, Peruvian, Mourning & Band-tailed Sierra-Finches

Golden-billed Saltator

Another night at Hostal Residencial Leonidas, spoilt by a nearby loud disco on the go till at least 03.00.

Sept 6

05.15 departure straight to the Ampay HQ, walk to L Chica and through the podocarpus to 3500m, for another attempt to see the undescribed thistletail and Taphrospilus hummingbird, but without success. More good views of the tapaculo and an unidentified short-billed hummer with striking white patch on rump and lower back – later realised this must be an imm. male Purple-backed Thornbill (as mentioned in Fjeldsa & Krabbe but not B of W, vol 5). Other new sp. were

Short-tailed Hawk

Andean Parakeet

Crowned Chat-Tyrant

Black-throated Flowerpiercer

Back to HQ at 13.00, soup lunch, to Abancay, departing at 14.30 for Rio Apurimac. Passed the site where Peruvian Pygmy-Owl and a new otus sp. were caught by Pedro Hocking and Gunnar, but little chance of seeing either. Stopped at town for hour to repair suspension and eat, then night drive till 22.30 when reached the Rio at Pasaje(1125m); comfortable night in van. 

Sept 7            05.30-07.00 birded scrub and fields:-

White-bellied Hummingbird

Viridian Metaltail

White-eared Puffbird

Greenish Yellow-Finch

Black-backed Grosbeak

Then Goyo said best birding was on other side of river. After breakfast, hairy crossing of river on cable platform, walk along very dusty road, then lift in back of truck to 1500m at 09.00. Walked back down canyon, well-vegetated at first but by 10.00 too hot and dry for any activity. An all-black eagle circled, called and perched on cliff face – probably an imm. Buzzard-Eagle, an antbird called from thick undergrowth and a spinetail / canastero with some rufous plumage was flushed, but the only notable birds identified were Mitred Parakeet, Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant and Mountain Cacique. Returned to van.

15.45 crossed river again and walked up to the canyon to 1420m, staying till dusk to try to see the pygmy-owl, noted as common by Gunnar. No evidence of owls till late dusk when 1 called briefly and eventually a total of 5 were heard in the dark but none seen. River crossing in the dark was scary; another quiet night in the van.

Sept 8            05.00 start, up the mountain side in the van to 1600m, then more stops as we continued upwards, but

Black-tailed Trainbearer was only new sp. Ground-tyrants, etc started to show from 2100m, with a single Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, while at 2620m White-winged Black-Tyrant and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch were seen but no Taczanowski’s Tinamou. Finally reached civilisation at Andahuayas at 14.00, then over a 4100m pass to Chinchero (2830m) at 17.00, where we stayed at the cheap Hotel Don Jose which served a good chicken.

Had intended to visit Huaccama, good for hummers including Fire-throated Metaltail according to Clements, until discovered it was a 2 hour journey above Chinchero.

Sept 9            Another 05.00 start on the main road to Ayacucho. A chance stop at 08.00 on climbing out of the Rio Pampa valley at 2500m in a roadside area of cacti and mesquite(?), 5km before Chumbes gave:-

Spot-winged Pigeon

Bronze-tailed Comet

Black-tailed Trainbearer

Giant Hummingbird

White-eared Puffbird

Pale-tailed Canastero

Blue-and-yellow Tanager

Scrub Blackbird

At 10.00 saw Andean Tinamou at 3650m, then stopped to check lakes and bog at 4000m:-

Puna Tinamou

Puna Ibis

Chilean Flamingo

Andean Goose

Speckled Teal

Crested Duck

Baird’s Sandpiper

Wilson’s Phalarope

Streak-throated Canastero

Pipit sp.

Further on along the rough road were Puna & Slender-billed Miners, Cordilleran Canastero, Cinereous Ground-Tyrant and Ash-breasted & Mourning Sierra-Finches. Reached Ayacucho at 15.30, and Gunnar on phone after numerous engaged attempts. Good road towards Pisco, camped below Jatun Pampa at 50km beyond Ayacucho at 18.00.

Sept 10          05.45 freezing cold, wasted some time looking for Clements’ Pale-tailed Canastero site, supposedly 47-55Km from Ayacucho. Further on, above fish farm and river bridge, stopped at area of cacti and bushes at 3600m, and eventually found Pale-tailed & Cordilleran Canasteros and Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant. At Apacheta Pass(4700m) had Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe and an elusive shrike-tyrant where Clements had reported White-tailed. At noon stopped at Km124 by hillside covered in red-flowering bushes at 3340m:-

Black-winged Ground-Dove

Giant Hummingbird

Bronze-tailed Comet

Peruvian Sheartail

Rufous-capped Tit-Spinetail

Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant

Rusty-bellied Brush-Finch

Dropped down to Huaytara, Km112 at 2750m, then reached the coastal road near Pisco at 14.00 and Lima at 19.00, but took nearly an hour to find Gunnar’s flat. Left van and he took us in his Landrover to Casa Rodriguez (20soles).

Sept 11          Today’s trip to the Marcapomacocha Road and back down Santa Eleulia Road was the reason why we had to rush back to Lima. We had been to Marcapomacocha before and there was only one other client, Mikko Pyhala……. The 06.00 start became 06.30 as Gunnar was late arriving and we then lost time finding the way out of Lima. The bog was reached at 10.00 and a flighty Diadamed Sandpiper-Plover located, along with Black-breasted Hillstar and Olivaceous Thornbill. Continued to the White-bellied Cinclodes site at 4600m where found I was too ill to walk around, due to a combination of food-poisoning and the high altitude. The others took a long time to find the Cinclodes. Further on we saw Puna Tinamou, before the next long stop at a patch of polylepis near the start of Santa Eleulia Road. Birds here included Condor, Black Metaltail and Titlike Dacnis, while the others spent a long time higher up, with Striated Earthcreeper the only new bird. My humour was not improved by realising that with so much time gone we would be too late to look for White-tailed Shrike-tyrant, Black-necked Woodpecker and Peruvian Sheartail lower down, the only reason I came on the trip; hence it was a tick-less day. Torrent Duck, Aplomado Falcon and Scrub Blackbird were the only notable species seen during the long run down. Lima was reached at 20.00, then Gunnar took me to the airport at 21.30 for my flight home.

Comments on sites

Bosque Ampay

This fine park holds the local Apurimac Spinetail, the undescribed S.megallanicus-type tapaculo and thistletail (both featured in Fjeldsa & Krabbe), and an apparent new Taphrospilus hummingbird which has only been seen twice. There is also talk of a new antpitta and the possibility of the tapaculo, that sounds like Peruvian Rufous-vented Scytalopus femoralis, being a new taxon. The main reason for the protected area is the presence of a sizeable stand of podocarpus forest, rare in these parts, but locals were seen cutting down podocarpus trees for firewood. Both tapaculos occur within the forest, the hummer was on the lower edge but the thistletail has been reported from lower down (G. Engblom) and higher up (J. Clements).

Access is unrestricted, the entrance being on the northwestern edge of Abancay, but it is several km upwards before the HQ building is reached and interesting habitat begins. The track to the HQ is drivable with care in a standard vehicle and could probably be reached by taxi. No food or drink is available but there is a good camp-site, without facilities, in the forest, just beyond L. Chica.

Some 20km SW of Abancay, two owl species occur in farmland with scattered trees and bushes. An undescribed Otus and a Glaucidium were caught at night here. The Glaucidium is peruanum, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, but a different species from the well-known Pacific slope form which will be described under a different name (Birds of the World, 5). 

Rio Apurimac

As we discovered, it takes a long time to reach this major river. We later learnt that the mountains beyond are the home of dangerous terrorists. The patchy dry forest in the valley is virtually unexplored but is known to hold Glaucidium peruanum. Mitred Parakeet and White-tipped Dove are common but could be of undescribed forms. A road bridge is under construction at present which on completion will give easy access to the other side where the well-vegetated canyon we briefly visited could hold something new. According to Gunnar, there is good unexplored humid forest some 2 hours further on. There are occasional buses and trucks to both sides of the bridge but you would need to be patient to travel this way.


This trip was ”inspired” by Gunnar, although I am not sure whether to thank him for it. I certainly will thank Goyo and Juvenal, the excellent driver / mechanic, who both did their best to make it a success. Indeed, considering much of the area is poorly known and classed as unsafe till recently, we were fortunate in having a trouble-free trip.

Jon Hornbuckle             October 1999



Taxonomy, names and sequence based on Birds of the World: A Checklist by JF Clements (1991 plus updates).

Plain-breasted Hawk Accipiter ventralis                             1 on 5th

Mountain Caracara Phalcoboenus megalopterus                 2                   

Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus                                  1 on 6th, with an unidentified small buteo on 5th

Puna Hawk Buteo poeciliochrous                                       1 on 6th

American Kestrel Falco sparverius                                     1

Andean Lapwing Vanellus resplendens                              1

Band‑tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata                                Few               

Eared Dove  Zenaida auriculata                                        Few     

Mitred Parakeet  Aratinga mitrata                                      27

Andean Parakeet Bolborhynchus orbygnesius                    35-40 on 6th

Sparkling Violetear Colibri coruscans                                 Few

Shining Sunbeam Aglaeactis cupripennis                           2

White‑tufted Sunbeam Aglaeactis castelnaudii                   4

Mountain Velvetbreast  Lafresnaya lafresnayi                     1 on 5th

Sword‑billed Hummingbird Ensifera ensifera                      1 on 5th

Andean Hillstar Oreotrochilus estella                                  Few

Black-tailed Trainbearer Lesbia victoriae                            2

Tyrian Metaltail Metallura tyrianthina                                  Few

Purple-backed Thornbill Ramphomicron microrhynchum      1 or 2 imm. male

Andean Flicker Colaptes rupicola                                       2

Bar‑winged Cinclodes Cinclodes fuscus                            10

Apurimac Spinetail Synallaxis courseni                              2 + 6 heard

Creamy‑crested Spinetail Cranioleuca albicapilla                10

Rusty‑fronted Canastero Asthenes ottonis                         1 + few heard

Streak-throated Canastero Asthenes humilis                      2 on 5th

Straight-billed Earthcreeper Upucerthia ruficauda                2 on 5th

Pearled Treerunner   Margarornis squamiger                       1 on 6th

Undulated Antpitta   Grallaria squamigera                          3 heard

Stripe‑headed Antpitta Grallaria andigena                          2-3 heard

Apurimac Tapaculo Scytalopus species nov.                     1 + 5 heard

Peruvian Rufous‑vented Tapaculo Scytalopus femoralis     2 heard

Red‑crested Cotinga Ampelion rubrocristata                       10

White-banded Tyrannulet  Mecocerculus stictopterus          1                               

Tufted Tit-Tyrant Anairetes parulus                                    4

Crowned/ Kalinowski’s Chat‑Tyrant* Ochthoeca frontalis spodionota          4

Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant Ochtoeca rufipectoralis          10

White‑browed Chat‑Tyrant  Ochthoeca leucophrys              6

Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola alpina              5

Rufous‑webbed Tyrant Polioxolmis rufipennis                    1 on 5th

White-capped Dipper  Cinclus leucocephalus                     1 on 5th

Great Thrush Turdus fuscater                                                                  Several

House Wren Troglodytes aedon                                         Common

Brown‑bellied Swallow Notiochelidon murina                      10

Hooded Siskin   Carduelis magellanica                              Several

Spectacled Whitestart Myioborus melanocephalus              2

Rufous‑collared Sparrow   Zonotrichia capensis                 Common

Rufous‑eared Brush‑Finch Atlapetes rufigenis                    1

White-browed Conebill  Conirostrum ferrugineiventre           2 on 5th

Cinereous Conebill  Conirostrum cinereum                         10

Rust‑and‑yellow Tanager Thlypopsis ruficeps                     4

Chestnut‑bellied Mountain‑Tanager Delothraupis castaneoventris   2

Fawn‑breasted Tanager  Pipraeidea melanonota                 1

Plumbeous Sierra‑Finch Phrygilus unicolor                         2

Peruvian Sierra-Finch Phrygilus punensis                           Several

Mourning Sierra‑Finch Phrygilus fruticeti                            Few

Band-tailed Sierra‑Finch Phrygilus alaudinus                      Few

Band‑tailed Seedeater Catamenia analis                            Several

Black‑throated Flower‑piercer Diglossa brunneiventris         2

Rusty Flowerpiercer Diglossa sittoides                               1 on 5th

Plush-capped Finch  Catamblyrhynchus diadema               1 on 6th

Golden‑billed Saltator  Saltator aurantiirostris                     6

*see J. García-Moreno, P. Arctander, and J. Fjeldså (Condor 100[4]: 629-640, 1998)


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