In the last quarter of 2022 a birding expedition was confirmed for the Tarapoto – Alto Mayo – Abra Patricia – Huembo route, which would take place in early 2023 with birding friends from the USA.
Unfortunately, the impeachment of the president of Peru generated conflicts at the national level, even in the north of the country, so the itinerary had to be redesigned to allow for a trip in complete safety and above all, without interruptions that would reduce the time for birding and the enjoyment of the Amazon rainforest experience.
In that sense, it was agreed with our journey group to carry out a bird watching expedition to different ecosystems near the city of Tarapoto, which we knew well, but were not as commercial as the initially planned route.
Nearby ecosystems for birding in Tarapoto
In general, the San Martin region is blessed with a diversity of ecosystems, with an altitudinal gradient that ranges from 140 to 4200 meters above sea level, due to its location in a transition zone between the Andes and the Amazon.
In that sense, the city of Tarapoto is surrounded by a variety of natural spaces with altitudinal and floristic differences, which allows the presence of a diversity of wildlife, especially birds.
The itinerary considered the following ecosystems: lowland jungle, dry forests, montane forests, riparian forests, wetlands, among the most important ones; from 190 to 730 meters above sea level approximately.
Itinerary and main birds recorded in the birding tour in Tarapoto
Day 1: Cordillera Escalera Regional Conservation Area (Tarapoto – Yurimaguas road sector). Main records: Koepcke´s Hermit, Black-bellied Thorntail, Plumbeous Euphonia, Dotted Tanager, Golden-headed Manakin y Golden-collared Toucanet.
Day 2: Dry forest and banks of the Huallaga River. Main records: Greenish Elaenia, Rufous Casiornis, Hoatzin, Spangled Cotinga y Northern Slaty-Antshrike.
Day 3: Pongo de Caynarachi, lower Amazon and Cordillera Escalera. Main records: White-throated Toucan, Russet-crowned Crake, Andean Cock of the rock, Blue-backed Manakin y Musician Wren.
Day 4: Dry forest and ACR Cordillera Escalera (Alto Shilcayo sector). Main records: Sunbitter, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Brazilian Teal, Lined Seedeater y Lesson´s Seedeater.
Day 5: Pongo de Caynarachi, lower Amazon. Principal recordings: White-eared Jacamar, Scarlet-crowned Barbet, White-crowned Manakin, Yellow-billed Jacamar y Red-breasted Meadowlark.
Despite the adverse conditions, an alternate itinerary was developed with several representative species of each ecosystem, including endemic, migratory and habitat-restricted species, many of which were of interest to passengers. A total of 265 species were recorded. The trip was very satisfactory for the passengers, who were very happy and pleasantly surprised with the results of the expedition. In addition, the regional food was the perfect complement that satisfied us during the trip, which was delicious, varied and of high value.
A fabulous trip with a major hurdle: a civilian protest blocked the only highway between our starting point in Tarapoto and the majority of our stops in Moyobamba. Of our planned itinerary, we were only able to visit the first of three stops on day 1. I want to commend our guide Julio C. Tello Alvarado for doing an AMAZING job of figuring out alternate locations to take us crazy birders for the remaining 4.5 days. He contacted several colleagues about nearby stakeout birds and filled the remaining 4.5 days with some of the best birding I’ve ever done.
Marvelous Spatuletail, Royal Sunangel, Long-whiskered Owlet, and Pale-billed Antpitta will have to wait for another trip. In their place, we saw truly iconic and glorious lower-elevation Amazon specialties and it was mindblowing. And the food was 😍👏
Peru is a must-see. If you have the chance to go, do it! Jim Carney from his facebook profile.
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