A visit to Manú National Park in the Peruvian Amazon in June-July 2003 was my first international trip that was solely for the purpose of birding. I joined a small group with Tanager Tours that visited Huarcapay, many areas on Manú Road, the river below Atalaya, and Pantiacolla Lodge. The rest of the group continued down the river. I stayed an extra week at Pantiacolla in order to learn more about the birds of the lowland jungle. I came back up the river with a different group and visited Amazonia Lodge on the way back. A list of birds for the trip is posted here. Some photos from the trip are posted below.
Before the tour began. I hired a taxi driver who took me to some lakes and open areas around Cusco, where some of the highlights were Puna Ibis, Mountain Caracara, and Plumbeous Rail. The first stop of the tour was at Lake Huarcapay, which is just outside Cusco. The highlights were Bearded Mountaineer, Rusty-fronted Canastero, and Many-colored Rush-Tyrant. On the way over the mountains, we saw an Andean Tinamou. As we started to descend on the wet side of the mountains, we began to see flowerpiercers, tanagers, hummingbirds, etc. We camped at Pillahuata, which gets chilly at night. The next morning, we were greeted by White-collared Jays near the campsite. It was exciting to finally get to go birding on Manú Road. Some of the highlights that day were Golden-headed Quetzal, White-capped Dipper, Andean Solitaire, and tanagers. Late in the day, we drove to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge and saw the amazing Lyre-tailed Nightjar that night. I loved the stay at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. The weather is very pleasant at this altitude and the birds are incredible, especially the tanagers, hummingbirds at the feeders, and of course the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, which has a lek near the lodge. Among the highlights were Rufous Motmot, Versicolored Barbet, and Solitary Eagle.
The next day, we visited lower elevations, where the most interesting bird was a Blue-fronted Jacamar. We drove to Atalaya and took the boat to Pantiacolla. This was quite an adventure for someone on his first serious birding trip in the Amazon. Along the river, we saw Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Sand-colored Nighthawk, and parrots. The many highlights at Pantiacolla include King Vulture, Bamboo Antshrike, Manu Antbird, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Scarlet Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, Blue-headed Macaw, Amazon Kingfisher, Blue-crowned Motmot, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Collared Puffbird, Black-fronted Nunbird, White-fronted Nunbird, Swallow-wing, Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Red-necked Woodpecker, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Peruvian Recurvebill, Purplish Jay, Violaceous Jay, and many antbirds, flycatchers, etc. One evening, I stood down by the river at dusk and suddenly had more than a dozen large bats swoosh past from behind. Several of them grazed by within inches. One day, I was out walking the trails and came upon a herd of what must have been about a hundred White-lipped Pecaries. The sounds they make is like something from a horror movie. You can hear them rustling through the vegetation with jaws constantly snapping shut. The next day, I returned to the area and inspected the damage to the forest. On the beach nearby, I found the tracks of a Jaguar, which often follow these herds.
I took a boat back to Atalaya and spent two days at Amazonia Lodge. The highlights were Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Hoatzin, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Common Potoo, Rufous-crested Coquette, Black-capped Donacobius, Masked Crimson Tanager, and Red-capped Cardinal. During the trip back to Cusco, I saw several birds that I had missed on the way down, including Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Red-crested Cotinga, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Citrine Warbler, Grass-green Tanager, and Golden-collared Tanager. At one point, an absolutely stunning Golden-headed Quetzal landed right in front of me at eye level. I was blown away by the metallic green back and velvet black trim. After returning to Cusco, I spent a day at Machu Picchu and saw Torrent Tyrranulet and Andean Condor, which was a great bird on which to end the trip.