Day 14 | 18 May 2019 | COTRL to COTRL

This morning we concentrated on the cloud forest surrounding the lodge. We drove a little more than half the distance back up Manu Road towards Wayqecha, stopping at every flock that crossed our path. It was classic Manu Road birding, with frantic activity as the flocks passed through, followed by moments of quiet.

It really is exhilarating stuff as lifers were found in just about every flock. But there’s plenty of anxiety too, for fear of missing something important.

I think my companions were exposed to a fairly broad range of vocabulary from me today as I was inevitably the dunce that couldn’t see each new bird. My mouth may need to be washed out with soap this evening.

Alex and Juan’s patience was, more or less, bottomless and, by the end of the morning, I don’t think I missed out on anything.

I have realized as this trip has gone on that my eyesight is not nearly as good as I thought it was. I am well into middle age, though, so I’ll use that as an excuse. The forest birding is really tough when tiny or distant birds dash through gaps between the leaves and the mind has to process what has been seen and link it to what it actually is. I have also had to accept that so many of these birds we’re seeing are well beyond my skill level and I know I wouldn’t have seen or identified half of them without our guides.

Aside from the lifers within the flocks, the bird we were really looking for was a Golden-headed Quetzal. It’s like a Narina Trogon on steroids. I was desperate to see one and, fortunately, it was unlikely to be too challenging from an ID perspective. We tried at just about every stop, all the way up, and then all the way down. Not a peep. It also didn’t help that Alex and Juan told us that it is pretty common and they couldn’t quite understand why we couldn’t find one.

We packed it in and headed back to the lodge just before midday and five minutes from home we stopped to look at some rather stunning Inca Jays when Garret came to the rescue and spied a quetzal flying across the valley in front of us. It perched on an open branch and I was happy.

Golden-headed Quetzal

Juan reminded me it was like our hike up a mountain for the Raimondi’s Yellow Finch and then finding it right where we’d started. At least during the quetzal search we saw a ton of other lifers and the quetzal is a decidedly better-looking bird than the Finch.

Inca Jay

Plumbeous Pigeon

We had a very rare bit of downtime for lunch today at the lodge but even that was spoiled by some quite beautiful hummingbirds at the feeder (Wire-crested Thorntail being the undoubted highlight) as well as an impromptu forest walk for three more lifers.

Speckled Hummingbird

Speckled Hummingbird

Rufous-booted Rackettail

Many-spotted Hummingbird

Violet-fronted Brilliant

Wire-crested Thorntail

Wire-crested Thorntail

Wire-crested Thorntail

So much for my afternoon snooze.

This afternoon was set aside for a visit to the world-famous Andean Cock of the Rock lek. Perhaps famous in the birding world, I guess, but genuinely so.

A lek is a gathering point for certain bird species that display to females at a communal spot. Something akin to a male beauty pageant.

The lek here in Manu is one of the places to observe this bizarre behaviour from one of the world’s most beautiful birds. The actual display area is so reliable that they have built a viewing platform and, twice a day, you can visit the platform and watch these rather otherworldly birds squawking and squeaking to impress the rather dull females. They may look top notch but their singing voices are bottom of the barrel.

This particular lek has been reliable since 1992. It reminds me of the characters Norm and Cliff from Cheers who were possibly as reliable as the COTRs at their gathering spot. The COTRs have the edge on Norm and Cliff in the looks department.

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

And then it was back up Manu Road for a nightjar as it was getting dark. On the way there we had our best tanager flock since arriving in Manu. No less than nine species whirled and whizzed through the trees and contributed to my viewing headache, especially as the light faded (my humblest apologies for the terrible photos). There was quite a bit more swearing as we both missed two of the nine, but perhaps tomorrow we’ll get them.

Semi-collared Hawk

Golden Tanager

Spotted Tanager

Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanager

Saffron-crowned Tanager

Saffron-crowned Tanager

Orange-bellied Euphonia

Beryl-spangled Tanager

Bolivian Tyrannulet

Montane Woodcreeper

Long-tailed Sylph

The nightjar was the rather elaborate-looking Lyre-tailed Nightjar, adorned with unimaginably long tail streamers that trailed behind as the bird flew above us, in and out of the forest canopy. Alex and Juan continued to work their magic and found the bird perched on the branch of a tall tree. There was a bit more neck craning and a muttering of one or two expletives but eventually I found it. And, just as well as it is certainly one of the best looking I’ve ever seen.

Lyre-tailed Nightjar (if you can make it out)

With Alex and Juan, the birding is never done. On the way back down the bumpy road to a highly anticipated dinner, the spotlights were sweeping left and right of the road for owls. Yes, another stop for a Rufescent Screech Owl and, thankfully, this time I managed a photo. Pretty cool bird.

Rufescent Screech-owl

And so ends another magical day in Peru. We continue to add species as we descend and that shouldn’t change tomorrow as we head down to Villa Carmen down in the Amazon. I think I’ll be packing the jackets, gloves and beanies away for good as the temperature and humidity rise. So far this has been my least sweaty birding trip but that’ll all change tomorrow.

  • Total day birds: 81
  • Total trip birds: 411
  • Total trip endemics: 34
  • Mike day lifers: 30
  • Mike total lifers: 352
  • Garret day lifers: 19
  • Garret trip lifers: 264
  • Bird of the day: Inca Jay (although there were many other contenders)

Click here for day 15