With Stuart Elsom as leader. Playing host to a staggering array of dazzlingly colourful birds, Peru is a natural destination for a Photographic Tour. And amongst the myriad of species to be found there, it is the hummingbirds that perhaps attract the most attention. This is easy to see why - the rich variety of colour, shapes and sizes exhibitied by these avian sprites is guaranteed to captivate anyone interested in wildlife. Perhaps the easiest way to see and photograph these hyperactive birds is when they come to feed, and luckily for us, the lodges we stay at are all equipped with a range of feeders aimed at attracting hummingbirds.
Before we head off on our ‘hummingbird safari’ we’ll spend a day on the coast close to Lima where we’ll have the chance to photograph beautiful Inca Terns along with a variety of other coastal species. We then spend the next 13 days at three different lodges where we’ll have plenty of time to concentrate of obtaining stunning images of hummingbirds and other colourful birds that pose for the cameras.
Our Photographic tours are designed for both beginners and more experienced photographers alike. They run to a more flexible itinerary than one of our straightforward birdwatching tours, and rather than just trying to obtain quick snaps of a long list of species we’ll concentrate on obtaining great quality photographs of the wildlife we encounter, which may mean we often spend long periods with just a few subjects.
All photographic tours are accompanied by Stuart Elsom LRPS, who was awarded a Royal Photographic Society Distinction in 2011. Stuart, who delivers training on nature photography and bird identification for The Royal Society of Biology, will be on hand throughout the tour to offer group or one to one tuition on all aspects of wildlife photography.
Sunbird Photographic Tours are also suitable for non-photographers or for those who require a more relaxed pace and less rigid itinerary. Some tours will include evening sessions on photographic techniques or image critique workshops, which are of course optional. If you have any queries about any aspect of our Photographic Tours please contact the Sunbird Office who can forward your query to Stuart.
Day 1: The tour begins in London with a flight to Lima, Peru’s coastal capital. Night in Lima.
Day 2: Before we head inland to begin our hummingbird safari, we’ll spend our first day out on the coast where the light and a wealth of birds will provide some excellent photographic opportunities. We will head for Pucusana, and once there we’ll take a boat trip around the bay which will allow us to photograph nesting Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants as well as Peruvian Boobies. Our main targets here are the lovely nesting Inca Tern, Blackish Oystercatcher, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, a variety of gull species, and perhaps Humboldt Penguin. South American Sea-lions are common in breeding groups and we may see Marine Otter. We get very close to our subjects and very good photography is guaranteed. After a seafood lunch at our favourite restaurant we’ll spend the afternoon looking for other local species to capture and, at a small nature reserve on the outskirts of Lima, we should find Slate-coloured Coot, Puna Ibis, Great and White-tufted Grebes, Cinnamon Teal, and White-cheeked Pintail. This is also the haunt of the vivid Many-coloured Rush-tyrant, although obtaining a photo of this active little bird will require some patience. Night in Lima.
Day 3: Today, we’ll take a flight from Lima to Tarapoto, and from the airport we’ll head straight out on the road to Moyobamba where we will stop at a ravine which has roosting Oilbirds – photography will be a challenge but we’ll try. After a leisurely lunch amongst the birds we’ll settle in to spend the following three nights at this very active area. Night at Waqanki.
Days 4-5: Waqanki is a private family-run reserve in the Mayo Valley on the outskirts of Moyobamba. It provides access to a large variety of habitats, including excellent hill forest on outlying ridges, sandy-soil forests, and savannah scrub, but most importantly for us it has spectacular Hummingbird feeders. White-necked Jacobins, now regarded as one of the most primitive of hummingbirds, can be found here although the stars of the show are the furtive Black-throated Hermit and Rufous-crested Coquette. We will literally be dazzled by the parade of species visiting the feeders and can expect to obtain photos of such gems as White-chinned Sapphire, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Blue-tailed Emerald, Rufous-breasted and Reddish Hermits, Black-throated Mango, Long-billed Starthroat, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Violet-headed Hummingbird and maybe Rufous-throated Sapphire. We’ll also venture away from the lodge on some days into the surrounding habitats to see what other subjects we can find. Nights at Waqanki.
Day 6: Today we move onto Abra Patricia. Along the way there will be opportunities to stop at some new feeding stations where we have a chance of photographing yet more hummingbirds. These could include Green-fronted Lancebills, Green Hermit, Gray-breasted Sabrewings, White-bellied Woodstar, Wire-crested Thorntail, Long-billed Starthroat, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, and Golden-tailed Sapphire. There may also be photographic opportunities for the elusive Rufous-breasted Woodquail, Cinereous Tinamou and Pectoral Sparrow. Towards the end of the day we’ll arrive at the Owlet Lodge.
Days 7 - 10: We have four days based at this excellent lodge, which will give us access to not only an extensive trail system but also the lower altitude Alto Nieve Reserve. We have come here mostly for the hummingbirds, and the feeders outside our rooms will not disappoint: species to be photographed at the lodge include Sword-billed Hummingbird, Collared Inca, Green Violetear, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, Speckled Hummingbird, Booted Raquet-tail, Long-tailed Sylph, Wedge-billed Hummingbird, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Fawn-breasted Brilliant. Down at Alto Nieve the feeders may produce Greenish Puffleg and the endemic Royal Sunangel amongst others.
The comfortable Owlet Lodge has much to offer anyone interested in bird photography besides hummingbirds. We should bump into mixed flocks of multi-coloured birds such as Speckle-faced and Scaly-naped Parrots, Johnson’s Tody-tyrant, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Tyrannine Woodcreeper, Spotted and Rusty-winged Barbtails, Fiery-throated and Scaled Fruiteaters, the stunning Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, and Blue-browed, Green-throated, and Metallic-green Tanagers to name but a few.
For those who want to try their hand at photographing night birds we’ll have at least one search for Long-whiskered Owlet, which gives the lodge its name, and we may also bump into Cinnamon and White-throated Screech-Owl. Further down the slope from Abra Patricia, near the tiny settlement of Afluente, the road passes through beautiful lower tropical forests where another set of new and exciting birds will await us in excellent roadside habitat. Photographing birds in a forest habitat such as this, especially when they come at us in a mixed feeding flock, presents its own challenges. However rather than exhaust ourselves trying to snap as many species as possible, we will instead take our time, concentrating on key birds.
One day we’ll leave early for the Huembo Marvelous Spatuletail reserve and we’ll give priority to Marvelous Spatuletail, a truly remarkable hummingbird which comes to the feeders along with Little Woodstar, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Andean Emerald, Brown Violetear, Bronzy Inca, and White-bellied Hummingbird amongst others. Nights Owlet Lodge.
We begin our quest to photograph hummingbirds in earnest today returning to the centre established to protect a smart endemic hummingbird, Koepcke’s Hermit. There should be plenty of opportunities to capture images of this elusive sprite, along with at least 10 other hummingbird species that visit the feeders here, as well as revel in such magnificent names as Great-billed Hermit, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, Gould’s Jewelfront, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Festive Coquette, Amethyst-throated Woodstar, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, and even Napo Sabrewing.
There are other birds here besides the hummingbirds and we will find ourselves pointing our lenses at Fiery-capped, Golden-headed, and Blue-crowned Manakins, some of which might be found at their strange leks. After a leisurely lunch amongst the birds we’ll head for our next stop near Moyobamba where we’ll spend the following four nights. Night at Waqanki.
Days 11: Today we leave the lodge to drive back to Tarapoto with stops along the way and check in to our hotel which has a lush garden to explore. Night at Shilcayo.
Day 12: In the early morning we’ll visit nearby hills known as the Escalera, a ridge visible from east of Tarapoto. Here we have our first chance of photographing the very special Koepcke’s Hermit, along with Rose-fronted Parakeet, Golden-collared Toucanet, Dusky-chested Flycatcher, Blackish Pewee, and Dotted Tanager among many others. A large White-tipped Swift Colony provides a photographic challenge and we’ll visit a waterfall where we can try to get some more images of the stunning Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. There are other birds here besides the hummingbirds and we will find ourselves pointing our lenses at Fiery-capped, Golden-headed, and Blue-crowned Manakins, some of which might be found at their strange leks. We reluctantly drag ourselves away to drive to Lima to connect with a flight to Lima, arriving in time to connect with flights back to London where the tour ends on Day 13. Those joining the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover extension will spend the night in Lima.
Diademed Sandpiper-Plover extension:
Day 13: For those taking part in the extension we’ll leave Lima and head directly up Peru’s main road, the Central Highway, into the interior. Our lodgings are simple but at 3000 metres altitude, this is important to acclimatize for our birding at extreme altitude next day. Night at San Mateo.
Day 14: We’ll leave San Mateo for the cold high-elevation bogs of Marcopomacocha, which are home to one of the world’s most highly sought-after shorebirds, the exquisite Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. We shall be at an elevation of over 4500 meters here so we will be taking it very slowly. The scenery is without comparison, and at this time of year we can expect sun and a scattering of snow. We’ll be seeking out high-level wetlands that are the favoured habitat of this remarkable wader. Although distinctively marked, their plumage enables them to easily blend in with their surroundings. However once located they can be remarkably confiding, allowing us to spend time obtaining the perfect image.
Despite the altitude there should be some other birds for us to take photos of in the area. Another strange-looking wader we’ll look for is the large Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, which often feeds amongst the peaceful llama and alpaca herds. And, among boulder-strewn grassy areas, we will look for the huge and endemic White-bellied Cinclodes while flatter areas hold Dark-winged Miner and the sparse flowers attract shimmering Black-breasted Hillstars, perhaps the last hummingbird we’ll photograph. After this fantastic day’s birding amidst wonderful scenery, we’ll start to make our way back to Lima, spending the night at a comfortable country hotel at Santa Eulalia.
Day 15: We’ll drive back to Lima today in time to connect with our flights to London where the tour ends on Day 16.