Northern Peru is a land of contrasts, where you can begin the day in one environment, and by the end of the day find yourself somewhere entirely new and different. On this day we began by birding the scrub and remnant humid forest close to the city of Jaen. This area was visited for its discrete set of Maranon birds. Like many spots in this habitat within this region though, it is not super diverse. It is a low diversity area, but with high numbers of regional endemics. Thus our morning was not about racking up big lists, but checking off the handful of specialties in the area. We opened with a marvellous Maranon Crescentchest creeping about below the bushes. I missed the best viewing for the others in the group, but held back and had the bird to myself for a choice time too. The same spot also had several Red-crested Finches too. While I got greedy with the crescentchest, the others went in search of Maranon Spinetail, which I then missed due to my thorough approach to what I take for acceptable views. Never mind though, I had at least seen that species in southern Ecuador eons ago.
Our next stop was an area called Huembo. The area may look unremarkable from the highway, but a mural on the walls soon alerts you to the fact this place is far from unremarkable, for it is the main home of one of the World's most dazzling hummingbirds, the Marvelous Spatuletail. Gone are the days of descending down a slope and hoping to see one of these amazing creatures zip by; as now a set of feeders lures them in each and every day. I guess the suspense has been lost, as a sighting has become expected, but when you've paid this much money to come all the way to deepest darkest Peru to get one, I for one, will take it! (Photo by Nick Athanas). The same site held numerous White-bellied Hummingbirds, and a teeny, tiny Little Woodstar too.
By the end of the day we had arrived in the forest cloaked Andean foothills (at Waqanki Lodge), with the bird diversity once again through the roof in stark contrast to the morning's site. We had precious little time to bird the area on arrival and so hastened to the hummingbird feeders, where a perched male Rufous-crested Coquette soon got the blood rushing. The same feeders came with Golden-tailed Sapphire, a male White-chinned Sapphire, Black-throated Hermit, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, Blue-tailed and Sapphire-spangled Emeralds, and Long-billed Starthroat. A lot to take in, during a frantic thirty minute spell, before the light began to fade. That night we quickly learned of the quality of nightbirding on site. Hearing a gruff sounding owl calling just as the tropical day switched to tropical night (for it is so quick it feels like a light switching off), Mark and I moved into the forest, where we soon tracked down this Band-bellied Owl staring down at us (gruff owl located; check!) After dinner we went out again, listing three different nightjars in doing so: Common Pauraque, a lifer Rufous Nightjar, and a wonderful Spot-tailed Nightjar that glided around within a meter of us.
We retired at 10PM, with much excitement at what this site may bring on the next day; we had barely got there and had netted more than a few high end species already!