Southeastern Peru is generally acknowledged as the most species-rich birding region on Earth. Manu Biosphere Reserve, incorporating Manu National Park and a couple of contiguous conservation tracts, is a vast, spellbinding wilderness (the sizeof Massachusetts!) that protects the entire watershed of the Rio Manu, a 200-mile long tributary of the Rio Madre de Dios, itself a middle-weight Amazonian tributary winding eastward through lowland rainforest in the Department of Madre de Dios. The Reserve and its buffer zone also protect much of the Department of Cusco’s east slope Andean drainage from 14,000 feet in punagrasslands well above tree line down through temperate and subtropical cloud forest right down through the foothills to lowland rainforest. There are precious few places in South America where there is legal protection for a comparably rich transect of undisturbed forest on the diverse east slope of the Andes. This short tour is designed to focus on the incredibly rich lowland rainforest of the Manu Biosphere Reserve, thus complementing our MOUNTAINS OF MANU tour, which covers the upper levels of the Reserve. We have selected Manu Wildlife Center as our one-site base for its comfort level, its ease of access, its marvelous network of trails, its special viewing facilities, and its strategic location. With a wonderful grid system of trails and with covered 40-foot boats for river transport, the lodge offers us access to virtually all critical microhabitats within lowland Manu and hence to virtually all
species regularly occurring in this rich lowland rainforest. Not only are we close (about 40 minutes) to the famous Blanquillo ccollpa, where hundreds of parrots and large Red-and-green Macaws gather almost daily to ingest the mineral-rich clay, but a trail from the lodge buildings takes us (in about an hour) to a forest-interior mineral lick (with a blind) that attracts more secretive forest birds and mammals, occasionally including Brazilian Tapirs, to the same kinds of minerals. Another trail takes us from our lodgings to a well-constructed canopy platform (with spiral metal staircase) that offers eye-to-eye looks at numerous canopy specialties, from various toucans and cotingas to mixed-species flocks that move right through “our tree.” And twenty minutes downriver is a trail to yet another, even higher and larger, canopy platform (also accessed by a secure metal staircase) that offers incredible vistas and a different set of birds. Weʼll bird river sandbars,hidden cochalakes, some enormous stands of bamboo, transitional forest, and some wonderful tall terra firmeforest. The official lodge bird list now stands at a whopping 580 species, among them an incredible number of classic Amazonian species and many regional specialties,including Orinoco Goose, Razor-billed Curassow, Starred Wood-Quail, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Blue-headed Macaw (rare), Amazonian Parrotlet (the “parrot without a name”, rare), Amazonian Pygmy-Owl, Ocellated Poorwill, Purus and Bluish-fronted jacamars, Scarlet-hooded Barbet (rare), Curl-crested Aracari, Rufous-headed Woodpecker (rare), Peruvian Recurvebill (rare), Sclaterʼs Antwren, Manu, White-lined, Goeldiʼs, White-throated, and Hairy-crested antbirds, Rufous-fronted Antthrush, Ash-throated Gnateater (rare), Band-tailed Manakin, White-cheeked Tody-Tyrant (rare), Dull-capped Attila, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. And thatʼs not to mention the long list of mammals, from Giant Otter and White-lipped Peccary to 13 species of primates and even the elusive Jaguar. Seeing many of these species takes time and patience; thatʼs why we are devoting eight days to the lowlands. Even so, we wonʼt see all of these in such a short time, but we can assure you of a trip full of wonderful views of hundreds of wonderful critters in a wilderness setting of impressive proportions.To avoid last-minute surprises due to an unreliable air service to Boca Manu that often results in flight cancellations, we have elected to travel overland, then downriver, to reach Manu Wildlife Center. Last year our group enjoyed the diversion of habitats and the diversity of birds this detour enabled. This way, we may add Cock-of-the-rock to our list, and we have added some exciting surprises like Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Hazel-fronted Pygmy-Tyrant, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, Creamy-crested Spinetail, Bearded Mountaineer, Rusty-fronted Canastero, and Andean Tinamou (among many others) to the list of species, none of which we see at Manu Wildlife Center. Fromthe port at Atalaya, weʼll travel by covered motorized dugout for about 7-8 hours down the Rio Alto Madre de Dios (weʼve never seen so many Fasciated Tiger-Herons—anywhere) and the Rio Madre de Dios (“Mother of God River”) to reach our lodge, set just back from the riverbank in a nicely planted clearing with tall rainforest immediately behind it. Manu Wildlife Center offers substantial comfort for a remote Amazonian lodge, from cold drinks (and plenty of pure drinking water) to individual bungalows with private baths with flush toilets and hot water for showering in spacious tiled showers. The rooms are screened, but there are also individual mosquito nets for each bed. A lovely dining area (with tasty, varied, healthy food) and a separate bar and loungearea (with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages always available) are connected to all the bungalows by graveled walkways. Weʼll sleep to the sounds of the Amazon rainforest.