Northern arm of Central Highway

Say you to arrive in Huanuco. One hour south of Huanuco is the Carpish tunnel and you’d bird the north side where there is a side track to your left right after tunnel. Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant, Drab, Black-capped and White-browed Hemispingus, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Yellow-scarfed and Golden-crowned Tanager, Moustached, Masked and Black-throated Flowerpiercer as well as Tschudi’s Tapaculo. 2 km further down the there is a track that leads down to a school (the school is visible from the tunnel track) and below the school is the famous Paty Trail. Birding can be frustratingly slow at times on the track but on good days Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Masked Fruiteater, Chestnut-breasted Wren, Rufous Wren, and Rufous-breasted Falcon have all been recorded from here. It is quite possible to use Huanuco as a base when you are birding here, but you may also continue to Tingo Maria where there is Cock of the Rock on the way, Hoatzins nearby and one of the most accessible Oilbird caves in South America. Near the Oilbirds one often sees Blue-headed Macaw. There are some good lodges that have some forest patches nearby where one can look for Band-bellied Owl.

From Huanuco one may also do day visits to Bosque Unchog for Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager, Bay-vented Cotinga, Pardusco and Rufous-browed Hemispingus. This quartet were all described new to science in the late 70 - early 80s when Lousiana State University made their groundbraking research in this area. One need to start very early from Huanuco and a strenuous walk is involved. Having said that it is possible to set up comfortable camping in at Unchog, and one can also pre arrange horses for the uphill on the way back to camp/the cars if booked with a birding agency.

One can continue south to Lake Junin for the last bit of the circuit. Here we have good chance to see Junin Grebe (a boat is required) and the shy Junin Rail. The flightless and endemic Junin Grebe is perhaps the most threatened bird in Peru with a small population of only a few hundred individuals. Lake Junin is also a fantastic wetland exploding with ducks, coots, flamingos and shorebirds.

Text by Gunnar Engblom.