Peru 2016 – A Beginner’s Guide to the Wildest Place on Earth

Black-collared Hawk, by Jon Atwood

Black-collared Hawk by Polly Pattison

In January Joan Walsh, Dr Jon Atwood, and David Sibley led 24 explorers on the Mass Audubon Travel Program’s expedition to the Peruvian Amazon. The trip logged 640 miles on three different rivers, and combined bird lists of the participants and guides topped 200 species. From the pre-dawn calling Undulated Tinamous and the lumbering Horned Screamers (nicknamed The Peruvian Air Force by the guides), on through the exceptionally rare Black-and-white Hawk-eagle and hundreds of Sand-colored Nightjars, this trip did not disappoint.

We had the privilege of visiting two small villages, visits that helped us to build a more complete vision of how people sustain their communities in a place where the river can rise 50 vertical feet each year. Scarlet and Blue and Yellow Macaws, Hoatzin (on nest!), Long-billed Woodcreeper, and the dashing (and ubiquitous) Yellow-rumped Caciques kept us company while the river rolled by.

Dr Jon Atwood, with a pet sloth in Peru.

Dr Jon Atwood, with a pet sloth in Peru.

You needed to like heat and sun, humidity and uncertainty. Each day new species popped up as fast as we could identify them, sometimes faster, and even the local guides didn’t know which species would be next. It was exciting, rewarding, and challenging – all the things that drew us to birding in the first place. Change has met this wild place, and while it retains an air of mystery and wilderness, there is no mistaking the long arm of settlement. These were some of the most exciting days of birding and nature study we have ever had – and we encourage you to try to make this trip in the future.

Mass Audubon will run this tour again in March 2017 and November 2017. Find out where in the world we are going next!


Mass Audubon tour group, bird watching aboard the skiff, by Jon Atwood.

Hoatzin, by Joan Walsh.

Hoatzin, by Joan Walsh.


River scenery on the Mass Audubon Peru tour, by Jon Atwood.

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