Trip Report Final Peru 2016 May & June
Organized with David Geale of www.mariposasbutterflytours.com, if you want to chase butterflies in South America, especially Colombia, Ecuador or Peru, use him!
3 trips, #1 Cosnipata Valley SE Peru May 11-23, #2 central Peru May 23-June 6, #3 northern Peru June 6-21.
#1 participants: Kim Garwood, Bill Berthet, Dan and Kay Wade, Kristine Wallstrom, David Geale and Michelle Tapasco
#2 participants: Kim Garwood, Bill Berthet, Kristine Wallstrom, Fred Heath, Ken Kertell, Priscilla Brodkin, P Y Thong & Celesta Kong from Hongkong, David Geale and Michelle Tapasco
#3 participants: Kim Garwood, Bill Berthet, Priscilla Brodkin, Gil Ewing, Tom Horton, and David Geale
Day 1 Wed May 11 – fly to Lima, meet the group, night at Hotel Torreblanco in Miraflores
Day 2 Thur May 12 – we fly to Cusco, drive to Cock of the Rock lodge for 9 nights
Day 3 Fri May 13 – rainy day, walked up road
Day 4 Sat May 14 – Quitacalzones, 1050m, great day
Day 5 Sun May 15 – drive up to km 65 & km 62
Day 6 Mon May 16 – walk trails around lodge, MT/BB/KWd to Quitacalzones
Day 7 Tue May 17 – trail at km 82.5 KG/DvG/BB, others to Quitacalzones, rain by 11am
Day 8 Wed May 18 – back to trail at 82.5 & Quitacalzones, more rain by 11am
Day 9 Thur May 19 –more fog and drizzle, walk road around lodge
Day 10 Fri May 20 –back to Quitacalzones, good sunny morning, clouded up by noon
Day 11 Sat May 21 – leave COTR, work km57, night at Wayqecha Research Station 2950m
Day 12 Sun May 22 – morning at Wayqecha, drive to Cusco for the night
Day 13 Mon May 23 – 11:30am flight back to Lima, night at Torreblanco, meet folks for trip #2
Day 14 Tue May 24 – drive to San Ramon, photo stop on highway at 2900m, Campamento Ocatara, 2 nights at Hotel Cerro Verde in San Ramon
Day 15 Wed May 25 – drive 40k to Catarata de Bayoz, 750m
Day 16 Thu May 26 – drive to Pozuzo for 4 nights at Frau Egg’s cabanas, work 1400m lunch spot
Day 17 Fri May 27 – up to Yanachaga Chemillen Nacional Parque ranger station and bridge spot,rain & monkets, 1100-1150m
Day 18 Sat May 28 – much better day around ranger station and bridge
Day 19 Sun May 29 – lots of sun, lots of bugs 3rd day at ranger station & bridge
Day 20 Mon May 30 – drive to Oxapampa, 1830m, for 3 nights at La Casa Oxapampina, go down into ravine at Yulitunqui on our way, over the wooden bridge
Day 21 Tue May 31 – drive up to San Alberto entrance to Yanachaga Chemillen Nacional Parque
Day 22 Wed June 1 – explore Ulcumano Reserve (Ulc) above Oxapampa, 2200m
Day 23 Thur June 2 – Bosque-Sholett (BsqShlt), then drive to San Ramon for 3 nights at Hotel Monte Prado
Day 24 Fri June 3 – 4×4 into Pampa Hermosa for the day, 24km of rough road
Day 25 Sat June 4 – back to Pampa Hermosa
Day 26 Sun June 5 – work lower Pampa Hermosa road at Puente La Promisora, 1100-1200, then drive 2 hours to Tarma for the night at Hotel Los Portales No photos by me, 6/5-6/7
Day 27 Mon June 6 – drive back to Lima over the Ticlio pass, take folks to the airport, end of trip 2
Day 28 Tue June 7 – start of trip 3, fly to Tarapoto, drive to Moyobambo for 3 nights at Hostal Rumipata 959m S 06 04.524, W 076 58.114, with the Japanese couple, Puente Quiscarrumi oilbird spot, Caserio San Miguel
Day 29 Wed June 8 – worked the trails at the hotel, up the creek and into the forest
Day 30 Thur June 9 – go across the street to the birding spot
Day 31 Fri June 10 – drive to Abra Patricia for 4 nights at Owlet Lodge, 2300m, Playa Las Mariposas km 398, 1050m, just before Aguas Verdes big bridge
Day 32 Sat June 11 – Huembo for Marvelous Spatuletail, 2000m
Day 33 Sun June 12 – walk trails at the Owlet lodge, 2300m
Day 34 Mon June 13 – 2nd day on the trails at the Owlet Lodge, do Mono Trail (Trocha Mono)
Day 35 Tue June 14 – drive back to Moyobamba, 2 nights w/the Japanese couple, Playa Las Mariposas
Day 36 Wed June 15 – back across the street, same place we were on June 9, 1050m
Day 37 Thur June 16 – drive up the road to Ruta del Agua, lunch at hostal, then drive to Tarapoto, 4 nights at Cordillera Escalara Lodge
Day 38 Fri June 17 – drive 1km up road to Cordillera Escalara Preserve, work both sides of stream, great website for help with Ithomiinae and Heliconina around Tarapoto – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/taxome/ith/tarapoto/sutzon.html and even better site by Mathieu Joron, http://isyeb.mnhn.fr/joron/mjitho.html
Day 39 Sat June 18 – drive north of Tarapoto to tunnel, birding trail 1000m
Day 40 Sun June 19 – drive east of Tarapoto to dry rain shadow, Juan Guerra, 350m
Day 41 Mon June 20 – morning 1km up the road to preserve, afternoon fly back to Lima, catch midnight international flights
Day 1 Wed May 11 – I fly to Lima nonstop on United from Houston, meeting Dan and Kay in the luggage area of the airport, then get to the hotel about 12:30am on the 12th
Day 2 Thur May 12 – we all fly to Cusco where our driver awaits us, then we take off to drive 6-7 hours to Cock of the Rock lodge, our home for the next 9 nights. Our flight is late, and we don’t get going from Cusco until about 11:30. We have sack lunches with us, and bags of snacks, so we have plenty of food. We eat a late lunch about 10km past Paucartambo at 3100m, the main little town on the way, where the road starts to climb up to the 2nd high pass. There is a sharp left hand turn, where the bridge is out and we have to go through the creek. We’ve eaten here before, a good spot for butterflies.
We get shots of a fresh Catasticta with orange lines on the top of the VHW. We’re thinking it’s C.paucartambo, but later we decide it is C.cora. We spend an hour plus shooting down the road from the bridge, further down than I’ve walked before. We have 3 species of Vanessa, several Hylephelia and Thespius fassli.
Day 3 Fri May 13 – David baits and we work the road, both up and down from the lodge. We get some species but not very good numbers, hopefully the weather will get better.
Day 4 Sat May 14 – sunshine, and we drive down 10km to Quitacalzones, 1050-1100m. This turns out to be our best day of trip #1. I take close to 500 photos, and everyone runs around like crazy. There are butterflies everywhere. This is probably the best spot for numbers on the road, as it is low enough to get some lowland species, and high enough to get cloud forest species. We park the van right past the big bridge and work both up and down from there. I like to get out at the higher waterfall, above km 84, where the road makes a sharp left hand then a sharp right hand turn. The water runs across the road at the right hand turn, and lots of stuff likes to fly up and down this ravine. There are lots of the little white flowers that the Ithomiinae like right by the stream (we find this is true of most of the creek crossings on this trip, much wetter than our November 2015 trip). At the right hand turn by the creek the sun hits it by 8am, if it’s clear, and it is good for butterflies basking to warm up.
Michelle gets out and baits down the road to the van at the bridge, about half a km below, past the km 84 mark. Right at the km 84 mark it is quite open, with a nice view to the east. This spot can be good for bugs that like more open areas. This is the only spot I had Eueides libitina, new for me on this trip.
Just above the bridge where the van waits, on the right as you go downhill, is a great little pullout. It has been fabulous for Riodinidae, and keeps up the tradition on this trip. I get 2 Argyrogrammana stilbe (yellow with spots) and A.pastaza (blue with black stripes) here, same as in November, also good for Anteros (we have 4 species on this trip), and everyone’s favorite, Arcas imperialis,.one of the glorious sparkling green hairstreaks. Several other Riodinids show up here, both days that we work this stretch.
Day 5 Sun May 15 – we head up to km 65 for a few hours, then up a bit higher to km 62. We’ve lost our strong sun, as clouds come and go. We get some Perisamas and satyrs, and a new genus for me, Mathania aureomaculata, a pale creamy white. David finds 3 of them on the road at the pullout at km 62, and they don’t want to move so we get great shots.
Day 6 Mon May 16 – walk the trail behind the lodge, nice sunny day but very few butterflies to be found. Kay goes into town for internet, Bill goes along and got dropped off at Quitacalzones. Odd how quiet the trail is, much fewer than what we had in Nov. Bill and Kay have a better day down at Quitacalzones than we do on the lodge trails. Plus those of us who walk the trails get chiggers!
Day 7 Tue May 17 – Some of us try the trail at Sapan-Sachaya (they have a new sign! On the main road) km 82.5 KG/DvG/BB, others to Quitacalzones, rain by 11am. I walk down the trail to the river, baited by David, and get a few goodies. We find Saliana hewitsoni on the trail, same as November, this must be a good place for this species. In the open by the river I finally get good shots of Staphylus chlora, and on the pulley stand Bill and I get our first Mimardaris of the trip, M.montra, a beautiful orange and black striped firetip. Some of the people go down to Quitacalzones but don’t see much. It clouds up early and is drizzling 11am, so we had back to the lodge.
Day 8 Wed May 18 – We reverse out split of the day before, Bill and I go to Quitacalzones and the others walk the trail at Sapan-Sachaya. It’s foggy at the lodge at breakfast, so we sit around and blab for a while, but then suddenly the sun pops out about 8:30, so we quickly jump in the van and head down the road. Dan, Kay, Kristine and David get out at Sapan-Sachaya, while Bill, Michelle and I go a bit further down the road.
Even though it was bright and sunny at the lodge, just driving 8km down the road gets us back into the fog, and it gets even foggier as we drive a couple of km further to Quitacalzones. It lightens a bit, we get hopeful, but no. It just gets darker and darker, and starts to drizzle again. We go back up to Sapan-Sachaya by 11, go down the trail a bit, but all the butterflies are tucked away, so we head back to the lodge. It drizzles all afternoon, quite cool, hopefully we’ll get more sun tomorrow.
Day 9 Thur May 19 – wake to fog, clears by 6:30am, but fog comes back during breakfast. David baits up the road and we walk it up a ways, waiting for it to clear, but it never does. The fog comes and goes, sometimes drizzling and sometimes not, but it never gets very good. We do find a number of satyrs, some new for the trip, and I get good shots of both male and female Mesosemia messeis down the road to the trail to the left at the bus stop, just over the big bridge.
Day 10 Fri May 20 – our last full day at Cock of the Rock Lodge. We go back to Quitacalzones for our 2nd best day, good sunny morning, clouded up by noon. We find some new species for the trip, and catch up with some better photos of species we might have missed earlier. Juan, our driver, has talked to some people who just came in from Puerto Maldonado, a town in the eastern lowlands, and they’re saying we’re having a friaje, a cold front up from antarctica. This is at least a month earlier that friajes should show up, and everyone is talking about how cold it is. We had wondered a few nights ago if that’s what we could be experiencing. The weather has been mostly foggy and drizzling, not real rain, but enough to make it chilly and no butterflies. We thought we would be too early for this sort of weather, but surprise. As is true all over the world, the weather is getting more unpredictable everywhere.
Day 11 Sat May 21 – leave COTR, work km 57 2200m, night at Wayqecha Research Station 2950m. We get mostly satyrs, after spending a couple of hours walking back and forth over a km or so where David and Michelle have baited. A beautiful Lasiophila orbifera poses for photos, looking like it is made from dark red velvet. We find a good collection of satyrs, enough to keep us busy for several hours.
We then head up to the Catastica wall at km 51, but by then it has gotten dark, and we strike out. Not a single Catastica on this reddish patch of wet wall. In the past David and I have had 10-12 species right here, but not today. We’ve seen very few Catastica on this trip, perhaps another time of the year is better for them.
We get to Wayqecha Research Station, about km 39. They had built a nice new dining room, at the same elevation as the cabins. This is a good thing, as when I was here in 2014 you had to walk down 100 steps to the dining hall, then back up 100 steps to your cabin. At 2950m, this was a long way to walk back up. The view from the new dining hall is spectacular at breakfast the next day, clear and bright, with clouds down in the valley. This is common here, with the clouds gradually climbing up the ravines as the morning goes on. They also have a very nice short orchid trail with hundreds of orchids they have stuck everywhere. If you like orchids, even if you don’t, this is well worth doing slowly, as many of the orchids are very tiny and easy to miss.
Day 12 Sun May 22 – morning at Wayqecha, drive to Cusco for the night. We drive up to km 35 and bait, but it is very slow, even though it is sunny. Of course it is chilly, 55F in my room at dawn. We do see some satyrs, but not as many as I had expected. We do get good shots of the gorgeous hairstreak Penaincisalla loxurina, and we see a worn Rhamma but it gets away. Too bad, as there are some special Lycaenidae at this elevation.
We drive over the pass and back to our lunch spot on the way in at 10km above the town of Paucartambo. This time it is about noon, and sunny. We have lots of Junonia vestina, seems like there is one every 10’ or so along the wet side of the road. We get great shots of Catasticta superba as well, dorsal and ventral, and at least 1 C.cora that poses for the Wades.
We get back to Cusco about 3:30pm, and get internet for the first time in 11 days. We stay at the Hotel Marqueses, an old colonial building. The showers are small, sort of stuffed in the corner, and there aren’t enough plugs, but you can’t have everything. The room is plenty warm and I sleep well, in spite of the elevation of 3300m. We eat a delicious dinner at the Inca Grill on the main square, grilled trout and fancy Incan dishes.
Day 13 Mon May 23 – 11:30am flight back to Lima, night at Hotel Torreblanco, meet folks for trip #2. The Wades depart from Cusco for their own trip.
Day 14 Tue May 24 – Day 14 Tue May 24 – drive to San Ramon, photo stop on highway at 2900m, Campamento Ocatara, below San Mateo. Had 5-6 species at highway stop. Lunch at Michelin restaurant at La Oroya, then on to San Ramon for 2 nights.
Day 15 Wed May 25 – drive 40k to Catarata de Bayoz, 750m. It takes a good hour to get to the turnoff, from the road to Satipo, at a small community with big signs for Catarara de Bayoz. Then another 6 km (30 minutes) up a dirt road to the spot, where we pay a small fee for access. This is a spot that Adrian Hoskins had told David about, and it turns out to be a good place. It’s low enough to get amazonian species, and everybody has a good time shooting lots of bugs. We probably have well over 100 species, maybe 150, once I go through everyone’s photos. We spread out and everyone finds different species. I first walk through the little shops and take the main dirt path up the hill, and climb over 900m, but don’t find the waterfall. I do see a number of butterflies, probably the best are in a small trail off into the woods where Bill and I have a cooperative ghost-skipper, Phanus vitreus, and lots of satyrs, including several variations of blue skippers.
Back down where we park the van, at the entrance, I finally figure out that the trail to the waterfalls is right in between the shops, up the stairs then back to the left. This is a productive trail, as David baits it and lots of stuff comes in. We have piles of Julia and Juno, along with a fresh Melanis smithiae and Melanis hillapana, which is new for me. Lots of spreadwing skippers, crescents, our first Eurytides serville of the trip, a big swallowtail, and Priscilla gets an Erora hairstreak.
Back near the van, water is trickling down the main road and making a wet area in the ditch, and this becomes very good later in the morning and the afternoon. Mudpuddling parties of sulphurs and whites, along with some other mixed goodies, bring in more and more species as the day goes on. We work here until 3pm, when most areas are now in shade, and keep kicking up new species all day. Fred finds a fresh Chlorostrymon telea, the little green hairstreak, in the muddy spot on the main road. So we all head back to the hotel, an hour and a half away, tired but happy.
Day 16 Thu May 26 – drive to Oxapampa, about 2 hours, and on to Pozuzo, about another 3 hours, for 4 nights at Frau Egg’s cabanas, but of course we stop and butterfly a couple of times along the way. The dirt road runs through Yanachaga Chemillen Nacional Parque, which is steep hills and nice forest. We work our same 1400m lunch spot, at km45, a big landslide and water running across the road. We get a completely different set of species from yesterday. Here we have Perisamas, Heliconius telesiphe, Altinotes, all cloud forest species. Probably the best bug of the day is Teratophthalma maenades, or is it T.adulter? A beautiful dark riodinid with white bands on the forewing and a complicated pattern of red and white lines with eyespots on the ventral. Kristine finds the first one and catches it and brings it back for photos, then Ken finds another a km up the road, coming to bait. Later I find it out on the road, probably also on bait, and we all get great shots of it. It’s acting odd for a metalmark, it may be freshly hatched, as it sits on a white rock trying to warm up, but getting blown over by the wind. I block the wind with my legs and it is able to spreadout and bask, and pose nicely for photos.
It clouds up by 1pm, and we head on down the mountain for Pozuzo, but get stopped by a very recent small landslide. A big cat is there, the machine to clear the road, and we wait half an hour while the guys push dirt around, over the side of the road down to the river, and they get it cleared. They tell us to drive fast, as small rocks are still tumbling down, so Juan dashes us across.
We then stop at the power generating plant, Yulitunqui, about 950m. This is a little waterfall on your right at a bridge where they have built a small electrical plant for power. This is a very good spot, lots of people stop and pee here, and it has been productive in the past. It continues the tradition, and we spend another hour or so here, finding lots of new species. One of the brilliant blue metalmarks, Lasaia moeros, 2 species of Pereute, P.charops peruviana and P.telthusa, and the spectacular Menander hebrus that David manages to pull down the plant so Bill and Ken can get photos. We’ll definitely be spending a morning here.
Day 17 Fri May 27 – we wake to light rain, it sounds like it rained all night. We sleep in our cabins with windows open, this is a very comfortable place to sleep, no mosquitoes, even though it is only about 750m. This is my favorite breakfast on the trip, Frau Egg does up a very tasty breakfast. We would like her to cook dinner for us as well, but her kitchen is being redone, so we have to eat at the various simple restaurants in town. Oh well, into each life…
It rains and we work on photos until about 9:30am, when it lightens up and we decide to go up the mountain. Some of us hop out with Michelle to bait a couple of km below Yulitunqui and start to walk up the road, while the rest go up to Yulitunqui , the water/electrical plant, with David. We see some commen pasture and edge skippers as we walk up the road, but some new species for the trip, like Xenophanes tryxis, Glassy-winged Skipper, and lots of chocolate skippers, and a nice Telemiades penidas.
Unfortunately it starts to rain, and gradually gets wetter. David comes down with the van, and we decide to go to the ranger station and wait it out. We have to wait to go through the landslide, about 15 minutes, get to the ranger station where it is raining harder, but not a downpour. As we wander around a bit exploring, we decide to have lunch here. One of my life philosophies, when in doubt, eat. Suddenly David hears Lanceolated Monklet, and we see a bird coming close to the clearing. It even flies out on the grass to grab an insect. As we watch, we see more of them, and eventually there are at least 4, a family group with 2 recently fledged young ones begging and being fed by the adults.
This provides great entertainment for quite a bit of time, as the fledglings perch at the edge of the clearing and cry, sometimes very close to us. These birds are obviously used to people being around, and the photographers get great shots, even with small cameras. I’ve never seen this reclusive species so well, a wonderful experience. Then we notice the moths on the wall near the light, this may explain why the Monklets are around. More photos are taken, and we all have a great time.
About 2pm we give up and head back to Frau Egg’s cabanas. So we didn’t see a lot of butterflies today, but we had a very enjoyable time. For dinner we go to the traditional El Tipico restaurant, where the food is ok but not great. Apple strudel for dessert.
Day 18 Sat May 28 – no rain during the night, which is a good thing. We wake to light overcast and pink clouds, hopefully it will burn off. I really like this place to stay, Frau Egg is a great cook and makes wonderful homemade dark bread with lots of seeds on top for our breakfast. Yesterday we hovered down a couple of loafs, and I bet most of us are looking forward to a repeat performance. Last night we tried a new restaurant for dinner, right across the street from where we’re staying, at Luz Maria. It was quite tasty, better than the traditional place. Most of us had Saltado de Pollo, chicken with onions (lots of onions!) and tomatoes piled over french fries, with rice on the side. I don’t eat the rice, and only about the third of the french fries, but I pick out all the scrumptious chicken and onions and tomatoes. I would happily go back here.
This turns into a much better day around ranger station and bridge. We drive about 40 minutes back up to the ranger station, some people get out there while I ride up to the bridge and start putting out bait. This area is a triangle, with 1 side going up the road from the ranger station to the bridge, the second side from the bridge to the start of the trail at the top of the ravine, and the third side down through the forest back to the ranger station. A sign at the start of the trail says 1.6km to the station by road, so we’re guessing the whole loop is maybe 2-2.5km.
We get lots of stuff today, as the sun comes and goes, and butterflies come into the bait in good numers. One of my favorites is a new skipper for me, which David figures out is Ridens nora. A very fresh one is coming to the bridge, a big blue skipper with fresh buffy fringe that lies flat on the ground. He doesn’t want to let me lift his wing to shoot his ventral, even when 3 of us gang up on him. But we get enough to figure him out. I take over 300 photos, lots of fresh species.
Day 19 Sun May 29 – lots of sun, lots of bugs 3rd day at ranger station & bridge. More sun and more butterflies, today is hot and bright and we see a number of new species. This is such a rich place, you could work this same loop and probably see new species every day. 2 new Mesene riodinids, Doxocopa start to show up for the first time, a variety of skippers, a very good day in all.
We go back to our first restaurant, El Tipico, for dinner. The group prefers this one to Luz Maria, because Kristine bravely ate the salad the first night without any problems, so most of us have been chowing down on their tasty salads. You get tired of meat and starch, so it’s nice to be able to eat the salads.
Day 20 Mon May 30 – drive to Oxapampa for 3 nights at a new hotel. Our preferred place, Hostal Botteger, had taken David’s reservations months ago, then later told him they were full and they were going to split us into 2 different houses, a ways apart. We didn’t want to do that, as we all work on photos together at night, so they suggested another place. Of course, the sister-in-law’s. So we’re experimenting with a new hotel, always dangerous.
We find it, after much hunting and pecking, quite a ways from town, way too far to walk back to a restaurant. It’s called La Casa Oxapampina, and appears to be brand new. The rooms are nice, 4 beds to a room. Fred and I snitch a couple of lamps from the room below, which is empty and has 4 beds and 4 lamps. And I bottow a chair from the same room, which has a table and 4 chairs. Hard to follow the logic, as our room had 1 chair and zero lamps. Hopefully the food will be tasty. I like the older place better originally, where we are all in a lovely home and can work together around a table inside. Here we’re outside in a big pavilion, at 1830m, and it gets chilly after the sun goes down. Fortunately our first dinner is very good, pollo a la plancha and a delicious salad with lots of veggies, and great hot french fries, of which we eat several platters.
We had a great day chasing butterflies today. We stopped at the little power generating station, Yulitunqui, which was still in shade at 8:30, and still at 9am. Plus a guy with the big earth moving caterpillar was pushing dirt around in the waterfall, then across the road where we parked. A ways down the road, back towards Pozuzo on the left going downhill, there is a wooden bridge across the ravine to a farmhouse, and Celesta goes across, swinging. The rest of us follow, and we find a path in between some steep rocky hills down to the river, off to our right after the big bridge. We stumble over the rocks by the river, putting out lots of bait, and all kinds of stuff comes down out of the forest. And clearwings in the forest getting to the river. So we’re busy for a couple of hours and have a good time.
Day 21 Tues May 31 – we drive to the dirt road that heads 7km up to the San Alberto entrance to Yanachaga Chemillen Nacional Parque, the same park we’ve been in for the last 3 days. This must be a big park. The road gets rough, past the little houses and agriculture, lots of passion vines, but the van makes it to where we park, by the small river rushing down the mountain, about 300m higher than Oxapampa at 2175m, according to the sign up the trail. David baits back down the road a bit, and up the trail to the right, that wanders around and meets back up with the road, now a jeep track. You can walk up the road for a long ways and eventually get to the park, another 2km. We usually just work the trail and the road back to the river, where the van is, and the road back down a ways.
We have more clouds than sun, but when the sun comes out it is strong, and we have butterflies flying. Mostly satyrs, but some nice skippers too. My favorite for the day is a fresh Siseme pallas, a lovely riodind with thin orange lines, that comes to the edge of the water. A crowd pleaser is the beautiful Mimoniades nurscia, the firetip with pink/orange bands and a light blue ventral. It poses nicely most of the day by the water at a couple of creek crossings.
Back to Casa Oxapampina for a delicious trout dinner and her great salad, plus all the french fries and fried plantain we can eat. Life is good.
Day 22 Wed June 1 – we’re trying a new location today that the lodge owner suggested. We drive up over a pass west of Oxapampa to Ulcumano Reserve at 2200m. www.ulcumanoecolodge.com
This is a nice looking patch of forest at a very pleasant looking place to stay, if a bit cool and wet. It would be a good place for rubber boots. You can hike up to paramo and see many fantastic plants and birds. The cabins look very solid and comfortable, and they provide meals. It would be productive to come back for a few nights. The 500m road in is a bit dicey, but our van makes it, thanks to Juan’s good driving.
We see similar species to Bosque Sholett, where we will visit tomorrow, but walking the road here is fun. It turns into a path just below the reserve, and this is our most productive part. Good eastern exposure for the morning, and the sun is at your back and plenty of satyrs and others come in to the bait. We get Cyanophrys banosensis, a green hairstreak, which are always good to find. Eduardo, the owner, meets us and is a nice guy who’s really into plants and orchids.
Day 23 Thur June 2 – we drive 30-45 minutes up to Bosque de Sholett, a preserved patch of forest above Oxapampa about 2400m at the top. We work the road to the tower, and up the trail to the right, which I like the best. Great looking high elevation forest, mostly satyrs and some undescribed brown skippers with dark patches. The most exciting thing is there are a number of swallowtails bombing around, impossible to photograph. I think they are a Pterourus, but later we find dozens of them at a couple of creek crossings back down the road, and they turn out to be Battus madyes.
Our favorite spot is at km 12, they have km markings on the road. This ravine has consistently been productive on each of my trips here, and it proves to be the same today. We bait here at our way up, then come back in a few hours and have lunch here. It’s about 150m lower than the top. here are probably 10-15 Battus maydes, the swallowtail, plastered to the bait by the running water. We also find them at the water by a small farmhouse with ducks on our way back down. Everyone gets great shots and all is well.
As we first get to the km 12 stream, David finds a bug I’ve been wanting to see for years, Siseme militaris, a stunning riodinid that is blue with an orange streak, just gorgeous and fresh. But then, even more exciting, we have a Styx infernalis drift across the stream. This is a really strange smoky grey riodinid that is unique. I had seen one here back in 2014, but we couldn’t get shots of it, so David and I were on the lookout for it.
It flies down into the ravine below the stream, and David scrambles down the hill after it. He and Bill get some shots balancing on rocks at the bottom, then it flies back up towards the road and we lose it. Eagle-eyed Michelle finds it perching on a horsetail (the ancient plant) or maybe a rush by the roadside, and we all surround it, shooting like mad. It stays there, balancing on the head of the plant, rotating around and around blown by the wind, looking very flimsy and unsubstantial, but letting all 10 of us shoot it from many different angles. What a great experience,and we all get good shots of this rarely seen species.
We drive back to San Ramon for 3 nights in a different hotel than where we stayed on the way in. We had planned to have 4 nights at my favorite place in central Peru, Pampa Hermosa. But they send David an email during our first trip saying they had sold the hotel, and we couldn’t stay there. Serious bummer. Pampa Hermosa was great as an eco lodge, as once you got there you just walked trails and didn’t use a car, plus it was very comfortable with good food. Oh well. So we stayed an extra night at Oxapampa, which worked out well. The old PH owners suggested we stay in San Ramon at their brother’s hotel and drive out for the day, so that’s the plan. It turns out the brother’s hotel, Monte Prado, is right next store to our original hotel, Cerro Verde, only it is much nicer. Bigger, nicer rooms, great showers, good food, a lovely balcony where we eat and can spread out our computers to work on photos, good internet, all in all a good upgrade. I would stay here at Hotel Monte Prado again, on the main highway out of town at km 99.7. Except our room had bats in the walls, and the first night I had a dead bat in my shower that washed up on my feet, but hey, nobody’s perfect.
Day 24 Fri June 3 – 4×4 into Pampa Hermosa for the day, 24km of rough road. PH has recommended a driver in a 4×4 bus/combi to drive us into the lodge for the day. They tell David the road is improved, but it’s still a long hour and a half bumping over a steep, dusty mountain road. The road is too steep for Juan and our regular van. But the new driver is good, very experienced with the bad road, and we have such a good day we decide to come back for a second day as well. We see lots of butterflies, especially down at the stream about a km or so down the trail from the waterfall crossing. David baits heavily and the butterflies come in swarms. I get down there about noon, and Fred and Kristine are in a daze from so many butterflies to shoot.
Day 25 Sat June 4 – back to Pampa Hermosa, where we see a number of different species from the previous day. Yesterday we had lots of Euselasia metalmarks, and today we see a lot less. But we see quite a few more skippers. You just never know.
Day 26 Sun June 5 – work lower Pampa Hermosa road, then drive 2 hours to Tarma for the night. We drive up with Juan in our regular van about 12 km in, where the road splits. The right hand goes up steeply to PH, where you start to need 4×4. We take the left hand road which angles down to the river, another km or so. We stop at a bridge that looks a bit shaky, but a local guy says no problem, big trucks cross it all the time. We get out and walk across, and Juan drives the van over, swaying and swinging.
We spend the morning here until about 2pm, and see more new species from a bit lower. We’re about 1100m, but it is what I call disturbed village habitat, or village edge, more open than the forest at Pampa Hermosa. There are a few houses but almost no people, 1 dog who becomes very friendly when the food comes out. We get 2 species of Caria, the gorgeous sparkling green riodinids, first of the trip, and more new Euselasia species, including the spectacular E.toppini. This must a good time for them. I would come back here for a day again, it compliments PH well, as it is just a bit lower. Lots of crescents, emperors (4 species), and other edge species.
We then drive the 2 hours to Tarma for the night. We eat dinner at our hotel, Los Portales, in their fancy dining room. The food is good, but very slow, it seems to take hours. Several of us just have soup and dessert, as we have been dessert deprived for the last week or so. No desserts in Oxapampa, not that any of us are going to starve to death without desserts. But it’s fun to get crepes with dulce de leche, a chocolate symphony, and bananas in rum, all with chocolate ice cream. We’re at 3100m, so it is chilly at night, but the rooms have little heaters and ours works great.
Day 27 Mon June 6 – drive back to Lima over the pass, take folks to the airport, end of trip 2. We stop at a couple of places to look for bugs, but it’s too cool at the high Ticlio pass, 4900m, and we only see a pair of Colias. A little lower we get out at 3500m, at Puente Rio Blanco above San Marcos on a dirt road off to the left, where the old trout farm tanks are, and score with a beautiful satyr, Argyrophorus lamna. It has an intricate pattern ventrally, and when we catch it we see the bright silver patch on the dorsal forewing, a new genus for me.
We fight our way through Lima traffic to get to our hotel, Mama Panchita, which is closer to the airport than Miraflores. We walk down the street to Lorenzo’s for our farewell dinner to the people leaving from group 2, and including Gill who is joining us for group 3. Tom arrives late tonight, hopefully. I have pasta, ravioli with meat sauce, and it is tasty. We have to hunt on the menu, as they don’t have half the items, but we manage. Even ice cream for desert, though they are out of chocolate, and no fudge, but we make do with lucuma, a local flavor. A life ice cream for me. Be warned about not getting chicken here, as Michelle has some and is sick that night. It wasn’t very well cooked. David had some of her leftovers and felt bad for the next day or so. Stick with the pasta, not much to go wrong with that.
Day 28 Tue June 7 – fly to Tarapoto on a 9:30am flight, where our driver, Juan, meets us. It took him 2 days to drive up here in the north. He arranged for another driver to transfer us from Tarma to Lima yesterday.
We drive to Moyobamba to stay with a Japanese couple, good cooks who serve lots of veggies and fish from their own fish pond. We had stopped at the deep ravine below the road where the oil birds are on our way to Moyobamba, but it was shaded in the afternoon, and the birds were quiet. Gil gets some photos of them on the walls, but it was better when sunny in the morning on my previous trip.
Day 29 Wed June 8 – we walk the trails at the hotel, up the water pipeline into the forest. This is good as we have garden habitat, then along the pipeline, and in the forest, so we have a good variety of species. We get our first looks at a favorite, Starry Night Cracker, Hamadryas laomamia, plus H.chloe, the blue and red spotted forest cracker. Another popular species here is the gorgeous deep purple Dynamine gisella, which flies at the edge of the forest.
Day 30 Thur June 9 – go across the street to the birding spot at the lodge Yakanki. This has a long trail up into the forest, through coffee, that can be productive. David has led bird groups here, and saw the spectacular pink and purple Alesa telephae here back in August 2013, but no luck today with that species. This place has a couple of complicated names. The old name is Mishquiyacu, and the new one on the sign is Mishquiyaquillo, a bit higher than our hotel. We’re at 1000-1050m.
The day starts out clear as a bell at dawn, but then fog rolls up the valley, which then lifts and turns to overcast. Finally it clears about noon, the sun comes out, and we have lots of butterflies. David had lugged up his backpack with our lunches and left it at the side of the trail at a creek crossing, and someone lifted it, the scum. Oh well, he probably needed the backpack more than David, as it was an old pack, nothing useful in it except our lunches. David goes back down and tells the hotel, who is appalled and makes us a simple lunch of cheese and ham sandwiches and juice, and 2 women haul it a km or so up the trail to us. Very nice of them, and David brings up a watermelon for dessert, yum. Good thing, as the butterfiles get really active about noon from 2pm, which we would have missed if we had gone into town to a restaurant. Heaven forbid we miss a meal.
Day 31 Fri June 10 – drive to Abra Patricia for 4 nights at Owlet Lodge, 2300m, went by Morro de Calzada about 9am. It was too foggy and overcast, very few butterflies, so we moved on. We worked Playa Las Mariposas 1050m, lots of butterflies. We turned off to visit this little spot that I had stopped by 5 years ago, a swimming hole for locals, that looked like it had good possibilities for butterflies. It was raining lightly when we arrived about 11:30, and it didn’t look good. So we decided to have lunch, as there was a small open shed for cover.
While Juan was making the tuna, we wandered around to stretch our legs, and suddenly the sun came out, and we were swarmed with bugs. David’s bait brought in tons of stuff, including a new Pythonides for me. Bernard Hermier says it looks like Pythonides rosa, from western Mexico, far out of range. Lots of other goodies too.
Day 32 Sat June 11 – went to the reserve for the special hummingbird about an hour away to the west. This is over the pass to the west slope, so it is drier. We all got good looks at the hummer, even though they weren’t coming to the feeders. A local guy shows us to a lek across the road, and people get good photos. Plus the sun came out and we get some good butterflies.
Day 33 Sun June 12 – walk trails at the Owlet lodge, 2300m. The main trail takes off from behind our top cabins, of 3 sets of cabins, and goes 200m to a tower, then another 100m to a junction. Today we go to the left at the junction, which loops around to the main gate where we drove in. It is signed 1200m, but it seems quite a bit longer. There is a treefall about a third of the way from the top, so I double back, go down to the parking lot, work the road and take the other end of the trail up.
We see a zillion satyrs, of course, and have a difficult time sorting them all out. Many Forsterinaria satyrs, dark with a white apical spot, I think we have at least 3 species. You separate the species by the amount of squiggles in the inner line on the VHW, not for the faint of heart.
It is cool in the early morning, 59F in my room, but the sun breaks through and it warms up so I don’t need my long sleeved shirt, always a good sign. From about 10 to 2pm we have lots of butterflies. I love to watch the spectacular Morpho sulkowskyi floating over the ravines filled with bamboo. Too bad they don’t appear interested in the bait, and we never see them stop.
One of the more fabulous satyrs is the strongly patterned Junea dorinda, which comes to bait on a fern, right on the walkway between the parking lot and the dining room. I get poor shots, but I tell David about it, and of course he gets stunning shots. The others lust after it, Gil’s goal for tomorrow is to get shots as good as David’s. David also scores with a new one for me, Proboscis pomarancia, another big gaudy (for a satyr) bug.
Day 34 Mon June 13 – 2nd day on the trails at the Owlet Lodge, do the Mono Trail (Trocha Mono). This trail goes to the right from the junction 100m past the tower, and wraps around to the right, connecting with the owlet trail that takes off just above the parking lot. David baits it from the lower end, and I meet him at the tower, after he’s walked it coming up, baiting all the way. He’s a baiting fool, which is a tremendous help for photography.
I go down the trail, it drops about 100m in elevation over the next 200-300m, lots of steep steps. Then it connects with the main trail and is a lovely, relatively level trail, lots of gravel, that wraps around the hillsides back towards the parking lot. Good eastern exposure, so this is a good trail by about 9:30 or 10 in the morning. I plan to walk it back from the parking lot, and skip the steep climb back up to the tower, but by late morning it clouds up.
I spend some time around the parking lot, and walk the road back to the entrance. There are several wet spots with puddles, and I find a fresh Leodonta, which I catch and shoot the dorsal. I’m looking for a yellow Catasticta that I chased in the woods, in a sunny ravine, but no luck. Catasticta are a nightmare for me unless I can shoot both sides, which means picking them up. They love to sit at the edge of water, so you can often find them in wet places, but not today.
I do find the Junea again, in the middle of the road. I find a 2nd one on the porch right outside my cabin, it must be my day for this beautiful species. Hopefully the other people ran into one as well.
Day 35 Tue June 14 – drive back to Moyobamba, 2 nights w/the Japanese couple, Playa Las Mariposas, or Playa de Mariposas. GPS = S 5 40.57, W 77 39.19, 3350’, about 1000-1050m. Tons of bugs! This is our best day for numbers of species of trip 3. We see a number of different species from what we had here 4 days ago, on our way to the Owlet Lodge.
This place has all the perfect ingredients for a great butterfly spot: running water, lots of gravel/sand bars, plenty of human efluvia to attract them as it is a local swimming hole, (plus we put out lots of bait), good forest on the surrounding hills so we have lots of good habitat to draw from, and sunshine. I see a new species of Heliconius, with a thin line of red and yellow on the FW, lots of other Heliconius to sort out, lots and lots of crescents, great swallowtails (12 species!) including several of the gorgeous kite-swallowtails, both species of Cybdelis, the list goes on.
We’re all tired by 3pm, when we load up to drive the hour and a half back to Moyobamba and our Japanese hostal for the next 2 nights. They give us their delicious tilapia fish with herbs, best tilapia I’ve ever had.
Day 36 Wed June 15 – GPS = S 6 4.46, W 76 58.46, walked up the hill and worked the trail for the day. We drive across the street to the lodge Yakanki and up several hundred meters and leave the van to walk up the trail into the hills for the day. This is where David’s backpack with our lunches was liberated before. So he gets a kid from the hotel to bring up our lunches, rather than leave them by the trail, for us at noon.
The butterflies don’t seem as numerous as before, on the 9th, though the weather is bright and sunny to start, and before it was overcast until about 11:30 or 12. We do find some new species, my favorite is a fresh Udranomia eurus. Both David and Priscilla get great photos of it, a new one for me. Before we had more clearwings, in my opinion, but today seems quieter. Maybe they were more concentrated before, as they didn’t really fly until noon. Maybe butterflies only need to fly for a couple of hours to do what they need to accomplish. Who knows. We have a good day anyway, getting hundreds of photos, including a number of new species for the trip. We break 1000 species today, with quite a few unknowns to be id’ed in the future, so it has been a great trip.
We celebrate with our favorite grilled chicken by the Japanese man, he’s the cook with his chef’s hat. He makes great chicken, sort of a teriyaki but different, something Peruvian. We had requested it, and they happily made it for us, plus delicious pumpkin soup. No desserts here, guess that’s how they stay so thin.
Day 36 Wed June 15 – back across the street, same place we were on June 9, 1050m
Day 37 Thur June 16 – drive up the road to Ruta del Agua, lunch at hostal, then drive to Tarapoto, 4 nights at Cordillera Escalara Lodge. Ruta del Agua is a trail that come down above the hotel, and the stream crosses the paved road, a couple of km from the hotel. GPS = S 6 5.27, W 76 58.3 at 1000m.
People ride horses down from the hills, tie them up and take a mototaxi into town for shopping or to sell their coffee, so there is lots of horse poop and other nasties to attract the butterflies. David baits the trail up maybe a km or so, and we spend the morning tromping up and down, trying to stay out of the way of the locals. As it gets sunnier the bugs get better, as usual, and some of the best stuff is around noon where the trail starts, with a steep incline down to the pavement. We find Pierids here, and a new swallowtail for the trip, Heraclides astyalus.
Back to the Japanese couple for a tasty lunch, then we drive 3 hours to Tarapoto, to the lowlands for our last location. We hire a taxi to lead us to the lodge, which is a bit outside of town up a 2.6 bad dirt road, following signs to Cordillera Escalara. We finally make it, and get our rooms way up above reception, 200 steps up a rocky, cobblestoned path. This hotel has been sold, but the new owners are taking our reservation, fortunately. However they are very lightly staffed, the guy at the desk seems to do most everything, so no laundery. But they have internet, our first for the last couple of weeks. But it doesn’t work in the lobby, where we work on photos, but it does work in our rooms. We’re tired, so David orders pizza to be delivered, and it is just fine.
Day 38 Fri June 17 – drive 1km up road to Cordillera Escalara Preserve, work both sides of stream, GPS S 6 27.38, W 76 21.1 at 475m, or 1320’. We don’t find a lot of stuff, but we do pick up a number of new species. Probably the best is Myscelia capenas, the southern bluewing, a gorgeous bug. This is hanging out around the toilets, always a good place to check, with a couple of Callicore and the beautiful Polygrapha cyanea.
great website for help with Ithomiinae and Heliconina around Tarapoto – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/taxome/ith/tarapoto/sutzon.html and even better site by Mathieu Joron, http://isyeb.mnhn.fr/joron/mjitho.html I hope to id most of my Ithomiinae and Heliconius using Joron’s site.
Day 39 Sat June 18 – drive north of Tarapoto to tunnel, birding trail 1000m, GPS = S 6 27.31, W 76 7.16, also just under 1000m, 3220’. This is a trail that David used to work on his birding tours, but he hasn’t been here in a couple of years. They are doing construction and putting in big power lines, so the start of the trail is trashed. But we get through it and onto a nice trail that goes up and down through the forest.
We have a sunny day and what looks like good forest, but we see few butterflies, who knows why. It may be the time of the year. Yesterday we talked to a caretaker who let us onto the property across the stream, and he said mid October/November was the best time for butterflies, not now. Oh well, that was one of the things David and I wanted to explore was how coming in May/June compared to Oct/Nov/early Dec, when I have usually come in the past. We have definitely decided the northern hemisphere fall months are better than now, but we have had many new species that may only fly during these May/June months. There’s always something flying.
David baits down the trail and we explore, when a busload of kids shows up. I’m up at the mirador and I can hear them shrieking from the start of the trail, and as they walk through the woods. So I hide out up the trail at the overlook, and fortunately they continue on the main trail. Apparently there is some sort of research station that has animals, more of a zoo, and we run in to several families going to see the animals. Today is Saturday, and apparently this is a fun family activity.
We head back to the van at 12:30, then go 5 minutes down the road to a restaurant, El Mono y La Gata, where we have grilled chicken. Then we go back about 10 minutes past the trail to check out a hummingbird feeding place, but the guy who ran it died about a year ago, and it doesn’t appear to be well maintained. By now it is overcast and we’re hearing thunder, so we head back to the hotel. It rains by the time we get there, but the desk guy meets us with umbrellas for our 200 step hike up to our rooms.
Because the hotel doesn’t do food except for breakfast, David has been ordering take out. Pizza the first night, chicken and fries last night, so tonight is Chinese.
Day 40 Sun June 19 – GPS = S 6 34.36, W 76 18.43, Juan Guerra dry seasonal forest, 40 minutes east of Tarapoto. We find an interesting mix of species here, several new species for our trip, not big numbers but lots of certain species. There are lots and lots of Dynamine postverta, the Four-eyed Sailor we get in Texas, plus 3 other Dynamine species, and lots of the more uncommon Catonephele salacia. Another new species that is abundant is Anthanassa hermas taeniata, a very checkered small orange crescent. But then we also find an unknown skipper that takes us a while to figure out, Telemiades lagonus, one totally unknown to me. Fortunately both Gil and Tom got good shots of 2 different individuals. There are also quite a few of the gorgeous Caria mantinea, one of the stunning sparkly green metalmarks. So it’s a good way to end our fabulous trip.
Day 41 Mon June 20 – Some of the group go back up the road to the Cordillera Escalara Preserve for a couple of hours this morning, I stay back at the hotel. We leave the hotel at noon for our 2:40pm flight back to Lima, then hang out at the Lima airport for our midnight international flights. My United flight departs at 12:35am, June 21, for Houston. I’ve been to Peru many times, but every time I come, I keep seeing lots of new species, so I’ll have to keep coming back.