The Spot-throated Hummingbird (Leucippus taczanowski) is one of the (almost) endemic birds in the Marañon valley and one of the top finds for an excursion in this remote northeastern part of Peru. The of the Hummingbird´s underparts are cream or very light gray and there are small glittering spots on the chest and throat. The Spot-throated Hummingbird looks similar to the Tumbes Hummingbird (Leucippus baeri), but this species is limited to the lower elevations on the Pacific slope in the extreme northwest of Peru. These two species generally replace each other and are not syntopic. The Tumbes Hummingbird is smaller than the Spot-throated Hummingbird and has a simple (unspotted) throat. If you want to see a Spot-throated Hummingbird singing in the wild, you have to prepare for a trip to the Marañon valley.
Coming the way from the small town of Chamaya in the wider area of the Maranon Valley, I went for Bagua Grande along the Rio Utcubamba – a tributary of the Río Marañon. I am supposed to go to Pedro Ruiz through a very impressive cactus area. At a natural site of vegetation along the river I was lucky with the sighting of the Spot-throated Hummingbird.
There are two recommended starting points for exploring the bird watching areas in the Marañon Valley. The one is from the north, from Jaen and the other from Celendín in the south. Celendín is only 105 km from the capital of the province of the same name, Cajamarca. The trip from Cajamarca to Celendín can be completed in less than 2 hours. But already on the Río Namora you can find interesting birds such as the White-winged Cinclodes (Cinclodes atacamensis), the Black-crested Warbler (Basileuterus nigrocristatus) or finally a Plain-tailed Warbling-Finch (Poospiza alticola). Then excursion continues on the road. At the Comullca mountain pass, which lies at about 3,600 meters above sea level (asl), the landscape is dominated by grasslands. This is the perfect habitat for birds such as the Many-striped Canastero (Asthenes flammulata) and the Plumbeous Sierra-Finch (Phrygilus unicolor). After the pass, the road descends towards Celendín. Some woods with alder trees next to the street are the retreat for other special birds such as Cajamarca Rufous Antpitta (Grallaria rufula), Jelski’s Chat-Tyrant (Silvicultrix jelskii) and Rufous-eared Brush-Finch (Atlapetes rufigenis). After spending the night in Celendín, it is important to start the new day very early in the morning in order to get the most out of the first hours of the day and to keep an eye on the productive time. Now you actually drive in the middle of the Marañon Valley. The first important stop here is the Hacienda El Limón, a small town about 30 minutes behind the Jelic pass. El Limón is a plateau above the valley at an altitude of around 2,000 meters above sea level. At this point, Maranon Thrush (Turdus maranonicus), Buff-bellied Tanager (Thlypopsis inornata), Grey-winged Inca-Finch (Incaspiza ortizi) and of course the Spot-throated Hummingbird are at home. The drive from El Limón to the city of Chacanto on the banks of the Marañon River takes less than 1 hour. During the descent, it’s a good idea to draw attention to the dry vegetation along the road. When you arrive in Chacanto, you should stop at the bridge, from where the Purple-throated Euphonia (Euphonia chlorotica) or Yellow-tailed Oriole (Icterus mesomelas) can be observed. From Chacanto to the north, a narrow road leads to the small town of Balzas. This is the most reliable place to look for the endemic and rare Yellow-faced Parrotlet (Forpus xanthops). From Chacanto you can drive into the mountains on the east side of the valley towards the town of Leymebamba. However, leaving Chacanto means leaving the Cajamarca region and entering the Amazon region.
In October I decided to drive east from the coast of Peru towards the Río Marañon valley. The Marañon Valley runs along the borders between the Cajamarca and Amazon regions. The Marañon Valley is a fairly dry valley with high average temperatures. The mountains flanking the valley are over 3,500 meters above sea level and the valley floor is 900 meters, creating a canyon that is more than 2700 meters deep. The valley is therefore exposed to a “rain shadow effect” because it is surrounded by high peaks, the clouds from the Pacific and the moisture from the forests of the Amazon are blocked by these chains. This effect creates a dry climate, which is exacerbated by the high temperatures and the low elevation of the valley floor. Several endemic plant and animal species have developed in this isolated dry ecosystem for millions of years.
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