Friday, May 28, 2010

Peru, Day 7 May 8, 2010 I get high on birding!

We left our hotel in Olmos and headed up to the Abra Porculla area. The pass is at 2100 meters, just under 7,000 ft, not all that high, but enough to have a little chill in the air. The views from the pass are breathtaking! The clouds were below us and the birds in the area were great. There are a number of endemics which we were looking for.

We did quite well here, picking up Chapman’s Antshrike, Rufous-necked Foliage Gleaner, Black-cowled Saltator and the sometimes difficult to find Piura Chat-Tyrant. I got a decent look at Bay-crowned Brush-finch. A Peruvian Sheartail, though not rare, was a big treat. There is something about long-tailed hummingbirds… Spot-throated Hummingbird is far from a “looker”, but we were very happy to add it to our list. I was walking along the road and heard what sounded like a bumble bee. I looked up and saw a tiny hummingbird zipping off, a Short-tailed Woodstar. Unfortunately no one else saw it. Luckily after a little searching we re-located it. We had both Black-chested Buzzard-eagle and Variable hawk flying over. Maranon Crescent-chest was probably my favorite bird here

We stopped at a scrubby hill side to look for Little Inca Finch. It took some real effort, but we finally got good looks when one responded to Alex’s play back. We also had Elegant Crescent-chest. How could anyone complain about a two crescent-chest day? There were a couple of spinetails working a mossy tree and we had the obligatory grassquits and seed-eaters.

Photos for the day:

Bird list for the day:

1 Great Egret

2 Snowy Egret

3 Cattle Egret

4 Black Vulture

5 Turkey Vulture

6 Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle

7 Variable Hawk

8 Rock Pigeon

9 West Peruvian Dove

10 Eared Dove

11 Ecuadorian Ground-Dove

12 White-tipped Dove

13 Groove-billed Ani

14 White-tipped Swift

15 Gray-chinned Hermit

16 Sparkling Violetear

17 Spot-throated Hummingbird

18 Amazilia Hummingbird

19 Andean Emerald

20 Peruvian Sheartail

21 Short-tailed Woodstar

22 Azara's Spinetail

23 Necklaced Spinetail

24 Rufous-fronted Thornbird

25 Point-tailed Palmcreeper

26 Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaner

27 Chapman's Antshrike

28 Collared Antshrike

29 Northern Slaty-Antshrike

30 Chestnut-crowned Antpitta- Heard

31 Maranon Crescentchest

32 Elegant Crescentchest

33 Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet

34 Mouse-colored Tyrannulet

35 Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant

36 Common Tody-Flycatcher

37 Vermilion Flycatcher

38 Piura Chat-Tyrant

39 Tropical Kingbird

40 Blue-and-white Swallow

41 Speckle-breasted Wren

42 Superciliated Wren

43 Mountain Wren

44 Tropical Gnatcatcher

45 Great Thrush

46 Long-tailed Mockingbird

47 Citrine Warbler

48 Three-banded Warbler

49 Bananaquit

50 Rufous-chested Tanager

51 White-lined Tanager

52 Silver-beaked Tanager

53 Fawn-breasted Tanager

54 Streaked Saltator

55 Black-cowled Saltator

56 Plumbeous Sierra-Finch

57 Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch

58 Little Inca-Finch

59 Blue-black Grassquit

60 Black-and-white Seedeater

61 Chestnut-bellied Seedeater

62 Dull-colored Grassquit

63 Rusty Flowerpiercer

64 Saffron Finch

65 Bay-crowned Brush-Finch

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Peru. May 7, Day 6: A change of elevation and scenery

We woke up in Chiclayo, a smaller group, in a very different place.  We met our new driver, Juan Jose, who I instantly liked. He speaks excellent English and has a great knowledge of Peru and its history. He also is a very good birder, so we had two guides, not just a guide and a driver. We were starting out in the dry Tumbes area of Northwest Peru, not too far from the Ecuadorian border. The Tumbes area, which includes part of Southwestern Ecuador is an area of heavy endemism, with at least 50 range restricted species, about a third of them endangered or vulnerable. There are a wide variety of habitats, from tropical rain forests on the coast to the driest desert on earth in the south.  We have birded this region in Ecuador, but there were still many possibilities on the Peruvian side.

We began the day at Bosque de Pomac, a dry scrub forest. The habitat seemed very familar. It reminded me both of the forest near Rio Hacha Colombia and some of our Texas thorn scrub. We walked down the main road and the birds came very quickly. We had not walked far at all, when Martin spotted a Rufous Flycatcher, one of our main targets for this area. Unfortunately the bird flew quickly. We all didn't see it. We worked the area, trying to refind it, when we were distracted by another, even better bird, Peruvian Plantcutter. This is a bird that can be very difficult to find. We all got good looks, when a second bird came in. Unfortunately my camera situation did not allow photos. After we enjoyed the pair of Plantcutters, we returned to the Rufous Flycatcher area and were rewarded by good looks. We also added Necklaced Spinetail, a very cool looking bird.

We needn't have worried about the flycatcher; they were quite common in the area.  We saw the plantcutter again and got great looks at the Tumbes form of Tropical Gnatcatcher, which looked quite different from other forms I have seen. A Peruvian Meadowlark made a good showing. We have seen these several times, but I still am blown away by it, a RED Meadowlark. Alex took us to a more open area, nearby, where we were able to see Tumbes Swallows flying over. A Peruvian Pygmy Owl answered Alex's whistling. We saw a Coastal Miner working the rocky ground. After we left here, we came across a flock of Peruvian Thick-knees. Then we found another of our targets along the road, White-tailed Jay. This is a spectacular jay, similar to Tufted Jay, which is found in Mexico.

We grabbed lunch at a small restaurant and then went to Quebrada Limon, the most reliable spot for White-winged Guan. This bird was discovered in the 1870s and then not seen again for over 100 years. We arrived at the spot and waited for a local guide, which is necessary. The group started hiking up before he arrived, knowing the guide would catch up. Unfortunately I was struggling a bit with the terrain and still feeling a little off from my bad bout of sea sickness the day before. (maybe a little dehydrated) I was having trouble keeping up, so I decided to stay back and look for butterflies, which seemed to be thick. Shortly after, the local guide passed me, heading after them.

I puttered around, attempting to get some decent photos, with little luck. I did see a number of birds, including more White-tailed Jays and Tumbes Sparrow. I worked up and down the trail a little, talked to the goats, who were not impressed, and tried to keep cool.  I wandered around a little and suddenly worried that I might not be where I needed to be for the group to refind me. I tried to find a landmark that I recognized, but I was a little uncertain. Just as I started to get concerned, I saw them coming down the trail.

Kathy and Jens had stopped by a creek, while Dan and Martin had gone on with the guide. Martin and Dan had fleeting glimpses of the Guan, but Kathy and Jens were the lucky ones! While standing by the creek, several guans came in quite close to drink. Everyone was very happy, but quite tired. We walked back to the van and headed for our hotel. I was feeling a little disappointed in myself for not persevering, but there were plenty more birds to come!

Here are my lousy photos for the day:

Here is my bird list:
1 Great Egret

2 Snowy Egret

3 Cattle Egret

4 Black Vulture

5 Turkey Vulture

6 Harris's Hawk

7 Variable Hawk

8 American Kestrel

9 Peruvian Thick-knee

10 Black-necked Stilt

11 West Peruvian Dove

12 Eared Dove

13 White-tipped Dove

14 Red-masked Parakeet

15 Pacific Parrotlet

16 Groove-billed Ani

17 Peruvian Pygmy-Owl

18 Lesser Nighthawk

19 Amazilia Hummingbird

20 Green Kingfisher

21 Scarlet-backed Woodpecker

22 Golden-olive Woodpecker

23 Coastal Miner

24 Pale-legged Hornero

25 Necklaced Spinetail

26 Collared Antshrike

27 Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet

28 Mouse-colored Tyrannulet

29 Short-tailed Field-Tyrant

30 Rufous Flycatcher

31 Peruvian Plantcutter

32 White-tailed Jay

33 Blue-and-white Swallow

34 Southern Rough-winged Swallow

35 Tumbes Swallow

36 Fasciated Wren

37 Superciliated Wren

38 Tropical Gnatcatcher

39 Great Thrush

40 Long-tailed Mockingbird

41 Bananaquit

42 Blue-gray Tanager

43 Streaked Saltator

44 Cinereous Finch

45 Saffron Finch

46 Tumbes Sparrow

47 Peruvian Meadowlark

48 Scrub Blackbird

49 Shiny Cowbird

50 White-edged Oriole

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Peru, May 6, 2010 Day 5: Step one to my Peruvian Weight Loss Plan

Bet you were confused about the original title of this series of blogs. My "weight loss plan" didn't start at the beginning of the trip, but on this day. We did a pelagic trip. Peru is well known for phenomanal pelagic (that is deep sea) birding. The cold Humboldt current skirts the Peruvian coast, causing an upwelling of sea life, ie. food. This of course brings in the birds.

When we were planning the trip, Martin was ecstatic at the idea of doing a pelagic. These Peruvian trips are so exciting, I even was very enthused. I had sworn to myself that I would never set foot on a boat again after the last Texas pelagic I went on. Our pelagics can be grim. You can go all day and only see a handful, if even that, of sea birds. Combine that with a penchant for seasickness, and its hard to get worked up. The last trip had been particulary bad. But this was Peru! There would be bazillions of birds! And I had heard the seas sometimes were very calm! And I was going to try the scopolamine patch! It would all be great!

It really was great at first. We left out of Callao right at dawn. I was picking up life birds even before we got on the boat. Belcher's, Gray and Kelp Gulls were zipping around. Inca Terns were just as beautiful as their photos. Peruvian Pelicans sailed over head. We took a small dinghy out to the boat, which looked great. We settled in on the bow after a quick breakfast of coffee and sandwichs. The coffee tasted great. We set out and I was feeling wonderful. Unlike the boats I have taken pelagic trips on in the Gulf of Mexico, this one didn't reek of fish and diesel. The sea breeze felt wonderful. We quickly added Great Grebe and Peruvian Booby to our list.

One of my most wanted birds for Peru was Humboldt Penguin. I had never seen any penguin, other than in the zoo. I knew that my chances of getting to Antarctica were less than nil, so this was probably my only shot.  I wasn't disappointed! We passed a rocky island and there were a handful of the penguins, looking just like they do in the movies. I was delighted! There were also South American Sea Lions and many boobies and cormorants. Gunnar Engblom, who is the head of Kolibri Expeditions, was on the boat. He told me we would see even more on the way back in.

Shortly after we passed the islands, we began seeing large numbers of Sooty Shearwaters. Then a bird that I would have thought was an alcid if I had been on the North American Coast, landed and immediatly disappeared below the surface, a Peruvian Diving Petrel. I spotted several more. They have a very distinct flight style. After that the albatross started to arrive.  I believe the first for me was Waved, but I also saw White-capped and Black-browed. Elliots (White-vented) Storm-petrels were pretty common.  My lifer Chilean Skua bullied its way through. Then we had Ringed Storm-petrel, which I was very excited about. Gunnar promised to look for a whale for me, as I still had never seen one.

Then it happened. I noticed the coffee that had tasted so good earlier was kind of sitting a little funny. The sea was a bit rougher and we were getting a little spray on the bow. Martin and the others went to the top of the boat. I decided to stay put, moving to the middle to try to avoid too much spray. I took a little drink of water and that was the end of my pleasant sea trip. I will not go further in describing what happened. I ended up sleeping some, which helped, at least while I was sleeping. I missed some birds, but at that point I don't think I would have cared if an Ivory-billed Woodpecker flew onto the deck.

At one point I heard Martin say "That Albatross has a yellow bill" My reaction was "Well, thats just great for the albatross!" I had no idea that it was significant. Martin and Gunnar photographed the bird and later a second bird that also had a yellow bill. They turned out to be Chatham Island Albatrosses, birds that breed only on a small rocky island called the Pyramid, east of New Zealand. I did not go out to see them, much to my dismay when I was feeling more like myself. Later in the day Gunnar called for me to come out on deck. I was able to drag myself to the door just in time to see the spouting of a Blue Whale. It was VERY impressive, even in my state. It looked like a geyser shooting straight up.

By the end of the day I was feeling much better. I did resume my birding and enjoyed the show. We cruised by the islands Gunnar had mentioned that morning, and were able to see huge numbers of sea birds. The penguins were thick on several of the small rocky islands. The number of Peruvian Boobies was staggering. A Surf Cinclodes was picking along the ledges.  I was really glad I had not been smelling those islands earlier in the day. The skyline of Lima was beautifully lit in the late sun. Despite my mal de mer, I managed to get 20 life birds.

We hustled off the boat, as we had an interior flight to catch. Dan, Martin and I, along with Kathy and Jens, were flying north for the second section of our tour. We had to say goodbye to Brian, Tom and Doug. I had really enjoyed birding with them and would miss their friendly joking. They were heading back to the states. We also said goodbye to Julio, who had been our second driver. I was going to miss his cooking! Alex, our guide, had skipped the pelagic. He met us at the airport and continued with us on our flight to Chiclayo.

Here is our my lousy photos for the day:
And here is my short but excellent bird list:
1 Great Grebe

2 Humboldt Penguin

3 White-capped Albatross

4 Black-browed Albatross

5 Waved Albatross

6 White-chinned Petrel

7 Pink-footed Shearwater

8 Sooty Shearwater

9 Elliot's Storm-Petrel

10 Ringed Storm-Petrel

11 Markham's Storm-Petrel

12 Peruvian Diving-Petrel

13 Peruvian Booby

14 Peruvian Pelican

15 Red-legged Cormorant

16 Guanay Cormorant

17 Black-crowned Night-Heron

18 Gray-hooded Gull

19 Gray Gull

20 Franklin's Gull

21 Belcher's Gull

22 Kelp Gull

23 Peruvian Tern

24 Inca Tern

25 Chilean Skua

26 Surf Cinclodes

Monday, May 24, 2010

Peru, May 5, 2010: My 2000th Bird!

This day marked a big milestone for me, my 2000 species of bird. Unfortunately I didn't know what species it was, or even that I saw it this day. I was a little confused about what I had and hadn't seen on our previous trips to South America. I had a pretty good idea, but thought I had ended the day with 1999. Luckily when we got home and I entered my data I discovered that the 2000 bird was the last bird of the this day! (It was a much better bird for that milestone than Belcher's Gull, which was my first bird of the following day) No, you have to wait until the end of my post to find out what it actually was. Suspense needs to build.

This was a day of some retracing steps. We started the day at the spot where the Rufous-backed Inca Finch had eluded us on the first day. We hiked up, with Alex playing his iPod. Our luck prevailed and within a few minutes we got a decent look. I was thrilled to find a Giant Conebill, a bird I had missed here the first day. Sparkling Violetears zipped around. We also had White-bellied Hummingbirds. Julio, our driver, had breakfast ready for us, so we went down and ate. While we sat there another Inca Finch flew in and perched right by us. It would have been easy to anthropomorphize his behavior and imagine him laughing at us. Ash-breasted Sierra Finches were common at this sight. We had a Blue-and-Yellow Tanager flit through the trees, a bird that was my "tart's tick" a few days before. (Tart's tick is a British birding expression for a bird any decent birder should have seen years before)

To be honest I don't remember a whole lot of this day, until the end. I know we birded along the road, heading up to the Ticlio bog. I do remember eating at a Chifa (South American Chinese restaurant), where one of our group confessed that he was not feeling all that great and wasn't going to eat. There was a stop at Lake Junin, again, where was the Junin Grebes again, along with Common Miner and Bright-rumped Yellow-finches. We drove up and up into the mountains, passing several huge copper and gold mines, which are a bit disconcerting. Its obvious that there is a negative environmental impact, but the economy of Peru depends heavily on the income generated by these mines.

We arrived at the bog mid afternoon. The temperature was quite cold. It began to snow very lightly. We worked our way across the soggy field. We had a distant sighting of White-winged Cinclodes. Then Alex spotted "my bird", a juvenile Diademed Sandpiper Plover! There is a photo of this bird hanging in our apartment. Martin had seen it in Chile years ago. I ached to see one the first time I saw that photo. The bird was hunkered down initially. I got a few poor digiscoped photos with my point and shoot, but I was happy. Even before I realized that this was bird 2000, I was ecstatic.

We started back to the van. One of our group, the member who didn't eat lunch, was walking off quickly, looking for some privacy. When he got back to the van, he did not look well. The combination of his "stomach" problems, the fast walk and the very high altitude seemed to be taking a toll. We got in the van and started back for Lima. Shortly after we left, he was slumping in his seat, seemingly asleep. Then to the alarm of all of us in the van, he fell out of his seat, onto the floor of the van. Martin and one of the other members of the group,  got him back in his seat. He roused a bit, but they had to hold him up. As we descended to a lower altitude he progressively got better. By the time we got down about 2,000 feet lower, he was fine. I had a similar incident in Ecuador several years back. High altitudes can do crazy things. We got back to Lima a couple of hours later and he was joking and acting like he was fine. It was an important reminder to respece the mountains! When we checked into our hotel I was delighted to see our old friend and traveling companion, Dan Peak, was already checked in. He was joining the group for several days.

Here are the photos for the day:

My bird list for the day:
1 Andean Goose

2 Yellow-billed Teal

3 Junin Grebe

4 Great Egret

5 Puna Ibis

6 Variable Hawk

7 Mountain Caracara

8 Slate-colored Coot

9 Andean Lapwing

10 Diademed Sandpiper-Plover

11 Puna Snipe

12 Andean Gull

13 Rock Pigeon

14 Eared Dove

15 Black-winged Ground-Dove

16 Sparkling Violetear

17 White-bellied Hummingbird

18 Andean Hillstar

19 Black-breasted Hillstar

20 Andean Flicker

21 Common Miner

22 Plain-breasted Earthcreeper

23 Bar-winged Cinclodes

24 White-bellied Cinclodes

25 Streak-backed Canastero

26 Junin Canastero- Heard

27 Sierran Elaenia

28 Cinereous Ground-Tyrant

29 White-fronted Ground-Tyrant

30 Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant

31 White-browed Chat-Tyrant

32 Tropical Kingbird

33 Blue-and-white Swallow

34 Brown-bellied Swallow

35 Andean Swallow

36 Great Thrush

37 Chiguanco Thrush

38 Paramo Pipit

39 Giant Conebill

40 Blue-and-yellow Tanager

41 Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch

42 White-winged Diuca-Finch

43 Rufous-backed Inca-Finch

44 Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch

45 Rufous-collared Sparrow

46 Golden-bellied Grosbeak

47 Hooded Siskin

48 Black Siskin

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Peru, May 4, 2010, Day 3: Ride 'em cowgirl!

This was our day to visit Bosque Unchog. This site was one of the reasons we adjusted the amount of time we were spending in Peru. Its a very reliable place for Golden-backed Mountain Tanager, the last of the  Buthraupis that Martin needed. Its not an easy bird to find. These woods are also home to Rufous-browed Hemispingus, Pardusco and Bay-vented Cotingas, along with a number of other birds. Its at a fairly high elevation, about 3,600 meters, just under 12,000 ft.

The bosque is a bit distant from "civilisation" so we had to leave the hotelvery early. Since I had some difficulty with hiking the day before, we made last minute arrangements to have a horse for me. We arrived at the site, but there was no horse to be seen. Alex said we could start down and the man with the horse would catch up. We could hear snipe calling in the fields below us. We started on the trail just as the sun was coming up. It was a little chilly, but not bad. The sky was partly cloudy. We started down and I wasn't having too much trouble keeping up.

The mountain-tanager is sometimes seen close to the beginning of the trail, but we were not so lucky this day. We did see a number of birds as we walked. At the start of the trail we had a singing Line-fronted Canastero. Tyrian Metaltails, a hummingbird we have seen many times, were around, but we were thrilled to see Coppery Metaltails. A Sword-billed Hummingbird flew in, always a great bird to see.  The forest itself was very interesting. Because of the altitude, the trees are small and many were covered in mosses. There was still no sign of the horse, so I worked my way down, only slightly slower than the group, catching up when they stopped for birds.

The first big thrill we had was when a dark rusty and black bird flew across the path, a Rufous-browed Hemispingus. This can be a very difficult bird to see, missed by many birders that come to the bosque. I was very happy with the brief, but good look, but we were really lucky in that this guy was a show off! He came in very close and allowed photos. Even better, he was followed by a second bird. We were all in an euphoric state,  higher than the altitude. Even if we didn't see another bird, we would have been happy.  We pushed on.

We quickly added Pardusco to the day list. This tanager is not exactly a looker, but its another bird that can be missed. We kept scanning for a big golden bird, but didn't have any luck in that department. We did have Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, which were not new for us, but gorgeous birds anyway. We finally arrived at an area where Alex had seen the Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager in the past. The weather was pleasant. We all worked hard scanning and listening.

We were kind of spread out on a hillside, overlooking the forest. Martin and I, were further down the hill. We saw Bryan, Tom and Doug conferring, looking at a bird perched up in a tree. We started up towards them and heard the word "cotinga". Initially they thought it was the common Red-crested Cotinga, but as we got closer they realized it was the much rarer Bay-vented Cotinga! We scrambled up and all got good looks and I got a horrible photo. We also picked up Golden-collared Tanager, another of our targets. A Yungas Pygmy-owl showed very well.  Then things got rather quiet.

After waiting for quite a while Alex suggested that he would go down into the woods and see what he could find. Bryan and Tom decided to go with him. I was feeling the altitude just a little and was happy to wait where we were. They took off down the path to a lower area where they could cut across. The sky had gotten cloudy and some mist was blowing in. They were quite a ways down, when they started to wave. As we hurried down it started to rain a little. We caught up to them just as the rain increased. Alex was searching the hill with his scope, while Tom held an umbrella over his head.

It turns out that Brian had seen the Golden-backed Mountain-tanager in the woods. Just as Tom looked in the scope that Brian had put on it, the mist hid the bird from view. Alex could hear it calling. We got our scope set up, too. Unfortunately the mist was just getting worse and worse. We tried seeing through it, until our eyes ached. Its called cloud forest for a reason. The rain let up and from time to time we could just make out the shapes of the trees, but no flashes of yellow. Alex went down to the forest edge to listen. The bird was still calling (we did hear it) but he didn't see it. It was extremely frustrating! The mist cleared and there was still no sign of the bird.

The good news was that my "horse" arrived. It turned out to be a mule, but that was fine with me. I made it down the hill, but wasn't looking forward to the long hike back up. I found out later that deciding to get the mule at the last minute was a bit of a hassle for Gunnar, so if you do visit Peru and go to Bosque Unchog, decide early! It was WELL worth it, believe me. The mule's owner, Mr. Reye Rivera, patiently waited while we tried and tried to refind the bird. Julio, who was now back to being our driver, sent down some amazing hamburgers that he made for lunch. (This guy can cook!)

Finally it was time to start back up to the van. I mounted my steed with some difficulty, due to my huge feet not fitting into the small stirrups. Martin got some photos of this process, but I threatened him with serious bodily harm if he ever shows them! Mr. Rivera led us up the hill. I very hokily found myself humming El Condor Passe by Simon and Garfunkel. The ride up was almost as good as the birds we had seen. Mr. Rivera was a wealth of knowledge. He pointed out tiny orchids, giving me the Latin names, which I promptly forgot. (This would not surprise Sister Theodore, my high school Lating teacher one bit) He also showed me a stone that had Inca carvings on it and pointed out Incan ruins up on a hill.  I was able to really look at the forest, since I didn't have to be careful about tripping on the path. It was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

We beat everyone but Brian back up to the van. Brian is an amazingly fast hiker! The sky was beautiful. I was really happy, until I tried to photograph a small farm, down the hill from our starting point. The zoom on my camera lens wasn't working. I fooled around with it, but got nowhere. Martin finally arrived and I had him look at it. He was unable to fix it. Somehow on the ride up the lens must have hit my binoculars and it was now broken. I was sick to my stomach. I did have a small spare camera, but it was a fairly simple point and shoot. Camera shops are in short supply in rural Peru, so it looked like I was in a bit of trouble, as far as photos went. I tried to suck it up, but still felt a bit low.

On the way back to Huanaco we picked up a few more birds. Alex found a Barred Forest-falcon. We got decent looks at Brown-flanked Tanager. I still felt a little discouraged about my camera, but on reflection, I was pleased with the day. The only miss was the Golden-backed Mountain-tanager, but the other birds more than made up for it. Most birding group camp at Bosque Unchog for two or three days and don't see all the birds we saw. I also figured some people would be glad that I didn't have so many pictures to show them!

Here are the photos I did take that day:

Here is the bird list:
1 Barred Forest-Falcon

2 Mountain Caracara

3 Andean Lapwing

4 Andean Snipe-heard

5 Band-tailed Pigeon

6 Eared Dove

7 Yungas Pygmy-Owl

8 Sparkling Violetear

9 White-bellied Hummingbird

10 Violet-throated Starfrontlet

11 Sword-billed Hummingbird

12 Great Sapphirewing

13 Tyrian Metaltail

14 Coppery Metaltail

15 Line-fronted Canastero

16 Pearled Treerunner

17 Rufous Antpitta- heard

18 Neblina Tapaculo- heard

19 White-throated Tyrannulet

20 Black-crested Tit-Tyrant

21 Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher

22 Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant

23 White-browed Chat-Tyrant

24 Barred Fruiteater

25 Bay-vented Cotinga

26 Blue-and-white Swallow

27 Great Thrush

28 Spectacled Redstart

29 Rufous-browed Hemispingus

30 Brown-flanked Tanager

31 Pardusco

32 Cinereous Conebill

33 Blue-backed Conebill

34 Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager- heard

35 Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager

36 Golden-collared Tanager

37 Yellow-scarfed Tanager

38 Golden-billed Saltator

39 Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch

40 Black-and-white Seedeater

41 Drab Seedeater

42 Band-tailed Seedeater

43 Moustached Flowerpiercer

44 Golden-bellied Grosbeak

45 Hooded Siskin

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Peru, May 3, 2010, Day 2: The Paty Trail and the Carpish Tunnel

We left our hotel in Huanuco at about 5:00 AM, heading to the Paty Trail and Carpish Tunnel. This area is well known for a number of endemics. When we arrived it was lightly raining and was very dreary. The Paty trail begins at the back of a local school that sits below the road. The trail is a bit steep and that day it was rather muddy. I have some serious balance issues, so I was a bit nervous. Before starting down we looked through a mixed flock along the road.  Spectacled Redstarts flitted through the trees, along with Citrine and Russet-crowned Warblers. An Andean Guan was sitting on a branch high over the road. A pair of young piglets were running back and forth, providing a a little bit of the cuteness factor.

The rain had let up a bit, so we started down to the beginning of the trail. The path led steeply down from the school building to a futbol field. It then turned and went down hill into some beautiful forest. I told the group to go ahead, that I would catch up, needing some time to get my "trail legs". I got down to the field, only falling on my posterior once. Martin waited for me and we dropped down into the forest. I found a good spot, where birds were passing through and decided to stick there. I told Martin to go on, which he did. Sometimes I would rather just sit and let birds come to me. This was not a bad decision.

I quickly heard a Bay Antpitta calling. I had my iPod, and played the call, but the bird didn't come in any closer. Then I heard a Chestnut Antpitta nearby. Again I didn't see the bird, but I do count heard birds, especially ones like antpittas and tapaculos. A Trilling Tapaculo sang loudly. I also heard a Gray-breasted Mountain Toucan calling across the hills. I did see parrots flying over, Scaly-naped Amazons. I moved a bit further down the trail, catching up to Martin. Another Bay Antpitta was calling. I played the iPod and the bird came in, sounding like it was right under our feet. As usual, we never saw a feather. I don't know how antpittas do it. They seem to have the power of invisibility!

Martin and I decided to go back up the sports field, as its reputed to be very good for birds. When we cleared the rim of the hill we saw a large group of school children playing futbol, girls against boys. I never realized you could play in rubber boots. The kids were fascinated by us, a few coming over from time to time to just look at us. We worked our way around the field, trailing kids, and did manage to see a few birds. Both Rufous and Azara's Spinetails were around.  A couple of Pearled Treerunners moved up and down the tree trunks. Then we were thrilled to hear a flock of White-collared Jays. We managed to catch a glimpse of a couple as they flew up towards the road. The rest of the group came up and we headed back to the road.

When we got back up to the road, the White-collared Jays were loudly calling. We managed to get very good looks. The name White-collared is a bit confusing to the average person. We tend to think of collars as being around the back of the neck. Instead the jays have a thin line of white around the front.  It can vary from a relatively thick white band, to a barely noticible sliver. These birds were in the latter camp.  We had our lunch and moved on to our next stop, the trail by the Carpish Tunnel.

The trail up above the tunnel was not steep, nor very muddy. I really enjoyed the walk. The weather was a little better; still cloudy, but not raining. There were numerous butterflies and flowers. I photographed a darner dragonfly ovipositing in a small pool. As we walked we came to an area where there had been a recent landslide. There was enough of the trail left to walk safely, but it was a bit disconcerting. Alex, our guide, was completely fearless, standing on the edge, playing his iPod to call in birds.  As we continued, Alex succeeded in finding one of our main targets in this area, Yellow-scarfed Tanager. We also actually saw a Chestnut Antpitta! I even got a poor photo of it.

We birded our way back to our hotel in Huanuco and got ready for dinner. We went to a nice little restaurant, where I ordered something called a mixto. I was thinking it would be like a dish I had in Brazil, skewers of mixed grilled meats. Well, it was grilled. It smelled and tasted pretty good, but I have no idea what some of it was. There were pieces of heart, which I like very much and some cubes of beef. But then there was something that looked like the skin of a tongue with strips of other stuff hanging down off of it, kind of like the hangy down things in a car wash. Maybe it was tripe, but it didn't look like any tripe I have ever seen. I am a pretty adventourous eater, (I even love haggis!)  but I have to admit I didn't finish it. If we go back to Peru, I will be doing more research into the country side cusine!

Here is a link to my photos for the day:

Here is my bird list:
1 Andean Guan

2 Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle

3 American Kestrel

4 Band-tailed Pigeon

5 White-tipped Dove

6 Speckle-faced Parrot

7 Scaly-naped Parrot

8 Peruvian Pygmy-Owl- Heard only

9 Andean Swift

10 White-bellied Hummingbird

11 Collared Inca

12 Violet-throated Starfrontlet

13 Tyrian Metaltail

14 Masked Trogon

15 Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan- Heard only

16 Azara's Spinetail

17 Rufous Spinetail

18 Pearled Treerunner

19 Streaked Tuftedcheek

20 Olive-backed Woodcreeper

21 Montane Woodcreeper

22 Bay Antpitta- Heard only

23 Chestnut Antpitta

24 Trilling Tapaculo- Heard only

25 Rufous-vented Tapaculo

26 White-tailed Tyrannulet

27 Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant

28 Yellow-olive Flycatcher

29 Cinnamon Flycatcher

30 Golden-browed Chat-Tyrant

31 Tropical Kingbird

32 Barred Fruiteater

33 Barred Becard

34 Rufous-browed Peppershrike- Heard only

35 White-collared Jay

36 Blue-and-white Swallow

37 Fasciated Wren

38 Mountain Wren

39 Gray-breasted Wood-Wren

40 Great Thrush

41 Spectacled Redstart

42 Citrine Warbler

43 Russet-crowned Warbler

44 Superciliaried Hemispingus

45 Common Bush-Tanager

46 Blue-capped Tanager

47 Hooded Mountain-Tanager

48 Lacrimose Mountain-Tanager

49 Yellow-scarfed Tanager

50 Rusty Flowerpiercer

51 White-sided Flowerpiercer

52 Slaty Brush-Finch

53 Stripe-headed Brush-Finch

54 Peruvian Meadowlark

How I Saw Birds and Lost Weight in Peru, Day 1 May 2, 2010

Well, here is yet another series of blogs on my birding travels. If you have no interest please forgive me for sending this to you. I am always hesitant, but people do tell me they enjoy reading them.

This was our first trip to Peru, and perhaps will be our last big trip, at least for a while. Initially we had thought we would go for about 10 days. Then it started to expand, first to two weeks, then to three and a half weeks, then back down to just under three weeks. We made our arrangements through Gunnar Engblom with Kolibri Expeditions. It was a first for me, in that we were joining a tour group for part of the trip. In the past we had either traveled by ourselves, or with one or two close friends. The group was rather "organic", in that people came and went. I really liked that Gunnar was flexible and we were able to adjust what we were doing according to the birds we wanted to see.

We arrived in Lima late in the evening on May 1. Our first driver, Henry, met us at the airport. We piled our stuff into the van and took off for Lake Junin, where we were meeting the group, which had already started their tour. Lima is at sea level and Lake Junin is at over 13,000 feet, so this would be a huge adjustment. Altitude sickness is a real risk at that level. Gunnar suggested we drive as far as San Mateo, which is about 10, 000 ft and sleep for a couple of hours in the van, and then proceed to the lake. This would help acclimate us. I was able to sleep pretty well, even while driving. I did occasionally wake, sometimes to snow capped peaks looming over us, lit by the partial moon. I know it sounds trite, but this drive had a truly dream like quality.

We arrived at Junin at about 8:00 AM. Henry was going to drop us off and go back to Lima, but the group was not there. They had some problems with their van, which were being resolved, and were going to be a little late. Finally they arrived. There were three guys from Michigan, Brian, Tom and Doug, and a couple from Utah, Kathy and Jens. They were all serious birders, but not too serious in attitude! I felt a nice sense of comfort with everyone.We also met our guide for most of the trip, Alex, who we quickly released to be an incredible birder and amazing asset.

Our main target species here was Junin Grebe. This flightless bird is only found on Lake Junin and the total population is about 200. It is classified as critically endangered. Despite this, it was easily found. We saw several birds feeding on the far side of the lake near the reeds. They had a very unusual feeding method, almost phalarope like. They would create a little "bow wave" as they swam, pushing up food in front of them. Crested Ducks and Puna Teal, both new birds for me, were also on the lake. Groups of Puna Ibis moved through. Andean Flickers were quite common, as were the cream-winged form of Bar-winged Cinclodes. Andean Negritos, a black and rust colored flycatcher, moved along the shoreline.  Even at this high altitude I saw a few butterflies.

Julio, the driver of the other van, got our breakfast for us. He was so well prepared, packing a light weight plastic table and chairs. We had granola and yogurt, along with bread, cheese, meat and fruit. He had fixed a pot of great coffee. I quickly grabbed a cup. One of the other participants said he was going to have coca tea. I knew that coca tea was widely drank in Peru, as it helps with dealing with high altitudes. In my mind I always imagined a few leaves being doled out of a rough woven bag, tossed into an even rougher pottery bowl. I was totally stunned to see Julio hand him a tea bag! Lipton cup o' coca! (Well, it wasn't Lipton, but it was a tea bag) Its completely legal, though don't try to bring some home to the US.

After breakfast Henry and Julio told us there was going to be a change in plans. Instead of going back to Lima, Henry was going to stay with us and Julio was going to take his van in to a mechanic the following day, to make sure the problem was completely resolved. Henry would  be the groups driver for that day. We packed up for our next location, a polylepis forest between the lake and our final destination for the evening. On the way, we saw a parade in the one of the small towns, with some of the most beautiful costumes. This is an area with lots of fiestas.

Polylepis forest is found just below the tree line. The trees are small and hold a very interesting community of birds. I was feeling the altitude a bit, so I decided to stay back near the van, while the group climbed up a rather muddy trail. I did see a few birds nearby, along with some butterflies. After a while they came back down, having seen Giant Conebill and a few other species. A Stripe-headed Antpitta was calling nearby, and we got great looks, which is unusual for antpittas! Alex spotted a Torrent Duck in the rushing creek.

We moved on to a different location, where we had lunch. This was a spot for one of the endemics, Rufous-backed Inca Finch. We walked up a path with Alex playing a tape, but had no luck. We did see Sparkling Violetears and White-bellied Hummingbirds. We would be returning to this area in a few days, so we weren't too discouraged. We left for Huanaco, where we were spending the night. The drive was slow, especially on the outskirts of town, where there was another fiesta going on. We checked into our hotel, went for pizza, and settled in for the night.

Here is a link to my photos for the day:

Here is our list for the day:
1 Crested Duck

2 Torrent Duck

3 Puna Teal

4 Yellow-billed Teal

5 White-tufted Grebe

6 Silvery Grebe

7 Junin Grebe

8 Great Egret

9 Puna Ibis

10 Cinereous Harrier

11 Variable Hawk

12 American Kestrel

13 Slate-colored Coot

14 Andean Lapwing

15 Baird's Sandpiper

16 Andean Gull

17 Rock Pigeon

18 Black-winged Ground-Dove

19 Burrowing Owl

20 Andean Swift

21 Sparkling Violetear

22 White-bellied Hummingbird

23 Andean Flicker

24 Common Miner

25 Plain-breasted Earthcreeper

26 Bar-winged Cinclodes

27 Stripe-headed Antpitta

28 Tufted Tit-Tyrant

29 White-crested Elaenia

30 Torrent Tyrannulet

31 Andean Negrito

32 Red-crested Cotinga

33 Blue-and-white Swallow

34 Brown-bellied Swallow

35 House Wren

36 Great Thrush

37 Chiguanco Thrush

38 Cinereous Conebill

39 Blue-and-yellow Tanager

40 Golden-billed Saltator

41 Peruvian Sierra-Finch

42 Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch

43 Band-tailed Seedeater

44 Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch

45 Rufous-collared Sparrow

46 Golden-bellied Grosbeak

47 Hooded Siskin

48 Black Siskin

49 Ruddy Duck