Thursday, June 17, 2010

Peru, Day 18, May 19, 2010: Auggh! Will it Never End??

Yes, it does end with this post, at the least the Peru blog does. I know it seems like these posts have gone on forever. This was our longest trip, and one of the most productive.

We started our final day by sleeping in a bit. Henry picked us up at 7:30 AM, then we collected Alejandro and took off for the coast. Our first stop was at a reed lined small lake. Lots of ducks and herons were using this area. I got a much better look at White-cheeked Pintail. Cinnamon Teal were quite common. Ruddy Ducks were scattered around. The Andean Ruddy Ducks resemble Masked ducks somewhat, with a rusty body and a black head. The blue bill is really striking.

I spotted one of my target birds flying into the cat tails next to us, Wren-like Rush-bird. It really does resemble a Marsh Wren, but is actually not even a passerine, but a furnarid. It was a great looking bird, but not my main target for the area, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, or Siete Colores, (seven colors)  as its called locally. Very little of the lake edge is accessable, but we worked the area that we could get to, with no luck. Alejandro said it was usually very common there. (I have heard that story before!)

We drove down the road to another area where Alejandro had seen them in the past, as sure enough, he found one very quickly. It is one of those birds that is so much better looking in person than in the book. I got some really crummy photos, but as bad as they are I was happy to get them. We also saw a Plumbeous Rail working in the reeds. From where we were standing we could see the beach and several ponds that had shorebirds. There was no question where we would go next.

The ponds did hold a number of shorebirds that I would have expected to be long gone by May 19. We added a good number of trip birds. When we got to the beach I looked out and saw hundreds and hundreds of gulls. I thought "Oh shoot, we are never going to get Martin out of here!" There were many Belcher's Gulls, Grey Gulls and Kelp Gulls. A flock of Franklin's Gull flew by,  again surprising me that they had not migrated further north by now. Peruvian Boobies and Pelicans flew by in good numbers. Finally we dragged Martin to the car and departed, but not before checking even more shorebirds near the beach entrance.

We started driving North. The landscape was absolutely nothing like I had ever thought of when I heard the word Peru. The bare sand colored hills were covered in small shanties. The sky was lead gray and there was some light fog in the air. There was no natural color, though the people we saw more than made up for that. It was really sobering for me. These people had so little. The houses were no bigger than my kitchen, some of them made of woven mats hung on frames. I felt like I was living in total decadence, I don't mean that in the laughing way we sometime use that word.

Driving further, the landscape became even more desolate, as the houses ran out. This is true desert. We turned off the highway and headed to Lomas de Lachay,  a well known park. This was the driest looking place I have ever seen. As we drove in I could not see one living green thing. It was gray rock and sand, made even grayer by the light fog. This was such a weird contrast, the very dry desert and the constant fog. Alejandro told us in Spring you couldn't see 10 meters in front of you, the fog was so thick. The little moisture that the few plants get is from this fog. Hills that looked like piles of huge rocks lined the road.

I was wondering what birds could possibly live here. This was answered when we saw a pair of Burrowing Owls. We also saw the first plants since we turned into the park, tall thin cactus were scattered up the hill. We parked and started walking out, looking for Cactus Canestero, another furnerid that resembles a wren somewhat. Alejandro pointed out a nest, a big mass of sticks stuffed between several cactus branches. Unfortunately nobody was home, so we went further up. We heard one calling and started using the play back on the iPod. The bird flew right in, and put on a real show. True to his name, he sat in the cactus as he checked us out.

We returned to the car and left for another part of the park. We circled around on the highway, and took a different entrance road. Not far after the turn, we found a small group of Least Seed-snipe. Seed-snipe are actually shorebirds, but they look more like ptarmigan or grouse. They are very well camouflaged. As we scanned we could pick out more birds across the dry weedy fields. This park had a lot more vegetation, with brush and small twisted trees.

As we entered the park we started seeing Black-chested Buzzard Eagles. They seemed to be everywhere. A bird perched next to the road was very cooperative model for some photographs. We arrived at an area with some picnic tables and several trails up into the hills. We hiked up, looking for Raimondi's Yellow-finch. We got up to the top and scanned the rocks. Alejandro had seen the Yellow-finches here a number of times, but this day wasn't destined to be one. I was getting tired of scanning, so I started looking around where we were standing. Down the trail I saw what I initially thought was a large house cat trotting towards us in the distance. I put up my binoculars and saw that it was not a cat, but a fox, a Grey-coastal Fox and it kept coming down the trail. I held my breath expecting it to turn tail and run as soon as it spotted us, but it kept coming. It actually got quite close, before it turned off the path and made a wide circle around us through the brush. It was my "bird of the day!" even if it was a mammal.

We returned down to the picnic area, getting some great looks at more Buzzard Eagles, some flying by on eye level. We went back out to the highway, seeing a few Peruvian Thick-knees near the road. We were 100 km from Lima and had an evening flight home, so we went south back to the city. It seemed a long drive, and we felt a bit sad to be leaving, even though we had been in Peru for almost three weeks. Our flight was a bit delayed, but we got home the following day with a lot of memories and a lot of great birds.

I finished the trip with 533 species, and over 200 life birds. It was an experience I will never forget. Peru is a beautiful country with an amazing diversity of birds. I highly recommend it. Gunnar did a great job putting our trip together. Every single person I met who worked for him was exceptional. Alex and Alejandro were amazing guides. All of our drivers were very skilled and careful. I learned so much about Peru from Juan Jose. We laughed a lot and I will be able to tell stories about this trip for the rest of my life. I will end my narrative with a statement that I make all the time, "Go somewhere!" You can, its easier than you think and the benefits will last a lifetime. Travel changes you for the better in ways that can not be explained. Thanks for reading this and if you ever have any questions let me know!

Photos from this day:

Here are my birds from the day:
1 Cinnamon Teal

2 White-cheeked Pintail

3 White-tufted Grebe

4 Pied-billed Grebe

5 Peruvian Booby

6 Neotropic Cormorant

7 Great Egret

8 Snowy Egret

9 Little Blue Heron

10 Cattle Egret

11 Striated Heron

12 Puna Ibis

13 Black Vulture

14 Turkey Vulture

15 Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle

16 Harris's Hawk

17 Variable Hawk

18 American Kestrel

19 Plumbeous Rail

20 Common Moorhen

21 Slate-colored Coot

22 Peruvian Thick-knee

23 Black-bellied Plover

24 Killdeer

25 American Oystercatcher

26 Black-necked Stilt

27 Greater Yellowlegs

28 Lesser Yellowlegs

29 Ruddy Turnstone

30 Pectoral Sandpiper

31 Stilt Sandpiper

32 Wilson's Phalarope

33 Least Seedsnipe

34 Gray-hooded Gull

35 Gray Gull

36 Franklin's Gull

37 Belcher's Gull

38 Kelp Gull

39 Rock Pigeon

40 Eared Dove

41 Bare-faced Ground-Dove

42 Groove-billed Ani

43 Burrowing Owl

44 Amazilia Hummingbird

45 Coastal Miner

46 Wren-like Rushbird

47 Cactus Canastero

48 Many-colored Rush Tyrant

49 Vermilion Flycatcher

50 Blue-and-white Swallow

51 House Wren

52 Band-tailed Sierra-Finch

53 Drab Seedeater

54 Grassland Yellow-Finch

55 Rufous-collared Sparrow

56 Peruvian Meadowlark

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Peru, Day 17, May 18 2010: Its a Versace!

I would say I woke up in Huachupampa, but I wasn't sure I had any sleep. I am not sure why, the bed wasn't bad. I was comfortable, but for what ever reason, it had me concerned. Altitude sickness is more likely if you are over-tired. I had a little problem with it once before, and we had seen Jens have a bad time of it at the beginning of the trip. I made a conscious decision to take it easy.

We had breakfast at the hotel and started back up to the White-cheeked Cotinga spot. Martin was really wanted some photos and early morning was the best time. As we drove up we saw Andean Condors launching themselves off of the cliffs above us. We also spotted a new mammal for me, a Viscacha. Its a relative of the chinchilla, but resembles a rabbit with slightly short ears. That is until it turns around; the tail is similar to a squirrel's. It's fur is incredibly plush. It was beyond cute!

We arrived at the Polylepus grove where we had seen the cotingas the previous day. As we got out of the van we saw a Black-breasted Hillstar feeding near the road. Martin got some fabulous photos. I got some ok ones. A Giant Hummingbird flew up and down the stream by the cliffs, looking like a large swallow. We also got a great look at Black Metaltail. A Mourning Sierra-finch perched up nicely. The White-cheeked Cotingas flew in up the hill and Martin tried to get some photos. Unfortunately the distance made it difficult.

Martin and Alejandro decided to climb up the hill to the top of the cliffs above the road to try for better photos. Martin had our scope, his regular camera with the large lens and another camera with a smaller lens for digiscoping. I decided to stay down with the car and Henry, our driver. I was feeling the lack of sleep, so I rested in the car for a little while. Suddenly Henry went scrambling up the cliffs toward Martin and Alejandro. I didn't think any thing of it. Henry would go join them from time to time and he is as agile as a Mountain Goat.

After a while I got out of the van and walked up the road to where they had climbed the hill. As I got there I saw Henry coming down. He looked very upset. He stopped and between my bad Spanish and his worse English, he let me know that Martin had dropped his camera down the cliff. I said a word I can't repeat, knowing this was very serious. Henry kept making a rolling, tumbling motion with his hands. He then said the camera was ok, but the lens was smashed. This was the reason he went scrambling up the hill. He had seen the camera fall and went to retrieve it. I was sick to my stomach. Martin's photos mean so much to him. At least it was at the end of the trip, I thought, as we only had one more day.  I knew what that big lens cost and I knew we wouldn't be able to get another until we got home.

I waited for Martin and was shocked to see him grinning as he walked down. He said he was so happy that Henry had gotten the camera back with his photo card in it, that it was no big deal. Then he explained it was NOT the camera with the big expensive lens, but his digiscoping camera, which had a very inexpensive lens on it. Unbelivably, the camera body survived and is still working! I told him he needs to tell Canon what a great camera it is. He did get some good photos of the White-cheeked Cotinga, which are posted here:

We drove further up, heading towards the Miloc Bogs where we had gone for the Diademed Sandpiper-plover early in the trip. We picked up a few birds along the way, including Junin Canastero, an endemic that allowed me to get good photos. Andean Geese were feeding in the boggy fields. As we were driving by some rocks, I saw a cute fuzzy bunny with a long squirrel tail and called out "There's a..., um....,  ah..., one of those Versace things!" Obviously I meant a Viscacha. Martin is still teasing me about that. 

We got up to the bog and Martin was thrilled to almost immediately find an Olivaceous Thornbill. This high elevation hummingbird feeds on red flowers that grow right above the ground. Like a few other high elevation hummingbirds, it often walks around feeding on the ground, instead of flying. This was the last thornbill species Martin needed. He was trying to get better photos, while I figured I was lucky to get even the crummy one I took, so I started walking across the peat, avoiding holes where it had been cut for fuel. Suddenly a white, gray and rust colored bird jumped up and ran in front of me. It was an adult Diademened Sandpiper-Plover! It was so cool to see an adult, as the one we had earlier had been a juvenile. It was even cooler that I was able to get better photos. 

We left and drove back to Lima, arriving at our hotel not too long after dark. We walked around Miraflores near the hotel looking for dinner. Most of the restaurants in that area are raither posh, and we were in no condition to do posh, so we settled for a neat little taco shop. The food was beyond good. We told the waiter that their tacos would past anyone's test in Texas. We returned to the hotel, packed our bags for our trip home the following evening and prepared for one last day, birding near Lima. 

Here are my photos for the day:

Here is my bird list for the day:
1 Andean Goose

2 Crested Duck

3 Silvery Grebe

4 Puna Ibis

5 Black Vulture

6 Turkey Vulture

7 Andean Condor

8 Variable Hawk

9 American Kestrel

10 Giant Coot

11 Diademed Sandpiper-Plover

12 Andean Gull

13 Kelp Gull

14 Rock Pigeon

15 West Peruvian Dove

16 Eared Dove

17 Croaking Ground-Dove

18 Black-winged Ground-Dove

19 Groove-billed Ani

20 Band-winged Nightjar

21 Shining Sunbeam

22 Black-breasted Hillstar

23 Giant Hummingbird

24 Black Metaltail

25 Olivaceous Thornbill

26 Andean Flicker

27 Dark-winged Miner

28 Bar-winged Cinclodes

29 Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail

30 Streak-throated Canastero

31 Junin Canastero

32 Stripe-headed Antpitta

33 Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant

34 White-browed Ground-Tyrant

35 D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant

36 White-cheeked Cotinga

37 Blue-and-white Swallow

38 Brown-bellied Swallow

39 Chiguanco Thrush

40 Cinereous Conebill

41 Peruvian Sierra-Finch

42 Mourning Sierra-Finch

43 Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch

44 White-winged Diuca-Finch

45 Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch

46 Rufous-collared Sparrow

47 Shiny Cowbird

48 Black Siskin


Monday, June 14, 2010

Peru, Day 16, May 17 2010: When You See the Southern Cross for the First Time

We woke up in our little hotel in Miraflores and had breakfast. Our new guide, Alejandro met us right on time in the lobby. We checked our big bags with the hotel clerk, as we would be returning the following night and took off for the Santa Eulalia valley in the high central Andes. We were very happy to see Henry, our original driver. The drive out made me realize just how huge Lima is. The valley is not that far from the edge of Lima, but getting to that edge seemed to take forever. Even in the city there are high rocky hills/mountains. The traffic is fairly heavy.

We finally turned off the main road and started heading up. Where we were going was an extremely high altitude and the road climbed quickly. Our first stop was a small gorge. We were looking for Oasis Hummingbird, which we found, but we also got a little bonus. A Giant Hummingbird put on an incredible show, flying straight up, higher and higher, then dropping like a rock. This is a bird I had only seen very briefly in Ecuador on our first trip. I wanted a better look and was thrilled that this one was so cooperative. This hummingbird is the largest in the world. The first impression that I had was that it was a swift. Its so large you can actually see the wings beating. I hate to say it, but even though the Oasis was a life bird, the Giant was the star for me.

We then moved up even more. My memories of this day are more about the drive up than the birds. It was a most riveting experience. The road is gravel and very narrow. It twists and turns around rock faces and the drop below the road is spectacular. It seems to be barely one lane, but trucks come up and down, which we had to pass. At every turn Henry honked to make sure if anyone was coming the opposite direction they would know we were there. Roadside shrines where people had not made the curves were very common. At one turn there were nine little ones joined together, perhaps a van or bus that didn't make it. Its funny, I should have been terrified, but I wasn't. Henry's driving was superb and I was feeling rather fatalistic.

To demonstrate how high up this road I took these photos. We spotted a bridge in the distance that looks unbelivably high. It passed over a deep ravine and looked tiny in the distance.
We finally arrived and passed over; then on the other side we climbed even higher. Here is the photo I took of the same bridge from the other side.
I hope this gives some inkling of just how high up we were getting. It was beyond breathtaking. 

We did see some incredible birds along this track. A small flock of Mountain Parakeets flew in, giving good looks. A Bronze-tailed Comet, a type of hummingbird, was a thrill. Collared Warbling-finch and Giant Inca Finch were great additions to our trip list. I loved the Mourning Sierra Finch. It reminded me a lot of our Harris Sparrow, with a black face and pinkish bill. We continued to climb.  A perched Spot-winged Wood Pigeon even let me take some crummy photos.  I was also very happy to get Blue-and-yellow Tanager. This is bird that I had to work very hard to miss on our other trips. Its what Martin would call a "tart's tick", a bird that any decent birder should have gotten long ago!

At lunch time we reached our main destination, a Polylepus grove where Alejandro had seen one of our most wanted birds, White-cheeked Cotinga. This is a very difficult species to see, and we didn't really expect to see it this day. We thought we would have to come back at dawn the next day for our best chance. We saw some other great birds here, Black-breasted Hillstar and Black Metailtail, both high altitude hummingbirds. Several Andean Condors flew over, causing me to catch my breath. Even without the cotinga we were happy. Then, to our astonishment one flew in! We got brief, but great looks. Unfortunately it was too far away for Martin to photograph, but we were extremely happy. 

We drove back down to the village of Huachupampa. We had been told the accomodations here were extremely basic, so we were not expecting much, but the hotel was fine! We did have a bunk bed in our room, but the bottom bunk was a double, so that was ok. It was very clean and the lady who ran the hotel was delightful. We had a very nice dinner. After dinner Martin and Alejandro compared their photos from the day. 

In all of our trips to South America I had never seen the Southern Cross. It always seemed like it was cloudy, or the view of the stars wasn't great. I also thought I would need someone to point it out to me. I had asked Alejandro at dinner if he knew the constellation. He said yes, and I thought after dinner we might look for it, but he and Martin were engrossed in conversation so I decided not to press it. I went upstairs to go to bed, but before I went into the room I went to a large open window and looked out towards the south. There it was, plain as day. I almost cried. This might have been my last trip below the equator, so it meant a lot to me. Since then I have found myself humming the Crosby, Stills and Nash song, Southern Cross all the time. By the way,  I have heard that there is a "false cross". If you think this is what I saw, please don't correct me. I would rather stay deluded. To add to my happiness a pair of Band-winged Nightjars were circling the steeple of the little church, catching bugs in the light. 

Here are my few photos from the day:

Here is my bird list:
1 Cattle Egret

2 Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle

3 American Kestrel

4 Rock Pigeon

5 Spot-winged Wood Pigeon

6 Pacific Dove

7 Eared Dove

8 Croaking Ground-Dove

9 Bare-faced Ground-Dove

10 White-tipped Dove

11 Mountain Parakeet

12 Peruvian Pygmy-Owl

13 Band-winged Nightjar

14 White-collared Swift

15 Andean Swift

16 Sparkling Violetear

17 Shining Sunbeam

18 Black-breasted Hillstar

19 Giant Hummingbird

20 Bronze-tailed Comet

21 Black Metaltail

22 Oasis Hummingbird

23 Peruvian Sheartail

24 Black-necked Woodpecker

25 Thick-billed Miner

26 Bar-winged Cinclodes

27 Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail

28 Canyon Canastero

29 Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant

30 Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant

31 Cinereous Ground-Tyrant

32 Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant

33 D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant

34 White-browed Chat-Tyrant

35 Tropical Kingbird

36 White-cheeked Cotinga

37 House Wren

38 White-capped Dipper

39 Chiguanco Thrush

40 Long-tailed Mockingbird

41 Cinereous Conebill

42 Blue-and-yellow Tanager

43 Peruvian Sierra-Finch

44 Mourning Sierra-Finch

45  Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch

46 Great Inca-Finch

47 Collared Warbling-Finch

48 Band-tailed Seedeater

49 Rusty Flowerpiercer

50 Rusty-bellied Brush-Finch

51 Rufous-collared Sparrow

52 Golden-bellied Grosbeak

53 Hooded Siskin


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Peru, Day 15, May 16 2010: More goodbyes and the most shocking bird of the trip

We woke up in Taropoto at 5:00 AM and had a little breakfast at our hotel. We had arranged the night before for it to be prepared before the regular opening time. When they opened the restaurant up for us, the first thing the girl did was turn on some rather loud music. Peru is a country that loves music. You hear it everywhere you go, but at 5:00 AM we were not quite ready for it, so we asked her to turn it off. She seemed a little mystified, though very happy to accommodate us.

We took off for the Yurimaguas Tunnel, which runs through a ridge near town. Past the tunnel the road starts descending into the Amazon basin. We arrived right at sunrise and were a little surprised to discover two young men with a motorcycle, one of whom was a local birder. They were staring down a deep gorge. We stopped and they told us that it was a Cock-of-the-Rock lek. Sure enough we soon heard the amazing sounds of wooing males, which Martin likens to pigs on crack cocaine. You would never guess such a beautiful bird could make such a horrible sound. Unfortunately we only heard them, but we had seen several already on the trip.

We had a nice conversation with the young man. He told us he had seen a Blackish Pewee just a little while before we arrived. Martin had told Alex the one bird he really wanted to see at this spot was Blackish Pewee. Its commonly found at this spot, so we were hopeful. We worked our way down the road a bit to where he had seen it, but had no luck. We did see several other good birds, including a Yellow-cheeked Becard. We found a flock of tanagers, including Bay-headed, Blue-necked, Masked, Yellow-bellied and Silver-beaked. Flycatchers, other than the pewee, were thick. Cliff Flycatchers were extremely common.

A Koepke's Hermit was feeding along the steep hill above us. Alex found a Spot-winged Antbird. A Chestnut-tipped Toucanet tried to fool us into thinking it was a Yellow-browed. We got fabulous looks and even a few photos of a White-throated Woodpecker. A Gilded Barbet put on a bit of a show. But we still hadn't seen the Blackish Pewee. Alex starting teasing Martin a bit, calling everything Blackish: Blackish Toucan, Blackish Woodpecker, Blackish Barbet. Alex has a great sense of humor, which had us laughing a lot on the trip.

We walked through the tunnel to the other side to see if maybe a pewee was over there. Juan Jose stayed with the car. A few minutes after we got through the tunnel, Juan Jose drove up and told us, very excitedly that he had seen the pewee! We jumped in and turned around,  driving back through the tunnel. We parked and jumped out, but the other birder said it had just flown off. We spent a little more time searching, with no luck.  We were under some time constraints, so we had to leave.

This was our last day with Juan Jose and Alex. They were both flying home and we were returning to Lima. Alex was leaving first, so we took him to the airport and had our goodbyes. I would really miss him. He is a great guide, one of the best we have ever had. Our flight wasn't leaving until evening, so Juan Jose took us back to town for lunch. I haven't mentioned my digestive problems in the last few blogs, (I bet you all are thankful for that!) but the situation had suddenly gotten a bit scary. I finally mentioned it to Juan Jose after lunch. He said "Let's go to the pharmacy. They can give you something." Sure enough the pharmacist asked me some questions about the symptoms and gave me some antibiotics and something to balance the flora of my gut. I won't go into any more detail, but it worked.

After lunch we headed back to the river where we had birded the day before. This spot sometimes has Comb Ducks, so I was searching the river itself and the banks, very thoroughly. I spotted several birds on the bank, but they were quite distant. With my binoculars I couldn't get much detail. This area is not pristine habitat. There is a lot of agriculture and the trees are not continuous on the banks. I thought the birds were going to be lapwings. I pointed them out to Martin, who got the scope on them. He also figured they were lapwings. When he got them in the scope he laughed a little. I asked them what they were and he said "Have a look". I looked  through the eye piece and said "HOLY COW", well something like "holy cow". There were four Hoatzins sitting on the bank! The only time I had seen them before was in Brazil deep in the rain forest on a river. They were not even on the radar as far as I was concerned for this trip. Martin was totally amused at how excited I was. For the rest of the day I kept talking about it. They are one of my all time favorite birds, resembling dinosaurs almost more than birds. They are an incredible demonstration of evolution.

We walked up the path where we had been the evening before. A couple of Corya Wrens were calling, but still invisible. We worked our way up a path with Juan Jose and played the call of the Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-manakin. One respondedcrakes we heard the night before, but they were silent.

We drove back to town, working our way to the airport, which was not especially easy to find. We said goodbye to Juan Jose, who I really like. He is incredibly educated, lived in Europe and Libya and knew so much about Peru and its history. Even better, he was a lot of fun, a good birder and a good driver. I felt a little sad leaving him and Alex. We flew back to Lima and settled into our hotel in Miraflores. The next day we would have a new guide and our former driver Henry.

My photos for the day:

Bird list for the day:
1 Great Egret

2 Cattle Egret

3 Swallow-tailed Kite

4 Roadside Hawk

5 Rock Pigeon

6 Plumbeous Pigeon

7 Eared Dove

8 Ruddy Ground-Dove

9 Maroon-tailed Parakeet

10 Cobalt-winged Parakeet

11 Squirrel Cuckoo

12 Smooth-billed Ani

13  Amazonian Swift

14 White-tipped Swift

15 Koepcke's Hermit

16 Gray-breasted Sabrewing

17 Black-throated Mango

18 Fork-tailed Woodnymph

19 Golden-tailed Sapphire

20 Green-backed Trogon

21 Blue-crowned Motmot

22 Striolated Puffbird

23 Bluish-fronted Jacamar

24 Gilded Barbet

25 Chestnut-tipped Toucanet

26 White-throated Woodpecker

27 Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner

28 Fasciated Antshrike

29 Blackish Antbird

30 Spot-winged Antbird

31 Thrush-like Antpitta

32 Forest Elaenia

33 Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant

34 Yellow-breasted Flycatcher

35 Cliff Flycatcher

36 Social Flycatcher

37 Dusky-chested Flycatcher

38 Crowned Slaty Flycatcher

39 Tropical Kingbird

40 Andean Cock-of-the-rock

41 Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin

42 Yellow-cheeked Becard

43 Yellow-green Vireo

44 Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo-heard

45 Rufous-browed Peppershrike- heard

46 Blue-and-white Swallow

47 White-banded Swallow

48 Southern Rough-winged Swallow

49 Coraya Wren- heard

50 Scaly-breasted Wren-heard

51 Silver-beaked Tanager

52 Blue-gray Tanager

53 Yellow-bellied Tanager

54 Bay-headed Tanager

55 Blue-necked Tanager

56 Masked Tanager

57 Black-faced Dacnis

58 Green Honeycreeper

59 Swallow Tanager

60 Buff-throated Saltator

61 Slate-colored Grosbeak

62 Blue-black Grassquit

63 Chestnut-bellied Seedeater

64 Saffron Finch

65 Yellow-browed Sparrow

66 Rufous-collared Sparrow

67 Hepatic Tanager

68 Blue-black Grosbeak

69 Yellow-rumped Cacique

70 Orange-crowned Euphonia

71 Thick-billed Euphonia

72 Bronze-green Euphonia

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Peru, Day 14, May 15, 2010: Orchids or birds? Or maybe Butterflies!

We headed fairly early going to a private reserve near Moyobamba. This property is owned by the family of one of the workers at Abra Patricia and we were delighted to see him there when we arrived. (This was the same guy who showed us the Ochre-fronted Antpitta. I am mortified that I can not remember his name!) The reserve is devoted to birds and orchids and it has plenty of both.

As we drove into the reserve there were Blue-backed Grassquits and Yellow-browed Sparrows singing. There was a beautiful palapa in front of the family home with wonderful plantings. We moved past this area and headed up a trail past a brushy area. We quickly picked up one of the specialty birds, Cinerous-breasted Spinetail. A bit further on, entering the woods there was a Golden-tailed Sapphire, working a flowering tree. The trail steadily climbed and we were being passed all along the way by farm workers heading up to the coffee plantation higher up. The land is fenced and well marked as a reserve on either side of the trail.

We passed through a gate into a heavily shaded area with several hummingbird feeders. Long-tailed Hermits and another Golden-tailed Sapphire were coming in. After a little while we headed back out to the trail and climbed some more. We crossed a creek and stopped at a spot where one of our main targets is sometimes seen, Fiery-throated Fruiteater. We heard one calling and started the search through the tree tops. Alex played the call, but the bird didn't seem too interested. Alex peered into a tree top above us and spotted it! It was sitting very still and he worked like mad to get us on it. Then it flew. We got an extremely quick look with little detail, but enough to see it what it was. Alex has the most incredible eyes! I had been scanning that tree for quite a while and would have sworn that there were no birds of any kind up there. We tried for a while to get it to come back in, but had no luck. It was a definite BVD, (better view desired).

I started back down, photographing some great butterflies. Martin, Alex and Juan Jose caught up. We caught up with a mixed flock and added a few tanagers and Wing-barred Piprites, a name I really love. Then we found a bird that we had missed a few days before, Mishana Tyrannulet. We were thrilled, as we thought we had probably missed it. It posed beautifully for Martin. We got a good number of other flycatchers. Finally we got back to the house.

We sat under the palapa and had an ice cold Coke, which tasted amazingly good. After resting a few minutes Juan Jose asked me if I wanted to see some of the orchids. I am always thrilled to see them so of course I said yes. We walked over to a shaded area where a large number of orchid plants were being tended. Many were not blooming, but the ones that were blew me away. Juan Jose explained a bit how different orchids bloom, some on stems, some actually in the middle of the leaves. The lighting wasn't great for my little point and shoot, but I did get a few shots. We headed back to Moyobamba for a great lunch at a "chifa", a Chinese restaurant.

After lunch we headed further down hill towards Tarapoto, where we would return to Lima the following day. Not far out of town we stopped along the road and walked back to a small bridge next to a large rock wall. There was a deep crevice in the rock where we saw three or four Oilbirds roosting quite close to the road. This was certainly MUCH easier than my muddy slide into a cave in Ecuador to see them several years ago. Even better nobody had to push my, um, posterior back up the muddy slope afterwards.

We arrived in Tarapoto in the late afternoon. The traffic there was unbelievable! The streets were curb to curb motocabs, the little motorcycle driven cabs seen all over Peru. I have never seen anything like it. We slowly worked our way through town to the country side and then to Juan Guerra, a tiny settlement on the river. It was very late in the day and we were losing light, but we still were able to do a little birding. We heard a couple of Coraya Wrens calling, but never saw them.

We walked up a cattle path to a hillside with a lot of bushes and grass. The vegatation was very thick. A pair of Chestnut-headed Crakes started calling. I was a bit surprised, as I always associate crakes and rails with water. Alex played their call and they responded strongly. They came very close, sounding like they were right by the path, but we never had a sniff of a look. I couldn't believe how close they were! South American birds must go to school to learn how to hide. We went back to the car, but Martin got distracted by the dragonflies in a small pond by the road, until it was too dark to see. We fought our back through the motocabs in town to our hotel.

Here are my photos for the day:

Here is my bird list:

1 Speckled Chachalaca

2 Great Egret

3 Cattle Egret

4 Black Vulture

5 Turkey Vulture

6 Swallow-tailed Kite

7 Double-toothed Kite

8 Roadside Hawk

9 Chestnut-headed Crake-Heard

10 Rock Pigeon

11 Ruddy Pigeon

12 Eared Dove

13 White-eyed Parakeet

14 Blue-headed Parrot

15 Smooth-billed Ani

16 Oilbird

17 White-collared Swift

18 Fork-tailed Palm-Swift

19 Tawny-bellied Hermit

20 Long-tailed Hermit

21 Fork-tailed Woodnymph

22 Golden-tailed Sapphire

23 Blue-crowned Trogon

24 Black-fronted Nunbird

25 Bluish-fronted Jacamar

26 White-throated Toucan

27 Lafresnaye's Piculet

28 Cinereous-breasted Spinetail

29 Rufous-fronted Thornbird

30 Olivaceous Woodcreeper

31 Great Antshrike

32 Plain-winged Antshrike

33 White-flanked Antwren

34 Blackish Antbird

35 Scale-backed Antbird

36 Mouse-colored Tyrannulet

37 Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet

38 Forest Elaenia

39 Small-billed Elaenia

40 Ochre-bellied Flycatcher

41 Mishana Tyrannulet

42 Olivaceous Flatbill

43 Yellow-breasted Flycatcher

44 Euler's Flycatcher-Heard

45 Long-tailed Tyrant

46 Great Kiskadee

47 Social Flycatcher

48 Gray-capped Flycatcher

49 Streaked Flycatcher

50 Tropical Kingbird

51 Fiery-throated Fruiteater

52 Wing-barred Piprites

53 Red-eyed Vireo

54 Olivaceous Greenlet

55 Green Jay

56 Blue-and-white Swallow

57 Southern Rough-winged Swallow

58 Thrush-like Wren

59 Coraya Wren

60 House Wren

61 Scaly-breasted Wren

62 Black-billed Thrush

63 Slate-throated Redstart

64 Russet-crowned Warbler

65 Magpie Tanager

66 Common Bush-Tanager

67 Blue-gray Tanager

68 Paradise Tanager

69 Blue-necked Tanager

70 Blue-black Grassquit

71 Yellow-browed Sparrow

72 Rufous-collared Sparrow

73 Bronze-green Euphonia

Friday, June 11, 2010

Peru. May 14, Day 13: One more time

We would be leaving Abra Patricia this morning, so Martin got up very early, about 4:30 AM to try for the Long-whiskered Owlet one last time. He was joined by Alex and Juan Jose. They were next to the tower, an area that the owl had been seen at before, when a small, almost tailless. owl shaped bird flew right past Juan Jose and Martin. Was it the owlet? Since I wasn't there, I can't say, but Juan Jose and Martin both are fairly sure it was. Martin was pretty jazzed when he came back to get me up to go to breakfast.

After we ate we went back to the gate area one more time. We looked again for the Lulu's Tody-tyrant, but only heard it. We packed up and headed down hill for the final time. We stopped a few times before getting to Afluentes. We finally got good looks at Bar-winged Woodwren, a much wanted bird that we had been trying for for several years. We saw a number of Swallow-tailed Kites again.  I felt a little sad to be leaving this area. We stopped at a pull out and I picked out a bird that Martin was excited about despite its rather subdued appearance, a Drab Hemispingus, a type of tanager. We did see a pair of Lulu's Tody-tyrants nearby.

We arrived at Afluentes and immediately picked up a good mixed flock. The tanagers were thick. There were Golden, Flame-faced, Beryl-spangled, Saffron-crowned and Grass Green, all birds I have seen before, but love so much. Then Martin found a Blue-browed Tanager, which I wanted very much! Martin was on a bit of a roll. He spotted a flash of red and black. At first he thought it was a White-winged Tanager, which we had seen a few days before at this site. Then he realized it was one of his main targets, a Vermilion Tanager and it was a stonker, as he would say. A beautiful red, about the size of our Scarlet Tanager, but with a black mask similar to a Cardinal, this was a real looker. We ended up seeing four of them.  Then Alex found a bird that trumped the tanager, at least as far as I was concerned, a Lanceolated Monklet! It perched for ages, giving good looks and crummy photos, well MY photos are crummy.

It was hard to leave, but we had a ways to go, so we took off, stopping at the chicken restaurant in Agua Verdes one more time. We had driven just a bit further when we saw a very long snake crossing the road. Snakes are almost as good as birds as far as I am concerned. (I wanted to be a herpatologist when I was a kid.) We backed up and stopped; then we jumped out of the car. The snake was crawling down a concrete drainage ditch, so we got great looks and a few photos. It was black with diagonal yellow stripes. Juan Jose said it was some kind of rat snake, and not venomous, which was a little disappointing. Martin had seen a large Coral Snake a couple of days previously, so I was wanting something a bit more dangerous.

We pressed on to Rioja. In the late afternoon we visited the forest at Yacumama again, where we had seen Point-tailed Palm-creeper on our previous visit. It was rather quiet, but we did add both Amazon and Green Kingfisher on the river, as well as Black-fronted Nunbird. A Tropial showed well on the other side of the river. As we were leaving I spotted a Capped Heron, a big favorite of mine, in one of the lagoons.
Photos for the day:

Bird list for the day:

1 Great Egret

2 Cattle Egret

3 Striated Heron

4 Capped Heron

5 Black Vulture

6 Turkey Vulture

7 Swallow-tailed Kite

8 Roadside Hawk

9 White-throated Hawk

10 Rock Pigeon

11 Band-tailed Pigeon

12 Plumbeous Pigeon

13 Blue Ground-Dove

14 White-eyed Parakeet

15 Cobalt-winged Parakeet

16 Red-billed Parrot

17 Smooth-billed Ani

18 White-collared Swift

19 Fork-tailed Palm-Swift

20 White-bearded Hermit

21 Tawny-bellied Hermit

22 Sapphire-spangled Emerald

23 Speckled Hummingbird

24 Violet-fronted Brilliant

25 Chestnut-breasted Coronet

26 Collared Inca

27 Emerald-bellied Puffleg

28 Long-tailed Sylph

29 Masked Trogon

30 Amazon Kingfisher

31 Green Kingfisher

32 Lanceolated Monklet

33 Black-fronted Nunbird

34 Versicolored Barbet

35 White-throated Toucan

36 Lafresnaye's Piculet

37 Yellow-tufted Woodpecker

38 Little Woodpecker

39 Golden-olive Woodpecker

40 Pale-legged Hornero

41 Azara's Spinetail

42 Cinereous-breasted Spinetail

43 Ash-browed Spinetail

44 Streaked Tuftedcheek

45 Montane Foliage-gleaner

46 Plain Xenops

47 Buff-throated Woodcreeper

48 Montane Woodcreeper

49 Variable Antshrike

50 Rufous-vented Tapaculo- Heard

51 Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet

52 White-crested Elaenia

53 Inca Flycatcher

54 Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant

55 Golden-faced Tyrannulet

56 Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant

57 Lulu's Tody-Flycatcher

58 Cinnamon Flycatcher

59 Rufous-tailed Tyrant

60 Dusky-capped Flycatcher

61 Great Kiskadee

62 Boat-billed Flycatcher

63 Social Flycatcher

64 Gray-capped Flycatcher

65 Tropical Kingbird

66 Barred Fruiteater

67 Barred Becard

68 Brown-capped Vireo

69 Rufous-browed Peppershrike

70 Blue-and-white Swallow

71 Southern Rough-winged Swallow

72 Thrush-like Wren

73 Gray-mantled Wren

74 House Wren

75 Bar-winged Wood-Wren

76 Gray-breasted Wood-Wren

77 White-capped Dipper

78 Andean Solitaire

79 Swainson's Thrush

80 White-eared Solitaire

81 Black-billed Thrush

82 Great Thrush

83 Slate-throated Redstart

84 Spectacled Redstart

85 Russet-crowned Warbler

86 Magpie Tanager

87 Rufous-crested Tanager

88 Black-capped Hemispingus

89 Oleaginous Hemispingus

90 Drab Hemispingus

91 Capped Conebill

92 Common Bush-Tanager

93 Blue-gray Tanager

94 Palm Tanager

95 Blue-capped Tanager

96 Vermilion Tanager

97 Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager

98 Grass-green Tanager

99 Golden Tanager

100 Saffron-crowned Tanager

101 Flame-faced Tanager

102 Blue-browed Tanager

103 Beryl-spangled Tanager

104 Blue-and-black Tanager

105 Silver-backed Tanager

106  Black-faced Dacnis

107 White-sided Flowerpiercer

108 Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch

109 Rufous-collared Sparrow

110 Giant Cowbird

111 Orange-backed Troupial

112 Yellow-rumped Cacique

113 Crested Oropendola

114 Golden-bellied Euphonia

115 Bronze-green Euphonia

116 White-vented Euphonia

117 Blue-naped Chlorophonia

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Peru, May 13 2010, Day 12: A Borrowed Lens

It was wonderful waking up at the Owlet Lodge at Abra Patricia! Its a lovely spot; the accommodations are wonderful. We walked down for breakfast, which was bread, juice and eggs. They sat the eggs in front of me and I immediately gave them to Martin. I am not much of an egg eater even when my digestive track is functioning well. Juan Jose asked me if I was not well. I told him I was not and he reached into his pocket and handed me some tablets. Alex told me to have some coca tea, which seems to the recommendation for everything in Peru. I took both. One or both did help throughout the day. I did eat the bread, which was always good there, and grabbed some crackers from the snack table for later.

We walked down to the gate by the road to look for Lulu's Tody-tyrant again. I really wanted to see this bird, partially because I think its such a cool name. We didn't have any luck again, but there was an even bigger reward there! One of the men from the lodge at the lodge, whose name has completely slipped my mind, much to my chagrin, came down and pointed out that an Ochre-fronted Antpitta was calling across the road. We went over and he led us up a side path to a different area. He was extremely skilled in imitating the call and fairly quickly the bird came in, allowing decent looks. I was extremely happy with what I saw, but Martin wanted to get some photos, which I would have, too if my good camera lens wasn't broken. I decided to walk back and let them try to get more. It always seems to me the fewer people the better.

I went back and birded around the gate. I was thrilled to get excellent looks at Silver-backed Tanager, which I had only seen in flight before. I worked the area where the Lulu's had been before, but still didn't see it. Martin, Alex and Juan Jose returned and we packed up to head down hill again. The area between the lodge and Agua Verdes is so good I think we could have worked it for a week and still found new birds. We stopped at the spot where we had seen the Royal Sunangel previously and I got an even better look. The navy blue color caught the light perfectly. I grieved for my camera lens. We heard both Andean and White-eared Solitaires calling, but still never were able to see either one. Solitaire song is so lovely, its the best part of the bird, so I was ok with that.

We moved down a bit farther and stopped. A Lulu's Tody-tyrant was calling by the side of the road! We were able to get excellent looks. It is an incredibly cute bird, tiny with a rusty head, bright yellow belly and a gray back. It rivaled the antpitta for the bird of the day at that point, at least for me. It's range is tiny. We dropped even further down. A Swallow-tailed Kite cicled lazily overhead and we got a great look at White-throated Hawk.

We decided to work the area around Afluentes again, as it was noted as being a good spot for Equatorial Gray-tail and Vermilion Tanager. The mixed flocks were present again, but not in the numbers that we had previously. We went to Agua Verdes to eat the "chicken's under the table" restaurant. (the dogs and chickens were starting to recognize me!) After lunch we birded around town a bit and then headed back to the lodge, arriving mid afternoon. I was starting to feel a bit rough again, so I opted out on hiking.

Martin made an incredibly generous offer. He lent me his very nice 100-400 mm lens with image stabilization. He was going to do some digiscoping instead with his other camera. I was ecstatic, as none of my bird pictures taken with my Fuji had been worth a flip. This lens is head and shoulders above what I normally use. I parked myself by the hummingbird feeder and went to work. I am very self critical of my photography skills. I always wonder if anything I take is even worth keeping. On this day I got photos I have only dreamed of taking. The hummingbirds were crisp and clear, with beautiful color. It was amazing. I realized that good equipment makes all the difference! Now I am going to have to save a couple of grand to get the lens I want.

We had a nice dinner and Martin went out looking for the owl again. I decided to go to bed and look at my pictures. I was sound asleep before I got a dozen photos in. My bed was great and the mountain air is soporific for me, at least at night.

Note: I got a nice email from Juan Jose yesterday correcting something I had written. The sarcophagus at Pomochocha was NOT Incan, but Chachapoyan, another pre-Colombian culture. Thanks for the correction, Juan Jose! I do remember him telling me that now, but its been a few weeks and there was so much to remember!

Photos for the day, including my hummingbird shots:

Bird List for the day:
Cattle Egret
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Swallow-tailed Kite
Roadside Hawk
Band-tailed Pigeon
Plumbeous Pigeon
Ruddy Ground-Dove
White-tipped Swift
Green Violetear
Andean Emerald
Sapphire-spangled Emerald
Speckled Hummingbird
Ecuadorian Piedtail
Fawn-breasted Brilliant
Chestnut-breasted Coronet
Bronzy Inca
Collared Inca
Royal Sunangel
Emerald-bellied Puffleg
Long-tailed Sylph
Masked Trogon
Azara's Spinetail
Rufous Spinetail
Long-tailed Antbird

Ochre-breasted Antpitta
Rufous-vented Tapaculo-Heard
White-crested Elaenia
Torrent Tyrannulet
Golden-faced Tyrannulet
Lulu's Tody-Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Chestnut-crested Cotinga
Rufous-browed Peppershrike
Green Jay
Blue-and-white Swallow
House Wren
Bar-winged Wood-Wren- Heard
Gray-breasted Wood-Wren
- Heard
Chestnut-breasted Wren- Heard
Andean Solitaire
- Heard
White-eared Solitaire- Heard
Great Thrush
Slate-throated Redstart
Spectacled Redstart
Magpie Tanager
White-capped Tanager
Common Bush-Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Blue-capped Tanager
Yellow-throated Tanager
Yellow-scarfed Tanager
Paradise Tanager
Green-and-gold Tanager
Blue-and-black Tanager
Silver-backed Tanager
Grayish Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator
White-sided Flowerpiercer
Yellow-breasted Brush-Finch
Yellow-browed Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Bronze-green Euphonia