31 October 2012

Lomas de Lachay...PERU (12 Oct)

After the incredible trip I had enjoyed at the hands of the Amazon Conservation Association http://www.amazonconservation.org/, I had a free day of my own at the end of this to try something different. As I was flying out of Lima, Lomas de Lachay was a shoe-in for where to visit: a handful of endemics awaited, and I made the way there by virtue of a driver arranged by Barry Walker of Manu Expeditions. 

I begun round the back of the reserve where the scenery was dominated by high, rocky slopes. These slopes were crucial to two of the endemics I seeked. I played the call of the Cactus Canastero, and immediately got a response. From way upslope! So I climbed up and the bird fell silent, although I eventually tracked one down crawling across a boulder beside me. Next up was the hope of Thick-billed Miner. I tried, lazily to stay in the bottom of the canyon, where Collared Warbling-Finches and Band-tailed Sierra-Finches kept me company, but there was no sign of the miner. Glimpsing something hopping up onto a high outcrop, I was initiated to climb up to investigate. Thankfully, when I reached the spot I was greeted by the sight of two foraging Thick-billed Miners.

Moving around to the main entrance the terrain changed markedly-being flat and open, part of the coastal plain. Coastal was relevant as I was on the lookout for my second miner lifer of the day, this time the endemic Coastal Miner. As it turned out this was pretty easy to find, as they were liberally scattered across the entire plains, where the legions of them were broken up by the odd Least Seedsnipe. Another thing of note was the incredible abundance of Burrowing Owls on site, when at one time I could 8 individuals in view all at one time.

Moving onto the rocky hills in the heart of the reserve, I was now on the lookout for my final endemic of the day-the sometimes tricky Raimondi´s Yellow-Finch. It was indeed tricky, not thanks to a blanket of low cloud hampering viewing. I took the longest trail - some two hours walk, and walked straight into a confiding party of Andean Tinamous, which even had their own sign to warn you of their presence! Finally, after an hours hike uphill I tracked several groups of the finches, and so I headed back to the car for lunch. My great driver, though was happy to delay lunch for a quick check of a coastal lagoon at Paraiso which was crammed with shorebirds and waterfowl, like Peruvian Pelicans, Chilean Flamingo, boreal shorebirds like Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpiper, and a scarce duck in these parts, a solitary Comb Duck (as well as an escaped Common Shelduck in their midst!)

In the evening I packed up and headed back to Ecuador, very happy with a trip that had brought me to some really cool places, some of which had been rarely visited by other birders, and amassed a list of new birds of some 80 or so, thanks in no small way to my traveling companion for the trip, Rich Hoyer. I hope to travel with him, and to here again!

30 October 2012

BIG DAY...Peru (10 Oct)

Rich and I had one more day to enjoy the forests of CICRA, and we made the most of it. By lunchtime it was clear the day total was heading to enormous proportions, considering we were on foot, and we upped the pace and tried to pack in as much as we could before dark. It was quite the day - both birds and mammals starred - and I ended up going to sleep exhausted but thrilled at having been given a chance to bird this magnificent forest. The next day I left with a heavy heart, hoping I would see CICRA again someday. 

Tinamous featured heavily in this bumper list, with 7 species recorded, displaying the undisturbed nature of the forest. In one particular moment I chased after a close calling Brazilian Tinamou, which eluded me, and I walked away from it only to flush another, unidentified tinamou just minutes later, and while was cursing tinamous under my breath I glanced around to see a White-throated Tinamou quietly walking by (one of four tinamou lifers that I got on this Peru trip)! Three tinamous of three species within meters of each other was a little unbelievable. Manakins were also represented on the day well with 5 species recorded (Fiery-capped, Round-tailed, Band-tailed, Dwarf-tyrant, and Wing-barred Piprites), including some feisty dueling male Band-taileds. A visit to a cocha (lake) along one of the trails boosted our list considerably, with Hoatzins loafing clumsily around the edges, a pair of Band-tailed Antbirds encountered in the scrubby verge, and a very confiding American Pygmy-Kingfisher showing off in the area. A trail close to the cocha brought me first Pavonine Quetzal for some years, a staggeringly beautiful bird that glowed red and green from the canopy as it looked down on us. Mammals also featured heavily during the morning, when a spine-tingling gnashing of many teeth, led us to a massive herd of White-lipped Peccaries (50-100-hard to tell as they were running here, there, and everywhere). Their presence was not just confirmed by their teeth-gnashing, which seemed straight out of B-movie, but also coupled with a terrible stench which they carry with them. Eventually, after running headlong towards the herd I caught sight of several of these far from pretty beasts, and I was overjoyed; I had wanted to have the peccary experience for some time, and it was every bit as ghastly and memorable as it was hyped to be! We also ran into a troop of hyper Saddleback Tamarins, one of which even slowed down enough to have his photo taken. 

However, the finale to our BIG DAY will be what will best be remembered. We had chosen to walk a trail that bordered a cocha and a section of the Los Amigos River in our final hope of finding a White-throated Jacamar, a scarce species known from CICRA, which had frustrated us so much as we were not able to find it that we had come to call it the "****ing Jacamar!" However, as we tried to reach the section of trail which looked good, habitat-wise, for the species we walked into a wall of impenetrable secondary scrub. We beat against it, tried to get around it, but eventually had to admit defeat; the jacamar race was over with the jacamar the clear victor. So we carried on along our original trail and amazingly ran into a small window, where there was a viewpoint down onto the area we could not reach. We were quite some distance up from there though, and so, rather hopefully, I played the call of the jacamar, which remarkably called excitedly back! We were stunned; then moments later a distant bird was located sitting on an open cecropia branch, before Rich struck gold when he noticed a pair of them had moved in silently into the tree just below us, their heads an image of nervous activity glancing this way and that as they presumably searched for their unwanted intruder (i.e. my I-Pod). This was just the finale we needed. We walked on, with dusk fast approaching, and tried to return to the station along a trail we had never visited before and walked straight into half a dozen Pale-winged Trumpeters walking in the forest on their way to roost. They were a bit surprised ton find us right on top of them, causing them to scatter, and one to even seek refuge in the trees overhead. These odd Amazonian birds are part of a family which is most closely related to cranes, a family of birds, and a type of birds that one would not immediately associate with lowland jungles, but that is exactly where all the three trumpeter species are found. We returned to lodge elated after a great climax to our time in CICRA, and were greeted by the usual Pauraques on getting back to the station, happy in the knowledge that we must have racked up a heady last day list for the property. Only after Rich Hoyer got home and combed through the records did he realize that we had got 199 species that day, agonizingly close to breaking 200, and with the awful realization we had not recorded some shoe-ins around the station like Violaceous Jay and Boat-billed Flycatcher. Clearly, with a boat, and a strategy, this site has massive potential for a near recording-breaking big day...now there's a thought!

News from my last day in Peru to come...

29 October 2012

Frogging...PERU (9 Oct.)

After returning from the outlying station of CM2 at CICRA to the main station, I decided to go it alone and walk another trail I had not walked there. Apart from being taunted by my nemesis bird, Black-spotted Bare-eye once again, which failed to show, there was relatively little action until I bumped into my lifer Varzea Schiffornis. Or I should say, when a Varzea Schiffornis almost bumped into me. It shot in so fast to playback of its call, I am sure I lost a few hairs in the process! Better still though was walking into a Bartlett's Tinamou casually walking along the trail a short time before dusk. I decided to follow it off trail, and being clever I took a compass bearing to ensure I did not get lost. Being not so clever, I left my backpack with head torch safely concealed inside, just off the trail. After enjoying close-ups of "Bart" again I decided to return to the trail again, only for me to realize that it was by now so dark I was having trouble reading my compass. If only I had that flashlight I left safely on the trail. Ironically, I needed the flashlight, to find the flashlight! After a 20 minute period of panic, I calmed, realized I must be close to the trail and decided after one final effort I would park myself and wait for the search party, which I knew would arrive to my red-faced realization I was extremely near the trail that I just could not see, in what was now, total darkness. My final effort paid off and I walked straight into my bag, and quickly regained my composure, and was thankful I did not require a search party to save me from my own stupidity. At night I could not resist heading out with Rich Hoyer for the chance of a nightbird or some frogs, (a growing obsession of mine). Result: Frogs 2 nightbirds 0

More from Peru on the way...

27 October 2012

Deepest, darkest Peru (8-9 Oct.)

For these days Rich Hoyer and I went even deeper into CICRA reserve (see for http://www.amazonconservation.org/index.html more details of CICRA), and visited the outlying CM2 station. The station has become a little run down, due to lack of use, though a trail still exists just behind it, and the trip along the Rio Los Amigos to reach there was a mixture of birding fun, and torture due to the means to get there: we had to use a small canoe with a very loud motor, meaning our five hour journey was an assault on the ear drums.

However, the journey was not without highlights, macaws being almost ever presents, with healthy numbers of Blue-and-yellow Macaws gracing the skies above, and a stop at a small lick produced many Rose-fronted Parakeets, Dusky-billed Parrotlet, Rock Parakeet, and even a Blue-headed Macaw flopping lazily over the scene below. We also bumped into some herds of Capybara lazing by the river on the way up, along with many, many Pied Lapwings, and wild Muscovy Ducks. Around the station, where we had but one night, we managed to find the rare Long-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, a much sought after bird in these parts, enjoy seconds of Peruvian Recurvebill, and Rufous-headed Woodpecker, and found a Mottled Owl at night, when Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, and Great and Long-tailed Potoos could be heard too, and a Kinkajou was observed noisily moving through the treetops too. Primates there seemed tolerant of us, perhaps betraying the fact that almost no hunting has ever occurred in this area of pristine lowland rainforest. We managed to get up close and personal to Brown Capuchins, Black-capped Squirrel Monkeys, Saddleback and Emperor Tamarins, and Peruvian Spider Monkeys during our very brief sourjourn there, and also heard Night Monkeys during the hours of darkness too.

The FIVE star sighting of the trip though was on the return journey back to CICRA, when Daniel spotted a large raptor about an hour downriver. He was right it was a large raptor, a very large raptor indeed, the king of Amazonian jungle no less, the rare Harpy Eagle....

More from Peru to come on my return from the Ecuadorian Amazon, including news of an impromptu Big Day at CICRA that showcased the massive potential of this very little birded site...

26 October 2012

CICRA (Los Amigos) PERU (7 Oct.)

This trip to Peru, generously organised by Jeff Woodman of the Amazon Conservation Association (http://www.amazonconservation.org/), in order to check out their properties and potential for developing these for bird tourism, really turned out to be fantastic. From a selfish level, I got a bunch of lifers, and got to see some very cool places, which I have no doubt will emerge to the fore on the birding map, by virtue of their quality bird lists and birding experiences. Going to their CICRA research station will live very long in my memory indeed. This site is located along the Rio Madre de Dios in the Manu region of Peru, between the well-known Manu Wildlife Center and the port of Puerto Maldonado. The site is perched on the top of an escarpment, meaning I had wonderful views from my cabin of this snaking river below, and the always enriching sight of lush Amazon jungle stretching to the horizon on the other side of the river. Standing in this area around dawn or dusk was good for getting the daily surge of parrots and macaws heading to and from roost, which regularly involved Red-bellied, Blue-and-yellow, and Scarlet Macaws. It has also been named Los Amigos, as it flanked by a river of the same name on its eastern flank. But, on to the jungle birding...

Although CICRA has been well-studied for birds - with Joe Tobias and others spending a good time surveying the area some years before, it is still relatively little known, and almost never visited by birders. So again, Rich Hoyer were bursting with excitement and anticipation at what the jungle might hold. We began by checking out an area of thick bamboo, as we were on the lookout for more of those special bamboo that seem to abound in this region. Entering into the forest, we immediately ran into a troop of monkeys, and quickly racked up three species: Dusky Titi Monkey, Black-capped Squirrel Monkey, and Brown Capuchin. Then, on reaching the bamboo, it did not take long to locate our first major target there, the rich rusty Peruvian Recurvebill, complete with its odd appendage (i.e. bill). The same bamboo stand also produced a pair of Rufous-headed Woodpeckers, which surely must rank as one of the all time great woodpeckers on the planet. However, arguably the best sighting of the day was not avian, when Rich Hoyer exclaimed he had a dog in his sights, which turned out to be the rare Short-eared Dog. (Sadly, I was simply too stunned to grab a photo, even though I had a clear opportunity to). 

After that thrilling morning the afternoon had a lot to live up to; and it did. Walking down a trail towards the Madre de Dios River we bumped into a quietly feeding flock of parakeets that held a few Tui Parakeets hiding out among the more common Cobalt-winged Parakeets. Manakins performed well on the day too, with another Fiery-capped Manakin seen, though this time refraining from twirling around a stem as it had so memorably done for us at Villa Carmen, earlier on this trip. On top of that the scarlet, black and yellow form of a male Band-tailed Manakin gave me my first real countable views of this lifebird. However, neither of these were why we had specifically chosen to walk down to near the river and focus our efforts on rank, dense, riverside vegetation. On finally reaching the spot where we'd hoped to connect with this other specialty we heard the distinctive piping notes of our quarry, and I immediately set about a plan to "go in", with the bird seemingly just out of reach, just off trail. I walked in played the call back and was stunned at how soon the Rufous-fronted Antthrush strolled in to check out its phantom intruder. The most conspicuous feature of the bird, a glowing orange forehead, was striking and gave the bird a look as if it was wearing a Petzl head torch within the dingy forest understorey. Mission accomplished, we returned to base, where my much longed-for shower had to be temporarily abandoned when an Ocellated Poorwill decided to call from so close it sounded as if it was right on my veranda. It was not, but it did tease me with the thought of landing there when I gave it a quick burst of its own song, but veered away at the last second, and was soon off into the night. With that, I returned to my shower!

More from Peru to come in a few days, when I return from another Amazon adventure, this time at La Selva Lodge in Ecuador, where I MUST spend the next few days! 

25 October 2012

Rare Hawk...PERU (4 Oct.)

For our second and final day at  the Amazon Conservation Association http://www.amazonconservation.org property of Villa Carmen http://www.acca.org.pe/espanol/investigacion/Villa_Carmen/generalidades.html, just off the Manu Road (near the town of Pilcopata), we ventured up onto some of the bamboo-choked ridges dotting the property. Outlying ridges at the base of the Andes like this can be special, potentially holding some very rare species (Shrike-like Cotinga anyone?). Unfortunately, our birding did no pay off in this hoped for way, but we still had a "pucker" day, with a stunning, rare highlight right at the death, a short time before dusk. Before we had got out of the clearing that morning - the site of the new lodge development - we were admiring my first lifer of the day, a marvelously confiding Slender-billed Xenops. As we got closer to the forest edge a party of three Blue-crowned Trogons provided a splash of vivid colors. Our morning was spent sweating and trudging our way up to a ridge, some 700m higher than the surrounding flatlands.  As usual, a Cinereous Tinamou managed to toy with me on the way up, sounding oh so close, but never giving me even the slightest of glimpses. On the way up we came across a pair of vocal Golden-bellied Warblers, and on the crest of the ridge were rewarded with a brace of smashing antbirds: a striking Spot-backed Antbird preceding a pair of Hairy-crested Antbirds. The latter are known as "obligate ant followers", being rarely seen away from the army ant swarms they follow (to prey on the insects that flee in their wake), although strangely we could not find an ant anywhere around them, so presumably they were just moving through. It is hard to avoid passing through large spiky, almost aggressive, stands of Guadua bamboo at Villa Carmen, that frequently attach to your clothes, and leave their marks behind on your field gear. And such stands held Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner (perhaps better referred to by its other name, Bamboo Foliage-gleaner), as well as Flammulated Bamboo-tyrant and Johannes's Tody-tyrant, as well as a striking male Scarlet-hooded Barbet

Near the end of the day we returned to site of yesterday's Amazonian Antpitta, an old dirt road flanked with rich forest, and walked into a Razor-billed Currassow prowling the road, which was later also graced by a Gray-necked Wood-Rail which gave me a fright when I thought it might just be a tinamou at that distance! We scanned the skies above the Rio Pinipini for macaws (we were both hoping for a lifer Blue-headed), and then returned to the lodge, exhausted, at another long, though imminently rewarding, day in the field. We were just about beat, but managed to stumble onto the best bird of our two days at Villa Carmen on the return journey, just moments before dusk began to fall, when we bumped into a Gray-bellied Hawk sitting brazenly in the open, and calling regularly (we both got recordings of this). Thanks to Rich Hoyer for firing off some shots of this exceedingly rare raptor...

More from Manu to come, as we headed deeper into the lowlands...

23 October 2012

VILLA CARMEN (Peru, 3 Oct.)

Well this day in Peru was a an absolute cracker. Rich Hoyer and I were fired up and excited; we were to be birding an area very few people had birded. Ever. Just one birding group had been in a few weeks before with Jeff Woodman on a Birdathon to raise money for the NGO that runs the property: Amazon Conservation Association, ACA, (http://www.amazonconservation.org/index.html). And they had recorded quite the list, which whetted our appetite. The night before Rich and I dined at the property and poured over the trail map with volunteer Nicole, and Daniel Huaman from ACCA, the Peruvian arm of ACA, trying to come up with the best strategy for one of only two days to dig in and find out what this potentially dramatic site, just off the Manu Road, had to offer. We left the nearby town of Pilcopata early,  had breakfast on site, then hit the trails in earnest, focusing on the ones with abundant stands of spiny Guadua bamboo, for these could hold some very special birds indeed. The bamboo specialties came thick and fast: a jet-black male Goeldi's Antbird appeared and stared at us with its blood red eye; a White-lined Antbird lurked in the bamboo showing off its punky crest; a Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher gave its farting call regularly from the dense understorey, though showed momentarily; a pair of Manu Antbirds casually circled me in another stand of guadua; the calls of Bamboo Antshrikes regularly rang out from the taller bamboo patches, and, best of all, a striking male White-cheeked Tody-tyrant sang conspicuously from the canopy. And that was just the bamboo birds. I was having a hard time keeping up with all the lifebirds coming my way, but that was OK, I was in seventh heaven. Another choice moment occurred when a male Fiery-capped Manakin, every bit as stunning as the name suggests, spun around a low bamboo stem, in order to attract an unseen female. Even is she was not impressed, we were; VERY! On the way back to lunch I tried taping in a tinamou, usually regarded as an exercise in futility, but this time a Black-capped Tinamou, perhaps having never heard a recording of its call ever before came aggressively striding in! Over lunch we recovered from an exhausting, though exhilarating, morning, and pondered how high our day list must be heading with the tally looking mighty impressive thus far. The afternoon was predictably slower, although to some extent I was relieved to have a break from the onslaught and take in new birds, one-by-one, at a more gentile pace! Still the afternoon yielded some avian goodies, not least my first ever Rufous-capped Nunlet, one I had my eye on from the field guide before landing in Peru for this trip. It did not disappoint. Better still though, a low hooting call came drifting to us from the near understorey, and there was no mistaking the soft calls of an Amazonian Antpitta. I readied myself for a long run in with the species; after all, antpittas never come easy. However, on this day things were different. First the "soft" tinamou, and now an available antpitta watched puffing out its throat sac as it hooted back to me.

And I have barely had time to mention others like Chestnut-capped Puffbird, multiple Bluish-fronted Jacamars, a Great Jacamar near the dining area, Scarlet-hooded Barbet, Fine-barred Piculet, and Johannes's Tody-tyrant, and an electric blue male Plum-throated Cotinga lighting up a tree! I am exhausted merely trying to recall this day. I had heard many tales of the joys of birding the Manu area, now I got to see, hear, and feel the joys of this firsthand, and it was a very heady mix indeed. By the end of the day, Rich, who, as ever, was keeping meticulous notes of the day right as it unfolded, noted we had recorded just under 150 species, birding on foot, at a fairly slow pace. Not bad at all. This was quite probably one of the most enthralling days birding I have experienced in my life; tens of new birds for my world list, with many fine lookers among them, and a new antpitta and tinamou in the same day, both of which showed well. This was a rare day indeed, although perhaps not so much around here!? Sorry for the lack of a bird photo, but I guess I was just too busy, well, birding!

More from Peru very soon, including a shock find at Villa Carmen...

18 October 2012

More from Manu (Peru 2 Oct.)


The Manu Road in Peru has been a long time haunt of birders and animal lovers and it is not to hard to understand why, even from my short experience of it on this day. The road was covered with clouds of butterflies, producing a myriad of colors. A rustling in the canopy led us to a pair of handsome Grey Woolly Monkeys, seeming out of place to me here at nearly 2000m elevation. The views of steep slopes blanketed in lush forest stretching as far as the eye can see was refreshing and all too rare in this broken world we live in, and of course there was the birds themselves. Here is one of the more cryptic ones, a female Lyre-tailed Nightjar, found by Rich Hoyer (see http://birdernaturalist.blogspot.com/) who had seen it loafing on the same roof a year or more earlier; now that's a stake-out!

More from Peru soon...

17 October 2012

The Manu Road...(PERU 2 Oct.)

Today was to be a momentous day, as I got to bird the famous Manu Road for almost the whole day. It is famous at it cuts through a range of elevations, and therefore bird species, and almost all of it is covered in lush forest; from cloudforest in the upper regions to lowland Amazon jungle down at the bottom end. We begun our day in the cloudforest, and notably at Wayqecha, a biological station of an NGO, the Amazon Conservation Association (http://www.amazonconservation.org/contact/index.html), who were hosting us for the trip. Many birders already know of the station, stay there and frequently bird the road closeby. However, we decided to explore their Zorro Trail, which for me was enticing as this is the haunt of one of Wayqecha´s star residents. It is actually locally common around the station, but devilishly difficult to see, so I was expecting a run in within it at some during the morning. Not far from the station some butch flycatchers perched on top of the high Andean elfin forest proved to be the day's first lifebird, the inauspicious Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant. Lifebirds became more notable and exciting when a flock of cerulean blue White-collared Jays turned up momentarily distracting from my Red-and-white Antpitta quest, as while the jays screamed above, the antpitta mocked me from the dense shrubbery below. The mockery became almost painful when I tried to tape one onto the trail, and with a 50-50 chance it might come in on either side I opted to look up the trail, only for the dastardly antpitta to hop onto the trail behind me, giving me only the image of a ruddy blur when I turned to try to see it at Daniel's announcement. I would have to wait until the trail's end when I once more met up with Rich Hoyer who revealed he had heard another individual close by, and with a nice opening in the vegetation, we might just try "going in" for it. This worked a treat; after playing its call, hearing nothing for what seemed like an age, the antpitta appeared silently and stealthily  and even lingered to pluck worms from the soil! With that we hit the road and birded our way down to the tiny Amazon foothill town of Pillcopata. Birds came thick and fast all the way down as we moved steadily through rich forests - Yellow-crested Tanager was a standout in an area that also held a fair dose of the shocking Paradise Tanager too. A few flycatchers were new for me including the Inca Flycatcher, which just had to be seen by virtue of its cool name, if not for its appearance, Bolivian Flycatcher was also a lifer there too. However, several larger species made the headlines too, spotted by Daniel's sharp eyes...first a handsome Blue-banded Toucanet, following close on the heels of a glittering green Golden-headed Quetzal, and then two cotingas in the afternoon  were of course well worth seeing: lekking male Andean Cock-of-the-rocks, and the punk-haired Amazonian Umbrellabird. In between all this top draw action we even managed to see a roosting Lyre-tailed Nightjar hanging out on a lodge roof, and bumped into a pair of Woolly Monkeys beside the road.

Much more from deepest, darkest Peru to come...

16 October 2012

Beardless Mountaineer...(PERU 1 Oct.)

...Our (myself, Rich Hoyer from WINGS and Daniel Hamuan of ACCA http://www.acca.org.pe/) main target for our short stop around Huacarpay Lakes, near Cusco, to break up our journey over onto the east slope of the Andes, and down the infamous Manu Road, was an endemic and stunning hummer  - Bearded Mountaineer. We were entertained by some classic high Andean birds utilizing the lake itself, such as Andean Gulls, Andean Lapwing, and Speckled Teal. On the fringes of the marsh Plumbeous Rails stomped around brazenly proving that here in the heart of their range they are distinctly easier than further north in Ecuador (where I live), and a concerted effort is required to see this handsome rail. We scoured the tobacco plants, decorated with handsome yellow blooms, as these are the very flowers said to be favored by the sought-after Bearded Mountaineer. Then, finally, when we on the point of leaving a buzzing sound among the tobacco led us to the mountaineer. Though sadly it seemed to lack a bear and I guess therefore was a female. Pushing on towards the Manu Road we went through dry inter Andean valleys which produced a further two endemics, and handsome ones at that: Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, and the remarkably attractive Creamy-crested Spinetail, which must be one of the most pretty of this group anywhere. Well worth seeing, though unfortunately its furtive behavior meant I failed to get the picture I wished to share with you. We ended the day at the Wayqecha Biological Station (run by ACCA, the Peruvian arm of ACA http://www.amazonconservation.org/), in the cloudforest of the east slope, slipping in a Rufous Antpitta (here with a shockingly different voice to the form I am used to in Ecuador justifying its upcoming split), Violet-throated Starfrontlet, and Golden-collared Tanager before dusk fell and the air chilled suddenly.it had been a varied and interesting day, sprinkled with Peru endemics, and yet we had only just begun.

More from Peru, and the Manu Road, to come very soon...

15 October 2012

Andean Giants (PERU, 1 Oct.)

I arrived in Lima, Peru the day before and was quickly connecting with a flight to the southern city of Cusco. In the evening we dropped in at Barry Walker's famous Cross Keys pub, with no sign of Barry anywhere save for the odd abandoned scope in various corners of this very British pub.

I was in Peru as a guest of ACCA, a Peruvian arm of ACA (Amazon Conservation Association http://www.amazonconservation.org/), who have various biological stations in the region. Myself and WINGS guide Rich Hoyer were invited to see three of these and comment and advise on how these may be developed for bird tourism. This gave me my first views of Peru, even though I had been living "next door" in Ecuador for the past seven years or so. Our first ACCA property was to be Wayqecha station, (http://www.acca.org.pe/espanol/investigacion/wayqecha/area_wayqecha.html) positioned in high altitude cloudforest on the Manu Road. However, we had a long drive before we would get there, and many birds to see en-route. We decided to make a stop at Huacarpay Lakes, en route in the hope of an endemic, and gorgeous Peruvian endemic, the Bearded Mountaineer. While searching the tobacco bushes for these Andean beauties, we were distracted time and again by an abundance of Giant Hummingbirds present in the area at the time. This hummingbird always shocks me. Being used to seeing hummingbirds in my Andean home in Ecuador, I am used to them being flitting, dashing beauties, darting excitedly from bush to bush in a blur of high speed wings. However, the Giant Hummingbird is a very different animal indeed. The World's largest hummingbird it weighs in at around 24 grams or 8.5 ounces, around twice the weight of an American Goldfinch, and eight times the weight of the familiar Ruby-throated Hummingbird of North America. In length it is also notable too, at almost 9 inches or 23 centimeters being larger than an Eastern Bluebird or a Red-winged Blackbird, and almost three times the size of North America's Ruby-throated Hummer. Thus when this bird flies there is not the familiar blur of wings, and a motion that is hard for human eyes to keep track of. Rather the wings flap deeply and deliberately in clear strokes clearly discernible to our eyes and brains. Indeed this starling-sized hummingbird often does not strike as such at all, with its labored movements and unimaginable size when compared to most others in this diminutive family. We enjoyed watching this particular individual as compensation for the missing mountaineer, while a Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, another oddity that bucks the trend and reputation of all flycatchers being dowdy creatures, vied for our attentions at the lake edge behind...

More from the land of the Incas on the way...