After our late dip (i.e. miss) of the Yellow-faced Parrotlet the afternoon before, we had no choice but to backtrack towards Balsas and try again for this increasingly rare, but beautiful endemic. All credit for our parrotlets must go to Nick Athanas, who picked out their far off calls with the hearing of an owl, and then found them with eagle-like eyesight. They were far from easy, but once Nick had pinned them down we enjoyed some choice scope looks at this handsome little parrot.
Working our way back up the Maranon Valley, back in the direction of Celendin, we stopped in on our third inca-finch of the trip, this time Gray-winged Inca-Finch, which showed up just where Nick had planned it to be! Not much further up our final major target in the area fell too, with Chestnut-backed Thornbird also. Then it was time to leave the Maranon Valley behind and begin our long journey between Celendin and Cajamarca. Although the journey had barely got underway, when we picked up a Jelski's Chat-Tyrant lurking in the undergrowth. The same area also yielded great looks at another Baron's Spinetail, another Peruvian endemic.
Much of the day was spent making our way between these two cities, and in spite of much having been written of the devastation of habitat along this route, a fantastic, and very birdy afternoon ensued. First to fall was a White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant feeding in some highland fields; this was quickly followed by several successive Rufous-webbed Bush-Tyrants. One particular scrub stop proved especially productive. We quickly found our main target, Striated Earthcreeper, which was followed soon after by Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, and Peruvian Sierra-Finch. An area of remnant forest (barely any forest being accessible from the road now), was sad to see, but still worth the stop for Golden-billed Saltator, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant, White-browed Chat-Tyrant and our first Black Metaltail.
Driving ever higher we emerged onto rocky highland fields and slopes, where a Slender-billed Miner was seen in display flight. Finally, we arrived, a little earlier than planned on the outskirts of the city of Cajamarca, and so headed straight to Rio Chonta, close to the city. This has become known as the site to find the rare Gray-bellied Comet, which Rick found, with remarkable ease, right while I was taking a toilet stop. I could hear the excitement, and had to rush to finish, and charge over to where I gathered they had the bird, only for me to arrive just as the comet vanished into orbit. There was a tense five minutes, with much consoling language from everyone else in the group directed at me. Never had a piss seemed so devastating to me, until Rick, finally put me out of my misery, spotting this rare hummingbird feeding in a non-native eucalyptus tree of all things. Relief came to me, and we followed this up with a confiding White-winged Cinclodes hopping upon the rocks of the river that gives the site its name.
We had but one day to go for the main tour in the area, before Mark and I added on two extra days out of Lima....