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!

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