Saturday, August 29, 2015

Peru, Paracas Reserve 28th & 29th Aug

On the last morning of the trip I had a very rapid drive around the Paracas reserve. Desolate does not begin to describe it, barring the two large bushes at the environmental centre I didn't see a single living plant. Every bird I saw was at the water's edge. It reminded me of the more featureless parts of Namibia, and with good reason, the climatic conditions are remarkably similar. The birds were interesting though. I'd say in winter the bay will hold a fabulous selection of wintering waders. There were a fair number present already, the most interesting of which were the Western Sandpiper showing well near the marked path onto the flats and the tagged Semipalmated Sandpiper in the same area. Other waders included Sanderling, Grey Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs and American Oystercatcher. Another feature is the 300 or so Chilean Flamingos here. Until today I'd only seen juveniles, but the adults with their bright red 'knees' are marvelous. The only Black Skimmers I saw were here, and there were also White-cheeked Pintail and Elegant Tern. I'm fairly sure Peruvian Terns were also in the area, but I only got distant flight views and didn't find the roost.

Chilean Flamingo.
Grey Gull
Grey-hooded Gull
Kelp Gull
Black Skimmers in amongst the Grey Gulls
Elegant Tern
Grey (Black-bellied) Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Tagged Semipalmated Sandpiper. Ringed on 12/12/12 in the same general area, this is the first time it has been recorded since being trapped originally.
Western Sandpiper
American Oystercatcher

Peruvian Pelican
White-cheeked Pintail
Guanay Cormorant

Friday, August 28, 2015

Peru, mouth of Rio Pisco - 28th Aug

A few miles north of Paracas is the town of Pisco, and the Pisco River. The mouth of the river is marshy, with lots of pools, stands of reeds and other much sought after habitats. Perfect for migrants waders, as well as hosting a good number of breeding birds. My visit was too short, just a few hours on one afternoon, and I was playing it by ear, were I to return I would try and get to the mouth early rather than bash through the marshes, but it was a great day nonetheless. The main bird of interest were the hundreds of Wilson's Phalaropes on literally every little puddle, pond and inlet. There were a few other migrant waders present; Pectoral Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Black-necked Stilt, Killdeer and Semipalmated Plovers. The only ducks of the trip were here, Cinnamon Teal and White-cheeked Pintail. There were quite a few heron species too. Best of the lot was a distant Cocoi Heron, but there were many Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Great White Egret and Black-crowned Night Heron. Puna Ibis, Chilean Flamingo and Common Moorhen were also fairly plentiful, and the sandbars at the river mouth had many hundreds of Peruvian Pelicans, Neotropical Cormorants and several gull species.

The short grass held Peruvian Meadowlark and quite a few Yellowish Pipit, as well as one apparent rarity, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

The only drawback at the site was the presence of hunters. There seems to be no protection of any kind in the marsh, and several hunters were shooting ducks.

Wilson's Phalarope.
Puna Ibis.
Yellowish Pipit.
Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

Cinnamon Teal.

Peru, Ballestas Islands - 28th Aug

The last stop on our Peruvian trip was at Paracas where the family could enjoy a bit of luxury at the local Hilton, and I could get out to see some seabirds at some offshore islands. The trip is a bit of a tourist trap, and there wasn't much in the way of choice as to where we went or when we stopped. Nevertheless it was a great success as far as I was concerned. The islands themselves are very steep-sided rocky lumps covered in cormorants. The principal breeding species is Guanay Cormorant of which there were thousands. Also present in large numbers were Peruvian Booby and Inca Tern. Small Peruvian Pelican colonies were seen on the way out to the islands, and gulls of various species foraged for scraps (Kelp Gull, Grey Gull Grey-hooded Gull and Belcher's Gull). Best bird for me though was the pair of Humboldt Penguins we spotted as soon as we arrived. Any day with a penguin in it is a good day!

The stretch of sea between the islands and the mainland had a few seabirds, most notably Sooty Shearwater, Elliot's Storm Petrel and Elegant Tern.

Humboldt Penguin, yay!
Peruvian Booby
Guanay Cormorant colony
Inca Tern
Peruvian Pelican

Elliot's Storm Petrel
Red crab sp.
Peruvian Sea-Lion

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Peru, Ica - 26th & 27th Aug

After returning to Lima from the mountains we decided to head south to see a little more of the Peruvian desert. We based ourselves at Las Dunas in Ica and while the rest of the family got down to some intense relaxation I explored. The best spot seemed to be in the farmland around the Rio Inca. Nothing particularly startling, the river consisted of a series of small pools, some of them with reedbeds around them. Best birds included; Black-throated Woodpecker, Least Bittern, Plumbeous Rail, Peruvian Meadowlark, Chilean Flamingo, Andean Swift, Groove-billed Ani, Purple-collared Woodstar, Peruvian Sheartail, as well as some desert specialists such as Coastal Miner, Greyish Miner and Short-tailed Field Tyrant. The pools on the river had a few migrant waders (Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Semipalmated Sandpiper)

There were also several flocks of parrots/ parakeets. Peru seems to have a particular issue with feral populations of various parrot species and it can be very difficult deciding whether what you've seen is plastic or not. A small flock of Mountain Parakeets did not seem out of place at the Rio Inca, though the larger flock of Scarlet-fronted Parakeets (with one lonely Dusky-headed Parakeet associating with them) at the lodge certainly were. I saw several small groups of Pacific Parrotlets, also apparently way out of range so presumably escapes/ feral.

Andean Swift
Amazilia Hummingbird
Peruvian Sheartail
Purple-collared Woodstar
Black-throated Woodpecker
Groove-billed Ani
Scarlet-fronted Parakeet
Pacific Parrotlet
Croaking Ground-Dove
Short-tailed Field Tyrant
Coastal Miner
Greyish Miner
Peruvian Meadowlark
Saffron Finch

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Peru, Aguas Calientes & Machu Picchu - 21st to 22nd Aug

The only time we got to the eastern side of The Andes and into proper forest. Birding was patchy, and I didn't find the best spot until the morning we left, but it was good nonetheless. The best place is in the grounds of the Inkaterra Lodge. It looks like a pricey spot to stay, but I asked at reception if I good look around and they said that was fine. They entice birds in with feeding stations loaded with over-ripe bananas for Tanagers, and they also have hummingbird feeders scattered around. Great for bird photographers!

The birds were as you would expect for an Andean montane forest, fantastic. Loads of Tanagers, hummingbirds, flycatchers etc. Highlights for me were; Andean Motmot, Torrent Ducks with chicks, Oleaginous Hemispingus (just because of the name), White-capped Dipper (there aren't many Dippers in the world!), Mitred Parakeet.

The journey back to Cusco was also by train, with only Andean Guan to add to the bird list. I got the surprise of my life though when I spotted a Spectacled Bear in a tree at eye-level to me as we chugged past!

Blue-necked Tanager.
Rust-and-Yellow Tanager.
Masked Flowerpiercer
Blue-capped Tanager
Blue-and-Yellow Tanager

Oleaginous Hemispingus
Female Silver-backed Tanager
Blue-grey Tanager

Green Hermit
Great Sapphirewing
White-bellied Hummingbird
Mountain Velvet-breast
Chestnut-breasted Coronet
Streak-necked Flycatcher
Lemon-browed Flycatcher

Russet-crowned Warbler

Cinnamon Flycatcher
Torrent Tyrannulet
White-capped Dipper
White-crested Elaenia
White-winged Black Tyrant
White-banded Tyrannulet

Male Torrent Duck
...and a female...
...and a Torrent Duckling, one of four being raised in this family.