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Birding trip to Peru in April 2010

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Old Friday 4th June 2010, 18:25   #1
Muncie birder
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Birding trip to Peru in April 2010

During April my birding buddy and I traveled through southern Peru for a month looking for birds.

Our first stop was Lomas de Lache about 75 km north of Lima just off the Pan Am highway. We hired a taxi for the day to take us there. The trip takes about 2 hours if you leave before the rush hour. We left at 6 am.
Our list for here.

West Peruvian Dive
Rock Pigeon
Least Seedsnipe
Common Miner
Yellowish Pipet
Band-tailed Sierra-Finch
Chiguanco Thrush
Peruvian martin
Peruvian Meadowlark
Variable Hawk (8)
Collared Warbling-Finch
Southern House Wren
Eared Dove
Andean Tinamou
Croaking Ground-Dove
Vermilion Flycatcher
Blue & White Swallow
Grayish Miner
Black Vulture

Our second stop and quite arguably the best was Lake Junin. We left Quito at noon and arrived in Junin at about 8:30 pm traveling on the biggest bus I had ever been on. The accomodations there are spartan to say the least but the toilet did have a toilet seat and the bed had 4 of the heaviest wool blankets I had ever seen. The next day we hired a taxi for the day for 80 sols--about $25 to drive us around the lake. We also hired the park rangers to take us out on the lake to look for the Junin Grebe. We found two. The boat trip was 30 sols. In the afternoon we had to cut our trip short because it began raining extremely hard. We almost got stranded because of rising water.

Birds seen here

Andean Gull common
Puna Teal common
Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch
Andean Lapwing abundant
American Golden Plover
Peruvian Sierra-Finch
Black Siskin
Chilian Flamingo
Andean Negrito
White-winged Cinclodes
Yellow-billed Pintail
Pectorial Sandpiper
Andean Flicker
Greater Yellowlegs
Slender-billed Miner
Bar-winged Cinclodes
Silvery Grebe
Puna Ibis abundant
Crested Caracara
Cinereous Harrier
Many-colored Rush-tyrant
Ash-breasted Sierra Finch
Black-winged Ground-dove
Baird's Sandpiper
Junin Grebe
Peregrine Falcon
Mountain Caracara
Plain-breasted Earth-Creeper
Correndera Pipet
Cattle Egret

Leaving Junin is not so easy as getting there. Buses stop here only to let people off. They do not stop to pick up passengers. Leaving involves taking a collectivo (shared taxi) to the next town where you transfer to a van that then takes you to the next town where you can then catch a bus.

Our next stop was Tingo Maria. Here we stayed at Villa Jennifer. This is the place to stay when visiting Tingo Maria. We did not want to leave. The lodge is a bit out of town which makes for a very nice relaxing atmosphere. There is a pool to cool off in, plenty of beer, and the food is good and there are quite a few birds there too. The main attraction at Tingo Maria is the Oil Bird Cave. If you have a strong flash light you can see the Oil birds inside the cave during the day, but the real time to experience them is exactly at 6:00 pm in the evening when they and the bats leave the cave. What a sight. Tingo Maria park also is an excellent place to see Sunbitterns. They are almost tame there.

The list.

Sunbittern (2)
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Blue-headed Parrot
Black Phoebe
Cliff Flycatcher (just outside the cave)
Roadside Hawk
Lettered Aracari
Thrush-like Wren
Gray-crowned Flycatcher
Oilbird (hundreds)
Spot-winged Antbird
Gray Elenia
Crested Oropendola
Long-tailed Tyrant
Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher
White-tailed Trogon
Buff-breasted Wren
Orange-Winged Amazon
White-banded Swallow
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Social Flycatcher
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Gilted Barbet
Thick-billed Euphonia
Buff-throated Saltator
Chestnut-bellied Seedeater
Chestnut-Eared Aracari
Turkey Vulture
Wheite-eyed Parakeet
Black-fronted Nunbird
Black-throated Mango

Next stop was Pucallpa where we scheduled a day long boat trip on Laguna Yarinacocha and on Rio Ucayali. After the boat trip we arrived back at Yarinacocha just in time for dinner at the open air fish restaurant. The fish were laid out where you could select the one you wanted. There were four varieties too select from. Not knowing one from the other, I asked the cook to select the best one for me. The fish was named Ma Pa Rae or something like that. It was excellent. Here they have a locally brewed beer that I thought was the best in Peru--San Juan. I liked it much better than Cusquea which was my 2nd favorite. Yarinacocha was the only place that I found this beer. Perhaps it was so good due to having spent 10 yours out in the sun on the boat. Anyway it was worth having 3.

Birds seen here.

Large-billed Tern (hundreds)
Amazon Kingfisher
Smooth-billed Ani
Musician Wren
Sulphury Flycatcher
Black-tailed Trogon
Silver-beaked Tanager
Striated Heron (100+)
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
Purple Gallinule
Pied Water-Tyrant
Grayish Salator
Rufous-breasted Piculet
Fork-tailed Flycatcher (many)
Southern Rough-Winged Swallow
Spotted Tody-flycather
Sirystes
Wattled Jacana (10+)
Peregrine Falcon
White-winged Swallow
Little Woodpecker
Green Kingfisher
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
Ringed Kingfisher
Barn Swallow
Great Blackhawk
Blue-black Grossbeak
Great kiskadee
Royal Flycatcher
Tui parakeet
Social Flycatcher
Black-fronted Nunbird
Red-capped Cardinal
Oriole Blackbird
(pink dolphin)
Eastern Kingbird
Moriche Oriole


From here we took Star Peru airline to Iquitos. Our birding experience here left something to be desired. We did not book with one of the expensive birding lodges. Our goal here was to bird Allpahuayo-Mishana Reserve. At the airport we met a man who told us he was an agent for one of the birding lodges and that we could stay there 3 nights for $300 for both of us. We were interested. He called the lodge and handed the phone to my buddy. What transpired was very bazaar. My buddy who speaks fluent Spanish was on the phone for about 10 minutes and the conversation became more and more heated. It turns out that this was sort of a bait and switch tactic. There was no $300 for 3 nights. Our cab driver into town from the airport told us that he knew a birding guide and he would have him meet us at the hotel. We did meet him and hired him to guide us at Mishana. That night while we were eating at a local restaurant the guide comes in and asks us if we would pay him in advance for his services the next day. The answer was NO. The restaurant owner told us that she knew the man and that he was probably broke and needed the money but that he was reliable.

He was to meet us at the hotel at 5 am. The next morning he was not there. We went to Mishana without him. The fee here was the most expensive in Peru of all the places we visited--30 sols. We walked all the trails but did not see many birds. The one that we had hoped to see here we did not see--Mishana Tyrannulet.

We did see the following:

Masked Crimson Tanager
Red-throated Caracara
Many-banded Aracari
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Golden-tailed Woodnymph
Slender-footed Tyrannulet
Mouse-colored Tyrannulet
Long-tailed Hermit
Cinnerous Antshrike
Lineated Woodcreeper
Coraya Wren
Red-necked Woodpecker
Dusky-headed Parakeet

We also saw a very beautiful poison dart frog (orange back, black checkered legs bordered with white)

While Iquitos we hired a man who lived in the floating city to take us on a boat trip around the city. We fished for piranhas (caught only one), drank beer, and had lunch at a floating restaurant at the source of the Amazon.
The floating city is an interesting sight, but you need to visit it before the dry season. The houses are built upon logs tied together with vines. The city perhaps consists of maybe 1000 houses and businesses. When the dry season arrives the city sinks into the mud. Glad I did not see that.

After flying back to Lima we headed for Pisco and Paracus and Islas Ballestas. Our hostess in Lima told us she would make arrangements for us to stay in Pisco with a friend of hers and that she would meet us at the bus station. This did not turn out too well as the room was upstairs on the main road from Pisco to Paracus. It was hot and noisy. The boat trip to Islas Ballestas was nothing to write home about. It was strictly a tourist thing with gringos packed into the boats. I had previously taken a boat trip in Ecuador to Isla de la Plata, where we took the boat out spent 3 hours with a guide exploring the island, and then went snorkeling at the island. That was a trip. This was a tourist thing. I have no idea why anyone would take the trip except to see the birds. We did not land on the island, just boated around it and when there were interesting birds to see, the boat did not stop long enough to get good photos. Just kept going. Very disappointing.

The birds on the boat trip:

Peruvian Booby (thousands)
Guanay Cormorant
Inca Tern (100+)
Red-legged Cormorant
Humboldt Penguin (20+)
what appeared to be a South Polar Skua (my buddy and I argued heatedly over this one)

Around Pisco:

Gray-hooded Gull
Band-tailed Gull
Kelp Gull
Red-necked Phalarope
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Black-necked Stilt
Solitary Snadpiper
Peruvian Meadowlark
Ruddy Turnstone
Little Blue Heron
Common Moorhen
Great Egret
Snowy Egret (80+)
Sanderling
Black-bellied Plover
Royal Tern
Franklin's Gull hundreds
Kildeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Whimbrel
Black-crowned Night-Heron

In Paracas

Seaside Cinclodes
Blackish Oystercatcher

The next stop was Santuario Nacional Ampay and two days exploring. It is not far from Abancay. This is a Wow place to visit. Highly recommended. Getting to Ampay from Abancay is not difficult. Most taxi drivers will be glad to take you about 10 to 20 sols depending on your negotiating skills. Getting back is something else entirely. It is about a two hour walk, but down hill all the way. Abancay is at about 7500 feet and Ampay is a lot higher than that. When you arrive at Ampay all the trails are up hill. It is a very arduous hike at that elevation but well worth it. The first day I had to hike alone. My buddy was very sick from something from the minute he stepped off the bus.
The next day he was feeling well enough to join me.

Birds:

The first bird I saw I could not find in the guide. It was a hummingbird. I got an extremely good look at it at about 20 feet as it sat on a branch. I finally decided it had to be an Amethyst-throated Sunangel but the bill was longer and slightly down-curved.

Golden-billed Saltator common
White-sided Flowerpiercer
Mountain Velvetbreast
White-banded Tyrannulet
Chigaunco Thrush
Shining Sunbeam
Fire-throated Metaltail
Highland Elenia
White-crested Elenia
Smoke-colored Pewee
Stripe-headed Brush-Finch
Apurimac Bruch-finch
Apurimac Spinetail
Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager
Cinnamon Flycatcher

Since the railroad was washed out from Cusco to Machu Pichu and the trip was now a four day affair and the price gougers were working overtime we bypassed that part and headed to Puno after spending a day in Cusco.

At Puno we visited the tourist office on the Plaza de Armas. They arranged for us to visit the Reserva Nacional Titcaca the next morning. We had to catch a collectivo to the town of Huata at 5:00 am. At Huata we were to be met by the park ranger at 6:00 am who would take us to the park. We arrived and waited and waited. Finally, at 7:00 am he arrived on a motorcycle. He told us that no one called him to confirm that we were coming but he thought he would drive up and see if we had arrived. Now there were two of us and one motorcycle. He told us he would take one of us down and then come back and get the other. This trip was something else. There were no foot rests in back so my feet had to be either dragged along the ground or held straight out. The trail we went down was rough and part of the way was through a plowed field. It was still early in the morning and the birds along the way were fantastic, but we did not stop to id them. The only one I could id from the bike was a Gray-breasted Seedsnipe. When my buddy arrived, the next task was to load up a wheel barrow with a 25 hp outboard and a 5 gallon can of gasoline. I was given a 10 foot pole to carry down to the lake. Down the hill we went, the guide wheeling the outboard, my buddy balancing the gas can so it did not fall off, and I carrying the pole. It was about 500 yards from the ranger station to the lake. At the lake the boat was about 50 feet out into the lake and the ranger told us to take off our boots and socks, roll up our pant legs and we would wade out to the boat. The lake is at 11,000 feet so I was concerned that I was going to freeze my feet off wading out to the boat. Surprisingly, the water was not cold. Off we went to look for the Titicaca Grebe. Here the lake is choked with weeds and the outboard every 100 yards had to be pulled out of the water and the weeds cleared from the prop. It made for a long trip. We were out on the lake for about 2 hours. It did not enter my head that my feet would get sunburned. They did. We did see 6 Titicaca Grebes. After we arrived back at the ranger station, neither my buddy nor I wanted to ride the motorcycle back to town so we walked--2 hours. Unfortunately, all the birds we saw coming down had now disappeared.

Birds:

in Huata

Bare-faced Ground-Dove
Short-billed Pipit

on the motorcycle

Gray-breasted Seedsnipe

at the lake

Stilt Sandpiper
White-tufted Grebe
Andean Goose
Titicaca Grebe (6)
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Speckled Teal
Ruddy Duck very rufous
Common Miner

We then decided that we wanted to try our luck at Desaguadero at the Zona Rezervada Aymara-Lupaca where we thought we might see some interesting birds. It was a very bad idea. When we arrived at Desaguardero we hired a taxi driver for the day to take us there. We had a map. The taxi driver could not read a map and he would not listen to our directions. An hour into the trip he started making all kinds of excuses to us--not enough gas, too far, etc. then he turned around and hauled us back to town. After getting back to town the taxi driver wanted all the money we had agreed to for a whole day for two hours. We told him we would give him 20 sols. We had a terrific argument. A policeman came over to see what was going on. We argued some more. The policeman told us to give him 30 sols and he would take care of the rest. Personally, I wanted to kill the taxi driver. He was a crook. We handed over the 30 sols and took the next bus back to Puno. This was not our only experience with crooked taxi drivers. This was just one of several.

Birds seen:

Burrowing Owl
Mourning Sierra-Finch
Andean Flicker
Variable Hawk
Taczanowski's Ground-tyrant
Mountain Caracara

Our next stop was Arequipa where we hoped to visit Las Salinas. The map shows the road there as being all surfaces main road. We found out differently. The cab drive we hired had never been there, so we asked directions along the way. When we thought we were almost there, we asked a person along the way how much longer to arrive there. Two hours was the answer. We thought to ourselves--by walking? We drove a little further and the road deteriorated badly. The pavement ended. The gravel became less and less. Finally, we looked up the road and it did not look good. A pickup truck came down the road and we asked the driver about the road condition to Las Salinas. He told us that his truck could barely make it up the road and we had no hope at all of getting there. I can not tell you how disappointed we were. We turned around and headed back to town.

Birds seen:

White-browed Chat-tyrant
Giant Hummingbird
Plumbeous Sierra-finch
Bar-winged Cinclodes


The final stop was Colca Canyon and the town of Chivay. If you are heading to Peru add this to your list of places to visit. Of course our reason for coming here was to see the Andean Condors and to also see the canyon that is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. This is a major tourist attraction perhaps second only to Machu Pichu. The place to see the condors is the Mirador Cruz del Condor. There are two ways to get there. One is by bus that leaves at 5:00 am and the other is to hire a van. We chose the later. There are a lot of stops along the way where you can get your picture taken holding a Variable Hawk, a Black-Chested Buzzard-Eagle or a Great Horned Owl. I chose the first. My buddy chose all three. It was great fun. When we got to the Mirador at 10:00 am the Condors were already rising out of the canyon. We saw about ten in the sky just as we arrive. What a fantastic site. In total I think we saw about 30 Condors. But also about 300 tourists.

Birds:

Hooded Siskin
Rufous-naped Ground-tyrant
Andean Condor
Canyon Canisero
Clack Chested Buzzard Eagle
Plumbeous Sierra-finch
Giant Coot
Andean Swift
Golden-spotted Ground-dove
Band-tailed Seedeater
Plain-colored Seedeater
Band-tailed Sierra-finch
Streaked Tit-spinetial
Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch
Cinnareous Conebill
Creamy-breasted Canestero
Mountain Parakeet
White-throated Sierra-finch
Rufous-collared Sparrow everywhere
Common Miner
Bare-faced Ground-dove
Black-winged Ground-dove
Eared Dove
Golden-bellied Grosbeak
Mourning Sierra-Finch
Plain-breasted Earth-creeper
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Old Friday 4th June 2010, 20:12   #2
Birdingcraft
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Very interesting trip report to some places off the beaten track and very realistic about traveling in Peru. I was sorry to read about your disappointments although congrats on getting that Junin Grebe! I went there once and saw Silverys but did not get the Junin (and still regret that!).
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