Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nov 20 - Santa Eulalia

A 3:45 AM wake up prepared us for our last day in Peru. We were picked up by Alejandro (guide) and Carlos (driver) at 4:30 to be taken to Santa Eulalia to see the Andean Condors. I slept part of the way there knowing that it would be a very long day, but I awoke when the ride became too bumpy. We were starting to ascend the mountain. The road was thick dust, not paved, and hugged the side of the mountain, once again only wide enough for 1 car, but a 2 way rode nonetheless. Our first stop we had White Capped Dipper and Peruvian Pygmy Owl and Carlos set out our breakfast in the trunk of his car. We had our favorite of the trip: liquid mango yogurt mixed with granola, which was very good since it was mixed with peanuts. Then we continued the ascent stopping for small flocks of Mourning Sierra Finch and Hooded Siskens. I spotted a Canyon Canestero, which looks very similar to the mystery bird of 2 days ago that we could never figure out in the book since we did not see it well enough. We arrived at the spot where the Condors are typically seen by about 9:30 and waited for about an hour with no luck. Alejandro said he usually sees anywhere from 4 to 10 birds. I guess it was not our lucky day. While we waited we had a Black Chested Buzzard Eagle fly very close overhead and perch on a pole about 100 yards away. Shortly thereafter an American Kestral perched very close to the Buzzard Eagle. As we watched the Kestral kept moving closer and closer. Eventually the Buzzard Eagle flew off and we watched the Kestral continually dive bomb the Buzzard Eagle on the back, until it was far enough away that the Kestral was satisfied that it chased off the bird. At this point I asked if we could try for the Plover, but they said the car could not make the drive and it would be too far. We were disappointed that Kolibri’s checklist for this area included many birds that were not possible on this tour. We picked this day tour out of the 3 day tours we paid for because of the most chances to see birds we had not already seen the rest of the trip, but given that we only had 38 species for the day and no condor it was hardly worth the cost of the one day trip price!

We started heading back and stopped to try for the Rufous Breasted Warbling Finch which I found almost instantly, but it flew off before we could all see it well. So we waited a bit longer and a very cooperative Black Necked Woodpecker flew into a cactus and Paul was able to get very close to it to get some great photos. During this time the Warbling Finch reappeared with many Rusty-Bellied Brush-Finches and Mourning Sierra Finches. The next stop was when we spotted Black Winged Ground-Doves on the road. Paul went down to take photos and ended up seeing a group of Pied Crested Tit-Tyrants that I missed, which was really sad because that was one bird I had noticed in the book that I really wanted to see. It was now time to make sandwiches from the back of the car and hope to see some more birds, but the only one around was the White Browed Chat tyrant. Our final stop was at a recreation area that had lots of flowering lantanas filled with 3 species of hummers: Oasis, Amazilla, and Peruvian Sheartail and the very common Long Tailed Mockingbird. We headed back to town descending what seemed like the never ending mountain road. We passed 3 villages built into the mountains along the way. At one point the road was blocked by a herd of goats. Closer to Lima the traffic started to build. It was about 4:30 and it seemed like all 8 million residents of Lima were sitting in traffic. We stopped at the Indian Market – our only shopping stop for the entire trip – especially since most of the places we were in, did not even have shops, picked up a few gifts and souvenirs and headed to our “day” room hotel to clean up prior to our 12:20 AM flight from Lima to Miami. Gunnar met us at the hotel at 8:15 PM and had a taxi waiting to take us. Now here we sit waiting to board our flight and doing the last day’s trip report!

Nov 19 - Cajamarca and flying back to Lima

Today we started at 5:00 AM to head to San Marcos to look for the Great Spinetail. The first stop produced a Tawny Crowned Pygmy Tyrant, and a few already seen hummers. The plants were interesting because there was a lot of re-growth on burned areas such as on cactus and guava type plants. The second stop produced lots of Tropical Gnatcatchers, Amazilla and White Bellied Hummers and just when we were about to give up on the Spinetail, Juan came to get us to say he had great views of it. So we walked back and after about 5 minutes the bird responded to the taped call. It was now 9:30 so we decided to drive back to the Creek we were at the day before, but with the distance, bad roads and traffic we didn’t get there until about noon so we only had an hour to bird.

No new birds there, but it was nice to enjoy the sunshine in this scenic spot.We had great views of the Black Metaltail, Gray bellied Comet and Giant Hummingbird again, along with the Torrent Tyrannulet. At 1:00 we headed off to lunch in the same plaza area as the day before and I had fish (shark I think). Then we went back to the hotel to grab our luggage and head off to the airport for our 5:15 pm flight. On route Gunnar called to let me know that Juan would be buying our tickets as he forgot to book them! This actually went fairly smoothly, but there were issues with Martin and Ulf’s tickets because Gunnar bought them online and there was no way to indicate they weren’t Peruvian residents, therefore they had to pay a higher price at the airport. A van picked all of us up at the Lima airport and drove us to the Hotel La Castellana in Miraflores where Paul and I would be spending the night. Gunnar met us there and we all walked a couple of blocks for dinner. The diner’s doors were open and they were saw cutting the street outside, making a lot of noise and then 2 guys came in with guitars to drown out the other noise. After dinner we bid goodbye to Juan (our guide) and Martin and Ulf. They were headed off on a nighttime bus ride to Carpish for another 7 day birding event. Martin will have spent 2 months birding in Peru by the time he is done. Tomorrow we will have a 4:30 AM start and spend our last day in Santa Eulalia looking for Andean Condors and other higher elevation birds. The room at the Hotel this time is MUCH nicer than it was the first night in Peru. The first night the room was tiny and smelled musty.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Nov 18 - Celendin to Cajamarca & Santal Creek

5:00 AM departure from Celendin on our first full rainy day. Our first stop was Cruz Congo at a high elevation to search the bamboo and pine forests for Antpitta, but it was a heard only bird. We searched the woods for other birds, but the rain made it difficult. We decided to stop for breakfast in this dark hole in the wall (literally) across from some farm fields. Paul and I just had yogurt as we had had enough eggs already this trip. While we waited, we saw an Andean Lapwing, and a Peruvian Sierra Finch in the fields across the street. The big Rottweiler was following us waiting for handouts – there are too many homeless underweight dogs in Peru – very sad, but I believe the restaurant owner owned this one at least. We snuck him some bread. Next stop was at the bottom of a winding gravel road that we climbed and had quite a few good birds as we listened to the cows mooing as they were being milked and watched the donkeys climbing the road strapped with silver milk bottles on each of their sides. Highlight birds were the Rusty crowned Tit-Spinetail, Lined Cheeked Spinetail, Rufous Crested Tanager, Tufted Tit Tyrant, Black masked Flowerpiercer and Black Crested Warbler. The rain became more steady, so after about an hour we rushed to the car, feeling pretty cold and wet. We then made the journey past the highest elevation point of the trip, but unfortunately with the rain, all the windows were fogged up and it was like driving thru a cloud so we missed all the views. We made our way to Cajamarca for a lunch stop at a modern restaurant, in comparison to some of the others, and then headed to Santal Creek to find the Gray Bellied Comet. This was a very scenic area with a small river, narrow dirt road and more small shacks. We watched a short Peruvian woman with her sombrero, skirt and wool in hand trying to drag her cow down a hill and then the cow got away for a short bit and she started throwing rocks at it, quite a site. I asked her if I could take a photo and she said yes if I paid her. Some great looks at Giant Hummingbird, Black Metaltail, Torrent Tyrannulet, White Winged Cincoldes, White browed Chat Tyrant, Morning Sierra-finch, Band Tailed Seedeater, Black Crested Tit Tyrant and Andean Swifts. Heading to our hostal “El Mirador”, we hit quite a bit of traffic going thru Cajarmarca. I had no idea it was such a big city. We walked to dinner near the plaza and on the way back I took a night shot of the beautiful church just off the plaza.

Nov 17 - Leymebamba to Celendin (the day of huge temperature ranges)

5:30 AM departure from Leymebamba. We had breakfast on the road behind the van and heard a Rufous Vented Tapaculo which we eventually got to see. We also watched a pair of Barred Becards building a nest. Another highlight bird of the morning was the Lined Cheek Spinetail. We took the road to Celendin which went up to 3700 meters then down 3000 meters to Balsas, then back up to 2570 meters in the town of Celenden, leaving the department of Amazonas and entering the department of Cajamarca. It was a cold start to the morning – probably mid 40’s. Our first stop was when we spotted a few Andean Lapwings and on the other side of the road two Andean Flickers. The lapwings were very large compared to other Lapwings we have seen before on other trips. By lunch we reached the lowest point in the town of Balsas where it was probably 100F. We ate at a very dirty small restaurant and had chicken and rice. Upon leaving we stopped on the other side of the river where it looked like we were in Big Bend Texas – lots of cactus, guava, and century plants, with the muddy river flowing thru the mountains. We saw a small flock of scarlet fronted parakeets. The ground was littered with small cone shaped shells – very odd. At the next stop we spotted a Black necked Woodpecker (endemic), Bare Faced Ground Dove and Buff Bridled Inca Finch. The Chestnut Backed Thornbird stuck it’s head out of the hanging stick nest when we played it’s song, while it’s mate was under a tree listening. Martin spotted a Tarantula crossing the road so we stopped for photos then continued our way to Celendin which is a much larger town then Leymebamba. The hostal we are staying at is called Loyer’s. The rooms all face an open air courtyard which is larger and simpler than previous places. We went to a restaurant next to the hotel and were excited to order pizza – we’ll see if it comes. It is 8:45 PM already and no dinner…

The drive thru the mountains was pretty scary at times. It was really only passable by one car so it was very interesting when another card approached. We had to blow the horn at every curve to warn potential oncoming cars. It was a dirt road and sheer drops with no guard rails. It was interesting to see a house here and there in such remote places. Women wearing tall straw hats carrying baby’s in a blanket attached to their back as they walked or farmed the fields. We even saw one lady knitting with the whole family sitting outside with her. Houses are basically small shacks with no electricity or running water.

At the end of the day we stood in a field by the side of the road while thousands of white collared swifts passed by. Since some people had gotten Chiggers, I was a bit hesitant to walk too far into this field.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Nov 16 - Chillo to Leymebamba

5:30 AM breakfast of a fruit cup sprinkled with quiwicha and some bread. It was a nice change from eggs. We visited the 2 snuggled together Koepcke’s Screech Owls once more before taking off to Leymebamba. We actually passed thru the town and started on a very bad dirt road of which we had to turn around since it wasn’t passable. The primary mode of transportation here seems to be by Horseback instead of by Motorcycle Rickshaw, which was more prominent at lower elevations. We took the road to Sixsi. We walked the road first crossing the river and then back to the main road. The landscape was littered with moss covered rocks and logs and we were surrounded by Andean hillside at an elevation of 2500 meters. We had scope views of a beautiful Slaty-Backed Chat-Tyrant sitting near the river (and got a photo too). We walked about 3 miles total and turned around when the threat of rain was looming. It was at the end of the walk where we had the most birds and great views of the Gray-Breasted Mountain Toucan and the Golden Headed Quetzal. There was also a nice flock of Blackburnian Warblers, Mountain Caciques, Spectacled Whitestarts (Redstarts), and White banded Tyrannulets.

Later, we stopped at the home of a German woman called Kentipata who had lots of hummingbird feeders and had lunch there – chicken sandwiches and banana bread. The gardens were beautiful and we had great looks at many hummers including the Sword-billed, Purple Throated Sunangel, Sparkling Violetear, White bellied, Marvelous Spatuletail, and Rainbow Starfrontlet to name a few.

We stayed there until about 4:00 PM and then took the road toward Cajamarca to do some birding along the road before returning to the hotel in Leymebamba called Laguna de la Condores. The birding was at an area that seemed to have endless skies – very open hilly habitat. We had 3 Mountain Caracaras flying over head mixed in with Black and Turkey Vultures. Some other highlight birds were the Scarlet Bellied Mountain- Tanager, Streak Throated Bush Tyrant, Red Crested Cotinga, and lots of Blue and White Swallows that had burrows in the side of the cliffs near the road. They were getting ready for roosting just before we left at 6:00 PM. We checked in to the hotel which is behind a stone walled front on a very narrow street. There was a nice courtyard in the center with a garden where we did our checklist before going to dinner. We ate at a small restaurant in town after walking thru the town square. – steak and rice. We were the only ones there.

Nov 15 - Abra Patricia to Chillo

Paul went owling again for the last time at Abra Patricia at 4:15 AM. Once again I decided to sleep in, but Paul woke me up at 6:10 to tell me he had found the endemic Johnson’s (Lulu) Tody Tyrant. So we rushed down the hill to near the guard shack and within about 15 minutes relocated 2 birds. Paul got some photos but is not sure if the lens setting was focused properly. After satisfying looks we also had great looks at Rufous Naped Brush-Finches and then decided to walk a little of the lower trail. There was quite a bit of bird song this morning and we followed one small flock with a mix of tanagers. Breakfast at 7:30 and then we went to pack up. We decided to walk the lower trail again and had Inca Jay, Flame Faced, Blue and Black and Saffron Crowned Tanagers and great looks at Pearl Treerunner and Montane Woodcreeper. We waited for Martin to get back and then left at 10:45 for our departure to Chillo. We stopped at a small restaurant at the turnoff to Chillo. The floor smelled like oil and the food was bland – we both had trout which was very bony. The landscape changed dramatically on our drive as we followed a river that had cut thru the Andes. The hills were littered with Cactus and as we got closer to Chillo, more banana trees were present. Paul spotted a Fasciated Tiger Heron standing on a rock in the river and I got a digiscoped shot just before my camera battery died. We had some Mitred Parakeets perched in trees by the river – which is unusual as most parrots and parakeets we have seen this trip have been flyovers. We saw a rufous colored bird fly across the road, so decided to pull over to do a little more investigating. It was a female White Lined Tanager, but there was a tree there full of fruit and birds. We had a view of a 3 tiered waterfall that cut thru the cliffs in the distance and there was a rainbow on the other side of the road. The stream that flowed by the road produced a Plumbeous Rail to our surprise as it walked along the river. We also had Blue-And-Yellow Tanager, Maranon Thrush, Yellow Rumped Euphonia, Golden Bellied Grosbeak and many others. We arrived at the hotel about 6:00 – a beautiful castle looking place with nice gardens and 2 Koepcke’s Screech Owls sitting in the tree across the road. Chillo is the name of the hotel and I’m not sure if there is even a town name since it is on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.