Monday 9 April 2018

Day 7 Cycle to Chorrillos Beach - South Day 8 Los Pantanos

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April 7th

Hot, 28 Celsius, sunny with very little wind. Westerly.


Early in the morning, just as the sun is rising and before it heads north too far, I set off for Los Pantanos on the bike. First time riding the bike with panniers, the going is easy but I can tell that it will need some cleaning before I set off for the hills. Through Miraflores and down to the beach, there are cycle paths nearly all of the way, not that people leave them free for cyclists though.
I soon arrive at my hotel for the next four nights, Casa del Inca in Chorrillos, and I head for the beach unladen, leaving everything at the hotel. Gloria and Natalie, the staff, are pleased to see me and say that the beach is safe. Being bitten on Pisco beach four years ago though, I leave my binoculars and camera at the hotel.
The sea is as thunderous as ever and the tideline has soapy suds thick and viscous. I walk to the north end of the beach, seeing two Blackish Oystercatchers and a few of the American variety on the sand. Three fishermen are managing their long net in the surf by manipulating ropes.
I reach the north end and watch as four fishermen using rod and line together with gaudy spinners try their luck. I ask if they have caught any and the disappointing response is that only one fish has been caught amongst the four of them.
A small sand spit here with wave dashed rocks some fifty yards out has a thousand or so birds; mostly Franklin's gulls with a few Belcher's and Kelp Gulls, a couple of Whimbrel, four American Oystercatchers and a single Sanderling.
A car seat is on the sand propped up against a couple of large lorry tyres. Perfect for seawatching, if only I had some optics. I don't obviously but still manage to see a couple of fine Red-Legged Cormorants and a few terns, Royal and Elegant, as well as Peruvian Boobies, Pelicans and Neotropic Cormorants. No Guanay Cormorants and only two Inca Terns. Most strange! Anyway, two new birds for the Green Bird list, I head off to the hills.
Climbing the high dusty hills, lacking any vegetation what so ever, reminds me of a couple of places in the UK. The geos, large cliffs cut into by millennia of wave action, have rock that is angled by fault movement to eleven o'clock, just as on Fair Isle in North Scotland. The magnitude of the cliffs match Fair Isle too. How wonderful to be reminded of the place I call Paradise when in Peru. The pathway up the hills reminds me of the path to the Old Man of Hoy on Orkney. The big difference here being the weather. Hot as this, 30 degrees Celsius, it may never be on Orkney.
Fair Isle has tens of thousands of birds flying around the geos and over the waves. There the birds are Northern gannets and Fulmars. Here their place is taken mostly by Franklin;s Gulls for which there are thousands. Around my head vultures fly close. Circling by I see that a few are Turkey Vultures amongst the commoner Black. Another bird for the list.
Back on the sand I walk back to hotel, do some shopping and then head for Los Pantanos de Villa. Now with camera and bins, I find a large new salty scrape that has a variety of America-bound waders. The peeps are all Least Sandpipers, twenty two of them and there are both Yellowlegs, Greater and Lesser and a few Spotted Sandpipers.

It is late afternoon and after chatting with two of the reserve's staff, I head for the hotel and an early night. Darkness falls quickly. Light at 6:15 p.m. Dark by 6:30.

April 8th

Out early I cycle to yesterday's new scrape on the north side of the Los Pantanos de Villa reserve and search around it's edges. Thirty three Least Sandpipers have no other Peep species with them. I start to list and count all the birds with the intention of putting them all on eBird later.

Permit is bought at the reserve centre from Grecia and I walk to the observation towers overlooking the largest of the lagoons. Two Harris Hawks are close and the lagoon has the usual birds, egrets, cormorants and Great Grebes.

 A close by Striated Heron allows an opportunity to photograph it.
Off to the sea, I am stopped by some alarm calls from Scrub Blackbirds. A Harris Hawk has caught one of them and is plucking it from atop a lamppost near to the large white water tower. The poor blackbird's feather float down to me.

I reach the beach and there is the usual mass of birds on the lagoon. Receiving a phone call, I am soon joined by Dr Rob Williams who has come to bird and film. Together we chat birds and Rob's incredible sharpness soon has him calling “Blue-footed Booby.” I can just make out the bird amongst a group of Peruvian Boobies as they rise and dip in the large swell.

Enjoying all of the usual birds, the waders, gulls and skimmers, the egrets, cormorants and pelicans, we search for Humboldt Penguins without luck. We do find though a new bird for the Green Bird list, a flock of twenty nine Semi-palmated Plovers are just inside the soapy surf that covers the tideline. The waves crashing down here are the biggest I have ever seen.

Rob said he had heard a Peruvian Pipit whilst walking to the beach so we walk behind the large reedbed to search the saltmarsh scrub. A small hummingbird flashes by and Rob immediately calls out “Oasis.” I don't hear it or get anything on it so no way can I count it.
Rob films me for a future project as I cross a small wooden bridge and he does an interview once we are back at the visitor's centre a while later. Three takes and done, friends arrive, Mani and Katia and it is time for Rob to leave for his lunch. A fabulous morning birding with one of Peru's finest.

With Mani I walk back to the beach and find four Peruvian Thick-knees there thanks to Nick's location details. Nick is one of the friendliest people I know and works at Los Pantanos together with the delightful Grecia. Thick-knees photographed we join Katia who has driven to the beach. Together we walk the beach south adjacent to the lagoon and I find an extremely tatty looking Laughing Gull, my first for Peru. Another bird on the list, the longer black bill, all dark primaries and longer black legs and overall larger size denote this bird over the thousands of north-bound Franklin's Gulls. Marvellous to think that all will be in Canada by mid-May.

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