Sunday, 27 January 2019

A Look Back at Biking Birder IV - Peru part 1 April 2018



The following is the first of five magazine articles I wrote last year detailing my amazing Peruvian Biking Birder adventure.

Each was written for a particular month and so here is April 2019.



Birding in Peru, what could be simpler? Those of you who met me at my talk will know that I have not chosen the simple route. Neither as the literal, where one gets to Amazonia as fast as possible and sees and hears four hundred bird species in a week. Nor as the mode of transport, I choose bicycle and packraft, kayak to you and me. I choose to Go Green!
May has started for me and in the thirty days hath April there have been plenty of birds, as one would expect in a country that has just over 1,800 different species.

 Pied-billed Grebe


 Black Skimmers with Neotropic Cormorants


 Willets



The start of The Biking Birder IV Adventure was on the first of April at Los Pantanos de Villa, a nature reserve with coastal lagoons, reedbeds and scrubby desert habitats but I was no fool as the reserve gave me sixty three species, including fifteen different species of wader! Turnstone and Sanderling we will be familiar with but watching flocks of Stilt Pectoral, Least and Semi-palmated Sandpipers with good numbers of what used to be a separate species but now lumped with Whimbrel, the Hudsonian Whimbrel with their all-dark rumps.
Hundreds of Black Skimmers and Franklin's Gulls were with Inca Terns and Moorhens on the lagoon, whilst on the sea were Neotropic Cormorants, Peruvian Boobies and Peruvian Pelicans.
 Black Skimmers


Killdeer

Harris Hawk

Now due to a tooth showing that a far in my past mugging had left it with broken roots, I had to have it removed together with bits of root. The removal was don by a superb dentist in Lima but stitches were required. So I had almost two weeks to wait around Lima, the capital of Peru, two weeks before the stitches could safely be removed. Not wasting any days I spent five more days birding at Los Pantanos and added Blue-footed Booby, Peruvian Thick-knee, Semipalmated sandpiper and a lone Laughing Gull to the Green Birding list. With Red-legged Cormorant, Elegant and Royal Terns going past on a seawatch, the growing list was just what was needed for a birder with ambitions of becoming the Green Birding World Champion.
 American Oystercatchers

 Belcher's Gull

 Black Skimmers

 Cabot's Tern

 Bird previously known as Hudsonian Whimbrel

Yellow-headed Blackbird


In Lima itself, at the famous Olive Tree Park, the spectacular Vermilion Flycatcher was the pick of the birds found there. In two forms, the red form is startlingly bright where as it's dark form is just that, a small, dark-plumaged flycatcher. Parakeets were flying around but not countable as they are a feral population grown from escapes.








Eventually, with stitches removed I could set off for The Andes. After negotiating Lima's incredible traffic I reached the desert hills and immediately encountered different birds. Seedeaters, Collared warbling Finches and best of all different Hummingbird species, such as Sparkling Violetear, Amazonia and Oasis Hummingbird. The superb Peruvian Sheartail has a split tail, well the male does anyway, that is twice the length of it's miniscule body. The intensely hot weather didn't prepare me for what was to come next as my altitude increased.






Along dirt track mountain roads that clung to precipitous slopes around which each bend was yet another breathtaking view, birds such as Variable Hawk, American Kestrel and Black-breasted Buzzard Eagle were seen. Then imagine the thrill as looking up to the top of one high mountainous ridge I could count eleven Andean Condors.


As altitude increased past the 10,000 foot mark and road quality deteriorated the valley got more claustrophobic with towering cliffs seemingly about to crash down. Bird species changed and Sierra Finches became more common. Andean Woodpeckers became frequent, not just being for being seen but also for being heard. Quiet they are not and their frequently given call is reminiscent of our own Green Woodpecker.
Eventually High Andean lakes could be explored with their ducks and grebes. Silvery and White-tufted Grebes, Yellow-billed teal and Pintail



and Speckled Ducks, all were their to be enjoyed on these extremely remote and extremely high lakes. Giant Coot were there too and they live up to their name.

It hasn't all been fun birding. The road has been extremely steep as you would expect when one goes over 15,000 feet in just one hundred miles. I was also attacked by a bull at Huanza and was very lucky to escape with just cuts and bruises! One of the horns hit my upper arm which made pushing the bike a bit difficult for a few days. Ouch!

So with the summit of my route reached, 15,670 feet, it would be downhill all the way from here. Landscape changed to Puna grasslands where shallow pools in valleys had numbers of Chilean Flamingos and Puna Ibis.


April finished with a bird total of 180, a total way beyond my dreams. Five months to go, my route will take me along the Andean range to the famous Machu Picchu and down the equally famous in birding terms, Manu Road. More adventures to come, more landscapes to take my breath away and best of all, more incredible birds to see.

If you would like to follow my cycling and birding adventures then please take a look at my blog at :-


If you would like to see the photographs of the adventure they can be found on my Biking Birder community Facebook page :


I also have my personal Facebook page at :

https://www.facebook.com/gary.prescott.92     

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