Saturday 12 May 2018

29th April, 2018 Birding Marcapomacocha

April 29th, 2018

A light rain in the morning, hardly a spot really, followed by sunny intervals for the rest of the day. Actually the best weather for days! Lovely if rather cool.

Where can one get breakfast consisting of two fried eggs, three bread rolls, a large mug of milky coffee and a glass jug full of warmed fruit juice, just squeezed from fresh fruit, and all for just six Soles, about £1.50? I slowly, carefully eat it all as this is the first meal I have had for three days. Since Huanza I have had fruit, water biscuits, crackers and yogurt, other than the little bit of cheese I was given by the kind Miguel and Germano at Milloc yesterday morning and when arrived here last night after darkness had fallen I was too exhausted to eat so, having found the hotel eventually, I went to sleep. A reason to be grateful for the big mug of hot coffee is precisely because it is just that, hot. There is no heating anywhere in the hotel and at 14,560 feet mornings are cold. Cupping gloved hands around the coffee mug is a wonderful way to warm up.
Four village boys come in for their breakfast so we give names and they use my binoculars, There is a wall just outside the back of the large restaurant and various birds come to land and sit and stare; Bright-rumped Yellow Finches are the most common as little parties of them of four or five come and go. Two Andean Flickers take up station as do two new birds for the Green List, Black-billed Shrike Tyrant and Plain-breasted Earthcreeper

Three new birds over breakfast, I have already looked over the beautiful lagoon and seen a small number of Masked Ducks. The boys finish using the bins, complete their breakfast and together we play a form of Pool on a large table at the back of the room. With the lads it is conversation as well as my limited Spanish can muster and fun.
Three security guards for the village arrive for their breakfast and immediately they sit down at a table and immediately shut themselves away with their smartphones. No conversation, they just eat. Once they have finished though they do come in and join in with our pool, which is a shame as one of them is a master and proceeds to knock spots off us.
Eight in the morning, breakfast is finished and Elizabeth and Hose are thanked gratefully, I have had the enjoyment of playing a couple of games of pool with wonderful men and seen three new birds for the Green Year list. Not a bad start to the day. Off outside it is cold but dry and I walk into the village, quiet as it is Sunday. I notice though that the two churches are locked though. A long street of mud-brick, corrugated iron houses has two large bushes, the only ones I can see in the area, and pishing brings two Rufous-collared Sparrows out to investigate. On the roof of a building next to a small alley that leads to a colourfully painted Primary School, two Andean Flickers sit and are unconcerned by my passing.
Walking to the village square, typical of Peruvian villages and indeed cities on a grander scale, for square it is with a large statue of a Puma dominating the centre, small bushes, paths and benches arranged in a criss cross, St George's flag style. The surrounding road has a permanent volleyball net set over it and a minibus and two space wagons negotiate around this fixture.
Out of the village the compacted dirt road leads the way I entered last night and in the daylight the view over the lake is tremendous. At each end of what I can see of the lagoon, I know from a map that I have that it extends much further south around a rocky corner, are high snow-capped peaks and between these are extensive grasslands. Where this road goes by the lagoon there are a number of ducks on the shore, a Lesser Yellowlegs and some Giant Coots, living up to their name, on the water. Beautiful, blue/black-billed, white-cheeked Puna Teal and Yellow-billed Pintails are on the shore and are new for the list and the other duck species are counted for the eBird record to be added once I have internet service. There are also a few Puna Ibis, short almost black plumaged birds. I love these eBird days when I can relax and bird with no time pressure to get somewhere. Here it really is apt to say, 'What is this world if full of care, one has no time and stop and stare.'
A turn to the left and there are two small, open buildings where three people are doing their laundry by battering it on planks held over longitudinal sinks. Using cold water and large soap bars they laugh as they work, rubbing the soap along their clothes before rinsing. Compare this, all done in freezing cold water straight from the lake, with laundry done elsewhere. No automatic washing machines here yet the friendship, laughter and conversation between the participants points to our having lost something.
Walking a,little further there is a small cage, locked, which has a sign over it which translates to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and within it there are five small plastic bins for each material type.
Behind some barbed wire fencing along the road there are tufts of Puna grass and a Canyon Canestero is feeding close by. 

A really obliging bird, at one point there is less than a few feet between us, well that and a small rock that it is behind. It isn't bothered by me though as it creeps between grass tufts and searches for food.
Over a small bridge the road splits and I take the one that leads uphill. There is a dark soiled ploughed field here that has seven superb looking Andean Lapwings on and over forty Bright-rumped Yellow Finches. These finches are very tame and allow one to walk right past them. The road leads to a mobile phone mast enclosure which has a building and high razor wire fence surround, all protected for by a barking wildly blonde coloured dog. A party of four Incan villagers pass with their three black & white sheepdogs. One of their dogs tries to attack the incarcerated dog through the wire, both baring their teeth at each other and snarling viciously. I pass cautiously and as with everyone one passes, greeting are given and received.
There are very few birds along this road. A couple of Mountain Caracaras fly over, as do some Variable Hawks. Ground birds are almost absent. There are just a couple of Ochre-naped Ground Tyrants. There are though lots of sheep and in the distance up a ridge there is a large herd of llamas. I start to realise that this landscape is not natural. The grassland is overgrazed and lacks the flowers and large grassy tussocks that would be here without the domesticated herds. This is a man-made habitat with spectacular eruptions of mountainous, snow-capped rocky peaks.
Down in the valley a shepherd is resting next to a haystack and his three dogs see me and start to bark and climb the hill towards me. Dogs, a problem when travelling on foot in Peru. Most are the loving pet animal that we all love. Some though are vicious, snarling, snapping animals who seem to want blood. I turn around and walk back towards the village. Luckily the three dogs, once they cannot see me due to the valley shape, stop their chase and by peaking over the edge I can see them go back to the shepherds small hut.
Back near the lagoon there is a small building made for sheltering sheep about five foot tall with a corrugated iron roof. I sit down against the stone and watch. An Andean Negrito comes close, as does a Dark-winged Miner and a Plain-breasted Earthcreeper. Out over the water a Chilean Flamingo flies.

Walking over some bog with a small stream, hoping for an ambition bird, the beautiful Diademed Plover but not seeing one, there is a Black-billed Shrike Tyrant, an Andean Swallow and a couple of noisy Andean Flickers, Down at the shoreline are coot and duck and a single White-tufted Grebe.

Back at the bridge my appearance startles a Cincloides species, which flies off downstream like a huge, chestnut-coloured Dipper and disappears around the corner. I am not sure which species it was and so I climb the barbed wire fence though and follow the stream
downhill. After a few hundred yards I don't find the Cincloides but do find the intriguingly named D'Orbigny Bush Tyrant, dark uppers and red below with strong white supercilia.

Back at the small bay by the village a close by Chilean Flamingo is preening, as are four Puna Teal. From here it is just a couple of hundred yards to the proud archway telling one that they have arrived at Marcopomacocha, with it's two statues; one of a large trout and the other of a Puma.
Into a shop in the village, the lady behind the counter greets me as an old friend, as does her large black and very friendly dog. She wants to know when I am leaving and whether I managed to walk around the lagoon. This last comment is due to the fact that when we met last night, when half a dozen villagers were trying to find the key to the old hostel in the square, unsuccessfully hence my being in the 'new' one, She joked that I should walk around the lagoon thinking that I didn't know of it's immense size. She is genuinely pleased that I am staying until Tuesday. Walking through the village there is a mass of red meat handing from a doorway and long lines of washing at the back of most houses. It must take some time to dry in these cool temperatures but this afternoon's sunshine must help. That reminds me . . . I must wash my socks! Cold water scrub in a sink.
After leaving my purchases at the hotel, I do walk some of the lagoon's perimeter road for about three miles. With me is another extremely friendly and very subservient and lovely dog, who I name Doug. He or she, I didn't look, comes with me the whole way, usually no more than a couple of feet from my feet. Occasionally I turn around thinking she has gone back to the hotel only to find that she is there right at my feet. The terrain is rougher here, more stony with intermittent small bushes. Birds are still few but they are interesting, especially the wonderful Black-breasted Hillstar, a smashing, medium-sized hummingbird. 

Six Speckled Teal are on the shore with a couple of Giant Coot. Otherwise there are a couple of Dark-winged Miners, a few Plain-coloured Seedeaters, some Ash-breasted Sierra Finches and Bright-rumped Yellow Finches.
Doug and I return to the hotel to find that the restaurant won't be open tonight. A tin of tuna, a few crackers and some Maracuya juice will have to suffice.

Green Year list : 178 birds average new birds to list per day : 6.14 birds

Distance walked : 3,95 miles

elevation : up 340 feet, down 354 feet

altitude : 14,521 feet

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