Saturday 12 May 2018

April 27th Onwards and Upwards. Mammals and Birds.

April 27th, 2018

Morning fog due to low cloud and raining, clears to sunny intervals. Rain again in the afternoon. Cool.

I awake and assess the damage. I don't feel too bad. My left arm is sore and had made me wince once or twice in the night when I turned onto it but otherwise life is fine and I am in an area of such outstanding beauty that little things like near death experiences are trivial.
The rain I hear outside on waking stops and I get ready to move. Packing away the tent I notice that there is a thin veneer of ice on it. I hadn't realised it was that cold in the night. Back on the road again, I pass a few basic, plastic sheet covered shelters and continue the long push up the valley.

A condor is flying high in the early morning blue sky and two black and white Mountain Caracaras fly over along a slope and carry on down. Great, new bird for the Green List, it keeps growing. A noisy Andean Flicker is down on the valley floor somewhere. I can hear it. I scan and find two poking around a muddy bank around a depression in the grass.

Just after passing a large dam I sit down beside the road and have a snack and a drink. The slope down to the lake created by the dam has a mesh fence at the bottom preventing man and beast from entering the water. As I sit there a Rusty Flowerpiercer and an Andean Spinetail take turns to search a small bush for food items. The Spinetail lands on the fence allowing me to get photographs. I am absolutely chuffed to get this one. A good bird to see.

Carrying on, small groups of yellow birds start to be seen, Bright-rumped Yellow Finches with the males have their diagnostic small grey patches on the ear coverts. Things are going well and I forget about my arm. Andean Lapwings in the valley below amongst a herd of . . . Llamas! My first Llamas of the trip, now I feel I am in The Andes proper. They may be domestic but I will take Llamas over cows any day, beautiful large and fluffy animals. They watch me carefully as I pass.
Looking up the slope of the road ahead of me I suddenly see a stag galloping at pace towards me. I quickly take the bike to the side of the road and stand by it as the speeding animal rushes past.

I pass a group of road workers and handshakes are proffered and questions answered. The road now enters a valley where there is an immense, colourful scree slope to the left. With the weather now having improved and with the sun shining on it, it reminds me of the photographs I have seen of an area south of Cusco called rainbow Mountain.

I have never seen a scree slope so large and it fascinates me to see scribbled line pathways along it's base and places where plants have tried and succeeded in growing in the rocky, steep sloped soil.

Around a few turns in the road and ahead of me is a large shallow lagoon with birds on it. Giant Coot and Crested Duck are new for the list but there are also Andean Geese and a lone Andean Gull. Seeing a pair of reasonably close Andean Geese I watch them through binoculars and notice a small wader by their feet, a grey breasted Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, in other words a male. I search around and find a superbly camouflaged female close to the left of the geese. Actually the male's head is grey also. An Andean Hillstar, yet another hummingbird species, flies nearby.
At the end of the lake near to the road there are a number of ramshackle huts that are dirty, decrepit and locked. They are placed on top of concrete platforms and I sit on the edge and watch as numerous mice scamper amongst the buildings walls and around dry stone walls nearby. There really are a prodigious number of the wee little fellows. My mother would have a fit if she saw them, phobic as she is concerning mice. Something to do with their skinny tails as she is not afraid of hamsters.

There are birds to be seen here and some are quite tame, unconcerned by my presence. Lots of Bright-rumped Yellow Finches, White-winged Duica Finches and White-fronted Ground Tyrants are feeding whilst hopping around the short grass in front of me.
I carry on back on the road and pass a small building surrounded by a tall security fence. Just a little further on there is a derelict building and opposite this is a rectangular dry stone animal pen. I decide, as rain has begun to fall, to pitch my tent against a wall, hoping to get some shelter from the wind descending the valley. The next section of road is winding up the mountain side and there doesn't look like there will be a better place to camp.
Two men from the first building walk up to carry out some assessment work on the water gauges next to a torrent of water appearing from a tunnel. The rushing cascade of water here is tremendously powerful as it falls from a concrete chute into the river. The two men ask the usual questions and, as the rain has stopped, I explore the derelict building. The first three rooms are dusty and full of manure from some animal. The last room is locked and through the window I can see a shelf with old food cans and equipment on it. The light is on, hanging from the ceiling and there is dusty, simple furniture in the room. Going to the other end of the building, I sit down and lean against the wall and watch as various birds come close. An Andean Hillstar lands almost right next to me on the edge of the concrete. A Spot-winged Pigeon flies by, almost the only dove species I have seen today.

Green Year list : 160 birds average new birds to list per day : 5.93 birds

Distance walked : 6.59 miles

elevation : up 1,870 feet, down 423 feet

altitude : 14,299 feet

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