Monday 28 May 2018

Day 42 (!) A Day Birding. Izcacucha.

May 12th, 2018

Hot and sunny, cloud builds for afternoon thunderstorms up and down the valley, light rain

I am awake and up early in order to go out birding, walking the railway track north again in the semi-darkness of dawn. Scrub Blackbirds are noisy and I count eight before the next bird goes onto the eBird list I am doing. Going on the eBird website the night before, I noted that there wasn't a record for Izcuchaca and I feel a bit of a birding pioneer. Not that there are many birds, for as the Sun hits the high hill tops, thousands of feet above the valley floor and as I walk along to the cemetery building and adjacent football and basketball pitches, my pen is hardly used. Rufous-collared Sparrows are the most common bird. There are Sparkling Violetears, Eared Doves, Band-tailed Seedeaters and Chiguanca Thrushes, with a small, unconcerned American Kestrel on a telegraph wire. It doesn't fly away despite me walking right next to it to access a pathway.
There is a radio mast, painted red and white and surrounded by a high stone wall. On a wire is a new bird for the year and one that confirms a bird that Jason Oliver, a birding friend since he was in my class may, many years ago, and I had at Machu Picchu last year. It is a White-winged Black Tyrant, a small, almost totally black flycatcher-like bird. It has white on the inside of the tail and I can just make out paler wing coverts but it is when it flies that the white on the wings really shows. On the wall that surrounds the mast there is another new bird, a Blue-capped Tanager. Not a very distinctive bird, the dark on the face gives a robber's mask appearance.
I cross a dirt road and climb a stony path that leads past two dry dusty fields with cacti and low bushes along the edge. This leads up the hill and at the top of the second field there is a row of fir trees, not very tall. As I watch a nearby Band-tailed Seedeater, another new bird lands on the furthest fir to the left and proceeds to go from one to the next giving a 'chip' call. It is black-headed, the black extending down it's back with bright yellow underparts and a couple of white marks on it's closed wings. It also has a very large grey bill. A Black-backed Grosbeak, another new bird, the morning is going well. A small hummingbird lands on a telegraph wire and then on a twig projecting from a small tree very close to me, in fact it is so close that I can't focus the camera on it! A White-bellied Hummingbird, I try to back off but it is gone.
After another two hours of following a dirt road up the hill and exploring a deep dry, bush and cacti filled ravine and fields, I turn and return to the village. My eBird list has seventeen species on it, including a small Eleania species that although the belly is only faintly yellow, I feel must be a Sierran Eleania, a new species for me and obviously a new bird for the Green Year list. I have some poor photographs which I hope will confirm my suspicions over the tentative identification. Part of the fun in birding is having conundrums and a small, pale bird deep in a bush with white edges to tertials and a pale eye ring is just such a thing.
Back at the hotel I have everything set up to watch the incoming text service on the BBC website for the Middlesborough vs Aston Villa play of first leg match. I know that back in the UK my Dad and brother, Paul will be in the living room watching. Will Dad last the match or will the tension get to him. Dad is 86 and has heart trouble if he gets too anxious and this match is an important one for Villa fans everywhere, including this one in Peru! We want to get back to the Premiership. An ex student, Chloe has been messaging me on Facebook about the match and how nervous she is. Well Chloe, have faith. The boys will do it.
Final score, 1 – 0 to the Villa! Brilliant. I am sure that everyone in the village heard me shout when Villa scored in the first half, a Jedinak header from a corner glanced into the goal via the far post. It could have been more. Villa hit the post and a mazy run by young Jack Grealish from his own half has the goalkeeper stretching to make the save. Well done Villa! Now for the home leg on Tuesday evening. Can I find a village with the internet by then? I hope so
Outside again in the early afternoon to go birding I am surprised at how hot it is now. Just a few days ago I was freezing in Huancayo. A couple of weeks ago I was pushing the bike as snow fell around me! Now it is sweltering and I worry that my lips will get badly sunburnt again. There are practically no birds singing, moving or letting me see them as I follow the same route up the hill. I don't blame them. It is hot. Yet clouds are building over the hill tops and after two hours or so of walking up the hill, rain starts to fall and there are two thunderstorms, one to the south and another to the north. I shelter beneath a huge cactus and watch as a bit of hail falls and light rain. I am lucky that there is ten miles or so between each thunderstorm and I am in the middle and the rain isn't too heavy. Lightning flashes and I count.
The rain stops and I walk back down to the village. The south thunderstorm seems to be heading around the back of the eastern hills to join up with it's northern friend. Back in the hotel I fall asleep surprisingly and find myself waking at around eight. I hadn't realised I felt so tired and I just undress and go to bed proper. I'll eat in the morning.

Green Year list : 191 birds average new birds to list per day : 4.55 birds

altitude : 9,547 feet

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