Sunday 24 June 2018

Day 71 To Aguas Calientes on a Very Wet Day!

June 10th, 2018

Cool, frequent heavy rain, very occasional drier periods. Rain stops late afternoon.

Up early, I am packed and ready for the long walk to Aguas Calientes. Through the village of Ollantaytambo at 7:00 a.m. I follow the dirt track road until it comes to the tarmacked main road that goes up high, over Abra Malaga before descending to St Theresa. I won't be going that way. The recent cold and very wet period of days here have left Abra Malaga under deep snow. I had hoped to be going there from the direction of Quillabamba and maybe I am lucky that the advice not to go that way because of bandits has prevented me from having to negotiate the freezing temperatures and snow.

I leave the road when a dirt track goes in the direction that I need to walk. It follows closely the river and for the next ten miles or so I walk with my head down as the rain falls heavily. The river has hundreds of Brown-bellied Swallows flying low over it and other birds include a single Great Egret, dozens of Rufous-collared Sparrows, Band-tailed Seedeaters and Olivaceous and Hooded Siskins and a few Yellow-billed Teal.
The day goes by with heavy rain falling and the brief periods when it stops allows the low cloud to lift and show the amazing hill slopes that descend from mountainous tops. The vegetation starts to change as the pathway descends down the long, winding and extremely deep river valley. The Urubamba river has moments of cacophonous fast water and Torrent Ducks start to appear, usually in pairs, on protruding rocks.

Despite the bad weather I still manage to see some new birds for the Green Birding year list. Highland Eleania, Slate-throated Redstart and a single Slaty-backed Chat Tyrant go onto the list and as I get within ten miles of Aguas Calientes, the hot water springs associated with the town giving it it's name, I start to count the numerous and spectacular, incredibly long-tailed Andean Motmot. A few Andean Guans are high in the tree canopy at one place and two Roadside Hawks take advantage of the cessation of the rain around 4:00 p.m. and sit on prominent perches. The first is on an overhanging branch whilst the second uses a telegraph pole. One flock that passes contains a number of Rust & Yellow Tanagers but best is a Grey-Mantled Wren that crawls along a branch not too far in front of me. It's long barred tail stands out. As does the contrast between the white underparts and the dark grey mantle. A well named bird.

As the light starts to fade a female Andean Cock of the Rock flies over me, closely followed by the fabulous looking, bright scarlet male. The Peruvian national bird perches close to me and does all of his famous head contortions for me.
Reaching Aguas Calientes in the dark I find a Bed & Breakfast adjacent to the central stream that comes down from the hot springs and have a large meal in a restaurant before collapsing onto my bed. Sleep comes quickly despite horribly painful thighs.

Green Year list : 228 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.21 birds

altitude : 7,504 feet

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