Sunday 24 June 2018

Day 72 Inkaterra Gardens with Carmen

June 11th, 2018

Warm, Cloudy morning some light rain in the early morning and later in the afternoon

Breakfast is taken on the top floor of my Bed & Breakfast, a simple meal of bread rolls with margarine and jam with strong Peruvian coffee and a glass of fresh pineapple juice. Maria, the owner of the establishment is friendly.

Crossing one of the bridges that traverse the small stream that comes down from the hot water springs, two White-capped Dippers stop me for a while. Beautiful, small dippers that have very prominent white caps, they don't enter the water as frequently as European counterparts do. Instead they feed on the water splashed edges of rocks and find food items there. Upstream I know of the hot water springs having swam in them back in 2014 with my daughter, Rebecca. The water is really hot in the swimming pools built there but if you ever go, don't make the mistake of jumping into the cloudy, steaming water as the floor of each pool is quite sharp gravel.

I make my way along the edge of the artisan market, where stall owners are removing shutters preparing for the arrival of the first tourist train from Cusco. There are around a hundred or so stalls and each seems to me to sell much the same items; t-shirts, colourfully striped alpaca wool garments, ornaments of various sorts and large alpaca wool blankets of various Incan designs. I always wonder how each stall owner, always a woman or so it seems, makes a living with so much competition around them and how the tourists decide upon which stall to purchase from. That they do is evident by their presence and it makes a colourful, claustrophobic welcome when one arrives off the train and negotiates the narrow corridors to access the town.
I stop on a wooden bridge where a small stream goes down the hill towards the almost dry river bed. Upstream of the town there is a hydro electric plant and it has a large sluice system that is stopping the water of the river from coming down to here at the rate that it was flowing upstream. Now, in the middle of the dry season, the river is low and relatively quiet. I have been here in the middle of the Peruvian summer, in January when the river is anything but quiet. Don't get a hotel or hostel at that time of year because the violent raging torrent that smashes downstream is cacophonous and you won't get a wink of sleep. Believe me. I made that mistake last year!

A circling Black-breasted Buzzard eagle is high over the adjacent mountain top and a male Andean Cock of the Rock flies down the small valley and lands in a tree nearby. A splash of brilliant red, the bird makes it a lovely start to the day. The Inkaterra guard on the far side of the bridge, Hose, hears my plea and I go to the famous hotel's office to ask whether I can bird the garden for the morning. A Dusky Green Oropendula welcomes me with it's bubbly song and a flock of around twenty Mitred Parakeets lands atop a tall tree, immediately disappearing into the dense foliage. Once inside with permission given, I pass a place where a number of open bananas have been skewered onto sharpened twigs and a number of birds are feeding. Mostly Blue & Gray Tanagers, there are also other birds that are new for the Green Birding year list. In quick succession Blue-necked and Palm Tanagers, Thick-billed Euphonias and Blue Dachnis are all added to the list.

The blue on the head of the tanager doesn't match the deep blue on the male dachnis but they all make a marvellous movement of colour as they feed or behave aggressively towards each other. There is a definite pecking order with the larger Palm Tanager seeming to always take precedence over the other tanager species and they in turn chase away the dachnis and euphonias.

I go to the swimming pool and hot tub area and find a Chestnut-fronted Coronet sitting on a small twig a foot away from a hummingbird feeder. My fiend, Jason Oliver and I, sat here last year and observed the same species doing just this last year. I wonder if it is the same bird. I name him Sid as I always do with pets. I have a pet rock back at Mum and Dad's in England, a rock that I have had as a pet since 1990. Sid the rock is from the Pyrenees in France. At Gavarnie there is a high cascade, the highest waterfall in Europe and when I had driven there in the summer of 1990 with a wonderful girlfriend named Diane, I found Sid bemoaning the fact that he was fed up of the water falling on him! I rescued him bravely and took him home. Taking Sid into the Primary school, Merridale, in the autumn, where I was a teacher at the time, the Year 3 children totally believed the story of how I found Sid and why I bought him home. The perfect pet, Sid stayed still, didn't need feeding and never poohed or weed anywhere. He never did chase sticks though! In 2009 I returned there, to that wonderful Cirque de Gavarnie and found Sid's wife and children. They all now reside in the garden of my parents.

I continue to the next pair of hummingbird feeders and sit on the spectator benches and watch as a procession of hummers arrive to sip the sweet liquid. The majority are Chestnut-fronted Coronets, seven or eight of them but occasionally Lesser Violetear, Green & White Hummingbirds and tiny Booted Raquet-tail get a look in. The Lesser Violetear always arrives with a quick raspberry call announcement.

Walking past the orchid garden and the tea house along a well maintained pathway, I reach the area where Inkaterra grow their own tea and coffee. Here a Gray-breasted Wood Wren shows itself nicely as a couple of Brown-capped Vireos and a single Red-eyed do their best to hide in the leaves of the canopy, as does a Beryl-spangled Tanager

High in the canopy there are a number of quick moving tyrannulets and I struggle to get good views of any of them. A Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet takes pity on me. An Occelated Piculet, a diminutive woodpecker species, is more obliging as it goes down the tiniest of vertical twigs and a Yellow-browed Tody-flycatcher shows itself high in the canopy of a tall tree. I can hear a White-tipped Doves low repeated call and coming around a corner there it is walking on the path.
The pathway has a section where one can view the river and a pair of Torrent Ducks are sitting on some exposed rocks nearby. Twenty or so Blue & White Swallows are skimming the water. A little further along an Azara's Spinetail tries to stay hidden in some thick vegetation but shows warm chestnut crown and wing patches and long greyish tail and underparts.

It is here that I meet Carmen, the Inkaterra orchid expert and we walk slowly around the gardens for the next two hours. Carmen has been working at Inkaterra for over eighteen years and she has a phenomenal knowledge of the plants and creatures that frequent the beautiful gardens. Carmen shows me a variety of orchids, some that I would never have guessed to be orchids. Some look like ferns, others have miniscule flowers and a few are the showy, spectacularly shaped orchids that I am more familiar with.

Carmen takes me to the Spectacled Bear enclosures where Inkaterra is trying to rehabilitate a few to populate a reserve nearby. The sad looking, beautiful, large bears have been rescued from circuses in Peru and the male was made to dance for his supper when captive. He loves avocados but Carmen wants him to slim down a tad and hence alfalfa and fruit is provided. The food has been placed on high platforms so that the lazy bear has to climb in order to get it. Tanagers are enjoying the fruit he hasn't got to yet and Golden-naped, Saffron-crowned and Silver-backed Tanagers are added to the, at last, growing year list.
Carmen and I walk back to the hummingbird feeders just as a superb Collared Inca arrives. It is soon chased off by the speedy Chestnut-fronted Coronets but not before I see what must be my favourite hummer. Whilst we sit and talk a small hummingbird arrives that is a lifer for me, a Speckled Hummingbird and at one stage four species of hummingbird are sharing the platform.

Leaving Inkaterra for some lunch I stop on the bridge and see a pair of Torrent Tyrannulets feeding a juvenile on the rocks beside the stream. Small balls of grey and smudgy black, I had forgotten how tiny these birds were.
Lunch is taken in the market where an old lady in a corner is selling plates of corn on the cob with thick sliced fried potato, which back when I was a child was called scallops at my local fish and chip shop, with chunks of some sort of meat. I sit with half a dozen Peruvians enjoying the same. The cost is five Soles, around £1.50.
I then go to buy my ticket for Machu Picchu. Once I have my passport, retrieved from my bedroom I buy the ticket for noon tomorrow and am told that It allows me access to the World Heritage site for four hours.
Shattered still from yesterday's twenty six mile walk and with my thighs still painful on each side where the muscle joins the side of each knee, I go back to my room and relax. I soon fall asleep! On waking I spend my evening on the internet in an internet shop with all of it's usual cubicles and ancient machines. The other computers are being used by very loud Peruvian teenagers playing various, mostly violent computer games.

Green Year list : 248 birds 

 average new birds to list per day : 3.44 birds

altitude : 7,504 feet

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