Saturday 6 October 2018

Descent into Paradise! Into the Cloud Forest of The Manu.

Buenas Dias!

Good morning! It is another lovely day, so RISE and SHINE. Life is for living!

My penultimate day in Peru. Tomorrow, Sunday I will be on the way back to the UK.

A wonderful day yesterday at my favourite Peruvian Nature Reserve, Los Pantanos de Villa, south of Lima. Los Pantanos? Why?

OK, I know, there are the magnificent National Parks and yes, I love The Manu yet Los Pantanos de Villa is preferred because of it's brdlife and it's location. You see I love urban reserves and Los Pantanos de Villa with over ten million people within twenty miles of it is as urban as it can get. Mind you, despite this and if one ignores the constant sound of traffic, a birder can see around sixty superb species in a day and, at certain times of the year birds numbers exceed fifty thousand. To think of so many people, especially children engaging with nature on their doorstep is thrilling.

I well remember my first visit there on Boxing day of 2013 when the seemingly never-ending beach was literally covered with immense flocks of gulls, mostly Franklins and terns, mostly Elegant and Cabot's.

I have been there at least a dozen times. Indeed I started my Peruvian Biking Birder adventure there back in April. Each time is different. Each time different birds take precedence. Today it was Wilson's Phalaropes that were present in numbers that would astound a British birder. I counted 254 of the spinning waders!

Saltwater, ocea adjacent lagoons, reedbeds, large freshwater-ish lagoons and dry horse grazed areas; Los Pantanos de Villa has an interesting selection of habitats and the birds can be very confiding. Imaine Great and Pied-billed Grebes within yards of you.

Then there are the staff and volunteers, wonderful friendly people, mostly young but also older that add enjoyment to a visit with their sense of fun, their dedication to the reserve and with their desire to learn as much as possible, so to be able to share this with the thousands of Liman children that visit. Six coaches full of schoolchildren were there today!

Today I had the opportunity to promote the reserve and Peruvian birding by being interviewed and filmed by PromPeru. Three lovely people; Melanie, Ricardo and fernando drew the long straw and had to do the job. Two hours of their company, I look forward to seeing the results and sharing it all with you.

So before the July the 3rd details, here are a few photographs from today at Los Pantanos de Villa :-

Fabulous to see that schoolchildren had cleared a long section of the beach from washed up plastic!

OK . . . . . . . 

For those who may be new to my blog I know that today is October the sixth but due to a number of factors, mostly a lack of internet within The Manu national Park, I could not keep up the daily blog describing my adventures.

To those who read yesterday's blog and the blog from the day before, I once more humbly apologise for starting in the same vein!

You know I survived the six month Biking Birder Peruvian adventure over The Andes by bicycle and along the Madre de Dios river by packraft!

What follows over the next 73 days, well to Christmas anyway, will be a daily update as though we are back together in July of this year. Day by day I will post my diary as though it is still happening. Together we will share the thrills, the splendour of nature and the terrors. Oh yes, there were days of terror but those few moments were outshone by days of such magnificence that dark clouds were obliterated by nature's beauty.

So please read and imagine . . . .

Oh, and please, PLEASE if you could make a donation to Birdlife International as you read I would be more over the Moon than I already am! Neil, I am coming to see you.

Thank you and love to you all,

Be Green.

Gary xxx 

3rd July, 2018

Very sunny morning, cloud forest cloud develops during the day

I can hear a Creamy-crested Spinetail from my sleeping bag as I lie in my cold tent watching my breath. Ice on the tent for possibly the last time, I get up and find a superb Moustached Flowerpiercer on the topmost twig of a very close by bush. A Great Thrush is on the path nearby and the calling Creamy-crested Spinetail is seen moving amongst the foliage. As I get my inflatable mattress and sleeping bag out of the tent, I arrange them so that I can sit on the steps of the obelisk and watch the sunrise in one direction and the setting of a gibbous Moon in the other. White-throated Tyrannulets come into a small tree and make it a hat-trick of new birds for the early morning. Smashing little birds these are with the obvious white throat above a dull grey breast, long tail and wing bars and eye stripes, they move swiftly and noisily in the branches.
A short walk to the ridge edge nearby, a deer is looking at me intently from fifty yards away. Standing on my path, she has immense and pert round ears, a black nose and large eyes. All seemingly of one colour in this early morning sunlight she suddenly decides that watching the human may not be a good idea and slowly walks off into the scrub.
Wispy, nebulous cloud from the valley deep below starts to ascend and pass. Soon it covers the ridge and I walk back to the tent in a strange fog that seems to take the sounds away.
I take down the tent, it having thawed and dried in the early morning sunshine. Packed and ready, I start the long descent in the knowledge that it is all downhill for the next fifty miles, all the way to the Cadre de Bios River! Actually I don't sit on the saddle as I follow the dirt road down. I stand on a pedal and balance in order that, one I can stop immediately upon seeing a bird I would like to identify or, more hopefully, come across a flock and two, I can leap off the bike quickly and get to the side of the road if I hear an approaching vehicle. The second of these considerations is important as minibuses in particular can speed around a bend at any time and most of the time they do not warn one of their approach by sounding their horn. This road is so bumpy that cycling in the more conventional way seems to me to be practically impossible and dangerous.
The first birds that stop me are Red-crested Cotingas and both Rufous-breasted and Brown-backed Chat Tyrants. That all changes though when I come across my first flock. Rust & Yellow Tanagers are easy to see as forage amongst the bushes and grassy stems. The Rufous-paned Brush-finches have all black throats though and I will need to check their specie status. Golden-collared, Hooded Mountain and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers are all moving through and the pace in which they do so, appearing then disappearing in the dense vegetation, makes the experience exhilarating.
I continue down the bumpy road as cloud envelops the hill side and visibility is restricted. The valleys have gone and the way ahead is obscured. Luckily traffic is extremely sparse and when I suddenly come across the entrance to Weyqecha Biological Research Station I am excited. My next place of accommodation has been reached.
No one seems to be around as I enter the large reception – dining room. Hummingbird feeders beside it have Amethyst-throated Sunangel and Violet-throated Starfrontlet feeding. A Collared Inca joins them but is soon chased away. Brush-finches and Yellow-browed Sparrows come close as they search for food in the area next to the kitchen and main entrance. I am entranced by such beautiful birds, birds that can be watched from a seat and with a cup of coffee. Coffee and tea is available from a table next to a hatchway through to the large kitchen.
Whilst imbibing my coffee a man comes in and tells me that he a birder named Omar working for a company called Cotinga Travel. Good name! Omar talks birds and I try to persuade him to go back to the pools thirty or kilometres or so away to photograph the Least Grebe I saw there yesterday. This dastardly birder, myself that is, wants evidence of the bird.
I want to bird and after Omar leaves I meet John, the manager of the facility. He gives me a map of the trails and I set off for the nearest and shortest. The trail goes down diagonally into the valley and a few mist nets have been placed in strategic spots. I hear later that two scientists are carrying out a bird project. I don't see any evidence of any birds during my walk as unfortunately no flocks pass me during my two hour hike.
At dinner I meet three young girls from England; Abbey, Alice and Wanxin. The girls are part of a long study project into the effects of Climate Change on the cloud forest. They are studying at King's College. London together and part of their costs have been funded by the Geography Association. I remember that I supported The Geography Association during my first two Biking Birder adventures in 2010 and 2015 by carrying a glove puppet of Barnaby Bear on the bike. Barnaby is the Geography Association's Primary Education character for a major curriculum topic called “Where in the world is Barnaby Bear.” Wanxin is from Singapore, Abbey is from Ilford and Alice is from Southampton. They are chatty and fun, wonderful to meet such young and intrepid people.
Dinner is served by Blanco and Claudio and afterwards everybody goes to the back of the kitchen to wash and dry up. Time for the match! Birding can wait until later. It is time for England against Columbia in the 2018 World Cup taking place in Russia. The last sixteen match and the winner will meet Sweden in the last eight. A room beneath one of the bungalows is prepared with a large flat screen TV and a number of chairs. Factions enter and take opposing positions in the room, England supporters, that is the girls and I, to the right of the TV. The Peruvians are all supporting Columbia, something to do with South America solidarity and they all sit to the left, all nine of them. We are outnumbered but my vocal prowess makes up for our numerical shortfall.
The match kicks off. England dominate but don't score during their purple patch of play. Luckily neither do Columbia. Half time and honours even, England ahead on points, I go and fetch biscuits and cakes from my room. Shared all around with great fun and a game of pretending to give to about to give a biscuit or a cake to a Peruvian Columbia supporter and then passing the biscuit or cake to one of the England supporting girls instead. Eventually I relent and all get a fair share.
Second half, England get a penalty and the protesting Columbian defender gets booked. He has grabbed Harry Kane and pushed him to the ground. There can be no doubt about the decision and the video referee is not called for. Harry steps up and plants the ball down the centre of the goal above the despairing foot of the goalkeeper who has dived to his right. 1 – 0 to England. I quietly show my delight at the goal by clapping a couple of times. Do I thump! I am up screaming “goal!” and dance across the room. “Come on England!”
A few minutes of the match remain. Columbia have come into the match more and a long range shot is turned around the post by the diving Pickford, the England goalkeeper. From the corner the ball is headed downwards and with a vicious bounce it is in the back of the net. 1 – 1. The Peruvians take their cue to repeat my performance and celebrate vociferously.
Extra time, England come closest to deciding the game with a shot that just goes past the far post. Penalties. Columbia score, England score, repeated, Columbia score but the Columbian goalkeeper saves the next England spot kick. 3 – 2 to Columbia. Panic!
Columbia hit the bar and England score. 3 – 3.
Pickford saves with his upstretched hand.
Dyer steps up to win the game for England. England have never won a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup. Can Dyer score.
He does! He runs towards the team huddle as England players en masse create a human pile. Dyer wants a cuddle but is ignored. Meanwhile I am dancing once more around the room. England have beaten Columbia and will play Sweden in the last eight. Fabulous.
The TV is put away and the generator is turned off. Two men, Marcus and Felix, arrive and after I try to explain that I have been emailed and that it states that I will be staying in the dormitory, I am taken to a most luxurious room with ensuite facilities. A large semi-detached wooden bungalow built on tall stilts with a balcony that looks over the now cloud free valleys of the Manu Cloud Forest. I sit and watch as a Masked Flowerpiercer pierces a few of the numerous flowers. Incredible views with forest clad hills, one after the other descending down towards the promise of the lowlands thirty miles away. For anyone staying here this terrace with its chairs and proximity to such magnificence makes any expense and travel so worth while. Another paradise place for The Biking Birder to enjoy.

Green Year list : 287 birds

average new birds to list per day : 3.05 birds

altitude : 9,580 feet

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