Friday, 5 July 2013

Day two in the Andes: Marcapomacocha.

One of the first birds we saw along the road on the second day was one we had seen the day before but not got good views of, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant

Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant
Once we left Huachupampa the road got considerably worse and more treacherous, but thankfully we got up to the top in one piece although the many crosses at the side of the road over precipitous drops was a timely reminder of just how perilous the road is. On the way up we came across several Peruvian Sierra Finches and we were really pleased to see a White-capped Dipper although our views of them were either fleeting or distant so no photos I'm afraid.

Peruvian Sierra Finch
The reason for being up so high was primarily to get a couple of birds for our Wader Quest, namely Diademed Sandpiper-Plover and Andean Lapwing on this first day. This we did with a bit of luck and good local knowledge from Renzo, in addition we got another seedsnipe, this time Grey-breasted and a highland snipe, Puna Snipe.

Diademed Sandpiper-Plover

Andean Lapwing

Grey-breasted Seedsnipe
Puna Snipe
But up there there was much more to look at and many birds you would see in no other habitat. There were the most obvious denizens of the wetter areas, the Andean Geese. These birds sat around mostly in pairs, but occasionally we came across bigger congregations of them.

Andean Geese

Andean Geese
On the pool near where we saw the DSP there were Andean Gulls, Giant Coots and a family of Crested Ducks.

Giant Coot and Andean Gull
Andean Gull

Andean Gull
Giant Coot

Giant Coots behave generally much like any other coot, chasing each other around their small pond in the sky.
Crested Ducks

Ground-tyrants are a real feature of the region. These birds are not that easy to identify but in the end we clocked up three species.

Puna Ground-Tyrant

Taczanowski's Ground-Tyrant

White-fronted Ground-Tyrant
Other ground dwelling birds included many Wing-barred Cinclodes, perhaps the most numerous passerine we saw up there and the occasional Slender-billed Miner.

Wing-barred Cinclodes
Slender-billed Miner

A bird that I wasn't expecting, and indeed didn't see, Elis got this photo when my back was turned, was the Wren-like Rushbird. Here we were in western South America at around 4,000m in altitude and there was a bird that we had seen at sea-level on the eastern coast of South America in Brazil! Thinking about it, the same could be said of the cinclodes which we had made great pains to see in southern Brazil.

Wren-like Rushbird
Another fascinating bird was the Olivaceous Thornbill. Although there are no bushes or flowers of any height to speak of, there somehow is a niche for this hummer. It feeds from the flowers that grow carpeting the ground, often landing on the ground to feed. They appear quite dull unless you catch them just right as with all irridescent birds. This one's colours though are restricted to a small beard!

Olivaceous Thornbill, the irridescence can just about be made out in this shot taken as it sat on
the ground feeding from a low flower.
We came across just one group of White-winged Diuca Finches, their grey and white plumage was quite striking and we watched them for a while (mainly as an excuse to rest for a moment in the thin air).

White-winged Diuca Finch
The only woodpecker we saw on the whole trip was the Andean Flicker which we also saw at the same place as the DSP.

Andean Flicker
After our successful day, we headed for Junin for the night passing a valley that had witnessed one of the last battles between the Spanish and the colonials in the battle for Peru's independence; the Battle of Junin. The site was called Santuario Histórico Chacamarca. I did wonder who had thought this would be a good place for a battle at the top of a mountain range.

Try and imagine legions of foot soldiers and cavalry bashing the daylights out of each other
in this peaceful secene.

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