Central Peru part 5: Lake Junin to Apaylla – 19th – 23rd November 2016   Leave a comment

This post covers our journey from Lake Junin across the puna and the descent (again) into the more humid eastern flank of the Andes, visiting several different valleys before heading back west towards the continental divide.

 

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To reach our next destination at Villa Rica we took a short-cut through the mountains, that way we hoped to avoid all the lorries crawling along the main road.

 

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It was well worth it as we had great views of these Vicuña, wild camelids of the puna grasslands.

 

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Vicuña wool is said to be the softest in the world and they were once almost hunted to extinction. Vicuñas are now well protected and have been reintroduced to parts of their native range.

 

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The short cut was going well until after an hour or more we found the road ahead was closed. There was a diversion but it was on more of a mule track than a road. In spite of some scary moments we made it through.

 

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The following day as we descended into the cloud forest again we realised that the bamboo had flowered recently and now was in seed. Various seedeaters were common and we even saw the nomadic Slaty Finch, although the equally nomadic Maroon-chested Ground Dove was a ‘heard only’.

 

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By lunch time we arrived at Ulcumana Lodge, a beautiful location in some charming subtropical forest. The forest here was similar to that at the Carpish Tunnel but was more extensive and less degraded.

 

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It would be worth the tour operators spending less time at the Carpish Tunnel and more here, but I would have hated to go home without the Orange-breasted Falcon under the belt that we only saw at Carpish.

 

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We saw many birds here but few were photographed, at least by me. Here is the diminutive Peruvian Tyrannulet ….

 

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…. and here the rather more impressive Golden-headed Quetzal. The best birds by far were seen at night, a magnificent Swallow-tailed Nightjar and also Cloud Forest Screech-owl a species new to the Birdquest Life List (which now must be approaching 10,100) Photos of both will be available on the Birdquest tour report once it has been uploaded to their web-site.

 

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We didn’t have enough time at the lodge as the next day we had to move on, on route we saw a whole new range of birds resulting in multiple ‘write-ins’ and I managed to photograph these oropendola nests if not the oropendolas themselves.

 

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On route we saw this Cliff Flycatcher ….

 

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The two adults were feeding a juvenile.

 

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The Cliff Flycatcher’s rufous flight feathers shows nicely in this shot.

 

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We descended further into the lowlands where even more ‘write-ins’ were added to our ever-growing list ….

 

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Blue-and-White Swallows were a familiar site although this young bird is neither very blue nor very white

 

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There are few hotels in this remote area and we spent the night in this basic accommodation, but as our evening  meal was prepared by our helpful drivers and they had a stock of cold beers in for us, it was no great hardship.

 

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The following day we headed for the nearby Upper Mantaro Valley, an area that has been neglected by birders yet has recently be shown to harbour several endemic species.

 

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Some of the first birds we saw were the widespread Andean Guan ….

 

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…. and Spectacled Whitestart

 

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The recently described Black-spectacled Brush Finch is a much more restricted ranged bird ….

 

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…. although I prefer the alternative name of Black-goggled Brush Finch.

 

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White-winged Black Tyrant is quite widespread ….

 

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….. but the ‘Mantaro’ Wren is a newly discovered (and possibly still undescribed) form of Plain-tailed Wren that almost certainly deserves specific status ….

 

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…. the lightly barred tail and paler grey head are some of the features that distinguish ‘Mantaro’ Wren from the highly disjunct Plain-tailed Wren. Photo by fellow tour participant  Steve Lowe.

 

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Other goodies in the Mantaro drainage included Eye-ringed Thistletail.

 

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One problem of using a bridge camera is that it is impossible to get a sharp focus if there is vegetation between you and the bird, but at least I got a record shot of this Creamy-crested Spinetail.

 

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We had good views of this Violet-fronted Starfrontlet (don’t hummers have the most marvellous names) ….

 

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The Peruvian form of this species may be split as Huanaco Starfrontlet (and indeed already has been by the Lynx/BLI Illustrated Checklist) the remaining population would the become a Bolivian endemic and be known as Bolivian Starfrontlet.

 

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In due course we left the Mantaro drainage and headed towards our stop for the night ….

 

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….  more basic accommodation, but the single bright light by the outside wash basin attracted a multitude of moths and I took many photos to send to moth-er  friends back home (the hyphen is essential otherwise moth enthusiasts become ‘mothers’).

 

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The next morning we had a field breakfast just as the sun was touching the high peaks.

 

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It certainly was a breakfast table with a view.

 

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These cecropia trees are typical of the subtropics, the low cloud and poor visibility is typical of the subtropics as well!

 

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A Broad-winged Hawk, a winter visitor from North America watched from a nearby branch.

 

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During the morning we slowly gained altitude and left the subtropical zone and the humid eastern slope of the Andes behind. From here we would cross the continental divide and descend towards Lima. That will be the subject of the next post.

 

 

 

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