Archive for the ‘Central Peru’ Tag

Central Peru part 4: Huariaca area and Lake Junin – 17th – 19th November 2016.   Leave a comment

 

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After leaving the Huanaco  we explored areas near Huariaca, notably this steep-sided canyon.

 

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It was a bit of a slog climbing up the steep sides but we were getting used to the altitude.

 

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Meanwhile our ever helpful drivers prepared lunch. Note how the use of a telephoto lens has altered perspective, the front of the bus appearing wider than the back. This ‘size illusion’ can be critical if you are comparing the size of one bird in a photo (say a peep) with another species (say a Dunlin) that is a little way behind it.

 

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Some of the species we encountered well familiar to us like Band-tailed Pigeon ….

 

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…. but eventually we found our target, the rare Rufous-backed Inca-finch.

 

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The following morning we stopped at an area of polylepis forest in the upper Huariaca valley.

 

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We encountered a number of localised species such as this Giant Conebill ….

 

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…. as well as widespread ones like Cream-winged Cinclodes.

 

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One of our main targets was Stripe-headed Antpitta which had eluded us up to now. We eventually caught up with it in this grove of gnarled polylepis trees.

 

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Much of the polylepis forest has been felled, either for firewood or to replace it with alien and wildlife unfriendly eucalyptus which is preferred as its fast growing straight trunks can be used in construction and as windbreaks. However as this photo shows if coppiced polylepis can grow straight and quite quickly.

 

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By the afternoon we arrived in rocky basin that holds the enormous Lake Junin, the second largest lake in Peru (after Lake Titicaca)

 

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Surrounding areas held a good range of species including Burrowing Owl ….

 

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…. Puna Ibis ….

 

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…. this lovely pair of Aplomado Falcons ….

 

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…. the now familiar Black-billed Shrike Tyrant ….

 

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…. Ornate Tinamou (photo by my friend and trip participant Steve Lowe)

 

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Buff-breasted Earthcreepers showed nicely.

 

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In general there is less variation in English from one field guide/checklist to  another the Neotropics than in any faunal region yet the field guide confusingly calls this Plain-breasted Earthcreeper.

 

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This rodent was eventually identified as an Ashy Chinchilla Rat

 

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We could look out on the expansive waters of Lake Junin ….

 

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…. and the many lagoons that fringed its shores.

 

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Photography (for example of this Andean Avocet) was difficult as we would have flushed the birds if we had disembarked, so it had to be done through the single opening window which resulted in several of the group performing strange contortions.

 

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One of the stars of the show were these Chilean Flamingos ….

 

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…. but although Chileans were common we didn’t see James’ or Andean Flamingos, species that mainly occur on the salt flats further south.

 

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One of the highlight of this trip was seeing the normally invisible Black Rail. Although I have heard this species in the USA it is very rarely seen. Patiently waiting with our eyes fixed on this gap in the reeds we waited for one to respond to a tape, in the end we saw a pair but they was too quick for photos. The Lake Junin form differs vocally from other populations and probably should be split as Junin Rail.

 

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With storm clouds gathering ….

 

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…. it was time to head to the town of Junin for our overnight stop

 

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There was time for some birding on the outskirts of the town …,

 

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…. avoiding the gaze of a local knitter ….

 

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…. we searched for species like D’Orbigny’s Chat-tyrant and ….

 

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…. Andean Flicker

 

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The following morning we met up with a boatman who took us along a channel and out into the middle of the lake.

 

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The boat was at its mooring but the outboard was safely stowed elsewhere. The boatman slung the 80kg engine over his shoulder and ran towards us; all this at an altitude of 4100m !

 

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Many birds were seen on our way out such as this Great Egret

 

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Andean Gulls were breeding on the margins of the lake ….

 

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…. and were are constant companions until we were far from shore.

 

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The many ducks included Yellow-billed Teal ….

 

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…. Puna Teal ….

 

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…. and Andean Duck, a species that is sometimes lumped with the North American Ruddy Duck

 

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White-tufted Grebes were easy to find but they were not our main target ….

 

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Far out in the middle of the lake we came across four Junin Grebes, a flightless species endemic to this one lake. Official estimates give a population size of over 400, but our boatman, a local warden and others who know the area well think it could be as low as 40. The species is threatened by pollution from local mines and the introduction of Rainbow Trout.

 

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Until the 70s there were 23 species of grebe in the world but in a short space of time three went extinct, one each in Madagascar, Guatamala and Colombia. In each case it was due to a change in water use, usually the introduction of predatory fish which ate all their food or the pollution from agriculture. It now looks like two more species will join them in the near future, Junin Grebe and the Hooded Grebe of Patagonia. Junin Grebe was the last of the 20 extant grebes for my world list but my joy in seeing it was tempered by the thought that we could be some of the last birders to do so.

 

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Whilst the outboard and boatman were delivered to their rightful destinations we birded around the nearby buildings seeing many Bright-rumped Yellow-finches

 

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…. some living up to their name.

 

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Also there were good numbers of the beautiful Black Siskin.

 

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The male Black Siskin in particular is quite a stunner.

 

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We had good views of this Andean Cavy, the wild ancestor of the Guinea Pig.

 

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Our time at Lake Junin ended with a search for a hummer called Black-breasted Hillstar, whilst we did see it well, it was nesting inside a barn and the photos were poor. However this Magellanic Horned Owl that was found nearby posed nicely.

2016 – that was another year that was.   2 comments

2016 earned the reputation as the year when everything went wrong – the awful Brexit result which will have adverse consequences for the rest of my life, the shock American presidential election which may have ramifications far beyond the borders of the USA, the ongoing slaughter in Syria and the threat of terrorism and the death of many much-loved celebrities; but on a personal level 2016 has been both a great success and very enjoyable with much travel at home and abroad and lots of quality birding and bird ringing.

This post summarises what we have been up to this year, most of the photos have been uploaded before and more details can be found by reading the original posts.

 

IMG_2326 Golden Temple Amritsa

In January I spent three weeks in western India, mainly visiting the states of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The tour started with a visit to the wonderful Golden Temple at Amritsar.

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The final few days of the trip were spent in the state of Maharashtra where we searched for the recently rediscovered Forest Owlet. The bizarre story of the discovery, loss, presumed extinction and rediscovery of this enigmatic species is explained in an entry posted on the 18th March. The tour was well covered on this blog with seven separate posts uploaded in February and March.

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A post in March tells of our trip to Essex and from there to London. As well as sorting out my Russian visa for a subsequent trip we also visited St Paul’s cathedral from where I took this shot of the Millennium Bridge.

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From Essex we moved on to Cambridge to stay with my old University friend Jenny.

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The longest and most remarkable trip of the year was the Atlantic Odyssey which ran from late March to early May. Starting at Ushuaia in southernmost Argentina we sailed on the Plancius to South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha, St Helena, Ascension and Cabo Verde.

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South Georgia was a delight with stunning views of King Penguins ….

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….cute Fur Seal pups plus several species of albatross and many other seabirds.

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In complete contrast we encountered desert like conditions on the island of Ascension and a range of tropical seabirds ….

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…. and tropical cetaceans like this Clymene Dolphin.

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But the star of the show was the breeding endemic Ascension Frigatebird that only breeds on a single half hectare offshore rock stack. Although the trip was over five weeks long and we sailed from the subantarctic to borders of the Western Palearctic I only had 13 life birds – but most of them were very sought after indeed.

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After landing at Cabo Verde we flew to Mallorca to join Birdquest’s 35th anniversary reunion. We had a very enjoyable time meeting up with old friends and making new ones amongst great scenery and great birds.

7F1A2048 Scopoli's Shearwater

Birding highlights were my first views of Moltoni’s Warbler, and first proper views of the endemic Balearic Warbler and the newly split Mediterranean Flycatcher. On a boat crossing to the island of Cabrera we had the best ever views of Scopoli’s and Balearic Shearwaters. Unfortunately these two wonderful trips have not been covered well on the blog with just a single extended post uploaded on 18th May covering the entire six weeks. It has always been my intention to give a more detailed coverage but other things have got in the way!

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I was only home for a couple of weeks before it time to join another cruise, the so-called ‘Russian Ring of Fire’ to the Russian Far East. Cancelled at short notice in 2015 due to the Russia authorities intransigence, the cruise from Kamchatka to the Commander and Kuril Islands and on to Sakhalin was absolutely outstanding, even if we did get snow at sea level in early June.

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I saw something like 17 life birds on the trip, perhaps the most beautiful and most desired was the wonderful Whiskered Auklet. As with the previous cruise, other commitments prevented me from doing it justice on this blog, but a summary was posted on 25th June.

IMG_5975 Caernarfon Castle

In late June and early July Margaret and I had a two week trip around Wales, parts of northern England and ended with a visit to Essex. As well as visiting friends and family we enjoyed many sights from castles in north Wales ….

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…. to a wet and dreary Blackpool. I uploaded two posts on this trip in late July/early August.

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From mid July to early November my time was taken up with ringing. Covering the entire autumn migration I paid 60 visits to Durlston Country Park as well as ringing at several other sites. We ringed over 4700 birds adding greatly to our knowledge of bird migration at Durlston. Autumn 2016 will be long remembered for the remarkable influx of birds from Siberia, caused by a strong easterly airflow that persisted for weeks. Although we didn’t catch any real rarities, there was much larger than usual number of Ring Ouzels passing though ….

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…. and as a group we ringed at least 16 Yellow-browed Warblers, a species that breeds no nearer than the Urals. The only ringing I did away from Dorset was when my friend Chris and I spent several days at Spurn Bird Observatory in early September. I have uploaded a number of posts on my ringing and UK birding activities throughout the year.

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In November I went on an excellent three-week trip to central Peru. The scenery on almost every day was outstanding ….

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…. as was the birding, with much wanted gems such as the flightless Junin Grebe (my last grebe) ….

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…. and the enigmatic Diademed Sandpiper-plover, a rare inhabitant of high altitude bogs, which took a lot of stomping around at a breath-taking 4500m to find. This was by far the most productive trip of the year for both species and lifers and I accumulated some 57 new birds and bringing my life list (with the help of a few armchair ticks) to 8122. I am still editing the many photos from this tour but hope to upload some to the blog in a week or so.

DCINY presents UK composer Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light: A Requiem led by Maestro Jonathan Griffith. Solo singers: Sarah Joy Miller - soprano, Scott Joiner - tenor, Steven Fddy - Baritone

Whilst I was in Peru Margaret had the opportunity to travel to New York with members of her choir to join a massed choir of over 200 singing Howard Goodall’s composition ‘Eternal Light’. There is more on her adventure in a blog post uploaded on 4th December.

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2016 has become infamous as the year when many much loved celebrities passed away. Whilst not unexpected, he was 82 and in poor health, the death of singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen saddened me the most. A fan since I first heard ‘The Sisters of Mercy’ back in 1968 I have all of his CDs and love his deep, poignant and moving lyrics. I am pleased to have had the privilege of seeing him in concert three times, once when I was a student and twice in recent years. I bought his 14th and final studio album ‘You Want It Darker’ just days before his death on 7th November.

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We have only been to a few music events this year, a fantastic gig by the Afro Celt Sound System and a visit to the opera to see Don Giovanni. I even missed both of Margaret’s UK choral concerts, one by being in Russia, the other through ill health. However, although not a musical event, a trip to the BIC to see the funniest man in the world, Billy Connolly in late November, was a hilarious night out.

IMG_4946 Caspian Stonechat

Although UK birding has taken a bit of a back seat with a large amount of time being devoted to ringing and the subsequent paper work, but I have mamaged to see a number of great species this year. In the spring my friend Roger and I twitched a ‘Caspian’ Stonechat in Hampshire. Although currently considered a race of Siberian Stonechat this white-rumped form from the southern borders of the Caspian Sea could well warrant specific status.

Great Spotted Cuckoo1 Chris Minvalla

Although I have seen two in the UK before, this beautiful Great Spotted Cuckoo at Portland was a much appreciated addition to my Dorset List. Other local goodies in May included Red-footed Falcon, Glossy Ibis, Black-winged Stilt and Honey Buzzard. Photo by my friend Chris Minvalla.

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In recent years I have shied away from long distance twitches due to the effort and cost involved and because I am often familiar with the species concerned from birding abroad. However in mid October, as the remarkable influx of Siberian and Central Asian goodies continued I was tempted back to Spurn once more. This Isabelline Wheatear in a muddy field by the coast (here with a head stained from the dark soil) was reason enough for the long journey ….

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…. but the real prize was this superb Siberian Accentor just a few hundred yards away in the grounds of the gas terminal. This species had never been seen in the UK before 2016 but this autumn there were 12, with close to 300 found in western Europe. As far as my UK birding is concerned this was ‘bird of the year’. Photo by Chris Minvalla.

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There was another Siberian mega to twitch before the year was out. Just north of where my brother lives in Derbyshire a Dusky Thrush was found in early December. With only a dozen UK records (and most of those from antiquity) this was a much wanted UK tick. I was prevented from going for a Dusky Thrush in Kent a few years ago by earlier commitment, so a trip to the Derbyshire Peak District became essential. I needn’t have fretted as it was still these when I visited my brother over the Christmas period and we went to see it again. Photo by my friend Roger Howell.

Another mega-rare thrush, a Blue Rock Thrush was seen towards the end of the year on my way home from Derbyshire (giving me 4 new birds for my British List in 2016 and bringing it to 493 by the BOU list). I will upload photos of this plus an account of our activities over Christmas and New Year will be in the next post.

Happy New Year to all readers of this blog.