– The Journal/Record
And now for the
October 16, 2002
– I left Harrisburg at about 7:30 AM, driving to Baltimore to catch my American
Airlines flight to Lima and to begin my “Travels With Gunnar.” The scheduled
flight time was for about 1:00 PM but there was a “Northeaster” riding up the
coast and the Weather Service was predicting delays in flight times. The drive
to BWI was rather wet and windy but by the time I arrived at BWI the winds had
dropped and rain had let up some. The flight from Miami to Lima originated in
Philadelphia so I thought maybe that flight might be delayed to. In the end
neither flight was impacted much by the storm. I reached Lima at 9:35 PM but
by the time I cleared immigration & customs and arrived at the Senorial
Hotel it was about 11:00 PM. I noticed that the driving in Lima was similar
driving in Quito … the “cut-off and honk” school of driving. I was glad Jorge
was driving and not me. When I arrived at the hotel Ingrid, Helmut and Shoaib
(Abe) were just getting in from dinner. They had taken a day jaunt up the coast
with Victor and informed me we were heading out at 5:00 AM by taxi. I’m glad
I fall asleep quickly.
October 17, 2002
– Up at 4:20 AM and ready for the cab at 5:00. With all of our stuff we needed
two taxis. The taxis reminded me of the buses in Japan … made for people 5’-4”
and shorter, tight fit but made it to the airport okay. The greater Lima area
has to be huge, we drove for good half hour with very little traffic and we
still seem to be in the city. We met Gunnar at the airport for our 7:00 AM flight
to Chiclayo. The easiest way to describe Gunnar is to think of James Carville
trading in his Louisiana accent for a Swedish one. In Lima the weather
was cloudy/hazy and in the 60’s due to the Humboldt Current. In Chiclayo they
said expect “hot!”
Well they were right.
Chiclayo is hot and the area around it is true desert. We hooked up with Tulio
who was our driver and mechanic. He had driven up from Lima with the van the
day before. He doesn’t speak English and since I don’t speak Spanish so not
sure how the communicating will go but he is a very friendly guy … he’d make
a good Santa.
We drove to Rafan (S07.01,
W079.41, 12m). I’m not sure if there is a town there or not. Where we left the
paved road there were a handful of houses, dwellings may be a better term, scattered
about. They were generally the color of the sand that surrounded them. As we
worked our way along the sandy track it reminded me of getting stuck in the
loose sand in the desert in Southern California. Well we didn’t get stuck; Tulio
and the van handled it just fine. Our first “real” birding stop produced
a fair number of birds. I’m not going to list them all but will list some that
didn’t prove to be common on other parts of the trip as well:
Peruvian Sheartail, Purple-collared Woodstar, Peruvian Plantcutter, Rufous Flycatcher,
Baird’s Flycatcher, Gray and White Tyrannulet, Coastal Miner, Fasciated Wren,
Pearl Kite and Burrowing Owl.
Once we found the two
target birds Gunnar suggested we head north, back to Chiclayo and then on to
Bosque de Pomac at Batan Grande.
At Bosque de Pomac the
best birds were probably Collared Antshrike, Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Superciliated
Wren, Bran-colored Flycatcher and Harris’ Hawk. Before going back to Chiclayo
we made a birding stop looking for the White-wing Guan. (Laquipampa, S06.21,
W079.26, 600m). With the Guan being an early morning or late afternoon bird
we arrived here late afternoon. We didn’t find the Guan but we did find Golden-olive
Woodpecker, White-tailed Jays and Lesser Swallow-tailed Swifts.
We returned to Chiclayo
and checked in at the Grand Hotel. There we met Ashley Banwell who had been
doing some guiding for Gunnar. Ashley wanted a shot at the White-wing Guan and
would stay with us until we reached Jaen where he would catch a bus to Cajamarca
and then fly to Lima to go birding in other parts of the world.
The Grand Hotel was rather
plush. At the desk they took my passport to make a copy but could not do that
until the next morning, I didn’t like being without it. Abe suggested I do what
he does, take along a half dozen copies to use in cases like this. Abe and I
roomed together for the rest of the time he was on the trip. We didn’t get to
bed until 11:00PM.
October 18, 2002
– Early start, up at 4:00AM. In the morning we returned to Bosque de Pomac where
we found a Necklaced Spinetail, White-edged Oriole and we heard a Peruvian Pygmy-Owl.
We then headed back toward Chiclayo and checked out of the Grand Hotel. I did
have to ask for my passport, they had not put in room as promised. Back on the
road we stopped at a “wet spot” where there were a variety of swallows, a Peruvian
Meadowlark and Northern Caracara and then continued on to Puerto Eten (S06.55,
W79.52, 4m). Here near the ocean were some small freshwater ponds. It had several
of the herons and shorebirds that frequent the USA. The new bird for me there
was the Wren-like Rushbird. We also had nice looks at a Snowy Plover.
After leaving Puerto Eten
we headed north to Olmos. We then continued northwest until we went off
on to a rough hewn track that followed a mostly dry, wide riverbed. We were
about two hours from Olmos at a place named Limon (S05.41, W079.45, 311m). At
this point Gunnar tells us it is too late that afternoon to have any chance
for the White-winged Guan. He said he was going to leave a message for the local
guide and that we would go back to Olmos and return the next morning, requiring
that we be on the road at 3:30 AM. Well, <grin> we rebelled. We were not
going to ride for two hours on very dusty roads to get into Olmos at 8:00 PM,
and dinner at 9:00 to then turn around and repeat the trip in the wee hours
of the morning. We had tents and sleeping bags but we didn’t have food. Gunnar
apparently wanted to return to Olmos and kept saying things like “comfortable
bed” and “hot shower” but he didn’t sway us … the “mutiny at Limon” withstood
all assaults. Gunnar finally negotiated with the local guide’s wife to feed
us. There was very little food in this hamlet but she was able to scrounge up
some eggs which she put over rice. She turned it into a very nice meal. While
she was preparing the dinner we put up the tents and sleep pads that Abe and
I had brought. As we were working all the little kids in the hamlet showed
up to watch us work. Ingrid was able to get them to tell her their names and
it didn’t take too long before they were carrying on like most kids.
October 19, 2002
– We are on the trail before 5:00 AM so that we arrive at the site about dawn.
It was probably only a couple kilometers but walking unfamiliar trails in the
dark always seems to be a lot longer. The local guide got us to the site (S05.42,
W079.43 446m) shortly after first light. It was only a few minutes and he pointed
out two White-wing Guans across the valley. On the way back to camp we
were able to turn up a few nice birds: White-headed and White-winged Brush-Finches,
Pacific Elaenia, Tumbes Hummingbird, Yellow-tailed Oriole and Plumbeous-backed
Back at camp two things
occurred that I wish had not. I had asked Gunnar what a reasonable tip would
be for the local guide. He said that he thought 10 soles per person would be
fair. Ten soles is roughly $3. The going days wage in Peru for drivers is about
35 Soles or $10 a day. Gunnar was paying the man $20 as well. Well when Abe
and I each gave him 10 Soles he was quite unhappy. He got into a rather heated
discussion with Gunnar and what we learned in the end was that other tours such
as VENT and Field Guides usually have Americans that tip him $10 to $20 each.
I can understand his feeling upset but I think the real solution to this is
for these local guides to set a fair and reasonable rate up front rather than
negotiating after the fact and counting on tips when they may not be forthcoming.
He could easily have set a rate of $10 or $20 per person and we would have paid
it. Maybe $10 if the bird is not located and $20 if it is.
The other thing that occurred
was while sitting on the top of the hill, not on the road, the van started to
roll back without anyone in it. In the process of trying to help stop it I stepped
on Ingrid’s foot fairly hard. It swelled up and bothered her for the rest of
the day but thank goodness it was quite a bit better the next day.
After leaving Limon we
worked our way back toward Olmos, wondering if we were going to have a motel
room since we stood the place up the night before with our mutiny. Well they
didn’t seem to be upset. The hotel was more basic than the Grand but it had
rather interesting architecture. We found out later the owner had studied architecture
and had cribbed from the Moroccans.
After checking in we took
a trip to S05.40, W079.52, 165m for the Tumbes Sparrow. We found the sparrow,
Striped Cuckoo, Short-tailed Woodstar and Variable Hawk but not much else. On
the way back to Olmos we stopped at a place where they have been working to
propagate birds such as the guans, currassows and toucans. They had in the wild
Striped Owl on their property. We were unable to find them during the daylight
hours but we returned that evening. Ashley found a perched Striped Owl and it
was still sitting when we left. We also were able to call a Scrub Nightjar in
with a tape.
October 20, 2002
– In the AM we went back to close to where we had been the previous day (S05.38,
W079.50, 172m). We walked along a dry river bed and found almost nothing … from
the birding perspective the morning was a bust. In the late morning we headed
toward Jaen. Along the way we stopped at Limon de Porcuya (S05.53, W079.32,
1620m). We ended up climbing a rather steep hillside but then reverted to using
the road. We found Bay-crowned Brush-Finch, Chapman’s Antshrike, Ash-breasted
Sierra-Finch, Black-cowled Saltator and the target bird, Elegant Crescentchest.
We stopped to check a few more ravines along the way but did not find any thing
of real interest.
When we left Olmos we
had been told it takes 3 hours to Jaen … Wrong! Most people in Peru do not wear
watches and do not have the same conception of time that we had. Everything
seems to “take a half an hour” when in reality usually takes more and sometimes
much more. The travel time to Jaen from Olmos was roughly 5.5 hours not counting
birding stops. We arrived in Jaen roughly about dinner time. We ate in a restaurant
that was on the second floor and overlooked a town square. There was a bustle
of activity, music playing and people having a great time. The only drawback
were the ubiquitous “motorcycle taxis” that went on in a never ending loop.
Ingrid had located an
“Internet” shop near the Hotel Prims and I went in to send an e-mail home to
let Eileen know I was alive but Peru like the rest of the world, has learned
that the Internet has bad days too. I was not able to get a message out that
evening but did the following day.
October 21, 2002
– There are very few paved roads in Peru and driving from pothole to pothole
quickly destroys vehicles and can create unexpected situations. In this case
it was the van door. It was decided that since the van needed to have the door
repaired we would first bird near a seminary in Jaen and then later take a rented
car north to the Rio Tabaconas valley. In the early part of the day we turned
up a few nice birds. We found Purple-throated Euphonias, Spot-throated Hummingbird,
Red-crested Finch, Common Thornbird, Chinchipe Spinetail and almost accidentally
Ashley located a Maranon Slaty-Antshrike.
The drive up to the Tabaconas
valley was not particularly productive for the most part. It had been raining
and continued to do so off and on. There were two drivers with us, the one drove
to almost where we were going and then got out and went into a house. The other
driver took us around that area but when we were heading back we picked the
other driver back up. The one tended to drive with a bit too much enthusiasm.
We did turn up two good birds including the target bird. We found a Speckle-breasted
Wren and then at another spot known for Maranon Crescentchest we had to climb
up the side of a hill. Gunnar, Abe and I were moving up together and Ashley
was working his way up by another route. While looking at another bird I caught
a glimpse or color flash that matched the scheme you would expect on the Maranon
Crescentchest. We worked the area pretty thoroughly and were rewarded with movement
through the brush and then a five second view out in the open, Maranon Crescentchest.
Returning to Jaen we picked
up the van and Ashley left to try to get a bus to Cajamarca. We headed to the
Hotel Wilson which Gunnar thought was in Bagua Grande. We passed the road to
Bagua Chica and continued 18 km to Bagua Grande. There we were informed it was
in Bagua Chica (which was closer to where we wanted to be anyway). Well on the
return Gunnar and Tulio missed the turn and went an additional 12 km before
they realized it. By the time we got to the hotel it was late and we were pretty
October 22, 2002
– We left the Wilson Hotel before daylight and headed north (downstream) along
the Maranon River. We made a breakfast stop near the confluence of the Chinchipe
and Maranon Rivers (S05.31, W078.33, 403m). While Tulio was heating water for
coffee we went birding along a dirt track nearby. We turned up the first Inca-Finch
of the trip, a Little Inca-Finch. There were 3 or 4 of them in the brush and
one or another would pop up and give us a quick glimpse before dropping out
of sight again. It took me 4 or 5 tries before getting the kind of look that
is satisfying. As we headed back toward the van there was a perched Peruvian
Pygmy-Owl. We had heard one previously but now we had a long look as well. While
drinking our coffee and eating our breakfast, which consisted of “pan” (Spanish
for bread), which is more like a sandwich bun than bread, butter and jam, we
located a Brown-crested Flycatcher.
When we stopped in Muyo
(S05.25, W078.27, 338m) Tulio had one of the spare ties fixed and put on the
van. Within a half an hour of starting down the road a pothole flattened the
same tire. There are very few paved roads in Peru. Many of the dirt roads are
so rutted that you cannot drive very fast. In the mountains, on the switchbacks
there are often signs of recent large landslides and often rocks lying in the
middle of the road. Many of the roads (not the Oracuza Road which we were driving
today) are made for only wide enough for one vehicle. On switchbacks this often
required one vehicle to back up until they could find a wide enough spot that
the other vehicle could get by. These kinds of things though rare in the USA
are facts of life in most Latin American countries. I have had similar experiences
While we waited on the
van we did a little birding from the street. We found White-banded Swallows,
Yellow-rumped Caciques and the race of the Blue-gray Tanager that has a prominent
white shoulder patch.
While in Muyo Gunnar learned
there had been a few recent armed robberies along the next stretch of road.
As a precaution the police provided a man to ride “shotgun”. He wasn’t carrying
a shot gun but he did have an automatic that with folding stock work as a machine
pistol with a 30 round clip. It was a rather odd sensation to stop the van and
get out looking for birds knowing that there was somebody fully armed nearby.
We made a few stops “under
armed guard” on our way to Wawasi. At the first stop, (S05.17, W078.25, 439m)
there were Magpie Tanagers, Turquoise Tanagers, Russet-back Oropendola , White-winged
Becard and a Greater Yellow-headed Vulture. At the second stop (S05.17, W078.22)
we ran into a nice “mixed flock”. There was a Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Golden-headed
Manakin, Yellow-bellied and Green & Gold Tanagers and several different
flycatchers. They included Olive-sided, Yellow-breasted (Olive-faced race) and
Dusky-chested Flycatcher as well as a Buff-throated Tody-Tyrant. With Gunnar
riding on the van roof he kicked again to indicate he heard birds. This stop
(S05.15, W078.22, 620m) had a small flock as well that included both Blue and
Yellow-bellied Dacnis, Black-billed Thrush and a Wedge-billed Woodcreeper.
After this last stop we
made our way into Wawasi (S05.13, W078.21, 400m). Wawasi is a village belonging
to the Aguaruna. Nearly everyone in the community came across the river to help
us carry our equipment across. Like many of the places we have seen there was
an abundance of kids. And like most kids, initially shy when you pull out a
camera but after you click the first one and show them the picture of themselves
on the monitor then they are want to be involved. An of course you have to have
at least one clown in the pack.
It did not take long for
them to help us move our stuff across the river, but moving us was a different
story. I tried the first little stretch in my bare feet. I quickly decided I
was going to sacrifice one pair of my tennis shoes to the cause. That worked
much better and came in useful several times while staying in Wawasi since we
forded the river and a tributary several times before we left there.
Once we forded the river
we were at their village. They allowed us to use a building that was used by
the whole community for some functions such as meetings. Since it was not well
sealed Gunnar had us put up the tents inside the building so that we would have
the insect netting to keep the bugs off as we slept. Personally it was not the
mosquitoes that got to me but rather the sand flies on the morning of October
24 when we were waiting for the river to fall … more on that later.
That evening they fed
us their traditional foods. It was primarily a cabbage soup that went down well.
Apparently, Gunnar thought that we needed more to eat so they agreed to add
meat at the next evening meal.
October 23, 2002
– Well this was the day set aside for finding the Orange-throated Tanager. Let
me digress. The tanager had been found on the land owned by the Aguaruna who
were about a 7 hour drive down the Oracuza Road in an area where there is a
“sacred” mountain known as Pena Blanca. The bird seems to be rather reliable
in that area so tour groups began showing up. At first the local Aguaruna resisted
this intrusion but after discussions with some tour leaders (Gunnar? Barry Walker?)
It was agreed they would allow birders to come on to their land to look for
the tanager at a fee of $20 per person. Since the Aguaruna knew the bird and
its call they assisted the tours in finding the bird and seem to have a high
success rate. Nearby clans of Aguaruna however felt the one’s near Pena Blanca,
a sacred mountain to all Aguaruna, were getting revenue that they should all
share in so a land dispute between them has recently broken out. Barry Walker
had put out a notice to stay out of the area. Gunnar made contact with another
Aguaruna leader who happens to be running for office as mayor of a town. He
suggested that we try Wawasi, a community only 3 hours down the Oracuza Road.
The bird was known to be in the general area at the higher elevations. On this
day Ingrid chose to stay back in Wawasi, a smart move on her part. We had a
local guide who lead us across the river and then back up the road we had come
down the day before for 45 minutes to an hour. If we had known we were going
that far we could have had Tulio drive us to where we left the road and began
our ascent along a fair size stream. We didn’t know and the guide was not used
to thinking in terms of motorized transportation. A loss of the first good birding
hour of the day is hard to make up for and it hung over us as we walked. Once
we were off the road and on the trail the walk was more pleasant but you get
into a dilemma … do you push on keeping your focus on the target bird or do
you stop and try to identify what you are hearing. Gunnar was focused on the
Orange-throated Tanager because we were supposed to meet up with another guide
in a village closer to where the bird was known to occur. We came to a point
where we had to ford the stream. The guide showed us where to cross but Gunnar
trying to avoid getting water in his boots went farther upstream to cross. Abe
and I followed the guide, Helmut decided to stay put and not ford the stream.
Once across we continued on toward the next village which took about an hour
to reach. Once Gunnar hooked up with the guy who knew where the bird was we
found that we had been fooled by “Peruvian time” again. He told us that the
only way we had much chance in reaching the area was to camp in that village
and get a very early start in the morning and we would get there sometime after
noon. We were not prepared to stay overnight so we decided to skip the Orange-throated
Tanager and head back to Wawasi. As we walked we found some men moving illegally
cut timber down the stream.
When we reached the ford
we found the Helmut had headed back. The concern that we had for him was the
walk along the road, we were hoping he would not be a target for the robbers.
We found out later that he had no problems and had not encountered anybody along
the way. At the ford, while waiting for Gunnar to cross upstream, at the mimed
urging of the local guide Abe and I went for a swim. It was rather refreshing
since it was somewhat hot and humid.
Abe, not wanting to return
along the road, asked if there was an alternate path. Well there was but taking
it was a mixed blessing. We had to ford the stream again. It was very steep
for a couple hundred meters and the dirt was loose making it tough going. Once
I got started I had no intention of stopping until I reach a point where I would
not lose ground by standing still and yet lose ground by sliding down the slope.
If I had known what the alternate trail was going to be like I would have elected
to take the road. Once we reached the top it was late afternoon and the birds
became more active. There was a clearing where we finally found a few interesting
birds. There were Masked and Black-crowned Tityra, Gilded Barbet and Opal-crowned
Tanagers. We also heard as we neared the village Great and Little Tinamou, Chestnut-headed
Crake and Blue-crowned Motmot. Following behind Abe and Gunnar I stepped into
hole that was so deep that my foot did not find bottom even after sinking into
it up to my hip. Luckily I didn’t get hurt at all but at that point I realized
how much we take the availability of quick access to health care for granted.
When we returned to Wawasi
I was sweaty and covered with dirt and grime. Ingrid told me there was a cold
water shower available but I decided to grab a bar of soap and go down to the
river. I stepped into the river and was bent over with the bar of soap sort
of spot washing myself when a woman came down to the river. She went to where
the water was moving rapidly. Reached down and secured a hold on the riverbed
and let her feet get washed out from beneath her so that her body was completely
underwater and the current scoured her as she kept her hold on the rocks. After
about 30 seconds she stood back up and gave me a look that clearly said “that’s
the way you do it.” So I followed suit. When I stood back up she gave me an
approving nod and said “Si! Si!” as she climbed the bank. I’m pretty sure it
was better than what the shower would have been.
That night we were given
yucca with our dinner as well as chicken. The yucca had been grilled and I actually
enjoyed the first few bites but it is so bland and starchy that by about the
8th bite I had had enough yucca to last through the trip.
October 24, 2002
- During the night it began to rain and it rained hard all night long. By about
5:00 AM it sounded like it had let up some so I ventured out to take a look
at the river. It was way up and moving very rapidly, it was impassable. I set
a rock down where the water level was and then checked it a half hour later.
The river was dropping since the rain had let up and it was actually dropping
pretty quickly. I went back out and checked again about 6:15 and it was still
dropping. I figured then that we would cross the river that day but it would
be a few hours before we would go. The next time I went to check the river I
encountered two young girls sitting with umbrellas watching the river as they
chatted. I decided to take photos of them as I approached them from behind.
Once I was a little in front of them I decided to chance one more shot where
they would see I was about to take their picture. I do not usually take pictures
of people because they always look so posed or stiff. I think I took one
of the best pictures I have ever taken. But the real credit belongs to
the girls; they should be working as models.
The river did continue
to drop and by late morning we attempted to cross. Several of the Aguaruna picked
up our gear and ventured out into the current. I had set my backpack down with
my other gear and then watch with trepidation as the man in charge of the crossing
handed my backpack to a girl I would estimate to be about 12 years old. In the
pack were my binoculars, camera, GPS, traveler’s checks, airplane tickets and
passport. For me it was sort of like a horror movie, you didn’t want to watch
but at the same time I couldn’t help sneaking peeks. I should not have been
worried; she was as sure footed as a mountain goat and quickly had my pack sitting
on the opposite shore.
Prior to crossing the
river I found a stick that looked to be about the right size to use as a walking
stick while crossing. The village shaman who I’d guess was in his 70s walked
up to me and took the stick shaking his head. He bent the stick to show me that
it would not work well for the purpose that I intended. Within seconds a young
man handed me a stick that was much more suitable for the task at hand. Soon
we all had sticks to assist us.
When we had cross the
river on the previous two days the river was less than but close to my knee.
The return trip however the water was well up on my thighs and the current tried
relentlessly to sweep our feet from beneath us. With the physical assistance
from the villagers we all made it across without incident. I think for the next
year or two in Ingrid’s mind this experience will be logged under the negative
Many of the villagers
came across the river to wish us a safe trip. They were going to supply us with
armed guards but two of the national policeman returned to escort us. Before
leaving I purchased an old “gathering” bag that they use when out foraging for
herbs and roots. The bags are crocheted by an elderly woman from the village.
When we left them Gunnar
gave the village leader the fee that we would have paid if we had gone to Pena
Blanca. I decided to also give a $20 tip, hell this was a people who in the
not to distant past had a reputation for head-hunting. I figured the $20 might
let me keep mine for awhile! Actually someday I’d like to back there for an
even longer stay even if it means eating a lot more yucca.
We returned to Bagua Chica
without incident and our police escort departed. The birding that day was rather
slim. The only 4 birds I listed were a White-vented Euphonia, Olive-sided, Gray-crowned
and Gray-capped Flycatchers. Leaving Bagua Chica we went to Bagua Grande and
then began to ascend as we followed the path of the Rio Utcubamba. We went from
about 400m to 2284m above sea level. The river looked like a Class 6 rapids
that lasted for at least 50 km. That evening we reached the Puerto Pumas Lodge
October 25, 2002
– This was the base we would use for the next couple days. It was reasonably
located to make jaunts up and over Abra Patricia. This morning we started out
by going back through Florida and maybe a kilometer or two west of town. This
is the area for one of the wonders of the bird world … the Marvelous Spatulatail.
This is a hummer that has just 4 tail feathers. On the male the middle two are
long and straight but the outer two are what make it “marvelous”. For about
10 cm they are just thin curved wires but at the tip they have an iridescent
blue “spatula” about the size of a nickel. When the bird perches the two spatulas
curve up to be in line with the bird itself. This morning we caught a couple
fairly close looks at females but they don’t have the fancy outer tail feathers.
The others were able to see a male at a long distance through a scope. We decided
we would stop on our last day in the area and with the assistance of a local
kid who guides people to a good spot we hoped to get a better look at a male.
In this same area we turned
up a few more nice birds. They included Emerald Toucanet, Blue-capped Tanager,
Streak-necked Flycatcher, Green Violetear, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Rufous-capped
Antshrike. Both Scarlet-fronted and White-eyed Parakeets were in the area. We
then went back through Florida and continued on up and over Abra Patricia (2310m).
As we went down the other side we came to a patch of red flowers on the hillside.
They were drawing in a number of different hummingbirds. We quickly found the
Royal Sunangel, White-tailed Hillstar, White-bellied Woodstar, Speckled Hummingbird
and Long-tailed Sylph. We continued down the road a few hundred meters or so
and found the road blocked by a road crew removing a rather large landslide.
We took this opportunity to do a bit of birding and walked back to the flowers.
The only thing new we turned up was a Gray-breasted Wood-wren. Once we were
able to get by the landslide we found Cliff Flycatchers, an Olivaceous Piha
and heard but did not see the Bar-winged Wood-Wren. This was down over a slope
where most of the path had disappeared in a landslide. Gunnar and Abe crossed
on the remaining narrow lip, I chose to stay back. In the end none of us saw
the bird. As we continued down the slope we made a few more stops and found
a couple mixed flocks. They included Flame-faced and Saffron-crowned Tanagers,
Lemon-browed Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Olive-backed Woodcreeper and
Streaked Xenops. When we reached S05.40, W077.45, 1845m we encountered a mixed
flock with a fair representation from the tanager family. Included were Orange-eared,
Blue-browed, Golden-naped, Beryl-Spangled and Common Bush-Tanager. We also encountered
Gray-mantled Wrens, Three-striped Warbler and Cinnamon Flycatcher.
About 4:00 PM it began
to rain as we continued down slope. It let up enough that at 1200m we were able
to locate an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Dusky-green Oropendola, Spotted Barbtail
and a Bronze-green Euphonia.
At that point we made
a rather bad call to continue on down the road to Rioja. It was another hour
drive and by the time we arrived it was 7:00 PM. We ate our dinner while Gunnar
went and made his phone calls. We then had a 3 hour drive back the hotel. It
was after 11:00 PM when we pulled in and we had a 4:30 AM start time scheduled
for the next morning.
October 26, 2002
- We began our birding this morning right at the top of Abra Patricia. (S05.42,
W077.49, 2319m) There are a few trails there and with the higher altitude and
habitat we went looking for antpittas but were unsuccessful except for hearing
the Rusty-tinged Antpitta respond to the tape. We did find a Collared Inca,
Long-tailed Antbird and a Rufous Spinetail. We continued eastward to S05.41,
W077.47, 2092m. Here we have nice views of Hooded Mountain-Tanager, White-collared
Jay, Bluish Flowerpiercer and a Golden-headed Quetzal. We also found a Maroon-chested
Chat-Tyrant and a Yellow-throated Bush-Tanager; in both of these cases I would
have preferred a better look. We moved down to S05.40, W077.46, 2000m where
for a considerable amount of time we were stumped by a call and glimpses of
a Spinetail that we could not identify. It was only when another bird appeared
to be responding to the call when we recognized it as an Azara’s Spinetail.
We believe what we may have been seeing was a young Azara’s and therefore the
different call. I was able to get a very nice look at a Lulu’s Tody-tyrant.
It came out into the open less than 5 meters from me and was giving a “scolding”
call in response to my pishing. We also turned up Subtropical Caciques, Dusky-green
Oropendola and an Inca (Green Jay). Later in the afternoon it rained and there
was a mist that hung about us at times. We had agreed this would not be an extremely
long day. We returned to Florida and around 5:00 PM they dropped me off while
the rest went down to where we had originally found the Marvelous Spatulatail.
We had agreed to an early start the next morning since we wanted to bird the
October 27, 2002
– We started out about 4:00 AM. Ingrid decided to stay back today. We said we
thought we would be back by 6:00 PM. It was raining on the way to Afluentes
but by the time we arrived there it was just dripping a bit. At S05.40, W077.41,
1300m we found a very nice mixed flock. Hummers included Wire-crested Thorntail,
Violet-headed Hummingbird and Golden-tailed Sapphire. Flycatchers included a
Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Golden-faced Tyrannulet, Cinnamon and Cliff Flycatchers.
It was the tanagers however that dominated the flock. There were Orange-bellied
and Thick-billed Euphonia, Golden-collared Honeycreeper, Spotted, Yellow-throated,
Blue-necked, Golden, Palm and Golden-eared Tanagers. As we moved further down
(S05.40, W077.40, 1127m) we found another nice flock. Tanagers here included
Hualluga, Orange-eared and Turquoise Tanagers and a Purple Honeycreeper. Hummingbirds
were Many-spotted Hummingbird and a Glittering-throated Emerald. This time the
flycatchers included Slaty-capped and a nice Black and White Tody-Flycatcher.
There was also a Lemon-throated Barbet, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, and a
The next stop produced
Ash-browed Spinetail, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Glossy Black Thrush and Yellow-breasted
Antwren. There were also three birds that the others had good looks at while
I can only claim poor looks at best. They were Speckle-chested Piculet, Spectacled
Bristle-Tyrant and Abe’s favorite bird the Red-ruffed Fruit-Crow.
We returned to the top
of Abra Patricia and walked the trails again listening for Antpittas. We heard
both Rusty-tinged and Rusty-breasted but neither would come in to the tape.
As we were leaving we chased up a Swallow-tailed Night-jar. Gunnar wondered
if it might be a Lyre-tailed but the only way you would convince me of that
would be to show to me that it was an immature. The tail was about 2 times the
length of the bird, not nearly as long as the books indicate for the Lyre-tail.
Gunnar decided to play the tape of the two hoping to draw the bird out to one
or the other songs. It never showed itself. By now it was dark and an owl had
begun to call. Gunnar played the tape and after a few minutes a rather large
owl zipped by. I didn’t see it but Gunnar and Abe caught a quick glimpse. We
identified it by voice as being a Stygian Owl. (Based on e-mails this was later
changed to a Rufous-banded Owl). By the time we left there it was 6:30 PM and
we had nearly an hours drive. By the time we pulled in Ingrid was becoming concerned
and rightfully so, we were more than an hour and a half later than we said.
Sometimes Gunnar’s “birds, birds and more birds”, while is usually a good approach
can become overdone, this in my opinion was one of those times.
I didn’t want to leave
the Abra Patricia area, it was such a great place for birding. Gunnar had said
we would be seeing a large number of species and he certainly pointed out a
bunch while we were there.
October 28, 2002
– Today was mostly a travel day but we started the day off by picking up the
local youth who is known as the kid who can get you to the Marvelous Spatulatail.
He took us to S05.51, W078.00, 2200m. Within a few minutes we were getting very
nice looks at a male in his entire splendor. The bird at times was within 10
meters or so. We also found Spectacled Redstarts and Pale-edged Flycatcher.
We headed down toward
Pedro Ruiz but made a stop at S05.56, W077.57, 1360m looking for a Maranon Spinetail.
As we walked along Ingrid and Helmut spotted a small hermit frequently some
blue flowers where part of a bank had been cut away. After the hermit which
we identified as being a Gray-chinned Hermit flew off another hummer appeared.
This turned out to be a Spot-throated Hummingbird. The Hermit returned but suddenly
a smaller hummer appeared and chased the Hermit off.
Here I transcribe directly
from my hand written notes:
Latitude – S 05.55.670
Long. – W077.57.795
Elevation – 1360 meters
Time – 9:30 to 9:55
Weather – Mostly sunny,
approximately 70-75 degrees
Observers: Shoaib Tareen,
Ingrid Grunwald, Helmut Schumann, Gunnar Engblom and Joe Church
On the road from Florida
to Pedro Ruiz we stopped to look for the Maranon Spinetail. As we walked down
the road where the hillside had been cut away there were some plants with blue
flowers. Ingrid and Helmut found a Hermit and called our attention to it. After
it left and we were trying to identify it with the field guides a second hummingbird
arrived. This one was identified as a Spot-throated Hummingbird. The Hermit
which we identified as a Gray-chinned Hermit returned but was quickly chased
off by a smaller hummer. It was a female Woodstar. We had previously seen Purple-collared,
Short-tailed and White-bellied Woodstar on the trip but this bird looked different.
Gunnar commented on the uniform buffy/rufuos on the flanks with a white spot
on the sides behind the wing. Abe commented on the short straight black bill.
The bird departed and we pulled out the field guides. Birds of Ecuador showed
female Little Woodstar and the female Gorgeted Woodstar as being the two possibilities.
A few minutes later the Hermit returned but right on its tail was the Woodstar
and again chased it away. This time we saw a black terminal tail band on the
buff/cinnamon tail. There were no white tail markings. Gunnar again commented
about the spots on the side of the bird behind the wings.
The top of the head and
back were an iridescent green. The side of the face, (starting at the top) went
from green to a buff eyebrow that leads into the buff on the sides. Between
the buff eyebrow and the buff on the lower side of the face there was a black
“mask” covering the eye area. Near the shoulder area separating the green
back from the buff/cinnamon was a small spot that in some light was almost white
but not as white or as large as the spot behind the wing. The bird left but
about 5 minutes later to again chase off the Hermit. It returned one more time
and Abe took some video footage. I photographed the flowers it had been frequenting.
When we finally left that
spot (mainly because a guy kept harassing Gunnar looking for money to buy booze)
we began working our way toward Leiembamba. The vegetation went from green and
lush to brown and dry. Even though it was quite arid we followed a raging river
much of the distance. The only bird of note was a Torrent Duck.
We stayed at the Laguna
de los Condores. The room was clean and rather basic but it had the second best
bathroom (second only to Leguna Seca which is a resort) on the trip. There was
an internal courtyard that was filled with a large garden and had handicrafts
around the covered walkway surrounding the garden. Ingrid and Helmut went looking
for a place to get a cup of coffee. They found the restaurant but it would not
open until 7 PM. For some reason two teenagers, one girl, one boy, who were
children of the owner decided to take pity on us. They made coffee for us and
sold some of their mother’s bake goods to us. You could see that the kids were
proud of themselves for running the ship while Mom was away. As we were eating
some extremely good dessert Mom returned. She seemed pleased as well. We ate
dinner there that evening as well … if I’m ever in need of a cook I want to
remember to go back there.
October 29, 2002
– When we left Leiembamba we started to ascent that peaked at 3400 meters in
elevation. Along the way at the first stop we found a pair of Andean Guans,
Brown-bellied Swallows and Scarlet-fronted Parakeets. At a second stop (S06.43,
W077.51, 2830m) we were looking down into a shrubby area that contained Shining
Sunbeams, Supercilliaried Hemispingus (White-bellied race), Mustached Flowerpiercer,
Cloud-Forest Brush-Finch, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager and a pair of Andean
Flickers. We made another quick stop at S06.43, W077.52, 3416m where we found
a Coppery-naped Puffleg. We then began the descent toward Balsas where there
is a bridge across the Maranon. At about 1700 meters in elevation we stopped
to take a look for the Buff-bridled Inca –Finch. We were able to find it with
little difficulty. When we reached S06.51, W077.59, 1270m it was from a bird
standpoint apparent that we were in the Maranon River valley. We found Maranon
Thrush, Yellow-faced Parrolet, and the Maranon subspecies of the Tropical Gnatcatcher.
This bird may someday shortly reach species status. We also found White-bellied
Hummingbird and Yellow-tailed Oriole.
In this area we were in
a residential area that was about par for what I had seen of Peru. The people
who saw us I think wondered why a handful of people invaded their town and were
looking at everything through binoculars. After we left there we headed into
Balsas. I can’t say I saw the whole town but what I saw there was a town that
looked forgotten. Right at the bridge there was a small market that looked unkempt.
People were lying around, others trying to beg, kids about when they should
have been in school. This was the only place on the whole trip where I felt
that the poverty was more than economic; there seem to be a poverty of spirit
Leaving Balsas we had
to again ascend the mountains to leave the Maranon Valley.
One of the birds we had
hoped to see is the Peruvian Pigeon, another Maranon Valley specialty. Shortly
after leaving Balsas there was one sitting on the very top of a tree not far
from the road. This is easy birding when you pick up a life bird, an endemic
without even getting out of the van.
At this point there was
discussion about whether we should bird and camp or reduced the amount of time
birding and push to make Celendin by nightfall. The night before we had agreed
that we would bird our way along and that we would shoot for Celendin but may
not reach there until late, even as late as 11:00 PM. After having spent a good
part of the day climbing up mountainsides via switchbacks I think there was
concern about additional driving on these kinds of roads in the dark. It was
finally agreed that we would keep the birding short, take in a quick meal and
get on the road to Celendin and get there before dark. From the little town
where we ate we could see the very long series of switchbacks still awaiting
us. Right at the town we were able to turn up the Gray-winged Inca-Finch, the
Buff-bellied Tanager and the Chestnut-back Thornbird, which I can really only
claim to have heard well, the few glimpses were not great.
We arrived at Celendin
just as the last daylight was gone from the sky. There were only two hotels
in Celendin and both were set up to serve traveling Peruvians rather than traveling
foreigners. It was a very basic place with old, warped soft wood floors and
burnt out light bulbs in the bathroom. Abe ran the hot water and it seem to
take forever to warm up.
October 30, 2002 -
In the morning there was no power in Celendin except at the gas stations which
were running their own generators. Even the better hotel was in the dark. With
a cool shower to wake me up, we were out of town before light. We took our time
working our way to Cajamarca. It was raining when we started out but we birded
a bit anyway. At the first stop (S06.58, W078.11, 3300m) an Andean Lapwing was
buzzing a poor old chicken. Ingrid found (it may have been the banos bird) a
spot where there was some activity. By the time we were finished we found a
Striated Earthcreeper and a Sedge (Grass) Wren. We also found nearby a Black-tailed
Trainbearer, Peruvian Sierra-Finch and a Mustached Flowerpiercer.
We continued down the
pitted roads to a place that had Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant and Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant.
We ate another lunch of pan and canned tuna and sardines at this spot. The next
spot was rather more productive with Mourning Sierra-Finch, Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant,
Mountain Caracara, Black-throated Flowerpiercer and Tufted Tit-Tyrant being
added to the list.
Our next stop was at a
small pond where we found 3 Puna Ibis, two Speckled Teal (Yellow-billed) and
a few Andean Gulls.
The final stop before
Cajamarca, at S07.09, W078.25, 3100m, provided the Ash-breasted and Peruvian
Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater and a couple Cinerous Conebills.
We stayed at the Leguna
Seca Resort. It is located at the hot springs where Atahualpa the last Inca
leader was resting after he defeated his half brother, when the Pizzaro brothers
arrived and held him for ransom. Since we had daylight left we went into downtown
Cajamarca and took a tour of the sites including the “ransom room” which was
filled with gold items that the Spanish said had to be melted down into ingots.
Much of the gold artwork was thus destroyed. The gold which was not plentiful
around Cajamarca had to be sent up from Cusco and then in the end they killed
the chieftain anyway. Ironically, in recent years one of the largest gold minds
in Peru was located near Cajamarca.
While we were wandering
the streets of Cajamarca Tulio was on his way back to Lima in the van. We would
meet up with him again in “dos Dias”. The resort was just that, well manicured
lawns, gardens and gardeners, and maids scurrying about. Although it was plush
it seemed to be to now sort of be out of place with the rest of the trip. In
ways I guess I had become accustom to a “basic” trip, this then seemed opulent.
They did serve a great dinner.
October 31, 2002
– Now that we were vanless we hired two taxis to take us up along a creek that
flowed toward Cajamarca. This is the only known area where you can find the
Grey-bellied Comet. We had almost no trouble locating one working over a tree.
It was so easy in fact that when we first saw it, it did not register as the
target bird. We also found several nice species in the valley. We found White-winged
Cinclodes, Peruvian and Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, Streaked-throated Bush-Tyrant
and a sharp looking Black Metaltail. I believe this may have been Ingrid’s second
In the afternoon we caught
a flight back to Lima thus ending the Northern portion of the trip.
Before we parted I gave
Gunnar my old Swift binoculars. There is a program run by the ABA that sends
materials to Latin American countries which I had thought about giving the binoculars
to. But Gunnar has some conservation projects in mind that involve local communities
and I thought that he may be able put them to good use. He is trying to set
up a project around the Marvelous Spatulatail and the Purple-backed Sunbeam.
Being a hummingbird nut I certainly hope he succeeds.
– A great trip, probably my best and in some ways most exciting vacation. Lots
of good birds, trip total about 405, lifers about 212. I did well with the hummingbirds
too. Weather was usually good and scenery was great and I took some great pictures.
Even gave a slide presentation to co-workers. I enjoyed the kids, and the time
in Wawasi. Hoping to do Kolibri’s La Montanita when I can free up the time and
money … I need to see the Purple-backed Sunbeam!