January 2009


New field guide to the Birds of Brazil by Tomas Sigrist

Arrived to Sao Paolo and met up with client Millie Billota and Brazilian Bird festival AVISTAR organizer Guto Carvalho. When in Brazil and you intend to go birding, the first thing you should do is to get a field guide, that can be very hard to get in the US or in Europe. The past field guides have lacked seriously in artistic talant, so a good field guiid was definetely very desirable.

It is pleasing to learn that the first field guide of Brazil is made by Brazilians. Guto was kind enough to take us to the editor Avis Brasilis in Vinhedo- friends of his a big supporters of the Avistar event.

Here are some sample picture. I shall update this blog post tomorrow, but I need to go to bed now. More birding tomorrow.

All birds in Brazil are split up in two volumes. One for the East part of the country, which includes the SE where we are birding now-and another volume for the Amazon part of Brazil. This is a smart move – to make the book more field friendly, becauase the book is really made to be used in the field. Instead of long facing text it shows maps, location of field marks on the bird indicated with dots, and codes for habitat and of course English, Portuguese and Scientific name.

There is also a larger coffee table book that combines these two volumes into one and with more complete text over the biology of the birds.

The book can be ordered on-line at the following web-page (only portuguese):


Should you run into any problems making orders let me know and I will contact the editor owners.

It is a great achievement: Tomas Sigrist has made ornithological history by putting together this fine work. The editors done a very good job. Next project for the young editor house is the printing of high quality posters on linen and on paper.

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South Florida Weekend. Visit from Peru by a (totally lost) Swedish birder

I spent a long weekend with my wife, Elita in southern Florida. I had to make some changes personally for my bank account in the US, and this was the principal cause of my trip. But business is always more fun if it can be combined with pleasure.

American Crow. Everglades. Photo Gunnar Engblom

American Crow. Everglades. Photo Gunnar Engblom

The car rental (Enterprise) had me fooled a bit. I thought I had managed a super rate on the internet with a vehicle for just around 20$ per day. But the rental guy kept on insisting that I would be sorry if I did not get the “optional insurance of some 20$ per day” and then kept on adding insurance after insurance, so the price of the car would be something like 70$ per day. Hmm. Not at one instance did he mention that I have a quite good insurance with my Visa Gold. Unfortunately, this only struck me after I given in with an end cost of some 50 dollars per day with tax included. Anyway 150 bucks for the 3 days was not too bad.

Before the trip, I had hoped to get some more birding done, but the first day, the arrival day, lost 3 hours due to a delay in Lima. I had already promised Elita, that we should go shopping, so with visits at International Mall and Mall of the Americas and Toys R Us not too far from the airport, time just vaporized. After getting completely lost trying to find our hotel it was close to 11 pm before I finally fount Hotel El Palacio in Fort Lauderdale.

If you know Florida, and you are a birder, you know I was completely lost here. Why the heck did I choose Ft Lauderdale if I wanted to have a good birding position? The best place to stay is naturally Hampstead, from where you have a good vantage point to the majority of birding sites in Southern Florida. However, El Palacio in Ft Lauderdale came up very nicely prised in my hotel searches, and the fact that they had gym and did not charge for parking helped to make me decide. (In the end I did not use the gym of course, but at least it was there.)

Late night and there was no way I could take up offer to join birding at Everglades at 6 AM. I had my alarm clock at 4.45, but the bed was too comfortable and the drive too long. Instead around 10 AM, I went for a long run in the vicinity of the hotel.

It turned out to be a very pleasant run, and I was even seeing some birds, most of which are extremely common for Florida birders, but if anyone is interested here is a link to my running blog, where the run is featured. There are actually a few ID features you birders can help me with. First there is a Canada Goose. The picture is very poor, but it seemed to me that the individual was very small, so I am suspecting it is a Cackling Goose, which I thought is rare in Florida. If anyone in Oakland Park, Ft Lauderdale want to check it out here are the GPS coordinates in the Royal Palm Park:


80° 9’55.46″W

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Chuck Geanangel, Rex Rowan, Roy Peterson and Carlos Ross kindly pointed me that any Canada goose south of Gainsville is not countable as it would not be wild. Jeez, what do I expect in a park pond!

There was also a pair long-necked Grebes quite distantly. The seemed to be too slender to be Pied-billed Grebe which I also saw on the run. I did not bring my binoculars and the 3x optical zoom did not do the job. Would Horned Grebe be a good guess? Is that a good bird?

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Roy Peterson says the grebe is most likely Horned Grebe.

Furthermore a pair distant ducks, with very pale backs. Again the camera could not make out what they are.  I am suspecting Canvasback. Is that at all possible?

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Carlos Ross suggests that the most likely candidate was Ring-necked Duck or Lesser Scaup. Canvasback would be very rare.

Everglades and sparrows.

On Sunday, after convincing my wife that we’d see some alligators if we’d go to Everglades, we took off late after lunch. I set the GPS for Flamingo and just followed directions on the map software on the Blackberry and wondered how I could survive without this gadget before. I did not realize how far it was!

I had before this trip decided that there were 3 species I wanted to see. And the best place to see all of them as I understood was in the Everglades.

My targets were Sparrows. Ever since I read Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway I was fascinated by the local populations of Sharp-tailed and Seaside Sparrows in Florida. I wanted to see as many of these as possible. Kenn relates that Dusky Seaside Sparrow is no more, and it was likely his site for Cape Sables Seaside Sparrow was gone as well.

Cape Sables is close to Flamingo and furthermore Roberto Torres kindly gave me directions for the Coastal Prairie Trail where both Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows can be seen. So Flamingo it was. Roberto gave me many other tips which I will have to try out some other time. However, the two hottest birds in Florida at that moment that Roberto mentioned, being chased by the local birders, had absolutely NO interest for me……..Tropical Kingbird and Neotropical Cormorant. WTF!
(Do I have to mention trash and bird in the same word for you to understand HOW COMMON these are here in Peru. Funny how all things are relative to time and space. Is this what Einstein meant?)

Entrance fee was 10 buck. There were several cars parked at a pond as we approached Flamingo – and there were other birders.

Birders in Florida, Everglades. Does anyone know the name of this pond?

Birders in Florida, Everglades. Does anyone know the name of this pond?

Incredible variety of nice birds in front of my eyes – none new to me, but still cool birds to see. There were several species of ducks.

Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal and Mallard, and also two female plumaged Northern Shovelers. Well, at least that is what the looked like to me, but not having seen one for about many years, and with no book at hand, I was only 99% sure. I was getting a bit shaky for a while, wondering that maybe I am committing a mistake here…maybe I am not recalling this right. Mallards have pretty broad bills, right – I thought for a few seconds and tried to get some pics through my binoculars.

Furthermore, there was Snowy, Little Blue, Tricolored and Green Heron and Great Egret.  A few very pink Roseate Spoonbills and several Woodstorks in a tree and then all of a sudden a belted Kingfisher flew in.

On the lake there was also Pied-billed Grebe. I heard someone mentioning Least Grebe as well, but I never saw it.

Drove almost all the way to Flamingo, but the last open pond on the right a few birders had stopped and looked at something. Stopped car and walked up to them. They had a beautiful Osprey in view that had just caught a fish.

As we watched another raptor flew in. I am not being too familiar with North American raptors noticed it shaped as a Goshawk of Europe. A heavy bodied Accipiter. Streaked below on white and white tail with black bands. It was too large and heavy for a Sharp-shinned Hawk. I suggested Coopers Hawk to the other birders, as it would be next size up in the Accipiter genus. The other birders did not know.

Studying the literature afterwards I conclude it could have been an juvenile Coopers Hawk, but more likely on distribution it was a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. David Sibley says Red-shouldered Hawk is Accipiter-like, and that coopers Hawk has proportionally a very long tail. It did not appear as extremely long-tailed bird to me, but rather compact and bulky, but yet Accipiter-like. As the observation was short, I would not bet my life on it. I understand Cooper’s Hawk is quite rare in the region, so local birders may want to check if the bird is still there. I’d be interested to know.

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Both Chuck Geanangel and Roy Peterson point out that Cooper’s Hawk is quite rare. I went through a bunch of pictures on the internet and Laura Graham also sent me a picture. I must conclude that my bird felt heavier than the Coopers pictures I am seeing and had a shorter tail. Thus, I am concluding young Red-shouldered Hawk. It was not so strange I did not know. It was my first one ever!

As we arrived to Flamingo only to be informed by a ranger that the Coastal Prairie Trail was closed for maintenance. Darn…

Instead the ranger said I could try the pond trail.


Well, at least no Sparrows. Instead Eastern Pheobe, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Harrier, Anhinga and another Osprey.

My wife finally saw an Alligator as I had promised. A stone fell from my chest!

With some Canadian birders from Toronto we find aptly a Canada Warbler after some intense pishing at the end of the saltgrass.

UPDATE: Feb 23, 2009. Well that is what I thought. But again Chuck Geanangel  as well as Brad Bergstom underline that Canada warbler would be a very lucky find. Chuck said I should get a lottery ticket (LOL!). My description was of a warbler without wingbars, gray on the back (grayish) and all yellow below with streaks on the chestsides (which I extrapolated in my mind to cross the chest ….even that I only saw the bird sideways)  It also had an eye-ring. The eyering was broad and quite loose in shape. This only lead me to Canada Warbler. I was considering immature Yellow Warbler when I was questioned, but that is also a rare bird. Chuck came up with Praire Warbler. Not too bad. It fits perfectly to an immature female. My brain was playing with me, wanting me to put this bird into something I knew. Scrutinizing what I really saw I cannot say for certain I saw streaking across the chest and the gray back was not plumbeous gray as a Canada Warbler, but rather an olive gray that most likely appeared grayer than it was in the very late afternoon with poor light. I don’t complain as Praire Warbler was a lifer! That eyering was perfect!

Also a red-bellied Woodpecker flew over. They inform me that some birders had seen Sparrows on the Coastal Praire Trail in the morning and that the trail could be reached walking from the parking lot. But I was running out of time. On the way back to the parking lot I talk to a birder from Massachussets. Together we see a Red-tailed Hawk and an adult Red-shouldered Hawk with splendid orange underparts and a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.

I decided to approach the salt marsh habitat near the camp-ground. And yes, finally there were some sparrows there. Problem was that they pressed to the ground and only made short flights when flushed. They were making thin high pitched single note calls. I could not get them into view. Intense pishing, but that did not help and I was running out of light. Oh well, I have to come back and do this properly sometime. As I was walking back to the car, some sparrows were by the side of the road at the edge of the saltgrass vegetation. Finally, I saw it well. Supercillum, whitish or maybe yellow crownstripe (definitely saw yellow somewhere- could have been the lores), white malar, distinct heavily streaked underparts and flanks and a darker black spot on the central chest – Savannah Sparrow. Not quite the thing I was looking for, but at least I would not have to leave in uncertainty.

Birds seen:
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Cartle Egret
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Northern Shoveler 2 fem
Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
American Kestrel
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Harrier
Ring-billed Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Northern Mockingbird
Praire Warbler
Savanna Sparrow
American Crow

Thanks to all that have helped me and answered questions prior and after the trip. Additionally, to the people mentioned in the article, I had help from Renne Leatto who gave me sites for Bobcat (next time!) and Barbara Passmore who signed me up on Floridabirds. Also thanks to Michelle Matson, who also gave some bobcat tips on Facebook.

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I and the Bird #92


I and the Bird #92

Just a short post to let everyone know that the new blog carnival about birds and birders is being hosted by talented writer, painter and photographer Seabrooke Leckie blog “The Marvelous in Nature”. She made a very smart thread connecting the featured blogs into a long poem called “The picknick party”.

Twas the middle of winter deep,
When all sane critters are fast asleep,
This Canuck sent invitations
For a snowy celebration.

“Join me for lunch!” the invite said.
“The drinks are free!” it further read.
And so they came, in ones and twos
– free drinks, of course, they can’t refuse

Very clever! Rush over to Seabrooke’s page to read who came to the picknick. You shall have many good hours of reading.

I decided to submit my post on “Owl in Peru” – considering how many people who have already read this piece, it will not be anyh news to my old readers, but maybe some new readers may find their way here.

If you don’t have time to follow and read all the birding blogs, the “I and the Bird” bi-weekly carnival keeps you well informed. It shouldn’t be missed, because it keeps you up-to-date. It is also a great way for bird bloggers to get more readers.

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Connected with God – Ted Parker

Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. Photo: Gunnar Engblom

Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. Photo: Gunnar Engblom

One of my highest personal achievements just became reality as I got a slight connection with the God of all South American birders – Ted Parker. Ted Parker was the most talented neotropical birder with a tremendous capacitiy of learning birdcalls and has become somewhat of a hero to any birder who want to aspire knowledge about South American Birds. It was a tremendous loss to, when he died in planecrash in Ecuador in 1993.
Ted Parker’s recently published account in Birding magazine from American Birding Association – ABA-  about his first sighting of Golden-backed Mountain Tanager at Unchog and Quilluacocha in the vicinity of Acomayo, Huanuco is illustrated with my pictures of the same birds. Wow! It is an honor!

You may already have read about our recent speed birding trip to Unchog. I have noticed a lot of hits on my Unchog blog-post the last couple of days. It is probably due to the Birding article.

So I thought I’d share the Parker account here with it’s masterful editing and commentary of Gregg Gorton. Click on the link to download the pdf of the Birding article:

Ted Parker finds Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager and Pardusco

At this point We have had a group of different sorts at Unchog.  We are were training Pervians to learn about the birds to eventually become site guides, and the same Reyes Rivera mentioned in Parker’s account is helping us. There are also three guides taking part from Cusco and Puerto Maldonado taking part in the course.

Shameless commercial plug – read no further…..

Want to see Parker’s dreambird – the Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager?  Check out Kolibri Expeditions web-page for the Carpish trip. Also check our extended Carpish trip that also includes Satipo road. We offer a 20% discount on all Central Peru trips through-out 2009.

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Deadly start of first day of forced evacuation of illegal settlers with Bosque de Pomac reserve

Yesterday, two police officers were killed in an ambush and more were wounded during the forced evacuation of some 100 families occupying 1400 ha of the 5887 ha Bosque de Pomac archaeological and ecological reserve. The dislodging continues today. What price are we prepared to pay to conserve Peruvian patrimony? The lives of two policemen seems too high of a price.

I don’t really want to blog about this now. I am blogging about my birding experiences, mainly from Peru, but also from my travels elsewhere. I was preparing a short trip report about my birding in Southern Florida last weekend, but now this comes up, and I feel a urge to tell the world about a very sensitive conservation issue that unfolds here in Peru right in front of my eyes. Well, not really in front of my eyes cause it is in Chiclayo not in Lima. And I am not presently there. In this time and age it is just as much right in front of my eyes as the inaugural speech of a new US president or the war in the Gaza strip. But, perhaps a bit more present as I have often visited the area of concern.

Bosque Pomac – a relatively new birding site for Peruvian Plantcutter and Rufous Flycatcher

In 1999-2000 I was making surveys in Northern Peru, trying to find new localities and checking out past localities for Peruvian Plantcutter that then was categorized as Critically Threatened according to Birdlife International. First days of January, I was invited by Jeremy Flanagan to participate in a short visit to the Prosopis forest of Pomac together with Piura University and their former director Antonio Mabres. At this point after the experience I had gained visiting several dozens of sites, I could not predict presence of the Peruvian Plantcutter by just looking at the habitat. We did not find it at Pomac, but the habitat looked excellent. I said to Jeremy, that it really should be there as well. We did however find another good species here – the Tumbes Swallow – which then was little known. It made it sufficiently interesting to include Pomac in our future itineraries – and with the hope naturally that we would also find the plantcutter here.

Later in 2000 Simon Allen found Peruvian Plantcutter and Rufous Flycatcher in good numbers during the Kolibri Expeditions trip to Northern Peru. (Find trip report here – note that lodging is now much better throughout the itinerary – see the blog about Abra Patricia here). After our discovery, soon everyone included Pomac in the birding itineraries.

Taking the law in your own hands- the confessions of a former tree-hugger.

Conservationist have often taken action against assaults on the environment. Legally, in some cases laws have been breached. Greenpeace is perhaps the most flagrant example. I admit to also have broken the law for the sake of conservation. I even painted walls with graffiti saying “Rädda Hansta” (Save Hansta – see this wiki if you read Swedish.) Yes, I was a tree hugger, and I would proudly have chained myself to the tree if necessary to stop the chain saw. Some things are just above the law, don’t you think?

Now, I see myself being on side of those that want to move people against their will, for the higher purpose of conservation. The land occupants have been there for seven years. I wonder what human right advocates would say about dislodging families that have been living in one place for so long. If the Peruvian authorities cannot grant these people a dignified living, can they then be condemned for defending “their right” to a home? Why was not the issue addressed much earlier before the new settlers were rooted and settled? I wonder! I don’t have any easy answers of course. I am just putting down some thoughts on paper.

The new war! Conservationists against illegal settlers in reserved areas. To what price?

For a couple a months it has been announced that the illegal land occupants will be evacuated. I am not too familiar what has been offered as “compensation” to the dislodged families, but I know the Peruvians in general are terrified about setting an example that will inspire others to occupy land.  After all, this was the working strategy behind the uncontrolled growth of Lima in the 80s-90s. Move with 1000 landless people from your poor village in the Andes to a deserted area, that somebody owned, but that nobody cared about. Put up some basic construction of reed walls to claim your area and little by little improve your house. Soon a new young village – Pueblo Joven – has mushroomed from nowhere in the dessert. By the time the authorities can do anything about it, it shall be too late, and in the end land titles will be granted and sewage and electricity will be put in. And if they are to be dislodged they will be moved to a public housing project. The landless occupant will win, no matter what the outcome. In spite of positive economic growth figures for many years in a row and the fastest growing economy in South America, the people below poverty line are still 39%. While the state cannot provide work and housing, we are likely to see more land seizure by the poor.
The evacuation was supposed to start today, but something went wrong. So wrong!

During the past two days I noticed hints that the dislodging, that finally should give Peruvian plantcutter and the archaeological riches proper protection, maybe was not so well organized. There were deficiencies.
Rob Williams asked on the Birding Peru listserv for donations to buy fuel for the vehicles that were to pass the ditches that the occupants had made around the area as protection two days ago and yesterday Fernando Angulo asks for money to by food for the police on the same list and Spanish language birding and conservation listserv Incaspiza.

I have no problem in supporting a good a cause. But it strikes me a bit odd, that a political decision is not better backed up logistically.

Additionally, Tino Aucca of ECOAN informs on Incaspiza today, that they found a backpack with a gun and ammunition inside the reserve when they were doing surveys of the Plantcutter some time ago. So, with this knowledge it strikes a bit odd that there was not more intelligence been made in advance. It sounds incredible that they could send in the police unarmed into an ambush with shooters in the trees. Two dead and several wounded. Is there really a political commitment to carry out the dislodgement peacefully? Or is this a set-up, with the sacrificed police as cannon fodder, to later be able to use much more violent means? Time will tell! The current feeling of the Peruvian people translates to “nuke them”! Meanwhile the latest report says that the police do not even have water to drink.

The 1000 police are stationed outside of the park does not have an easy task. I can imagine they are being very frustrated in this situation. Additionally, the land occupants inform that they are armed and that more violence can be expected. They have support from Rondas campesinas – armed civilian defence squads of the program initiated in 90s to defend the Andean rural communities from the Shining Path movement – that have arrived from Cajamarca – presumably because of the nexus of the occupants. Looks like we are in for a bloody battle.

I don’t feel comfortable to send a donation at this point for the cause of dislodging in spite that the money shall be used to feed the police. I made a post to Incaspiza stating my concern, I had expected some opinions against, but not the almost unanimous replies against my standpoint. I even got some glitches that I would later reap the commercial benefits of bringing my birding groups to the freed Pomac reserve. Shame on me!

If you like to follow the events and you speak or understand Spanish two good sources are the following.

El Comercio – www.elcomercio.com.pe
Radioprogramas del Peru – www.rpp.com.pe

As for alternative birding areas if you were planning to visit Pomac in these days check out info on www.birdingperu.com for Chiclayo area and Olmos area.  There are even complete checklists here.

I don’t expect there shall be any problems when our next programmed trip to Pomac during the comfortable birding Northern Peru tour.

Any questions, just ask me on kolibriexp@gmail.com

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This is the last post of the  4 day trip to Central Peru with Scott Robinson, Robert Holt, Andrew Kratter and Per and Lena Lundberg. The previous posts can be found here.

Junin lake and Junin Grebe.

We finally allowed ourselves a sleep-in this morning, with a 5 AM start! It was freezing cold and most of us had a bit of headache in the morning due to dehydration induced by the altitude. We had an hours drive to Pari, immediately we had breakfast and looked at the surrounding birds. There were Andean Negrito, Black Siskin, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant and Bar-winged Cinclodes present. At the edge a Guinea Pig was seen as well as a Blackish Rail briefly. Over the lake a Peregrine Falcon passed. We saw several Chilean Flamingos as well.
Not before long the park people arrived with a small zodiac and a small 15hp engine. Hmm! No way could we fit in 6 people in that. However, Lena was not feeling too well and was not going, and I sacrificed my space, so that the boat could take off with only 4 people.
About 10 grebes were seen all together, but identification was tricky. Fortunately, Andy carried his camera and we could concur that there were at least 2 individuals among Silvery Grebes.

Junin Grebe (left) and Silvery Grebe (right). Photo: Andy Kratter. Jan 8, 2009
Junin Grebe (left) and Silvery Grebe (right). Photo: Andy Kratter. Jan 8, 2009. Note the ski-slope forhead of the Junin Grebe and the round head and short bill of the SIlvery Grebe.
Water level fluctuations at Junin can be up to 2.3m as shown on this meter. Photo: Gunnar Engblom

Water level fluctuations at Junin can be up to 2.3m as shown on this meter. Photo: Gunnar Engblom

The Junin Grebe was one of Scott’s targets. This rare flightless grebe, is critically threatened. The main threat in the past has been pollution from mining. The population seems to have been stable around 200-300 individuals in the last decades. New threats are piling up, however – and my guess is that these are not taken seriously into account. The lake is also a reservoir for the Mantaro hydroelectrical plant, which provides 40% of Peru’s electric energy and 70% of the consumption in LIma. The regulation of the lake means drastic fluctuations of water levels. These changes can be very abrubt and obviously affect breeding birds. The difference in maximum and minimum water level is some 2.3 m. The effects of these fluctuations have not been studied. In light of the glacial retraction and possibly less rainfall in the Andes as result of global warming, and additionally an ever increasing demand in Lima for both water and electric energy, it is very likely that these fluctuations will be even greater in the future. It is unlikely that the Grebe will be evolutionary adapt to cope with abrubt such changes imposed in just a few decades, when it has evolved into flightlessness with very stable ecological conditions in million of years.

UPDATE: The note below from Hugo Arnal showing that it is very difficult to seperate Silvery and Junin Grebes in the field, makes any survey suspect of rather big degree of error.

To further illustrate this let’s look at some picture that Andy took on the same boat trip. The guys came back a bit dissappointed that they had not seen the Grebe for certain, but there were a few individuals that were suspicious.

The picture to the right the Grebe look round headed and looking away, could easily be mistaken for a Silvery Grebe. The right picture is the same bird one second later. The long head indentifies it as a Junin Grebe.

These birds photographed over a minute apart, both look round headed. However, they are looking away as they swim away from the camera. In field conditions it could easily be accounted for a Silvery Grebe. The bill however as the photo shows is way too long for Silvery Grebe and they are both Junin Grebes.

Many other birds seen were Puna Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck, Speckled Teal, Wilson´s Phalarope, Baird´s Sandpiper and Many-colored Rush-Tyrant.

The zodiac came back quite late, so we were pushed for time to get to the airport before 6 pm.

On the way to Ticlio, we had to make a forced stop to shot pictures of some Vicuñas close to the road.  The vicuña has in recent year become a invaluable resource for poor (not so poor anymore) campesinos of the altiplano, as the state buy up wool sustainably harvested in “chacos” – traditional round-ups similar to the reindeer of the Same in Scandinavia -when the wool is shaved off from temporarily captured animals.

White-bellied Cinclodes a threatened species.

A short technical stop at Ticlio gave two endangered White-bellied Cinclodes and one White-fronted Ground-Tyrant. The Cinclodes have an extremely small population and distribution centered to glaciar-fed peat bogs above 4600m in Junin, Lima and Huancavelica departments. The habitat in many places is being destroyed by peat harvesting which is not very sustainably considering the slow rate of growth of the high altitude Distichia muscoides cushion peat.
We reached the airport in time for the groups flight to Iquitos, via a fast car-wash near LIma to make the dusty Van, somewhat less dusty.

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US Airways bird strike lands on Hudson River

Photo of US Airways successful emergency landing on Hudson River taken by Janis Krum with a cell phone.

Photo of US Airways successful emergency landing on Hudson River taken by Janis Krum with a cell phone.

As the news feed reads that birds were the cause of the emergency landing of a US Airways flight taking off from New York’s La Guardia airport on Jan 15, 2009, one wonders how common this sort of accident really is? If it is common, it may lead to raised voices of culling of the bird populations?
According to the CNN report, more than 56000 incidents of birdstrikes have happened since 1998, but there are only 5 large jets that have had serious major accidents since 1975. Luckily, much appointed to the excellent skills of the pilot of the US Airways pilot and heroic evacuation directives by the same pilot, all of the 155 people onboard were unharmed.  It appears as commercial flights are quite safe in this respect, at least for the human passengers, but less so for the colliding birds – or the pets that go in the cargo.
Nate commenting on 10.000 birds blog, suggests the birds of responsible for the strike on today were Canada Geese, and this would make sense. It must be large birds to have severe impact on jets, unless of course the jet runs into a large flock of birds. This informative wiki article, mentions Vultures, ducks, geese, and gulls as the most serious contenders in bird-strikes. These will make serious damage. Modern airplanes are tested against strikes and they can be shut down a broken engine and keep on flying. However, if more that one engine is being hit, an emergency landing may be necessary.

Lima airport- should be safe against bird-strikes

Some years ago in Peru I was involved in an early assessment of air-strike safety at Lima Airport. With a technician from Frankfurt Airport we went around in Lima looking for birds during two days.  It was not only the birds at the airport itself that was important but also within some 10-20 km radius around the airport. In effect we were visiting some great birding sites around Lima. This was one of the first times I visited Ventanilla wetlands. And I also ticked off the some garbage tips, Rimac river and the Rimac and Chillon rivers outlet at sea. It soon became clear that is was Gulls and Black Vultures were the major threats to aircrafts. If you look at the map of Lima, you shall see that Rimac river is very close to the airport. The bridge crossing the Rimac river on the way to the airport is great viewpoint to see accumulated garbage completely devoured by large flocks of Kelp Gulls, Franklin’s Gulls (in season) and menacing Black Vultures.
Luckily once inside the plane you will find that the takeoff always is to the north. Menos mal!
I can assure you that the reason for a northward take off and landing is not only to minimize noise pollution over Lima, but also to minimize the risk of collisions with birds.

Fear of birds in Iquitos. Vultures and airports.

One of the more remarkable sagas regarding birds and airplanes in Peru, has been the incredibly stupid placing of a municipal garbage dump outside Iquitos in the middle of the Peruvian Amazon just next to Iquitos airport. It resulted in huge populations of vultures circling around the airport. Rather than moving the dump, the municipality tried shooting and poisoning the birds, but this only worked until new birds showed up from elsewhere in the jungle. The primitive vulture communications methods in the jungle, beats the speed of internet. Look at the map. Iquitos is completely surrounded by vulture infested jungle. It would never stop, vultures would come and come in never ending streams to where ever there was enough food.

Soon, in spite of the efforts to get rid of the birds, the flight authorities announced that flights to and from Iquitos could only take off or land in the evenings or the extremely early hours of the morning. Flight times became very uncomfortable. I am sure Iquitos lost many tourists due to this fact.

In the end, after years of protesting, the municipality finally gave in and moved the dump. Where?

25 km south of Iquitos, just on the other side of the of the road from the Visitor center of Allpahuaya-MIshana reserve.

WTF were they thinking? Now the dump pollutes the ground water of the reserve and something regarding Iquitos municipality’s garbage management – huele mal – stinks!

The white-sand forest of Allpahuayo-Mishana reserve is home of many species recently described as new to science, including Allpahuayo Antbird, Mishana Tyrannulet, Ancient Antwren and Iquitos Gnatcatcher. The reserve has in little time become one of Peru’s most treasured bird watching destinations. Birding outfitter Kolibri Expeditions run birdwatching tours to Iquitos that include several day visits to the reserve to see the rare species that can be found there.

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Yellow-browed Bunting – gulbrynad sparv – just 3.5km from where I used to live in Sweden

I find it incredible to read about a new bird to Sweden very close – only 3.5km – to where I lived before emigrating to Peru. It almost makes me want to go twitching – fly the 11 400km to Järvafältet where I used to go birding in the 80s. The Sparrow is still twitchable as it since January 3 to January 13 has been seen daily.
I just did the flight with Google Earth and great to see these land features. I naturally checked the pictures on Artportalen – the Swedish equivalent to ebird, where I find a picture from my class mate and birding friend Tomas Lundquist. I am sure he does not mind me showing his picture here. I just wrote Tomas to ask for permission. (No see in over 10 years)

Yellow-browed Bunting, gulbrynad sparv, Emberiza chrysophrys. Photo: Tomas Lundquist.

Here is the slightly modified press-release from UPI:

More than 400 bird enthusiasts traveled to a Barkarby, North of Stockholm to see a rare yellow-browed bunting, a perching bird similar to a sparrow, on the first day January 4.

The seed-eating bird, which breeds in eastern Siberia and winters in central and southern China, had never been reported in Sweden before. It is a very rare wanderer to western Europe at all, with five sightings in Britain since 1998 along with a few in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the Swedish Ornithological Association said.

The pink-beaked, relatively large-headed bird — known for its bright-yellow eyebrow stripe — was first spotted in dry brush in the Stockholm suburb of Norra Järvafältet, the excited enthusiasts told the newspaper.’

There was a bit of turmoil in the camp, veteran ornithologist Henrik Waldenström told Expressen newspaper.

It was very crowded and as soon as the bird or someone else moved, then everyone started running, he said. Fortunately there were no outbreaks of actual violence, but the atmosphere was dramatic, to say the least.

The bird — whose upper parts are brown and heavily streaked and whose under parts are white with an orange hue on the flanks and some fine dark streaks — was still recorded today January 13“.

Great to see and hear from Henrik and Tomas this way. Henrik was somewhat like a mentor to me, as he was the leader of most of the birding excursions I took in the early 80s with Stockholm’s Ornithological Society (StOF) as a beginner (hardcore) birder. Tomas and I took the field course of Ecology at Tjärnö on the coast of SW Sweden one summer (1987 I think it was). On the way to get there, we twitched a Siberian Golden Plover, which included a rented car and a separate train/bus journey to get to Tjärnö – a significant cost for poor students! At that time it was my most expensive lifer!

Yellow-browed Bunting  is known with the scientific name Emberiza chrysophrys. The epithet read in Swedish could be pronounced with a Swedish accent “kryss-å-frys” – which literally means “tick-n-freeze” – how suitable!  Temperature in Stockhom right now is around freezing point -and I am enjoying 25 degrees Celsius and am going for a run shortly. On second thought, I think I will content myself with the Google Earth twitch I just did. Brrr!
Don’t think we shall get a mob of 400 Peruvian twitchers going crazy, if there all of a sudden would be a White-throated Sparrow showing up among the Rufous-collared Sparrows at el Olivar park – around 3.5km from my present home.

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One morning Unchog clean-up with Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager

Wednesday Jan 7, 2009.
Its not every birding day on our itinerary that has a 2.30 AM start, but to visit Unchog in just one day and have decent go at the Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager and the Rufous-browed Hemispingus in the rainy season and not to have to camp, does require extreme measures.

We had plenty of time on our hands to get to the start of the trail beyond the small village of Cochabamba and it turned out we needed all that time, due to delays in the morning and sliding off the track with one wheel and pushing the van back up again.  The road up to Unchog can be very slippery. Fortunately, the locals had done good maintenance and we got to our final destination – the end of the road – around 5.15 and it was still dark. Julio prepared breakfast and we had a good bowl of fruit salad, yogurt and granola, as well as freshly French pressed coffee from Alto Mayo in Northern Peru, before we started walking.  We had a gentle 50 meter rise, and then a 300m drop to get into prime habitat. On the way we saw Plenge’s Thistletail, and Many-striped Canastero. Sedge Wrens and Neblina Tapaculo were singing.
We reached “Hemispingus bend” just as a flock was forming with Pearled Treerunner, White-throated Tyrannulet, Citrine Warbler and the endemic Pardusco (one of the Carpish endemics), and almost immediately Andy Kratter stuttered,

Rufous-browed Hemispingus. Photo: Andy Kratter

“Ttheerre it is. The, the , the Hemispingus” as I was pointing out a beautiful Golden-collared Tanager. “Rufous-browed Hemispingus” he yelled to the others some 20-30 meters behind us. Everyone got brilliant views and Andy even got some pictures. This is a bird many groups often miss. Excellent start!
Reyes had continued down the trail to be on the lookout for GBMT. We soon caught up and stood looking out over a stunning forest and the sun playing with the canopy as the forest was warming up. We had probably not stood there for more than 20 minutes, when I saw some movement in a tree only some 20 meters in front of me. Now it was my time to stutter. Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. Everyone except Per Lundberg stood close and had great views. Per came rushing in from 50 meters down the trail and eventually also got good views.

It was only 8.15 and we had already seen the two most wanted birds on the trip.

Rufous-browed Hemispingus. Photo: Andy Kratter

The rest of the morning produced relatively few new birds. Some heard included Undulated Antpitta,  Obscure Rufous Antpitta (obscura form) and Tchudi’s Tapaculo. One of my best birds was a cooperative White-browed Spinetail. A bird I have seen only in Southern Ecuador and now a Peru tick!

We even managed to get some exercise. The 300m uphill got the heart beating. Julio had already prepared lunch. Spaguetti bolognaise. Uneventful, trip back to Huanuco and we continued to Junin via a stop en route for Brown-backed Inca-Finch, which was seen very well. Additionally, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant was seen briefly by myself.
In Junin at 4100m we stayed at a basic hotel and went out for a meal. In spite of the restaurant looking modest, the food was very tasty. I had trout.

English Birdnames

When birding with prominent North American ornithologists, who mostly use the scientific names as first choice, English bird names soon become a great topic for discussion. If “collecting” get lots of opinions (see the last posting) from birders and ornithologists alike, English birdnames give even more opinions. “Stability” is used as the number one argument in many cases favoring not to change a name, but in other cases “improvements” are necessary because the current name is “no good”. In many cases it gets very subjective. And to whom shall we (the public, the birders and the rest of the ornithologists) give mandate, to select the best set of names. No matter who does the job, there will always be discontent.
In recent years there has been some attempts to synchronize. International Ornithology Congress (IOC) has pointed a commission to standardize English bird names. This lead to the publication of “Birds of the World. Recommended English names” in 2006 by Frank Gil and Minturn Wright. The full list constantly revised and updated as new species are described or split can be found on  https://www.worldbirdnames.org/. IOC takes on English birdnames – this got be the right course to take. Not surprisingly, not all want to accept the international standardization. Notably, AOU with the two committees North American Checklist Committee (NACC) and South American Checklist Committee (SACC), has their own set of rules and many is some cases have different English names than those suggested by IOC. NACC took a vote to adopt IOC:s suggested changes of names of North American birds, but since the list also included spelling and hyphenation differences, all the changes were turned down in bulk.

The most eye-catching or (ear-catching) hard to swallow names and to take to tounge are the Myioborus White/Redstarts.  SACC insists on Redstart, while IOC favors Whitestart. “Start” is a germanic word meaning tail (also in old English). Anyone can see that the Myioborus have no red in its tail what so ever. It is the Painted Redstart, that occur in almost every North American birdbook with this same name, that makes so difficult for the Americans to accept the logical name-change. This has become a personal rant issue of mine – so beware before you klick on the link to put down your vote for your preference. Whitestart or Redstart?. Don’t take it too serious. It is just for fun! SACC is unjustly picked on. SACC has put forward Neotropical Ornithology light years by putting down a baseline for taxonomy and un-doubted distribution. However, maybe putting English names could be best appointed to the IOC committee especially formed for this purpose.
Andy Kratter is on the North American Checklist committee and was the only one who favored whitestart when NACC took a vote on whitestart/redstart. Andy, you are a hero!

There are a few other interesting cases. Northern Chestnut-tailed Antbird was described as such by the Islers and Whitney and favored by IOC, but SACC changed it to Zimmer’s Antbird. Why? Because a dominant number of the members of SACC do not like compound name with long geographic epitets. But geography can acutally be much more informative than combination of color and body parts of cryptic species with hardly no such difference or naming the bird after a person. In spite of SACCs decission I don’t think anyone has yet wanted to change the names of Northern/Southern Rough-winged Swallow or Northern/Southern Beardless Tyrannulet. Want to vote on this as well?

Another favorite case of mine is Lulu’s/Johnson’s Tody-Tyrant. In spite of normally favoring stability, SACC renamed this cute bird endemic to Peru, that already had a name both in the formal description as well as the published Birds of Peru by Clements and Shany. Surely Lulu is more catchy than Johnson. Vote here!

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I and the Bird #91


I and the Bird #91

A short break in the trip report from Carpish, to let you all know that I and the Bird # 91 just was the released. I have the great pleasure to have my post on Amarakaeri included here. It is Tim Ryan of From the Faraway, Nearby that host this issue. Tim’s blog is always good reading. Scroll down his blog and you`ll find a piece on Tambopata, Peru.

So what is “I and the Bird”?
It’s a Birding Blog Digest for the lazy. If you don’t have time to follow and read a whole bunch of birding blogs, the “I and the Bird” bi-weekly carnival keeps you well informed. It is really not to be missed, because it keeps you updated. It is also a great way for bird bloggers to get more readers.  Check out all about “I and the Bird” here.

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