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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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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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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Blogging by email and networking.

I just set up a super secret email account from which I shall be able to send posts directly to my new WordPress blog on Kolibri Expeditions web-site. I guess this is part of the web 2.0 revolution…even if I got on this train late. Part of this strategy is to use networking as way to get to both potentially new clients as well as keeping in touch with and in the mind of clients in the past. Facebook is one of the best way to do this. My Facebook account is here, if you want to become my “friend” on facebook. In fact, it is not that necessary that we actually know each other. Facebook is a bit of voyeurism, but oneself decides really how much privacy is suitable to post. Some people use facebook strictly privately, while others use it, as I do, to create a new network with people with similar interest. In my case it is birding and specifically birding in Peru and South America. On facebook I have a bit over 200 “friends”. I think the order of some 400-500 “friends” would create a nice network


A few months ago I set up a twitter account and made my 200th posting today and have around 150 people following me. You can follow me too at Twitter could be considered micro-blogging. You tell the world what you are doing in 140 characters. Though many will just but daily activities such as “I am drinking coffee”, there are many people who use twitter as a fast means of telling their followers about a new blog post or sharing something interesting they have read.

Gunnar’s previous blogs

A couple of days ago I set up this blog. I have blogged before but usually far between. See some examples here: (English) (Spanish)

The present blog

This is however the first blog I do on the company page of Kolibri Expeditions Rather than having my web-master creating a new blogging tool specifically for my web-page, I decided to use one of the free ones available from and house it on our server. The people at the support section of my server provider kindly helped to upload the program. It is very convenient and there are already a lot functions and plug-ins available, The main idea is that the blog will:
1. Direct clients to our main part of the web-page. This way, we’d get more business.
2. Get more traffic period and thus better search engine position. With more traffic google ranks the web-site higher
3. Create new material which also helps to get more traffic as there will be more search engine keywords produced.
4. If I get a lot of readers, some online adds, can actually give some revenues at least to partly pay for the housing costs.

Today’s birding at Pantanos de Villa

Anyway, this blog was actually meant to tell you by sending an email that I have been birding with Eduardo Arrarte -the former Vice Minister of Tourism and his lovely wife Lieser today at Pantanos de Villa in an activity that I arranged open to the public. There were also two cultural tour guides that are learning about birding, and two other guys – one of them only 15 years old – that also ae new to birding. Great to be able to inspire new birders. This should be part of the mission of every birder. Share your knowledge.

Birds seen today included:
Peruvian Thickknee
Peruvian Meadowlark
Black-necked Stilt
Great Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
American Oystercatcher
Franklin’s Gull
Band-tailed Gull
Burrowing Owl
and many more.

Gunnar Engblom.

PS: I hope this works!!
PPS: Well, it didn’t. I had to post it the normal way. I wonder if it was because my secret account was an gmail account?

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On November 26, 2007, I took a series of photos of the coots at Pantanos de Villa. The variation is extreme and I suspect there may be genes in the population from other species. The question is which species?
The background is the strange coot I found at Pantanos de Villa on OCt 15, 2005 which has many traits of Red-gartered Coot Fulica armillata.


Normal Andean Coots should look more like the ones below
White or Yellow forehead with white

With yellow forehead and white bill

With Chestnut forehead and yellow and white bill
Or Chestnut forehead with almost completely yellow bill


But these ones are far from normal. Foreheads are less bulbous and orange or red in color.
Red forehead – yellow bill
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Orange forehead and Yellow bill
Red forehead with orange margins and completely yellow bill

Orange forhead and yellow and white bill.
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South American Tern in summer plumage in the winter!

In 2005 on a pelagic in July from Lima a dark gray bellied breeding plumage Sterna Tern was seen that was tentatively identified as Antarctic Tern, which would be a first for Peru. This one looks quite like the one we saw then, though I recall the bill was shorter than this. The posterior discussion on Birding Peru Yahoo-group confirmed this bird as South American Tern.

Sooty Shearwater identification

Short-tailed Shearwater?
Unfortunately not. Scrutinizing the pictures and with comments from Birding Peru yahoo group it is noted that the dark black wedge from the “arm-pit” is a good field mark for Sooty Shearwater.

Sooty Shearwater with one Pink-footed Shearwater in the center.

Northern Giant Petrel new species for Peru

Northern Giant Petrel was recorded for the first time in Peru in 2002 on a Kolibri Expeditions pelagic. It is now a regular on our pelagics of July to September. This is the first time we found a bird that is not completely brown. Can this one be aged?

Here it is with a juvenile.

Buller’s Albatross

Buller’s Albatross I only found for the first time in July 2006. This year it has been seen on a number of pelagics in July-September. And even adults and subadults (such as this photo).

Chilean and South Polar Skua in a fight. Great Show


South Polar Skua is quite regular on our pelagics during May-September

Join us on next full day pelagic Nov 17…or on our regular daily whale-watching excursion between November to March.

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There are three Wilson‘s concealed in the left bottom corner among all the White-vented Storm-Petrels (Elliot’s)

Now they are in the center

One Wilson upper left turning

and turning a little bit more. Note that the Whitevented SP in the top center had yellow webs.

I hope someone can forward some discussion on the molt in Wilson‘s and Whitevented SP.

Last also a Salvin‘s Albatross seen quite well on this occation. Also in a bit of molt..

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