Hornby's or Ringed Storm Petrel. Photo Gunnar Engblom
It is not often I find a reason to write a blog post about a pelagic trip, before it actually happens. But on this trip, there is a reason. Some of the participants on this shine more than the birds we will be seeing. There are several participants who have seen more than 8000 species in the world. There are experienced Peru birders. There is a former Vice minister of Tourism. Some renowned bird illustrators and one famous author and photographer. Are you intrigued?
Let me make a small presentation of the birding stars that shine brighter than the birds on this pelagic.
David Beadle is a British Bird Illustrator living in Canada for many years and has illustrated work such as Birds of Chile and Warblers of the Americas. Currently he is finishing a book on Moths of NE North America and illustrating Birds of Brazil.
Barry Walker – owner of Manu Expeditions and the person who has seen most bird species in Peru – close to 1700 species.
Hugh Buck -Currently number 3 in the world with a world list of 8523 species. My guess is that Hugh is after Markham’s Storm-Petrel or Ringed Storm-Petrel.
Phil Rostron another Brit in the 8000 club number 4 in the world with 8430 species.
Pablo Lopez de Romaña – former Vice Minister of Tourism in Peru
And then there are other well known world birders that you may have met in the field or heard about. Brian Beers, Neal Clarke, Pearl Jordan, JOhn Pennhallurik., Mark Eaton, Lieven de Temmerman and many more.
Oh yes, guess who is guiding? ME! (HELLLLLLPPPP!!!!). Not at all intimidating. I will find some corner to creap into and hide!
We have room for yet a few birders if there is someone keen on joining on Oct 2. We shall do an early start at 5 AM to have some additional time at our chumming spot. Next Pelagic is planned on Oct 4 (full) and on November 13 and November 26. Hope to see you.
To wet your appetite what we will see below follows the result from the last pelagic on Sep 25. Here are some of the highlights. I did not fill in the names yet. See if you can ID them?
Hornby’s (Ringed) Storm Petrel. Photo Gunnar Engblom
Birdwatching is a specialized hobby. The birdwatchers aim to see hundreds of birds during a holiday in Peru. However, there are certain birds that transcend to more normal tourists. Some birds that you don’t have to be a birdwatcher to appreciate. Those birds that will leave an impact on anyone who lays eyes on them. These kinds of birds become banner species and tourist attractions and could be decisive to turn a non-birder into a birder. They are also important for conserving habitat and supporting local small scale businesses which often give direct revenue to local communities. I hereby present the 11 most important birds in Peru as tourism attractions.
Emblematic bird of the Andes. 100.000 people travel yearly to Colca Canyon near Arequipa to see the mighty Condor. Kolibri Expeditions have found a good viable population in Santa Eulalia canyon only 3 hours from Lima, which also is a good place to see this majestic bird. You’d be surprised to learn that most tourists that come to Peru, those that do not visit Colca or Santa Eulalia Canyon, will not see a condor in spite it being such a tremendously important symbol of Peru and the Andes. The closest they will get is hearing “Condor pasa” – the Peruvian song Simon and Garfunkel made world famous. At every little coffee shop to every fine restaurant in Cusco you will hear it played with panpipes and charrango. You cannot avoid it – not escape it!
Strangely enough Peru has yet to raise the awareness of the importance of the species for eco-tourism in other rural areas. As such it may become an important cash cow for communities. This would change the present situation in many places where the species is persecuted and seriously threatened.
There are two major macaw-licks in SE Peru where these giant parrots descend on sunny clay river cliffs to ingest the clay with thousands of other parrots. The best one that attracts 5 species of macaws is situated in the Tambopata area near Tambopata Research Center. There is extremely important Macaw research going on here and you can help as a participant volunteer. See Tambopata Macaw Project. The other important one is downriver from Manu at Blanquillo near in vicinity of several lodges.
Wow! Exclamation mark is necessary! This surreal member of the Cotinga family has a wide distribution from Venezuela to Bolivia. It is one of the most colorful birds of the Andes. The males gather in “lek” – displays – where the perform ritual dances and make noisy grunts and shrieks. In many places leks have become tourism attractions. The most famous is perhaps next to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, but there are several places in Central and Northern Peru where leks also can be seen. Locally, it has become good incentives to conserve forest. Since the cock-of-the-rock is also un-officially national bird of Peru kids all over the country learn to appreciate it. Only five years ago, when traveling in Central Peru inquiring where I could see it, I was directed to the zoo or a man that allegedly had stuffed ones for sale! Things have changed now.
Its coral red bill and feet, and yellow and white waxy mustache on a slaty blackish body makes the Inca Tern the most beautiful Tern of the world. This specialty of the Humboldt Current is not difficult to see in large numbers. In many places it can be approached for a photograph. A spectacular event on the Lima pelagics is when the fish scrap leftover that is used to attract seabirds at the high sea is thrown out after the boat and up to a thousand Inca Terns come in to the stern.
Peru has yet to develop more places with hummingbird feeders, but the ones available are truly spectacular. My favorites are the following.
Amazonia Lodge at the bottom of Manu road, with specialties such as the rare Rufous-crested Coquette, Koepcke’s Hermit and Gould’s Jewelfront and another dozen of more common hummers such as White-necked Jacobin, Blue Emerald, Gray-breasted Sabrewing and Black-eared Fairy come to the garden with feeders and blue vervain in front of the ample porch of the main building..
Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel the luxurious hotel with precious subtropical gardens decorated with orchids and bromeliads at the foot of Machu Picchu next to Aguas Calientes village. The hotel also have dozens of well maintained hummingbird feeders spread out in the compound open only to its guests. The specialties include Gould’s Inca, White-bellied Hummingbird, Long-tailed Sylph, Chestnut-breasted Coronet and Booted Racket-tail.
Cock-of the-Rock Lodge on the Manu road, has a open veranda dining room looking out to the garden where tanagers are fed and Blue Vervain and feeders attract the hummingbirds. The specialties include Violet-fronted Brilliant, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Wire-crested Thorn-tail, Booted Racket-tail and many more.
If I should choose just one hummingbird species in Peru this would be the one. It is the most spectacular Hummingbird in Peru. The male has long streamers ending in blue rackets. It may not yet be a large tourist attraction since it occurs only in Amazonas department and a bit off the beaten track for most general tourists coming to Peru, but it is certainly on the birdwatcher’s radar on the Northern Birding Circuit and the principle attraction. Kolibri Expeditions has initiated a project here together with local farmer Santos Montenegro obtaining funds through our clients allowing Santos to buy some land from his neighbors. The idea is to turn the small reserve to a Hummingbird information center.
Flamingos are big tourist attractions all over the world, and the Chilean Flamingo in Peru is not an exception, especially since legend has that the flamingos San Martin saw in Paracas before leading the liberation from Spain, inspired to the design of the Peruvian flag. There is not a person in Peru, that is not familiar with this story. Unfortunately, many flamingo colonies are well off the beaten track, except that of wintering flamingos still present at the Paracas bay. One may hope however those remote flamingo colonies could be integrated in sustainable tourism packages and this way supply income to local communities at the same time protecting the colonies. The practice common is the past to scare the colony to take flight for a photograph, is fortunately no longer carried out. It seems to me that Peruvian awareness for the well being of the natural attractions has increased in recent years.
Without being a particularly rare bird, the Hoatzin inhabits lake sides. It prehistoric looks, similar to the Archaeopteryx and the fact that the young have claws in the wings, make it a tantalizing. The hisses it makes add to its pre-historic image. It occurs in colonies and is mostly not hunted because its meat is smelly and not good. It has constantly bad breath as its digest is completely leaves which are fermented in the crop. Hoatzin can be seen in many places in the Amazon. Most photogenic perhaps at Amazonia Lodge.
Paracas has been the traditional place where many tourists come in contact with the species for the first time while visiting the sea-lion colonies at Ballestas Islands. In recent years however trips have been arranged to sea-lion colony at Islas Palomino from Callao, Lima, where also the Penguins occur and this is a time effective alternative to Paracas. Recent studies show that Humboldt Penguins are very sensitive to disturbance – much more so – than its close relative Magellanic Penguin that occurs in Patagonia and with colonies that attracts tens of thousands of visitors. Fortunately, there are no colonies in Peru that are accessible to tourists to walk around in. The large colony at Punta San Juan near Nazca is closed to the public.
Other places where one can see Humboldt Penguin include Pucusana and the new San Fernando reserve close to Nazca.
A highly dimorphic beautiful duck specialized living its life in streaming water and fascinating to watch. One of the best place to see them is at Aguas Calientes below Machu Picchu. In fact, they can often be seen looking out the window from the train to Machu Picchu.
In spite of being a bird breeding on the Galapagos, practically all individuals of the species will spend considerable time in Peruvian Waters in its lifetime when not breeding. The pelagic birdwatching and whale-watching trips from Lima has made it possible for larger numbers of people to see an albatross at relative ease. Waved Albatross is critically threatened due to high adult mortality in recent years. In spite of being one of the smaller albatrosses, with 2.30m wingspan it is still impressive and a highlight for anyone venturing to sea to see it.
This article was brought to you by Kolibri Expeditions. Kolibri Expeditions runs tours everywhere in Peru and can take you to all these birds, providing a full-fledged birding holiday or a holiday to culture and nature on a more general level.
Special thanks to Tim Ryan of The faraway, nearby blog, for letting me use his Macaw pictures from Tambopata. All other pictures by Gunnar Engblom and Alex Duran (Rufous-crested Coquette and Torrent Duck). GE´s and AD´s pictures may be used under creative commons license. Link and acknowledge this page. Thanks.
Done a few more trips to search for Cetaceans and seabirds the last two months.
On January 19 a full day at sea gave many fantastic observations of Dolphins and one whale.
This may be a Sei whale that has lost its dorsal fin.
Dusky Dolphins come close to the boat.
Common Dolphins were also often seen on this full day trip.
On February 18 we had great observations of a Bryde’s/Sei Whale.
Sei and Bryde’s whale are very similar in appearance. One needs to see the head to be able to separate them. However, since Bryde’s is the most likely this time of year
On February 23 we saw large numbers of Dusky Dolphins. The Inca Terns and Peruvian Boobies follow the moving schools of hunting dolphins is an good way to detect dolphin activity.
Also, far in the distance we saw a immense blow. This was most certainly a Blue Whale. Unfortunately, we had not time to follow up this time and the whale itself was not seen.
Robert Flood – a dedicated seabird watcher had particularily chartered the boat for the trip on February 23. The purpose of the day was to study Storm-Petrels. We had prepared a “chum” consisting of fish bones, heads and intestines, oil and pop-corn. Storm-Petrels have sense of smell and not before long we saw the first Markham’s Storm Petrels.
More majestic were the impressive Waved Albatroses also attracted by the chum.
The Waved Albatross is visiting from Galapagos. It is an almost certain sight all year around.
Next whale/dolphin watching trip is planned for March 3 and April 1. Contact Gunnar at email@example.com or 273 72 46.
Recently Kolibri Expeditions started more specialized whale and dolphin safaris from Callao. We have since 2000 arranged full day pelagic trips to look for birds and during these trips we have often encountered Cetaceans (whales and doplhins collectively). However, 11-12 hours at sea is a bit too much for those that have the chief interest in watching mammals. Therefore since November 2006 we are arranging these shorter 5 hours trips with a speed boat.
During our long pelagic we are beginning to see patterns. It is quite clear that Humpbacks migrate along the coast Peru and passing Lima in October-November and February-March.
Humpback Whale breaching sequence during migration south. Lima, Nov 10, 2006. Photo: Gunnar Engblom
However, details about the ocurance of other whales in other seasons are still very little known. It is hoped, with these five hours trips on a regular basis, on which we will record position, numbers, species and activities of all cetaceans, that we will learn more about the movements of cetaceans off the coast of Callao. During the month of January, we have seen many other cetaceans in the past including Sei, Fin and Bryde’s Whale – and the usual three species of dolphins (Common, Bottle-nosed and Dusky Dolphins). During January we be operating 5 hours whale and dolphin watching trips on January 6 and 14. On January 19 there will be a full day pelagic for birdwatchers, but the chance of seeing whales and dolphins on this trip is also a very good since we cover much more ground.
On Nov 30, 2006 we made our last trip. Once again, we went out to sea trying to spot cetaceans. It was a fine day with good views. The cloud cover soon broke up and we saw the sun. Passing the guano Palomino island of Island we continue straigth out into the deep ocean.
In a distance we see a huge flock of birds. We decide to approach. There are Peruvian Boobies making kamikaze dives from some 30 meters up, lots of Inca Terns and Sooty Shearwaters, as well as a couple of Pelicans and many Gray Gulls.
And now to the left! What is that? DOLPHINS!!! Lots of them!
All of a sudden there were hundreds of Dusky Dolphins around us.
This close-up of Dusky Dolphin shows the caracteristic absence of bottle-shape beak, the contrasting body pattern, and the falcate dorsal fin that is slightly paler towards the trailing edge.
But the trip was not over yet. We would encounter three such large concentrations of fish, dolphins and seabirds. There were at least 400 dolphins in total through the day.
Many very interesting birds were also seen.
Here is the localized White-vented Storm-Petrel. Other Storm-Petrels seen during the trip were Wedge-rumped and Wilson’s Storm-Petrels.
There were many Pomerine Jaegers about. They are the true pirates of the sea, chasing after other birds, bothering them in all ways possible like grabbing their feathers, untill the victim has to give up that recently caught anchoveta.
One of the most exciting birds according to the birdwatchers onboard was the Swallow-Tailed Gull. In one flock there were 29 individals and one Sabine’s Gull.
Everyone on board were amazed by the large numbers of Waved Albatross that we were seeing. Well over 30 individuals through-out the day. The Waved Albatross basically only breeds on one island in the Galapagos archipelago. There is a small insignificant numbers on La Plata island off the Ecuadorian coast.
But all individuals will pass some time in their life in Peruvian waters either as young birds or in between breeding attempts. Recently, it has been shown that there are less breeding pairs at Española than some 10 years ago. Apparantly adult mortality away from the colony is very high, so that the species should warrent critical threatened status. It seems that bycatch and intentional killing in Northern Peru is the big problem. See the BirdLife Internationals ongoing discussion about this species.
This individual was ringed. Click on the picture to see! Also this other picture also shows the same bird.
Back at Isla Palomino we encountered the huge sealion colony. In spite of being in the middle of the day there were surely more than 1000 individuals. In the late afternoon one can see between 5000-8000 sealions here.
On this picture the male is the one with the thick neck. The youngs will be born very shortly and there will be mating taking place almost immediately. The males need to be in a strategic place.
At the islands we encounter the yacht Melusine, which we usually use for our long full day pelagics. We shall run one of these long pelagic trips on January 19. with the Melusine.
Near Palomino island one usually find the most beautiful Cormorant in the world. Here the Red-legged Cormorant is collecting nesting material. This shot was taken a month ago, but we saw many of these cormorants on the trip.
Our circuit has almost come to an end, but before returning to shore we shall check out the penguins.
It is calculated that some 400 Penguins live on San Lorenzo islands. We saw around 100.
Back in the port around 1 PM we found Terns. Here are Elegant Tern and Sandwich Tern.
There will be no pelagic this weekend. There is a high wave warning. Click here if you don’t believe me.
We shall try to see Waved Albatross from the port of Pucusana instead while doing some land-based seabirding for a change.
Alejandro Tello reports of both Marbled and Hudsonian Godwit from Laguna Paraiso lagoon yesterday. This is very late. I guess they liked it so well in Peru that they decided to stay. Also an Inca Tern fishing over the fresh-water lagoon. Weird.
Also a report form Charles Hesse. He mentions that the first recording ever of a Rufous-breasted Warbling-Finch was made with a digital pocket recorder costing only 499 soles (150 US$) at Radio Shack in Lima. A gadget a lot of Peruvian ornithologists should be interested in. Olympus WS100 (Grabadora de voz digital) is the model.