Monday, December 8, 2014

Take a Break from the City

Peruvian Pelicans
Lima (Pantanos de Villa)
(including extracts from my diary for the day - 10 June 2014) Trip organised and guided by Gunnar of Kolibri Expeditions

Just after 7am we headed off from the backpackers I was staying at in Miraflores area, to Pantanos de Villa, stopping along the way at a spot along the malacon where the most obvious birds were the pelicans and gulls. The Peruvian Pelicans were very clearly not bothered about the proximity of humans, not that the gulls and terns were! Very excitedly Gunnar points out a Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, and then move over to get a better look at the different age Belcher’s and Grey Gulls. I went on high alert when an Inca Tern was pointed out, a bird I’ve been gagging to see for a very long time now. Trying to get a shot of one flying, Gunnar points one out perched a few metres away from us. This is just such a stunning looking bird! Luckily it was obliging and I managed to get some good shots.
Inca Tern
**Pantanos de Villa
Off we went again to Pantanos de Villa, a 263 hectare protected area with wetlands and along the beach in the district of Churrillos - south out of  main Lima. A brief stop on the way at a service station got me some food - my first empanada and a large baguette-like roll with cold meats and cheese. Seriously delicious, or maybe just starving too, I was now ready for some serious birding!
Horses exercising on the beach at Pantanos de Villa
(not a disturbance generally when birding)
The next few hours was a flurry of birds, all bar one or two, brand new species for me! On the water /dams and in adjacent reeds were Grey, Franklin’s, Grey-hooded, and Belcher’s Gulls, a couple of Puno Ibis, Neotropic Cormorants, Little Blue Heron, Great White Heron, Moorhens (Common Gallinule) and Cinnamon Teals. A couple of Pied-billed Grebes were around with some Snowy Egret around the edges.

The beach-side had a lot of American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmers (100+) and the odd Elegant Tern. Flying over and along the huge shore-break, were Peruvian Boobies, Peruvian Pelicans, Kelp Gulls with guest appearances by Red-legged and Guanay Cormorants

Part of the Black Skimmer flock

Wandering back past the reeds and toward the more open grassy areas and wader territory, we got Black-crowned Night Herons, Plumbeous Rail (looks like a Black Crake in Africa) and then also Wren-like Rushbird (after me asking what the warbler in the reeds was!) and a Grassland Yellow Finch. The large distinct outline of a raptor turned out to be a Turkey Vulture also making it’s way up and down the “avenues” between the reeds hunting. 

Black-necked Stilts
The wader area was great with a lot of Black-necked Stilts, Western Cattle Egrets, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Whimbrel and quite a few Killdeer. The star of this area, Wilson’s Phalarope, was spotted by Angelina. We spent some good time here looking what we could find and started making our way back to the road whilst getting great views of Chestnut-throated Seedeater, Striated Heron and a Vermillion Flycatcher. Close to the road I spotted a little owl on some piles of sand; turns out to be a Burrowing Owl - I was well chuffed with my little contribution to the day’s birding! 
Burrowing Owl sighting
Vermillion Flycatcher

We stopped briefly at the reserve ‘office’ to pay our entry, the very reasonable price of S/-8 per person. Driving back we stopped next tot the road to check out some more waterfowl and found Andean Coot, Great & White-tufted Grebes, Andean Duck and White-cheeked Pintail
A good day’s birding with the majority being new species for me - I was loving being on a new continent again!

**evening in Miraflores

After buying  some roasted chicken and empinada at the nearby supermarket, I worked through my photos of the day but was soon nodding off. So I relented and ended my great day out of the city and went to sleep.

Beach with a Twitch

Stretch of beach south of the point
(Punta Negra)
South of Lima, Peru you’ll find some holiday communities spread out along miles and miles of lovely beaches, interspersed only with large rock outcrops and points. Although some beaches are a higher risk for swimmers, it’s extremely tranquil albeit if out of season. I visited this area during mid-October 2014, in particular the beaches of Punta Negra. During this visit I got the opportunity to see this area  from San Bartolo (further south - some gardens here where we found Amazilia Hummingbird) to Punta Negra from the air during a flight with an ultra-light. This gave me an even better view of how expansive the beaches really are, over and above finding where 100’s of Peruvian Pelicans and Grey Gulls roost - at times probably well over a 1,000 birds.
Day roost: Peruvian Pelicans in the foreground &
Grey Gulls further back.

Without much difficulty it’s possible to pick up around 25-30 species of birds in a day including the town “locals” like Long-tailed Mockingbird, West Peruvian Dove, House Sparrow (the default sparrow here) and then the ever present Scrub Blackbirds. Not overly common here, the Vermillion Flycatcher also showed itself a couple of times. The beaches teem with birdlife though; seeing Grey Gulls relaxing on a remote part of beach in their 100’s is not uncommon.
Gulls and terns at the southern beach of Punta Negra.
They are usually joined by Belcher’s Gulls and the odd tern like Royal and/or Elegant Terns.  Whilst there are many Inca Terns, (probably one of the most beautiful terns!), the more uncommon Peruvian Tern also graced us with its presence for a few minutes the one day, just enough to get a record shot to confirm for ID. 
Elegant Terns in flight over beach; some Grey Gulls in the background.
Photogenic Grey Gulls
The beaches north of Punta Negra town stretch out far and this where early morning I found some large groups of waders dominated by Black-bellied Plovers and Ruddy Turnstones. Between them there might be some Sanderlings on occasion with the lonely Whimbrel passing by. One morning though there were about 6 Whimbrel on this stretch. Along here is where the Red-legged  and Neotropical Cormorants seem to prefer fishing with Peruvian Boobies and Pelicans flying and in the water further offshore. One day we had a massive continuous flock of Guaynay Cormorants flying south very low above the water - at times it was almost like clouds of birds as they came around the point north of Punta Negra.
Blackish Oystercatcher

The large point at Punta Negra is where the Peruvian Boobies, Neotropical and Red-legged Cormorants have their roost. My friend showed me that contrary to what some sources may say about Red-legged Cormorants being solitary, here it’s possible to find them roosting in groups of 10 or more. The American Oystercatchers are very common here with fair numbers of Blackish Oystercatchers at times but don’t seem to reach the numbers of the American species. Keep a lookout for the Peruvian Surf Cinclodes which will very likely be hopping around on some beachside rocks.

American Oystercatcher

All in all some good birding to be had along the beach and in the area plus then if you prefer, some relaxing time along deserted beaches and catching some sun if you’re so inclined. Sunset is a must along this beach with breath-taking colours as the birds settle in for their roost.

For more photos from Punta Negra, view my album on Flickr here.

For more about my travels, also see my main blog EXPEDEVAC
Sunset over the rocks at Punta Negra