It’s 3:30am and we’re both wide awake. A combination of jet lag and excitement. Today’s birding will not involve a huge number of species but it will be our first major blitz on the Peruvian endemics. We travel north to a unique habitat. The coastline up north is like the Namibian coastline. It is dry and barren, but there is a weird microclimate at Lomas de Lachay where the mist rolls inland and condenses in the sandy hills occasionally transforming the landscape into something more reminiscent of the hills that surround Heidi as she yodels. That’ll be our search area (As you can see in the pic below, it was dry and barren when we were there).
I won’t name any targets as that’ll jinx them. Also, it’s a long list and my fingers are a bit fat for typing that much.
We then head back south and start working our way inland and up in altitude. We have two days to acclimatize to the really high day on Wednesday when we peak at 4800m, looking for the world’s top wader. This is definitely not one I would like to risk jinxing as it is one of the main reasons we picked Peru so you’ll have to be kept in suspense.
Hopefully there’ll be a post later when I can tell you that we saw everything we wanted to.
We have just arrived at Santa Eulalia after leaving Lima at 5am this morning and travelling here via Lomas de Lachay. That’s a bit like saying we travelled from Cape Town to Swellendam via Lambert’s Bay.
It was a very low species count today but what mattered is that we got a few very specific birds in the bizarre habitat in the desert to the north of Lima. I like to use comparatives as it helps me to explain, so I would say that today’s scenery was very similar to the Brandberg Mountains in west-central Namibia. Completely barren sandy plains are surrounded by imposing rocky mountains. There was hardly a smidgen of vegetation anywhere, with the exception of a few desert adapted plants.
Our first stop was in a blind valley in amongst the mountains with large phallic-shaped cacti (cactuses?) dotted on the hillside (if any of my children don’t know what “phallic” means please ask your mother).
Unsurprisingly, our first target was a bird called a Cactus Canastero. It is a tough Peruvian endemic and it was our first endemic of the trip. Non-birders wouldn’t have given it a second glance as it is a proper LBJ (little brown job) but I spent a good hour clambering the hillside trying to get a photo. As a result, my watch tells me I climbed 40 floors today.
We had a magnificent breakfast in the valley, prepared by Julio, who turns out to be a wonderful chef. It was one of the best moments of the trip for me so far, sitting on foldout chairs in an absolutely silent valley, enjoying a fresh fruit salad and a home-brewed cup of coffee.
We then spent the next 4 hours in Lomas de Lachay looking for other really special birds. Our species count was 13. Yes, 13. But quality was important this morning, not quantity, and our list included Least Seedsnipe, Peruvian Thick-knee and Coastal Miner (endemic). Garret was dialled in and basically spotted every single good bird we saw today. I was quite the opposite, being a complete passenger, benefitting from his sharp eyes.
Coastal Miner (endemic)
After another wonderful meal from Julio (his cooler boxes seem to have an endless supply of breakfast and lunch provisions) we headed south and then east to Santa Eulalia. Traffic was mayhem but probably a normal day on the roads in Peru.
Santa Eulalia is at about 1150m and our “hotel” is a peaceful and beautiful little property in a gorge surrounded by dry, barren mountains. We had time for a quick walk around and found a Peruvian Pygmy Owl and our third endemic for the day – Black-necked Woodpecker. This time I actually spotted the bird so I can finish the day slightly less than completely useless.
Black-necked Woodpecker (endemic)
- Total day birds – 36 (yes, very low, but high quality)
- Total trip birds – 75
- Mike lifers – 14
- Garret lifers – 10
- Bird of the day – Cactus Canastero (the woodpecker was a very close second)
Click here for Day 3