Day 4 | 8 May 2019 | San Mateo to Lima

I was wide awake at 3am and, I won’t lie, I was feeling pretty anxious about the day ahead. After yesterday’s altitude sickness debacle, I was dreading heading back up to 4700m, but I had absolutely no choice – we would be searching for a Diademed Sandpiper-plover.

There, that’s the one. 

It’s such a special wader so they gave it a double-barrelled wader name. It’s an odd little bird that lives exclusively in very high-altitude bogs, in tussocks of vegetation, surrounded by pools of icy alpine-like snow melt water.

It’s also a very attractive bird, which is slightly unusual for a wader, and so the combination of its looks and difficulty in getting to and finding, puts it right at the top. It’s arguably in the top 10 birds of the world, which I don’t believe is an overstatement.

My anxiety didn’t improve much when we stopped at a petrol station to fill up after leaving the motel at 5:30am to hear from the pump attendant that there was a mine strike at the mine on the way to the bog we were going to and the road would probably be closed. This bird was one of the main reasons we had decided on Peru as a destination and I would be devastated to head home without clapping eyes on the little bugger.

My anxiety did ease a bit when we got through all the trucks on the central highway and turned off onto our access road to the bog. The strike was not in full motion yet and the road was still clear.

I say my anxiety eased slightly but I was still petrified of a dry retching and oxygen mask repeat, like yesterday. This time, however, I had prepared well. I had altitude sickness muti in me and, just in case, I’d gulped down a valoid. Mind you, I now had the extra worry that I’d sleep through the whole experience with all those drowsy inducing drugs I’d taken.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, and to save you all the pain of this ongoing suspense, we saw the Diademed Sandpiper-plover within five minutes of arriving at the bog.

Garret and I agreed there and then that it was one of the best birding experiences we’d ever had. I’m sure I’ve said that a lot but this was so special. We found an adult pair and two juvenile birds and I had a whale of a time taking about a thousand pics. And, guess what? There was no need for oxygen or a brown paper bag. We were breathless and a little queasy but I was about ten thousand times better off than yesterday.

Diademed Sandpiper-plover

Diademed Sandpiper-plover

Birding experiences aren’t only about the bird but also about the added bits that go with it and that is why this may have been right up there for me.

Julio had laid the breakfast table overlooking the bog and we returned to freshly brewed coffee and steaming hot cheese and tomato omelettes.


Are you kidding me?!!?

The rest of the birding up on top of that mountain pass was very suitably complimentary to the Sandpiper-plover. It was a low species count but the birds we saw were top notch. Non birders can skip ahead here.

We saw two endemics including the most attractive furnariid – White-bellied Cinclodes – a critically endangered Peruvian endemic. We also wrapped up all the Seedsnipe species in Peru with Grey-breasted and Rufous-bellied and a trio of very hard to see Puna Tinamous that took about an hour and a half out of our day as they’re almost impossible to see, despite their relatively large size and annoyingly repetitive croaking call that seemed to echo off every wall of the valley, making it hard to isolate where it was coming from.

White-bellied Cinclodes (endemic)

White-bellied Cinclodes (endemic)

White-bellied Cinclodes (endemic)

Puna Tinamou

Andean Goose

Cream-winged Cinclodes

Grey-breasted Seedsnipe

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe

Dark-winged Miner (endemic)

White-fronted Ground-tyrant

White-fronted Ground-tyrant

Cinereous Ground-tyrant

White-winged Diuca-finch

Andean Flicker

Andean Flicker

Andean Flicker

Great Horned Owl

Rusty-bellied Bruch-finch (endemic)

Giant Hummingbird

Again, the scenery was otherworldly. I think I saw the army of Winterfell marching to King’s Landing. Or was it Gandalf and Frodo in Middle Earth? Take your pick of epic show biz to picture it. If you can’t, have a look at this pic:

All that was left of the day was the long drive back to Lima. The drive was made longer as the strike eventually closed the central highway and so we had to loop north and then west before getting to some well-earned tar (with one or two road mishaps on the way).

But Lima isn’t known as the worst traffic city in South America for nothing and we hit rush hour on the way in and sat in gridlock for several hours before rolling into our hotel at about 6:45pm.

Another very long birding day but one of the best.

  • Total day birds: 61
  • Total trip birds: 159
  • Total trip endemics: 14 (new category)
  • Mike day lifers: 18
  • Mike total lifers: 123
  • Garret day lifers: 17
  • Garret trip lifers: 101
  • Bird of the day: Diademed Sandpiper-plover

Click here for Day 5