Friday, October 8, 2010
Peruvian Paradigms: Pt 1
The chill wind whipped across the nearly barren landscape. Nothing moved or shuddered under it's influence. Most of the plants growing up here were pressed close against the ground. I, being the sole object in its way, had to lean forward slightly to avoid being blown over backwards.
The mountains rose around me like a circle of sentinels, ever watching with a stern impassiveness. The valley fell below me like some deep chasm seeking to pull its known world down into its clutches.
The spectacular scene was lost on its observer however. Ignoring the stunning view, I raised my binoculars and scanned the boggy tundra in front of me. A flash of white caught my eye. White-fronted Ground-tyrant. It was a good bird, but rather drab by the standards I was searching for. I skipped over it moved on to the next bird in line. This one displayed a brown back and a pure white belly. White-bellied Cinclodes. An endemic and certainly a very desirable bird, but since I had spent time observing one at length about an hour earlier, I again skipped over it. Not finding my quarry, I started walking on a heading that took me through the bog in front of me. Hoping to flush something, I hopped and skipped from dry grass to raised lumps of hundred year old moss. Something dark moved in front of me. Excitedly, I raised my binoculars for a closer look. False alarm. It was one of the dirt common Bar-winged Cinclodes. Don't get me wrong, they're cool birds, but once you've seen a thousand of them, they lose some of their interest. I picked my way around the outskirts of the bog trying not to dunk my foot in the frigid water. Some of the small ponds were still covered with a thin layer of ice, still shaded this early in the morning from the harsh sun by a clump of grass or moss. Sunlit areas were bright and shadows were dark in the harsh light making finding birds a bit of a challenge. There were too many places to hide out there. I kept walking.
Stopping to scan again, I noticed a movement in the shadow of a clump of moss. I watched for a minute. Eventually, the bird popped out. It took only a split second to figure out what it was; a long-legged Charadriiforme with a slate-grey back, black and white barred chest and belly, black face, long, weirdly bent bill, rusty-rufous nape, and a thin white diadem encircling it's head.