Thursday, October 28, 2010

Peruvian Paradigms: Pt 3: Rainforest reminisces Pt 2: 1000 birds and counting

Inca Terns, Callao, Peru
 When I first arrived in Peru, I knew I would break the 1000 mark on the first full day of birding.  I guessed that I would at least break the 1400 mark.  What blew me away was the number of species I actually saw.   I still don't have the exact total, but I'm fairly certain that my life list is now upwards of 1600. That would be nearly 600 species seen in two weeks in Peru, 465 of them in one week. Talk about insane......

The number of species in a single week was so mind blurring that had I not photographed a lot of them I might not even believe that I had seen them.  During the trip, I birded almost every habitat in Peru; from coastal mudflats to beaches to western slope foothills to paramo to Andean bogs to east slope foothills to cloudforest to tropical rainforest and more.

The two Inca Terns above were one of my most wanted birds in Peru. The most elegant of all the Terns, these birds are graceful (if not somewhat chunky) fliers.  The other coastal species I saw were pretty awesome too. Guanay (pronounced "wan-aye") Cormorant, Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, Kelp, Grey, Band-tailed and Andean Gulls, South American Tern, Peruvian Thick-knee, Surfbird, Whimbrel and many other species that were both lifers, and familiar residents in the US.

Of special interest were the members of the Toucan family that I encountered, like this Chestnut-eared Aracari and Blue-banded Toucanet:

Chestnut-eared Aracari, Puerto Maldonado, Peru
Blue-banded Toucanet

Higher up in the Andes,  the stunning Gray-breasted Mountain-toucan takes over:
Gray-breasted Mountain-toucan
Toucans are a family of birds that have no living relatives in the ABA area, so for me, it's always fun to see one of the Toucan family.

Birding the tropical rainforest is always fun. You never know what you're going to see and you can always get a lifer, no matter how long you've spent in one spot.  I actually know someone who spent three months at a single lodge in the Ecuadorian rainforest and got a lifer on his last day.

Rainforest birding is much like birding in Southern AZ in the fall. You spend a lot of time walking the trails looking for mixed flocks. Once you find one, you spend half an hour following it trying to glean out every last species in the group.  Sometimes, there are so many birds in the flock that you don't know which way to look.  There were a few times that I ended up birding with my camera rather than binoculars just to make sure I had a picture of the bird to identify it.  This was necessary, because by the time you saw the bird, got a good look at it, flipped through half the field guide trying to find it, ID it and then look up again, the flock would be gone.   Had I not been birding that way, I would've missed this Peruvian Recurvebill:
Peruvian Recurvebill, Puerto Maldonado, Peru
The bird came zipping through the leaves, landed on the branch for a second, then took off again.  Too short of a time to see the diagnostic bill, but just long enough to snap a shot off.

One of the highlights of the week in the Amazon rainforest was a short trip up the Tambopata River to a small oxbow lake known for being the only place in Peru where one could find Unicolored Blackbird. A bird discovered at the location previously by our guide, Gunnar Engblom, of Kolibri Expeditions.
We did eventually see the Blackbird, though my photo of it is mostly grass and reeds.

Gunnar was pretty happy about getting the Blackbird:

The other inhabitants of the lake provided some better photo ops. This Hoatzin posed quite nicely:

Hoatzin, Puerto Maldonado, Tambopata, Peru
Hoatzins are, perhaps, the wackiest, as well as largest, member of the Cuckoo family; being roughly the size of a small turkey, with their spiky crown and the most insane call of any Cuckoo.

Here is a recording of a Hoatzin from the same area:

Also present on the lake was a bird that I had been hoping we would see.  If you recall last fall, a Sungrebe turned up at Bosque Del Apache in central New Mexico constituting a first US record of an unexpected species.  Fortunately, the bird is far more common in the tropical Amazon and provided us with some great looks:

Sungrebe, Puerto Maldonado, Tambopata, Peru
Other birds seen during the day proved far too numerous to mention.  Along the river, we had two chance sightings of birds that we never saw again. The mystical Bare-necked Fruitcrow in a quick flyby, high above, and the almost comical Red-crested Cardinal sitting on a rock in the middle of the river. Not wanting to get my camera wet (the river boat we were in was slightly more than a long, motorized Canoe...), I missed the chance to photograph either of these species.

Tune in again soon for part 3 of Rainforest Reminisces.


Andrea said...

Those are some incredible birds!! What an adventure. So jealous! :D

dAwN said...

Amazing adventures!Lucky you!