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PERU BIRDING: Cuzco to Lima
4–11 September 1999
Robin Brace and I arranged to join Gunnar Engblom on a collecting expedition in Bosque Ampay, after our fieldwork in Beni, Bolivia. In the event Gunnar was too busy to come, but sent his van / minibus, driver and assistant Goyo to meet us at Cuzco. As he insisted the vehicle had to be back in Lima by 10th, we only had time to visit Bosque Ampay and the Apurímac Valley, spending the rest of the time driving to Lima with some birding stops. Bosque Ampay was good, meriting longer than we had available, but the Apurímac Valley was disappointing. Our final day was spent going up to Marcapomacocha Road, with Gunnar and Mikko Pyhala, returning down the Santa Eleulia Road.
Flew La Paz to Cuzco, arriving 10.30. Met by Goyo, rang Gunnar to confirm arrangements and accept his price of $380 for the trip to Lima. Bought provisions and left town at 13.45 for Abancay. Good road most of way but reached major road-works at 17.00; unable to proceed past the tranca till 18.00. Birded scrubby hillside there at c.3500m:-
Long slow climb on bad road, passing Huanipaca turn on right at 18.30 - had intended to go to Huanipaca to visit the good humid forest 1hr further on where Spectacled Bear was said to be common, but decided time was too short. Reached Abancay at 20.00, night at basic Hostal Residencial Leonidas; good chicken and chips nearby.
05.30 start, to Bosque Ampay entrance in error then back to church in town where we left our bags with the nuns, returned to Ampay, birded in eucalypts and scrub below HQ at Goyo's insistence, with little reward. Spent rest of day walking up to Laguna Chica, through podocarpus forest to Laguna Grande, then back down the main trail to the HQ, arriving at 17.00. The most interesting bird was the undescribed species of tapaculo, a form of Andean (see Fjeldsa & Krabbe, 1990) which responded well to play-back, others included:-
Shining & White-tufted Sunbeams
Apurímac & Creamy-crested Spinetails
Undulated & Stripe-headed Antpittas heard
Rufous-breasted & White-browed Chat-Tyrant
Cinereous & White-browed Conebills
Plumbeous, Peruvian, Mourning & Band-tailed Sierra-Finches
Another night at Hostal Residencial Leonidas, spoilt by a nearby loud disco on the go till at least 03.00.
05.15 departure straight to the Ampay HQ, walk to L Chica and through the podocarpus to 3500m, for another attempt to see the undescribed thistletail and Taphrospilus hummingbird, but without success. More good views of the tapaculo and an unidentified short-billed hummer with striking white patch on rump and lower back – later realised this must be an imm. male Purple-backed Thornbill (as mentioned in Fjeldsa & Krabbe but not B of W, vol 5). Other new sp. were
Back to HQ at 13.00, soup lunch, to Abancay, departing at 14.30 for Río Apurímac. Passed the site where Peruvian Pygmy-Owl and a new otus sp. were caught by Pedro Hocking and Gunnar, but little chance of seeing either. Stopped at town for hour to repair suspension and eat, then night drive till 22.30 when reached the Río at Pasaje (1125m); comfortable night in van.
05.30-07.00 birded scrub and fields:-
Then Goyo said best birding was on other side of river. After breakfast, hairy crossing of river on cable platform, walk along very dusty road, then lift in back of truck to 1500m at 09.00. Walked back down canyon, well-vegetated at first but by 10.00 too hot and dry for any activity. An all-black eagle circled, called and perched on cliff face – probably an imm. Buzzard-Eagle, an antbird called from thick undergrowth and a spinetail / canastero with some rufous plumage was flushed, but the only notable birds identified were Mitred Parakeet, Pearly-vented Tody-tyrant and Mountain Cacique. Returned to van.
15.45 crossed river again and walked up to the canyon to 1420m, staying till dusk to try to see the pygmy-owl, noted as common by Gunnar. No evidence of owls till late dusk when 1 called briefly and eventually a total of 5 were heard in the dark but none seen. River crossing in the dark was scary; another quiet night in the van.
05.00 start, up the mountain side in the van to 1600m, then more stops as we continued upwards, but
Black-tailed Trainbearer was only new sp. Ground-tyrants, etc started to show from 2100m, with a single Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, while at 2620m White-winged Black-Tyrant and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch were seen but no Taczanowski's Tinamou. Finally reached civilisation at Andahuayas at 14.00, then over a 4100m pass to Chinchero (2830m) at 17.00, where we stayed at the cheap Hotel Don José which served a good chicken.
Had intended to visit Huaccama, good for hummers including Fire-throated Metaltail according to Clements, until discovered it was a 2 hour journey above Chinchero.
Another 05.00 start on the main road to Ayacucho. A chance stop at 08.00 on climbing out of the Río Pampa valley at 2500m in a roadside area of cacti and mesquite (?), 5km before Chumbes gave:-
At 10.00 saw Andean Tinamou at 3650m, then stopped to check lakes and bog at 4000m:-
Further on along the rough road were Puna & Slender-billed Miners, Cordilleran Canastero, Cinereous Ground-Tyrant and Ash-breasted & Mourning Sierra-Finches. Reached Ayacucho at 15.30, and Gunnar on phone after numerous engaged attempts. Good road towards Pisco, camped below Jatun Pampa at 50km beyond Ayacucho at 18.00.
05.45 freezing cold, wasted some time looking for Clements' Pale-tailed Canastero site, supposedly 47-55Km from Ayacucho. Further on, above fish farm and river bridge, stopped at area of cacti and bushes at 3600m, and eventually found Pale-tailed & Cordilleran Canasteros and Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant. At Apacheta Pass (4700m) had Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe and an elusive shrike-tyrant where Clements had reported White-tailed. At noon stopped at Km124 by hillside covered in red-flowering bushes at 3340m:-
Dropped down to Huaytara, Km112 at 2750m, then reached the coastal road near Pisco at 14.00 and Lima at 19.00, but took nearly an hour to find Gunnar's flat. Left van and he took us in his Landrover to Casa Rodriguez (20soles).
Today's trip to the Marcapomacocha Road and back down Santa Eleulia Road was the reason why we had to rush back to Lima. We had been to Marcapomacocha before and there was only one other client, Mikko Pyhala……. The 06.00 start became 06.30 as Gunnar was late arriving and we then lost time finding the way out of Lima. The bog was reached at 10.00 and a flighty Diadamed Sandpiper-Plover located, along with Black-breasted Hillstar and Olivaceous Thornbill. Continued to the White-bellied Cinclodes site at 4600m where found I was too ill to walk around, due to a combination of food-poisoning and the high altitude. The others took a long time to find the Cinclodes. Further on came Puna Tinamou, before the next long stop at a patch of polylepis near the start of Santa Eleulia Road. Birds here included Condor, Black Metaltail and Titlike Dacnis, while the others spent a long time higher up, with Striated Earthcreeper the only new bird. My humour was not improved by realising that with so much time gone we would be too late to look for White-tailed Shrike-tyrant, Black-necked Woodpecker and Peruvian Sheartail lower down, the only reason I came on the trip. Torrent Duck, Aplomado Falcon and Scrub Blackbird were the only notable species we saw during the long run down. Lima was reached at 20.00, then Gunnar took me to the airport at 21.30 for my flight home.
Comments on sites
This fine park holds the local Apurímac Spinetail, the undescribed S.megallanicus-type tapaculo and thistletail (both featured in Fjeldsa & Krabbe), and an apparent new Taphrospilus hummingbird which has only been seen twice. There is also talk of a new antpitta and the possibility of the tapaculo, that sounds like Peruvian Rufous-vented Scytalopus femoralis, being a new taxon. The main reason for the protected area is the presence of a sizeable stand of podocarpus forest, rare in these parts, but locals were seen cutting down podocarpus trees for firewood. Both tapaculos occur within the forest, the hummer was on the lower edge but the thistletail has been reported from lower down (G. Engblom) and higher up (J. Clements).
Access is unrestricted, the entrance being on the northwestern edge of Abancay, but it is several km upwards before the HQ building is reached and interesting habitat begins. The track to the HQ is drivable with care in a standard vehicle and could probably be reached by taxi. No food or drink is available but there is a good camp-site, without facilities, in the forest, just beyond L. Chica.
Some 20km SW of Abancay, two owl species occur in farmland with scattered trees and bushes. An undescribed Otus and a Glaucidium were caught at night here. The Glaucidium is peruanum, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, but a different species from the well-known Pacific slope form which will be described under a different name (Birds of the World, 5).
As we discovered, it takes a long time to reach this major river. We later learnt that the mountains beyond are the home of dangerous terrorists. The patchy dry forest in the valley is virtually unexplored but is known to hold Glaucidium peruanum. Mitred Parakeet and White-tipped Dove are common but could be of undescribed forms. A road bridge is under construction at present which on completion will give easy access to the other side where the well-vegetated canyon we briefly visited could hold something new. According to Gunnar, there is good unexplored humid forest some 2 hours further on. There are occasional buses and trucks to both sides of the bridge but you would need to be patient to travel this way.
This trip was ”inspired” by Gunnar, although I am not sure whether to thank him for it. I certainly will thank Goyo and Juvenal, the excellent driver / mechanic, who both did their best to make it a success. Indeed, considering much of the area is poorly known and classed as unsafe till recently, we were fortunate in having a trouble-free trip.
Jon Hornbuckle October 1999
SYSTEMATIC LIST OF BIRDS at Bosque Ampay
Taxonomy, names and sequence based on Birds of the World: A Checklist by JF Clements (1991 plus updates).
Plain-breasted Hawk Accipiter ventralis 1 on 5th
Mountain Caracara Phalcoboenus megalopterus 2
Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus 1 on 6th, with an unidentified small buteo on 5th
Puna Hawk Buteo poeciliochrous 1 on 6th
American Kestrel Falco sparverius 1
Andean Lapwing Vanellus resplendens 1
Band-tailed Pigeon Columba fasciata Few
Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata Few
Mitred Parakeet Aratinga mitrata 27
Andean Parakeet Bolborhynchus orbygnesius 35-40 on 6th
Sparkling Violetear Colibri coruscans Few
Shining Sunbeam Aglaeactis cupripennis 2
White-tufted Sunbeam Aglaeactis astelnaudii 4
Mountain Velvetbreast Lafresnaya lafresnayi 1 on 5th
Sword-billed Hummingbird Ensifera ensifera 1 on 5th
Andean Hillstar Oreotrochilus estella Few
Black-tailed Trainbearer Lesbia victoriae 2
Tyrian Metaltail Metallura tyrianthina Few
Purple-backed Thornbill Ramphomicron microrhynchum 1 or 2 imm. male
Andean Flicker Colaptes rupicola 2
Bar-winged Cinclodes Cinclodes fuscus 10
Apurímac Spinetail Synallaxis courseni 2 + 6 heard
Creamy-crested Spinetail Cranioleuca albicapilla 10
Rusty-fronted Canastero Asthenes ottonis 1 + few heard
Streak-throated Canastero Asthenes humilis 2 on 5th
Straight-billed Earthcreeper Upucerthia ruficauda 2 on 5th
Pearled Treerunner Margarornis squamiger 1 on 6th
Undulated Antpitta Grallaria squamigera 3 heard
Stripe-headed Antpitta Grallaria andigena 2-3 heard
Apurímac Tapaculo Scytalopus species nov. 1 + 5 heard
Peruvian Rufous-vented Tapaculo Scytalopus femoralis 2 heard
Red-crested Cotinga Ampelion rubrocristata 10
Tufted Tit-Tyrant Anairetes parulus 4
Crowned Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca frontalis spodionota 4
Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant Ochtoeca rufipectoralis 10
White-browed Chat-Tyrant Ochthoeca leucophrys 6
Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola alpina 5
Rufous-webbed Tyrant Polioxolmis rufipennis 1 on 5th
White-capped Dipper Cinclus leucocephalus 1 on 5th
Great Thrush Turdus fuscater Several
House Wren Troglodytes aedon Common
Brown-bellied Swallow Notiochelidon murina 10
Hooded Siskin Carduelis magellanica Several
Spectacled Whitestart Myioborus melanocephalus 2
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis Common
Rufous-eared Brush-Finch Atlapetes rufigenis 1
White-browed Conebill Conirostrum ferrugineiventre 2 on 5th
Cinereous Conebill Conirostrum cinereum 10
Rust-and-yellow Tanager Thlypopsis ruficeps 4
Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager Delothraupis castaneoventris 2
Fawn-breasted Tanager Pipraeidea melanonota 1
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch Phrygilus unicolor 2
Peruvian Sierra-Finch Phrygilus punensis Several
Mourning Sierra-Finch Phrygilus fruticeti Few
Band-tailed Sierra-Finch Phrygilus alaudinus Few
Band-tailed Seedeater Catamenia analis Several
Black-throated Flowerpiercer Diglossa brunneiventris 2
Rusty Flowerpiercer Diglossa sittoides 1 on 5th
Plush-capped Finch Catamblyrhynchus diadema 1 on 6th
Golden-billed Saltator Saltator aurantiirostris 6