Last November we had the visit of our good friend Stephen Shunk, from Paradise Birding, to go birding the Huascaran National Park. Steve uses to come to Peru at least once per year, and this 2022 we wanted to explore the Cordillera Blanca mountain range to see if we can run a tour in 2023 in this magnificent birding area of the country.
Huascaran National Park is located inside the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, the highest mountain range in the tropics. Several snow-capped peaks here are above 20,000 feet, and the highest mountain of the park (and of Peru) is the Huascarán, with an elevation of 22,204 feet.
This scouting trip took us 11 days of travelling, starting in Lima on November 25th, and finishing in the northern city of Trujillo on December 5th. We end up with 184 species, most of them high elevation specialists like Green-headed Hillstar, Olivaceous Thornbill, Ancash Tapaculo, White-cheeked Cotinga, Rufous-eared Brushfinch, among others. We finished the scouting trip with 16 peruvian endemics and 12 near endemics. Since birding tours are long and with a lot of bird activity, we decided to make one blog post per day of the tour, so we will have twelve posts to cover the complete trip report.
Day 1. 25 Nov 2022. Lima to Medio Mundo
We started early this morning, at La Punta main square. La Punta is a quiet, small neighbourhood west of the city of Lima. It is actually a perfect place to start any birding trip in Peru.
While waiting for Steve to show up, we had our first birds of the trip: the typical West Peruvian Doves were everywhere, along with singing Scrub Blackbirds and Rufous-collared Sparrows. We also had at least 100 Blecher’s Gulls flying high in the sky.
As soon as Steve show up we went to the boardwalk near the beach. In a few minutes we encountered the regular Belcher’s and Kelp Gulls, and probably more than a thousand Franklin’s gulls. The Franklin’s gather in large numbers along the Peruvian coast during our summer. We also had great views of flying Inca Terns, Peruvian Boobies (probably the most abundant bird of the Peruvian coast), Peruvian Pelicans, Spotted Sandpiper and a Whimbrel that landed close to us.
Then, we move to Poza La Arenilla, a coastal lagoon a few minutes walk from La Punta main square. In November, La Arenilla is a migrant´´s paradise. Here again, the most abundant birds were the Franklin’s gulls, as you can see in this video:
We also could find American and Blackish Oystercatchers, Black-bellied Plover (though not in its beautiful breeding plumage), Semipalmated Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Elegant Tern, a Grey-headed Gull, and about a hundred Whimbrels.
Then, we had a nice breakfast in one of the many really good bakeries of La Punta. Now, it was time to leave the city and get into the wilderness. We drove north along the Panamerican highway, towards Reserva Lomas de Lachay. This reserve is a birding hotspot in Lima, and we couldn’t miss it before leaving the Pacific coast.
Reserva Lomas de Lachay
After a two hours drive we arrived to Lomas de Lachay. This is a National Reserve, intended to protect the Lomas ecosystem of Peru.
The entrance road to the reserve was quite productive, despite the very few vegetation along the first part of the road. We spent most of our time birding here. First, we were welcome by good sights of the endemic Coastal Miner.
Then, a little further, we spotted a few Least Seedsnipes, a family of Peruvian Thick-knee, and a Burrowing Owl.
Further on, in a habitat with more vegetation, we found Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, an immature Aplomado Falcon, a flock of Mountain Parakeets. On the hummingbird side, we had Peruvian Sheartail, Oasis Hummingbird, and Purple-collared Woodstar.
But the most impressive sight was a vagrant Eastern Kingbird (though there are some other records on eBird). This Kingbird is usually found in Amazonia during this time of the year.
It was almost 02:00 PM when we realized it was getting late. So, we drove back to the highway to get to our next birding spot.
Albufera Medio Mundo
This is a local reserve located in the Huaura province, Lima. Albufera means lagoon, and it is an artificial lake created by the remains of the water from the irrigation channels of the Huaura valley.
We met our local guide Daniel as soon as we got there. After a typical marine lunch, we started to stalk birds along the main trail of the reserve. Around the restaurant we had several House Sparrows and Long-tailed Mockingbirds. Nearby, we also found our first Peruvian Meadowlark for the trip. The first part of the trail has good habitat for Peruvian Pipit, which we chased for a while until we had a decent view. In the same habitat we also had Yellow-hooded Blackbird, and Baird’s and Least Sandpipers. Then, we entered into an area with more dense reeds. Here, we were able to find Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night-herons, Wren-like Rushbird, several Many-colored Rush Tyrants, Grasland Yellow-finch, Greater Yellowlegs, Great, Snowy, and Cattle Egrets, and Cocoi Heron.
The water surface was also very reach in birds. There were lots of Cinnamon Teals, Andean Ducks, Common Moorhens, Andean Coots, Wilson’s Phalaropes, Neotropical Cormorants, among others. However, the most impressive and pleasant sight was the group of six Great Grebes swimming on the water.
It was almost dark when we started to walk back to the car. It was a magnificent first day for the trip.
Today we were still on the Pacific coast, on our way to Cordillera Blanca, which we will enter tomorrow. We spent the night at Albufera Medio Mundo lodge, located not far from the lagoon. Here, a group of Killdeers sang for us all night long.
In the next post we will cover the day long trip from the coast to the highlands of the Huascaran National Park.
Wilson Díaz – Green Tours Perú