Day 2. 26 Nov 2022. Medio Mundo to Huaraz
Today, we travelled from the Pacific coast to the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca. Our destination today is Huaraz, our base city for the next two days of birding, located at an elevation of around 10,000 feet.
Huaraz is the entrance gate to the Huascaran National Park. In Huaraz we stayed at the delightful Hotel Andino Club, undoubtedly the best boutique hotel in town (and we would like to thank the owner Mario Holstein for his kind support before and during the scouting trip).
Albufera Medio Mundo
Since yesterday we were birding the lagoon the whole afternoon, we didn’t had he chance to explore the nearby beach and see the birds of the area. The ponds near the shore were brimming with Common Moorhens, Franklin’s and Belcher’s Gulls, Cattle Egrets, a few White-cheeked Pintails, and a lone Yellow-crowned Night-heron. Flying low above the sea we could spot large flocks of Neotropical Cormorants, and Peruvian Pelicans. Before leaving the lodge we still had the chance to enjoy a Peruvian Meadowlark and lots of Long-tailed Mockingbirds in the garden.
The road from the Pacific coast to the mountains of Cordillera Blanca
1. The Fortaleza valley
The quality of services at Medio Mundo lodge turned out to be quite basic. Essentially, cold shower, only three hours of electricity to recharge batteries, and the restaurant was closed.
Obviously, this place is not suited to bring clients, so we decided to check on what was our second lodge option in the area. The lodge is called Hotel El Paraiso, located some ten minutes drive from Nuevo Mundo. Fortunately, the manager was very kind and showed us the hotel and their services without prior notice of our arrival. To our good luck, it turned out to be much better than our first option. You can check their facilities here: elparaisodebarranca.com
The lodge is just outside the city of Barranca, surrounded by agricultural fields. During our way in and out we had some good birds: lots of Croaking Ground-doves, Scrub Blackbirds, Vermillion Flycatcher, and other common birds.
With the lodgment problem solved, we went back on the road, to go from the Pacific coast to the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca. We left the Panamerican highway near the city of Paramonga, and entered the Fortaleza valley. The habitat along the valley is mostly dry, with riparian vegetation and a few agricultural fields. During our short breakfast stop we added Amazilia Hummingbird to the trip list. The bird activity was quite poor as we gained elevation. At 6,500 feet we entered into a less dry habitat, so we decided to stop for some birding. We took a side road before the little town of Raquia, looking for Black-necked Woodpecker and Bronze-tailed Comet. Both species have been reported here, but despite our effors we couldn’t find them. Nevertheless, common species in the area were Purple-collared Woodstar, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, Chiguanco Thrush, Golden Grosbeak, and Band-tailed Seedeater.
After Raquia, birding became difficult, with many stops mainly because of the maintenance workings along the road. No matter how tuff it was to make several non-birding stops, we stayed positive. At around 1:00 PM we were finally able to find a good spot for birding in Inkawaqanqa, a well-known area for high elevation trekking. It was a slope with bushes, at an elevation of 12,400 feet. At first, walking was difficult at this elevation, but when the bird activity started we felt much better. We spent almost one hour here, with great views of Green Headed Hillstar, Black Metaltail, Tyrian Metaltail, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Striated Earthcreeper, Bay-crowned Brushfinch, and lots of Mourning and Ash-breasted Sierra Finches.
3. Conococha lake
We drove some 15 more minutes to arrive to the small town of Conococha. Here, we were at an elevation of 13,450 feet, the highest point for today. Since it was getting late for lunch, we decided to stop at one of the many restaurants of the town. All of them offered typical food from central Peru. We opted for “Pachamanca” wich is beef, pork, potatoes and faba beans, all cooked in a hole digged in the ground, and warmed with previously heated stones and covered with dirt until everything is cooked. It was quite an experience, but we had too much meat for that elevation !!
Some 200 meters from the town is Conococha lake. This was our last planned birding stop for the day. We were amazed by the large number of birds we found there. But it wasn’t not just the number of birds, but also the quality of species. We saw at least 100 Andean Coots, 100 Andean Geese, maybe more than 50 Yellow-billed Teals, and at least 20 Chilean Flamingos. We moved closer to the lake shore, and with the help of the scope, we were able to see more interesting birds in the water: Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Giant Coot, Andean Gull.
It was windy and cold, but it didn’t stop us to keep moving. We found a small creek that came out from the lake, surrounded by a flat area with grasses and small bushes. This habitat looked promising for more high elevation specialists. In fact, we were able to find some cool birds there: Cordilleran Canastero, Andean Negrito, Black Siskin, and Glacier Finch.
The end of the drive
It was around 3:00 PM when we got back in the car, we still had to drive for another two hours to get to the hotel in Huaraz. Our drive from the Pacific coast to the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca was arriving to its end. We added a lot of new species to the list and enjoyed the fantastic scenery of the high Andes,
Once at the hotel, we had a well deserve hot shower, a very nice dinner, and after a couple of good beers we went to rest and get ready for the next days inside the Huascaran National Park.
Tomorrow we will explore the southern part of the park, birding along the road to Chavin de Huantar.
If you have missed the first part of this trip report, please visit https://greentours.com.pe/birding-huascaran-national-park-scouting-trip-report-day-1/
Or you can read the day 3 of the trip report here: https://greentours.com.pe/road-to-chavin-birding-huascaran-national-park-day-3/
Wilson Díaz – Green Tours Perú