Day 3. 27 Nov 2022. Road to Chavin de Huantar
On our third day of our Birding Huascaran National Park scouting trip we explored the road to Chavín. It is an exciting day because it is the first day inside the National Park itself, and we expect to see a lot lot of new birds. Also, Huascarán National Park is also famous for its magnificent landscapes. Additionally, we plan to spend some time visiting the Chavín de Huantar archaeological site, one of the most important historic sites of the Peruvian Andes.
After an early but delicious breakfast at the hotel, we took the road south of Huaraz. After about half an hour drive we were at a type of habitat that looked good for our still missing Bronze-tailed Comet. At first, we only had a few common birds like Rusty Flowepiercer and Giant Hummingbird. Then, a smaller hummingbird moved among the Eucalyptus and Agave flowers. After several minutes chasing it, we finally managed to have good views of the bird. It was the Comet, feeding on the Agaves and posing for us to enjoy. With the first target of the day in the pocket, we went back on the road, with a great smile on our faces.
Inside the national park, our first birding stop was at lake Querococha. It is a very popular stop on the road to Chavin, mainly because of its beautiful landscapes, and to get some snacks and coffee.
There, we did a short hike to the opposite shore of the lake, away from the tourists. The habitat here is grass, with scattered bushes and some Polylepis trees.
The first birds to welcome us were a few Andean Geese, a couple of Crested Ducks and Yellow-billed Teals, and a Black-crowned Night-heron.
Then, when we reached the grasslands on the opposite shore, we had a few unique birds. First, we had flashes of a brownish, ovenbird-like passerine, mostly walking on the ground, and making short flights from one clump of grass to another. The bird made us walk quite a bit, chasing it, trying to get a decent view. But the bird kept hide low, moving among the grasses. While walking we had the chance to see other good birds: Black-crested Tit-tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-tyrant, a Rufous-webbed Bush-tyrant that flew above our heads, and a couple of the endemic Striated Earthcreeper.
On our way back to the car we finally could had good views of the mystery ovenbird: it was a Buff-breasted Earthcreeper. And on that slope we could hear at least four of them.
We got back on the road to Chavin after a few minutes delay for snacks and restroom at one of the two small cafeterias that are near the lake.
A few minutes later, we found a good patch of bushes, so we decided to stop and take a look at it. This quick stop turned out to be quite rewarding. In a few minutes we had several d’Orbigny’s Chat-tyrants, along with Brown-bellied Swallows, Tit-like Danis, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, and Plain-colored Seedeater.
The eastern slope
After having crossed the Kahuish mountain pass (located at 14,700 feet) we entered the Rio Marañon basin, on the easter slope of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. We were still at high elevation and the habitat was the same than on the western slope: large patches of Polylepis among the grassland.
We stopped at the most accessible patch of forest by the road. The forest itself wasn’t very bird productive. But the grasses and bushes around it were fantastic for birding. We had a couple of good hummingbirds: Shining Sunbeam and Blue-mantled Thornbill. We also had our first Ancash Tapaculo of the trip. Tapaculos are secretive birds, but with some effort we managed to have a couple of “not too bad” pictures of this endemic.
Again, the Buff-breasted Earthcreeper was very common in the area, along with Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Tit-like Dacnis, and Stripe-headed Antpitta. But we also had great views of a Streaked tit-spinetail, one of our main targets of the trip.
The town of Chavin de Huantar
We lost altitude as we approached Chavin de Huantar. The habitat changed into agricultural fields surrounded by Eucalyptus trees. At 11,400 feet we encounter a large flock of White-collared Swifts. We estimated at least 200 of them flying above us. We also had a couple of Andean Swifts in that same area.
The birding morning past by very quickly. After a well deserve late lunch in town, we switched to “cultural mode” for the visit to the archeological site.
Chavin de Huantar was a place of worship, an important religious center believed to have been constructed around 1500 B.C. Although some archaeologists believe it could be older, and the cradle of all Andean religions. The site is a complex of terraces, squares and underground structures. The most impressive artifacts are the “tenon heads”, like the one you can see in the picture below; and the “Chavin Lanzón”, a massive stone sculpture located in an underground tunnel. Unfortunately, taking photos of the Lanzón is prohibited !
If you want to know more about Chavín, please visit https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/330/
The way back to Huaraz
Chavin de Huantar is the farthest point the road to Chavin de Huantar took is today. We did not have many bird species today, but the ones we had were exceptional. We were back in lake Querococha at around 05:00 PM, with perfect light for landscape photography.
While driving, we enjoyed the fantastic scenery of the Cordillera Blanca glaciers. It was already dark when we arrived to the hotel in Huaraz, but we were more than happy with the extraordinary birding and cultural experiences.
Tomorrow we will explore the road to Punta Olímpica, northeast of the small town of Carhuaz. Our highest point tomorrow will be at 11,150 feet.
If you have missed the previous posts of this trip report, please visit:
You can read the day 4 of this trip report here:
Wilson Díaz – Green Tours Perú