Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Villa Rica and Huancayo

As I write this I am in my bed in our hotel in Huancayo, not to be confused with Huanaco, the last city I updated from. We are currently living in the lap of luxury, and only for a measly 80 soles per night, which equates to $13 per person per night, for a nice hotel with cable TV, hot showers, and wifi in the rooms. Gotta love it.
The past few days were spent in a small town called Villa Rica, which was accessed from Huanaco by a 5 hour bus, a 3 hour collectivo, and another 1.5h collectivo. It's a big country with bad roads. Villa Rica was a surprisingly large town for being in the middle of nowhere, with at least a few thousand people living there. It was also at the lowest altitude that we had stayed at so far, at around 1400m (about 4600'), and the habitat there is more upper foothills and lower subtropics, as opposed to the drier high elevations that we had been at. It was great being at low elevations, no altitude sickness of any sort, but of course I couldn't possibly be well for more than a couple days, so I just had to get food poisoning. The main suspect was a juice I got that was mango with milk. I was a bit tentative about the milk anyways, and now I will avoid it like the plague. Plus it didn't even taste good..!
We had two main target birds while at Villa Rica, namely Creamy-bellied Antwren and Scissor-tailed Nightjar, both birds we had no chance for on the rest of the trip. I'm a huge fan of spectacular nightjars, so I was really hoping to be able to get that bird. We went to the spots at dusk where they are supposed to display, and had no luck. Ah well, some other trip I guess. We were more lucky with the Creamy-bellied Antwren, hearing and seeing that Peruvian endemic, but Andrew was unable to get a recording sadly. There were other good birds around too, many of them Andrew had already had in the south when he was here in Peru two weeks before me, but many were new to me. There was a good tanager show overall, with Turquoise, Paradise, Spotted, Blue-necked, Yellow-throated, Silver-backed, Golden-eared, Saffron-crowned, Flame-faced, and Swallow Tanagers leading the charge, along with many Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers, and a couple Scarlet Tanagers. Who knows, maybe I saw the same Scarlet Tanagers this summer in MA? No way to know. Some other nice birds included White-eared Solitaire, a stunning member of its family, and some great marshbirds at the marsh right near town. The marsh is fairly large, and at 1400m is kind of an interesting habitat. We had great luck there in the late afternoon, SEEING at least 5 Rufous-sided Crakes, hearing Blackish Rail, getting to see Least Grebe in flight, and having an interesting elevational record of two Yellow-billed Terns, normally a bird that hangs out in the Amazonian lowlands.
Of course, when I was sick I had to miss a couple birds that I wanted, but that is just a given. Andrew went out birding the afternoon that I was far gone, and had two birds that I was hoping to get, namely Bicolored Hawk and Lanceolated Monklet, which he had a family group of, four in total, so close that he was unable to focus his binoculars. Ah well, you can't get them all.
It was quite rainy down in the Villa Rica area, where it rained two of the three mornings that we were there, letting us get out for dawn chorus only once.
Yesterday we headed to where we are now, Huancayo, via a 1.5h collectivo and then a four hour bus. Pretty unexciting for the most part, but a juvenile Band-bellied Ow roostingl in a banana plantation between Villa Rica and La Merced was a nice thing to see, and a life bird. Now we are waiting to get a rental car to be able to bird the Satipo Road better than we could be able to if we camped, which was the original plan. The Satipo Road is a very interesting place, with the elevational range from 4500m (about 15,000'), to just a few hundred meters (less than a thousand feet), making it a very diverse and interesting place to bird. So interesting in fact, that there are at least three and maybe four species on this road that have yet to be described to science! They are recognized as seperate species, but someone has yet to study and officially describe them. There are also some local Peruvian endemics, such as Black-spectacled Brush-Finch, Fire-throated Metaltail, Eye-ringed Thistletail, and Koepcke's Screech-Owl, in addition to many other good birds.
I doubt I'll have internet access for the next few days, but when we come back to Huancayo after birding the road for 4-5 days I should be able to update again.

Take it easy,

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