Sunday, November 1, 2009

Peru: Day 8 – Struggling to find a mixed flock

Our second full day in the mid-elevation cloud forests was a struggle. We had already pretty much seen all the easy things. Now all we needed for some excitement was a busy mixed flock with tanagers, flycatchers, a special little arboreal wren…

But it was not to be had. We walked a lot of road, followed up on some chipping notes here and there, scanned distant tree tops, and we found one mostly uncooperative mixed flock. I figured that the birds were busy building nests, incubating eggs, or feeding young, considering that this might be a later breeding season than normal.

Yet we did have some fine bird sightings. In that one mixed flock was a gorgeous Orange-eared Tanager and some super red White-winged Tanagers. Just down the road, a Brown Tinamou singing very close to the road had me turn down my digital recorder setting to very low. We also heard Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail way down the valley from here, and a Chestnut-breasted Wren singing close behind a thicket was just as impossible to see. Great to hear such a superb song though. A Tawny-breasted Flycatcher was also a nice find.

One of the more cooperative birds was this Double-toothed Kite.

The roads here have the kilometers marked on rocks painted by the roadside, with updated markers every 20 meters. This is Km 151, with the “+50” indicating 500 meters.

Our hotel these two nights is the Cock of the Rock Lodge, where flowers and feeders attract some great hummingbirds. We had some relaxing time at the deck here, watching Many-spotted Hummingbirds and an exquisite Wire-crested Thorntail.

The heavy overcast in the morning (after the rain stopped only one hour into the day) was great for huge numbers of close-flying White-collared and Chestnut-collared Swifts.

The overcast weather kept butterfly activity low, but a few things did eventually appear, including several kinds of clearwings. These are notoriously difficult to identify, and someday I’ll find the time to tease apart the genera by looking closely at the hindwing venation on these.

This is Altinote anaxo, a slow-flying butterfly that must not mind cool weather.

I also whiled away the birdless moments by looking more closely at plants on the roadside. One of the participants and I both thought “Galinsoga” when looking at this tiny composite; François knows the genus as an invasive weed in France, and I’ve keyed it out as a wildflower in Arizona. Could this be the same?

The leaves of this composite reminded me of Pectis, but it’s probably something quite different.

This is a Gurania, a tropical member of the cucumber family.

We finished the day with a Rufescent Screech-Owl just a half mile above our lodge.

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