BirdingMachupicchuBirding at Machupicchu - Abra Malaga - Huacarpay lake 3 Days Birding

10 noviembre, 2012by Wild Watch Peru0

Indeed, welcome to the wonderful world of  Cusco and Machupicchu which  is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the world and also a great locations for watching birds in the south of Peru. In this blog, I will share reports of the birding here, descriptions of places and some information that may be useful to the visiting birder, photographs and naturalists.

The following blog covers a birding trip to the fantastic surroundings of cusco and Machupicchu,  our basic itinerary was 3 days  and we visited a number of sites , Huacarpay Lagoon, Abra Malaga , Machupicchu. I have been  fortunate to be teamed with Cristian Junneman a Chilean Birder and explorer who recently visited  Peru.

This is  a short  trip through high mountain valleys carved from powerful rushing rivers, a trip into high Andean grasslands and, most of all, a trip through history. It is, by all accounts, a region of colorful markets and of remarkable people dressed in distinctive but regionally varied clothing. Women carry babies, wrapped in bright blankets, on their backs. Men with broad sandal-clad feet, bent under heavy loads, move with a quick shuffling gait, all amidst majestic ruins, ancient terraces, rimmed valleys, and beside puna lakes shimmering beneath blueskies. Our route took us through cold valleys where dawn comes slowly to restless hummingbirds fleeing retreating shadows in endless pursuit of flowers.

The combination of birds, scenery, and history is incomparable on this trip. The ruins, as always, remain impressionable, mysterious, and evocative—the more so perhaps because so little is known of their origins, and because of the breathtaking location. The ruins of Machu Picchu are indeed one of the world’s great travel destinations, but they are, in themselves, just a brief chapter in a long and fascinating history of human occupation of the Urubamba river valley.

We picked up them from their hotels early and we drove to the south, Our morning  birding walk  took place at the Huacarpay Lake.


Day 1 Huacarpay 

There is a collection of interesting species found in the area including most of the aquatic birds; Andean Coots, Common Moorhens,  puna teals  , yellow billed pintail, masked duck, cinnamon teal, among others, this lake is  surrounded by reeds  where some birds appears easy to see such as; yellow winged black bird, wren-like rushbird and the colorfull Many colored rushtyrant.

The  wild Tobacco shrubs growing around the lake are very effective  to attract the hummingbirds in the area as Giant Hummingbird and Sparkling Violetear , it was fascinating  to watch our first endemic a couple of  bearded mountaineers just at the edge of the road and  having great  chances for pictures.

A good-sized Black Chested Buzzard Eagle flew by while we were observing some eared doves and few minutes later the American Kestrel flew across, as the temperature was raising up we took  a break going  the nearby town  called Lucre, this was just an unproductive visit, my favorite ice-cream shop have been closed for a while.

The second greatest avian highlight after the Hummingbird was our successful endemic rusty fronted canastero, some individuals were active by the cactus forest around  Urpicancha, the Spanish names it sounded more familiar to Cristian, as few birds names can be  used in both countries, obviously I have to remember most of the common names, as I could say;   pitajos, churretes,bandurias, taguas, etc…. afterwards we did a walk around the other site of the lake looking for more birds in the  mashes; black necked stilt, greater and lesser yellow legs, cormorans and andean gulls and looking  for some “Colegiales” as the Andean negrito are locally called in Chile, not seen it any that morning, then we turned around  to Cusco for lunch an giving end for our day trip.

giant hummingbird seen during a day birding in Cusco

Day 2 Abra Malaga;

Earlier that day, we awoke before dawn and driving along the sacred valley once at Ollantaytambo the road goes climbing the mountain to traipse the summit (Abra Malaga)

Observing the bird life at high elevations commonly seen; tyrants, sierra finches, Cinclodes and raptors, a menagerie of high elevation specialists such as Andean Gulls and yellow billed teal on the pound. The sunrise was impressive at that high, which made for good photo subjects of the glaciers and the landscapes below it.

Initially the weather was warming up, a sunny  day!!, I said, obviously was still early to forecast the weather, anyway that was something unusual to me, as we were passing across theAbra Malaga, (4´350 masl) a blanket of clouds suddenly were covering our sights and having our first stop, where we got  evidences of the Mountain Wren and sounds of the  trilling tapaculo  and our first glimpses of the Tyrian metaltail and rufous breasted chat-tyrant.

erhaps it was a good birding spot once the thick clouds came across, as we have been lucky to find a mixed species flock in the understory of  bamboo forest, at the beginning a couple of  Unstreaked tit-tyrant were perching on the bamboo stalks and followed by Marcapata Spinetails moving in the forest interior, we made some whistling which finally produced great result bringing out   an  Inca Wren, the bird attention was soon peaked and began loudly crying back, it´s still provided the best bird encounter of the morning.
I had a chance to be birding at this site before  but  I had not been lucky to spot at least 3 endemics species  in such small patch, Other highlights included the Rufous Antpitta, the bird was really close to the road and camouflaged  in a isolated bush and we were  looking for the best angle to see it, afterwards we accomplished having seen  the bird successfully without much effort  and  no using any device to call it, after this we were so happy,  then we took  a break having  taste a local coffee while the  antpittas and trilling Tapaculo were still calling nearby.

We  were also in glorious bloom in the cloudforests up there, were very satisfied observing a mixed species flock despite the lower and abundant mist, some spotted  birds were ; spectacled redstar, pearled treerunner,  Scarlet bellied, blue capped, fawn breasted tanagers, drab, black capped and superciliared  Heminpigus, citrine warblers, blue backed conebill, amethyst throated sunangel, violet  throated starfrontlet, sapphire vented puffleg, and much more birds flying and accompanying the flocks by the  upper level of the forest, making it  kind of hard to spot accurately due the dense clouds, we moved lower near to San Luis, then  turning  around to the summit. Unluckily we could not accomplish to visit  the polilepys forest, Cristian got a sore leg and we were unable to visit that  section of the Mountains, which required  at least a couple of hours walking little bit up and downhill’s, otherwise we could be fortunate  to see the polilepys specialist and endemics there, surely next time.

While driving back to Ollamtaytambo we spotted red crested cotinga, perched on the tree along the road,  we walked  continuously to farmers plots where we have been on time to spot missing birds to our list; Chestnut breasted mountain finch, Peruvian sierra finch, yellow billed tit-tyrant, shining sunbeam, Andean flickers, band tailed seedeater, black throated flower piercer.

Continuously  we stopped at “ Las Peñas”  a number of others birds  had also reported at this site (recently Orange breasted Falcon) our main target bird here was White tufted sunbeam, this was another active and vibrant area, having seen then the Great Sapphirewing, a small flock of Andean parakeets, rust and yellow tanager, plain colored seedeater, mustached flower piercer,  as far as variety and abundance of birds was good, this was the last stop  for the day trip and giving us excellent views and arriving to Ollantaytambo on time to board our train to Machupicchu.


Day 3 Machupicchu;

Today the sky looks clouded, just leaving Aguas Calientes at dawn  we  heard   instantly  tropical kingbird and few  dusky green oropendolas  flying across the village, We decided to walk along the railway line in Aguas Calientes . The walk started with some red eyed and brown capped Vireos  and the endemic Green and White Hummingbirds as we were approaching to the tunnels we turned around looking for a path to connect to the main road and having seen our first Torrent duck  just below the road , we have been walking above the brave and fast flowing “Urubamba river”, on the massive pieces of rock some Torrent Tyrannulets and Black phoebes were jumping,  the temperature was comfortable and ideal to  walk  a few kilometers without feeling lethargic instead  walking that early  we could  avoid much crowds and the bird activity was going way better seen; roadside hawk perched, ocellated piculetstreaked xenops, thick billed euphonia, dull colored grassquit, russet crowned warbler, blue and grey tanager among others.

As we looked to the other side of the river, we were able to see something  moving on the canopy  trees, we  quickly adjusted  the spotting scope confirming  a spectacled bear with its cub feeding on fruits, unfortunately  some dogs were barking from the other side of the river,  for instance thebears were not disturbed so far, as were spotting them  considerable time, we saw a lot of tourist going towards the ruins but no one could realize of the presence of the bears until we pointed out to a couple of tourist, that was amazing they said !! It must be one of our lucky days because, we focused on it and keeps trigger our camera shutter to our hearts contents as long the bear family pose for us.
Machupicchu is lush and relatively preserved sanctuary is also the stronghold for this kind of mammals which is highly protected and endangered species, I usually known from very few reported sites in Peru.

Afterward we were glad to be exploring a private garden where we have seen more hummingbirds, Chestnut breasted coronet, sparkling violetear, collared inca, some tanagers; silver backed, golden naped, blue necked, summer, golden olive woodpecker.  This was an excellent mornings birding in any context.
By noon we packed up and we went to visit the archeologycal ruins of Machupicchu and returning to Cusco at Night.

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