Friday, 3 August 1984

PERU August 1984: Coastal Peru

30 July- 3 August 1984:  Coastal Peru
Our relief at getting back to the Central Highway was somewhat tempered by the cars braking rather wildly and we suspected we had burnt out the pads coming down the mountain road.  Also one of the wheels only seemed to be loosely connected to the axle so a return to the airport to change it for another Beetle was necessary.

We spent the next days birding at various sites along the coast, sleeping on the beach or in cheap hotels.  At Puente San Perdo, and excellent area for Least Seedsnipe, Peruvian Thick-knee, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Lesser Nighthawk and Burrowing Owl, we managed to get the car stuck in sand.  Taking part of a matted roof off what we thought was a derelict kiosk to provide some traction didn’t go down too well with the owner when he appeared just as we’d got the car out.  An earlier arrival and he could have helped us but as it was we were able to get drive away without being ransomed. 

Least Seedsnipe at Puente San Pedro
almost wiped out by chemical degrading
Tawny-throated Dotterel at Puente San Pedro
we saw loose flocks of 10, 12 and 13 one day 
Peruvian Thick-knee at Puente San Pedro
another excellent species that was easy to see at this site with 30-35 seen each day 
Lesser Nighthawk at Puente San Pedro, one day we saw 8 roosting
Burrowing Owl at Puente San Pedro
one of four seen here
Driving back north to Ventanilla, at about midnight we were stopped by police and our car commandeered to take what we assumed was a pregnant girlfriend to hospital, at least that is what we thought was going on.  With only space for 4 in the car I was left standing by the road with one of the cops while the other and the hysterical girl went off with Nick and Mike.  I'm not sure who of us got the short straw there, but the poor girl had clearly drawn it at some stage.  I remember walking down the road  with the cop under an amazing starlit sky attempting to make small talk (not one of my strengths at the best of times!) in my very limited Spanish. Under those circumstances it seemed to take an absolute age for Nick and Mike to return, and I was obviously quite relieved when they finally did!  We saw Wren-like Rushbird and a few waders, including Andean Lapwing, at Ventanilla but I’m not sure it was worth the hassle.  What definitely was worth the hassle was the amazing Short-tailed Field Tyrant at San Antonio back south down the coast on the way to Paracas.

Short-tailed Field Tyrant habitat at San Antonio
Paracas was much anticipated although the boat trip to the guano rich Islas Balestas was somewhat disappointing as it was an El Nino year and seabird numbers had crashed.  We saw thousands of Peruvian Boobies and Pelicans, 50 Inca Terns, 12 Peruvian Diving Petrels but only one Humbolt Penguin and no albatrosses or petrels.  Our first Andean Condor was seen on the cliffs at Paracas and a wintering Puna Plover further along the coast was excellent.  It was eclipsed however by a stunning Rufous-chested Dotterel on nearby Pisco Marsh, probably one of the most northerly records at that time and a very unexpected surprise.  While at Paracas Nick tried a bit of off-roading but one rather rash manoeuvre resulted in us becoming airborn for far longer than I was comfortable with (i.e. more than about 2 seconds!) after he drove flat out up and over a large dune.  Feeling I was getting higher than the bonnet as we came down the other side wasn’t the most comfortable sensation and I remember insisting we stop short of the next hill so I could check that there was another side to it – but then I always did have a nervous disposition.  On the way back to Lima we stopped on the Pan-American Highway at El Tio but this was disappointing although Parrot-billed Seedeater was my 70th new bird of the trip.  In Lima we met up with Barry Walker and headed for the Central Highway.
approaching Islas Ballestas
old guano workings on Islas Ballestas
Sea Lions
seabirds on Paracas pier
Chilean Flamingos on the coast near Paracas
Chilean Skua at Paracas
Band-tailed Gull at Paracas
Kelp Gulls at Paracas
Grey Gulls on the beach at Paracas, superb
almost better in flight than on the ground
Peruvian Tern at Paracas
wintering Puna Plover on the beach near Paracas
Coastal Miner near Paracas
Nick off-roading at Paracas, I decided to sit this one out ...
the coast at Paracas
a much younger me at Paracas, I've not shaved since ...
Hudsonain Whimbrel
Blackish Oystercatcher
Surf Cinclodes
Inca Terns on the cliffs at Paracas
we saw about 250 one day
they fully lived up to expectations
Rufous-chested Dotterel at Pisco Marsh, unexpectedly further north than its usual winter range

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