Sunday, December 30, 2012

Birding Rally Challenge Perú 2012 - Part 4

This last episode of the series documenting the Birding Rally Challenge I attended in Peru earlier this month covers the final destination of that mad 6-day birding frenzy: Machu Picchu. 

Fabled travel destination ever since its discovery by American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu also offers fantastic birding. The ruins of the inca city were never discovered by the Spaniards during their conquest, and thus remained relatively intact. It's a lovely, tranquil place which, even though it is visited by many, does not feel crowded.

We arrived there around midnight, after a long day of travel that started in the Amazon rainforest in Madre de Dios, crossing the high Andes by car, then through the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo, where we got on the train to Machu Picchu. Rest and tranquility was just what everyone needed.

But the competing teams had to scour the area for as many birds as they could find — no rest for them! This biome being so different from what we just left, almost any bird we saw there was new for the trip.

Torrent Ducks
The spectacularly plumaged Torrent Duck (now which other bird species has colorful and strikingly different plumages for both sexes?) was definitely a highlight for me. They are relatively common on the river that runs through the high peaks around Machu Picchu.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet
Lovely is also this Chestnut-breasted Coronet. As before in the Amazon, we were the guests of Inkaterra, which has the most beautiful (and also most expensive) hotel in town, in the garden of which this species is easily observed.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock is another classic bird from the area. Someone alerted us to this nest on the other side of the river, on a rock wall just a few meters above the torrents of the river.

Blue-and-white Swallows
Blue-and-white Swallows were common birds on the ancient inca monument.

In the end, the team from LSU ("Tigrisomas") won the competition, with 493 species tallied in just 6 days of birding. I did not see quite that many birds, but this impressive number does bring home the whole point of the Birding Rally Challenge: where on earth can you see that many birds in only a few days?

The answer: Peru.

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