Inca Terns swooped on and off the blue-gabled roof of the La Rosa Nautica restaurant’s roof. Through the scope we were able to see the stunning red bills and legs.
“The best place to see Inca Terns is at the marina restaurant,” Lelis Navarrette, our guide for the next 3 weeks, had told us after boarding the van at our hotel. “We can bird from the parking lot.”
My friend Sue and I had seen the marina as we explored the Miraflores district the prior day and we were anxious to begin our first day of birding – a pre-trip near Lima, Peru. We were accompanied by Dick who would be on the main tour, along with Jose Antonio Padilla Reyes, another Neblina Forest guide and his two clients.
Lelis and Jose pointed out several species of gulls along the beach and marina – Gray, Gray-hooded, Belcher’s (with dark head) and Kelp (with white head).
Neotropic Cormorants were perched on the top of light poles and power wires.
“Harris’s Hawk,” Dick signaled as it flew by on the cliff above us. An American Kestrel also zoomed by overhead a short time later.
We walked along the sidewalk and peered into the bushes with delicate reddish flowers where a hummingbird with a bronze chest and white neck flitted. “What species is it?” I inquired of Lelis.
“Amazilia,” he replied.
Around the bend we looked out over the cliffs. Three Neotropic Cormorants sat on a ledge – obviously a favorite perch. Their long tails were familiar as their northern range ventures into central New Mexico.
“Surf Cinclodes,” Lelis called, and we zeroed in on two long-tailed drab birds foraging among the rock, while Lelis set up the scope to give a better view. “It has been split from the Surfside Cinclodes,” he went on to tell us.
We headed south on the Pan American Highway towards Pantanos de Villas refuge, a Ramsar-designated wetlands adjacent to a gated residential community.
As we drove through the residential area, we stopped to look at Goove-billed Ani, a Long-tailed Mockingbird and a Vermillion Flycatcher.
“I would like to see the ‘sooty’ morph,” I told Lelis. “Biologists from the University of New Mexico have been conducting research on these melanistic birds.”
We didn’t have to go far before we spotted one sitting on a bare twig.
Fog swirled around the marsh.
As the fog lifted, we spotted a plethora of water birds. Cinnamon Teal hugged the edges of the marsh. Andean Ruddy Ducks plied the open waters, their blue bills gleaming in the shrouded light.
There were Pied-billed Grebes, as well as a Great Grebe, along with a plethora of Common Moorhens and Andean (Slate-colored) Coots. The white feathers of Cattle, Snowy and Great Egrets were easy to see in the mist. A Little Blue Heron tip-toed along the water’s edge. Blackish and American Oystercatchers rested on the edge of the lagoon. Three Black Skimmers floated over the edge of a mound and the water, their long wings dipping gracefully as they flew.
A small bird popped out of the reeds nearby – “Wren-like Rushbird,” Lelis stated excitedly. Just as we all got good looks, we were treated to another small bird – Many-colored Rush-Tyrant. Sporting yellow, green, rust, blue, bland and white, it lived up to its name as it flew in an out of the dense vegetation.
We drove south again towards Pucusana. “I have arranged for us to go out on a boat,” Jose told us. I panicked – no one had mentioned a boat. I don’t do pelagic trips as I am extremely motion-sensitive.
“Maybe I’ll wait with our driver,” I stated. “What will be seen from the boat?”
“If you want to see the penguins, you have go out in the boat,” Jose explained.
It was settled – I wasn’t going to miss the penguins.
It was a Saturday and the town was bustling.
“The fishermen are decorating their boats to celebrate St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen,” Jose told us and then pointed out the boat we would be riding in. I was relieved that it was a small fishing boat and low to the ground which would not cause me problems.
After boarding and donning our life vests, we wound our way through the other boats in the bay and headed for a channel between the rocky hillsides. A Belcher’s Gull landed on the bow and rode along for a while.
The boat traveled around a rocky point and slowed down near a cave-like inlet. Although it was dark in the back of the cave, we could make out Humboldt Penguins perched on ledges.
Then Jose pointed to the choppy waters on the opposite side of where I was sitting – penguins surfacing and swimming! Jose was able to take a photo for me.
After getting our fill of the penguins, the boat went close to the edge of the cliffs past roosting colonies of Red-legged Cormorants, red-eyed Guanay Cormorants and Peruvian Boobies.
Lelis pointed out an immature Blue-footed Booby. “It is very rare for this location,” he explained.
A Peruvian Pelican, very similar to the Brown Pelican, floated near our boat.
As the water lapped in and out against the rocks, an occasional echinoderm was exposed.
When we were almost back to the harbor, the boat captain threw chum into the water. The Inca Terns that had been lounging with the cormorants and a pelican,
swirled up and darted in and out of the water to snatch the fish segments.
After saying goodbye to the fisherman, Jose led us to a local restaurant that specialized in coastal Peru’s specialty – ceviche. I was a little leery about eating raw fish. Jose explained that it had been fresh caught that day and marinated in lime which essentially ‘cooks’ the fish, while maintaining its fresh taste. My fellow travelers were eating it with gusto, so I decided to try it – and it was delicious.
As we drove from Pucusana, we stopped to scour the dry landscape in hopes of seeing a thick-knee, but were not rewarded.
As the van was speeding north on the Pan American Highway towards Lima, I shouted, “Yellow-hooded Blackbird.” The flash of yellow, resembling our Yellow-headed Blackbird, had caught my attention. Our driver pulled over on the shoulder and carefully backed up so everyone could see them.
Our pre-trip had been a success – 41 species and a chance to experience the culture in a fishing village.