From 35,000' all you could see of Peru was clouds--well clouds and peaks of the highest points in the Andes rising above. This was our introduction to South America as our plane neared Lima. We descended through the clouds into fog and then finally could see the Pacific Ocean below, the dunes along the Peruvian coast to the east, and finally that shacks and shanties as we approached the airport. It was a gloomy morning on the coast, I guess it is like this most of the winter making the place seem quite inhospitable. Once on the ground it was about an hour from deplaning to get through customs, grab our bags, and find our driver. In the car we sped through the streets of Lima towards a suburb called Miraflores. Lima was a dirty city, at least from the parts we visited--not the kind of place I would want to spend too much time in. The first birds I spied from the car were ROCK PIGEONS, followed by WEST PERUVIAN DOVES and then finally EARED DOVES. The 3 were abundant throughout the city.
We dropped from the dirty side streets down tot eh coast along a highway, here the power lines and light poles were lined with NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS. It seems like 3 or 4 birds to a light pole was the rule. I saw my first BELCHER'S and KELP GULLS here flying alongside the roadway. BLACK VULTURES could be seen soaring and occasionally mixed in with the cormorants. Aside from these common birds there wasn't much else along the road. Finally we headed up a side road back onto the bluffs above the coast, we had arrived in Miraflores where we would be staying.
In Miraflores you could tell you had entered a nicer area of the city. It was cleaner, there were some nicer cars, and people walking dogs--most of which were wearing doggy-coats. WE finally pulled into an alley that came to a dead end--to the left was an apartment building that rose 5 or 6 floors above the street, and to the right was a 12' cement wall surrounded by trees, and flowering bushes. As I emerged from the car I could hear the chattering of parrots or parakeets. It took a couple seconds to find several PACIFIC PARROTLETS at the top of trees a block or so away, but a welcome sight. This species isn't native to Lima but is well established in many areas. Inside the gates we flushed several WEST PERUVIAN DOVES and BANANAQUITS could be heard calling in the trees above. I could hear other birds calling but wanted to get checked in and put my bags down.
We were staying at a bed and breakfast called Second Home Peru. It was located on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific and was highly touted on Trip Advisor--more importantly it wasn't a major chain. One unexpected "ah ha" moment of the trip happened at the airport when we met our driver for our time in Lima Mr. Fernandez. I had fully expected most of the people we came into contact to speak some English--being that we would mostly be dealing with people in the travel, and tourism industry who relied on Americans and Europeans for much of their livelihood. This assumption couldn't have been more wrong. Mr. Fernandez who was a great driver didn't speak any English, but we were able to make due with my limited Spanish--over the following two weeks I probably doubled my vocabulary and became way more comfortable with most of the everyday talk needed. In any event at the B&B the woman at the front desk also spoke no English, so it a took a couple minutes to get everything taken care of. Finally we were led upstairs to our room, where Sam promptly dove into bed and took a nap. I on the other hand got my camera put together, grabbed my binoculars and headed out on the balcony--there were birds to be seen.
The view from the balcony was amazing--too bad the fog made for a misty and somewhat limited view of what you could actually see. BLACK VULTURES were perched on many of the buildings and trees from where I could see. They were the most abundant bird of the high cliffs. Below on the highway along the coast I could make out NEOTROPIC CORMORANTS, BELCHER'S GULLS, KELP GULLS, and in the distance on the water were INCA TERNS and PERUVIAN BOOBIES. A pair of PERUVIAN PELICANS coasted by at one point, and even further out on the water I could make out specks of 100's of birds I couldn't ID. I turned my attention to the trees where a VERMILION FLYCATCHER popped out against the gray sky. I had hoped to see the "sooty" morph found here--birds that are a smoky gray-brown from head to toe, and was surprised that my Vermilion here was a typical male. It was only a couple of minutes before one of the "sooty" birds popped up on a dead limb--a cool bird, but it can't shake a stick at a typical males beautiful and striking plumage.
A TROPICAL KINGBIRD flew in to the picture followed by a BLUE-GRAY TANAGER--both birds I was familiar with from my last trip to Costa Rica. I decided to head to the courtyard to see what I could find there, as the trees along the cliffs weren't turning up anything new. In the courtyard I was greeted by a LONG-TAILED MOCKINGBIRD that had no intentions of allowing me to take a photograph. Above me I caught a glimpse of an AMAZILIA HUMMINGBIRD flying from flower to flower--it never got close for good pictures and was the only hummer I saw on the coast. A pair of bright yellow finches landed in the trees, when I got my binoculars on them I thought they looked like SAFFRON FINCHES even though that species only occurred in the north. A quick check of the field guide revealed they had a feral population in Lima.
A few RED-MASKED PARAKEETS made a pass and a HOUSE WREN popped up on the wall singing like crazy. A pair of HOODED SISKIN flew over landing in the trees for a moment before departing. I headed back to the lawn overlooking the coast and spotted a pair of HARRIS'S HAWKS circling over the bluffs. A few BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOWS were now flying along the apartments to the north of us, and a couple RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROWS appeared on the edges of the lawn. It was early in the afternoon and I had pretty much exhausted the birding on the property. I woke Sam up and we caught a cab into the city to the Museo Larco where they have a treasure trove of Incan relics. The gardens on the grounds provided most of the same birds from the morning. We decided to eat at the museum since it was safe and we were there already. As we sat in the open air portion of the restaurant a small COLLARED WARBLING-FINCH appeared on the patio, the only of the trip--too bad my camera was back in our room!
Our first day in Lima came to an end as we relaxed in our room, and caught up on some much needed sleep from our overnight flight. The following day we would head down the coast to visit the Pacachamac Ruins, Pucusana Fishing Village, and the Pantanos de Villa marshes--I fell asleep thinking about the possibility of seeing my first ever wild penguins the next day.
14 life birds today / 14 total trip life birds / 26 total trip birds
Photos from Lima and Miraflores Birding on TimAveryBirding.com