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Birding Peru part 3 - Pucusana Fishing Village

posted by Tim Avery at
on Friday, September 7, 2012 

August 20, 2012 - Afternoon at Pucusana and in downtown Lima

From the marshes at Pantanos de Villa it was only a short drive to Pacachamac.  As we pulled up to the gate an armed guard waved for us to stop and promptly told our driver the ruins were closed today.  We had read in tour books that quite a few places were closed on Mondays at random, but according to the book we had, Pacachamac was not one of them and was open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.  We explained this to our driver who talked to the guard to no avail.  Was this how Peru was going to be?  It was our first real tourist stop and the guide book that was printed within the last year was wrong.  This site was popular due to its proximity to Lima so it was surprising that there was no mention of the closure online.  It would have been nice to have known.  Several hours here would have given me access to low elevation grasslands and drier coastal lomas.  Maybe 5 species of birds that I could have picked up for the trip wasn't the major loss, it was getting to see the history that now we would only glimpse from afar as we drove past.

Barren Desert South of Lima

There was no point in fretting as there was nothing we can do but adapt and move on.  So back on the highway we continued south to the fishing village of Pucusana.  As we drove there wasn't a great deal to see along the roads.  Shortly after leaving Pacahcamac the highway entered rolling hills and dunes.  To both sides of the road was little else besides dirt.  Trees were scarce, plants and bushes were non existent, and birds were nowhere to be found.  The drive went rather quick and we were soon headed towards the coast into the tiny village.

Boats at the Village of Pucusana.  Photo by Samantha Avery

Once there Mr. Fernandez found a place to park and spoke to some fisherman--letting them know we were interested in seeing "penguinos".  One man motioned for use to follow him, as he would take us out in his boat. As we left the car several LONG-TAILED MOCKINGBIRDS could be heard chattering from the tree tops in the main square.  Along the beach in the bay were numerous RUDDY TURNSTONE and a few pelicans, cormorants, and gulls.  Further out on the water I got my first good look at INCA TERNS, which were here by the hundreds. 

The coolest tern in the world--the Inca Tern.

The older man from the village led us around to a dock and his orange boat where we climbed down and took our seats near the bow.  Mr. Fernandez told us it would be about 40 minutes, and to meet him back at the cat which e was going to go keep an eye on.  We pushed off and made our way to the main peninsula which juts out into the sea.  Along the way INCA TERNS made close passes by the boat.  As we approached the peninsula and got into rougher waters the bird show picked up with hundreds of PERUVIAN PELICANS joining the smaller numbers of terns. The terns were spectacular--they were the most interesting looking birds on the coast.  I would go as far to say they are one of if not the most impressive members of the gull and tern family. 

Peruvian Pelicans packed onto the cliffs.

Clambering along the rocks were several BLACKISH OYSTERCATCHERS.  From time to time a RED-LEGGED CORMORANT would fly past.  A couple GUANAY CORMORANTS made a pass and were quickly gone--the only of the trip.  Above the pelicans and the terns on the cliffs were numerous PERUVIAN BOOBIES.  Every once and a while a booby would come skimming past the boat then sail upwards towards the cliffs where they would land.  My eyes strained the surf for penguins--where were these creatures that we had hopped on this boat to see?  Mixed in with the seabirds on the cliffs were a number of sea lions that were lazily relaxing on the flatter portions of rock.  The boat passed within yards of much of the wildlife providing the kind of looks you wish you could have at every bird.  A few BELCHER'S, KELP, and GRAY GULLS could be found on the rocks as well, but nowhere near the numbers of the morning.  They were the minority here.

Peruvian Booby cruising by the boat.

When the boat reached the end of the point the boatsman turned the boat back towards where we had come from.  I asked him where the penguins were, to which he replied, "no aqui, no comida"... Which roughly means, they aren't here because there is no food.  Hmmm... That's an interesting piece of information that he failed to tell us back on land.  Why would you take us to look for penguins when you know damn well they aren't there?  In ebird there had been reports just over a month earlier of 4 birds and more impressively 18.  I ventured a guess that our "guide" at the moment was no more than a local boat owner who didn't really know where to look for penguins, and just wanted to make a quick buck by taking us for a ride around the marina.  This was the first time on the trip I was actually pissed off--I kept it to myself but was extremely bothered.  All I wanted was to see a penguin in the wild, and I knew the birds had been seen here with regularity.  Why couldn't the people at the marina be honest and find us someone that did know where to look? If the thick-knee miss earlier in the day was disappointing, no penguins was almost heart breaking.

An endemic Surf Cinclodes on the shore.

As we headed back in I spotted several of the endemic SURF CINCLODES in the rocks--my pictures are what we would call terrible.  Heading back across the bay and into the marina I just wanted out of the water.  We had picked up the rest of the expected birds on the ride and there was nothing that would make more time on the boat worthwhile except a Humboldt Penguin.  Even a couple weeks later as I write this, I am still bothered by the penguin fiasco.  I had spent considerable time trying to talk to people who had photographed or reported penguins from Pucusans to find out exaclty where they had seen them from.  The common response was that no one could tell me exactly where.  It was form some overlook on some cliff here or there.  But not one person had taken the time to know, or care exactly where.  This mind boggled me.  But then again most of the people I spoke with were people who had paid someone a great deal of money to take them birding in Peru--finding the birds was the job of the guide and not a worry of theirs.  So I guess this was a fault of my own.  Pucusana isn't the home run location for penguins in Peru, but is much closer than Paracas further south along the coast--it was the best we could do with our time there.

Me making the best out of our "no penguin" situation.

Penguin-less and slightly chilled form the ocean air we headed back to Lima, spotting a lone BLACK-CHESTED BUZZRD-EAGLE soaring over the highway just north of Pucusana.  We made a quick stop at the B&B before heading into Lima to visit the Plaza de Armas or "Weapon's Square".  Every city had one and in Lima you could see the Presidential Palace and visit several nearby churches and historical sites from here.  We spent the afternoon visiting the Santo Domingo Convent where we were able to climb to the top of a bell tower for an outstanding view of all of Lima.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about the convent is the fact that Saint Rosa of Lima, and Saint Martin de Porres have both of their skulls on display in the church--somewhat creepy but also quite interesting. 

The skull of Saint Martin de Porres in Lima...

BLACK VULTURES and ROCK PIGEONS made up the bird life on the roof tops.  In the gardens were plenty of RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROWS and a few TROPICAL KINGBIRDS.  As we made our way back out to Miraflores darkness fell across the coast, and our time as tourists in Lima came to an end.

Miraflores and the coast at dusk.

The next morning we would fly to Juliaca to visit Puno and Lake Titicaca as our adventure in Peru continued.

5 life birds this afternoon / 36 total trip life birds / 68 total trip birds
Photos from Pucusana Fishing Village  Birding on TimAveryBirding.com

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Anonymous Steve said...

No penguins! That sucks man. Looks like you saw some other cool seabirds though. The Inca Tern is nuts!

September 7, 2012 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The cliffs are just south of Pucusana's marina, but good luck getting there, our guide had to drive 5-10 mins thru twists and turns in the town to get there. It took over 30min's before we could see the penguins.

September 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Steve: It did suck, but the other birds were truly excellent!

@Unknown: It would have been fine to spend an extra 30 minutes driving to see the birds--the real issue is that unlike in the U.S. for instance--there is very little to no information about where to look when in Pucusana. It was very difficult to get information about the penguins even talking to several birders who had seen them beforehand.

The flip side is if someone were to ask me where I saw any species I saw in Peru, I could tell them down to like a 50' diameter exactly where I was and how I go there. It's a matter of being aware of that--most birders that go to foreign countries with others guiding them don't seem to do too much of this from my experience talking with them.

September 27, 2012 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The tough part about places like Pucusana, is how confusing the place is. I paid attention, brought my gps, but even then I'm not so sure I could direct someone there.

September 27, 2012 at 2:59 PM  

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