19 - September 1998
by Lawrence Rubey
I returned a couple weeks ago from a trip to Lima, Peru. Fortunately, I had both the benefit of birdfinding advice from fellow Chatters AND a few hours Saturday morning free for birding. Thanks to Thomas Schulenberg, Dick Palmer, Gail Mackiernan, Frank Frazier, Hank Brodkin, and Thomas Love who provided birdfinding advice. I have attached their posts at the bottom of this message.
Saturday September 19th: Based on the responses I received from my RFI, I choose to head to the Pantanos de Villa marshes, a wetland preserve just southwest of Lima, only about a 30 minute taxi ride from Miraflores. The price of the taxi was only $4 and since the marshes are near a main road I easily found a taxi for the trip back to town.
Pantanos de Villa is a lovely wetland oasis and it was encouraging to see school groups learning about wetland life at the interpretive center and on walks through the area. The species list stands at 80 with 67 different plants identified. There are several towers which afford an excellent view of the entire area. The highlight was a Great Grebe (six of them in fact), a lifer. In the space of an hour, I tallied:
Cattle Egret Black Vulture Great Grebe* Kelp Gull Slate-colored Coot Puna Ibis White-cheeked Pintail White-winged Dove Black-crowned Night Heron Gray-headed Gull (I am fairly sure of the ID, but I am unsure from Harrison's Seabirds whether it occurs as far south as Lima on the Pacific coast. I would be interested in comments.) Spotted Sandpiper American Kestrel Gray-breasted Martin Striated Heron Croaking Ground-Dove Many-colored Rush-Tyrant Neotropical Comorant Common Moorhen Little Blue Heron Mallard (an exotic)
I then made my way toward a large golf course next to the wetlands. I only walked the perimeter and did not enter the golf course itself. In addition to some of the species above, I saw:
Kildeer Vermillion Flycatcher Greater Yellowlegs Whimbrel (a flock of 16!) Snowy Egret Cinnamon Teal Peruvian (Red-breasted) Meadowlark* White-tufted Grebe
After leaving the golf course and wetlands, I hopped in a taxi and asked the driver to take me to the "botanical gardens." I wasn't sure if Lima even HAD a botanical garden, but thought that it would be a good place to find some flowering plants and try to pick up the Amazilia Hummingbird before heading to the airport.
"Como no" said the driver and (for $3) dropped me off in the center of the town at the small "Jardin Botanico San Fernando" at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos. There were some students studying (and some engaged in slightly more amorous activity) so I kept my binoculars hidden in my bag. But within ten minutes, I heard a descending "PEEW-peew-peew and spotted an Amazilia Hummingbird on a branch near blooming flowers. After a quick look at an Aratinga sp. my time was up and I was off.
La Paz, BOLIVIA
S 16 31.348' W 68 05.181'
PLUS THE FOLLOWING UNATTRIBUTED NOTES...
Lima is, of course, a desert, and doesn't offer too much. There is a nice park in the Miraflores district (one of the upscale parts of town) that hugs the cliffs overhanging the beaches right along the ocean. This park is of variable width, but in its more expansive areas (still not wide) it is worth poking around in. Amazilia Hummingbird should be there, also the local melanistic phase of Vermilion Flycatcher, possibly Dull-colored Seedeater. White-winged Doves and Croaking Ground-Doves area ubiquitous. Also to be found are various feral populations, e.g. Bananaquit, Brotogeris and Aratinga parakeets, etc. I don't remember the name of the park, just go to the (seaward) end of any of the large boulevards in Miraflores (especially up towards Larco etc.) and there you are.
From here, looking out to sea, you might see the expected seabirds, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Band-tailed, Kelp and Gray gulls, Inca Tern, etc. -- but from here, those birds would be small and distant.
If you have a few hours free, *the* place to go in Lima are the marshes at Villa (pantanos de Villa), on the southwest side of the city. You should be able to hire a taxi to take you there (probably easiest if the cab stays with you the whole time). These marshes, once very extensive, were on their way out, but a few years ago local environmentalists managed to have this declared a sanctuary. I have not been there in a couple of years, but that last I was there (1996?), there was a small 'nature center', trail out into the marshes, etc. Most of the expected coastal landbirds are here, plus many waterbirds.
You can follow the road past the marshes all the way to the beach, where again you can look for the expected seabirds. If you had two days free, then a trip down the coast to Paracas would be the thing to do.
We found a few birds in the wet grasslands just outside the main airport building doors and slightly to the right. If it has been a wet year you might try there for snipe and other birds. We thought at the time that they were Noble Snipe but later more knowledgeable birders claim they could not have been at this location so I would be interested in what if anything you would find here.
I lived in Lima 1962-1966 and my memory is hazy but still there. I didn't have a car for the first year either...perhaps you can rent one or, if taxis are still cheap, hire one for a few hours. One good place is the Laguna de Villa just south of the city, more of a marsh than a lake, and good for various marsh and waterbirds - and for shorebirds now that the migration is well underway. Incidentally, I used to see Peregrine Falcons all winter in the middle of Lima; the Plaza de Armas is as good a place as any.
Ancon and La Punta are beach resorts, reachable by bus, good for waterbirds and even (La Punta) some pelagics. For the latter, I used to hire a boat (lancha fletera) in Callao, it didn't cost very much and you don't have to go out very far. (Their normal business is to take people out to visit at the prison island of San Lorenzo.)
Further afield, there's good birding in riverside vegetation along the central highway to Chaclacayo and Chosica (25 mi. from Lima, reachable by bus and colectivo), and further still, very good in the Santa Eulalia valley - for which you'd probably need to rent a car.
There is a small area of preserved marshland west of Lima near the Villa Country Club. Seabirds of many varieties can be seen from the beaches. Start up the Carretera Central and bird for a day. You should be able to hire a taxi if you do not want to rent a car. I would feel uneasy wandering around by myself with binoculars - but you know South America better than I do.
Lima in September will likely still be foggy and drizzly (garua fog heaviest this time of year). Of course that's good, since it means the Nino event is over - cold water has returned. If you have a chance to take a boat trip off Paracas (just south of Pisco, about 4 hrs. south of Lima - out of the Hotel Paracas is best - Julian Uribe knows *all* the birds very well) that would be a highlight. Otherwise for seabirds you could scope from about any of the bluff areas in Lima (e.g., Miraflores), but esp. at La Punta in Callao.
For landbirding try the Villa marshes area on the south end of the Lima metropolitan sprawl in the Chorrillos district - well-known, would have a lot of the coastal species plus wetland species. If you head east up the Rimac Valley there's good birding in the Chosica area, or even farther up this valley just before you get to the RR pass at Ticlio there's a good spot for puna species, including Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. To the north, you would likely find some interesting action at the Lomas de Lachay Nat'l. Reserve - lomas are fog vegetation on coastal bluffs (botanically fascinating).
About Lima -- the best place close to the city is Villa Marshes -- you can get a taxi to it, there is a visitor's center and you can walk around the marsh & through it some. There is also a golf course with clubhouse at one end, worth checking (and I would suspect you could catch a taxi back easily there). We did Villa starting along the main road, across from the apartments (tenaments, really) -- there's a small private reserve with an observation tower where you can get quite close to the birds.
I am not sure how many of these are going to be new, now... The place is good for marsh species such as Rush Tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird, but we also saw Great Grebe, Grey-headed Gull, Puna Ibis, lots of other species. If you can get to the coast anywhere, even in Lima, you can pick up Inca Tern, Peruvian Booby, Red-legged and Guanay Cormorant, Grey and Belcher's Gulls, and look on rock jetties for Peruvian Seaside Cincloides. We had a Humboldt Penguin in Callao Harbor but this area is closed to the public.
Another option is a taxi trip up to Lomas Lachay, several endemics like Thick billed Miner and Grey Miner. We hired a taxi all day for about $70, but there were four of us.
The following extract from a trip report may be helpful:
"We are off, however, by 0600, and Alberto takes us to a local park where we quickly tally Amazilia Hummingbird, Blue-gray Tanager, Croaking Grounddove, Pacific (White-winged) Dove and some other common urban species (Bananaquit, Vermilion Flycatcher, Blue-black Grassquit, Southern House Wren). A small group of parakeets flush from a tree before we clinch the identification, but they appeared to be Canary-winged (an introduced species).
Then off to Pantanos de Villa marshes, a wetland preserve just south of Lima. En route we see our first Tropical Kingbirds (TKs). A small private reserve (s/1.50 entry fee) proves a lively spot as we see our first Many-colored Rush-Tyrants, including a pair building a nest, Masked Duck, White-cheeked Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Slate-colored Coot, Great Grebe, Gray-headed Gull, Franklin's Gull, Wren-like Rushbird, Forktailed Flycatcher and other goodies. Many Southern Rough-winged Swallows overhead.
From the golf course side we add Peruvian Red-breasted Meadowlark, Yellow-hooded Blackbird, Grassland Yellowfinch, a couple of still-wintering Puna Ibis, Wilson's Phalarope and an immature Purple Gallinule. Many of the Vermilion Flycatchers are the distinctive dark brown phase found in Lima."
Of the birds she mentions, Blue-gray Tanager and Yellow-hooded Blackbirds
are feral populations. Fork-tailed Flycatcher and Masked Duck both
are quite rare on the coast, although there are earlier records of both.
But this brief account does give some flavor of what to expect.