Saturday, January 31, 2009

Some Furnariidae of lake Titicaca

Here is an interesting family, whose members at times think they're Motacillidae, or Paridae, or other fun songbird groups.

This is Upucerthia jelskii, the plain-breasted earthcreeper:

This one is called Leptasthenura andicola, the andean tit-spinetail:

These two birds (look closely) are the always heard, not always seen, totoreros. In english, they are boringly know as wren-like rushbirds. In Latin, they are even more boringly known as Phleocryptes melanops:

This cool bird is a slender-billed miner, Geositta tenuirostris:

Helpful hint: it's called a miner because it builds in tunel-like cavities to nest in.

Another miner, not a cool but important, the rather lark-like common miner, Geositta cunicularia:

The very common Cinclodes fuscus:

And the much less common Cinclodes atacamensis:

One of two common species of Asthenes, the cordilleran canastero Asthenes modesta:
I hope I am doing a good job of conveying the diversity of the Lake Titicaca avifauna.

Laridae of Lake Titicaca

Most people will tell you that Lake Titicaca has but one species of Laridae - the Q'eulla, or Andean gull (I put up a photo already a while ago). In fact, there are also at least two more rare vagrant species there, and this beautiful oddball, the Rhynchops niger, or black skimmer:

How about that for a photo? I was sure proud.
Then the two other species are Leucophaeus pipixpan, and this hyper-rarity I photographed, a first-year Leucophaeus atricilla:
Why do I say it's a hyper-rarity??? In Fjeldså, it is mentioned as seen only once in the high Andes, at 3020 meters above sea level, in Colombia. Lake Titicaca is almost 800 meters higher, which would make for a world record!
Here is a first-year Chroicocephalus serranus (The Q'eulla I already mentioned) , for comparison purposes. They're born in the austral winter, so this bird is not exactly exhibiting as advanced a plumage.

Here in Lima we see a lot of L. pipixcan, but I sold my camera in Puno, so no new photos.

Rallidae of Lake Titicaca

Easier to go by family, no?

This is a juvenile Pardirallus sanguinolentus, or plumbeous rail, near Puno, Peru:

If you're a birdwatcher almost anywhere you probably already know this happy critter - Gallinula chloropus, the moorhen:

And this one probably looks familiar. It is Fulica ardesiaca, the andean coot:


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Owls of Lake Titicaca

I made a special effort to find the reserve's three species of owls on a couple of census trips north of Puno.

The most easily found owl is, of course, the burrowing owl Athene cunicularia:

Most often, it is observed on the ground in the evening:

Possibly the least often seen, for which I had to do some bouldering on low cliffs, is the barn owl, Tyto alba:

And its characteristic feathers and pellets, found much more often than the bird itself:

The great horned owl's pellets, on the other hand, can be a little hard to find:

This is probably because of its tendency to sleep in trees:

Another great horned owl Bubo virginianus, this time in a eucalyptus tree:


Some boats of Lake Titicaca

Some of you may have realized by now, that I like boats, so I decided to just go ahead and do a "special" with just pictures of boats.

This boat is loaded with totora reeds, near Capachica:

This is the reserve's motor boat, crossing the totora swamp during an official bird count:

A sailboat with a plastic tarp sail, off Uros Kapi:

Fishermen off Chimu, catching ispi:

Carachi fishermen in the totora

Boats in Llachón, with flour bag sails:

Sailboat off Yapura:

The same official reserve motorboat, in Yapura:


Monday, January 26, 2009

One hundredth blog post!

I was going to put up more pictures of birds and the lake, but then I realized this was my one hundredth weblog post! What a fortunate coincidence - I just got back from a wonderful celebration in the little town of Ichu, where some good friends wanted me to be their son's godfather. In the Aymara tradition, only the godfather can cut the child's first long braid. You put quinoa in his/her hair before the godfather cuts it and puts it in a plate with more quinoa in it. So here I am, cutting his hair:

May all the little things we do be fruitful steps toward a better future!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Timpía and the Pongo de Maenique

This is what the upper Amazonian basin rivers are mostly like. Flat, calm, broad like the plains they traverse, they can be handled with tiny, unstable boats like this quetequete:

But to get there from Quillabamba, it is necessary to cross the dangerous (and beautiful, and wild) Pongo de Maenique:

People there do it fairly regularly, as there really is no choice and even in the rainy season it generally involves no more than a few crosswise waves (no pictures of that, sorry. I was protecting my camera):

These are the large boats that are used for long-distance travel on the Río Urubamba, which eventually drains into the Amazon River:

This is a Swiss biologist I camped with, on the farm of this wonderful family in Timpía:

We saw two species of monkeys, parrots of the genus Ara, and lots of other things that I just couldn't take pictures of because of low light, thick bamboo forests, etc.:

Another waterfall in the Pongo de maenique:


Jungle crops

I know! Too many birds! So how about some food, for a change? Here are some photos I took on my trip to Timpía, along the lower Río Urubamba:

The pineapple, Ananas comosus. Yes, it's a bromeliad!:

Not so commonly eaten, but much more impressive and provides a nice shade under which to drink the masato. I present you with the breadfruit tree, Artocarpus altilis (warning, possible ssp. of Artocarpus communis):

And now, this one may not look like much, but the world economy would be in even worse straits without coffee, Coffea arabica:

And this is the main jungle food - yuca. It's also known as cassava, although it's under the name yucca that I ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the forest (and I drank it everyday too, as the alcoholic beverage known as masato). It's also called Manihot esculenta:

Okay, it's not really food, but it's very useful and pernicious at the same time (i.e.: important). The coca plant, Erythroxylum coca:

Possibly more addictive, the sugar cane, Saccharum officinarum:

But without it who would eat the bitter seeds of the chocolate tree, Theobroma cacao?


Wednesday, January 7, 2009


One of the best things I did so far in Peru was the hike to Choquequirao, near Abancay. It is a fairly easy, four day hike although many do it in five days and most tourists hire mules and guides. It is doable in three days but it's over thirty kilometers each way with a thousand meter-deep valley in the middle, so it's nice to have a little time. In total, over four days I saw less than twenty tourists, and the place is huge.

I did the hike with a Spanish tourist, and on the way back we linked up with a French tourist who had a mule and a guide, and was returning from an unsuccessful attempt to trek all the way to Machu Picchu (the rivers are swollen, due to the rainy season). Here they are, walking back:

Here are some of the ruins at Choquequirao, with an Andean condor in the lower left corner:

This is the famous "Sector Llamas," with designs worked into the terracing work. This is the most active excavation area right now. Of the 70% of the ruins that are still buried in vegetation, the lower "Sector Llamas," with similar designs except with loads on the animals, is next for excavation.

This is the "Casa de la Caída del Agua," near the bottom of hundreds of incredible terraces on the other side of the mountain from Sector Llamas:

Here is the Plaza Principal, with its temples and two-story houses. The terraces in the lower right have two meter-high walls: