Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Nazca, Paracas National Park, Islas de las Ballestas | Last Part 6
Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. This is the last part of our 6 part series of Peru birdwatching trip report and as you know Peru offers bird lovers plenty of glimpses of some of the world’s rarest birds and animals. We have already written 5 parts of visiting to Peru specific to bird watching, and this is the last one. Also, with the Amazon rainforest and the Andes being so close, birds enthusiasts can take tours through the jungle and mountains to see these creatures in their natural habitats. As a tourist destination for birdwatching, the potential of Peru is enormous and must be traversed. There is a lot to explore; hence a single trip is not enough to discover all the wonders that Peru has to offer. With more than 1800 bird species, 106 of which are endemic, Peru is a real paradise of birdwatching! It has one of the most productive coastlines in the world for birdlife as well.No other destination offers quite so much variety of habitats and species in such a relatively small area. It is a one-stop destination for visitors to watch various kinds of birds and animals, and it’s worth it.
Honestly, as I prepared for my trip, I couldn’t help but wonder, but now I’m back, and we already made articles about birdwatching in Peru, animals to watch in Peru and even the best places to stay while birdwatching.
Thank you for giving us so enough appreciation for all the five parts of Peru birdwatching. We wandered from north to central to southern Peru. As promised we are back with the next part and the last part.
C6 – Day 25
Nazca to Paracas
You don’t come to Nazca for birding, as it lies in the middle of a desert and there are almost no birds at all. There are some pigeon species, a few American Kestrels and in the city park we found Vermilion Flycatchers, but that’s about it.
After arriving we quickly sorted out our plans. Heinz made a tour by taxi to see a few of the Nazca Lines from a `mirador’ and the rest of us drove to the airport Maria Reiche Neumann, where we boarded a small Cessna and had great looks at the famous Nazca lines from above, including the Condor, the hummingbird and the heron (Which looks more like an Anhinga) 😉
On the airport ground, we found some Coastal Miners.
Afterwards, we drove back to the bus station and waited for our bus towards Paracas. Quite a big surprise was finding a flock of ca. 20 parrots in a tree nearby, consisting of the closely resembling Mitred and Red-masked Parakeets. As both species are out of range here it can be assumed, that there’s a feral population in Nazca, even though I haven’t found anything about that on the internet.
The drive to Paracas was boring bird wise, as we only drove through the desert. Only once was there an interesting bird. A brown, long-tailed bird sat on a tree and I was very confused because it looked very much like a Striped Cuckoo, which doesn’t occur on this side of the Andes. It took me a while to realize it was a Long-tailed Mockingbird…
Bird of the day: Nazca Line ’Colibri’ — 17 species seen; 1 new
C7 – Day 26
Paracas National Park
We had arranged the previous evening that we’d get picked off by a local guide in the morning and soon headed towards the Paracas National Park, a peninsula virtually without a single plant on it. Our first stop was called `seción’ (not sure how to write that though). This was a bay with lots of waders in it. Snowy plovers ran around with their beaks open, trying to catch flies. Wilson’s Phalarope tried the same, but in groups. Between the Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers were some Western Sandpipers, also some Semipalmated had yellow flags on their legs, but I haven’t found out what project that is so far. Great were the Peruvian Terns that showed up every now and then soon after disappearing into the desert again.
We then drove on some hardly visible road to a place called `Mirador de Los Lobos Marinos’, stopping en route for a colony of Grey Gulls. At the mirador sat several Turkey Vultures and allowed for great photos. The name means ‘watchpoint for sea lions’ and of course we found them chilling on some rocks. Walking a bit around on the cliffs we got better views of the birds sitting in these. There were some Humboldt Penguins, Red-legged Cormorants and Peruvian Boobies and of course the beloved Inca Terns were admired thoroughly. Two Surf Cinclodes searched for food in some algae and groups of Peruvian Pelicans gave great flying views.
We then proceeded to a place called `Playa Roja’. There is a small pond, where we started and saw a young flamingo that was much smaller and had a different leg colour, than the others. Could this be the James’ Flamingo we had hoped for at Lago Lagunillas? Unfortunately, I have to conclude it wasn’t, even though it took me quite a while to be certain. On the water swam also some Phalaropes and Snowy Plovers blended in with the sand around them. There lay also a juvenile South American Tern, but it didn’t look like it would ever fly again.
Moving on to the actual beach we found hundreds of waders searching for food in the kelp and they didn’t mind our presence at all. This was a great site for comparisons between Sanderlings, Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers and for Kelp and Band-tailed Gull. A Royal Tern hunted nearby and on the rocks sat a dozen South American Terns. Along the shore, we found many more waders, like Whimbrel, Surfbird or Spotted Sandpiper, all at close range. We then moved on to our final destination in the National Park, the `Centro de interpretación de la Reserva Nacional de Paracas’. It’s situated just next to seción and basically the same bay, but you see even more birds, however not as close. Hundreds of Black Skimmers, Sandpipers and gulls sat here. Between them were some White-cheeked Pintails, Royal Terns and we found each a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Willet. Little Blue, Great White Herons and Snowy Egrets hunted here and on our way back to the car we found some Coastal Miners and an Amazilia Hummingbird.
As it was still quite early we agreed with our driver to visit one more site, some wetlands in the north of the nearby town of Pisco. He called up two guards to accompany us since it is apparently not safe to go there on your own and then drove there. Before you reach the actual site you pass huge amounts of debris that originate from a strong earthquake in 2007 that reached 8.0 on the moment magnitude scale and destroyed 85% of the town. An intimidating sight. Here sat some Groove-billed Anis and a large raptor that caused confusion for a while, until we found a match in our field guide consisting of a juvenile Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle. Soon afterwards the environment changed and it was all green around us, I hadn’t seen this much green since the rainforest, but of course, this was a totally different habitat. There were dozens of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, hundreds of Black-necked Stilts, with a few White-necked Stilts scattered in. Peruvian Meadowlarks were singing, a few Yellowish Pipits showed up. Phalaropes came swimming down a canal and in the distance, a constant movement of pelicans and gulls formed nice background noise. Upon further inspection, we found several goodies between the more common birds. For example, two Pectoral Sandpipers were hiding in the grass, two American Golden-Plovers allowed for a good comparison with the also present Grey Plovers, as did the Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Then a big wader appeared at what at first glance appeared to be a Whimbrel was indeed a Marbled Godwit, a very rare species for Peru. It landed, where another bird of similar size was standing, but that one was much lighter coloured. Even though I’m almost certain this was a Hudsonian Godwit the moving air impeded a certain identification.
After returning back to Paracas we still weren’t done with birding. Demi had already scouted the beach in the very early morning and seen some good birds so I tried my luck with him. Many of the sea- and shorebirds we had seen throughout the day were also present here, but we added a few new birds, these were Elegant Terns, a flyby Lesser Nighthawk and the ultra cute Peruvian Sheartail (new at least for me).
Bird of the day: Wilson’s Phalarope — 69 species seen; 14 new
C8 – Day 27
Islas de las Ballestas
At 9 AM we were going to drive towards the Islas Ballestas, so plenty of time to do some morning birding before that. Together with Demi and for some time the others we went first searching again for the Sheartail, that was easily found at the exact same bush as the day before. Elegant Terns were also hunting along the beach. We then proceeded to bird the other half of the beach, which looked way dirtier and after not finding much, but gulls and pelicans we were finally rewarded with good views of an alternate plumage Grey Plover and a Willet.
We then boarded our boat, but it, unfortunately, was the last boat to leave the pier. Or was it luck? Before we started a Peruvian Tern flew over twice, then we finally got going. Our first destiny was an ancient geoglyph called `Candelabro de Paracas’. Here we also found great numbers of pelicans, many Peruvian Boobies and some Red-legged Cormorants. Inca Terns were taking baths, this is the only tern species I know that can be regularly observed swimming. We then proceeded towards the islands. Already from Paracas, one could see a black band coming from the islands and flying towards the open sea. As we approached this it became apparent that this was a never-ending band of Guanay Cormorants coming from their huge colony and flying off towards their hunting grounds. But before we finally arrived we got distracted, when little dark birds appeared between the waves. It certainly wasn’t easy to see many field marks as we were still going on full speed, but in the end, we could ID them as White-vented Storm-petrels, confirmed by the few photos that actually did not only show water.
The islands were a great experience. Not only was there the immense Guanay Cormorant colony, but we also found hundreds of pelicans, boobies, including juvenile Blue-footed Boobies, both pelagic cormorant species and got close-up views of South American Sea lions. A single surfbird sat in the rocks, but we couldn’t find any Surf Cinclodes. The scenery was also stunning.
After a while, we proceeded to some smaller and much less frequented islands, that Google Maps just calls Ballestas. On our way, we saw several more Storm-petrels and crossed the black band of cormorants. But when I glimpsed a huge, slender and dark silhouette flying over the waves that were my personal highlight of the day. Again observing or photographing this Waved Albatros was very difficult, due to the high velocity of our boat, but I was so happy of seeing this special species, as I had missed it both on Galapagos and Isla de la Plata, the only two known breeding sites in the world
of this critically endangered species. I had already given up hope when the pelagic trip was cancelled as they normally don’t come this close to shore.
The Ballestas was great, we could approach the birds much more than in the `Ballestas islands´. We got even better views of most of the previously mentioned species, but the penguins at very close range were especially stunning. On our way back I wasn’t as focused, as I didn’t think we could see anything new, but thanks to the watchful eyes of the others we still got to see a rod of Common Bottlenosed Dolphins in the distance. Meanwhile, the others stayed a little longer and e.g. refound the Willet, I had to leave and drive to Lima, where I had to catch my flight. Interesting birds seen during my last transit were Cinnamon Teals, Chilean Flamingos and Black-winged Stilts.
Bird of the day: Waved Albatros — 54 species seen; 2 new
I hope you enjoyed the Peru Birdwatching Trip report series, thanks for visiting here daily. In case you missed it all. Here are the parts.
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report | Lima, Lachay Hills, Wetlands of Ventanilla, Milloc | Part 1
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – The Manu Road, Lago Huarcapay, Paucartambo, Pantiacolla | Part 3
Peru Birdwatching Trip Report – Lomas de Lachay, Pucusana, Puerto Viejo and Humedales de Ventanilla | Part 2
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Cusco, Lago Titicaca, Colca Canyon | Part 5
Peru Tour – Complete Birdwatching Trip Report – Pantiacolla Lodge, Amazonia Lodge, Cusco | Part 4