Friday, July 1, 2011:
Today was an abbreviated birding day due to a combination of weather and travel to Cusco. The plan was to hike up from Abra Malaga pass in search of high-altitude birds. Given conditions yesterday, we knew there would be snow. When combined with today's weather in Ollantaytambo, we figured that we may not be able to make the hike. We headed up the mountain to check conditions. Once we hit the snow line (still falling), we decided to cancel the planned hike, and try birding the Peñas area instead.
Birding conditions at Peñas were not great, but we had some hopes that the snow would push the rarely seen Royal Cinclodes down to our level. Some of the group decided to go back to the bus. A local woman, who we had given food to previously, brought us some hot potatoes. They were much appreciated in the cold conditions. A few of us, and especially Dan, continued to look for the cinclodes. The search was complicated by the presence of many Cream-winged Cinclodes. Dan finally spotted a Royal Cinclodes one (only his second ever). There was much rejoicing about this. We also got the rest of the group to come up and see it.
We worked out way back down, finding a Black Siskin by the side of the road. We then returned to our hotel (Pakaritampu) to get ready to leave for Cusco. Some brief birding at the hotel added Rusty Flower-piercer to our list, then we were off.
We had two more places to stop on the way to Cusco. The first was Laguna Huaypo. There we found Andean (Ruddy) Duck, White-tufted Grebe, Cinereous Harrier, 2 surprising Laughing Gulls, another immature Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, and Black-crowned Night-Heron.
Our last birding stop was a marsh near Chinchero. We saw several marsh birds, such as Plumbeous Rail. We also got two new birds: Many-colored Rush Tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird.
We had time to explore Cusco in the afternoon. It is a tourist friendly city, and I quite enjoyed it.
My bird total for the day was 39 species, including 7 lifers. The trip total increased by 10 to 198 species, with 106 lifers.
Los Andes de America Best Western Hotel, Cusco