Machu Picchu

Sunday, June 26, 2011: There were some birds around the hotel early, including Black-backed Grosbeak. After a little birding, we caught the early 7:05 train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. Getting to the train was easy. It was short block from our hotel.

Numerous birds were visible from the train, although I couldn't ID most of them. The birds I know I saw included Black Phoebe, Torrent Duck, and Blue-and-white Swallow. On the walk to the bus that would take us to Machu Picchu someone spotted a Tropical Kingbird on a wire. Evidently the train once went all the way to Machu Picchu, but the track was washed away in 1931. Nowadays, a fleet of busses takes us up the switchbacks to Machu Picchu itself.

Machu Picchu itself was not very birdy, mostly Blue-and-white Swallows and Rufous-collared Sparrows. We looked unsuccessfully for Inca Wren, although we heard it a couple of times. Of course, our real reason for being here was not to look for birds, but to see the ruins. And Machu Picchu delivered. The classic Machu Picchu photo is pretty much what you see if you climb up the stairs to the high entrance. However, it's embedded in Andean peaks with Rio Urubamba below, and that can't really be captured in a photo.

We viewed the area from various locations above before heading down into the ruins. The way it has all held together tells you that the Inca built well. Not only has Machu Picchu survived the passage of centuries, but also earthquakes. We walked pretty much the whole thing. At some flowering plants we found a Green-and-white Hummingbird, almost too close for binoculars. A little later on, there was a White-winged Black-Tyrant. We also encounter several Northern Mountain Viscachas, a relative of the Chinchilla. Eventually, we left the ruins and walked down to the restaurant for lunch.

After making arrangements for a bus to pick us part-way down the mountain, we started walking down the switchbacks. The first new species was Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, then we found an Andean Guan in a bush right next to us. Further down, we encountered a Saffron-crowned Tanager, which seems quite common around here. A bamboo stand finally produced an Inca Wren. I only got a poor look at Azara's Spinetail. I became reacquainted with Brown-capped Vireo, Sierran Elaenia, and Highland Elaenia. The last new bird of the walk down was Pale-legged Warbler, which is fairly similar to Citrine Warbler.

At the lodge, we found more Saffron-crowned Tanagers, Blue-gray Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Palm Tanager, Silvery (Silver-backed) Tanager, and Chestnut-breasted Coronet. After Dan joined us, we added Tropical Parula, Slate-throated Whitestart, and Golden-crowned Flycatcher. A late walk about the grounds included a heard-only Gray-breasted Wood-Wren, and my last lifer of the day, Andean (Highland) Motmot.

My bird total for the day was 34 species, including 9 lifers. The trip total increased by 27 to 68 species, with 32 lifers.

Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Aguas Calientes