Snow at Abra Malaga

Thursday, June 30, 2011: This morning, we drove up the road to Abra Malaga instead of birding up the road. One exception was to stop where we had heard, but not seen, Line-fronted Canastero yesterday. This time, the Line-fronted Canastero proved quite responsive to the tape. As we drove up the mountainside, it became we began to run into snow. By the time we reached the pass (Abra Malaga), there were 2-3 on the ground.

The snow disappeared as we descended, and we ran into occasional rain (sometimes heavy enough to send us back to the bus) during our stay north of the pass. We heard more Rufous Antpitta and Diademed Tapaculos, with the Diademed later replaced by Trilling Tapaculo. They remained heard-only today.

Eventually we found a nice flock. It included Three-striped Hemispingus, the handsome Pearled Treerunner, Sedge Wren (aka Grass Wren), Band-tailed Pigeon (same as the western US), the striking Plushcap, Parodi's Hemispingus, and Blue-backed Conebill. I noticed a subflock with Cuzco Brush-Finch. The subflock also contained Maracapta Spinetail, Citrine Warbler, and Mountain Wren. I was particularly happy that I had spotted and ID'd these birds before Dan saw them. Part of my plan for this trip was to learn the Andean birds better, and I'm doing so. I'm not sure if the Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan was in the same spot or not. I'm pretty sure that we moved before finding the Hooded Mountain-Tanager, and Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager. Dan had heard Mountain Cacique, and pretty soon, we spotted a couple. I wondered about a distant bird that was an unusual color of red. It turned out to be a Crimson-mantled Woodpecker. There were also some Pale-footed Swallows flying about here and elsewhere.

As we continued to work the Amazonian slope, we found Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant and Black-capped Hemispingus. One our way back up, a red-breasted Plain-breasted (Sharp-shinned) Hawk perched within easy viewing distance. We also found Rufous-capped Thornbill in the same area.

The pass was snowier this time. We noticed some major bird activity in a flat snow-covered field south of the pass. Many of the birds were Cream-winged Cinclodes, but we also found Paramo Pipit, Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant, White-browed Ground-Tyrant, Slender-billed Miner, Puna Snipe, and Plain-colored Seedeater There was a flyover of Black-faced Ibis. We didn't find anything else new on our way back down to the hotel.

My bird total for the day was 65 species, including 17 lifers. The trip total increased by 27 to 188 species, with 99 lifers.

Hotel Pakaritampu, Ollantaytambo