Sunday, June 10th:
Before leaving the hotel, we anticipated cold weather at the camp, and obtained some extra blankets from them. We also put most of our luggage in storage. We once again headed north out of Huánaco. This time, we did not go far before taking the turnoff to Cochabamba. This is another unpaved mountain roads. Our bus is a little long for it, and we sometimes had to take a couple of tries before making it around some of the switchbacks. A driver coming down the road warned us that there was an avalanche area above, and that he didn't think we could make it through. However, we did.
Amazingly, there was a toll to use the road (it's maintained by the local villages), and we were assessed a special gringo fee. We birded some areas near Cochabama, adding Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Brown-flanked Tanager, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, and Black-crested Tit-Tyrant to the list.
We left the bus and one of the drivers at Cochabamba. The rest of us and the camping gear went into two 4x4's for the trip further up. After a slow and bumpy ride, we reached a point where the trucks could take us no further. The gear went on some mules, and we took a 15-20 minute walk to our campsite. A mountain top named Unchog (a Quechua term meaning sitting man) dominates the site.
When we got there, we found that the first tents were already up. Reyes Rivera and some of his family had already been at work getting the gear transported and tents set up. Reyes is the same Reyes Rivera who worked with George Lowery and others as part of the expedition that discovered the Pardusco.
Before long we were eating lunch while the crew set up the remaining tents. After lunch, we got settled in our tents. Cal and I walked around the area a bit, turning up Andean Lapwing, Andean Flicker, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and possibly a tapaculo. At 3pm, the group gathered for an afternoon birdwalk from our camp.
We continued down the main trail, eventually reaching a point 300-400 feet below the trail near the camp (which was a short distance above camp). My first lifer at Bosque Unchog was a Tschudi's Tapaculo. This was soon followed by a Coppery Metaltail. It took some effort to see the White-chinned Thistletail, which hid about as well as a tapaculo. Before returning to camp, we added Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, a couple of heard Sedge Wrens and a Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant to the list.
On the way back up, Chris and I eventually decided the we were taking too many rest breaks. Both of us had found our mountain hiking rhythm and were loath to stop, so we continued directly up the final pitch. We arrived at camp well before the rest.
By dinner it was already cold out, and frost started forming by 8:30pm. It's really clear out and the Milky Way is glorious and the Coal Sack just jumps out. We're only 9 degrees below the equator, and you see the Southern Cross and the Big Dipper both. I think it's going to be a cold night.
My species total for today was 34. My trip list increased by 10, including 5 lifers. My current trip total is 228 species, including 69 life birds.
Bosque Unchog Camp