Friday, 8 January 2010

Known As the Salt of the Earth

This 'Post' comes at exactly the halfway point of the Tour
Seven weeks done, Seven weeks to go!

The Ecuasal Salt Lakes just outside of Salinas (15 minute drive from my hostel) cover some 500 acres, and were created by man to commercialise the extraction of salt. Seawater is pumped into evaporation pools by a tube system, where the sun is left to do its work. The saline solution is then run into crystallization ponds where, when most moisture is extracted, the raw salt is harvested before being sent to the 'on site' factory. Here it is processed by the addition of iodine, making it safe for human consumption. Bagged, labeled and weighed it is then carted away by lorries for sale. On the northern periphery, freelance salt producers have their own small, modest pans for which they pay the government about $10 for the use of the land. Once Peruvian Thick-knee roamed this area but production has put paid to them, and if you look to the east leveling has already begun as a base for more urbanisation.

To this foreboding looking area is where Benito Haas brought me at 06-00 this morning, and on first sight it looks nothing more than a wasteland, but the bird life within can only be described as amasing. For 5 hours we walk around the site, during which time we recorded 52 species several new for the trip and one addition to the life list. I had expressed a wish to see Surfbird and Black Turnstone if at all possible, with the latter being off the schedule only usually migrating as far south as Mexico. However, we drove the Ocean Road searching the tide line rocks, but it was not to be so continued to the pans. Grey-hooded Gull was a prized sighting, as although not new to me it did give an opportunity to get photographs. By the same token Wilson's Phalarope, Snowy Plover and Royal Tern were most welcome, and as we crossed yet another of the labyrinth of 'bunds' there before us were about two dozen Surfbirds. In addition, I cleared up a fairly big mistake I made last week, while in Puerto Lopez, when identifying what I thought were Peruvian Pelicans. Even though I had seen this species before I still managed to cock it up, as they were in fact 'Brown Pelican'. Once reintroduced to this 'monster' together with their 'Brown' cousin, it seems almost impossible that such a mistake could be made. This has been Benito's patch for 22 years, and even though there was something for him here today. Only ever having recorded Southern Rough-winged Swallow during a single month of the year, December, the 3 present today were a 'month tick' for him, over which he got quite excited.

The Ecuasal Salt Pans are 'Private Property' but doubt there would be much difficulty in gaining access.

Today's additions to the Lists include:-


Trip Ticks - 751 Lifers - 513 Endemics - 44

All figures are subject to adjustment!

Benito Haas

Surfbirds among more familiar suspects - wish I'd taken this at Ferry Bridge.

Franklin's Gull (adult winter, there were a couple just starting to show 'pinkish').

Neotropic Cormorants with Brown and Peruvian Pelicans for comparison.

Grey-hooded Gull at sea.

Grey Hooded Gull airborne.

Greater Yellowlegs

and something just a little more familiar to some (Sandwich Tern).

Least Sandpiper, probably the most common bird on site.

Snowy Plover - what a little cracker?

Stilt Sandpipers

A few for you to sort out!

Privateers tending their 'pans'.

Tricoloured Heron

A trio of Wilson's Phalarope.

A Chilean Flamingo

A few Chilean Flamingos.