Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Lima to Huacho

I woke to the news that the national bus strike continues, and likely to do so until Saturday at the earliest. So, there's more than one way of skinning a cat, find out how much your journey will be by taxi. Compared to UK prices they are paltry, so wasn't surprised that the 150Km north to Huacho would be $60. I can manage that, but there is always the problem here, and of course in many parts of the world, the quality of car and driver. The 'beat up' Toyota looked like it might get there, and I'd informed the hotel doorman of my destination, agreed price and no tip - all confirmed with the cabby.

There can of course be one more slight snag as far as this sort of thing is concerned, and that is does the driver know how to get there, I was assured he did!! Seven times we stopped to ask the way, while even I knew that the town was on the Pan American Highway going towards Trujillo. Yes, I hear you say why didn't I drive then, well because these maniacs make up the Highway Code as they go along, for example, if a left indicator is flashing there is no way the vehicle is turning in that direction. I always find it facinating to watch a city or large town come to life in the morning, and so the traffic jam both ways was a bit of a bonus. Where do all those people come from, what do they do, just like the rest of us trying to make a living. All along the track, especially within the city, there were a forest of stalls being erected, buses jam packed and most risking their life at some stage just to get across the road. It was a full hour getting out of the conurbation, after which the terrain turned to desert which is how it stayed for the rest of the journey. Anyway, I'm here, the hotel in adequate, clean, cheap and only a stones throw from the sea, where I'll be heading as soon as the temperature drops a bit.

Andean & Horned Coot are high on the list of species I'll be seeking tomorrow (don't ask me why, I just fancy them) and already have spoken to someone, with the aid of the Field Guide, who tells me they are available. The lake I had sussed before leaving home, Laguna El Paraiso is, according to Google Earth, just 5 miles south of here, but there is also an archeological site with its own lake where I could get lucky. Either way the taxi fare is said to be less than 50p so I can cope with that as well. So for now, off to get some provisions, suss the laundry and Post Office then back to work, and hopefully finish this later.

The beach, or should I say the cliff top, was no more than 5 minutes walk from the hotel, band an excellent vantage point from which to make a decision which way to go. To the left, there wer hundreds of people and what seemed like as many dogs, so my choice was already clear, but to the right were 'thousands' of Gulls. Not wishing to risk the scree path I took the scenic route down to the sand where straight away I saw Belcher's, Grey, Franklin's and Grey-hooded, but much further on there were 'clouds of them occasionally filling the sky so there had to be a Sabine's Gull or two among them. I was only part way to my target when a group of women and their children came running towards me shouting "no, no don't go, robbers", I didn't need a second telling. Turning about I walked the 2 or 3 miles to the small fishing port where Hudsonian Whimbrel, Snowy Egret, all in the dozens, and a single Spotted Sandpiper were seen. In addition, in the arid area away from the beach I found a new species for the trip, a pretty handsome Killdeer. Making it back to the main road through the docks full of vessels on stocks being repaired, I decided on a Tuk Tuk, and as if to order there was Chiefy with his Mrs and Chico just waiting to take me back. At the end of the ride they didn't want any money (puzzled) but a few bob must have come in handy, while the nipper got a shilling too.

Killdeer - like to find one of these at Lodmoor Daragh?

Killdeer showing 'bib'.

Grey-hooded Gull with still a sign of juvenile plummage.

Sow's Ear into Silk Purse!

What could have been an extremely long day today, turned into something of a prefect 'silk purse'. The rumored bus strike was ON and so my latest, Belgian, acquaintance couldn't get to Arequipa and I couldn't get to Huacho. Nevertheless, the taxi had driven along about 5 miles of sea-shore earlier this morning, and that for one had to be worth investigating. There was time for a hearty breakfast, and to say farewell to Benito & Brenda as they endeavored to get a flight to Tacna, just this side of the Chilean border, before I set off myself.

I was advised that there was a steep cliff road and a very busy motorway between the hotel and the beach so a taxi would be the best plan. All of 4 miles and what wouldn't have been a very pleasant walk was a costly £1.40 so I was glad I took the advice. At the shore the 'surfers' had beaten me to the punch, and were already catching some serious waves, but I was undeterred as I saw a whole squadron of birds at the end of the pier so it was game on. Unfortunately, the pier didn't open until noon, and no amount of charm was going to get me past the henchmen guarding the entrance. Fortunately, some of the afore mentioned were flying this way, and in quick time I had the much wanted Belcher's Gull in my sights, along with Inca Tern, Franklin's Gulls aplenty, Neotropic Cormorant, Black Oystercatcher and a single Grey Gull.

Only a few years ago, the coveted Gull came under the heading of Band-tailed Gull along with its east coast cousin, but after the 'split' of these 2 species they were re-named Belcher's and Olrog's respectively. The latter will be the subject of my desires when I get to Bahia Blanca, Argentina in February. For now I was happy to click away at anything that came within range, and a 2 mile walk along the beach turned up 4 age phases of that Gull. By the time I got back the pier was open, and well worth a walk to the end if only to see the superb restaurant there. I took some time to give it the once over and can report the decor, menu and wine list (had there been another day) would have been worth a small indulgence! In addition, the Inca Terns were favouring the roof areas and made for a brilliant and close sight looking through the windows.

So, all in all another splendid day as on the way to find a taxi back I came upon the beautiful Pacific Dove, almost close enough to touch, and although none of today's encounters were 'lifers' there was certainly some quality there. The Belcher's also wasn't strictly an addition to my Gull photo archive, but the 2 35mm snaps I had taken in 2003 couldn't even be described as 'record shots', in addition to which it was still Band-tailed Gull.

Belcher's Gull adult




Belcher's Gull - head detail.

Belcher's Gull - tail detail.

Belcher's Gull, thought to be 'none-breeding adult?

Ditto, head detail.

Belcher's gull, second calander year.


Ditto, head detail.

Belcher's Gull, first winter.


Grey Gull, probably 3rd winter

Same bird

Black Oystercatcher - on the rocks below the pier and almost impossible to see let alone photograph. I stepped on an electrical box, to gain vantage, got a rollocking from security so was only able to get this by leaning over the high fence.

Pacific Dove

The other day I took the liberty of presenting what I think is the most astounding Gull in the World. Today, I do similarly for Terns. Is this a stunner or what?

Inca Tern


Perched on the rocks, they take a 45 degree angle stance then extend their neck towards the sea. Sighting a fish they launch forward and rarely miss.

Shame about the wing-tip.

There, see what I mean?

Taken through the closed window of the restaurant.

The Restaurant at the end of the Pier in all its glory. Click on photo to enlarge, and note the Terns on the Cupola, there were well over 100 on the various roofs.

The Florentina Lighthouse atop the cliff. Not built to the same design as Pisa, just the cameraman with a list to starboard! Think the palm trees look good too.