the rich coast of Peru

To: birdchat <>, birding-aus <>
Subject: the rich coast of Peru
From: Vader Willem Jan Marinus <>
Date: Wed, 28 Nov 2012 12:05:29 +0000
                                SNAPSHOTS FROM THE RICH SEA COAST OF PERU

Last month I had the good fortune to take part in a Field Guides tour to NW 
Peru, named 'Endemics Galore' and so absolutely living up to its reputation. 
Here, however, I want to tell a little about the very rich sea coast of that 
country, as we experienced it during a pretrip to a few venues S of Lima and a 
visit to the coast near Puerto Eten, S. of Cichlayo in N. Peru.

When I talk about 'the rich sea coast', this is maybe not quite correct: it is 
the sea that is so rich here, thanks to the cold coastal current and regular 
upwellings. The coastal areas themselves are very dry and almost desert-like, 
and all the food for the large numbers of birds here comes from the sea. The 
weather was probably quite characteristic for this season: mostly heavily 
overcast, wih some drizzle now and then, but little or no real rain.

The first place where we reached the coast, was at Villa Marcia 1 1/2 hours S 
of Lima. Here there is a broad sandy beach, with a shallow lagoon above 
highwater mark. The beach is a typical high energy beach: very few mollusks 
washed ashore, but lots of debris after the clearly enormous population of mole 
crabs Emerita in the lower beach. At sea there are birds everywhere: skeins of 
heavy Chilean Pelicans, Peruvian Boobies demonstrating their diving techniques, 
and small flock of Guanay Cormorants, as well as lots of gulls and terns. On 
the lower beach hundreds of Sanderlingsrun around near the water line, no doubt 
chasing the mole crabs, with here and there also a few Grey Plovers and 
American Oystercatchers. On the banks of the lagoon hundreds of Whimbrels loaf, 
with to our surprise two Marbled Godwits among them, not a common species here 
apparently. The lagoon itself sports a different set of birds: many Neotropic 
Cormorants, Common Gallinules, Andean Coots, Black-necked S
 tilts, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, 
Pied-billed and even a Great Grebe, and lots of gulls: Kelp, Belcher's , 
Franklin (hundreds of those), a few Grey-hooded, and a few Grey Gulls over the 
sea. The dominant tern is the Elegant Tern, but there are also a few Royal 
Terns, and a small group of Black Skimmers passes over the sea. There are also 
a few of the  smaller sandpipers and plovers, and even the odd Killdeer on the 
beach, and an Osprey graces the lagoon. Of course there are also some egrets, 
Little Blue Herons, and even both species of Night Heron. So this was a great 
introduction into the richness of the Peruvian cast for sea- and shorebirds.

Further evidence came from the immediate surroundings of the fishing village of 
Pucusana, where we made a short boat trip around one of the islands on which 
that village is situated. In the harbour there were the usual begging pelicans, 
but also my first ever Inca Terns, quite as colourful as I had imagined them. 
On the outer coasts, last numbers of seabirds bred on the cliffs: peicans, 
boobies (A few Blue-footed among them), cormorants (with Red-legged Cormorants 
in the caves), Inca terns, as well as sea lions (with newly born pups, 
surrounded by Black Vultures). A few Humboldt Penguins also were present on the 
cliffs, and Blackish Oystercatchers and a few Surfbirds in the intertidal. 
Again, a picture of abundance!

During the main trip we came at the shore only once, at P. Eten S. of Cichlayo, 
at the mouth of the Rio Reque. Also here the sea was clearly still rich, but 
the numbers of birds over the sea were somewhat smaller than at Villa Marcia, 
and the beach itself was also different, a little less high-energy, with far 
fewer mole crabs and more Dotilla-like crabs. Also here comparatiely few 
mollusks washed ashore, but those found were in majority species that drill in 
softer material, such a clay-banks (Barnea, Zirfaea etc) and I found also a few 
lumps of clay riddled with their holes. Also here there were Sanderlings and 
various other shorebirds on the beach (I saw whimbrels catch crabs), among them 
a Hudsonian Godwit. At the mouth of the Rio Reque there was a large 
congregation of birds, mainly pelicans and boobies, on the outer shore, and 
lots of egrets, terns, gulls and shorebirds in the outer lagoon of the river. 
We found a single Gull-billed Tern, and at the last moment also our
  main target here, the tiny Peruvian Tern.

At both beaches there were a few dead pelicans on the shore, but not large 

Many thanks to Lynda Brothers for organizing the pretrip, to Jean Paul ??  for 
guiding us that day, and to Richard Webster and Mitch Lysinger for the 
wonderful 'Endemics Galore' trip.

                                                       Wim Vader,Tromsoe Museum

                                                       9037 Tromsoe,Norway


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