February 13, 2015, Lima, Peru — I landed in Lima at about 11 a.m. and a local birder named Alejandro was waiting at the airport along with a driver, Manuel. The three of us set straight off into the surrounding desert with a few target birds for the afternoon: First was a group of roosting Peruvian Thick-Knees, then a Cactus Canastero, a few Least Seedsnipe, and a couple kinds of miners (birds, not prospectors). It’s good to be in new territory!
Lima, a dense city of 10 million, sits right on the coast in a remarkably barren landscape; its outer suburbs look like lunar colonies. There is zero vegetation below about 1,000 feet elevation here; the coastline is bare sand, dunes, and rock which gets its only moisture through fog condensation. It’s a drastic change from the tropical jungles of Brazil. Alejandro and I hiked about a mile up a rocky canyon in Lomas de Lachay National Reserve, about 60 kilometers north of Lima, to reach a particular grove of cacti where the canastero skulks. It was hot, especially in mid-afternoon (this is the hottest month of the year in coastal Peru) but, refreshingly, not humid at all.
In late afternoon we crossed Lima during peak rush hour, which took a couple hours, then began climbing the Carretera Central, an east-west highway with access to the Andes. Alejandro jumped out at a bus stop and waved goodbye (he travels to southern Peru tomorrow for a different birding trip) before Manuel and I continued to a town called Chosica. There we met Carlos, a birder from northern Peru who will accompany me for most of the next three weeks, and Glenn, visiting from Sacramento, who will also be birding with us. It’s rare that I will spend that much time with the same birders this year, so it will be good to get to know them in coming days. The plan for tomorrow is to climb over 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) from near sea level, and I should reach 1,000 species sometime tomorrow morning, so this Valentine’s Day should be a memorable one.
New birds today: 13
Year list: 993