Day 47: I’m Birding in the Rain

Luckily the birds don’t seem to mind the damp weather.

February 16, 2015, Huanuco, Peru — After Gunnar mentioned Gene Kelly this morning, I spent the next three hours singing “Birding in the rain, I’m birding in the rain, it’s such a glorious feeling…” in my head. For the second day in a row, a steady drizzle moistened our efforts. Gunnar, Carlos, Glenn and I spent the night at a place in the cloud forest called Ulcumano Ecolodge, and today we birded under umbrellas there for most of the morning.

We had stayed up past 1 a.m. looking unsuccessfully for a Cloudforest Screech-Owl, and got up again at 4:30 a.m. to try for the darned owl one last time before dawn. No luck, but we did hear a Rufous-banded Owl and had killer views of a Swallow-tailed Nightjar before sunrise, so it was worth the early wakeup.

For the rest of the day the four of us birded along various mountain roads, picking off new additions with quick roadside stops. Late afternoon found us at a large, shallow, high-altitude lake called Lake Junin, smack in the middle of Peru, where Gunnar spotted a pair of Junin Grebes, one of the world’s most endangered birds. The Junin Grebe is flightless and is found only on this one lake, and its population has declined from thousands in the 1970s to just a couple hundred today (perhaps because of water pollution or changes in water levels, nobody really knows). Carlos was particularly excited to see them, as he plans to start a multi-year project involving Junin Grebes soon for a thesis in environmental engineering.

For dinner Gunnar stopped at a roadside stand and asked an Andean-looking woman to make us maca cocktails, a local specialty in the Junin area. Maca is a type of small beet with apparent health properties, farmed in the high Andes. For the cocktail, I watched her add the following ingredients to a blender, one by one:

2 raw eggs
Soy milk
Maca (beets)
Algarrobina (mesquite seedpod syrup)
Bee pollen

It was quite tasty - a real Andean power smoothie!

New birds today: 36

Year list: 1109

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