Day 49: Improvising After a Cancelled Flight

How many birds can you see on a nine-hour drive?

February 18, 2015, Chiclayo, Peru — Gunnar, Glenn and I found ourselves with an extra day in central Peru after our flight out of Huanuco was canceled yesterday. We spent a productive hour and a half this morning birding along a dirt track near the Carpish Tunnel, and I saw more than a dozen new montane forest birds, including a nice Bar-bellied Woodpecker and the endemic Peruvian Wren, and a few I'd already seen, with great looks at a Golden-billed Saltator.

I would have happily stayed there all day, but Gunnar decided that we should drive back to Lima today (9+ hours) rather than fly there (40 minutes) to avoid another possible flight cancelation before our connection from Lima to northern Peru this evening. This meant that we did no birding today after 9 a.m.; instead we spent the entire day driving over the Andes, and I watched half of Peru slide past out the van’s window. Truck traffic was heavy and we didn’t get to Lima until after dark. The day was mostly a wash.

As we approached the city, it became clear that our arrival at the airport would be tight, and Manuel, our driver, exhibited a heroic display of offensive urban driving through Lima’s crowded streets. We pulled up to the airport’s curb at 8:52 p.m., 18 minutes before our flight to northern Peru was scheduled to take off. Gunnar said he would join us tomorrow in Chiclayo and left us at security while Glenn and I sprinted for it. We made it on the plane with 90 seconds to spare.

It was a fitting end to my whistle-stop tour of central Peru; I’ve managed to see more than 250 species of birds in the past four days despite on-and-off logistical chaos. Glenn and I should meet up with Carlos and Gunnar again tomorrow to begin afresh with a seven-day transect across northern Peru, then I will spend another week in southeast Peru before moving onward to Ecuador and Colombia.

New birds today: 18

Year list: 1145

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