Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Birding Lambayeque: Algorrobo, Salas

This is the third site in Lambayeque that demands a visit - this site is quite less accessible and takes more time than the other sites, but holds the potential for some REALLY cool birds (White-winged Guan, for instance).

Gray-chinned Hermit, Porculla race, 3-May-12
I found this site by stabbing fairly at random in the hills around Salas and the two small towns of Algorrobo and Sauce. The hills around Sauce were very degraded and while they held interesting birds (Black-and-white Tanager, etc.), there were surely better places nearby. And at last, an older man in Algorrobo explained that farther out from Algorrobo along a few trails there were nearly untouched forests, which one would have to travel far from Sauce or Salas to find.

Ecuadorian Trogon, young male, 30-Apr-12

After a few stabs at finding the right trail, Juan Molina and I think we have happened upon what might be the best trail up to see the specialties here: Henna-hooded Foliage Gleaner, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Piura Chat-tyrant, Long-billed Starthroat, Ecuadorian Trogon, Whooping Motmot, Gray-chinned Hermit, Gray-and-gold Warbler, Speckle-breasted Wren, Ochre-bellied Dove, Thick-billed Euphonia and more. To get to this trail, find your way into Salas and hire a driver to take you up to Algorrobo, which is another 3k or so up the road. At the first set of houses in Agorrobo, you will see a path leading between them to the left. Walk on this path for about 45min-1hour until you see a house adjacent to the path on your right. Then continue on a little bit farther - you will see a well made fence on your left. Up ahead will be a house with a tall antennae.

This is the fence you are looking for. The house is obscured by the trees on the left in this picture.

When you can see this house - but 50-100m before - take a right on a smaller trail towards the hills. This will lead you quickly up to a clear area between two houses. Go straight between them and begin climbing the hill - a small river/stream will be in a little valley on your left.

Terrible picture of a Whooping Motmot, 30-Apr-12
Before long, you will reach an area strewn with large boulders. This seems to be the easiest spot to find the motmots, plus there are tons of bats in the boulders, which is cool to watch. You will begin climbing again after this and you may notice some PVC tubes bringing water down to the settlement. The path will split here and you have a choice. The left trail is short, but has the hermit and motmots on it, as well as this strange immature thrush - which I suspect is Glossy-black, but I have no experience with the species at all and worry that I might mix it up with Pale-eyed or maybe Slaty.

Thoughts? 
If you have the time, choose the path to the right, which winds uphill past some grazing land before it dives back towards the stream.

Pass this shed and you will find yourself in wonderful forest.

After this, you will find yourself in another zone completely - huge fig and other trees tower over the forest and it looks unlike any forest I have ever seen before. In here you will start seeing/hearing new species: Black-and-white Becard, Red-eyed Vireo, Pacific Elaenia, Speckle-breasted Wren, Gray-and-gold Warbler, etc. We found this becard down the path and initially IDed it as Slaty, as it looked much lighter and you could see a faint light mark above the base of the bill - and it responded to a Slaty song. Looking at it now though it seems too plump and large-billed for Slaty... is this a One-colored?

Becard sp., 30-Apr-12

At a certain point, you will cross a stream and the path will weave to the left of the stream for awhile, then turn and go uphill. The uphill trail peters out to nothing (bring a machete), but walking along the stream is productive and eventually ends you at a beautiful little waterfall and pool full of cool water and looking perfectly like it is taken from a visit Belize commercial. Strangely, the pool had a pair of Black Phoebes - these are certainly not resident here in dry forests.

Two of your authors cool off in the middle of the day. 

What other species might this location hold? For one, the hills here are known to hold both White-winged and Bearded Guan and locals speak of seeing White-winged fairly frequently. While we have only found Three-banded Warblers (well, 1) near Sauce, they ought to be here as well. Other birds known from El Limon, in Piura outside of Olmos may be here as well - Laughing Falcon, Pale-browed Tinamou, Solitary Eagle, several swifts (along the rock faces on the left side of the Quedrada), Ecuadorian Piculet, etc...

Lunch time break. 3-May-12
If you find any of these - report them to eBird - a growing reference of the birds present now can be used in the short-term to compare changes in range with El Nino and La Nina and longer-term to show range and population trends due to human development or long-term climatic changes.

Long-billed Starthroat. I watched this bird fly in and then the bird sat obligingly for 15 minutes while I managed to point out the unmoving hummingbird in the dense tree 30 meters away to everyone else. 

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