Daily Archives: August 28, 2019

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

One of the highlights of the Manu Road on the eastern slopes of the Andes in southern Peru has to be the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. The Cock-of-the-Rock is a member of the Cotinga family of birds, found at cloud forest levels in the Andes from Columbia to Bolivia. It is at least unofficially the national bird of Peru, and certainly emblematic among the birds of South America and the Andes. It is the must-see bird in any visit to the Manu Road. Fortunately, Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks are leking birds…the males gather twice a day in favored patches of forest to display. During mating season, which varies depending on how far south you go, the males are attempting to attract females and the displays are both energetic and spectacular. The rest of the year, they are just showing off for each other. The leking seems to be tied to the level of the light…and the males gather in early morning and late afternoon…later on dark mornings and earlier on dark afternoons. I am told that the best of the leks along the Manu Road was lost to a landslide several years ago, so almost everyone who sees the Cock-of-the-Rock in the Manu region sees it at the lek just above Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. You can make a reservation to visit the hide (or blind) in the morning or afternoon. Our reservation was for the afternoon, at 4PM. We arrived at Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge at lunch time, and I watched as the clouds moved in, with a light rain, by 3PM. I was concerned that it was going to be too dark and too wet for photography, and we talked about canceling and coming back another day. We consulted with the keeper of the lek. He did not hold out much hope for better light on any day in our time-frame on the Manu Road, so, in the end, we kept our appointment. The hide at the lek is covered, which is a good thing, and it actually stopped raining by 3:30. The light levels were low, but I set the Sony RX10iv for Anti-motion Blur mode…designed for just such situations…and hoped for the best. Perhaps due to the weather, there were only a handful of other people in the blind that afternoon. The first male arrived only moments after we got in position, and over the next hour or so a few more came in to challenge him. We did not see any face to face displays, at least where you could see both birds, and the males stayed pretty much deep in the foliage, but it was still one of those experiences were I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. I could have, perhaps, gotten better shots on another day…but I am happy with what I got. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Anti-motion Blur Mode. Processed in Polarr.