The Collared Inca is one of the most variable species of hummingbirds that I am aware of. Within Peru it has at least 5 color variations, each of which is distinct enough so that the uninformed birder might be forgiven for thinking each was a separate species. But no, the taxonomists say they are all the same species. This one, photographed at Wayqecha Biological Station and Birding Lodge high on the eastern slopes of the Andes on the Manu Road is distinct enough to have its own name: Gould’s Inca. But it is still, apparently, a Collard Inca. Go figure. I would have loved to have a day just to sit and watch the few feeders at Wayqecha, and to take a lot more photographs. As it was I only got to photograph hummingbirds on my way to and from meals at the dinning hall…I think I may have gotten photographs of all but one species that was being seen in July, but I would have loved to have gotten them in better light and better poses…etc…if you photograph birds, especially hummingbirds, you know what I mean. 🙂 And the bird I missed was the Swordbill…one of my most wanted hummers! (I did see one in flight from the Manu Road while walking, but no photograph!) Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
We interrupt this parade of Peruvian birds to bring you an update from closer to home. I rode my ebike out to the Kennebunk Plains yesterday to check on this year’s bloom of Northern Blazing Star and found a small flock of Cedar Waxwings hunting dragonflies over Day Brook Pond. Cedar Waxwings tend to pose nicely and these were no exception. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2X Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. The Blazing Star was indeed in full bloom. More on that in another post.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
I spent the better part of 6 days walking down the Manu Road in Peru. To get to the Manu Road you drive across the high passes of the western slope of the Andes, between Cusco and Paucartambo, mostly above 11,000 feet. The Manu Road itself begins in the Puma, among dry grasslands and stunted trees, and then winds down through the Elfin Forest into Cloud Forest and and then on down into the Foothills and the beginnings of Rainforest. There is a lot to see. So many birds. So many butterflies. So many flowers. I was especially taken by the orchids. I will not be able, I am sure, to identify half of what I photographed, but I found some information on this one…common along the road in both Elfin and Cloud Forest. It is epidendum, a terrestrial orchid and it apparently blooms all year long, which is way it is called, locally, wiñaywayna, or “always young”.
I am pretty sure no one who has survived their youth would, when all is said and done, wish to be “always young” but amid the aches and pains and bother of getting old, it is easy to develop at least some nostalgia for the physical vigor of youth. I am certain that in many ways I would have enjoyed the trek down the Manu road more 50, or even 40, years ago when I was in better shape physically. At 71, the daily hike along the road took a tole on my feet, legs, knees and lower back, and I would not have made it far at all if we had had to walk UP the road…not without frequent rest stops to catch my breath. The best investment I made for the trip was a pair of orthopedic insoles for my new boots. Still, there is a part of me that has remained “always young” and is, if anything, younger now than 40 years ago…and that is my capacity for wonder…for being awed and delighted with the things God puts in front of me in this world. I mean, look at that orchid! I am certain my eye is more generous today than it has ever been, and in that way I am not “always young” but growing younger every day. Age has its compensations…at least it does if you practice a generous eye.
I revel in the beauty of the wiñaywayna, the always young orchid on the roadside in the Elfin Forest of the Andes of Peru. God is good. God’s goodness is always young! Happy Sunday!
Moving on from the road-side stop between Cusco and Paucartambo, we arrived at Wayqecha Biological Station and Birding Lodge, at the upper edge of the cloud forest zone on my Birding the Manu Road adventure with Amazon Journeys late in the day. Photographing hummingbirds (or any birds) by natural light in the cloud forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes of Peru is not easy. Light levels are often low. There is often a lot of mist (not to say cloud…but it often amounts to to what you would have to call “cloud”) between you and the bird. And, of course, the birds do not sit still. This is, I am pretty sure, an Amethyst-throated Sunangel, seen around the feeders at Wayqecha. The clouds were moving in, and I don’t use flash for birds, so this is the best shot I could have hoped for. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. (ISO 2000 by the way.)
The Peruvian Sierra-Finch is not a pretty bird. It lacks bright colors and bold distinguishing characteristics. It is a about as plain as a bird can get…rusty brown with a yellowish tint, with a grey hood, just a hint of darker grey around the eye, and chunky silverfish bill. It is also fairly common in its range on the higher, dryer, slopes of the Andes…and, despite its name, it is not even endemic to Peru. It’s range extends into neighboring Bolivia. It’s only claim to fame seems to be that it is the northern most example of the hooded Sierra-Finches…which are not finches at all, but members of the Tanager family. Still, I was happy to see a few foraging on the mountain side above our road-side stop on the highway from Cusco to Paucartambo on the first day of our Birding the Manu Road adventure with Amazon Journeys. If you are counting, that is 6 good birds at this one stop. Bearded Mountaineer Hummingbird, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Creamy-crested Spinetail, and the seen-but-not-photographed Giant Hummingbird. Not bad for a single stop along a busy highway. And tomorrow I will be able to move on from this rest stop! Sony RX10iv at 600mm and 1200mm equivalents. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic.
The Bearded Mountaineer deserves another shot. This was from the same roadside stop on the highway from Cusco to Paucartambo that produced the Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch, the Band-tailed Seedeater, and the Creamy-crested Spinetail. Good stop! I could not catch the gorget of the Bearded Mountaineer in all its colored glory, but you get a hint of the possible richness here. (I do have a fuzzy flight shot that shows the green.) This is a big hummingbird, by any standard (6-6.5 inches)…but it looked small compared to the Giant Hummingbird that was flitting in and out of sight from higher up on the mountain above us. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600 optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
The Creamy-crested Spinetail is a Peruvian endemic. We found this pair foraging in the brush at the same roadside stop as the pervious two birds, along the highway from Cusco to Paucartambo, high on the western dry slopes of the southern Andes in Peru. They were active and flighty, and hard to pin down for a photo, but interesting birds to watch. According to the Birds of Peru, they are locally fairly common in their range. These two are the only ones we saw on the trip, though they also inhabit Cloud Forest where we spent a lot more time than at this road side stop 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. With Amazon Journeys on the Birding the Manu Road Adventure.
Not the most exciting bird in the world, and widespread even in Peru, this is the Band-tailed Seedeater from the same roadside stop where we saw the Mountain Finch from yesterday’s post, on the highway from Cusco to Paucartambo, Peru. A little digital trickery here to show you two views of the same bird. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and a assembled in Pixomatic.
I am working back through my photos from my Birding the Manu Road adventure with Amazon Journeys more or less in order. This is from the first day, still on the highway to Purcartambo (where the Manu Road really begins). We pulled off in a “likely spot” on one of the hairpin turns to walk a ways and see what we could see. This is the Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch, a lovely little bird the Birds of Peru guide lists as rare and local throughout its limited range on the mid-range dry slopes of the Andes. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.