Sonja and I took the dogs for a good walk this evening to make up for the fact that we're leaving for almost a month on Monday. I brought my camera along for the first time in what seems like forever to try to get back into the swing of photographing stuff. The alpenglow on the larch and the snow did not disappoint.
Our walk was cut a bit short by a neighborhood trespasser, though. He had been gorging on the rotten apples that had fallen off of a tree near the West Glacier school. Thirty minutes later he ventured into the park's housing area, where he was greeted by a few rubber bullets to the butt by one of our rangers. Hopefully he'll have learned his lesson and won't be back in the residential area again.
Meanwhile, with our departure for Peru only a day and change away, the anticipation is reaching a fever pitch. We're making list after list (things to do, things to pack, things to buy) and creating a big pile o' crap that will be going into our backpacks tomorrow.
I've also been pouring through our brick-like copy the Peruvian Bible, trying to get familiar with the families and their location in the book. There are a lot of new sections that simply don't exist in North American bird guides...and others that are hugely expanded (27 pages of hummingbirds!). In fact, one of the reasons we chose Peru as our destination (besides it being Peru) was the incredible diversity of bird life.
In the process, I tried to come up with a top ten list of some of the birds I'm most anxious to see. It was almost impossible to pick only ten (there are over 1,800 species in Peru!), but here are some that would definitely be at the top of any list, in no particular order:
How can we go to a country with penguins and NOT try to see one! The Humboldt Penguins are found in Islas Ballestas, which will be one of our last stops during our trip.
Ever since I was 8 years old, pouring through David Attenborough's "Life on Earth" (yes, I was that much of a geek), the Hoatzin has fascinated me. I mean, the babies have claws on their freakin' wings! Claws! On their wings! And they have a sort of rumen-type digestive system...like a cow! They're like thirteen different types of awesome!
The world's largest flying bird. Was there every any doubt that we'd go try to see Andean Condors?
Motmots, in general, are really freakin' cool birds. But the Blue-crowned Motmot is one of the prettiest. Oh, and their tails aren't grown like that. The birds trim them to make themselves more attractive to females (not sure if the females trim their tails, too).
Few birds families are as indicative of the Amazon than the toucans. And I personally think the Collard Aracari is one of the coolest members of this cool family.
Hummingbirds and more hummingbirds. As I mentioned earlier, the Birds of Peru book has 27 pages full of hummingbirds! I just happened to choose this one to include here randomly. Because there are tons of others I'm equally excited to see, like the Sparkling Violetear or
Rufous-crested Coquette, for instance. Impossible to choose a favorite.
Incredibly colorful tanagers are also one of the symbols of neotropical forests of Central and South America. This Paradise Tanager is one of the most colorful.
We'll get a rare opportunity during our time in Manu National Park to visit one of only a couple known macaw clay licks, where hundreds of Red and Green Macaws (among other species) congregate to lick the clay, which helps them digest the toxic fruits they eat.
On our boat trip out to Islas Ballestas we are also expecting to see Inca Terns. In fact, I've read that thousands of these birds will follow the tour boats hoping for a bite of the chum they throw overboard. Not sure how I feel about birding tours chumming the ocean, but I suppose it's not much different than feeders set up at hotels, right?
And finally, no trip to Peru would be complete without a visit to one of the leks of the Peruvian Cock-of-the-Rock. Peru's national bird has become a lucrative tourist draw, and all of the trips into Manu National Park now stop at one of several leks that can be found in the cloud forests above the Amazon Basin.
Yeah, I'd say we're excited.