Yanacocha: December 6, 2008

The weather was typical for the highlands today: the sun was shining through high scattered clouds in the morning, building to a hailstorm in the early afternoon and clearing spectacularly for sunset. You'd think at this point I would be able to read the meteorological signs, but I was caught in the middle of the storm with neither my umbrella nor my rubber boots, getting soaked enough to forgo any late afternoon birding.

My goal for the day was to track down the Undulated Antpitta, which had been calling the last time I was at Yanacocha. While I managed to get a little closer to seeing it this morning as several individuals were calling within earshot of a forest trail, there was no way to approach for a view. Montane forest may be relatively short in height, but it's incredibly dense and near impossible to bushwhack through. Perhaps as compensation, I had my best looks yet at the Rufous Antpitta which seemed to be all over the Masked Trogon Trail, including on the trail itself hopping along just a few meters in front of me. The Chestnut-Crowned and Tawny Antpittas were calling as well, making this site quite a popular gathering spot for the Grallaria genus.

Climbing back to the Trocha Inca, I ran into the best mixed flock I've ever seen at the reserve. For ten minutes the birds were boiling in a ravine just below a bend in the trail, and I watched them at close range until they evaporated up the ridge. Amazingly, I was able to identify every bird that I observed in the flock, about fifteen species in total, although I spent most of the interval photographing two birds I had never seen at Yanacocha: the Bar-Bellied Woodpecker and the Grass-Green Tanager, the latter of which isn't on the reserve's bird list although it was only slightly above its normal altitude range. Other good birds in the flock included the Supercilliaried Hemispingus, the White-Browed Spinetail, and the Streaked Tuftedcheek.

I lingered at the hummingbird feeders long enough to photograph the beautiful Golden-Breasted Puffleg, which might just outshine the closely related Sapphire-Vented Puffleg pictured in the background. With only an hour of dry weather left I mistakenly plodded ahead up the Polylepis Trail instead of calling it a day, thinking I might be rewarded for my strenuous efforts (the trail goes straight up from the hummingbird feeders in a series of steep and tight switchbacks). While I did score excellent views of the Hooded and Black-Chested Mountain Tanagers, as well as the secretive Stripe-Headed Brush-Finch, the hour-long walk to the car was performed during a hailstorm as a result.

Notable birds seen: Andean Guan, Sword-Billed Hummingbird, Golden-Breasted Puffleg, Bar-Bellied Woodpecker, White-Browed Spinetail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Rufous Antpitta, Blackish Tapaculo, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Barred Fruiteater, Rufous Wren, Blue-Backed Conebill, Scarlet-Bellied Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-Chested Mountain Tanager, Grass-Green Tanager, Supercilliaried Hemispingus, Stripe-Headed Brush-Finch.

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