Southern Peru

AN5A0911As mentioned in the last post, prior to arriving in Paracas, we toured southern Peru, in particular the City of Ica.  Our first stop was the very informative Museo Regional de Ica where numerous pre-Columbian archeological artifacts are on display including mummies, deformed skulls, ceramics, textiles, funerary bundles and physical remains from Nazca, Paracas and Inca cultures.  This was the first of three locations that I was disappointed that photography, flash or otherwise was not allowed.  Apparently,  flash photography can contribute significantly to the degradation process of a piece of art and some museums are designed so that their exhibits never see sunlight.  I suppose that even though I had a camera that needed very little light to create an image, it is easier to ban the activity outright than inspecting everyone’s cameras.

We had lunch at a beautiful open-air restaurant at Hotel La Dunas which was set in an exquisite garden-like setting complete with more pretty Peruvian birds to add to our ever-growing list.  We saw the now-familiar Vermilion Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird and a new bird, the Groove-billed Ani.

Vermilion Flycatcher Groove-billed AniTropical Kingbird

After lunch, we visited Huacachina, a small village near Ica that is built around a desert oasis.  For someone that lives in a temperate zone and sees plenty of vegetation, water and temperature change, it was quite something to experience the desert with vast areas of nothing but sand.  Huacachina is popular with the local population for a quick getaway and is becoming more popular with tourists looking to go dune buggying or sand boarding which is the desert version of snow boarding.  This link will take you to the Google Satellite Map of the area and by zooming in and out, you can see the oasis and the surrounding desert.

Drifting sandDune walkingGetting ready for more sand boardingfemale Vermilion Flycatcher

We learned from our tour guides about the national drink, the Pisco Sour.  The Pisco Sour is created by combining its base liquor, pisco, with sour citrus juices and sweeteners.  Pisco is derived from grape brandy that is produced in the wine-making region of Peru and developed in the 16th century by Spanish settlers.  Ica is one of those wine-making regions and we visited a Pisco-producing winery and had the grand tour.  It was quite amazing to see how centuries-old tools were still being used to create a centuries-old beverage.

450-year old wine pressWine pressPisco jugs

While we were staying in Paracas, there was an opportunity to take flight over the famous Nazca Lines.  These geoglyphs are believed to have been created by the Nazca people between 400-650 AD but why and their exact meaning remains a mystery and is still being studied.  The theories are wide-ranging and include relations to astronomy, religious cosmology and even as signs for aliens.  Seeing the Nazca lines was one of the excursions Dianne was looking forward to participating in and seized the opportunity.  Dianne was able to capture some wonderful images as seen in the next gallery.

The PlaneThe HummingbirdTrapezoidThe AstronautThe CondorThe Parrot

While Dianne was enjoying “the Hummingbird’ from the air, I was studying Hummingbirds and other avians at the Hotel Libertador with my camera.  It is really too bad that the Peruvian Sheartail didn’t have the full tail length which can be as long as one to two times the length of it’s body.  The Whimbrel is most likely a Canadian bird since they breed in subarctic North America and migrate to South America.

Peruvian SheartailPeruvian Sheartail 2WhimbrellRufous-collared SparrowSnowy Egret

Lastly, the location of Doubletree Hotel in Paracas is ideally situated on Paracas Bay, a sheltered area with abundant bird life.  An early morning walk on the beach with its calm waters produces a number of interesting sightings including shorebirds, gulls and my favourites, the Black Skimmers.  Black Skimmers fly low over the water surface with the lower mandible dragging the water hoping to catch small fish or other prey.

Thanks to one of our friends keen birding instincts, she decided to look inland instead of the shoreline and discovered two very interesting species, the Burrowing Owl and the Peruvian Thick-knee.  The Burrowing Owl nests in holes in the ground and can also be found in the plains of central North America and Florida.  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Neotropical Birds, the Peruvian Thick-knee is nocturnal and roosts motionless during daylight hours in open areas where the ground color is quite similar to that of the back color of the bird. The Thick-knees can be difficult to find in the day so we were very fortunate to have seen them.

At the south end of the bay is the Paracas National Reserve.  There is a visitor centre and a 500 metre walk across the desert which brings visitors to within 500 metres of the water’s edge.  From the shoreline, we saw thousands of birds including booby’s, pelicans and the Chilean Flamingo.  Photographic conditions were less than ideal since there was already heat waves coming off the ground even at 9:00am.  There was one last unique bird to be found in the desert before our departure back to Lima, the Coastal Miner.  While it isn’t flamboyant like the Vermilion Flycatcher, the Coastal Miner is a very unique bird that occupies open and often barren habitats with little or no vegetation.

WilletSemipalmated PloverSemipalmated SandpiperGray-hooded GullBelchers GullBlack Skimmers with one skimmingBalck SkimmersSingle Black SkimmerBurrowing OwlsPeruvian Thick-kneeWalk to viewing locationChilean FlamingosCoastal Miner

Next post will be in about a week and will be the first one about our adventure in the Peruvian Amazon!




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  1. Scott Martin December 2, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Thanks for the informative post Arni, the variety of landscape is amazing in South America. The Nazca lines are fascinating and thank Dianne for the pics of them. How were they formed and why has not vegetation and erosion obliterated them by now? Although they are 1400 years old, the Condor looks like it was just formed last week!

    • Arni December 2, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

      Peru is an amazing country with a wide variety of environments that you have seen and will see more of in the next few weeks. The desert where the lines were created is largely windless and is one of the driest places on earth so any disturbance to the earth will stay forever as in the case of the Nazca lines. The actual lines are only 10-30 cm deep and were created by moving the top layer of stones and earth to the sides exposing the lighter soil underneath. It is believed that the circles were created by using a central point and attaching a rope and gradually move out in a measured fashion. The straight lines were created using precisely measured rods or poles to keep everything uniform and properly proportioned. The lines can also be seen from the foothills of the nearby Andes. Dianne’s pics are pretty great considering the speed of the plane, focusing through the windows and trying to make a decent composition!

      • Scott Martin December 3, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

        Thanks Arni, Its amazing that one part of the country is so environmentally stable that the lines can last indefinitely while not too far away there are sand dunes that are in a continual state of flux.

        • Arni December 3, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

          Even though the country is environmentally stable, some of their archaeological artifacts including the lines and Incan ruins are under continually threat from tourists, development, industry and locals.

  2. Rob Smith December 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Fabulous to see Arni. Probably one spot we will never get to. Looking forward to seeing more

    • Arni December 4, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

      Hi Rob, Never say never! We never considered Peru either so you just never know. I have quite a bit more interesting stories and images to share so stay tuned.

  3. Ed.Murphy December 5, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Arni – It was a pleasure to attend your presentation at Probus and to see some of the birds from the Peru trip. Some years ago I was in Peru visiting some of the mining operations and stayed in Lima. This past week whilst visiting a daughter and her family in California we learned that the family are heading to Peru next year for a posting for her husband. When in Peru I wanted to go to visit Machu Picchu but the local air connection had just gone into bankruptcy

    • Arni December 7, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

      Thanks for your kind remarks Ed, and I certainly enjoyed presenting to the Probus club. We travelled to Cusco and the Amazon via LAN Airlines on Airbus 319 so when you go back I’m sure they won’t go bankrupt and you can get to Machu Picchu. We travelled to and from Machu Picchu by rail and I will be detailing those details in the coming weeks.

  4. Martin January 5, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    Your Hummingbirds frozen in flight are amazing.

    • Arni January 6, 2014 at 8:34 am #

      Thanks Martin, I was thankful that they were very predictable and kept coming back to the same blossoms.

  5. L. Denise January 23, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

    Thanks for the description and photo of the sheartail. I saw one in Lima today, and it looked just like your photo…not the more extravagant plumage depicted in the field guide. I started to doubt my ID, but looking at your photo, I don’t know what else it could’ve been!