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