Wednesday, 7 November 2012

La Cumbre Pass & Coroica Road

We visited La Cumbre Pass just after dawn which at 4650m or thereabouts was just a little bit chilly – believe me!

La Cumbre Pass

It was a slow start with Plumbeous Sierra-finch and Variable Hawk the only noteworthy sightings, until we crossed over the pass and stopped to scan the lake. A pair of Andean Goose looked really nice but there was else new here so we dropped down and took a lane off into a side valley. 

Andean Goose

This area proved to be a goldmine and was full of birds, starting with flocks of Ash-breasted Sierra-finches, Andean Flicker, and a pair of White-fronted Ground-tyrants. We took a slow, steady walk around the area and had really cracking views of White-winged Diuca-finch, Cinereous Ground-tyrant, several Andean Hillstars, Peruvian Sierra-finch, and a Puna Ground-tyrant

We birded this road just below the pass

A flock of Black Siskins flying around looked quite spectacular and were even better when perched on a mossy stone wall, whilst D’Orbigny’s Chat-tyrant was totally overshadowed by the sighting of a Short-tailed Finch that flew in and landed on the wall right in front of us. 

White-winged Diuca-finch

Andean Hillstar

Peruvian Sierra-finch

White-winged Cinclodes

Short-tailed Finch

So leaving here we drove down the road and walked a short trail where a Diademed Tapaculo was called in for a brief view, a Violet-throated Starfrontlet was perched up nicely and Sierran Elaenia showed very well. Then we headed down the famous Old Coroica Road (better known as the road of death!) – but it’s much safer now. Unfortunately, as with any cloud forest if you have clear blue skies and sunshine it simply kills bird activity. And this was us! 

Coroica Road

But we started off with the endemic Orange-browed Hemispingus skulking in the roadside vegetation and then spent the next couple of hours walking down the road, driving a few kilometres lower and then walking again. It was slow going. So we had lunch and saw a few birds during the expected ‘quiet time’ of early afternoon such as Grass-green Tanager, Cinnamon Flycatcher and Common Bush-tanager

Cinnamon Flycatcher

Common Bush-tanager

Then we finally got some response to the pygmy-owl tape when a bunch of Three-striped Warblers  appeared. All of their commotion attracted a Slate-throated Whitestart, and then a Mountain Wren and Slaty-capped Flycatcher popped up for a look. 

Three-striped Warbler

A Grey-breasted Wood-wren then gave itself up for unusually prolonged views before we drove down several more kilometres. With welcoming clouds obscuring the scorching sun things then took a very different vain and all of a sudden the valleys and hillsides were full of birdsong. When a superb male Blue-naped Chlorophonia flew into a nearby bush, we then saw a calling Golden-crowned Flycatcher over the road and an immature male Long-tailed Sylph fed on flowers right in front of us. 

Long-tailed Sylph

Some Dusky-green Oropendolas had decided to nest just 10 feet off the road and as we walked by cold hear young inside. Another short drive took us even lower and we spent the next couple of hours here as birds just kept appearing. When a family party of White-throated Quail-doves walked across the road, I kind of thought we were on for something good! 

White-throated Quail-dove

Then an incredible kaleidoscope of feathers turned into a male Versicolored Barbet which just kept on asking to be watched, followed by a pair of Bar-bellied Woodpeckers, Saffron-crowned Tanager,  and finally a female Crested Quetzal

Versicolored Barbet

Crested Quetzal

Saffron-crowned Tanager

Of course it had to hammer down with rain which then gave us an excuse to turn around and drive back to the hotel. I would have stayed but it was 4pm and we had a 3 hour journey….! 

And the rain came...!

Anyway, approaching the top of the road I saw a Sword-billed Hummingbird fly close past the bus and shouted for the bus to stop. But it must have kept on going and I felt a bit silly, but then a raucous call from the forest above the road had me thinking it must be White-collared Jay so everyone jumped out of the bus and sure enough there were a pair of jays working their way across the hillside. More bird calls and movement in the misty treetops delayed us further and careful scrutiny revealed the stunning image of a Golden-collared tanager. It was in a flock consisting of Chestnut-bellied and Scarlet-bellied Mountain-tanagers, Blue-backed Conebill, Citrine Warbler, Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher and Superciliared Hemispingus, with an Amethyst-throated Sunangel joining in the fun as well. Wow! As if that wasn’t mind-blowing enough we then had the icing on a very good cake, with a Plushcap posing nicely for a few seconds on a bare bamboo stem. So that was it and we dragged ourselves away and finally reached the hotel in downtown La Paz around 8pm. 

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