Following a later than usual breakfast we drove through the suburbs of Cochabamba and headed up into the highlands of Cerro Tunari.
With many potential new species on offer it was with a good deal of excitement that we made our first stop and sure enough we were not to be disappointed with Rufous-sided Warbling-finch, Grey-hooded Parakeet and the endemic Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer all seen easily. A Giant Hummingbird was also present and perched below us, the first of many White-winged Black Tyrants showed well and Band-tailed Seedeater was slightly less impressive but when a spectacular Red-tailed Comet appeared behind us there was no doubt that it would be bird of the day…..
Moving higher up through the scenic valley we found Bare-faced Ground-dove and Rusty-vented Canastero before checking out our first area of Polylepsis forest. Feeding around the branches of one such tree were both Tawny and Brown-capped Tit-spinetails, both of which were frequent sightings throughout the day. A few people were lucky enough to catch sight of a pair of Andean Tinamou (our 5th tinamou species of the trip) scuttling for cover but everyone was distracted when a very colourfully plumaged Golden-breasted Woodpecker (flicker) was found on the other side of the road and the tinamous were promptly forgotten. The same site also gave us a pair of White-browed Chat-tyrants and a small bird skulking in the bushes proved to be a Cinereous Conebill. The scenery from here on was getting better and better with impressive mountains all around and the birds kept on coming. The Holy Grail (according to Malcolm) of Bolivian Blackbird duly fell under our relentless pursuit of lifers as a few birds fed on the slope below us. A mountain stream looked good for something and sure enough Paul picked up a Torrent Duck and there was also White-winged Cinclodes – although this should be referred to as Creamy-bellied Cinclodes, a recent split.
|High up on Cerro Tunari|
Further on, a Rufous-bellied Saltator was found, before we drove right up to 4100m and the puna zone which was totally devoid of any ground-tyrants, so we headed back down to more promising terrain.
David spotted a White-winged Diuca-finch perched on a rock and a Bar-winged Cinclodes was watched as it brought juicy worms into its nest tucked under a bridge. Moving lower a Streak-fronted Thornbird was seen building a nest on the hillside above us and then a Rock Earthcreeper was called in to give outstanding views, and a Plain-coloured Seedeater was also found.
As we ate our lunch on the bus due to a heavy shower, a D’Orbigny’s Chat-tyrant appeared beside us, and fortunately the rain stopped and we walked along the road checking various patches of Polylepsis for Giant Conebill, which never materialised. However, more new birds were found with stunning Cochabamba Mountain-finches, both Peruvian and Black-hooded Sierra-finches, better views of the saltator and other previously seen species.
When an Olive-crowned Crescentchest began calling we didn’t hold out much hope as earlier in the day we had tried another singing individual without any luck whatsoever. Unbelievably, this bird did respond and came a long way down the hillside and we were fortunate to watch a pair feeding on the ground for a few minutes, What a stunning bird and it duly knocked the comet off its perch for bird of the day. Even better was to come a short while later with a singing bird at point-blank range just a little further on. Wow!
We finished the day with brief views for some of Bolivian Warbling-finch and a Cordilleran Canastero, before returning to the hotel with plenty of lifers safely tucked under our belts and a good suntan!