Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Un comienzo

My first stroll in South America in five years is like packing to move house, finding old things at once familiar and strange, at once me and not me. I am, though, very happy to be back. Some of the birds in the streets of upmarket Miraflores are the same as those which lived in our garden in Santa Cruz in Bolivia during the ten years I was there: tropical kingbird, black vulture, house wren (apologies to the splitters who would like to see this as Troglodytes musculus: I am using the Schulenberg et al. taxonomy) and southern beardless tyrannulet (a migrant through our Bolivian garden; on territory here and giving far more insistent vocalisations, including a buzzy trill which, to the Tyrannidophile, calls to mind a short-crested flycatcher's).

Others of the birds are exact geographical equivalents of well-loved friends in Santa Cruz: blue-grey tanager (sayaca in Santa Cruz is near-identical), scrub blackbird (chopi in Santa Cruz), amazilia hummingbird (white-bellied a winter visitor in our garden), white-winged and scarlet-fronted parakeets (yellow-chevroned and white-eyed in Santa Cruz). In Lima these two parrots are descendents of released cagebirds but under the rules of my list, found here, self-sustaining populations of feral birds count. The scarlet-fronted parakeets were two sooty specks in the Pacific mist but they were giving the distinctive bleat which to the neotropical naturalist says green-Aratinga-with-red-face, in this case scrapier than the purring call of white-eyed and not so loudly rolling as mitred (my two familiars from Bolivia).

One chunk of Lima's avifauna, however, is alien to a Bolivian naturalist: its seabirds. Miraflores sits atop a crumbling sandy cliff and gazes to the steely Pacific. Along the beach were kelp gulls, big and brutish, while all about the piers and promontories were band-tailed gulls, sharper, smarter, with a hint of skua in their slender wings. Ribbon-handed Inca terns carved Nazcan geometries through the surf while neotropic cormorants crowded the street-lamps. Out to sea Peruvian pelicans lurked and landed on the cormorants' heads. In North America I've seen white pelicans land on common mergansers and in India I've seen spot-billed land on little cormorants. What is it with you guys?

Lima's garden plants too are familiar-unfamiliar. Here are the same Tecoma and African tulip trees as flowered in South Asian cities during my winter months there, plus a Schefflera crowned in outrageous crimson flower, like a bit-part character from Avatar. And here a long-ago friend from the dry forests of eastern Bolivia: Chorisia speciosa, in Santa Cruz called toborochi, in exuberant pale pink flower (who doesn't love the Bombacaceae?).

I'm daunted I'll admit by this return to South America's magnificent unwieldy wildlife, and mighty excited too. Grato es estar de nuevo en casa.

New in Peru this morning


scrub blackbird
Dives warszewiczi
West Peruvian (Pacific) dove
Zenaida meloda
eared dove
Zenaida auriculata
scarlet-fronted parakeet
Aratinga wagleri
house wren
Troglodytes aedon
kelp gull
Larus dominicanus
neotropic cormorant
Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Peruvian pelican
Pelecanus thagus
band-tailed (Belcher’s) gull
Larus belcheri
Inca tern
Larosterna inca
long-tailed mockingbird
Mimus longicaudatus
Amazilia hummingbird
Amazilia amazilia
Coereba flaveola
southern beardless tyrannulet
Camptostoma obsoletum
black vulture
Coragyps atratus
white-winged (canary-winged) parakeet
Brotogeris versicolorus
blue-grey tanager
Thraupis episcopus
tropical kingbird
Tyrannus melancholicus

2012 Totals
Mammals: 61
Birds: 486
Reptiles: 14
Amphibians: 6
Fish: 6

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