Five years ago I was at today’s site above Afluente in the Alto Mayo. I remember this for two reasons: found my first Andean Cock-of-the-rock here and slightly annoyingly there was a Rose-coloured Starling in my parent’s garden where I had recorded birds for years. I still haven’t seen RCS but today I saw the crazy orange continga again, almost in the very same area of forest as in 2002. This time a male flew over the mule trail just metres in front of me and settled about 40 m inside the forest. Field guide illustrations don’t do these birds justice and even inside the forest they can look a bit subdued. You have to see one in full light to appreciate it. Not many birds actually shock me but the fly-past of this one was breathtaking!
I was already pretty pleased as I headed back to the village as some new species today took me over 600 species on my Peru list. All have been more or less self-found on four trips with work along with the occasional diversions to places like Paracas/Islas Ballestas, Machu Picchu and Lomas de Lachay. Ok, so I wasn’t meant to be watching birds today but those cloud forest tanager flocks are hard to ignore. We were actually after the soon to be described Heliconius timareta and upland Ithomiines for molecular work and I managed to get some specimens of Greta alphesiboea – my favourite Ithomiine butterfly and its larger co-mimic Godyris duillia.
The biggest mixed feeding flock contained Golden Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Vermillion Tanager, Flame-faced Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Blue-browed Tanager and Blue-necked Tanager. Also active in the surrounding forest were Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Black-streak Puffbird, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Three-striped Warber, Green Jays (including a flock of 10), Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater, Streaked Xenops, Tawny-bellied Hermit, Montane Woodcreeper, Yellow-throated Tanager, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Masked Trogon, Red-billed Parrot, and Barred Fruiteater.