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The intact forest of Puyu Sacha, our turf for the Global Big Day 2019

The Global Big Day (GBD) has become a strong event all over the world and it is admirable to see how each year the participation of more people increases. The first years of the event, Peru obtained the highest number of sightings in the world until Colombia, the country with the greatest diversity of birds in the world, began to organize and cover more areas and with that, it won the first place three consecutive years. In Peru, I have seen with great joy and satisfaction how the number of people preparing and going out to see birds that day increases every year. The subject is taken very seriously and the desire to return to achieve the first position is no joke!

Undulated Antpitta at Puyu Sacha.

Since the inception of this event, the Center for Ornithology and Biodiversity (CORBIDI) had a leading role in becoming responsible for organizing, coordinating and disseminating the importance of the GBD throughout Peru. An admirable and very noble work that has managed to encourage and promote bird watching throughout Peru so that every year I see more people involved and interested in going out to watch birds. The level of expectation that has been created is very healthy for conservation and people are increasingly motivated and excited to participate and go birding, which in the end is what we all enjoy and share, and this year this was put to test.

After years, CORBIDI decided to pass the baton to a Peruvian organization dedicated to tourism that had its own ideas and vision of how the GBD should be organized. Unfortunately, at very last minute they decided not to do so and invoked CORBIDI to take over the organization of the event again, which did not happen. As a result of this situation, much confusion and uncertainty was generated among Peru’s birdwatchers. Nobody knew with certainty what will happen to Peru on May 4th, even some people did not predict a good participation this year!

After the initial shock, people reacted and began to organize themselves through social networks. We all put our grain of sand to support and organize the event within our possibilities: people from all over Peru began to write and share the points and information of where they would go to watch birds that day and little by little the GBD of Peru began to take shape.

Thus, on May 4, people went out birding overwhelmingly with enthusiasm and a lot of optimism. Without a main organization in charge and only the previous days of coordination via social networks, we had a notable participation this year. Much of this is because of all the work that CORBIDI previously did in previous years.

That year after the event I was reviewing the results after and noticed that there were areas of Peru where no observations had been made and there were no lists. It is then that I decided to focus my attention precisely on those areas for the following years, which is why I decided to do the GBD in the small town of Máncora in northern Peru, very close to the border with Ecuador This area is part of one of the 216 Endemic Bird Areas in the world which have been recognized by Birdlife International and which is known as the Tumbesian region, characterized by a lot of endemism as well as species of restricted range that occur only in Peru and Ecuador. Once again I was out all day at different times, uploaded different lists and even went out in the afternoon with my wife and daughter to watch birds … Birding is a super fun family activity!

Ironically, the first year of the event I could not participate because my work as a professional tour leader for Field Guides Inc, I was guiding a tour somewhere in the world and / or traveling between tours … no complaints at all!!…It was not until 2017 when I had the opportunity to participate for the first time in the rainforests of Madre de Dios, at the Research and Conservation Center of Río los Amigos (CICRA) where, in the company of Jorge Valdez Power and José Antonio Padilla, We recorded 216 species in a day characterized by rain and bad weather, without previous scouting trip, and no use of playback!

Team Puyu Sacha, from left to right Johan Medina (Equipak), Pepe Rojas (Pepe Rojas Birding), Claudia and Matilde (APRODES) & David Segurado (Linn Aerospace Peru)

This year and following the same philosophy, I was invited by APRODES with the sponsorship of Enigma, a tour operator. I traveled to participate on the GBD in the incredible forests of Puyu Sacha. My teammates were Claudia Torres-Sovero (with Matilde 8 months in her womb), David Segurado from Linn Aerospace and Yohan Medina, from Equipak.

A female White-rumped Hawk scrutinizing the surrounding vegetation.

The forest of Puyu Sacha is located in the Chanchamayo Valley, San Ramon, Junin and is protected by the NGO APRODES, adjacent to the Sanctuary of Pampa Hermosa which together constitute a very pristine area and in a state of conservation comparable with areas such as cloud forest of the Manu and the Marañón region. Last year I had the opportunity to go for the first time to look for a single species, the Black-winged Parrot and what caught my attention was the incredible diversity of species that occur there, especially very hard to see species like White-rumped Hawk, Black-and-Chestnut Eagle, Cloud Forest Screech-Owl, Black-winged Parrot, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, the endemics Bay Antpitta, Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Masked Fruiteater, a new form of the Plain-tailed Wren (known as the Mantaro Wren) that could be considered a new species and Ash-colored Tapaculo, in what should be an extension to the south of the range of the species. At the time we saw it I was not very aware of its distribution and as I was on a special mission looking for nothing more than Black-winged Parrots I did not take pictures or made recordings … Crass mistake!

This place has a lot of potential for bird watching tourism and little by little, more birds are being reported in this area. To date, the eBird list of Puyu Sacha is of 230 species, which have been recorded in a very narrow altitudinal strip that reaches approximately 2200 meters, which is admirable considering how little the area has been covered. It is vital to explore the forested areas at higher and lower elevations considering that the region of Junin, which in general has not been properly surveyed and explored by from the scientific perspective.

For the Global Big Day 2019 we left Lima on May 3rd at 04:30 am to avoid the infamous traffic of the central highway and take our time to arrive at Puyu Sacha station with plenty of time. Once there we went to bed early to recover energy for the next day. On May 4th we begin our day at 04:30 am! It is known that nocturnal birds, before going to their day roosts where they will spend the day, vocalize and this usually happens before dawn. This is why it is not necessary to go out at midnight to look for birds, especially in areas where there is not a great abundance of nocturnal birds. In this way, leaving at that time one is already on location at the start of the dawn chorus and the greatest bird activity.

Cinnamon Screech-Owl from a previous visit to the area. There are some other “to be found” nocturnal birds at Puyu Sacha.

In our case, between 4:30 to 6:00 am we recorded: Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, Ocellated Poorwill and Cloud Forest Screech-Owl, which is considered an uncommon species and has a disjunct population. One in the central Peru and the other in Bolivia, needless to say it is one of the most sought after birds in the route of central Peru. In Puyu Sacha, it can be seen relatively easily in the surroundings of the guests cabin where it has been seen perched in open areas on several occasions. An interesting record at this elevation was the presence of the Ocellated Poorwill, a species that is normally an Amazon lowlands bird that might elevations of 1300 meters, however here we recorded it at about 2200 meters. We do not register Andean Potoo, a species that occurs here and we have seen it on other occasions.

Once it dawned, we stayed in the same area in a “stationary mode” and detected a number of species singing, including: Masked Trogon, Versicolored Barbet, the characteristic drumming of the Crimson-bellied Woodpecker revealed its presence, some songs of species that were starting their day: Variable Antshrike, Buff-browed Foliage-Gleaner, Three-striped Warbler, and a small flock of Scaly-naped Parrots flew by. The most notable record here was that of the Mantaro Wren form, a subspecies of the Plain-tailed Wren that is possible to be separated as a new species. It’s amazing how abundant it is in this forest!

The perfect definition of “eye candy” embodied by this Versicolored Barbet, one of the regulars at the forests of Puyu Sacha.

After breakfast, we head to the main trail that crosses an intact montane forest with a great plant composition, which favors the diversity of species in the area. This trail has a distance of 2 kilometers and is a single track to be cover back and forth, which helps a lot to detect species that at a certain time are not very active. On this trail the most notable records were Sickle-winged Guan, a species of cracid very susceptible to hunting pressure and which tends to be extirpated locally. White-throated Quail-Dove, Booted Racket-Tail, Green-and-White Hummingbird, Masked Trogon, Black-streaked Puffbird, Versicolored Barbet, Blue-banded Toucanet, Ocellated Piculet, Crimson-bellied Woodpecker, Black-winged Parrot, Creamy- Bellied Antwren, Bay Antpitta, Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Mantaro Wren, Slaty Finch, Blue-browed Tanager (which was a lifer for me!) among others. The activity in general was not very good and we returned to lunch.

The Masked Trogon, another crowed pleaser is quite tame at Puyu Sacha.

After lunch we continued along the path that leaves the property where we recorded 34 species. Among the most interesting birds stood out an adult individual of Black-and-Chestnut Eagle that judging by the size could have been a female. The interesting thing about this record is that the presence of a top predator like that one is a great indicator of the great state of conservation of that forest

Our final tally was 91 species of which the Cloud-forest Screech-Owl and the Bay Antpitta were my favorites because of how rare they are, however the Versicolored Barbet also deserves an honorable mention for how colorful and spectacular it is!

Another view of the great state of conservation of the forests of Puyu Sacha.

I hope you all have also had a memorable day during the Global Big Day 2019 and stay tuned for the next article I will be writing specifically about the Puyu Sacha forest and its amazing the bird watching potential.

Love you all!!!


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