|White-winged guan at Chaparri|
Peru is a magical place for birders! It is the number one country in the world for birds. Its boasts more than 1,800 species, one-fifth of the world’s total, a staggering amount for a single country.
Yet, one needs a good guide to find the varied species, especially when in the jungles or mountains, as the birds tend to hide in the greenery. And after awhile they all look yellow!
|Golden-Olive Woodpecker- Peru|
When I was in Australia six years ago, I added over 300 species to my life list, and most I could have found myself, as they were everywhere. Imagine sitting in a friend's yard and seeing 2-3 species of parrots, cockatoos and rosellas. In Peru the going is much harder, and even though I was in Northern Peru the same amount of time as Australia, I found 100 less birds, and found many of these, thanks to my friend Jeremy.
No country has seen the discovery of as many birds new to science in the last few decades than Peru has, and in the late seventies and early eighties new species were described at an average rate of two per year. Since they were usually found in isolated mountain ranges and remote areas, the full scale expeditions that led to their discovery greatly increased the knowledge of South American birds in general, and more was learned about many birds that until then were only known from a few old specimens. Many of the country’s birds are still poorly known, and there are still species of which practically nothing is known.
My friend Jeremy Flanagan, who has lived in the area for over 25 years has devoted his life to conservation, not only of the land, but of the birds. Sometimes it is a battle, and in the remote areas (where most of the birds live) people are more concerned with where their next meal comes from, not how to conserve. Jeremy has been working closely with his friend, the famous Peruvian wildlife photographer, Heinz Plenge, the founder of the fabulous Chaparri preserve, where we had the privilege to stay for 3 nights. Among other birds we daily were treated to the rare white-winged guans, who would perch on the fences in front of the dining area.
|Jeremy (middle) with friends|
“What keeps me going is the hope that we can change things,” says Jeremy. “It's now or never for this land and this bird.”
Other than a good guide, the most important thing to have in Northern Peru, besides an appreciation for relative time and distance, is a great driver. Paved roads are a rarity, especially when in the cloudforests or traveling along the coast in the small villages.
|Donkey trail to Ayabaca|
Now, as I return to Northern Peru it is with a mission of conservation for birds and students. The University of Piura has invited me to give a presentation- that can be on-going- which may help save the campus as it exists today. Fifty years ago, when the University was established it sat on desert land.
According to Lonely Planet:
After several hours of crossing the vast emptiness of the Sechura Desert, Piura materializes like a mirage on the horizon, enveloped in quivering waves of heat. It’s hard to ignore the sense of physical isolation forced on you by this unforgiving environment; the self-sufficiency imposed upon early settlers may explain why they identify as Piuran rather than Peruvian. Being so far inland, the scorching summer months will have you honing your radar for air-conditioning as you seek out chilled venues in which to soothe your sweltering skin.
|Desert before irrigation|
|Peruvian pygmy owl|
|UDEP campus today|
We pray that a "miracle" happens in the minds and hearts of the city leaders and that students and birds alike don't lose this precious bit of green in a vast desert.
|West Peruvian dove|