Aware that the altitude of over 11,000 feet could be a crippler, I took a slow, slow stroll round the local squares. The centre of Cusco is compact with narrow streets connecting these plazas. Traffic was necessarily less manic than Lima‘s but still didn’t observe many of the niceties of road discipline. Traffic cops at many intersections gave pedestrians some chance of crossing the road. Or maybe the sheer weight of tourists having to walk the town overwhelmed the vehicles. Native Peruvians were less numerous as they ran the shops and otherwise hawked their wares wherever they could.
Most obvious of the few city centre birds were Chiguanco thrushes, easy to recognise by being a dead ringer for our blackbird. My old friends, the rufous-collared sparrows, also made themselves known but one similar-sized bird flitting into a bush was a puzzler. All I could pick up was a hood with an olive green back and hints of rufous but not at all in the sparrows’ configuration. I had to wait for the following day before more sightings put me on to Peruvian sierra finch.
Less problematic was a giant hummingbird perching above the cathedral. That’s the description of the bird and the name of the species. It is big too – the size of a small thrush – and yet still able to hover.
Then I slept, which is apparently the best way to pass through altitude adjustment and next morning I felt up to tackling at least a slight climb away from the cathedral. My ultimate goal was the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, not for any archaeological interest but its scrubby hillsides looked good for some non-city birds. On the way a bridge crossed a small stream that then dived under the city; Cusco was full of that.
This pathetic little trickle though did support vegetation and, apart from holding my sierra finch, it also added hooded siskin and golden-billed saltator to the life list. The saltator is a member of the grosbeak family; in other words it’s a finch with a very big bill, not surprisingly yellow in its case and so quite easy to identify.
I kept going up and actually made it to the entrance to Sexy Woman – at least that’s how the name sounded to me. The fee to get in was as steep as the climb so I mentally scratched it from my bucket list and worked the nearby little patch of scrub. The day was moving on and birds had grown few, so all I managed was a ground dove, later nailed as bare-faced. Nothing flew above the town, not a swallow, swift or even a raptor so I figured I’d about exhausted it.
I suppose it was three lifers for what was expected to be a quiet day, so it wasn’t all bad. ⇐ ⇒