Sunday 12 October 2014

Birdgirl's South American Wader Quest Part 2: Guest blog by Mya-Rose Craig

My name is Mya-Rose Craig AKA Birdgirl.  I am 12 years old and live in Somerset, in the UK.  I am obsessed with birds, passionate about conservation and love writing.  This is the second part of my South American Wader Quest...

Next, was another six week trip to Bolivia, again chasing endemics.  Here, we added Andean Lapwing and Puna Plover in the first few days, two very lovely birds.  

Andean Lapwing Vanellus resplendens: © Elis Simpson

Puna Plover Charadrius alticola: © Elis Simpson

Heading from the Paraguay border back towards Santa Cruz, we stopped at a lake in the Andes Foothills.  Sandro, our guide saw a wader a long way off.  He knew it was new for him but had no idea what it was.  We went down to the edge of the water and Dad immediately identified the bird as a Least Sandpiper but then started shouting “ow, ow, ow!”.  Sandro then started pointing at Dad’s trousers and shouting “chiwowa!” and we realised Dad was covered up to his knees in hundreds of red ants and was accidently standing on an ants’ nest.  Dad and Sandro tried to swipe the ants off Dad, but then they both got covered.  Mum and I stayed well away as we weren’t going to risk getting ants on us.  When we then ran back to the van, Herman our driver couldn’t help but laugh at Dad and Sandro, as they tried to get the ants out of their pants.

Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla© Trevor Ellery

After this, there were four more waders that we would be trying to search for.  They were special birds.  The sort that you take a huge diversion to see and then spend the day searching for.  The sort that you also feel devastated if you miss.

From La Paz we drove up to La Cumbre, at 5,000 metres, which is at the top of the World’s Most Dangerous Road and enters Cotopata National Park.  I had already felt the effects of high altitude and so had to make sure that I walked really slowly.  This was also the place that I found out that water boils at a lower temperature at high altitude, so doesn’t really get hot.  I’m not going to forget that bit of science in a hurry.  After we spent some time searching in the ice, we had fab views of our two target species, Rufous-bellied and Grey-breasted Seedsnipe.  That was fantastic, as they can be quite tricky to see in other places.

Grey-brestaed Seedsnipe Thinocorusorbignyianus© Elis Simpson

Mya-Rose at La Cumbre; © Helena Criag
Another place that we visited at 5,000 metres was Sajama National Park, on the border with Chile.  At this altitude, it was hard to breathe and walk and I felt headachy.   This was where I tried my first cup of tea, which was coca tea.  I also chewed coca leaf, which I didn’t like at all.  It does really help you cope with altitude sickness, though I think it made me a bit chatty.   Sandro was from the Amazon and he was really affected by altitude even after taking altitude tablets.  His body just wasn’t made to be at altitude, which kinda makes sense.

The famous Coca Tea; © Helena Criag

Mya-Rose and Chris Craig at Sajama; © Helena Criag

As soon as the sun set, it got really cold and we had to sleep with our thermals on and lots of blankets.  There was no way I was having a cold shower, no matter how long we were here.  It was bad enough even washing my hands, so I tried not to!  It was here that we saw our last target seedsnipe, which was Least Seedsnipe and brilliant to see.  

Least Seedsnipe Thinocorus rumicivorus© Alejandro Tello

The other target wader here was Diadamed Sandpiper-Plover which we heard but just could not find.  That was really disappointing after five hours of searching.  I was still looking for my most magical wader.

Mya-Rose’s Wader Quest continues in Part Three.

© Helena Craig
Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig is a young birder, writer and conservationist, her South American wader quest continues in Part Two.

Please like her Facebook page

Trevor Ellery

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