Like most people who do the Inca Trail or visit Machu Picchu, we found ourselves in Aguas Caliente (although it’s technically called Machu Picchu Pueblo, most still call it Aguas). It is a little valley town that has gotten a bad rap as a ‘necessary evil’ for visitors to the historic tourist attraction. Luckily, we’d taken the advice of fellow travelers Megan and Marshall of The Indulgent Adventure to stay put a little while in Aguas and check out a few of the local birds. On their recommendation, we sought out Jim Sykes and partner Gladys Jimenez Ramirez of Lost City Birds Guides.
We woke on the day of the tour to torrential rain but it didn’t put a damper on our spirits. Be-ponchoed and eager, we set out with Jim and Gladys first thing in the morning. They provided us with high caliber binoculars and lead us to our first birding hotspot – which was surprisingly in the middle of town. They’d spotted the iconic ‘Andean cock of the rock’ in this tree before and sure enough, we spotted the less colourful female perched right there in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Bolstered by our first sighting, we toddled off down the train tracks to find what else we could see.
We are not birders, we’d never officially gone ‘bird watching’ before so this was a new experience for us. We walked until one of the two of them spotted the slightest movement and then we would all train our binoculars on the area and look for a flick of a feather or a bob of a head. Thanks to Jim and Gladys, we were able to spot a variety of tanagers,
an American Kestrel, several colourful humming birds, warblers, toucanets, motmots, fruit eaters, xenops, manikins, and a whole slew of birds I can’t remember the names of (Jim, if you read this, feel free to remind us in the comments section). On the raging river, we also saw a few water birds including a tiger heron, torrent ducks, terns, and dippers.
It was amazing the variety of birds that we saw in such a short time. Jim and Gladys told us that our session was very fortuitous with many rare birds coming out for the show. They thought perhaps we could blame it on the rain making the soggy day worth it. It was a fantastic day in the rain along the roiling river. And like Megan and Marshall, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the experience to other travelers – especially those who’ve never done any bird watching before because this has got to be one of the best introductions anyone could ever hope for.