Birding: Trip reports

Inca tern

Rob Williams

Pucusana pelagic birding exploratory trip 

18 SEPTEMBER 2010 – 08.30-18.00

A pelagic birding trip out of Pucusana on the Ocean Spirit. The objectives of the trip were to:

  • assess the potential of the inshore birding route,
  • work out fuel consumption rates for the new engines that have been fitted to the boat.

This was not a deep water pelagic but rather and inshore trip south to Asia Island and then we took a triangular return route to Pucusana reaching some deeper water in the early afternoon (not the best time of day).

See some of Robs pictures taken during the trip.

Birds seen:

I recorded 43 species of birds but it was the numbers and views that were particularly impressive, especially of some of the inshore Humboldt Current seabirds such as Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Humboldt Penguin, Red-legged Cormorant – all of which were seen in greater numbers and much better than I have from Callao pelagics. The rarest bird we saw was the Prion but unfortunately it was not conclusively identified to species. We did not reach the shelf as time was running short but did see one Markham’s Storm-Petrel indicating we were close. It would be easy to do deep water pelagics from Pucusana if one wanted to.

Red-legged shag

Peruvian Pelican: hundreds at sea and on islands

White-cheeked Pintail: c.30 in a single flock a few km off-shore flying north
Great Grebe : 50+ 0.5-2 km from shore north of Asia Island.
Humboldt Penguin: 39 – Group of 25 on Isla Asia and 3 groups of 3, 5 and 6 at sea
Waved Albatross: 1
Dove Prion/Slender-billed Prion: 1 flew fast by the boat and was mainly seen going away. Not conclusively identified to species but the darker face and not very obvious supercillium point more towards Dove Prion.
White-chinned Petrel: about 10 seen.
Sooty Shearwater : 500+
Pink-footed Shearwater : 2 including one briefly into chum and photographed well.
Wilson’s Storm-Petrel: c. 5
Elliott’s Storm-Petrel : 500+ – big flocks at chum slicks
Markham’s Storm-Petrel: a single flyby when chumming

Peruvian Diving-Petrel : c. 200 Good numbers and good looks (they seem to tolerate the small boat better) mostly close to shore north of Asia and when returning to Pucusana.
Blue-footed Booby : 3. 2 on rocks north of Asia Island and 1 at sea.
Peruvian Booby : thousands.
Neotropic Cormorant : c. 200 mostly in Pucusana harbour
Red-legged Cormorant : 500+ Good numbers and great looks on route south to Asia Island.
Guanay Cormorant : c. 1000 at sea and on islands.
Snowy Egret : 2 in Pucusana harbour
Turkey Vulture : c. 20. Pucusana harbour and on Asia Island.
Grey (Black-bellied) Plover : flock of about 30 flew past
American Oystercatcher : 2 on Asia Island
Blackish Oystercatcher : 6 Pucusana Harbour and Asia Island.
Whimbrel : c.10

Peruvian booby
Spotted Sandpiper : 2
Ruddy Turnstone : c. 50
Surfbird : 2
Red-necked Phalarope : c. 200 just beyond wave zone in large bay north of Asia Island.
Grey (Red) Phalarope : 50 + small groups, mainly well off-shore
Chilean Skua:  c. 10
Arctic Jaeger : 1
Pomarine Jaeger : 1
Swallow-tailed Gull : 1 imm. a couple of kms north of Asia Island
Sabine’s Gull : 5 moulting adults
Grey-hooded Gull : c. 10
Grey Gull : c. 100
Belcher’s (Band-tailed) Gull : c. 200
Kelp Gull : c. 20
Inca Tern : 500+
South American Tern : c. 10+
Arctic Tern : c. 200+

Peruvian seaside cynclodes
Common Tern : c. 50+
Tern (unidentified Arctic/Common/ South America?) 500+ a large movement of terns southwards offshore as we returned to Pucusana.]
Surf Cinclodes : 3 seen on rocks of Pucusana harbor and Asia Island.

Dusky dolphins

Marine Mammals/Cetaceans

Bottlenose Dolphin : 4 groups seen – bow riding and jumping right round the boat. Great photo opportunities if I had had the right lens with me – you need a wide-angle for these guys!
Dusky Dolphin : several groups with good looks, swimming right under the boat.
Sperm Whale : two blowing about 500 m from the boat on the return to Pucusana, unfortunately we did not have time to detour and wait for them to surface again.
South American Sea Lion :  many on the coast, 300+ on Asia Island colony and many at sea.


  •  The in-shore route from Pucusana to Isla Asia offers a great birding experience with large numbers of all the main Humboldt Current specialities and great looks at them. The close encounters of the dolphins etc. are a great added bonus for birders.
  • The off-shore waters were productive and I am sure that in the morning would provide very good birding.
  • It would be possible to reach the continental shelf from Pucusana for deep-water pelagics which should provide all the deep-water Humboldt current species etc. I would recommend that for such trips one should depart directly from Pucusana for the deep-water at first light.