Peering through the curtain of moss-covered vines, we could see what appeared to be three bright orange balls glowing in the dark forest. Two of them were moving in a strange fashion, bobbing and bowing up and down. Once our eyes had adjusted to the scene before us, we could see three male Andean Cock-of-Rock just a metre or two off the ground. This glamorous bird is a member of the cotinga family and probably well-known to viewers of David Attenborough’s documentaries. Seeing them in real life was almost surreal.
But this encounter was no accident, we hadn’t just happened upon these birds of amber- gold. The previous day, we’d travelled down the incredible ‘Manu Road’ which clings precariously to the eastern slopes of the Andes, winding from its highest windswept point at around 4,500 metres to an elevation of 1,800 metres at the cabins of Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge. Yep, that’s right, a lodge named after these birds because they are resident in the cloud forest here. An active lek, where radiant males gather to perform their dipping dance for the drab, chocolate-coloured females was well-known to the staff and easy to find.
Manu Road, Peru, May 2004.
For details of Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge go to: http://www.inkanatura.com/cockoftherockslodge.asp