Birder's Guide

MAY 2017

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 31 of 51

30 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2017 Community Conservation in Peru The tree planters belong to com- munities that have been here since the heyday of the Incan Empire, which built the 14th-century for- tress of Machu Picchu nearby. Today these villages support the Vilcanota Reserve Network, work- ing together to plant thousands of Polylepis, or (their Quechua name) queuña, trees as part of an intense effort to restore the area's wood- lands and protect the source of their water. This ecosystem sup- ports some of the rarest forest birds in the world. But centuries of burning for agriculture, cutting trees for fuel, and overgrazing have reduced it to less than 3% of its original area, threatening the Royal Cinclodes and other birds that de- pend on these woodlands. The tree planters are working to change that. As they walk, the planters pass by stone walls and irrigation canals built by their ancestors, and traditional stone huts covered by thatched roofs. The area's growing investment in con- servation has brought new features to the village, including vegetable green- houses, a solar water heater for hot showers at the village school, and solar panels to power electric lighting. The women wear traditional hats that shield their eyes from the sun and also signal their marital status. A few European tourists look on, here on a holiday trek to see the area's snow- capped mountains and glaciers, and the remains of its Incan past. Having just visited the ruins at nearby Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo, they see that this is the living Inca Trail. Mountain Forests, Rare Birds The trees, too, have been here for cen- turies. In the Vilcanota Mountains, Polylepis woodlands grow at higher el- evations than any other forests in the world. The trees represent several spe- cies of the genus Polylepis, members of the rose (Rosaceae) family, and many of these species are endangered. The trees have small, serrated leaves and n ABOVE: Royal Cinclodes is the rarest and most sought-after bird in the Vilcanota Mountains. Photo © Fabrice Schmitt n BELOW: Communities have built trails, restrooms, and visitor facilities to welcome tourists to enjoy these mountains, forests, glaciers, and birds . Seen here is the Abra Malaga entrance. Photo © Daniel Lebbin

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