A bofedal is a high altitude peat bog in the Andes. A relatively rare and fragile habitat which is susceptible to draining, overgrazing and peat extraction; bofedales in a good state of conservation are now quite rare in accessible areas. Their saturated acidic soil supports a fascinating flora of dwarf shrubs, cushion plants, mosses and grasses and are also home to a number of specialist animals including several highly threatened amphibians. They are also a very important habitat for birds supporting a good variety of waterbirds and insectivores including two highly specialised and sought-after species that are only found in this habitat.
The wonderful Diadeemed Sandpiper-Plover is a stunning little wader that forages in water seeps and at the edges of pools in these bogs, favouring areas with flowing water. Despite its striking pattern and colours it can be surprisingly inconspicuous amongst the range of colours of the vegetation. Only found at a few scattered locations in Bolivia, Chile and Peru. The species is most frequently seen at Marcapomacocha at the top of the Santa Eulalia valley above Lima, but can also be found on the road to Colca from Arequipa and near Ausangate mountain south of Cusco.
The White-bellied Cinclodes is a Peruvian endemic that is restricted to a small area of western central Peru. This strikingly plumaged large cinclodes is more social than other species, often being found in small groups as it feeds in the high altitude bogs or sings from nearby rocky outcrops. It is most often seen at Marcapomacocha but can also be found near the Cushuropata Lake in the Nor Yauyos Cochas Landscape Reserve.
The Peruvian NGO ECOAN is working with the American Bird Conservancy to protect bofedales and their birdlife in the central western Andes. This important work should ensure the survival of two fascinating and highly specialised birds.
Text by Rob Williams.