13 January 2010

Sacha: Amazon Day 2 (Part III)...Ecuador: December 27, 2009

For this afternoon out of Sacha Lodge we went canoeing down a blackwater creek. This is a great way to bird flooded varzea forest. It is also one of the great Amazon birding experiences, to be gently paddled down a narrow creek spotting birds and primates all around. We went down the menacingly named "Anaconda Creek". There was no sign of anacondas anywhere (unfortunately I am still looking for my first), but there were some great birds to be had. Several Slender-billed Kites (with their strange Snail Kite-like bills) were seen scanning the murky waters for snails (bottom photo), a little further along the creek a White-chinned Jacamar gave its hiding place away when it called loudly, and a Chestnut Woodpecker was extremely approachable by gently idling up to it in our small canoe (middle photo). Also along there was another obliging bird untroubled by our boat quietly sidling up to him, a male Silvered Antbird (top photo). One of the group had a distinct woodpecker "fetish" and so was over the moon when we found one of his top target birds that afternoon, the incredible Cream-colored Woodpecker, that even chose to get down to it and mate right in front of us. Bruce was ecstatic! However, the afternoons "Top Trump" was a shy and retiring antbird. All was calm and we were enjoying a slow trickle of new and exciting birds, then a Black Bushbird responded to our overtures. Then it responded and responded again, and before we knew it, it was calling right by the creek (having covered some distance to get to us from its original calling position). Much manoeuvering of the boat was required for us all to get a look at its odd, bent bill that makes this such an unsual and charismatic antbird. Seeing as local guides here see it about twice a year this was a welcome lifer for me and very, very appreciated. Maybe not the most flashy but by virtue of its rarity a highlight of our time in the Amazon. We finished off spotlighting a Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl that had eluded us so expertly the night before.

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