26 October 2012

CICRA (Los Amigos) PERU (7 Oct.)

This trip to Peru, generously organised by Jeff Woodman of the Amazon Conservation Association (http://www.amazonconservation.org/), in order to check out their properties and potential for developing these for bird tourism, really turned out to be fantastic. From a selfish level, I got a bunch of lifers, and got to see some very cool places, which I have no doubt will emerge to the fore on the birding map, by virtue of their quality bird lists and birding experiences. Going to their CICRA research station will live very long in my memory indeed. This site is located along the Rio Madre de Dios in the Manu region of Peru, between the well-known Manu Wildlife Center and the port of Puerto Maldonado. The site is perched on the top of an escarpment, meaning I had wonderful views from my cabin of this snaking river below, and the always enriching sight of lush Amazon jungle stretching to the horizon on the other side of the river. Standing in this area around dawn or dusk was good for getting the daily surge of parrots and macaws heading to and from roost, which regularly involved Red-bellied, Blue-and-yellow, and Scarlet Macaws. It has also been named Los Amigos, as it flanked by a river of the same name on its eastern flank. But, on to the jungle birding...

Although CICRA has been well-studied for birds - with Joe Tobias and others spending a good time surveying the area some years before, it is still relatively little known, and almost never visited by birders. So again, Rich Hoyer were bursting with excitement and anticipation at what the jungle might hold. We began by checking out an area of thick bamboo, as we were on the lookout for more of those special bamboo that seem to abound in this region. Entering into the forest, we immediately ran into a troop of monkeys, and quickly racked up three species: Dusky Titi Monkey, Black-capped Squirrel Monkey, and Brown Capuchin. Then, on reaching the bamboo, it did not take long to locate our first major target there, the rich rusty Peruvian Recurvebill, complete with its odd appendage (i.e. bill). The same bamboo stand also produced a pair of Rufous-headed Woodpeckers, which surely must rank as one of the all time great woodpeckers on the planet. However, arguably the best sighting of the day was not avian, when Rich Hoyer exclaimed he had a dog in his sights, which turned out to be the rare Short-eared Dog. (Sadly, I was simply too stunned to grab a photo, even though I had a clear opportunity to). 

After that thrilling morning the afternoon had a lot to live up to; and it did. Walking down a trail towards the Madre de Dios River we bumped into a quietly feeding flock of parakeets that held a few Tui Parakeets hiding out among the more common Cobalt-winged Parakeets. Manakins performed well on the day too, with another Fiery-capped Manakin seen, though this time refraining from twirling around a stem as it had so memorably done for us at Villa Carmen, earlier on this trip. On top of that the scarlet, black and yellow form of a male Band-tailed Manakin gave me my first real countable views of this lifebird. However, neither of these were why we had specifically chosen to walk down to near the river and focus our efforts on rank, dense, riverside vegetation. On finally reaching the spot where we'd hoped to connect with this other specialty we heard the distinctive piping notes of our quarry, and I immediately set about a plan to "go in", with the bird seemingly just out of reach, just off trail. I walked in played the call back and was stunned at how soon the Rufous-fronted Antthrush strolled in to check out its phantom intruder. The most conspicuous feature of the bird, a glowing orange forehead, was striking and gave the bird a look as if it was wearing a Petzl head torch within the dingy forest understorey. Mission accomplished, we returned to base, where my much longed-for shower had to be temporarily abandoned when an Ocellated Poorwill decided to call from so close it sounded as if it was right on my veranda. It was not, but it did tease me with the thought of landing there when I gave it a quick burst of its own song, but veered away at the last second, and was soon off into the night. With that, I returned to my shower!

More from Peru to come in a few days, when I return from another Amazon adventure, this time at La Selva Lodge in Ecuador, where I MUST spend the next few days! 

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