We are at the end of our week together exploring the Upper Peruvian Amazon. When we go home, will we hear car alarms in parking lots? Or will we hear black-fronted nunbirds, which could easily be the sound that was copied? We have investigated the big and the small, from towering fig trees poking their leafy tops through the forest canopy, to frogs small enough to fit on your thumbnail. Our trio of hardworking, informative, and enthusiastic naturalists–Jorge, Javier, and Ricardo–brought everything we saw to life. We have them to thank for making sense of this massive and diverse batch of biology. During the week, we took piles of pictures. We won’t have Jorge in our living room to remind us that a certain photo features a long-billed woodcreeper, but we can now feed our images into the application called “SEEK.” This application will remind us not only of what we saw, but it will also tell us some of the most interesting facts about that organism. I’m thinking we’ll hear the text play in our minds in Jorge’s voice.
Today we boarded our aluminum skiffs earlier than yesterday and explored the northern shore of the Ucayali River searching for wildlife. Almost right away, the first of many interesting sightings: a peregrine falcon! Peregrine falcons are exciting enough, anywhere in the world, but seeing one here added an extra note of excitement because it was a visitor from the Arctic! Yes, peregrine falcons have one of the most widespread distributions among vertebrates, found pretty much everywhere except Antarctica. Some of the tundrius subspecies spend the winter in the Amazon, like the one we watched feeding on a very tropical yellow-rumped cacique. Skimming along the Ucayali, we spotted bird species, like scarlet macaws, blue and yellow macaws, and red-bellied macaws. Of raptors we found yellow-headed caracaras, black-collared hawks, great black and roadside hawks, and both plumbeous and swallow-tailed kites. While we were looking at a great black hawk, we discovered a magnificent female monk saki monkey; a very interesting inhabitant of the canopy sporting a very thick coat of long hair. But she was not alone, she carried her young baby on her back. Wonderful! We then entered the very narrow and shallow Yanallpa, a small creek that flows from deep in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Here we found a cute yellow-crowned brush-tailed rat up in a tree and a rarely-seen sunbittern. Awesome morning! The very comfortable Delfin II continued sailing upriver and eventually arrived at the place where the El Dorado River joins the larger Ucayali. There we lowered kayaks to experience Amazonia from the quiet and intimate perspective that only a kayak can provide. Afterwards, we navigated upriver on skiffs to look for more wildlife. We spotted three-toed sloths, red howler monkeys, and squirrel monkeys. Among the feathered creatures, we saw a cocoi heron, chestnut-eared aracaris, festive parrots, and even some horned screamers. Back on board, animated conversations reflected everyone’s excitement. IMAGE: Immature great black hawk looking for breakfast in the Ucayali River. (Photo by Carlos Navarro)