It’s so nice to get up with the birds. The temperatures are cooler, the sun is low, and the water in the black lakes is still and covered with mirror-like reflections. Chatter, songs, and territorial calls from dozens and dozens of bird species fill the morning air. Today we had three outings, all of them productive and all of them different. From the trio of black-capped donacobious this morning…to the small flock of paradise tanagers keeping company with a scarlet-crowned barbet…to the evening sighting of hundreds of sand-colored nighthawks purring in a tree. The effort to get up early and head out is always richly rewarded. Next, day two!
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)