Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ecuador - Day 3

Today's wake up was at 4:30AM since we needed to be fed and out by 6AM.  The plan was to visit Napo's two parrot clay licks.  The first clay lick sees activity around 7:30AM and the 2nd typically sees activity around 11AM.

So, we piled into the canoe sharply at 6:15AM (because we were late) and the paddlers pretty much went double time all the way down the main creek back to the transfer station where we would move into a powered canoe for the rest of the journey.

Even though we didn't have much time to look for wildlife on this paddle we did manage to see our first Limpkin along with some Common Squirrel Monkeys and this North American Pygmy Kingfisher.

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Once in the powered canoe it was only about 5 minutes down the Napo River to where the first clay lick was located.  This clay lick is called a "dry" clay lick because the parrots actually eat the clay to get minerals to help offset the toxins in the seeds they typically eat.  So, this lick is not active in the rain since that makes everything too wet for the birds.  Luckily, the morning was clear for us and we could see from a few hundred yards away that the clay lick was extremely active.

Rio Napo

Mealy Amazon Parrots

Three kinds of parrots frequent this clay lick.  They are the Blue-headed Parrot, Dusky-headed Parakeet, and the Mealy Amazon Parrot.  All of them can be seen in this photo.  The parakeets are in the center and are smaller and greener.  The Blue-headed parrots are off to the right and the Mealy Amazon Parrots make up the rest:
Clay Lick Feeding Frenzy

The sound from this lick was pretty amazing and we enjoyed the hour or so that we spent floating nearby.  As we were leaving, the guide took us down river a bit to see an area where Ladder-backed Nightjars roost in the daytime.  We did see one.  But, even better I spotted a Southern River Otter along the shoreline.  Another new mammal for us:
Southern River Otter

Since guests typically have over an hour to kill between the clay lick visits,  Napo provides an option to go to the local community center to learn about the culture of the Kichwa people and buy some souvenirs from them.  However, thanks to some advanced research, we knew that this area was also the only place to try to find Pygmy Marmosets.  And finding the smallest primate in the Americas was just about top of our must do list.  So, instead of becoming cultured we instead had our guides head off in search of Pygmy Marmosets.   This is a common M.O. for us which probably explains why we aren't very cultured people.  Despite searching for over an hour though, we came up empty.

So, we headed off to the 2nd clay lick which is reached by a 1/2 hour hike just off the Napo River.  Along this hike we had a few interesting encounters:

White-fronted Nunbird:
White-fronted Nunbird

This is a Conga Ant.  Also known as a "bullet" ant.  Some people call it a "bullet" ant because when you get stung by them it feels like you were shot by a bullet.  Some regard its sting as the most painful non-lethal sting in the animal kingdom.  Check out how painful on wikipedia. We weren't about to  find out for ourselves so we stayed clear of this 3/4 inch ant every time we saw one during the trip:
Conga (Bullet) Ant

Striking unknown, and likely poisonous, caterpillar:

The second clay lick is a "wet" clay lick where the birds actually come down to drink the water which is full of minerals from the clay.  Because this area is in the forest with dense foliage, the birds are very wary and can take hours to come down from the tops of the trees.  We lucked out since we waited only about 1/2 hour for the birds to come down in mass.

Wings of Color

There are four types of parrots that frequent this clay lick including The Cobalt-winged Parakeet, the Orange-checked Parrot, the Scarlet-shouldered Parotlet, and the Scarlet Macaw.  The Macaws never made it all the way down but the other 3 birds did.  At the tail end of our stay, the birds shot out of the lick in all directions including right over our heads.  After a bit of searching we saw the cause of their hasty departure:

Bi-colored Hawk:
Bi-colored Hawk

It is hard to do justice with the sights and sounds of the parrots at these clay licks via photography.  So, this seemed like a great opportunity to shoot some video and we were lucky enough to capture the great flyout at the end.  Here are clips of both parrot clay licks.

On the way back to Napo we had another new mammal.  The Northern Amazon Red Squirrel:
Northern Amazonian Red Squirrel

Before transferring back to the paddle canoe we stopped again to look for Pygmy Marmosets.  The guides knew that this was a priority for us.  This time we had better luck.  The looks were broken up by branches here and leaves there and getting pictures meant contorting in weird positions just to find a relatively clear line of sight.   But, the neck and back aches were worth it.  These little primates are about 6 inches tall not including tail and they are extra cute!

First look - "Playing Coy":
Pygmy Marmoset

Second look - "Checking us Out":
Pygmy Marmoset

Third look - "The Grooming":
Pygmy Marmoset Pair Grooming

Final look - "Adorable":
Pygmy Marmoset Pair

 This was such a huge highlight for us.  As far as we were concerned the trip was pretty much made by this one encounter.  Everything else that we would see would be gravy.

On the canoe trip back to the lodge we had a few more photo ops worth sharing:

Walking Stick:
Walking Stick

Tree Boa:
Amazon Tree Boa

Black-capped Donacobius:
Black-capped Donacobius

Back at the lodge the sun was on its way down so we only had time to climb up to the three story tower at the lodge to look around.  The view from up here is really nice:
View From Napo Wildlife Center Tower

The travel and long days caught up with us so we retired early and gave up any thoughts of a night walk.  But, the day was full enough for us.  Seeing those Pygmy Marmosets will be a long lasting memory.

1 comment:

Your movie guru, Richard said...

Gotta say, a little jealous, I never spotted an otter. Great photos! Here are my recent adventures to the Amazon (including the clay lick) ... huge trees of the Tombopato Reserve and ... the macaw clay-lick on the Tombopato River of Peru hope it adds to discussion :)