But there’s a star attraction here that involves “spectacle birding,” and it’s a half-hour boat ride downriver, followed by a 20-minute walk through seasonally flooded forest: the famous Blanquillo Macaw Clay Lick.
Before long, numbers began to congregate on the dirt cliffs above the opposite side of the drying-up oxbow. These are mostly Blue-headed Parrots, but one can see to Mealy Parrots and a few Orange-cheeked Parrots. There were hundreds more up in the trees, screaming, cooing, jostling for perches, preening each other, and generally having a good time.
It’s long been theorized that they are coming for minerals in the clay that help to neutralize toxins found in the seeds and nuts they eat from the rainforest trees. It’s a wonderfully complex and romantic theory, but recent research has shown that they’re actually just coming for the salt after all.
Inside the observation platform is a photo gallery of birds and animals from the region. But I noticed a potentially fatal mistake: This photo is actually of Micrurus spixii, a TRUE coral snake, and one with a venom that could surely cause death in humans. I sent an e-mail to the lodge to let them know of the misidentification.
We crossed the Rio Madre de Dios to the north bank, walked a trail for 15 minutes, and arrived at an oxbow lake. This kind of habitat hosts many birds that do not use rainforest. In fact, the Pale-eyed Blackbird is known from here and just a few other oxbow marshes in Peru. We saw it well, along with Black-billed Seed-Finch, Purus Jacamar, many Hoatzins, and Black-capped Donacobius.
We were back at Manu Wildlife Center for lunch and an afternoon break. During the break I walked a trail, in my efforts to get to know the layout of the network.
In the late afternoon we returned to the same trail belonging to Tambo Blanquillo lodge that took us to the oxbow lake, but this time we had the key to tallest canopy observation platform in the region.
One of the best birds we saw was this female White-throated Woodpecker. Low afternoon light and great distance made digiscoping a challenge, but the distinctive red nape patch and pale background to the barring on the flanks can be seen here. It also had an obvious white throat.