This is the 10th in a series of blogs covering a private tour I led down the Kosñipata Road and the Madre de Dios River in SE Peru from October 25-November 7. Today was a travel day – eight and a half hours of motoring down the Upper Madre de Dios then the main Madre de Dios rivers to Los Amigos Biological Station. So as to avoid any possibility of arriving after dark, we departed Pantiacolla at 6:00 a.m., and all went without a hitch.
The Pantiacolla Lodge grounds are a reasonably sized clearing in the rain forest, and one can actually see quite a bit from here. We were both wishing we had more time here.
The Japanese film crew I mentioned in my last blog were chasing after some very noisy Brown Titis (more on that monkey in an upcoming blog), while in the meantime I spotted these Venezuelan Red Howlers nearby.
Our last new bird here was this cooperative Red-throated Caracara.
Forty minutes into our ride we could look back and see Pantiacolla Ridge fading away. The next significant mountain ridges to the east of here are 2000 miles away in eastern Brazil.
We were always on the lookout for interesting birds and animals along the way; a jaguar or giant anteater is always possible, but we had to do with birds on this trip. We had great views of a pair of Orinoco Geese on one island, for example.
We made a quick potty stop on one young river island, and I picked up this grasshopper, a typical spur-throat (a huge subfamily, so I have no idea what species it is).
Farther downstream was this Horned Screamer on the main bank. Screamers are a small family of very weird birds. They are in the same order as geese and ducks so technically qualify as waterfowl, but the three species (all restricted to South America) don't even remind one of any kind of dabbler, diver, or honker. None of them scream, either. This one pipes and honks in a way that invariably elicits laughter from humans, but it is loud.
Lacking exciting mammals, the banks do have some variability. Some stretches are dominated by the colonizing plant Tessaria, in the family Asteraceae, very much like a giant version of the arroweed that grows near the lower Colorado River in Arizona and California.
On others, the giant cane Gynerium dominates, clearly a competitor with Tessaria.
Yet another competitor for colonizing plants, this one winning for the moment, are miners looking for gold, supporting a few small towns in this remote area.
Finally, I recognize the tall dirt bank above which sits the Los Amigos research station.
We didn't know it yet at this point, but the roof of this building will be Susanne's cabin.
We wasted no time using up the remaining daylight to walk one of the trails. The need to keep the trails clean results in a lot of dead wood on the sides, perfect habitat for many mushrooms. This is a bracket, shelf, or conch, generally called a polypore. It's pristine condition, gorgeous caramel colors, and the way it looked as if it were splitting open the log were all part of the attraction.
One of the nice surprises was this family group of adorable White-throated Jacamars. When Sam Woods and I were here two years ago, we searched all over for this species, finally finding it very late on our last afternoon, one of the last new birds Sam saw on the trip. Here they were just a few hundred yards down from our cabins.
I'd seen this gorgeous metalmark Huebner's Grayler, Adelotypa huebneri, nine years ago at Cristalino Jungle Lodge, Brazil. This time I noted that there were two or more males chasing each other at about head height on either side of the trail, occasionally perching before heading out on another chase. In flight they looked white, so it was quite a nice surprise to see this gorgeous pattern.
This is the female of the Dimorphic White, the male of which I had photographed a couple days ago at Pantiacolla. (See the Day 8 blog.)
In the very late afternoon this skipper, a Nicephorus Scarlet-eye, Nicephellus nicephorus, was coaxed to land close to the trail. It had been trailing an army ant swarm and associated birds, hoping to find some bird droppings to get some nourishment, so I put down a spit wad of tissue on a leaf, which it almost immediately landed on. I had seen and photographed this species three years ago, also at Cristalino Jungle Lodge, also with an ant swarm.