Monday, January 12, 2015

Day 9 in SE Peru: A Long Hike to Pantiacolla Ridge

This is the 9th 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 our second full day at Pantiacolla Lodge. This is a new location for me, by the way. I have passed it while traveling between lodges almost every year for the past five years and each time looked longingly up at the forested ridge around which southern terminus the Upper Madre de Dios makes a big detour. Pantiacolla Ridge is the final of a series of arched Andean wrinkles that seem to radiate to the north-northeast like waves on a pond disturbed by a tossed pebble, this particular pebble landing in the Earth's crust right at the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. The initial ridges close to Machu Picchu and Cusco are brutally high, but at the southern terminus of this particular ridge one can easily hike to the highest point at just over 3100 feet. Easily, that is, if your goal is to get to the ridge and not enjoy the mind-boggling diversity of nature along the way.

With some trepidation and not a huge amount of confidence, Susanne and I took a sack lunch and set off to the ridge. In short, we did well. We made it, 8 kilometers each way, making few lingering stops, and we're glad we did it. But in hindsight, we would have liked another day or two here, in order to explore each stretch of the trail more thoroughly. But that's exactly the same conclusion I come to at every tropical lodge I visit.

I stopped for one bird photo on the way up, this Greater Yellow-headed Vulture that was still waiting for thermals.

We stopped for mushrooms on the way up, of course, but since many were the same ones we had seen yesterday, we photographed only strikingly new ones.
Update from Susanne: this is in the general group Discomycetes.

Update from Susanne: this is a Marasmius sp.

Update from Susanne: Caripia montagnei

This looked so much like yesterday's damselfly that I decided it must also be a Heteragrion, but I haven't been able to ID the species.

I've discovered a new fondness for Marantaceae and would like to get to know the genera better. But I'm still not sure how to tell Calathea from Hylaeanthe. This is clearly one or the other.

Any family in the order Zingiberales also attracts my attention, here two members of the family Costaceae. First, Costus scaber, with a very elegant but typical spiral shape to the growth axis.

And a very handsome Costus erythrophyllus, notable for the red underside to the leaves as well as the very showy flower.

The lodge's trail map doesn't indicate that there's more than just one destination, but the signs here obviously give us a choice. We chose Shintuya.

The views from the overlook were amazing. Since we had stopped several times, we arrived here in time for lunch and a very quiet time of day bird-wise. A White Hawk soared below us right at first, but the next 15 minutes, as we ate our lunch, were birdless and dominated by stingless bees. The first photo below is looking south towards the main chain of the Andes, while the second is looking to the southeast, zoomed on the town of Shintuya.

On the way down we stopped for many cool things. While Susanne photographed a mushroom, I pursued this Three-striped Rocket Frog, Allobates trilineatus.

This speckled stink bug was well camouflaged.

This not-so-well camouflaged katydid was lucky I wasn't a hungry trogon or monkey.

I have seen this long-horned beetle, Taeniotes orbignyi, at Cristalino Jungle Lodge.

The most exciting butterfly on the hike was this rare metalmark, Argryrogrammana rameli.

We stopped at some random spot on the trail, probably to get a closer look and perhaps a photo of a mushroom, when I heard a sudden burst of wing beats nearby, saw a bit of motion, and landed my binoculars on a Hairy-crested Antbird. I instantly recognized the whole situation as a bird flushed from a nest, and quickly noticed a hollowed-out dead tree stem next to the trail.

This is what was inside. A rare find!

A bit closer to the lodge, we came across a group of Brown-mantled Tamarins, Saguinus fuscicollis.

I knew we were close to the lodge when we came to the junction of yesterday's trail where I had hung a piece of heliotrope that I had snagged from Villa Carmen. Here, sucking up the pyrrolizidine alkaloids, was an Agnosia Clearwing, Ithomia agnosia, as well as a clearwing moth.

There's no photo to illustrate here our slow reckoning of a droning sound as we approached the lodge as that of the four-prop, remote-controlled hovercraft, carrying a video camera. We realized soon that it belonged to the Japanese TV film crew that had arrived the same day as us and that they were filming sunset from above the canopy at the banks of the Upper Madre de Dios River. Their focus during their short stay here was the Brown Titi, a monkey we hadn't seen ourselves yet, but apparently one that captured the imagination of the Japanese psyche.

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