Monday, December 15, 2014

Day 7 in SE Peru: Farewell Villa Carmen and on to Pantiacolla Lodge

This is the 7th in a series of blogs covering my most recent tour down the Kosñipata Road and the Madre de Dios River in SE Peru from October 25-November 7. For a glimpse into my  more recent activities, check out the blog from the Tucson Valley CBC here:

This Peru blog is a short one, typical of a travel day. I awoke to a major thunderstorm arriving in the wee hours of the morning, but it was a beautiful sound, with close claps and distant rumbling thunder and a steady rain. It lulled me back to sleep as soon as it woke me up. With such a dark and gloomy dawn, there was no hurry to get out in the field, and I enjoyed this view from within my room.

With our boat ride scheduled for the early afternoon, we had time to bird at Villa Carmen for the full morning. The rain ended around breakfast time, and eventually Susanne and I hit the trail, prepared in case it began to rain again. I haven’t uploaded any of my photos to Flickr yet, so this green cicada remains unidentified by my expert contact there. It’s unusual in being entirely green and rather hairy; the broad, very blunt face and very large, wide-spaced eyes are unlike any of the all-green Carineta species I’ve seen.

This is one of those ants you don’t want to sting you; it’s in the subfamily Ponerinae, meaning more or less that it can deliver a powerful sting.

I noticed more prayer plants (family Marantaceae) blooming this trip than usual, so I took the chance to learn them better. I think this one is the genus Calathea.

My one mushroom photo from today is another insect parasite, a Cordyceps or close relative. We dug into the moldering wood and muck but failed to find the dead host, possibly a beetle larva or ant.

Before the rain began again for another few hours we enjoyed one last bird for the morning. Noticing a Razor-billed Curassow dart off the trail just ahead of us, I whistled liked a stranded chick, something that has worked for gallinaceous birds as diverse as Capercaillie and Mountain Quail in the past. This is what happened:

After lunch we had a taxi arranged for us to take us the few kilometers from Villa Carmen to Atalaya, essentially the end of the road and the beginning of the navigable Amazon River via the Upper Madre de Dios (with a minor waterfall or two farther down in Bolivia and Brazil). Our driver knew about the Great Potoo that nested on an open branch right next to the road, probably the same bird and tree as last year.

Then came our three-hour boat ride to Pantiacolla Lodge, above the west bank just on the far side of the bend where the river makes a huge S-curve to go around the imposing Pantiacolla Ridge. We made one quick potty stop on a river island where I picked up a bunch of “beggar ticks.” It is a pea in the genus Desmodium, and the unusual pods break apart into one-seeded segments, each one covered in miniscule hooks like velcro. This time I noticed it in time to grab some of the pretty flowers too – one usually discovers the seeds on the pants and socks much later, never appreciating the whole plant.

We got to Pantiacolla Lodge in time only to enjoy the noisy bird life right around the clearing (the Sulphury Flycatchers were especially vocal) and to begin our planning for the next two full days here.

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