Monday, July 7, 2008

2008 Peru Trip Day 4 (To Manu via Pilkopata)

Monday, July 7, 2008
Up at 4:45 AM to meet at the dining hall, and then make our way up the road to the Cock-of-the-Rock lek.
We went through a gate in a bamboo fence and found ourselves on a balcony of sorts, covered with a thatched roof. This blind allowed us to see the lek,
an area where male birds gather for competitive mating displays. We had 5 Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks appear, each with a particular branch and area to defend. The alpha male had a prominent spot in the middle. There was a lot of noise (squawking and clicking of the beak) and posturing of these birds with puffy dark reddish orange crests. We also saw a plain female sitting on the edge, deciding which of these guys would make a good father. After about 15 minutes, the birds left to snack, but did not come back.
The Andean Cock-of-the-Rock is the national bird of Peru.
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
We did some birding on the way back to the lodge, and I was amazed to find so many species in just one treetop! When Rob and Percy noted a flock - it wasn’t of one species, but multiple species. Hummingbirds, Tanagers, Flycatchers, Woodcreepers, Foliage-gleaners, Tyrants, Jays, Wrens, Warblers… A dark Bolivian Squirrel crossed the road, our first mammal of the day.
There are so many birds in that foliage!
Back at the dining hall, we couldn’t sit still for breakfast because of all the activity. Behind the dining hall, bananas were spread around for the resident Brown or Tufted Capuchin Monkeys.
Tufted Capuchin Monkeys
A young Capuchin Monkey
The alpha male chased younger males away from the eaves and stairs, while the females snuck down the trees to grab the nearest bananas. They would try to grab several bananas at once, dropping them as they used hands, feet and tail to swing up in the trees. As with all New World monkeys, these had prehensile tails which they put to good use.
Alpha male
There were also hummingbird feeders busy with hummers like the Violet-fronted Brilliant and Booted Racket-tail.
Violet-fronted Brilliant
A Wedge-billed Hummingbird preferred Turk’s Cap flowers that they pierce at the attachment to reach the nectar.
A Brown Agouti came out of the forest to try his luck with bananas and was chased by whomever was the nearest monkey. The agouti persisted, letting us have a good look at him.
Brown Agouti
Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge cabin
Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge cabins
Clearwing Butterfly (Oleria sp.)
After being entertained for a long while, we had to jump in the van and leave. The road was muddy from the rains the night before, and we moved quickly down into the cloud forest.
Heading down to cloud forest
We stopped at a wide valley to see the red-flowering Erythrina trees.
Valley with spots of red Erythrina trees
Of course, there were birds, too! Lots of Roadside Hawks seen along the roadside!
A domesticated peccary
We came out into a wide flat valley of farms, and stopped at one – a coca plantation. As noted before, each coca farmer has one hectare,
Coca plantation
and on this small plot they maintain four sections of coca growing at different stages, in order to have four crops per year. We could see one section of pruned plants with new sprouts, a section with bushy plants with green leaves, and another section where the leaves had already been picked (by hand!).
Percy explains about the coca plants
The hand-picked coca leaves were spread on a tarp to dry.
Coca leaves set out to dry
The farmer seemed okay with our exploring his farm, checking out back at their garden of fruit trees and vegetables.
Jan, Kirby and Rob
There was a homemade “patio” umbrella, made from a branch and scrap wood.
"Patio" umbrella
The farmer was building a brand new house, out of pine lumber. In front of his property was a pile of chainsaw-cut lumber, covered by a tarp.
The farmer and his new house
The old house
They also had old tin cans on the ground surrounding a young palm plant, which they said allows the rust/iron to leech into the ground for the plants. Smooth-billed Anis in a field.
Next we stopped at a palm swamp, kind of the opposite of our palm hammocks in Florida! It was a birding stop, but we also saw a large meter-tall ant nest,
Ant hill
beautiful red dragonflies, and Brynne saw a foot-long lizard. Percy, Brynne and I went beyond the swamp, crossing a stream on logs to a large open field.

Brynne crossing the log bridge
Looking back at the palm swamp
When we re-joined the others we were able to get a glimpse of a Chestnut-fronted Macaw in a palm eating a palm fruit from his claw.
Since Rob’s rash had worsened, spreading up his arms and on his legs, we stopped in the next town of Pilkopata to have him go to a pharmacy. A week before we arrived, Rob was bitten by an ocelot when trying to band/tag him. Rob was given three injections: for rabies, tetanus, and inflammation, and was given an antibiotic medication to take over the next several days. When Rob first started with the itchy rash, he stopped the antibiotic tablets. But this allergic reaction was getting worse.
In order for all of us to use the restrooms, I left 10 Soles. I figured I could also take some photos while I was at it.
Boys in school uniforms
Living quarters
A young boy in the shop had his bunny and had left his desk with unfinished schoolwork.
Boy and his bunny
School homework
There were many uniformed school children walking around. In fact, one schoolgirl was combing her hair in the bathroom when we went to use it.
Kirby wanted some photos of a burned-out building behind an open electrical box.
Local woman in front of burned out building
He also wanted a picture of a mother and her children, and gave them a quarter.
As another of the children came forward, Kirby gave her a quarter as well.
Typical street
Trumpet vine arbor
Illegal bus on a truck bed
We drove back through town to see the market squares (there were two large squares),
Market square
and then we were waved down by a policeman. Apparently Ernaldo was being lectured on wearing a seatbelt and being a role model for his passengers. I think we were all supposed to be wearing seatbelts, which we often did.
Leaving Pilkopata, we made another stop at the bridges before we crossed the Kosnipata River. One new steel bridge was painted bright orange,
New bridge over the Kosnipata River
and next to it was the rotting old wooden bridge.
Old bridge
Saw a hawk on one of the old bridge towers.
Hawk sighting
Termites made a nest on the source of their food!
Kosnipata River
Made another stop when the driver spotted Chestnut-eared Aracaris (toucanet-like birds), and we also found White-tailed Trogons.
Kosnipata River
We stopped for lunch at a spot with a great view of the Rio Alto Madre de Dios, which we would soon be boating down.
First view of Rio Alto Madre de Dios
Rob, Brynne, Jan and Kirby
The lunch was served in Tupperware-type containers and there were generous portions. It tasted great! Or were we just hungry?!
Lunch box
We drove down to the river at the town of Atalaya, which is one of the jumping off points for river trips into Manu National Park.
Saw a domesticated black fowl of some sort.
Odd black fowl
We said goodbye to Ernaldo, and learned that he would be driving back to Cusco. Sometimes he meets other groups to take back, but he always gathers inorganic trash from the lodges his company works with, to take back to Cusco for proper disposal.
We learned that we were bringing all our foodstuffs along with us, and that cooks at each stopping place would prepare meals for us. We knew we were bringing a cooler of beverages, but everything?!
Saw Oropendola and Cacique nests in a tree above us, along with a wasp nest. The wasps protect these birds from Macaws that will raid the nests. Wasps will not allow macaws to nest in the same tree with them.
Oropendola and Cacique nests
Next we climbed into essentially a large covered canoe.
Boarding the boat
Leaving Atalaya
Another boat
We had a pilot and a navigator for the outboard engine-powered boat. And we always wore life jackets.
The navigator is up front
The water was shallow because it was the dry season, but apparently it was really shallow.
Shallow Rio Alto Madre de Dios
We got stuck on a bed of smoothed stones, and the guy who was poling up front stepped into the water and tried to rock the boat free. When that didn’t work, he took a plank that was lying in the boat and used that as a lever. But it took help from the pilot, and Percy and Rob, to get the boat going again. Percy and Rob removed shoes and socks, and Percy removed the legs of his convertible pants.
Percy preparing to set the boat free
Percy pushing the boat off the shallow bottom
The pilot is pushing as well
Another grounded boat
Plenty of birds along the river; Fasciated Tiger-Herons, Snowy Egrets, Neotropic Cormorants. Above were a Swallow-tailed Kite, Large-billed Terns, Red-and-green Macaws, Blue-and-white Swallows.
Along the Rio Madre de Dios
Arrived at the Amazonia Lodge dock, just a clearing on the mud bank in the jungle! The boat simply ran aground on the riverbank, and we stepped over the side onto land.
Climbed up the embankment to find two fellows with wheelbarrows to take our luggage.
Luggage carts
We had a bit of a hike to the lodge,
crossing over a stream on a log on the way. The others saw a Sunbittern before I arrived at the stream. We had passed some sort of grapefruit-looking fruits lying rotting on the ground, and other interesting plants.
Stream crossing
Looking at the bottom of the base of fallen tree
Uprooted tree
The Amazonia Lodge was a tea hacienda/plantation until the 1970s, and was established as a lodge in 1984.
Tea plantation grounds
It is run by the Yabar family and is located on 360 ha/889 acres, with a network of trails and a viewing tower in the pre-montane forest.
Mrs. Nellie Yabar greeted us with glasses of lemonade, and we were given an orientation. Here there was electricity, but no private bathrooms. And no keys to the doors.
Amazonia Lodge
We had a triple bedroom, with glass windows on two sides, and screened transoms above the windows and door.
Amazonia Lodge
There was a separate building of bathrooms, each with a toilet and a shower with no curtain.
Showers and toilets building
But the showers had hot water. We were given a towel and a bar of soap. Since the showers did not have curtains, water splashed all over the bathroom. But that fellow lurking around the building was ready to jump in when you were finished, to clean up the excess water and leave the room ready for the next person. Jan discovered this efficiency when she realized she lost an earring in the shower and went running back, to find that fellow holding out her lost earring towards her!
But before showers, a lot of time was spent watching all the hummingbirds buzzing around our heads and going to feeders and plants in the area. A popular plant for the hummingbirds is the Porterweed, which is an introduced species. Noisy Crested Oropendolas flew into the treetops.
There were also several breadfruit trees, which appeared to have been purposely pruned to have four upright trunks.
Breadfruit tree
Mating grasshoppers
Brynne napped as I went planting (as opposed to birding!), and went to a nearby feeder in the woods to look for an elusive hummingbird. Still elusive.
Coming back we saw some giant corn kernels laid out to dry next to the dining hall.
Giant corn kernels
I joined Jan, Rob, and Percy on a short hike to the nearby stream. We first stopped near the staff quarters where Rob was surprised to see that they had built a road to Amazonia for jeeps.
Percy pointed out a jeep now overgrown by the jungle, that was left after the river had flooded.
Jeep in the overgrowth
We then proceeded down a path and stepped over a line of army ants (they were re-locating rather than on their feeding rampage) and leaf-cutter ants.
Army ants
We also saw a jaguar paw print (Rob and Percy said so!).
Jaguar paw print
At the stream, we took a left turn and followed it to a dead end which was a birding haven.
Saw Yellow-tufted and Lineated Woodpeckers, and White-eyed Parrots fly into a hole in a dead tree. Heard more birds than we saw. Jan heard one behind her (across the stream), but when she turned around, she heard it behind her again, in the brush she and the others were scanning. But I think she was vindicated in that later the others also heard a bird across the stream. She just heard it first!
Back at the lodge, I was going to rest when I heard a knock on the door. Percy said the lodge staff was going to show us an owl. We were taken in small groups behind the staff house, and a flashlight was shined on a Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl. They didn’t want us to look too long, but Rob requested a longer time (twice!) in order to take photos. Then we went looking for the Common Pauraque, a type of nightjar. Rob and Percy shined their flashlights everywhere at ground level, and finally found eyeshine. There were several of these birds sitting on the ground, and they would suddenly jump/fly straight up from the ground for a couple meters and land back on the ground.
Dinner, bird list, shower and bed at 9:30 PM.
Our room
As I lay in bed looking up at the ceiling, I noticed a blinking green light. I thought it was unusual for there to be a smoke alarm here, especially since there was not the dependence on candlelight. But I thought it was a nice touch. Until the green light changed frequency. What?! And then it moved! Oh, a firefly! I nudged Brynne and told her to look up at what I thought was a smoke alarm, and she mumbled, “Okay, yeah!”
Next: Day 5 Manu National Park.

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