Thursday, 12 September 2013

Amazing Amazonas 3 - Birding near Amacayacu

The Amacayacu National Natural Park (PNN Amacayacu) is a huge area of protected forest bordering the Amazon river in Colombia. It is located about 70 km upstream from the main town of Leticia, so it takes about 90 mins by fast launch to get there. The park accommodation itself has been closed for some time due to flooding. We stayed at Yoi Ecolodge, a great choice located next to the park and on the River Amacayacu, near the indigenous Ticuna community of San Martin.

With a launch and knowledgeable local guides (Ray and James) at our disposal, I was able to see a few of the more conspicuous species of birds in the area. Over 500 species have been recorded in and around the park, though many are far from conspicuous!

Birds of prey seemed far more numerous than I've experienced in other parts of Colombia. Black-collared Hawk (Busarellus nigricollis) are especially easy to see perched by the rivers - they mainly eat fish. We also saw another fishing specialist, an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) which would be a very early arrival if the bird was a migrant from the north.
Black-collared Hawk
Traveling along the rivers gives you a chance to cover a big area, and we saw a number of other raptors including Plumbeous Kite (Ictinia plumbea), Black Caracara (Daptrius ater), Slate-coloured Hawk (Buteogallus schistaceus), Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) and Great Black-Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga).
Great Black-Hawk, juvenile
On a river island near to Mocagua, we came across a small owl which turned out to be a Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia). These are common in the Americas, but are supposed to be absent from the Amazon basin. I have since found out that there have been a few odd sightings in cleared areas or on succession (ie new open ) river islands.
Burrowing Owl
Other birds along the river included plentiful Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) as well as Amazon and Green varieties. Overhead on the River Amacayacu we got what turned out to be our only Scarlet Macaws (Ara macao). They're popular here because they have the colours of the Colombian flag! Black-fronted Nunbird (Monasa nigrifrons) are easy to see as are Swallow-winged Puffbird (Chelidoptera tenebrosa).
Swallow-winged Puffbird
Although not in big numbers, there were a few individual herons including this superb juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron (Tigrisoma lineatum).
Juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron
The lodge area was very productive and provided great opportunities for me to see tanagers feeding in a fruiting tree. Most pleasing was the Paradise Tanager (Tangara chilensis), which was a target species of mine - in Colombia it is only found in Amazonas. There were also Green-and-Gold Tanager (Tangara schrankii), Opal-rumped Tanager (Tangara velia), Yellow-bellied Dacnis (Dacnis flaviventer) , Turquoise Tanager (Tangara mexicana) and Black-faced Dacnis (Dacnis lineata spp lineata) a subspecies which has no yellow bits like the ones in Santander. Nearby we found a pair of Slate-Coloured Grosbeak (Saltator grossus) and in a clearing nearer to San Martin village, a Fulvous Shrike-Tanager (Lanio fulvus). No doubt there are plenty more tanagers to be found.

Around the cabin area is a very noisy colony of Russet-backed Oropendula (Psarocolius angustifrons) with their large nests hanging from a tree with Yellow-rumped Cacique (Cacicus cela) mixed in. It was a surprise to me how numerous both these two bird species were in this area and in Leticia.

Although not as common as in the mountains, there were still hummingbirds to be seen. I picked up Reddish Hermit (Phaethornis ruber) around the lodge and just outside our cabin what I think may be a female Blue-tailed Emerald (Chlorostilbon mellisugus) - please comment if you think this is wrong.
Blue-tailed Emerald ?? - female

On our trips I saw both Ivory-billed Aracari (Pteroglossus azara) and Chestnut-eared Aracari (Pteroglossus castanotis). I did  hear and get a glimpse of other larger toucans but I'm not certain of my ID.
Chestnut-eared Aracari
Similarly colourful but not confidently ID'd were a number of Trogons - probably both Black-tailed and Green-backed. I did add a Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus) but missed at least two other new species of woodpecker. It was clear there were plenty of Manakins around but I only managed some quick views of the duller females, so didn't manage to identify the species.

Several birds were heard only. I'm familiar with Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) a type of nightjar, and they were highly vocal around the lodge in the evenings. A Tropical Screech-Owl (Megascops choliba) was calling regularly during the night, but I still haven't caught even a glimpse of one as this one flew off before I got a look (they sometimes roost near to our apartment). We heard larger forest birds like Guans, Horned Screamer and flushed a Tinamou all without getting a decent look.

With so many other things to see and do, there was not nearly enough time for birding. Overall, it was very satisfying from a birding perspective, and no doubt it is a great location for seeing many forest and river species.

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