Well, it’s arrived. Our last full day of birding in Peru. We’ve got some time on the boat to Puerto Maldonado tomorrow, where we’ll see a few birds, and we’ve got a long layover in São Paulo on Saturday for a few more, but day 19 is officially the last day of our Peru birding.
I’ll send some final thoughts in a few days’ time as we kill a million hours on planes and in airports but, for now, I can say that I think I’m ready to come home.
I don’t mean that in a negative sense at all as the trip has been truly wonderful, but I long for my own bed, a shower that isn’t taken in the darkness, a toilet where I don’t need to put the loo paper in a little dustbin next to the toilet but, most of all, I’m really looking forward to seeing my family.
I think we could safely say that we’ve sucked just about everything out of our trip and I felt a little like I was going through the motions a bit this morning after the clay lick (see below) when we spent about two hours in a bamboo forest in high humidity, surrounded by mosquitoes and fire ants but with only one of our three target birds obliging (that damn recurvebill stayed away again but at least we saw the Rufous-headed Woodpecker). It made me realize how lucky we’ve been to see almost 650 birds on this trip but the uncomfortable hunt for a few extras at this stage had my mind drifting to a cold coke at Manu Wildlife Centre (which never materialized just like the recurvebill).
I know I’m speaking for myself when I say I’m ready to come home, because I am pretty sure Garret could keep going for another three weeks. His insatiability for new birds every day is quite remarkable and I have seldom (if ever) birded with anyone with quite the same drive to eke out everything possible. I think I may have to promise his family that I make sure he boards the same flight that I do because they should be worried that he may stay longer.
Our day started sedately enough, despite the 5am departure on the boat. We motored for about 45 minutes and then took a 3km trail to the clay lick.
This may be a new concept for non-birders so I’ll explain briefly. A clay lick is generally a clay bank carved out and exposed by the river and it’s called a “lick” because it’s where parrots and macaws congregate to lick the clay to balance their diet. As fruit eaters they have a very acidic diet and the alkalinity of the clay brings it all back in line.
The lodge that owns the property (not our lodge) has built a huge platform that overlooks the clay bank and we got there nice and early to watch the comings and goings of about nine parrot and macaw species.
It was all very civilized as breakfast had been lugged along with us (in true colonial style, carried by someone other than me) and I enjoyed a three-course meal, highlighted by pancakes and syrup, as the birds flew around us.
Red and green Macaw
Red and green Macaw
Red and green Macaw
We were granted a nice two-hour lunch break on our return from the lick and the bamboo forest bashing, which gave me a chance to connect to WiFi and call the family. I even got a chance to swing gently in that hammock for 30 minutes.
Garret tossed his midday rest for a walk with Alex and Juan as they both chased “year birds”. You’ll remember that I mentioned Alex saw over 1,400 species in Peru last year. Well, this year he is targeting 1,500. In the slightly adapted words of Obelix the Gaul, “these Peruvians are crazy”.
We finished off our Peru adventure this afternoon in grand style. We hopped on our boat again for a short trip down the river, arrived at a clearing and then walked about 800m through the forest to an oxbow lake. There was a small covered jetty harbouring an oar-propelled platform boat (and a bunch of bats), which our two boat-hands kindly paddled for us (the boats, not the bats) while we soaked in the late afternoon rays and spotted a bunch of new birds. It reminded me of a gentle evening booze cruise on a Zululand pan, but without the booze. I reached several times for a cold one but, alas, it wasn’t on the agenda. Perhaps Alex and Juan know that my birding attention doesn’t need any further impairment.
Despite the lack of alcoholic encouragement, it was about as peaceful a time as we’ve had on this trip. Garret missed an antbird that I saw, which disturbed the calm a little, but even that was forgotten a few minutes later and we simply relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet.
Purus Jacamar (terrible photo but very special bird)
The cherry on top was logging another “giant” mammal for the second day in a row. These Amazonian oxbow lakes are the right spot for Giant River Otters and we found a group of about eight of them going about their daily fishing activities right in front of us.
Giant River Otter
We returned to dock as the sun was setting and I was petrified that I had an 800m owling walk ahead of me , but it was enjoyably brisk except for a brief interlude to lure out a Long-billed Woodcreeper, which was right near the top of my wanted list when we left Cape Town. We may see one or two new birds tomorrow but I’ll always think of that woodcreeper as Peru’s farewell gift to me.
Long-billed Woodcreeper (terrible, but had to have the last bird pic in here)
As I mentioned above, I’ll have some time over the next few days to round up my thoughts so I won’t make this any longer than it already is.
- Total day birds: 85
- Total trip birds: 645
- Total trip endemics: 36
- Mike day lifers: 26
- Mike total lifers: 523
- Garret day lifers: 24
- Garret trip lifers: 399 (the antbird is killing Garret even more now).
- Bird of the day: Rufous-headed Woodpecker
Click here for day 20