Saturday, December 09, 2017

Return to the Amazon, Part I

Greetings Everyone,
From the cloud forest near Quito, our journeys have brought us back to the Amazon to visit Yasuni National Park, claimed to be the most biologically diverse place on the planet! Our first destination was Sani Lodge along the mighty Napo River on the northern border of the park. Sani Lodge is owned and operated by members of the Sani community with profits reinvested to improve the life of the local people. Sani Lodge is dedicated to eco-tourism, environmental conservation and community projects which have given the local Sani people a sense of pride for their forest and culture.

Location of Sani Lodge

We settled into our cabin and enjoyed a glorious sunset over Chawlluacocha Lake before dinner.

Sunset over Chawlluacocha Lake

During our first morning, we visited a 37-meter tower built in an immense kapok (Ceiba pentandra) tree overlooking the primary forest. On the way to the tower, a Rainbow Boa was lying on the trail. At first, I thought it was a tree root but it slithered off at our approach.

Rainbow Boa

We reached the base of the tower and climbed metal stairs to a large deck that had been built into the crown of the tree. 

Canopy Tower

From here we could see for miles over the unbroken expanse of rainforest. Many colorful birds came close to the platform giving us excellent views. 

Yellow-tufted Woodpecker

Paradise Tanager

Mealy Parrots

Two Colombian Red Howler Monkeys were snoozing in the top of a tree not too far away.

Colombian Red Howler Monkeys

After a couple of hours, we returned to the lodge taking a short detour into the creek to check out a Orange-crested Manakin sitting on a nest in a low bush near the water's edge. These birds are rarely seen let alone nesting.

Orange-crested Manakin

After lunch, we visited a hide built to view colorful Wire-tailed Manakins. A few individuals came quite close and Marc was able to get a good photo. 

Wire-tailed Manikan

After dinner, we went on a night walk with Peter, a rainforest photographer/biologist who was staying at the lodge. He pointed out many salamanders, frogs, insects, and fungus encountered along the trail.

Mushroom-tongued Salamander

Early the next morning we went off to explore Yasuni National Park on the south side of the Napo River. The river is a natural barrier to many primates and certain species are only found south of the Napo River. Our primary target was the Golden-mantled Tamarin. We searched in vain for these monkeys so we decided to try a different location in the park further upriver. We passed the Saladero de Loros, a clay lick along the bank of the Napo which sometimes attracts hundreds of colorful parrots and parakeets but this morning it was empty. We got off at a ranger's station and headed into the forest on a muddy, mosquito-infested trail. As we climbed to the top of a ridge, it got drier and the mosquitoes disappeared. Our guide, Rodrigo, spotted some monkeys high in the trees. Could they be the elusive tarmarins? No, they were Poeppigii or Silvery Woolly Monkeys (Lagothrix poeppigii), a new species for us! This species is found south of the Napo River and is listed as vulnerable by the ICUN. 

Silvery Woolly Monkey

The next morning we returned to the park to look for the Golden-mantled Tamarins. We checked out the clay lick first and once again it was empty. A boat nearby was watching something in the water. It was a pair of Tucuxi or Gray River Dolphins. Not much is known about the Tucuxi but they are considered to be the world’s only exclusively freshwater dolphin.

Gray River Dolphin (Tucuxi)

We returned to the area where we had searched for the tamarins yesterday with Rodrigo and a new guide Jason who could hear the energetic monkeys in the forest. We hacked our way through the dense understory where we finally got a good look at a Golden-mantled Tamarin. Like the Poeppigii Woolly Monkeys we saw yesterday, these tamarins are found only south of the Napo River in Ecuador. They are listed as near threatened due to deforestation. They didn’t stick around long and Marc was lucky to get this photo.

Golden-mantled Tamarin

On our way back to the lodge we stopped at a tree where a family of Pygmy Marmosets was known to reside. Jason spotted one low down in the tree and we got great views and photos of the smallest monkey in the world!

Pygmy Marmoset

We went to retrieve our trail cam that we had set up off a trail just behind the lodge. On our way back, we stopped at a hide that had been constructed to view small mammals. When we arrived, a large rodent called a Black Agouti was tentatively feeding near the hide. We got a good look at this shy animal before it returned to the safety of the forest.

Black Agouti

After lunch, we headed to the dock to feed bananas to the Yellow-spotted River Turtles that live in Challuacocha Lake.

Yellow-spotted River Turtles

Another staff member joined us to feed another lodge resident, a large female Black Caiman named Lucy that lived under the dock. He tied a piece of raw chicken to a rope connected to a long pole and enticed her out of the water so we could see her entire length. With her massive jaws, she chomped onto the chicken and tore it from the rope. Feeding a wild caiman isn’t advisable but it was quite a show.

 Black Caiman Named "Lucy"

We headed back to the Napo River along a boardwalk that’s used to connect the river to the creek which leads to the lodge. Near the start of the boardwalk, Red Titi Monkeys had been observed and we went to see if they were still around. We got lucky and two Red Titis were feeding in a tree next to the boardwalk. They were very shy and scurried off but not before Marc got a photo.

Red Titi Monkey

Another small group of primates, Black-mantled Tamarins, was foraging with them. We were most likely looking at Graell’s Black-mantled Tamarin (Saguinus nigricollis ssp. Graellsi). It’s difficult keeping up with the taxonomy of primates. Some consider Graell’s Black-Mantle Tamarin to be a separate species instead of a subspecies of Saguinus nigricollis while others consider it to be in a new genus Leontocebus.

Black-Mantle Tamarin

Later that afternoon we reviewed the videos taken with our trail cam. To see one of the nocturnal creatures that are active around the lodge while we were sleeping, click on the following link:

After dinner, we went out in search of more nocturnal animals. We entered the creek to spotlight and picked up the eyeshine of an animal that was unfamiliar to us. It appeared to be an opossum but we weren’t sure of the species. When we later consulted a mammal field guide we determined it to be a Brown-eared Woolly Opossum.

Brown-eared Woolly Opossum

The next morning we left Sani Lodge for the transfer to Shiripuno Lodge deep within Yasuni National Park. On the way back to the town of Coca we passed the Saladero de Loros and this time it was full of Mealy Amazon Parrots, Blue-headed Parrots, Yellow-crowned Parrots and Dusky-headed Parakeets. Third time’s a charm!

Parrots and Parakeets at the Clay Lick

Thank you to our guides Jason and Rodrigo for helping us spot the wildlife in this biodiverse region! Thanks also to the staff at Sani Lodge for taking good care of us during our stay. Stay tuned for Part II of our “Return to the Amazon” series.
We hope all is well with everyone.
Peggy and Marc

Our Route Map:

Sani Mammal List:
 No.  Species Scientific Name  Notes
 1 Pygmy Marmoset  Cebuella pygmaea Family of at least two near the start of the boardwalk 
 2 Southern Amazon Red Squirrel  Hadroscirus or Sciurus spadiceus Seen from the boardwalk 
 3 Colombian Red Howler Alouatta seniculus Seen from the tower & near the clay lick
 4 Common Squirrel Monkey Saimiri sciureus Seen along a trail near the tower & in Yasuni NP
 5 Black Agouti  Dasyprocta fuliginosa Seen at the hide behind the lodge
 6 Silvery Woolly Monkey Lagothrix poeppigii Two seen in Yasuni NP
 7 Graell’s Black-mantled Tamarin Saguinus nigricollis ssp. graellsi  Seen along the boardwalk 
 8 Tucuxi  Sotalia fluviatilis Seen in the Napo River near the clay lick 
 9 Golden-mantled Tamarin Saguinus tripartitus Troop in Yasuni NP near the butterfly farm
 10 White-fronted Capuchin  Cebus albifrons Seen in Yasuni NP
 11 Red Titi Monkey Plecturocebus discolor In a tree along the boardwalk
 12  Proboscis Bat Rhynchonycteris naso  Roosting on a log in Challuacocha Lake
 13 Brown-eared Woolly Opossum  Caluromys lanatus Seen in a tree along the creek at night
 14  Green Acouchi  Myoprocta pratti Seen at the hide behind the lodge
 15 Red Brocket Deer Mazama americana Seen in Yasuni NP
 16 Common Opossum  Didelphis marsupialis Two seen along the creek at night
 17 Nine-banded Armadillo  Dasypus novemcinctus Caught on our trail cam 

Sani Final Bird List:
  1. Horned Screamer (Anhima cornuta)
  2. White-chinned Jacamar (Galbula tombacea)
  3. Russet-backed Oropendola (Psarocolius angustifrons)
  4. Masked Crimson Tanager (Ramphocelus nigrogularis)
  5. White-eared Jacamar (Galbalcyrhynchus leucotis)
  6. Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
  7. Lesser Kiskadee (Pitangus lictor)
  8. Black-fronted Nunbird (Monasa nigrifrons)
  9. Streaked-headed Woodcreeper (Lepidocolaptes souleyetii)
  10. Grey-fronted Dove (Leptotila rufaxilla)
  11. Scarlet-crowned Barbet (Capito aurovirens)
  12. Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch (Oryzoborus angolensis)
  13. Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus)
  14. Silver-beaked Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo)
  15. White-winged Swallow (Tachycineta albiventer)
  16. Blue-and-yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna)
  17. Hoatzin (Ophisthocomus hoazin)
  18. Orange-winged Parrot (Amazona amazonica)
  19. Pale-vented Pigeon (Patagioenas cayennensis)
  20. Mealy Amazon Parrot (Amazona farinosa)
  21. Casqued Oropendola (Cacicus osery)
  22. Double-toothed Kite (Harpagus bidentatus)
  23. Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans)
  24. Speckled Chachalaca (Ortalis guttata)
  25. White-banded Swallow (Atticora fasciata)
  26. Swallow-winged Puffbird (Chelidoptera tenebrosa)
  27. Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris)
  28. Yellow-tufted Woodpecker (Melanerpes cruentatus)
  29. Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher (Todirostrum chrysocrotaphum)
  30. Crimson-crested Woodpecker (Campephilus melanoleucos)
  31. White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi)
  32. Crested Oropendola (Psarocolius decumanus)
  33. Violaceous Jay (Cyanocorax violaceus)
  34. American Pygmy Kingfisher (Chloroceryle aenea)
  35. Greater Ani (Crotophaga major)
  36. Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)
  37. Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
  38. Grey-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea)
  39. Boat-billed Heron ( Cochlearius cochlearius)
  40. Great Tinamou (Tinamus major)
  41. Gilded Barbet (Capito auratus)
  42. Orange-bellied Euphonia (Euphonia xanthogaster)
  43. White-lored Euphonia (Euphonia chrysopasta)
  44. Long-billed Woodcreeper (Nasica longirostris)
  45. White-browed Pufftop 
  46. Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper (Dendrexetastes rufigula)
  47. Masked Tanager (Tangara nigrocincta)
  48. Paradise Tanager (Tangara chilensis)
  49. Chestnut-fronted Macaw (Ara severus)
  50. Black-faced Dacnis (Dacnis lineata)
  51. Green-backed Trogon (Trogon viridis)
  52. Scale-breasted Woodpecker (Celeus grammicus)
  53. Many-banded Aracari (Pteroglossus pluricinctus)
  54. Slender-footed Tyranulet (Zimmerius gracilipes)
  55. Green Honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza)
  56. Fasciated Antshrike (Cymbilaimus lineatus)
  57. Slate-colored Hawk (Buteogallus schistaceus)
  58. Crested Eagle (Morphnus guianensis)
  59. Citron-bellied Attila (Attila citriniventris)
  60. Black-headed Parrot (Pionites melanocephalus)
  61. Ivory-billed Aracari (Pteroglossus azara)
  62. Plum-throated Cotinga (Cotinga maynana)
  63. Black-tailed Tityra (Tityra cayana)
  64. White-flanked Antwren (Myrmotherula axillaris)
  65. Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus)
  66. Plain-throated Antwren (Isleria hauxwelli)
  67. Spot-winged Antshrike (Pygiptila stellaris)
  68. Peruvian Warbling Antbird (Hypocnemis peruviana)
  69. Grey-billed Hermit 
  70. Cinereous Antthruush 
  71. Dusky-throated Antshrike (Thamnomanes ardesiacus)
  72. Black-faced Antbird (Myrmoborus myotherinus)
  73. Golden-headed Manakin (Ceratopipra erythrocephala)
  74. Greater Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes melambrotus)
  75. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
  76. Ladder-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis climacocerca)
  77. Orange-crested Manakin (Heterocercus aurantiivertex)
  78. Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
  79. Crested Owl (Lophostrix cristata)
  80. White-bearded Manakin (Manacus manacus)
  81. Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)
  82. Pied Plover (Vanellus cayanus)
  83. Southern Lapwing (Vanellus chilensis)
  84. Great Egret (Ardea alba)
  85. Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata)
  86. Black Caracara (Daptrius ater)
  87. Yellow-rumped Cacique (Cacicus cela)
  88. Blue-headed Parrot (Pionus menstruus)
  89. Yellow-crowned Parrot (Amazona ochrocephala)
  90. Chestnut-eared Aracari (Pteroglossus castanotis)
  91. Cinnamon Attila (Attila cinnamomeus)
  92. Sooty Antbird (Myrmeciza fortis)
  93. Tropical Screech Owl (Megascops choliba)
  94. Mouse-colored Antshrike (Thamnophilus murinus)
  95. Opal-rumped Tanager (Tangara velia)
  96. Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavoviridis)
  97. Orange-fronted Plushcrown (Metopothrix aurantiaca)
  98. Screaming Piha (Lipaugus vociferans)
  99. Spix’s Guan (Penelope jacquacu)
  100. White-shouldered Antbird (Myrmeciza melanoceps)
  101. Cocha Antshrike (Thamnophilus praecox)
  102. Cocoi Heron (Ardea cocoi)
  103. Tawny-bellied Screech Owl (Megascops watsonii)
  104. Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis)
  105. Dusky-headed Parakeet (Aratinga weddellii)

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