Ecuador: Amazonia at Napo Wildlife Center Aug 06—13, 2006
Posted by Paul Greenfield
The Napo Wildlife Center experience took hold of us from the instant we crossed that natural line drawn between the swift and powerful, silty tobacco-brown waters of the Rio Napo and those of the still, “Darjeerling” black waters that meander their way along the Añanguyacu, the densely forested stream that runs out of Añangucocha?the broad lake where NWC is so artfully constructed. It is from this point that we switched over from our large, motorized canoe that had taken us along a strange crisscrossed route for over two hours from the frontier town of Coca, to our small paddle-driven dugout for a silent two-hour float through the mysterious and lush varzea and riverine habitat to the lodge.
Our initiation into this world was as varied and unpredictable as is everything about the marvelous Amazon rainforest. A Slender-billed Kite stared down at us, over a half-dozen White-throated and Channel-billed toucans plucked orange fruit high in the canopy, Common and Great potoos seemed glued almost unrecognizably stump-like to their respective branches, a band of Black-headed Parrots clowned about in a cecropia tree while uttering their musical but distinctly un-birdlike calls, two Blue-crowned Trogons decoyed in above us, a pair of White-chinned Jacamars sallied out to pick off unsuspecting butterflies, and the huffing and crashing about as our first crazy-looking Hoatzins greeted us, each in their own way. We finally entered Añangucocha as the sun was setting over the lake with a salmon-pink glow that literally warmed our hearts?and the lights of the NWC lodge began to ignite, thus setting the stage for an unforgettable weeklong show that had only just begun.
Our first morning was spent over 130 feet above the dark floor of the rainforest in the forest canopy tower where we leisurely searched the treetops and airspace for those species often hard to see from so far down below. Our efforts were well rewarded with scope views of Black-faced Hawk, Red-and-green Macaw, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, spectacularly close portrait views of the scarce Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak and charming White-browed Purpletuft, shining Spangled and Plum-throated cotingas, an active family group of Short-billed Honeycreepers, Rufous-throated Sapphire, and 14 Casqued Oropendolas, along with soaring Black and, later, Ornate hawk-eagles. A family group of Blue-and-yellow Macaws, enticed by an imitation of their raucous squawks, flew close circles around us granting the most spectacular looks anyone could ever ask for! Our return to this tower a few days later was just as productive and unforgettable, with scope views of perched Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle!
Early morning and afternoon dugout canoe trips along the Añanguyacu and the Cariañangu stream brought new experiences at every turn, whether it was a large troop of feeding squirrel monkeys or white-fronted capuchin monkeys that remained close and unabashed as we floated almost arm’s-reach away, or special close looks at a Green-and-rufous Kingfisher perched alongside us as it focused intently into the deep tea-colored waters just below; the unbelievable looks at an adult Zigzag Heron that called in obligingly at dusk and sat quietly for the longest time are memories that will endure while stellar views of Dot-backed, Plumbeous, and Silvered antbirds were favorites for all of us.
Walking various forest trails added another dimension to an already sensory overloaded multi-dimensional experience. Watching with binoculars and telescopes glued on a stunning Wire-tailed Manakin at surprisingly close quarters as it perched leisurely, while seemingly contemplating its surroundings as one might admire one’s own back patio, had to have been the most incredible look at that species ever witnessed! There were so many encounters like this one: Yellow-billed Jacamar, Citron-bellied Attila, Banded Antbird, and even a small troop of the very localized primate?golden-mantled tamarin?as three curious individuals backed down a liana they were traversing to get a better look at us! The ear-shattering cacophony of countless parakeets and parrots at the forest “saladero” was an unforgettable experience, with point-blank views at the beautiful Orange-cheeked Parrot and what seemed like every Cobalt-winged Parakeet in the entire Amazon Basin, topped off by the entire flock blasting right at and past us as they were scared off by an approaching raptor.
Each of us will remember other experiences that made our trip special, and perhaps tied to all of them is the wonderful lodge itself and the Añangu community who form most of its staff?the trip would not have been what it was if not for them. Thanks to all, especially the talented and knowledgeable Jiovanny and all who made our stay so successful, the cold drinks awaiting us at the dock after each excursion (and hot chocolate when it rained!), the incredibly comfortable quarters, and the joy and pride which radiated from each and every NWC staff member.