Day 5, October 16, 2006. Oct 12—24, 2006

Posted by Peter English


Peter English

Peter English became interested in birds while in the fourth grade. He graduated from Williams College in 1988 and received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Texa...

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Last night we moved up the Orinoco to be near some of the few river islands found here and to get an early start this morning. We began leaving the ship at first light, and had a wonderful morning exploring the islands.

Looking back at our ship, the Clipper Adventurer, from a river island in the Orinoco

Looking back at our ship, the Clipper Adventurer, from a river island in the Orinoco — Photo: Peter English

River islands on the Amazon have been known for years to have a unique and specialized set of birds inhabiting them, but the river islands on the Orinoco were thought for many years not to have as many specialized bird species. This is because so few of the islands on the Orinoco were formed by sand deposition, a consequence of the very old soils found here. We are lucky to be in a region of the Orinoco that does have this type of sand deposition island, and so we were able to see yet another species that is new to science discovered by Steve Hilty while leading a VENT tour in 2000—a species of spinetail that was seen by seven of nine groups. Other highlights included Orange-headed Tanager, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Riverside Tyrant, River Tyrannulet, Yellow-hooded Oriole, several shorebird species, and many other river specialties.

Capped Heron in the late evening

Capped Heron in the late evening — Photo: Peter English

In the afternoon we returned downriver to the El Toro area where we birded yesterday. After hearing all the things that other groups found, we decided that it was just too productive and beautiful to miss. We all wanted another opportunity to go birding along the Rio Toro.

red howler monkey in the sun above the Rio Toro

red howler monkey in the sun above the Rio Toro — Photo: Peter English

Highlights from the afternoon included:

— Two Ornate Hawk-Eagles passing over the Rio Toro.

— Remarkable looks at Sungrebe, a bird that is a member of a unique family.

— Three Cream-colored Woodpeckers in a single tree, and seven Cream-colored Woodpeckers in just a few hours.

— Black-chested Tyrant and the new species of softtail again to reinforce the sightings from the day before.

— A small pool in the forest where birds came in the evening to bathe, including Crimson-hooded Manakin, Silver-beaked Tanager, Red-capped Cardinal, and others.

Tomorrow we will return up river to visit the islands again for those who were not able to find the new species of spinetail, while the other groups will investigate a nearby area of tall forest that has never been explored by birders.