Ecuador: Amazonia at Napo Wildlife Center Aug 04—14, 2007
Posted by Paul Greenfield
This August Amazonia at Napo Wildlife Center tour offered a sharp contrast between the cool Alpine-like high Andes and the humid tropical rainforest of the upper Amazon Basin. We warmed ourselves in the hot springs at above 10,000 feet altitude and cooled ourselves down with the fresh cold juices we were served after each excursion at Napo Wildlife Center, spending our days afield under the most varied of conditions. One thing is for certain; we witnessed the depth and breadth of Ecuador's incredible diversity, be it scenic, cultural, or biological.
We began with a chill on the equator, climbing high out of the central valley and over the crest of the eastern Andean cordillera in the páramo and down to the upper temperate zone just east of Quito. Here we spent the afternoon surrounded by an incredible blaze of hummingbirds—among some 14 species encountered, we were entertained by truly bizarre Sword-billed Hummingbirds and stunning Long-tailed Sylphs at the Guango Lodge feeders. The following morning we climbed to beautiful stunted forest just above the hot springs we had steeped in the night before to enjoy wonderful looks at two scarce species: Black-chested and Masked mountain-tanagers. Our return to Quito brought our hummingbird count to 20, along with an array of páramo specialties including close encounters with a pair of Red-rumped Bush-Tanagers.
Before we knew it, it was the following morning and we were making our way, under the hot tropical sun, down the gangway to our motorized canoe to begin our journey to Napo Wildlife Center. After our two-and-a-half-hour zigzagging cruise down the silty Río Napo, we switched to our paddle driven dugouts—and the adventure began. As always, right from the start, this was a total experience: the black waters of the Añanguyacu, shaded over by lush vegetation in habitat that changed often from varzea to terra firme to varzea again; the sounds; the bouts of light rain; over 75 species of birds, including our first crazy-looking Hoatzins; a charming golden-mantled tamarin; a sleepy caiman lizard and stalking black caiman as we entered the Añangucocha lagoon; and then the lights of our new home glowed as the sun bowed out and the sky blushed salmon-pink.
There was so much to take in: eight species of primates; a selection of frogs, lizards, and turtles; even one unsuspecting snake survived our "paparazzi"! Our first visit to the forest canopy tower was awesome, as we "hosted" a wonderful mixed tanager flock in "our" own tree—accompanied by gasps, and oohs and aahs. Paradise Tanagers, Green-and-golds, Masked, Turquoise, a Fulvous Shrike-Tanager, and Black-faced and Blue dacnises all came in with the intention of bathing in a bromeliad—"my kingdom for a pair of close-focus binoculars!" What a life list that old Ceiba must have! Our subsequent visit here brought in more tanagers and stellar views of Spangled Cotinga, Black-bellied Thorntail, Purplish Jacamar, White-browed Purpletuft, Black-capped Parrot, and a pair of Blue-and-yellow Macaws that circled us closely. More gasps.
Our explorations continued along forest trails and from our "trusty" dugout canoe, spying a pair of roosting night monkeys by day, tiny pygmy marmosets as they fed on sap oozing from tree bark, wonderful Lunulated Antbirds, Dot-backed Antbirds, Green-and-rufous Kingfishers, Blue-crowned Trogon, a lounging monk saki monkey, and two male Blue-backed Manakins at their lek area. Surely each of our participants had their own favorite experiences and memories.
All in all, this is a truly wonderful place and we owe our gratitude to the Añangu community who own and run this operation to perfection—the trip would not have been what it was if not for them. We must be especially grateful for the talented and knowledgeable Jiovanny Rivadeneira who accompanied us for part of our stay, and to Pancho Enriquez; both made our visit a real success. I can't help but remember the unabashed pride that radiated from the faces of each and every NWC staff member. I am most certain too that Tony is still "at one" with the jungle after his intimate session with the local witch doctor.