Ecuador - the upper Amazon [1]

  • nkgray
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3 years 10 months ago #86589 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: Ecuador - the upper Amazon [1]
I have just returned from a week in Ecuador with my sons, where I spent 5 nights at the La Selva Lodge on the Napo River in eastern Ecuador ('la selva' is Spanish for 'the jungle'). A further 500 km downriver from La Selva the Napo joins the Ucayali River in Peru and from here the river is known as the Amazon. You can board a boat in Coca, 70 km upriver from La Selva (and only 275m above sea level) and travel all the way down the Amazon river system to the Atlantic Ocean, a journey of some 4,000km. At La Selva the Napo is already 1 km wide!

Jungle birding and photography is fraught with lots of practical difficulties - the humidity is always higher than 85%; it rains almost every day (you can guarantee that on a 5-night trip at any time of the year you will get rain, whether a 1-hour downpour or the entire trip washed out); the jungle is dark - the canopy trees are 35-40 m high making ground-foraging species hard to see, and 10 cm size canopy species are not easy to spot and even harder to photograph; while tropical rainforest has high diversity it has low density, so while you might tot up quite a species list you will not see many of any of these; one of the best ways to see birds is from a canoe and then you have to counter the boat movement.

Many of my photos therefore ended up as good "ID shots" but are not great bird images, but nevertheless I will post a few of these among others. It will take a few postings to do justice to the trip, so as they say "watch this space".

First up some of the birds that I'm sure you'd expect to see in the Amazon jungle - parrots and toucans.

Macaws are the giants of the parrot family. Unless you are extremely lucky you will only see macaws as fly-overs. Fortunately they are calling raucously as they fly so you can be ready for them, but even then they may not be close enough. The most obvious differences separating them visually from parrots are their size and long pointed tails. I saw three species as fly-bys and missed out on photos of the largest of the three the Scarlet Macaw on the only occasion that I saw them, but did manage to capture .....

....Chestnut-fronted Macaw, and

....Red-bellied Macaw, the red belly being not too obvious in flight

On further processing I find that my one and only Scarlet Macaw shot was not as poor as I'd thought, so here it is....

Parrots are largely fructivorous and to counter the acidic nature of their food intake indulge every morning in devouring alkaline clay to neutralise the acid. They come down in large, and hopefully multi-species, groups to numerous "leks" or clay licks where they make good photographic subjects, albeit usually at some distance. The morning that we visited a clay lick on the south bank of the Napo River in the Yasuni National Park, I managed to photograph 3 species from a boat held 'steady' against the fast river current. I did see Cobalt-winged Parakeet on another occasion, but the clay lick participants were the only ones photographed. As you will see parrots sitting still in foliage are well camouflaged, but when they spread their wings they display a myriad of colours.

Smallest of the three was the Dusky-headed Parakeet under the watchful eye of a bigger Yellow-crowned Amazon

Yellow-crowned Amazon with a Dusky-crowned Parakeet spreading its wings

....and a Yellow-crowned Amazon landing with wings outstretched

The largest parrot in this part of the Amazon, the Mealy Amazon

....and with a Dusky-headed Parakeet illustrating the size difference

Toucans are noisy birds and part of the general 'jungle buzz' is likely to be toucans calling. Like the macaws the only chances I had of seeing toucans was as distant flyovers. Here is a White-throated Toucan pushing the camera to its limit.

The smaller members of the toucan family, the aracaris, were a bit easier to photograph - marginally so!

I missed a shot of a very distant Ivory-billed Araçari, and just managed to capture a Chestnut-eared Araçari from another bucking canoe....

...but this Many-banded Araçari was much more co-operative

As I said 'watch this space' and I will add new posts as I process my images.


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  • gordon
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3 years 10 months ago #86592 by gordon
gordon replied the topic: Re: Ecuador - the upper Amazon [1]
Awesome photo's Neil!

Interesting about the birds eating the clay to neutralise the acids!

Looking forward to your next batch of images!!


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