1-7 August 1999
by Ron Hoff
6 of us decided to spend a week birding at Explornapo lodge, on the Napo river about 95 miles from Iquitos, Peru. This lodge is operated by Explorama Tours, 44 Pond St., Nahant, Massachusetts, 01908 (1-800-707-5275; they also have a web page and e-mail). We arranged this trip by ourselves. Explorama offers packages to any of 4 lodges they operate in the region. These range from Explorama Lodge on the Amazon river with air-conditioned rooms to Explornapo Lodge with open air rooMs. ACEER lodge is also near the Explornapo lodge, but I think it is mostly for research groups studying in the forest.
We flew into Iquitos and were met at the airport by a man called Roldan, who was to be our guide for the next week. He spoke very good English, as did most of the people associated with Explorama. We went to Explorama's office to make copies of our passports and to let them have our return flight information so they could re-confirm our departing flights for us, a very helpful and necessary thing to do in South America. We boarded our boat there at the office for our trip down the Amazon for 50 miles or so, and then about 40 miles or so up the Napo to our lodge. This is the same Napo river that Sacha Lodge in Equador is on. The boat was comfortable and they stopped in the middle of our 3 hour ride at one of the other lodges for a much appreciated bathroom stop.
Our itinerary was not one of Explornapo's packages, because they include things that are geared more for first time tropical forest tourists. We explained that all we wanted to do was go birding every day, period, with no seminars or other stuff. Our guide asked us this to confirm our intentions when we got there, and he set up anything we wanted to do for the whole week. It worked out well. A boat was available for us if we wanted to go someplace besides the trails around the lodge. Roldan and the boatmen worked hard to accommodate us with any of our requests. We went across the Napo to a couple of hidden lakes and got super looks at Hoatzins, Jacamars, and Great Potoo. We visited a couple of river islands, which have birds that only occur on these islands. We didn't have as much luck as we had hoped for finding the endemics, but eventually saw many species that we did not find by walking the trails around the lodge, such as Amazonian Umbrellabird, Band-tailed Oropendula, White-chinned and White-eared Jacamars, Capped Heron, and Short-tailed Parrot.
The trails around the lodge were great and every day we went out, we found new species. This is typical forest birding. At times it's overwhelming and at other times it's underwhelming, leaving one with the feeling of how can a place so lush be so devoid of birds! Patience is the real key here. We ran across several feeding flocks and one ant swarm.
The following list is the species we had during our 5.5 days of birding,
with a few comments thrown in.
Great, Little, Undulated, and Variegated Tinamous. Most heard only,
but a few seen by some of us.
Black, Turkey, and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures
Gray-headed, Swallow-tailed, Double-toothed, and Plumbeous Kites
Crane, Slate-colored, Black-collared, and Roadside Hawks
Black Hawk-Eagle!!! - We saw this bird soaring one day, not a bad look, really, but the next day as we were coming back to the lodge by boat, one flew right over us (50 feet) and landed in a tree on the creek bank. We turned around and got within 30 feet or so of it. Unbelievable look!
Black, Yellow-headed, and Red-throated Caracaras
Pectoral and Least Sandpipers
Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns
Plumbeous and Ruddy Pigeons
White-eyed, Maroon-tailed, and Cobalt-winged Parakeets
Short-tailed and Mealy Parrots
Greater and Smooth-billed Anis
Spectacled Owl - A pair landed down in the forest and didn't see us, allowing us great looks at leisure.
Great Potoo - Super look across the Napo on a hidden lake.
Pauraque - Found these roosting for the day on one of the river islands.
Great looks in the scope.
Pavonine Quetzal - We chased this one for 3 days. Our last day Roldan made a Herculean effort tracking it down. We blazed our way into the forest about 100 yards and he finally whistled it in to a place where we could see it in the scope. Gorgeous!
Trogons - Black-tailed, White-tailed, Blue-crowned, and Violaceous
All 5 Kingfishers - Exceptional looks at Green-and-Rufous.
Jacamars - White-eared, Yellow-billed (in scope-Wow!), White-chinned, Paradise, and Great (in scope!!!!!)
Puffbirds - White-necked, Chestnut-capped, and Collared - We got the Collared on the trail behind the lodge. It was perched only 20 feet away and stayed for a long time. The looks in the scope were pure visual meltdown! What a beauty!
Rusty-breasted Nunlet - Only seen by 2 of us.
Black-fronted and White-fronted Nunbirds
Barbets - Scarlet-crowned, Black-spotted, and Lemon-throated
Aracaris - Lettered, Ivory-billed, Chestnut-eared, and Many-banded
Toucans - Golden-collared, Yellow-ridged, and Cuvier's
Woodpeckers - Yellow-tufted, Little, Yellow-throated, Golden-green, Spot-breasted, Cream-colored (!!!), Lineated, Crimson-crested, and Chestnut (!!!)
Woodcreepers - Plain-brown, Spix's, Long-tailed, Wedge-billed, Long-billed (one of the great birds of all time, seen very well), Strong-billed, Northern Barred, Straight-billed, and Buff-throated
Foliage-gleaners - Rufous-tailed, Rufous-rumped, Chestnut-winged and Buff-throated
Antshrikes - Fasciated, Great, Barred (heard), Spot-winged, Black-capped, and Cinereous
Antwrens - Pygmy, Plain-throated, White-flanked, and Dugand's (on the ACEER canopy walkway, looking down on it!)
Antbirds - Silvered, Plumbeous, White-shouldered, Sooty, Bicolored, and Scale-backed
Black-spotted Bare-eye - only seen briefly by a couple of people
Black-necked Red Cotinga (WOW!!)
Other Cotingas - Plum-throated, Purple-throated, and Spangled
Manakins - Wire-tailed, Golden-headed, Blue-crowned, White-bearded, Striped,
and Dwarf Tyrant (several of these were scoped and gave us super looks!)
Flycatchers - Ruddy-tailed, Dusky-chested, Dusky-capped, Crowned Slaty,
Streaked, Social, Gray-capped, and Piratic
Greater and Lesser Kiskadees
White-winged and Pink-throated Becards
Thrushes - Black-billed, Lawrence's, Hauxwell's
Wrens - Thrush-like, Coraya, Buff-breasted, and House
White-winged, White-banded, and Southern Rough-winged Swallows
Tanagers - Magpie, Hooded, Gray-headed, Fulvous Shrike-Tanager, Flame-crested, Masked crimson, Silver-beaked, Blue-Gray (brightest ones I've ever seen), Palm, Turquoise, Green-and-gold, Paradise, and Opal-crowned
Thick-billed and Orange-crowned Euphonias
Black-faced, Yellow-bellied, and Blue Dacnis
Green and Purple Honeycreeper
Variable and Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters
Buff-throated and Grayish Saltators
Oropendulas - Casqued, Crested, Russet-tailed, and Band-tailed
Yelloe-rumped and Solitary Cacique
Shiny and Giant Cowbird
We also saw the following mammals:
Black-mantled and Saddled-backed Tamarin Monkeys
Yellow-handed Titi Monkey
Dusky Titi Monkey (a real beauty!)
Tayra (seen chasing the Dusky Titi Monkey)
Brown-throated 3-toed Sloth
A tiny poison arrow Frog (about 1/2 inch long, colored red and black)
Leaf mimic Toad
Hyla Tree Frog
We had a great time here, although it was only for 5 full days. The lodge is very well run and the food was good. There's plenty of water to drink, which was needed because the temperatures were in the 90's and so was the humidity. The lodge was kept very tidy and everybody on the staff was helpful. The trails are easy to follow and maintained well. The ACEER canopy walkway was only about 30-40 minutes hike from our lodge. If you ever liked treehouses as a kid, this is the ultimate! What a great structure! It encompasses 13 or so very large trees and has netting on the sides and a flat board on the bottom to walk on. We found it to be very safe and unique. We did not go birding there in the morning, only in the late afternoon. We didn't see many birds from it, but having said that, we didn't spend a lot of time there either. I took my scope up and set it up on a couple of the platforms that are at each tree. It worked well and we got some good looks at a few things (Cobalt-winged Parakeets, Spangled Cotinga, and White-necked Puffbird).
We had about 200+ species here for the 5 days. Our guide Roldan was instrumental in helping us find some of these, especially the Black-necked Red Cotinga, Amazonian Umbrellabird, and the elusive Pavonine Quetzal. The Quetzal in particular always seemed to perch where you couldn't see it. Roldan had grown up in the area and has worked for Explorama for the last 15 years. His directional hearing was exceptional. We certainly recommend him if you plan to go birding there. Although we didn't go out at night, the people at the lodge will take you out to see some of the night activity, as tarantulas, snakes, etc. We found this trip very easy to set up ourselves and easy to get to. There used to be a direct flight from Miami to Iquitos, so you didn't have to go to Lima first, making it cheaper to fly in, but I don't know if that flight is still in operation anymore. Aero Peru has gone out of business and we had to use Aero Continente for our internal flights. They did a fine job.
If anybody has any questions about our trip, feel free to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org). I tried to be as accurate as possible writing this report, but if there are any mistakes in this report, they are mine alone.
Ron Hoff Clinton, Tennessee email@example.com