Stranded in the Amazon

It’s been nearly four weeks of off-the-grid living; four weeks of wonderful jungle experiences and amazing work experience. I have loads of photos so they’ll do most of the talking, but I’ll give a quick paragraph of updates too. I’ve been “stranded” because I wasn’t quite sure if I’d ever return back to Puerto Maldonado due to the fact that the transportation system is extremely disorganized and spontaneous. I was told that I’d be leaving on the 8th, 10th, 5th, 6th, and the 7th. I eventually made it back on the 8th. Well that’s the Peruvian way of doing things I guess. Over the past 30 days I’ve done a ton of mist netting and bird banding with Alexis and other volunteers. Now I can band and process birds 90% of the way, which is a crazy improvement from when I started at nothing. We have had some great captures in the nets, which only adds to the official list for the ARC property which sits at 185 species in one month. My personal list is 178 species with only a few repeat birds from the U.S. Crazy! Other highlights have been a 6 foot Bushmaster Viper, a 5 foot Rainbow Boa, an elusive Jaguar seen by Holly, and lots of whittling during the evening. With construction of a new Environmental Academic Center going on nearby there have been several Peruvian workers that I’ve become friends with. It is always fun to spend time with them and also improve my Spanish. I am returning on the 13th for one last month in the jungle so I’ll be receiving emails for 4 days. I’ll let the photos tell the rest! Enjoy!

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To start, the monkeys always entertain us while walking in the jungle. This Squirrel Monkey came down for a closer look.
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The trees are truly breathtaking. This giant supports itself with huge buttresses. I spent 2 hours exploring the base of this tree during the early morning fog.
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Every tree in the jungle provides habitat for many vines and plants, not to mention insects and birds.
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This creek runs right by camp and it is a hotspot for all sorts of widlife. I attempted dry-fly fishing twice and caught two tiny fish.
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The creek is also full of tiny Caiman, like this one that Patrick caught one night.
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Now for the birds! Aldo found a Striped Owl nest one day and brought me out to get a quick glimpse. What a sight! This species puts their nest on the ground which doesn’t seem too smart with all the mammals nearby.
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It’s not the Amazon without a Toucan! White-throated Toucans are the most common species of about 10 varieties here.
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This Hairy-crested Antbird was plucking off ants from a huge swarm. By standing in the middle of the swarm, this guy popped up really close to me.
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On a walk along the Central Trail I flushed a couple of bizarre but beautiful King Vultures into the tree. They were feeding on a dead mammal near the trail.
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When the birds are lacking, insects always fill the void!
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These insects are beautiful, but the jungle is also full of deadly ones. One night I had a Wandering Spider in my bed, which is one of the worst sleeping partners!
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After sunset everybody makes their way to the long table. Cards, whittling and talking are the usual, but occasionally Chino breaks out the harmonica and plays some of best music I have ever heard.
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After a relaxing evening we wake at 5:00 to start mist netting. Here Alexis explains the wing molt of a Band-tailed Manakin (Pipra fasciicasuda).
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Data is collected and specific photos are taken for the banding database. Hummingbirds, like this Long-tailed Hermit, are always exciting to net.
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Now sensei Alexis passes the work over to me. Here I’m taking the beak measurement of a fiery Band-tailed Manakin.
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Some days are slow, but others have big surprises like this Lined Forest-Falcon! I was on duty to extract this guy from the nets which was exciting.
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Alexis made sure I had good photos of him with this bird.
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Another day we got a Semicollared Puffbird, which was one of my most-wanted birds. I was so pumped that I had to get my puffbird look going too!
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This Rufous Motmot was our most recent surprise. I was blown away by the rainbow of colors. Unreal.
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After an early morning, siesta is always nice. Photo by Harry Turner
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Another cute visitor at camp: A Mouse Opossum.
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A huge surprise was this rare Harpy Eagle that flew directly over the boat on the Las Piedras River. The bird was massive and offered amazing views as it perched along the river.

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Finally, a grand morning view of the canopy. I sat here on a fallen log for a while simply watching the unbelievable jungle around me.

Camp Galletas

My first two weeks in the jungle have been unreal. I’ve been staying at “Camp Galletas” way up the Las Piedras River, named for the the circular slices of logs that form our wood floors. The jungle is unlike anything else, with so many insects, snakes, frogs, birds, mammals and more. The first week was spent macheteing trails and areas for the new camp that is being built, but I’ve been able to have some great adventures along the way. Now there are around 30 workers, volunteers, and interns at the camp so it’s a busy place. I’m working as an intern for Fauna Forever, a nonprofit organization that seeks to survey and research the wildlife of the Amazon Rainforest to help preserve important areas and create sustainable ways to harvest resources. I have begun work with Alexis, the bird coordinator, doing mist netting and bird banding. I’m learning so much about this process and gaining a lot of experience. In the first three days of mist netting we captured 38 birds of about 30 species. I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking. Expect another update in a few weeks!

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Camp Galletas! Tucked into a small open patch in the jungle. It grows every day, with more beds and longer tables.
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The galletas, or cookies that allow us to walk around in bare feet or sandals, which is a great relief from rubber boots!
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Harry took me out on a night walk the first day and we found some incredible insects!
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The Las Piedras River at sunset.
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The boat ride upriver offered some great opportunities to find birds, like this Capped Heron
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On my first morning I woke early and found this amazing view into the canopy.
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A cooperative Vine Snake that the Herp Team caught on a night walk.
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Even the trees are out to get you in the rainforest.
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Black-fronted Nunbirds are a common site near camp
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We hiked up a giant clay cliff one day and had this spectacular view across the untouched jungle.
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More snakes!
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Lucerna, a tiny village along the river is our launching point for getting to camp.
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The Lucerna locals invited us to play a game of soccer. It was dreadfully hot but we only lost 3-2.
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Holding a tamed Yellow-crowned Parrot in Lucerna!
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Scarlet Macaws and other species fly over the clay lick along the river.

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Alexis and I prepare the mist nets for a good day of banding!
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One of 3 Pectoral Sparrow (Arremon taciturnus) that were captured
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We caught a couple of the tiny Golden-crowned Spadebill (Platyrinchus coronatus)
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We caught many birds that follow army ant colonies around such as this Stipple-throated Antbird
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We are only visitors to this wild jungle.

 

Peruvian Beginnings

It’s my second day in Peru and I already experienced so much. My flight from Lima to Puerto Maldonado offered amazing views of the Andes mountains and eventually the Amazon Rainforest. Upon landing, I met with Chris, the Fauna Forever leader and he showed me around the main Fauna Forever site. We then went into town to meet other members of the crew. The main house is near town but tucked back in a small forest. In addition to people, it hosts several Tarantulas, bats, Tamarin Monkeys, and a bunch of birds.

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The Andes near Cusco: Barren and steep, yet quite beautiful!
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The main location of Fauna Forever before it moves to a new location nearby

We are planning on heading out into the field tomorrow, where we will be traveling up the Las Piedras River to a new campsite that Fauna Forever and Arc Amazon are working on. I think I’ll be spending most of my time there, although I will probably come back in town for wifi and some good food occasionally. I’m going to be taking general photos along with specific birds photos, as well as helping with the bird research near the campsite. A lot of the details are still unknown so I’m just going with the flow! I’ll leave you with these photos until next time!

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The road into the Fauna Forever house….looking like a jungle already!
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Lots of mud on the back roads….but not difficult for the thousands of motorbikes.
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Looking out the back door of the Fauna Forever house.

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A view of the giant Rio Madre De Dios
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The plaza in Puerto Maldonado with massive mango trees
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Everybody rides a motorbike, even the taxis seen wearing yellow.
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The Fauna Forever crew spends lots of time in three main restaurants, including El Asadazo, where wifi and good food are shared around the table.