Saturday, March 5, 2011

Fauna... forever!

The past month has been an experience like none we’ve ever had. Sure, there’s been plenty of rain and we haven’t been able to go out as much as we’d originally planned, but we’ve also been out in the forest plenty and have gotten to see some fantastic things. Here are some highlights (and a few lowlights) since we last wrote:

Emily and night monkey. Photo by David Johnston.
Way back on Valentine’s Day, we were in town. Here’s how we spent the day: Mike – at the house with a stomach bug; Emily – machete-wielding with the group to clear the trails of a few trees at Anaconda Lodge. ¡Que romantico! The night before, the group had gone to La Balsa, an open-air disco next to the river, a pretty neat place. Our last day in town was spent at the Amazon Shelter, building and improving enclosures for the animals they take in. One owl monkey in particular took a special liking to Emily and had to be pried off her shoulders. Dave's picture of it appears in a cool interview with Fauna Forever leader Chris Kirkby.

Praying mantis.
Photo by Naun Amable Silva.
Next came Casa ITA, run by Reserva Amazonica on the Madre de Dios river, which has all the access to RA’s trails, but with considerably more rustic accommodations a mile or so away. The trails themselves were a bit worse for wear because of four straight days of rain while we were there, and more before we’d arrived, but among other things, we saw a sleepy porcupine at eye level a few feet away, saddle-backed tamarins (cute, tiny monkeys), and a quick glimpse of peccary (wild, hairy forest pigs). We also found a fantastic leaf-mimic praying mantis. The insects in general are out of this world.

Our mist nets were in between thigh-deep pools of water, which we’d been dreading, but which didn’t turn out to feel as horrible as we expected. Especially since one of the birds we netted was the very large, very cute black-fronted nunbird, one of Emily’s favorites.

Mike with whip snake caught by
herp team. Photo by James Spence.
The best part about Casa ITA / Reserva was the canopy walkway, which we took advantage of with Naun whenever possible. There were some truly amazing birds, and the view of the forest was incredible.

Because our next destination unexpectedly closed for a month, we ended up back at Sachavacayoc Center for our last part of the program, which was fine with us. We were able to go out bird netting/banding most days, and the herpetofauna (snakes, lizards, frogs) team took a lot of night walks and other excursions.

Trails were in overall better shape, and we saw tons of mammal tracks including tapir, deer, and peccary. We briefly saw some peccary through heavy foliage, and Naun—lucky Naun—actually saw a tapir at the mist nets, then, later in the same day, an ocelot! We were just far enough behind to miss out. Years waiting to see an ocelot while traveling in the tropics: 7. Moral: walk right on your leader/guide’s heels.

James, putting his trust
in Emily, who is in the
process of making him
unintentionally bald.

What we did see, in the morning before we came back to town, is the rather rare harpy eagle. It flew across the field at Sachavacayoc, landed in a tree for long enough to get a good look, then took off again before we could call the others. Think about a giant bird…maybe a red-tailed hawk for those of you back home in the States. Now double or triple it in size and give it a cool crest (with a color change to shades of gray). Awesome.

Now, we're in Lima for a few days. Then, time for Costa Rica. More to follow. Anyone have any favorite animals you’d like us to try to see for you?

Many thanks to Dave, Chris, Naun, Brian, James, and Tania for making our time with Fauna Forever Tambopata memorable and enjoyable!

Emily oohing and ahhing over black-fronted nunbird.
Photo by Naun Amable Silva.
Mike with green-and-rufous kingfisher.
Photo by Naun Amable Silva.
Musician wren. Photo by Naun Amable Silva.


  1. Great update! Sounds like a terrific adventure. Happy to see other group members have been able to contribute photos. Safe travels to Costa Rica! Love, Dad

  2. Amazing photos. Sounds like you guys are having a blast. Keep the posts and pics coming!
    Be well, Ryan