Day six started with our first boating excursion of our trip. We had a couple of specific targets, a prehistoric relic for me and a hummingbird for Martin (oh, and me, too!) Our pilot, Beira, got us situated in a small motor boat and took off up river. Both of our target birds could be found along the river. We then planned to walk a ranch road up river from the lodge. It was a beautiful morning. I think these birding boat trips were my favorite part of our time in Brazil.
The first life bird of the day for me was a Green Ibis, flying up into the trees along the bank. Anhingas and Neotropic Cormorants flew up stream ahead of us. We heard a huge racket of rustling tree banches and howls. A troop of Spider Monkeys were threatening us from the tops of the trees. I looked into the face of one of the monkeys and could see the anger in his eyes. I imagined all of them saying "We sure showed them!" after we moved up stream.
Shortly after our monkey encounter we came across my goal bird of the day. Brad spotted an Hoatzin flitting shyly in the leaves. We didn't get very good looks at all. Then Beira said to Brad in Portuguese, "What about those Hoatzin's over there?" A good size flock was in clear view on the other bank! Hoatzins are a truly odd bird. The young birds have claws on their wings that they use to climb trees, reminiscent of Archaeopteryx. They look like a "missing link" with tiny heads with shaggy crests, rather messy feathers and an odd reptilian attitude. When the young birds learn to fly the claws dwindle. Martin had seen Hoatzin in Ecuador when he visted the Amazon basin there, pre-Sheridan.
I was still glowing from our encounter when we came across Martin's big target bird, Crimson Topaz. This is one of the largest hummingbirds in the world, a spectacular brilliant red and green bird. I remember the first time I looked at the hummingbird plates in the Birds of Ecuador I thought "OH MAN! I have to see this bird!" There is less than a handful of records from the Amazon area of Ecuador. Brad discovered that these hummers were along the river on his first visit to Rio Azul. It caused great excitement at the time. Heck, I am still excited! We had a beautiful male, possibly two. Unfortunately the tail streamers that are present in full breeding plumage were not on the bird, but we took it anyway. I took absolutely the worst photos in the world of it. Martin's are a bit better.
We landed at the ranch road and disembarked to so some birding. It was a bit difficult to concentrate on the birds as the butterflies were dazzling. I ended up taking more photos of butterflies than looking at birds! Despite the distraction, we did pick up Manu Antbird, Dusky-tailed Flatbill and a number of antbirds. On our way back to the boat we saw an old friend from home, an Eastern Wood-pewee. Its always amazing to see the birds we get here in South America. Its a reminder of just how far these birds go.
We headed back to the lodge for another great lunch, enjoying the river just as much on the way back. After lunch, when we were supposed to be siestaing, Martin and I both ended up looking for bugs, dragonflies mostly for him, and butteflies for me. I put out more of my butterfly bait and it was bringing in the bugs. I joked that Morphos and Owls are complete lushes, as they were always feeding. Beer is great on a hot afternoon, evening when mixed with bananas.
Later in the afternoon we walked down another trail to a wonderful deck built over a crystal clear lagoon off of the river. The water is so clear we could see a sting ray, puffer fish, dog fish and other fish swimming right below us. Carlo, the owner had told Brad that he would regularly see one of our main target birds, Bald Parrots, at about 5:00 PM. This unusual bare headed parrot was recently split from Vulturine Parrot. It was another great discovery that Brad made on his first visit. Its not the prettiest parrot, by far, but a really unique bird. At about 10 minutes to 5 we scored! A flock flew over giving us decent looks.
We then went up to the entrance road and birded there again, hoping for the Plush-crested Jay. Again we had no luck, but did stumble into a nice mixed flock. I have a particular love for tangaras, so I was really happy to get Opal-rumped Tanager, a new one for me. We also had Green-and-gold Tanager and Turquoise Tanager, both really spectacular birds. As it got dark we headed back for dinner. Did I mention that the food was really good?
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
Southern Rough-winged Swallow