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Birding Peru part 10 - Explorer's Inn & Caimans

posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, October 4, 2012 

August 26, 2012 - Afternoon and Evening at the Explorer's Inn

"Welcome" to the Explorer's Inn

After the introduction to the Explorer's Inn and the newly enacted rules that were laid out, I was a bit deflated.  I had looked forward to coming to the Amazon on about equal footing with going to Machu Picchu.  I understood that 3 days here in no way would produce the type of birding I really wanted to do, but for a crash course, and just an opportunity there were still certain expectations.  We took our bags to our room and spent a few minutes pointing out the obvious flaws.  Where does one even begin...  It smelled as if they had used kerosene to mop the floors, I almost wondered if I dropped a match would the whole place go up?  The beds were twin as expected, but instead of being what I would expect from America, they were like a thin 6" child's mattress--with no box springs, they sat firmly on the cross beams of the bed, which created a bit of a lumpy surface when you laid down.  That was okay though, I didn't come here to sleep.  The bug nets were clearly too old--they had faded to yellow, and you could find plenty of tiny holes in them.  The bathroom was truly a pathetic situation.  The shower was in ruins, broken and missing tiles, cracks, splintered wood boards, rusty drain and shower head, and grime.  It could have been mold, it could have just been caked on disgusting grout--whatever it was it was disgusting and showering was not on my to do list here.  Something was seriously wrong with the plumbing they did have as you could smell sewage the whole time we were there--it made using the bathroom awful--thank god I had that extra night in Cusco when I was so sick.

Yellow-rumped Cacique near our room

Now before anyone tells me I am being over critical, and looking for tiny details to gripe against--keep in mind I spent 4 summers living out of a car, sleeping on the ground, and using natures toilet while working as a filed biologist.  I know bad accommodations, and I know terrible--Explorer's Inn was the latter.  I don't often complain about lodging but this pretty much takes the cake as the worst place I have ever stayed.  By the time we left, Sam and I agreed we would have preferred our tent, and backpacking gear over the room we had here.  But enough on that, I came to look at birds, so lets talk about birds.

Silver-beaked Tanager were common here

Sam was exhausted so she opted to take a nap on the beds--when you're tired anything somewhat soft works.  I on the other hand decided to say f*ck the rules and head out into the jungle.  I stepped out onto the porch and immediately heard a clicking.  It sounded tanager-like, so I wasn't surprised when a SILVER-BEAKED TANAGER popped up in a tree nearby.  This was the most abundant tanager species I saw while in Peru, and they were common around the Inn.  I headed towards the dining hall and spotted a BROWN-MANTLED TAMARIN monkey eating a banana on a table behind the hall.  It appeared this is where they washed or cleaned something--and it was also where they threw all their fruit scraps down a hill into the jungle.  What a missed opportunity on their part--why didn't they have a table set up somewhere with the fruit placed in bowls or even just on the table for visitors to watch?  I mean come on this is a no brainer way to attract birds and wildlife and provide your guests with an easy viewing opportunity.  The SILVER-BEAKED TANAGERS were all over the hillside along with numerous  RUSSET-BACKED OROPENDOLA.  The scraps were easy picking for the birds.

One of many Russet-backed Oropendola present

I walked the perimeter of the dining hall where the SOCIAL FLYCATCHERS were easily approachable.  YELLOW-RUMPED CACIQUES and RUSSET-BACKED OROPENDOLA were noisy, and common in the trees just outside the building.   The birds nested here and were easy to approach and watch.  The occasional flock of parakeets would fly over but the chatter was unidentifiable to my ears--just parakeet sp..  I noticed 2 hummingbird feeders in the trees and was excited--for all of 10 seconds when I realized both were bone dry and likely hadn't seen sugar water in months.  Seriously?  This is the world famous Explorer's Inn?  It was apparent the ownership didn't give a shit about even the most basic wildlife viewing opportunities right on their own porch.  As I fretted about the dire feeder situation a woodcreeper rattled off int he palm tree above me--it was a the gorgeous CINNAMON-THROATED WOODCREEPER! I a lifer, and the ONLY woodcreeper of the trip.

Compared to some other jungle birds, the Cinnamon-throated Woodcreeper
may seem plain... But they are quite spectacular!

I wandered pas the soccer field down towards the river, and finally slipping on a trail into the jungle.  It was just me the trail, the trees, and the mosquitoes.  It was late int eh afternoon and the bird activity was limited.  I could hear both UNDULATED and WHITE-THROATED TINAMOU calling while I strolled down the trails.  It would be cool to see a tinamou, but thus far every species I have on my life list has been an obligatory audible.  I didn't see an birds, or other wildlife while I made my way to Sunset Point, but did find a nice group of the  BROWN-MANTLED TAMARIN monkey  right at the river.  Here I watched BLACK VULTURES soaring out over the river as the sun started to dip to the west.

Great view of a Brown-mantled Tamarin along the river

I made my way back through the forest eventually emerging from the trees to a large flock of TUI PARAKEETS which landed in the trees across the soccer field.  The employees and a few researchers were out playing soccer and frisbee in the waning daylight.  As I walked back towards the dining hall I spotted a RED-AND-GREEN MACAW perched in a tree right above the building.  I was stunned until I realized it was a free-flying bird that was rescued from captivity, and kept on the property.  The crazy thing was seeing the large parrot take off and fly out over the jungle out of view--and then return, a free bird but it had no intentions of leaving.

The local "pet" Red-and-green Macaw

I went back and napped in the room until it was time to meet up to go out on the river under the cover of darkness to spotlight caiman on the water.  The Speckled Caiman was the species we should find, and after a 30 minute presentation that was almost unbearable as our guide tried to tell us about the animals in English, I was ready to go--as was the rest of the group I suspect.  We walked towards the river stopping to check out a PINK-TOED TARANTULA at a nest, as well as a frog, and a gecko before taking the stairs down to the boat.

Gecko on the walk to the River

At the rivers edge the COMMON PARAQUE had started to call--and they were everywhere.  The boat headed up river as our guide spotlighted the bank in search of the tiny crocodiles. A SAND-COLLARED NIGHTHAWK grunted and passed in the spotlight beam.   The first thing we spotted in the water was no crocodile, but a rabbit swimming against the current in the middle of the river.  Talking with the guides later, none of them had ever seen this--surely most rabbits that make their way into the river probably end up as croc-bait!

This Rabbit was in for the swim of a life time...

Finally we started spotting SPECKLED CAIMAN and for about 30 minutes we enjoyed close up views of the creatures in the water and on the bank.

Speckled Caiman on the bank of the Rio Tambopata

We got close enough that you could literally reach out and touch one--if you wanted to lose a hand!

Speckled Caiman right next to our boat

After turning the boat back down river they cut the engine and let us glide down river int he current listening to the night sounds coming from the jungle.  It was  pretty fun floating silently through the jungle in the dark--along with the caiman this night turned out pretty well, hopefully a sign that the following day would also be on the up and up.

Sam on the float back to the Inn

When we finally got back to the Inn it was up the stairs in the dark and back to the dining hall for dinner.  The food was actually pretty good--it was chicken and rice with a mango sauce and it was the first real meal I had eaten in almost 48 hours.  After dinner they told us that we would be going to Cocochoa Lake in the morning to see Giant River Otters and needed to be back to the dining hall at 4:30am.  Sam and I had talked an already decided we didn't want to take the morning hike to the lake as we had talked to someone who took 4 trips to the lake in the past week and not seen any otters.  I went and told our guide we wanted to go with another group to see the clay lick, to which he told us we couldn't.  I don't think he fully understood our  situation, so I finally got one of the guides who spoke English to help out--it only took a few minutes and we were squared away with a new guide for the following day--the guide we were supposed to be with originally had our flight not been canceled.

We retired to our room for the night to the sound of singing AMAZONIAN PYGMY-OWLS, and other various insects and creatures whistling and buzzing away.

16 life birds this afternoon and evening / 134 total trip life birds / 178 total trip birds
Photos from the Explorer's  Inn on TimAveryBirding.com

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the jungle, you have to be prepared for less than ideal conditions. I would say its the equivalent of camping in America.

October 4, 2012 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Anonymous: Well did you not read my disclaimer? I would say that my worst backpacking trip had better accommodations. I wasn't expecting the Marriott or even the Motel 6, but there is absolutely no reason there can't be up keep and maintenance of the most basic things. I would have preferred to have camped there after our experience--knowing my gear would have been more comfortable, and mind-easing than the room we stayed in.

October 5, 2012 at 10:30 AM  

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