I'm back home in the snow and ice for two weeks now and finally getting out to do some birding. Today I had an interesting encounter with a rather tame immature Cooper's Hawk. Because of the large size this bird was almost certainly a female.

Here are some digiscoped images of this bird taken through my Kowa TS 883.

What attracted me to this bird was the repeated almost meow like vocalization it was producing. It repeated this call in bouts of about five to eight calls a second or two apart. These bouts were repeated every one to two minutes for nearly an hour! If it had been late summer or the fall I would have thought it was a food begging call, but really not sure what was going on in late February! If you click on the video link below you can hear a few of these calls in the clip. If anyone is familiar with this call, I'd appreciate you dropping me a line at peleetom@netcore.ca


After six days we said goodbye to Napo Wildlife center and headed back to Coca. There were so many great memories from this wonderful place. One of the most profound was the exceptionally hard working and skilled local guides. I highly recommend a visit to Napo Wildlife Centre for anyone wanting an outstanding Amazonian experience!

Once back in Napo we had fun at the dock while waiting for our bus. The dock hotel has a menagerie of tame mammals and birds including a cheeky band of squirrel monkeys. No pack, drink or hairdo was safe! In the photo below, Andrea is totally in her element (with her work at the Cincinnati zoo) with a few treats for her friends.

We spent our final four days at Wild Sumaco lodge and San Isidro, pushing our group list to around 470 species of birds and 23 mammals (including 8 primates). Unfortunately I was under the weather for part of this, so I don't have a lot of photos to document this part of the trip. However, both provided a great wrap up to our Ecuadorian adventure!


Our last full day began with an extra early start so we could get out to the Napo river early. We hiked across the tower trail in the dark and light rain. Jills sharp eyes picked out a small snake sitting quietly on the trail. Fortunately it was a non venomous Tricolored Swamp Snake. Paul picked the snake up first, allowing me the confidence to do the same!

Our destination today were the small river islands in the Napo river. Although these islands look pretty poor as habitat, they hold a totally unique set of birds. We spent the morning visiting several sites including the one below. It doesnt look impressive but we saw some fantastic birds including Gray-breasted Crake and Lesser Wagtail-tyrant!

It was great to share this trip some dear friends, including Paul Pratt and Bruce Di Labio (pictured here with our native guide Mauriano). I have been lucky enough to call Bruce and Paul friends for nearly forty years and feel privileged to be able to say so!


One of the most familiar sights and sounds here is the Yellow-rumped Cacique. Right next to the lodge dock there is a large and noisy colony, and their nesting season was in full swing. In fact, one evening after supper we were surprised to find this visitor on the steps of room - a fledgling cacique. With a little coaxing he was soon on his way.

Not every maiden flight is so smooth. One morning as we paddled across the lake a young cacique took flight from shore and headed out over the lake. He didn't make it so our guide paddled to give him a helping hand. Paul picked him up and we soon had the wayward fledgling back on solid ground. Hopefully the results of the second flight were better!


Today we switched for the morning so that the group that had done the Tiputini trail now did the tower and vice versa. The first trail group had managed to find the rare Hairy-crested Antbird, but the second group couldn't repeat this luck. Antbirds are a diverse but frustratingly difficult family of new world tropical birds. In most places they are hard to find, but here at Napo there is a remarkable selection. During our twelve days in Ecuador we would tally over thirty species. Photographing them is tough as they tend to be in the understorey. This isn't the best photo but this male Black-faced Antbird gives an idea of the typical view of antbird - dark and shaded and partially obscured!

For both groups the main target on Tiputini Trail was the exceptionally difficult and beautiful Black-necked Red Cotinga. Like its relative the Cock-of-the-rock, this is a lek species. The males come to traditional display sites (not nesting sites) where they display their fitness by singing and fluffing up their elaborate feathers. The Tiputini trail offers the most accessible lek of this species in the world. Fortunately both groups were successful in their quest for this rare find. As you can see it was worth the long, hot and humid trek!

We visited Napo during the dry season, but the trails were still quite wet and muddy in places. We had very little rain during our stay, but we were impressed with how many fungi were growing along the trails. Some looked like fungi we might have in temperate regions (though they almost certainly were different species).

Others were structurally quite different from typical bracket or 'toadstool' type fungi. This odd bat shaped species was one example.

Perhaps the most unusual fungi we saw was one that apparently had taken over a butterfly body. This created a truly bizarre growth form!!

In the afternoon both groups again paddled the black water streams. Our path through one of these was blocked by a newly fallen tree. Our native guide Jorge took out his machete and with bare feet, started to chop at the tree, while balancing on the bow of the boat. Some in the group (okay ME!) thought this was a fruitless proposition, but as you can see Jorge is a remarkable man!

As we neared the lodge at dusk, a full moon was rising over the lake. It was a magical way to end the day!


Today was all about parrots, and what a day it was. The whole group paddled in two canoes back to the warehouse and then boarded a river boat to head to the first of three mineral licks that attract parrots. The parrots need to ingest the minerals to counteract the toxic contents of some of the fruits and seeds that they eat. Specific licks are used by specific sets of parrots, possibly based upon their location, or the minerals they contain. Either way, they provide rich and spectacular birding opportunities. The first we visited was on a river bank and we couldnt approach too closely. This lick was dominated by Mealy Amazons, however there were also fair numbers of Yellow-crowned Amazons and Dusky-headed Parakeets. This bumpy video clip isnt the best but it gives some idea of the number of parrots and the din they make!

To see the second lick, we had to land on shore and walk to a well designed covered viewing blind. Here we could get much closer to the parrots and the photographic opportunities were much better. Again Mealys were common, but there were many Blue-headed Parrots as well.

The final lick we visited was a fair hike down a well constructed trail through terra firma forest. On our way to the lick we picked up several great antbirds and manakins, but my favourite sighting was a perched Sapphire Quail-dove which sang from the same branch for half an hour! This allowed us killer scope views and even a chance to get decent digiscope images.

The final lick also had a blind, but this time a totally different set of parrots. There were at least a dozen stunning Orange-cheeked Parrots among the throng here. The still and video clip below gives an idea of the spectacle.

Before leaving this trail we took a short but steep walk uphill. At first it seemed like a lot of effort for little reward, but we had several incredible birds here. One of the best was this Lanceolated Monklet which perched co-operatively for scope views!


This photo doesn't do justice to the schedule at Napo! Our wake up call while here came at 4:30 am, followed by a 5:00 am departure and then loading into canoes for day trips. This is half our group paddling with Marcelo - our bilingual Ecuadorian guide. Today he took half the group to the Tiputini Trail to search for forest birds while Jorge (another local guide) and I took the rest of the group across the lake and onto another trail that led past a 120 foot/36 meter/209 step canopy tower. Below is the view of the tower from below.

And here was the reward when you made it to the top (not the hug, but the view!). A scope was a must up here because the vista allowed for scanning in every direction and there was lots to see.

After about an hour someone (sorry I cannot remember who?) drew attention to the large brown bird sitting right below us in a Cecropia. It turned out to be a Spix's Guan. For the first half hour the bird wouldn't show its head, but then moved out into the open so I could digiscope this image.

Most of the morning was spent on the tower with many great birds showing for us. One of the closest was this White-necked Puffbird that actually landed right beside in the canopy.


Our adventure in Amazonian Ecuador began this morning when we took a Tame airlines flight from Quito to Coca on the Napo River. Once at Napo we boarded a covered (motorized) river boat for a two hour journey. Along the way we added some nice birds like Cocoi Heron, Pied Plover and Black Caracara. This short video clip gives you an idea of the speed of the boat ride.

After the river boat, we transferred to smaller hand paddled canoes for a two hour plus journey along a black water stream. Some fantastic birds were seen on the ride including 5 species of kingfishers, a baby Zigzag Heron and many Hoatzins. The clip below gives a feeling for the trip.

As it was nearing dusk the black water stream opened up to a placid lake, with the Napo Wildlife Center lodge nestled along one shore. We were greeted by a flock of 13 Masked Ducks, but the view of the lodge was equally captivating.