Day 56: 20-Something Birders

Young, local birders help Noah through Peru.

February 25, 2015, Iquitos, Peru — Julio, Carlos, Glenn, and I spent the morning birding a road above Tarapoto, looking for a few key birds on my last morning in north-central Peru (Gunnar stayed in the hotel to arrange some logistics for next week). It was a nice, relaxed session, especially after yesterday’s antics; we tracked down a Koepcke’s Hermit, saw a pair of Dotted Tanagers, and watched road workers trying to repair a massive landslide. An enterprising family had set up a roadside snack stand next to the flagger, and I had time to consume a bag of plantain chips, a bag of cooked manioc, and a bottle of homemade chicha morada before traffic went through.

Carlos left us at lunch; he’s been great company for the past week. He is 23 and started birding just two years ago, inspired by his brother. His parents own a bird lodge in Moyobamba, where Carlos worked as a guide before branching out as a freelancer for birding tour companies. This week he starts his own research project with Junin Grebes in central Peru. As ever, it’s good to see local young people getting into birds!

In the afternoon Gunnar, Glenn and I switched gears and flew to Iquitos, in far northeast Peru, where the Amazon meets the Napo River, and where a 22-year-old birder named Francisco met us at the airport. This is to be surgical strike: Iquitos has about 30 specialty birds near town, and we have less than 24 hours to see as many of them as possible (we fly out again at noon tomorrow). Today, with two hours of daylight left, we crammed into mototaxis (three-wheeler motorcycles with seats in back) and were ferried across the busy city to a dock, where we transferred to a small boat and puttered around until dark, finding a Buckley’s Forest-Falcon and a bunch of Sand-colored Nighthawks in the flooded forest. It was nice to be on the water.

For dinner, Gunnar, Glenn and I hit an expat bar in Iquitos to meet with a birder and conservationist named Noam Shany who works with Nature and Culture International. Noam is an interesting guy; he professes to have conserved some 3 million hectares of land, and dinner conversation meandered from coffee plant diseases to ornithological expeditioning to Peru’s current political climate (not good for environmental legislation, according to Noam). He’d go birding with us in the morning, he said, but his group is meeting with Peru’s president tomorrow to talk about setting aside some land for an indigenous tribe. I guess that’s a good enough excuse!

New birds today: 21

Year list: 1321

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