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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Clay for the Birdies & Adios Peru

Dawn on the Rio Madre Dios
Yesterday morning, Ingrid and I got up at the comatose hour of 3:15 AM. At such a dark hour, even the jungle birds weren't yet awake, and for that matter, neither were we. We met up with our guide and the other participants at 4AM (which means we were there at 4AM and the others got there in Peru time, which I guess was around 4:30).  Soon we were sailing along the Rio Madre Dios, to find and watch wild parrots. The parrots eat clay on the river shores to get their vitamins and minerals.
The two species of parrot, crawling on the bank, wolfing down bits of clay
While the birds busied themselves eating clay, those of us on the boat - OK, that would be me - were busy using charts to identify the parrots.

The parrots get all their sodium from the clay lick
I took lots of photos, but when I tried to view the pictures on my camera, I went into shock - the LCD lens was internally cracked! It looked fine, but turned on you could see inner layer of it was shattered. I hadn't dropped it or exposed it to extreme temperatures so how or why it was broken is a mystery I'll never solve. Oh well, at least it was still taking photos.

Now. Why do parrots lick clay for heaven's sakes? Here are some suggested reasons:

  • Where else are they to find their necessary sodium? There aren't any salt shakers in the jungle.
  • The clay is believed to act as a filter, removing toxins from the jungle plants the parrots eat.
  • The clay banks may also act as a singles bar for lonely parrots to meet up with likely mates (Hum... so do ugly parrots stay in their Madre's nest playing video games?)
Here are a couple of close up shots.

Blue-headed Parrots
Dusky-headed Parrots
The parrots were only a bit of the birds we saw. When we first approached the river shore, I was happy to see a hawk. I heard a guide refer to it as an eagle, but post-vacation I ID'd the bird as a Roadside Hawk, which is a strange name for a species. The species is found in South Texas but only by super lucky birders. I wonder if I'll ever be add this species to my ABA birding list?

Serious looking Roadside Hawk
I also saw a Spotted Sandpiper, which though thrilling to see in such an exotic spot, is a bird I can see on the American River not far from my house. There were also some tanagers and Kisskadees to be seen.

Exchanging heartfelt goodbyes with Lucy, the best piggy since Wilbur

After our early morning river cruise, we returned to the camp for breakfast. Later in the day we took a boat ride back to Puerto Maldonadas, which allowed me to repeat the 'how to cross tiny boat bows and not fall into the possibly pirahna infested river' adventures. Happily I made it back up to the shore, without any of my wild fears coming true.

We made our way back to the airport and boarded a small jet - together this time - flying to Cusco, and then on to Lima. We spent our last night in Lima at the now familiar, Friend's Hotel. My last night in Peru was spent shopping for a few things downtown and enjoying a lovely dinner at a  modern restaurant, i.e., no Cuy was on the menu. Then in this morning I flew the 8 hour flight north to Los Angeles where I missed my flight to Sacramento and had to fly home the following morning after a night in a dreadful hotel near the airport. Hum... did I tell you at the onset of this entire trip, I had completely missed my flight from Sacramento to Peru on October 6th, and had to do some last second arrangements to get to Peru on October 7th? No? Ha! Not surprised, as that would be all too embarrassing to reveal to anyone, much less you. I mean, one must keep some things private.

Adios Peru!

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