August 21, 2011
For many visitors to the Amazon the biodiversity of birds is a main attraction. A visit to the Napo Wildlife Center will surely not disappoint with more species of birds than I could count it has been declared by many birders as one of the top 10 birding sites of the world. The lodge has created a booklet with images and the latin names of all the wildlife in the area, which you can purchase at the bar. Every night I would sit with my book and check off what I’d seen and try and match it up to my pictures. My focus was not birds it was the otters so I didn’t do much birding, but without purposefully birding I still saw over 100 species of birds in my 8 days there. If I had gone there to just go bird watching that count would have probably tripled!
The one birding activity that I did not want to miss was a trip to the blinds set up by the Wildlife Center at two clay licks near the lodge. One of the licks was actually on a Cliffside right on the Napo River and we watched it from a boat. We weren’t able to get too close and it was so foggy that I wasn’t much impressed by it, but the second clay lick, which was a real blind that had been set up in the rainforest was one of the most spectacular scenes I have ever witnessed. The lick is about a 20-minute (very easy) walk into the rainforest on an “improved path” as they call it which means it is semi paved and easy to walk on. The Cobalt-winged Parakeets visit the blind every day without fail in the late morning taking their time to slowly descend down from the canopy above. If you’re lucky you may also spot some Orange-cheeked Parrots, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlets and Scarlet and Red-and-Green Macaws.
Birding is not an activity for the impatient and even though this spot you are pretty much guaranteed a sighting you have to have the patience to wait for the birds to descend. The parakeets eat the clay to help digest toxins from the berries they eat so they need to visit the licks everyday, but there are many predators in the rainforest and they are hesitant to descend until they know the coast is clear. We had to wait almost 2 hours watching them in the tree tops high above us slowly move down to the clay deposit below. Sometimes they will make it almost all the way and hear the call of an eagle or other bird or prey or see a snake and get spooked and the process has to start over from the beginning. A few other groups who I spoke to at the lodge got bored and didn’t wait and missed them coming down, when they saw my pictures and video they regretted missing the experience. It reminded me of watching a river crossing during the great migration in East Africa. None of the wildebeests or zebras wants to cross and then all of a sudden one does and it is the most spectacular scene of movement and excitement.
You’re a pretty far distance from them so I would recommend if you’re visiting to bring a long lens and tripod with you. The sound is incredible so make sure you bring something to record it with too!