Hawks Aloft Inc.
PO Box 10028
Albuquerque, NM 87184
Phone: 505 828-9455
Fax: 505 828-9769
E-Mail: gail@hawksaloft.org

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Adventuring on the Peruvian Amazon with Hawks Aloft and Wildside Nature Tours

Sunset on the Maranon River, Peru.  Image by Edison Buenano.

Water, water, everywhere! Our group of 17 called the La Perla riverboat home for 8 days, venturing out in large skiffs to explore the black water tributaries of the Marañon and Yucialli rivers, themselves tributaries of the might Amazon.  This trip was scheduled during the rainy season, when the rivers are in flood stage, facilitating access via boat to areas that would otherwise be impossible to reach during the much hotter dry season. Many of us were worried, needlessly, about the copious downpours featured in movies, but only one gentle shower graced our stay for about two hours. Diversity was the norm on this adventure focusing not just on birds, but all wildlife as well as native customs.

One of our group’s boats on the Amazon River. Image by Gail Garber.

One skiff was dedicated to birding and the other to photography. Of course, my choice was the birding skiff, where Edison Buenaño was our guide.  Birding the tropics seems to always be a challenge due to the huge number of species and the unfamiliar calls, but Edison, native to Ecuador and one of the premier guides in South America, knew each and every vocalization.  It was his excellent ear that lead us to see some very unusual birds, like the Hoatzin, a very rare bird indeed.

Hoatzin, Image by Edison Buenano.

In all, we tallied about 300 different species, depending on the choice of boat and whether you were looking in the right direction at the right time.  The Amazon and its tributaries are home to freshwater dolphins, including the Amazon River dolphin or Boto, a freshwater dolphin found in the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers of South Amercia. It is the largest river dolphin species in the world and comes in pink and gray.  One afternoon, there was an apparent feeding frenzy near the boat that yielded great looks at both pink and gray dolphins.  There were numerous sightings of Three-toed Sloths with young, and many species of monkey.

Pink River Dolphin. Image by Edison Buenano.

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth and Baby. Image by Edison Buenano.

One of the highlights was visiting the local villages where we were treated to a traditional meal before visiting the school. We had brought school supplies to share and some soccer balls too!  The kids regaled us with songs and asked us to sing back to them which caught all of us adult Americans off-guard as we were not expecting that.  We all looked at each other dumbfounded; then one of us began singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm.  We all chimed with a “Moo Moo Here and Moo Moo There – EIEIO!”  Luckily there are no recordings of that!

Children in the School. Image by Gail Garber

The pond at the next village was chock full of the giant Amazon Victoria Lilies, complete with a Wattled Jacana family where parents and chicks were comfortably walking atop the lily pads with a spread of six or more feet.

Victoria Lilies. Image by Gail Garber.

We also watched an artist creating fibers from the slender leaves of  native plants and then using native plants to dye the strands in bright orange and yellows!  We visited the area Shaman who shared her knowledge of natural medicines and blessed our group in a ritual ceremony.

Fibers Removed from Native Plants. Image by Gail Garber

Native Woman Getting Ready to Dye Fiber Using Natural Dyes.  Image by Gail Garber


Dyeing Fiber

Kathleen Ramsay and her son, Ty Horak were among the participants; some of you might know her as “Doc”, the wildlife veterinarian that has cared for some of the most difficult rehabilitation cases in New Mexico.  On two different occasions, kingfishers collided with the La Perla windows, only to be rescued, revived and later released alive and well.

The morning cacophony was mostly dominated by seemingly endless large flocks of White-winged Parakeets traveling from their roosts to begin foraging.  One day, our astute local guide, Victor Ramirez Arevalo spotted a White-winged Parakeet trapped in a fishing net that had been hung out to dry.  While we anxiously cooled our heels on the skiff, he approached the local villagers to ask permission to release the little guy/gal.  Soon, he was stepping back aboard the skiff with a very stressed and overheated parakeet.  This time, it was my privilege to loosely hold the bird in Sami Sanborn’s neckerchief, while Bruce Stone dabbed water on the cloth to aid in cooling the bird.  We released the parakeet not far away, but safely away from the fishing net.  And, so it went, with first on new lifer and then another, and monkey antics galore.

Victor Rescues the Trapped White-winged Parakeet. Image by Joan Grissing.


White-winged Parakeet, feeling better and ready for release. Image by Joan Grissing.

While all meals on the La Perla were outstanding, the evenings were the best, when the staff morphed into “The Chunky Monkeys”, regaling us with local tunes and even dancing!  What could be better!

Amazon Riverboat Trip Participants


Map of Area Our Group Visited.

Our final quest was the Humboldt Penguin, along the coast.  Pucusana, an hour south of Lima, was our destination, where a rickety boat with a small motor awaited.  The abundant and beautiful Inca Terns a rickety boat to motor around a very large land formations, the territory of seabirds of all kinds.  The ocean swells were enormous and the little boat floundered along until we reached a cliff tucked back in among a deep cleft in the massive cliff.  As the tiny boat rose and fell with the roiling swells and appeared to be drifting right toward the rocks, the penguins appeared under the shelter of an overhang. We definitely earned that particular species!

Humboldt Penguins. Image by Gail Garber

About half of the group returned home that night while others traveled on to Machu Picchu and other far flung sites.  It was yet another Hawks Aloft Grand Adventure!  I hope you will join us in Guatemala in January 2019!

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