Hoatzin – a prehistoric bird living in Tambo Blanquillo – Private Reserve

Hoatzin – Photo: Walter Mancilla

Hoatzin – Photo: Walter Mancilla

On a quick trip to any of the three Oxbow Lakes that are found within our private reserve, it is almost certain to have an encounter with a character from Jurassic Park. The Hoatzin –locally known as Shansho- is a bird that seems to have been forgotten by evolution long ago. Its resemblance to the Archaeopteryx is amazing.

Archaeopterxy Fossil – Photo: Stacey Burgess

Archaeopterxy Fossil – Photo: Stacey Burgess

Archaeopteryx Illustration

Archaeopteryx Illustration

As if this prehistoric-looking bird was not weird enough thanks to its prehistoric look, some of its behaviors and physical adaptations making it even more fascinating.

 Most bird species feed on either other animals (insects, lizards, snails, small mammals, or other birds), or they feed on fruit. However, Hoatzins feed on leaves. In other to be able to process the cellulose, they have a very big and developed stomach, filled with cellulose-breaking bacteria. Having such a big stomach has its consequences. In order to make space for such a big stomach, Hoatzins have had to give most of their pectoral muscles up. This makes them mostly sedentary and arguably the worst flyers in the Amazon.

04.jpg.png

Another reason for their bad flying skills, is that they have no predators. The cellulose fermentation makes them stink. Really bad. Making them an unlike prey to any predator. They are only eaten by larger birds when they are young, and their food is still processed by their parents.

 In order to protect their their fledglings from predators, Hoatzins nest next to bodies of water –that is why they are so common in our Oxbow Lakes-. The amazing part is that when the fledglings sense danger, they will jump out of the nest, into the water, where they can actually dive up to 15 meters deep to protect themselves from Hawks or Herons! Once the danger has passed, this birds will climb back up the nest with special claws in their wings!

 If you wish to see this amazing prehistoric bird, we highly recommend you to visit our Cocha Camungo. This Oxbow Lake has a population of several hundred Hoatzin individuals, making it one of densest populations of this species in the world!

 As usual, if you have any question, please do not hesitate to contact us, or leave us a comment in the comment section below.   

Eagles of Manu National Park:

Manu National Park is globally recognized as the most biodiverse place on earth. This biodiversity is reflected in an outstanding number of species, ranging from invertebrates to mega fauna. In today’s blog post we will discuss the three biggest eagles that call Manu National Park home.

Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpija):

Harpy Eagle – Photo: Andre Baertschi

Harpy Eagle – Photo: Andre Baertschi

Being the largest eagle in the world, the Harpy Eagle is the undisputed King of the Amazonian skies. Weighting around 9-10kg and having a wingspan of 200cm, there is no doubt that they are the ultimate avian predator. While most raptors hunt birds and small mammals –such as squirrels or mice- the Harpy Eagle feeds almost exclusively of Sloths and Monkeys.

Due to their high consumption rates of ‘big’ mammals, the presence of Harpy Eagles is a great indicator species, as it can only subsist on pristine forests.

In Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, we have records of this mythical species from our Canopy Tower, and over the last couple years, sightings of Harpy Eagles are becoming increasingly frequent in our Blanquillo Clay-Lick. Given that they do not –normally- prey on Macaws, we believe that there must be a nest in the area.

Black-and-Chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidoris):

Black-and-Chestnut Eagle – Photo: Dusan Brinkhuizen

Black-and-Chestnut Eagle – Photo: Dusan Brinkhuizen

While the Harpy Eagle dominates the Amazonian Lowlands, the ultimate avian predator of the Cloud-forest. Due to the fact that they inhabit high altitude forests (3000-1500masl) they are a less specialist species than the Harpy, and prey on a diversity of big birds and small mammals.

If you wish to see this species, we recommend our Complete Manu (link) Tour through the Kosnipata Valley, as there is an active nest in the area.

Fun Fact: The juvenile of this species is white, and it is misidentified as a Harpy Eagle by unexperienced birders.

Juvenile Black-and-Chestnut Eagle – Photo: Lou Jost

Juvenile Black-and-Chestnut Eagle – Photo: Lou Jost

Ornate Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus):

Ornate Hawk-Eagle – Photo: Joao Sergio Barros F. de Souza

Ornate Hawk-Eagle – Photo: Joao Sergio Barros F. de Souza

The last of the big eagles of the park –and the most striking one- is the Ornate Hawk-Eagle. This beautiful beast is the most common of the bunch. Our birdwatching groups record it on regular basis soaring over one of our Oxbow Lakes, or perched in the understory of the forest, as they wait for Tinamou –or other ground-dwelling birds- to prey on.

If you wish to search for these magnificent creatures, make sure to contact us, and we recommend you an itinerary designed to give you the best chances of spotting these –and several other- amazing species.

Capybara: the biggest rodent in the world

Few animal species are as distinct and unique as the Capybara. The Capybara, a rodent the size of a Labrador Retriever, is the biggest rodent in the world. Here, at the Tambo Blanquillo Private – Reserve, we have the luck of counting with a very healthy population of this species. In this blog post, we will briefly introduce you to this species, its ecology and some interesting facts.

Capybara Family – Photo: Alfredo Fernandez

Capybara Family – Photo: Alfredo Fernandez

Capybaras are gregarious animals, and live in family groups of up to 8 individuals. They feed exclusively of semi-aquatic grasses and aquatic plants. Because of this, they spend most of their time –if not all-, besides bodies of water. In order to adapt to these environment, they have evolved webbed feet, and amazing diving capabilities! They normally dive into the river to scape from terrestrial predators, like Jaguars and Pumas. Due to their high affinity to water bodies, they are normally seen along the Madre de Dios River, as they rest on the sandy beaches. Occasionally they are also seen by the Blanquillo Clay Lick, as they supplement their diet with salts and minerals from this clay-lick.

In 2015, we managed to film a family of Capybaras in the Clay-lick itself. Check the following Youtube video. Please note that this was filmed from our photography blind, and the capybaras were not disturbed in any way.

Being herbivores of such a big size, they are great source of protein to many predators. Earlier in the blog I mentioned how the dive into the river to escape their terrestrial predators, which basically are the big cats that inhabit the Amazon Rainforest. However, diving is not a skill that is all too helpful for evading the other set of predators, the aquatic ones. Capybaras –specially when young- are an important prey to Black Caimans and the gigantic Anaconda.

If you wish to see this species, we highly recommend you to visit our private reserve, specially during the months of July, August and September. As the water levels are at their lowest, more beaches are formed, and therefore there is more chances to see them.

Please do not hesitate to contact us via our web form, if you happen to have any questions.

Sounds of the Amazon: Part I - Birds

Anyone who has travelled to the Amazon Rainforest knows it is an overdose of information to the senses. Walking on the trails at Tambo Blanquillo is an exhilarating experience, almost everything is new to the senses, new shapes are seen, new smells are smelled, and new sounds are heard. Biologically speaking, sounds are one of the most important mechanism animals use for communicating on a vegetation dense environment, given that their eyesight is limited to a few meters, but sound waves emitted can travel up to a few miles! In today’s blog post, we will examine two of the most characteristic sounds of the Amazon Rainforest made by 2 birds, the Undulated Tinamou, and the Screaming Piha.

Undulated Tinamou - Photo: Internet Bird Collection (IBC)

Undulated Tinamou - Photo: Internet Bird Collection (IBC)

The Undulated Tinamou is a big bird, which resembles a chicken, and spends most of its time foraging in the understory of the forest. Giving it’s foraging habits, it is very rarely seen and when seen, it is only for a brief couple of seconds as they cross the trail in front of you.  However, it’s 4-note call is one of the most characterizing sounds of Manu National Park. I would estimate, that an average tourist will hear this sound around 20 times per day! If you want to listed to this infamous call, click here (http://www.xeno-canto.org/14492).

Screaming Piha – Photo: Harold Stiver

Screaming Piha – Photo: Harold Stiver

 The other sound that is reminiscent of Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, is the one of the Screaming Piha. In contrast to the Undulated Tinamou, the Screaming Piha is a small, drab-colored bird that spends most of its time high up into the Canopy, making it a very rare bird to see. Even when hearing them literally above your head, it might take several minutes to locate using binoculars. The following Screaming Piha call was recorded at our very own Cocha Camungo by Peter Boesman! http://www.xeno-canto.org/225159

In the following months, we will expand on this series portraying other species with characteristic sounds of the Amazon Rainforest.

If you wish to have the opportunity (we can’t guarantee anything) to experience this, as well as an array of other amazing natural spectacles, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will make sure you have the trip of a life time!

Tambo Blanquillo Lodge in National Geographic

National Geographic Magazine is devoting the year 2016 to National Parks. The May issue of the Magazine was devoted completely to Yellowstone National Park –the first National Park in the world-, and on the current issue –June- portrays a story on the most biodiverse National Park, Manu.

Red-and-Green Macaws - Photo: Charlie Hamilton James/National Geographic

Red-and-Green Macaws - Photo: Charlie Hamilton James/National Geographic

During the summer of 2015, photojournalist Charlie Hamilton James spent weeks travelling around the Manu Biosphere Reserve in order to photograph the untouched beauty of the wilderness that inhabits the park, as well as the local communities that live inside the Park.

We are very proud to say that we were a part of this amazing effort, and it feels heartwarming to see photos finally published.   

Red-and-Green Macaws - Photo: Charlie Hamilton James/National Geographic

Red-and-Green Macaws - Photo: Charlie Hamilton James/National Geographic

Arguably our best Attraction, the Blanquillo Clay-lick –where dozens of Macaws, and hundreds of parrots gather daily- managed to get two photos published. The first one –opening photo-, taking via a remote camera installed in the Claylick, managed to get a unique perspective of the Claylick. The second one, taken from our comfortable blind, showcases the high level of dynamism and action that take place there.  

Another great photo taken in our Private Reserve, is the one of this big male Jaguar. As most of you know, Jaguar populations are low. Being an apex predator, make it’s population density intrinsically low, and in addition, they are hunted down by poachers and miners. There are few places left on Earth were a Jaguar sighting is something rather ‘common’, and Manu National Park is one of them. This big male was photographed a few kilometers up river from Cocha Blanco, our biggest oxbow Lake.  

Jaguar - Photo: Charlie Hamilton James/National Geographic

Jaguar - Photo: Charlie Hamilton James/National Geographic

The last photo published by the Magazine taken in our premises, is the one of this pair of Spider Monkeys –the biggest Monkeys found in the Amazon- at our “Mammal Clay Lick”. The Amazonian Soil is very low in inorganic nutrients, and wildlife needs to find a way to ingest the minerals they need to keep their bodies functioning properly. Some exposed Clay-banks contain just the right concentration and diversity of minerals, making it a wildlife hotspot.

Spider Monkeys - Photo: Charlie Hamilton James/National Geographic

Spider Monkeys - Photo: Charlie Hamilton James/National Geographic

Charlie placed several camera traps in the immediate surrounding of our ‘Mammal Clay-lick’ and managed to capture a great diversity of visitors, unfortunately those photos didn’t make the cut.

If you happen to have any questions about any behaviors, you’re interested in any topic regarding the Amazonian rainforest, or you want to make a reservation, please send us a message, and we will answer you shortly.  

New species discovered in Manu National Park

Manu National Park has been the mecca for biodiversity since the UNESCO declared it a biosphere reserve back in 1987. Ever since, hundreds of scientific expeditions, photographic projects, TV shows, and an array of other expeditions have ventured into the deepness of the Amazon Rainforest to uncover the mystical flora and fauna that inhabit this privileged landscape.

Roughly 30 years after this boom in exploration, biological treasures are still being uncovered. In October of 2015, a team of scientists of the Andes Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research Group published the discovery of 30 new plant species found in Manu National Park.

As astonishing as this may seem, this is not an isolated event. A couple years ago –in 2014- a group of scientist published another amazing discovery. Potamites erythrocularis –a completely new lizard species to science- was discovered along the Manu Road, one of the most heavily visited areas in the park! If a new species can be found just hundreds of meters away from heavily visited lodges and attractions, what secrets might the inaccessible locations keep? 

Photo: Andina

Photo: Andina

Photo: Andina

Photo: Andina

Tambo Blanquillo Lodge is proud to announce that we are currently developing a Biological Station within of private research, in hopes of helping young scientists produce publications and discoveries, helping the world realize how unique and important the biodiversity that surrounds Tambo Blanquillo is, and therefore, producing bigger efforts to protect it for the following generations.

If you are interested in visiting Manu National Park, please do not hesitate to contact us (link). We offer a series of tours that will take you from the Andes to the Amazon. However, if you are interested in spending more time with us, we will soon be offering a series of volunteer and internship programs accessible to students all over the world!

Check our web page right now for details on how to apply. Hurry we only take a limited number of students every three months, and we just started this initiative in 2016!



Small Cat species in Tambo Blanquillo Lodge

Continuing with the blog post from last month (link), we will now introduce you to the 3 small cat species that inhabit the lowlands of Manu National Park.

 

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

Photo: Pete Oxford

Photo: Pete Oxford

The Ocelot is the largest of the small cats found in the Amazon Rainforest (their full distribution ranges from southern US to Northern Argentina), and it is also the most abundant one in this ecosystem. It has many local names such as ‘Tigrillo’, ‘Ocelote’, or ‘Jaguarete’. Even thought it is technically abundant, it is not commonly seen on our regular walks. In order to maximize your chances to see one, ask your guide to do a couple of night walks to search for them on the trails around the Lodge. While we can’t guarantee anything, this is your best shot at finding this elusive cat.  

The following video shows an Ocelot foraging a grassland, as recorded by the NGO Panthera, in Brazil.

Margay (Leopardus wiedii)

Photo: George F. Mobley / National Geographic Society

Photo: George F. Mobley / National Geographic Society

The Margay is extremely similar to the Ocelot; however, it is a bit smaller. Besides being smaller, the Margay is also a lot slimmer, has bigger and less spots, has a longer tail, and a smaller head with two disproportionally big eyes. A fun fact about the Margay –which explains why it is hardly seen- is that it is an arboreal species. It is simple astonishing how agile and well adapted these cats are for their life in the canopy.

There have been reports of a Margay sleeping in our Canopy Tower by our Cleaning Crew, 50 meters away from the ground!

If you wish to get blown away by how agile these cats are, please check the following video:

 

Jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi)

Photo:­ Tulpius (Flickr User)

Photo:­ Tulpius (Flickr User)

The Jaguarondi is the rarest of the cats found in the Amazon. With its long body and short legs, it is usually confused with the much more common Tayra (Eira Barbara), or even with a Giant River Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis. This little known cat is widely distributed in a variety of environments, and is rare in all of them. Over the years we have only seen it a handful of times, normally crossing the trail in front of us.

An interesting fact about the Jaguarundi is, that it is the only other member of the genus ‘Puma’, along with the aptly named Puma, or Cougar, which was described in our previous blog post about the big cats of Tambo Blanquillo.

Watching the following video will give you a glimpse of this rare cat, as recorded from a camera trap. Once you see the video, it is easy to understand why it is often confused with a Tayra, or an Otter.

This blog was meant to give you an introduction to the small cats of the Amazon Rainforest.

If you wish to have the opportunity (we can’t guarantee anything) to see this, as well as an array of other amazing natural spectacles, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will make sure you have the trip of a life time!

 

 

Big Cat species in Tambo Blanquillo Lodge

While all cat species are normally very cryptic and hard to see, there is always the chance to see one, and in order to improve your chances to see one, we have make this blog explaining the different species and where, when and how to search for them.

Jaguar (Panthera onca):

01.jpg

Given that the Jaguar is the biggest cat in the Americas, and third in the world, there is no doubt that this is the king of the Amazon Rainforest. Big, strong, and easily recognizable due to its unique spot pattern, this is actually the easiest cat to see. Hardly seen on the trails, most of the sightings are made while travelling through the river, as these cats like to take sunbaths in the beaches. Over the last couple years, several of our groups have witnessed a Jaguar hunting for macaws in the Blanquillo Clay-lick! The best time to see them is early in the morning, especially just after a ‘friaje’ (cold winters from Patagonia) have passed through.

Cougar (Puma concolor):

02.png

Among the different cats found in Tambo Blanquillo, the Cougar (locally known as ‘Puma’) has to be the rarest and most cryptic. This is the second biggest cat in the Amazon, and it is easily identifiable due to its uniform beige color, and big size. Hardly seen on beaches, it is sometimes seen in the trails, specially at dawn and dusk. Remember that if you wish to maximize your chances of seeing wildlife while hiking through the forest, avoid any kind of conversation and minimize any noises you make while walking (watch your step!)

This blog was meant to give you an introduction to the big cats of the Amazon Rainforest. Next month we will do a similar blog introducing the 4 small cat species that call Tambo Blanquillo Lodge home!

If you wish to have the opportunity ( we can’t guarantee anything) to see this, as well as an array of other amazing natural spectacles, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will make sure you have the trip of a life time!

 

 

 

National Geographic: I bought a Rainforest – Charlie Hamilton James

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to see a National Geographic Live presentation by Charlie Hamilton James in Seattle, WA. Charlie, whom I had met before in Lima last year, is a photojournalist, film-maker, TV presenter, and Conservationist from the UK.

Charlie Hamilton James in Manu National Park – Photo: National Geographic

Charlie Hamilton James in Manu National Park – Photo: National Geographic

During the presentation he explored the theme ‘I bought a Rainforest’ relating a very interesting succession of acts that happen after he bought a piece of land next to Manu National Park in order to shield the park from illegal loggers. 

To his surprise, Charlie found that his land was being used as an illegal coca plantation, and as path to illegally log the Park. Charlie, determined to solve the problem tried to kick the invaders away –the same people he bought the land from-, without success.

In an attempt to understand how people live in the Amazon Rainforest, and try to see the world from their perspective –factorizing the western ideology of who is good and who is bad- Charlie spent the next 6 months living with illegal gold miners, loggers, and ranchers. What he learnt is that they are only normal people with normal problems trying to make a living. In Charlie’s own words: “They’re people in extreme poverty, living in top of an enormous resource that is the Amazon Rainforest, which we expect them not to touch”. And how do ‘we’ have any moral ground to make such demand, when most of the developed world has over-logged, and over-exploited their natural resources.

Illegal Mining in Peru – Photo: Mongobay

Illegal Mining in Peru – Photo: Mongobay

The four extractive activities that harm the Amazon Rainforest the most, are: cocaine production, Illegal mining (gold), Logging (Hard-woods), and clear-cutting for Cattle Ranching.

What I am trying to explain in this blog is to generate consciousness about who the end consumer of those products are. I am not trying to justify what the people are doing to the Amazon Rainforests, because I don’t, but it is important to notice that the people working illegally there are not consuming cocaine, buying gold jewelry, eating beef every day, and having mahogany tables.

Clear-cutting in Peru for Cattle Ranching – Photo: Mongobay

Clear-cutting in Peru for Cattle Ranching – Photo: Mongobay

 We can make our little difference by eating less meat, not buying hard-wood, tracing the gold we are buying, and obviously not consuming cocaine. We are the ones generating the demand for the products that destroy the Amazon Rainforest, if we can minimize it, we would amortize the damage while Private and Governmental Institutions create alternatives and jobs that both generate a better income, and protect the rainforest.

Birdwatching in Manu & BirdFair 2016

Birding in Tambo Blanquillo Lodge – Photo: Alfredo Fernández

Birding in Tambo Blanquillo Lodge – Photo: Alfredo Fernández

For the last 27 years, the biggest event related to Birdwatching has occurred in Rutland, UK. Also known as the “Birdwatching Glastonbury”, the Bird Fair attracts thousands of birdwatching enthusiast from all over the world, as well as tourist operators and the leading brands in the birdwatching industry.

BirdFair 2016 Trailer:

As any regular reader already knows, Manu National Park is a premier destination for Birdwatching.

To put things into perspective, North America has roughly 915 species of birds. Manu National Park has over 1000. And our list at Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, exceeds the 350.

For example, if you wish to see the 16 species of Hummingbirds that live in North America, it would take you weeks of travel around the US and Canada. However, if you wish to see to see 16 species of Hummingbirds in Manu, it might take you a morning or two.

Dusky-headed Parakeets – Photo: Alfredo Fernández

Dusky-headed Parakeets – Photo: Alfredo Fernández

In 1982, Ted Parker and Scott Robinson managed to identify 331 bird species on a single morning, in the grounds of Cocha Cashu Biological Station. This record remains unbeaten (without the use of motorized transport).

In 2015, Cornell University and eBird introduced the ‘Global Big Day’, and international event that challenged people to see and record as many bird species as possible during a 24-hour period. In 2015, Peru won, recording over 1000 species. And a few weeks ago, Peru managed to get the first place again during the 2016 edition, remaining the undefeated champion, with over 1100 species.

Green Honeycreeper – Photo: Alfredo Fernández

Green Honeycreeper – Photo: Alfredo Fernández

There is still a lot of research to be done in this remote corner of the Amazon. Lets not forget that roughly one year ago, a Turquoise-fronted Parrot was recorded in our Blanquillo Clay-lick, being the first record of that species for Peru! 

In hopes of further promoting –and therefore, conserving- this amazing ecosystem, we have teamed up with PromPeru, and will be taking part of this year’s Bird Fair. If you happen to be visiting the event, don’t hesitate to visit our booth!

Turquoise-fronted Parrot – Photo: Alfredo Fernández

Turquoise-fronted Parrot – Photo: Alfredo Fernández

 

The Race for Sunlight – Part II: Epiphytes & Parasites

Last month we introduced you to some of the strategies used by plants to overcome the challenges of living in a highly competitive rainforest. This month, we will introduce you to two other strategies used by plants, these are parasitism and epipythism.

Epiphyte Bromeliads – Photo: Steve Winter

Epiphyte Bromeliads – Photo: Steve Winter

Parasitism:

The most common way for an organism to make a living in this world is by being parasitic, in other words, taking advantage of another organism to make a living. This is also true in the world of plant evolution. Several species of plants take advantage of other plants to thrive. The most striking example found in the Amazon Rainforest is the ‘Strangler Fig’. This Fig makes a living by first being deposited as a seed on a high branch of another tree. After this, this fig will start growing roots until it hits the forest floor. Once this happens, the host tree is doomed. The fig will take advantage of the nutrients from the ground and will rapidly grew all around the host tree. After this, the Fig will start to suffocate host tree until it’s dead. What you are left with is a gigantic tree with a hole in the middle (the host tree will decompose after it dies). These cavities are perfect hiding places for a wide array of creatures, specially bats.

Here is a nice video explaining the life cycle of the Strangler Fig:

Epiphytism:

Epiphytes are organisms –typically plants, but it also applies to some fungi, algae, and lichens- that growth in top of another organism. The catch is that this is a commensalistic relationship and not a parasitic one, as it was a case with the Strangler Fig. The difference is that in contrast to the parasitic relationship, the host is not benefited or harmed by the presence of the commensal.

Bromeliads – Photo: Geoff Gallice

Bromeliads – Photo: Geoff Gallice

A great example for this relationship are Bromeliads. Bromeliads use trees –and sometimes prominent rocks, or human infrastructure- as an anchoring place. They live there but do not harm the host on any way. The have what is known as ‘aerial roots’, which with they absorb inorganic nutrients from the air, rather from the soil. Bromeliads are highly prolific on places like Manu, as they need high quantities of rainfall and humidity to survive.

Another example of epiphytism is seen at higher altitudes of Manu Road, specially around the Yungas Forest. Lichens and non-vascular plants (mainly mosses) thrive in this altitude, and it is actually hard to spot a branch which is not fully covered in lichens and mosses.

Hooded Mountain-Tanager – Photo: Geoff Gallice

Hooded Mountain-Tanager – Photo: Geoff Gallice

The following photo, of a Hooded Mountain-tanager shows how densely packed the branches are with mosses and lichens.  

If you have any question on any biological topics, please let us know in the comment section below, and we will do a blog post answering your question. If you wish to know more about our programs and itineraries, please contact us here.

Herons of Tambo Blanquillo Lodge

 Tambo Blanquillo Lodge is a private reserve that is blessed with having 3 Oxbows Lakes within its limits, and having the Madre de Dios River flowing through the middle of the reserve. These previously mentioned habitats are idyllic for fish-eating birds, such as the Herons, which will be the focus point of this blog post. In which we will introduce you to the 3 most representative species of this clade.


Cocoi Heron (Ardea cocoi):

Cocoi Heron – Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Cocoi Heron – Photo: Wikipedia Commons

The Cocoi Heron is the most abundant Heron in the Madre de Dios river, and quite common as well on the oxbows Lakes that surround it. It is unmistakable due to its humongous size –it is the largest Heron in the Neotropics- , white-grayish coloration, and prominent yellow beak. It preys on medium-sized fishes on the banks of Rivers and Oxbow Lakes. Your best bet to see one is along the Madre de Dios River, but chances are you will at least a dozen before your trip with us is over.

 

Striated Heron (Butorides striata):

Striated Heron – Photo: Bob Gress

Striated Heron – Photo: Bob Gress

The unmistakable king of the Oxbows Lakes is the medium-size Striated Heron. An average visit to any of our Oxbow Lakes produces a handful of sightings of this prolific species. Easy to identify to its black beak and black cap, this heron likes to sit on branches next to slow-moving or stationary waters, waiting for a tadpole or a small fish to swim by. Easy to spot on any of our Oxbow Lakes, although Blanco is your best bet to see a lot of them.

 

Agami Heron (Agamia agami):

Agami Heron – Photo: Jess Findlay

Agami Heron – Photo: Jess Findlay

Hands down the most beautiful Heron in the world, the Agami Heron is the rarest of the three mentioned in this blog post. This strikingly colored Heron inhabits the darkest corners of the Oxbow Lakes and meanders, and therefore is seldom seen. These Herons live and hunt alone, but when breading season comes to be, they all congregate in fascinating rookeries of up to a few hundred individuals! Your best bet to see this amazing species is along the vegetation-covered edges of Cocha Blanco.

If you wish to learn more about other species, please let us now in the comment section below. We will do our best to fulfill your needs. If you have any questions about our programs and itineraries, please contact us.

 

 

Private Cabins: New Luxurious accommodations at Tambo Blanquillo Lodge

tambo-blanquillo-lodge.jpg

Since Tambo Blanquillo Lodge was created, more than 20 years ago, we have offered clean, organized and semi-rustic local accommodations known as Tambo. A big complex of rooms under the same roof. However, as our target market diversified and more tourists asked for higher end accommodations, we decided to expand and invest on more infrastructures.  A few weeks ago we inaugurated our new set of private Bungalows, the only ones with electricity in the Peruvian Amazon.

Most of the Bungalows offered by other Lodges in the amazon, lack electricity and are lighted by candles. If a tourist wishes to charge his electronics, he needs to do so at the Dinning area. We realize this is highly impractical –you never know when you might see some cool animal walking around the lodge- , and dangerous, as an accident with a candle is always a possibility.

So we decided to raise the bar, and just finished the implementation of 6 new bungalows. These bungalows are equipped with solar panels, which provide hot water and electricity. Each Bungalow consists of the main room, a private washroom, and a small balcony with hammocks to relax in.

If you wish to visit and explore the amazing biodiversity that Manu has to offer (from a new level of luxury and comfort), please do not hesitate to contact us, so we can help you plan the trip of a lifetime to the amazon wilderness.

Leaf-cutter Ants: Forest Engineers

Ants_NTTL.jpg

As surprising as it might seem to some people, the real owner of the Amazon forest is not the mega fauna. While Jaguars, monkeys, Tapirs, and Caimans have big ecological roles in the environment they live in, no animal plays a more important role in the forest, than the ants.

There are two ‘kinds’ of Ants that shape the forest. Army ants, and Leaf-cutter ants, and today we will be taking a look at the later one. A blog post describing the ecology of the Army ants will arrive in the following months.

When walking around the trails of Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, it is easy to spot rows of ants carrying leaves on their jaws. While they might seem minuscule compared to size of the forest, Leaf-cutter ants are the herbivore that consumes the highest amount of biomass in the forest, a whooping 15-17% of all the vegetation produced.

Something really interesting about these ants is that they do not ‘consume’ the leaves they collect. They feed on a specific type of fungi, which they harvest from the leaves they leave to rot on specially designed cavities in their nests.

If you have ever come across a nest of these ants, you will notice the amount of sunlight that is available. As it is expected, ants tend to collect the leaves that are closer to their nest first, and then move towards further away terrain. So, you can see a gradual deforestation, with the epicenter being the nest. As there is no vegetation covering the nest, sunlight hits the understory, allowing different organism to live there (mostly protozoans – single celled, photosynthetic organisms), when it would otherwise not be possible.

If you wish to come and experience this amazingly expectable, and see many other interesting symbiotic relationships between a wide array of organisms, please do not hesitate to contact us, and we will help you plan the adventure of a life time to Manu National Park, deep inside the Peruvian Amazon.

Kapok: Giant Trees of the Amazon

Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) –locally known as Lupuna- is a tree from the family of Malvaceae. These trees are characterised for the enormous size they reach when fully developed, growing over 150 feet (50 meters)!

kapok1.png

Due to the fact that its wood is very buoyant, and easy to burn, it is one of first trees to be harvested or logged when explorers reach a new destination. A forest where Kapoks are still common is a truly untouched forest. Here, at Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, Kapoks are a common sight, with several dozens of them found within our private reserve. We even have a canopy tower that is carefully constructed, so we don’t hurt the tree, located on top of a 160 feet tall Kapok. This is the tallest canopy tower found in the Amazon! This platform gives the visitor a unique, and amazing experience of the forest canopy, a place with its own and unique community of animals and epiphytes. Cotingas, toucanets, Hawk-eagles, are bird species you seldom hear in the forest, but hardly ever see because of the dense foliage in the canopy. Our Canopy Tower allows for an amazing and unique sight of all these species, from a privileged and unique perspective.

In contrast to other canopy towers in the area, ours does not have a circular staircase. We carefully designed our so we have a series of mini-platforms every round of stairs, so tourists could stop every 3 meters, and admire the different communities of flora and fauna that live on each segment of the forest, and of course, this implementation provides much better opportunities than any other canopy tower. We even have a Great Potoo nesting in this very same tree! But don’t take our word for it, our Canopy Tower is our highest rated attraction in Tripadvisor!

kapok2.png

Giving its amazing size, it produces a rather copious amount of flowers, which later develop into fruits. Both these structures are highly important to the ecosystem. Several species of moths, butterflies, bees, and even Hummingbirds feed on the nectar that these flowers produce.  A wide array of birds, including tanagers, cotingas, orioles, and even Guans feed on the fruits produced by the Kapok Tree, making our canopy tower truly a hotspot for birdwatchers!

kapok3.png

If you wish to come, and explore this amazing ecosystem, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will do our best to create the perfect itinerary for you, and excel or your expectations.

kapok4.png


Cochas – Lakes of the Amazon Rainforest

Photo: Charlie Hamilton James

Photo: Charlie Hamilton James

Oxbow Lakes – locally known as Cochas – are the only kind of lakes present on the western Amazon rainforest. These lakes host an incredible array of biodiversity, being home Jaguars, caimans, piranhas, Giant River otters, and over 400 species of birds.

First of all, we should talk about their peculiar shape. The Cochas are always U-shaped, and this is due the way they’re formed. An oxbow lake starts out as a curve, or meander, in a river. A lake forms as the river finds a different, shorter, course. The meander becomes an oxbow lake along the side of the river.

These lakes host so much biodiversity, due to its heterogeneous composition. The amount of diversity a place hosts, is directly related to the size of the area, and how homogenous of habitat is. Lets say for example, a bamboo forest can only host X number of birds that are specialized in that habitat. Now, the thing is, Oxbow Lakes have a lot of different habitats. Deep waters for Caimans, fishes, and Giant River Otters. Shallow waters for herons, egrets, kingfishers, flycatchers and other birds. Secondary forest that hosts a wide spectrum of wildlife, and sometimes even primary forest, where the giants live.

One of the longest-lasting ‘Big Day’ (a competition where birdwatchers try to observe as many species as possible within 24 hours) records was done by Ted Parker, and Scott Robinson, in Cocha Cashu, Manu National Park. Ted and Scott managed to spot over 330 bird species in one Oxbow Lake. And they still hold the record for the Biggest Day without the use of any motorized vehicles.

Here in Tambo Blanquillo, we own and operate 3 Oxbow Lakes. If you wish to come to see these lakes, and see the amazing fauna that inhabits them, contact us so we can help you plan the trip of a lifetime to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.

Tambo Blanquillo Lodge at the Pacific Alliance Tourism Roadshow

The Pacific Alliance Tourism Roadshow in China was a good opportunity for the countries of México, Colombia, Perú and Chile to show the amazing people of China the culture and natural wonders that South America has to offer.

Every country was represented by 4 of their best local tourism operators, except for Perú which was represented by 4 local operators and 1 independent company: Tambo Blanquillo Lodge. The aim of the Roadshow was to unite the 4 representatives of each country with local operators for the 4 different cities (Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai and Beijing), and show them everything Tambo Blanquillo Lodge and Manu National Park, have to offer!

stef.png

We decided to attend the fair as the only private company, in order to be the face of Manu National Park, and promote the area to new markets. The beautiful scenery and fauna that the pristine rainforest of Manu National Park contains, amazed people in all of our interviews along the roadshow, and we made important alliances for future development of the ecotourism in Peru, and Tambo Blanquillo Lodge.


capi.jpg

The aim was to offer Manu as a new alternative for people seeking adventures and wildlife. Tourist around the world have already gotten used to see the infamous Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, and while those attractions are amazing on their own, we offer new adventures, and untouched wilderness found nowhere else in the world. In the end, Manu National Park was declared as the most biodiverse place in the planet by UNESCO in 1987. Tambo Blanquillo Lodge currently is –and has been for over 10 years-  the front line of responsible entrepreneurs dedicated towards the conservation and promotion of this amazing area, in a way that generates income to the local families, to give future generations stable and legal jobs, avoiding the development of illegal logging and mining in the area.

Bird of the Month: Red-and-Green Macaw

Photo: Charlie Hamilton James

Photo: Charlie Hamilton James

Probably the most iconic bird in the lowlands of Manu National Park is the Red-and-

Green Macaw (Ara chloroptera). This bird, famous for it’s amazing colors, relatively

large size and some interesting habits that we will talk about later on the article.

George Robert Gray first described the Red-and-green Macaw in 1859. It is very

similar in size and shape to other birds in the genus Ara, specially the Scarlet Macaw

(Ara macao). The one way to separate the Red-and-green from the Scarlet Macaw is

by the upper wing coloration. The Scarlet Macaw coloration is red-yellow-blue,

while the red-and-green Macaw one is red-green-blue.

While it is a common bird, and it can be seen flying in pairs over the rivers in the

Amazonian lowlands, the real spectacle occurs at places called clay-licks. Here in

Tambo Blanquillo, we own the biggest clay-lick in the Peruvian Amazon, where over

50+ Red-and-green Macaws come daily to get their intake of clay –which they eat to

regulate their body’s pH, as well as for its high mineral content. While the Macaws

are definetly the stars of the show, they are the last to show up. Earlier in the

morning, several dozens (sometimes in the hundreds) Parrots, parakeets and

parrotlets show up, and undergo the same process.

If you wish to come and experience this amazing natural show, please contact us, so we can help you plan the trip of your lifetime to the wild Peruvian Amazon.

Potoos – the family of birds that mastered camouflage in the Amazon

One of the best ways to eat and avoid being eaten is by avoiding being seen. Evolution has shaped many species in weird ways, for these species to blend in their environment. Many predators use this technique to not be seen by their preys -Jaguars are a classic example in the Amazon, as are most snakes, but the reality is that most camouflaged species have evolved this way in order not to be eaten. Take for example the family species that are the center of attention of this blog post: the potoos.

Manu National Park is home to at least 4 species of Potoos: Long-tailed, Andean, Common, and Great. All these species are strictly nocturnal. They wait for the sun to set, and then venture out into the darkness to hunt for moths and other insects with their absurdly big mouths. However, during the day, they do nothing more than sitting around, and they do so in an extremely proficient way. Evolution has shaped Potoos to be the shape, texture, and color pattern of the broken branch.

Great Potoo - Can you spot it? - Photo: Alfredo Fernandez

Great Potoo - Can you spot it? - Photo: Alfredo Fernandez

These species are relatively abundant, as they are commonly heard in the forest at dawn and dusk, but spotting one can be one of the most challenging tasks a birdwatcher can try. However, if you visit Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, you will be very pleased to know that our guides have several territories of these species located, as well as their perching spots. And what are the chances for a Great Potoo to be living and nesting inside the same Kapok tree we have our Canopy Tower in? Our Canopy Tower is one of the very places on Earth that allow birdwatchers to take close looks, and photographers to take portraits of these birds in the wild.

Great Potoo – Portrait by Alfredo Fernandez

Great Potoo – Portrait by Alfredo Fernandez

Andean Potoos are also seen in our ‘Manu Complete’ Tour, as we travel through the Kosnipata Valley, and Common Potoos can be seen at night in our Lodge as they hunt for moths near the Bungalows.

If you wish to know more about this or other species, please do not hesitate to contact us.




Caimans of Tambo Blanquillo – Private Reserve

Caimans are top aquatic predators from the Neotropics, that normally feed on fish, other caimans, birds, and even small mammals. In Tambo Blanquillo – Private Reserve we are privileged to have three resident species living inside our Reserve. In this blog post, we will give you a quick introduction to each of them, as well as information on where and when find them.

Black Caiman:

Black Caiman – Photo: Rob Williams

Black Caiman – Photo: Rob Williams

The Black Caimans are the giants of these waters. Reaching monstrous sizes of up to 5 meters, they are bigger –by far- than any other caiman or crocodile-like creature found in South-America. Although it is becoming more and rarer to see caimans that size, you never know when you might find a giant resting on a sandy beach along the Madre de Dios River. The smaller individuals of this species like to spend their time in our Oxbow Lakes. While they might not be too easy to spot during the day, at night it is possible to spot up to 50 caimans while paddling along one of our Oxbow Lakes.

The photo pictured above means a lot for us at Tambo Blanquillo. First of all, the photo shows a key symbiotic relationship, the salt removal. In the photo, you can see a fly –blue- and a bee –yellow- hanging near the caiman´s eye. They do this to consume the excess salt from the tear glands located in the area. This photo was a keystone for Manu, and it was the first photo we turned into a canvas to decorate our Lodge.

Spectacled Caiman:

Spectacled Caiman - Photo: Alfredo Fernandez

Spectacled Caiman - Photo: Alfredo Fernandez

Another big, while not enormous, caiman is the Spectacled Caiman. Also known as White Caiman, or Common Caiman it is distributed over much of South America. These caimans tend to avoid the Oxbow Lakes, and are found virtually only on the main rivers. If you want to see this species, we recommend you to visit us during the dry season (May-September) as there are more sandy-beaches for these guys to lay and sunbathe.

Dwarf Caiman:

Dwarf Caiman – Photo: Lucas Bustamante

Dwarf Caiman – Photo: Lucas Bustamante

The last –and smallest- of the caimans found in Tambo Blanquillo – Private Reserve, is the Dwarf Caimans. Given their relatively small size –only reaching sizes of up to one meter-, these small caimans live on the shallow edges of Oxbows Lakes and very small moving rivers, trying to avoid predation from other, bigger, caimans. Spotting these caimans is generally not easy, but using a spotlight at night can produce great results. If you wish to see these guys, please ask your guide so he can take you on a night trip to Cocha Blanquillo to search for them.

If you would like to come and visit this amazing ecosystem, and all the species that inhabit it, please do not hesitate to contact us, so we can start planning the trip of a lifetime for you.