Peru Trip Highlights and RFI on Uakaris

Hi,

We returned from a trip to Peru last weekend. We visited three places: Tapiche in the north, Los Amigos Biological Station in the south “near” Puerto Maldonado, and Manu Road.

Overall a wonderful trip but it started with my worst tropical mammalwatching experience ever: we saw none of our targets at Tapiche despite staying five full days. No uakaris, woolly monkeys or sakis. Bah! No luck with the manatee either, but that was expected. Our mammal consolation prizes were still pretty good: white-fronted capuchin, a nice sighting of the giant river otters, a large group of coatis,  finally my first paca and of course both dolphins. The birding was hard but great in Tapiche, and we saw some spectacular species, including harpy eagle, collared forest falcon twice (finally!), scarlet-hooded and lemon-throated barbet, the wonderful black-spotted bare-eye and blue-cheeked jacamar. Another birding highlight is the wetland birding at the lagoons and the heronries there: tens of agami herons!!!, boat-billed herons, etc. and rather incredible numbers of hoatzins, horned screamers, etc.

Next Los Amigos. On our first afternoon walk we bagged six primates including emperor tamarin and black spider monkey. Pacha Mama seemed to have taken pity on us: seeing the tamarin was a big relief after the primate canard at Tapiche. We also had spectacular sightings of two fighting Gray’s bald-faced saki families, which was the mammal highlight of the trip for me. Close up views of the sakis included one of the alpha males almost literally falling on my head when he suddenly was forced to retreat from a vicious fight by falling down to the ground from 12 meters!!! Even the researchers were totally flipping, they had never seen anything like this in 7 years of study they told us. In the end we bagged all realistically possible primates at Los Amigos (Goeldi’s monkey has’t been reported for years but may still occur). Los Amigos was for me the mammalwatching highlight of the tour. This place has some of the best rainforest mammalwatching in the Peruvian Amazon that is accessible to “normal” tourists, certainly much better than the well-known lodges on the regular birding circuits. They still record pretty much the entire Amazonian megafauna on their grounds and felines (puma, jaguar and ocelot in particular) and feline sightings are common and a lot of other very cool mammals are seen regularly. We did not see felines, but several of the researchers had some great (daytime) sightings including a puma hunting a tinamou during our stay. Superb birding too! One of the researchers encountered a crested eagle chasing capuchins and had superb photos of the eagle (and he saw a harpy a couple of days earlier).

Finally the well-known cloud forests on Manu Road, we went there with modest expectations, i.e., see the Cock of the Rock and hope that some of the more colourful birds might turn up plus maybe 1-2 nice/lucky mammal sightings. The birdwatching was insane, we pretty much scored every prize bird in the area (including both quetzals, Andean pygmy owl, pretty much every possible tanager, versicoloured barbet, masked trogon, plum-throated cotinga, barred fruiteater, etc.) plus some really rare ones such as the very pretty crimson-bellied woodpecker. But the highlight was a superb sighting of a large group of common woolly monkeys. And finally I had a tayra sighting that went beyond 5 seconds and I could actually see the details of the entire animal. Cool! We had mostly nice weather on the Manu road and the scenery is truly spectacular in good weather. Less cool was that an idiot living in the Pillahuata area had deliberately poisoned three pumas when he was attempting sheep herding in the cloud forest (you can guess what happened).

All in all a wonderful and spectacular trip but it would have been perfect if Tapiche had delivered. Still, by all means, go to Tapiche: the scenery in the lagoons and smaller creeks is fantastic, the birding is great, and normally the primate watching too. Our main guide, Jose, was excellent with fabulous ears, eyes and tracking skills, and the manager Katoo (who is also very skilled in tracking primates) joined on several of the excursions as well. I think we were just exceptionally unlucky. We were by the way not the first clients that did not see the uakaris, but I think the success rate is still above 80-90%.

Finally, a couple of questions about the uakaris (I could of course go back to Tapiche, but also want to research other options):

Are there any other accessible sites for the uakari (subspecies/race doesn’t really matter). The only other accessible place I know of is Mamiraua. Has anyone been there and actually seen the uakaris there? Any other place to see uakaris that is more or less accessible with regular transport options.

I am writing up the report now, more info on Tapiche and Los Amigos will be in the report.

Cheers,

Sjef

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5 Comments on “Peru Trip Highlights and RFI on Uakaris”

  1. Cheryl Antonucci Says:

    Hi Sjef,
    My friend and I actually were the tourists at Tapiche who were dropped off right before you (Katoo had told us about a group coming for the uakari as well) and like you we dipped on the uakari. We were there only three days, but spent a lot of time searching for them. We didn’t do the sleeping in a hammock in the jungle overnight to try however. I also saw my first ever paca there! I agree it is a beautiful place, but was sad to not see one. Besides the uakari, my other mammal target in Peru was the mustached tamarin. We went to the Tahuayo lodge and Amazon research center (sister lodges) and had nice views on the last day. The research center is supposedly another possible spot for uakari and there is a troop of about 40-50 that travel with the mustached tamarins on occasion. My guide had seen them three weeks before in the exact spot we were at. Supposedly end of July to start of August are the best times to see them. I will have a trip report hopefully soon , but you will probably beat me. I was glad to see you went to Los Amigos. It has been on my radar for a bit and I had told Jon about it before he went to Peru. I had read a lot of bird trip reports having amazing primate sightings, especially the emperor tamarin which I failed to see while in Manu! Looking forward to your report!
    Cheryl Antonucci

    • sjefo Says:

      Hi Cheryl,

      Katoo told me that a Cheryl had just visited and I already thought it had to be you, but I wasn’t completely sure.

      We also did not do the hammock camping (my wife didn’t want to), but I am not convinced that it would be really necessary to see the uakaris. But for spotlighting other stuff it would probably be great (lot of snakes in that camping area though, saw three, two of them poisonous but maybe they only retreat there in the wetter periods). I got the impression that the uakaris simply didn’t visit in the area where most of the clients see them when we were there (lack of fruiting trees and other food). That area was in general rather quiet (“only” small numbers of titis, tamarins, brown capuchins and occasionally howlers in that area). We did explore pretty much every corner of their core area (including lots of trailless/unexplored territory) and the uakaris always seemed to be in or close to the large Mauritia palm swamp, which is not really accessible (at least not in June). Katoo also said that later in the dry season is generally better for the uakaris.

      I am not sure if he travelled to Tapiche together with you to Tapiche but one of the Tahuayo guides, Miguel, was staying at Tapiche for a while and also guided us on a couple of excursions, and he also told us that he sometimes sees the uakaris there. If I have the opportunity to go back to Iquitos/Tapiche, I will definitely include Tahuayo lodge and/or Amazon research center (before I discovered Los Amigos I was actually thinking of going to Tahuayo). Katoo and Miguel also told us a bit about it and it sounded great, also for birding. Great that you saw the mustached tamarins! Did you also see pygmy marmoset in Tahuayo? That would make it even more attractive, still need to see both.

      Cheers,

      Sjef

      • Cheryl Antonucci Says:

        Yes! Pygmy marmosets the first three days, two of which were incredible sightings. I liked the place so much I would even go back again. We did meet Miguel ! He can do the best baby black caiman noise I have ever heard, never had heard so many adults respond to that noise!

  2. vdinets Says:

    I’ve been to Mamiraua, but not officially (couldn’t afford the price, so lived in a tiny village across the river and paddled across every day). Got one uacari sighting in five days. That was in August.


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