Peru Trip Highlights and RFI on Uakaris
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.