But I could not sleep--there was too much to see. So I went back to the top deck for some birding. Immediately I was fascinated by the various craft plying the river. Boats, rafts, and floating objects of all shapes and sizes were drifting downstream as we motored upstream.
We passed small camps and settlements on the shore. The human population along the Amazon and its tributaries relies primarily on fishing, hunting, and small-plot farming. The effects from this subsistence living has greatly reduced the region's flora and fauna. Natural resource organizations and conservationists are rushing to preserve large tracts of rainforest. And they are beginning to work with the local communities to develop more sustainable means of living, including developing ecotourism projects. More on this in a future post.
We passed many small dwellings that were not much more than campsites, though they probably were lived in nearly year-round and vacated when the floods of the rainy season swelled the river beyond its normal banks.
Soon it was time for our own skiff adventure. We divided into two groups and headed off farther upstream in search of birds and other creatures to see. Among the group were at least three serious photographers and a few of us who were dabbling at being serious. We traded advice (I got much more than I gave) and asked photo questions freely.
"Hey what F-stop are you shooting at right now?"
"Is that an IS lens?"
"Are you completely KILLING that kingfisher?"
"Hey look at THIS shot I got!"
"Does anyone know how to turn the flash off on one of these things?"
It was pretty fun taking pictures of parrots overhead (all bad images) and passing large-billed terns (blurry as a vanilla milkshake), and the dark-green jungle. The light was good but failing fast so we motored over to the sunlit shore and right away had good luck.
Along the Amazon and its tributaries raptors and vultures perch and prowl for food. It must be because this is the only edge habitat for miles around in this roadless region. But I have never seen so many birds of prey along any river, ever.
First among our photographable raptors was a yellow-headed caracara.
Drab water-tyrant. Which begs the question: How can you be both drab AND a tyrant?
Here in the roadless Amazon there are many, many of the common hawk of Latin America known as the roadside hawk. But they are jokingly referred to as riverside hawks here--no roads! One of our El Delfin guides told us that at least 11 times and laughed his cabeza off every time.
Flights of parrots and parakeets zipped back and forth across the river giving us impossibly bad looks. Without the knowledgeable ID skills of Pepe and Noam, we'd never have known what ANY of them were. All of them called loudly. None of them perched within our view.
Some kind of river-loving bat. Later in the night they entered our cabins and feasted upon our blood. Not really. But Liam asked me that.
My favorite tropical tanager, the blue-gray, hove into view in a small flock. Too far for decent photos, but nice to see again. These BGTans were fancier than those I'd seen in Mexico and Guatemala. These had pale-blue wingbars which only added to their allure.
[Don't tell the blue-grays, but over the next few days I saw some other tanagers that really set my eyes on fire--bay-headed tanager and something called a paradise tanager! They really laid me low.]
Soon enough the sun was down and it was starting to get buggy, so we turned the skiffs downstream and caught El Delfin in the middle of the river. Soon it would be dinner time, then, I hoped, a good night's sleep. I was still running a bit of a snooze deficit from the weekend before.
I did sleep, but could not WAIT to experience dawn on the Amazon. It was just hours away.