Here’s another installment from our recent tour from Peru. We booked through Amazon Birding Peru and went with Saturnino Llactahuaman, a superb guide and owner of the Manu Birding Lodge. The Manu Birding Lodge is located on the Rio Madre de Dios and is only about a 30 minute boat-ride to the clay lick. I recently read an article in Birding magazine in which a researcher attempted to look back at the Carolina Parakeet, an extinct parakeet, and the only endemic parakeet to have inhabited the continental United States. In the article, the author mentioned how parrots are among the most threatened avian order (Psittaciformes) in the world. Forty-two percent of the species in Pssitaciformes are either threatened or endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature and there is at least one study (or website) by BirdLife International that backs up that claim. Interestingly, the parrots found in the pet trade represent the species that are not threatened which makes sense since poachers probably target abundant species that are easier to capture.
The clay lick viewing shelter at Collpa Guacamayo de Blanquillo was among the most comfortable and biggest blinds I have ever seen. It had everything, even a toilet, but Saturnino begged me not to poop because everyone would smell it and that if I had to conduct big business to go into the jungle. The structure was two stories because the river floods and when it does they still boat out to the blind and view parrots there. Apparently the exposed cliff does not get completely submerged when the waters come up. I asked Saturnino how they built the massive structure right next to the lick without disturbing the parrots and other wildlife that came there. Saturnino replied, “very slowly.” In sum, the structure at the clay lick was impressive and our visit there was certainly one of the highlights of that portion, the Manu Birding Lodge area, of our extensive tour of Peru.
Here’s a photograph of Saturnino viewing the parrots through his trusted spotting scope. I regrettably didn’t take a shot of the shelter. This was the best shot I had that showed some of the structure. It was impressive and could seat about 50 people comfortably.
There was a book for observations there at the clay lick. And leading up to our day, 11 July 2017, there wasn’t much reported in terms of good numbers of parrots. In fact, there were some dismal entries for the clay lick that summer with some reporting ZERO in big capital letters in the book along with pictures of sad faces. Our day turned out to be an extraordinary day. At our arrival there were already many medium-sized parrots there. First, the smaller parrots like Blue-headed and Yellow-crowned parrots arrive at the lick. Then the larger macaws came after them. We observed an estimated 150 Red-and-green Macaws. This was a really impressive count for that species.
Here’s a photograph of a couple of Red-and-green Macaws.
Here’s some a shot of some Yellow-crowned Parrots that proceeded the macaws.
Other smaller parakeets caught our eye like the Tui parakeets. They have interesting white eyes and a yellow forehead.
Here is a Cobalt-winged parakeet that mixed in with the Tui parakeets. They were difficult to discern unless you used a scope. Cobalt-winged parakeets have a dark eye.
One Blue-and-yellow Macaw showed up and I wish it had perched closer. This was my favorite parrot for this day.
Clay licks are relatively a new discovery. Biologists only recently discovered that clay licks were incredibly important to parrots and other wildlife and if done correctly a blind or structure can be built to observe them there. Clay licks help wildlife neutralize the acids they obtain eating wild fruits and vegetation of the jungle or perhaps augment their diets especially sodium, and therefore, are critical components to tropical wildlife diets. I found an interesting write-up on the clay licks here. Here’s a great article the summarizes the importance of Peruvian clay licks. The Collpa Guacamayo de Blanquillo (clay lick) is a premiere example of such a place and a great tool in parrot conservation and awareness. I probably took a few hundred photographs while we were there but Saturnino informed some gentlemen took a combined total of 22,000 photographs at there. If you ever plan a trip to Peru, you should consider visiting the Manu region, especially the Manu Birding Lodge and, of course, the Collpa Guacamayo de Blanquillo which is planned excursion that the lodge typically has in place.
Here’s a quick video of some of the Red-and-green Macaws coming down to the exposed cliff to gorge on the clay.