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13 - 16 October
7. The Canopy Tower at La Selva
only paid one visit to this famed location - wish it had been more.
We arrived at the top of the tower at 7.15 am, when the tree tops
still held mist. It looked magic!
worry about the climb - Ruth was a little apprehensive before we
did the climb, but it is - and feels - perfectly safe. Although
it is 135 feet high, it is built around a massive kapok tree, and
ascends in right-angles of around 8 - 9 steps per flight. It feels
- and is (at the time of writing!) - perfectly safe. The platform
at the top is well-guarded and, because it is so high in the tree
tops, you get no feeling of vertigo unless you work hard to see
the ground so far below!
is THE place to see the canopy-loving species, where you don't have
to shift your neck through 180 degrees to see little birds flitting
behind leaves far above you - the normal ground-level view of so
many forest birds. In the two hours that we were up there, we saw
more than 30 species, many of them excellent views.
in the kapok tree itself appeared to be a family of Double-toothed
Hawks - two adults and a juvenile, who gave excellent and confiding
views. Other visitors to 'our' tree (theirs, really!) included Scaly-breasted
Woodcreeper, Bare-necked Fruitcrow (excellent views) and Chestnut
Woodcreeper. We had a more distant view of a Purple-throated
Fruitcrow, but clear enough to see the purple on its throat.
flew over, low down and circling, with broad wings, pale brown underparts.
In the days that we were with him, this was the only bird that José
was uncertain about - gave us confidence in the guy! He thought
it was possibly a Black-faced Hawk. So that was good enough
out from out from our great kapok tree, there were some fine bird
perches, some close, some distant. One of the first birds we saw
was a magnificent Spangled Cotinga, perched on the dead top
of a tree a few hundred metres from us, with good scoped views.
I had noted at Pasachoa earlier in the trip that a Red-crested Cotinga
seemed to favour the top of a dead tree. Later, from the tower,
and a bit more distant, we saw a Plum-throated Cotinga in
a similar habitat. Nice to make connections!
a while, closer to our tree than the Cotingas, José spotted
a sleeping Great Potoo. He failed to get my scope (when he
found that I was taking mine, he left his back at the Lodge - not
stupid, José!) onto it - very difficult with a camouflaged
bird like this, but when I managed it, we all had fantastic views
of this bird; its plumage so closely matched the bark of the tree
on which it was perched.
were, of course, one of the families that we really wanted to make
contact with from this elevated viewpoint. We were not disappointed!
Here's what we saw of this family:
Tanager (didn't make a great impression on me; must have been
a 'tick' bird).
Dacnis - we've seen the Blue Dacnis in Trinidad & Tobago.
This was a good bird for us.
Honeycreeper - I ID'd this one (seen in T & T). No problems
here. Distant, but good views of a cracking little brilliant bird.
Tanager - yes, looked in the field guide, know I saw it; but
can't remember it. That's Amazon birding - being honest now!
Tanager - no problems with this beauty! You really can't mistake
it, even though it may be hard to see. We saw it perched, and
saw the red rump when it flew. The green head, blue chest and
underparts and black back are very distinctive when perched. You
can see the red rump, but it is much more visible when the bird
Tanager - another which we saw clearly, but the memory of
it is not strong! (see Turquoise and Fulvous-crested Tanagers
above). Sometimes, the birds come so fast and furious that you
just 'tick' them and move on to the next delight!
Euphonia - good views of this bird. We learnt that the key
to identifying this blue-and-orange family is to look at their
group of canopy-loving birds which we saw well from the tower were
the Aracaris and Toucans. We had good (sometimes distant) views
Aracari - Ruth saw and remembered this well; I didn't. The
'lettering' is a series of marks on the upper beak ('maxilla').
Aracari - like all Aracaris, a striking multi-coloured bird.
Aracari - well two or three bands, depending on whether you
count the black bands, or the yellow between the black!
Toucanet - a pair. Their low 'yaw yaw' call is very distinctive.
Toucan - formerly the Amazon birds were considered to be a
separate species, Cuvier's Toucan, but have now been 'lumped'.
We had good views from the tower, and seem to be fairly common
in the area. We made contact with this species every day in the
Canopy Tower is also a good place for parrot watching. Most of the
birds we saw were fly-overs or birds only heard, such as Cobalt-winged
Parakeet, Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlet (heard only), Mealy
Parrot (red in wing seen well in flight), Orange-winged Parrot
and Blue-and-yellow Macaw (we were pleased to see this species,
even if the only view was a pair in flight).
did see some flycatchers from the tower. One bird which gave us
some trouble was Dusky-capped Flycatcher. We heard its plaintive,
long whistle frequently (the field guide describes it as 'wheeuw'
or 'fueeerrr') but it took us a long time to get a fleeting glimpse
of the bird, a long way below us. Piratic Flycatcher was
a bird that we ticked, but made no impression on me at all!
was one time on the tower when we could imagine that we were back
in England, listening to the beautiful song of the Song Thrush.
It was, in fact, Lawrence's Thrush. We only heard its song
from the tower, but, the previous day, on the South bank, we heard
its call - a high rattle, reminiscent of the alarm call of a Mistle
Thrush (apologies to non-English birders for these UK analogies!).
It was quite evocative, hearing this variable song in the middle
of the Amazonian rain forest.
you ever go to La Selva, try to visit the Canopy Tower more than
once! And get there as early in the morning as you can. It's a fantastic