You know you wanna

"Baby Boa" by CB Photography on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

I haven’t mentioned much about Peru lately, since my Monday Miscellany went on hiatus over the winter months. I’ve been meaning to revisit the region for a little while now, and thought it would be best to do so while we’re “enjoying” a bit of a cold snap here in Ontario. Rain and wind today, the progression of spring put on hold temporarily while Mother Nature gets the last of winter out of her system. In a week or two activity will pick up outside and I’ll have some trouble keeping up with it all.

To refresh your memory, or in case you’re a new reader, I’ve been invited to join Kolibri Expeditions on an 8-day tour of the Manu region of southeastern Peru, and I’d love for you to join me! The trip will act as a fundraiser to help local communities in developing ecotourism into a viable source of income, which will in turn contribute to conservation of the region as the residents will be less dependent on ecologically-destructive income-earners. You can read a little more about the reasons for the tour at my post from November.

"Moths eating minerals from the mud" by Sarah_and_Iain on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Technically the trip is a birding tour. Although Kolibri does make an effort to include other notable regional interests, such as trips to Machu Picchu, or viewing stops at mammal salt-licks, their focus is primarily on birds. Most of their clients come for the birds, and enjoy the scenery along the way. So you’ll be seeing a lot of birds if you come along.

But you’ll also be traveling with me. I have a rather sneaky suspicion that the pace of the trip is going to be somewhat slowed as I pause to check out this bug, or this frog, or this plant, or this flower, or this fungus, or this… well, you get the idea. I’m not going to have a clue what any of them are, of course. But that won’t stop me from appreciating the incredible diversity that the tropics offers.

Like the lepidopterans above. Those are moths. Yup, moths. Pretty amazing, huh? They’re Green-banded Urania, Urania leilus, diurnal species that are often found sipping minerals from mud or dung.

"butterfly" by kaitlyn_rose on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

More fabulous colours. This one is actually a butterfly. Periander Metalmark, Rhetus periander.

"Leafhopper" by cordyceps on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Or what about this leafhopper? One of the commenters on the photo ID’d it as Membracis foliata.

"Ra" by cordyceps on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Or this planthopper. Another commenter suggested family Derbidae.

"Amblypygia" by cordyceps on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Fans of Harry Potter will recognize this guy as the creepy critter used in the fourth movie to demonstrate the Unforgivable Curses. Also called tailless whip scorpion.

"Frosch" by sprain on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

How about this pointy yellow-green frog?

"Frog on a bog - Manu Park Reserve rainforest " by baronvonhorne on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Or this one wearing racing stripes?

"Vorsicht, Zähne!" by sprain on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Maybe fish are more your thing? Yes, that’s a piranha.

"Common Squirrel Monkey" by Jyrki Hokkanen on Picasa; borrowed through Creative Commons

Mammals, and particular monkeys, should be easily seen. Or at least heard. Common Squirrel Monkey.

"bats" by kaitlyn_rose on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Maybe we’ll even have bats roosting in the eaves of our accommodations.

Moth, probably Idalus herois, taken in Columbia by my friend and moth-guide-coauthor, but wide-ranging. Borrowed without permission. Hope he'll forgive me.

You can bet your boots I’ll be doing some nighttime moth-hunting.

"Fleur autour du lodge" by Veronique Debord on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Interesting plants will receive a closer look.

"pretty waterfall" by kaitlyn_rose on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

And don’t forget the gorgeous scenery.

Bottom line: there’ll be something for everyone, and because you’ll be on my trip, you can be pretty sure we’ll be pausing to look at most of it.

(All the photos in this post, by the way, with the exception of the white-and-yellow moth, were taken in the region we’ll be visiting.)

My departure is November 12, 2010 through Nov 19 (originally scheduled for Nov 13 but moved back a day to accommodate another tour that wanted to depart Nov 20). The cost is $1680 per person (or $1580 if you’re a blogger with an active blog); this covers everything but your personal expenses such as souvenirs and airfare from your local international airport to Lima. It’s a pretty incredible deal for a guided tour, with all the organization taken care of for you and somebody who knows a thing or two about the area to help you with ID. And don’t forget you’ll be getting to go with me! You can read more here about what your fee covers.

"Golden Tanager "Tangara arthus"" by dermoidhome on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons

Gunnar, owner and organizer extraordinaire of Kolibri, suggests putting your name down even if you’re not sure if you’ll go or not yet. You’re not locked in to anything until you’ve sent in a deposit, which you don’t have to do right away. However, signing up for the trip now confirms the departure date on their booking system and makes it more attractive to other potential participants who are looking for a trip with Kolibri. And the more people who come, the cheaper it is for each. Which means this has the potential to benefit you.

So if you’re considering going, even in a “well, it would be nice, but I don’t know what my money will be like, and there’s always the dog, and Susan’s due to have her baby about then, but I’ll think about it” kind of way, send me an email (canadianowlet [at] gmail [dot] com) or leave a comment to let me know, just so we can get you down as a potential participant and make sure the trip’s locked in. You can always back out later if you need to.

Meanwhile, you can go back and read my previous posts here, here and here, with more delicious photos to whet your appetite… :)

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Sunday Snapshots: Peruvian hummingbirds

Golden-tailed Sapphire by Kapitan Hojo on Picasaweb

As a continuation on the weekend’s theme presented by yesterday’s post, today I thought I’d do a snapshots of the different hummingbird species from the Manu region of Peru. There are currently 22 species of hummingbird listed on the checklist of birds of the Manu Wildlife Centre, and that’s just what’s been recorded at this one site. For a girl from eastern North America, where we have a grand total of one hummingbird species, this abundance is a veritable smorgasbord of jeweled goodness. I’ve selected a few of the flashiest for inclusion here. Since I personally have no photos of tropical hummingbirds, I’ve borrowed all of these off the net through Creative Commons licenses.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming tomorrow!

Booted Racket-tail by kookr on Flickr
Festive Coquette by Dario Sanches on Flickr
Violet-capped Woodnymph by Dario Sanches on Flickr
Rufous-breasted Hermit by barloventomagico on Flickr
Blue-tailed Emerald by jerryoldenettel on Flickr
Fork-tailed Woodnymph by jerryoldenettel on Flickr
Black-throated Mango by Lip_Kee on Flickr
White-necked Jacobin by The_Tardigrade on Flickr
Long-tailed Hermit by kookr on Flickr
Blue-tailed Emerald by prosper973 on Flickr
Crimson Topaz by jerryoldenettel on Flickr

(this last one isn’t actually on the Manu checklist, but is supposed to occur in the lowlands of Peru, and I just couldn’t resist including it – look at that brilliant firey colour!)

Another plea for Peru

"P8200084" by teamperks on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons license

A year from today (approximately), on Saturday November 13, 2010, I hope to be stepping off a plane and breathing in the humid, tropical air of Peru. As regular readers know, I have been offered an opportunity to travel with Kolibri Expeditions to southeastern Peru. The trip is an 8 day birding tour of the lowland rainforests adjacent to Manu National Park. My particular departure will start on the Saturday, and wrap up on the following Sunday, just prior to the American Thanksgiving. I’m hoping to entice a few adventurous birders, bloggers or travelers to join me on what should be an exciting trip. We ideally need 5 people, besides myself, to make the trip a go (the trip could run with fewer, but individual costs would be higher).

"Our group and local weaver" by Dermoidhome on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons licence

The tour will be visiting areas associated with the Amarakaeri communal reserve next to the national park. The Peruvians who live in these communities are poor, and the primary source of income currently is through exploitation of the local natural resources: logging, mining, and oil. Kolibri Expeditions is working with these communities to develop ecotourism as a viable sustainable alternative to non-renewable resource extraction. Although the natural resources are more lucrative in the short term, it is hoped that the communities will embrace the long-term benefits of preserving the ecosystems for tourism. Ecotourism would also have the effect of encouraging the natural resource extraction operations that are already taking place to become more eco-conscious, as they will be under greater scrutiny from an environmentally-minded crowd.

"Our bus on Manu Road" by Dermoidhome on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons licence

The Kolibri trips will serve a dual purpose. The first is that a contribution from each traveler’s tour fees will go directly to the community for use in developing facilities and training local workers. Currently the infrastructure in the Amarakaeri communities is minimal – these won’t be 5-star lodges you’ll be staying at on the trip. Previous tours have camped in school shelters, for instance. Obviously it’s difficult to promote ecotourism to affluent countries when the facilities are rustic (by the visitor’s standards) at best. And yet, it’s hard to get enough money to be able to afford to upgrade the infrastructure without the tourists coming in. Kolibri has been working hard to help contribute toward the necessary funds for the projects. If every tour currently scheduled on the webpage for this trip goes out with 5 participants, a total of $5000 will be raised for the communities.

"Birding the Manu Road" by Dermoidhome on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons licence

The second effort that Kolibri has been making with this trip is promotion of the region as a destination for birding. This is a large part of the reason for inviting bloggers on to the tour. The agreement is that the bloggers will post about it preceding, during, and after the trip. Kolibri is in the process of working out satellite internet service that would allow the blogger to “live-blog” the trip from the rainforest, providing a day-by-day report of the latest highlights, and then following it up with a more complete summary after the trip. If tour participants also happen to be bloggers, they would receive a $100 discount on the price of the trip in exchange for at least one post-trip report on their own blog (honestly, though: if you were going on such an amazing trip, how could you possibly not post about it upon your return, $100 incentive or no?).

Riverbank in Manu, Peru; borrowed from Wikimedia Commons

The Amarakaeri Communal Reserve is a 402,335 ha area that was designated as protected land in 2002. It is part of a conservation corridor that includes protected areas from Bolivia and Brazil. ParksWatch, an international non-profit based out of Duke University that helps assess Central and South American parks to advise park management decisions, designates the Reserve as Threatened, meaning that under current trends and practices there is a high risk of failure in the park’s ability to conserve and maintain current biodiversity levels over the medium-term future. Current factors affecting the Reserve’s viability include gold mining, illegal logging, and human pressures such as hunting and forest resource collection (eg., palm fronds) by a population increasing through migration.

"Hoatzins at Cocha Salvador" by Sarah_and_Iain on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons licence

Although the macro-fauna and -flora of the area is fairly well-documented, there has been very little research undertaken in the Reserve to either study the local macro-species in more depth, or to document more of the micro-species. An advantage of a strong ecotourism industry and the facilities necessary to support it is that often research institutions such as universities or museums will use lodges as a base for local research operations, especially when first beginning to explore and research new areas. By establishing a good infrastructure in the area, it may encourage more research on the local species and habitats.

"Cocha Otorongo" by Sarah_and_Iain on Flickr; borrowed through Creative Commons licence

My departure dates are November 13-21, 2010. I would love for you to join me on my trip, but if you want to go and the November dates just don’t work for you, you can still participate on one of the other departures. The cost is $1680 (or $1580 if you’re a blogger) plus airfare from your local international airport to Lima; this covers everything but your personal expenses such as souvenirs. For more information, including an itinerary, and/or to sign up for the trip (you know you want to!) visit the Kolibri Expeditions tour page.

Since the trip is still a year away, this won’t be the last you’ll hear me promote it on the blog – I have 5 people I need to round up! – but I’ll try not to make it too often. :)

Won’t you come and bird with me?

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Jatun Sacha Biological Station guest cabin

Waaaay back in 2002, when I was still in university, I had the fabulous opportunity to visit Ecuador. It was a field course that would count as one credit toward my degree. It happened to be Field Entomology, and although by that time I had already established my primary interest in birds, I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the tropics – someplace I had longed to visit. My extremely generous parents covered most of the cost of the trip as part of my university expenses (thanks Mom and Dad!) and off I went for two fantastic weeks. Almost as soon as I was back in Canada I began plotting my return to this amazing ecosystem. Unfortunately, being freelance doesn’t earn one much money, Dan and I just squeak by most months, and so I’ve never had the free cash available to go.

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Rainforest canopy view from ridgetop

A couple of days ago I and a number of other prominent nature bloggers were contacted with a rare chance for a trip to Manu, Peru. Gunnar Engblom, of Kolibri Expeditions Birding Tours and A birding blog by Gunnar Engblom, managed to convince his company to invite bloggers on one of their new tours all-expenses paid as a form of promotion for both the company and the particular tour. I can’t tell you how flattered and honoured I was to be chosen alongside the ranks of some very exceptional nature bloggers! From the moment I read the email I was hooked by the idea.

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Flora at the Jatun Sacha parking lot

The catch? The blogger who goes agrees to blog about the trip before, during, and after the trip. I can guarantee I would have no difficulty doing that. My biggest concern would be  whether I’d have enough space on my camera cards to contain all of the photos I would take! On my trip to Ecuador I took 200 photos. That would be a drop in the bucket these days. My photos from Ecuador are very low-quality – it was my very first digital camera, back in the days when digital was still something of a novelty, and was a measly 1.3 megapixels. I would love to have the opportunity to replace them with better photos.

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Huge tree at Jatun Sacha - not sure what the sign says

Also, the trip needs a minimum enrollment to run. This is the main reason for this post. Yes, I’m selfishly asking my readers if they’d pay for a fabulously amazing birding tour of Peru that they’ll never regret doing so that I can take advantage of this opportunity to go for free. Hey, at least I’m honest about it! :)

The dates are currently flexible with one trip running per month from now till Dec 2010, although it’s first-come first-served and particular months may fill up as other bloggers sign up. My preference would probably be for one of the winter months, Nov-Mar, but I suspect they’ll be the first to be snapped up, since who could imagine a better way to beat the winter blahs than visiting a tropical rainforest and watching colourful birds. My other choice would be a May departure in celebration of my 30th birthday that month. Edit: Gotta be quick! Dec/Jan/Feb 2010 are already snapped up, as are Oct 2009 and Oct 2010.

The trip will be 8 days/7 nights. The tour itinerary is posted here. Cost per individual is $1680. This cost would include all lodging, meals, birding guides (a fabulous resource when traveling to the tropics), local transportation, and in-country flights to and from Lima. Perhaps best of all, they take care of all the booking and arrangements for you – all you have to do is show up and enjoy yourself! The cost would not include airfare to Lima from your hometown, personal expenses, souvenirs, extra bottled water/snacks, etc. If you are a blogger you would get a further $100 off (so $1580 total) in exchange for blogging about/promoting the trip in at least one post. Of the amount you pay, $100 goes directly to improving the local infrastructure for ecotourism (promoting conservation of habitat and biodiversity). Also, if you book an additional trip with Kolibri of 5 days or more, you get a further $100 off of this trip.

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Heliconia along Jatun Sacha trail

Sound tempting? C’mon, you know it does… just think how much fun you would have tromping through the rainforest with me, looking at Purple Honeycreepers, Paradise Tanagers, Band-tailed Manakins, Curl-crested Aracaris, Emperor Tamarins and Giant Otters, a macaw lick, ocelets, tapirs, toucans, parrots, barbets, tanagers, antpittas, and hundreds of other species of birds and mammals and insects and plants you can only imagine. :) I know I don’t have quite the same star power as someone like Kenn Kaufman would on a tour he goes on (let’s be honest: I have none at all) but I’m still a really nice person, and you’d have a great time. Ooo, how’s this for a gimmick – I’ll give you a free signed copy of our moth field guide when it comes out if you sign up! :)

To try to whet your appetite, here are a few additional photos from my trip to Ecuador…

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Rain every day at noon, like clockwork - didn't dampen our enthusiasm

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Fabulous buttressed roots

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An actual cacao pod! The locals harvested these and dried a batch while we were there. The beverege of choice there was hot cocoa.

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A heliconia in the Jatun Sacha parking lot

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The view from Jatun Sacha's canopy tower. That iron railing is only a foot high. We remained secured by safety harness and carabiner at all times.

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Traveling by river boat to a nearby wildlife rescue operation.

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White-throated Toucan at wildlife rescue centre

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Lowland (I think) Tapir at wildlife rescue centre

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Heliconia in Jatun Sacha parking lot

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Blue-and-gold Macaw at wildlife rescue centre

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Free-roaming semi-tame coatimundi at wildlife rescue centre

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Lodge at SierrAzul Cloud Forest Reserve, with beautiful gardens (hosting many hummingbirds) and really nice, comfortable accomodations

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SierrAzul crew bringing in our luggage by pack donkey

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Bromiliads growing on tree trunks - they were everywhere!

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Unknown flowers in cloud forest at SierrAzul