An Afternoon On The Lake – Napo Wildlife Center

After an awesome experience at the Canopy Tower in the morning, the afternoon was a more relaxed experience.  While we were at lunch, our guide called us over to one side of the restaurant and pointed out a beautiful Golden-mantled Tamarin sitting on a tree nearby.

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After some time to rest up, we were back in the paddleboats for a short trip around the lake area.  First off the bat were some bats!IMG_4139

White-winged SwallowIMG_3912a

Red-capped CardinalIMG_3910 IMG_3911a

Straited HeronIMG_3919 IMG_3921

Tropical KingbirdIMG_3913

A tiny frogDSCN1890 DSCN1891 DSCN1889

AnhingaDSCN1888

Giant River Otters who clearly weren’t happy to see us!DSCN1880 DSCN1882 DSCN1883 DSCN1886 DSCN1885

And a sunset to finish off the day!

COMPLETE BIRD CHECKLISTDSCN1894

Black-headed Parrot (Pionites melanocephalus)

The Black-headed Parrot (Pionites melanocephalus ; sometimes incorrectly Pionites melanocephala), also known as the Black-headed Caique, Black-capped Parrot or Pallid Parrot (for P. m. pallidus), is one of the two species in the genus Pionites of the Psittacidae family; the other species being the allopatric White-bellied Parrot.

I was extremely lucky to see one in the wild in Ecuador at a distance.

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It is found in forest (especially, but not exclusively, humid) and nearby wooded habitats in the Amazon north of the Amazon River and west of the Ucayali River in Brazil, northern Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. It is generally fairly common and occurs in many protected areas throughout its range.  I saw this one at the Canopy Tower of Napo Wildlife Center and the guide said we were very lucky as they are hard to spot!  You could also try eco-lodges near Manaus and Iquitos.

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LEARN MORE ABOUT BLACK-HEADED PARROTS

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World Parrot Trust

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Such a cutie taking a bath in the grass!

Love is in the air with this nesting pair!

 

Woolies (Australia) Makes A Step In The Right Direction

Last year Woolworths gutted their loyalty program in which people could choose between Qantas points and money off your shopping.  Then we heard that due to popular demand they would bring back Qantas points.  It took 8 months but we finally have the details of the new program.  Firstly, for a nice recap, please watch this video from Nine News.

You should also take the time to read the FAQ from their website.  Here’s a few key points:

You asked to be rewarded for every dollar you spend, so we made some changes. Now you get all the existing benefits of Woolworths Rewards, plus from 31 August 2016 you’re guaranteed to earn on every dollar* – $1 = 1 point. You can earn bonus points with exclusive offers in store and via email. Plus, for the first time, you’ll earn points at Caltex Woolworths fuel outlets (excluding Tasmania, Star Mart and Star Shop) on top of what you get at Woolworths and BWS.
*No points will be earned on purchases of smoking products, gift cards, mobile recharge, Woolworths Mobile, travel cards and tickets, delivery charges, internet cafes, Carpet Care, lottery products, Woolworths Flowers and purchases using Caltex Starcard.

This is a plus and basically gets rid of the detested “Orange ticket items” and brings the basic earn to an equal level with Coles Flybuys program, especially if all you want is to save money on your grocery shopping.  Flybuys does still have the edge though with flexibility.  You can redeem your Flybuys at any time of your choosing whereas the Woolworth’s program will either automatically redeem them each time you acquire 2000 points or $10 off your shopping.  If you want to save them, there is a “Save for Christmas” option where you can bank your points throughout the year and they will automatically be redeemed on 15 December.

Woolies

SHOULD YOU CASH OUT FOR MONEY FOR GROCERIES OR SAVE FOR QANTAS POINTS?

Enjoy automatic savings

Unless you change your redemption settings to one of the below, you’ll automatically get $10 off a future shop each time your balance hits 2000 points. To redeem your saving, simply spend $10 or more on eligible purchases^ in store or online at a Woolworths supermarket or BWS store and scan your card. You cannot redeem your $10 saving in fuel outlets.

 

And from 31 August 2016:

 

Bank your savings for Christmas

You have the option to hold all your $10 savings for your Christmas shop. Your savings will be automatically triggered (i.e. become available for your use) on 15 December 2016.

 

Or convert your savings to Qantas Points

On 15 December 2016, each $10 Woolworths Dollar saving you’ve earned will be converted into 870 Qantas Points and transferred to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account.* For example, if you accumulate $50 Woolworths Dollars, you’ll get 4,350 Qantas Points.

 

You can update your redemption preference from 31 August 2016. To select your redemption preference, simply log in to your account at woolworthsrewards.com.au, select ‘My Account’ followed by ‘Redemption Settings’ and follow the prompts. Alternatively, click here to contact us.

I am not overly thrilled with the 15th December being the only option.  We don’t make a big fuss over Christmas and I would rather have the extra shopping the week after we get back from a big trip and then I could apply the week’s grocery budget to our trip.

In the past, I did accumulate quite a few Qantas points from shopping at Woolies but I am becoming less interested in collecting Qantas points due to the excessive fuel surcharges.  So what I would like is to be able to save the points and redeem them in bulk for a week’s free shopping at a time of my choosing.  What I haven’t figured out yet is if you can change your mind after you opt in for “Save for Christmas” and then have your stash of points redeemed when you opt out.

WHICH IS BETTER, WOOLWORTHS REWARDS OR COLES FLYBUYS?

For shopping discounts, both of them value 2000 points at $10.  If this is your goal, then choose your grocery store for price and convenience, not the loyalty program.  Flybuys actually has an edge because you can choose to redeem them whenever you want and Woolies only has the automatic redemption or “Save for Christmas”.

If you want airline miles you need to know if Qantas (and OneWorld alliance) or Etihad (which can be redeemed on Virgin Australia and other partners) will get you where you want to go for less miles and less fuel surcharge.  There’s no easy way to distinguish them as each destination is different.  For example if you are headed to South America, Qantas & partner Latam have better options, for Africa, I would go with Etihad via Abu Dhabi.  Set your travel goal first and choose your loyalty programs accordingly!

PROMOTIONS ARE THE REAL KEY

If you are depending on just the $1 spent = 1 point earned, you will take forever to accumulate enough points for anything worthwhile.  The real value is in working the promos.  These sometimes get emailed to you, Coles sends out quarterly vouchers and both sometimes print bonus points offers on your shopping docket.  These usually involve you having to make a target such as “Spend $80 and get 1000 bonus points”.  If you can be flexible and rotate between both stores to take advantage of these bonuses you will get a LOT more points!  Ironically, these “loyalty programs” actually reward you better for being disloyal.  If you spend a couple months shopping at Coles, Woolies will try to lure you back with attractive offers and vice versa.  Also, when you are meeting a target, it’s best to just barely meet the target otherwise they raise the bar next time.  If you spend $80.45 on the example to get your 1000 point bonus, stop the register and pay for any remaining groceries separately without scanning the card, otherwise you will find your next target increased to $100.  You can get your spouse or partner to use their card too and rotate between you to keep your targets down.

I know this is a lot to take in and it probably sounds complicated and not worth it but if you play the game well, you do get some pretty good rewards!

 

Many-banded Araçari (Pteroglossus pluricinctus)

The Many-banded Araçari (Pteroglossus pluricinctus), is a species of bird in the Ramphastidae family.  It’s quite a dramatic and spectacular bird and fun to watch as they play in the trees.

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They have quite a large range in in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. I saw these guys at the Canopy Tower at Napo Wildlife Center.

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LEARN MORE ABOUT MANY-BANDED ARACARIS

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Neotropical Birds

VIDEOS

I am shocked that there are no videos on YouTube of this stunning bird!  I can’t embed them but you can find some videos on HBW and IBC.

 

 

Napo Wildlife Center’s Canopy Tower

Along with the parrot clay licks, a visit to the canopy tower will be a highlight of your trip to Napo Wildlife Center.  Our visit which was pretty typical involved the usual 5am wake up call (I set my alarm for 4am otherwise I couldn’t eat breakfast so early), a breakfast buffet, then off in the paddleboat across the lake.  From there it’s about half a kilometer to the canopy tower through thick rainforest habitat.  It’s really exciting to get our first glimpse of the tower!

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It’s a long slog up the stairs to the top.DSCN1790 DSCN1796

The view is awesome!  We were lucky our guide had a scope as many of the birds were at quite a distance.  I struggled to find them with my own camera even after the guide had them in the scope.DSCN1733 DSCN1714

Let’s start with some mammals, here’s a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth who was there for our whole visit.DSCN1726 DSCN1721a DSCN1756a DSCN1858a

Howler MonkeysIMG_3928a DSCN1735a

Plumbeous PigeonDSCN1718a

Slate-coloured HawkDSCN1731a

White-thoated ToucanDSCN1737a DSCN1739a IMG_3942a

Many-banded AracariIMG_4085a DSCN1748a DSCN1752a DSCN1833a DSCN1835a DSCN1837a

Russet-backed OropendulaDSCN1803a

Crimson-crested WoodpeckerDSCN1767a IMG_3975a

Those tiny specs are Cobalt-winged Parakeets.  I told them to come to the clay lick tomorrow and bring all their friends!IMG_3967

Scarlet MacawsIMG_3995a IMG_4000a

White HawkIMG_4055a IMG_3945 IMG_3943a DSCN1820

Orange-winged Amazon ParrotsIMG_3947a

Look closely, what could that tiny blue speck be?

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Maybe a Plum-throated Cotinga?

 

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Or a Spangled Cotinga?DSCN1802

I called this the “Cotinga Tree” because we had both Spangled Cotingas and Plum-throated Cotingas showing up there.IMG_4025a IMG_3992a IMG_4070a IMG_4066a IMG_4064a IMG_4060a DSCN1809a DSCN1804a DSCN1843 DSCN1843a

This White Hawk was pretty far away and a good spot by our guide.DSCN1846a

This Squirrel Cuckoo was pretty close.IMG_4088a

And this shows why you need a really good guide with a really good scope.  Do you see anything in this unedited photo?IMG_4033

What if I zoom in and crop out the cute little Black-headed Parrot (Caique)?IMG_4033a IMG_4040a IMG_4050a DSCN1840 DSCN1840a DSCN1868

I practically had to be dragged off the tower kicking and screaming as the birding was so awesome!  Back down on the ground, we had a leisurely walk back to the paddleboat.DSCN1877

Tiny frogDSCN1878

Cool looking tree, forgot what it’s called.IMG_4094

Poor tired husband!IMG_4104

This little Wire-tailed Manakin led me on a merry chase as he wouldn’t stand still for a photo!IMG_4101a DSCN1875 DSCN1876a

Hah, gotcha!  And with that, we went back to the lodge for lunch!

COMPLETE BIRD CHECKLIST

White-eyed Parakeet (Psittacara leucophthalma)

The White-eyed Parakeet or White-eyed Conure (Psittacara leucophthalma) is a small green Neotropical parrot native to South America.

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They have a huge range all over South America but you would be most likely to see them at any of the Amazon jungle lodges.  I personally saw them in the Amazonia National Park in Brazil and the clay lick at Napo Wildlife Center.

we prkt

LEARN MORE ABOUT WHITE-EYED PARAKEETS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Neotropical Birds

VIDEOS

A handsome bird getting ready for a date maybe?

And another one who “got lucky”!  Shhhhh…….bird porn!

 

Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin)

The Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), also known as the stinkbird, or Canje pheasant, is a species of tropical bird found in swamps, riparian forests, and mangroves of the Amazon and the Orinoco Delta in South America. It is notable for having chicks that possess claws on two of their wing digits.

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Hoatzin have a huge range over most of tropical South America.  You are most likely to see them when you visit jungle lodges in the Amazon such as Napo Wildlife Center, Tambopata Research Center, Manu Peru, Cristalino, etc.  I only saw them well in Ecuador at Napo.  They are really cool looking birds even if the locals do think they stink!

Hoatzin

LEARN MORE ABOUT HOATZIN

Wikipedia

Birdlife

Audubon

Neotropical Birds

Discover Wildlife

VIDEOS

Watch this youngster using the claws on his wings!

And a couple adults.

 

Lodge Review: Napo Wildlife Center, Ecuador

When you are visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon area including Yasuni National Park via Coca you will be in a very remote area so choosing the right eco-lodge is very important.  After I researched all the options, I decided on Napo Wildlife Center because of the birding opportunities and the fact that they own the land the parrot clay licks are located on.  I also like that the lodge is run by the local Anangu tribe so all the profits go back into the community.

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After the long journey down the river, it’s very exciting to get your first glimpse of the lodge, it’s spectacular!DSCN1673

We were greeted with a cool towel & glass of juice by the friendly bartender.DSCN2083 DSCN1674

Then we walked upstairs to the main lodge and were given an orientation to the property.

Pro Tip:  Buy the booklet “Birds & Common Mammals of Napo Wildlife Center” right away.  I would even ask the guide on the boat to set one aside for you.  They tend to sell out.  I didn’t realize this so I didn’t put up a fight when one man from our boat grabbed the booklet shown as an example and I almost didn’t get one but luckily a new supply came a few days later.  It’s an excellent little book for $20 with pics of all the birds to help you identify all the photos you will take.DSCN1675 DSCN1676

Delicious welcome drinks and snacks!DSCN1677 DSCN1678

Our cabin was fairly close to the main lodge.DSCN1680

It’s a gorgeous little cabin with beautiful furnishings!DSCN1679 DSCN1681 DSCN1682 DSCN1683 DSCN1686 DSCN1687 DSCN1691

We had a nice deck overlooking the garden down to the river.DSCN1689 DSCN1690 DSCN1705

As dusk approaches, they light up the buildings.DSCN1692

They have a small gift shop at the lodge and more handicrafts are available at the village which you visit on clay lick day.DSCN1693 DSCN1694 DSCN1695

Library with bird guide books.DSCN1700

The first day we saw a film about NWC and the local community.DSCN1699

Stairs leading to the observation tower.DSCN1696

All meals are served buffet style with a couple main choices, veggies, rice and a dessert.DSCN1701 DSCN1702 DSCN1703 DSCN1704

Blue lights at night.DSCN1697 DSCN1698

Map of the whole property.DSCN1896 DSCN1897

The views from the top of the lodge’s canopy tower.  They even have an elevator so you don’t have to walk up the stairs!DSCN1898 DSCN1899 DSCN1900

We booked a 4 day/3 night package minus the flights as I used Avianca Lifemiles to get to Coca and the bus when we left.  This ends up being only 2 full days in the lodge as both the first day and last day are taken up by traveling down the river.  It’s still not cheap and came to just over $600 a night for the 2 of us but it did include everything except drinks, tips, internet, laundry & shopping.  Credit cards are accepted for everything except the tips.

Since we were traveling independently but unable to afford a private guide, we were put with several others and assigned a naturalist guide-Lena, local guide-Vladimir and a canoe paddler.  We were the only dedicated birders in our group so this did result in a few compromises as the guides attempted to keep birders and non-birders happy.  For example on the clay lick day it was raining lightly which usually keeps the parakeets away but I wanted to try anyways since we wouldn’t get another chance whereas the others wanted to spend more time on cultural activities so Lena took the others and had Vladimir take me and my husband to the 2nd clay lick.  The guides are all superb and highly skilled at spotting and identifying birds and other wildlife.

We aren’t big drinkers, so we didn’t use the bar at all.  Drinking water is provided in a few places and they give you refillable bottles to carry with you on the excursions.

They supply boots and rain ponchos if weather requires them.  We both have huge feet so struggled to find boots that fit.  I finally gave up and used my own boots.  I didn’t care if they got muddy and/or ruined as I planned to chuck them out anyways after the trip.

Be prepared for very early wake up calls.  This is nothing new for birders but came as a bit of a shock to a few non-birders!  Breakfast is served before you head out, around 5am so I was setting my alarm for 4am just so my stomach would have woken up enough to tolerate food!

The food was pretty good and they did accommodate my request for non-spicy food in at least one of the choices.  The fruit juices were really good!

Since we are on a tight budget, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience but was well worth it for the many birds we got to see!

Trip Advisor Reviews

Napo Wildlife Center – Getting There Is Half The Fun

Visiting the eco-lodges in the Ecuadorian Amazon & Yasuni National Park involves a journey of several hours down the Napo River.  You begin at Coca and the first part is on a wide section of the river so you don’t see any wildlife but it’s still an interesting trip.  The guides give a safety briefing and point out the sights along the way.  Our bilingual naturalist guide was Lena and she did a fantastic job of spotting wildlife.

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We encountered a storm about an hour into the trip and plastic covers were lowered to protect us from the rain.DSCN1620

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Everyone gets a small pouch with a few snacks inside.DSCN1617 DSCN1618 DSCN1624 DSCN1625 DSCN1626 IMG_3843

This is the transit area where you change from the motorized boats to the smaller paddleboats.  There are restrooms and you can stretch you legs.  From here, it’s about 90 minutes-ish to Napo Wildlife Center depending on how many stops along the way to see wildlife.DSCN1627 DSCN1628 DSCN1629 DSCN1631 DSCN1632

PaddleboatsDSCN1633 DSCN1634 DSCN1635

We saw lots of spider monkeys along the way.DSCN1639 DSCN1645 IMG_3850a IMG_3863

Lots of birds too!  My bird checklist on eBird.IMG_3887a IMG_3895a IMG_3899a IMG_3902

Here you can see the “black water” of the Anangu Creek.DSCN1651

Caiman lying in wait!DSCN1648

I was really excited to see Hoatzins!  These cool-looking birds are called “stinky chickens” by the locals which doesn’t do justice to these awesome birds.DSCN1655 DSCN1654 DSCN1656 DSCN1666 IMG_3891a

Double-toothed KiteDSCN1669 IMG_3901

A lizard, well-spotted by our guide.DSCN1662

Even though the journey was interesting, we were happy to see Napo Wildlife Center come into view, the seats in the paddleboats aren’t the most comfortable.DSCN1667 DSCN1668

Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilatus)

The Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilatus), also known as Guacamaya Manilata, is a medium-sized, mostly green South American parrot, a member of a group of large Neotropical parrots known as macaws. It is the largest of what are commonly called “mini-macaws”. The belly has a large maroon patch which gives the species its name.

Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata)

Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata)

And since I couldn’t get a perched shot here’s one from Wikipedia.

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They have quite a large range in in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela. I saw a pair flying overhead at Nariva Swamp while driving but by the time I pulled over, they were gone.  I’ve seen them in several places such as Cristalino and near Napo Wildlife Center.

redbelliedmacaw

LEARN MORE ABOUT RED-BELLIED MACAWS

Wikipedia

World Parrot Trust

Birdlife

Neotropical Birds

VIDEOS

Preening to look their best!