Large Parrot Clay Lick – Napo Wildlife Center

For the parrot lover, this is the biggest draw to the Ecuadorian Amazon.  Some people call it the big parrot clay lick, on eBird it’s called Parrot Lick #1.  It’s the larger one you see from the river while seated in a boat.  You do get pretty close but to land would be too close and scare the birds away.  This is a must for anyone staying at Napo Wildlife Center and will be a highlight of your trip!

This isn’t where you get huge life lists.  There are 5 parrot species that visit the clay lick here (though you may get flyovers of other species) – Dusky-billed Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Mealy Parrot & White-eyed Parakeet.  In the pictorial below, it should be pretty easy to pick them out so I am just going to post the photos in consecutive order to show the waves of parrots that flew in and out over around 40 minutes.  It was a great day as they would land, eat clay, fly off and then perch in trees waiting to come back.  Or the second waves could have been different birds.  Still it was awesome!

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Wire-tailed Manakin (Pipra filicauda)

The Wire-tailed Manakin (Pipra filicauda) is a species of bird in the Pipridae family.  They can put on quite a dance show to attract a mate!

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They are found upriver in the western Amazon Basin and the neighboring countries of northern Peru, eastern Ecuador and Colombia, and southern and western portions of Venezuela.  We saw this little guy while walking back to the boat from the Canopy Tower at Napo Wildlife Center.

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A fairly quiet Manakin.

And this one is showing off his best moves!

 

Plum-throated Cotinga (Cotinga maynana)

The Plum-throated Cotinga (Cotinga maynana) is a species of bird in the family Cotingidae.  They are stunning birds and stand out in contrast to the green trees you normally see them in.

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They have a very large range throughout Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.  We got lucky in the Canopy Tower of Napo Wildlife Center.

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Appreciate the brilliant turquoise beauty of these birds!

 

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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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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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.

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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

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Watch this youngster using the claws on his wings!

And a couple adults.