Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Parrot Clay Lick and Home Visit

Days begin early here. We were on the boat and moving by 6:30. The birds of course are already busy. A small flock of Sand-collard Nighthawks flew by on their way to their roost. These birds are strictly nocturnal. Then a Tiger Heron flew by and landed at the dock as we were leaving, followed shortly by a Black-capped Donacobius flitting about along the edge of the lake. The Donacobius is a large member of the wren family.
Find the parrots
Blue-headed parrots are a bit easier to find
Our first stop for the day was the parrot clay lick. Parrots flock to this cliff along the shore of the Napo River to eat the clay that helps them eliminate the toxins they take in from the seeds they eat. They flit around in the trees near the lick until they feel safe before flocking to the lick. We had to wait about 30 minutes for them to feel safe enough. Raptors will also come here knowing they will have some easy pickings. Our guide said he has seen parrots actually land on snakes thinking it is just another branch. That, of course, is not a good choice for the poor parrot as it makes a nice meal for the snake. At one point a Greater Ani (a bird like a large blackbird or grackle) flew by and they scattered, save one who seemed oblivious to the commotion around him.

After a 30-minute boat ride we stopped to visit the Silverio family living in a Kichwa community along the river. The communities are one house wide and a two-hour walk long. Everyone needs to live along the river. Near the center will be the community center and the school. Since children have to walk to school and itinerant teachers may have a 14 days on, 18 days off schedule, schooling is a real problem for these families, particularly those at the far end of the trail. Communities elect leadership and develop rules for being a member. Men who choose not to sign the membership agreement will only be able to live with someone who is a member as membership is the only way to get the land needed for survival. Women cannot get land on their own.
The clay lick from a distance
The guides shared the family’s life-style with us including a tour of their farm.  They grow a variety of food for their own consumption and raise coffee and a few other things for sale in Coca so they can purchase the things they need. The farming is intercropped so the plants can provide nutrients for each other. They also fish the Napo for some of its variety. Their home is a series of buildings. We gathered in the kitchen dining room to learn about its construction and use. The thatch roof is made from a variety of different and the smoke from the cooking fire helps to waterproof the thatch. I had never looked that closely at thatch before. I will pay more attention in the future. 
Berta showing off her crafts for sale. We did buy a few.
The family shared a couple of different drinks with us – one a manioc drink that is fermented. We also sampled the food including some excellent smoked catfish, banana, plantain, hearts of palm, and a white cocoa nut for dessert. After the ‘meal’ we adjourned to the outside where we all got to try using a blow gun. The one we shared is about ten feet long. I was amazed at how easy it was to aim and ‘fire’. Most of us were able to hit the target after only one or two tries. Linda hit it with her first. It did not take a huge blow of air to fire it either.
Linda celebrates her excellent aim.
Andres helps one of our traveling companions.
After an hour or so, we walked back along the river trail and our camp boardwalk until we reached the canoes for our ride back up the stream and across the lake to camp. Along the way, we saw several spiders and other bugs and a couple of birds high in the canopy. Overall 22 different birds this morning. 

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