Amazon Adventure: Guyana

Amazon Adventure: Guyana – Day 3

1 March 2014

Nappi, Guyana

I woke up at 5:30am. I can never sleep late in the field. I am too excited for the day. It is also the best time of the day in the rainforest is the morning. It’s not too hot or humid yet. And the day is fresh.

Plus, I get some time to myself before the students wake up.

This morning I took the opportunity to bathe in Nappi Creek –  a tributary of the mighty Amazon. There is nothing more refreshing than a rainforest stream early in the morning.

The Nappi is beautiful.  It has everything I love in a rainforest creek: slow moving reaches, deep pools, cascades, and areas that are perfect for lounging.

I got the students up at 6am. We eat breakfast and then start our 2.5 hour walk to (hopefully) see a Harpy Eagle on its nest. We hiked over rocks and through rivers, over rickety monkey bridges, and through open, sunny patches.

But it is worth it. The Harpy Eagle is one of the largest bird of prey in the neotropics: a body length of 3-3.5 ft. long and a wingspan of up to 6.5 ft., thick powerful legs and 3-4 in. long talons (about the size of a grizzly bear paw). Harpy Eagles use their powerful legs and long talons to hunt sloths and monkeys, that can be as large as 20 lbs! To me the Harpy Eagle is the most beautiful bird of prey in the neotropics or anywhere else. The crest of feathers on its head and its a facial disk gives it such a regal look.

 

This bird is naturally rare, as are all top predators, but has become even more rare because it is threatened with extinction from deforestation and hunting. So, it is VERY rare  to see a Harpy Eagle in the wild. I tell my students that we have two phases in life: pre-Harpy and post-Harpy. I didn’t enter my post-Harpy phase until 2012, in Guyana, in my 14th year of traveling to the Amazon. The previous class that I brought to Guyana went home post-Harpy.

Unfortunately, this class is still in the pre-Harpy phase of their lives. The nest appeared to be still active but neither of the birds were there. This was the nest of my first Harpy Eagle, but no luck this time.

Harpy Nest

Harpy Nest

Even though we didn’t see a Harpy Eagle, it was a great hike. How could a hike through the Amazon rainforest not be? We saw some amazing animals – highlights included: jaguar sign (scratches in the dirt), a tayra (terrestrial and arboreal mammal related to the weasel), wedged-capped capuchin monkeys, a Gray-Lined Hawk, Blue-Headed & Red-Fan Parrots, Greater Yellow-Headed & King Vultures, Scarlet Macaws, Gray-Winged Trumpeter, White-Fronted Toucan, and army and bullet ants.

The hike was tough and everyone did so well. On the way back, we had lunch on a small bridge over a stream. The food tasted so good!

When we returned to Camp George, we went for a swim in the “Aquarium” – a deep, cool swimming hole at the base of a cascade on  Nappi Creek. Talk about refreshing!

After dinner, during which we went over our (long) species list, we went to bed to get ready for our next adventure.

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