Atun Poza community and the Pacaya River
As informed by our Naturalist guides, this part of the Amazon rainforest has suffered a drought for about 10 days. However, after the plentiful rain yesterday, clouds and mist hung low over the tree tops, and temperatures were cooler than we've had so far – very comfortable!
The early morning birders saw more than they thought possible, with sightings of Monk sakis, a species of very furry monkey with long, thick tails. They were still asleep when we spotted them, but deigned to raise their heads to get a good look at us. Two morphotypes of the Southern Amazonian red squirrel were a surprise as well: red and black! On our return to the ship for breakfast, when we stopped by to view the Monk sakis again, a troop of squirrel monkeys started moving in a fruiting tree near shore!
On our way over to the community of Atun Poza later in the morning, we stopped by interesting-looking structures floating in the water, tied up near shore. They turned out to be large pens used for the collection of armored catfish. Large balsawood logs were tied up around the edges to keep the pens afloat. Inside, the catfish were kept alive (and therefore fresh), for transportation downriver to either the closest town of Requena, or perhaps even all the way to Iquitos, which would require a week-long trip, with probably the whole family along for the ride.
Once on shore, we were greeted by many children and were invited into private family compounds by the local people to see and hear about their way of life. Chicks roamed between our feet, we were allowed to try our hands at husking rice grains, photographed catfish on the grill, learned about manioc (“yuca” not “yucca”) and various types of green bananas on the stem. An additional walk to a huge ceiba tree (Ceiba pentandra) was delightful, following a level path. Muddy in places, we saw beautiful butterflies, miniscule grasshoppers, massive fig trees both strangler and other, white-tailed and black-headed trogons, and heard the horned screamers and saddle-backed tamarins, though as hard as we tried we couldn't catch a glimpse. Before returning to the Delfin II we stopped by the one-roomed schoolhouse. Class was not in session because the government-placed teacher was in Iquitos, but that didn't stop the children of school-age from inviting us inside to meet them.
The afternoon saw us on our way up the second-largest drainage river in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve...the Pacaya River itself. A relatively narrow entrance, the river goes a very long way into the heart of the reserve. We followed it for the next couple hours, finding red-mantled howler monkeys, Monk saki monkeys, squirrel monkeys and brown capuchin monkeys – it was quite amazing! Apart from those delights, we saw sloths, horned screamers booming, parrots and all our friends from this past week like the black-collared hawk, Cocoi herons, great herons and yellow-rumped caciques.
In Yanayacu lagoon the intrepid swam in water made black from the tannins of all the vegetative material dropped daily by the tropical rainforest. Pink dolphins came to investigate the commotion, but kept their distance, as best we could determine, to around 5 meters minimum. Of course bubbles appeared closer, but if they were made by dolphins, we could never confirm it.
As the sun got ready to set, it left a pink glow matched only by the pink skin of the Amazonian River dolphins as they surfaced to breathe nearby. Returning at night along the Pacaya River, lightning bugs lit up in flashes throughout the forest top to bottom, twinkling points of light that matched the stars appearing from behind the clouds.