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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Back to Nauta Creek

November 28th, 2013 · No Comments

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After seeing a variety of kingfishers during an early morning outing on Nauta Creek, we went back right after breakfast to see more birds of the Amazon. Normally, that would not have been a good idea. Normally, the best times to see and photograph birds is by first and last light. But the Amazon isn’t a normal place, and Nauta Creek showed us a great wealth of birdlife close to the skiff.

This shot of a sungrebe is the one that I return to look at again and again, but not for the usual reasons. This is a shy and uncommon bird that superficially looks like a grebe, but is more closely related to the rails. Sometimes known as the American finfoot, it is the only member of the genus Heliornis in the Heliornithidae family. That family has only two other species, the African finfoot and the masked finfoot of Asia. Male sun grebes, like the one in my photo, have an unusual feature that is unique among birds. They carry their chicks within skin pouches on the underside of the wings.

But what none of my reference books mentions is how different the feathers of this sungrebe appear from those of other birds. They remind me of the broad brushstrokes of Impressionist painters like Claude Monet.

A Strange, Shy Sungrebe Swims in Nauta Creek

A Strange, Shy Sungrebe Swims in Nauta Creek

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Like the sungrebe above, which isn’t a grebe, the red-capped cardinal below isn’t a cardinal. At least, it’s not closely related to our American cardinals, which are mostly red. Red-capped cardinals are members of the family Thraupidae of tanagers, unlike the cardinals proper which are in the Cardinalidae family. Of course, since red is my favorite color of birds (and of cars and shirts, etc.), I do appreciate the bold red of this bird’s head.

Red-capped Cardinals Live in Wet Areas of South America

Red-capped Cardinals Live in Wet Areas of South America

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While the red-capped cardinal above has an obviously red head, the yellow-headed caracara below isn’t so obviously yellow. But its hooked beak makes it obviously a bird of prey. Caracaras are closely related to falcons and kestrels.

A Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima) Isn’t as Gentle As its Names Suggests

A Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima) Isn’t as Gentle As its Names Suggests

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An hour later I saw another bird of prey. And this one too takes its name from a color that isn’t obvious to me. Its name is a black-collared hawk.

Frequently Found Near Water, the Black-collared Hawk Lives Throughout South and Central America

Frequently Found Near Water, the Black-collared Hawk Lives Throughout South and Central America

Click on the picture above to enlarge

While the two raptors just above obviously aren’t gentle birds, the pretty little bird below isn’t gentle either. It is a lesser kiskadee, one of the aptly named tyrant flycatchers.

Lesser Kiskadees, Like This One on Nauta Creek, Live from Panama to Bolivia Always Along Waterways

Lesser Kiskadees, Like This One on Nauta Creek, Live from Panama to Bolivia Always Along Waterways

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These seemingly gentle birds deserve to be called tyrants. They can drive away much larger birds that venture too close to their nests. Birds are not always what they seem to be, just like us.

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Posted in: Amazon, Peru

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