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Day 5: Parrot Clay Licks and the Will O’ Wisp Insect!

Today, we woke up super early to see the parrots and parakeets at the clay licks! Parrots and other birds in the psittaciforme family digest fruit and their seed as a part of their diet. Most of the seeds are very acidic for the birds and make them sick after a certain period of time. To prevent the parrots from getting sick, they would go to clay licks to eat clay. Clay from the ultisol soil would serve as a kaopectate. This would help settle their stomach and they will be able to continue on with their diet of eating fruit.
When we arrived at the clay lick near Yasuni National Park, two other boats of people were watching. I was very excited to see all of the parrots and parakeets!! They were present and incredibly noisy! There were three species; the mealy amazon, blue headed parrot, and the dusky capped parakeet. They usually grouped themselves on the clay lick. Haha, the clay lick was like their Golden Corral of clay licks. Even the local boa wanted in on the action, but she was waiting for one of the birds instead of clay. Also, this was another amazing place to people watch. I was watching all of the lodge boats that were nearby. All of the adults were super excited, taking pictures, and were cheering at a whisper level. One lodge boat had sleeping teenagers that were probably awakened at 4:30am and the parrot calls were their alarm clocks. We had a fantastic time watching all of the parrots! Our next adventure would be observing another parrot clay lick.
The central group was the mealy amazon, the eastern group was the blue headed parrots, and the northwestern group was the dusky headed parakeets.
The second parrot clay lick was located by a Kichwa women’s village. We did not see any parrots at all, but we did hear many macaws in the canopy. They did not feel like eating clay today. Haha! We traveled to this hut where we were shown local customs, dances, and music of their tribe. They even showed us how they set up their home, cooked, and prepared their favorite meals. The lecture of culture really was insightful and gave me a sense that these people really cared about their tradition and still use most of their techniques they learned from the previous generations.
The Kichwa Women presenting their customs and how they perform their daily activities.
For the third parrot clay lick, we had to walk a distance into the rainforest. This terra firme forest was a little drier than the varzea. We saw many unusual fungus, insects, and birds. One part of the trail was covered with various colorful fungi! There was a peach- pink fungi called the wine cup fungi that was located everywhere. We saw many tiny red-pink mushrooms that were incredibly small and looked very delicate! We even encountered some insects that were killed by a fungi from the inside out! Beyond all of the fungi, we saw a very deadly spider known as the Brazilian Wondering Spider!! This large black spider was just standing there looking at some oxisol soil. I think it was just spacing out and dreaming about eating moths.
Wine cup Fungus        
Brazilian Wondering Spider
More cool fungi!!                                                                                  
We crossed over a small stream and we heard the canopy filled parrots and parakeets!! We quietly moved to the stand where we awaited their arrival. This time we found out this location did not have a clay lick, but had a mineral water drinking area. There were three species that were jumping around in the canopy. There were cobalt winged parakeets, orange cheeked parrots, and the elusive/ rare tui parakeet! We had to wait for an hour for them to scan the area before they settled down to the ground. These parrots were very smart and scanned the location for any potential threats. Even a black vulture that flew above them scared them away for twenty minutes. Fortunately, they all came down in a cascade of green to the mineral water area. They were flying all over the place! The orange cheeked parrot was the most colorful!! We watched them for a good hour, before we had to head back to the boat.
There were three different kinds of psittaciformes here. The more common ones were the orange cheeked parrot and the cobalt winged parakeet. I heard that this mineral water spring also attracts macaws.
In the late afternoon, our guides took a few of us to a preserve located down the river. Most of the people on the boat were tired from the past couple of days and wanted to relax for the evening. My Dad, a German couple, and myself were very excited on going on this night hike!! We had a long walk into the forest and learned more about local botany. We saw a black agouti near a river bed and heard many antbirds and tinamous in the area. There were some areas that had bullet and army ants, but they were busy doing their thing…which was running somewhere with food in their mouth. We approached this one section of rainforest that was totally clear of vegetation except for one tree. We were told that lemon ants were the cause for this clearing. When we approached the tree, we saw thousands of very, very small white ants. They did taste like lemons!...>_>; our guide offered us a sample.
A colorful dung beetle!!          
Our escort boat for the Manatee!
Bullet ants partying!                                                                 
We finally arrived at the visitor center for the preserve and learned about conservation efforts and goals. They had many wood carvings of the local animals and a nice boardwalk! We saw squirrel monkeys in the trees and they were making crashing noises! If we did not see them, I would assume a large creature was walking through the forest, crashing into everything! Our guide told us a few stories as we waited for the sun to set.
When the darkness approached, we left with the squirrel monkeys into the rainforest. We had to turn on our head lamps and walk back to the boat. Immediately, one of our guides ran into the forest and caught something. He brought this insect that I have seen before! O_O When I was in Costa Rica, I saw this beetle with green florescent orbs on either side of its neck. I tried to identify the insect, but I could not find any literature on it at home. Our guide, Avel, brought the glowing insect to us. This insect had the glowing orbs on either side of its neck. It looked like a cross between a lightning bug (glow worm) and a click bug (where you turn them upside down and they click their body to land on their legs). He was explaining how fascinating this insect was. When it flew away from you, you could see the two green orbs. When it was flying towards you, the abdomen would flash an ember orange color!!!! We were told to turn off our lights and we saw all of these special insects flying around glowing!! They all looked like will o wisps!! Ember orange glow lights were flashing all around us! I was in awe at this site!!
The infamous will o' wisp insect!!        
A large katydid that posed for the camera.                                                       
We traveled further down the trail and saw many tarantulas, butterflies, frogs, toads, and more katydids. The boat was waiting for us and we noticed a thunderstorm in the east that was flashing lightning in the distance. The boat ride under the stars was amazing! I even saw my favorite star constellation of Orion! In the west we noticed a large orange glow. O_O Oh no!!! It looked like a large fire was growing!! Wait a minute…. The orange glow came from the rising moon! The large moon looked very orange and created a glowing effect on the low clouds around itself. We made the trip back to the Manatee and had a late dinner. This was our end for the first part of our trip, and tomorrow we would say good bye to our present group of people that were leaving.
A softball sized frog pretending not to be seen.    
More interesting fungus!!

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