Its hot and humid on the eastern slope of the Andean foothills. Tarapoto is about 400m asl nestling against the Sierra Escalera, the last ridge before the Amazon basin begins. To acclimatise to the conditions the first couple of days have consisted of fairly easy treks up the Río Shilcayo in search of silvaniform Heliconious butterflies. We are staying at El Mirador this year (see my site guide here) where we have breakfast on the roof terrace to the sights and sounds of Yellow-rumped Cacique, Great Kiskadee, Black-billed Thrush, Turkey Vulture, Palm Tanager, American Black Vulture, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Short-tailed Swift, Silver-beaked Tanager and House Wren. The river itself has two species filling the niche of the wagtails in the form of Black Phoebe and Buff-rumped Warbler. I’ve seen Sunbittern on this stretch of the Shilcayo before but no luck so far. The highlight today was at least 20 Swallow-tailed Kites gleaning insects from the canopy of the rainforest. Many trees are flowering at the moment and attracting large numbers of hummingbirds. In the understory a Long-tailed Hermit (another hummer) was observed nectaring and a couple of Black-throated Antbird territories were found. An unusual-looking social black cuckoo, the Smooth-billed Ani is common in the open, secondary growth areas and a roost of over 30 birds was forming on the edge of Tarapoto yesterday evening. A few small groups of Mealy Parrots were also observed flying to roost in the late afternoon today.
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