The thought of waking up before dawn on any morning is never very appealing, however, if you get the opportunity to wake up with the jungle, listen to the new activity, the birds the insects the monkeys, the myriad of sounds that echo all around you in the jungle, grab it.
During my 6 months interning for the Crees Foundation in The Manu Biosphere, Peru I was lucky enough to have this opportunity on a regular basis. I was involved in research being carried out to monitor the numbers of bird species feeding on the clay lick near to the camp. Although this research began as a monitoring program for Blue-headed Macaws (Primolius coloni) which are classed as vulnerable on the IUCN Redlist, it has been extended to include all Macaws, Parrots and Parakeets. These birds are an excellent flagship species due to their large size, their charismatic nature and vivd colouration.
The birds rely on the clay lick as a vital part of their diet (eating the salt on the lick reduces acidity, neutralizing the toxins that build up from eating acidic rotting fruit,). As well as this feeding at the lick a big plays an important role in the birds’ social interactions.
This survey is referred to as Colpa and it allowed me to wake up with the jungle.
Doing Colpa required several hours of intense concentration. First, you must only record birds flying over the hide towards the lick, no getting carried away watching anything else. Then you must identify the species by knowing the 33 different calls they make and their flight patterns. Third you count the numbers of each species feeding on the lick and length of time they feed. Finally, you note the number of tourists – specifically the sounds from the boat as they arrive and then when they leave as the birds are very sensitive to disturbance especially from the engine of boats.
The meditative nature of this work only served to intensify the experience for me. The colours around you at sunrise are incredible, the change so fast from pitch black at 4am to the most magical sky minutes later. And when the sun rose fully the clay lick became a mass of flaming oranges and reds. The sun warms your back as it gets higher, and then, suddenly, the birds start calling and you know this is the start an amazing experience as the of birds call to each other, search for food or perching near the lick socialising loudly with each other. The clarity of the early morning light enhances the colours of the birds as they fly above you saturating the scene with warm #nofilterneeded.
The experience of finishing a Colpa survey, is for me very similar completing my yoga practise, a calm peacefulness that is the best start to any day.