NAPO RIVER BASIN
ABOUT THE BIRDING
The Napo River is a slow-moving river through the lowlands of northeastern Ecuador. A large part of the river basin is protected by the 962,000 hectare Yasuni National Park, Ecuador's largest mainland reserve. Additional areas are protected as private reserves owned by the various ecolodges. Much of Yasuni National Park is extremely remote and reachable only by boat. A variety birds can be seen along the Napo River and its tributaries during the boat transfers to and from the lodges located along the river. Perhaps most common is the Swallow-wing, a puffbird seen in the treetops along the Napo River. On rare occasions Orange-breasted Falcon can also be seen along the river.
The nearest lodges to Coca offer many of the same birding opportunites. Most feature a morning visit to the parrot clay licks. Large numbers of Dusky-headed Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned Amazon, and Mealy Amazon visit the larger lick on the side of an embankment a quarter mile from the Napo River via a trail and boardwalk. The second, smaller lick is at the entrance to a cave and attracts numerous Cobalt-winged Parakeets and smaller numbers of Scarlet-shouldered Parrotlets and Orange-eared Parrots. Sometimes Scarlet Macaws also appear at this lick.
The different lodges offer somewhat different birding opportunities. Most feature observation towers and/or elevated walkways where canopy birds can be observed. Dugout canoe rides along blackwater river channels and hikes through varzea (seasonally flooded) and terra firme forests offer a variety of opportunities for seeing lowland Amazon rainforest specialties. Over 500 species have been recorded in the area, but many are uncommon to rare and locally distributed. Some 160-180 species are actually seen on a typical birding tour to the Napo River basin during a 4-night visit.
Weather conditions in the Amazon basin are unpredictable because the Amazon rainforest creates its own weather systems. Severe rain squalls can appear on short notice at any time of year. Weather is more amenable but not necessarily free of rainfall during the 'dry season' from July to March. Rainfall is heaviest from March-May.
LOCATION OF SITE
The Napo River basin is located on the east slopes of the Andes and the lowlands of northeastern Ecuador. The Napo River eventually flows into Peru and empties into the Amazon River. Several lodges are situated along the Napo River. These are reached by a 45-minute domestic flight from Quito to the oil town of Coca (known locally as Puerto Francisco de Orellana) and then by boat down the Napo River to the various ecolodges. The boat transfers generally take 2½-3 hours from Coca each direction.