Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
Nick Athanas & Scott Olmstead's report covers the details of access and information about the lodge.
I will just say that getting there is not a big deal, it just takes some time both driving and on the river. The river trip down and back is very enjoyable (probably less so in steady rain!) and much different than on the much wider Rio Napo, where most birders have gone to experience the Ecuadorian/western Amazon. The Shiripuno is narrow, probably 50-75 m wide throughout, which keeps you near both river edges, unlike the Napo, usually 800 m wide or more. So while there are no islands and associated birds, you are close to trees at all times, and exciting things (like a perched Black Hawk-Eagle or monkey troops) might be seen at any time.
The lodge is basic, but life by candle light is like a step back in time. The food was as good as almost any lodge I have been to in Ecuador. When I arrived it had not rained for 7 days. It rained regularly for the 3 weeks I was there (at least 30 cm – close to the annual average in my SW US home) and the river rose and fell nearly 3 m between high and low marks. And this was the “dry” season, imagine what the river would be like during the wet!
I had a somewhat reduced rate as I was the first person to assist Fernando Vaca with his ambitious project of mapping the birds along the trails. (Even the standard rate is only about half that of Napo lodges) This required, but also allowed, an extended stay. As a field biologist in the U. S., this was exactly what I wanted. I spent much of the first 10 days alone, then the last 10 days birding/counting/mapping with Fernando and a long-time US friend of his.
The birding was wonderful. My trip total was probably close to the 275 seen/57 heard reported in the above report. Since my Latin American trips have been spaced over a period of years and I lack a “photographic” ear, I have to relearn bird songs each time I return. But it was fun to struggle along by myself for a week, and to have some new things to report to Fernando when he arrived. Like the first Lodge record for the Rufous-headed Woodpecker on a cecropia on the compound edge after a rainy afternoon. Or the Rusty-belted Tapaculo I was able to watch for several minutes one morning.
The trails are plentiful and wonderful. Some days it was difficult to make progress for all the activity, quick and fleeting though most of it was. Of course the lodge grounds were a good place to hang and watch for birds. Almost daily visits by a Spangled Cotinga, and one afternoon an adult Crane Hawk was hunting along the river edge, giving stunning views on several occasions.
Certainly Fernando and his I-pod improved the quality and quantity of birds encountered. I saw about 20 antbirds, including such rarities as the Black Bushbird he found. We had one “run-in” with a flurry of bird activity at an antswarm, something that every birder should experience (but that I did not in 3 days on the Napo).
And even though I went for birds, the other species encountered were also great. Monkeys every day, eight species in all. Four Giant River Otters working up the river one afternoon. Tent-making Bats and a Giant Anteater. Marching wasps, carpenter bees swarming, a moving mass of caterpillars, and a freshwater manta ray found only in the Amazon Basin. A naturalist’s dream working vacation. I can’t wait to go back!