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As per usual when I write about Ecuador I will begin by apologizing for poor image quality.  Poor light, lots of vegetation in the way, blah, blah, blah.  Hopefully the amazing creatures  will make up for pictures that are a little (or a lot) blurry.

Spix's Guan
Spix's Guan

One of my favorite places to go at Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador is the canopy tower.  The tower is a prefabricated metal stair that rises over 100 feet alongside of a Ceiba pentandra tree to a platform built in the crown of the tree.  An extension of the stair takes you another few feet higher to a small lookout.

A few notes about the tower before we get going.  Ceiba's are the largest trees in the forest and subject of considerable local mythology.  They are enormous and physically extremely imposing even when you can't see the top.  Full size trees are part of the emergent layer, the very largest trees that grow out of and above the main forest canopy.  From the platform you can thus look out over the top of the forest.

view from Tower, Tiputini Biodiversity Station
View from the Tower
Unlike the stair, the platform was built in place.  Station employees built the platform, over hundred feet in the air.  Our guide participated in the construction and said he hopes never to do anything like that again.

Despite the physical remoteness of the area from any population center you can get a cell phone signal at the top of the tower (but nowhere else).  As it is only a fifteen minute hike through the forest from the station it is not unusual to climb the tower and find one of the cooks or a guide texting during their time off.

Structures like the tower allow us to get a look into the world of the creatures that live in the canopy.  Many of the creatures that occur up here are largely mysteries, spending their entire lives several stories above the forest floor.

This little fly looks like a 'fruit fly' in the genus Drosophila.  It may well be as dozen of species in that group are known from this forest.  I have seen them several times up on the tower.

rainforest fly
Another, better known canopy insect is the gliding ant, Cephalotes.  These ants have colonies high in trees.  If individuals fall off the tree they can glide back to the trunk and climb back up from only a few feet down.
gliding ant
Also living in the trees are lizards
small rainforest canopy lizard
I have no idea what this lizard is - probably some kind of anole.  Note the very long legs - this is typical of tree-living lizards.

But this is a bird series. The tower is is an excellent place to spot birds.  Unfortunately some are really really far away like this King Vulture.

King Vulture
Others are a bit nearer to hand like this Ivory-billed Aracari which popped in to feed on some fruit and posed nicely for us (although the spot it picked was a bit dim).
Ivory Billed Aracari
Fruit is key to finding wildlife in the forest.  Unlike the temperate zone, where fruiting is concentrated in the summer, in the tropics different species of plant have fruit at different times of the year.  So when a tree starts fruiting it will draw in birds, mammals, and other critters.

A few days after we saw the Aracari I went back to the tower.  Some sort of parasitic plant (a mistletoe like thing) the size of a small tree was growing in the crown of the Ceiba and had lots of bright red fruit.  A fact that had not gone unnoticed by the local tanager population.

tanager in rainforest canopy
tanager in rainforest canopy
Above two pictures are an Opal-rumped Tanager.  The rufous underparts are not visible in this picture but I remember noticing them at the time.  Never saw the opal rump.
tanager in rainforest canopy
Green Honeycreeper
tanager in rainforest canopy
Actually not a tanager but a female lemon-throated barbet
tanager in rainforest canopy
tanager in rainforest canopy
Thick-billed Euphonia

It wasn't just fruit eaters hanging out by the tower that day.  This picture gives you a feel for what the epiphyte-festooned branches of the Ceiba are like and also has a hidden bird butt.

branch in rainforest canopy
And here's the woodpecker butt in all its glory, belonging to a Chestnut Woodpecker.
And here's a few more non-bird pictures - of tree dwellers and in some cases fruit eaters.
Spider monkey eating palm fruit
A spider monkey that was eating palm fruit and uncharacteristically stayed in one place for a prolonged period.  Also unusually close to the ground.
squirrel monkey
Squirrel monkey - these guys are always low down and never up in the canopy.
Plica plica - tropical lizard
The highly arboreal Plica plica lizard, living on the trunks of huge trees.

Upcoming Dawn Chorus Schedule

I will be completely absent from the DK world next week and only present briefly if at all the following two weeks.  We currently have a nicely full schedule with only one vacant week in the next 3.5 months.

August 5 - Kestrel
August 12 - Kestrel
August 19 - SallyCat
August 26 - Tyto Alba
September 2 - Angela Jean
September 9 - SallyCat
September 16 - cardinal
September 23 - Kestrel
September 30 - matching mole (unless someone else wants it)
October 7 - Kestrel
Oct. 14
Oct. 21 - SallyCat
Oct. 28 - Kestrel
Nov. 4 - Polly Syllabic
Nov 11 - tygypsy (possibly the next week as well or instead)

Originally posted to Birds and Birdwatching on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town.

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