MAAP #74: Landslides in The Peruvian Amazon

Image 74. Base Map. Data: SERNANP
Image 74. Base Map. Data: SERNANP

In addition to the human-caused deforestation emphasized in MAAP, there is also natural Amazonian forest loss. The causes include meandering rivers, wind storms (see MAAP #70), and the subject of this report: landslides.

Amazon landslides may be caused by heavy rains in rugged areas. Many landslides occur in protected areas, which often include steep and unstable areas.

Here, we show satellite images of 3 recent examples of large landslides in protected areas in the Peruvian Amazon. We document the natural forest loss of 685 acres (280 hectares) in these examples, indicating that landslides are an important natural phenomenon in the Amazon.

Example A: Sierra del Divisor National Park
Example B: Cordillera Azul National Park
Example C: Bahuaja Sonene National Park

Uniting Science and Conservation at our New Los Amigos Bird Observatory

Any passionate birdwatcher or avian researcher knows that a forest with a diverse array of habitats is a likely treasure trove of brilliant, rare and charismatic avifauna. The Los Amigos Biological Station and reserve managed by Amazon Conservation in southeast Peru is just such a place. Situated in two floodplains, with terra firme, bamboo and palm swamp habitats, Los Amigos is home to almost 600 bird species, almost a third of the total number of birds registered in Peru!

MAAP #73: United States’ Only National Tropical Rainforest Ravaged by Hurricane Maria (Puerto Rico)

Image 73. Base Map. El Yunque National Forest is located in eastern Puerto Rico.
Image 73. Base Map. El Yunque National Forest is located in eastern Puerto Rico.

MAAP usually focuses on deforestation in the Andean Amazon region, but has a larger interest in tropical forests in general. Thus, we present this analysis in that larger framework.

The New York Times recently reported that Hurricane Maria “obliterated” the United States’ only national tropical rain forest as the powerful Category 4 hurricane (with 150 mph winds) passed over Puerto Rico on September 20.

Here, we present a series of fresh satellite images from October that indeed show the severe impact to nearly all 28,400 acres of El Yunque National Forest (see Base Map). El Yunque is managed by the United States Forest Service and is the only tropical rain forest in the US national forest system.

Throughout the article, click on each image to enlarge.

Photo from ” The Naked Landscape Presentation”, US Forest Service,
Photo from ” The Naked Landscape Presentation”, US Forest Service,

Behind a pair of binoculars there is always a passionate birder!

No doubt Peru is one of the most biologically and culturally rich countries in the world. Its immense biodiversity has made an important destination for many people that find the joy and happiness in nature that can only be found in places where there are few humans and the colors green and blue dominate the landscape. Among these nature lovers, there is a big group particularly attracted by colorful feathers, wings, and flying creatures: birds.

Birds are certainly attractive to human’s eyes, but rare, endemic or endangered birds are those heavily searched for by birdwatchers. These species are the reason why a birder will travel thousands of miles in order to see and appreciate some of these uncommon creatures in the world. Some birders’ aim is to add species to their lists, others encounter satisfaction on appreciating their beauty and surroundings, while others are fascinated by their natural history/ecology, migration patterns, and of course many are a mix of all or some of the descriptions above.

At Los Amigos, birding is a particular delight. Morning walks along terra firme habitat, contiguous to a patch of bamboo, and later on a walk to “Cocha Lobo” (an oxbow lake) will capture the concentration, ear and eyes of any birder. Every day there is a new encounter to behold! From a pair of blue and yellow macaws marking their dominance above the forest canopy, to the mournful whistles of the pavonine quetzal, to the primitive but always distinctive hoatzin! Undulated tinamous and a juvenile tiger heron are a few of the “resident visitors” in the Los Amigos backyard. With almost 600 bird species, there is no doubt that every day will have new discoveries and additions to birding lists.

Francis and Peter, two good friends from California, picked Los Amigos for their most recent birding trip this past August. After several decades of birding around the Neotropics, this was their first time in Amazonian lowlands. They acknowledged the high diversity of birds in the lowlands, but even though they were not aiming for a very long list they enjoyed ~330 species of birds (mostly seen but also a small percent heard). If you are a birder and are planning to visit Los Amigos this is one of Francis’ recommendations: “A word to the wise, however: while any length of visit here would be a delight, try not to be in a hurry. Even after a very enjoyable week here, we felt like we were just ready to begin, especially with the ant-phantoms of the bamboo”!

Francis and Peter, and their incredible local guide, Jose – all of their enthusiastic and friendly characters is dearly remembered here at Los Amigos!

A band of trumpeteers

You’re walking to Cocha Lobo when you suddenly hear a strange sound coming from the forest. It almost sounds like a child playing with a toy car, the “brrrrrrrrmmm” echoing from the distance with a sharp “kak”. It isn’t long before you spot the first Pale-winged trumpeter meandering along the floor, occasionally stopping to flip leaves on the forest floor.

Jeff Blincow_Pale Winged Trumpeter 2c

A pale-winged trumpter walking idly near one of the many trails available at Los Amigos. Photo credit: Jeff Blincow

The Pale-winged trumpeter have the rightfully chosen scientific name of Psophia leucoptera, which translates to one that makes loud noises (Psophia) and has white wings (leucoptera). These birds can be found at Los Amigos in both the floodplain and terra firme and commonly travel in flocks of 3-7 individuals. Although these birds are primarily ground dwelling, their nest is usually placed in a hollow tree trunk up to 11m high!

Besides these few facts, little else is known about the Pale-winged trumpeter, which makes future research so important.