Have you ever heard those sayings about how you have to work hard and sweat to get what you want? Well in the jungle that is maybe 75% of the equation with the other 25% being luck. Like 87.34% of statistics that was made up on the spot. But a big part of seeing things in the jungle is just going out, trying to be at the right place at the right time. One thing is for sure you’re not going to see as much if you just stay in your bungalow. Though I could see lots of birds and brown capuchins from my balcony.
So needless to say I spent a lot of time going on night walks to see things. Some nights were successful, others not so much.
Today I want to tell you about one of those walks. It was on May 28th. We had done a rather unsuccessful mammal transect that morning up the Huascar. We literally saw nothing, well, no mammals and only heard 2 species of monkeys. But anyways, the point is that we had done a transect in the morning so we knew the next morning was no transect and a chance to sleep in. So we planned for an epic night walk.
We boated over to the island with plans to walk Toxic back to the dock to retrieve the boat. It sounded like fun, but when we first got on the island it was not so fun. I was hot, sweaty, and tired. My feet were hurting from lots of walking in wellies (this might have been before I put my hiking shoe insoles into my boots). For a while we didn’t see anything of note. No wonder, because it hadn’t rained, we were making a ton of noise. The dry leaves rustling under our feet, the overgrown path with tree falls to climb over. I was not having fun.
But then I saw a pair of large glowing eyes. Oh my gosh, is that? But Ian hasn’t said anything. Have I spotted a mammal!? “Mammal eyes,” I whisper sharply. “What? Where?” Ian says instinctively flipping on his extra bright phoenix flashlight. With the extra light I could make out the shape of a red brocket deer. Surprisingly it didn’t run away right away and was actually lying down. It seemed to be quite disoriented by the sudden influx of light.
Awesome! I had spotted a mammal all on my own, and a big one at that! It ran away shortly, but not before I got a good look at its burnished red fur and adorable face. Of course my tiny point and shoot camera had no chance in the jungle darkness, but that’s okay. Instantly my mood changed to positive. The leaves were a challenge to walk around, the tree falls a carnival obstacle course, and he sweat… Well it was still sweat, but I just didn’t care as much.
We finished the island bit of toxic and as we were entering onto the “mainland” Toxic path Ian suddenly moves into super speedy stealth photography mode. He has seen an ocelot! I quickly overcome my urge to freeze and hurry after him, but alas I did not get a glimpse of the coveted beast. It was both disappointing and exciting to get so close to seeing it.
The walk continued. We were talking, not even trying to be that quiet, when suddenly big glowing orbs appeared again! This time it was an unusually cooperative Mottled owl that we subsequently had a long photo session with. It never flew away but just remained at its post til we left. At the end it was ignoring us so effectively that it didn’t even look when we shook branches and vegetation at it in an impressive imitation of a territorial spider monkey. Clearly not impressive with primates acting like other primates.
Shortly after that we stumbled upon some sort of sleeping bird of prey. I always feel bad when we disturb a day bird at night. They crash into branches and generally hurry away awkwardly regardless of how loud you shout your apologies.
After all those adventures we hurried back home to retrieve the boats along the way hearing spider and night monkeys. Plunging into my nightly cold shower was invigorating and washed the sweat off a happy, but tired body. What an amazing night I’ve had!