Yellow & Blue Macaws (Ara ararauna)3rd December 2017
Mark and I walked along a trail that took us through the rainforest to a clearing where a section of forest had been burned down. It was a bright, sunny day and we gazed around at what looked like a hot and dry wasteland covered with scorched fallen trees. From where we stood we couldn’t see where the trail continued so we decided to make our way across to look for it. The soot from the scorched trees left our clothes and skin black as we made our way across looking for an opening where the trail continued. We finally found it on the other side of the clearing and continued down the trail to a dirt road, where we found a nice wetland on the other side of a narrow stretch of forest. Mark recognized the area and we continued walking along the dirt road that led us to a small creek with a rather crooked bridge. Crossing that we made our way to a pleasant little property with palm trees scattered across a small lake. As we were looking around we saw a pair of Blue-and-Yellow Macaws fly up to one of the trees. We walked along the edge until we got closer to the tree and could see both of them sitting inside a hollow area of the tree. They stayed there for a while and it appeared that they had a nest in the tree. Mark and I were able to get several photos of them with their heads sticking out of the side of the tree. After taking a few photos the birds flew off. We decided to show up another day and try to get some more good shots of them at their nest. It was such a beautiful sight to see them over the lake and exciting to be able to get so close to a nesting site! We made our way back to the burned out section of forest. It was quite a contrast, going from a pretty lake with nesting macaws in palm trees to this hot, dry, scorched wasteland! Well, we wound up getting lost for about an hour as we couldn’t find the connecting trail on the other side of the clearing. We couldn’t believe we lost it but it was better hidden when coming from the opposite direction than we realized! We also ran out of water, which didn’t help matters any. Finally Mark found it again, after we both started closely following the edge of the clearing. Hot, tired and thirsty described us as we made our way back to camp, getting there just in time for lunch!
We spent the day at the lake photographing the Blue-and-Yellow Macaws. We hiked there after breakfast and didn’t leave until 5:00pm. We did not get lost at the burnt out clearing this time! We marked the trails where we entered and left so we would remember where to go. It had rained the night before and was extremely humid. With the sun shining the entire day we ended up sunburnt by the time we left. The sun shone over the lake where we stood at the edge, giving us a lot of light to work with the entire afternoon. It was breezy with thunder heard in the distance from time to time, but we had good light where we were most of the day. We discovered a total of four macaw nests in the palm trees on the lake! Even more exciting was the discovery that one of the nests was located at a spot where we could stand at the edge of the lake and get close up photos! There was an opening on either side of that tree where the two macaws would land. We thought we had an adult pair there at first but then we saw one feeding the other and realized that we had an adult and a juvenile! Sometimes they would disappear into the tree for a while, then they would spend some time sticking their heads out of the hole or perching on the outside of the tree. We tried to get good photos and video of them taking off from the tree and flying across the lake, not the easiest thing to do. It meant spending a lot of time standing, with the camera ready, and waiting for them to take off, or keeping an eye on any of the pairs as they came flying in from beyond the distant trees. As we watched and photographed, various other bird species were observed around the lake – kingfishers and swallows glided by, songbirds hopped around in the trees and bushes, parrots would fly overhead shrieking loudly. Another species of parrot appeared to be nesting in a palm tree on the lake as well, a pair was seen entering another hole. We stood for long periods of time watching the pair closest to the edge of the lake, waiting for them to take off for some in-flight shots. It was quite a challenge and the sun was starting to set. We decided we would come back another day and try again.
The weather this morning seemed to promise a sunny, blue sky so we decided to take a trip to visit the macaws again. By the time we reached the lake though, there were dark clouds over part of the sky, leaving the background behind the palm trees with an ugly, glaring, off-white look. The macaws were off feeding in any case so we prepared our camera gear and waited. After roughly an hour we heard their loud squawks and in flew the first two, landing in the tree closest to the edge of the lake where we photographed them last time. We focused on capturing photos and video of them in flight and taking off, which is quite the challenge. The most frustating thing at that point was the fact that the sky behind us was clear and blue but we still had overcast sky behind the palm trees where the birds were nesting. It was starting to clear up some so we decided to take a short break and wait for the clouds to pass by. There still wasn’t too much macaw activity around the lake anyway by then. After close to an hour the sky began to clear up nicely and shortly thereafter the macaw activity picked up as well. I managed to capture a bit of footage of them flying across the lake and taking off from the tree. Mark captured some nice images of them taking off. It grew very hot being in the sun for so long again. We stayed until just before the sun started to set, then packed up our gear. Mid to late afternoon seems to be best time to visit that spot, as we found out that the macaws are generally away feeding in the morning through early afternoon.
Blog written by Jaime Thomas