October 2012

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On your next Costa Rica ecotour with International Expeditions keep an eye out for the shining honeycreeper. This diminutive tanager is found throughout Central America and in parts of Colombia, and is easily recognizable due to its prominent royal blue coloration.

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Chinchillas are popular household pets, but these South American rodents are critically endangered. There are two types of chinchillas in the wild— long-tailed and short-tailed. The former species is found exclusively in the northern mountain range of Chile, while short-tailed chinchillas exist throughout the Andes in Bolivia, Argentina and Peru as well as Chile.

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For an nature travel enthusiast thinking of going on a Bali cruise, a stop at Rinca and Komodo Islands to spot the famed dragons is a must! Komodo dragons are the largest living lizards in the world, and only found on a few islands in Indonesia. Aside from zoos, there's nowhere else in the world where you can see these massive reptiles.

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The Amazon River and its surrounding rainforests are shrouded in mystery, and scientists are constantly discovering new species and information culled from the South American jungles. For the most part, experts visit the jungle to study it in person, but new research has created a 3D map of a three-mile stretch of the rainforest in Peru.

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Anyone visiting the neotropics is most likely very aware of the large, paper-like nests that are often found in trees at various levels from near ground level to the mid-story or even the higher canopy at times. These large structures are the nests of a variety of type of termites. (Not a variety in one nest but each species makes nest in similar shapes)

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Part of what makings traveling to a new country special is the sensory experience. You see new landscapes and architecture, taste delicious new foods, breath in the scent of forests or ocean, and you hear things too — music, the chatter of birds, and of course, new language.

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Central and South America, or Latin America, has long been considered one of the top destinations in the world for hiking. And not just those seemingly impossible hikes that only the fittest would undertake, such as Mt. Everest, but awe-inspiring hikes for everyone from the family of novice hikers to the experienced climber.

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Cuba is a country filled with cultural and historical significance, and one of the prime examples is the island's Valley of the Sugar Mills. Along with the neighboring city of Trinidad, this region was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and now serves as an intriguing archaeological site for visitors to explore in Cuba.

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Many of us living in the United States — especially in the central states of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas — are very familiar with a long-tailed bird called a scissor-tailed flycatcher. They are often observed on fences, light posts and other exposed places where they scan the air for flying insects, upon which they feed. In the Southern Hemisphere, there is a counterpart of the scissor-tailed flycatcher called a fork-tailed flycatcher. Amazingly, this species has even longer tail feathers — so long that it is a wonder that these birds can even fly!

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Hatchet-faced treefrogs are extremely attractive greenish colored frogs with very short, sharply angular noses which give them their name — hatchet-faced. There are three species of this frog found in the Peruvian Amazon, and the greater hatchet-face and pygmy hatchet-face tend to be relatively abundant.

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It’s no surprise that Central America has a lot to offer in the way of drinks that have a little bite to them, whether it’s rum, sugar cane liquor, or in the way of lighter options, pilsner beer. However, there’s more to Central America drinks. Today we feature a few of the best non-alcoholic drinks in Central America.

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Along the Peruvian Amazon River near Iquitos, the fluctuation of water levels is one of the Neotropics’ most amazing natural history events. The ebbing and flooding of water dictates the way of life for so many species including plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and the local people — the ribereños. During high water times and low water extremes, the difference in water levels may change over 45 feet in one year in the Iquitos area.

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Howler monkeys are abundant in the Amazon rainforests and as the name indicates, they are quite a vocal group of primates. There are a number of howler monkey species living in South America, from the mantled howler and the black howler to the red-handed and Colombian red howler. The black howler is one of the largest species of the New World monkeys, standing at just over three feet tall with a tail about the same length.

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The plains zebra or Burchell's zebra is one of Africa’s iconic species and the population size is generally accepted to be around a half a million animals. The plains zebra is found from Kenya southward to Botswana and west from there to Northern Namibia. The plains zebra in the south are somewhat different in that each black striped appears to be shadowed in the white.

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The hamerkop (scopus umbretta) is a small bird standing about two feet tall that is often thought to belong to the stork or heron family, but is distinctly different than both of these species. These unique birds can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, so you may spot them on your next East Africa safari.

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A guest on People-to-People Cuba program wrote some poems about his experience and graciously agreed to share them—all are accounts of Cuba seen through the eyes of birds. James Blackburn's poetry includes stars of Cuba's endemic bird species: the Cuban emerald hummingbird, the limkin, the Cuban tody and the red legged thrush.

 

The Cuban Trogon
by James Blackburn

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The green anaconda is one of the world’s largest snakes. The reticulated python of Southeast Asia attains tremendous lengths, but they are not nearly as heavy bodied as large female green anacondas. A 20-foot-long female green anaconda may weigh well over 200 pounds. These snakes are semi-aquatic, spending a great deal of time submerged in floating vegetation such as water lettuce and water hyacinths.