Friday 23 December 2016
You never know what dramas are unfolding on the Tambopata River in the Peruvian Amazon. We steered the canoe to photograph a great black hawk perched on a dead branch when our motorista saw the huge golden catfish sticking out of the sandbank behind some driftwood. It was only when we got closer that we also saw the spectacled caiman, all two-three metres of him, though mostly he was slunk in the water, his snout in his prey. Our guide Paul Francisco Condori Vilca (aka Jungle Paul) took this photo and the close ups of the caiman's and catfish's heads below. My husband Brian photographed the hawk and the whole scene. They and the motorista and navigator all leapt onto the logs to take photos while I stayed in the boat. I can't leap easily off a narrow canoe prow, being hydrophobic.
Paul explained that great black hawks prey on baby caimans. The hawk was no doubt waiting to feast on the catfish, but the spectacled caiman was waiting for the hawk to descend so he could catch the hawk! They stayed in this deadlock for about twenty minutes, then the caiman pulled the catfish under and re-emerged further back. The female horseflies on the catfish were also on the caiman's head, they too were waiting for a meal. It was a spectacular find, and back at Tambopata Research Center that evening we toasted it with pisco sours before falling into bed at nine, for the usual four am rise.