The Clay Lick

Images from a magical place in the Amazon Rainforest from Ecuador

Scattered throughout the Amazon basin are hundreds of clay licks, where parrots, parakeets and macaws come to neutralize the acidic fruits that they eat. To get this photo, I waited for hours three days in a row in a blind in the hot and humid rainforest of Yasuni National Park in Ecuador. Each day at the site, hundreds of Cobalt-winged Parakeets would fly into the canopy, and spend hours slowly descending the tree branches towards the mineral-rich water and clay below. They would nervously descend one branch at a time, coming closer and closer towards the ground. However, for two days, something kept scaring the birds away before they made it all the way to the earth. There was likely a snake or a hawk in the area that we couldn’t see. Finally, on the third day, hours of waiting paid off! Over four hundred Cobalt-winged Parakeets rained down onto the forest floor. I used a slower shutter speed to create a more artistic effect. Seeing them and hearing the deafening roar of parakeet chatter was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Cobalt-winged Parakeets land on the forest floor to drink mineral-rich water and eat nutrient rich mud. This image was “highly commended” in the age 15-17 category of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 54 (2018).

The sun acts as a spotlight on some birds, shining a beam on them as they fly.

Parakeets continue flying down to join an increasingly large group already on the ground. A magical sight! This image won the youth category of the Audubon Photo Awards in 2018.

Taking a wider view is necessary to witness the hundreds of parakeets visiting the clay lick area.

Chaos ensues as hundreds of Cobalt-winged Parakeets suddenly take off in a frenzy, creating a blend of incredible blue and green hues.

The final parakeet departs from under the arch, heading to join its flock in the canopy.

Seeing and photographing these incredible parakeets was one of the highlights of my photography career to date. I hope these images can illustrate how incredible these birds are, and beyond that, how amazing and worth protecting the entire natural world is.