June 13-23, 2015.
We’ve been travelling and birding from Mexico to Colombia now for about 17 months, seeing amazing places and huge numbers of cool birds. We thoroughly birded endemic rich areas such as West Mexico, Oaxaca, the Yucatan, the Chiapas/Guatemala highlands, the Costa Rica/Panamá highlands, Santa Marta and the Perijá, and have started in on the avian bonanza of the Andes. But we still hadn’t had our first taste of Amazonian avifauna yet. Places like Montes Azules (Bonampak and Yaxchilan, Chiapas), Cockscomb Basin (Belize), Tikal (Guatemala), Pico Bonito and Rio Platano (Honduras), Refugio Bartolo (Nicaragua), various sites on the Caribbean slope of Costa Rica and in the Osa Penninsula, and PN Soberania and PN Darién in Panamá all offer fantastic lowland birding, and it’s easy to see well over a hundred species in a day at any of these sites. However, they all have a good degree of overlap in species composition, whereas across the Andes, in the Amazon and Guianan-shield forests, most everything has changed. Few species are shared between Central America and the greater Amazonian region, and of those that are, many have wildly different songs and calls and are likely separate species that will be split in the future. And besides, no matter how cool Central America’s tropical forests may be (and they are very cool, all of the sites I listed above are world-class), none offer the opportunity to confuse yourself between 50 species of Antbirds, 15 species of Woodpeckers, and 30 species of Woodcreepers and Furnarids!
Mitú has quickly gained a reputation as a great site for Amazonian/Guianan Shield birding, combining relatively low cost, easy accessibility, a variety of habitats, and several white sand forest specialty birds. At the same time, however, birding in Mitú is far from a luxurious experience. While things are slowly improving, it is still logistically challenging to arrange transportation and the (mandatory) local guides. Lodging and services are generally good; food choices are generally uninspiring.
Most people choose to visit Mitú during the dry season but we of course decided it would be a good idea to visit during the rainy season. We were a little unsure about our decision and expected tons of mosquitoes and rain but in the end rain wasn’t too bad; we lost one morning completely and had 2-3 hours of rain on several days. Surprisingly the mosquitoes were not bad at all. In June, when we visited, the Vaupes River was at its highest, meaning that some trails were flooded and inaccessible. However, varzea birds seemed to be found closer to some of the bridges and some of the other trails so we did not find the lack of access to some of the varzea trails to be problematic. Another nice thing about visiting during June is that the temperatures were much more pleasant (about 30 C) compared to the hot and steamy summer months (Jan-Mar). Bird activity also seemed relatively high and the antbirds were singing which is apparently not the case during the summer months, at least according to other reports we had read prior to our visit.
Most information for visiting Mitú can be gleaned from some other excellent trip reports (Nick Athanas’s and Pritam Baruah’s), as well as from Pablo and Jurgen’s “Birdwatching in Colombia“, so we’ll try to just relate key species and new information/sites/updates we gleaned rather than repeat what’s already out there.
We’ll start with the birds and talk about logistics in detail afterwards! We visited three of the classic sites – Urania, Mitú Cachivera, and Ceima Cachivera, as well as a new site, Pueblo Nuevo, which we chose in place of the MCH road.
The long covered bridge leading to the Urania community and the second growth patches around it were usually fairly productive for us, we ended up birding this area three times, though our final morning was rained out for the best couple of hours of the morning. Our best birds here were Amazonian Tyrannulet, Black-chinned Antbird, Striped Woodcreeper, Versicolored Emerald, Black Caracara, Red-necked Woodpecker, Dark-billed Cuckoo, Bronzy Jacamar, Green Oropendola, Slate-colored Hawk and Red-fan Parrot.
Notably, this seems to be THE place to see Amazonian Tyrannulet and Black-chinned Antbird, and it’s the easiest place to get good views of Red-fan Parrot (nesting in dead palms on the north (river) side of the road about 500m before the bridge) and Black Caracara (coming in to the snags close to the bridge in the afternoons). The cutover areas closer to Mitú can be birdy as well, but we mostly found common and widespread species, perhaps the most interesting being Variegated and Sulphury Flycatcher, Turquoise Tanager, Yellow-bellied Dacnis, Gray-breasted Sabrewing, and Green-tailed Goldenthroat.
Beyond the bridge, in the community of Urania and immediately surrounding disturbed areas, we saw Amazonian Umbrellabird, Azure-naped Jay, Red-fan Parrot, Many-banded Aracari, Black-headed Parrot (generally common but this seemed to be where they were most common and we saw them perched numerous times), and Moriche (Epaulet) Oriole. A few flowering trees in the edge of the village clearing were alive with hummingbirds but nothing uncommon – mostly Fork-tailed Woodnymphs and White-necked Jacobins. Beyond the village a trail leads shortly to the N slope of a small cerro (rocky hill). At the base of the hill the rocky slope forms a clearing and the edge of this was birdy. This is one of two places we found Plumbeous Euphonia, and the only place we saw it. There was a lot of activity of more common species such as Purple and Short-billed Honeycreepers, Rufous-bellied Euphonia, and Crowned Slaty Flycatcher. Hiking up the cerro is straightforward, and while we had a female Black Manakin in a fruiting tree, overall there was very little of interest on the cerro itself. As well, the view over the canopy is better from this rocky shoulder than from the top of the cerro itself (which looks back over the cutover areas around the town). From this rocky shoulder we spotted a couple more Amazonian Umbrellabirds and another Slate-colored Hawk. Continuing past the shoulder of the cerro, the trail proceeds through low scrubby forest and a few chagras (traditional clearings for agriculture) in varying states of regeneration, eventually heading into taller forest. There are a few side trails that diverge off to other chagras or towards the river (some were flooded on our visit). In the forest and the clearings here the most interesting species we found were Azure-naped Jay, Maroon-tailed Parakeet, Yellow-billed and Paradise Jacamar, and White-eyed Tody-Tyrant. Common but interesting species that we found here (as well as in most other sites) included Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, Pectoral Sparrow, Double-banded Pygmy-Tyrant and Red-throated Caracara.
We spent three entire days birding Mitú Cachivera, as this is the best site for many of the specialty birds. We spent a day on the trail to Cerro Guacamaya and two days on the Bocatoma trail. We didn’t bird much around the town itself, but the bridge to Mitú Cachivera is the only place we had Blackish-Gray Antshrike, and we saw another Amazonian Umbrellabird perched in a snag on the edge of town. We also found Brown-headed Greenlet in a flowering tree that was hopping with activity right in the middle of town. On the Cerro Guacamaya trail, the most interesting species we found were the very range-restricted Gray-bellied Antbird (staked out location known by Miguel, the local guide), White-chinned Woodcreeper, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Ocellated Woodcreeper, and Cinnamon Manakin-Tyrant. Interestingly, we heard the Cinnamon Manakin-Tyrant calling, used playback to bring it in, then spent a frustratingly long time repeatedly finding an obliging and very similar looking Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher before we finally found the perched Cinnamon Manakin-Tyrant. They are very close in appearance, but Cinnamon Manakin-Tyrant has a broader tail, more cinnamon on the head, and noteably lacks rictal bristles. Guinan Cock-of-the-Rock occurs at the base of the cerro (and near all of the other cerros in the area), and Cliff Flycatcher is common if you climb Cerro Guacamaya. From near the top of the Cerro the views are great and we heard Plumbeous Euphonia again, saw a perched Spangled Cotinga, and had top-down views of a pair of courting Black-and-white Hawk-Eagles!
On our two days on the Bocatoma Trail, the more interesting species were White-browed Purpletuft, White-plumed Antbird, Ringed Antpipit, Thrushlike Antpitta (heard), Yellow-browed Antbird, Olive-backed Foliage-Gleaner, Black Bushbird (past the bridge, past the very large grassy clearing, in thick low growth), Yellow-crowned Manakin, Duida (Lineated) Woodcreeper, Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Stipple-throated Antwren, Spot-winged Antbird, Azure-naped Jay (though this species is far more common at Urania), Fiery Topaz, Cinnamon Manakin-Tyrant, Collared Gnatwren, and Saffron-crowned Tyrant-Manakin. One other amazing species has been seen perhaps three times thus far on the Bocotoma trail or in the area – Red-billed Ground-Cuckoo! We worked all antswarms we encountered very thoroughly and tried playing bill snaps whenever we had a good swarm, but not surprisingly we didn’t have even a hint of a Ground-Cuckoo. However anyone birding the area should be aware that this species is around!
We also spent two days at Ceima Cachivera. This site is a mixture of white sand and terra firme, with more of the latter. Guinana Cock-of-the-Rock is reliable here as there is a lek and several nearby nests at the cave area on the way to the cerro. Birding is good along the trail to the lek and beyond, as well as back on the main trail (the trail to the lek and the cerro forks off right shortly into the woods on the main trail). On the pre-dawn drive in, we flushed many Pauraques and a Blackish Nightjar. Our most interesting birds here in the forest were Thrushlike Antpitta (heard), Rufous-capped Antthrush, Fiery Topaz (a pair seen at a flowering tree just inside the forest), Amazonian Scrub-Flycatcher (at the edge of a little sandy clearing on the way to the lek), Yellow-throated Antwren (once, more common at Pueblo Nuevo for us), Plain-winged Antshrike, Duida (Lineated) Woodcreeper, Cinnamon-rumped and Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaners, Yellow-billed Jacamar, Olive and Green Oropendolas, Ringed Antpipit, White-browed Purpletuft, and Brown-headed and Lemon-chested Greenlets. This site also had the best mixed flocks for us, and the edges of the clearings and lower canopy areas were excellent for tanagers and canopy flocks. We had one amazing mixed flock of mostly Tanagers, Honeycreepers and Euphonias that had a minimum of 80 birds that we stayed with for an extended period, at one point we had 5 Paradise Tanagers and 4 Green-and-gold Tanagers together in one binocular view! In comparison, while Pueblo Nuevo has a lot of canopy flocks too, the canopy is 30-45 m up, making canopy specialists neck-breakingly hard to see.
While the MCH road is the classic terra firme site at Mitú, we instead spent 2 full days at Pueblo Nuevo, a newer site that is a bit closer to Mitú itself (about 75 minutes in a little three wheeled moto-carrito). The forest is owned by a local, Martin, with whom you can stay (though you may not want to, more on that later). One main trail and numerous side trails lead through tall forest that is a mixture of second growth and what is purportedly primary forest, but it has been logged enough that I would more describe the whole site as mature second growth rather than true primary forest. Again there are a number of chagras in places. While this is a far cry from gorgeous primary lowland forest, it is a bit more intact than in Ceima Cachivera or Urania, for instance, and there appears to be less hunting pressure as this is the only site where we found any monkeys larger than Tamarins, and we heard far more Tinamous here than at other sites. The trail leads to a creek that is readily crossed in the dry season but not passable in the wet season. Near the creek side trails fork and follow the creek making it possible to pick up some varzea birds and make a bit of a loop. We found it easy to bird a full day here, though crossing the creek looks very promising too. Our best birds here were Tawny-tufted Toucanet (we trolled quite a bit for this species and eventually I managed to see a likely bird fly in, very high, and Kathi miraculously found a window to see it perched 30 m+ up and in the rain no less! This is not an easy species and many people miss it, we felt fortunate to have the wet, distant views that we did), Chestnut-crested Antbird (this is perhaps the iconic species in Mitú, but we never heard it call spontaneously and resorted to trolling for it, which finally paid off here. Agripino, the local guide, commented that it is pretty common at Pueblo Nuevo), Yellow-throated Antwren (this is another Mitú specialty, and it seemed to us that Pueblo Nuevo is by far the best site for it, we heard it numerous times each day here, though as a canopy species it is challenging to see it 30-40 m up), Orinoco Piculet (we had seen only one piculet, that we did not ID, in a flock at Mitú Cachivera and had taken to trolling for this species whenever we had a mixed flock in the understory or edge, eventually turning one up here. We later had one other piculet that also got away un-identified), Musician Wren, Ruddy Spinetail (reasonably common here and not too hard to see), Variegated (heard a number of times) and Cinereous (heard once) Tinamous, Mouse-colored Antshrike, Ringed Antpipit, Banded and Silvered Antbirds, Thrushlike Antpitta (heard), Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Ocellated Woodcreeper, Wing-barred Piprites, Red-necked Woodpecker, Red-stained Woodpecker, Black-eared Fairy, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Buff-throated Foliage-Gleaner, Rufous-tailed Xenops and Lemon-chested Greenlet (a canopy species that we heard and called in but was very hard to get good looks at here – we saw this species much better in a flock at Ceima Cachivera).
We also stayed out for a couple hours one evening owling, where we readily turned up and saw Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl. Perhaps one of the most interesting discoveries of our trip was not a bird that we saw, but rather a bird that apparently is in the area. While discussing nocturnal birds with Agripino (who was pretty solid on ID), he started asking us about an owl or other nocturnal bird that he heard regularly at Pueblo Nuevo. His description of a kind of howling song didn’t sound like any owl we could think of and it sure didn’t sound like any nightjar, but we went through all of the in-range owls and nightjars with no matches. He insisted it was something else. We then turned to the potoos, and he knew Great and Common well. However the interesting part was when we played him Long-tailed Potoo from our phone, not only did it sound remarkably like his imitation, but he instantly latched on to it and was certain that was the right song/call. He said he saw Long-tailed Potoo once years ago as part of a guide training that he took part in, and apparently he hears it regularly at Pueblo Nuevo. He commented that he usually hears it around 3-4 AM, not in the evening. We none-the-less gave it a try, but came up empty. However we took it as a pretty credible bit of evidence that Long-tailed Potoo is apparently at least somewhat regular at Pueblo Nuevo and should certainly be looked for there!
Overall, we had a fantastic time, logged a boat-load of life birds and learned a phenomenal amount of bird song. We studied bird song extensively in preparation for our trip, and ended up logging 235 species, of which 156 were lifers! I’m certain we could have found an additional 50-80 species if we had known birdsong better and if we had spent more time birding the open habitats but we really focused on the forest birds and specialties. Despite our studying of birdsong, of course there were plenty of times when we heard little whitting calls or antbird churrs and could only make a best guess at which species it might be. Agripino, who was our guide for the entire trip (along with Miguel two days at Mitú Cachivera), knew the common mixed flock birds by voice very well, which helped us learn them better and also helped us, as a group, pick out the less common voices. We look forward to more time birding in the Amazon and getting more comfortable with all the birdsong!
We felt like we did very well with the specialties. A full “hit list” of Mitú specialties is pretty long but the top birds for most might be Chestnut-crested Antbird, Gray-bellied Antbird, Orinoco Piculet, Fiery Topaz, Tawny-tufted Toucanet, Brown-banded Puffbird, Bar-bellied Woodcreeper, Duida (Lineated) Woodcreeper, Yellow-throated Antwren, Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, White-naped Seedeater, and Plumbeous Euphonia. We found all but the White-naped Seedeater, Bar-bellied Woodcreeper, and Brown-banded Puffbird. We trolled a bit for the Bar-bellied Woodcreeper with no luck, we trolled a lot for the Brown-banded Puffbird with no luck, and apparently the White-naped Seedeater has not been seen in over a year. We still tried in likely spots but no dice. That species, at least, is apparently much easier at Puerto Inirida. Brown-banded Puffbird has a pretty large range and is seen regularly at sites in Ecuador and Brazil. Bar-bellied Woodcreeper is pretty scarce despite its large range; Mitú and areas in Manu (Peru) look like they are probably the best sites.
We stayed at Hotel Las Paisas. A double room with a/c was 80,000COP/night. They were very accommodating and we would recommend staying here. We were able to get a thermos of hot water every night so that we could have tea at 4 am when we got up, which was nice. The rooms also have a small refrigerator. Selection in the grocery stores for breakfast and lunch food is adequate. For breakfast we had cereal and milk and a piece of fruit. Sugary bread, cheese, and tomatoes were our standard lunches. We brought our own tea and didn’t see black tea for sale in Mitú but coffee is available at the hotel. We also brought a good selection of bars and some peanut butter and jelly which were great for variety and for emergency food. Plenty of fruit is available and the vegetable selection in the stores is actually decent but it’s not clear where they all go because the restaurants sure don’t serve many vegetables! Speaking of restaurants, getting good dinners as vegetarians was a bit of a challenge. The best restaurants are probably Rikuras and Las Paisas (same as the hotel). Rikuras was recommended by others but wasn’t open several nights and apparently does a worse job of catering to vegetarians (we were told you can only order from the menu and they aren’t interested in anything else, something we’ve come across a number of times on our trip). Our first night we had rice and eggs, but were able to arrange with Restaurante Las Paisas to make vegetarian beans (almost all beans in Colombia are made with pork) and we had better meals of rice, beans, patacones, sometimes a small salad or bit of sliced tomato most nights. They close on Sundays and some Mondays, however. These nights we branched out and had some decidedly worse meals – basically just white rice one night at the restaurant the police eat at, Tukan Maku. Our worst meal was when Restaurante Las Paisas and Rikuras were both closed, and Tukan Maku had nothing to offer other than hamburgers, so we talked the (sort of) pizzeria into making us a veggie pizza if we bought the whole pizza. This almost worked out but the pizza had a healthy dose of super sugary ketchup on it which dampened our excitement after the first slice :), but at least it was a change from rice!
For a visit to Pueblo Nuevo or MCH Road, we recommend staying in Mitú and just getting up earlier to have time for the drive. We took the option of staying with Martin, the owner of the land, and his family. This entailed bringing our tent and sleeping pads (alternatively you could bring hammocks and mosquito nets), and food for a few days, and staying in their home. We were told to bring our food and that Martin’s wife would cook for us. We brought lentils, rice, and some potatoes and onions and carrots which worked out fine the first night, and had a pretty good meal when we got back from birding. The second day, however, when we returned, the family was not around. When they did show up, they were quite drunk. We tried to prepare our own food but they insisted they would do it for us. An hour later we were presented with their leftover chicken broth with half cooked rice floating in it and about ½ a cup of salt apparently added. At this point we were glad we had brought extra bread and peanut butter and jelly! As well, staying in their house, sleep is less than awesome due to a radio that they leave blaring all night (we asked them to turn it off, which they did, but it came back on shortly thereafter) and lots of stomping around.
Unfortunately, alcohol seems to be pervasive in many of the communities and it is particularly bad on the weekends. We were told to avoid Ceima Chacivera on the weekend and I would say the same for Pueblo Nuevo. It is very sad to see and I only hope that some of the tourist dollars can be used to help the communities rather than just buy beer.
The hardest part of the logistics for a visit to Mitú, however, is arranging a local guide and transport. Miguel and Agripino are the two best local guides. Miguel does not currently have a phone and hence it is difficult to arrange trips with him. Agripino has a phone at the moment, 312 239 7259, but there isn’t reception in Pueblo Nuevo where he lives so it may be very difficult to get ahold of him. Most people use a local contact to arrange a guide. We made arrangements with Nacho (Jesus Ignacio Cardenas Perilla) – 310 792 3049 or perhaps better via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nacho has guided folks in the past, and though we were trying to get ahold of Miguel directly, we were never able to, so we contacted Nacho to try to coordinate with Miguel and to make arrangements to stay in Pueblo Nuevo. We asked for the less expensive options for transport and to avoid having two guides due to cost. Nacho sent us a many-page excel spreadsheet that was a bit convoluted but appeared to be an offer of all inclusive services of guiding, community entry fees, and transport for 10 days for about $600 US. The price seemed fine so we said great, we’ll see you in Mitú on Saturday. Ultimately, though, what Nacho did was get us a reliable motocarrito (three wheeled motorcycle taxi) driver for the 10 days, and get Agripino to guide us, and then basically disappeared. When a few things didn’t go according to plan and there was a lot of confusion, he was nowhere to be found for a few days. When we finally talked to him he said he was just helping us make arrangements and we would pay everyone directly and he was only doing it to help us. This was not what we had understood at all earlier, but in the end it worked out and he did get us a driver and got Agripino to guide us, both of which worked out well. Agripino knows the birds and trails at Pueblo Nuevo and MCH well, though Miguel knows the birds in Mitú Cachivera better for sure. You must have a local guide for all sites you want to visit. One thing that has gotten easier is that Miguel or Agripino can now apparently guide you at all sites instead of having to play the game of getting a different local guide for every site. Nacho claimed he could do the same, but Miguel later told us that Nacho is not allowed to enter Mitú Cachivera and it seemed obvious the two of them didn’t work together, which probably explained why Nacho kept dodging our questions about whether he had gotten ahold of Miguel. In any case, we were able to just turn up at Miguel’s house and have Miguel join us for two of our three days at Mitú Cachivera, though this resulted in having to pay two guides for two of the days.
If you do not want to deal with the logistics yourself, we recommend getting in touch with Pablo Florez or Diego Calderon, who could either put together a private trip for you or perhaps might be willing to help with all of the logistics for a fee.
In any case, along with the pain of arranging a guide, you need to arrange transport. We got around everywhere in a little three-wheeled mototaxi and it worked out great. Three people of normal size are not too uncomfortable and in a pinch you can get 4 in (3 in the back and 1 sitting next to the driver). A 4WD might be more comfortable and faster for the long drives to Ceima Cachivera, Pueblo Nuevo or MCH, but would of course be more expensive. For Mitú Cachivera and Urania, a 4WD is almost certainly an unnecessary expense. Our driver was a no-show the first morning, which was not a good start, but then showed up promptly to pick us up in the afternoon, saying he had been very sick in the morning. We all (Agripino included) assumed that sick translated to hungover, but after that he was extremely reliable and turned out to be a really nice guy and we would recommend him highly. He also owns his taxi and doesn’t share it with others so he makes his own schedule and was happy to pick us up as early as 4:30 in the morning day after day and was always on time to pick us up in the evenings. We ended up paying about 400,000COP for 10 days of driving. Our driver was Andrés (Cristiano Andrés Gomez) and can be reached at 315 247 2275. He usually has reception and actually answers his phone, which we took to be a minor miracle in Mitú. He was eager to be recommended and work for future birders and we would absolutely recommend him.
As far as paying guides and paying community fees, Miguel currently charges 90,000COP/day and Agripino (and apparently other guides) 80,000COP/day. We felt this was very fair. Urania, Pueblo Nuevo and Ceima Cachivera currently charge 20,000COP/person/day to enter the community and use the trails, which was fine. Mitú Cachivera, however, charges 100,000COP/day for groups up to 5 and 150,000COP/day for groups of 6 or more. This is highway robbery for an independent birder or a pair of birders. We didn’t know this until the last day when we went to pay Miguel for his services and give him the entry fees to give to the community leader, at which point he told us they charge 100,000/day. That is US$40/day just to walk the trails, even if you are just one or two people. Keep in mind entrance to National Parks in either Colombia or the US is significantly less, is not charged per day, and you get a few services such as restrooms to go with that! We actually argued a bit and ended up paying Miguel 40,000/day to give to the community leader, telling him that 100,000 was just ridiculous. He said he agreed the price was not fair but the community had voted and that is the price they set. We apologize if this ever causes a headache to future visitors but we would also recommend that small groups do what they can to avoid paying this. Paying it justifies it to the community and it really is absurd. We are all for supporting the communities and are more than happy to pay to use trails, we just think the prices should be fair and we hope that the money goes to good.
One last note, you are somewhat expected to feed your guides. We found this a bit odd but it is what it is and we brought along extra sandwiches, bars, fruit, etc, as well as buying some tins of tuna and crackers for Agripino on his request. At one point we asked him if he could bring his own food so that he could get what he wanted and we could do the same. This worked out for about a day and a half then he asked us to bring him food again. Not a big deal but we would have rather paid a higher rate to a guide and not have had to hassle with this aspect.
Bugs were not too bad during our visit. There were a fair number of mosquitos at Urania and Ceima Cachivera (though we have seen far worse), and almost none at Mitú Cachivera and Pueblo Nuevo, for whatever random reasons. We were told by a local biologist that Malaria is neither endemic nor prevalent in the area but Chikungunya and Chagras certainly are. Free third-hand tropical disease advice may be worth less than it costs, and should be taken with a huge grain of salt, of course. Use of Malaria prophylactics is generally widely recommended in the tropics, though many people only selectively follow the advice based upon where they are going. Chagras is one of the more disconcerting tropical diseases, and we would certainly recommend using a tent or a mosquito net any time you are sleeping in a wooden or thatched home in the tropics. Chagras is probably a large part of lowered life expectancy in the tropics and you should definitely understand the transmission and prevention before travelling. Of course you should get all available vaccinations (Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Tetanus, Hep A), and read up on Chagras, Malaria, Dengue, Chikugunya, Leishmaniasis and other exotic goodies too.