The Birds and the Bees

I have included some photos here that were taken by my friend and are copyrighted by Darvinia Amazonia Reserve.  These may not be copied and used without the expressed permission of the photographer.

Lunes 26Apr2010

A spider, slightly smaller than our Arizona wolf spiders, skittered over my tent, grabbing, I hoped, the gathering mosquitoes.

The Fish

Yesterday Ramon and his grandson Jhonatan returned from a fishing trip with a 2-foot fish, an arawana, no separate tail or top fins.  Plus an electric eel which Jhonatan took us to the river to see.  (Its voltage can kill a human.)  But it had bitten through the line and escaped.  Ramon showed us the pike he uses to spear fish at night, after a light is shone into the fish’s eyes.  It is a meter-long stick with a 4” barbed trident at the end.  Nati was bleaching the fish scales, which are as large as silver dollars, to make jewelry.

All  of my long-sleeved blouses were wet, those that Nati washed two afternoons ago, hanging on the line under the roof because of yesterday‘s showers, as well as yesterday’s blouse, soaked by sweat and rain, draped, with the pants and underwear, on the guardrail.  So Mary lent me her one non-permethrined shirt that she wears on the plane.  It is light green and matched my light green boots, if not my one pair of dry khaki pants.

Permethrin is a common synthetic chemical, widely used as an insecticide, acaricide, and insect repellent. It generally has a low mammalian toxicity and is poorly absorbed by skin. Permethrin is used in tropical areas to prevent mosquito-borne disease such as dengue fever and malaria. Mosquito nets used to cover beds may be treated with a solution of permethrin. An application should last several washes.

Luckily we had planned half a day of rest for yesterday because it rained, at times fairly hard, all afternoon.  I typed, Mary read, Jim worked on his many plans.  (The elevated shower is coming along nicely.)  But nothing dried.  When I got into bed at night my hair was still damp from my noon shower; even the sheet and pillow felt moist.

The Birds and the Bees

Mary did not feel up to trekking; subsequently we languidly floated down the river so that she could get photos of flowers, bugs and birds.  A huge spider web high in a tree, maybe 6’ wide and 5’ high.

Colonies of the social spider occur in neotropical rain forests. Colonies may contain a few, or up to several thousand members, with overlapping generations and cooperative care of brood. 

The web consists of a basket-like sheet inside of which fallen leaves are used as retreats.  Above the sheet is the snare, an irregular structure of non-sticky silk threads, which acts to catch prey. Prey are attacked by one or several spiders and transported into a nearby retreat where feeding takes place.  Communal attacks allow for capture of prey several times the size of adult spiders.  

Males rarely contribute in social activities.  Sex ratio within colonies is strongly female biased and as in other highly social spiders, colonies are highly inbred.  Behavioral Asymmetry In Relation To Body Weight and Hunger In The Tropical Social Spider by Dieter Ebert

A beautiful reddish brown bird with a short tail and a long beak preened on a lichen-laden tree branch.  My camera couldn’t get close enough, but Mary got this photo.  A pair – always a pair – of flying macaws with red tails.  Two shocking red flowers.

No chance for a photo of the morpho butterflies which danced back and forth across the river and never seemed to alight.  The usual peeping, chortling, trilling, twittering, cooing, chirruping, tweeting, chattering of birds over the electric whine of insects.  A lone tamarind monkey (a scout?)  peered at us through low-lying branches, then crashed away.

A brown hummingbird hurried by.  We could hear the hollow thumping of a woodpecker, but couldn’t see it behind the leaves.  The habitual bats flushed.  (See for a close-up of one of these.)  A bird’s mournful low-pitched whistle.

  • Black collared hawk
  • Crane hawk or adult snail kite
  • Ringed kingfisher
  • Blue and yellow macaw
  • Red and green macaw
  • Chestnut-eared aracari

A cluster of lavender flowers complete with butterflies and bees.  A sprinkle of scarlet over a vine.  Unseen fish broke the water’s surface (feeding?)

An 8” walking stick (my photo).  Cascades of orange berries.  A bright red dragonfly on Mary’s hat sat and was gone.

The fluttering of a small bird ducking into the green verge.  The snap of a dead branch.  A dead palm frond plunged into the river.

I saw the wispy clouds rainbow [I verbified it], mostly turquoise, through my polarized sunglasses, which I lent to Mary to see.  But the sun came out strong and I had to don my hand socks.  Around the bend the cooling balm of shade.

White, mistletoe-like buds, which, when open, are stringy flowers.  Large epiphytes.

A yellow-breasted bird with black eye patches, brown, like a dead leaf, but too small to camouflage as one of the tree’s large leaves.

A chestnut brown bird posed, then edged behind the trunk.  Still.  No waft of air as we paddled slowly.  No breeze stirred the tops of the trees.

A butterfly alighted on Arturo’s arm, disguised with its wings together, but as it disappeared I could barely see a flash of blue.  An entire tree was buzzing with bees.

Pinkish petunia-like flowers on the crest of a vine.  The lapping water around an erect palm trunk midstream.

A large gold and black bird flitted back and forth across the river.  Three toucans.  Where were all of the insects that made lace of these leaves?

A gray hawk with a hooked orange bill, Arturo said a (large) baby calling for its mom.  Yup, there was an answering call from the tree beyond.

Another single crash.  An animal?  A dead branch falling?  The thin clouds zippered (also verbified) together.  In the shadows leaves could be seen up to 6” in the tannin-stained – looked like tobacco-stained – water.  Otherwise it was all a mirror, here the reflection lined with shimmering ripples.

Monkeys ahead.  The birds we passed chattered a warning.  A monkey looked at us and retreated behind the foliage.  Others were behind in the high branches, chattering, but relatively quiet.  I was inept at tracking with a zoomed camera.  Guess I’m better viewing idiosyncrasies of the animals with the binoc’s.  And it was hard shooting against the bright overcast sky.

The burnt-orange bird in a tree, and a blue kingfisher winged along the water.  A lemon yellow and black 6“ butterfly flitted around Mary‘s head.  A russet squirrel with a huge fluffy tail.  He stopped on a branch to study us.  Vines wrapping around vines.


Nati had filled an insulated thermos with boiling water in anticipation of our afternoon tea.  I munched on two dried apple slices but fantasized about granola bars and dark chocolate.

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One Response to “The Birds and the Bees”

  1. Jim Says:

    The fish that broke the surface the water were either small fish escaping a large predatory fish, or large vegetarian fish feeding on small fallen fruit. Isolated events are usually fish catching fallen insects.

    It took Mary and me a lot practice to use our cameras effectively. With practice I can now spot an animal and aim my camera at it, with little searching about. I remember the immediate environment surrounding the animal, to narrow the search; and recognizing the cryptic coloration pattern of the animal enables me to know when I am looking right at it.

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