Flowers and Bugs (and Birds)

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.  (Others were taken by her husband or me.)

Martes 27Apr10

We woke to fog.  A small spider on my tent went after the mosquitoes.

The Humidity was High

Yesterday evening I stopped typing when I noticed the puddles on the table where my wrists rested.  My arms were sweating profusely, my entire trunk dripping under my T-shirt.  Rivulets ran from my hair into my eyes.  Mary pointed out that saunas are nice if you can then roll in the snow.

Last night the 40lb toad seemed to growl and hop closer.  (See blog   I did not hear the giant vampire bat (ibid) but it left its mark, in the form of a white splatter on my friends’ large trunk.  The jaguar’s growl (ibid) dissolved into deep coughs.

The Roof

This morning I went into la cuchina to complement Nati on the eggs (finally not hard-cooked) and Rebecca was huddling in the corner screaming.  Nati indicated that one of the roof joists had rotted and the poor monkey had come crashing to the floor.  Nati had me give her a treat and she quieted.  Then a small banana to parcel out.  She scrambled over my back and hat, wanting the whole thing all at once.   But I saved some of it for Lorena, the broken-winged parrot who usually scuttles away from me.  She came within two feet for the treat and didn’t even shriek at me.  The rest I kept for myself in the dugout for a mid-morning pick-me-up.

The Incredible Variety of Birdcalls

We drifted down the river under an overcast sky, the usual bird calls and insect buzz.  Miniscule white mushrooms on a dead branch in the river.  A serpentine stream of soapy scum floated down the river from a previous boat, then dissipated.

Arturo was wearing a camouflage shirt and bright red shorts.  Mary was not up to trekking yet. Not sure how these hunters felt about paddling down the river to show a couple of white women flowers and bugs (and birds).

Not a flock but a chatter of parakeets in a half dozen 60-foot fruit trees.  Reminded me of my friends’ dining room in Boston after their half moon conures had chicks.  The sun was trying hard to break through the marshmallow topping of  clouds.  The splash of a fish in the flooded undergrowth.  A mournful slow, high, then low whistle of a toucan.

Two green birds with white eye-patches and golden-orange breasts.  The sun ripped through the clouds which resembled cotton balls being pulled apart.  A log, tethered to the verge, bobbed up and down with slight splashes and glitter of sunlight on water.  The bird and insect hum background to the stillness and the lap of the paddles.  The only movement was a nodding branch where a bird had taken off.  The incredible variety of bird calls from dozens of hidden species.

A short-tailed, long orange-billed jacamar with white cheeks.  Bright red tanager, beautifully seen with the binoc’s (Nikon 10×42).  Would have been nice to have had a bass boat seat, able to swivel as we glanced from side to side.

Our friend the black-fronted nunbird with the orange beak, the buzzing tree, although no bees could be seen.  The familiar calls orchestrated.  I wished that I could picture each bird when I heard its call.  Wished our guides could come up withEnglish nomenclature.  (Mary had added an English-speaking translator last year.)

Four parrots sat on the top of the highest tree. A dry leaf floating, the cracking sound of dead twigs, a half-submerged branch doing push-ups in the current.  A fluttering yellow butterfly, the morpho doing its laps.  The dip of oars.  Dragonflies dancing.  The deep shade beyond, with glimmers of sunlight.  Seemingly dead trees, machete-cut, at a 30° angle to the water, sprouting.  The slap of a hand on a mosquito.

And all around us billows of green.  A few palms escaped the tangle of leaves, but others succumbed to the relentless vines.  One of our squirrel friends.  The huge cotton kapok (ceiba pentandra, 100-foot tall) tree, its thick trunk mottled with lichens, its branches dripping vines, lorded it over all of the rest.

An entire Amazonian cectopia tree, with huge palmated leaves, lay in the river, leaving us two meters to pass.  A large  Ringed Kingfisher with a white neck and short tail dropped from its perch and winged down the river.

A gorgeous jacamar sat above us – long thin beak, turquoise back, golden brown underside, bright green bib, dark blue around the eyes.  The thin raggedy trail up a trunk to a bulbous termite nest.  An island growing on a downed log midstream.  Two dusky titi monkeys.

The Bee and the Ants

In the hunting camp a huge fat bee, black with yellow stripes and a golden brown tail, the Merian‘s orchid bee, gathered balls of mud (from which the hives are made) on its back legs and made a beeline across the river.

A thin line of leaf-cutter ants (cousins of the ones in Tucson who would strip my mother’s rosebush of all leaves overnight) wended its way down a tree trunk, each ant carrying a precisely cut piece of leaf to the colony.

The Leaf-cutter Ant is one of the most widespread insects in the Amazon Rainforest. These ants are one of the primary consumers of vegetation in the Amazon. Leaf-cutter ants live in large colonies, sometimes reaching three million ants. Leaf-cutter ants build gigantic hills for their home. These homes can often be thirty feet across and twenty feet deep, with multiple entrances spread throughout hundreds of yards. The diet of this ant is actually quite surprising. The ants do not actually feast leaves, but on fungus. This fungus is grown when the ants bring the leaves they cut inside of their colonies. This is the only place where this certain type of fungus can be found.

I immersed my hand in the cool water but no piranha (or electric eel!) took the bait.  A clutch of eight toucans with yellow beaks and chartreuse chests biting each other.  Fighting over a morsel?  Males challenging one another?  Group sex?    A pair of dark blue greater anis (half a meter long!) left their perch for a higher branch.

A Kodak moment

More masked crimson tanagers.  And everywhere you look, a Kodak Spot.  (An expression from my youth, back when I had a Brownie camera.)  Almost monochromatic, light modulated with dark.  Landscape by Mother Nature.

Kodak Spots

… this was a connotation that was created by Kodak in collaboration with Disney. All over the different theme parks in Disney you would be able to find Kodak-sponsored signs with the words “Kodak Picture Spots.” These are specific areas around the different areas around Disney theme parks that have been considered as favorites of tourists. The selection of these spots was also made with the help of professional photographers. These Kodak spots were selected as perfect places to help you tell more about your visit through your pictures. Just like the case of the Kodak moments advertising campaign, the Kodak spots around Disney stuck. When someone now points to a particular location and calling it a Kodak spot, it means that the site is not only a picturesque. Kodak spots are those places that could provide you a story to the picture that you take.

A few bites of a sweet banana.  The crunch of a dried apple slice.  A few gulps of lukewarm water.  What more could a person ask for?  The clouds and azure sky were doing a bit of a tango, the clouds leading.

Nine pairs of macaws (actually, one a threesome) flew overhead.  The hanging nests in the cecropia tree belong to the oropendola.   In Costa Rica the weaver birds created such nests.

On a tree trunk what looked to be a black tarantula with a flat body but it only had six legs.  But it couldn’t have been a beetle, because the large black ones are shiny.  Bats, disturbed by our motor as we returned upstream, darted over us and glided into a shaded cover.  (Boy, did that look inviting!)

A black-spotted skink, almost a foot long, on a log.  Lichen on the trunk above, its top edge fanning out like wood ears (those mushrooms), the assembly resembling white paint peeling off the log.  Two fish leaped out of the water (because of us?)

The Director’s House

After Mary’s nap we boated to the house under construction.  The sky was completely overcast and threatened (promised?) rain.  We flushed two yellow and black birds, yellow-rumped caciques.  A toucan escaped from the tree above us.  Five couples of macaws winged and chattered past us.

Pendulous yellow flowers dripped from a vine.  We motored under a tree to photograph una culebra mala, which looked like a thick 6-foot diamond-backed rattlesnake, curled up on a branch.  (I used to live on Calle de la Culebra, so I know the word.)

Common name: bushmaster

Lachesis is a genus of venomous pitvipers found in the remote, forested areas in Central and South America. Adults vary in length from 6.5 to 8.25 ft, although some may grow to as much as 10 ft. The largest known specimen was just under 12 ft, making it the longest venomous snake in the Western Hemisphere.

The light rain was short-lived, but then the air was soft and cool (well, as long as we were creating our own breeze).  We passed one plastic bag floating in the river.  O.M.G.  Western civilization had arrived.  A black-masked lesser kiskadee.

As we arrived at the site the large canoe (not a dugout) was leaving with 11 guys, a small dugout with another one.  Jim looked bereft on the shore, but of course he had heard us coming.  The second frame (of four) was up.

The canoes left, trails of soapy bubbles in their wake, like footprints.

As we passed the village one of the youngsters brought Jim a bag with the CD player which appeared to be broken; Mary would check it out.  One of the men asked to use the boat early tomorrow morning to return a chainsaw to the next village, and Sergio’s wife brought us a plate of just-cooked corn that she grew.  No butter, but there would be a bit of salt (which neither of my friends use) in the kitchen.  Our diet had just varied.

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One Response to “Flowers and Bugs (and Birds)”

  1. Jim Says:

    Although many fine naturalists have spent years studying the Amazon wildlife, it is still rich in unsolved mysteries; and new species continue to be discovered. Imagination plays a large part in the Indian’s understanding the wildlife, because very rare sightings of wildlife become stories that are retold to each new generation, with added elements from imagination and dreams. The stories are fascinating and many of them produce a collective fear of exploring entirely new areas.

    There are real dangers to anyone who goes exploring alone, because occasional individuals do inexplicably vanish while fishing or hunting. In many ways, it is the way life was for all races prior to advent of domestication and agriculture. For me, the greatest fascination is the experience of going back to much earlier evolutionary period of time.

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