The ABC’s of the Amazon

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.

Jueves 29Apr10

Last night after I had turned off my light I watched the fog drift in, through the house with no walls.  Thought to record my interpretation of the night sounds but the heat kept me prone; turning on the light was just too much effort.  Amazing how well I sleep on a one-inch air mattress over a cot.  My friends have a rustic blanket, bought in Iquitos, on their bed for appearance, and said that last year they actually had to use it!  I envisioned having to crawl out of the tent in the late night to retrieve my damp extra-large bath towel hanging on the railing, for an additional modicum of warmth.  As if.

Jhonatan gathered us after breakfast to view a tarantula that he had found by the river and had moved to a sapling for easy photographing.  Brown, but on the second body section a circle of black surrounded by tiny red hairs.  Very hairy legs, the hairs standing out, glinting gold in the light.

Had Jhonatan look in my friends’ Peru book  (The Ecotravellers’ Wildlife Guide for Peru by David Pearson and Les Beletsky) to identify the bird with the mournful sigh  – it’s a Tinamou, but not one of the four pictured (27 species occur in Peru).

The call, two low whistles followed by a longer note slurred upwards, is ubiquitous all day long. 

Our time was slipping away.  Our guides had been asked to show up at 6:30 this morning, but there was  a problem with obtaining gas, so we got going at 8am with an overcast sky and cool breezes (created by us) as we motored down the river.

A fish darted on the river for about a meter, his bottom fin like a skateboard on the surface.  One of the fat orchid bees buzzed around Mary’s hat.  I hadn’t permethrined mine but she had done hers.  It must have had a unique scent.  

Merian’s Orchid Bee – They pollinate a wide range of flowers, the males being especially attracted to orchids.  Instead of nectar, each orchid species offers a different chemical reward that can smell like wintergreen, vanilla, bubble gum, eucalyptus oil or cinnamon.  Evidently the males need this chemical to combine into a particular small that attracts females.    

I figured that he was trying to pick up a new scent to lure his lady-love.

We drifted past the buzzing tree, the usual orchestration of bird calls, the fuchsia “petunias” of a vine encircling a bush.  The black bird with the white beak and golden-yellow wings and tail, the yellow-rumped cacique.  The accustomed blue-black greater ani sentries flying overhead. 

I had never seen such a clear blue sky or such white clouds.  I was intrigued that there are few aromas (that a human could smell) along the river.  An occasional floral scent and, at one spot, an earthy whiff of compost.  Our own sweat seemed to be the dominant perfume.

 A crash of monkeys that I  could not see well enough to distinguish.  A blue bird with an orange breast, its beak too small for a kingfisher, a blue and yellow tanager?  A dark orange butterfly, marked like a monarch, fluttered around my head to distract me.  The splash of a fish gobbling an insect on the water’s surface. 

Oops; I ran out of ink and stupidly did not have another pen I my fanny pack.  I tried to remember the rest of the trip by letters.  B – butterfly.  A stunning 4” black butterfly with a squiggly orange stripe across it, perched on Mary’s hat, then Jose’s hand.  C – cardinal.  A blackbird with the shape of a cardinal with red under its chin and on the top of its tail.  D – dahlia.  A lone flower at the verge dressed up as a “lady in red”.  

So I was missing “A” until our guides spotted an anteater 60’ up a tree, its back cream-colored shading to gold at the center, its underside dark brown.  Then on the other flank of the river another one, this one darker.  When they want to socialize do they swim?  Jump from an overhanging branch?  

Next some squirrel monkeys, too obscured by foliage to see details.  

After lunch I was going to work at the desk while Mary rested, but Rebecca came by looking for me so I read while she napped in my lap, curled around my left hand (she’s very small) for half an hour.  When she woke up she urinated all down my front!  Guess I should have made her a diaper or folded a towel under her.  

We went out in the afternoon with Cindy, the 13-year-old, who knew where there were marmosets.  We checked two spots where they made holes in the trees to suck the sap, but the “leoncitas” were not there.  Jose suggested 5:30am.  Neither Mary nor I were up to that so we agreed on 6:30. 

Pygmy marmoset.  5.5 inches without tail.  Besides foraging for insects under bark and leaves in mature lowland Amazonian forest, it gouges out small pits in the trunks of trees with its front teeth, usually low down on the trunk.  Sap oozes from these wounds, and the marmosets return again and again to lap up the sap and make new holes, sometimes up to a hundred on a single tree.  

Cindy was wearing a lacey sleeveless top, a navy miniskirt with flowers, and navy boots to match. This for the jungle, but it is her home, and she is a teenager.  Mary and I were wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into our boots, hats and sunglasses, Mary with a backpack and camera, me with a fanny pack and binoculars.  We were also doused with insect repellant.  By comparison I guess we looked a bit overdone.  I did find it charming that the 13-year-old was showing our guides where she had found the marmosets.

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2 Responses to “The ABC’s of the Amazon”

  1. Jim Says:

    I bet Rebecca sorely misses you, her best friend. I wonder if she spent any time searching about for you. I wonder if she cried, when she could not find you. There is much to be learned about capuchins; they are among the World’s most intelligent monkeys. In their use of tools, they have been compared to chimps.

  2. Jim Says:

    Mary’s photo showing Rebecca on your shoulder is excellent. I suspect that if you had an Amazon blog site devoted exclusively to your experiences in the Amazon, it would be much appreciated by a large number of the World’s avid adventurers. Judging from the number of Google searches, the interest in Amazonian peoples and wildlife is keen, in Europe, America, and Japan.

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