The wet season starts at the end of November and continues until May. Rain usually falls in the morning, light showers that cool the air, but quite often a great storm will rage through the forest, lasting for hours.
During the storms, walls of heavy rain move across the forest, saturating everything in their path. Thunder crashes above with such force the ground trembles. The noise must be the loudest natural sound on earth. Despite being warned by lightening of the impending boom and rumble, it always made me jump.
High winds bend and shake the trees and leaves, twigs and branches are thrown through the air. The lodge verandah, when finally the storm ends, is covered with broken twigs, leaves, battered insects and other bits of natures debris. The wooden boards shone as if freshly varnished. The grass roof, rearranged by the storm, let in rays of sunlight………
The rains change the views from the lodge dramatically. Gone are the vast meadows of grasses and wild flowers. Instead stretching to the river mouth is now gleaming, deep water. Deep enough for the dolphins to swim and breed in, deep enough for the caiman and deep enough for the return of lunch. No longer do we have to eat dried up, smelly carcasses, instead the dish is plump and tasty. Yes!
Osprey return to winter in the heat of the forest and sit high on tree tops. Herons and kingfishers return to fish closer to shore on fallen branches.
The rain is welcome, bringing with it fresh water, food and enough water to row the canoes from shore to shore, so much nicer than slurping through the thick, clinging, river bed, mud.
The wet season is back, all is well in the forest.
The first photo shows view from lodge in wet season. The next two photos show same view in dry season. The last photo is of an Osprey and a Heron, happily fishing together.
Manaus. Christmas in the Capital city of the Rainforest.
Manaus is a city of great contrasts. The area around the Opera House looks like it could be twinned with any European town centre.
The Opera House, a grand building, pink and cream with a yellow and green tiled dome, built in the late 1880s, is beautiful, especially in the evenings when bathed in light.
The surrounding paved square is tree lined, beyond which are pavement cafes and smart old houses, giving it a Parisian air.
There are often entertainments..music, theatre, dances held in the open air and sometimes religious events. Large stages are built overnight to allow for performances from singers, dancers, actors and preachers.
Christmas is no exception. The square has regular entertainment leading up to Christmas. A huge, brightly lit and beautiful tree is the centre of attention and the opera house looks even more splendid.
Evenings are often hot and humid so a cool drink taken in an open air cafe, whilst people watching, is a most pleasurable thing to do. Families, and young and old couples, holding hands walk slowly around the square, talking, teasing and laughing animatedly.
Beyond the square is the other side of Manaus. Crumbling infrastructure; broken, uneven pavements; graffiti sprayed and peeling plaster walls; shabby buildings.
But improvements are slowly being made and the shops lining the main road are modern and bright, add to that the vibrancy and warmth of the people and Manaus is a city with a future. Well worth visiting before diving into the surrounding Rainforest.
Roosting..coming home to sleep…Blue-headed Green Parrots.
As night approached birds came home to roost. They used the same trees every night to settle and sleep.
The Blue-headed Green Parrots flew out to their feeding grounds in the mornings and returned to a large tall tree behind the lodge in the late afternoon or early evening.
There is nothing elegant about these charming little parrots. They fly untidily, flapping their small wings busily and chatting loudly the whole time in flight.They are most often seen in pairs, even within a flock. A lone parrot or an outsider attached to a pair is a sad sight.
As they fly over the canopy they seem to call out ‘ Keep out, keep out.’
When they returned to their roosting tree in the evening the noise was horrendous. A flock of parrots is called a pandemonium and these little parrots certainly lived up to their collective name.
As each pair of newcomers enters the tree the noise is raised, in greeting perhaps, or in annoyance, as the settled pairs have to readjust their positions. The sound of their squawking continues to increase, until all have returned from their days exertions. Only then do they start to quieten. Occasionally, during the quietening period, a loud squawk of irritation will be emitted from the odd individual. When everyone is present and settled down, complete silence descends. They remain that way until morning.
Plastic Pollution in the Amazon Rainforest, Lake Manacapuru.
The beautiful waterfall area is used by people from the local town, particularly when I am not there, as a picnic and recreational area.
On one occasion I went there with some friends for a picnic. The first thing I noticed as we rowed our canoes close to the area was silence. The birds had disappeared from the entrance to the waterfall and all along the stream.
I could hear, long before reaching the area, that an afternoon party was in full flow. Loud music blasted from large loudspeakers. Young people hollered, sung and laughed and screamed loudly, chasing each other through the trees and scarring the trunks of trees with deep knife slashes. Families with children picnicked along the shore of the river, disposing of their waste under bushes.
My friends and I walked through the stream and along the banks, picking up the rubbish that had been discarded, including: broken glass alcohol bottles; open, razor sharp lidded, cans; coloured plastic bags; polystyrene food containers; cellophane and metallic coloured sweet wrappers and used nappies. We filled the bottom of two canoes with the rubbish and this was only one days pollution.
One thing that surprised me on my visits to my home in the rainforest, was the amount of rubbish you see floating in the rivers. Plastic is a particular problem. It is sad to find what initially looks like a pristine, untouched, stretch of primary forest or fast flowing river and see, bobbing in the water or washed up on banks, or tangled around roots and branches – gaudy plastic strips, bags and bottles. We, travelling in canoes, always scooped them up, but there were always plenty more pieces of rubbish to take their place.
Plastic pollution is becoming a big problem in many beautiful parts of the world, in rivers and on seas, forming islands of imperishable waste. Sadly parts of the magnificent Amazon rainforest and river are fast becoming polluted, uninhabitable and barren too.
We, in the west, have made mistakes, polluted our rivers and seas and countryside and are now trying to repair the damage. I wish Brazilians would learn from our mistakes and not commit the same ones. They have a chance to rub our faces in our stupidity and show us how it is done. They have a wonderful rainforest, something truly special and unique. It is not so very hard to keep it that way, is it ?
The photo is of one of the two canoes we filled with rubbish from the waterfall area. One weekends rubbish.
Nesting in the dragons mouth. Silver-beaked Tanagers..Northern Tegus and Ameiva lizards (Ramphocelus carbo..Tupinambis and Ameiva Ameiva)
Sunrise would see me sitting in my rocking chair on the verandah of my Amazon rainforest home, a Brazilian black coffee in one hand, a slice of honey and manioc cake in the other, camera on lap.
I waited to see what new discoveries would present themselves and never was I disappointed.
This particular morning it was the Silver- beaked Tanagers who would surprise me.
Close to the lodge, just a few meters away was a low, thick bush, surrounded by tall grasses. The tanagers decided to make a nest there.
The tanagers were regular visitors around the lodge. I saw them several times a day. There were five or six females and a male. The male was smartly feathered, with smooth black plumage and a contrasting silver beak. The females were slightly bigger, with reddish brown, untidy plumage.
The male often perched above the females and called with a high pitched peep, as loud as his little body would let him.
I had noticed him acting differently as the dry season came to an end. He would peep, peep, peep and shake his feathers vigorously as he did.
On this morning I could see why. A mate had been attracted and they were nesting. The female seemed to be doing all the work making a cup shaped nest, while the male perched above peeping in encouragement.
There was a problem though. Beneath the chosen bush two species of lizard crept. The Northern Tegu and the Ameiva. It seemed the tanagers were laying their eggs straight into the dragons mouth
The Northern Tegu is a rich brown and black striped lizard, heavily muscled and handsome. The much smaller Ameiva lizard is a beautiful lizard, turquoise blue and pale green. Both equally able to crush and eat the two eggs laid by the tanagers.
The nest was finished over the next few days and the two little green-blue eggs with black-brown blotches were laid inside it, but sadly I had to leave before seeing the final outcome. Silver-beaked Tanagers often nest in low bushes so must be aware of the dangers, it would have been interesting to see how they protected their tiny clutch.
I noticed early one morning when I had just woken, a pair of golden brown lizards mating on the right hand side of my bedroom, against the far wall.
The male had climbed on to the back of the the female. He held her left, front leg, gently but firmly in his teeth. His back leg held her tail down, so she could not escape and run off.
Later that day, early afternoon, I went to my hammock for a short rest in the intense heat. The lizards had moved along and were now in the centre of the far wall. They were unconcerned by my interest in their copulation and carried on, hardly moving as I watched.
As the sun descended in the late afternoon, turning the sky into a pink and purple vision, I took a peek into my room. The lizards in the fading light, were now at the far left side of the room. The male still lay across the females back and still held her, now limp leg, between his teeth.
An hour or so later when I went to my hammock, the lizards had gone.
I was surprised that their mating had taken a full day. I always thought lizards, as with most animals, were quick to copulate. I would have thought that a whole day spent mating in the forest would be, to say the least, risky.
There are thousands of species of Butterfly and Moth in the Amazon Rainforest.
Here are just three types:
The beautiful swallow tails would come and suck moisture from my skin. Their black legs and tongues, as thin as a strand of cotton, tickled. There is something about the shape of these butterflies with their forked tails, which is immensely pleasing and the colours are astonishing. Scarlet and black, turquoise and black, black with a sharp green edge, gorgeous.
When not on my skin, they would take the moisture from cleaning sponges and soaps left on the harbour side for washing up.
The Owl butterfly preferred the wooden legs of the lodge and could have blended into the wood with their brown and cream colouring, had it not been for the distinctive eyes on each wing, which deterred predators. They are amongst the largest of the forests butterflies.
The small, dead moth, I found on the table. Beautiful even in death.
The splash of water in the foreground was a deadly pyramid of red bellied piranhas, twisting and turning in the river, their red and silver scales shining in the sunlight. They had caught and finished off a hapless victim, maybe one of the yellow kiskadees that had lost its footing on the fallen branches.