Fungi. Amazon Rainforest Fungi.

Fungi is an essential feature of the rainforest. It decomposes organisms and absorbs the nutrients, returning them to the soil. But, fungi also have other functions within the ecosystem. An interesting one is the wood-decaying fungi which eat holes in tree trunks enabling wood peckers to find a nest hole. They may also have a role in the weather system, have medicinal properties and a recent find–a plastic eating one, which could solve one of the planets greatest problems…plastic pollution.
Fungus can be seen growing on fallen, rotting trees and branches in the forest. It may stay on the wood for many days, or at other times it will bloom for only a short while, shrivelling up and dying at the first touch of a suns ray. That’s what happened to the first fungi I photographed. It bloomed quickly on a tree trunk after a heavy rainfall. As soon as the sun came out, it died off, leaving no sign it had ever been there.

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The tiny, white fungus I found while on a trek in the forest. It seemed quite hardy. (Possibly Lentinus)

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The Red Fungus (Pycnoporus sanguineus) I believe was another hardy, woody fungi. Again found on a forest trek. It is thought to have important medicinal benefits.

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The yellow/orange, mushroom-shaped, fungus I found growing in the ground after we had burnt some piles of leaves, branches, twigs etc. the ashes can be seen on the ground.

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Unfortunately I am not an expert, so am unable to name most of the fungi I have seen. Any fungi expert wishing to help me out and add to my knowledge would be most welcome to point out names and be credited in the post.

The Wet Season in the Brazilian Tropical Rainforest.

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.
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.

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These photos were taken from the same point. During the wet season the river is deep and full. Boto and Grey Bottle-nosed Dolphins swim and jump and breed…Caiman stalk the shores…Anaconda slide through the reeds.

Come the dry season and the view changes dramatically…the river disappears leaving shallow pools, tiny streams and beds of thick, sucking mud as far as the river mouth. Fishes are easily caught by flocks of Herons and Egrets. Kingfishers find easy meals. Dry, shrivelled carcasses of animals lay on the shores to be picked over by Black Vultures.

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Astrocaryum vulgare (common names Tucum or Tucumã-do-Pará in Brazil)

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A tree that means a lot to me is the Astrocaryum vulgare. It is a palm tree, the seeds of which produce a black wood. Indigenous people, unable to afford gold, used the black wood for marriage rings.
Christian missionaries wore them as a sign of solidarity with the poor. A symbol of a desire for equality, social justice and human rights.
I was given by friends both a solid black wood ring and an Amazon gold and black wood ring. The man who gave me the gold and black wood ring said the gold symbolised the richness of the country I came from and the black wood the forest he came from, forever entwined. I wear them everyday to remind me of the forest to which I am eternally bound.

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Yellow-tufted Woodpecker…Scientific name: Melanerpes cruentatus

The Yellow-tufted Woodpecker… Scientific name: Melanerpes cruentatus

The Yellow-tufted Woodpecker is a small bird, black with a yellow, black and red head and a yellow eye circle. It has a red lower breast and a black and white chevron under tail. It has sharp claws for holding onto branches and strong neck muscles to absorb the shock of drilling into trees.
Highly social, these lovely woodpeckers are usually seen in noisy groups of 3-8.
This one particular afternoon,a pair appeared on a small tree behind my lodge. To get a good photo my friend quietly lay on the ground and invited me to join him. As I had seen a Feu de Lance curled there in previous days I declined, but Ananias, bravely lay down and took these photos.
The Yellow-tufted woodpeckers eat fruit, seeds, nectar and insects using their unique barbed tongue.

Thanks to Henry Cook @HCBirding for identification from post Woodpeckers and Woodcreepers

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Manaus. Capital city of Amazonas. Gateway to the rainforest.

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Manaus is the capital city of Amazonas. It grew into a major metropolis under the guidance of Eduardo Ribeiro with the help of the rubber boom.
With the collapse of the rubber market, the city lost some of its splendour, but the Opera House and some large, old, attractive houses can still be seen as testament to the boom time.
Manaus is now a Free Trade Zone, which draws in businesses and money and people.
At the heart of Manaus is the Opera House/Teatro Amazonas. A beautiful building of cream and pink, with a green, blue and yellow dome. Around this building is a large Parisian style square, full of mature trees, restaurants, Internet cafes and small, characterful, old houses. In front of the opera house is a large square, paved in a wavy design symbolising the ‘meetings of the waters’, with a fountain at its centre.
People of all ages gather in the area day and night. There are often open-air shows, with dancing, singing as well as religious conventions. The atmosphere is relaxed and happy.
I have spent many a day and night enjoying what the area has to offer, either alone or with friends.
Behind the Opera house is a busy, noisy high street full of shops of various sizes. They sell everything you could possibly want, clothes and shoes, cosmetics and medicines, electrical goods and souvenirs, food and drink.
The street opens out to the docks. A busy area with boats and ships of all sizes. Restaurants and bars provide food and entertainment. It will probably be from here that most tourists will catch a boat, or a taxi across the new bridge towards the rainforest.
Sadly once away from the Opera House, the houses, roads and pavements deteriorate.

There are favelas in Manaus, best visited with a guide. I visited a family in one. Sister-in-laws of a friend. I received a friendly welcome and felt quite at home, but I noticed the taxi driver wouldn’t leave his cab and looked nervous.
Some homes built by the river look Dickensian. Built of wood and placed higgledy-piggledy beside a river of unpleasant smelling water, I had to wonder how they didn’t fall down. House legs were mostly bent or broken. A flood a few years ago took with it many of these flimsy houses built by the river. The authorities have since built solid, brick homes to house the dwellers of the ramshackle wooden houses that were washed away.

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The ‘meeting of the waters’ is where the coffee-coloured Rio Solimoes meets the black Rio Negro to eventually blend into the great River Amazon. For some distance the two rivers move alongside each other and are clearly defined by their colours.

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The weather in Manaus is hot and humid. The heaviest rains are in the wet season starting from late November until June. The dry season is during mid-year, July to October. Humidity is rarely below 80%.
It takes several days, at least, to acclimatise to the heat and humidity.

Butterflies of the Amazon Rainforest. Part Two. Swallowtails and Pierids.

Butterflies of the Amazon Rainforest. Part Two. Swallowtails and Pierids.

Butterflies are exquisite creatures, simply breathtaking, but they don’t obey the rules of beauty. They can often be found in the strangest, ugliest places.

Swallowtails are beautiful butterflies that come in a variety of colours, from a jet black with either scarlet or emerald edging to soft turquoise with black edging and many more. Their hind wing has a tail-like projection that gives the butterfly its name.
They feed from the nectar in flowers, but could also be found on the perfumed soaps we used for washing up. An ugly backdrop of tatty steel pads, worn brushes and scruffy sponges only accentuated their delicate, extraordinary beauty.
They also came and settled on my hands and arms when I sat by the river. Taking moisture with their long black tongues or proboscis and tickling my skin with their three pairs of cotton-thin legs.

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Pierid butterflies were also attracted to the washing up equipment left by us on the harbour decking. They often came in flocks.
Small and pale yellow/yellowish-green in colour with tiny eyes on the wings, the pierids resembled European Brimstones. They feed on nectar in flowers.
Apparently Pierids were called the ‘butter-coloured’ fly by early British naturalists, thereby giving these insects their common, collective name.

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The proper name for a flock of butterflies is a swarm or rabble. How strange…can’t think of a worse description for creatures of such delicate beauty.