Little Grey Heron..Brazilian Amazon Rainforest Bird.

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Every day I would sit on my little harbour deck and watch the birds. To my right, a Little Grey Heron fished, unconcerned by my presence. We grew accustomed to each other.
One morning Monduco, my oft companion in the forest brought me a skull. It belonged to the heron. I felt very sad to have lost my river companion and wrote a poem in his honour.

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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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Osprey, Brazilian Amazon Rainforest Migrant. Pandeon haliaetus.

The Osprey. Pandion haliaetus. Brazilian Tropical Rainforest visitor.

The magnificent Osprey could be seen from early in the mornings perched on the highest tree, during the wet season which began in late November. It would occasionally swoop down to catch its prey from the river with its huge, sharp claws.
It was a large bird, similar in size to a Buzzard or Eagle, with brown upper parts, pale grey underparts and long black wings. It’s greyish white head had an attractive black eye patch.
Ospreys are raptors. They eat fish…their common names are fish eagle or fish hawk. They have a long hook on their beaks which is used for tearing apart the fish.
The Osprey I saw was always alone. It was a non-breeding migrant, visiting from North America.

An Osprey sharing the same tree with a Heron. Both after the same breakfast, although I think the heron may have given way if they had gone for the same fish….unusual too, to see a heron at such a height.
I will never forget the sight of that beautiful bird, I looked for it every morning. It made my heart leap.

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Toucans of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. Toco & Yellow-ridged Toucans and Chestnut-eared Aracari.

Toucans – Scientific name: Ramphastidae from the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.
Toco Toucan – Scientific name: Ramphastos toco
Yellow-ridged Toucan – Scientific name: Ramphastos vitellinus
Chestnut-eared Aracari – Scientific name : Pteroglossus castanotis

Every morning I would see the Toucans fly from their roosting trees to their feeding grounds. They flew in small flocks and often in pairs. Their flight was undulating, almost as if their bills were too large and heavy for them. They would glide, fall away from the others and then furiously flap their small wings to gain height and catch up.
Their diet consisted of fruit, insects, small animals and sometimes the small chicks and eggs of other birds. Their huge beaks came in useful to reach fruit hanging at the end of long branches. Despite their size, the beaks were very light, with a hollow structure.
Toucans nest in cavities in trees, often those made by woodpeckers.
All day I could hear the Toco or Yellow-ridged Toucans on a high tree. Their mournful cry could be heard echoing over the tree canopy.
The Toco had a black body,a bright orange bill, orange feathering around the eyes and a white throat. The Yellow-ridged Toucan also had a black body with a yellowish to white throat, a black beak with yellow and blue markings and blue feathering around the black eyes.
The Toco and Yellow-ridged Toucans rarely came close to the lodge, but perched high up in the canopy. The Chestnut-eared Aracari was, however, a daily visitor. perching close by the lodge. it made its presence known by its raucous call. The Aracari is smaller than the Toco and Yellow-Ridged Toucans, but of the same family. It is black with a yellow breast, slashed with a red band and red feathers above its tail. It too had a large beak with serrated edges.
It was a friendly, cheeky bird unafraid of me on my verandah enjoying its visits.
The first photo shows a Yellow-ridged Toucan from a distance, which was the way I usually saw them. The next two photos are of a Toco Toucan. The next of the Aracari. Note the serrated edges of the bill.

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Manacapuru River, tributary of the Amazon. My harbour, river and fishes.

The River, the Harbour and Fishes. Manacapuru Lago, tributary of the Amazon River.

When the river was high during the wet season, late November to May, I would sit on the little wooden harbour platform, my feet in the water to keep cool. Bird watching was my usual occupation, but the water lapping my feet often had distractions.
The river water was coffee coloured due to sediment from the river banks, but it was possible to see through the top few centimetres which remained clear.
Shoals of small to medium size fish lived in the river close to the lodge. One daily visitor was a pipe shaped fish. Long, slim, almost transparent, with a neon stripe along its body to the tip of its nose. The larger males had a red nose. Sometimes this fish would jump from the water and skim along the surface, moving backwards on its tail.
Silver scaled Discus and harlequin patterned or striped fish were also regular visitors and, of course, Piranhas. Red-bellied Piranhas tended to be a problem only in the dry season, when food was scarce. The Gold, Silver and Black Piranhas were harmless. I bathed in the river daily without any harm.
The river water was often warm, bath temperature, especially after several days without rain. I would slide off the platform and sink into the water surrounded by fishes. It seemed the most natural thing to do in the heat. The thought of losing a limb or worse never entered my head.

Several Black Caiman lived close to the harbour. Their eyes could be picked out by torchlight in the evenings. During the day they rested, or that’s what I told myself. I saw them only the one time during the day, gliding past in the early morning. They were returning to their bank for a lay-in after their nights exertions and I kept my distance, depriving them of an English breakfast, until they settled.
Black Caiman are mainly fish or bird eaters, so unlikely to attack humans, but I do know of an attack on a local man and his young son. They accidentally rammed their canoe into the large caiman as he lay on the river bank, which angered him. The caiman killed them and was in turn killed by locals.

The only frog that I saw close to the harbour area was an incredible, minute, glass frog. Perfectly formed, the size of my smallest fingernail with black pinhead eyes, it took my breath away. I tried to scoop it up in the lid of a bottle so that I could take it to the lodge to photograph, but it was minute and difficult to catch. I thought I had caught it, but when I poured out the grey mud from the bottle lid on to the table, the tiny creature was not there.
During the wet season silver grey Bottle-Nosed Dolphins could be seen swimming and jumping in the waters, just meters away from the harbour. An especially heart lifting sight. They often had youngsters with them. I believe they bred in the estuary, a safer and quieter place than the busy main water way.
Every day I saw something new and different while sitting on the misshapen, wooden boards of my little harbour deck. If I shut my eyes I am back there and I can feel my muscles relaxing and my breathing slow.

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Northern Tegu and Ameiva Lizards versus Silver-beaked Tanagers.(Ramphocelus carbo..Tupinambis and Ameiva Ameiva)

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 little eggs laid, 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.

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Amazon Rainforest Climate. Wet Season in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.

The Wet Season (from diary)

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.

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