Pope cardinal ….Amazon Rainforest Bird…Cardinalidae

Pope cardinal…Amazon Rainforest bird

Pope Cardinals were regular visitors to the lodge in the Amazon Rainforest, but a flash of blood red in the shrubs was usually all I got to see of this bird…the bad photo shows the difficulty I found with photographing this vibrantly coloured bird in the forest.

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Cardinal birds were named after the scarlet robes of the Catholic Cardinals.
They have a mostly black back, their black/grey wings are edged in white as are their tails. They have pure white chests and collars and the bright red head and red narrow bib that has given them their name.

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These birds have strong bills and are seed eaters but also eat fruit.

Indifference to the rain-forest plight will kill us all.

The TV programme here in England called #’I bought a rainforest’ showed last night. The show was about Charlie who had bought an area of rainforest in Peru in an effort to conserve it and protect it from deforestation.
His story is similar to my own and his desperation as his dream is shattered is equal to my own.

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It’s easy to sit on the stones of a clear, cool forest stream as the water runs through your toes, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the rainforest, and think life is perfect.
But then your daydreams are crashed into by the sound of tree saws and you’re faced with the reality as you hear and feel the thump of the tree hitting the ground.
People, often those living in towns, often well off, come into the forest or send others to cut down the best trees…the hardwood trees that have taken hundred of years to grow, to sell abroad or to clear the forest for food, soya, production.

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There are two kinds of locals in the rainforest. There are those that don’t want change, who want the forest they love left alone. People who live and work within the forest.
And there are the other kind. The ones who see the rainforest as a thing to be used and abused and flattened if it provides money, however temporary.
The soil of the rainforest is thin it won’t provide decades of farming. I’ve seen fields after a few years…… now useless …stark, dry and treeless, abandoned by the farmers.
I’ve seen streams and rivers polluted and made unusable by mining. I’ve seen thick forest burnt to the ground and with it thousands of animals and birds and insects, some not yet seen by man as new discoveries are being made all the time.

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The forest has evolved over millions of years. The animals, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians…the trees, shrubs, plants have evolved to work together. The Brazil-nut tree for instance needs a particular orchid, a specialist bee and a sharp toothed rodent to reproduce.
Take away one item from the forest and the effect on everything around it is dramatic.
The rainforest is not only beautiful with extraordinary wildlife, it provides a third of the oxygen we breath. Cut down the forest and human life on earth ends.

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When are governments around the world going to take this seriously and help the countries with rainforests to protect them or must we just accept the inevitable. Are Charlie and I banging our heads against a wall of indifference.

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Yellow-headed Caracara…Milvago chimachima.

Yellow-headed Caracara…Milvago chimachima.

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Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

On my way down to the river with a washing up bowl one morning a loud, scream-like, call drew my attention to a tall tree, where a raptor perched surveying the forest. It was a Yellow-headed Caracara.

The bird had a buff coloured head with a striking black eye streak. The raptors underbody was buff, the wings brown with pale patches on the flight feathers. The longish tail was a barred brown and cream.

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Although a member of the falcon family the Caracara is not swift in flight but quite sluggish as I saw when it launched itself of the branch and flew at a leisurely pace over the forest canopy.

The Caracara eats amphibians, reptiles, small animals and carrion. The young will eat fruit.

The female lays 5/7 eggs in a stick nest in a tree.

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I never ceased to be amazed by the forest. I saw in just a few months more varieties of raptors, kingfishers, herons and finches than I had seen in my whole life before, not to mention parrots, toucans and hummingbirds. Every single day served up a surprise, a reason to stop and stare.

The Amazon Rainforest is a treasure of nature, a wonder to behold.

Agami Heron…Chestnut-bellied Heron…Agamia Agami

Agami Heron…Chestnut-bellied Heron…..Agamia Agami

The Agami Herons were regular visitors to the waterfall area. Being shy they kept hidden in the undergrowth most of the time, but occasionally I would catch sight of them on a branch or moving slowly along the river bank.

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The Agami is a long billed, long necked, short legged, medium size heron. It has a chestnut neck and chest and with a creamy white stripe down the middle of the fore-chest. The wings are dark green in mature herons, brown in immature birds.

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Agami gather together to nest in large colonies and usually have two blue eggs. A quiet, shy bird, when gathered together they make a low snoring sound. They eat fish, frogs, snails and small reptiles.

Despite their reputation for shyness the Agami did not fly off as we passed by in our canoe, but carried on picking amongst the reeds for fish, frogs and small reptiles.

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Black-collared Hawk …Busarellus nigricollis

Black-collared Hawk (Busarellus nigricollis)

The Black-collared Hawk is a handsome looking bird of prey. It has a rufous coloured body with a black collar below the neck. It’s head is white streaked with black and its tail feathers are black with a rufous edging. Wings are edged with black. The Hawks bill is black, its feet are white and its eyes are brown.

I often saw the Hawk near water, either perched on one of the poles placed in the river from which fishing nets were hung or in trees at the waters edge. From its perch it mainly took fish which it snatched from the water with its talons, but also snails, rodents and lizards. It kept its distance, hence the unclear photos, but was not concerned enough to fly off when it saw me.

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Raptors had to move upstream in the dry season, because the water was too shallow to hold fish that would satisfy their appetites, but the hawk still came to rest on a fishing post close to the harbour daily. It was a fine sight and kept me mesmerised.

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The Black-collared Hawk often nests high up near the water from which it gets its food, laying three or five eggs in a nest lined with green leaves.

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The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest-Dry Season. Return to the lodge..my home. Part one

The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest-Dry Season. Return to the Lodge..My home…Part One.

This is what I was always faced with on my return to the lodge in late September, early October, taken from my diaries.

I took a fast boat back to the lodge from the town of Manacapuru. The journey took an hour and a half. The boat usually stopped close to the harbour, but because the water was so low at this time of year, the dry season, the boat had to beach far away on the opposite shore.

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I walked along the pale sandy banks towards the logs that had been placed across the river, the only way to reach the now isolated lodge, passing as I did the pale shrunken, fetid, carcass of a caiman on the way.

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Tall skeletal trees close to the river bank held well fed vultures. This time of year being a food fest for the scavengers, who picked at the swollen or shrivelled bodies of dolphins and caiman, stranded on the sandy soil.

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The previous inhabitants of the forest had built a makeshift bridge across the river. The tree trunks were thick and with a helping hand I was able to keep my balance until two-thirds of the way across. My feet were bare because dips and slips into the water were frequent, so as wearing shoes was pointless, I had taken them off. Most of the logs were smooth, but some were rough and eroded, with needle sharp and brittle bark, making the walk over them very painful.
The walkway closer to the harbour consisted of nothing more than thin trunks or wide branches, a human foot width wide, or crooked planks of bleached, warped wood. Balancing on these and keeping out of the waiting mud was a challenge. The weight of each footstep caused the branches and planks to sink into the mud, which oozed between my toes making my feet and the wood slippery, but eventually with the help of long balancing poles and a helping hand from a friend I made it and with a big sigh of relief reached solid home shore.

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My feet were cut and bleeding and the next day the soles of my feet were covered in blisters, but I had got home safely. I almost knelt and kissed the ground. Almost…..instead we celebrated my arrival home with a cup of black coffee and manioc cake.
The boat driver returned the way we had come just as night fell. I heard his boat engine start in the distance and then fade away. I was alone in the Amazon Rainforest….again.

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Herons and Egrets of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.

Great Egrets ..White Herons (Ardea alba) Brazilian name; garça-branca-grande.
Striated Heron (Butorides striata).
Cocoi Heron ( Ardea cocoi aka White-necked Heron) Brazilian name: garça-moura
Capped Heron ( Pilherodius pileatus)

Fish and other aquatic life were easy pickings in the small, shallow pools left behind by the receding river during the dry season. To take advantage of this large flocks of herons would gather along the banks and beds of the river.

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Great Egrets and Snowy Herons were in abundance. The Great Egrets or Great White Heron can stand 1m tall. They have long, sharp, yellow bills which they use for stabbing prey of fish, frogs, insects and small mammals.
Occasionally a Great or Snowy Heron would stand quite motionless for ages on the warped planks of my river walkway and then suddenly stab into the water for a fish. If I sat very quietly it would do this very close to me and was quite a sight.
Striated and Tiger Herons and Cocoi Herons too walked the shores. Occasionally a beautiful Capped Heron, with its startling sky-blue face and legs, joined the throng.

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Capped Heron, a name that doesn’t do justice to this beautiful bird.

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The elegant Cocoi Heron

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A Tiger Heron, a very noisy heron. This one had attitude and protected his area with aggression.
Another Heron who didn’t mind my company was the Striated Heron. They were much smaller then the stately Great Egrets, with grey and white streaked plumage. They were every day visitors, settling on branches close to my harbour decking and fishing along with the kingfishers.

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When gathered together in great numbers the flocks of herons made a noise like a low snoring, grating or murmuring. It could be heard for miles and reached the lodge, which was up a low hill and in the forest.