These woodpeckers photographed near the lodge were more yellow than cream, with rufous-brown wings and black tails. They had an erect yellow crest on the back of their heads and the males had a crimson patch on the side of their face. Their calls sounded like laughter.
I watched one afternoon as a lone Cream-coloured Woodpecker pulled long strips of leaf matter from a palm, possibly to get at the insects underneath, perhaps an ants nest. It persisted in this activity for quite some time, so it was getting its fill of something high up in the tall palm. Their diet normally consists of invertebrates, fruit and seeds.
Cream-coloured Woodpeckers have strong pair bonds. They perch close together. The female lays three eggs, possibly in tree hollows and both birds feed their young.
I noticed very early in my new hobby of birdwatching that birds often have strong pair bonds. When sitting by the harbour I would watch as the Blue-headed Green Parrots and the Toco or Yellow-ridged Toucans flew overhead. Always in pairs, even within a flock.
It saddens me to see parrots, in particular, in pet shops, alone in cages or chained to perches. They are social birds, as most birds are. They like the company of their own kind. Most live in pairs or flocks. Human companionship is no substitute for a feathered partner.
14th November 2012.
I always thought Twitchers were a born breed, a bit odd, now I am one of them, sort of. I came to bird watching late in life. Living in the Amazon Rainforest for any length of time you become a twitcher by default. Rare and unusual birds fall into your lap, or more likely, perch on a nearby tree daily.
I was told by Amazon rainforest guides that twitchers come complete with camouflage gear, heavy boots, expensive equipment and long lists of birds. I came to the task with pink or blue floral pyjamas, flip flops, and a little digital camera. And, I wouldn’t dream of having a list. Whatever I see is a blessing. I don’t creep up on the birds either. Instead I talk to them softly and greet them with delight.
In this way I have actually befriended birds. Saffron finches visited daily, as did Silver-beaked Tanagers, Anis, Yellow-Rumped Caciques and one of my favourites, a gorgeous Aracari. A Striated Heron, several Ringed Kingfishers and Wattle-necked Vultures shared the harbour side with me.
The pleasure I get from bird watching is to see the interaction between the birds, and between them and their environment. My guide friends tells me that once the twitchers have ticked off the bird and photographed it, they immediately want to go on to the next bird on their list. Not all of them, of course, but the guides found it difficult to understand what actual pleasure some got from the encounter. The habitat, habits, and characteristics of the bird held little interest for them.
Just read Bill Oddies new blog…with similar views. http://t.co/8Zo0ScsS ..Real Birdwatching
I sometimes wonder how many people who call themselves birdwatchers actually “watch“ the birds they see. They “tick them off”, yes, but do they really study their behaviour, their displays, their breeding routines, or indeed their feeding habits? The truth is that there are hundreds – no, millions – of people who would not call themselves real birdwatchers but who probably know more about the habits of some species than many of the so called experts. There are few better places to study bird behaviour than in your garden or backyard. Most people who put up feeders and nest boxes would admit that they also spend ages gazing out of the window. They see the tits, finches, robins and so on, and they become involved in their daily and yearly lives. Well, “that’s“ what I call bird watching!
I miss my forest home so much. I haven’t been back for several years due to ill health, but it’s with me every moment of every day.
If you ever see a lady, walking through the aisles of a supermarket, suddenly stop at the fruit section, shut her eyes, breath in deeply and then smile, a dreamy smile of delight. That will be me.
The smell of mangoes, pineapples or melons would have sent my senses into a frenzy of activity and transported me back to my forest home: I will be sitting on a boulder, fish nibbling my toes, parrots squawking overhead, insects chirping. Or, I will be laying up to my neck in clear water in a cool stream, guarded by a sentry Collared Kingfisher, the only noise coming from Swifts hurtling through the startling blue sky above at breakneck speed. Or, I will be sitting on the wooden harbour boards, feeling the tickle of an aqua-blue Swallow-Tailed butterfly sucking moisture from my skin with its black cotton-thin tongue, while listening to the mournful cry of a Yellow-Ridged Toucan calling from a high tree deep in the forest.
If the lady you see opens her eyes and you see tears, that’s me.
The Brazilian Government has just announced a four year long survey of the Amazon Rainforest to provide detailed data of tree species. It will also provide data on the soil and bio diversity in an area and try to assess the effects of climate change ie drought.
I am so happy to see this happening. A survey will detail all the trees in an area and make it easier to see when trees have been cut and will give a more accurate picture of deforestation.
I know from experience that many trees get cut down and sold without proper Government papers, which are, rightly, difficult to get.
I hope this survey will be highly publicised and involve locals in the collection of data and encourage communities to protect their beautiful environment. http://gu.com/p/3dc68/tw via @guardian
Real Life in the Amazon Rainforest. Morning, January.
My life in the forest bore no relation to the experiences of the muscled,adventurous, exuberant presenters usually seen on programmes about the Amazon.
I didn’t wrestle alligators, poke sticks into the holes of venomous snakes and spiders, or swim with hordes of Piranhas. Well, actually I did bathe with piranhas and venomous stingrays daily, but in a benign way, not in a threatening manner.
Real life in the Amazon is just like real life everywhere. It’s a day to day survival. I could just have easily got run over by a car or fallen down some stairs when in England, than get bitten by a cobra in Brazil.
I woke in the mornings as the sun rose. The growing light and the sounds of birds waking and flying off to their feeding grounds, was my cue to leave my hammock and prepare breakfast.
Often I had a guest or two. Mr.Monduco lived in his large canoe on the river and would regularly hang his hammock on the verandah. He was an elderly man, a man of the forest. Strong, gentle and a friend. We communicated in hand signals and my very poor Portugese, and somehow I got to know a lot about him. We had a similar silly sense of humour that helped too.
Just as often I was totally alone, sometimes for weeks, but I was never concerned about that. If anything I was able to see a part of myself that I did not know existed…I found a strength I didn’t know I had.
After breakfast I went to the river to bathe in the water along with the piranhas. Not a problem, most piranhas are harmless. Caiman were not a problem either, usually fishing at night, they rarely bothered humans. Anacondas too kept themselves to themselves.
I would sit on the wooden harbour deck with my feet in the water to keep cool, to do the washing up. Bird watching is easy done in the rainforest. Without any effort on my part, just patience, I saw from my position beside the washing-up bowl : several variety of Herons, Kingfishers and Birds of Prey. Blue-headed Green Parrots and Scarlet and Blue Macaws flew in noisy flocks overhead, as did Toco Toucans. A solitary Osprey perched in a tall tree to my right every morning. Sun Bitterns and Rails would often scuttle down to the shore, oblivious to my quiet presence.
I sat there in wonder until the sun rose above the trees and the heat became unbearable. I returned to the lodge and cleared, cleaned and tidied and prepared lunch.
That was my morning, similar to my mornings in England, but I must admit not so exciting as wrestling a caiman or dodging a cobras bite.
First photo Striated Heron, second photo Tiger Heron, third photo Blue-headed Green Parrots, fourth photo Great White Heron or Egret.
Smooth-billed Ani. Scientific name: Crotophaga ani
A bird that roosts close to the lodge are the Smooth-billed Anis. Black crow-like birds with large hooked parrot-like beaks.
Watching them from my verandah was always interesting. They hunt in flocks. The scout Anis appears first, leading the others over the trees and shrubs and swooping down through the branches, as far as the ground. They eat everything in their wake, be it frog, lizard, insect or termite. They remind me of velociraptors, in the way they move and in their pursuit of prey, and in their calls, resembling the calls heard on films of prehistoric dinosaurs.
They breed communally, having as many as twenty nine eggs in a single cup shaped nest.
When in open areas, close to settlements or in town, they march forward in ranks clearing the area of small wildlife. They appear not to fear humans, and do not fly away when one is sighted, but often turn, look with a challenging stare, then turn away, irritated by the interruption and carry on with their foraging. I found them quite intimidating, though they are not aggressive to humans.
It’s name sounded like something from a science fiction film and when I saw the illustration of the Trogon in a book, I did wonder if it was not a figment of someone’s imagination.
I had read in the book that Trogons were brightly coloured birds that perched half way between canopy and ground. They are shy and sit quietly for long periods, staying out of sight, making their presence hard to detect and observe.
It seems right then, that my first sighting of this bird, should be part of a strange tale.
It happened early one morning at breakfast. I looked up when I heard a loud, hooting call and saw this vision alight on a branch just metres away from me. I gasped.
The previous day I had been thinking about my problem stay in Brazil: the constant battle with bureaucracy, certain unhelpful people, my difficulties with the language and so on. I was hot and tired, weary of the struggle to get my home built.
It was a warm and sticky afternoon. Pushing my damp hair away from my face I spoke aloud to the trees. “I am so tired,” I said, “If you want me to stay send me a sign,” and then remembering the picture plate I had seen in the book that morning, “A Trogon, will do,” I said, shrugging in despair and feeling foolish talking to the forest.
I was absolutely shocked then when it appeared the next morning. I stared at it, afraid to move, and it just stared right back.
The Blue-crowned Trogons large, round, jet black eyes, are surrounded by a thin band of yellow. It’s head was blackish blue, the back and upper tail a deep turquoise, the wings pale greyish blue edged in black and the breast a soft red. On the underside of it’s long tail were striking black and white stripes. It was extraordinary.
I lifted my camera, it turned away, but did not fly off. Instead it perched on the same branch for quite some time, occasionally turning to look at me with those large, curious eyes.
I felt honoured. After the Trogon had flown off and I had recovered my senses, I turned towards the trees and, of course, loudly thanked the forest.