My home in the Amazon rainforest consisted of three spacious rooms and a wide verandah. There was space to sling my hammock and cook a meal and a spare room for visitors. Two of the rooms had flat, wooden ceilings, the other was open to the beautifully woven grass roof and, I’m afraid to say, rain drops.
It felt organic and had a strong smell of freshly cut wood. The surfaces of the verandah walls and doors were rough to the touch. It fitted well into the environment and was certainly a place where the wildlife felt at home.
Why Eden Lodge? Well, the multitude of animals, birds and insects I saw on a daily basis, along with the peace and quiet associated with the Garden of Eden, and of course the snakes, made Eden an obvious choice as a name for my home.
I loved it there. I felt at home the minute I arrived back, no matter how long I’d been away. The moment I stepped ashore, the forest wrapped around me like a pair of welcoming arms and I had a deep sense of belonging.
It took time to get the house in order on my return. Monduco, a friend and neighbour, who lived in a large canoe on the river, used the kitchen when I wasn’t there. He was not known for his cleaning skills. Everything had to be scrubbed clean and the area around the lodge had to be cleared.
But when all was in order again, I was able to sit in my rocking chair and watch the wildlife. When you’ve always lived in a busy city or town as I have, its sometimes difficult to wind down when away, but the journey to my forest home in planes, cars and boats began the detachment from that reality and by the time I reached Eden lodge I was ready to relax and totally immerse myself in the environment.
I didn’t move much when I was there. The humidity which made every pore in my skin wet and the heat which drained all energy, made exertion unpleasant. So I sat in my rocking chair or on the wooden harbour boards and watched and listened.
I found that I saw a great deal in that way. Rather than rushing around, digging sticks in holes, hauling myself up trees or diving headlong into rivers to unearth wildlife, my idea of bird or animal watching was to sit back and let it come to me. And, it worked.
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.
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
I always thought Twitchers were a born breed, a bit odd, now I am one of them. 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.