Friday, June 6, 2008

Wildlife watching

Typing this in bed because my rump hurts from so much sitting on the hard wooden seats of the boats and the dining room. The wildlife tour was somewhat unsuccessful, in the sense that we saw virtually no animal wildlife; just a pair of Saki monkeys in a tree that sat utterly motionless for ten minutes or so and then scampered off. Our guide had wanted to find a sloth, and perhaps a tapir, but they were nowhere to be found. Still, it's nice to have seen Seki monkeys in the wild, not just the half-tame ones near the lodge. For the first hour and a half that we were in the boat, the jungle was utterly still; lots of bird calls, but we never saw a single one. It was very hot, and the sun was beating down mercilessly; the birds simply had more sense than we did, and were staying in dark recessed spots to escape from the heat, I think. Even the turkey vultures, which like to sit on snags and look menacing during the heat of the day, were in hiding. The sounds were wonderful, though. One bird had a call that sounded like three ascending notes being stuck on a big wooden xylophone; another sounded exactly like the wolf whistle that people like to teach parrots (that one was called the "king of the jungle" by the indigenous people, according to our guide; we haven't seen them, only heard them). A third had a flutelike warbling call that sounded strangely off-key and plaintive.
Around five or so, the sun started to go behind clouds and trees more, and the temperature dropped. Big storm clouds started building rapidly on the horizon. At this point the birds started coming out, and we saw several we haven't seen before: a yellow-rumped cacique and a blue ani (or that's what our guide called them), a pair of woodpeckers up high in a dead tree that looked a lot like pileated woodpeckers, a lovely yellow and black flycatcher, lots more kingfishers, lots of swallows way up high or gliding over the water's surface. From a long way away we saw a toucan fly across the river, and from even farther away we saw five macaws in flight. I didn't get any photos of birds at all; I can see them wonderfully in the binoculars, but my camera is completely inadequate. Even Bill, who has a huge stabilized lens on his camera, can't get very many of them; they're so far away that a tripod is really needed.
Now the sun has set, insect and frog sounds have taken over, and it will probably rain soon. Dinner is in fifteen minutes. I eat a lot at every meal, but I am always hungry. It feels like I'm not doing very much besides sitting and looking at things, but perhaps it burns a lot of calories just dealing with the heat. Or perhaps I'm gaining weight. Ah, now the rain has started; that's good, it should cool the air, which is still a bit oppressive. We saw lightning in the distance as we came in, so this may be a fairly big storm.

No comments: