Into the Heart of the Amazon Wildlife & Natural History Cruise on the Rio Negro in Brazil May 1-14, 2006 Orvis Travel & The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History Participants: Donald Heyneman, Amy Heyneman, Lucy Arnold, Phil Rasori, Don and Terry Glasco, Souza, our local guide, plus a crew of 6 on the riverboat Tucano The riverboat Tucano View from the pool at the Hotel Tropical on the banks of the Rio Negro, Manaus Sisters ready for adventure Lucy & Papa
May 2, 2006 Hotel Tropical, Manaus The Hotel Tropical is really a gorgeous old hotel – at least inside. Landscaping, pool, and zoo are great, but the whole structure is rather a monstrosity on the outside, especially the new Business Tower that just opened next to the original building. The view from the terrace and pool is spectacular, though. The tropical zoo includes: Blue & yellow macaws Scarlet macaws Curassow Black-bellied whistling duck Chacalaca Spider Monkeys Wooly Monkeys Jaguar Collared peccary Paca Capybara Capuchin monkeys South American coati Collared peccary Scarlet macaw I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore when a bat flew by me at knee level in the hotel. Blue & yellow macaw As soon as we approached the jaguar’s cage, he lifted tail and sprayed in a corner. Very effective. We couldn’t go anywhere near his area of the zoo after that.
May 3, 2006 On the Tucano We boarded the riverboat Tucano on a typically rainy Amazon morning. Because there were only 6 passengers, we were assigned individual cabins. I can’t imagine a more wonderful way to explore the Rio Negro than on this boat. It is perfectly maintained, very comfortable, and beautifully decorated with lots of polished dark wood and framed prints of tropical plants and scenes on the walls. Vases of orchids welcomed us into our cabins. There are 2 levels with cabins, kitchen, and dining room plus a covered observation deck above. From here we could relax and watch the jungle go by, snooze, talk, or just appreciate the amazing daily cloud shows. The cook brought hot appetizers up there for us each night at sunset. Our local guide, Souza, was a great asset. He seemed to know every bird and could even reproduce many of their calls. He planned all of our outings by canoe and created trails for us to follow in the jungle. His English is great – he taught himself by book – and he could tell us about local customs and history as well as help us find and identify wildlife. There were also 6 crewmen, so we were very well taken care of. We especially appreciated the hard-working and talented cook.
May 3, 2006 Tour of Museum Serengal Vila Paraiso Our first outing is a visit to a reproduction rubber plantation that was built for the filming of a movie. We toured the main house, chapel, shop, and a tiny shed where the workers poured liquid latex onto a dowel to harden over a smoking fire. Ocelot skin in main house Anaconda skin on shop wall. Main house Latex was collected in small tin cups. All equipment had to be purchased in the shop by the workers. Candle hats were worn by workers, who were required to collect latex in the jungle before sunrise. Workers’ living quarters Scale used to weigh the smoked balls of rubber. The owner regularly cheated his employees, who were treated more like slaves. Arboreal ant nest. The folic acid of nest can be used as an insect repellant. Chapel
May 3, 2006 Afternoon & Evening onboard the Tucano We had some time to relax and get to know one another on the top deck while the boat headed back up the Rio Negro. Instead of more outings today, we motored back toward Manaus to pick up Phil, who arrived 1 day late. Souza provided the evening’s entertainment with a tropical fruit show-and-tell. This distant rainstorm was just one of many great sky shows.
May 4, 2006 Morning Canoe Outing We are up at 5:30 to start each day with a canoe trip. Great time for bird-watching. Today we navigated through very narrow channels in the flooded canopy, with jungle vegetation mirrored perfectly all around. We wandered through a peaceful and dreamy environment. Blue-headed Parrot We were delighted to get a good, long look at a gorgeous Spangled Cotinga. Large-billed Tern A Channel-Billed Toucan and about ten Blue and Yellow Macaws flew screaming overhead. Pink River Dolphins huffed loudly when surfacing to breathe. Red-capped Cardinal Squirrel Cuckoo Festive Parrot
May 4, 2006 Morning Canoe Outing Complete list of wildlife seen on this outing: New Birds: Black-crested Antshrike Blue &Yellow Macaw – 10 Blue-headed Parrot – 50 Cattle Egret – 15 Channel-billed Toucan – 6 Crane Hawk Festive Parrot – 12 Great White Egret – 3 Greater Ani Green Ibis – 2 Hoatzin – 2-4 Hummingbird – 2 Large-billed Tern Muscovy Duck Olive Oropendola – 6 Orange-cheeked Parrot (call) Red-capped Cardinal Ruddy Pigeon Short-tailed Swift – 75 Silver-billed Tanager Spangled Cotinga Squirrel Cuckoo Streaked Flycatcher Yellow-rumped Cacique – 2 Repeat Birds: Amazon Kingfisher Red-capped Cardinal Roadside Hawk – 3 Other: Azteca Ants in Cecropia tree Blue Morpho Butterfly Curare Vine (small yellow fruit is one ingredient used for dart poison) Epiphytes, including Clusia, Rhyssalis (cactus), Philodendron (Elephant Ear) Pink River Dolphins Huge furry bumblebees Amazon Kingfisher Olive Oropendola
May 4, 2006 Visit to Bacaba Village We waited out a heavy rainstorm before taking the canoe to the Bacaba Village. 32 families live here, including many beautiful, healthy-looking children. They grow manioc and fruit and catch fish in the river. Manioc, a staple in the Amazon, is eaten at every meal. Each little village has a covered platform for public dancing and fiestas. Bacaba also has 3 different churches to serve its small population. Passion vine Young siblings One of the numerous steps necessary to prepare manioc flour. The children serenade us.
May 4, 2006 Jungle Walk Greater Yellow-headed Vulture Club moss is a common ground cover. Aerial palm roots This jungle hitch-hiker found on Terry’s jeans. Huge snail found on tree trunk. Escargot, anyone? Tropical Kingbird Bullet ant nest at base of tree Leaving terra firma
May 4, 2006 Jungle Walk Complete list of wildlife seen on this outing: Amazon Kingfisher Armadillo Burrows Black Nunbird (call: series of descending whistles) Bullet Ants (nest at base of small tree) False Caimen Lizard (swimming near shore) Greater Yellow-headed Vulture Katydid (large brown leaf type) Morpho Butterflies – 3 Peacock Bass (splash) Red Howler Monkeys – 2 Screaming Pihas (call) Short-tailed Swifts Snail (huge, on tree) Squirrel Monkeys Tropical Kingbird Yellow-billed Tern Screaming Piha – often heard but never seen. Red Howler Monkey Squirrel Monkey
May 4, 2006 Afternoon on board the Tucano From the top deck we spotted a lovely black and white butterfly – about the size of a swallowtail, 2 Scarlet Macaws and 2 Black Vultures flying overhead. May 4, 2006 Evening Canoe Trip Souza holds a strong portable light to search for eyeshine among the trees at the river’s edge. Various frog calls are heard during each night outing. We also saw: 1 Caiman 2 Ladder-backed Nightjars a pair of Hyla Vericeps Frogs 2 iguanas a silvery fish with a long, forked tail. Long-nosed bats swooped by our canoe. This Great Potoo was the real highlight of this outing. Huge Iguanas lounge far out on branches over the river and fall in with a huge splash when threatened. A Spectacled Caiman’s eyes shine red in our night light.
May 5, 2006 Morning Canoe Trip We floated among and over the treetops. Very odd sensation. I’m becoming more comfortable using binoculars now, and it’s a thrill to spot anything moving. Lucy adapts to birding. Bare-necked Fruit Crow Don enjoys the Amazon morning. Muscovy Duck Blue-headed Parrot White-winged Swallow A sumptuous breakfast awaits us after a hard morning of bird-watching. Pale-vented Pigeon Osprey
May 5, 2006 Morning Canoe Trip Complete list of wildlife seen on this outing: New Birds: Anhinga Orange-winged Parrot Ani – 50 Bananaquit Bare-necked Fruit Crow – 4 Cinnamon Attila (call) Greater Manakin – 3 Lesser Kiskadee Flycatcher – 8 Lineated Woodpecker Muscovy Duck Neotropical Cormorant – 6 Orange-winged Parrot – 3 Osprey Pale-vented Pigeon – 10 Rough-winged Swallow – 3 Ruddy Pigeon – 2 Scarlet Macaw Sungrebe (call) Tropical Gnat Catcher – 2 Tropical Kingbird – 8 Yellow-headed Vulture White-winged Swallow Repeat Birds: Amazon Kingfisher Blue-headed Parrot – 2 Crane Hawk Festive Parrot – 6 Greater Ani – 75 Muscovy Duck Olive Oropendola – 2 Ringed Kingfisher – 3 Roadside Hawk White-winged Swallow - 2 Yellow-headed Caracara Yellow-rumped Cacique Ringed Kingfisher Roadside Hawk Grey River Dolphin Other Creatures: Grey River Dolphin Iguana (saw 2 & heard another fall in river) Long-nosed Bat (roosting in tree in water) Yellow-rumped Cacique
May 5, 2006 Jungle Walk We caught glimpses of many squirrel monkeys and a few capuchins traipsing through the jungle treetops right in front of our canoe on the way to terra firma. Red Passion Vine blossom A female, juvenile 3-toed Sloth was well-camouflaged among the mossy branches. She spotted us and ran away in slooooow motion. We tasted the white sap of the Chicle (Sapote) tree, from which chewing gum was originally made. We spotted many different butterflies, including Heliconid and Morpho, but most were unidentified. A family of Greater Long-nosed Armadillos crashed through the undergrowth back to the safety of their burrow right in front of us. A particularly large arboreal Azteca Ant nest. Miniature fungus garden Our jungle walk was cut short by a real Amazon downpour, which left several inches of water in Amy’s boots. We were all soaked through to our underwear, even with ponchos on. Before the rain reached us, it sounded like a distant waterfall. Unfortunately, no photos could be taken of the incredibly colorful fungus gardens in the small slash-and-burn farm we slogged through on our way back to the canoe.
May 5, 2006 Jungle Walk Complete list of wildlife etc.seen on this outing: Brown-fronted Capuchins – 4 Butterflies: (large Morpho, large yellow with black marks, white with dark marks, black with light spot on each wing, orange from Heliconid family, others) Chicle (Sapote) Tree Fungus (Colorful; all over plantation debris) Greater Long-nosed Armadillo – 3 Howler Monkey (call) Monkey Brush Flowers Pleasing Fungus Beetle Peccary wallow Red-billed Toucan (call) Red Passion Flowers Scarlet Macaw – 2 Slash and burn plantation (small, at canoe landing site) Spider (large but slender body in center of web) Squirrel Monkeys – 30 Three-toed Sloth (juvenile female) Monkey Brush Pleasing Fungus Beetle Typical twisting vine, although some do twist the opposite direction. Red-billed Toucan Fairy parasols?
May 5, 2006 Jungle Walk to Giant Kapok Tree A fungus the size of a coffee table grew behind one buttress. Don in one arching root. View up into huge Kapok crown reveals enough room for a city of very small people – or more likely, Elves. This giant Kapok is the most remarkable tree we’ve ever seen. It takes 36 men with outstretched arms to encircle it. Buttress roots give the tree an enormous girth. We all explored a bat cave of White-lined, Sac-winged Bats inside the Kapok tree.
May 5, 2006 Jungle Walk to Giant Kapok Tree Complete list of wildlife seen on this outing: Black-fronted Nunbird Bullet Ants & nest Leaf-cutter Ants (going up tree buttresses to nest near top of tree) Long-billed Woodcreeper Pale-breasted Spinetail Ringed Woodpecker White-lined Sac-winged Bats inside Kapok tree We passed heliconids (pictured) as well as ginger flowers on the way to the Kapok. Stilt roots of a smaller jungle tree. This shelf fungus is growing its own moss garden. The crown of the Kapok can be seen towering over the rest of the jungle canopy. Don and Lucy, delighted to have been inside the Kapok bat cave. One of many jungle epiphytic plants
May 5, 2006 Night Canoe trip on Jauperi River This afternoon we motored up into the Jauperi River – a tributary of the Rio Negro. Our evening excursion is in this slightly different environment. An incredible chorus of frogs provide constant background music, punctuated by the deep calls of Amazon Bamboo Rats and Caiman. Souza imitated the rats to attract caiman. An Amazon Tree Boa was the only snake seen on the entire trip. Sunset from the Tucano In addition to the creatures pictured, we encountered another 3-toed Sloth, Pink River Dolphins, a Grey-necked Wood Rail, Band-tailed Nighthawks, and 2 snoozing Festive Parrots. A White-necked Heron perched on a branch directly over our heads. Souza managed to grab this baby Caiman. Lucy wanted to hold everything that wasn’t poisonous. This beautiful Tarantula specimen was spread out on a tree trunk right in front of our canoe. Ghost Bats (shown), Fishing Bats, and Long-nosed Bats flew by us. A Porcupine lounged about 20 feet up in a tree.
May 6, 2006 Morning Canoe Trip on Jauperi River Using a machete, Souza cleared a path for the canoe to gain entrance to a very magical area – a secret lake only accessible by boat from the river during flood season. Water Hyacinths covered parts of the lake. No locals fish here, though, as secret lakes are thought to be home to huge anacondas. A perfectly symmetrical Wasp nest is decorated with its tenants. Cecropia Trees, very commonly seen, house ants for protection. Aerial roots from epiphytes in the canopy try to reach the ground for nourishment. Plumbeous Kite
May 6, 2006 Morning Canoe Trip on Jauperi River Complete list of wildlife seen on this outing: New Birds: Black Caracara Green Kingfisher – 5 Long-tailed Woodcreeper Orange-fronted Yellow Finch Plumbeous Kite – 3 Red-billed Toucan Swallow-winged Puffbird – 3 Wattled Jacana The Orange-fronted Yellow Finch is a beautiful small bird with a very long, perfectly descriptive name. Repeat Birds: Black Vulture – 3 Blue & Yellow Macaw – 3 Swallow-tailed Kite Blue-gray Tanager Blue-headed Parrot –20 Cattle Egret – 12 Festive Parrot – 50 Forked-tailed Flycatcher (female) Greater Ani Great Kiskadee –3 Green Ibis – 4 Hummingbird – 3 Orange-winged Parrot –2 Red-capped Cardinal –3 Roadside Hawk Silver-beaked Tanager –3 Tropical Kingbird –12 White-winged Swallow – 4 Yellow-rumped Cacique Forked-tailed Flycatcher Groups of Greater Ani create a distinctive chattering sound called “boiling rice”. Black Caracara Green Ibis
May 6, 2006 Jungle Walk The highlight of today’s jungle walk was an immense nest of Leaf-cutter Ants. It was 30-60 feet in diameter, and much larger underground. The top is stripped bare of all vegetation to allow the sun’s warmth through. Larger ants guard the entrances and protect the workers. The leaves are used as mulch in the subterranean fungus garden that provides the ant colony with its food. Tiny ants ride the leaves and rid the larger workers of parasites. Elegant pattern left by leaf mining insect. Leafcutter Ants march along a fallen log. Mud tower ~ 2 feet tall, constructed by Cicadas. Souza motioned for quiet on the jungle trail. He then used bird calls to lure a Bird-eating Tarantula out of its nest at the base of a tree. Many jungle plants employ physical defenses. Galliandra Orchid
May 6, 2006 Jungle Walk Complete list of wildlife seen on this outing: Souza produced a very musical birdcall, which was soon returned by the real thing: a Musician Wren. Supposedly, one has good luck for life after hearing its song. Bar-winged Wren Bird-eating Tarantula Blue-crowned Motmot Butterfly (large, swallowtail type) Cattle Egret Dragonfly (red & black; showy as a butterfly) Blue-crowned Motmot Grey-winged Trumpeter Leaf-cutter Ants and nest Musician Wren (call) Pumbeous Kite –3 Rough-winged Swallow Screaming Piha (call) Swallow-tailed Kite White-winged Swallow – 25 Yellow-headed Vulture “Hot Lips”, labios ardientes, in Spanish. Genus Psychotria, in the Rubiaceae (coffee) family. We found two tail feathers of the gorgeous Blue-crowned Motmot by the trail. Swallow-tailed Kite Cattle Egret We heard but didn’t see the Grey-winged Trumpeter.
May 6, 2006 River Swim/ Evening Stories Not everyone was keen to go swimming in the Rio Negro, but a few of us were game. I eagerly put on my swim goggles and ducked under the surface to see – nothing at all. It was like trying to see in black coffee. So, no matter what creatures were sharing the warm water with us, we didn’t see them. I swam over to pick a few berries from the top of a tree. After a brief swim, we scrambled up the sandy bank to find a small cemetery with several old wooden crosses topped with partially melted white candles. An old dead tree seemed to stand guard, and right in a crack in the trunk was a very large tarantula on her nest. In the afternoon, heavy rain kept us on board, so we skipped a village visit and started back up the Rio Negro. Instead of a night canoe trip, Souza told us of local beliefs, superstitions, and history. We were quite surprised to hear that the local people fear the Pink Dolphin. It seems there is a widely-held belief that the Pink Dolphin can become a man with the power of seduction. Often, a young woman who doesn’t want to reveal the name of her lover will say the Dolphin is her child’s father. The child, whether boy or girl, is considered special and often becomes a Shaman. The Dolphins are left alone out of both fear and respect.