Added 3 September 2006
Day 14: Monday, June 19, 2006
Shan had a better night last night. She still didn't sleep much because she had psyched herself out to a degree, but she didn't get eaten alive, so I think it will help her rest easier in the future. She still wants to try to change our plans so that we spend one less night here at the jungle lodge and one more night at the Hotel Floresta Amaz˘nica in Alta Floresta, which is the sister hotel for the jungle lodge. This was something that I suggested we could do that soon afterwards I kind of regretted. But with Shan really getting affected by being here, I thought that getting her back into something more approximating so-called civilization might help her out. She definitely latched on to the idea, in part because it means she can have more time to go shopping in Alta Floresta. She's also excited about air conditioning, hot showers, and fresh juices though. Even though I generally hate humidity, I don't think it has been all that bad overall, or I've just been dealing with it well.
At any rate, Fabricio agreed to try to make arrangements for us to leave a day early, but wasn't sure if he'd have any luck. He was also a little bit dumbfounded by our request. At breakfast, when I re-iterated to him that Shan really does want to leave a day early, he said something to the effect of, "It is my job to show you things. There is nothing to show there except the Harpy Eagle. No way for me to do my job." So we'll have to see what happens. I wish we could leave here early and go spend some more time in a different part of the Pantanal. There isn't quite enough to do and see here to keep Shan interested. I'd be happy just to go wander through the jungle checking things out, but Shan doesn't have quite the naturalist spirit that I do. She also has a harder time finding birds with her binos, so unless we can get the spotting scope on it, she misses a lot. I think that affects her ability to enjoy everything as much as the rest of us.
Since Shan didn't get much sleep last night, she decided to sleep in and skip the morning hike. At my request, Fabricio tried to get a boat trip for Chuck and Dave's last day in Brazil, but he didn't have any luck, as there was a film crew from the German World Wildlife Federation there and they were using a lot of the lodge's resources, including all of the boats that morning. Another group had reserved the tower, but they were leaving early that day, so our plan was to wander around some trails and try to get a little bit of time in the tower after they left.
At any rate, we got a nice new species before we even left the lodge. We saw a pair of orange-cheeked parrots (Pionopsitta barrabandi). We got a nice good look at them too. We picked up a few new species on our way to the tower too.
We got to the tower with perfect timing, just as another group was leaving. So we spent about 45 minutes at the top of the tower before we had to head back so Chuck and Dave could take a shower before starting their long journey back home.
Back at the lodge, the white-whiskered spider monkeys (Ateles marginatus) were around again, so we watched them for a bit before heading back to our bungalows. When we got back to the lodge, the outside of their bungalow was swarming with army ants. Every so often, a colony of army ants will relocate their nest. When this happens, they move en masse from one location to another. Chuck and Dave got lucky, as the ants didn't actually go into their bungalow, but they were saying that the ants did go into a couple of the adjoining bungalows. Shan and I went over to take a look, and Vitoria, the owner of the lodge and hotel, happened to walk by. She seemed quite interested by the swarm, and talked to us a bit about the ants.
Of course, I'm out there taking pictures and checking out the ants in sandals and socks, which probably wasn't the swiftest move I've ever made. However, I continued to prove my immunity to insects of all kinds. Even walking in, amongst and on what was probably millions of ants for about 10 minutes, I only got a handful or two on me, and didn't get bit once. Perhaps I should have been an entemologist, because I seem to have a special relationship with insects. I can stick out my finger and have a tarantula wasp or butterfly just land on it. Others can get swarmed by mosquitoes and I hardly get touched (though I do get bit some, presumably by those who haven't heard of me yet). It's rather strange, really.
Fabricio said that they get army ant swarms where he lives too. They will invade a home and all you can do is just leave and let them do their thing. Apparently, they are great housekeepers, as they will go through and clean out any other pests that might be in your house such as roaches, spiders, snakes, or anything else they can eat.
After the ants, we all just went down to the outside dinning area and hung out while we waited for the boat to start Chuck and Dave on their long journey home. The boat was waiting until a new group coming into the lodge was at the other end. It was late in the afternoon before they got the word that it was time to go. Shan and I went with them down to the docks and said our good-byes. As soon as their boat rounded the corner Shan said she missed them already. I too felt that it would be a different trip without them around, and didn't want to see them go. It was great to have their company and their knowledge on this trip.
With Chuck's leaving, I just started thinking about the person who wasn't able to join us here at all . . . Jeffers. We have seen so many things that he would have gone absolutely bonkers over.
At lunch, we were joined by Vitoria, and we talked about the lodge, and she gave us suggestions on things to do. We had already planned on doing everything she suggested, but it was nice that she at least seemed to take interest in us fully enjoying our stay here. For dessert, they had some sort of banana thing that wasn't very good, but Shan brought three huge plates of it for me, Fabricio and herself. I ended up eating all of mine because I was sitting with the owner of the lodge, but Shan and Fabricio barely touched theirs.
After lunch I went out in search of butterflies to photograph while waiting for Wil to bring out the Brazilian rainbow boa (Epicrates cenchria cenchria)he caught and chilled for a photo shoot. Unfortunately, the cat-eye snake escaped through a hole in the bag, so we only had one snake to photograph.
Everyone had to wait though, as the German film crew making the show for the German World Wildlife Federation got first crack at it. By the time they were done, the boa had warmed up and was moving well (which was good because at first Wil thought he may have chilled it too much). With it waking up and moving quickly, I was afraid that we wouldn't get many good shots, but Wil ended up moving the snake to a tree branch, which gave us plenty of time for some good shots. I was still taking photos after everyone but Shan had left, when I discovered that the boa was definitely recovered from being chilled.
As I was taking a picture of the snake at close range when it struck at me, fortunately hitting the camera instead of my hand. It was startling, but cool.
The pictures of the snake in the tree turned out really well, and later I thought it amusingly ironic that the film crew missed the best shots. Even though they were doing good things, I have to admit that I held a tiny bit of animosity towards the film crew. They had really no clue what they were looking at, had ridiculous expectations about what they would see, like this was a zoo with trained animals, and tended to commandeer space and equipment without respect to the others at the lodge.
Back at the room, I did a little laundry before our afternoon outing, which was another boat ride up the river.
We saw mostly things we'd seen before, but that's not a bad thing, as we'd been seeing amazing things. I have to say though, that it was pretty easy to get spoiled on seeing so many new things every day in the Atlantic Rainforest and in the Pantanal, that the slower rate of seeing new things in the Amazon required a different mindset. It seemed more difficult for Shannon to adjust, but I think she's needs more pizazz than me when it comes to nature. I'm perfectly happy watching a bug for 30 minutes. She craves flashy birds. She did get one flashy bird though, in the form of a Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus).
Shan did get to do something a little different on this trip however, and got another shot at fishing for piranha. Shan was keen to give it a shot, so after Alfredo, our boat driver for the evening, showed her the proper technique, she gave it a shot. It took a while to get her to pull back on the pole when she felt a nibble, but when she got that down, she got it way too down. Shan hooked one, but yanked back so hard that the fish flew out of the water at high speed and she ended up throwing it completely over the boat, off the hook, and back into the water about 20 feet on the other side side of the boat! As the piranha flew over their heads, Fabricio and Alfredo sure hit the deck! I can't say that I blame them either. I have no idea what must have been going through that poor piranhas mind during the event. He must have wondered how he'd ended up on the E-ticket ride. Then I gave it a shot, but wasn't able to land anything. Truth to tell, I was rather happy that all I ended up doing was feeding them with my bait (though I truly did try to catch one). Alfredo, who was our boat driver, wasn't successful either, so we went to a new location, where we were unsuccessful again. So we went to a third location. This time I hooked two piranhas, but both escaped as I pulled them out of the water. Then the boat driver caught one, which was all the success we had.
We also got a nice look at our first caiman here in the Amazon. It was an adult, but much smaller than the caiman in the Pantanal, and according to Fabricio, more aggressive as well. Later, I identified it as a cuvier's dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus). It was a beautiful animal. I wish I'd been able to photograph it in better light, or even that I'd had more time to photograph it.
After dinner, I went down to the boat dock to look for herps, and found a couple of new toads. I haven't been able to identify (or even come close to identifying) the cool reddish frog below.
Species list for the day (29 birds, 2 mammals, 4 reptiles, 4 amphibians, 1 fish):
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)
Capped Heron (Pilherodius pileatus)
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus)
King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)
Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis)
Razor-billed Curassow (Mitu tuberosa)
Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)
Chestnut-fronted Macaw (Ara severa)
Blue-winged Macaw (Ara maracana)
Orange-cheeked Parrot (Pionopsitta barrabandi)
Orange-winged Parrot (Amazona amazonica)
Black-throated Mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis)
Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona)
Green-and-rufous Kingfisher (Chloroceryle inda)
Black-fronted Nunbird (Monasa nigrifrons)
Channel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos vitellinus)
Spix's Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus spixii)
Band-tailed Antbird (Hypocnemoides maculicauda)
Screaming Piha (Lipaugus vociferans)
Red-headed Manakin (Pipra rubrocapilla)
Long-tailed Tyrant (Colonia colonus)
Masked Tityra (Tityra semifasciata)
White-winged Swallow (Tachycineta albiventer)
White-banded Swallow (Atticora fasciata)
Southern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx ruficollis)
Flame-crested Tanager (Tachyphonus cristatus)
Silver-beaked Tanager (Ramphocelus carbo)
Palm Tanager (Thraupis palmarum)
Epaulet Oriole (Icterus cayanensis)
Brown Capuchin (Cebus apella robustus )
White-whiskered Spider Monkey (Ateles marginatus )
Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus)
South American River Turtle (Podocnemis spp. )
Amazon Racerunner aka Green Ameiva (Ameiva ameiva)
Brazilian Rainbow Boa (Epicrates cenchria cenchria)
(Bufo hudata? )
Amazon River Frog (Rana palmipes)
Smooth Sided Toad (Bufo guttatus)
Geckos (Family Gekkonidae )