Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monkey Business

Squirrel Monkey

Again, Maya is playing Mozart in the midst of the rainforest. Squirrel monkeys were frolicking around our cabin before she started. One climbed on to our balcony to look into the window to see what we were up to. The openings are covered by mosquito netting, so there was no way for him to get in, but if he could he surely would. Their faces are so very expressive. It appears that their days are full of pay interspersed with finding food.They appeared to have discovered a tasty fruit nearby and were digging into it. When I approached one, it chose not to move, but to persist in picking off and manipulating fruit and eating what they could in a very leisurely fashion. I was entertained for hours.

We were woken up at 5:30 AM, which is an hour and a half later than the diehard birders. We joined them on the metal tower to watch birds. One of the students is a serious birder and keeps a list of all the birds he sees, and was keen on surpassing 500 during this trip, which he did by a large margin, and that was just this morning! There are 570 birds identified at Sacha. My group was moderately interested in birds, and seemed restless on the tower, less than eager to search for birds and slow to check out the telescope. They were far more enthusiastic when on terra firma. One of the students spied a poison dart frog, which our native guide caught in his hands to show us. The frog was red and blue and not too poisonous. There are places where the poison frogs are so toxic that touching them will kill a human. Indigenous people use such frogs to dip their arrows or poison darts in, to use against prey, or humans where needed. Later we saw a beautiful lizard and his mate, hanging onto parallel trees, hoping that we would disappear. I can imagine how fearful they must be of us, especially when cameras are flashing at them and we try to move as close as possible.


Jungle Floor

Back at the lodge, the squirrel monkeys were putting on a show. Over a hundred of them stay together in a group. We heard the howlers this morning, but were unable to see any. The squirrel monkeys were jumping from branch to branch, eating fruit, making noise and generally ignoring the humans passing by. They were especially curious on my balcony and appeared to want to enter the room and explore. They were not timid at all.

Monkey Entertainment

I chose to go with the plant group for the afternoon. One of the students was unhappy with her group and I wanted to see what she was displeased with. Afternoons do not seem to be as productive as mornings. We talked too loudly through the first part of the outing, enjoyed the zipline, and climbed 'the Tower', which is a wooden structure that brings us to the top of the kapok tree it surrounds. We saw toucans and oropendulas and caciques and howler monkeys in trees around us. I love the wooden tower, but the students got restless. The sunset was lovely and brought us a rainbow as well. Our guide told us a story of how the birds bot their colours according to Maya mythology. Originally all the birds were a brown or grey colour and at some point they wanted to know why their colours were so dull and uninteresting, so they approached the sun, who was their creator. The sun became concerned as she saw all these birds approaching, knowing that the birds would burn as they neared her. The sun sent out clouds and rain to avert such a disaster, and suddenly a rainbow appeared. Some birds entered the rainbow completely and came out with every colour of the rainbow. Some birds were scared and just dipped a wing or a tail or their head in the rainbow and came out with just parts of themselves coloured, those who were too timid to enter the rainbow stayed brown or grey, and the hummingbirds,w ho could not fly up so high, the sun sent down droplets of the rainbow and the hummingbirds bathed in the droplets, shich made them a metallic irridescent colour.

We headed back to the lodge through Orchidea (a creek) and arrived just in time for Kathy's lecture on soil, our barbeque event (my favourite is 'Tres Leches' cake, which was in fact served), and our boat ride looking for caiman. We saw baby black caimans but did not find their mother who was nearby. It was peaceful and strange to paddle through the lake in the dark, but I could hardly stay awake, so I am happy to be in bed. Wake up call at 5:30!

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