Monday, August 19, 2019
III - Show me the Birds
The river is was so wide that unless we were close to shore, we could see no animals. But there were birds - everywhere. Now, I am no birder. I don't know 2 toed Blue Tuffed Sparrow from a Kingfisher. But Tracy did.
Tracy was a naturalist from California traveling with us. You could find her on deck most of the time armed with her binoculars and camera. She could identify any bird from the silhouette. She would tell us the name and gender of a bird before I even spotted it. She knew their sounds, the way they flew (for example parrots quickly fluttered their wings when flying because they didn't fly any distance), and their habits.
I learned a lot from her - mainly that I know even less about birds than I orginally thought. She was very patient and a fountain of knowledge. We learned that as young woman, she was a serious golfer. However, the night before she was to sign a pro contract, she suffered a rare spinal injury in her sleep. Finding herself paralyzed from the waist down, she said she spent the following year in deep depression and the next year determined to walk again - which she did. Knowing her golf career was over she turned her attention else where and became a naturalist. Lucky for us, she was patient, interesting, and taught us without lecturing.
Even though we saw many birds, I have photos of few. By the time I saw what Tracy had identified, it was too late to photograph it. Often I felt like I was shooting skeet - Tracy quickly telling us what she had spotted (Pull!) then my trying to find it (Shoot!). Quickly I learned that I was about as good shooting photos of birds as shooting skeet. Lucky I found some birds sitting in trees, long enough for me to get a quick photo.
One of the endangered animals found in the Amazon is the Pink Dolphin. At one time you could go to certain spots and (for a small fee) swim with the Pink Dolphins. Soon, the locals learned that humans are clueless as to how to act with animals, so to protect the Pink Dolphins, instead of swimming with them, you could feed them - under strict supervision.
(the red marks on their necks are not scratches or wounds, just normal for them)
However, we soon learned that having your own boat going up the river, there were Pink Dolphins with us most days. They did not approach us when we swam but we could see them playing in the water. There were also regular gray dolphins (although smaller than the ones we are used to seeing in the states.)
Having read about the Pink Dolphins and their plight prior to our trip, I wasn't sure what to expect. Thankfully they were not treated like the poor souls at Marine World. These were free to swim in the rivers as they wished. And their range was very large. However, being very smart animals they quickly learned to come when called, each having a name. Also, the amount of food they were fed by humans was very limited to ensure that they still thrived in nature and were not dependent on the charity of those on shore.