Dreams are powerful tools that can help guide anyone to success and happiness. They represent some cherished aspiration, an ultimate ideal of achievement.

The word sylvan refers most directly to a setting associated with the woods. Reflecting on the vigorous life that abounds in sylvan settings is a very powerful force in my life. For me, this word evokes feelings of transcendence, clarity, and unity.

A Sylvan Dream is a dynamic compilation of my life dream. It is an attempt to seek out and document the truth, beauty, and clarity that exists in this world.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Good Morning

7/13/08 - Happy Birthday Sara. I am thinking of you.

The early morning sun shot through the trees on the horizon as we ate a fine breakfast of pancakes with strawberry jam and queso, along with freshly cut papaya. A refreshing breeze wafted through the comedor, but the clear blue skies above the station spoke clearly of the ensuing heat. After breakfast we sat around, deciding what to do with our lazy Sunday morning. I opened my mac to check in on some e-mails before planning to head out into the woods.
Never underestimate the power of some good ole rock from the good days. Some CCR songs can always pick me up and inspire an active day any time, especially after a rough morning when some cold hair of the dog would be nice. Proud Mary had me rollin’ and ready to go look for some birds.
Striding across the soccer field to the trail some time before nine, the direct sunlight immediately coaxed a sticky sweat to form beneath my shirt. The shade of the forest was immediately relieving, but we continued to sweat as we hurried to catch up with the group of birders ahead of us. A few hundred yards up the trail, animals were crashing through the leaves, the tell tale sound of monkeys. We looked up to find some squirrel monkeys crossing the trail over our heads. They hurriedly worked through the understory in search of insects disturbed by the larger capuchins they follow through the jungle all day, every day. We snapped some shots as they moved away from us, but the dim light was not encouraging and we still had a group to catch up with.
Peeping noises came from the forest around us as we walked, and we eventually spotted one of the traps a few meters off of the trail where small wire mesh cages held young chickens. These were set here early in the morning by the researchers we were headed out to find. While they arrived just last night, they had already headed out onto the trail in hopes to quickly catch a new bird to this area that has been sited several times recently by some of us here at CICRA. It is a rare black-faced hawk, supposed to only reside in the North of Peru, far from here. Catching this bird to collect genetic information will shed light as to whether this species has a range much greater than originally suspected, whether it is perhaps a different morph of another species, or perhaps even a new species all together. It is most likely the same known species, and we are just now getting a better glimpse into this bird’s range as more knowledgeable people frequent this area. Nonetheless, it is very rare, and only one has been sited here.

Loops of fishing line glint in the tendrils of sun slicing through the dim forest as we pass. These loops will snare an unsuspecting hawk as it swoops down to land on the peep placed safely inside the wire mesh cage. We pass about ten of these traps along the trail until we find the researchers around the next bend, relaxing supine atop a poncho spread out across the trail. I smirk at first, but after my last week’s experience with various insects (story to come), I don’t blame them at all. I have even begun to carry a collapsible tripod seat with me over the last two weeks.
Diego, Frances, and I mill around for the next thirty minutes looking for birds until it is time to pass back by the traps to check for the hawk. We stop to look at some spider webs glinting in the sun around the trail, and especially remark over one orb web. This inverted hemisphere of densely woven silk seemed unlikely to catch anything other than attention as it conspicuously sparkled silvery white like a disco ball, yet several minutes later as we passed by again to go check the traps, the light had shifted and although it was only a foot off the trail at eye level, it had become invisible again. A few subtle notes of a flycatcher song drew our attention to the glowing leaves overhead. Diego found it quickly, but it took me ten minutes or more of searching until the petite gray and white bird flitted from its shadowy perch beneath the leaves, betraying its camouflage as it snatched an insect in mid air. This family of birds is well known for its astounding diversity, yet notorious for the fact that many species appear virtually identical to even the trained ornithological eyes crawling through these forests.
To accurately identify and learn field identification for these birds, one must not only know the possible plumages one may encounter in specific habitats, but one must also be able to pick out minute differences in their vocalizations. Take a minute, and say these next few ‘words’ out loud in your highest pitch possible.



“turp~ip~ip~ip ip ip ip”

If you think you could pick the differences in these songs out of the forest air, then perhaps you should fly to Peru tomorrow. And just in case you weren’t sure, the way each is written above is based on a complete ‘language’ birders use to learn these songs, and yes there is definitely a difference in the way the apostrophes, hyphens, and tildes are pronounced.
After thirty minutes had passed, we headed back down the trail, stopping momentarily to inspect each trap for a hawk or signs of a predator’s presence, but there were none. Since the researchers were planning on bringing the hawk back to the station for photographs should they have caught it, we decided to head back to the station. Along the way, I decided I wanted to stop at a spot where I have been seeing an especially bright manakin in hopes of photographing him. We dipped off onto a side trail we’ve been using to net a few of our antbirds, and sat in the foliage for a while, looking around. The first time I saw this bird we were waiting for a pair of our subject species to fly into our nets when suddenly the bright flaming orange head of this male caught my attention from where he stood, blazing in the sunlight. I nearly yelled as I watched each feather glisten a waxy brilliance through my binoculars. White emotionless eyes stared blankenly at me for a few minutes as the male stood motionlessly before me. Finally, after perhaps a minute, I looked away for a moment, and when I looked back only a bobbing Carrizo branch met my eyes.

We sat for perhaps ten minutes inside the dense foliage of the understory, perched just above a steep drop to a small densely covered spring below, but soon my interest in exploring overcame my distaste for sitting still. While the stream was only forty feet below, our want to see this bird kept us moving as slowly and quietly as we could until we were standing in the deep mud of the spring thirty minutes later.
We gazed around us, inspecting the clear water trickling over the deep in which mud we stood. A tall tree fern towered over us, casting a lacey drapery of long reaching fronds over the blue skies. We waited silently for a long time, shrugging to each other every few minutes, acknowledging the obvious. A deep sucking sound gasped from each hole as I moved another step forward every few minutes to keep the mud from climbing up over my sinking boots.
Finally a short murmur of a birdcall came from above. It was a single note with a melancholic minor pitch that rose at the end. I called back into the void until a dark green puff of feathers appeared above us flickering its wings excitedly as it searched the understory for the intruder. I wasn’t sure, but it appeared to be a female manakin, possibly the same species as the male we were in search of. She circled around us for ten minutes as I continued calling to keep its irritated attention while Frances tried to get a good glimpse of her through my binos. Then suddenly she disappeared, as most birds seem to do after a certain period of time. They seem to just lose interest or decide it must not be the intruder they thought.
We ascended the embankment on the other side of the stream, and came across a clearwing butterfly on our way back out to the sand path leading around our cabins. This individual stayed still enough for me to snap a picture before it popped off the leaf, and fluttered away like a red blotch of paint come to life.

Frances and I shared interest in lunch as we turned onto the sand path headed in the direction of the station. Another high pitch call coming from just off the side of the trail barely caught our attention. We looked over to see several titi monkeys looking back at us from some branches.

Frances mentioned how often she awakes from hot afternoon siestas to this group hanging in the trees outside her cabin. We watched them feed on some bamboo shoots for a few minutes as they hopped from tree to tree before running up into the top of a cecropia tree in search of fresh seeds.

This individual ate with comical exuberance. What a little gremlin. Look at those pirhanna teeth!

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