Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life in the Amazon Basin

Time to go back to Ecuador and wax nostalgic for warmer climes. After a great time in the Andes, (except for a nauseating bout of altitude sickness on my part), we took a long downhill bus ride. The road was treacherous in places, and the hairpin turns on sheer cliffs left my heart in my throat.
We went all the way to the end of the road, and stopped in the jungle outpost of Misahualli. Gary admitted that he was intimidated by the idea of staying in a lawless frontier settlement. There was nothing to worry about. The people were laid back, conservative, and friendly. The ramshackle homes in the above photo were built right up against the rainforest.
Outside of town, the houses looked just like this. Wet clothes were hung below an overhang because it rained without warning and often, sometimes all day and all night. I dont know if the houses were built on stilts because of frequent flooding, or to keep cooler, or to discourage insects and snakes.
Like small towns everywhere in Latin America, Misahualli was built around a central plaza. It was the center of activity in the town, for people and for bold monkeys. We watched this Brown Capuchin pounding the ground with a stone. Then it carried the rock over to a parked car and began pounding the side of the car with it.
A local produce seller came over and handed the monkey two onions. The monkey promptly came over to Gary, climbed onto his lap, and began rubbing the onions all over it's body. All the monkeys in town smelled like onions. I think they were given onions to prevent the spread of lice. They did'nt hesitate to climb all over people, and try to steal things from them. They were both mischievious and sweetly affectionate.
This ragged moth was on the wall of our hotel, which charged $5.oo a night for a decent room.
In the larger town of Tena, This local man poses with his Boa Constrictor.
Both Tena and Misahualli lie on the Napo River, which joins the Amazon River in Peru. In Misahualli, we hired a boat and guide for a few days to explore the area. We spent a day on the nearby Arajuno River.
Since there are few roads in the area, people travel mostly by boat. This young woman peels fruit while the kid in back paddles the rickity dugout canoe.
We stopped to visit this remote ecolodge run by an Ex-pat from California. It was a real paradise, built on a private nature reserve, up against a national park.
That area was the first place I got to see the incredible dinosaur bird called a Hoatzin, but pronounced watson. The baby Hoatzins actually have claws on their wings which they use to clamber about in the branches of trees.
This was my second White Hawk. The first was in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican birds have white backs with only a few black spots on their wings.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Snipe Day, 20x16"

This is one of the photos from my last trip to Goose Creek that I posted a few weeks ago. I was fairly certain that I would eventually use it in a painting. It was taken at the edge of the flooded creek just above a recently constructed Beaver Dam.
Some of the critters I considered placing in the painting were, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Short-tailed Weasel, or Mink. As you can see I settled on a Wilson's Snipe. Moody, even gloomy paintings are favorites of mine. They are often hard to sell, but everything is hard to sell these days. I decided to tentatively call it, Snipe Day, 20x16".
A detail photo of the painting. Personally, I like it much better than the last, (goose) painting that I did, although the Canada Goose painting took much longer to paint.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Andean Panoramas

Going back to Ecuador the Andes Mountains rise above the cloud forest and gradually become colder and drier. The above photo was taken just above the cloud forest. These agricultural lands are impossibly steep. Imagine trudging up and down these slopes all day. There are some ranch houses nestled on the hillside opposite. Can you see them?

You can see a rooftop across the canyon. If you were to slip in the wet meadow at the bottom of the photo, you would slide about 1000 ft. before stopping.
A picturesque  town in the Andes called Banos, (baths), after the many hot springs in the area.
Imagine raising children on the edge of this ravine.
One of the common birds in the towns of the Andes are Eared Doves. They are the South American version of a Mourning Dove.
The Andean version of a Robin is the much larger, Great Thrush.
Rufous-collared Sparrows are the most common of all birds in the Andes.
The tiny Black Flowerpiercer.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A New Goose Painting

Remember this photo from Westchester Lagoon from earlier this Summer? This is the third time I have posted it. I knew right away that I wanted to base a painting upon it.
Westchester Geese, 9x12". This is the first painting that I came up with. Although the actual painting looks better than the photo, I was not satisfied with it.
This is the newer, larger,(but not really better) version. In the Yarrow, 16x20". Once again the actual painting looks better than the photo, but I have a feeling that this painting is'nt finished yet. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Wall of Moths

Continuing another post about the cloud forests of Ecuador with the subject of moths. Too bad I dont know the species of any of them. Some are hawk moths, and some are sphinx moths, but what species any of them are I could not say. As you can see by the above photo, many are quite large.
At Las Gralarias Ecolodge outside of Mindo there was quite a gathering of moths on the walls of the buildings at night. They were obviously attracted to the lights. I went around and photographed a sampling of the many exotic moths.
It's impossible to judge the size of this moth by the photo but it was similar in size to the moth in the first photo.
They were not all brightly colored but even the earth toned moths were strikingly beautiful.
Not just beautiful, but fuzzy too.

Pucker up, this must be a kissing moth.

This is the first red moth I've ever seen.

Another fuzzy guy.
Mellow Yellow.

A final moth photographed from the inside of a window. Mindo is on the west slope of the Andes Mountains. There is also cloud forest on the east slope of the Andes. One of the towns there is called Baeza. A while back I found a blog post about the moths in Baeza. There was an even more incredible assortment of bizzare and colorful moths there.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Revisiting the Cloud Forest

Alaska is back to it's usual gloomy weather and we are expecting the snow to start falling within a week or two. During these times all I want to do is escape, if only in my mind.
A while back I did a blog post about hummingbirds, most of which were from the Ecuadorian cloud forest. At the time I intended to do more posts about Ecuador but I got distracted by other things. So now is a good time to escape back to the Ecuadorian cloud forest. It is also just about as gloomy as Alaska but much warmer. This time I will concentrate on things other than the incredible hummingbirds.
My artist friend Gary and I spent a month in Ecuador several years ago. While we were visiting a magnificent bird refuge near Mindo, called Paz de Aves, we ran into another group of birders from Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. In case you dont know, they are one of the world's best bird tour groups. We enjoyed birding with them for several hours.
A typical view of  the wet cloud forest.
There is a whole lot of green everywhere.
These strange bugs were mimicing thorns on this branch. Each one was nearly an inch in length. There were many odd insects, and an unbelievable variety of colorful moths. i may do a post just about them.
Amoung the many insects were these Rhinocerous Beetles. I was fortunate to get the male just as he was getting set to fly away.

The Ecuadorian cloud forest is one of the very best places on earth for bird diversity. This is an endemic Choco Toucan of the lower elevation cloud forest.
Chestnut-crowned Antpittas are shy ground dwelling birds of the dense undergrowth.
Ornate Flycatcher
Only the male White-lined Tanager has white lines. This is the more attractive female.
Woodcreepers are a tree hugging family of Neotropical birds that look similar to Brown Creepers and Tree Creepers, but woodcreepers are much bigger and not closely related. This is one of the largest of the group, Strong-billed Woodcreeper.
White-sided Flowerpiercer. I may have used some of these photos in earlier blog posts, but I dont really remember. Hopefully that means you dont really remember either.