Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

Galapagos cliffs

Nazcar Boobies at the Galapagos, grooming each other by the cliffs in the midst of a massive amount of neighbouring wildlife . It is difficult to even walk without having be careful to put a foot on an iguana basking in the sunlight or a boobie nest in the middle of the path.

Hummingbird hovering

<— The Canastra Mountains (Day 1)

The second day at the Serra da Canastra was slightly less tiring, though from standing up pretty much entirely at the back of an open-aired 4WD truck going 80km or so over some pretty tough roads, it was nonetheless tiring on the body.

We went with the Central de Turismo (+55 37 3433164) on the journey into the Serra da Canastra national park itself (the previous day, our hike had been outside the park boundaries) – a journey which itself is not able to be done by foot simply because of the distances and because camping is prohibited in the park (which is a shame – they say because campers can damage the park and, which I can imagine happening with fires, pollution and going away from established trails and disturbing the wildlife (this can be dangerous as there are snakes… coral snakes… tropical rattle snakes (cascavel)… not things I would particularly like to encounter… but they are there). At the same time, the park authorities do seem to let vehicles in which have no pollution standard requirements speed through the park (there is a limit of 40km per hour though…). But ah well.

So standing at the back of the vehicle for the distance was quite tough, being thrown from one side to another with my camera (with a canon 70-200mm F2.8 L II, and a 2x II extender) weighing quite heavily around me, trying to focus on things. Our guide, nicknamed “Boca” (literally: “Mouth”), was great though as it seemed like he had a radar for everything which we passed, and he pointed us towards the laughing Seriemas we had heard on the previous day, owls, caracaras (though these were hard to miss as there were so many of them) and also towards a group of ducks (Pato Mergulhão) which he saw swimming in one of the rivers – this is a duck which is almost extinct as they require pristine clean an unpolluted habitats, and the Serra da Canastra is one of the last remaining such places they can live. So it was pretty special being able to see a family of seven ducks swimming along even though they were about 400 metres away from us (can just about see them in the photo below but in no great detail unfortunately).

It was ultimately a good day in spite of the lack of walking – good to swim in the streams and go under the waterfalls; see some of the wildlife (we didn’t see Onças (Jaguars), ant-eaters, or the wolves in the mountains though which was a shame though these are slightly harder to come across).

In terms of comparing this mountain park to the Intervales Park, which distance-wise is closer to São Paulo, I would recommend the Serra da Canastra – there are many more trails that go to great parts of the mountain outside the park which you don’t need guides to see. Being more open, I think it is easier to get pictures and see the wildlife as well, in comparison to the closed-in forests of Intervales. Ultimately, though it is a good 7 hours or so bus ride away from São Paulo, being able to get a bus at 10pm and arrive early in the morning is great so the longer distance doesn’t matter so much. And, unlike Intervales, if you are dependent upon public transport, you won’t need to spend a fortune on a taxi to get you to and from the park areas.

 

So Easter has come and gone, and it is back to the five day working week. But the long weekend was quite welcome. We went to the Serra da Canastra mountains in Minas Gerais state on Friday night (we wanted to go Thursday but that didn’t quite work out – though it was fortunate in a way as we had a lot of work to do in terms of behind the scenes planning for the expedition). The bus ride ended up taking us about seven hours or so, and we got the small village of São Roque de Minas at around 7.30am. Again, the wonderful buses in Brazil meant that we were able to get some sleep in pretty comfortable seats (though as soon as one leaves the state of São Paulo into Minas Gerais, there is an instant change in the quality of the roads which can perturb even the heaviest of slumbers!), so when we got there, we were able to pretty much start hiking after having a quick shower and breakfast and have a full day of walking on the Saturday.

The mountains are wonderful for the hiker, casual drives and days out, and for wildlife admirers. We probably walked around 15 kilometres on the first day, and saw all sorts of bird life with the Caracara especially common, along with species of woodpeckers, parrots, and, though we didn’t see them… Seriemas. With these, we were walking along and heard a kind of laughing sound close by to us. We went to investigate, not knowing exactly what was making the sound, but just couldn’t see anything even though the “laughing” was right next to us. Then it stopped and while we investigated some more minutes, we just did not see anything. We were later told that they were Seriemas – a bird that generally stays on the ground though can fly small distances as it nests in trees. Fortunately we were able to see a couple on the Sunday.

And a quick note about ants… Always fascinating to watch and we saw some pretty big ones there, working away, cutting through leaves and carrying them away. It looked like the ground was moving. So efficient that whilst we were watching them, I had put my bag down and when I got back to it there were a few of them on it, and they actually cut a off a segment of some lighter mesh where we put the water bottle… Such endearing creatures…

I think that people in the area thought we were mad to be walking the distances we did – so many cars passed on the way there and on the way back, we were offered lifts by at least six or seven different groups. One guy called Venicius and his mother – nice people who shared a beer (I know, I know, terrible! though it was just the one!) with us when we reached waterfalls at mid-point of the trail – really did insist, but we were enjoying the walking (in spite of having to pass bulls, cows and calves in the middle of the road) and besides, the whole point of us walking the trail was (aside from to enjoy the wildlife!) to help us get used to good long distance hiking with heavy packs. So we politely turned them down and made our merry way back to São Roque. The meal at the end, though, was extremely welcome!

Well, yesterday was quite eventful here in Brazil. We were planning to go with the guys from the Casa de Pedra gym to go rock climbing at Salesopolis so we got up early at 6am to meet them at the gym before setting off (it’s about three hours or so outside of São Paulo).

Got there 15 minutes late and there was nobody around so we called our colleagues to see what had happened (it’s not as if these guys are the most punctual in the world)… Apparently Fabio had tried calling me and had got through to another Benjamin (like there are so many people with this name in Brazil who also go to the gym…) who said that he wouldn’t come and had left half an hour ago with the cars all divided, so there was not really a chance of getting a taxi to catch up with them. Needless to say I was pretty annoyed as this training is important to us and both Natalia and I had been looking forward to this.  This will teach us not to be late at least, but (again, needless to say) we might have a couple of words to say to Fabio on Monday as well when we have our training session… but I will stop there as I will get irritated thinking about it! There will be plenty more climbing trips coming soon.

So we had to do something else because every day is pretty valuable to us for our training. We tried going to the main São Paulo bus station at Tiete to go to a place for a day where we could go for a hike in the country, but unfortunately all the busses left too late and all the journeys were too long, so… we decided to go back to the Mata Atlantica park to go on a hike there. I might have complained a little about it being a bit easy but it is good for going up and down hills, and seeing everything we did last time certainly made up for that.

And it didn’t disappoint. We first went into a park just below the main entrance to our hike; had a relaxing walk around there for an hour or so (quite heavy rucksacks as well because of all of our climbing and photography equipment (this time I had the memory cards as well!)), seeing the kids playing football whilst at the same time seeing turtles swimming around, herons, capivaras (not sure what this in English, but a photo is to the right in case anyone does know!).

Then, when we got to the trail, almost the first thing we saw was a family of four or five bugio monkeys, including a baby, making their way through the trees above us. Always nice to see them, and always nice to get a couple of pictures, and it was pretty good seeing a few families of these monkeys as we walked on up! Up the trail, we also saw a family of around seven or eight Coatis – Brazilian aardvarks – members of the raccoon family (I thought that at the time as we had seen raccoons at the Iguaçu falls and they looked quite similar, though good ol’ wikipedia confirms!). They were just lurking by the side of the path, occasionally getting quite close to us and hanging around in the trees. Aside from this, a few more butterflies, lots of ants, and other creatures such as a strange hanging caterpillar (I think – again, a photo is below – no idea what it is really) as well as fruit such as pineapples and guarana. No more bug battles this time, however.

The trek lasted for about six hours or so and we ended up at a lake at the midway point, which was also nice to relax by. So overall in spite of the pretty abysmal start to the day, it all worked out quite nicely in the end.

Hope you like the photos! Abraços.

Well, finally got the mini-film of our Pedra Grande hike sorted out. Ultimately it was a great day out – good training for the muscles and nice to breathe air from outside of the city, and it was really nice seeing the wildlife in its rawest form, with the struggle for life and death between the wasp and the spider and then being in the forest, seeing the monkeys in the trees and view of São Paulo. Quite a contrast between the forest and the concrete jungle.

I hope you like the video!

Fight to the death

Posted: March 5, 2012 by Ben Weber in English
Tags: , , , , , , ,

During our walk yesterday, by chance we witnessed a fight to the death between a spider a bit smaller than the palm of my hand and a wasp (the Portuguese name is “Vespa”, and as you can see from the video, this is larger, darker and much more dangerous-looking than wasps we think of back in England!).

At first we thought that it was the spider that was hunting the wasp – after all, it was considerably larger than it. We thought that the Vespa was being almost Roman in that the best form of defence was attack as it was being quite aggressive as well. But then, we remembered that the Vespa could fly away quite easily if it wanted to, it dawned that it was actually the hunter.

This was reinforced by a guy who joined us in watching the battle, who described how the Vespa hunted spiders and that its sting contained a venom which paralyzed the creature. Once the paralysis took effect, the Vespa would then inject its eggs into the spider, where eventually larvae would hatch and consume it from the inside. Not a nice thought, even for me and am not a big fan of spiders.

Though the world we were looking at was considerably smaller than our own and not as glamorous as say that of big cats, it was still impressive though at the same time a bit disturbing watching this duel and seeing nature at its toughest and cruelest.

Both Natalia and I have always been interested in wildlife and another of the main aspects of this journey will be looking at wildlife and biodiversity as the environments change the further north/south we get.

We were in British Columbia, Canada at the end of autumn and we saw about six or seven big brown bears in one day. One was ambling along a road in front of us; a couple of others were happily fishing away, most likely aware of our presence though far enough away to feel happy enough to accept it. In a tense moment, one stopped and stared at us from the other side of a stream as we stood absolutely still, sniffed… and then just walked away…

Towards the end of the day, we found a mother grizzly bear and her two-year old (most likely – we decided that it might be a bit unwise to check up close and personal) cub. The mother was teaching her cub how to fish, and the cub was following its mother, navigating the tree trunks and enjoying the salmon he/she was being given… Beautiful!

Each of the bears had their own personality, tied in with their natural instincts, and it was possible to see this even during the short time we were there. Each have to survive in an unforgiving environment the best they can. We hope that our journey will let us explore this more as it takes us through more such environments.