One of the most rewarding aspects of being in the forest is being able to witness animals carrying on with their lives. To be a voyeur to a certain extent, yes. Not only do you get to feel as if you’re a part of their lives, but it also helps us understand better why they do what they do. What makes them tick? What’s important to them? What do they need to ensure their survival? So many of these questions can be answered by simple, pure observation. That’s why a huge portion of data on wildlife comes in from citizen scientists – we all have the ability to contribute to something much greater than ourselves, if we only give it a chance.
Recently we found ourselves observing a pair of Black-tailed Tityras traversing a regular flight path through the forest. They were both coming to a particular tree periodically, flying off, only to return a few minutes later. It seemed as if they were building a nest, as they kept returning to the same spot with some sort of raw material. Unfortunately, we were unable to view exactly where in the tree they were attending to, as it was obscured by the lower canopy (plus it was also pretty high up, we were fighting neck strain the whole time). Here you can see the male perched on a stump, with the female to his upper right on her exit. He immediately followed her, which we thought was somewhat endearing, you know, here’s a couple doing things together, as it should be.
What bugged me a little was the twig in the male’s beak, I thought hmm, if he went through the trouble to pick a particular piece of material, why didn’t he contribute this to the nest? Why did he fly off before doing his part?
A short while later, the pair returned. Same routine, the female went in, did what she had to do and flew off again. The male followed her again, without actually doing anything other than supervising, it seemed.
Curious now, I decided to wait for them to return again. While waiting, this Streaked Flycatcher flew in briefly – in my excitement I thought it was a rare Variegated Flycatcher, but upon closer examination I realized that I’d have to settle for the more common bird.
Eventually, the Tityras returned. I was astonished when I got a good view of the male – he had another twig in his bill, yet another he did nothing with! Was he just accompanying his mate on her forays, picking up twigs and then dropping them? Pretense? Making her think that he’s pulling his weight? Who knows? I couldn’t believe that he was just flying along with his mate, chewing this twig much like some folks chew a toothpick – content to observe his partner doing all the work. Well, I guess we can’t completely underestimate the true value of moral support, right?
Of course, once you’re in the forest, you must accept that you’re constantly being observed. Most times, you never see what’s looking at you. I managed to catch this pair of inquisitive Scaled Pigeons spying on us from afar.
Psittacines are always in attendance, and it’d be a completely unnatural day if you don’t see or hear a member of this family.
Smaller than that Orange-winged Amazon above, Lilac-tailed Parrotlets are almost never seen alone. Ever social, their incessant chatter is what usually gives them away. I only had just enough time to point my lens to the sky, press the shutter and hope for the best. This is the only one that was remotely in focus, just as they were disappearing behind the canopy. They’re the same size as their cousins – Green-rumped Parrotlet – and “traditional” (read: backward) minded folks see it fit to trap these birds and keep them in cages. A permit is now required for any caged bird. Apart from the legality of the issue, these are social creatures. If one is taken away from the flock, they are almost definitely going to leave behind a mate, also probably young that will not survive as they need both parents to care for them.