Thursday, 17 December 2009
Setting the scene
Well, welcome to my new blog! The plan for this is to make a record of the wildlife and flora I see around me, general impressions and interesting/ weird things that appear.
So first, I should set the scene. This is Brazil, but not the Amazon. Brazil is immense and has many ecosystems - rainforests, desert, marshlands and mountains. My home town, Vitoria, is on the Atlantic coast, and the native vegetation of my locale is Mata Atlantica, or Atlantic forest, with granite outcrops, the same as the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to the south. The weather is slightly seasonal, an average maximum monthly temperature and rainfall of 30.4°C/ 17.5cm in January and 24°C/ 4.4cm in July. This compares to 30°C/ 21.1cm and 33°/C 4.9cm in Manaus, capital of the Amazon region. and 8 °C/7.1cm and 23 °C/ 3.2cm for London (although of course the seasons in London are the other way round!).
So at it's coldest, it is like a summer day in England, at it's hottest, as Manaus is all year! There are also mangrove swamps, and some spectacular beaches on the coast.
Bird of the day
I wasn't sure whether to start with the very familiar sparrow, or the esoteric jacu, but I thought I would plump for the typical - the Bem-te-vi, or Greater Kiskadee. The Bem-te-vi ("nice to see you") is found all over the Mata Atlantica region, except the most highly urbanised areas such as central Sao Paulo - if you can't see one you will almost certainly hear it's loud, slightly mournful, "bem te vi" call. But sightings should not be a problem, they are highly tolerant of humans, and in fact seem to ignore us. They will fly in and out of restatements for food, and one pair I know has raised their brood in a nest perched just above a busy bustop by the university.
The Bem-te-vi is ominvorous and will eat fruit, but they don't seem to scavenge and prefer live prey. This can be of practically any sort, insects on the wing, small mammals, they will even dive for fish in shallow water. If it's small and it moves, they eat it. If it's bigger and moves, they mob it - Btv's will agressively attack raptors in a type of mobbing behavior if they feel threatened. Indeed it has been suggested that the similar colouring of a number of other South Smerican birds is a result of minicry, as BTVs are so scary, or alternatively, they just don't taste very nice!
The photo of the juvenille is from Ernest Bergmann.