Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tours to Bosque canceled

The ground-operator for the Royal Princess and the Pacific Princess has canceled all tours to Bosque Santa Lúcia until such time safe access can be assured to passengers signing up for the ecological tour. I knew it was coming. Over the last few months I've had to cancel most of my own private tours to the Bosque because of road conditions. I tried everything to get the mayor's office to respond to the need for road maintenance, but to no avail. I still find it unbelievable that I wasn't successful in at least getting past that mud hole I refer to as Lake Maria. I talked with the secretary of tourism. Nada! I talked with his superior. Nada. I talked with a lot of other people too, including the secretary of planning for the municipality, who is "the man". He promised me that he would open up the road, but .... nada. I even wrote a nasty article in one of the major news pieces of Santarém. Nada! Our Bosque Santa Lúcia is on the edge of the city. Imagine what it's like out in the boonies. I'll be keeping everyone updated via this blog. I hope to see some of you there. Smile.

Lake Maria filled, continued

It's ironical that the first vehicle I saw to pass over the road construction was a logging truck. This kind of traffic is one reason the road becomes impassable. They are super heavy and some of them are the double trailer types. I can't make accusations, but everyone knows that most of this traffic is clandestine. The road connects BR-163 (Santarém-Cuiabá Highway) and the Curuá-Una Highway, a distance of only 8 kilometers. It's a way of avoiding the Federal Highway Police Station, which is located on the army base (8th BEC). Every now and then the Federal Police conducts monitoring of this situation and the traffic come to a fast halt, for awhile. Then it starts up again, especially in the darkness of night.

Lake Maria filled

A beautiful sight it was seeing the road to Bosque Santa Lúcia without that gigantic mud hole. The attached image shows where the lake used to be. Note that the bulldozer filled it with earth, which is great for fill, but it won't last long without some rock content, i.e., gravel. It rained a few times after this picture was taken, making it a general mess. Now we're waiting for the gravel to make the road passable.

Road to Bosque remains closed

I regret to inform my readers that Bosque Santa Lúcia remains closed due to lack of access from the Santarém-Cuiabá Highway. The mere 3 kilometers of dirt road to the Bosque is a Municipality of Santarém responsibility, but nothing has been done in more than 2 years. From time to time a few private individuals, like myself, dig into our pockets to make accessibility better. Unfortunately, the road conditions have gotten so bad, it's turned into major construction job. Two weeks ago some of my neighbors and I put up some money for operational costs of a bulldozer and a dump truck. It took nearly 8 hours of bulldozer time to drain "Lake Maria" and then fill it with earth. What's lacking now is to place gravel on top of the loose dirt. Day after day, we've waited for the dump truck and grader, but the rains spoiled all plans. The grader finally showed up, but no gravel. And that's where we are now. In the image, Cleuson, caretaker of the Bosque with a local neighbor, Paulo. Lake Maria in the background.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fern

It's so great to see the fiddle heads coming off the rhizomes. This rhizome has grown from an old fallen log close to the entrance to the Bosque. In past entries, I've shown the ferns in the different stages of development. I never get tired of seeing them. They are real beauties.

Owl butterfly

On last Friday, we received the first cruise ship passengers of the season, the vessel being the Regatta. I was tied up in a staff meeting at Fundação Esperança until the last minute, but managed to get to the Bosque before the bus arrived. As I parked the car, I spotted this owl butterfly parked on the side of a tree. Even though I had many things to do at the last minute, I could not resist getting some pictures of it. The frayed wings indicate that birds may have discovered it before me.

Goats

The owner of the land next to the Bosque is originally from the northeastern part of Brazil, Ceará to be exact. It's an area that traditionally suffers from severe droughts, so it's not odd that many people raise goats. It's said that goats will eat anything, especially if they're hungry. I remember driving through Ceará a few years ago and I was impressed with the number of goats alongside the highways. They were everywhere ... and they were eating everything they could get between their teeth. I guess under these circumstances, one gets to like goat meat. My neighbor, a prominent lawyer in Santarém is no exception. Although every square inch of his land is fenced, his caretaker allows the goats to run loose along the roadside to eat the lush green grass that grows there during the rainy season. I wouldn't be talking about goats, except that we noticed that the newly planted palm trees along the entrance to one side of the Bosque were being eaten to the ground. At first we thought of caterpillars and grasshoppers, but one day Cleuson discovered that the goats were moving over to our land to do their thing. Young palm fronds can't be all that bad. Click on the image for a better view of the culprits.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Guaraná plant

This guaraná plant (Paullina cupana) is a survivor from the construction of the CELPA power line. Old Man Teixeira and I had planted it right next to a tree for support, maybe four years ago. The power line workers cut the tree, along with several palms in the immediate area. The guaraná ended up at the bottom of the mess. Somehow it survived and now its growing up again.

Floating leaf

This leaf seemed to come to rest in midair. It actually floated down from a nearby tree and came to a stop because a thorn caught it from the underside.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stick insect

This stick insect is a tall, thin character with hidden wings capable of taking it to other parts.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Inêz Melo, in memory

I'm remiss in not having reported the death of our neighbor and friend, Professora Inêz Melo, who was one of the oldest residents of Poço Branco, where Bosque Santa Lúcia is located. I met Inêz the first time in 1981, the year we bought the Bosque property. She taught school for more than 50 years before retiring. Her one-room school house was actually located on the Bosque Santa Lúcia property, as was the community chapel, where she conducted religious leadership. In recent years the community moved both the school and the chapel to the village center down the road approximately one kilometer. Inêz was a community worker in the best sense of the word. She had no fear when it came to knocking on the doors of politicians and other persons responsible for the well being of her constituency. I wonder how many trips she must have made from her simple home in Poço Branco to Santarém for this purpose. I got used to seeing her walking the 4-5 kilometers almost on a daily basis. Sometimes we would be going in the same direction, in which case she got a ride all the way home, or out to the highway. Although our road to the Bosque is now closed for the lack of access, that walk has never been a picnic. It's either muddy or dusty. Most truck drivers and other wheelers have no mercy for pedestrians. During the summer time (dry season), they eat dust. During the winter (rainy season) the mud is thick and slick. Then better than a year ago our favorite mud hole presented some serious problems for access, of any kind. The attached image is of Dona Inez getting ready to wade out into what I refer to as Lake Maria. I think we were both walking the road that day, although in different directions. I had taken a bad fall on the other side and I was mud from head to toes. Inez and I had a chat before she got going. She was on her way to the mayor's office for some urgency, maybe to request help in opening up the road. I know that she had made many trips to the city for that reason. A few weeks later she was dead from some respiratory illness. The turnout for her "wake" and funeral was overwhelming because she was a very popular and respected person in the region. The bus and entourage of vehicles bringing her body back to the village could not get through Lake Maria. It was still dry enough, they were able to get through the fallow soybean fields to eventually get to Poço Branco.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Notice

I regret to inform future visitors that Bosque Santa Lúcia is now closed for the lack of access. It is only three kilometers from the main highway, BR-163, to our forest reserve, but those few kilometers have taken their toll on me, my car and my business. Those of you who have followed my plight via this blog know that access to the Bosque became difficult more than a year ago. The main culprit is a gigantic mud hole that is taking on the role of a small lake. Appeal to local authorities hasn't hit a nerve as of yet. Representatives from our community of Poço Branco have parked their carcasses at the door of the mayor's office for more than a year. I have talked with the Secretary of Tourism more than once. The most promising contact was one I made with the Secretary of Planning two weeks ago. He's the mayor's brother and the strong man for the local government. He told me that he would open up the road before the heavy rains fall. I followed up my conversation with him by leaving written details of the problem. I'm hopeful that he'll make good his promise. But in the meanwhile, the road is closed and I've returned to my old job with a health organization in order to survive economically. It's actually a delight to be back. My contract calls for half-day workdays, which will allow me to return to Bosque Santa Lucia for some tours. Our Bosque caretaker, Cleuson, continues his work schedule on a regular basis so that we're ready to receive guests, when the road opens again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lombada

Despite a few unexpected rains, it's been the normal hot, dry weather of summer time. Dust got so bad from the truck traffic (nothing else can get through), Cleuson and his colleague across the road constructed two lombadas to slow them down. Drivers don't give us any warning they they're about to fill the air with dust, but on the other side of the coin, it's considered proper to warn drivers that there's a spring-breaker coming up. The sign is made up of scrap wood and leftover paint, but I think it's pretty classic. The word "lombada" should not be confused with the world "lambada", which refers to a popular dance of some decades back.

Another lily

A few months ago Dona Olivia gave me some plants, or better said, we traded some plants. I had no idea that some of them were lilies. They became potted plants and I forgot about them. Yesterday, Cleuson mentioned something about flowers near the pump house. To my surprise, the flowers turned out to be a lily. And how beautiful they are!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ginger

The fact that we're seeing a few ginger flowers (Costas sp) this time of the year confirms that we've had more rain than normal for the dry season.

Howlers, continued

Well, not really a closeup, but the specs are larger.

Howlers

Those specs off in the far distance are howler monkeys. They are napping after a very filling meal of flowers and buds of the ipe tree (Tabebuia serratifolia). Next image, a closer view.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Professor Podalyro Amaral

Professor Podalyro Amaral heads up the environmental management courses at IESPES University. I've known him since he was a kid. Son of my friend Hélcio Amaral, he was a Rotary exchange student in the United States for a year when he was in high school. Later he did studies in environmental management in southern Brazil and then returned to Santarém, where he teaches and provides private consultation in the area of his specialization. In the image taken at Bosque Santa Lúcia, he's standing next to a couple of very famous trees in the Amazon, mata-calada (Ryania speciosa).

Environmental management students

We had the pleasure of receiving a group of environmental management students from IESPES University a few days ago. I always have to remind myself that these students are the future backbone for management of the Amazon. Among the group you see in the attached image are biologists, geographers, engineers, environmental managers, administrators and other professionals, some of which already hold government positions in the region. I enjoyed spending Saturday morning with them at Bosque Santa Lúcia. I hope they come back again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cupuaçu, immature

I found this immature cupuaçu fruit on the ground. This happens, much like oranges and other fruits. I'm holding it next to a branch of the tree (Theobroma grandiflorum). Look at the size of those leaves!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Vanilla vine

A closer look at the vanilla vine with its anchor well attached to the trunk of the tree.

Vanilla vine

A new vanilla vine begins its climb up a Spondia tree.

Vanilla beans

A closer look at vanilla fruit with drying up flowers. This is sort of a rarity, because it's seldom that the flowers get pollinated. In all the years I've had vanilla vines at the Bosque, I've only seen two beans. This will be a record productive year!

Vanilla flower

It's been awhile since we seen our vanilla vines in flower, but there are several showoffs now. Notice the fruit of the orchid to the left.

Antioch College

The riverboat, Benjamin, backs away from the dock in front of the city with students from Antioch College and our own IESPES university here in Santarem. All students of the environment, they were heading out for a day on the river system with Gil Serique. It seemed to have been a great day for everyone.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vulture, continued

Ah yes, how sweet it is.

Vulture, continued

Vultures are voracious eaters, but they need water too. There are always several of them having a drink on the edge of Lake Maria.

Vulture

In past entries I've talked a lot about Lake Maria. What I refer to as a "lake" is actually a mud hole that has grown into what many people believe to be a spring fed body of water. Just recently our federal congressman in Brasilia made the comment to me "Isn't that something? A lake formed right in the middle of the road going to your bosque." Well, it seems that way, but it isn't true. Any mud hole would be dried up this time of the year, but in the case of Lake Maria, the source of water is from the runoff of rain water from BR-163, the federal highway, less than one kilometers away. Once the winter rains begin, we can safely bet that the road will close down completely. Right now it's dry enough that we can detour around to the side. Once again we have appealed to public authorities for help, but I would be surprised if anything gets done before the rains begin.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Amazon lily

I'm told that the name of this lily is "Amazon lily". There's only one place on the Bosque Santa Lucia property where it's found. There are dozens of them there.

Lilies

Amarillo lilies brighten our day, all around the world.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Flor-de-São João.

Summer time also brings out the best in flor-de-são joão (Pyrostegia venusta). They are best seen along the roads and highways of the region.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pente de macaco

We are well into our summer (dry season), which means that many trees are without leaves. Pente de macaco (Apeiba macropetala) is one of them. I personally miss the shade of the trees, but it's fun looking up to see the pods. Some have already fallen to the ground, as the case of these in the attached image. The name "pente de macaco" means the monkey's comb. It's said that our friends use the stiff brushlike pods to comb their furs.

Cacau flowers, continued

This cacau tree was absolutely loaded with flowers!

Cacau flowers, continued

A few more images of the wild chocolate tree.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mumbaca palms

The recently opened inflorescence of the mumbaca palm is a beauty. Some days later it dries out, changing its image completely. Then come the flashy orange fruit, which make the monkeys happy.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Paricá seedpod

I regret to inform my readers that I have returned to work at a real job and that it´s taking up a lot of time. Thus fewer posts this week. But believe me, I´ll do my best to continue this tropical biodiversity blog. It´s almost two years old and I see that I have posted nearly 1200 entries, each with at least one image. I´m hopeful that I can work out my work schedule at the health agency so I can continue to do some walking tours at Bosque Santa Lúcia. Cheers to all.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Wild passion fruit, continued

When I got back to the reception center, I opened the fruit. As you can see it was really packed with seeds. I asked Cleuson to plant them.

Wild passion fruit

My internet service at home is down again, so back to the internet cafe. At least it´s working.

I found this passion fruit on one of the walking trails at Bosque Santa Lúcia this week. I would like to have seen the vine because the fruit strikes me as a bit different than others I´ve seen in the past. There seems to be more seeds and the rind is much tougher.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bark mantis, continued

Here's another bark mantis in it's proper environment. Per Joan at South African Photographs, it's well camouflaged. Those eyes!

Bark Mantis

I was really surprised to find one of these little critters on South African Photographs blog yesterday. Joan identified it as a bark mantis. It's a different species than the one in the image, but I'd recognize those eyes anywhere.

Geniparana flower

I love you, I love you not. Two pedals were already missing from this saucer-sized geniparana flower (Gustavia augusta) when I found it last week. The flowers normally don't last for more than one or two days, but they are real showoffs in the forest. A flash of white with a green background is noticed right away. Some flowers get even larger than this one!