Friday, 25 September 2015


My colleague Dan in the Naturetrek office is a good man. In addition to being a real friend, he is a fine professional and he cares very greatly about our clients. He cares about the wildlife they see, he cares whether they're getting the photos they want, he cares whether the seats are comfortable enough for them. In short he cares. He cares enough to send me half a dozen messages on WhatsApp before I get up each morning, asking whether everyone's ok. He cares enough to send me another dozen messages while we're out in the morning, and a dozen more over lunch. He cares enough to send me questions, messages for the clients, warnings of problems which need heading off. He really cares.

He also drives me up the wall. In the way that only a good friend can.

This morning we decided not to chase jaguars. We chose instead to go to Pousada Piquirí in search of hyacinth macaws and the six-banded armadillo who lives under an Attalea palm in the garden and is often seen there in the morning.

It was a good plan. As we went downriver we saw giant otters for the third time: a different family, of four smaller individuals. One caught a fish and delighted us by hauling it to the riverside and chomping it in full view, accompanied by the rest of the family. The whole time black howlers growled noisily above.

A little further a pair of capped herons landed in a bare tree overhanging the river and burst into exuberant display, the male pointing his noon-blue bill to the sky, puffing the barely apricot feathers of his throat and bowing, flicking forward the two silver plumes which quivered from his black cap. In my eighteen years of watching capped herons, and Fiorella's more than thirty, neither of us has ever seen this dramatic display before.

There were capybaras too, just feet away, one with a smooth-billed ani on its back. There were pied lapwings, anhingas and cocois. At Piquirí the friendly staff of the lodge poured a sack of crushed maize on the ground by the verandah. Every bird in the garden made its way to visit: many white-tipped doves trundling across the neatly-kept grass, chestnut-bellied guans skipping from the shade of the trees in excitement, a piping-guan dropping down on sickled black wings. Among them all wove saffron yellow-finches, yellow-billed cardinals, ruddy and scaled ground-doves. A pair of hyacinth macaws, strangely silent, slipped to a dead tree above a trough and came to drink, taking turns to lower and again raise their great bills; peering at us the while with their strange, yellow-lidded, questioning eyes.

There were many macaws at Piquirí this morning, their shouting loud in the palms. Twice five of them came to the same frond and boisterous blue disputes ensued. The noise of a dozen cameras was drowned for once by the bleats of these tremendous birds.

Reaching our floating hotel in the painful heat of late morning my phone picked up wifi and my WhatsApp buzzed with Dan's habitual, kind-hearted questions. How had we got on? Was everyone happy? Were the macaws good? Did the armadillo show up?

I replied that the armadillo had not appeared but, surrendering, as I always do with friends, to flippancy, I told him that we had had a total macawgasm,

A message came back, equally flippant, that I must use this new word on my blog. Dan, Dan, you can't make a challenge like that and expect me not to take it up.

A total macawgasm by my lovely client
Nikki Humphrey

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