Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Sun, heat and jaguars

With the sun came the heat and with the heat came the jaguars. The first we saw was a female, at the back of a bay, behind a mat of water hyacinth preventing our closer approach. She sat on the bank and looked about her until - this was twenty past eight - the heat of the day was too much and she took to the shade of a tree.

There were Pierid butterflies, lime, yellow and white, along the water's edge and caimans basking on the sand. Large-billed terns cut through the blue and petrol-glossy greater anis waved their huge tails across the river. The capybaras chomped at the growing grasses, their nonchalant eyes fixed on the far distance. A distance holding jaguars.

Our second this morning was a male, identified later from photos as Hero. He has not been seen here in months. He lay in the shade as we sat in the sun, admiring his blotches and spots and craning for a view of his face.

(Hero, as it happens, was in the bay where my last group once saw Maxim, and where we also saw our last unidentified jaguar, which we knew not to be Maxim as we had just seen him elsewhere. As unlikely as it is, it is not impossible that the unknown jaguar two weeks ago was Hero. I'm therefore not counting him as a new individual on my Big Cat Quest.)

This afternoon the heat was fierce but we sat in the river by Jorge, a three-year-old male jaguar (son of Ruth, whom we saw courting Peter yesterday). He was dozing in shade on the riverbank, stretching at times, yawning, dozing again. Overhead moved hundreds of cliff swallows, a few bank swallows, arriving from North America. Around us skimmed South America's native southern rough-wings and white-winged swallows. And on the opposite bank capybaras grazed, unaware of the threat to their lives in the forest's shade.

News came of a new jaguar nearby, but we stayed with Jorge, looking, alone on the river, into his pale, implacable eyes as the day aged and the shadows grew. With fine photos taken we sped at last downriver to the beach on which a female jaguar had been found. Estela sat on the sand, piercing the lengthening shadows with her gaze. Then the band-tailed nighthawks came, and the greater fishing bats came, and the orange light of sunset came, and the time came for us to come home.

Crane hawk yesterday by my friend Naun Amable

Jorge this afternoon by Naun Amable

Estela this evening by Naun Amable

Cats seen in 2015
cheetah Acinonyx jubatus fearonii                3
serval Leptailurus serval serval                    3
leopard Panthera pardus suahelicus            2
lion Panthera leo nubica                              78
snow leopard Panthera uncia                       3
jungle cat Felis chaus                                   2
tiger Panthera tigris tigris                            13
leopard Panthera pardus fusca                    4
lion Panthera leo persica                              7
leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis           15
flat-headed cat Prionailurus planiceps          1
wildcat hybrid Felis silvestris grampia/catus  1
jaguar Panthera onca                                    12
puma Puma concolor                                    14

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