« EelmineJätka »
peared into his mouth immediately. Once he abstracted a small bottle of turpentine from the pocket of our medical officer. He drew the cork, held it first to one nostril then to the other, made a wry face, recorked it, and returned it to the doctor. Another time, when he got loose, he was detected carrying off the cream-jug from the table, holding it upright with both hands, and trying to move off on his hind limbs. He gave the jug up without spilling a drop, all the time making an apologetic grunting chuckle he often used when found out in any mischief, and which meant, “I know I have done wrong, but don't punish me; in fact, I did not mean to do it,-it was accidental.” Whenever, however, he saw he was going to be punished, he would change his tone to a shrill, threatening note, showing his teeth, and trying to intimidate. He had quite an extensive vocabulary of sounds, varying from a gruff bark to a shrill whistle; and we could tell by them, without seeing him, when it was he was hungry, eating, frightened, or menacing ; doubtless, one of his own species would have understood various minor shades of intonation and expression that we, not entering so fully into his feelings and wants, passed over as unintelligible. There is a third species of monkey (Mycetes palliatus), called by the natives the congo, which occasionally is heard howling in the forest; but they are not often seen, as they generally remain quiet amongst the upper branches of particular trees.
One day, when riding down this path, I came upon a pack of pisotes (Nasua fusca, Desm.), a raccoon-like animal, that ascends all the small trees, searching for birds' nests and fruits. There were not less than fifty
in the pack I saw, and nothing seemed likely to escape their search in the track they were travelling. Sometimes solitary specimens of the pisoti are met with, hunting alone in the forest. I once saw one near Juigalpa, ascending tree after tree, and climbing every branch, apparently in search of birds' nests. They are very fond of eggs; and the tame ones, which are often kept as pets, play havoc amongst the poultry when they got loose. They are about the size of a hare, with a taper snout, strong tusks, a thick hairy coat, and bushy tail. When passing down this road, I at times saw the fine curl-crested curassow (Crax globicera), as large as a turkey, jet black, excepting underneath. This kind would always take to the trees, and was easy to shoot, and as good eating as it was noble in appearance. The female is a very different-looking bird from the male, being of a fine brown colour. Dr. Sclater, in a paper read before the Zoological Society of London, June 17th, 1873, stated that in the South and Central American species of Crax there is a complete gradation from a species in which the sexes scarcely differ, through others in which they differ more and more, until in Crax globicera they are quite distinctly coloured, and have been described as different species. The natives call them “pavónes," and often keep them tame; but I never heard of them breeding in confinement. Another fine game bird is a species of Penelope, called by the natives " pávos.” It feeds on the fruits of trees, and I never saw it on the ground. A similar, but much smaller, bird, called “chachalakes,” is often met with in the low scrub.
Mountain hens (species of Tinamus) were not uncommon, about the size of a plump fowl, and tasting like a pheasant. There were also two species of grouse and a ground pigeon, all good eating.
Amongst the smaller birds were trogons, mot-mots, toucans, and wood-peckers. The trogons are general feeders. I have taken from their crops the remains of fruits, grasshoppers, beetles, termites, and even small crabs and land shells. Three species are not uncommon in the forest around Santo Domingo. In all of them the females are dull brown or slaty black on the back and neck, these parts being beautiful bronze green in the males. The largest species (Trogon massena, Gould) is one foot in length, dark bronze green above, with the smaller wing feathers speckled white and black, and the belly of a beautiful carmine. Sometimes it sits on a branch above where the army ants are foraging below; and when a grasshopper or other large insect flies up and alights on a leaf, it darts after it, picks it up, and returns to its perch. I found them breaking into the nests of the termites with their strong bills, and eating the large soft-bodied workers; and it was from the crop of this species that I took the remains of a small crab and a land shell (Helicina). Of the two smaller species, one (Trogon atricollis, Viell.) is bronze green above, with speckled black and white wings, belly yellow, and under feathers of the tail white, barred with black. The other (Trogon caligatus, Gould) is rather smaller, of similar colours, excepting the head, which is black, and a dark blue collar round the neck. Both species take short, quick, jerky flights, and are often met with along with flocks of other birds-fly-catchers, tanagers, creepers, woodpeckers, &c., that hunt together,
traversing the forests in flocks of hundreds together, belonging to more than a score different species; so that whilst they are passing over, the trees seem alive with them. Mr. Bates has mentioned similar gregarious flocks met with by him in Brazil; and I never went any distance into the woods around Santo Domingo without seeing them. The reason of their association together may be partly for protection, as no rapacious bird or mammal could approach the flock without being discovered by one or other of them, but the principal reason appears to be that they play into each other's hands in their search for food. The creepers and woodpeckers and others drive the insects out of their hidingplaces under bark, amongst moss, and in withered leaves. The fly-catchers and trogons sit on branches, and fly after the larger insects, the fly-catchers taking them on the wing, the trogons from off the leaves on which they have settled. In the breeding season, the trogons are continually calling out to each other, and are thus easily discovered. They are called “ viduas,” that is, “widows,” by the Spaniards.
Woodpeckers are often seen along with the hunting flocks of birds, especially a small one (Centrurus pucherani, Mahl), with red and yellow head and speckled back. This species feeds on fruits, as well as on grubs taken out of dead trees. A large red-crested species is common near recently-made clearings, and I successively met with one of an elegant chocolate-brown colour, and another brown with black spots on the back and breast, with a lightercoloured crested head (Celcus castaneus, Wagl.).
Of the mot-mots, I met with four species in the forest, all more or less olive green in colour (Momotus martii and lessoni, and Prionyrhynchus carinatus and platyrhynchus), having two of the tail-feathers very long, with the shafts denuded about an inch from the end. The mot-mots have all hoarse croak-like cries, heard at a great distance in the forest, and feed on large beetles and other insects.
The toucans are very curious-looking birds, with their enormous bills. They hop with great agility amongst the branches. The largest species at Santo Domingo was the Rhamphastus tocard, Vieill., twenty-three inches in length, of which one-fourth was taken up by the long bill and another fourth by the tail; above, all black, excepting the tail-coverts, which are white; below, throat and breast clear lemon yellow, bordered with red, the rest black, excepting the under tail-coverts, red. When alive, the bill is beautifully painted with red, brown, and yellow. I kept a young one for some time as a pet until it was killed by my monkey. It became very tame, and was expert in catching cockroaches, swallowing them with a jerk of its bill.
After passing through some low scrubby forest, very thick with tangled second growth, the clearings of the mestizoes were reached, about five miles below Santo Domingo. Maize, plantains, and a few native vegetables were grown here, and the owners now and then came up to the village to sell their produce. Their houses were open-sided low huts, thatched with palmleaves; their furniture, rude bedsteads made out of a few rough poles, tied together with bark, supported on crutches stuck in the ground, with raw-hides stretched across them; their cooking utensils a tortilla-stone and a few coarse earthenware jars and pans; their clothing