« EelmineJätka »
common, 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,
WOODPECKERS AND MOT-MOTS.
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 (Celeus 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 Ch. VII.]
dirty cotton rags. This was the limit of my journeys in this direction, although the path continued on to the savannahs towards San Thomas. The soil at this place is good, and I think that it has been long cultivated, as much of the forest appears of second growth, in which small palms and prickly shrubs abound.
Description of San Antonio valley-Great variety of animal life
Pitcher-flowered Marcgravias — Flowers fertilised by hummingbirds-By insects—Provision in some flowers to prevent insects, not adapted for carrying the pollen, from obtaining access to the nectaries–Stories about wasps-Humming-birds bathing—Singular myriapods—Ascent of Peña Blanca-Tapirs and jaguarsSummit of Peña Blanca.
On the northern side of the Santo Domingo valley, opposite to my house, a branch valley came down from the north, which we called the San Antonio Valley. It intersected all the lodes we were working, and I constructed a tramway upit as far as the most northern mine,called San Benito, by which we brought down the ore to the stamps and the firewood for the steam-engine, and in a short time we had cleared all the timber from the lower part of the valley; and a dense scrub or second growth sprang up, through which numerous paths were made by the woodcutters. I was almost daily up this valley, visiting the mines, or in the evening after the workmen had left, and on Saturdays afternoons, when they discontinued work at two o'clock. On Sundays, too, it was our favourite walk, for the tramway was dry to walk on; there were tunnels, mines, and sheds at various parts to get into if one of the sudden heavy showers of rain came on; and there were always flowers or insects, or birds to claim one's attention. I planned the whole of the tramway; the upper