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chus), 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, and all their furniture rude; bedsteads made out of a few rough poles, tied together with bark, supported on crotches 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 dirty cotton rags. This was the limit of my journeys in
Ch. VII.] SECOND-GROWTH FoREST. . 125
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, amongst which small palms and prickly shrubs are abundant. .
Description of San Antonio Valley—Great variety of animal life— Pitcher-flowered Marcgravias — Flowers fertilized by Humming-birds—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 Jaguars—Summit 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 up it 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 Saturday 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
Ch. VIII.] ANT-THRUSHES AND BEETLES. 127
half I surveyed and levelled myself; and my almost
daily walks up it familiarised me with every bush and fallen log by its side, and with every turn of the clear cool brook that came prattling down over the stones, soon at the machinery to lose its infantile purity, be soiled in the ceaseless search for gold, and never to regain its first freshness until it reached the great OCéall.
. The sides of the valley rose steeply, and a fair view was obtained from the tramway in the centre over the shrubs and small trees on each side, so that the walk was not so hemmed in with foliage as is usual in the forest roads. Insects were plentiful by this path. In some parts brown tiger beetles ran or flew with great swiftness; in others, leaf-cutting ants in endless trains carried along their burdens of foliage, looking, as they marched along with the segments of leaves, held up vertically, like green butterflies, or a mimic representation of a moving Birnam wood. Sometimes the chirping of the ant-thrushes drew attention to where a great body of army-ants were foraging amongst the fallen branches, sending the spiders, cockroaches, and grasshoppers fleeing for their lives, only to fall wictims to the surrounding birds. On the fallen branches and logs I obtained many longicorn beetles; the woodcutters brought me many more, and from this valley were obtained some of the rarest and finest species in my collection. On the myrtle-like flowers of some of the shrubs, large green cockchafers were to be found during the dry season, and a bright green rosechafer was
also common. I was surprised to find on two occasions
a green and brown bug (Pentatoma punicea) sucking the juices from dead specimens of this species. The bug has
128 THE NATURALIST IN NICARAGUA. (Ch. VIII.
weak limbs, and the beetle is more than twice its size
and weight, and is very active, quickly taking wing; so
that the only way in which it could have been overcome
that I can think of, is by the bug creeping up when it was sleeping, quietly introducing the point of its sharp proboscis between the rings of its body and injecting Some stupifying poison. In both instances that I witnessed, the bug was on a leaf up a shrub, with the bulky beetle hanging over suspended on its proboscis. Other species of bugs certainly inject poisonous fluids. One black and red species in the forest, if taken in the hand, would thrust its sharp proboscis into the skin, and produce a pain worse than the sting of a wasp. Amongst the bushes were always to be found the beautiful scarlet and black tanager (Rhamphocoelus passerinii, Bp.), and more rarely another species (R. Sanguinolentus, Less.). Along with these, a brownish-coloured bird, reddish on the breast and top of the head (Phoenicothraupis fusicauda, Cab.), flew in small sociable flocks; whilst generally somewhere in the vicinity, as evening drew on, a
brown hawk might be seen up some of the low trees,
watching the thoughtless chirping birds, and ready to
pounce down when opportunity offered. Higher up the
valley more trees were left standing, and amongst these small flocks of other birds might often be found, one green with red head (Calliste laviniae, Cass.); another, shining green, with black head (Chlorophanes guatemalensis); and a third, beautiful black, blue, and yellow, with yellow head (Calliste larvata, Du Bus.). These and many others were certain to be found where the climbing Marcgravia nepenthoides expanded its curious flowers. The flowers of this lofty climber are disposed in a circle,