Amazon Southbank Travels: Trip To Autazes

Mario Cohn-Haft - First Week August 1997

    My friend and fellow ornithologist Phil and I headed over to the south bank of the Amazon opposite Manaus last weekend, near the town of Autazes. The idea was to make a short but interesting birding trip for him before he headed back for the fall dose of reality (university teaching in Louisiana) and for me to try to find my little Hemitriccus. In particular, I was eager to find the subspecies Hemitriccus zosterops griseipectus, which, despite other people’s familiarity with it from all over, had continued to elude me since I started this study. I had seen and heard the bird here years ago across the river and had some field notes from a birding tour that had been here even more years ago that had the bird listed as "fairly common," so I was pretty optimistic. We just needed to find some forest.

We drove out of town in my little Fiat, to catch Friday’s first (7 am) ferry across the meeting of the Negro and Solimoes rivers to the south bank of the main Amazon. On the ferry we got to chatting with a retired Manaus bank officer named Walter, who was on his way to spend 5 days at his country place/farm house in the very area we wanted to study. He said he had lots of woods out back of his place and that we should stop there for lunch and check it out. If we liked, we could stay as long as we wanted. We shouldn’t worry about food or supplies because he had plenty.

With all the necessary details established, we drove off down the very hot and dusty and pot-holed dirt road. The woods were all trashed along the road, and there were lots of farms, but in the distance you could see a more or less constant line of what looked like good forest. When we got to his place, lunch was already waiting for us.

Walter is totally engaged in growing fruit. He has over 100 orange trees, with some of the sweetest little oranges I’ve ever had. He has 30 star fruit trees, some tangerines, rows of passionfruit vines, and even a grapefruit tree (with tiny fruits) and a grape vine. There are also plenty of native fruit trees planted around, including cashew and abiu (a personal favorite in the Sapotaceae family that makes your lips stick together). He has regular customers in Manaus that he takes fruit to weekly.

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