Trip To Jau National Park

Mario Cohn-Haft - December 1996

    I’ve never sweated as much as I did on that expedition. I’m not normally a big sweater, but my clothes were so drenched that my t-shirt sleeve dripped constantly onto my tape recorder. The camps were small and barely exposed to the sun, so the only time my pants ever dried was when I was in them and not walking, so it was only my body heat that would evaporate off the sweat and dew in them. I ended up getting a pretty nasty fungal infection, and the only medication I had was Desitin, a thick, cod-liver oil ointment for diaper rash that was horribly gummy, but did keep the itching down.

After sleeping-in the next morning, seeing off our caboclo porter, and learning that the mateiro who would stay with us was sick, feverish, and had no intention of getting out of his hammock (for several days, as it worked out), Sergio and I headed out mid-day to the campina with full collecting and recording gear. The walk took two hours instead of one, but the campina itself and the campinarana habitats on the way made it worthwhile.

I didn’t collect anything that afternoon; nevertheless, the campina provided its best bird and biggest surprise on that first visit. When we first stepped out into the open in the midday sun, nothing was singing. Later, first one and then as many as 5 individuals could be heard singing something I vaguely recognized but couldn’t place. Fortunately, they were easy enough to spot atop the low bushes: Emberizoides herbicola, the Wedge- tailed Grass-Finch! The exciting thing about finding this bird was that as far as I can tell, from the literature that we had with us, this savanna-inhabiting bird is unknown in the Amazon proper!

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