We stood on the huge tower, the sky gradually cleared and lightened as we scrutinised the myriad treetops and over the next three hours or so – while we swayed gently at the top of our tower – the Cristalino forest revealed an extravaganza of treasures. We had a very lucky morning!
Jorge heard a little rattling noise in a very close emergent tree – and a smartly attired little tooth-billed wren responded to his imitation of its call. The members of the wren tribe normally sing stridently right down in the understory of the rainforest, hiding expertly, but our little bird has found itself a Darwinian niche as high in the forest as you can get.
The Cotinga family of birds are gorgeous and accommodating because, in the early morning, they like nothing better than to sit on the very topmost branches of the highest trees. A dark blob when magnified sixty times was suddenly transformed into a vision adorned in electric blue with black trimmings. It suddenly turned its head and flashed a shining maroon throat – this was a spangled cotinga. Astonishingly, we saw six altogether.
But the highlight of a fabulous morning was the treeful of toucans – perhaps the New World’s most charismatic family for European observers from afar. Anybody of my age remembers the Guinness ads.
Perhaps fifty yards from our canopy platform there was a tree emerging from the 30 meter canopy level. It was completely leafless – dead? dying? deciduous in all these evergreens? – and perfect for unimpeded views of birds. One minute it was completely empty – and the next it was full of toucans! Just a little matter of four different species of one of the World’s most exotic bird families.
This was an experience which would be impossible without the existence of large tracts of unspoiled primary rainforest such as has been preserved at the Cristalino Jungle Lodge.
I climbed gingerly back down the tower with my head spinning.