The view from the roof of the Amazon is a stunner and from above it’s plain how provincial is life at ground-level. The view extends at most a few meters into the jungle and it’s a screen of unfocused greenery, beautiful and claustrophobic in a funhouse way. But climb into the treetops for a rewarding glimpse of infinity and you see the unbroken rolling Amazon carpet, its tree crowns stretching to the horizon and way beyond. At the point where the moist edge of the earth rolls under , the forest blends upward and joins the sky. It feels like the forest primeval; Eden at your feet.
The biggest attraction for a visitor to the ACTS field station is their first-class canopy walkway network. Fourteen major trees have been linked by long bridges of rope, cable, mesh and wood, with platforms- some double-decker- where one can dawdle and birdwatch. It’s a wonderful thing to have glittering honeycreepers and tanagers foraging below you with their contrasting patterns revealed through perspective. It’s the view evolved by the birds themselves, most suitable for displaying color and pattern to the airborne avian eye. It’s a great place to study life at the top, where resources are abundant: sunlight, free-moving air and first dibs on rain.
Up here in the Overview, you are very small and the forest is very big. In an infinite sea of green, how do you call attention to yourself? How do you attract a mate, let pollinators know you’re open for business, tell the fruit-eaters and seed dispersers to Come and Get It? With color. With scent. By being flavorful and nutritious. With eye-catching movement. With song. Like this one:
(update on the bird in the recording and a very big thank-you to Gunnar Engblom, an expert bird guide in Peru and owner of Kolibri Expeditions, who has kindly identified it. He says:
“If you refer to the long series that goes whop-whop-whop in the end – it is not a canopy bird. You’d be working all day if you try to get it up to the treetops with playback. It is a Noble Anthrush.”
I wish I’d seen it- it’s a beauty and it’s rare, according to the Field Guide to Birds of Peru, but I should have been looking down!)