More Drawings from the Panama forest.

Today's drawing, plein air in the jungle.
Today's drawing, a green trash collector.

It’s been hot and dry here on the island in the canal; today I sweated out a drawing after sweating up a long steep grade and carrying a small heavy art studio along on my back. Sorry if I’m a little wiped tonight, but I did have a good day- more tinamous, including family groups: an adult leading a pair of nearly grown chicks, and another adult leading three babies.  And today’s plein air picture is of a plant tentatively identified as Calathea, a fairly common understory grower with shiny split green leaves. It seems to collect a lot of leaf litter falling from trees above it, and shuttle those dead leaves down to its own base for safekeeping. My crackpot theory of the day has this plant getting nutrients from the decaying matter piling up around its roots. Told you it’s been a long day, but at least it was another long day at work in the woods.

Eciton burchelli, the army ant of the day.
Eciton burchelli, the most popular army ant on the island.

While I was working on the drawing I was surrounded by all sorts of birds including antbirds, small active insectivores which get their name from their habit of following army ants to pick off arthropods frantically trying to escape the rampant swarms. It can be a real suboscine (word of the day) picking party when the army ants go on the march.

Chestnut-backed antbirds, sketched from the balcony of our room.
Chestnut-backed antbirds, sketched from the balcony of our room.

What do antbirds do when the army ants don’t raid? They go about their normal business, checking under dead leaves, hiking themselves up plant stems inspecting for insects, behaving pretty much like regular birds, actually. They often travel in little mixed flocks and give their locations away by calling and twittering. The chestnut-backed antbird is a real charmer, and its call rings throughout the woods. This one was recorded practically on our doorstep.

A festival of antbirds: checkerthroated antwren, spotted antbird, chestnut backed antbird and dot-winged antwren.
A festival of antbirds: checkerthroated antwren, spotted antbird, chestnut backed antbird and dot-winged antwren.

I know I’m all over the place here, but my brain is really tuckered out. I did want to share with you a cool recording I got of a keelbilled toucan revving up its engines. It’s got a loud rasping and  monotonous call, but you can hear it grinding through the gears to get up to speed. And that snapping and firecracker stuff that’s going on, too? A red-capped manakin male displaying his wares on his forest lek. He did a good job of it. The female stopped by to check him out and I think he got lucky.

Redcapped manikin male and female, the male moonwalking for her benefit.
Redcapped manakin male and female, the male moonwalking for her benefit.

By the way, if anyone is interested in what I’m using to make these recordings, it’s an Olympus Linear PCM LS-10 recorder, provided by the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and I’m hugely grateful to them for the use of this superior piece of equipment. It’s added a lot to this journey and will add a lot to the show as well. Enjoy the toucan and the manakin. I’m going to bed.

5 thoughts on “More Drawings from the Panama forest.

  1. artistatexit0 says:

    Wonderful….. those sounds are amazing! How many bird species alone are found on the island? Your leaf litter theory sounds plausible to me. If a plant can funnel water to its roots, why not other nutrients? I imagine that the leaf litter takes no time to break down in the tropics.

  2. TR says:

    I’ve got to know what’s in the water down there that you are able to create so much beauty so quickly!!! I would be happy to lug your mini art studio around just for the price of seeing these birds and watching you work. I love that plant and your theory is surely spot on since the tropical rain forest soil is lacking of nutrients. I am still holding up these four ballroom walls in Argentina.

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