Canada Off Road – Hoot: The Mouse and the Snowy


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Five days in Quebec and I have learned.

Learned about Owls.

Learned about me.

And I must admit that what I have learned isn’t all pretty. I realize that my excuse that I did not know about the dangers of “baiting”, before my Canadian Adventure, is pretty lame.

But, I didn’t know this happened.

That’s it in a nutshell.


I have roamed the whole world taking images of birds in their natural habitat and never have I ever been faced with the issue of baiting. So, last week, I was a little slow on the pickup when I witnessed the drama unfolding in front of my eyes.

A small brown mouse with a long tail sailed through the air and landed with a confused thud on the frozen ground of the corn field. He recovered quickly and scooted across the crusted snow. My fellow photographers lined up on the diagonal and waited. Then from the corner of my eye I spotted a liftoff from the top of a tall hydro pole a quarter mile away. The round head and stubbly body of a Snowy Owl was headed my way at breakneck speed adjusting her flight path as she drew near. Then I got it.

I mean, I got it, that this was high noon, doomsday, the jig was up. A mouse would die so I could get a photograph.

The next moment the bird was high overhead with a little mouse clutched firmly in her talons. Then down, down, down she flew until she settled in the cornfield and dropped him at her feet. She watched her catch and sentimental me thought she looked sad. Then she nestled in the snow and had lunch.

When I arrived home from my winter holiday, I started to research the debate over baiting birds, particularly Owls. There is certainly a plethora of opinions and some fact and some fiction out there. Whatever I read, it was obvious that this was a heated topic with strong opinions held on all sides.

My sympathies are not with those who feel a birder’s right to observe, trumps the photographer’s right to make images. I do understand how these two parties would see the situation differently but for me this is the same as the dialogue that occurs between cross country skiers, snow shoe enthusiasts and snowmobilers. Who should own the trail?

Most of the articles that I reviewed seemed to come down heavily on the side of not baiting owls because of a combination of proven fact and plain observation most of which claimed the practice to be detrimental to the birds.

There is some evidence to support that store bought mice purchased as “lunch” may carry parasites and salmonella that could be harmful to the owls. Of greater concern is the fact that birds can be habituated to people who provide “free lunches” and lose their ability to hunt. Some stay too long in an area with no natural food because they are being fed.  Flying north is essential to their life cycle so they must know how to hunt.

Birders and photographers frequent areas that are known to be habitat for owls. Often their observations are made from busy roads and this too puts Owls at risk of becoming traffic fatalities as they swoop to pick up bait. Their version of a Tim Horton’s drive by window is not safe! Some resources such as Scott Weidensaul , Co-director of Project Snowman has studied northern Saw-whet owls for twenty years and he claims that the owls do not need the food (bait) so why increase risks of habituation and traffic fatalities.

When I went to Quebec last week, I was excited at the prospect of seeing and photographing, primarily, Snowy Owls. Our guide did take us to a field away from traffic where the Snowy Owls were baited. I believe that the guide had taken precautions to insure that the mice he was feeding the Owls were healthy. Now that I understand more of the process, I would have to say that the Owls were, or were becoming habituated albeit in a relatively safe place removed from traffic hazards. In addition I had no reason to believe that the birders who had stopped on the adjacent roads were unable to enjoy the birds.

The only ones not enjoying the frigid mornings would have to be the mice. Not many articles on baiting speak to that. I admit that the morning before I left on this trip I unceremoniously threw two mice out my back door into a snow bank. They had been prowling my pantry and I was not amused. So I guess, the thought of mice as sentient beings was not high on my list when I trudged across the corn field and set up my camera gear.

Most of my Owl Week was not about capturing images of baited birds. It was about observing the amazing actions and reactions of magnificent Snowy Owls. It included seeing them perched on fence posts and on branches that miraculously supported their weight high up in willow trees. It was about driving country roads and starring endlessly through frosted windows trying to find them on their turf. It was watching them cruise in on their prey. It was about walking through knee deep snow in search of Saw-Whets and huddling on a country road as Short-eared Owls circled in the distance. It was about cold noses and frigid fingers. It was about trying to understand.

So , now that I am home I have thousands of images to cull. Some are from baited birds, some are not. Snowies, Saw-whets and Short-eared owls are in my collection.

Although baiting is not legally wrong in Ontario, having witnessed the practice, I think I have learned from the experience that for me, it is ethically wrong. I won’t be doing much with my baited images as incredible as they seem to me. I will post one here and print it once, to hang on my wall.

I want to remind myself that everything I do has an impact and just because I am bigger and maybe smarter, doesn’t mean I should do something that is intentionally harmful to another species for the purpose of producing a photograph.

It’s the mouse that taught me this lesson, not the Owl.


References on Owl Baiting

The list of resources set out below provides information that may help you in taking a stand in the baiting discussion. It was first published on Michael Furtman’s website and includes opposing positions regarding the debate.

Additional Resources

Owl Feeding Controversy Ruffles Feathers — Minnesota Public Radio

If the owl photo is fake, the viewer is being conned – Jim Williams, “Wingnut” birding column, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Outdoors photographer blasts practice of luring owls with bait — Dennis Anderson, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Baiting Owls – The Birding Project, Christian Hagenlocher

Why You Shouldn’t Feed or Bait Owls – National Audubon Society

Owl Baiting For Fun and Profit — Bird Protection Quebec

Shortcuts That Shortchange Wildlife Photography — Outdoor Photographer magazine

Bird Baiting — CBC Radio

Great Gray Owls in Ottawa: Baiting and Abetting

The purists vs. the baiters: Fowl play in Ottawa’s birding country — Ottawa Sun newspaper

Of Mice and Owls – Keith Crowley, Lodgetrail Media

The Agony and The Ecstasy of Owl Photography: Owl Baiting.

Shouting matches, crude language invade world of bucolic harmony: Ottawa’s birding community – National Post

No Baiters Allowed — Raymond Barlow

Owl Baiting radio broadcast, CBC radio, March 1, 2017

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017, ESPN Twin Cities; baiting conversation with Dennis Anderson on The Great Outdoors.


Dat 4/5 Paris/Lourdes

Spent the morning yesterday visiting the Pantheon and the Sorbonne, one of the oldest universities in the world. The Pantheon was built in the 1700’s to rival St Peter’s in Rome but was never consecrated. When Victor Hugo died they needed a place to honour him and now he is crypt mates with Alexander Dumas! The structure of this place is astounding.

I took a late afternoon flight from Orly to Lourdes and met two more Camino walkers in our group.

After supper we witnessed the candle light mass at the Lourdes cathedral . It was attended by many with serious afflictions and who were wheelchair bound.

This morning four of us climbed to Lourdes Castle which towers over the city. Between downpours we learned the place has morphed from prison, to fortress to museum.

The rain continues but not to be deterred we just got back from walking the Stations of the cross and both inside and outside the church itself. Maybe something good rubbed off!

Day 3 -Paris!

Did I mention we are on the fourth floor of our hotel! Great going down, miniature elevator for two friendly people coming up. Sunny with cloudy periods. Nice.

Walked 16497 steps to see the Seine up close, circumnavigate Ile St Louis, visit the grounds of the Louvre all the way to the crazy Arc de Triomphe . Drivers in Beijing and Lima should have a completion!

On to the Eiffel Tower which appears to have ants when you look up and see the climbers. And then it was time for rain, lunch and a boat ride on the Seine back to Notre Dame. Needless to say…I’m resting again🙃

First Stop Paris

Day 1 and 2: Got to YYZ by 2:30 and hung around waiting until nearly 8. Nobody explained why we are waiting but we wait.

After 7 hours of flying and six time zone changes we arrive in Paris and jump through the required hoops for entry into France.

I meet one of our Camino group at the luggage carousel at CDG and we share a ride into Paris’ heart. The trip is a lengthy trip on aging infrastructure. Somehow I had forgotten that Paris is a really old city!

Our driver drops us at the Hotel Saint Jacques and I must say that at first I was underwhelmed. Nonetheless, in short order it becomes inviting and its quaint touches are endearing.

We dump our stuff in our room on the fourth floor and head into rhe streets. It’s a short downhill through meandering streets to the first close up view of the Seine. Across the river Notre Dame is stunning. Absolutely stunning and it continues to get more so as we take in its structure both inside and out. On the way home we stop for a late lunch and are now nestled in our beds for a before dinner nap.

Watercoloring My World -The Beginning


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2016 has whizzed by. I have travelled shorter distances than usual but my mind was busy coping with loss and I had a need to stay close to home. There was no choice but to find new direction for myself from my position here in central Ontario.

A few years ago my sister gave me a book on watercolours along with paints and paper. They remained in pristine condition for a long time.


First Try!

This year, I took the plunge into experimentation and began to include art in my travel journals. I must say my logs did start to look jazzier but I knew my skill level left much to be desired.


In June, I shared my journal with David Marshak (, an artist in residence, on a cruise I took with Adventure Canada . I attended his and Rob Saley’s ( sessions and managed to draw a mean wine glass and a hand held radio set. EPSON MFP imageWell at least these items were recognizable! When out on the land, I took a stab at drawing in my journal and finished up once I was back in my cabin by adding a touch of watercolour. That’s progress!

David suggested I should watch some u-tube watercolour videos to improve my game.

The summer came and went. It was hot, hot, hot. I didn’t feel like doing much of anything but in the back of my mind was the revolving message that told me I should look at “upping my watercolour game”.

I did take to watching u-tube lessons before bed. My internet service needed to be upgraded to keep up with the downloads.

In September, the local art shop sponsored a six week course with Greg Maude                         ( Maude Fine Art). Off I went every Wednesday afternoon. Each week I seemed to be hauling an ever increasing kit. Apparently there was more to this than water and paint!


Sunrise – Sunset

I learned a lot in those six weeks. Perhaps the most important was that I had more going for me than I thought. My history of oil painting and photography had helped me to see differently and now I was using those learnings in a medium that required me to take a quarter turn and squint. It was similar and a lot could be transferred from one means of expression to another, but no, it wasn’t the same!

I jumped in and, with enthusiasm, turned my mind and brush to our assignments. My snow looked ok, my house and barn passable. Then I began to go off the rails.

“You expect too much too soon”, I told myself. I painted on into the night. More paper. More paint. Even more brushes.

Then I began to be more satisfied with my efforts. I practiced. And I practiced. “ Oh good, the shadows are coming along”, I said, probably out loud.

The class ended. My classmates dispersed to the corners of my county and beyond. I went to my kitchen counter and set up shop. Then I drove to town to draw and paint from the comfort and anonymity of my car.


From my car

I tried to draw people at Tim Horton’s . I went to a different Tim Horton’s.

I climbed the hill behind my house and painted the field and the barn and the century home. Some paintings made me feel I was actually progressing. Other efforts were just that, efforts.


High on a Windy Hill

Rome was not built in a day. Some smart person said that and I know it applies to many things. But I like results, good results. Sooner rather than later.

It’s verging on six months since I started to work on watercolour as a media for self-expression.

On Saturday, I reached a milestone.

I stacked my reference books and thanked Marc Taro Holmes ( for the inspiration and implicit encouragement found in his book “ The Urban Sketcher “ . Then I went to Staples where I purchased a new Epson scanner, printer, etc, etc. It seems it can do almost anything. The selection process was highly technical. The Workforce WF- 3640 was the only machine I could lift.

Several hours later, I was scanning. The process from unpacking through configuration included much grinding of teeth but the end result was good. I can scan and print but alas I cannot save things to my Mac Pro. Yes, you are right, I should be able to, but trust me, you don’t want to hear about my internet services. You don’t. You really don’t.

So here I am nearly six months into my adventure with pen, ink and watercolours and I’m feeling pretty good. Much has been accomplished and there is more to go. Learning is endless and I choose to look at life that way.

It is December now and it is getting colder in my car, so I am moving on to the creation of watercolours from images I have taken on my travels. I think I will start north and work my way to the other pole.


Somewhere on Davis Strait

Come June 2017 tune in again. I will post an update. More drawing and watercolour instructions are scheduled for 2017 as I make my effort to document Canada 150.

PERU 2015: Day 15 – Back to Home Plate


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Day 15 – Back to Home Plate

Lima to Miami is an overnight flight that boards at 1:06 am. My twenty-two pounds of camera gear feels like ninety when it is time to get it down from the overhead at 7am this morning. The four of us, on this leg, meet at the luggage carousel and wait somewhat impatiently for our hoped for luggage last seen in Iquitos many moons ago.

Immigration is mechanized but I swear I do not look like the black and white photo on my immigration card. All I can say is that there must have been some similarity that I was missing for those with open eyes because the process proceeded without a hitch.

Ron, Janis and Erika head for the car-park and their trip back to Bradenton, Florida. Carol and I head, hopefully, to the airport hotel. We are re-buffed as we are too early to check-in. This seems to be a strange feature at an airport hotel!

Airport waiting is airport waiting. It is to be avoided but when push comes to shove there is no choice but to suck it up and try to smile. We guard the luggage, take trips to the washroom, window shop, eat and eventually head to different gates for our flights to Toronto. Yep, I just want to go home.

The sky train takes me to Gate 5. There is no visible sign of increased security in this airport despite the deadly incidents in Paris this past week, and the upcoming American Thanksgiving long weekend.

I purchase a sandwich – $10.25 US for one ham and gold, I mean cheese sandwich. We board at 12:05 pm just in time to hear the captain say “The overheads will hold three skate boards end to end and you can put coats on top!” I try to find the energy for the humor.

My seat is by the window. I am captive so I fall in and out of sleep for the length of the three-hour flight. My seatmate decides to comb her hair for the hundredth time as we are landing She has just gone to the first class washroom even though we are in steerage. Then to complete her preparation for meeting family and friends she generously sprays herself with perfume which, though not bad smelling, prompts the lady behind me to have a full out asthma attack. It’s a good thing we are nearly at the terminal as the lady bolts to the front of the plane in search of air.My seat mate doesn’t get it!

Amidst all of this I am still trying to get someone to bring me a custom’s form. Apparently there are none left. Nonetheless, I am really, really glad to be home…or almost home. I’m pretty sure they will let me stay even though I do have nuts and berries in my handcrafted souvenirs. I hand my declaration to the young customs officer and she, after questions and further thought passes me through.

In Toronto, it’s about 40 degrees F with light clouds.  I don my raincoat and follow my Ontario Coachways driver to the van. I’m armed with a coke and a chocolate bar .(The Timmy’s line was too long.) I point out that I have been up for 37 hours and ask for a short update. “Has anything good happened in the last two weeks”, I ask. A two-hour chat with a knowledgeable man finds me in my driveway.

I’m home.

As I put the key in the lock and push open my back door, I realize even in my sleep deprived state that I have changed. To be a traveler is to anticipate and welcome opportunity and opportunity challenges me. If I returned the same as I was when I stepped out of my door, I might as well have stayed at home.

Now begins the task of understanding the difference based on my time in Peru.






PERU 2015: Day 14 – Rewind


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Day 14 – Rewind

I rise knowing that 39 hours from now I will be sinking into my own fluffy bed, in my comfy log cabin, near a major highway in a first world country. It seems impossible and I wish I could just be “beamed up”.

It is still dark over the jungle and the early birds are silhouettes. Pink dolphins are showing up on mass off the side of the ship and are doing back twirls like Flipper.

Peru-2015-8529oAs we move into the jungle on our last foray, the smell of hydrogen sulphide permeates the air. As the water rises with the wet season, this is a naturally occurring byproduct. I haven’t noticed many odours on this trip so this stands out. We follow a route that is only open during the wet. It allows the locals to have a seasonal short cut to the Ucayali. When the river is in full flood it will reach the white bark on the trees.

Peru-2015-8536oA few folks board the kayaks and paddle the marshy waters. I decide that getting in would be fine but getting out would not work for me so I cruise in the skiff instead. Discretion is the better part of valor, but darn!

Peru-2015-8196oWe move through hundreds of egrets that are rising and falling in waves. They form white clouds and rest tentatively on half submerged branches while cormorants watch and what I call “butterfly birds” (Jacana) rise from the reeds as we pass.Peru-2015-8163o When spread, their yellow wings catch the light. At rest they appear somewhat drab with black heads and yellow beaks.

Our last, upclose glimpse of this amazing ecosystem is short. By 11:30 we are on board, packed, ready for lunch and will soon be leaving the Delfin I at the dock in Nauta.

Peru-2015-8614oWe pass a busy waterfront as we head towards our mooring. Tuk Tuks and motorcyles are zipping through the riverside market up on the high bank. In the boat yard, the tool of choice is the machete. Peru-2015-8635oThe pace of life struck by the flow of the river is quickly leaving me.

The road to Iquitos is long and hot and more rickety than I remember. Kids sit on the side of the road…and I mean right on the road. I’m not sure why. Perhaps boredom. Perhaps they are waiting for someone or something. It’s just not obvious.

Buses pass us on a blind hill. Rice paddies and swimming holes move by in a blur. Ubiquitous white plastic lawn chairs start showing up the closer we get to Iquitos. About an hour and a half into the journey, we pass through Varellal, one of many small economically poor villages. The main street looks like one long house. Few folks are about. Dogs loll in the heat.

We stop at the “Institucionses Unidas por la Conservacion de la Fauna Amazonica” which is among other things a manatee rehabilitation center. Environmental awareness is a key goal in its work with school children. The importance of recycling and its methods are taught by example in creative child friendly ways. I really liked the talking tree and “flower pot” children.Peru-2015-8645o

The manatee project aims to rehabilitate animals that are injured or ill. Peru-2015-8665oThose in the main pool are friendly and anxious to eat leaves from our sanitized hands. One named “Anonymous” is particularly friendly and cuddles up to the pool deck in anticipation of a treat. The property is also home to turtles , a macaw and small marmoset monkeys Peru-2015-8675othat play like children on the lawn. Nature never ends here.

As we make our way to the park entrance the notion of the cool van seems really nice. It is indeed hot. There is not a breath of wind.

Before long we join a stream of traffic composed of all kinds of vehicles the majority of which are tuk tuks. The streets seem to be coming alive for the end of the day. The temperature is dropping a tad. In the older part of the city we forego a walk in favour of visiting a museum on the malecon. Its exhibit on indigenous people tells me that though I may have seen a lot in my time in Peru, I have hardly scratched the surface of the culture and history.Peru-2015-8710o Spears, jungle drums, finely woven cloaks and headpieces decorated with hummingbird and macaw feathers help to distinquish one group from another. The workmanship is exquisite.Peru-2015-8712oPeru-2015-8709o

Outside, it is still too hot to walk very far so our adventure in the old part of the city is curtailed. Locals wander the Malecon and in the distance the remains of past dreams, ships once functional and vital, rust on the shore with their hull’s vibrant with graffiti.Peru-2015-8703o As we turn in the direction of the van, a billboard screams out “Es Nuestro Derecho” – Education is our right! Perhaps change is afoot.Peru-2015-8722o

By the time we weave our way through supper hour traffic to the entrance to the soon to be “Best Western” (remember it) the sun is beginning to set with a vivid display of orange and blue. We cross the water to the floating restaurant we had visited when we first came to Iquitos. We just have time for a quick meal and then we take our last trip on the Amazon…in the dark in a boat with no running lights.

It’s not far to the airport but the streets are full and corners bulge with kids in school uniforms. The second session of the day is out. I notice that Christmas tree lights have sprouted over the past week as stores and homes dress for the holidays.

The luggage is off to Miami, we are all off to Lima. The soft tropical evening caresses my face and the roar of jet engines insults my ears. Soon these sensations will be replaced by the kiss of snowflakes and the sound of my furnace.

Our clan begins to disintegrate in Lima. Shirley is off to Machu Picchu before returning to New Zealand. LeeAnn and Dean are off to LAX, and the rest of us are headed for Miami and points beyond but not before Carol and I get randomly selected for a complete security check at the gate. After the swabbing and searching are complete, and we are declared safe, we are allowed to board early. This marks the second time I’ve been “suspicious” when trying to exit Peru. Last time, I lost Doug’s Swiss Army Knife to a very exacting security guard. He was right. I was wrong. Lesson learned!

Next stop Miami.

PERU 2015: Day 13 – Monkey Day!


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Day 13: Monkey Day

Chirp! Chirp! Chirp! Well that probably doesn’t do the jungle sounds justice but at 5 am it makes the point that I am not the only one up. This is our last day to explore and coffee and crackers ––someone(s) ate all the Oreos— get me started.

McCaws, vultures, parakeets and parrots accompany us as the sun comes up and we head for Monkey Island. There appears to be a lot of action in the forest this morning.

Not far from where the Delfin I is moored, there is an island populated by free range monkeys that could entertain for hours. Spider, Squirrel, Capuchin and Howler monkeys look like they are having out of control fun. The black spider monkey Peru-2015-7434ostretches from limb to limb exhibiting a full range of facial expressions that were meant to scare us off or entertain….I’m not sure which. A particularly large orangey-brown Howler calls the tune.Peru-2015-7539o

Our watchful interaction with nature is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a boat from Delfin II. It’s not their presence that is so disconcerting but rather the fact they begin to feed the monkeys by placing bananas on a stick. This is way too much for the creatures to ignore and before you know it one little guy is perched on the gunnel of the Delfin II skiff. Now, wouldn’t you think that the guides for a National Geographic adventure would know not to feed the animals! We are disappointed that the company would allow this infringement on the wild in the hope of keeping the animals “handy” for viewing. Despite my delight in seeing the monkeys in their natural habitat, this experience was probably the low point of the trip.

Time is getting short so as we wait for breakfast all cameras are scanning the water in the hope of getting “the” picture of a pink dolphin. Sea creatures do provide a different photographic challenge and these ones provide little warning of their intent to break the surface or as to where they will resurface. You just wait it out and hope for the best. There are a lot of muddy water pictures and critter footprints to be deleted from my cards. As I head down for breakfast I’m thinking that the expression ”Leave only Footprints” was coined by these creatures.Peru-2015-8013o

At nine we are off again. We are looking for Morpho butterflys and the illusive but dead slow sloth.The water is noticeably higher today and strangely enough its presence makes the landscape seem more jungle like to me. Marks on the trees show that there are many feet yet to go before high water will be reached.

The most incredible blue Morpho butterfly moves by quickly. He or she is not hanging around for a bunch of photographers to get their act together. There are numerous species and subspecies of these magnificent creatures. Their five to six inch wingspans and their iridescent blue colour is striking and helps me see them as they flash through the canopy.

Peru 2015-7750


Our patience is rewarded as a sloth is spotted high on a tree.


Peru-2015-7647oWe are back on board the Delfin I in about an hour and we continue down stream to the confluence of the Maranon, the Ucayali and the Amazon. Over a thousand tributaries will join in as the river makes its 4000k journey to the Atlantic. More species of animals live in the Amazonian Rainforest than in any other place on earth. National Reserves protect the flora and the fauna and provide inaccessible areas where indigenous tribes still live untouched. The Amazon covers over half of Peru but only 5% of its people live here.

As I stare down the river, the fact that I am actually here, stuns me. I can’t help but wonder why I have been afforded this opportunity. Life, here, is so different from what I have experienced in Canada. Terrorists set off bombs in Paris this week. Innocent people were randomly killed. In my daily life I am bombarded by news of horrific world events. At this moment, I wonder whether the people along this river know that the carnage in Paris happened? I surmise that many do not and that says volumes about how I live my normal (non-travelling) life. From the security of my living room, I would have known. It makes me question how I live and how each of us spends our time on earth.

This whole place is a metaphor for life. Some of the logs that bounce off the hull in the night will reach the sea. Others will sink. Some will get hopelessly snagged while others after a time, will float free and become part of something that is changing and that is bigger than themselves. Life is here, but its scale and touch points are unique. I have to figure out what this opportunity to experience Peru means to me and my life. What have I learned? What difference will it make?

In due time, the Delfin I turns upstream. What is below the confluence is not for me to experience on this journey. We are headed back towards Nauta where tomorrow we will disembark.

Peru-2015-7793oClouds are gathering as we pull ashore at San Francisco. We are ahead of schedule and remain on board for awhile. Villagers come down to the shore and watch us as we watch them. Then the rain comes.Peru-2015-7812o Buckets and buckets of rain.Peru-2015-7809o I take cover in our cabin while the residents gather under the thatched roof of a large pavilion. When the cloudburst subsides, out come the mops to clear away the puddles in the reception area. We are now in a steam bath. The sky is very grey.

Peru-2015-7817oAt exactly 3:30 we go ashore and are greeted by warm smiles and hearty handshakes. The village is set back from the water and so we are escorted up a broad flight of cement stairs to an incongruous pillared piazza where chickens roam,Peru-2015-7822o children play and the Peruvian flag flies proudly.

Peru-2015-7829oI watch as villagers demonstrate how juice is extracted from sugar cane, beans are husked and rice separated from its chaff.Peru-2015-7825o On the main street, heads pop out of doorways and we all stop to see a rain drenched baby sloth who is being cared for by a loving grandmother.

Peru-2015-7836oAs the rain comes again, we don our company issue green ponchos. Inside a building on the main street we are entertained with dancing and singing. Heads appear at windows and little ones gather at the door. We are a curiosity but Nelson, the Mayor’s son, steals the show with his enthusiasm and winning smile. It gets him warm applauses and multiple suckers.

Peru-2015-7883oThe main street has one long cement sidewalk with paths leading to the buildings that line the way. At one end a church stands out against the sky and the forest. At the other, the walk passes the school and homes until it disappears at the top of a knoll.  Some of the buildings have metal roofs thanks to the generosity of others. Cement floors and thatched roofs predominate. This village has hydro. As we start our return to the boat we are shown lovely baskets and straw animals and jewelry. Hundreds of hours have been spent creating these beautiful things. Bright, cheery colours predominate.Peru-2015-7885o

Gabriella, a girl of about 8, grabs my hand as I start to descend the slippery path. She has the biggest most beautiful smile and absolutely, no fear of strangers.

I am still struggling with what it means to have been here as I board the tender and head back to our ship which is a mere twenty feet away. The thoughts continue to circulate in my head as I shower and prepare for dinner. I don the last of my clean clothes confident in the knowledge that washers and dryers live where I live. This is a different world. Tomorrow I leave the Amazon. I am sad. There is so much more here to learn.














Peru 2015: Day 12- Cruising the Amazon


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Day 12 – Cruising the Amazon

This is the 6th day on the Amazon River system. It’s Saturday 5:15 am. The Delfin I is nose into the long grass. As on every other day here, my glasses steam up when I exit the cabin in anticipation of taking a shot. This time there are of two Yellow-headed Caracara sitting on the tall reeds.


By 6:00 we are in the skiff following the Rio Zapato in search of the large black bushy saki or flying monkey. Black Ani watch from the branches of the paper trees. Peru-2015-7023oCormorants pass in flights much like the v-formation of Canada Geese. Bunches of bright red bromelia look like nests in notches far up the tree trunks. The folks from Delfin II are fishing in still water.Peru-2015-70310o

As we move upstream, the river gets more and more narrow. Light pink water hyacinths float like candles on the water. Twenty pairs of eyes are constantly scanning the trees in search of wildlife of any kind. The birds are frequently back lit and I find it hard to see colours but I am getting better at identification by shape. Toucans and parrots are easy! A scarlet tanager flits by. Even if one is not a “birder”, in a place like this, it is hard not to be drawn in by their diversity and beauty.Peru-2015-7047o

Despite our constant group scan, no sloths are found. A Saki or equatorial flying monkey sits high in the canopy, his bushy tail swinging in the breeze. Peru-2015-7061oHe takes a flying leap, and I have blurry proof of his effort. Waves of birds keep coming. The black-necked hawks are back. Deep in the trees, the branches sway and squirrel monkeys jump limb to limb. It’s play day!

I have the recorder with me again today but there is not enough close up jungle chatter to warrant trying to tape. The voices of the wilderness are best at dawn and dusk. Strangely, those are the times that our group is most quiet.

On our way back to the ship, we pull into the shore to visit a fishing village. The majority of the homes are down a trail, deeper in the forest and safer from the river’s flooding.Peru-2015-7096-2 But the word is soon out that we have landed and instantaneously and somewhat magically, a group of women and children erect a market in a grove of trees. Necklaces and purses made of seeds are soon hanging for our perusal and purchase. The older children help their mothers and the younger ones look at us with wide eyes.

I wander from stall to stall, looking at the wares and wondering who to buy from. Who has already had a sale and who is still hopeful? I find a small purse made from seeds of various sizes and another bracelet. Both items show the creativity and perseverance of the craftsman. They will remind me of this day. As I make my purchases a little girl looks on. She has strabismus and I wonder if she will ever be able to have her vision corrected. She and other kids seem to smile in a sad sort of way. They are quiet but somehow seem filled with questions.

Back on board we sit topside hoping for a breeze and watching clouds roll by. Short “puffs” of rain freshen the light wind. Peru-2015-7121oRiver traffic moves up and down stream. Today umbrellas work for both sun and rain. I see farmers on shore flailing rice. It’s hard at this moment to imagine the river and its accumulation of debris running like this for 4000 km to the Atlantic Ocean.

Peru-2015-7106o-2At our request meals have been cut back in quantity to prevent waste but nonetheless our lunch includes a fish and banana appetizer, a duck and rice main dish and cherry jelly with mango sauce, chocolate cake chunks and apple in mango cream for dessert. I should be made to swim home!

Resting from the heat of midday is mandatory and works well in that it provides time to reposition the ship. From the comfort of my cabin I watch the storm clouds pass. As we are moving downstream now, we once again pass Requena before heading for shore. Peru-2015-7126oBy late afternoon the temperature begins to drop and we head up Supay Creek in the skiff. Here the rising river waters are clearly infiltrating the forest as the rain in the high Andes makes its way to the sea. Trees that would have had dry feet yesterday, have wet ones today. One can almost see the water rise.

Again I am inundated with new bird species. A chocolat “something” and a “red –breasted “whatchamacolit” zip by with a throaty call and a rush of wings. Really, I have so much work to do with a bird book when I get home!

There are a number of lodges on this creek and I see visitors hanging out on the verandas. There is little time to stare and no time to stop as we race to beat the rain back to the ship.

Peru-2015-7141o-2On board it is time for drinks, dinner and the continuation of our game of leapfrog with Delfin II. Lightening flashes across the sky. The staff lower the rain curtains to protect the wooden decks.

By 8:15 I’m in my pj’s, ensconced on my bed, busily writing journal notes. The cameras are outside sleeping under a towel! I join them in the sleeping part!