National Geographic : 1962 Jan
a tree whose bark produced a potion which, I gathered, made old men feel like Captain Blood as played by Errol Flynn. From Atti I learned such things as why it is best to stalk a jaguar in bare feet. When crushed vegetation underfoot feels warm, the jaguar has just slunk away! One night a jaguar growled not more than 50 yards from my tent, and next day we found the footprint of one in a cave we were search ing for cock-of-the-rock nests. At our camp, dozens of giant ants-the araks of the Macusis- wandered about on solitary hunting expeditions. Nearly an inch long, these fierce insects can incapacitate a man with their stings. Outside the mosquito net walls of my tent flew swarms of bats, 136 AREA ENLARGED eTobago .ELA Georgetown, BR. GUIANA SParamaribo,SURINAM !FRENCH GUIANA many of them blood-lapping vampires. The most eerie night sounds were those of howling monkeys, whose jungle concert can chill the spine of the most hardened trav eler. By day the constant metallic peals of the bellbird (Procniasalba) made the forest ring as if filled with little churches. Stalking by Night on Hands and Knees As yet we had not seen a single male cock of-the-rock, but in a cave on a rugged slope we succeeded in finding four nests. They were glued to the rock with saliva and mud. When I discovered that the females roost on the rims of their nests at night, I decided to try flash photographs. We crept the last 50 feet in the dark, groping our way. Once a bird burst from her nest into my face, and we usually flushed them all prema turely. We finally got a picture or two (page 138), but the female is the color of the rocks and hence very hard to distinguish. Quite frankly, I was always afraid on these night hunts, for it meant crawling in total darkness in an area where Atti had shot and killed a bushmaster. This deadly snake, which reaches a length of seven feet or more, sleeps by day and wanders about in search of warm blooded prey at night. I was almost beginning to doubt the exist ence of the male cock-of-the-rock when sud denly, as we climbed a steep hill, Atti grasped my arm. He nodded ahead and dropped to all fours as we closed in. There had been some bitter disappoint ments. Only that morning we had crawled up the same hill to a display arena-40 bare spots of ground amidst the brown debris of the forest-and found it deserted. Even now I was not fully prepared for what I saw. Through my binoculars, I beheld Color flames amid jungle gloom in the Brit ish Guiana home of the cock-of-the-rock. Sunlight, filtering through lush greenery, highlights Heliconia(right), with red flower bracts shaped like lobster claws. Monkey throat orchids (Catasetum) blossom below. Author and Indian guides pause on the trail beneath feathery fronds of a palm. Expedition's goal, the golden cock-of-the rock (Rupicola rupicola),lives in the shaded area of map at left. A related redder species (Rupicola peruviana) inhabits highlands from Venezuela and Colombia southward through Ecuador and Peru to Bolivia.