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Toco Toucan | Neeraj Bantia Photography
The Pantanal in Brazil offers exceptional opportunities to observe not just jaguars but various exotic birds and I was looking forward for an encounter with the Toco Toucan and this was one of the highlights of our Brazil Trip.
Being a hardcore Cat lover, I can now confess the toco toucans made me fall in love with birds & the birder in me was born 😊 Whether you are a birder or not, the chance to see the Toco Toucans, is special as they are one of the bird “ambassadors” of Brazil
The habitat along the Transpantaneira road is just perfect for observing and photographing these birds as it is relatively open, The Toco Toucans are regular visitors here and were seen in our lodge, I photographed this one from right outside my room.
The Toco is the largest of the toucans, They have a very interesting and photogenic method to feed due to their large beaks. They pick their food with the tip of the beak and then toss it in the air and tilt their head back to swallow it. They have a perfect aim every time and are surprisingly graceful and dextrous. I never got tired of photographing these stunning birds!
The largest toucan in the world, the toco toucan has a striking plumage with a mainly black body, a white throat, chest and red under tail coverts. What appears to be a blue iris is actually thin blue skin around the eye. This blue skin is surrounded by another ring of bare, orange skin.
The most noticeable feature however is, The toco toucan’s bill is one-third of its length, Its huge bill which is yellowish orange, tending to deeper reddish orange on its lower sections, a black base and large spot on the tip.
The tongue is nearly as long as the bill and very flat, The toco toucan eats fruit using its bill to pluck them from trees, but also insects, frogs, small reptiles, small birds and their eggs and nestlings. The long bill is useful for reaching things that otherwise would be out of reach. It is typically seen in pairs or small groups. A research has also shown that bill can modify blood flow and thereby regulate heat distribution in this bird, Thus.. the toco toucan uses its bill as a thermal radiator responsible for between 30 and 60% of heat loss.
There are 20 species of Toco Toucans in South America, these toco toucans are usually found in northern and eastern Bolivia, extreme south eastern Peru, northern Argentina, eastern and central Paraguay, eastern and southern Brazil.
The average life span of the toco in the wild is upto 20 years
The Dance of the Ocelot | Brazil Diaries
There are journeys and destinations, There are some which you hear as whispered lores and some that is up there for grabs, Some we absorb whilst some threads itself into our being, But some addresses imprint themselves into our soul, You become one with the story…and all because the address engulfs you into the lore which is as old as nature herself.
As an observer of nature and the stories it unleashes, my recent trip into Brazil was an unparalleled journey – not just on a personal level because the land teaches you go beyond yourself, but also, as a visual story-teller, you are thrown curve balls every step of the way. Your stories are challenged – the angles, the lights, the play of shadow and the animals who play the hero – some shy, some bold, some angry and some fierce to fit into your frame. You are pushed to your limits, There are days when you simply sit back and marvel at what you witness and then there are split- second moments, when everything falls into place to make a frame, which speaks a thousand words, And the frame is not boxed. It is meant to simply suck you into its vortex from the minute you lay eyes on it and you live the tale. And that, is what I try…
Our Brazilian trip started from Cuiaba, which followed to Chapada. Honestly, I am not a birder. My eye hasn’t been trained to capture the fliers, But the canvas which unfolds in this magical land – where the jewel tone birds in unimaginable hues dance to the first rays of the sun and stay unrestrained and bold till they kiss the last rays goodbye lingered on. The documentor in me was drawn to the magic of the Macaws, Humming birds and species that were lifers (seen for the first time) for me. It’s effortless to get intertwined in their world of no boundaries. There is a method in their play. It’s not just the colour and the drama that spins a web, but a story that goes beyond that and you, as a voyeur are part of it.
If Chapada was entry-way into paradise, I knew that a parallel universe awaited me, Every day was a discovery. Never was there a moment, where I could shrug my shoulder and say – “Been there done that…” because this land does not spin that tale.
It whispers secrets which hold you captivated. The canvas it unfolds holds sights that could actually transport you into a different era. The only noise against the canvas of silence is the cacophony of the birds, the whisper of the wind and the buzz of the insects. The Amazonian forest is alive and the vibe is infectious.
My tribe moved on to Transpantaneria road which is a link between the small town called of Poconé and the place of Porto Jofre where the road ends. This 147 km long dirt road – I wouldn’t call it a road but a crocodilian slalom course, which crosses no less than 122 wooden bridges and has around 17 lodges. Rich in biodiversity & wildlife, your bucket list for the vast wetlands can be easily ticked off.
I had read about the Ocelot - very similar to a Leopard Cub otherwise known as the Dwarf leopard or the Painted leopard (the dark rosettes, along with spots and stripes which is its distinctive markings on its fur). The cat thrives in South America. It is, beyond words, one of the chief attractions in the lodge of Transpanteria road. I knew it was a rare find. But then, as a story-teller, you look for the layers and the rarest of the rare stories. You sift diamond through coal. And I hoped for a visual treat with the Jaguatirica.
Once we checked into our lodge, our birding sessions brought us up close and personal with Toco Toucans, Jaibru Storks, Herons, branched family of kingfishers. They had the power to take me away from the now. The only pull back into the real world was when our guide said, “Be ready at sharp 7. If lady luck smiles, we may find the Ocelot.”
The Ocelot is nocturnal and begins its activities during twilight. But when the grey skies loom large, it can be spotted even during the day. Solitary by nature, it preys on armadillos, rabbits, rodents, opossums, insects, reptiles, fish and small birds. So this is what I had gleaned from my research. But, being here, in a land where I was part of the jungle and it’s lore and searching for a being which is mystical – the equations change. Textbook information takes a back-seat. Your senses are on high alert. Would we be lucky… or would our frames go home empty was a question which did find it's way into my being, but my eyes still searched.
As we began our short walk into a flood-lit arena which is around 300 meters from the Lodge, we were cautioned to mind our foot as we walked beside the river bank we didn't want step onto a capybara, snake or even a caiman by any chance. There were hushed tales around an ocelot family, which was a resident of this area. But our guide also slipped it in, “Lady luck smiles on those whom she favors. Chances are that 5 out of 10 nights, the ocelot makes its way to the bank.” Our eyes searched – encompassing the land. Every crack of the twig had us turning our lights to search for the beyond. The air stilled. Almost like she didn’t want anything to disturb us from our search. And, for today, we caught a glimpse of two red eyes ahead. We hurried up to the spot and shone our lights into the woods. “Ocelot” was whispered.
The sighting was woven to my exacting standards. The ocelot stood there – beckoning us to enter its world and capture it. Bold and in its playground, it knew that it was the leader who hummed the tune for us to follow. Over the frames, I captured, I waited for one where it would give me an essence of its being – a phantom-like lovely shy & nocturnal cat that it was. I wanted a frame which would weave a visual poetry around simplicity and sensuality in a single breath. Bold and graceful, the frame captured one that lingered on for me. Because this is how I wanted my story to begin with the Ocelot. A dance from land to the tree, a pose to an odd curve ball – the light played truant. The shadows ruled roost. I tried…
About the Ocelot:
Ocelots have a raspy tongue, which can successfully remove every piece of meat from a bone. They are known to swim efficiently, these solitary cats live single in territories that are scent-marked by urine spraying and forming dung piles, Almost thrice the size of an average house cat, the ocelot is a sleek animal with a gorgeous dappled coat.
I had been curious to understand more about the shedding of antlers. Had asked my naturalist and also looked into it more. Here is a broad level understanding. Following the rutting season, there is a drop in testosterone levels in bucks. This causes a weakening in the tissue at the base of the antlers (known as pedicles) to the point that the antlers just fall off. At other times, they can be knocked down when they rub their antlers against trees. Shedding of their antlers doesn't hurt the deer. Hope that helps.. do look into it more if interested and add if i missed anything!
Was amazed to see the bird activity in the Churna zone, especially in the vicinity of the FRH. We spent about an hour there and spotted at least 50 species of birds. Also, in case you have not been able to spot the Malabar Giant Squirrel, rest assured you will spot them here! Traveled Jan-2016.