On a Wing and a Prayer: A Journey of Self-discovery on the Trail of Central American Wildlife

By Sarah Woods

Whilst author and intrepid vacationer Sarah Woods set approximately gaining knowledge of the jungles of critical and South the USA, her quest took her into the most distant tangles of vine-knotted jungles on this planet. In Panama's rain-soaked Chiriquí highlands, she navigated probably impassable trails with a machete to arrive quetzals with resplendent jewel-tone plumage.

Sarah sought the local knowledge of the indigenous Embera, deep within the Darien Jungle, on the way to stumble upon the world's greatest and strongest birds of prey-the elusive harpy eagle. utilizing razor-sharp talons to seek and kill sloths and monkeys with lethal precision, those vast, winged dinosaurs disguise a lesser-known, softer facet: devoting nice care to elevating their younger for the 1st years in their lives. Seldom visible within the wild, Sarah struggled to demystify the fear-riddled legends and superstitions that earned the harpy eagle its identify from early explorers.

Her voyage taught her a lot concerning the wealthy glories and enthralling spectacle of the wildlife and in addition its demanding situations and hazards. She met the albino “moon children” of Kuna Yala, swam within the Panama Canal, encountered left-wing guerrillas on the center of Colombia's five-decade clash, and witnessed Amazonian ideals and customs surrounding shape-shifting and the jungle afterlife. Sarah survived landslides, crash landings, large floods, and tradition clashes in mysterious untrodden lands, studying a lot approximately features of herself from the fabulous natural world and tribal peoples she encountered-arguably her largest trip.

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I nod off with visions of the eye-shine of untamed beasts within the evening. the following day’s sunrise begin allows us to hit the ideal tide at the Mogue river in a motorised dugout canoe. Our plan is to go to a harpy nesting web site, and we’ve either woken up excited on the prospect. whereas we’re ingesting a mug of robust espresso and on the brink of depart, a message reaches us – the journey is off. The nest has been destroyed by means of trophy hunters and the birds haven't been noticeable for greater than twenty-four hours. As he relays the scoop to me, Hernan’s face is nearly ashen. My deep sadness is palpable. i think sickened to the tummy. ‘What occurred? ’ I ask, lightly. ‘Nobody is certain,’ Hernan says. ‘But the nest used to be came upon absolutely smashed up this morning, and the eagles have disappeared. they might simply be elsewhere, in fact. yet trophy hunters have been noticeable within the quarter the previous day, so it doesn’t glance sturdy. ’ regardless of the scoop, we trigger, willing to work out the location for ourselves. We load up the boat with every little thing we'd like for a number of days downriver. a wide clinical pack is balanced on best of a tray of unpolluted mangos, the fats amber globes shining invitingly within the sunshine, two times the scale of any i've got noticeable. subsequent to them is a gun, a shovel, pairs of wellington boots and a part-filled sack of rice that's already splattered with chook poop. inside of mins of our departure, we spot a flock of blue-gray tanagers, no much less attractive of their soft, light silver-blue plumage for being two-a-penny in humid lowlands. On a scorching, sticky, gloomy day there are few issues extra uplifting that the sight of a couple, or small staff, of those beautiful little birds: to observe them foraging for arthropods jointly is like looking at the sky dance. both plentiful within the cover alongside woodland borders are yellow-rumped caciques, hugely social black birds with shiny splashes of yellow on their wings and rumps – as though they've got fallen right into a yellow pot of paint. After an hour or so, our boat drops us at a muddy riverbank and we either scramble up, pulling ourselves upright on a few rope-thick trailing vines. As we push via thick tree disguise to the place the nest web site have been, my arms are crossed tight. Hernan leads the best way, eyes and ears peeled, and i'm hoping, fairly hoping, that the nest is there, that somebody has made a decent mistake. The filtered tropical mild of the woodland cover all yet hides the pinnacle of a towering 200-foot tree the place the harpy nest was once noticeable. We crick our necks yet can't see it, so trudge on extra, pushing our method via a mass of tightly certain leaves. Hernan’s machete is hacking at fallen branches; we either have faces grew to become to the sky. after we bump into scattered particles our hearts sink into our jungle boots. Twigs, branches, fragment of bones, tufts of fur and scraps of dermis around the woodland flooring let us know all we have to be aware of. The nest is not any extra. I wander aimlessly round the tree, reaching little. Hernan alternatives one of the rubble and plucks out a gray harpy feather. I tuck it into my pocket. ‘The harpies can have eluded us at the present time, however the Darién has extra to offer,’ Hernan encourages me.

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