Home  »  Through the Brazilian Wilderness  »  Page 74

Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Through the Brazilian Wilderness. 1914.

Page 74

it was very pleasant. Near by stood other buildings: sheds, and thatched huts of palm-logs in which the ordinary peons lived, and big corrals. In the quadrangle were flamboyant trees, with their masses of brilliant red flowers and delicately cut, vivid-green foliage. Noisy oven-birds haunted these trees. In a high palm in the garden a family of green parakeets had taken up their abode and were preparing to build nests. They chattered incessantly both when they flew and when they sat or crawled among the branches. Ibis and plover, crying and wailing, passed immediately overhead. Jacanas frequented the ponds near by; the peons, with a familiarity which to us seems sacrilegious, but to them was entirely inoffensive and matter of course, called them “the Jesus Christ birds,” because they walked on the water. There was a wealth of strange bird life in the neighborhood. There were large papyrus-marshes, the papyrus not being a fifth, perhaps not a tenth, as high as in Africa. In these swamps were many blackbirds. Some uttered notes that reminded me of our own redwings. Others, with crimson heads and necks and thighs, fairly blazed; often a dozen sat together on a swaying papyrus-stem which their weight bent over. There were all kinds of extraordinary bird’s-nests in the trees. There is still need for the work of the collector in South America. But I believe that already, so far as birds are concerned, there is infinitely more need for the work of the careful observer, who to the power of appreciation and observation adds the power of vivid, truthful, and interesting narration—which means, as scientists no less than historians should note, that training in the writing of good