Due to Tuesday’s late start, we had missed some stops south out Caetité. One of them was only some 12 km south of the town, with the unmarked turning to the track to Brejinho das Ametistas opposite the turning to Bom Jesus da Lapa, that we would take later.
Google Maps, Google Earth and the GPS all wanted us to make make a 140 km detour. Zooming in on Google Maps revealed that there was about 100 m of track missing connecting the track to the main road. We went to take a look. Fortunately reality was different.
Soon after 9:00 we stood along the side of the road (S1596), near a ‘cross-tracks’ (i.e. a cross-road-of-tracks) and set off for our target plant: Arrojadoa multiflora, Not an easy plant to find in low, dense shrubbery. Also growing here were Pilosocereus pachycladus and Tacinga inamoena. Cliff managed to find two plants, one short stem on the path that we were following and the other, three stems growing together, probably one plant, and despite the name multiflora, just one flower only.
Unfortunately we decided that there was no time to go on to the other two stops suggested in Marlon’s notes. Instead we set off for Bom Jesus da Lapa and a couple of stops for more, but different Melocactus deinacanthus, that looked remarkably like the M. levitestatus that we had seen yesterday.
S1597 was just north of a small village called Juá. The inselberg near the village is the type locality of M. deinacanthus (HU 153) and was used as a quarry to gather road building material. There also grows Facheiroa squamosa, Tacinga inamoena and Arrojadoa rhodantha.
We drove to Bom Jesus da Lapa, found the nice and reasonably priced Bahia Plaza Hotel, but as it was still early, decided to drive back to Juá and look at another M. deinacanthus population (S1598). We were attracted by the words ‘flat’ and ‘by the side of the track’ in Marlon’s notes . We were not disappointed. Thousands of plants in the middle of a flat limestone area with M. zehntneri growing in the shrubbery along the edges and hybrids occurring as a result.
I have always been envious of photos showing hummingbirds drinking nectar from Melocactus flowers and hoped that on this trip, I could try my luck at shooting some myself.
As I was photographing the flowers on M. zehntneri in the shrubbery, with the sun already low in the sky and giving everything a reddish tinge a hummer flew right at me, startled, as it was hoping to feed from the very flowers I was photographing. I was startled too. Then realised the missed opportunity and with drew into the shrubbery, but making sure that I had a clear line of vision on one plant still bathing in sunlight, and a less than perfect view of three other plants that the bird had visited on the same feed run.
I sat tight for 15-20 minutes, not easy with a bad back, during which time the bird had some arguments with neighbours to sort out and then sat at a safe distance observing this addition to its memorised landscape. It flew over once or twice, but I stayed still. Eventually it started feeding again, first on the Melos with the worst line of vision to my camera, but then to my prime target. I let off a burst of 10 shots in about 3 seconds and watched the bird fly off. It came back a few times more, but never to my target plant.
Had the shots come out? Were they sharp? I could hardly wait until we got back to the hotel and for the down load to finish. A bit of cropping and I now have at least 10 images that I’m really chuffed with. I’ll just include one here. The rest you can see at one of my talks next year!
The last picture in today’s album sums it up for me: ‘I can do this until the cows come home’ and after the cows had trotted off home, so did we, for well deserved beers at our hotel.
What a great day. But hang on for tomorrow, which, by my reckoning, will be better yet!