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Wirt Robinson.

A flying trip to the tropics. A record of an ornithological visit to the United States of Colombia, South America and to the island of Curaçao, West Indies, in the year 1892 online

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RAMPHASTOS CITREOL^MUS, fotiW..
Citr-orL-breasted Toiacan.



A FLYING TRIP TO THE
TROPICS

A RECORD OF AN ORNITHOLOGICAL VISIT



UNITED STATES OF COLOMBIA, SOUTH AMERICA

AND TO THE ISLAND OF CURASAO

WEST INDIES



IN THE YEAR i8g2



BY



WIRT ROBINSON^ \?>4 +'^'^'2.^



SECOND LIEUTENANT, FOURTH U. S. ARTILLERY



CAMBRIDGE

PrintrD at tijc HitjfrsiOf |jDrcs(s!

1895






Copyright, 1895,
By WIRT ROBINSON.

All rights reserved.



The Riverside Pre.i.i, Cambridge, ^fiiss., U. S. A.
Electrotyped ami Printed by H. O. Hongliton & Co.






Bancroft Llbnry

Unrversrty of CalifornU

WITHDItAWN



PREFACE.



Prefaces are written for various purposes. Sometimes tliey are
introductory, — they explain the raison d'etre of the book, they
define its scope, and perhaps outhne the treatment of the subject ;
at other times they are self-laudatory, and impress upon the reader
that the work fills a long-felt want, and that its statements are
much more accurate than those of any other writer ; again, in an
humble tone they are apologetic, beseeching that the work be not
harshly criticised. Should I make the last request in regard to the
following work, I am afraid that I Avould be but calling attention
to its failings. I am reminded of the story of the little boy who,
visiting an art gallery where there was a statue bearing the placard,
" Do not touch with canes or umbrellas," took out his pencil and
added the words, " take a axe."

In a Preface it is proper and usual to return thanks to the vari-
ous persons who have assisted the writer in the preparation of his
work, and I should feel that I had been negligent in this respect
did I fail to acknowledge the help that the officials of our National
Museum have with great kindness extended to me.

It would be manifestly absurd should I attempt to criticise the
countries that I visited, seeing what a short time I spent in them.
My remarks must therefore be taken simply as observations of
individual occurrences, not necessarily universal. I will say that



IV PREFACE.

tlirougliout Colombia I met with a courteous treatment that we
might sometimes look for in vain in many portions of our own
country.

If I have dwelt too much on birds, remember that the study of
birds is my hobby, that I went to the tropics for the purpose of
observing them, and I am therefore inclined to give more promi-
nence to them than to other objects. In my descriptions of them
I have endeavored to give an idea of their approximate size by
comparing them to some of our well-known birds. I have done
this because I have often found that, from never having seen a
specimen, I have had erroneous ideas of the size of some birds.
Thus, I had thought from the figures that the larger hornbills
were about the size of our crow, and, making an error in the oppo-
site direction, I supposed that a stormy petrel was the size of a gull.

The illustrations, with a few exceptions which are noticed in the
text, have been drawn expressly for this work or reproduced from
my photographs.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER PAGE

I. The Voyage 1

II. The Island of Curacao 12

III. Barranquilla 30

IV. The Magdalena River 49

V. The Mule Road and Guaduas 80

VI. Back to Barranquilla 115

VII. Curacao again 136

VIII. Results of the Trip 150

IX. A Few Suggestions 168

Appendix.

List of Works on Colombia .......... 177

Maps 190

Colombian Zoology . ........... 191



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.



PAGE



Citron-Breasted Toucan (Colored Plate) Frontispiece

Portrait 1

Portrait 2

Portrait . 3

" Our Baggage " 4

Map showing Routes to Colombia 5

The Venezuela 6

" Our Pilot was taken off by his Boat " 8

Portuguese Man-o'-War 9

Yellow-Billed Tropic Bird 11

Map of Island of Curasao 12

Vessel passing between Forts at Narrow Entrance of Harbor of Curacao 13

Santa Ana Harbor (Map) 14

Dutch Soldier at Curacao 15

Drawbridge across the Harbor at Curacao 17

Dwellings at Curacao 18

Narrow Street in Curacao 19

Curacao Land Shell 22

Chlorostilbon splendidus 23

" Cactus . . . Ten, Fifteen, and even Twenty Feet in Height " . . 24

Main Street, Curacao 25

From Curacao to Puerto Colombia (Map) 26, 27

The Southern Cross of the Geographies and the Tri'e Southern Cross . 27

Map of the Republic of Colombia 28

Puerto Colombia 31

Hotel Victoria and American Consulate, Barranquilla .... 33

Barranquilla from the Marsh 35



viii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

Market Court, Barranquilla 37

DuG-OuTS ALONG THE MARKET FrONT 38

The Savalo or Tarpon 39

Coffee Sellers, Barranquilla .......... 40

Grooved-Bill Ani 42

Basilicus americanus 4g

Turkey-Buzzard 47

The Steamer Enrique 5]^

Laundry at Barranquilla 52

The Magdalena Valley to Honda (Map) 53

Cocoa Palms along the Magdalena 54

Stop at Banco 55

Capybara 57

Magangue from the River 59

Amazilia fuscicaudata (30

Cyanophaia goudoti go

Cathedral at Banco 62

Colombian Screamer 53

Glaucis hirsuta (35

" Oro Pendola " 6(5

Blue-Rumped Parrakeet (Colored Plate) 66

Looking down the Magdalena from Banco 71

polyerata amabilis . 72

Iguana tuberculata .73

A Bongo or Champan on the Magdalena . 75

Citron-Breasted Toucan 76

Collared Aracari 78

Land Shell from near Yeguas 80

The Diamond Rattler 81

From Honda to Yeguas (Map) 8l'

Ruins of Bridge over the GuALf destroyed by P^arthquake ... 84

Swing Ferry at Arranca Plumas . .85

Pack-Mule with Trunks and Sleeping-Mats . . . . . . 87

Adjusting Load on Pack-Mule 88

Portion of Paved Road to Bogota 90

Road to Bogota 91

On the Road to Guaduas 93

" A Deep and Crooked Gorge " 94



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. ix

Roadside Inn near Guaduas 95

Plaza and Cathedral at Guaduas 96

Our Hotel at Guaduas, from the Plaza 97

Goitre 98

Lampornis violicauda 100

White-Eared Partridge (Colored Plate) 100

Market in Plaza at Guaduas 103

A Pack-Ox at Guaduas 104

Hypuroptila buffoni 105

DaMOPHILA JULIA 106

Tired out 107

Ph.ethornis superciliosus 108

Chrysolampis moschitus 109

Acestrura mulsanti 109

SiJABA OR Leaf-Carrying Ant 110

Jaguar Skull Ill

Jaguar 112

Religious Procession at Guaduas 113

"Alice . . . dismounted only for the Bad Portion above Consuelo " . 115

Fork-Tailed Flycatcher 119

Grand Pootoo 123

King Vulture 125

Cathedral at Barranquilla 127

Nine-Banded Armadillo 128

Black Jacana 131

Murine Opossum 132

The Manati I34

Wattle Hut, Curacao 138

Mountain at Curacao 140

Curacao Oriole (Colored Plate) 142

Aborigines of Curacao 143

Donkey Team, Curacao I44

Breakwater and Harbor of La Guayra 146

Red Snapper 148

Section of Cup 170

Red-Tailed Hawk (Living Bird) 172

Green Heron (Mouuted Skin) 173

White Perch I74



X LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

Sea Bass ^„,

SCULPIN ... -.r-r-

175

SCULPIN .... ^-^-

175

Lobster . . ^^„

l/b

Tailpiece .... i^„

• . I/O



A FLYING TRIP TO THE TROPICS.



CHAPTER I.



THE VOYAGE.



I HAVE always
been fond of Nat-
ural History in gen-
eral, but especially
of the study of
birds, and at every
new place that I
have visited I have
made it a point to
look up the birds of
the neighborhood
on every opportu-
nity, to study their
habits and to ac-
quaint myself with
them as thoroughly
as possible. As a
result of this, it hap-
pens that I have
seen a large per-
centage of our com-
moner birds of the
Atlantic seaboard, and that, from familiarity with plates, drawings,
and descriptions, I can recognize at once nearly every new one that
I meet.




2



A FLYING TRIP TO THE TROPICS.



In the fall of 1891 I was stationed at the U. S. Military Academy,
West Point, New York. My duties as instructor kept me occupied
throughout the greater part of the week, but on Saturday after-
noons I had a few hours which I usually devoted to rambling through

the forests in the rear
of the government
reservation, on the
lookout for whatever
birds I miofht meet.

One such afternoon
in November, I had
returned from a lons"
tramp over very rug-
ged ground with a
total of three species
of birds observed :
a pair of crows, a
downy Avoodpecker,
and a little band of
six tomtits, — very
meagre results for the
seven or eight miles
that I had gone over ;
and I was complaining
about it to my wife.
In the course of our
conversation, I Avas
led on to remark upon Avhat I considered must be the enjoyment of
a naturalist who finds himself for the first time in the tropics,
surrounded by the most luxuriant vegetation ; where every object
would be of the deepest interest to him ; Avhere every bird, animal,
and insect that he should see would be new to him, and conse-
quently afford him the same pleasure as if he had discovered it
himself. Imagine his delight when, after having fired at some bird




THE VOYAGE.



moving among the thick branches of a pahii, he should pick up a
trogon or humming-bird, brilliant with the colors of the most beau-
tiful gems. At this point my wife said, " Well, why don't we go to
the tropics some time ? " and when we came to talk the matter over,
there Avas really no unanswerable objection against our going ; and
so from that time we began to make plans for our trip.

My first act was to Avrite to my brother Cabell, tell him of our
project, and ask him to join us, to which he immediately replied
that he would.

In selecting the point to be visited, there were a number of con-
siderations that came
up. First, our time
would be limited ;
for which reason we
should strike for the
nearest point, so as
to spend as little time
as possible in going
and coming. This
indicated the West
Indies or Central
America ; but our
vacation would occur
in June, July, and
August, and these
are rainy months in
those regions. We
could reach Vene-
zuela in a little over
six days from New
York, but at that
time that country was upset by civil war, and unsafe for travelers.
To Panama the same objection applied as to Central America, and,
in addition, there were vague rumors of yellow fever.




A FLYING TRIP TO THE TROPICS.



The interior of Colombia was found to answer our requirements,
and was therefore selected as our destination.

During the winter we perfected our plans, got together our bag-
gage, and tried to find out something about the country. This last
proved to be a difficult task. I ransacked the various bookstores in
New York, but nearly every book on Colombia that I found had

been written during the twenties, and was
therefore of but little assistance to us. I
however found one that contained fairly good
maps, and gave considerable information
about roads, distances, etc. I refer to Hel-
ton's " New Granada."

In regard to our baggage : in the interior
of the country it would have to be transported
on the backs of mules, for which reason our
trunks could not be larger than the ordinary
steamer trunk, nor could they weigh over 125
pounds apiece, so that when they were slung,
one on either side of the mule, the total load
should not exceed 250 pounds. We were to
carry two 12-gauge Parker's, one a very light
smooth-bore, the other a heavy choke. My
brother wrote that he would brino" also his

o

32-calibre Winchester. I wished to carry
paper shells, but economy of space made me
decide upon brass ones, which could be re-
loaded an indefinite number of times. Our
wads were taken from their boxes and put into shot-bags, as they
could thus be packed more compactly. The powder we got in one-
pound cans, and all of the above went into the trunks among our
clothes. For shot, we took a good supply of dust, 8's, 3's, and a
few buck, all done up in a stout bag that could be easily packed.
For stuffing birds I carried a supply of arsenic, corn-meal, cotton,
and scissors.





BERm-JDAS.



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Online LibraryWirt RobinsonA flying trip to the tropics. A record of an ornithological visit to the United States of Colombia, South America and to the island of Curaçao, West Indies, in the year 1892 → online text (page 1 of 13)