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.. Talking of birds, all through the Peruvian and Bolivian Montana is to be found a small bird like a kingfisher, which makes its nest in neat round holes in the rocky escarpment above the river. These holes can plainly be seen, but are not usually accessible, and strangely enough they are found only where the birds are present. I once expressed surprise that they were lucky enough to find nesting-holes conveniently placed for them, and so neatly hollowed out - as though with a drill.
"They make the holes themselves." The words were spoken by a man who had spent a quarter of a century in the forests. "I've seen how they do it, many a time. I've watched, I have, and seen the birds come to the cliff with leaves of some sort in their beaks, and cling to the rock like woodpeckers to a tree while they rubbed the leaves in a circular motion over the surface. Then they would fly off, and come back with more leaves, and carry on with the rubbing process. After three or four repetitions they dropped the leaves and started pecking at the place with their sharp beaks, and - here's the marvellous part - they would soon open out a round hole in the stone. Then off they'd go again, and go through the rubbing process with leaves several times before continuing to peck. It took several days, but finally they had opened out holes deep enough to contain their nests. I've climbed up and taken a look at them, and, believe me, a man couldn't drill a neater hole!"
"Do you mean to say that the bird's beak can penetrate solid rock?"
"A woodpecker's beak penetrates solid wood, doesn't it? ...No, I don't think the bird can get through solid rock. I believe, as everyone who has watched them believes, that those birds know of a leaf with juice that can soften up rock till it's like wet clay."
Another friend of mine told me the following story:
"Some years ago, when I was working in the mining camp at Cerro de Pasco (a place 14,000 feet up in the Andes of Central Peru), I went out one Sunday with some other Gringos to visit some old Inca or Pre-Inca graves - to see if we could find anything worthwhile. We took our grub with us, and, of course, a few bottles of pisco and beer; and a peon - a cholo - to help dig.
"Well, we had our lunch when we got to the burial place, and afterwards started in to open up some graves that seemed to be untouched. We worked hard, and knocked off every now and then for a drink. I don't drink myself, but the others did, especially one chap who poured too much pisco into himself and was inclined to be noisy. When we knocked off, all we had found was an earthenware jar of about a quart capacity, and with liquid inside it.
" 'I bet it's chicha! said the noisy one. 'Let's try it and see what sort of stuff the Incas drank!'
" 'Probably poison us if we do,' observed another.
" 'Tell you what, then - let's try it on the peon!'
"They dug the seal and stopper out of the jar's mouth, sniffed at the contents and called the peon over to them.
" 'Take a drink of this chicha,' ordered the drunk. The peon took the jar, hesitated, and then with an expression of fear spreading over his face thrust it into the drunk's hands and backed away.
" 'No, no, senor,' he murmured. 'Not that. That's not chicha!' He turned and made off.
"The drunk put the jar down on a flat-topped rock and set off in pursuit. 'Come on, boys - catch him!' he yelled. They caught the wretched man, dragged him back, and ordered him to drink the contents of the jar. The peon struggled madly, his eyes popping. There was a bit of a scrimmage, and the jar was knocked over and broken, its contents forming a puddle on the top of the rock. Then the peon broke free and took to his heels.
"Everyone laughed. It was a huge joke. But the exercise had made them thirsty and they went over to the sack where the beer-bottles lay.
"About ten minutes later I bent over the rock and casually examined the pool of spilled liquid. It was no longer liquid; the whole patch where it had been, and the rock under it, were as soft as wet cement! It was as though the stone had melted, like wax under the influence of heat."
Originally posted by kdog1982
We have now found out what the plant is, what the leaf is, and it’s quite well known. It’s a very common plant. As a matter of fact, we use it for ornamental purposes. You can buy it in the stores, in a florist’s in New York. The Latin name escapes me, but its got ordinary sort of rather spongy-looking red leaves–it’s red and purple instead of being green. It has a substance in it that is a very strong alkali and not an acid.
Originally posted by reticledc
If it softens rock, then why not the bird's beaks?
Is it that specific that it will only soften rock?