I know this blog is supposed to be about birds, but I haven’t been birding lately. I’ll start again once the migration begins. In the meantime, I’ve been writing about other things. My new article in Norther Beat News is about placer mining. Sticking with the theme – gold – I include a shot of a crow in the golden evening light (mirrored) that I especially like. Sometimes, the light is just right.
Leaving the present, and terrible, international situation for a bit. Thinking of more pleasant things….
For us, going to the tropics has been out of the question for the past two years-like a lot of people, I guess. Darn pandemic! We’ve certainly missed those evening breezes coming off the Caribbean, and the smells of Latin-American food being cooked down the beach somewhere. One night, in desperation, we even watched that Jeff Bridges movie from the 80’s, the one shot at Isla Mujeres and Tulum. We ordered in Mexican food, drank a few bottles of Sol, and had fun picking holes in the plot. Still, it’s not quite the same.
At least, I can rummage through my pictures of tropical birds. These are from Costa Rica, from the Cloud Forest at Monte Verde. The more observant reader might notice that not all images are of birds. Well, any port in a mountaintop storm.
On that trip, V and I spent a few nights at a lodge near the Cloud Forest Reserve. Our driver, on his first run ever, checked google maps, and picked what was likely the worst road in the region to get us there. When we arrived an hour or so after the regular van, we were as well-shaken as a protein drink. Later on, we took a (guided) jungle walk at night, which came complete with tarantulas, little rivers of Leaf-cutter Ants, a ghostly Olingo high in the trees, and sleeping Trogons.
The next night was so windy that we thought the roof of our bungalow was going to blow off. At dinnertime, we huddled in our puffer jackets eating pasta and drinking Red Tapir Ale, thinking fondly of the beach we’d left behind at Playa Hermosa. Our birding tour of the Cloud Forest almost didn’t happen-the guide being afraid that jungle trees might fall on us. In spite of rain and wind, however,we ventured out and ‘got’ our ‘target birds – the Resplendent Quetzal and one of the loudest birds in the world, the Three-Wattled Bellbird (hard to see, but easy to hear).
*The Dancing Men are 300 or so stone carvings of captives at the ancient Zapotec city of Monte Alban. Most look contorted, as if tortured and mutilated, and are thought to represent captives, most likely of high rank. Unfortunately, I can’t find the pictures I took of them.
I’ve spent a lot of time searching for the Glaucous Gull. This Arctic visitor shows up on the west coast semi-regularly, but I just could never seem to, as Owen Wilson says in The Big Year “nail that sucker.” And I’ve really tried, really tried. I’ve gone to windswept Oregon beaches in January, landfills in March, Goldstream River with its spawned-out salmon lots of times. I followed up every report, within reason. I even spent the better part of a day at a sewage lagoon in Duncan, afraid to leave, but punished for staying, if you know what I mean. My reference picture might have been part of the problem–it’s possible.
In any case, I finally caught up with the culprit at Goldstream, the place where I had tried so many times before. indeed, the first bird I saw when I pulled up to park was the Glaucous Gull! The river was very high, drowning the more recent remains of spent Chum and Coho, and keeping all gulls close to the picnic area. My young bird was tugging hopefully at an almost bare fish skull, and getting very little sustenance from it, or so it appeared.
I must say that the bird didn’t closely resemble my reference pic except, maybe, for the beak, so I couldn’t really be faulted. That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway!
Finding my bird, after so many failed attempts, had a curious effect. The marvellous sense of birding adventure that consumed me when, six of seven years ago, I rejoined the hobby had suddenly returned. I even posted a picture of the subject on my bulletin board! So, although it took awhile – “thanks Pal!”
Decades ago, some friends and I planned to drive the Pan-American Highway from Vancouver BC to Tierra Del Fuego. It never happened. The 1956 VW van I’d rebuilt and camperized never made it to Costa Rica — the government of that country took the time to us well. I finally got to the, for me, fabled highway. Not as glamorous as I thought, incidentally. More important, I got to experience Costa Rica’s wonderful wildlife.
We needed our down jackets up here. After a few nights of winds strong enough to move furniture, plus intermittent rain, we finally entered Monteverde’s Cloud Forest. Noisier than we expected. Three-wattled Bellbirds are the main culprits. Although they make, we think, some of the loudest bird calls anywhere, they are devilishly difficult to track down — even when they open their big mouths and bellow. But Bellbirds aren’t the only prizes. The Resplendent Quetzal tops the list of Cloud Forest must-sees. We get lucky. Gorgeous. So many more birds in this delightful country. I recorded over eighty lifers in Costa Rica and missed a few hundred more.
Our mild January weather is kaput. February began with a seriously rainy day but now it’s gone cold and there’s snow in the forecast. A good time to look back on my favourite bird pictures. I’ll start with everybody’s favourite — owls.
Around here it’s hard not to encounter Coast Blacktail deer. Most days, I see a half dozen or more. Bucks in rut seem particularly oblivious, driven as they are by the mating urge. Today, a fine-looking fellow and at least one doe wander the shoreline within meters of passersby. He’s alert, watching and sniffing the air. What’s at stake? I took shots of two big bruisers from the neighbourhood on another October day. They’re not buddies. They’ve already had a huge battle on the roads and in gardens. Now they’re exhausted, pausing to catch their breath before they go at it again. There’s a lot at stake and they won’t stop only when one breaks off combat and leaves the field. The winner gets the does, like the chap in the bay above. The loser gets nothing. Not that a victorious buck can feel secure. There’s always a challenger.