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There was a knock on the door. I could still hear it even though I had earplugs. I rolled over and looked at my iPhone and with my middle-aged vision barely made out the time: 4:30 a.m.
It was our wake-up call. Someone goes around knocking on doors when it’s time to get up. There are no phones, you see, at Sacha Lodge in the Amazon.
I took out the ear plugs and as I sat up in the bed the chorus of frogs and cicadas were still trying to “out sing” each other just as they did six hours before when I had shoved the earplugs in my ears with the hope of a good night’s sleep. I put my hand to my head and felt my thick, curly hair, which seemed to have grown bigger and more unruly during my sleep. (It’s what happens in humidity.)
I wiped my eyes and then said to Steve, “Babe, I feel like I’m at camp.”
“We are,” he said with his groggy voice. “We’re at bird camp.” And then he smiled that smile he gets when he knows he’s going to go birding.
A birder’s “vacation”
This is day two at Sacha Lodge in Ecuador where we’re vacationing.
Yes, the kind of vacationing where you get up at 4:30 in the freaking morning.
But it’s what birders do. I know that now. (I should have been more specific when questioning this before I married the birder.)
We showered quickly, brushed our teeth using bottled water, lathered up with bug spray, put on our birding uniforms (cargo pants, long-sleeved breathable shirts, hiking boots), grabbed binoculars and camera batteries, hurled bags and gear over our shoulders, and made our way down the long, wooden staircase in the dark to the main lodge for our breakfast.
Breakfast was short, but very filling. There’s no shortage of food at Sacha Lodge. Yet as soon as we put the last bite in our mouths, our guide, Marcelo got us on our way. You don’t dilly dally around as a birder. Birds don’t wait for you and your guide knows that. We got into our a canoe and Marcelo and his assistant, Wilmer, paddled us down one of the creeks—the Amazon’s highways and paths are really waterways—where we met the trail that would take us to the great Kapok Tower.
There’s a theme here: STAIRS
The Kapok Tower is a wooden tower constructed around a giant Kapok Tree, reaching 135 feet high. We had magnificent views around the area, much like we did at the Canopy Walkway the day before. Boy, I feel out of shape climbing these towers, but I was also glad for the challenging exercise. It at least made me feel like I earned my big meals back at the lodge.
A few of the highlights
For some reason, I spent more time taking photos of the tower than I did birds. It was, indeed, very active at this tower, but I spent more time looking than I did shooting photos. We saw the Ornate Hawk Eagle, Laughing Falcon, the Golden-collard Toucanet and we were visited by the Many-banded Araçari right above our heads in the branches of the Kapok tree. That’s just a small sampling of what we saw up there in the big Kapok tree.
Time for a dip with the anaconda, piranha and caiman
The Amazon is hot. Did I mention that before? I mean REALLY hot. So hot that after our morning at the Kapok Tower I didn’t hesitate to go for a dip in Lake Pilchicoacha—the lake just outside Sacha Lodge. The same lake where there are anaconda, piranha and caiman.
I didn’t care that reptiles of the alligator family were hanging around to cool off. Or big ass snakes like anaconda were lurking near the shore (which is why the sign says to not swim near the shoreline and why I obeyed that—we just jumped off the deck into the lake). And the piranha? Well, I had previously read from a reviewer on TripAdvisor that the piranha are asleep during the day and so as long as we didn’t wake them we’d be okay. And everyone knows that everything on the Internet is true, right?
So, shhhhhhh. Don’t wake the piranha.
The dip was so worth it as it cooled our bodies in the Amazonian heat, though we didn’t stay in the water too long. If we had one of those floating styrofoam noodles, that would have been awesome and I would have hung out there longer, but we didn’t and dog paddling around wasn’t much fun. Plus, I was worried we’d wake the piranha. (Shhhhhh!)
We made our way back to our room to notice that the leaf cutter ants were busily collecting their leaves and we noticed prickly tree trunks and big ass fruit that looked about the size of a bowling ball.
This is just another day at bird camp in the Amazon.
Other posts about this trip:
- Birding high atop the canopy at Sacha Lodge
- It’s Elementary, my dear Hoatzin
- I held a hummingbird in my hand today
- Picturing Quito (from my other blog, Baby Aspirin Years)
- The Tree Tomato welcomed me to Ecuador (from my other blog, Baby Aspirin Years)
- The Amazon and Sacha Lodge: Getting there is half the fun (as long as there are toilets) (from my other blog, Baby Aspirin Years)
I was a little out of breath after climbing the metal stairs to the top of the 94-foot high tower. It was then when our guide Marcelo turned to us and asked, “You don’t have vertigo, do you?”
I laughed. “Now you ask us that?”
It was a beautiful morning in the northern-most part of the Amazon basin in Ecuador. We were at the famed Sacha Lodge Canopy Walkway that spans across 940 feet. Yes, it’s not for the skiddish, but it is sturdy and offers spectacular views of many birds we wouldn’t be able to see from the ground. (See my other post on my other blog about our arrival to Sacha Lodge.)
I love canopy towers and not for the reason you think. Sure there are birds to see up there, but I actually enjoy taking stairs high up in the sky on vacation because I feel like I’m getting the workout I wouldn’t otherwise get. I also try to count in Spanish the number of steps as I go up, but once I hit “Dias” I have to revert back to English.
Morning workout: Check!
Basic counting to ten in Spanish: Check!
(ps: Need to pull out the Rosetta Stone CDs I bought last month.)
Cardiovascular workout and my awesome grasp of the Spanish language aside, we did see some pretty marvelous birds atop the canopy. It’s actually a great way to bird and my second-favorite. (My very favorite way is to bird while canoeing.) When you climb towers you get to spend a couple of hours or more pretty much in one spot. Just set up the scope, pull out your binoculars and wait. The birds just come in and sometimes so fast you don’t know what to look at first. I could be focused on a great tanager and miss the toucan. That’s why it’s always best to have other birders around to holler out when a new birds flies in.
We had Marcelo Andy, our guide for our four days at Sacha Lodge, and his “assistant,” Wilmer. They were expert spotters and combined with Steve and I we had four sets of eyes fixed on seeing what would come our way. When we had left for the morning is was pleasant. Not exactly cool, but I didn’t feel the heat of the jungle like I thought I would. These are good conditions for birding. It was quiet except for the sounds of the Oropendola, which reminded me of water dripping in a sink in an empty room that echoes. We’d hear or see big branches moving in the distance and I’d always hope for a good view of a toucan, but mostly it was monkeys hightailing it across the canopy as though it were a highway. And where there are monkeys you can most definitely see the Double-toothed Kite, which is chasing the insects the monkeys stir up while jumping branch to branch. Birds are really clever.
On our way back to the Sacha Lodge I started to feel the heat, even under the shade of the lush tropical leaves. We’re always birding, of course. It doesn’t matter that your feet are tired or that it’s hot or that you need to get back to the lodge to use the bathroom. All of that doesn’t matter when you happen upon a pair of Crested Owls. There they were, out in the open.
I have an immense attraction to owls, for some reason. I always feel it a treat to see them in daytime, even those that are diurnal. But I think it’s mostly their big wide eyes that appeal to me. They’re looking at me while I’m looking at them. Oh, and also the fact that they typically remain still and if the lighting and surroundings are just right I just may get a decent photograph (neither of which were the case as you can see below).
A productive day, indeed! As we made our way back to the lodge, aside from realizing how bad I smelled (never have I smelled this bad), I couldn’t wait to see what the next day would bring. There are over six hundred species of birds that have been identified on the 5000 acre (2000 hectare) property under the care of Sacha Lodge since it has been open to the public in 1992.
Here are some shots of some of the many birds we saw. Click on any one of them and it will enlarge it for better viewing.
For more information on Sacha Lodge, visit their website. They are listed in the book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
Hoatzin. I just love saying it. You say it like it has a “W” in it.
It’s odd looking.
It makes a sound that reminded me of bagpipes filling up with air.
And it smells like a cow. Because it’s kind of like a cow. Really.
Oh, and this bird is so strange that there isn’t even a category for it in the field guide. Steve tells me that means it’s a “monotypic” species. (I love it when my husband starts talking all scientific. Total turn on.)
There were always several of them lurking around the shores of the lake outside Sacha Lodge where we were staying for four nights in the Amazon, and it was one of the first birds we saw on our trip to Ecuador. Every time we would canoe in from one of the creeks that fed into the lake I would look forward to being greeted by the Hoatzins.
I immediately fell in love with this bird because it allowed me to get some nice shots of it. Thank you, nice bird!
So, let me introduce you to the Hoatzin.
The Hoatzin eats leaves, and because they have bacteria in their crop that’s where they digest the leaves and get their nutrition. A byproduct of this process is methane gas. Gross, I know. It’s the same process cows go through when eating grass, making it the only bird that does this, and why the Hoatzin is often referred to as the “stinky turkey.”
Another unique tidbit about the Hoatzin is that it’s a very primitive bird. Unlike any other bird on this planet today, the young are born with claws on their wings. And because they nest over water, should a monkey or snake try to prey on them the young birds will escape by falling from the nest into the water and clamor away using the claws on their wings.
So, if you ever go to South America make sure you visit the Amazon basin so you can see these amazing, prehistoric-like birds. They are like nothing else you’ve ever seen.
Plus, they’ll let you take their picture.
If you want to read about our journey to Sacha Lodge, check out my story, The Amazon and Sacha Lodge: Getting there is half the fun (as long as there are toilets) on my other blog, The Baby Aspirin Years.
I held a hummingbird in my hand today.
To hold such a tiny, beautiful creature was thrilling. It was as if time had stopped in my hand. There were over a hundred other hummingbirds zipping past my head on the patio of Tandayapa Lodge in the Ecuador Andes Mountain range, but this one—this Violet-tailed Sylph—was silently resting in my palm. In this moment I felt powerful enough to stop everything around me, as if I were Moses about ready to part the Red Sea. I stopped time with this sweet little bird that zips around all day, yet instead of zipping around, he was still and sitting in my hand.
I held a hummingbird in my hand today.
I had only met the Violet-tailed Sylph for the first time a few days ago during this trip to the Ecuador cloud forest. When I first saw its iridescent colors and long shimmering violet blue tail, I had gasped because it seemed like I had just seen a unicorn, and then I whispered to my husband, “Oh, I love that one.”
As I held the bright blue and violet bird he was panting and breathing fast. He was stunned because he just flew into a window. He stopped to catch his breath and let me hold him as he rested. He was confused and kept looking up at me, probably scared. While I cradled him in my hand I wondered how long he would rest there before flying away. I wondered how long before he would die.
I held a hummingbird in my hand today.
It was all my fault. I left the door open at the lodge and he apparently flew in. I suppose that in trying to get out he must have thought the big glass paned window was the pathway to his world outside. My eyes welled up as I looked into his. I think I’ve killed this little bird by my carelessness. Sure he will fly off but it’s just a matter of time before his little body will give in to the blow. I can’t take back what I’ve done. There’s no power in holding a hummingbird, really.
I held a hummingbird in my hand today.
After five minutes of him looking at me and me looking at him he flew off and rested on the wrought iron railing, still panting. He struggled a few times to fly to a gigantic leaf nearby and then flew back to the railing for more secure footing. This happened three times and then he flew away. I hope he is okay. I want him to be okay.
I held a hummingbird in my hand today.
It was the last day in Southeast Arizona and all weekend all I could think about was Saguaro National Park. We had been there before and I was eager to return. I love the open feeling of the park and there is just something about it that makes it feel accessible. Perhaps it’s because there are no high rock walls surrounding me or maybe it’s because it feels like it’s just part of the neighborhood. Locals are often seen going for a morning walk or run or just cycling through it and I suppose they do this pretty much every day before they head over to Starbucks.
Saguaro National Park is actually in two different sections and we were at the east section or Rincon Mountain District. We were there to do some birding before we caught our flight back to Salt Lake City and besides just looking for some more birds, I wanted to commune with the Saguaro cacti. I’d venture to guess that when most people think of Arizona or even the Southwestern part of the U.S. they imagine the Saguaro cactus—the mascot of the Sonoran desert. Besides, it was President’s Day in the U.S and what better way to spend the holiday than at one of this country’s National Parks?
Here’s a little photo essay of our morning at Saguaro National Park.
I was a little sad to be leaving Tucson. It’s definitely high on my list to live when we retire. (It’s #2, in fact. Panama is #1 right now.) Our weekend in Southeastern Arizona was a perfect respite from the awful winter we had been having in both Salt Lake City and in Calgary. Finding the Mountain Plovers was very exciting, the visit to Patagonia Lake State Park was certainly a highlight and the Sandhill Cranes at Whitewater Draw was absolutely memorable. We’ll definitely have to return, if not just to find the Rufous-winged Sparrow.
Below is a list of all the birds we saw over the weekend. But before you start looking through that list, I just wanted to let you know that the next post you see from me will be in Ecuador! We’ll be birding in Ecuador, focusing really only on two areas. I’ll fill you in more about it next week.
Until then, happy birding!
Lifers for me are in bold. (I got 11 new lifers, folks!)
- Pied-billed Grebe
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Neotropical Cormorant
- Snow Goose
- Northern Pintail
- American Wigeon
- Northern Shoveler
- Green-winged Teal
- Lesser Scaup
- Common Goldeneye
- Ruddy Duck
- Turkey Vulture
- Northern Harrier
- Ferruginous Hawk
- Red-tailed Hawk
- Harris’ Hawk
- Golden Eagle
- Crested Caracara
- American Kestrel
- Gambel’s Quail
- Great Egret
- Great Blue Heron
- Sandhill Crane (See post here for story on this)
- American Coot
- Mountain Plover (See post here for story on this)
- Common Snipe
- Rock Dove
- White-winged Dove
- Mourning Dove
- Eurasion Collard Dove
- Long-eared Owl (See post here for photo of this)
- Northern Flicker (Gilded race)
- Ladder-backed Woodpecker
- Cassin’s Kingbird
- Black Phoebe
- Say’s Phoebe
- Gray Flycatcher
- Horned Lark
- Barn Swallow
- Chihuahuan Raven
- Bridled Titmous (A lifer for Steve as well)
- Bewick’s Wren
- Cactus Wren
- Rock Wren
- Northern Mockingbird
- Curve-billed Thrasher
- American Robin
- Black-capped Gnatcatcher (A lifer for Steve as well)
- Black-tailed Gnatcatcher
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- Loggerhead Shrike
- House Sparrow
- Western Meadowlark
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Brewer’s Blackbird
- Great-tailed Grackle
- Brown-headed Grackle
- Pyrrhaloxia (which would make an awesome Scrabble word)
- House Finch
- Lesser Goldfinch
- Vesper Sparrow
- Black-throated Sparrow
- Chipping Sparrow (See post about this one)
- Song Sparrow
- Chestnut-collard Longspur
Of course, we knew it wasn’t the best time of year to go birding in Southeast Arizona. That would be during Spring migration, natch. But this is what it looks like in Salt Lake City (where I live) and it’s pretty much the same in Calgary (where Steve lives).
Yes, we’re a long-distance intercontinental married couple who rendezvous monthly, and this time we decided to head south to escape the snow and get in a little birding—even if it isn’t high season for birding there—and see some of this:
First, a hat tip to Laurence Butler of Phoenix, Arizona who provided us loads of advice prior to our three-day trip. I met Laurence through my blog here (love his comments) and through both his blog and Birding Is Fun where he’s a regular contributor. It’s what I absolutely love about social media—it connects us all, and in my case, it connected us to an expert in the area. (Thanks Laurence! Your directions, details and tips were über helpful!)
So, here’s the trip we took. We flew into Phoenix and then headed southeast. Easy peasy.
That darn new camera and lens
Most people have a goal or target bird when they go on a birding trip. My goal was to start using my brand new camera (Nikon D7000) and new 200mm lens and new 2x teleconverter. That’s a lot of new for someone who is not a great photographer, as I’ve admitted before (and you’ve seen) on this site. I confess to shooting mostly on Auto (yes, I hear your gasps) and I know very little about light, except that I do know that shooting into the sun produces lousy results. My New Year’s Resolution this year is to get out of shooting on Auto and though this trip didn’t change that, I am determined to change my novice practices and start getting better results. I start yet another photography class next weekend.
Our first day out took us to the Sod Farms at the Santa Cruz Flats and it was a wonderful bird day, though a disappointing photography day. Our purpose was to find the Mountain Plover, which would be a lifer for me. Sod Farms, I must admit, are a first for me too. There we were, driving up and down big squares of sod fields looking for the Plovers. We had stopped so Steve could scan the area with his binoculars when a car pulled up and the usual birder exchange of “Seen any Plovers?” was tossed about. “No,” on both sides. The van drove on.
We stayed a few minutes longer and then another car pulled up. “Seen any Plovers?” I was beginning to sense this was going to be a bust at the sod farms today. That car drove on too and we decided to move on as well.
As we turned around another big square of a sod field the people in the first car were pulled to the side with their scope out. Voila! Mountain Plovers! We found them, yes, but they were still quite a bit in the distance. Steve counted 62. Me? I got this lousy shot of a group of them.
So far, I’m impressed with my new 200mm lens that just came out from Nikon—the optics are great—but not so impressed with the teleconverter. The 2x teleconverter produces crummy images at a distance, making it difficult to focus. This whole day was frustrating for me and I was wondering if I had just sunk a ton of money down the toilet. Or if it’s just plain user error. (The latter most likely.) I was beginning to think I could make my Twitterpal, @TheIneptBirder feel pretty good about himself.
Patagonia Lake State Park
The following day at Patagonia Lake State Park I had much better luck with the camera and lens. It was a beautiful day with 75° F temps and we were able to enjoy the warmth, the clear blue skies, and of course find some wonderful birds. Still struggling with the lens and its teleconverter, but doing much better with birds that are closer.
I absolutely adored Patagonia Lake State Park. I loved all the big campers parked at their campsites right at the entrance. Several of them had bird feeders they put out themselves and I imagined that Steve and I could one day buy a camper and head on down to Patagonia Lake and hang out during the winter and just look for birds. And be old together. And have s’mores.
More to come
Next post will have more on our adventures in Southeast Arizona. Promise and cross my heart. There might even be better photos.
ps: I returned the 2x teleconverter and ordered a 1.7x, which from the reviews I’ve read online is much better. Let’s just hope.
When you travel over 6000 miles non stop, of course you want your own patch of grass. Actually, you deserve it.
This deserving avian wonder is the Pacific Golden Plover (or Hawai’ian Kolea)—a petite shorebird that is very common in Hawaii and who I first met on the island of Oahu.
Rhymes with Lover
The Pacific Golden Plover (“It rhymes with lover” Steve explained to me) nests in Alaska and spends winter in Hawaii and other islands in Polynesia. In Alaska they’re quite shy, but when they get to Hawaii they become quite tame and can be fed by hand. I have to admit, Hawaii makes me feel more vibrant and social too. It’s those nice tropical trade winds I suppose. And I’d be open to anyone feeding me by hand too, especially if it’s coconut macadamia nut shrimp.
The Pacific Golden Plover’s journey from Alaska to Hawaii is about 6000 miles and takes about 3-4 days. When Steve explained that to me I thought, “Hmm…that makes sense.” But then he added, “That’s without stopping.“
So imagine, you’re flapping your wings constantly. No stopping to rest.
“You rest and you die,” Steve added with dramatic emphasis.
Hey kid, get off my lawn
When the Plover gets to Hawaii he becomes very territorial, staking out his claim and protects it against other Plovers. You’ll find them in pretty much every park, football or soccer field, but they won’t be in a group. You’ll find just one guy. In fact, it’s almost like there’s one Plover per household lawn.
After a couple of days our vacation turned into a spot-the-Plover game–kind of like that game where you punch the arm of that person next to you whenever you see a Volkswagon Bug.
“Hey! Plover!” Punch.
Well, the birds are exciting too. It’s just that I didn’t plan on the naked Germans in our hotel pool and the screaming spider monkeys that were terrified out of their minds while a dramatic wind storm swept through.
During our weeklong stay at Crystal Paradise in Belize, we added an overnight stay in Tikal, Guatemala to see the ruins and to get in some more birding. I loved the handoff by our guide at the border. Our guide at Crystal Paradise drove us to the border, walked us through Immigration up to the counter, and waiting for us on the other side was our driver who would drive us to Tikal. Easy peasy. That’s how I like border experiences to go.
We drove for an hour or so and our kind driver pointed out where the Guatemala season of Survivor took place. Just outside of Tikal we picked up our personal guide to the National Park–also provided as part of our arrangement with Crystal Paradise. I’ll be honest with you–our guide for the park was less of a bird expert and more a teller of tall tales, weaving in undocumented and unreliable Mayan lore with some pretty far-fetched space-aged wacky thinking. (It was the part about aliens that tipped me off.) I started to get impatient (big surprise!) with the tales and wanted to see some good birds. (Note: I’d been told before going to Central America that you have to be careful of your guides at Mayan Ruins as there’s a lot of embellishment being spun and shared.)
As our van began to approach the park and our guide told us to look for the Ocellated Turkey I became very excited and hopeful to see one, since the Ocellated Turkey would have been a lifer for both Steve and me. They’re uncommon because of hunting and nowadays they’re mostly found in areas where hunting is not allowed, such as National Parks. It’s because of the safe haven of National Parks that they’ve become quite tame. We saw our first Ocellated Turkey, and then another, and another. In fact, they were crawling all over the place! But I never tired of seeing them. The colors are spectacular and I enjoyed watching the Tom turkeys make a booming sound before displaying. There’s probably a restraining order against me at Tikal now, as I spent most of the afternoon stalking these guys.
Lotsa, lotsa wildlife and avifauna in Tikal
In these Mayan ruins there is a lot of wildlife and bird life due to the fruit trees. We have he Mayans to thank for that who either planted them or dropped seeds, so Mayan ruins are a pretty fantastic place for birding. Take for instance the Montezuma Oropendola (another lifer!) I love this interesting, beautiful bird as well as its fascinating nest, which typically hangs in a group. The Oropendolas were also all over the place and it just killed me to see tourists not even pay attention to them. A coatimundi, yes. Monkeys, yes. But few got excited about the birds. Sigh.
Speaking of monkeys…
Toward the end of the day the wind started to pick up and our Guide of Tall Tales became very worried and urged us to get out of the park–and quickly. This time I believed him. Branches were falling all over the place and I was getting a little scared, to be honest. So were the spider monkeys, which were screaming and squealing at the top of their lungs. If ever there was a sound track for scary moments in the jungle this was it.
We made it out of the jungle and out of the park safely. I imagine the monkeys were just fine too.
…And enter the Naked Germans
Loved our hotel that was right smack dab in the middle of Tikal National Park, aptly named, Hotel Tikal. Cute thatch-roofed rooms and best of all, a pool. Trouble was, there was a group of naked Germans who were also guests and they were cannon-balling into the pool.
“Steve, there’s a bunch of naked men jumping in the pool. They’re speaking German.”
“Of course. That makes sense.” he said.
There were also the brown outs. Electricity is sparse so during the daytime there are periods of time where you have no power. (You also start to get really thirsty about that time and are praying that someone in the main building will have something for you to drink.)
But we could deal with all that. As long as there’s a comfortable bed, a hot shower, meals and drinks, we’re fine. But naked Germans I could do without.
Check out more photos from our Tikal, Guatemala birding adventure. Click on any photo in the gallery below and it will take you to a slide show where they look even prettier.
Tired. Exhausted. Dirt under my fingernails. More than my share of mosquito bites.
We were on our way to the airport in Belize to go home after our two-week adventure. Our first week we spent on Ambergris Caye, scuba diving every day and the second week we spent birding at places such as El Pilar, Mountain Pine Ridge, Aguacate, Blue Hole National Park, and even Tikal, Guatemala. But now it was time to go home and my heart ached a little bit at the thought of leaving Belize.
We were squeezing in one more birding trip before our guide, Eric, was to drop us off at the airport. The nervous-Nellie side of me didn’t like the idea of doing some birding right before we caught our flight back home, but Eric assured us that there was time and he promised me that I’d get a good look at some Jabiru Storks at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.
That’s all I needed to hear. I wanted to get a good look at a Jabiru Stork. I saw some juveniles–not yet fledged–in Rio Lagartos, Mexico on our honeymoon two years earlier, but it was only through a scope. I wanted a better look.
Eric was not lying. There were birds galore: Jabiru storks, for sure, and herons, egrets, ibis’s, and terns and the list goes on. It was the end of the dry season and the water was low, which was a special treat, as all the birds were concentrated together. Birding was almost too easy.
An osprey swooped down to catch a tilapia from the lake,
we caught a Limpkin eating an apple snail,
and I was fascinated as I watched a heron shadow feed. (Shadow feeding is when the bird makes a shadow with his wings over the water, which helps him see the fish better for feeding. Rather clever, I’d say.)
The birds didn’t seem to mind that we were there. Unlike warblers who flit around dense leaves and play a game of hide and seek, or the toucan, which I never was able to get a good look at, the waders at Crooked Tree seemed to be indifferent about our presence and had no problem parading out in front of us.
I’m not the first and I won’t be the last who will write this: Being out in nature and seeing wildlife–birds in this particular instance–is a very reverential experience.
I find spirituality in churches, synagogues, cathedrals, temples and especially in nature, and the reverence I feel in watching birds astounds me every time, and never so much (at least up to this point) as when I was at Crooked Tree.
Wonderment. Respect. Awe. It’s akin to the feeling I had when I sat in the Sistine Chapel and looked up at Michelangelo’s masterpiece until my neck couldn’t take it any longer. Or when I first heard Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor played live on a big church organ. Yes, sometimes birding gives me spine-tingling moments.
And so who cares that I had dirt under my fingernails. I was in a sacred place and my soul felt cleansed.
More photos of the birds at Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. Click on any in the gallery below and you will taken to a slide show where you can view it much better.
It was April 2010 when Steve and I were canoeing down the Macal River in Belize and where I saw my first Prothonotary Warbler. Eric, our guide, excitedly pointed out the colorful yellow bird to us. Now fast forward to the following Spring–May, to be exact–where I saw my second Prothonotary Warbler at Point Pelee in Ontario Canada.
So this means, the little yellow bird flies roughly 5,000 miles each way when migrating. Me? Well I probably take the elevator at work far more often than I should instead of taking the stairs. I’m too lazy to be a Warbler, I suppose.
Maybe that’s why Warblers have conspired against me. You see, they’re the least cooperative of birds (even moreso than hummingbirds!) when I’m trying to take their photo. They flit around dense leaves so much I can hardly get a shot. Most often, I just give up. The one thing I lack that most really good birders have is patience. (Just ask my husband, the real birder in the family.)
Sigh. I’m working on it. I promise.