Sunday, April 26, 2009

birds of a feather

Rather shamefacedly, I must admit to having mocked my mother. I believe that she is aware of this fact. We've had words over the disrespect. And I must admit to having extended the mocking to various ecotourists in Costa Rica and a whole host of people who seem to think it's completely reasonable to wake up at ungodly hours of the morning to haul around a massive pair of binoculars and an oversized guide book to look at not-particularly-charismatic and not-particularly-bright creatures with hollow bones and overly-developed (particularly in the morning) voice boxes. And I'm not talking about howler monkeys. While they too have over-developed voice-boxes - which they generally choose to exercise in the middle of the night and early in the morning, I find howlers to be kind of cute and furry and entirely endearing. I'm talking birds. The not particularly bright, feathered things that fly into jet engines and chirp excessively loudly early in the morning.

But now, I must apologize to all the birders in my family for the mocking. (Well, for the mocking about the bird-obsession, at least. The other mockery still stands.) After a little over a week at La Selva, I have been waking up around 5:30am. Voluntarily. I find myself grabbing my camera and wandering out my door and moseying towards the bridge. And, with the aid of my 200mm lens, and feeling reasonably cool for not hauling the Birds of Costa Rica book, I watch birds. I don't worry about names or origins or lists. That part hasn't hit me. Yet. Until yesterday, I was justifying it as 'looking for wildlife' and 'taking photos in the morning light'. I have to admit, though, to a strange pull to the birds.

I'm a colour junky. The toucans are my favourite - the chestnut-mandibled, to be precise. I still haven't got a quality photo of them, but I'm working on it. Then there are the parrots - bright green and... loud... The red-legged honeycreeper (?). The lovely grey tinnamoo. One of the myriad of hummingbirds - that love the nectar from the purple-flowered bush next to the comedor patio.

My best photos, though are of the tree turkeys. Yes, you read it right. Tree turkeys. Much like jungle chickens, they're large, dark bodied, and don't fly particularly gracefully. They go in pairs, though. There's a whole nuclear family on the trail to the River Station - the two adults separate and try to distract you if you get close, but in the middle of them (easy to find because they squawk and fly away in opposite directions. they're a few sandwiches short of a picnic, if you know what I mean.) there's a nest, with a few chicks. Very sweet.

In the forest, they're tricky to photograph. Out in the clearings around the labs, however, they're a little easier. I found this pair when walking with a couple of more serious birders (binoculars, guide books, the whole nine yards). I don't actually remember the species or common names, so for now they're tree turkeys. Identifications and clarifications are welcome.

Not that I'd be interested in the species of the birds or anything. So I'm not a birder. Really.

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