This morning I rolled over onto my stomach for a fresh new look on the night’s slumber. Within ten seconds my cat was poking me for me to return to my previous position. Grumbling, I rolled back over as he climbed over my chest. As adorable as it sounds, 17 extra pounds can stir you from some of the farthest reaches of the kingdom of sleep. And my first thought as my mind flickered awake was “The End of Radio Silence”.
What does this have to do with anything? Well for the last few years I’ve been battling with numerous and varied issues that have threatened to derail me from my purpose. From personal, vehicular, camera, computer, there was a time when if something didn’t give me trouble I thought that in itself was a problem. Recently I’ve been attempting to clear the backlog of spam on my website, which has proven to be a never ending task (I still have 3,761 comments for review, 99% of which is likely to be spam) and each time I seem to chip away a little bit; that sliver of a vision of a clear and running website only fuels hope but never reflected reality. This morning I decided to screw it, I’ll just begin to write and share with you some of my experiences and noteworthy sightings from over the past couple of years for which I’ve been absent.
Coming down to the end of 2014, migrants were flying in thick and fast. One of these was a Black and White Warbler. Warblers, as many migratory birds do, return to the same patch of trees each year to spend their winter (which is one of the plethora of reasons for habitat conservation) and this particular bird had been seen in previous years, so its arrival was somewhat expected. Nonetheless, I had never seen one before, so the chase was on from the first glimmer of pre-dawn light. Speaking of which, the first bird we saw on that cool December morning was the nocturnal Common Potoo, now settling in for a good day’s rest.
After mucking around in the mangrove for a bit, sharp eyes eventually found the woodcreeper-esque movements of the Black and White Warbler. Warblers are notorious for never being able to sit still for longer than quarter of a second, and this bird was no exception. Added to this was its penchant for hanging upside down as it chased insects incessantly. Still always nice to see something for the first time.
The following day was the annual Christmas Bird Count – which yielded good views of the Common Ground Dove – a bit of a misnomer as it’s not that common at all!
A few days later, on the first morning of 2015, I returned to the same spot to look for this bird again, just because it was such a joy seeing it for the first time. Unfortunately, it only afforded us a very fleeting glimpse as it melted away into the mangrove. However, as if to compensate, a pair of Straight-billed Woodcreepers flew in to check out the activity. This species is very rarely seen as it usually inhabits thick mangrove forests, so it definitely was a treat!
One afternoon driving through another lovely, pothole filled back road, we saw thousands of birds flying in to roost for the night in the reeds of the marshland. It could only be one thing – Dickcissels. And so they were. I spoke to one of the farmers there who gave me permission to go into his land to get closer to where the birds were coming in. “Don’t mind the cows” he said. Yeah. The next day, I went into his land. After I passed the first cow, I realized it was no cow. It was a bull. A bull that never took his eyes off of me. A bull that snorted and grunted and was at the very limit of snapping his tether. By the time I realized this, naturally, I was already in too deep. No turning back now. I plodded through the hardened mud and contemplated my hardened skull. The presence of other cows deterred me from going any further. Which turned out to not be necessary anyway, as a Long-winged Harrier flew over and the entire flock of probably fifty thousand birds took to the sky in a deafening roar of desperate fluttering feathers. Interestingly enough was the sight of a melanistic Dickcissel – a bird exhibiting abnormally dark pigmentation.
Also in and around the area was a lone female Ruddy-breasted Seedeater. A true rare sight.