I don’t know what our luck can be described as, but at the very least, it provides for lots of hearty laughter. It has almost become a typical evening, I leave home with the intention of soaking up some gorgeous golden light, then the clouds descend upon us like it’s some sort of practical joke. Anyway, originally we had planned to visit a forest, but with the um, different prevailing lighting conditions, we changed our course and decided to head for somewhere open.
Knowing that Dickcissels were in abundance in Caroni, we headed there. I mean, if the light is bad, then it’s best that you go to a place that you’re guaranteed to see one bird at least, right? So the fact that a few thousand birds were seen here last week sealed the deal for us. Once we parked up and shut the engine, we heard one of their calls coming from a nearby tree. Usually Dickcissels chatter and twitter away, but at times they give a sort of grunt. Following these calls (but not before I set my camera to ISO 800), we weren’t disappointed.
Also keeping an eye on us from that same tree was a beautiful Eared Dove. Uncommon throughout Trinidad, they seem to be thriving in the rice fields of Caroni.
Another bird that’s locally common in the rice fields is the Red-breasted Meadowlark. At least one always seems to be visible, no matter the time of day, or year for that matter. This time, we were greeted by a number of females with their attending male. Surprisingly, one male flew towards us, passing no more than 10 feet away to land in some grasses nearby. Well we moved faster than we had moved all afternoon.
Female Red-breasted Meadowlarks used to confuse me before I knew their identity. Not only do they look different from the males, they also exhibit the polar opposite in terms of behaviour. While males may perch high up and call loudly, begging to be seen, the females are often skulking low in and among grasses. So it was interesting to see this gorgeous girl perched high up, even if it was for a fleeting moment.
The funny thing about cloudy evenings is that the light literally disappears. Without a direct connection to the sun, time seems to fly past, one minute it’s 5:00, and the next thing you know it’s already dark. Just as we were coming to that realization, a Long-winged Harrier appeared in the distance, heading straight for us.
This raptor scares the beejeezus out of the Dickcissels, and as predicted, they all rose in a giant swarm. Again, I wished I had my wide angle lens on. The flock circled above us and it was completely amazing, in fact, I wouldn’t have been able to properly capture the feeling, let alone experience it had I been shooting.
Nevertheless, I figured that I’d pop my wide angle on anyway and see if I’d be able to make some images of the flock passing by. Naturally, that size of a flock never passed by again. I still made a few images of some small segments of the flock in the distance (try to find it), just to also emphasize how thick the cloud cover was as well!
But alas, I couldn’t do without my telephoto lens for too long, so within a few short moments it was back on, and we were on another mission in the dying (already dead) light. The reason? I was hearing Common Waxbills with greater and greater intensity. They were all flying into some bushes to roost for the night. I made a few images and then decided that we really were pushing it, and should probably pack up and go home.
So we packed up and joked about how at least we made the most of the situation. By this time it was well and truly dark. And as if I’m paying for all my practical jokes I’ve played upon people in the past, the engine refused to start. We tried a number of times, all with the same result. Somehow, we were both expecting this – without even saying a word to each other about it. Some weeks ago, the exact thing happened to us, also just as it was getting dark. Thankfully, the engine tumbled then. This time, there was only that horrifying, hollow click.
Then it hit me. I drive a stick shift. If we just push the pickup and get it rolling, I’d be able to jump in and kick-start it. And voila, the plan worked. All in all, a productive and most enjoyable evening!