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All Smoked Out

Last weekend I paid a visit to a special wetland in south Trinidad, and when I say special I mean personally speaking; not only is it just about twenty minutes’ drive from where I live, but it was also the site of my first official birding experience back in 2011 under the direction of my friend Theo Ferguson. Inexperienced as I was, I remember seeking out common species like Masked Yellowthroat and Limpkin. I found a flock of upwards of 25 White-faced Whistling Ducks as well as dueling White-tailed Goldenthroats, these mind-blowing finds did not tickle my novice brain in the slightest. What I’d give now to repeat those sightings!

Back to the present, as I descended into the valley I was delighted to know that the mist had not yet lifted. A misty sunrise is truly a magical experience. Getting closer, I knew something was off. This mist was far too thick. I rolled down my windows and was hit by a nauseating scent immediately. Old smoke. I could barely have seen the road, but my thoughts were for the animals that call the area home. They had no doors to close or air purifier to engage.

And the smoke was everywhere. It gradually began to turn from night into day. A Red-breasted Meadowlark called lazily from his perch. I barely made out his outline.

red-breasted meadowlark predawn-2







I was already sickened by the thick smoke, but I could hardly begin to feel half of how something as tiny as this Black-throated Mango was feeling. At least he was alive and seemingly well, he flew off after a while and I saw him a couple hours later feeding.

black-throated mango-2







This pair of Tropical Kingbirds were also waiting to be able to see properly to start their meal plan for the day.

tropical kingbirds







I had no idea what time the sun rose, at times it felt as if someone just turned on a weird sort of night-light. Gradually, I began to make out avian forms within the shrubbery.

yellow-chinned spinetail in smoke










masked yellowthroat in smoke








Some silhouettes were quite distinctive, like this Black Vulture’s.

black vulture in scene










These Ruddy Ground Doves looked just a sick as I was of the smoke.

ruddy ground doves sq










Eventually I spotted the sun, already reasonably high in the sky. If you look hard enough, you might just make out a lone Fork-tailed Flycatcher in this image.

helios and ftfc






These migrant flycatchers are pretty common this time of year, and can often be seen flying overhead in great flocks. Whenever there is mist, I automatically think back-lighting, but this smoke was different. Similar, but it left a sour taste in my mouth.

fork-tailed flycatcher







I am yet to understand why people feel the need to set things on fire on such a scale. If anyone knows the reason, do let me know!

2 thoughts on “All Smoked Out

  1. Your words and images tell both a very beautiful and very sad story — I hope the fire starters get to see it….

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