An Artist’s Eyes Never Rest!

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“All artists are a little bit crazy!”   “Artists are different.”

Over the years, I’ve chuckled when someone looked at  my whimsical works and noted the difference in our personalities.

Yes, artists are programmed differently, and most of us rejoice that every waking moment is a gift!  Whether soaking in a sun-drenched street scene or admiring an alignment of  overhead pelicans or noting subtle color differences in a landscape, an artist’s eyes never rest!

When living in Costa Rica, I lived immersed in nature and marveled at the beauty that surrounded me.  I was also intrigued that most of the handmade products I bought were made in Ecuador.  Hammocks, pottery, linens, masks – Ecuador, Ecuador, Ecuador.   From my first exploratory visit,  Ecuador stole my heart!  I divided my time between Ecuador and Central America and eventually weaned full time to Ecuador.  There have been good times, and there have been bad –  Destructive tides, the evolution of ‘Casa Loca,’ Dengue and Chikungunya epidemics, light-pole painting competitions, impromptu painting sessions, visits to the oldest hacienda in the country, a wedding on the equator, shrimp harvests, floor-painting memories.   The April 16/2016 7.8 earthquake upturned the coastal area, and with a heavy heart I watched the ‘Casa Loca’ chapter come to an end.

Most of my posts feature light-hearted stories, though at times I poke and prod at much-more serious topics.  Deforestation and continued abuse of our planet’s natural resources remind me to speak up for those who have no voice.  Our planet is sick, and we are the ‘predator’ responsible; it’s time for all of us to remember that the other species deserve the right to thrive in their natural ecosystems.

This site will give you a glimpse into the life of the zeebra.  Hopefully you’ll emerge with a lighter heart!

Thanks for stopping by!  Z

* (Click the sidebar  at the top left to receive updates in your inbox, or scroll to the bottom of this page.)

Thank you, Birdwatching Magazine!

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The story about the Brown Wood Rail is now available on BirdwatchingDaily. Thank you, Birdwatching Magazine!

Ready, set…..
Leap!
I was drawing and looked up to see the wood rail approaching the water!
2019 – Two Brown Wood Rails allowing a rare private viewing of behavior.

Thanks also to those of you who shared tips on working around the new Block Editor. (The ‘Add Link’ does not seem like an improvement either!)

Some people have adapted and show us by example that adaptation works – but is there anyone who absolutely loves the new Block and prefers it over Classic?

See the story about the Brown Wood Rails here: BirdWatchingDaily.

https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/locations-travel/featured-destinations/encounters-brown-wood-rail-ecuador/

Updates from the Equator – Feb 2021

Redundant – Thesaurus: (adj) excess, extra, spare, supererogatory, superfluous, supernumerary, surplus, unnecessary (similar term), unneeded (similar term) 2. (adj) pleonastic, tautologic, tautological, prolix (similar term).

“And I think that before I shall have finished this work, it will be necessary for me to repeat the same thing many times over; so, O reader , blame me not, because the subjects are many , and memory cannot retain them and say: This I will not write because I have already written it; and if I did not wish to fall into this error it would be necessary , every time that I wished to copy something, in order not to repeat myself, to read over all the preceding matter, all the more so since the intervals are long between one time of writing and another .” Thoughts on Art and Life, by Leonardo da Vinci 22d day of March, 1508

Oh reader! There are stories to share, and the subjects are many! The topic of ‘redundant’ will follow at the end of this post.

Ecuador’s Flag

The people of Ecuador, much like in many countries, remain divided on who is the best candidate to take the presidential reins. As many predicted, Andres Arauz, who hopes to bring back ex-president Corea’s platform, promised $1,000 to many of the poor people. He received the largest majority of the votes, but Lasso – who was expected to receive almost as many votes, found ‘Yaku’ challenging him for that #2 spot! This reminds me of a photo-finish horse race!

Here is the official website link for an accurate summary:
https://resultados2021.cne.gob.ec

And a link to the Ecuador Times which has an interesting assortment of stories today.  Disconnect from politics in the USA and see what’s happening here!  Ah, drama! EcuadorTimesEnglish

Outgoing President Moreno has added a bit more drama to the show in what some say is wise – and others say not – concerning Ecuador’s Central Bank reserves. Here’s a link to the story in English:

Following an IMF directive, Moreno moves to restrict the use of Central Bank reserves, angering Arauz

I find myself wondering what John Perkins might say about all of this. If you’ve never read his ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,’ it’s worth the time to listen to one of his talks.

OK. Now for the fun news!

Years ago in the USA I would drop off a new painting at a frame shop. Selecting mats and frames was never my favorite part – I was always happy to say, ‘Whew! Finished,’ and turn it over to a professional. Returning to pick up the framed painting, I would always be shocked to see how much better it looked with that professional touch. Wow.

It’s not so easy to get custom frames in areas like Poza Honda and the nearby town of Ayacucho! Franklin did a great job, even if the task of finishing each frame went to my hands.

If any of you subscribe to Birdwatching Magazine, the March-April 2021 issue should be in your hands soon. My copy reached my sister’s home this past week, and a VIP bird from Ecuador is featured in one of the articles. (Actually there are two VIP birds from Ecuador in that issue.)

Editor Matt Mendenhall and the Birdwatching staff transformed the Brown Wood Rail story in the same manner that a gallery uplifts the status of a work of art. Indeed, I am blessed! That issue is here: BirdWatching March/April 2021

The birding world has another special weekend approaching – The Backyard Bird Count. I’m not sure if I’ll be at Poza Honda or in Portoviejo at Parque las Vegas, but for sure it will be fun to see how many birds show up to be counted!

Assuring my friend Jorge (Poza Honda) that starting a WordPress site was not too difficult, I volunteered to help start one. Working from afar – and with slow internet and in public areas, I decided to toss around some ideas and later share with him. The new Block Editor, however, has made that task more difficult than expected. Every so often I find ways back to Classic through administrator and a little drop-down menu that offers Classic or Block – still a lot of steps between wanting to start a post and actually beginning! Later, after viewing the page in progress and going back to ‘edit’ mode, I find the Block editor waiting back at home base.

Makes me want to relieve stress with a hammer!

(From 2014 – a chuckle for Marie!)

In Classic I can upload as many images as needed – in one easy, ‘add image’ click, but in Block there are four clicks before the ‘upload image from file’ shows up. One photo at a time, and then the prompt to add another block, and four more clicks. Surely there are shortcuts? I found myself thinking, ‘Redundant. Redundant,’ as the work moved at a snail’s pace! Classic was such a breeze, and Block plays hide and seek. Working in public spaces – usually the nearby restaurant – and racing the laptop battery’s time allowance, it’s been a challenge! I sometimes wonder if I could hide in the museo and work all night while it’s closed!  (Don’t worry, I would not consider being a stow-away for the night, but it would be a nice option!)

The grumbling’s over, but I wonder how many others experience similar frustrations . It’s no longer a joy to visualize and then design a site and add posts – it’s a battle of egos, and Block editor seems to have control! Classic – for me – was much faster and without so many redundant steps.

Alas, struggles or not, I find a smile in my heart when each day is finished, and I send my thanks and blessings all the way around the world and into the heavens before falling asleep. I thank the angels watching over me – surely there are many! – and think of all of the people who have touched my life – and the list dominoes in all directions, including to all of you who provide online support, especially in these Covid times. Thank you all! As I state in the Birdwatching article, I am blessed.

Nature – a Tonic for the Soul

Jan. 16, 2021 Poza Honda – 8:30 A.M.

Manabi Province/Ecuador – Nature provides a tonic for the soul, but its benefits stretch far beyond what we can see. Sometimes I think that nature truly conspires to reward nature lovers with unusual sightings, and even in the city a person can find one-on-one moments with nature.

My friend Dady asked, “Lisa. How did you ever see that one bird way up high on that tower?” We were discussing the Peregrine Falcon, that often perches ‘way up there’ in easy view from her house!

My immersion in nature at Poza Honda provided many ‘firsts’ for me, and I realize what a great teacher nature can be – especially if the student is a patient one. The act of being totally present is perhaps the greatest asset, and when one is present, the whispers of nature can be heard.

How can one not adore the pygmy owls? Active not only at night but also in daylight, this petite species has shadowed – literally! – a large percentage of my outings at Poza Honda. While perfecting the art of stillness, they perch in easy view – yet sometimes only by chance do I see them. At times they appear curious, and other times equally serious about their food-gathering tasks.

When new to the area, I explored a plantain-lined curve in the road while a Pacific Pygmy Owl tagged along like an obedient pet! I surmised that my presence triggered the owl’s curiosity. Captivated by its solemn stare, I studied the new-to-me species with equal intensity. An impromptu photo session stretched into a visual-rich memory, which transports me back to that sun-drenched day when the owl inspected its new neighbor.

The Pacific Pygmy Owls often perch on a specific dead branch high in the tamarindo tree, easily seen from the living area of the casa. Usually one lone bird selects that specific perch, although a second – and every so often a few young ones provided rare family portraits.

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At dusk several years ago, a pygmy owl appeared from ‘nowhere’ with a surprise strike on the palm thatch overhang of the roof then darted to a limb near the house. Bits of shattered dried palm drifted through the open windows, and I wondered, ‘What was THAT?’ As the twilight hour waned to darkness, the owl feasted on its prize – a grasshopper almost as large as its petite 6″ body.

A rattling noise once stopped me motionless while walking along the road. Much like a rattlesnake, the sound emerged from almost ground level in dense surroundings. Peering, squinting, moving slighly left and right, I located the source of the sound – or thought I located the source! A pygmy owl stared back at me. Not one feather appeared to move, yet the rattling came from that same location. A-HA! The photographs captured the moment, but I need no photo to recall the the size of that big grasshopper. Was the grasshopper extremely large, or did its presence illustrate the pygmy owls’ tiny size?

Nature’s evolutionary pest control comes at zero costs, as long as the delicate balance thrives. Every single organism plays a role, and humans often forget to consider long-term impacts. What happens when the owls’ habitat is destroyed? What happens when the mouse-eating owls and snake-eating falcons lose their habitat?

When I return to Poza Honda, I mentally prepare myself in case of new changes to the landscape. I was there on the 16th of this month, and yes, the cutting continues. The caustic noise of the city can be irritating, but the sound of a chainsaw would have grated on my psyche even worse. While birding with Joselo, we viewed one freshly-cut raw section straight across the reservoir.


I commented,“Oooh. That must have been difficult to witness – and hear. Did this last for days? Did you all think of me while this was happening?”

“Yes,” and he chuckled about the last question – they were surely glad that I was not there, as it would have been near torture to witness those changes one tree at a time.

My most-recent pygmy-owl encounter happened on that same day, while birding with Joselo, Luis and the newest Poza Honda fan, Giovanni. With maybe a tennis court’s length to cover before finishing our serious bird census, we were seconds from seeing a precious owl. Peering from a man-made hole in a bamboo pole, it provided a perfect finale for our day. (Five birders /split into two Covid-respecting groups/88 species total for the day.)

Back in the city my WordPress silence continues due to brief internet sessions. The laptop and camera batteries need replacements, but I squeeze the most of them when needed. They roll over and play dead with quickening intensity! Working late at night, my art advances one study or painting at a time – and sometimes two or three in various stages. The present painting in progress (alliteration!) is called Happy Birds – a study of Saffron Finches splashing in a puddle of water. Pencil offers an easy balance against the intense painting sessions. Painting is work; drawing is meditation.

Visits to the nearby parks provide that true balance – immersion in nature, and nature continues to bless me with unexpected sightings. A few Eastern Kingbirds continue to patrol the edge of the river in the late afternoons, and the little Sora cowers in the most-neutral corner of the pond. The Sora allows me to sit within a few yards and observe its behavior as it forages back and forth along the shallow edges of the water. I think it realizes that my presence keeps the gallinules from wandering too close! I offer protection while it provides viewing pleasure.

The grounds keeper oversees a big project and does a remarkable job managing his crew. He’s also realizing the importance of the pond’s habitat, and this past week I found the perfect word to stress that importance: Refuge. The Soras have little refuge. Many of the always-present egrets and herons are now absent, and I told him of another recent VIP visitor that stayed for only one day. I was the lucky one to observe it!

 

Between Poza Honda and his home in Chone, Luis stopped at the park in hopes of viewing the Green Heron or the Eastern Kingbirds. “It’s early in the day for viewing the kingbirds,” I warned. We took turns watching the river area while the other circled the pond in hopes of seeing the Green Heron.

 

 

Grateful for Nature’s Surprises

Are you house-bound/weather bound and wistful for a dose of nature?   If so, take a cyber trip to the equator and go bird watching with me!  It’s as if the birds take turns in presenting new surprise sightings!

Surprise migratory birds along Rio Portoviejo!

Parque las Vegas/Portoviejo Ecuador – Another migratory species has veered to Manabi Province instead of traditional vacation options.  The first day these black and white birds appeared, I was without my camera. Joining a mixed flock of seedeaters, Saffron Finches, doves and Tropical Kingbirds, they dotted the unkempt edge of Rio Portoviejo, which borders the park. They seemed to be having an end-of-day gathering – or perhaps an early celebration for the end of 2020.

I thought, “Variable Seedeater” – but no, they were larger than seedeaters, and their behavior was like a flycatcher’s.

I thought, “Becard,”  but no, the behavior was wrong.

I briefly considered, ‘Snowy-throated Kingbird,’ – but no, the coloration was all wrong.

It certainly wasn’t a Masked Tityra, with the right colors below but not on top.

I made a few sketches, but could only see the basic details – white throat and belly with contrasting dark/black upper areas.

A second brief glimpse would follow the next day around noon.

I often check on the lone Sora, which now claims a quiet corner of the pond as its hiding place.  Throughout the day the petite bird forages back and forth for the little red ‘fruits’ that fall from the overhead trees.   It sometimes cowers as close to the ground as possible when a gallinule approaches.

Even when I watch it fade into its environment, it becomes invisible to my eyes.  After the gallinules leave the area, the Sora re-appears and resumes foraging – or begins splashing as if to celebrate another hide-and-seek victory!

Two Eared Doves and one Sora

I often marvel at how small it is, and wonder if its body would fit into my cupped hand. The Eared Doves are larger than the Sora!   For size-comparison, I placed my Fieldbook near the Sora’s typical path along the water. The Sora acknowledged and then completely ignored the book and allowed a photo session.

Saffron Finches, Parrot-billed Seedeaters and Eared Doves also prefer this shady area of the pond.

While watching the Sora, I peered to the treetops and found one lone stranger with the  Scrub Blackbirds, Saffron Finches and Tropical Kingbirds.  I took a hurried photo before the bird darted to another location.

The first photo – not good – of a mystery bird with an all-white belly and dark upper.

With no luck finding any more mystery birds, I returned home, worked on photos and then checked online for more information.   Armed with research material and camera in hand, I returned to the park in the late afternoon.

“Eastern Kingbirds are blackish above and white below. The head is a darker black than the wings and back, and the black tail has a conspicuous white tip…They spend winters in South American forests, where they eat mainly fruit.”  from Cornell Lab’s All About Birds

The map is extremely helpful in this Fieldbook for the Birds of Ecuador

…except that this map for the Eastern Kingbird shows that these birds are way off their normal route.  Manabi Province is on the western side of the country.

As they were the day before, there were at least six along the river.  These seemed to have an appetite for insects, and three allowed me to observe them from close range until they roosted – with mixed species – at the end of the day.

This one’s tail feathers are quite worn!

These mysterious birds might represent omens of hope!

Exhausting the camera’s battery, I enjoyed watching the various species interacting in a mostly-dead tree that I nicknamed ‘The Tree of Life.’   It might be unsightly to most humans, but it is a bird magnet.

13 birds – six species in this Riverside Tree of Life.

The next day I uploaded my checklist to eBird.  As I expected, eBird tossed back a prompt for more information, as this species usually stays on the other side of the Andes.

Enjoy watching their migratory movements on eBird’s Abundance Map.

(If this is not an Eastern Kingbird, maybe someone can help with identification?)

This is a good time for birding in the park;  many species are visible and highly active as our rainy season slowly begins.   The mango trees are producing a bumper crop, to the delight of the Blue-gray Tanagers.


The endangered Grey-cheeked Parakeets have also graced us with their presence.  This species reached the endangered status because of illegal capture for the caged-bird industry as well as the ongoing destruction of their native habitat.

Sometimes confused with the green and blue Pacific Parrotlet, the Grey-cheeked Parakeets have a splash of orange beneath their wings. The grey cheek, of course helps with identification if they stay still long enough for those details to show.

Pacific Parrotlet

The Parrot-billed Seedeater definitely deserves the rights to its name.  These precious birds remain plentiful in the park – as long as the maintenance crew allows naturalized areas to thrive.  On this day the birds were pulling the seed heads down, then holding them with one foot while eating the seeds!

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The iguanas along the river maintain a relaxed attitude.  They seemed to be completely neutral, illustrating that one can observe but not get caught up in the quarrels between others. They were almost regal at the end of the day as if to say, ‘Ah!  We’ve earned the rights to be calm and relaxed.’

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“Calm and relaxed” – I think that artists were given an extra dose of genes that help us to be calm and relaxed.   My nephew Don once stated, “We make choices every day of our lives,” and he is right.  I am grateful to have the ability to see my cup overflowing and not ‘half empty.’   I am grateful to have had an abundance of creative projects that keep me occupied and positive during this pandemic.

Spending time with nature also helps strengthen those traits, and I remain grateful that Nature continues to shower me with surprises.

Surprise Migratory Kingbirds along Rio Portoviejo!

As this year comes to an end,  I am hopeful that 2021 will bring an abundance of positive experiences to everyone.

Eastern Kingbirds, Welcome to Manabi!

Happy New Year to all!

Love, Lisa

Soras on Vacation

Manabi Province, Ecuador – One lone migratory bird has selected Portoviejo’s Parque las Vegas as its winter-vacation destination. Yay! Welcome back, lovely Sora!

This Sora’s extended visit to Portoviejo stretched from January 2020 until March 21, the last date I last saw this one, which was one of three.

A year ago, the park provided ideal habit for the Soras. Of course they would want to return!

Few people of the area know of this rare migrant, one that does not present risks, one that travels without a passport, yet passes through six or more countries in order to be a Manaba in residence for the next three or four months!

Cornell-eBird’s Sora ‘Abundance Map’ for 2020.

This eBird map shows recorded sightings from January through December 2020.

With anticipation, I’ve been watching the park weekly in hopes that the Soras’ return.  If more people knew of its possible return, might they help to be sure it had comfortable accommodations? Could the Soras become the darlings (mascots) for the city of Portoviejo?

Photos of the newest visitor show natural geometry in motion!

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“Soras are common and the most abundant rail species in North America. Although Sora populations are stable, they rely on wetland habitat that is dwindling due to urban and agricultural development. Soras migrate at night and frequently collide with lighted towers during migration, which could potentially affect the population. Sora hunting is legal in 31 states and in Manitoba and Ontario, Canada, but the popularity of hunting Sora has declined in recent years and it is unclear if hunting has any significant impacts.” – from All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Sora/overview

Although many reference sources note the Sora’s ‘yellow candy-corn bill,‘ the Purple Gallinule’s brightly colored beak better resembles the candy of my childhood. I loved that colorful candy when I was young.

I once consumed the entire contents of a bag, and well remember biting off the very tip, then the middle, and finally the broadest part – one tiny candy after the next. Tucked into a cool spot of the back-yard gardens, I overdosed on those colorful candies and was violently ill – then immediately well again. My love for Candy Corn instantly evaporated!

“The Sora, especially on migration and in winter, is often satisfied with small marshes, heavily vegetated ponds, and even grassy ditches. Simply walking the edges of such areas in April or September, or in more southerly areas at any time in the winter, can turn up birds that would otherwise go undetected.” – from Bird Watcher’s Digest

Jan. 26, 2020 – the first bird appeared here. I thought it was a juvenile gallinule!

After discovering three ‘Soras on vacation‘ last January at Parque las Vegas, I soon learned that their presence was quite rare for Ecuador. Ecuador and Peru mark the southern ‘limits’ of their migratory habits, though most find accommodations in closer range.

 

(Sora Abundancy Map – image from Cornell/eBird December 2020)

eBird, a citizen-science website, continues to fine-tune its data. This past week they showcased a new option, which instantly fascinated me. Typing ‘Sora’ into the species box, I marveled while watching the ebird sightings map for this species come to life. Watch this: SORA – Abundance-map Weekly – You’ll see that few Soras select Ecuador as their winter vacation destination.

Who knows what nudges migratory birds to return to their home base. Maybe the sun’s placement in the sky plays a role. During the Covid lockdown, the guards at Parque las Vegas allowed me to check on the Soras, which remained in the park until March 21. “Buen viaje, precious Soras!” Did the March equinox trigger their departure or was it coincidence?

According to news reports, smoke from wildfires and September’s early freeze were linked to the deaths of thousands of migratory birds. Soras were on the list of casualties.  ‘Bird Die Off in Colorado  

The snowstorm caused starvation for many birds in the Southwest. See:  Audubon

See the iNaturalist site for the Southwest Avian Mortality Project.  https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/southwest-avian-mortality-project

With concern for the three darlings that visited Parque las Vegas, I hoped that they would return. When the crew of workers scalped the vegetation earlier this month, I then wondered if the Soras might stop, note the changes and potential dangers, and keep moving until finding a new vacation spot.

The park last week

I looked down and was surprised to see the Sora!

Yay! It decided to stay around, lack of cover and all!

Seeing the new ‘lone’ Sora puts joy in my heart, yet the absence of the other two presents new considerations. Were those three birds a family? Friends? Do Soras migrate in large groups and slowly divide and spread? Why do some stop in Central America while others keep moving south? Are they like people – traveling in a group and scattering depending on their whims? Maybe some are more intrepid than others; some want to know what’s around the next bend? Are they loners while on migration? Alas, there are so many questions, which make me wistful for an old-fashioned public library, crammed with reference material or the ability to request specific books!

My ultimate concern for the other two Soras left me wondering: did they die from starvation after the sudden change of weather, or had hunters claimed them for a prized meal?  Maybe they were adapting along the nearby Rio Portoviejo.  

Adult gallinule chasing a dove.

The Sora does not hide too well here.

The Sora suddenly became more alert.

From the nearby circle of hyacinths, the juvenile gallinule dashed for the Sora. The Sora was faster, however.

This lone bird tolerates my attention, yet its survival skills remain on high alert. I now realize that the Purple Gallinules represent a great risk. Last week they chased a lone blackbird that landed in the hyacinths, and they often harass the Eared Doves. Two times in the past week I’ve watched a juvenile gallinule attempting to capture the Sora. With so few places to hide, the Sora remains on the edges of the pond, but unlike the gallinules, it flies with ease. Quite small, it blends with available cover and at times – even when I watch closely – it seems invisible.

Checking several times each week, I returned on December 16, and again on the 20th. Also of interest are the Masked Water-Tyrants and their easy-to-photograph nest.

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“Before…” (March 21, 2020)

“After” —- December 2020

On December 16, the Masked Water-Tyrant nest looked different. With lack of cover in other areas of the pond, the Striated and Tri-colored Herons and a Neotropic Cormorant crowded the space. The grand-father iguanas often swim to the island and bask motionless for hours. The islita became a life raft when cattails and other options were removed. The caption on one of my photos of the water-tyrants states, “Tyrants do not seem happy today.”

The Tri-colored Heron and the Striated Heron share the back side of the islita.

‘The water-tyrants do not seem happy today.’

A Sora-check on the 20th brought a new disappointment. The Masked Water-Tyrant nest was gone. Both islitas had been scalped and new circles of water hyacinth transplants dotted the pond. The large circle of water hyacinths sported a new shape. None of the birds seemed happy, though they adapt. The Sora had migrated to a shady far corner of the pond. I avoided the center area and focused on the Sora.

Two Common Gallinules peer from the edge as if to ask, “What has happened?”

This was difficult to view…

“Before” —

“After” — The Sora migrated to a quieter section of the pond.

The Green Kingfisher and Striated Heron veered to higher perches.

“Before….” June 2020

“After…”   December 2020 – The species adapt.

I returned on the 21st to photograph the sun’s shadow at noon and hoped that one of the resident birds would provide a few candid solstice shots. Cloudy conditions prevailed, although several species  entertained me with interesting poses.  The sun made a brief fifteen-second appearance between 12:00 and 12:01, as if to acknowledge my expectations of the noon hour.

Snowy Egret – 12:01 pm

Purple Gallinule ‘fishing’ for water lily fruit. 12:01

12:05 – Back to cloudy conditions, but the Snowy Egret continues to entertain. It caught a crayfish!

12:07 – The Tri-colored Heron pirouettes while chasing minnows.

The Masked Water Tyrants, now free of their parenting duties, seemed to have dismissed their grief and resumed their normal behavior. Singing and dancing while flitting from spot to spot, they provided a great example of moving on. There were lessons here that extended far beyond my concern for the birds.

I wondered if the lone Sora felt isolated, vulnerable or if it missed its companions. I wondered where it slept at night, and if the neighborhood cats might prey on any of these birds. The ‘Sorita’ foraged within a few feet of where I sat on the earth near the edge of the pond. Totally ignoring me, it remained on alert for the gallinules. A juvenile and an adult approached the far side, and the Sora, in stealth mode, scurried in the opposite direction. Rounding the next bend, it resumed its foraging behavior, unaware that both gallinules approached.  I moved uphill for a better view of both species.

Still unaware of the gallinules’ presence, the Sora fluffed and rested in the new growth of the papyrus. Both gallinules closed the distance, and feeling the Sora was outnumbered, I tossed a few marble-sized rocks toward the gallinules.

Ker-splash!

 

The gallinules quickly switched their attention to the splash, but the Sora did not.

I tossed another, and then another and stated, ‘Danger! Danger!’

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The Sora spotted the gallinules and immediately flew to the scalped islita! Yay! Within a few seconds, the gallinules passed through the Sora’s previous hiding place, then continued along the edge of the pond. Whew.

Was I wrong to interfere?

The islita’s mass of old roots and debris offers adequate cover for small birds. Larger ones can easily soar to safety. The area will regenerate quickly. The cattails take longer to reach maturity, but the new foliage grows fast and offers cover for small birds like the Soras and Wattled Jacanas. The Green Kingfishers instantly migrated to higher tree-top perches. The birds have no ability to protest or grumble. Adapting, they learn how to find new food or nesting options. They dodge the predators.

The Masked Water-Tyrants’ cheerful behavior was by far my greatest lesson for the month.  We cannot reclaim what’s lost -so we adapt, adjust and move forward. If we’re looking back, we can’t see where we’re going.  These dancing and singing fluffs of black and white set a great example.

Beginning stages of a watercolor study.  Masked Water-Tyrants

The birds have become some of my best teachers. Nature adapts, as will I.

The Yin and Yang of Life

“He who has seen the intimate beauty of nature must become either a poet or a naturalist and, if his eyes are good enough and his powers of observation sharp enough, he may well become both.”     Konrad Lorenz

Portoviejo Ecuador – A petite wetland anchors a corner of Parque Las Vegas, which provides an easy respite from the more-hurried pulse of the city. A half-hour timeout at the park provides an important dose of Vitamin D as well as an upgrade from the pollution from city traffic. My half hour almost always extends to one or two hours, and I return home with a soul re-boot.

Can you find the Striated Heron?

The Patient Striated Heron

The Purple Gallinules roam the entire pond as if their colors grant them royalty status!

Three Generations of Purple Gallinules

Nature almost always offers a private show, which sometimes reveals its darker side. I often wondered why the Common Gallinules cowered on the far side near a thick border of cattails. They blended into the deep shadows, and every so often a little black orb of a baby moved just enough to betray its presence.  I assumed that they were cautious and doting parents, unlike their cousins the Purple Gallinules that paraded their multi-generation clan in easy-to-view locations.

The bashful Common Gallinules on the far end of the pond.

On alert – Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule retrieving Water-lily fruit

A perpetual evolution of the more-colorful species provides easy viewing from the walkway that bridges the pond. Half-grown juveniles, that were babies only a few months earlier, help feed the newest generation. Where the Purple Gallinules tend to five or six precious orbs of big-footed black fluff, the Common Gallinule adults dote one one or two.

Common Gallinule and Chicklet

These two species illustrate yin and yang – the moon and the sun, the feminine and the masculine, cold and hot… The Purple Gallinules aggressively patrol their section of the pond; their babies roam a vast marshy playground of Water Hyacinths.  The more-bashful Common Gallinules retreat to more-distant areas and avoid conflicts.  The babies shadow the parents, almost always swimming – and never roaming too far from the cover of the cattails. 

The images that follow show the Purple Gallinule chicklets in various activities.

Two fast-growing chicklets with one juvenile. (Purple Gallinules)

Oh, it must feel great to stretch those fast-growing bodies! (Purple Gallinule)

They look as if they feel they are royal children and entitled to rule over their kingdom!

Dining on just-retrieve water lily fruit.

The territorial adult and juvenile Purple Gallinules dart and dash after Wattled Jacanas and Eared Doves that encroach on their turf. The more-peaceful Common Gallinules keep a low profile.

The Purple Gallinules provide easy observation of all phases of growth, yet the Common Gallinule babies appear for a few weeks and then vanish.  I’ve never seen a juvenile of the latter species.  Usually two appear, bashfully peering from the shadows or clinging near the parents.  A week or so later, only one can be found – and then nothing, until a few months later when the cycle repeats.

The Purple Gallinules often dash after the Wattled Jacanas, which seem to enjoy the impromptu scrimmages!

Three Striated Herons guard various sections of the pond.  Maybe they line up to observe activity in the gallinules’ arena!

The adorable Parrot-billed Seedeaters

Nature sometimes provides moments of insight. One day the Common Gallinules paraded their young one to the “yang end” of the pond. Several generations of Purple Gallinules roamed their home turf. Green Kingfishers darted from cattail perches to spear unsuspecting minnows. Striated Herons lurked in strategic shadows and awaited their next catch. The wary Wattled Jacana perused the shallows in its patient search for food.  A Great Egret added its elegant presence to the setting.

Striated Heron

Great Egret

One day in September of this year,  I watched the Common Gallinule family swim to the yang end of the pond.  They provided easy photo ops as they meandered into a narrow funnel of water that curved around the back side of the water hyacinths, where thick cattails provided ample cover. The little baby stayed near the adult in front, and then vanished into the thick protection of the water hyacinths. The adult continued forward, and the baby remained absent from the scene.

Warning – this story turns ugly.  

Suddenly the gang of Purple Gallinules dashed in the direction of the baby, and the next few minutes solved the mystery of what happens to the baby Common Gallinules.

The idyllic scene turned into a brief-but brutal slaying ground, where the parent bird attempted to defend the little one. Those big feet serve not only to walk on floating debris, but also to fight and kick. Outnumbered, the parent bird watched as a cluster of adult and juvenile Purple Gallinules chased and caught the little one, which broke away three times and dashed for safety – until the final catch – by a juvenile, resulted in its death. The entire group of feathered savages participated in the battleground feast, while the parents of the murdered chicklet nervously watched from a safe distance.

Do birds experience grief?

I now understand why the Wattled Jacana maintains an alert status while foraging the floating corral of vegetation. I understand why the doves bolt for safety when a gallinule suddenly darts in their direction. I understand why the Common Gallinules lurk near the cattails on the yin side of the pond, and why the babies swim close to the parents.

I felt physically sick for another day. The stunning beauty of the Purple Gallinules no longer seemed as brilliant. They allowed a glimpse into their true nature. How could I have adored them for so long without ever realizing their darker side, their true nature?

There were lessons for me that extend beyond the gallinules; it’s so easy to be blinded by the pretty side, to chose not to see the ugly side.  How does one remain neutral and not judge.   Is it best to acknowledge the good and the bad, adjust one’s perception, yet agree that we all have the dark and the light? How can one species be so peaceful while its cousin displays a barbaric side? The gallinules easily personify human nature.  I turned inward to process these concepts.

PART TWO

“The very idea of “managing” a forest in the first place is oxymoronic, because a forest is an ecosystem that is by definition self-managing.” ― Bernd Heinrich, The Trees in My Forest

At the end of November I visited Parque las Vegas for my dose of Vitamin A and nature; approaching the pond, I noted changes and altered my pace. Workers were clearing the cattails on the ‘yang’ end of the pond. Moving closer and scanning the scene, I saw workers scalping all vegetation on the ‘yin side’ where the Common Gallinules found solace.  They had cleared almost half and were taking a break.  Nearby one man moved a water sprinkler, and his choice of attire suggested that he was in charge.

He said that the vegetation was being cut for the health of the pond and its water; I asked if it all had to be cut, and he provided the easy reply, ‘It will grow back fast.’ I attempted to tell him about the migratory Soras which visited last year, and that they might return any time. Their presence was of importance, not only to that little pond and Portoviejo, but for the entire country of Ecuador. (He did not seem to be interested!)

I pointed to the ‘little islita’ in the middle, the one where the ‘little black and white birds had a nest’ and asked if he would spare cutting it. He nodded, and I thanked him, then walked to the bridge to photograph the Masked Water Tyrants and note the progress. One bird was on the nest, while the other displayed its normal flighty and nervous behavior. 

Not wanting to witness the removal of the rest of the vegetation around the edges of the pond, I returned home and thought it best to avoid the park for a while.

“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel.” Piet Mondrian

Two weeks passed before I returned to the park and its marsh-like pond. The altered landscape would assault my senses, and I dreaded the return. I hoped that the man in charge honored his word to spare the islita.

This past Sunday after a weekend of intense painting, I awakened with a strong sense of anticipation. “Go to the park,” my inner voice nudged.  After nine hours of sleep, my body was still tired and protested, “But I’m still exhausted.” Painting is sometimes like giving a transfusion and leaves me drained, and it sometimes takes a few days to recover after a serious session.

I noted the strong ‘nudge’ again – and paid attention. “There’s something there to see – and it’s not a common sight,” I thought, “and if I don’t follow this sense of urgency, I’ll always wonder about what I missed.”

Packing drawing materials and camera into my bag, I headed for both parks in the area. The petite park by the museum has an interesting tree that deserves a serious sketch. Considering a stop there first, I thought, ‘No. Go to the segua now.  The tree can wait.’

Slowly recovering from its scalping, the little wetland no longer had its natural appeal. It looked like a generic and sterile garden where its human occupants feared close contact with nature. A dark blue-grey heron waded the shallows where the cattails once stood on the yang end of the pond. Caramba! Instant gratification! The Tri-colored Heron is common on the coast, but not here. The absence of vegetation allowed easy photos of this medium-sized heron, and a Wattled Jacana posed nearby for comparison in size.

This Tri-colored Heron seemed to be taking a vacation from the beach and brackish waters! For the next half hour I photographed the resident birds. The Common and Purple Gallinules shared the hyacinth area in harmony while a new generation of Purple Gallinules explored their playground. Striated Herons lurked along the water hyacinths while a Green Kingfisher, also robbed of its preferred cattail options, perched sky high in the treetops!

The Masked Water Tyrants’ islita remained untouched, and one stayed on or near the nest while the other replicated its normal behavior – gleaning insects and flitting from various areas then reporting back to the nest. Three Parrot-billed Seedeaters landed briefly on the papyrus before flying to new locations. Their preferred native bushes provided seeds, but those options were now absent, as was the nesting ‘fluff’ from the cattails.

I realized that I was being too protective; the park was a park, and it required maintenance. I had told the crew boss that’s why God gave us men and women – many hombres prune with a less-sensitive eye.  On retrospect,  maybe the difference is between creative types and non-creative ones, or simply ‘sensitive or insensitive’ people.

“Artists cannot help themselves; they are driven to create by their nature, but for that nature to truly thrive, we need to preserve the precious habitat in which that beauty can flourish.” – William Morris/textile designer

The Tri-colored Heron, my prize for the day, flew to the yin end of the pond and provided more easy photos. It spooked another bird which flew low over the water and landed at the islita and triggered my ‘bird alert’ senses. I’d seen that bird shape and flight behavior before, and I hoped it was the visitor from the northern hemisphere.

Yes!

A Sora was back!

Double Caramba!

Without seeing it fly to the base of the papyrus, I would never have spotted it at the water’s edge. I scanned the scalped perimeters of the pond and wondered if all three from last year had returned. If so, where were the others, or did they chose to resume their migration in search of better habitat?

After a few minutes, this one flew to a small circle of water hyacinths and quickly vanished into its dense leaves.  My concerns returned.  Will the cattails regrow fast enough to provide a safe hiding place for this Sora and others?   Was this petite bird one of the three that visited a year ago?  If so, was it surprised to find the altered landscape?  Will the Sora become easy prey to the predatory gallinules?  Where will it sleep at night?  Will it remain in the pond or will instincts nudge it to better wintering grounds?  

La Gringita the observer considered this tiny bird, and like the Brown Wood Rails wondered why she felt so protective of the species.  Who would speak up for them if she didn’t?  Did anyone else care about the welfare of the resident birds?  Will man ever learn that sometimes nature has a right to its own rhythms, or to prune half and let it recover before pruning the other half? There are many sensitive stewards on this planet, yet there are also many who do what’s always been done – because that’s what they know.

Some things will never change; the predators will pounce on the victims; man will whack back nature, many times without pondering the short or long-term effects. Nature teaches us, however, to adapt and bounce back. We move forward, one day at a time, quite like the cattails and the Soras.

Remembering…

“The intense focus of art often transports me through a magic portal; time seems to stop as if I’ve stepped into another realm. Sometimes after a long session I am surprised to find that the day has weaned to night – or the night has weaned to morning.  Emerging from a painting trance is like awakening from a deep sleep.” Lisa B.

I have always painted best at night, especially in the city when late-night hours are even more silent than the natural forest!  The ongoing Covid risks have altered the rhythms of the city, and for that I am grateful.  After ten o’clock at night, the city slumbers.

October Big Day Night – Pacific Pygmy Owl – Poza Honda

Barn Owl – Portoviejo (at the back of the apartment there’s an abandoned building, and the owl often sleeps there in the daytime.)

In Poza Honda, three species of owls,  random frogs, insects and the faraway calls of the Limpkins provided a soothing nocturnal soundtrack.  When I paint in the apartment, I often play recordings made at Poza Honda.  Many times I emerge from my painting trance and am surprised to find that I’m in the city!

A Peregrine Falcon often perches on that tower.

In progress – “The Friendship Tree of Life.”

Friday night while painting I thought of two brothers who were classmates of mine. Flashing back in time, I pictured them taking turns skiing behind their boat. The vision was as strong as if it were yesterday, and it made me smile. I recalled their zest for life and how much they loved the outdoors -as did I.

The Mississippi River at Memphis – (Lake Whittington is an oxbow lake that connects to the Mississippi River.)

On Saturday a friend shared the sad news that one of those brothers had died while in the woods. (most likely a heart attack.) Steve was a good man – a very good man, and he will be missed.

Steve and his family were on my mind for the rest of the day – and night. Painting had no appeal, but my lifelong pal the pencil served me well. The pencil study seemed to absorb my numbness, and a pair of Variable Seedeaters slowly came to life.

Below is ‘stage one’ of the drawing, “Remembering Steve.”

“Remembering Steve” – 4B Pencil

(Because I am online in short and random sessions, Comments are off.   One day/week/month I’ll be able to catch up on comments.   Thanks to all of you for your support – you’re the best!   Love, Lisa)

 

Quiet Reflections on Thanksgiving Eve

Portoviejo, Ecuador  – Thanksgiving wears a different mood this year.  I think about the many families who have lost loved ones to Covid, and I think of others who are disappointed or discouraged about skipping their traditional Thanksgiving gatherings.  Life has a way of slamming us – at times – to a halt, sometimes prompting us to take note and realize the importance of others who have touched our lives.   People in the birding world adjust to the news of a beloved icon who died this past week while on a birding trip in southern Ecuador.

“The birding world lost a luminary on Sunday, November 22, when Edward S. (Ned) Brinkley died during a birding trip in southern Ecuador.

Brinkley, 55, was two-thirds of the way through a month-long trip in the South American country, according to a Facebook post from Field Guides Birding Tours. He was on a trek to “seek one of the country’s most charismatic specialties, the Jocotoco Antpitta.”   Matt Mendenhall via tribute at Birdwatching Daily: (Matt Mendenhall/Birdwatching Daily)

Portoviejo, Ecuador  – The year of 2020 seems to wear the shoes of a very-tough teacher, one that presents pop tests and time-out corners. In keeping with my usual Thanksgiving tradition, I will share token servings of a Southern USA cornbread dressing with random neighbors. This year’s batch will include green plantains for a true ‘Mana-ssissippi’ blend of ingredients and cooking styles.

I am so very grateful for the kind neighbors who keep a watchful eye out for the gringa. The owners of the restaurant allow me to use their internet and sometimes take a two-hour break and lock me inside while they run errands or go upstairs to rest.

I find myself reflecting on my many blessings, especially the ability to embrace long periods of solitude. It’s as if life prepped me for these Covid times, and I have yet to be bored or restless. Looking backwards with wisdom, I am grateful for every experience, each one washed in subtle layers much like a watercolor and results in the most sensitive and original of paintings – a study of one’s life journey.

Quito Botanical Gardens

At times I careen backwards in time to the sprawling rambling rose bush that anchored the western edge of my parents’ front yard. Probably stock from Grandmother’s gardens on the far edge of the county, it outlasted the picket fence that slowly atrophied beneath strangling vines of honeysuckle – which housed hidden nests of red wasps and provided magical corridors of safety for the cotton-tailed rabbits. On hot sultry summer days, I often took my soiled and ragged stuffed bunny and crawled beneath the donut-shaped canopy of that rambling rose. Round and round I circled until content to sit cross legged with just enough clearance above my head, and there I sat motionless – waiting for nothing, yet watching and observing and I suppose incubating. Perhaps I was practicing to be an artist!

Upper area of a painting in progress – Acrylic

A soft pinkish color tinted the yellowish-white clusters of the rose blossoms, and I often plucked a few sprigs from the arched and thorny branches. Sometimes with ‘Pinky Rabbit’ in hand, I settled into my little nest and peered beyond the branches. That safe cool sanctuary buffered me from a world that moved forward, and sometimes that world presented demands that I was not agreeable to accept. I basked in its balm of the ancient rose’s serenity. I now marvel to have never tempted the anger of a poisonous snake which most-likely preferred similar solace from the summer’s heat. Surely my own guardian angels signed up for a mammoth challenge when they agreed to watch over the baby of the family.

A new museum opened this past week – without the traditional bells and whistles. The historic home has a small gallery area, and the first three-month show features art of local color.

Sometimes LIfe introduces us to beautiful and lovely new people…

She lost most everything after the earthquake, but she had a ‘pluma’ and ink.

Time to clock out of the later-night session at the restaurant,as their last clients just left and it’s closing time!    I wish you all a peaceful Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the video of the ‘Sweet gorilla’ inspecting a wounded bird.   It would be lovely if all intelligent creatures on our planet displayed the same goodness.

No time to proof – all mistakes are definitely mine!

Love, Lisa

Swimming Lessons

2014 -View from Amtrack – somewhere between New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta…

In the summer of my sixth-grade year I traveled by train from Mississippi to an all-girls camp at Tallulah Falls Georgia. The price of food on the train was a shock, but the rest of the visit provided a new and inspiring experience. The formal tennis lessons were easy and fun, as were the canoe instructions. Riding horses ‘English’ style was new, and I can still recall the owner chuckling when I – the barrel racer – asked if we could ‘lope.’

Cabalgata in San Vicente Ecuador 2012

A new friend Sally and I cherished our free time, and we often explored the wilder areas, scrambling up the cascading streams and picking wild blueberries. I remember the letters from home – and chuckle that my mother said that my somewhat new horse had thrown my brother-in-law when he tried to ride her bareback. Her letters almost always had interesting news, and I still recall those stories with a wistful smile.

Isla Corazon/ Ecuador 2015

Art projects were fun, as were the campfires and group singing. Although I could swim pretty well, I appreciated the formal lessons to master the American Crawl, the Butterfly and the Sidestroke. I don’t remember one thing about diving lessons, but perhaps I blocked that experience out because of a backwards-flip accident in my past! The ability to tread water and lifesaving exercises were greatly appreciated.

Purple Gallinule swims without disturbing the water

The experience that still burns strongest was “Parents’ Weekend.”   My parents lived far away, but Sally’s parents drove up from Florida.   The camp instructors selected Sally and me to display tennis skills.  They also selected me to participate in synchronized swimming. We trained for the latter event, and I thought that I might drown during those practice sessions!   

Do you see the adult Purple Gallinule and the baby?

The baby gallinule followed its parent, but the short outing turned into a marathon of swimming!

I remembered a time when I also lacked grace in the water!

I remembered a time when I also lacked grace in the water – and was wistful to be back on dry land!

On Parents’ Day, I did not drown but suspect that everyone spotted the lone swimmer who struggled from start to finish!  Transport her to the horse arena, por favor – English tack and all!

Relief!

Holding to that swimming-performance memory, I share a video that my friend Dady shared with me. You will understand why I am reminiscing about my time at summer camp!

So calming, and in these times we need a lot of ‘calm.

Global Bird Weekend and More!

Manabi Province, Ecuador – The approaching weekend brings us two birding events – October BIG Day and Global Bird Weekend.

A just-finished birding tower at Poza Honda; the local policeman stopped by to visit!

As my Colorado friends remain silent as they witness the Cameron Peak Fire, I will keep them in my heart while spending the weekend at Poza Honda.

The image below is from 9news.com Read about the fire, starting here – ( https://www.9news.com/wildfires )

I nudge you all to spend a little time with the birds – and nature – this weekend. We so often take our natural landscape for granted, and it’s heart breaking to witness our planet’s signals of distress.

If you have not seen Nemonti Nenquimo’s letter to world leaders, please take time to read her heart-felt plea. I cried – and most likely many others have as well.

This amazing woman opens her letter by stating she is a Waorani woman, and “… I am a Waorani woman, a mother, and a leader of my people. The Amazon rainforest is my home …” – Go here: “This is My Message to the Western World.”

Yellow-rumped Cacique inspecting Mucuna Flowers

Saturday, October Big Day is for observing and sharing the bird-observation data with eBird, and the Global Bird Weekend (this is the first year) – is about sharing your photos, drawing, experiences – while also being sensitive to others regarding Covid risks.

*(This year’s t-shirt design featuring the Brown Wood Rail)

The outdoors is a perfect place to social distance, and I definitely look forward to breathing some very-pure air at Poza Honda! Heading there tomorrow!

Signing off and sending love to you all,

Lisa (PS – this new WP platform took me through many redundant prompts, even for uploading an image. Is this truly better and more streamlined than Classic?!)

WHOOPS

I have to laugh.

That mustang of an epistle fired out of the gate just minutes after it was pasted into the WP format, and while I was searching for the images.   I wrote it last night, went to sleep and have not edited it at all.

The WordPress format showed a new ‘red’ attention-getting notice to ‘Refresh connection with Linkedin’ which I did – and I suppose that prompted the “Publish’ option.

Perdon!  The post was totally unedited, so I will follow now with images and other links.   I also intended to mention this approach to the equinox.   Years ago I remember reading that ‘more storms are spawned on the September equinox than any other day of the year.’     I have no idea if it’s true or not, but the Atlantic seems to be extremely active during this period – especially this year!

September 2019 – How the world has changed since last year’s Killa Raymi Equinox ‘Girls’ Trip.’ What a serene experience.

After brushing the blues into the still-wet white, I left for a walk in the park.

Always great to look down and see something looking up! Ah, we share this world with all species, but often we forget about them.

Portoviejo Ecuador

I poured the gifted sangria into a pretty glass! In the background is the wall sconce which needs something higher to balance against that white space…

The LinkedIn page just popped up to confirm the WordPress connection.  Will we have to do this with every new post?    Ah WordPress, things were just fine before these changes!

The pizza box…

Two coats of acrylic ‘roofing paint’ and then some fun hurried swirls of paint. So very easy!   Next I taped the edges to reinforce the shape.

The left-over mirrors from past projects… and a little heavy-duty glue…

Allowing another day for the mirrors to ‘set,’ the Pizza Van Gogh is ready to hang!

Dady also shared this cover of Starry Starry Night.

Here’s the Kathy Mattea SERFA talk:

and the Hope for the Galapagos fundraising page – go HERE.   (Updates needed for anyone who can provide info to what’s happening now.. the laptop battery is almost depleted!)  I found this ABC news link from this month:  ...Fleet Still Near Galapagos

Now I’ll hit ‘publish’ – and should be back online tomorrow or Tuesday.

Love to you all,

Lisa

 

Buffered.
After staring at the blank page for the umpteenth time, I thought, “Buffered. I’m slightly buffered from the outside world which continues to get a bit crazier each week.”
Starts and Stops.
So I stare at the blank page and wonder how to start a post, when several have been written off line – and are waiting for time online to juggle photos and perhaps the new format on WordPress. I ponder what was written and think, “No. These are not the times for sharing ‘What I did or read or saw this week’ posts. But you need to write something to acknowledge you’re still alive and well.”
Circles.
So I go in circles – never finding the right words for these strange times we’ll call ‘The Year of 2020.’
Sometimes music can lift the energy of a room, even a faux room like this blog post that connects us across the globe. Let’s start with this star-studded Stay Home Live Lounge video from BBC Radio:
Live Lounge Allstars – Times Like These

These past few months find me a bit altered; all is fine in my self-contained creative world, where I dodge the city’s noise pollution by painting at night – sometimes all night – and sleeping all morning – sometimes until mid afternoon! Painting is going well, and I am presently working on two complicated and demanding mid-sized paintings. I remain amazed at how ‘doing absolutely nothing’ except breathing, blinking (or not blinking) and holding a paint brush can totally deplete my energy – but it does. Sometimes I go to sleep at 2 in the morning – and other times I might stop and cook pancakes (!) and paint until four or even six. When I do stop, I always sleep well – eight hours and sometimes up to twelve. By evening I’m ready for the next session. Or a book. Recently I read again Corelli’s Mandolin, and this time the details about the war and politics seemed a bit spooky – that perhaps our species never learns from history.

Restrictions are lifting here in Ecuador, though I think that many people remain cautious and suspicious of that new freedom. Covid plays hardball, and I am glad to have limited interactions with the general public. The easy walk to the park offers an important dose of vitamin D as well as interaction with nature. The outings are always worth the effort, traffic fumes and all, and the mandatory mask helps screen the pollutants.

I sometimes take my computer and stop at the restaurant on my return, and the restaurant is often empy during those late-afternoon hours. With several almost-finished WP posts ready to publish, I place my order, sit at the corner table and log onto the internet. Sometimes I check emails first, and othertimes I check the news. There have been challenging hurdles regarding paperwork and emails with government agencies which – because of Covid – often take months for a reply. I was told in February, ‘Three weeks,’ and that was after a year’s wait. Those challenges are tiny compared to what many people face in this bizarre year that hurls new surprises each week.

Recently the owner of the restaurant called my attention to the news on television and stated, “Mississippi.” That was when Hurricane Laura was approaching the coast. (Or was that Sally?)
One hurricane after another seems to be barreling across the Atlantic; this week there are so many disturbances that the satellite images look like Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night. Those early-warnings help save many lives, though the tropical storms and hurricanes leave a wake of destruction. Electricity, water, shelter – and so many displaced people.

While slow-moving storms drench some areas, scenes of wildfires leave me almost physically sick – how horrible it must be to see fires like that in the distance – or approaching way too fast. Given the mandatory evacuation orders, my Colorado friends benefited from an abnormal cold front which doused the approaching fire with snow. Others not so lucky only received the winds which fed the fires. To those of you in California, Oregon and Washington, I hope that you and your loved ones are fine – it must be a huge worry throughout the fire season. The protests and riots were bad, and now this.
The various news sources and videos capture the good and the bad side of human nature, especially the bad these days. The USA seems to have become a country divided, and we are in need of peacemakers – lots of them!
In her 2017 talk, How Music Saved My Life, Kathy Mattea opened with a story about music and its effect on human behavior:
” …I did a workshop with Bobby McFarrin the great jazz singer, and 120 of us gathered together and we stood in a circle and they divided us into sopranos, altos, tenors and basses and they would come around – and give just an improvised part in the moment – to each section – and we would keep singing as the next section came in and the next section came in – and then, Bobby McFarrin would improvise over us … and then somebody else might take the mike and somebody might change the bass part – and then change the soprano part and stop the tenors and then do a whole other section and the thing would just keep morphing — and we would do this for 12 hours a day… We did this from 9 in the morning until 9 at night…
“…about day three or four – you just find yourself standing there (sniff sniff) singing and crying, singing and crying and you’re like ‘I can’t even believe this!’ and he looked up about day four or day five and he said, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty amazing isn’t it – singing together is just such an amazing thing – I keep wondering, you know, what would happen if – every time Congress met – for the first thirty minutes they had to do this… I wonder how it would change the course of history.'”
Kathy Mattea Keynote remarks and song – SERFA 2017
For those fluent with ‘the oldies,’ look for her cover of The Ode to Billy Joe.

Three or so months ago a young university student and I were talking about Covid; he is studying to be a pharmacist, and two of his brothers are doctors. On the television were scenes of USA protests about masks and restrictions. He said, “I used to think that people of the USA were the most intelligent people on the planet. Now I don’t think so.”
His parents own the restaurant – (which is my office away from home.) About a month later we visited again, and I said that Covid was a lot like a Trojan Horse, and I asked if he knew that story. (Of course!) He replied, “I don’t think so. It’s not sneaking in – those people are opening their doors and inviting it inside.”

I have suggested to him more than once that he should consider taking some courses in philosophy, as he’s a natural!

I think that seeing things from a distance sometimes helps, but then sometimes one has to be right there to truly understand the issues. Sort of like being in the bullring as the matador and not in the stands… yet one can also think about a co-dependant relationship, and one sometimes cannot see what’s happening until being able to step away. It’s sometimes hard to see things from different tangents. These are challenging times.
When one ponders all of the people in this world – each with a specific story and lineage and history, and all of us learning as well as teaching through actions and behavior – we are either adding something positive or something negative or maybe neutral. This planet is one very-complicated organism, and here we all are on somewhat of a pause mode – or the Timeout Corner. Will we have grown in our compassion for our fellow man? Will we emerge with the same attitudes, the same concerns, depending on our personal interests?
As for me, there are some concerns about not-so-good news some might have not heard about:
Galapagos /Chinese Fishing Fleets… friends Stephen and Xiomara started a Go-fund-Me project.
Via The Watchers, https://watchers.news/2020/09/16/bird-die-off-new-mexico-2020/
which links to articles from these respected sources about a”Bird Die Off – New Mexico” The iNaturalist link is a citizen science site with reports and images.
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/southwest-avian-mortality-project
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/09/14/us/new-mexico-birds-died-migration-trnd/

By the time I’ve scanned the news, loaded hurricane updates to read at home – three in three weeks for those aimed at the Texas/Louisiana/Mississippi area – the tired battery for the laptop has usually shut down for the session. I return to the apartment with a browser full of open pages, downloaded videos, interviews and some music sessions. If I am lucky, the browser doesn’t crash.
My friend Dady stopped by a few months ago to hand me an unexpected gift – a personal-sized bottle of fresh sangria! Wearing masks, I stood at the door and she stood on the sidewalk and visited. Recently she and her sister shared a take-out pizza, and they volunteered to take the box to throw it away. No, I smiled, I would like to use it to illustrate something I wrote a few years ago. I showed them the booklet with my reply to Hugh Curtler regarding ‘Are Poets Mad.’
” – …but at the moment I swatted the thirty-fourth mosquito I realized that WHY I was hanging out the window and scrawling the moon’s image on the back of a takeout pizza box …”
I told them that I had been wanting to paint a small picture of a moon to go behind a wall sconce – with mirrors glued to the painting to reflect the candles – and that box would be perfect for that project!

As the third tropical disturbance ‘Tropical Storm Beta’ aims toward the Texas/Louisiana/Gulf Coast, I leave you with the almost-finished Pizza-box Art and Lianne La Havas’s cover of a classic song that seems appropriate.
Thank you for hanging with me – and for understanding my long period of silence. This long epistle surely balances against all of those weeks of ‘nada.’
Would the peacemakers please step forward? The planet needs every one of you.
Love,
Lisa

Ecuador’s Independence-Day Weekend – a Short Outing to the Park

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Portoviejo EcuadorAugust 8/2020   Strong afternoon light provided an easy excuse for a stroll to Parque las Vegas after five this afternoon. Several blocks before the park, a dozen street cats posed for a portrait session. A dear older lady feeds those cats – and five times as many pigeons each afternoon. Her kindness warms my heart.

P3080222 the earthquakes legacy and pigeons

The earthquake-damaged city of Portoviejo slowly rebuilds.

 

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With many more restaurants now open for business, the well-fed iguanas need no more special attention at the petite park across from the museum. Still closed to the public, this small park offers established plantings, a gazebo and small fountains, and an alamanda-draped pergola.

P3050466 look up iguana

From June 2020

 

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The Plumeria and Royal Poinciana trees’ flowers caught my attention, though my goal was the larger park – surely busy on this Independence weekend.  (August 10 is the official date.)     Keeping my camera tucked inside my bag, I observed various small groups enjoying an outing in the park.

P2970367 portoviejo parque las vegas empty mar 21 almost noon

March 21,2020 – empty exercise lanes in park

A lone man sold inexpensive kites at the intersection beside the park, and several people flew their kites from the amphitheater’s highest point. A gaggle (!)of young boys pedaled their bicycles along the exercise lanes at full throttle; each one wore the socially-responsible face coverings. I considered pulling out my camera but decided to take my own visual snapshots to imprint that scene to long-term memory.

P3080385 LOST BALL

Today the water hyacinths claimed someone’s ball!

Two more youngsters kicked a soccer ball across a vast expanse of concrete.  Already built like a long-distance runner, one agile child sported official soccer attire, knee-high ‘stretchy’ athletic socks and serious black running shoes. About six or seven years old, he illustrated a seriousness about his sport. I wondered if he would one day become a world-famous soccer player!

P3080244 5 pm light at the segua

 

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The late-afternoon sun provided dramatic light for admiring and photographing the various species. The Neotropic Cormorant, Striated Heron and Purple Gallinules competed with the lone turtle for my attention.

P3080336 5 pm light at the segua purple gallinule JUV and lily fruitP3080337 5 pm light at the segua purple gallinule JUV and lily fruit GOOD LIGHTP3080347 5 pm light at the segua purple gallinule JUV and lily fruitP3080563 5 30 LIGHT GALLINULEP3080533 5 30 LIGHT GALLINULEP3080564 5 30 LIGHT GALLINULE

P3080441 5 pm light at the segua TURTLEP3080462 5 pm light at the segua TURTLEP3080492 5 pm light at the segua TURTLE

Content after half an hour of communing with the aquatic residents, I began my return trip.P3080585 TEA PARTY FOR FOUR

A ground-level picnic caught my attention, and I glanced in that direction. Four women. Fresh flowers. A white china tea pot. A straw mat. Already passing them, I paused and asked permission to photograph them.  They invited me closer.

 

I asked if they were celebrating Independence Day? (No…) or a birthday? (No… We live nearby and are just out… We do this often…)  We talked briefly about the earthquake – still imprinted on the people of Manabi.   I commented on the flowers and the beauty of their setting.   One lady pointed to another and said, ‘My sister gets credit.’

They all get credit, as each person contributed her own serenity and natural beauty to their outing.

P3080589 TEA PARTY FOR FOUR2P3080591 TEA PARTY FOR FOUR

P3080592 TEA PARTY FOR FOURP3080593 TEA PARTY FOR FOURP3080594 TEA PARTY FOR FOURP3080595 TEA PARTY FOR FOUR

“You are all artists!” I said to them and motioned to the flowers, the mat, the easy and natural style of their entire setting. “You have provided a gift to my heart and to my soul,” I thanked them again and left them in peace.

Not planning to be out tonight for internet, the finale with those four beautiful women prompted me to go home, write this, process the photos and share them with all of you.

Hopefully their little tea party has warmed your hearts as much as it did mine!  I’ll end with a fun closing – the selfie while walking down the hall… It too made me chuckle!

P3080214 jajaja selfie in hallwayP3080215 jajaja selfi w big eyes in hall

Still doing well, gracias a-Dios!

Happy Independence Day to everyone in Ecuador!

Lisa

 

Art, Meditation and Cooking

P2530760 bamboo leaves

“Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so you must let go of your subjective preoccupation with yourself… Your poetry arises by itself when you and your subject become one.” Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)

Sunday, July 12 – Portoviejo Ecuador – After a check on the iguanas in one park and the gallinules in another, I returned home with a handful of bamboo leaves for reference in an 8″ x 8″ design. Drawn a few weeks ago in ink, this textile design was scanned to the computer then fine-tuned to make it ‘seamless’ on all four sides. Printed on card stock, it was ready for a second more-painterly option.

P2990128 beets beet leaves

The cutting garden includes beets purchased at the market then planted for their fast-growing leaves.

Each day I simmer a batch of ‘tea,’ made from dried guayusa and stevia leaves as well as fresh ginger, turmeric and ‘Cuban’ Oregano. (Spreng – Plectranthus amboinicus) Some days a jalapeno adds a fiery change, and other days various sprigs of just-clipped mint or basil add fragrance to the brew. This was a hurried batch, as the bamboo study awaited my attention.

Just beyond the kitchen I retreated to a light-filled work area, where the watercolors and bamboo leaves replaced a just-finished acrylic experiment on a scrap of ‘reject’ vinyl flooring. A not-too meticulous wash of Naples yellow and a brighter yellow would unify the bamboo design, then more layers of color would define each leaf while the center vein remained untouched. Watercolor usually works best when working from light to dark. This I know.

P2540046 Bananaquits y Bamboo cropped Acrylic

Bamboo leaves and Bananaquits – painted last year

“Learn the rules well, then forget them.” – Basho

The little 8 x 8 design had other plans and quickly seized control and demanded that I reach for the white acrylic (NOOOOO! No acrylic allowed on those brushes dedicated for watercolor!) um, I repeat: I reach for the white acrylic (no!!!) and float a wash across the entire still-wet design. I obeyed the design’s wishes, and since I was using a cheap purchased-nearby brush, it was a guilt-free choice.

When finished, I was directed to dip into the tropical blue latex house paint, which I knew would darken as it dried. Mixed with a very strong-willed Winsor & Newton Cadmium Yellow acrylic – and the still-wet white, the pigments floated and fuzzed into background imagery, painted directly across the once-distinct leaves in the foreground. What a mess, but a lovely mess which had a clear end-result in mind. So long watercolor and hello mixed media!

P1090300 COFFEE CUP I NEED A WIFE

Sorry; I did not consider photographing these stages. The camera was at the other end of the apartment!

Switching between pure white to white with yellow to blue and yellow and back to white, the various layers of the design found more depth. When completely immersed in the painting process, I realize that time seems to vaporize as if I am in a dream-like trance. Every so often something might awaken me, like the sudden realization, ‘The tea!’ Continue reading

Never Outgrow Simple Delights

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for…. In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportsmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.” – JOHN LUBBOCK, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live In

P3050915 VIEW OF WESTERN SIDE OF SEGUA

A petite segua/marsh-wetland area anchors one corner of Portoviejo’s Parque las Vegas.

Portoviejo Ecuador – Totally content with several creative projects, I had no need or wish to leave the apartment, except for a visual check on the rapidly-growing Purple Gallinule chicks. A visit two days earlier provided ample photos to record the recent changes; those five little balls of black fluff resembled gawky pre-teens dressed in entirely-different attire. Much like their older (and quite-responsible) adolescent siblings, they sported buff-colored plumage with a distinct star on their foreheads. That frontal shield will eventually turn pale blue against a bill which resembles a giant kernel of candy corn.

P3050538 PURPLE GALLINULE BABY GROWING UP TESTING WINGS

The Purple Gallinule babies are growing up – testing wings!

P3050136 juv and baby gallinule baby w wings up

Juvenile Gallinule feeding the youngest generation.

Not as talented as adults at locating the water-lily fruits, the juveniles struggle to locate then fish for the sunken fruits. Nervously pacing across the lily pads or climbing higher to peer into the clear water, they remind me of a long-ago swimming/diving game we played: Match! (Do children -and adults – still play that game?)

P3030774 JUV GALLINULE SEARCHING FOR FOODP3050512 JUV GALLINULE Y LILY FRUITP3050513 JUV GALLINULE Y LILY FRUITP3050514 JUV P GALLINULE WITH FRUIT

P3040257 ALONG COMES THE JUVENILE

P3050532 JUV Y BABY GALLINULE

Juvenile with the fast-growing younger sibling.

Having mastered the art, an adult bird quickly locates and retrieves a fruit. With fruit in its bill, it chatters while racing across the water hyacinths and lilies. Hearing the unique dinner bell, the babies and juveniles gather for their next feeding.

P3030836 LOOKING DOWN PURPLE GALLINULE LOOKING DOWNP3030837 LOOKING DOWN PURPLE GALLINULE GETTING WATER LILY FRUIT cropped imageP3040235 YAY PURPLE GALLINULE RETRIEVES WATER LILY FRUITP3040245 GALLINULE FRUIT BILL DETAIL

Two Wattled Jacanas forage in the same area of the petite pond. Skittish, these mild-mannered loners walk across the floating vegetation. Never aggressive, they are, however, often targeted by the Purple Gallinules. Quite protective or perhaps territorial, the gallinules sometimes stalk and othertimes suddenly chase the Jacanas. The Jacanas take flight and land just out of range, while the gallinule retains strict control of the nursery site!

P3050841 JACANA GALLINULE Y HERON 2P3040031 wattled jacana y lily pads

Last week I considered a quick check on the fast-growing baby gallinules. Having spent hours working on photos from the previous outing, I preferred to stay home and work on projects. Like an urge to raid the refrigerator for another serving of cheesecake, I often felt a nudge to check on the birds. Having learned to pay attention to those subtle nudges, I set out for the park, the gallinules and an important dose of Vitamin D.

 

With a working title of “Looking Down” for my next show (who knows when?!) I now pay closer attention to random wild vegetation as I walk along the streets. Rank growth in empty lots often presents a bounty of material, from ‘Pigweed’-amaranth to delicate sprays of flowers still waiting identification. I recently spotted a rank weed with large faded bell-shaped flowers, quite similar to a species in Mississippi! Could Jimsonweed grow here as well? Of course it could! In addition to checking the Purple Gallinules, I now check the Jimsonweed/Datura between the apartment and the park!

P3050439 datura jimsonweedP3050438 datura jimson weed

P3050456 LOOKING DOWN GROWING UP WHAT WILDFLOWERP3050441 datura jimson weed

The little cat-tailed edged pond provides the bonus for these outings, and even from afar it presents a visual balm to the soul. Extra-large in comparison to the kingfishers, gallinules and jacanas, one lone Great Egret adds an elegant touch to the scene. Unbothered by the humans, it wades in slow-motion stealth in its perpetual search for fish. Sometimes it allows a close inspection of its catch!

P3050914 ONE EGRET Y ONE COMMON GALLINULEP3050070 GREAT EGRET solstice fluff

P3060208 great egret catches fish portoviejo

In three short weeks, the young gallinules evolved from tiny balls of black fluff to smaller versions of the juvenile birds. They often tested their still-developing wings, flexed in brief yoga poses or paused for amusing (to me) splash sessions. Much more independent in a week’s time, they foraged and explored their water-hyacinth kingdom – until a juvenile or adult announced a feeding session! The birds provided ample photo ops, as did the Green Kingfishers, Wattled Jacanas and a few lazy iguanas!

P3040043 SPLISH SPLASH BABY GALLINULE

P3030706 GALLINULE SPLISH SPLASHP3030422 LOOKING DOWN KINGFISHER FEMALEP3050392 solstice noon hour iguanasP3050271 iguana w green eye shadow

Normally punctuated along various sections of the pond, three Striated Herons careened into the scene. Two landed in easy photo range, and the other flared to a more-distant location. Barely moving, I hoped for much-better images of this shy species. For the next five or more minutes, these handsome birds provided a subtle-yet spectacular show.  Enjoy the simple delight of watching these two beauties via this slideshow:

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After seven or eight minutes of ‘My feathers are prettier than yours,’ the herons declared a truce and resumed their ‘wait and search’ foraging behavior.

P3050700 STRIATED HERONS FLUFF FEATHERS FEST

P3050705 STRIATED HERONS FLUFF FEATHERS FESTP3050706 STRIATED HERONS FLUFF FEATHERS FEST

With hundreds of photos to process at home, I pondered this finale of observations. Were those two birds courting, or was one (the adult) displaying an alpha status to the younger one? I looked forward to studying the images at home and learning more about the Striated Herons. Quite sated and basically overdosed on photographing the birds, I prepared to leave. The birds, however, plotted one more diversion!

P3050007 common gallinule y iguana note scale size

P2990182 gallinule common

Common Gallinule

P2980513 striated heron y common gallinule

Striated Heron and Common Gallinule

More bashful than the Purple Gallinules, the Common Gallinule often lurks just out of good-photo range. Swimming in an un-hurried manner around and through the water lilies, it paints a serene and idyllic living picture. Sneaking from its ‘preferred’ larger section of the pond to the water-hyacinth area, it swam and foraged not too far from the footbridge. I ducked as low as possible and crept closer along the far side of the bridge. Seeing a human in pursuit, it would quickly swim and fly out of range. As if conspiring with the Striated Herons, it paraded first in one direction, paused then reversed, which allowed photos of its other side. It then bolted for its preferred location, via a quick flight beneath the bridge to the far side of the pond!

P3040681 public crossing over seguacommon gallinule P3040965 COMMON GALLINULE feeding along lily padscommon gallinule P3040704 common gallinule

Much more-rewarding and long-lasting than a slice of cheesecake, the outing enhanced the quality of my day with a jackpot of simple delights. So many birds! So many close-up views! So little time to capture them on paper or canvas! (I need a dozen lives!)

Happy Independence Day to those of you in the USA.   Stay proactive, and may we get through this with as much grace as possible.   I should be back online on Sunday, and as always, the laptop battery just announced the 10-percent warning!

Love to you all!  Lisa

“In my youth I knew the delight of watching the beauty, wonder and mystery of the natural world unfold before my developing mind; as when one who has climbed to a mountain-top in the night watches the dawn reveal the glorious panorama spread out before him. I have never outgrown that delight, and I hope that I never shall.” – Alexander Skutch / “Delight in Nature” – Thoughts/Volume 6, August 5 1972

The Canary

Canary: a songbird, Serinus canaria, greenish to yellow in color and long bred as a cage bird. Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary

P3030540 SAFFRON FINCH yellow

Saffron Finch – Sicalis flaveola

…Regarding miners using canaries:  “Why was a canary Haldane’s suggested solution? Canaries, like other birds, are good early detectors of carbon monoxide because they’re vulnerable to airborne poisons, Inglis-Arkell writes. Because they need such immense quantities of oxygen to enable them to fly and fly to heights that would make people altitude sick, their anatomy allows them to get a dose of oxygen when they inhale and another when they exhale, by holding air in extra sacs, he writes. Relative to mice or other easily transportable animals that could have been carried in by the miners, they get a double dose of air and any poisons the air might contain, so miners would get an earlier warning.” – from The Smithsonian – The Real Story of the Canary in the Coal Mine.

P3030505 6 SIX SAFFRON FINCHES

Saffron Finches at Parque las Vegas – Portoviejo Ecuador

Portoviejo Ecador – A New Moon AND the June Solstice arrive tomorrow, along with an extra bonus – an eclipse! I hope that all of you reserve time to observe the sun’s shadow at noon as well as its placement on your GPS slice of the planet at sunrise and/or sunset. I plan to spend the noon hour watching the sun’s placement on those fast-growing Gallinules at the nearby park!

P3040357 LOOKING DOWN JUV GALLINULE

A noon shadow like this would be fun! (from June 19)

P3040273 HONEY BEES IN WATER LILY FLOWER

 

A headline from the last cyber check renewed my concerns about pesticides and honey bees and our fragile planet.  50 Million Bees Poisoned/Croatia.    (I have not had time to check this information.)

With important job criteria, bees play an important role in pollination and maintaining the sensitive balance between species. Many times when peering into those gorgeous water-lily blossoms, I am comforted to see the honey bees flitting from plant to plant. The bees and small seed-eating birds often present a reliable ‘warning system’ – when their numbers reduce – or if they suddenly disappear. I’ve witnessed that at Poza Honda, after applications of pesticides for broad-leaf weeds on pasture. The Seedeaters and the Honey Bees were the “canaries.” Seeing firsthand makes one a believer.

P3040566 VARIABLE SEEDEATER

Yesterday at the park – One lone and very-welcome Variable Seedeater!

We too are exposed to the same chemicals that sicken the small creatures. The cattle eat those same grasses, and we drink the milk and consume the beef. How long does it take before a human eventually reaches a saturation point and also becomes ill? It varies person-by-person, and who could be sure that random pesticides were the reason for one’s poor health? We must keep a sharp eye on the canaries – especially the bees – and pay attention when a normally-healthy species suddenly becomes sick.

P3040598 SAFFRON FINCH SQUARE

This post now veers to a very long story about my own role as ‘a canary.’ Continue reading

The Stunning Purple Gallinule

P3010891 ADULT GALLINULE NESTING

Reinforcing nests…

“There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.” – Robert Wilson Lynd

P3000434 PURPLE GALLINULE FORAGING FOR lotus while two immatures stretch and preen

Adult Purple Gallinule and Juvenile

With long yellow legs and exceptionally-long toes, the Purple Gallinule paints the wetlands’ landscape with its handsome presence. Quite skittish in most settings, this species has adjusted to the presence of humans in the nearby Parque la Vegas in Portoviejo Ecuador.  It joins a small cast of feathered occupants that claim this petite little man-made marsh not far from my apartment. (I suspect that it was built on earthquake rubble.)  For the past two weeks I have visited the ‘segua’ often to record the rapid growth of the newest generation of Purple Gallinules.

P3030331 PARQUE LAS VEGAS SEGUA

P3020237 june 9 baby gallinule big foot

Baby Gallinule, what big feet you have!

P3020177 june 9 baby gallinule foot detail

The better to scratch my itchy face with!

The new chicks provided a grand surprise when they made their appearance around the first of June, and I try to return often to record their growth. I’ve learned why sometimes the water lily leaves appear disturbed; the adults and juveniles search for and retrieve the sunken flower heads, fish them to the surface with their bills, break off the center then race while calling for the young ones to ‘Come eat!”

(Slideshow of Gallinules in perpetual motion!)

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The babies also nibbled on Water Hyacinth flowers throughout the day – between feedings of the ripening fruits.

P3010016 june 4 baby gallinule peering into water hyacinth flowerP3010008 june 4 baby gallinule with water hyacinth flowerP3020265 june 9 baby gallinule in a playground of flowersP3020244 BABY GALLINULE EATING WATER HYACINTH FLOWERS large file

A week later the adults began foraging for a second prized morsel: Crayfish – aka ‘crawfish’ to a Southern girl! It took several photo sessions before I could identify what small item the birds guarded in their bills. The babies race to the parent bird, which breaks the crawfish into bite-sized morsels and doles them out much like a priest at communion! Continue reading

Quiet Times of Reflection – and Art

“… Blacks and Native Americans share one thing. Native Americans had their land stolen, and their culture systematically crushed. Blacks – it’s the opposite; they were stolen from their land, and they had their culture systematically crushed. We can’t begin to imagine what it takes to come back from that…” – Greg Iles – excerpt from 2017/National Writers Series interview –

About a year ago the National Writers Series interviewed Greg Iles about his new book, Mississippi Blood. Last night while working on a pencil drawing, and the discussions about racism in Mississippi provide timely insight.

Start at minute 55 and listen until for five minutes, and decide if you want to start at the beginning.

For the past eight days I’ve been visiting the nearby park as often as possible – to record the rapid growth of five Purple Gallinule ‘chicklets.’
Here is a (slideshow) peek at those precious babies:

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With ample reference material, I prepared mentally to paint this beautiful species. Going through the hundreds of photos, I grasp tidbits of information about the birds – understanding the nuances of behavior or the tilt of the head.  Eventually it’s as if I know my subject extremely well. It’s a bit like an incubation – and Greg addresses that same process in the interview. When the time is right, BAM – you’re off and going at full throttle. My only wish during that intense burst of creative energy (focus?) is that nothing stops the process until the work is finished. Returning to a ‘cold’ work is difficult; the essence evaporates.

This study is different however, but if possible even more intense! Instead of drawing the outlines in pencil and then switching to paint, I am using a 4B pencil for a pencil portrait of the baby gallinules.

Last night I worked from 6 pm until midnight, took a short break and resumed for ‘just a little bit more’ and worked until 3! In some areas I was sharpening that 4B pencil every few minutes!

P3010989 BABY PURPLE GALLINULES pencil in progress

So why the switch to pure pencil?

BirdWatchingDaily recently announced the Sibley Bird Watching Art Contest (the “Contest”), presented by The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. which requested ‘a although I think that any kind of art is permitted.

I’ve so many choices – and the local birds seem to be competing for my attention! These waterbirds seemed to be participating in meditation week.

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The official rules state:
ENTRY PERIOD: The Contest begins at 12:01 AM (Eastern Time) on May 15, 2020, and ends at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) on June 15, 2020.
HOW TO ENTER: Post an original drawing of a wild bird to Instagram using the hashtag #SibleyBirdWatchingArtContest and follow @aaknopf, @sibleyguides, and @birdwatchingmagazine, as required in the applicable Contest announcement.
The drawing must be your original artwork and can use any medium, including digital. …

The rules state, “Post an original drawing” yet then state, “any medium,” but to me a drawing is very different from a painting.     For more information, start here:  Sibley BirdWatching Contest

Today I returned for a few specific photos of the water hyacinth details. The little balls of Gallinule fluff have a notable change, and this precious pair seemed to be modeling their  new look.

P3020357 baby purple gallinules in pajamas

A week older and a change of attire.  (Pajamas?)

The computer’s being stubborn today, and the battery is now quite weak. The pages are not loading, so hopefully the images and videos are the right ones.

P3020348 baby gallinule pajamas june 9

Will be back in a few days with the finished drawing/drawings.     So many birds, so little time.  (Deadline in less than a week!)

To hear a different Southern author’s accent, one will surely smile when hearing “Miss Welty” read “Why I Live at the PO.”

“It’s going to take a long time, and it’s going to take white people admitting what we did was pretty damned bad.” – Greg Iles – 2017 National Writers Series interview

 

 

The Invisible Fence

P1750084 green vine yellow flower black fruit on fence wire at pond

‘The memory is a living thing – it too is in transit. But during the moment, all that is remembered joins and lives – the old and the young, the past and the present, the living and the dead.’ – Eudora Welty – One Writer’s Beginnings

(This was written a few weeks ago ‘between painting sessions.’  Short internet checks have kept my communication skills hobbled, but it seems timely today to ignore the emails, the news updates (I am anxious to check – but will wait to post this.) I often realized my good fortune to have had so much practice with self-imposed isolation. This present marathon of isolation has barely affected my moods – as long as there are paints and brushes and pencils and books to occupy my time, I am happy. (I do miss my connection with nature.)

Even when recovering from the dengue-chikungunya co-infection in 2015, I realized that earlier ‘lessons’ had prepped me for enduring unexpected challenges. My first introduction to dengue happened in Costa Rica, about the time of the story that follows;  I realize now – that the USA is also suffering from a co-infection…  Having one virus is enough – add another serious challenge,  and the host faces a serious fight back to wellness.   The Covid 19 Pandemic presented enough challenges of its own, yet the ‘newest’ one has been simmering and smoldering.  I am not surprised that it ignited into a second heart-wrenching crisis. The scenes from yesterday’s cyber check made me cry, and with a sense of dread I will watch from afar as the racial tensions play out one day (and night) at a time.

This is titled, “The Invisible Fence” but has been incubating in my heart under the working title, ‘Whatever Happened to Dianne Wright?’   It’s another long epistle, so you’re warned.  Continue reading

You are Treasured

P1250658 SOCCER CHILDREN BAEZA

Baeza Ecuador – Boys being boys!

…Long ago in Yazoo City, Mississippi:  —  “I love you all SO MUCH,” I once declared to a class of private art students, a group of rambunctious 8-year old boys.

Incredulous, they peered ‘up’ from their work and stared at me as if I were speaking to a totally-different group.

I added, “I could go to the grocery store right now and return and find you all still hard at work. Thank you.”

I continue to marvel at the effect art has on one’s psyche. Outside of that art class, the same students were the most unruly ones in the entire elementary school! Perpetually happy, they were also perpetually mischievous and often disrupted the classes. Once one of the mothers peered into the classroom and whispered, “I think you put a voodoo hex on them,” then quietly backed out of the room.

So now I state the same to all of you, “I love you all SO MUCH!” Seeing your comments gave my heart a grand smile, and thank you for your updates and feedback regarding the last post, “Hello from Ecuador.”“Hello from Ecuador.”

On Earth Day, the iguanas at the park received an extra-special fruit salad with papayas, pineapple, beets, carrots and bananas. When I handed the bucket over the fence to the guard, he motioned for me to enter the park and feed the iguanas. I was like a child being told she could help the Easter Bunny distribute the eggs! Instead of dumping the mix into the normal feeding area, I walked to each iguana and tossed them individual servings, then placed more in various spots on the big Mango tree. Smiling as if on mood-enhancing drugs, I kept thanking the guard who watched from afar. Another person contributed lettuce scraps earlier in the day, so I was pleased that this was at least their second feeding for the day.

P2980343 big iguana coming down tree wait fruit stop

“Wait! Is this a trick? Papaya in a Mango tree?!”

I owe each of you an equally-sensitive reply.

The guards at the larger Las Vegas Park gave me permission to observe the birds for Global Big Day. The Soras, now absent from the last two Sora Checks, must be taking their return trip back to the Northern Hemisphere! I ponder when air travel will return to normal, yet I suspect that we will all be adapting when society moves out of the “Pause” mode.

P2980573 PURPLE GALLINULE eye detail

Purple Gallinule

P2980830 global big day p gallinule running on water

Gallinule practicing the triple jump!

P2980810 global big day juv purple gallinule running on water

Juvenile P. Gallinule learning to walk/run on water!

Some people are better suited for long periods of isolation. I ponder my own history and am grateful to so easily slip into sessions of deep concentration. On weekends here in Portoviejo, the lack of traffic provides a blissful 2-day dose of almost silence. Recently while playing a natural soundtrack recorded at Poza Honda last year, I was all but lost in my botanical studies and stopped for a break. When I looked up I almost laughed out loud to discover that I was in the city – and not at Poza Honda! Ah, and I am so lucky to be so easily fooled – even if by my own creative ways of dodging reality!

P2740199 BROWN WOOD RAILS preening each other Poza Honda Ecuador

From the Poze Honda Casa/2019 – Two Brown Wood Rails allowing a rare private viewing of behavior.

Weekdays present new challenges, and the queue of people for the bank (next door) goes all the way to the corner, wraps around the corner and goes down the next street. When I open the ground-floor door, there are always ‘people,’ who watch me wipe the door, lock the door and then say, ‘Buenos dias,’ as we exchange eye contact. I wonder if they can tell if I’m smiling? I am smiling – yet cautious.  Some days there are two lines – going in both directions, which happened this past week/first of the month! One line went to the corner, around down the second street to the next corner – and who knows where it ended! Whew – no, it’s best to stay home on week days or wait until after the bank closes at noon!

P2970614 portoviejo 5 pm spraying

Some days a vehicle fogs the area just before dark.

The 2 pm curfew remains in place, so my internet outings continue to be hurried. When online, I open emails, check world headlines, load pages and news videos, research eclectic subjects and then hope that the two browsers hold everything until each is crossed off at home!  Perusing that small dose of news options, I wonder about those who tune in all day every day – surely that makes one’s blood pressure soar?   Except for the Covid 19 and political news, there is little about other events – like the locust plagues or extreme flooding – or wildfires and/or drought.  I was surprised to see that half of the USA would be enduring a cold snap, while the other half was polar opposite.  Here is one video from ClimateCrocks (When May looks like December) that I watched when back at the apartment:

Of course I load  and too many pages to read at home!  Some days the browsers crash just before time to dash home – oh well, sometimes just scanning headlines is enough – and sometimes I think it’s better to work on my art, photos, writings; listen to Poza Honda soundtracks and ignore what’s happening in the world.

JPG MARACUYA with new old flower scan 3 contrast 25 percent

The drawing ink pens are all dry, so the addition in the top left was added in pure watercolor – much nicer!  The ink studies, which are first scanned, are for a graphic-art project.

However, all of YOU are out there in the world, and it’s because that I love you all so much that I continue to see what’s better this week –  and what’s worse – and send my own smoke signal.

P2980933 global big day young gallinule

If this young bird should “grow into its feet,” it would be a monster! This bird was learning to forage, and many pads would sink – it was fun to watch it learn about walking on lily pads!

Thank you again, everyone, and I repeat, “I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH!”  You are treasured.

P2970725 iguana

We are all worthy of love!

Hello from Ecuador

Hello from the Equator!*
* Several Bloggers are using this title, which seems appropriate for this update.   See Nicole, Otto Otto and CindyCindy with their smoke signals!  (Perdon the double names.. the insert has a demon!)

Six months ago, if we had peered into 2020 via a crystal ball, few (none?) of us would have believed what we saw. If we DID believe, we would probably have altered some of our choices, and realized our priorities.

P2980057 arriba park iguana

“Iguana iguana in the tree.. Do you have good news for me?”

Loved ones write from various GPS locations on the planet and state something like this: “Lisa! Ecuador is in the news; I did not realize things were so bad there. How are you: how are things where you live?”
They are seeing the news out of Guayaquil/ Guayas Province, which seems to be Ecuador’s “Hot Spot.” After perusing various (and random) websites and updates, my first thought is, “Guayaquil’s climate is hot; Guayaquil is humid. To those who think that the virus vaporizes in warmer climates – look what’s happening here.”

I’ve been watching the virus stats since early January and sensed back then that ‘this is a sneaky virus’ capable of affecting many countries.  Having not-so-lovely experiences with Dengue (twice) and Chikungunya, I have a profound respect for a virus’s ability to slam one near doorway to the ‘Valley of the shadow of death.’

Ecuador’s first case was in late February, and about ten days later our President Moreno began the evening curfew, which became more strict the next week when 2 pm became our ‘must be home’ hour.
They enforce the face mask rule and the required personal distance, which the latter is prominently marked with large red circles on the pavement/sidewalks outside most banks and supermarkets. At the closest supermarket, one person stands outside and observes the distancing and reminds all to use gloves and masks. Before the next person enters the store, a worker takes a ‘long distance’ digital reading for fever.
With shorter hours to conduct tasks of importance, people often form a long line outside the apartment and wait their turn to use the improvised window at the bank next door. The bank closes at noon, so I usually wait until the people have left before I venture outside. With soap and chlorox in hand, I wipe down the outside door and its hardware, run my errands, then wash everything again when I return (before 2!)

P2980194 PIGEONSP2980198 CAT WATCHING PIGEONS

By noon, most everyone in this part of the city has vanished. The people have had practice in putting priorities in proper order. After the dengue-chikungunya epidemic, the 7.8 earthquake followed a year later on April 16, 2016. The residents of this area still recall the horrors of the earthquake – and of food shortages and of living in a very-basic mode for an extended time. Last week’s anniversary of the earthquake passed via quiet reflections – most in isolation which brought back acute memories to some.P2980213 REMNANTS OF HISTORIC HOUSE

Autos are allowed on the street one day a week, depending on the last number of the tag. On weekends, no driving is permitted aside from the exceptions. The people of Portoviejo seem to have adjusted well, are compliant and respectful of these regulations, and no one wants to be one of those statistics.

P2980210 GHOST CITY NEAR MUSEO

Yesterday morning downtown was blissfully silent, the skies pure and blue with fluffy cumulus clouds. In a four-block walk I saw four other people. With bucket of fruit and vegetable scraps, I walked to the nearby park to supplement the iguanas’ short food supply. Their hunger increases, and the larger ones often aggressively warn other ones with mighty strikes with their tails! One man ambled along and watched the iguanas eating the token ration of food. He stated that many people don’t care about the natural world; they only think of themselves. I did not argue with him, but I would hope more people would remember the iguanas if they knew they were hungry. He said that he would remind others.P2980102 cropped of hungry iguana

a P2980049 park iguanas

P2980089 hungry iguanasP2980130 LOOK WHO IS COMING DOWN THE TREE

On my meandering route back home, I paused to photograph the remnants of an historic house. A man wearing a quite-serious respirator-type mask approached on his bicycle. I mentioned the old house, and he then asked if I recognized him; he is a guard at the bank, but with mask I would never have recognized him!

P2980218 REMNANTS OF HISTORIC HOUSEP2980228 HISTORIC HOUSE

He peddled onward and turned near a popular bakery doing a brisk Sunday-morning business.  I returned to the apartment, washed the bucket – and my keys, the door, my hands, etc with soap and chlorox, then switched to quieter tasks.

P2980226 GUARD FROM BANCO BOLIVARIANO ON BICYCLE

A series of botanical studies continues, and the past week I’ve added color to the ink drawings. Adjusting to the restrictions has been easy for me, as my normal behavior remains basically the same. I wish for the nearby art-business-school supply store to be open, as I could use more paper and specific watercolor and ink for the printer! The latter is needed most, but there are many other options to keep me busy. Adaptation allows us to gracefully dodge frustrations!

maracuya ink then watercolor

One friend wrote and said that he knew that my diet was healthy, but if possible to be even more healthy! I assured him that my diet is ultra rich in nutrients, leans to the alkaline side and also ‘anti viral’ – which I started months ago to try to boot the lingering dengue/chikungunya side effects out of my life!

P2230789 ORANGES

Poza Honda Oranges / 2019

One man sells basic staples fresh from a farm in the nearby foothills from a modest corner location near the apartment. Large slightly-sour oranges: 15 for a dollar, and they always give me one extra! Eggs, 7 for a dollar, and they give me 8! Two-dollar papayas (the size of a watermelon) they sell for $1.50. I have a trump card – the knowledge of what I would be paying if still living at Poza Honda, so they know that I know they’re still making a nice profit. (They always give me more plantains than I ask for, but the extras – when ripe – are shared with the iguanas.)

LisaBrunetti - 01The Guardian, Grandfather Ceibo acrylic 2017-2018 38 x 27

The Guardian Ceibo

April 22 marks Earth Day’s 50th anniversary; check the main website and see what’s happening in your area. They also have a page for artists, and ‘The Guardian Ceibo’ is included in that collection.

https://www.earthday.org/artist-gallery/
Not only painters, but also writers and musicians are featured. There are some amazing projects – spend time perusing, then consider adding your sky photos to this project.

https://skydayproject.com

Rolling back around to the evil pandemic in progress, this ted.com update showcases person reports from people in 23 countries, including Ecuador. http://ideas.ted.com/scenes-from-a-global-pandemic-heres-what-life-is-like-in-23-countries-from-the-ted-fellows/

My internet checks present my greatest risk in dodging this virus. With a small window of time, I am online from a discreet corner table at friends’ restaurant where they are allowed to serve take-out. By two I have to be home/off the streets – not only for my own ‘compliance’ but also to not risk my friends getting in trouble for being open past two. Forgive my silence, although I am reading most posts which are in ‘complete’ for via the email option. The very-talented and sensitive blogger Thom of The Immortal Jukebox thankfully warned us that he planned to go into quiet mode. Thom, you are missed!
https://theimmortaljukebox.com/
Another blogger has been tossing out a few tunes each day with ‘Isolation Radio,’ and it’s my loss that I don’t have the opportunity to explore the varied selection of artists. Every so often there are tunes that I know well. If you’re wistful for a variety of tunes, he’s there – while his wife is one of those ‘still working’ heroes. https://diaryofaninternetnobody.com/

This was written off line, and now I am approaching the bewitching hour of 2 pm.  Time to publish this and scram home!   PS: (I also rebuilt the headboard to my bed – a two-day task – but with new material from Playamart, it is much better!)

DAB Day – April 8

(DAB? “What is DAB Day?”)

April 8 is Draw a Bird Day!

(First: Thank you for your beautiful response to the post about the hungry iguanas. My internet time is very limited, so instead of replying to those comments I’m sharing this Draw a Bird Day story written last night at the apartment. I love you all! Lisa)

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Please consider taking five minutes or ten or half an hour or half a day – and draw a bird!

The DAB Day website shares the story of a delightful 7-year old girl who uplifted her uncle’s spirits. Her blunt critique of his drawing triggered a lovely tradition of ‘drawing birds’ just for the joy of drawing a bird – but the story is best told on the website:  DABday

From the site: How do I celebrate Draw A Bird Day?
Quite simply, just draw a bird and share it with whomever you choose. The drawings are not meant to be “professionally” done by any means, though that certainly can be the case if you are so talented. The important thing is just to draw and bird and share it.
Can I send you my bird drawings?

YES you can!!! Simply click here to submit your own Draw A Bird Day submissions. We will do our best to get them online as soon as possible. Keep them 1000 x 1000 pixels or smaller, and in .jpg, .png, or .bmp file formats only please.

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A plastic pink flamingo, weathered and faded, remains a faithful companion. Brittle from exposure to heat and sun, glued and splinted from various contusions, a survivor from the earthquake, this frail bird holds dear memories, especially when it was ‘given’ to me.

In an attempt at anonymous humor in an historic neighborhood of strict ‘city planning’ rules, my lovely neighbor tucked the flamingo near the back entrance gardens  to my home. (1997?)  The flamingo gave my heart a huge smile!  I suspected that the giver received an-even greater smile when she pondered how long it would take me to figure out who left it at my door!   I was right, and even months later, when she apologetically stated, “You don’t have to keep that in your flower bed…” – I assured her that I treasured the flamingo.

Whenever I pause to ponder the faded bird, which has been painted to bring back the bright colors, I am instantly reconnected to my friend. Of all of the birds I could draw for this day to remember the young Dorie Cooper, I thought it was time to give the flamingo a moment in the spotlight!

06 for post P2970937 flamingo sketches

08 For post DAB DAY FLAMINGO08a FOR POST DAB DAY FLAMINGO W COLORS

Briefly transplanting it from a cluster of begonias, I placed it in the larger pot of a slow-growing Ceibo tree. (From 2011 until the earthquake, the Flamingo lived at the base of the ceibo.) I sat beneath the branches of the ceibo (yes, in the apartment!) and drew the bird. Just as I finished, the nearby church bells rang 2 o’clock, a reminder to all that the curfew had started – a reminder to me that yes, we are under strict rules, but time flies when immersed in drawing.

09b for post DAB DAY misc birds 01

With time to devote to the theme of ‘just drawing birds,’ I also drew some whimsical birds – from a few minutes to longer – all examples of the joy of drawing for fun.

After so many drawing exercises, I wasn’t surprised that the next drawing magically asserted the right to  be added to this post!  Last night I added color via computer to this one and to the flamingo.

10 FOR POST DAB DAY CORONA MASKED BIRD11 FOR POST DAB DAY CORONA MASKED BIRD W COLORS 2

This will be published on the 7th so that most of you will have time – if desired – to join others in honoring Dorie Cooper – and perhaps giving your drawing to an unexpected recipient.

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This morning I moved the ceibo to photograph it near the painting of the ceibo…

09a for post P2970960 detail from THE GUARDIAN acrylic iguana y ceibo y oropendola nests

And for Lynda, here’s the closeup of the iguana in that painting!

It would be nice if the flamingo could find its way to the neighbor who gave it to me. She might be surprised to know that the bird remains a true treasure in my heart!

08b FOR POST DAB DAY FLAMINGO HEADER COLORS

(Drawn in Memory of Matthew)

“Got Papaya?”

P2970371 parque las vegas sora cove

Parque Las Vegas – Portoviejo Ecuador

Portoviejo, Ecuador – Artists often notice subtle details, sometimes after a few seconds or minutes or hours or even days later, but the observant mind sometimes hits the pause button and asserts its voice: ‘Something’s not quite right here.’
That happened long ago in Nicaragua, after seeing a particular ‘street bum’ each time I visited a certain town. Not allowing that ‘Something’s not quite right here’ moment to pass, I slightly altered my schedule and am so glad that I did. The experience humbled me.  That post is here:  “Why Not?”

P2830687 white plumeria flowers

Plumeria

Two weeks ago here in Portoviejo Ecuador, I hoped to get permission to check on the Soras in the nearby Parque Las Vegas. In the past – before ‘Coronavirus’ became the new vocabulary word for each day – the guards sometimes asked about the birds that captured my interest. They knew about the not-often-seen (in this Province) Soras on winter vacation at the Park.

With little traffic downtown, and only a few pedestrians in sight, I set out for Parque Las Vegas – perhaps five minutes if I walked fast, and ten if I took the scenic route by a smaller park. With camera and shopping bag, I took my typical route – to admire the always-blooming white Plumeria trees, then a few steps more to “Iguana Corner” where a dozen or so iguanas bask in sun and shadow, on the ground, high in the limbs and sometimes on the sidewalks. Soras were on my mind – and permission to look for them – so I hurried the short distance to the much-larger park.

P2970783 TWELVE IGUANAS

Fifty or so yards back and beneath the canopy of a closed ice-cream shop, the guards perused their phone screens.
“Hola?” I called “Hola?’
I think they forgot why they were there, or where they were, but they reconciled themselves to guard status and greeted me. I explained that those three little birds we’d been seeing since January should be preparing to return to the northern hemisphere. I asked if I could go to the nearby ‘segua’ and see if they were still there.
“Si,” they said, then returned to their screen-watching tasks.

P2970373 iguana in sun
Approaching the smallest area of the little marsh, I first noted one nice large iguana and took a few photos. Just beyond the iguana, however, was a Sora! For the next ten minutes I watched and photographed it, then moved to the second area and spotted one more Sora. Yay!

P2970375 mar 21 sora 11 45 am

P2970375 Sora mar 21P2970400 Sora mar 21 parque las vegas portoviejoP2970423 Sora mar 21

Not wanting to overstay, I walked back to the guards, gave them a thumbs up, then returned home. The photo session with the first bird turned out well, as I’m always hoping for ‘better’ reference images for my art. It wasn’t until later that I thought about the iguanas and worried, “They are hungry.”

P2970776 ANCIENT IGUANAP2970849 iguanas going up iguanas coming downP2970640 park iguana
A few days later I returned, and the guard at the smaller park confirmed. The local restaurants usually contributed fruit and vegetable scraps each morning, but now most all restaurants are closed. No one was feeding the iguanas, but the guard pointed out: ‘they have leaves on the trees.’ The Royal Poinciana/Flamboyant, at this time of year normally loaded with leaves and flowers, was all but stripped clean. I asked a few people to pass the word, and mentioned this in the last post – and hoped that more people would remember the iguanas.

P2970726 8 iguanasP2970706 six iguanas

That first ‘batch’ of broccoli, cauliflower and beets provided great photo ops after the guard spread the feast on the ground. Within a minute the first iguana appeared, then another and another. Every two or so minutes, more iguanas scooted down the tree trunks or approached from other tangents on the ground. Every so often there was a brief food fight, but basically they ate in harmony. I realized that they have trouble eating large chunks of food, so I made a ‘Note to Self” to cut their food into bite-sized pieces!

P2970903 iguana coming down tree

Four days later I returned with a second batch. With great relief I saw a great feast of lettuce, cabbage and cucumber scraps on the iguanas’ dining area. Several iguanas chomped on the leaves, but most were most likely full and in the upper canopy snoozing zone. With a huge smile, I gave the guard the bowl of scraps (cut into smaller chunks for the iguanas) and watched as he put it in a second area. Almost instantly one big iguana zipped down the mango tree and headed to the scraps. A second and third arrived; could they see the colors or did they smell the fruit? They especially loved the papaya!

P2970844 iguanas y papayaP2970832 got papaya ja iguanaP2970830 smiling happy iguanaP2970702 3 park iguanas headerP2970839 got papaya

Today I took a broccoil-beet-papaya assortment and was glad to see that another person had brought their small bag of scraps. The iguanas are not receiving a consistent supply of food, but the human neighbors are remembering them.

P2970873 got papaya

“Got Papaya?”

Got Papaya? If so, maybe you can share with a nearby park.

The curfew here starts at 2, and they are strict!  Time to scram!  Sorry, no time for proofing so all mistakes are mine!   Stay well everyone and be creative!   Lisa

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time in Mississippi:    

“Nettie Helen, I think we’re going to have to cut it off,” Dr. Green soberly stated to my mother.

I don’t remember how old (young) I was, but it was before Dr. Green moved his office to Scott, Mississippi, about 5 miles from my hometown of Benoit in Bolivar County. It was either after hours or on a weekend, as he had met us at his little clinic.

I don’t remember being driven there, and I don’t remember exactly how I reached my parent’s kitchen, the older version that was later upgraded. I well remember the moment before the accident, when I was riding my bicycle as fast as my bare feet could coax it – along a flat stretch of rural highway along the levee. The moments before the accident I was peddling faster than I’d ever raced, thanks to a new ‘trick’ my sister Pat brought back from California.

Pat, who had visited our Aunt Dot on the West Coast, returned with the novel concept of pinning a few playing cards to the bicycle spokes, which made a fun sound, especially when one peddled as fast possible. The moments before the accident, I was peddling on pure adreneline – probably faster than I’d ever gone in my entire young life – and then my foot slipped from the peddle. My big toe took the greatest amount of damage, and I went from blissful childhood joy to —-

I don’t remember if I cried, or if I screamed, or if Pat screamed. In my foggy memory I remember that Daddy ‘happened’ along in his car or jeep or whatever he was driving at that time. I do remember a fearful respite – if that is possible- sitting on the kitchen counter with my foot in the ceramic sink and adults tending to Baby Girl’s most-recent crisis. The next thing I remember was hearing Doctor Green’s sobering words about cutting it off.

I well remember the next scene; I bolted from the examining table in the middle of the room, and Mother and Doctor Green attempted to catch me as if I were a wild rabbit! True fear coursed through my veins, and there was no way I was going to allow them to cut off my toe!

Surely they later laughed. And laughed. And laughed more when sharing that story, although it was never discussed within the range of my hearing. No, it was not my toe, but my toe-nail, and they assured me that my toe would remain intact. I remember very little else, except for receiving one of those oversized and pale-yellow Vitamin C tablets before leaving – my reward for surviving the most-recent accident.

A few years later in the 5th grade, that young girl studied about Argentina in ‘Social Studies’ and dreamed about living in that country and raising horses on the Pampas. She probably would have smiled if she knew that one day she’d be living on the equator and learning not only about the birds, but also iguanas!
P2970640 park iguana

The iguanas in the nearby park are hungry. They are no longer receiving the morning fruits and vegetable scraps from nearby restaurants. I shared my own ‘scraps’ this morning and confirmed with the guard that the iguanas are hungry. They especially loved the cauliflower and broccoli!

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P2970793 meanwhile back at the apt ceibo y iguana paintings

Do you see the iguana in the ceibo painting? And oropendola nests in the far-back left side.. and cacique nest on the right side…

I think the internet options are about to end, but suffice to know that I am well and happy and full of creative options and self-isolation in the apartment. My usually-normal diet is even more ‘healthy’ — upping the nutrition and dodging the not-so-healthy options. I hope that everyone else is doing the same – now is a great time to be pro-active with health.

No one else works or lives in this 4-story building, but whenever I return, I wash my keys, my change/money, bags – anything that might have picked up an unwanted and microscopic hitch-hikerk!

Here’s a parting shot ‘selfie’ while trying to photograph the paintings in the not-yet-installed mirror!
P2970802 meanwhile back at the apt selfie

Ecuador update: Curfew at 2 pm..

Adjusting to Changes

P2880142 leanding old house portoviejo

Portoviejo – Manabi Province -Ecuador
The absence of traffic sounds awakened my senses on this first day of ‘restrictions’ thanks to the Covid19.  I really don’t like giving this virus its proper name, a bit like rewarding a bad child with attention.

President Lenin Moreno joined other countries in closing down borders and giving a deadline for international arrivals.   Last night/midnight was the final ‘hour’ for Ecuadorians to return home.   Starting today, only essential errands are permitted, which includes going to the market or pharmacy, but almost all stores and businesses are closed.   Restaurants are permitted to sell ‘take out’ or deliver to homes, so most have closed.

P2970079 frigate after cocois fish

Jama Ecuador – Magnificent Frigate attempts to steal fish from Cocoi Heron

A glance from the 4th floor apartment to ground level confirmed that the normal city life had changed; only one car was parked in the normally-crowded street. I wondered if the police would consider a walking trip to the nearby Post Office an essential task; I suspect they would be lenient — but perhaps I should not risk testing their tolerance on the first morning of restriction!  (I did, and the post office was open, but I was told I”d have to go to the larger post office across town.  The package can wait.)   Not only traffic restrictions, but also pedestrian – not even a walk in the park, though going to the market and pharmacy are accepted activities.

P2970182 cocoi y ibis with shrimp

Yum yum, a bird feast: all-you-can-eat shrimp during a shrimp harvest. (Jama Ecuador)

Several bloggers have addressed various facets of the virus’s impact; Valentina Cirasola’s candid post gives a personal glimpse into her home country of Italy and reflects her concern. Based in the USA, this multi-talented designer writes about her recent visit to Italy: ” The atmosphere is unreal and surreal, it seems as if something terrible has just happened and humans have left for another planet. I hear no noise, no music, no voices, no laughs, no one arguing. Kids proliferate in these alleyways but they are not there. Italian streets without rascals are lifeless. “ Surreal Moments

P2970305 peruvian meadowlark

Peruvian Meadowlark

Rachel Tilseth (Wolves of Douglas County Wisonsin.com) shared a summary written by Brunella Pernigotti in Turin, Italy. She too describes her country and opens with “It’s a strange Saturday afternoon. The streets in the center of Turin where I live, are empty and an unreal silence reigns everywhere. Normally at this hour…” go here to read Brunella’s story: Coronavirus hit Italy like an Avalance 

P2970061 1 pm harvest in process quadrado piscinas

A shrimp harvest last week near Jama Ecuador. Is the virus lurking there? We hope not!

Cindy Knoke, who brings us stunning images of our natural world – especially avian photos – offers grounded advice for coping through this new pandemic maze. She mentions the ‘Shrieking headlines’ (great description!) and states: “As a psychotherapist who has practiced for many decades, I have some ideas that can help. So if you are interested, read on. “

The creative mind snatches Cindy’s ideas and has fun, and I continued her line of thought and enjoyed imagining cartoon birds to go with the names of the real ones in the photos – a Fairy Wren? – I imagined a delicate bird with fairy wings, perhaps perched on the rim of a teacup?!

Go here:  Anxiety Management during Pandemic Days

The most heart-warming post – for me – was seeing Angeline/The Sunday Traveler’s post about reconnecting with her art. She states: ” I read more and more about just starting, even if it’s ugly and bad, and that’s the truth. Once I started, I was off and running. I’ve taken one art class that was in oils, and very structured, a replica of some other artist’s work; this nearly broke my soul. I just couldn’t do it that way. I quit. I stopped completely. “

Reading that put tears in my eyes; I hope that I never unknowingly discourage someone from the joy of creating art.  Please visit and read her narrative – now is the perfect time for anyone to reach down and try again – if you’ve been dodging attempts to create art. It’s truly amazing how powerful art can be – if one can relax and just ‘let it flow.’

Monday Musings- Starting Somewhere

 

P2970188 wood stork

Wood Stork – gobble gobble the shrimp monster (?) or is it searching for other type of food?

Since I read WP via email notifications, I thank all of you who include the entire post without the ‘more’ link. I am able to read at home and enjoy the variety of stories and information.    The images do not load, but the email text does – so I can refresh the inbox (dedicated strictly to Word Press!) and then read when there’s more time. It’s sometimes fun to read the message and then wait until next time on line to see the images. BlueBrightly/Lynn’s posts are especially effective, as she goes into such depth about the outing and/or each image.  I imagine what the images might look like then enjoy seeing if I was close – or way off!

Thanks to all of you who are writing about positive and uplifting subjects — we need as much positive input as possible!

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Whimbrel

I especially enjoy reading nostalgic posts – those ‘once upon a time’ stories that leave us a bit lighter in spirit. I plan to share a few with you soon and urge others to reach down and take turns as if we’re gathered around a campfire in collective attention.

(If this is posted today, March 17, it means that my friends’ tienda will be open — and I’ll be connecting with the world via their internet.)

P2970067 1 pm shrimp

I forgot to ask the destination for these shrimp. Many times it’s the USA.

(The photos were taken last week when I visited Jama and spent time on my friends’ shrimp farm as they harvested a pond. Ah, they must detest all shrimp-gobbling birds, but they are a joy for a bird-loving person like me!)

For those who are looking for information about Ecuador – especially current info, ZeroLatLiving remains my favorite site, published every Sunday with a review of things written about Ecuador in the past week – or of interest.

Lessons in Acute Attention

P1330421 map of mid ecuador

Ecuador – About a week ago I drove to Guayaquil for what turned out to be a five-minute meeting and then returned with an extra passenger – the lady who worked at the check-point/security desk at the meeting!

After hearing me state, “Yo soy Manaba!” to a couple who stated they were from the same area, she casually stated that she was going to Santa Ana for the weekend.

“Today? Hoy?” I asked.

“Yes,” she smiled.  It was a Friday afternoon, and I wondered if she commuted that long distance to work.

“Do you live in Santa Ana?”

“No, I live in Guayaquil, but I’ll be visiting family.”

“Are you going by bus?”

“Yes.”

P1350010 poza honda bus

Yes. Remember: First time visit – Go by bus!

A bus trip would surely represent six or more hours of travel for her, vs. three with me, especially if we took the route less traveled.

“Ride with me,” I suggested, as it was almost 4 in the afternoon.

She did not need to go home, was ready to travel, and shortly before 5 we joined the congested arteries of end of a work week in Guayaquil and headed north out of the city. Somewhere between my asking if we were on the right road – or if I should be in the right lane or left lane or center lane, she mentioned that Santa Ana was not actually her destination – but she was going to Ayacucho.

“Ayacucho!” I laughed, “I can drive that with my eyes closed! It’s no problem for me to drive you all the way to Ayacucho. I can drive that road with my eyes closed. I used the internet each week in Ayachucho! I shopped at the market next door to the cyber.”

Once we were out of the city, the almost due-north route and four-lane driving gave us opportunities for easy conversation. Her reasons for going to Ayacucho were somber ones; her beloved aunt had died the month before, and a misa/rosary service would be held in Ayacucho.

Judging the lingering sunlight, I predicted that we would be off the major highway before dark –  and the worst part of the drive would be behind us.  The pastoral east-west route wound through a rural section, one that had only two areas of bad highway. We would get through the first/worst section before dark. Good. I kept that information to myself, but realized that an ominous cloud at ‘ten o’clock’ might provide a glitch in our travels. Dark blackish-purple in color, it towered vertically and reminded me of storm-dodging days in the USA. Continue reading

Inspiring Reading Material for Bad-weather Days

(Manabi Province Ecuador)  Sometimes a “Mystery Bird” presents challenges for correct identification, especially when there are no ‘bird guides’ working in the area. My friend Jorge pulls out his reference books, and oftentimes we stumble upon the correct identification. Other times the photos remain with the title, “Mystery Bird” or “What is this bird?” It doesn’t seem ‘polite’ to lob photos to the birding specialists, who surely are bombarded weekly by people who want easy identification of what turns out to be a common bird!

YELLOWTHROAT BLACK LORED FEMALE P2640776 May 24 morning walk mystery bird olive

Hmmm. Another female mystery bird…

Although I miss the availability of the Public Library Systems, I treasure the options provided through internet searches. Sometimes a search leads me to unexpected and delightful reading material, especially when the sites provide free PDF downloads.

P2940648 MYSTERY BIRD

“Little bird, little bird, what is your name?”

A search for a mystery bird that resembles the Ecuadorian Tyrannulet or the Marble-faced Bristle-tyrant led me to a search of writings by Alexander Skutch. The identity of the bird remains a mystery, but oh my, did I ever find a source of unpublished material from Skutches journals. Anyone who loves the wildness of nature, or loves botanicals or observing the birds – start here with the same PDF : SKUTCHonePDF

P2940656 MYSTERY BIRDS NEST

In two weeks the nest will surely be more impressive!

P2940768 SCREENSHOT MYSTERY BIRD BENEATH NEST

Straight up to build the nest

P2940708 MYSTERY BIRD

Building casas is hard work!

Wildflowers and Landscapes of Ecuador – how we knew it.   This second PDF  – like Skutch’s writings – is the compilation of writings and botanical paintings of Mary Barnas Pomeroy.   Shared (by her daughter) with the Missouri Botanical Gardens after her death, Mary’s stories illustrate the joy of living in the present – soaking in the wonders of the tropical world, and basking under the doting acceptance of her father, who mentored/tutored and encouraged her studies. Anyone who knows Ecuador’s present landscape will appreciate her descriptions – much of what is now lost.

With a voice that seems more powerful as the years pass, Mary Barnas Pomeroy states in the foreward:

“...May this collection become a delight to nature lovers, flower enthusiasts, artists, travelers and explorers – people who care about the marvels of our gorgeous earth which certain types of humanity abuse, destroy or just alter, perhaps by sheer ignorance. We would like to help in halting such activities. May this book attract thouse very individuals who need to learn about the fragile hidden treasures along with the grandeur of Earth’s interwoven patterns of all living and seemingly lifeless forms!… I am confident that soon a deeper awareness of what we can do and how to do it – to preserve what is still vital for Earth’s and our survival – will emerge, be acted upon and become an accepted way of life. A great intelligence is secretly at work underneath all the chaos we witness, caused by selfishness, greed and stupidity. It simply must manifest, so that the generosity of life may flourish for all alike…”MBP

mystery bird P2440158 which bird

From other months, the little bird stops by to say, ‘Guess what my name is?”

The same is true for Skutch, who studied the flora and fauna through many Neo-Tropical countries.  Both feared what would happen to their beloved-but-vanishing landscape.From 1936, Skutch’s words remain sensitive and powerful:

“…The forest is the cathedral in which I worship; and like all the great cathedrals, it
was hundreds of years in the making. Possibly the Indians once cleared the land on
which it stands; but they must have abandoned cultivation here centuries ago.
The forest is my garden, with grander plants, and more varied plants, and an
infinitely greater variety of birds than ever adorned the artificial garden of monarch or nobleman or millionaire. I must have thousands of palm trees – chontas and palmitos and many lesser kinds – for any one of which, to have it growing in his park or conservatory, a rich man would pay hundreds of dollars.

Why should I not count myself opulent? And there are no weeds in my garden, for everything that grows in it was planted by the same careful gardener, and the ranker growths are kept in check by the dominant trees. Sometimes the farm frightens me, with the unceasing expense and care of keeping a bit of coffee or sugar-cane or pasture in proper order. But the forest never costs me a centavo of outlay, yet it is always, except where man has interfered, in good order, and a delight to behold. The very fallen trees and rotting trunks give it an aspect of venerable age which is part of its character, and the young saplings growing
up lustily in the gaps left by the fallen giants are proof of its exhaustless vitality.

Finally, the forest is my museum, filled not with dry bones and stuffed skins and
sapless foliage, but with a vast array of living, growing specimens. Were I to live here a hundred years, I could not exhaust its riches…
Since the first of the year (many of the volteados were actually begun in December) the men have been felling the forest for their plantings, and at intervals through the mornings, when chiefly they work, we have heard the crash of great trees falling on the distant slopes. Before cutting down the tall trees, the laborers cut away all the underbrush with their machetes, which makes the forest look most inviting and parklike, with longer vistas beneath the trees than one ordinarily enjoys in tropical forest, and attractive glades through which one can wander without fighting his way against brushes and vines.

But this idyllic state of the forest is of short duration; soon the big trees are attacked and overturned, and the noble woods are reduced to a scene of chaos and ruin. The tangle and confusion of prostrate trunks, splintered branches and intertwined vines is so great that it requires great effort and a certain amount of ingenuity to make one’s way across them. Only by walking along the horizontal trunks, clean and branchless, and jumping from one to another of them, is it possible to make much progress. If one leaves these slender causeways, he sinks from waist-to-head deep in such a litter of branches, twigs, vines and leaves that it is quite impossible to move either forwards or backwards.
”   Skutch/ Clearing the forest,” Journal, Vol. 20, February 4, 1936

 

Backyard Bird Weekend approaches, and on Thursday I will return to Poza Honda and look forward to more chances to study the Wood Rails, the Oropendolas and the Mystery Bird. Several people have expressed an interest in any future birding ‘Timeouts’ there at Poza Honda. Yes, there is hope!

mystery bird P2440145 which bird

“Please save my habitat!” and “I’ll be ready for roll call for the Backyard Bird Count!”

A Second Birding Apprentice – and A Village of Hope!

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“A man needs a little madness, or else… he never dares cut the rope and be free.” ― Nikos Kazantzakis

P1300100 la segua canoe

(Poza Honda Ecuador)  “…As I write while noting the sweet and varied sounds and calls of nature, a not-so-soothing instrument asserts its caustic voice. Incongruent with the morning’s rhythms, a chainsaw slices through the natural harmonies. Compared to the never-ending sounds of the city, the distant chainsaw seems minor and insignificant, yet it grates on my psyche much deeper than the urban distractions…” from: Many Birds at a Time – Sept 2019 – BrunettiP2930624 lovely view but no there is new deforestation in my backyard

Manabi Province, Ecuador – Approaching quietly on his motorcycle, the guard for the dam (reservoir Poza Honda) stopped and turned off the engine. I expected Antonio to politely ask me to park elsewhere, which I usually do – but had not on that late afternoon. On my way back to the city, I stopped to video the 40 or 50 Chestnut-collared Swallows careening in and out of nests beneath the spillway bridge. Turning off the camera, I stood and smiled. His words took me by surprise and touched me greatly.

P2950237 antonio the second birding apprentice

Antonio proudly posed yesterday at Poza Honda.

With sensitivity and respect, Antonio asked, “Why did you leave? Where did you move?” (I’d been basically absent for four months after living there for two years.)

With equal respect, I asked if he had time for a ten-minute answer, and if he was serious as to ‘why.

“Si,” the clear-eyed Antonio replied.

I said that two years ago the sound of the chain saws was rare, but for the past year it seemed to be almost daily – and most days the sound came from two or three different locations. He nodded and agreed. The rate of deforestation had increased. I mentioned the cutting and run-away fire way too close to my residence (2018) – and he distinctly remembered that fire.

P2030846 the fire july 10 night

Foto taken from the steps of the house.

P2030815 smoke fire viewd from represa

I said that some days the sound of the saws made me angry; other days it made me profoundly sad and sometimes it was like a blow to the stomach, and at those times I cried. “It’s a protected forest, yet no one speaks up – and the authorities don’t enforce the law. It’s as if the logging is invisible, including when the loaded trucks drive past the guards, though the gates and out of the protected forest.” I mentioned the times when logs were stacked near the road, yet it wasn’t until dark when the trucks arrived to transport the material out of the area. I asked if it was legal to cut near the water, and we discussed a clear-cut area that increases each year. Higher toward the southern ridge, a new visual wound brands an area near the dam.

P2950236 view from dam deforestationP2900514 why the bird circle is important

Three weeks later a new scar:

P2930623 grrrrrrrrr more deforestation

This past weekend delivered a new visual blow – a new chunk cleared on the neighbor’s forest.

Antonio, as with all of the locals, observes the ongoing clearing; it’s part of a lifestyle the farming and ranching community has always known.    Does having more knowledge of current events, of climate change, of pesticide dangers, of vanishing species, of the melting glaciers — does it make it more simple or more complicated when trying to live in harmony with these beautiful people?   Our conversation resumed at an easy pace, and we discussed the burning that often follows, leaving strips of parallel scars along the barren hillsides.

“Our planet is sick, and it needs more trees, more canopy – we have to respect the planet. The monkeys need tree bridges – when the area is cleared, the monkeys are forced to leave.” I said that I loved the area, and that I missed everyone – but I also did not want to end up like another Chico Mendes.

Changing the topic, I told him about the just-finished bird census, where ‘Don Jorge,’ Luis and I documented 87 species in one day, and our hopes to share our birding enthusiasm with others in the area.  I squinted toward the water’s edge and stated, “Limpkin?” He asked about the cluster of black and white birds near the Limpkin. “Those are stilts,” I said, “ but look -” and I turned on the camera, which pulled in the image of the brown Limpkin. He laughed and said he would never have seen that bird.

P2910477 stilts limpkin y lesser grebeP2910485 grebes stilts limpkin jan 4

We then checked the field guide index and flipped to the correct page. He quickly grasped the map index for each species, and he repeated the word, “Limpkin” with clear enunciation. We turned to the stilts, and he repeated, “Black-necked Stilt” several times. We discussed the Brown Wood Rail and located its range map in the book, and we discussed extinctions and the endangered Gray-backed Hawk photographed a short distance from the dam. He learned that the Osprey prefers fish over chickens and that Laughing Falcon devours snakes.