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Peruvian Pygmy Owl – 4B Pencil & a Splash of Watercolor

The worse my drawings were, the more beautiful did the originals appear. – John James Audubon

The above sketch, left in Casa Poza Honda’s guest book, seemed appropriate since the owl dropped in to say, “Welcome!” on my first visit to what would become my new home.  This area has yet to be invaded by the snaking tentacles of telephone and broadband cables, which is a blessing, yet it has altered my ability to stay in touch with the outside world.

Pacific Pygmy Owl – Casa Posa Honda – Manabi Province

Since I take great comfort in complete immersion and solitude in nature, I have appreciated the opportunity to apply Thoreau’s attitude, ‘…to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach…’ 

Almost dark, view from the end of the trail…

This beautiful forest, a place to connect deeply with nature, supplies a perfect environment to study the flora and fauna.  As soon as I am settled, I hope to present what affects me strongest via drawings and studies.    That is not easily done when interacting with the world on a daily basis, so I am grateful to reclaim a life that gives me total focus without distractions.

Morning Squirrel

Almost every morning is spent in complete silence as I merge with the rhythms of the natural surroundings.  Before the daylight has wiped all traces of night from the scene, the Whooping Motmots can often be seen perched near the house.   By 6:15, the Brown Wood Rails tip-toe into the yard on their predictable paths.  Photos in such low light are always lacking, so I now watch quietly and appreciate their unique beauty.

After the first hour of absorbing, watching, listening, I usually venture outside and take an extremely-slow amble downhill.  There are citrus trees, gingers, hardwoods and vines, wildflowers and bamboos, starfruit and cashews.  The cast of wildlife changes hourly!

Achiote – Wilkipedia

The very-patient Motmot perched on —- cotton!

Many times I take a clipboard, paper, pencil and pencil sharpener – as well as my bird book – and draw. When one gets very still, nature adjusts and resumes her rhythms. Even when a sparrow stops for a drink…

Between the houses along the water’s edge…

Thick, wild, yet comforting. I sat here for at least ten minutes, listening to a bird rustling the leaves. Perhaps it ws the Brown Wood Rail. Or maybe the squirrel. No, to my amusement, it was a chicken with her little chicks!

There are trees that I know well, and new ones, yet to be identified.  Combined, they provide amazing canopy and cover as well as food and nesting options for the wildlife.

I often photograph the birds and later consult the books for identification. I was surprised to see that one of these two birds was a trogon!

The random arrangement of the towering bamboo almost makes a star!

There are many new bird calls, still foreign to me, and through trial and error, I slowly discover the owner of the voice.

In my deepest troubles, I frequently would wrench myself from the persons around me and retire to some secluded part of our noble forests.  – John James Audubon

While totally aware of my surroundings, I often think about the conflicts and natural disasters affecting those not-so-fortunate people in the world.  Sometimes it seems out of alignment, that I can be coddled in such serene settings and almost-perfect climate, while others are suffering.  It’s easy for me to understand why Audubon found such comfort in the natural world, and in trying to capture that world and share with others.

Grooved billed Ani

“It is easy to believe we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean.”
― Jon J. Muth

Living in this present-day Garden of Eden, it’s easy to grasp that I am just a tiny drop of this vast ocean of life on our planet.   Yes, we are all individuals and differ from person to person, species to species, but we share this planet and should always acknowledge the rights of all to live in peace and harmony.

Last week that cute Pygmy Owl dropped by and visited long enough to share its staccato voice – and perched where I could confirm, ‘That sound is coming from the owl!’  Perhaps it’s a guardian?

In the lower right area of the scene, the owl perched near the ground;  it lingered long enough as if to state, ‘Well, it took you long enough to notice me.’

It flew away, and I knew it was somewhere – just not sure where!


It’s a cutie!

Another interesting bird is the Great Antshrike.  In handsome cinnamon attire, the female compliments the black and white male.  Both have stunning blood-red eyes.

Great Antshrike

‘Pardon me while I molt…’

“I believe there is value in paying close attention to your surroundings, value in developing a sense of where you are grounded on the earth, and value in acting on that in a positive way.” Lynn Wohlers BlueBrightly

(Many of you know Lynn and her always-refreshing site, BlueBrightly.  If not, follow the link above and see the world through her very-talented eyes and sensitive soul.)

Blue-gray Tanager

Curious to see what species of birds might enjoy a breakfast bar, I placed several ripe bananas on the dragon-fruit trellis.   The Orange-fronted Barbets spotted them pretty fast!

Yum yum!

Whooping Motmots

I hide the bananas as if I’m hiding Easter eggs, but the chickens must be able to smell them!  To my surprise last week, the chickens hopped onto the trellis, and the Brown Wood Rails followed their lead!

Brown Wood Rail
“…Typical rails live obscurely in marshes, swamps, dense grasslands, or moist woodland, where they prefer to escape by walking instead of flying and are among the birds most difficult to know intimately, which is a pity, for they appear to be intelligent and have fascinating habits.” – A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica – Stiles & Skutch

Ha!  No one told these resident birds that information! They are cautious and skittish, but they seem comfortable asserting their rights to the breakfast bar!

Two wood rails foraged daily with the chickens but are very elusive. Seeing the rail on the pitahaya/dragonfruit trellis was quite a surprise!

Where the chickens go, so do these Brown Wood Rails!

‘How could I make a little book, when I have seen enough to make a dozen large books?’ – John James Audubon

Last week, a prepped canvas awaited my attention, and it was time to move forward with a study of the ‘Brown Wood Rail.’ With panel in hand, I walked the trails near the house in search of scientific ‘support’ materials to include in the study. Perhaps the gnarled roots of an old tree and dead leaves and twisted vines would work well…

Antshrikes and woodpeckers distracted me, and I returned with the same stark-blank canvas staring back at me. When the Wood Rail jumped on the trellis and stayed long enough for a nice photo session, I decided to work first on the study of the bird, and later add the background material. Eyeing the panel, I chuckled and dismissed it, “Way too small! This bird deserves a much-larger portrait!”

The Orange-fronted Barbets will make a great substitute! Or maybe the Lineated Woodpecker… or that precious Pygmy Owl… or the Lemon Drop pictured below….

The Yellow-tailed Orioles take a banana-feast shift.

‘What about me?  I’ll sit for you!’

The Scarlet Rumped Caciques pecked and prodded the bananas, but one spent more time in the palm branches near the trellis.   Later I realized the birds were stripping thin ‘threads’ from the leaves and using them to build a nest.

If a bird can sculpt a lovely home using just its beak and feet, we should be able to do so much more with our very-capable hands!

Resuming details on old paintings…

I am still moving, sorting, and trying to corral my personal items to the new home base.  Today I am back in Mindo, where internet is easily available, and I should be here for a few more days before returning to that Garden of Eden, seven hours to the southwest.

Thanks for your support of the last two posts, especially those who provided enthusiastic approval of Marie’s work in Costa Rica!   I’ll be answering those comments soon!

Thanks, also, for sticking with this long and winding post!