Poza Honda Ecuador – I will forever treasure the moment I saw this bird. Minding its own business, it perched on a branch of Cecropria in a small switch-back area between the reservoir and a small waterfall. My eyes were on the gravel road, the downhill route and the upcoming curve. Beside me and in the back of the truck were paintings to be delivered to Museo Portoviejo. I was an hour late, yet when I saw that raptor, I braked to a stop, fumbled for my camera and took several faraway photos. The bird had presence. A strong presence. Perhaps I ‘felt’ the bird more than I first saw it?
I drove a little closer, took more photos and wondered what magnificent raptor was peering back at me. Satisfied with the photos, I resumed my journey and forgot about the bird.
A day later in another area of the country, I remembered the hawk and searched for its identification. Grey-backed Hawk. Endangered Species. Range: Western Ecuador and Northern Peru. Reading the stats brought tears to my eyes. From the IUCN RED LIST: 250-999 Mature Individuals.
The locals tell me that it eats chickens, and I ponder the Grey-Backed Hawks’ destiny. How does one plead with the locals to spare that bird?
Nine months later, I can still recall that sighting, and at times I hear its distinctive call.
I thought of an interview about ‘The Uncertain Future of Giant Trees’ with Professor William Laurance on For the Wild Website, – which (gracias!) allows the download version.
‘…The best thing that we can do is – absolutely – not to challenge the rights of any individual nation to decide on development priorities, but there’s nothing faintly undemocratic – or not right- about helping countries and citizens to understand the real risks and realities involved…’ – William Laurance…”
While on the Global Big Day Walk, I was pleased to visit with three sets of people who stopped to ask what I was looking at – looking for, as I gawked toward the tree tops! I told them how people around the world were taking the day to count the birds, so that scientists could compare this year’s information to previous ones. I mentioned that the planet is sick, and of my concerns for the vanishing birds. I asked them if they remembered the little black birds that often ate the grass seeds – or if they remembered how the doves often fed along the sides of the road.
“Si,” they nodded in agreement.
‘But where are they this year? They are absent. Please look for them as you drive out…”
Their faces turned from joy to concern. I added that the pastures were sprayed with herbicides for broad leaves, and the birds eat the grass seeds… and the cows also eat that grass, and we drink the milk and eat the cheeses and — that I had stopped eating those products…
I mentioned the White-necked Puffbird which vanished almost a year ago after “selective cutting”of timber in its backyard – and front yard… Just this past week it returned, and I was delighted to welcome it back!
My heart smiled when one man on a motorcycle stated, “I live on the other side of the reservoir. I have pastures. How can I learn more? I want to know more.”
Another precious neighbor was carrying a load of green plantains on his back and asked, “Where’s your truck?”
I smiled and explained that I was looking for birds – but not finding many. He whacked a large leaf from a plantain, placed it in the shade and sat while we swapped stories. I told him about the Endangered Grey-backed Hawk, and how the Laughing Falcon prefers to eat snakes .. and how one certain tan and black snake is important because it eats the Equis (Fer-de-lance) —
“Yes,” he stated, “We call that snake a “Lisa” and I have seen one eat an Equis.”
He told the story of how the two snakes raised their heads from the ground, face to face and challenged each other. He was a great story teller, and I hope that he can share that story when we have some informal meetings about living in harmony with nature.
When he asked for my name again, I laughed and said, ‘The same as that snake – Lisa!’ He continued his way, and I resumed my way back home.
One person at a time, perhaps our planet has hope.
May 17th is Endangered Species Day. If you have reached the end of this epistle, most likely you are already a good steward to our planet – and to the neighborhood flora and fauna. Do you have endangered species living in your area? Are there extinct species that are gone because of destruction of their habitat? If we don’t speak up for the species that have no voice, then how can they thrive?
Thank you for listening.