"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

Bird Song

>> Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Our second day in Trinidad was filled with birds. After a hot van ride from Port of Spain into the mountains, our group arrived at the Asa Wright Nature Centre. As we walked up the path towards the buildings, flowers were blooming beside us and the calls of birds filled the air. I hadn’t realized until then how special birdsong is to land and how we don’t get it sailing.
            At the sanctuary door, our knowledgeable guide Denise met us and led us to the front porch overlooking a feast of feeders. Birds were fluttering over juicy fruits and sugar water nectar: bright purple Honeycreepers, iridescent green Tanagers, yellow-patched Bananaquits, and three different species of Hummingbirds.
            Then we were led into the rainforest. As we walked through the rich greenery, Denise stopped to share information with us. We learned about queen leafcutter ants that fly only once in their lives and grow almost as big as your thumb. We learned about birds that clean themselves with ants. We saw Oropendola birds who build nests like hanging baskets from the treetops, we admired flowers named “sexy pink,” and smelled the sweet spice of crushed clove leaves. It was so inspiring to see such a thriving sanctuary, especially in a country so well known for its birds.
            After the sanctuary, we loaded into the vans again and headed for the Caroni swamp. As the sun started to lower in the sky, we boarded a small boat and motored down passageways through thick mangroves. Every few minutes we stopped to gaze at wildlife: Blue Herons, scampering crabs, and even a pair of snakes in the branches above us.
            Then the mangroves opened up and we were at the edge of a blue lake, where we stopped. At the center lay two little bright green islands, and in the distance off to the left we could see mountains rolling away into puffy purple clouds.
            “Here we wait,” the boat driver said. “They will come in flocks, the ibis from over there.” He pointed towards the mountains.

            We waited. The sun sank and the light grew soft. Just as we started to fidget, someone pointed down the water and we all turned to look. They came in pairs and small groups at first, little red dots skimming a few feet above the gray-blue surface of the lake. Then they came nearer. Their scarlet wings caught the light and as they settled on the island in front of us, they seemed to grow against the green background of foliage.
            There were more. Each group soured bigger than the last, forming swathes of living color that painted itself across the sky. Each flock settled into the branches of the trees on the island ahead, the scarlet birds swooping up as they landed, decorating the emerald island with their bodies so it looked like a bush adorned with bright, sweet, beautiful flowers, still vibrant in the fading light.
            As night drew in, we finally left the ibis resting on their perches. We turned the boat around and headed back into the darkened swamp. It had been a long beautiful day. A cook breeze picked up, raising goose bumps along our arms. As if to remind us of everything we had seen that day, a lone dove cooed through the mangroves.

Hila Shooter


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