November 15, 2012 by palamow
BITS and PIECES # 10
Greetings from Luquillo,
This week I will attempt to entice you with another piece that I wrote some years ago for our local newspaper ― this one is ‘strictly for the birds’, but I thought you might enjoy it, so I resurrected it, dusted it off and brought it up to date ― I hope it doesn’t make those of you who dwell in northern climes too envious, now that winter’s cold breath is upon your doorsteps!
For over a decade, my wife Pamela and I have been eating dinner on our balcony which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and a wide swath of white sand beach. We migrated from our indoor dining table to the less formal wicker patio furniture because we felt that it better suited our style of casual living. We enjoy listening to the roaring sizzle of the surf as it crashes over the reef barrier to the northeast of the half-moon bay that almost encircles our small beach ― before its salty brew rolls foaming and bubbling onto the shore. The ocean’s pleasant din merges nicely with the echoing sounds of families chattering together while sharing Arroz con pollo (fried chicken and rice), interlaced with the shrill, exuberant, cries of their children playing at the water’s edge.
We live on the thirteenth floor of our condominium tower ― almost 150 feet aloft ― an elevation which gives us a vantage point that is close enough to the beach for vicarious enjoyment, yet far enough away to mute some of the more boisterous, thudding reverberations of the bongo drums of beach musicians and the pounding throb of car-mounted ‘boom box’ speakers playing Spanish ‘rap music’ at breathtaking decibel levels.
On most evenings though, it is a perfectly placid place in which to enjoy a relaxed meal, some excellent conversation ― and the single glass of ‘medicinal’ red wine that I am allowed to consume with my dinner.
In recent years, Pam and I have noted what seems to be an increase in the local pelagic bird population ― an encouraging development in these times of amplified environmental heating/climate change, which has already been seen to adversely affect our island’s endemic/native avian species by changing conditions in their breeding grounds and causing some species to relocate from their traditional habitats to cooler but less supportive ranges.
We eat dinner between five and six each evening ― lately we have seen many more Alcatraz (Brown Pelicans), Boba prieta (Brown Boobies) and Tijeritas (Magnificent Frigate-birds) than in the recent past. Pam keeps an inexpensive set of binoculars handy and I have my copy of Birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and a ‘pocket video magnifier’, so we have become fairly adept at identifying each species as they fly by our balcony railing. Since we are so high-up, the pelicans come quite near, sometimes as close as ten or fifteen feet from us.
The boobies stay farther away, busily transiting the bay in both directions, searching for food, before heading east to their nightly roosts on the nearby cliffs of El Faro. As best we can determine, the pelicans roost in the mangrove swamp to our west ― when they are finished foraging they sometimes seem to be flying for the sheer enjoyment of it, before the sun goes down. The magnificent Frigate birds are thrilling to watch ― with their enormous wingspans and long, forked tails they resemble prehistoric pterodactyls as they hover almost motionless in the easterly ‘trade wind’ breeze, waiting for a chance to swoop down and “steal a meal” from the beak of an unsuspecting booby or pelican.
The birds provide us with an unsurpassed ‘Dinner Theater’ event most evenings ― it is so absorbing that we occasionally allow our food to grow cold while Pam watches the show and describes it to me and we discuss the varying shapes, colors and habits of ‘our’ beloved avian performers.
Who needs the artificial stimulus of television when you have nature’s spectacle playing an unlimited engagement just over the edge of your balcony?
The food, wine and conversation ain’t bad either ― especially since they are mostly accompanied by a refreshing breeze off the ocean and temperatures in the seventies.
Ah, the joys of Caribbean island living…
And here’s an additional avian adventure:
A few weeks ago we had another serendipitous moment involving our bird neighbors ― a Paloma Casera (Rock Dove) became trapped in the confines of our bedroom’s mini-balcony ― rock doves were cliff dwellers in ancient times ― when humans began building tall buildings, they swiftly adapted to the crevices (and balconies) they provided, as convenient breeding and brood tending locations ― perceiving our balconies as ‘cliff crevices’, they relentlessly attempt to nest on them when they are untended (or even when occupied).
Not wishing them any harm, but unwilling to share our accommodations with them, we strung a mesh of fishnet across the access to our tiny bedroom balcony with immediate success ― until ‘Homer’, a solitary male rock dove defeated our barrier by squeezing through a corner of the netting that had come loose. He thus became an unwilling prisoner ― unable to find a way to depart, no matter how hard he tried…
Equally unwilling to harm our ‘guest’, we tried everything imaginable to show him the way to freedom ― for example, Pam used one of my white, mobility canes to open a ‘rock dove-sized’ aperture in the fishnet mesh ― Homer (who proved himself to be quite myopic) didn’t get the idea ― so, she taped some bread to the end of the cane and re-opened the aperture ― Homer looked suspiciously at this golden opportunity, but apparently didn’t trust her motives ― finally, after a week of unsuccessful egress (and lots of bread), Pam tried throwing a trail of bread crumbs leading to the white cane (with a piece of toast attached to its tip) to entice Homer to the escape hatch, and ‘voila’, Homer finally took the hint, and after gobbling his way along the trail of crumbs, quickly found the opening and departed without comment ― we were thrilled that our ‘jailbird’ had made his escape, apparently none the worse for wear ― he, and his tribe have scrupulously avoided our bedroom balcony ever since ― we are apparently no longer on the Paloma Casera community’s list of 5 star accommodations — we’ll survive this indignity somehow…
And then there was the visit of the spectacularly plumed Pin-tailed Whda and his family to our condominium’s common area ― but that’s a story for another day…
© 2012 – Alan Mowbray Jr.