By the time you read this column I will be back in the store. Tired and bug bitten, but very happy! My time in Brazil was life changing and I hope that I never forget how incredibly blessed I am. As much as I like birding, what is most important to me is people – and I am hoping that someday I will have a similar opportunity as my son Merritt has had, blessing the lives of others through meaningful service.
My last week of the guided bird trip included moving to three different “hotels.” Each remote location was unique and situated in an area which allowed us quick and easy access to excellent birding destinations. Due to the intensity of the heat, we would usually start birding by 5:30 a.m. The pace of our trip was exhausting, but it was exactly what I do when I am birding on my own. I didn’t want to waste a minute, I didn’t want to risk missing a single bird species that I might not ever have the opportunity of seeing again in my life.
As the last week of the trip was winding down, I was approaching 400 species. My goal was to hit that mark. After our last full day of birding, not knowing exactly where I was on my count, I headed out on my own to do a little more birding until it was completely dark. I was walking on a dirt road when I noticed a bird in the road. My initial impression was that it was some kind of dove species.
I focused my binoculars on the bird, and could tell instantly that it was a type of Tinamou, a species we had been hearing, but not seeing, for two weeks. There are 21 different Tinamou species in Brazil, and they are extremely difficult to see. They are similar to quail in their behavior in the sense that they are ground dwellers, meandering through the habitat. They are not up in trees and they don’t fly unless there is imminent danger. They just wander through the dense vegetation.
Well this Tinamou was right out in the open – in plain sight. I literally held my breath as I stood perfectly motionless, focusing my attention on all of its markings, making a mental note of its bill color, leg color and plumage. I knew I would not get a second chance to see this bird, so I needed to record in my mind everything I could about it before referencing the field guide I was carrying with me. For a time it walked directly toward me, as if I weren’t even there. It was so thrilling to see this species right out in the open.
After it disappeared into the vegetation alongside the roadway, I quickly looked for it in my Birds of Brazil guide, and discovered it was a Small-billed Tinamou, a new species for the trip. I couldn’t help but wonder if this might be my 400th bird, and if so, what an exciting find for my 400th species! When I returned to the lodge, our group sat down and updated our bird list for the day (which we did every night) and then I counted up my list for the trip. Did I hit 400? No, I was at 399! Oh well, there was still a chance that I would see some new birds tomorrow before heading to the airport in Sao Paulo.
A quick reminder that tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 30, is the deadline for submitting pictures for our third annual Wild Bird Photo Contest. If you have not already submitted your entries, please do so right away. Visit the Jay’s Bird Barn website for all of the information on the photo contest. The exhibit opens to the public on Saturday, Oct. 1, which is also the first day of our annual Fall Seed Sale.