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More Figgy Fun

Monday, February 26, 2007


This picture's for Sharon and for Robin Andrea: A disapproving chachalaca. I caught her eating palm fruits early one morning and she took a dim view of the intrusion.

We're finally home for a little while, back from the Ohio Ornithological Society's Owl Symposium near Oxford, Ohio, just about as far away from home as we could be and still be in our own state. We were too darn busy playing music and giving talks and emceeing to take a single picture, but we trust our buddies will send some soon so we can tell you about it. Lots of fun, connecting with friends, and further adventures in sleep deprivation. After two weeks of living out of suitcases, Bill and I are staggering around like a couple of Frankenstein's failed experiments.

Although we saw lots of habitats in Guatemala, none was as salubrious for photography as the lowland forest of Tikal. In fact, the highlands represented an extreme challenge, with rain and cold or highly contrasting light on narrow trails. There, you’re lucky to get your binoculars on a bird, much less capture its image. So I’m back to the fruiting trees of Tikal for more fun.
Parrots are messy eaters; having fed and cleaned up after Charlie for 20 long years, I can attest that they put any other pet in the shade for messiness. It’s their job to be messy. They tear into fruits not so much for the flesh but for the seeds, and they drop and fling bits in a wide arc all around. This red-lored Amazon has got a face full of fig. It’s so lovely to see parrots being parrots—loud, messy, gregarious, loving and cantankerous, as they should be.

The poses he struck were terrific. Parrots are basically feathered monkeys—acrobatic, inventive and agile.

More messiness: Another red-lored Amazon attracted a large crowd near the entry gate by tearing into a pair of fruits known locally as huevos del toro. Bull’s balls. This is an incredibly glutinous fruit. I think he was after the seeds, clustered kiwi-like in the middle, and he was willing to get himself mighty sticky for them.

I can’t look at a wild parrot without thinking that they should never be kept in captivity. Yes, I’m a parrot owner, and I’m linked to Charlie for as long as we both shall live, which could be a pretty darn long time. Knowing what I know about macaws, I’d never buy a parrot again. But I was young and dumb, and though I didn’t realize it, my biological clock was going off, so I bought a baby macaw. Dirty cage papers, bite scars and bits of fruit stuck to the wall and all, it’s probably just as well. If I’d hauled off and had kids in my twenties, I wouldn’t have gotten Phoebe and Liam in the great cosmic roulette.

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