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Shade Coffee Birds

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On the moderate-elevation slopes and terraces of Los Tarrales, coffee grows in the shade of a largely intact forest. Trees of many different species provide the shade, and birds move between the canopy and the coffee shrubs unimpeded and apparently undisturbed. It's a beautiful conjunction of agriculture and useful habitat, foreign to those of us who associate agriculture with endless monocultures of corn, wheat, or soybeans, which are almost useless to native wildlife. This is a much happier land-use marriage.

I loved seeing birds that would soon be in my own yard, engaged in tropical doings. Here, a Baltimore oriole gorges on the strange fruits of a cecropia plant. They don't look juicy or tasty, but orioles and honeycreepers, euphonias and jays love to take bits of the strange, wormlike fruits.One of the things that strikes me hard in Guatemala is the difference in scale between temperate and tropical leaves. This oriole is dwarfed, lost but for his coal-bright orange.

Swainson's thrushes were everywhere in this disturbed, mid-elevation habitat. They looked strange to me against the odd forms of leguminous pods, but they felt perfectly at home.
A female ruby-throated hummingbird fed at the flowers of a tree-sized composite plant, perhaps a Senecio. Its perfume made me swoon.
Hurry home and see us, Mrs. Hummingbird. On second thought, wait a bit. The weather's still iffy. Wherever we went, black-and-white warblers combed the tree trunks, huge and small, for insectile delicacies. I'll see you in April, my dear, as you scour the oak limbs for sleeping spiders back home.
One of my favorite pictures of the trip is this little yellow-bellied flycatcher in the understory of a fishtail palm plantation at Los Tarrales, impatiens glowing in the background. I'll be listening for his plaintive chu-wee? in my backyard in May.
Enough on those Neotropical migrants, Ms. Zickefoose. Move on to the tropical residents. Start with me, the barred antshrike.
You are a fine birdie indeed, even though you and your mate skulk in the shadows. We'll talk about tropical residents next. Ah, sun, ah, exotica.



Your descriptions of some birds I've never seen, combined with your photos, makes me melt and sigh... I'd be so lucky to see a Baltimore Oriole here.

"I'll see you in April, my dear, as you scour the oak limbs for sleeping spiders back home."

I choose your words to repeat, eloquent and precious.


I'm enjoying reading your entries about Guatemala. The photos are great.

Shade grown coffee is the only way to go. My favorite is Mexico from Coffee for the Birds. It is so worth the extra cost.

What a treat to see some of our familiars in that setting. I'm looking forward to seeing the tropical birds next. Great photos, Julie.

We're in for yet more snow this morning.

Unlike you, I am weak and prone to succumbing to desires so I still drink coffee. I don't even WANT to give it up yet. I am, however, starting to keep my eyes open for shade-grown coffee, but it's not that common in the places I normally shop. Buying shade-grown seems like a way we can help the birds, even if only a little.

How cool to see "our birdies" there before their treacherous journey! Hope they make it here.

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