Tag Archives: Birds of Costa Rica

Hummingbird in a Cone

First thing in the morning as I stand yawning in the doorway of the house in the woods, a hummingbird comes buzzing over and hovers urgently, vertical like a seahorse, a short distance from the end of my nose. After six seconds, she fixes me with a stare, turns and whirs off into the forest. Initially I considered whether she might be saying ‘Come quickly! All the big birds are attacking us little birds, and we need your help’, but when I spotted her nest, I realised she was saying ‘You’ve seen nothing. Tell no-one, and keep away or you’ll get a jab where it hurts. Right?’

She is a long-billed hermit hummingbird, and she’s been building a conical nest suspended from a low palm frond a few feet from my door. She puts about four hours in a day, disappearing into the forest and returning a couple of minutes later with stuff trailing from her beak, leaf matter and straw-fine twigs, soft petals, and strands from spiders’ webs. She uses the strong strands to bind the nest to the leaf, flying in a tight spiral to wind each one around the nest and leaf bundle, and pressing them into place with her chest. Then she attends to the interior, sitting in it like a scoop in a cone and shuffling about to tamp down the surfaces. She has the afternoons off.

I once found an egg-cup style hummingbird’s nest lined with a finely-woven layer of gold. I’d cut George’s hair in the garden, and the bird had gathered it. It was  the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. This conical nest isn’t pretty, but it’s an ingenious design in a top location. Palm fronds are tough, corrugated and end in a point, and the harder it rains, the more they bow down to the ground, giving a steeper surface for the rain to run off. The hummingbird’s nest, tucked underneath in the arch of the leaf, always well-protected – and hidden, is almost completely enclosed in a deluge.

I saw her in the forest a couple of days ago, but generally now she is in the nest with only a white-tipped tail visible. She has probably laid a couple of eggs which should hatch in two or three weeks. It was a real privilege watching her build the nest, but now, in order to minimise the risk of her abandoning them, I’m going to stay well away.


Tagged , , ,

The Birds

the birdsI like work. When I’m not working, I’m generally on a tight schedule of double-booked stuff to do, which is harder than working. Therefore, it’s with some surprise that I discover I’m getting really good at doing nothing. It’s a skill, although I’m not sure how useful it is, or whether it’s irreversible. The days are full, but of what, I’m not sure. I mainly watch things happen, and time passes.

I never understood bird-watching before I came to Costa Rica. I still wouldn’t go out looking for birds, but I like it when I’m lying in a hammock, and they come by. This kind of bird-watching is more along the lines of people-watching – something you do when your book gets boring. I can drift in and out of dreams, and look up to see pelicans in formation, or dive-bombing off the rocks; scarlet macaws feeding, the crab hunter hawks circling, crested guan walking up the hill, the osprey fishing in the shallows, hummingbirds and scarlet-rumped tanagers. Obviously it helps that everything is either big, or superbly flashy, or shaped like a pterodactyl.

This will be the last bit from Thoreau for a while, but he not only submitted to the same thing, he justified it: ‘There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work. . . I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiselessly through the house, until by the sun falling at my west window, or the noise of some traveler’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like the corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands could have been.’

‘Far better’. There we go. Lazy is good.

Song of the day: The Sun by The Naked and Famous

Tagged ,
%d bloggers like this: