Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Stars, Birds and Photoplankton

20 minutes from Puerto Escondido is a 5 mile long saline - freshwater laguna that changes salinity depending on the season. This gives it an abundance of diverse and specialized life which has evolved over centuries to pick a niche in which to flourish.

My friend Margarito is a fisher on the Laguna. The father of Rudy.

I went on a bird tour with a Canadian naturalist who knows the area well.  Most interesting of birds were a particular vulture who has adapted to the eating of corpses, by growing no feathers on her head.  That way she can stick the whole skull deep into the carcass and not have to do any real cleaning or preening.

Anyone who knows birds, know that they are fastidious groomers. The vultures' other secret weapon is an adaptation whereby they always defecate on their legs and feet.

This way the icky maggots they must stand around get no traction up their body.

Not a story for breakfast but fascinating nonetheless.

Next we get the frigate birds, named after pirate ships, whose entire feeding is based on banging on other birds heads with a specially adaptive 'whacking' beak, or just pulling out their tail feathers so that the other birds get so upset they either vomit all their stomach contents or drop the fish they captured.

Try teaching that to your kids.

Then a very tufted Ibis doing a gentle and beautiful courtship ritual, slowly moving his wings in small, small graceful movements, while he gently offered his mate a large branch with his beak, to help build the nest one branch below.

I could hear Gershwin 'American in Paris' ballet playing as we looked at the interplay between both glorious birds.

Finally a personal favourite in honour of March 8th, the poly-andryous Jiacana.  A duck of whom the females will mate with some 5 to 6 males.  Lay eggs in 5 to 6 different nests while running between them, the nests being quite aways, away from each other. The different males incubate the eggs in each nest and when the chick's hatch, her males do all the caring and feeding.

The Laguna is also magical as it has phosphorescent plankton.  On our second night we took a tour in the dark of the New Moon. You go out on a launcha, a small boat, and drive to shady mangroves.

Catherine was sceptical  but agreed to give it a chance.

Jump out into the warm waters and notice that every rapid movement of feet or hands, anything producing ripples or currents causes all the plankton to glow iridescent. You are like a human glow stick. The water around you lighting like blue fireflies.

The new waxing crescent sank beneath the mangrove wall of jungle and all you could see were stars.

Up high in the Centre, the Milky Way, like a pale ribbon at the dome of the sky.

In the pitch dark paddling about, the stars clear and brilliant above us. All the other swimmers laughing and giggling, speaking Spanish. All swimming around the boat for an hour making glowing faint marks to honour, I think, the stars.

Catherine swims up to what she hopes is me, a figure in the dark water.

OK. She says " This is one of the best days of my life."


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