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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

FIELD NOTES 2 AND 3: AT THE HUMMER'S NEST



I have been very busy placing my work on the market, as a freelance naturalist and nature photographer keeping up with the times is a survival matter. 

As one may expect, working as a consultant on a botanical garden and nature reserve can be cumbersome, as one has to juggle one's skills between what man makes (the botanical garden) and what man manages a small cloud forest reserve.

On the 24th I arrived my work place early and I headed out to the Brilliant's hummingbird's nest. Upon my arrival to the cloud forest, the loud sound of a chainsaw reach my ears and it really puzzled me. What on earth could a person with a chainsaw be doing in a forest reserve. When I reached the whereabouts of the sound it turned out to be a gas powered blower! 

As it turns out, the maintenance crew was working cleaning the forest path. It has to be done to prevent snakes like ferdelances and forest rattlers to hide from plane sight. It helps a lot to keep chiggers and ticks off the visitors, a welcomed thing for anyone having had to deal with chiggers before. However, the noise scared the mama hummer away. I approached the workers and asked them if they had seen the nest (they have very keen eyes) and they showed me three! Well, I had only one to show, and they had passed it without noticing it. So I ask them if they could remove the leafs with another method and they said yes, but I had to tell their supervisor, as maintenance was on a tight schedule and they could not stop working for too long.

To make a long story short, I explained to the in house biologist that there were nesting birds on the footpath and that the noise was very disturbing. So she said we'll stop the use of blowers during the nesting period, and revert to raking the leafs. I asked her for a 30 day truce to enable the birds to care for their young and she told me that seemed the right thing to to. She was interested in seen the hummer's nest so we went together and when she saw the nest, she could not believe a well it was structured.

Well, having that out of the way, learning that other birds were nesting as well, and having the work crew tell me: Leo, its the beginning of the rainy season, that is why all the mother birds are nesting! was a revelation which had escaped me. The whole weather thing has changed so much, that I can hardly tell when one season ends and the other starts. In the tropics seasonality is different from the tempered regions. We only have a very defined dry and wet seasons with their respective intervals, however, presently, one cannot tell the intervals so easily. 

Planning a natural history or nature photography study is getting more demanding now days. So, as far as the day went, a few points in nature's favor were scored, and I learned to look for thrush, flycatcher and toucanet nests at the beginning of an unannounced rainy season.



One can never be too prepared for what awaits you during a nature field trip. Thus, on the 29th I had a very unpleasant thing happen. When I arrived at the hummers nest, lady hummer was not in sight. I thought great, the chicks most have hatched! then I got closer and I found a single egg in the nest, no adult hummer, and the inside of the nest seem a bit in disarray. Something was very wrong. I've got on my knees and checked the leaf litter below, my worst fears became true. There was an empty eggshell, it had been cleaned out, there was no signs of its content, so this happened at least a few days before. Forest micro fauna are effective scavengers and anything that reaches the forest floor is consumed very fast. There were no feathers, so either the bird flew away, or the predator swallowed it whole! (Snakes can do that), the optimist in me, says she took off! the realistic me said you'll never know.  

What did I learned:

Do not bet on a long term nature story without planning a contingency or an alternative subject to cover.

Document all angles that surrounds your theme, as they may become the leading story.

Talk to the locals all the time, they know the place better than you and they will be your greatest source of information when things change abruptly on you. This will enable you to have many contingency stories on your mental storyboard. 

Make photos of all things that attract your attention, if you are recording videos, supporting shots can make great fillers and info you may add to your work. Record your support material with the environmental audio working, however, plan for an off camera narration back at the studio. If you are doing stills take as many as you can to support your story.

As a freelance writer, when I go on a trip, I try to take as many photos as I can. This enables me to write about photography, travel, nature, technology, equipment and so forth. This will help you develop new stories once you get home.

We will see you soon, with more field experiences with nature and camera.

Best Regards

Leopoldo Garcia








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