Saturday, April 23, 2011

paging joyce kilmer

No myth is worth its bark without a good tree in its supporting cast.

Where would Lord of the Rings be without Treebeard and the Forest of Fangorn?  Or To Kill a Mockingbird without the hollow oak?  Or Macbeth
without Birnam Wood?  (Come to think of it, Shakespeare seems to have had trouble getting out of the woods in a series of his plays.)

If Mexico had a mythological tree, it would probably be the guanacaste.  (It certainly made the cut as Costa Rica's national tree.)

Magnificent is a perfect adjective for this wonder.  If any political party ever needed an emblem for the "big tent" theory of inclusion, this would be the tree.

I saw my first guanacaste during my Yucatan tour with islagringo.  At Sayil, the guanacaste (called pich trees by the Maya) grew along the royal causeway.  Stealing the show from the ruins.  Tall with a very wide canopy.

I thought I would never see another guanacaste unless I made a return visit to Yucatan.  I was wrong.

Earlier this week I drove up to the mirador to see if the view was still there.  It was.

On the drive down, I caught a flash of blue.  What I thought was a lazuli bunting.  I have been trying to get a photograph of one for a year.  So, I stopped, pulled out my camera and binoculars, and started my stalk.

There were birds everywhere.  Some old stand-bys.  Grackles.  Common ground doves.  Yellow-winged caciques.  Hooded orioles.  And, of course, the ubiquitous house sparrows.

But there were also new sightings for me.  What I thought was a lazuli bunting wasn't.  If you enlarge the photograph at the top of the post by clicking on it, you will notice that bird is not simply blue.  It looks as if it flew through an airbrush test range. 

A painted bunting?  Naw.  Too close to the analogy.  But I have no idea what it is.

And then there was  a citreoline trogon.  They are a common bird around here.  But very shy.  Whenever I would try to focus either my camera or binoculars on it, it was awing.  I have some great back shots.  They may as well be Yeti photographs.

And then there were three white-throated magpie jays. 

I heard them before I saw them.  As loud as teen-age boys on motor scooters.  When I caught a glimpse of the first one in the tree branches, I thought I had discovered a chachalaca -- until I saw the odd crest on the head.  It could only be a magie jay. 

I watched them for well over an hour as they clowned their way through each of the surrounding trees.  Upsetting the other bird families -- knowing full well that jays, like Lenin, believe that a few eggs need to be cracked now and then.

It didn't take me long to figure out why they were there.  In the middle of the field below the road was a guanacaste.  Not quite as resplendent as a Maya pich.  But almost.

And the birds certainly did not know the difference.  To them, the tree was as deluxe as a Manhattan brownstone.

That evening I opened Marc Olson's blog only to discover he had composed a prose ode to the guanacaste.  It was a good tree day.

I have returned several times to the guanacaste in Melaque this past week.  I have lots of photographs to prove it.  Unfortunately, most of them are not very good.  Shooting into the shadows with plenty of light filtering through the branches is a photographer's nightmare.

I will keep trying.  I suspect some of you might be interested in what things my brain fancies.

One you already know.



Francisco said...

I enjoyed this post of birds and trees. Give a listen to Cat Steven's song "King of Trees". I think you will like it.

Felipe Zapata said...

You do have a fancy brain. No doubt.

johncalypso said...

We get those little colorful birds (in your top photo) in the back yard at the beach house. There is a pair that hangout - very colorful.

Steve Cotton said...

I listened to it ob YouTube just now. I had forgotten how he and Harry Chapin had a similar sound back in that era.

Steve Cotton said...

At least a restless one.

Steve Cotton said...

They are beautiful little birds -- whatever their name is.

Kwallekno said...

There was an old hollow oak in the wood lot behind my folk's house when I was growing up, it had small hole at the bottom where a sucker tree had died off leaving a perfect entry for a gang of little boys. Room for 4-5 kids to stand looking up at the sky from inside the tree.
Years later when I had my first little one, I told her we were in the real Hundred Acre Wood and you know who lived in that very tree. We tromped around looking for Pooh because he was not home at the time of our visit, The next child came along and the first child played along with the story, as did the second when the third child was old enough to visit the Hundred Acre Wood. Looking forward to grandchildren, I am.

Steve Cotton said...

Great tree tale.

Nita said...

Your beautiful bird is the Orange-breasted Bunting, Similar to the Rose-bellied but has a greenish crown. Just as pretty as the Painted Bunting.

Marc said...

I enjoyed this post. You've touched two of my favorite subjects, magnificent trees and exotic new species of birds. How wonderful it is that they often come together.

Steve Cotton said...

The timing on your post and my experience were certainly interesting. Thanks, Marc.

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks, Nita. I thiought it might be an organge-breasted bunting, but the reddish spot and his blue body appeared far more pronounced than my bird books show. But I think you are correct.

Amiga said...

boojum tree, (Idria columnaris), tree that is the only species of its genus, in the family Fouquieriaceae. The boojum tree is an unusual plant found native only in the deserts of Baja California and Sonora, Mexico. Fancifully, it resembles a slender upside-down carrot, up to 15 metres (50 feet) tall and covered with spiny twigs that bear yellowish flowers in hanging clusters. As with its relative the ocotillo, the small leaves fall early, leaving the greenish stems to carry out food-producing photosynthesis.

My grandfather who was born in 1900 and passed in 2000, was born in Mexico when my great-grandfather was surveying the Mexico/Arizona border. He often sang of this tree, I believe it's from Lewis Carroll

in the midst of the word he was trying to say
In the midst of his laughter and glee
He had softly and suddenly vanished away
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

To me this tree epitomizes Mexico, every year traveling in the summers, he would sing songs made up about the Boojum tree. He too became a civil engineer like his father. Fought in Africa with General Patton and surveyed the Hoover Dam, among many other accomplishments. 5PM was always rum time, and he was alway read for a game of poker or fishing.
He served his life well.