Thursday, February 18, 2010

death and near-death

So I posted the wrong picture of the Parula last time.

Check it. It´s really just here to soften the blow of the next pic.

This Rufous-naped Brush-finch wasn’t as lucky as the others.

Don’t worry we gave him a nice catholic burial out in front of the house.

We really need to invest in some stickers or something for the windows. I mean we’re supposed to be trying to preserve wildlife and biodiversity right?

At least it wasn’t a volunteer that died.

This morning I was re-cutting the cascada trail that follows a rushing stream up through lush humid forest. It’s gorgeous. There are fern-encrusted cliff faces, waterfalls, tropical flowers, and the nest of one of Ecuador’s marquee bird species, the Andean Cock-of-the-rock.

Here’s what the chicks looked like back on 1-24.

They’ve really plumped up and gotten some good color in the past few weeks and must be nearing time to fledge.

So far so good.

During the rainy season, the river swells and erases the path and redefining it becomes a bit of a Sisyphean task. For much of the trail, the path is simply the river itself, especially after the full day of rain we had yesterday.

After a lot of machete hacking and slogging through the torrent we reached the point where the trail diverges from the river and climbs directly up the vertiginous valley wall back to the farm. Just was I was about to announce our progress to my sole companion, ´Martha´ I heard an exclamation and turned to see her, several plants and a truckload of loose dirt which had just been part of the path disappear from sight.


Fortunately, despite falling a good 35 feet down to the rocky river, she hadn´t broken anything. I backtracked until I reached a point of the trail at her level and pressed through the thick vegetation, clawing at flimsy vines and stalks and the shear dirt wall. I found her a bit shaken and bruised, but otherwise seemingly fine.

Getting out was a challenge of its own. My two crossings of the impromptu path was all it could handle. Just as I reached its junction with the trail, what soil was left for purchase dropped away and suddenly we were separated: she trapped on a precarious platform of loose dirt, and thorny sticks and me on the path to safety just out of reach. So I retrieved my machete and cleared plants from above so I could reach down and help her traverse the gap.

While she is convinced that I saved her life, all I will say is that I perform well under pressure. It comes with the cool head.

No pictures obviously, but I´ll get some up later that will hopefully capture what ´a 35 foot fall into a rocky river´ or ´a landslide´ might look like.

Stay safe


Lo said...

I reiterate, bad things didn´t happen when we were there, what the heck is going on!?! Sorry to hear about the bird death :(

Pam said...

YIKES. Cool head is right. Scott, I've always had a lot of confidence in glad everyone is safe.

BobDad said...

Hi Scott,
I thought I had left a post for this, but you know me and technology. anyway, cool head indeed! It's a good thing yours and 'Martha's roles were not reversed. So use this as a warning. You'd best anticipate well when not in a large group because not everyone has your capability in that regard. For sure!