Tag: Mohawk

Instagram Feeds

Instagram Feeds

We’ve been seeing so many incredible birds (Colombia has more bird species than any other country) and vintage cars (Colombia also seemingly has more vintage SUVs than any country) that I decided to (or succumbed to) start a couple Instagram feeds. Feel free to follow, if you’re so inclined.

Birds: Balakay @balakaysbirds

Cars: Vanablog @workingvintages

Some Cock-of-the-Rocks

Some Cock-of-the-Rocks

Caught a few of these Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks just outside Jardin, Colombia. Beautiful, crazy birds.

The males, as you can see, have disk-like mohawks and brilliant blood-orange plumage. They head-bang and squeal (kinda sound like pigs; see video below) when courting females. We didn’t actually see any females, however. At least we don’t think we did. Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks, like many birds, exhibit sexual dimorphism: the females are much smaller and duller than the males.


Speaking of Jardin, we’ve decided to stay here for a month. It’s a gorgeous pueblo, and we fell in love with it the moment we arrived. We even got the kids enrolled in the local schools and Everett’s joined a soccer team and Paheli’s taking ballet. I’ll update the blog with more stories as we further explore the city and surrounding countryside.

The Resplendent Quetzal!

The Resplendent Quetzal!

After three failed attempts — once near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, once in Monteverde National Park in Costa Rica, and once in Santa Elena National Park in Costa Rica — we finally saw one! Four in fact.

Parque Nacional Los Quetzales

We decided, or I suppose I forced, we’d give spotting the quetzal one final shot. One final cloud forest. So we chose the park with the name that alludes to its prominent feature. We also decided to hire a guide (we’d hired one in Guatemala as well). While our guide didn’t actually take us into the park — just a quick hike off the road, which kinda felt like a ripoff — he ultimately delivered. A moss-wrapped avocado tree where two males and two females were eating breakfast.

They were younger quetzals, as demonstrated by the length of the males’ (the more brightly colored ones) tails. Older males can have feathers up to three feet long — Moctezuma’s headdress in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City is made of quetzal feathers. They were breathtaking nonetheless. Check out these beauties below.

(The shot above and the first five below were taken with a Nikon P900; the bottom photo and video were taken with an iPhone through a Swarovski telescope, which is a remarkably crystal clear device. I suppose that’s where that description comes from. I’ve literally never seen anything like it.)

Birds of Lago Atitlan

Birds of Lago Atitlan

Hay mucho.

El Mirador

We went to see two things: the cloud forest and a quetzal. We saw one of those things.

The Resplendent Quetzal is the state bird of Guatemala. It lives up to its name. It has a dainty, yellow beak, an awesome mohawk, coral blue shoulders, a royal red belly, and a lime green forked tail that’s as twice as long as its body. It looks like, to me at least, the bird your kids would imagine after being asked to draw and color a tropical bird from some foreign country (see photo above, courtesy of Wikipedia). I’m hoping to see one in person one day….

(Since being in Guatemala, I’ve had this fantasy — which unfortunately demonstrates my ego; it’s also muy Colonel Kurtz of me — about a quetzal landing on my shoulder in some city centre and then the locals, shortly thereafter, declaring me king. The quetzal, which I’d name Buster, would remain on or near my should for the rest of my life and would become my best friend while the two of us guided Guatemala into the most advanced, progressive, and stable country in the world. We’d also eat a lot of Sponches together.)

Bird Noises

No roosters necessary here. A varietal of birds will wake you every morning.

Great-tailed Grackles start the morning with a fire alarm. Followed by a mechanical clacking. Then finish with a broken bicycle bell honk. While they do this, they fan their great tails and flaunt their long necks, fawning for other grackles. Or perhaps the campers. Then Tropical Mockingbirds, a white and grey and fairly clandestine bird, until it’s time to call, will sing through its entire songbook of calls. This takes several minutes. Then finally, the clay-colored thrush, a drab, dirt-colored bird that’s risen to the distinction of the state bird of Costa Rica, will complete a variety of “pretty bird” whistles. These beautiful “noises” will wake you by six.

Dog Fighters

We’ve narrowed it down to three: Black-Capped Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, and/or White-throated Swift. Our guts, our eyes really, think it’s one of the swallows, based on wingspan alone. But we’re not sure. They are swift. And erratic. They zig and zag and dive and dash like dog fighters in Top Gun. They also get particularly active at dusk. Given their shape and flight patterns, they’re easy to confound with bats.

Hummingbird Haven

For the next three weeks and for last three weeks — yes, I’m behind with the posts — we’ve been staying at a campground slash hotel, Pasaj Cap. Check it out here. It was built from stones and wood harvested onsite, and designed by a French architect, Pierre, with modernist and minimalists proclivities. The landscaping is lush and vibrant. Hummingbirds flutter everywhere. I’ve seen both the Cinnamon and White-eared Hummingbirds just outside our windows.

La Nariz del Indio

We hiked Indian Nose, as the locals say to us gringos, yesterday. Didn’t see many birds. Our guide, Clemente, who is also our Spanish tutor, blamed that fact on the locals clearcutting the forests. I did, or at least I think I did, see a Blue-and-White Mockingbird — I wasn’t confident enough in the spot to claim it in my bird log. I was, however, impressed with the hike. Incredible, panoramic views of the lake (see below).

Otros Pajaros

Quick list of other unique (to me at least) birds we’ve seen here: White-winged Dove, Bronzed Cowbird, Western Wood-Pewee, Yellow Warbler, Blue-gray Tanager, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and Black-venter Oriole. Hoping to see a lot more before we depart.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret


Another Mohawk! (Kinda hard to tell from the picture I took.)

The Snowy Egret is an elegant and entertaining wader. A couple days before, I’d fallen asleep watching a Great Blue Heron do nothing on the shore in this same location. In contrast, this fella was skipping, running, dancing, whatever, to catch little fishies being pushed upstream by the ocean tide into the San Luis Rey River.



Steller’s Jay

Steller’s Jay

Another mohawk! This jay has bold colors — midnight denim on top and royal blue on bottom — coupled with a bold attitude. He hoodwinked us initially with a melodic owl-like hoodle hoodle, and then, as it neared our picnic table to pilfer our leftover pizza crust, it began sounding like a belligerent car alarm. Then Grant, our usually mellow mutt, felt protective of the crust and scared the poops out of the bird and me (see video).




Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Saw a few of these bosses flying inches above the water scouting little fishies while I was paddle boarding the Nehalem River. Cool Tar Heel blue on its flanks. Radical mohawks.