Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wild Life in the Jungle

While we’ve made a lot of progress on the guest cabin and the property, the interesting stuff this week has been the animals around here, both wild and domestic.

The night after I last posted on the blog, Tom and I were playing cribbage – which we do almost every other night on the nights when we’re not playing dominoes, barely able to tolerate the excitement of living out in the jungle – we suddenly heard a roaring. The dogs all pricked their ears and started barking, and Tom and I looked at each other and…smiled.

It was the howler monkeys, which we hadn’t heard since the dry season last year, and I don’t know if we’ve ever heard them this close to the cabin. They sounded like they were just on the other side of the road. They raised a ruckus for fifteen or twenty minutes, then either calmed down or moved on to feed somewhere else. But, they were back at about 4:30am, waking both us and the dogs. We get all out of sorts if the dogs bark and wake us at night or early in the morning, but we both thought it was sort of cool to have the howler monkeys wake us. We seem to like thinking we’re waking up in Jurassic Park, which is how the howler monkeys sound. This is what they sound like: Howler monkey sound

Although we like the howler monkeys, we like the kinkajous less and less. Actually, it’s not the kinkajous themselves we dislike – they’re pretty cute and sometimes entertaining to watch with a spotlight in the tree over our cabin – it’s the fact that they throw stuff onto the metal roof in the middle of the night and wake our dogs, which always results in a five dog howling concert, with two cranky people yelling “Shut up!” at the top of their lungs. We’ve asked, and so far our neighbors say we haven’t disturbed their sleep. If I remember correctly, the kinkajous, also known as nightwalkers because they only come out at night, won’t be around much longer because they’ll eat all the fruits off the tree, so then we’ll get a good night’s sleep again.

Tom found this little hummingbird nest with babies in it in the little tree just outside his shop. We’ve been watching them, and sometimes they all lie in a row sleeping, and sometimes they’re all up with their mouths open. They don’t “peep peep peep” like other baby birds, they just sit there silently waiting for their mother. I have no idea what kind of hummingbirds they are since the Birds of Belize book has about six pages of hummingbirds that all look the same to me, but they’re bigger than the ruby throated hummingbirds we saw in NY.

We’ve also had a lot of other wild bird sightings. We saw an ocellated turkey on the road near San Antonio, which was about the same general size as the wild turkeys in NY, but a little taller and thinner with a very blue head. We’ve had so many toucans in the trees lately that we’ve stopped running out to look at them every time we hear them. The parrots are also back and very busy. I spent about ten minutes one day just watching two large green Amazon parrots feed in one of the trees. They acted like a couple of Sumo wrestlers. One would start pulling at the fruits, and the other would slowly waddle sideways along the branch with its wings puffed out, and would try to bump the eating parrot away from the fruit. The eating parrot would push back, and then instead of eating they’d start waddling back and forth bumping at each other and yelling. Eventually one of them would remember that they were on that branch to eat, and they’d start eating again.

I’ve also seen green jays in our yard, which are much more stunning than the blue jays we’re used to.

We saw a crimson collared tanager on the road near here. We seem to be turning into amateur birders, and the binoculars and the Birds of Belize book are almost always out on the table.

On the domestic animal front, I got on NessaRose last week. We were told she was broke to ride, but when we got her we didn’t think she’d ever be sound, so we didn’t really care. For the past month or so, she’s been walking sound in the pasture, and has even started trotting and cantering and kicking up her heels a little with the other horses, joining them in their Terrorize the Chickens game, led by Elphie, her yearling filly. So, I decided to see if she was rideable, and she is. She’s a little squirrelly when she’s being handled on the ground, so I wasn’t expecting much, but as soon as I put the saddle pad on her she calmed down and just acted like she knew what was happening. I saddled and bridled her, walked her around for a minute, and then got on, and she was a perfect lady. She felt a little short, but not lame, and she did exactly what I asked. I have to do a little research and make sure walking her under saddle is the best thing to do to help the leg continue to get better, but it looks like we’ll have another tourist horse.

Tom did a “first” today. He took a 1500 pound bull to the butcher. The bull belonged to Mark from down the road, and he realized when he was here a couple of weeks ago that prices for bulls on the hoof were going down as we get closer to the dry season, so he asked Tom to try to sell him ASAP. Tom asked around, and the best offer he got was from a butcher near Iguana Creek on the way to Spanish Lookout. Yesterday we took Tinkerbell over to Iguana Creek to pick up the butcher’s trailer, and then towed it up the very bumpy Georgeville Road and left it at Mark’s place, so Pepe the bull could contemplate it for his last night. Tom left early this morning, a little worried both about loading the bull and about pulling the loaded trailer down the Georgeville Road, but everything went fine.

Tom said Pepe was on the trailer in about two minutes, the trip down the road was slow but uneventful, and they had no trouble unloading him onto the scale at the butchers. I didn’t want to go because I felt bad taking Pepe to be butchered, which makes no sense because a) I eat meat, b) I’m not all that fond of cows in general with their snotty noses and diarrhea butts, and c) nobody really liked Pepe because he was sort of scary and not at all friendly. Fortunately Tom did not experience any of my qualms, and it didn’t turn into too much of an adventure – although next time I buy beef I’ll be wondering whom I’m eating.

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