White Hawk for Black Friday

White Hawk, Belize

White Hawk, Belize

Spotted this hawk while clambering on a tricky trail in the rainforests of Belize.  He sat there quietly watching us.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Posted in Birds, Central America, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Celebrating Earth’s Abundance

Squash Display

Squash Display

Longwood Gardens, PA

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Posted in America, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

House Finch Grace

House Finches (Calif.), male on L, female on R

House Finches (Calif.), male on L, female on R

Rare birds are always a treat, and I certainly enjoy searching the globe for birds I have not seen.  But common birds add a spirited pinch of life to each and every day, and that’s a true gift.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Posted in America, Birds, California, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Take a Break

Marine Iguana

Marine Iguana

Marine Iguana, Galapagos Islands.  Photo:  Athena Alexander

Posted in Nature, South America, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | 25 Comments

The Train to Machu Picchu

Peru Rail Market Stands

Peru Rail Market Stands

Due to the nearly 8,000 foot altitude, ever-shifting earth, and popularity of Machu Picchu, getting to this Unesco World Heritage Site has its challenges.  Located deep in the Andes Mountains of southern Peru, your best bet for getting there is by train.

 

Peru Rail

Peru Rail, Agua Calientes

View of Urumbambu River from train

View of Urubamba River from train

 

Agua Calientes, Last stop

Agua Calientes, Last stop

The train service, Peru Rail, runs frequent journeys across the Sacred Valley past the Urubamba River, and through the picturesque Andes.  (Click for more:  Peru Rail and Machu Picchu .)

 

I boarded the train from the beautiful town of Ollantaytambo, from there it took 1.5 hours to get to Agua Calientes.  All train rides end in Agua Calientes.  Then buses take you up the final miles of steep roads and switchbacks to the sacred site.

 

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

(Click on Machu Picchu to read an earlier post I wrote about that adventure.)

 

Peru Rail Fashion Show

Peru Rail Fashion Show

For the return train ride, we were surprised with an animated fashion show!  A few women and two men modeled lovely alpaca wools, professionally parading up and down the train’s center aisle.  They were accompanied by a microphoned multi-lingual fashion description and price.  There was lively music, clapping, and passenger participation for this event.  Each piece was exquisitely designed and created.

Peru Rail Fashion Show

Peru Rail Fashion Show

 

Then after the fashion show was over, the elegant clothing was tucked away somewhere, and the same individuals who modeled the clothing delivered us tea and snacks.  This made me laugh.

 

Peru Rail service cart (attendant aka model)

Peru Rail service cart (attendant aka model)

Of all the train rides I have been on in this world, this was the most unique and memorable.  And the views, well they were simply awesome.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Posted in Nature, South America, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Leopard Haiku

Leopard, Botswana, Africa

Leopard, Botswana, Africa

Crouching and ready

Lustrous coat reveals success

A brilliant hunter

 

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

 

Posted in Africa, Haiku, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Orange-Breasted Falcon

Orange-breasted Falcon, Belize

Orange-breasted Falcon, Belize

The fog was dense and wet, and viewing anything more than ten feet ahead was impossible.  Our guide said we just needed to wait for the fog to clear, to see the very rare falcon.  He had grown up nearby and spoke of it as a fact.  It was very early in the morning at Mountain Pine Ridge in Belize.

 

A rare bird in western Belize and Guatemala, Falco deiroleucus have been declining for decades, in spite of a captive-release program and the dedication of many scientists and ornithologists.  How rare?  Sadly, less than 40 pair.  (There are more elsewhere in Mesoamerica, primarily Panama, but the numbers are low, and reports vary.)  This falcon is listed as near threatened, primarily due to loss of habitat.  They nest in steep cliffs in tropical mature forests, a habitat that is quickly disappearing.

 

Belize, Mountain Pine Ridge

For 3 hrs. we only heard this waterfall, until the fog cleared

Three hours later, we had become very familiar with the top of this mountain…but still no falcon.  Hiking was not possible on this granite plateau in the forest, for the limestone and granite cliffs were sharp precipices.  So we photographed drenched cobwebs, pondered bushes and ground cover, shared favorite birding stories.  There was also a humble little craft stand.  A Mayan couple, the caretakers, lived here and she showed us all of her family’s craft work, each piece lovingly described and displayed.  (See earlier post, Magical Mayan Moments.)  But we were still waiting for the fog to clear, still waiting for the falcon.  Eventually it was time to leave.

 

Our van in Belize on the way to the forest

Our van in Belize on the way to the forest

 

Seven of us filed back into the van, bid adieu to the caretakers, started our drive down the isolated tree-lined lane.  The guide knew we should be moving on to our next destination, but still, he hesitated.  When he confessed, “I have never been here without seeing them” is when we all voted for Plan B.

 

As he slowly drove down the lane, we scanned each and every tree.  Being up on the ridge now, we had a different perspective.  And then he said, “I just heard it.”  We spastically tumbled out of the van, and at last we heard the falcon’s “kak-kak-kak.” The falcon landed on a limb several hundred feet away.  Cameras and binoculars were raised in a flurry, and the majestic falcon posed for several minutes, then disappeared over the ridge.

 

Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Posted in Birds, Central America, Nature, Travel, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments