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A Letter to my Brother

Sarah Faegre | Jul 23, 2008


January 11th 2008

A letter to my brother:
(My brother, at this time, was in India, studying a percussion instrument called tabla).

My Dearest Brother Brendan,

I am thinking of you today, as I sit in a little palm-leaf blind, watching a blue-throated macaw nest, because of some absolutely incredible bird songs I've been hearing-These funny little ground-dwelling swamp birds called Grey-necked Wood Rails seem to have a dancing ground by the lagoona here on the uninhabited and totally wild Isla Grande.  From what I have seen so far, they seem to gather together is small groups of 4 or 5 birds, and then go marching around in circles with short, stiff little steps, singing a veritable orchestra of sounds, the majority of which are very percussive, while others are like rhythmic, staccato notes on a flute.  You know I hate dancing, but the rhythm that these birds weave, while strutting on their swampy patch of ground gives me the most bizarre urge to get up and start dancing to the rhythm that they so forcefully flute into the uninhabited swamp.  The most recent of their singing bouts was so enticing that I just had to dance my way towards the swamp, my rubber boots clunking and slurping awkwardly in the mud, while the rest of my body moved in time with the quick staccato beat.  Can't you imagine if I actually managed to join the birds: me strutting and bobbing through the swamp with a group of funny-looking, green-billed birds who were acting as my band and dancing, much more gracefully than me, all around my tall, rubber boots? 

Luckily I have made a decent recording of the rails quartet, using the video mode on my camera and I can't wait to play it for you!  Maybe you can use it as inspiration for a future composition-or maybe you will just have to get up and dance...Hey-we could make my recording into a loop and then invite all our friends to a dance party.  And maybe we could all dress up like birds and dance in circles in the swampy ditches beside the road.  So many good ideas!

I've been in the wild savannahs of Bolivia for just over 2 months now.  I love it here, though sometimes I'm a bit lonely.  I miss you and mom and dad and Flynn and Limey a lot.  About a week ago a friend of mind from the HawkWatch job came down and joined the Blue-throated Macaw project, so of course I have been much less lonely since then.  But still, it's not the same as family. 

Wow- a Crane Hawk just landed in the nest tree, right next to the cavity that I am watching.  The Crane Hawk is a large, grey and black bird with extremely long, bright orange legs, which it uses to reach into tree cavities and pull out baby birds (including Blue-throated Macaws!).  Luckily, the macaw chick in this nest is huge (about 2 lbs.) and would probably be too difficult a meal for the hawk...but you never know.

Steve and I got up early today to make the hour and 15 minute trek through the flooded savannah to Isla Grande, where our goal is to hide in the blind until the parents come to feed their chick, so that we can take close-up photos of their faces, which will be compared to photos from past years.  The BTMs have feathered lines running across bare, white skin on their faces, which can essentially be used like a fingerprint to ID individuals.

—End of letter—

This letter, written in my field journal, ends abruptly because I heard the BTM adults approaching the nest.  I grabbed my camera, kept as still and silent as possible, and waited, hoping to finally get those face shots...