Sunday, December 16, 2012

Laguna Cartegna 12/10: Stuck in the Mud; ORANGE BISHOP

Monday, 12/10, was the day we were supposed to get down to serious birding. As we did 2 years ago, we hired Hilda Morales of Birding Puerto Rico to guide us at some local hot spots. Before we even left the grounds of the hotel we added another year bird; buzzing around the branches of tree we got very good looks at a female Antillean Mango (not a fruit, a hummingbird).

The first place we wanted to go was Laguna Cartegna, a large expanse of fresh water set among farmland about 20 miles from Guanica. We were there 2 years ago briefly with Hilda and it was a great place to be. We met her at 8 o'clock at the entrance to the farm road that leads to the lagoon about 2 miles along it. We birded the road, stopping our cars every hundred yards or so. Hilda found a mixed flock of bishops--ORANGE BISHOP which we both saw, and the much rarer Yellow-crowned Bishop, which only Shari saw, and I am gnashing my teeth as I write this.  Neither of these birds was in their colorful breeding plumage and the bishop I saw could easily be mistaken for a sparrow. But, they're still life birds.

Traveling up the road we found both Yellow-faced Grassquit and Black-faced Grassquit, the endemic Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Puerto Rican Flycatcher, along with a couple of species of migratory warblers, swallows, and many Cattle Egret, this flock sticking to tradition and hanging out with the cows. Gray Kingbirds seemed to be on the wires every 20 feet. And we also saw another favorite southern species doing the high-wire act, Smooth-billed Ani.
Smooth-billed Ani
Photo: Shari Zirlin
So things were going along great and we hadn't even reached the lagoon itself. About a mile up the road there is a barn yard just before the refuge's property begins. Hilda asked a guy there who was cutting up branches what condition the road was in. He told her the recent rains had made it very muddy. I walked up the road a bit and looked at the puddles and didn't think much of them. I've driven through much worse on Martha's Vineyard. Hilda asked the man if she could leave her vehicle with him as we didn't need 2 cars now. He said okay. Now, Hilda has a 4-wheel drive. If Hilda wasn't willing to drive her vehicle up that road, maybe we should have thought about that. But we didn't. Up the dirt road we went in our rent Kia. We splashed through a couple of puddle without incident. Then Shari came to one that looked deeper. She steer to put on set of wheels on the rim of the puddle but went too fast and too far and--splooosh! We were stuck in the mud.

And let me tell you, this was mud of a particularly noxious variety--viscous, sucking mud that smelled like and probably was in good part, shit. As Shari tried to back out, she only went deeper and splattered more mud over the hood and windows. I tried to push but there was no way I was going to get that car out of the mud. Meanwhile, I was sinking past my ankles.
Just as I thought we were going to have to call Hertz emergency service, 2 cyclists came up the road. The young man saw the problem and said we needed to put something under the tire to get traction. So we walked back to the farm yard and took some planks of scrap wood, placing them underneath the car. He and I got in front to push and Shari tried to gun her way out of the mud but it didn't work. Just more mud flung every which way.

Again, I was ready to call Hertz and have hell to pay when speeding up the road came an old Nissan with 2 young workers from the farm. Apparently, this was not such an uncommon circumstance, because they had a chain to pull the car out. But they were reluctant because they were afraid of damaging the car. "It's only money if they damage the bumper," I thought, so I told them to go ahead. I figured it would take a 15 or 20 minutes to get everything set up, but faster than you read that sentence they had the chain attached and while one guy drove, three of us pushed the front as Shari also gave it the gas and in five seconds we were out of the mud! I gave everybody $20 (I was going to give more but Hilda looked at me like I was crazy) and we turned the car around.
Shari & 2 of our rescuers
What we were stuck in
Photo: Shari Zirlin
Before we left, the woman cyclist knelt down near the trench Shari had dug and pulled out a coqui. On Puerto Rico, at night, you hear coquis all the time. Their name is onomatopoetic: CoKEE, coKEE.  I knew they were tiny frogs. I didn't know they were the half the size of my thumbnail. Unfortunately, with the long lens on the camera we couldn't take a photo of the critter. But I was astounded that something as tiny as that frog could make such a loud noise.

Now that we were free of the muck and mire, it was time to figure out where else we could go.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh, don't you love cyclists! Sounds like my kind, too ... muck around in shitty smelling mud to find frogs!