Like jays everywhere, the magpie jays here are bold, loud, and defensive.

Not too long ago now, it seems, I stopped bothering with an alarm clock.  I didn’t bring one to C.R. with me, figuring that I’d have a year (give or take) to wake up whenever I darn-well felt like it.  And I have.  It’s glorious, given my former 5AM alarm-snooze habit and the hate-hate relationship I’ve always had with anything that dared interrupt my sleep (well, most things…).  These days, it’s usually the cat waking me up around 6 to be let out, then the sun waking me up again around 7:30.  I don’t mind the cat- I just reach up, open the window I can touch from the bed, and out he goes.  The sun is okay too.  It’s a slow-and-easy wake up call.

Aracaris letting the whole world know there is a thief in the jungle.

Recently, something rather loud and unusual woke me.  A cacophony of birds. Normally, birds wake up with the sun and get started making noise right away, but it doesn’t phase me.  I sleep like the dead.  One particular morning, though, they were not to be denied.  They screeched.  They cried.  They screamed.  They made noises no bird should ever make, especially not in large numbers at 5 in the morning.  After listening to them grumpily for about 10 minutes, the import of that kind of noise began to sink in.  I could recognize the ridiculously loud call of the blue magpie jays, and the crackly-croak of what I think is a type of grackle, the sweeter trills of some of the local song birds twisted in anger, the piercing cries of parrots and parakeets, and a strange clacking call that I recognized but couldn’t put feathers to.  That’s what really got me moving: the desire to see if I could figure out what bird made that noise.  And figure it out I did.  Sitting directly in front of my porch, in the tree that shades me as I write, was a strange congress of birds, including the elusive and gorgeous collared aracari.  There were three or four of every type of bird I mentioned gathered there.  It was bizarre beyond belief.

And then I saw why.

One BIG snake!

Curled up in the crook of that tree, right at eye level with me and my camera, was the biggest snake I have ever seen in the wild.  He was huge.  As big around as my forearm, and probably 6 feet long.  Maybe more.  It was hard to tell, since he was in ‘hide my head from those damn birds’ mode.  Fortunately, I’m not a wuss when it comes to animals, and I wasn’t scared.  It was a boa.  Until they’re as big around as my thigh and 15 feet long they don’t pose me much threat, and my cat is too smart to go get squeezed by one in broad daylight (or at the crack of dawn).

Even the songbirds were getting in on the action.

I watched and shot photos for at least half an hour as that group of birds, one or two at a time, dive-bombed the snake. They never quite touched him, but they made darn sure he knew they saw him and weren’t about to let him rob their nests without a fight.  And they were letting every other animal in the neighborhood know he was there, too.  Eventually, under extreme duress, the snake unwound itself and slithered back down the tree.  Once he was gone, the birds dispersed, though the jays kept coming back off and on all day to make lots of noise.  I think they were just checking to make sure he’d left the area and wasn’t coming back.

The boa wisely did it's best to hide it's head from the diving birds.

I was excited to see the aracaris.  They aren’t nearly as plentiful or visible as the parrots and parakeets, so that was a treat.  But more, it was truly fascinating to watch all those different species of birds, most of which don’t share the same level of the troposphere, acting together in concert against a shared enemy.  It’s Mama Nature at her finest, proving that we can all work together if we’ve got the right motivation.

Ready. Set. Go!

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