Sunday, July 15, 2012

Seasons change but the warm days never end

There is something of an eternal summer feeling to life in Honduras, which suits me just fine. I spent much of my Canadian summers in a state of mild anxiety, trying to pack as much outdoor time as possible into the scant weekends when the days were warm enough for the beach. No more.
But while the warm days are virtually a constant here in Copan, the seasons do change. They bring different birds, different bugs, more or less leaves on the trees, a different feel to the day. 
Copanecos consider this time of year to be "winter," because it rains more. But whatever they want to call it, it's summer.  The flowering trees are in full bloom, the vegetation is lush and green. Young birds are everywhere, having hatched in the last couple of months and grown big enough to be testing out their wings and making those distinct and somewhat abrasive feed-me calls common to young birds the world over. 
The lizards clearly come into their own in the rainy season as well. The little barking geckos that hang around in the rafters of our house appear to be year-round residents, but since May I've seen and heard a lot more of the larger varieties skittering around in the gravel and dead leaves at the edges of the dirt roads I walk. But the dinosaur-like crested fellows that occasionally darted across the road on their hind legs have vanished, so I'll have to presume they prefer the dry months of February, March and April.
There is a particular type of cicada that sings in the trees in the runup to Semana Santa in March or April, and another kind that heralds the start of the rainy season in mid-May. Lately I've been hearing another kind with a higher pitch to its song, perhaps a variety that ushers in this pleasant period during July and August  that the Copanecos call "summer in the middle of winter." 
The days leading up to the rainy season also brought out an extraordinary number of small black and tan beetles, which I enjoyed until their numbers grew so large that I couldn't put a foot down near my desk at work without crushing one. They're gone now, as are the the leafcutter ants that a month ago were diligently carting bits of leaves past our front door every night. 
We arrived here in January, and I briefly thought Copan was going to be a place with cooler temperatures and more drizzle, because that was what that time of year tends to bring. But then the heat hit in mid-February and we went weeks without rain, and April brought a dry, intense heat that had us sweating through long, restless nights and rushing out to buy fans for our house and our overheated computers.
The rainy season arrived in mid-May and the brown hills were suddenly lush and green. I'd almost convinced myself that Copan was a place without many mosquitoes, but soon learned that's only true in the dry months. It has motivated me to keep taking those nasty, bitter malaria pills, and to hope that the locals are right in their assurances that dengue fever is a problem only on the coast.
If you're a birder like me, you also mark the changing seasons by what you see through your binoculars. The Montezuma oropendolas were splendid when we first got here, making their crazy yodelling calls and building magnificent dangling nests at the tops of the tallest trees. They've since moved on to wherever oropendolas go in July, but now the corn fields are full of white-collared seed eaters,  lesser goldfinches and grosbeaks, and the trees along the river are full of kiskadees and flycatchers.
May and June were fine months to see turquoise-browed motmots, exotic fellows with tails like cuckoo clocks. Copanecos know them as guardabarrancos for their habit of nesting in dirt cliffs. I spent several happy weeks seeing them on almost every bird walk. 
The sightings have become rarer in recent days, but in the last month I've seen collared aracaris twice. This place used to be thick with black vultures, but their ranks seem to have thinned lately. As for green herons, I need only walk a short distance to the sewage settling ponds, where they appear to be year-round residents.
Nobody seems to have a name for the season that starts around October, so I guess we'll see what that brings. People here in Copan consider that time of year to be frio, but that just means temperatures in the mid-20s. Hurricane season will be wrapping up right around then on the coast - could be the perfect time for that trip to Roatan we've been talking about. 
Fall will be settling in around Victoria about that time, and I will think fondly of that nice sharpness that the mornings get as a Canadian autumn takes hold.  But then I'll remember how Novembers tend to play out. I suspect a change of insects and another warm day will look pretty good at that point. 

1 comment:

Sharon said...

We've not lost the fall crispness, it's still with us, summer, in disguise.