ODD CONVERSATIONS WITH BIRDWATCHERS

BIRDWATCHERS MINGLING

The birdwatchers return from their bird watching, trickle in to the common area and mingle with one another. I really should be social — plus, my wine glass is empty — so I roll out of my cocoon and pull up a chair.

Just as we finish our informal introductions a guide breaks the circle, the cue for everyone to produce their Sheet. But I don’t have a Sheet. Sheetless, I longneck at my neighbor’s Sheet: column after column of small-point font. One by one, the guide reads-off the birds listed on the Sheet as the birdwatchers check-off those spotted today. One of the nice men in my trek group stops by to inquire politely about my solo hike. I begin to reply and

“SHUSSSSHHHH!” I can’t believe I’ve just been shusssshhhed by a birdwatcher.

BIRDWATCHERS EATING

Dinner is pleasant: the food is decent and the company amiable, although I have little to contribute to the blue-footed booby vs. brown booby debate. The woman seated next to me, in an effort to include me in conversation, inquires as to my favorite bird. I really like squab, if it’s prepared correctly.

“I’m not that into birds,” I reply.

The room goes silent.

BIRDWATCHERS BIRDWATCHING

6:15:  I’m awakened by the guttural bellows of howler monkeys, such a wonderful improvement over yesterday’s rude iPhone alarm. Time to hit the deck.

Canopy Tower Ecolodge Night View

Wow. What a view.

Canopy Tower Ecolodge Roof

I grab a fresh cup of (premium) coffee (all coffee in Panama is premium), snag a chair, pull my knees up under my jacket, and observe. The birdwatchers are far more interesting than the birds. A 30-something woman from Texas films flocks while narrating into the microphone. A couple from Cincinnati hover over a telescope and share their kite sightings. Most of my fellow lodgers welcome me — the interloper among them — although I detect a tinge of wariness.

I ask the “SHUSSSSHHHH!” lady — more out of politeness than curiosity — about the big black birds circling overhead.

“THOSE ARE VULTURES!” she exclaims, horrified.

I tick-off my mental Sheet: toucans: check; kites: check; vultures: check; shrew: check. This birdwatcher is calling it a day. On to Panama City.

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