Jumping Leaves by Kristine Ellingson
Jumping Leaves, a GUEST BLOG from Kristine Ellingson, author, Tales from the Yucatan Jungle: Life in a Mayan Village:
The fallen leaves are jumping under my bouganvilla in the side yard again. It is April and one of our hottest months, but also one of the most interesting. Hundreds of birds come through during this time of year, in search of water and food, birds that you rarely see except during their migratory routes over the peninsula. They are looking for seeding grasses, insects, small berries and seeds in the pods on certain trees, and water. When the parrots glean seeds in pods, they pick them out one by one, almost surgically. If you pick up the pod, you will see that each seed has been extracted perfectly, leaving only an exact hole where the seed used to be.
We have just watered the garden, and the earth and leaves are cool and damp. The little birds; buntings, grassquits, and warblers, all jump in and out of the leaves. You think the leaves are moving but in reality it is the small birds, pushing the leaves about. The bigger game birds, the Chachalakas snuggle down in the moist earth and have a big gab fest, preening as they gossip.
The Flycatchers and Masked Tityras are in and out of the Hal-tun, a natural declivity in the rock that holds water. We help Mother Nature by keeping the Hal-tuns filled, plus other small basins around the property. We own The Flycatcher Inn near Uxmal, and every year we see these birds. The doves have nests all over as do many other kinds of local birds. There is a Pale Billed Woodpecker hopping backward down a Chaka tree toward the water, looking like a kid with a gelled punk hairdo, his crest a flaming red arc above his black and white patterned body. There are now three adult male Orchard Tanagers at the Hal-tun, dark russet red and black, along with the dark yellow female and paler yellow juvenile. You wouldn’t think that they go together. It is about the only time of year that we see these along with the red red Summer Tanagers.
It is during this dry season that one can see some amazing other creatures on occasion. A wingless bird called a Tinamou that I didn’t really believe existed until I saw it, twice now. Gray foxes playing in the dirt. “Oso Hormigueros”, the ant-eaters with their dark bib overalls over their cream colored body. Squirrels and tiny Painted Skunks. Coatis with their long noses and long curled tail. A baby Mexican Porcupine that came to sleep in the fork of one of our trees, leaving each night to forage. All coming out of the woods and scrub forests that make up and border our property.
When the rains come, they bring hundreds of colored butterflies, landing and looking for all the world like fallen leaves, their wings folded straight up, staying wherever it is moist.
If you have trees, seeding grasses, and water, the animals, birds, and butterflies will come. We leave it wild so that they can.