A lesson in ecology

One of the great things about photographing the natural world and spending as much time outdoors as it takes to get good photos is that you always see something new – and quite frequently something curious. Granted, you also sometimes see such things right in front of your door, but it helps to be looking.
At our current hotel we have this slightly demented (or overly intelligent?) bird that apparently tries to figure out either cars or windows. Today it was at it for at least fifteen minutes. It repeatedly flew back and forth between our car and the one adjacent to it, sat on the door and knocked against the window with its beak, apparently trying to see if it could get inside without hurting itself (it later tried the same with the windshield). It has been playing that game at least since the day before yesterday, when we first observed this strange behavior. I really wonder what that bird is up to. My feeling is that it is interest in driving lessons, but it is most likely underage.

Anyway, another more peculiar thing happened two days ago just outside the Monteverde cloud forest. We saw a Bushy-Tailed Olingo:

Olingo sitting in a tree (where it belongs)

Onlingos, I am told, are nocturnal animals. They are also carnivores (which I don’t doubt since they are pretty mean-looking critters) and they live in trees. The chances to see one, I assumed prior to our meeting, are pretty slim. Not so at a cafe called the Hummingbird Gallery, however. The cafe gains its name because they have a number of hummingbird feeders, which not surprisingly attract dozens hummingbirds.

Hummingbird at Feeder

Much more surprising, they apparently also attract olingos or at least one olingo. That nifty little bastards has found a way to do a tighrope walk to reach the feeders which are suspended from wires hung between trees. The idea being this setup is quite obviously to keep other animal from reaching them. Well, not so when this particular olingo is present, as you can see:

Olingo tightroping it

Olingo emptying hummingbird feeder

… and those guys are not easily discouraged either, some people tried to chase them off for quite a while to no avail. No wonder the poor hummingbirds can only sit and watch in disgruntlement:

Disgruntled hummingbird

The moral of the story, in case you are wondering, is the complexity of nature and animal behavior. It is astonishing how easily human action, in this case hanging up a hummingbird feeder, can bring forth unforseen consequences and impact the environment, turning in this case a nocturnal (probably naturally shy) animal into one walking around in the middle of the day between hordes of tourists. And a dignified carnivore into a sugar water-slurping junk food addict.


3 responses

  1. Ah, nature just teaches you the best lessons… I like that Olingo guy.

    February 25, 2011 at 7:45 am

  2. Really enjoyed this posting! Love to see the association of getting out there and observing these various wonders of the natural world, and photographing them! They go hand in hand so wonderfully! Your great sense of humour comes thru’ nicely. The bird checking out the car window reflection may have been looking for a mate, and seeing the lookback, have thought he’d maybe be getting lucky! Or maybe have a territorial dispute upcoming! Who knows, maybe it just likes car windows! ; >) Olingo’s look kind neat! Cheers, Randy Findlay, Burnaby

    February 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    • Thanks for the nice words, Randy.
      I think your explanation for the bird’s behavior is plausible, in fact Kessi suggested something similar. What continues to puzzle me, however, is why it would go for the windows and windshield (which do not reflect that much being designed not to reflect after all) rather than the side mirrors.

      February 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm

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