Christmas Birds, Christmas Wedding

Christmas 2013 is over, but joyful thoughts remain. Firstly, there has been an extraordinary flurry of activity in our yard over the holidays. A constant fluttering in the bird bath, a flitting in the hedges, a darting among the branches of our mango trees. Our Christmas birds have been everywhere – picking neat cavities in the old grapefruit that have fallen from the tree; chasing each other with wings arched across the ground – mating season already?; splashing and preening in every available patch of water. The weather has been mild and dry.

The Black-Throated Blue Warbler is very well-turned out in his feathers of slate-blue, black and white. This is the male; the female is not as elegant.

The Black-Throated Blue Warbler is very well-turned out in his feathers of slate-blue, black and white. This is the male; the female is not as elegant.

The now almost inaccessible top of our moringa tree.

The now almost inaccessible top of our moringa tree.

We have our usual feathered friends – the Jamaican Oriole, the Saffron Finch, the Loggerhead Kingbird, the Northern Mockingbird, the Smooth-Billed Ani, and a variety of noisy doves. They stay with us all year round. Our winter visitors are welcomed with special warmth, however – perhaps because we know we will only be honored by their presence until around March or April, when temperatures start to rise. The “Butterfly Bird” (which is a female American Redstart) flicks her gold and black tail in the bougainvillea bushes, making little sorties to catch insects. We have not seen the male – the two tend to live separate lives when wintering in the tropics. But at some point he will appear; in jet black with patches of burnt orange, like an evening suit with bright pocket handkerchiefs. Then there is the equally smart Black Throated Blue Warbler, who loves sipping from our hummingbird feeder. As I was filling the bird bath yesterday, a Black and White Warbler appeared close to me, balanced upside down on a branch, his head on one side. The presence of water draws birds, large and small.

The female Butterfly Bird is the most delightful of visitors - first to arrive, usually. She flirts those tail feathers so sweetly...

The female Butterfly Bird is the most delightful of visitors – first to arrive, usually. She flirts those tail feathers so sweetly…

Did I mention our lovely Bananaquits?

Did I mention our lovely Bananaquits?

Zenaida Doves misbehaving. Whoever thought that doves are quiet, mild-mannered, loving birds have got it all quite wrong. None of our resident doves fit that description.

Zenaida Doves misbehaving. Whoever thought that doves are quiet, mild-mannered, loving birds have got it all quite wrong. None of our resident doves fit that description.

 

And we have seen much more of our Jamaican Woodpeckers (an endemic species); we hear their raucous cries. Sometimes they argue and fuss, diving from one tree to another. Looking up, I see their red head and neat, compact bodies on a branch, like small toys. The White-Chinned Thrush has reappeared too. The “Hopping Dick” makes giant leaps on his bright yellow legs. If you disturb him he flies away low, with a long, trilling cry of protest.

The Baltimore Oriole who bathed, and then kept his distance...

The Baltimore Oriole who bathed, and then kept his distance…

Most exciting of all, we have seen a Baltimore Oriole. No, not a baseball player – but a brilliant bird, deliriously so in his rich golden-orange and black. We see one or two every year at around this time, just passing through. This one stopped for a bath, then before I could grab a camera flew up rather high into the guango tree. So I have posted a distant and rather unsatisfying shot of the bird. I hope he will drop by again, and stay a little longer…

Not quite ready yet...

Not quite ready yet…

Another unexpected joy this Christmas was a wedding on the outskirts of Spanish Town. A wedding full of loud laughter, and applause – and that was before the happy couple and their entourage left for the reception. The pastor’s wry jokes, interspersed with serious injunctions to the bride and groom to be faithful and to love one another, were a delight. There were long pauses in between the bursts of humor and solemnity, while he arranged the couple in various poses for photo opportunities. The occasional balloon burst and made people jump. The keyboard player and singer who accompanied these proceedings gave us a touch of Whitney Houston, some good old standards, a hymn or two – and even a number from MIles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.” The lifting of the bride’s veil so that the groom could kiss her prompted much hilarity (when the first attempt went somewhat awry, the pastor insisted on doing it over, and properly this time). The bride was continuously reminded on the correct way to position her elegantly gloved hand. The couple complied with his wishes with an admirable degree of patience and fortitude. With barely concealed relief, they walked back down the aisle.

My husband's sartorial elegance...

My husband’s sartorial elegance…

I wished I had been wearing red…or pink. Fashion statement.

I wished I had been wearing red…or pink. Fashion statement.

Pretty girls.

Pretty girls.

And there was color – bursts of it. Candy pink satin, silky blue gloves, scarlet dresses and spiky shoes. One guest’s long tresses were colored to match her jungle-print dress in shades of bronze and blonde. The older ladies chose shades of nile green and silver and faded rose. I wish I had asked more of the guests to pose for their pictures…

A vision in tulle.

A vision in tulle.

Just across the road was a brightly-painted establishment consisting of a small shop below and a barber’s above. Neighbors gathered outside to watch the comings and goings at the church with some interest. When the ceremony started, some peeped through the louver windows, laughing. I enjoyed the shop owner’s emphatic warnings to customers that giving credit was not a practice he indulged in. Here is one of his signs…

An uncompromising message.

An uncompromising message.

I hope this post has also brightened your day, as we wander through the last, quiet days of the year and into a new one.

Remember, in 2014, to enjoy the moment. I am reminding myself, too.

Smile!

Smile!

Oops… Here comes the bride!

But, wait… Here comes the bride!

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4 Comments

  1. Merry 7 Swans a’Swimming and a Happy New Year, Emma. And thanks for all the posts. Nice to see the birds are enjoying JA, especially your yard. And last: The “no credit” sign is a classic. I want to re-print it and post it in the Point Michaud Beach House. A god mi seh!

    • Happy New Year to you! Yes, the birds are enjoying their winter-long vacation here! Yes, there’s another great sign I photographed, which I will post in the right-hand side bar – look out for it! Please do reprint it and if you could note “from Petchary’s Blog” or something on it, that would be nice (but not a “must”!) Where is Point Michaud Beach House?

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