Some of Central America’s best birding..

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Hollis Family Chapter Change!

What a book, it’s kept me at the edge of my seat this whole time and how exciting to wonder what’s next in store!

So Bird flew north for the winter and has been kicking herself ever’s freezing up here! That’s why we (we birds, of course) fly SOUTH for the winter! This neotropical migrant needs to get back to her tropical climes, especially considering it feels like the Arctic north up here. Good grief.

So as far as Chapter Change! Well, my parents are turning a HUGE page in mere days and I’m up here in the United States to help either get in the way or make it less daunting of (one hell of) an event! Marjorie and Mitchell Hollis are moving to Washington State, the Olympic Peninsula..ultimately a huge outdoor playground new home base that they’ve been searching for for more than a decade!

It is with glee that I present to you that the Hollis family are just about to officially be West Coasters! My mother has been dreaming of white-capped mountains and now they’re just about in her very own backyard. The fotos I’ve seen of their exploratory adventures all look straight out of an Ansel Adams type postcard. I couldn’t be happier for them.

The big mountain we have to climb first I guess you could say is equivalent to (and includes) the Rocky Mountains..the Big Drive Across the Country. We will be driving three cars with the help of my uncle and cousin from Seattle (hey that’s convenient!) and piled down with what we can’t get in the moving trucks, including an overzealous and wildly floofy and frisky three and a half year old golden retriever and two rescue kittens to keep us extra on our toes!


So here we go, the countdown is on. I’ve enjoyed the chance to find myself in the states to see friends and help out family and recharge before heading down to thaw out back in Panama in April.

In the meantime, I’ll be writing more, getting videos to higher quality and worthy of my Patreon supporters and focusing on my love for tropical ecology, coral reef and mangrove ecosystems and sharing it sustainably..all while always first and foremost supporting environmental awareness, education and conservation!

Here’s a look at my Patreon page should you care to lend a bit of support toward my videos and some fun future benefits that I’ll be offering my Patrons in the coming months..stay tuned!

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Natural Inclinations..

There’s something about returning to the land of my childhood, the temperate deciduous forests those of which I grew up exploring with my parents and birding with my beloved bird and nature-loving mentors. It’s the the symphony of songbirds that bring back memories of growing up. Its the plethora of woodpeckers that keep us company all year long and then, of course, some of the most fascinating are our spring and summertime jewels of the wood-warbler family, those impressive little sprites that we bird nerds call neotropical migrants.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

I simply feel akin to these birds that get their energy over the course of the year from both temperate and tropical climactic zones. For both me and these intrepid feathered beings, we both stray away from wintertime. When I see the late summer harvest amassing on the forest floors and the undeniably sweet smell of fall begins to creep into my consciousness I feel that urge to leave. It’s time to head south.

But even during the wintertime, I love to see our more northerly nesting birds like the dark-eyed junco and the white-throated sparrow which flit and through the forest undergrowth like popcorn. Nevertheless, I am a tropical girl and, like our neotropical migratory birds, I spend the majority of my year in the tropics. So while I prefer the warm tropics, I will always consider both my home.

So after a wonderful season this past year with Tranquilo Bay Eco-Adventure Lodge, I’m enjoying the low season visiting friends and family up here in the north. Next season will be here before I know it and in the meantime, I’m thankful to spend this time in the temperate landscape that colored my youth.

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Kowascoping birds around Tranquilo Bay

Just another regular day birding around Tranquilo Bay!

Created with iPhone 12 mini, Phoneskope Kit, and a Kowa Prominar TSN-883 Spotting Scope

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My Beloved Tranquilo Bay..

Heyo! So, now that I’m helping out Tranquilo Bay through the high season, I’ve managed to have missed the last four months of posting here but no complaints because it’s all thanks to the fact that tourism IS back (yay vaccinations!) and we have been BUSY!!

I’m making up for my lack of posting with a little video peek at this beautiful home of mine. I’m so pleased to have returned to Bocas and get to experience all this and more every day. And then there’s the beautiful community I get to be a part of again. Being back among the Tranquilo Bay family is such a pleasure and I love knowing that no matter where I am, all of my beautiful Ngäbe coworkers here and our bosses and their children will all always be family to me.

Feeling thankful 🙂

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Discover the Wild Nature of Los Angeles

Join me as I delve into the wild nature of Los Angeles, encountering the beautiful diversity of birds and other wildlife that can be easily found in this wild part of Southern California. Enjoy!

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Fall Wonders and Ponderings

Finding myself back in the United States for a spell, I do feel a lovely, warm kind of thankfulness that the only the fall season instills in me, I feel it in every inhalation of the earthy, organic richness of late summer.

While I know my tropical leanings will have me itching to head south in a few weeks as the crispness of winter starts to set in, I’m enjoying the perfect weather and the golden hour afternoon sunlight as the days get shorter.

Birding this time of year, I found I was a bit late to migration but I did manage to see some fairly hundreds of monarch butterflies parading southward along the ridgelines of Virginia. While this isn’t anything like the massive raptor migrations I’ve seen from the continental divide in Panama, I was seeing up to 60 individuals (spread out) over the course of a minute, I’d never seen them moving in such densities before!

These “super monarchs” are the generation within the natural yearly cycle of the species that travels the farthest and lives the longest. They’ll head south to their winter roost, the most famous of which in Central Mexico and in the spring, the super generation will head north again, but only make on step in the long journey north. That generation will lay its eggs on milkweed plants that they rely upon to hatch the next generation. But those next two or three generations will only get another step of the way before stopping to reproduce. The northern journey is done in segments, these natal generations only living for a handful of week to breed and die, simply to move the population back north again. Finally, the most northerly hatch will bear the super generation once again, ready to take the long southern route, all on one pair of wings.

So I’m left to my temperate zone ponderings after spending several months in Peru experiencing life in the Amazon. I participated in botanical investigations, measuring forest plots as part of a long term effort to measure forest composition, biomass and, through a series of calculations, determine potential carbon storage (the CO2 equivalent) of these tropical rainforest. By sequestering sucking up carbon dioxide, these forests are–just like all forests–conducting an important ecosystem service and by understanding this, we can put a value to landowners as a long-term incentive to not cut down their forests.

In addition to hugging hundreds of trees in the Amazon, I also had the pleasure and fortune to spend most of my time in the forest off trail, and delving into the rainforest was a beautiful thing. There’s so much you miss when you stay within the limits of these borders we create. We were treated to upwards of one hundred squirrel monkeys moving across the canopy above us one day, blue & yellow macaws flying above our boat as we moved between plots and just about every day we came across a new and magical insect or spider that sported yet another combination of dazzling colors. The work we were doing was something that I’m very excited about and just being able to walk straight through the forest and realize all that could be saved one day by the kind of work we were participating in was enough to feel pretty darn good.

A flurry of active wings fills the remaining fruiting bushes and trees as acorns and hickory nuts fall steadily to the forest floor.

The tulip poplars are bright yellow and the black walnuts roll underfoot.

I sit down amongst a blanket of dry, summer-weary leaves already crunchily cushioning the ground.

.A Swainson’s thrush lets out a musical drip note as it fills up along its journey south.

…the tropics are calling.

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New Vid! Watch: Birds of Sarasota’s Celery Fields

To see the full 3+ minute version, check out my patreon page and become a supporter of my work to help share the beauty and importance of nature with the world!

This is my tribute to my grandmother (one of many) and is thanks to her. Join me in this video to see the birds I grew up seeing on my annual childhood visits to see my grandparents. I also lived in Sarasota for a time, visiting my grandmother when she lived in an apartment overlooking the lake and we’d watch some of these very same birds. We spent time together every day and while living there as an adult, I truly discovered the gem that this place is, something I had the fortune of experiencing from a child to well into adulthood. Sarasota, Florida is a beautiful place rich with birdlife. It’s thanks to Grandy that I got to learn these birds and their ecosystems, the very same ones I teach about in the tropics where I now live. They make me think of her. 

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A Tribute to Grandy.

It’s hard to deny the nostalgia sitting here on the lanai of my beloved grandmother’s home, going back through bird and nature videos I made while living here in Sarasota, Florida. I stayed in this house those years to be close with my grandmother, time that so quickly has turned into the past. The wind chimes murmur and a nearby northern mocking bird quietly practices his spring repertoire of the blossoming year while a tufted titmouse rings from the neighbor’s yard. 

It’s the same but it’s different.

I’m working on a video, like I’ve done in this very spot a number of times during the periods I’ve spent living here. Normally, I’d be finishing up a morning of work studying Spanish or editing my next nature video or writing a new blog post before heading to the kitchen to prepare a picnic. I make sure the scrabble game is in the car before driving over to break Grandy out of assisted living so we can spend the afternoon in nature together. 

It’s strange to think those days are over, but at the same time, they’re not. She’s everywhere now, with me always. 

And I have this extrordinary, strong, independent woman to thank for who I’ve become and how close I am to these ecosystems and the biodiversity of species they support. And growing up learning about how she served in the Women’s Army Corps and travelled with McArthur’s party from Australia through Japan told me that it was in my ability to travel the world on my own.

Grandy helped instill in me the confidence to travel abroad solo, and she helped me carry this passion growing within me to other countries and biodiverse lands. She took me to Costa Rica in ‘99 for my high school graduation and, when we came back, I told my parents I was going to live down in those tropical lands one day. And I meant it. But Florida is where that trajectory started. It all started with Florida, where she and my grandfather moved for the golf and the sunshine, long before I was born.

Visiting Grandy and Gramps in the subtropic lands of the southeastern United States, the little bird-lover that was innately inside of me fluttered forth and I dove into this land that drips with life and biodiversity along with my outdoor-loving family and discovered the wonder and variety of the birdlife and the unique ecosystems of the east coast of the Gulf of Mexico. 

Hiking, canoeing, cycling, kayaking, our family would picnic under the live oaks hung with Spanish moss after tossing the frisbee in our bare feet and hopping over long leaf pine cones and fire ant mounds. Over a game of scrabble, we’d eat a picnic lunch perfectly prepared by a doting son, my father, and we’d tell Grandy what new wildlife discovery we’d made, provided she wasn’t right there on the hike or canoe-ride along with us. Above our heads out of the translucent drapes of Spanish moss emanated the songs and calls of the colorful northern parula warblers and wag-tailed blue-gray gnatcatchers, sounds that have inevitably been cemented for life into my memory. And now those very sounds evoke memories of a beloved grandmother.

To grow up familiarizing myself with the unique wilderness of this gem on Central Florida’s Gulf Coast I find myself treasuring more and more to the outdoor experiences I’d become accustomed to. And yet being witness to native, wild lands across the decades, you become unable to deny what’s changing. Forests once filled with red-shouldered hawks, red-bellied woodpeckers and armadillos are regularly ripped apart and chipped into piles and these newly vacant lots transformed into bustling shopping areas and seas of round tile roofs as far as the eye can see. And of course, the ever-present aura of the near by Gulf of Mexico paints so many aspects of southwestern Florida life, I’ve watched these ecosystems battling their own increasingly destructive war. I’ll let my video speak on that..

So I treasure even more the memories I’ve made with Grandy, I’ve had the chance to see the changes and I’ve gained so much perspective. And I dedicated my life to witnessing and sharing that perspective as a rule. It’s from an angle not many have had the chance to peer from. 

Thanks to her and what I’ve learned from going up coming here, the gorgeous and mysterious Florida outdoors will always invoke in me a proprietary feeling. I want it to stay the same, I want to protect it, I want future generations to see the bounty of life this place evolved to support. 

I’d say I’m gonna miss her but, truly, she’s everywhere now, with me always. The moments so quickly now in the past and what now remains as memory are what remind me that I’m indescribably fortunate to continue on and enjoy life and this extraordinary planet and its vast and varied wilds—while they still exist. Reliving memories shared in the natural landscapes of Florida with loved ones is what carries her on with me and keeps me company out there. Grandy, oh how I miss you and yet, we’re together..just like always. 

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Treasures of the Cloud Forest

Boquete. The land of rainbows, Resplendent Quetzals and moss-covered trees that drip with life, trailing vines and lianas and support an unimaginable quantity of bromeliads bedecking the branches like a row of pineapple tops in a shoulder to shoulder line of non-socially distant verdancy.

Black-faced Solitaire

The thick, dripping forest echos with the haunting high whistles of the black-faced solitaire a sound that immediately brings to my mind the slow movement of a metal gate, singing in a smooth, wavering squeal as it slides along its hinges, back and forth with the wind. This is a mysterious bird that is commonly heard but rarely seen. Its secretive nature makes for an exciting sighting if one was to be so fortunate. Determination and a fair bit of luck is the answer. To put a face, sooty indeed, to a song so iconic of the cloud forest ecosystem is something that will bring you yet another step into this wonderland full of hidden treasures.

And one of the most magnificent treasures, found up in this cloud-enshrouded forest is a bird that you might never know is there, as it sits quietly, high on a horizontal branch thickly blanketed in moss. With a backwards flick, it drops off the far side of a branch and a long, flowing tail flutters like two streaming emerald ribbons.

The Resplendent Quetzal.

This is the bird that every birder wants to find and you can’t blame anyone for having this on their “must see” list. It is the treasure of the cloud forest and during the months of February and March, this otherwise quiet, reserved bird calls, chuckles and courts its mate making this time of year the best for finding these lovely creatures.

The male, sports those long streaming tail feathers aren’t in fact the true tail feathers but the feathers that, on other birds, are much smaller and cover the top of the tail. In the quetzal, these feathers are monumentally elongated and, as you might be able to see in the photo, the true tail is underneath, outshined by these resplendent tail coverts.

And, as I recently read, that quick turn and drop off the back of the branch common in this bird could very well be its means to keep that tail in top shape, rather than flying forward off the branch and scraping the length of those entire elongated feathers on the top of the branch which, after how many times, could leave those tassels in ratty shambles!

More on the treasures of the cloud forest coming up next..stay tuned!

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