January 29, 2017

Unexpected Rivals on the Lagoon

 Early in our visit to the Caribbean side of the country, we took a canoe ride across a lagoon on the Rio Estrella and learned about an interesting rivalry that I never would have guessed had we not been told. This further reinforces the notion that nature is beautiful on the surface and red in tooth and claw the instant you look a little closer.
 One frequent sight along the banks of the lagoon were Northern Jacanas. We had seen Jacanas in Africa, but these were a different group altogether, the common feature being that they have enormous pads on their feet that let them walk across loose vegetation floating on the tops of lagoons which lets them wander out further on the water and escape predators. When not doing a Jesus impression, they are also notable in that the males hatch and raise the eggs and they have a polyandrous mating cycle. Below is a proud father herding his brood of chicks along the water surface.
 In the same area we also saw several Purple Gallinule, also known as "swamp hens," which are very striking and beautifully coloured birds. Unexpectedly they are also omnivorous and one of their favorite meals in the area is Jacana eggs and chicks, such that Jacanas will frequently attack them on sight. So while they look lovely to us, they are the arch enemy of the Jacana and an unexpectedly sinister sighting in such a peaceful place.

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