Gary Guinn

Literature of the Ozarks

Month: January 2017 (page 2 of 3)

Frigate Birds, Part II

Okay, remember those Frigate Birds I was so fascinated with? So I told my next door neighbor here in Caye Caulker how much I liked the frigate birds. He says, you want to feed them? And I say, what do you mean, feed them? And he says, just a minute. And he gets on his bike and rides around the corner and buys some sardines–but these were not the sardines we buy at IGA. They were sardines the size of perch. And we walk out onto the pier, and he waves a sardine/perch in the air, and the frigate birds drop out of the sky and snatch the sardine/perch right out of his hand. So I had to do it too. Like a half dozen times I had to do it. It was amazing. These magnificent birds with wingspans as wide as I am tall swooped down and took the sardine/perch out of my hand without touching as much as my finger. I loved it.

So then my neighbor, Chris, a Canadian and the best possible person to live next to, says, come on. And we follow him across the island (which is only 165 yards wide  here) to a pier on the other side. And he waves a sardine over the top of the water and about twenty tarpon, fish that look like GIANT carp, or maybe baby shark, come swarming around under his hand, and one of them snatches the sardine. Now, the only problem with ME feeding the tarpon is that a half dozen pelicans (I know, I know, the pelican the pelican its beak holds more than its belly can) come flapping over and refuse to let us give sardines to the tarpon. So hey, I like pelicans better than tarpon anyway, so I feed the pelicans.  And one pelican got a little overzealous and snatched my hand AND the sardine. (See video here: IMG_3059-2) Which was actually a little funny, even if it did draw just a little blood. But there were no hard feelings. And Mary Ann actually petted one of the pelicans. And all things considered, it was one of the best afternoons we have had.  And I say, Thanks to Chris and

“O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!”

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Frigate Birds on Caye Caulker

Okay, I don’t know what it is exactly about the frigate birds that fascinates me, but I am soooo fascinated I watch them all the time. They are a constant presence in the sky above Caye Caulker, their striking dark outline soaring in the wind currents coming off the ocean. With their long beak and even longer tail, and the largest wing area to body weight ratio of any bird, they beguile me every time I look up.

The three birds that are abundant at the beach here are seagulls, pelicans, and frigate birds. I love watching them all. I may have to write a post about the pelicans next. But the frigate birds, just mysterious and alluring.

On our first visit to the island last year, a friendly islander with a big smile and a wealth of stories told us all about the “frigid bird” who stayed up in the air for many days without landing, ate only what it could steal from other birds’ nests, and whenever it did not eat for a day committed suicide by diving onto the tops of buildings or into the mangrove trees. It was a wonderful story–and mostly true.

The frigate bird can indeed stay aloft for weeks at a time, soaring. In fact, one frigate bird, tracked by satellite, stayed in the air for two months. Two months without landing. Their wingspan can reach seven-and-a-half feet. They aren’t at their best when flying by flapping their wings, they can’t walk well on their small weak legs, and they struggle to take off from the water. But gliding over the island, still and dark, rarely flapping , they seem magnificent.

And they are known as kleptoparasites because they occasionally steal food from other birds or even snatch seabird chicks out of nests. But they mostly eat fish and squid that are chased to the surface by larger predators like tuna.

The best part of our islander friend’s story, that the frigate bird commits suicide if it misses its daily meals, though not factual, simply shows how completely the bird grips the imagination. When the male is trying to attract a female, the he leans his head all the way back and throws out his huge red throat pouch. Who could resist that?

They are hypnotic. And there are a lot of them. So we are often hypnotized. And we can’t escape the feeling that it is they who are watching us, not the other way around.

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Sacrificial Lam to be Released

I got word this week that my new book, Sacrificial Lam, will be released March 3rd. It’s my first genre novel, a mystery/thriller set in academia. The protagonist, Lam Corso, is a liberal English professor teaching at a small, conservative religious college. To anyone who knows me, this may sound a little familiar. In fact, anyone who has been associated with the college I taught at for 35 years might just recognize the setting and maybe a character or two in the novel.
 
Here’s the back cover blurb: When English professor Lam Corso receives a death threat at work, he laughs it off. A liberal activist at a small Southern conservative college, he’s used to stirring up controversy on campus. It’s just part of the give and take of life. Even when violently attacked, Lam is convinced it must be a mistake. He can’t imagine anyone who would want to kill him for his beliefs.
When his home is broken into and his wife’s business vandalized, Lam is forced to face the truth. His wife—a passionate anti-gun crusader—is outraged when Lam brings a gun into the house for protection. The police can’t find a single lead. Left to their own devices, Lam and Susan are forced to examine their marriage, faith, and values in the face of a carefully targeted attack from an assailant spurred into action by his own set of beliefs.
What will it cost to survive?
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