Bird of a Feather: The View From Vigia


 Hummingbird Wars 

BE Macomber

BE Macomber is a pen name for an American writer and widow owned by a matched set of German Shepherds and a rescue originally from Miss Costa Rica along with 342+ species of birds, untold butterflies, four troops of monkeys, wild cats, anteaters, sloths, and other wondrous creatures. Finca Vigia, Alfrombra, Baru, is her home and sanctuary. Some people rescue dogs. BE safeguards a verdant wild habitat.   You may contact her at or on social media at Twitter,  Facebook, and

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) buzzing its turf of Stach bushes.

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl) buzzing its turf of Stach bushes.

The early September day began in dazzling sunshine with the clarity of light exclusive to high altitudes or what especially transparent tropical nights dish up. It was the latter at Finca Vigia. The two stands of Guadua bamboo gossiped amongst themselves. The southern waterfalls surged and the northern seven roared on without inhibition. Below the hut’s cantilevered veranda, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzactl) buzzed each other in minor and major displays of territorial competition and nectar-source protection. The little defenders’ lively sounds were noisy, threatening, and constant, yet, went up and down the scale of what the human ear can discern.

While these impressive domineering acts of this-is-mine-you-can’t-have-it carried on, a thieving darting Stripe-throated Hermit (Phaethornis striigularis) and a slower secretive Violet-headed Hummer (Klais guimeti) slurped at the purple Stach flowers to which they were normally denied access.  Could the hummers have been hidden in time?

Did you know hummingbirds perceive humans in slow motion and sloths see us as a too-quick blur?

Time as reference is not purely an act of non-relativistic physics. Combined mathematically with other physical qualities to derive other concepts–motion,  kinetic energy, and time-dependent fields—is also time.

Dogs possess no sense of time (no measurement of what a clock reads) so how do they know it’s dinnertime to whine for their daily meal? Moreover, how do hummingbirds perceive each other?

Dream weaving an enlightened life in the tropics preoccupies batches of two million eco-tourists who yearly and temporarily trek around the Nature Country – Costa Rica. In CR’s lushness and extraordinariness, attired in cargo pants and Teva sandals, the nature pilgrims arrive and leave. While here, they crawl through swamps, stroll along romantic remote beaches, catch and release, and take cover under a thriving canopy to look in awe at the birds, the mammals, the insects, and the trees – the world according to Jack Ewing[1]. The touristas are present to discover a wild world’s primitive and never all-inclusive ‘vacation’. How does time pass for them?

Is it a banana-peel invite with no RSVP or a total eclipse of a hard line rejection? CR chooses new handfuls of its permanent human occupants every year during these time-warp visitations into its real life Jurassic adventure land.


A place of wonder, easy to get to, and yet dangerous (if not paying attention) CR continues to wag its seductive tropical bare arse and toot its siren calls way beyond its mapping boundaries. Its scents and glorious beauties add luster to emotively stunted lives frantically stuck in cubicles and rush-hour traffic. Delicious memories arrive as daydreams, happy time memesand posted photos, along with heart-felt vibes of harmony. Others, like me and the politico puffer fish who publishes this salty dribble, we find CR’s attraction irascible and irresistible. We take up residency.

However, not all intended make it in this magical wonderland.

Conflagrations (as burnt bridges) aside, I am an over-educated over-achieving opinionated expatriate who kept noticing a blinking exit sign to the jungle while gardening perennials or boating the northeast coastal waters of Murica[2]. The internal neon recurrence became repetitive and then obsessively present.

In July 2007, as the summer season was in full torque in The Hamptons, NY, I bailed on a finely-honed hipster lifestyle. I took the 6 AM Taca flight out of Kennedy to San Jose, Costa Rica, and realigned my entire worldview in less than four hours.

We, the expats hosted by the land of feathers and scaly tails, are a wee slice of those two million who annually come and go through the bright and classy San Juan Santamaria International Airport (now, with night lights over the tarmac). We, the settling class of tourists, resplendently remain behind in the land of Pura Vida sweating, the prime rib of the entomological banquet, and at times frustrated by an unbelievably happy social culture with absolutely no sense of urgency (Tico time). We do so with grins as wide as a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth’s (Brafypus variegates) and hearts as light as a Purple-crowned Fairy Hummingbird’s (Heliothryx barroti).

Yet, the untainted dream of life in the tropics pulls and tugs us ever deeper into its mystique and marvels. We not only build superb sustainable lives at Latitude 9 on the Monkey’s Bridge[3], we uncover small sun-lighted pads in the jungle dimness. We discover an adopted home place peculiar to our sensibility of communion with leafy life and blue or aqua oceans wanting to live. We enjoin the circle of Being – captured forever by cycles of life and death.

Who could resist a mournful joyful sweet spot for wandering souls – the poetry of fresh vitality and a kinda funky posture of authenticated peace – not unlike being awarded premium berths on Noah’s ark.

There is no easy street to stop conforming to the western status quo and then abruptly and freely wading into unknown forest streams hidden in highland mists. We are by DNA an inharmonious specie beset by war-mongering inclinations. To surrender to the nobility and serenity of jungle life is a wholistic paradigm shift, one in which apologies for psychobabble are the outré province and trappings of the life left behind.

Full motion Purple-crowned Fairy Hummer (Heliothryx barroti) pierces a spider web while hovering.

Full motion Purple-crowned Fairy Hummer (Heliothryx barroti) pierces a spider web while hovering.

The instructive rain-forest hoots, growls, chirps, coos and belches while we groan and take deep breaths wondering what the f was that nighttime sound. Culture-shocked, cranky, and spiritually whacked-out, we eventually unwind (a true test of one’s frailness) from killer stresses. The former life was induced by a contemporary human drumbeat geared for generational slavery. not for living by the creed of the Seventh Generation[4].

Too much for you to comprehend while in a fit entranced and enchanted by Costa Rica? Keep reading . . . regulars I torture with wordsmith assure me my tales are more guanábana than green mango.

Dancing elephants and hopping rabbit clouds are regulars in the panoramic cobalt sky turning golden at the end of an always twelve-hour long day. The gigantic orangey orb slides beneath the Pacific horizon with its concluding notice – a showoff – a green flash. I see the flash from January until the middle of April. Then Earth’s tilt defeats the view and the screaming chestnut-mandibled toucans (Ramphastos swainsonii) and I have to be content with a coastal mountain ridge back lit by God.

Hereabouts, no matter the month or year, incredible creatures of feathers, scales, tails, fur, whiskers and color combos are sighted in one’s kitchen sink or on top of one’s SUV. Some are as small as a grain of Golfo Dulce sand or a particle of Poás Volcano dust while others are larger than you or me. All appear and disappear faster than the multitude of daily weather changes peculiar to CR. I call it peek-a-boo inter-species communication.

Once recruited, an abject fascination with nature never ceases its curiosities. At any second during the here and now a brand new critter-character will appear on the green stage. The biodiversity of Costa Rica is widely revered – scientifically studied, and instructionally inventoried – yet only 22% finalized.

Finca Vigia, a lasting hermitage nature refuge with its majestic views of the Pacific, the jungle mountains, the Valley of Horses below, and a sheltering sky sports ancient and baby trees, waterfalls galore, and 24/7 serenity. Vigia’s ecosystem has gifted a few records – an endemic heliconia, a first-ever hybrid hummingbird, the utmost northern record of one of the most lethal snakes of the hemisphere, and just this past week a pair of mushrooms (Macrocybe titans) turned up, each the size of a small child. These are volunteer pin-dots compared to the number of species residing in one Vigia square meter though even with high-end tech and tools thankfully remain unseen.

Who knew all ya had to do was stick a flower twig or a small tree branch into the magnetic CR soils and voilá – life sprang into trees the size of four-story buildings within five years and flower beds went grandiose in a month. In glory, these borders to the rainforest become so splendid and verbose the noise from the colors and shapes of greens need to be tuned-down with the riotous hues of gingers and wild orchids.

To state my birding patch[5], the jewel, Finca Vigia, is a one-woman refugee boot camp while considering current circumstances for the four million escaping Syria and Iraq (AKA the walking clan of the war torn) is maybe a dis-tribute. Nevertheless, it is true. I am a jungle hermit in pearls with serious optics and recording devices wearing flip-flops surrounded by an ambiance with more vibraphone than the New York Philharmonic.

 Stripe-throated Hemit Hummer (Phaethornis striigularis) steals nectar from a stand of Stach, Finca Vigia.

Stripe-throated Hemit Hummer (Phaethornis striigularis) steals nectar from a stand of Stach, Finca Vigia.

Why I am the recipient of such robust privilege is yet to be revealed. My dignity and glorifications are not exceptional nor my moral character or strength and adherence to ethical principles any such to replicate. I am me. I have daily birded (read: communed with birds) since 1966 when a young man named Richie Stallcup[6] invited me to go birding with him to Corral Hollow, California. At that shiny over-sized momentous juncture, I got hooked on him and birds both. He showed me, and thousands of others, how to not merely look but to actually see.

Richie was one of a kind and went on to become the next John Muir disguised as a pied-piper shaman of wild places and wild things. I went on to prefer to live in the countryside in pretty places restoring heritage houses and commuting to personality-bent employment inside the concrete canyons of SF, LA, and NYC. Or, I went foreign – sneaking around killing fields looking for truth while traveling to put birds on my life list[7] and keeping my line wet and tight. Then one day my flailing common sense was thumped by a superior sensation or the fate of a witty cosmic two by four. The Intel committee within, by unanimous vote, decided to take the plunge to an astonishing jungle.

Is Costa Rica for you and yours? Hang around and read my dribblings (probably at times not charming rants) and you may gather more information. This nouveau re-invented publication is a viable source. My difference is I tell it like it is, not what I am suppose to compose to generate sales or tourism stats. My sanguine perspective is unlimited as the view I see as a former you-name-it now fool-on-the-hill is unsurpassed – if not blessed. Those not mature enough in their considerations or inventiveness to rearrange their lives, unearth the calm, end their consumerism silliness, and see and defend the wonders – well, good friggin’ riddance.

For pithy puny souls, crystal swingers, or ramped-up egos, I step around them or write my way out of their phony scripts. At times, I edit severely because I am trained by Finca Vigia not to waste one second of a precious breath. You might call it prana. I call it life. Vigia labels it collective planetary survival.

See you next month when the neo-migratory birds are aplenty. At this moment, the whales are thick and playful along the coast, so go out, watch with glee.  Whales relish human contact if we admire their fidelity and in communication with each other vibrations resonate ten-thousand fold. Yet, remember gentle whale-watchers – give way to tonnage.

From the hut, safe trails.

[1] Jack Ewing of Hacienda Baru, author, and nature historian of the southern region of Costa Rica. His books include: “Monkeys are Made of Chocolate” and his latest “Where Tapirs and Jaguars Once Roamed.” In case you missed this – it is now over but . . . Cover art by buddy Jan Betts

[2] Murica = America, according to BlackLivesMatter

[3] Costa Rica and Panama are considered the Monkey’s Bridge between the two Americas – North and South.

[4] Indigenous peoples’ way of life is based on what we are and how we act today is done in respect and honor to the seventh generation into the future.



[7] Birders keep a life list – a checked list of every species of bird they have seen during their lifetime in the wild, usually verified by photography or a fellow birder in the field.

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