Ice rime circles the rim of the heated birdbath on the deck, making it appear like a giant Margarita. POP! POW! The deck whines—it’s cold! Bare tree limbs droop against an iron sky. In the hemlocks, the north wind ruffles the hunched feathers of a Black-capped Chickadee. It’s early February in New Jersey.
Well, I mused, swallowing a Mefloquin tablet. At least I won’t get malaria. You can’t be too careful these days.
Taking an antimalarial drug is part of my preparation for an upcoming trip to Belize (known as British Honduras until 1973). You take one pill every week starting two weeks before you are in an area that might host the mosquito that carries the malaria (Plasmodium) parasite, then one per week while you are on the trip, then continue for a couple of weeks after returning home. It’s very simple. The hardest part is remembering to take it. But it’s part of the preparation, and for me, very exciting, which gives you an idea of how fascinating my life is. Preparing for a trip is part of my enjoyment of the journey. It’s the bright anticipation of meeting new people, exploring new cuisines, listening to the tongue roll of another language. (English is the official language of Belize, but most Belizeans prefer their local Spanish or Creole dialects). It’s the sometimes scary, and brilliant unknown.
It’s also about the BIRDS. It’s my second trip to that tiny country and my third to Central America, a birder’s mecca. There will be birds whose names you can savor all day long. Try saying these wonderful words out loud: Agami Heron, Common Pauraque, Blue Crowned Mot-Mot, Vermilion Flycatcher (it really is that delicious color), Barred Antshrike (which looks like it was just released from jail). Wouldn’t you like to say you saw a Buff-throated Foliage Gleaner? Or a Tawny-throated Leaf Tosser? You may have never seen the bird, but you know something about them already! One of the group’s most-hoped-for birds is the Scarlet Macaw, so keep your fingers crossed!
So, that’s what I will be doing, nonstop. I will be looking for birds and looking at birds. I will watch them fly and feed and flirt. I ask you, what could be better than spending all day, every day, looking at birds, and doing it with ten other people who want nothing more than to do the same thing? I could swoon! I tried coaxing my non-birder husband to go too, but he looked at me from reading the sports page of the newspaper and smiled the patient smile of a man with a bird-loving spouse:
“Let me ask you a question. How would you like to go with a bunch of people to spend ten days watching football? And not only do you watch football all day, you talk about football during breakfast, talk about football during lunch and talk about football during dinner? You go, and have a good time!”
It’s Saturday, only one week away from the ride to the airport. It’s time to stage my stuff! Quick-drying pants with hundreds of pockets, and lightweight, long sleeved shirts with another hundred pockets, underwear (no pockets), socks, a wide-brimmed hat, boots, sneakers, bug spray, sunscreen, camera, batteries, flashlight, notebook, rain jacket, alarm clock, passport, BIRD BOOK, BINOCULARS.
I am almost ready.