HELPLESS: The Guacharo or Oilbird. One such as this was found with a broken leg and wing on the forest floor and although an attempt was made to save it, the bird sadly passed away. —Photo courtesy Heather-Dawn Herrera
Wild life vulnerable to weather conditions
Coming out of camp early one morning we had the strangest encounter with a displaced species of wild life.
We had spent an extra cold night in camp, not even daring to leave the warmth of our bunks to rekindle the fire that had burnt itself out. The sky was beginning to lighten but still no one stirred except one male who, still keeping his covers on, steupsed and went out into the bush. Nature was not to be held back any longer,
By the time everyone had coffee, the mists had not lifted. They wrapped the mountains in a heavy blanket and caused one camper to say ‘the hills still wrap up sleeping. I find we should do that too’.
Even the usual tiny birds that serenade the coming of dawn were strangely silent.
We eventually left camp, really having two minds about going out that morning. We could sense that some sort of weather system was threatening because the wind began blowing from a direction that was opposite to the usual way.
After two hours of trying to beat the rain it finally caught up with us just as we were descending the final hill to the outside. The downpour came in gusts, forcing us to take shelter under a rock overhang.
This part of the forest had obviously been under siege as fallen trees stretched down to the ravine in many places. Apparently rain and winds had passed here earlier.
Crrr-aaa-ck, crr-aa-ck, crr-aa-sh, one large tree crashed onto the forest floor, pulling down smaller trees with it. This happened on the other side of the ravine, not too far from where we sheltered.
It was over as soon as it began. The rains passed on to the north west but the winds still blew strongly in pursuit. We stayed put for a while longer then ventured out when all was quiet again.
We reached the river just in time as the second round of rainfall began. We managed to cross easily as the rainfall hadn’t been enough to swell the volume of flowing water. It was then that we noticed movement on the forest floor. A large bird was beating its wings in vain trying to get off the ground.
We recognised the unmistakable line of dots that identified the guacharo or oilbird. Running to the bird, we discovered that it was injured. One leg was broken and one wing seemed to be dislocated.
This was a late hour for this bird to be still outside. Normally this species forages at night then returns to its home cave before sunrise. This one had not been able to do that because of its injury. There were fallen trees and debris all around so we could well imagine the scenario that caused this bird’s displacement.
We made the bird as comfortable as possible despite its understandable disquiet at being handled by humans. What was really sad was that by the time we reached outside the forest, it passed away.
We would never know how many other birds and animals had shared this unfortunate experience. We could only hope that they were not as vulnerable as our oilbird had been and that they had sought safe shelter away from the adverse weather.