One evening we went out on the kayaks onto the lagoons to find crocodiles. I am true to the people of my home country, terrified of water because of crocodiles. I had one school friend get eaten, two or three near scrapes and we all had mothers that would tick us off if we dared to step into murky waters. To go out at night in a flimsy canoe to deliberately look for crocodiles goes against my better judgment. Little fish skimmed the surface of the water, and some even hopped into the kayak. Laila was busy trying to catch baby crocodiles and found a few that evaded her. One that she was about to put her hand on, suddenly snapped a fish in its jaws, literally less than an arms length away! For me, the best part was seeing large Fishing Bats repeatedly swoop into the light beam, skim the water and flash past my face. One hit the water and sent spray over my feet! I thought I saw one fly off with something in its feet. Like small fish eagles these guys hunt in very much the same style, but I cannot imagine how they can echo-locate something under the water!
We drove a number of nights down the road searching with a spotlight, looking for Jaguars, and more likely to see, an Ocelot, known to live nearby. We saw Opossums mostly, and once, during the day the mighty Tyra. It is a long tailed wolverine or honey badger, without the bent elbows. Instead it is cat-like, with longer limbs. It must be a fearsome predator. From a bridge we watched two large Otters playing and fishing in a river next to a Tiger heron. On one trip we saw the tiny Pearl Kite, a diminutive and stocky version of the Black Shouldered Kite. We saw one of these too. Laila pointed out that it did not have black shoulders, and this remains a mystery.
The second most wanted raptor on my list under the Harpy Eagle and even above the OBF, was the Laughing Falcon. I have old pictures of it. It looks like a true falcon, but in a stumpy wing long tail body of an accipiter. It seems like a missing link between the very odd Caracaras and true falcons like the Peregrine. I had assumed it to be small. One evening we heard a Ha Ha…Ha Ha….Ha Ha, shouted out from the forest near Terrapin. The same day Jim Tamarack turned up and said that this could be none other than the Laughing Falcon! Next morning it called again at first light, with the growling Howler Monkeys, and I got a thick ear from Laila for not having dashed off to go find it. The falcon was taking on a new meaning to my list of priorities. It was around to be sure, but it was most likely sitting deep in the forest canopy hidden most of the day. I resigned myself to never finding it especially as it never called after 5.30AM, or before nightfall.
The White Hawk is another species that Laila had seen “hanging out” with foraging monkeys. I had not seen this either. While lying in the hammock I heard an unfamiliar, but buteo-like mewing and walked out to see two White Hawks sailing around in the valley behind. I savored the moment and did not bother to race for the camera. I’d remember this without resorting to digital memory.
The holiday was coming rapidly to its close. I had to think now about the future, which was pretty grim. Back home I had left things in the balance. This holiday had given me the time I needed to make a few painful life choices. I was in this reflective mood as I was being driven to the airport for my flight out. Now the chances of seeing what remained on my wish list were nil, when Laila stopped the car and grabbed the binoculars. Ha! A Laughing Falcon! In an open field, sitting in a lonely tree sat a big headed and large falcon. I walked over to take pictures. It was that simple.