October 18, 2014

It was Sunday morning. Slow. Quiet. No plans. Perfect. After making coffee and feeding the animals I made my way to my computer thinking I’d continue where I left off yesterday on Chapter 22.

Suddenly – a loud bang! I walked to the open front door and looked out to see my two dogs standing over a beautiful Blue Crowned Mot Mot on the porch floor. She had flown into the glass window and now layed prone, one leg extended out and lifeless. The dogs looked to me knowing that their job was to protect any bird down until I could get there. I picked her up and noted she was limp, but still alive. Inside I wrapped her in a towel so that she could rest and hopefully recover from the shock. I decided to place her in the indoor part of the aviary so I could keep and eye on her and she would be safe. Lacking a box or easily accessible cage (way up in the attic space) I thought the outdoor aviary would be safest and she would more easily be able to exit once she was ready. Inside my house were high ceilings, fans and more windows.

The Blue Crowned Mot Mot is probably my favorite bird in Costa Rica. Beautifully colored in deep greens and chestnut green golds., its head has striking iridescent blue bands around the central black crown and a black eye mask. Many have a most wonderful long tail containing two, bare-shafted racket tipped feathers that it often wags back and forth – as a warning or possible sexual display. The bird I had before me was either female or young because she lacked the racket tipped feathers. Wrapped lightly in the towel with eyes closed, she rested. I checked on her and it seemed that Sage, outside in the aviary was pretty unconcerned. About a half hour later, she recovered very suddenly – and before I could react she squirmed free of the towel and flew into the main part of the aviary. Still a little unsteady on her feet, she perched there. Sage was not pleased!  He seemed curious, but also quite territorial about his home. I hurried around to the aviary outside door, intending to help the Mot Mot fly out to freedom. Suddenly the Mot Mot flew, Sage flew – and before I could continue closing the door – Sage was gone! I watched helplessly as he disappeared over the edge of my yard toward trees and pastureland below. I could hardly breathe – but knew exactly what to do. Sage had flown out twice before in the past 7+ years. The first time he was fully flighted and flew high into trees above and was gone for three days before he was spotted and eventually came down to me. It had taken him three hours to dismantle a banana tree in order to climb down to my waiting hand.

I took a deep breath wondering how the next hours and days would play out. I braced myself for the emotional journey and my mind flashed back to when he was rescued the second time. That time his wings were clipped – but a sudden wind carried him off below. He was gone for four days. I recalled the fourth day – drinking an iced beer at a neighborhood bar with Frank. I remember explaining through my tears that I was so ashamed and angry at myself for letting Sage down. He had trusted me to provide food, water, love and emotional support while he fully gave his loyalty and affection in return. Frank’s response was perfect. He said he imagined that somewhere right now there was a parrot – Sage, perched on a branch thinking exactly the same thing. He had let me down. We did not know it, but just at that time Sage was approaching a neighboring farmer and was rescued.

I finished composing a flier with a photo of Sage and a plea to help find him – in both English and Spanish. I offered a reward.

With about 20 printed fliers, I drove down my steep road, stopping to talk with each neighbor and hand them a flier with a picture of Sage, my phone number and the offer of a reward for finding Sage. As I got back into the car after my first stop, I noticed a yellow butterfly in the rear view window. I stopped at Anita’s house where her brother Carlos and sister Sinia said they would be looking. An hour later I was almost to the bottom of the hill and again had noticed the yellow butterfly quietly perched on a plant near a gate. My cell phone rang and it was Carlos saying his sister, Sinia heard Sage in the trees just above their house, below and east of my house. My heart sank thinking of the tall, impossible trees and I wondered how we would ever get to Sage – if it was Sage she heard. He rarely called. Mostly he talked in English or whistled. I turned the car around and drove back up towards Sinia’s and Anita’s house and on the way I looked up to see Sinia far above – and was that Sage in her hand as she waved? I thought it couldn’t be. Carlos told me she had him and gestured me on by.

I drove up to the driveway just below mine to meet Sinia on the road – and sure enough, there she was – covered to her knees in mud and grass stains, hands dirty but holding onto Sage who was abnormally quiet….and looked pretty thankful.  I broke into tears and hugged both Sinia and Sage. The yellow butterfly rested nearby. After returning Sage to his aviary and noting that the Mot Mot had made her safe exit, I relaxed and returned to Anita’s house with some reward money for Sinia. Con much gusto!

I told Sinia she would be hereafter known as Heroina instead of Sinia! She laughed

She told that the little girls — her daughter Sophie and Carlos’ daughter Amelia— had called Sage and they had heard him answer, far above in the trees.  (I doubted the story at first – but now think it is entirely plausible).  She took off across the road and up through the deep, wet grass and mud of the pastureland – to the trees where they heard the calls. There was Sage, high in a tree. Suddenly a hawk came close and Sage flew directly down to her hand — and held on tight!  She showed me the blood from his toenail grip.

All I can say is – I am so very grateful for my wonderful Tico neighbors, for Sage, for my dogs and for the peculiar yellow butterfly that followed me in the car and was there when I received Sage from Sinia. I truly believe it was sent by Frank, who watched it all.

I think Sage prefers to see Mot Mots outside his aviary from now on. 🙂