Sue Limb: Feeding frenzy
PUBLISHED: 10:52 19 May 2014 | UPDATED: 14:21 20 May 2014
Always remember, in May, to feed the birds. They're rushed off their wings caring for fledglings. But when it comes to birds and feeding, I learned a much more vital lesson recently on a Caribbean island that shall be nameless. Let's call it Incognito.
It’s unspoiled. There are hardly any awful burger joints, just rainforest, sea and birds. Our tasteful guesthouse deplored saturated fat, so it was after only a modest modicum of muesli that we set out to meet our birding guide, cheery and chubby Maurice Hawkogler. (I’ve changed his name. You’ll realise why.)
We met him at a bridge, where he showed us the Scintillating Kingfisher and Perkins’s Litigious Dipper (I’ve changed the names of the birds, but just for fun this time). The climax of our trip would, we hoped, be a glimpse of Fortinbras’s Gorgeous Parrot, which is only found up in the rainforest. We parked our car and transferred to Maurice’s jeep.
First he took us to the shore, where we admired the Brown Boobies (I ought to have changed the name of that bird, for obvious reasons, but it’s too late now.) Watching the seabirds dive for fish, I began to feel a little peckish myself. But luckily I found a whiskery old Werther’s Original in the bottom of my bag.
On previous birdwatching expeditions, a packed lunch had been provided. We had somehow failed to confirm this when booking with Maurice. But my spirits rose when he parked the jeep and bought a bag of baked plantains from a roadside stall. Plaintains are sort of huge bananas and boy, they smelt good! But to our consternation Maurice placed the bag on his knee and, as he drove up into the rainforest, he ate the bleedin’ lot. Being British, of course, we couldn’t bring ourselves to comment, let alone beg.
We walked through the rainforest. ‘Listen!’ said Maurice. ‘That’s the call of the Bearded Bellbird!’ But its cry was drowned by the rumbling of my stomach. Eventually the trip reached its climax. ‘Look!’ whispered Maurice, ‘there’s Fortinbras’s Gorgeous Parrot!’ We peered down his telescope imagining how gorgeous the parrots would taste, roasted with chips and peas.
Whilst we were salivating over the parrots, Maurice went to his jeep and got out a big plastic box. Hooray! Never mind the iconic parrot, we had finally glimpsed the endangered Tupperware. Imagine our distress when Maurice carried his box furtively a few yards away, opened it and tucked into chicken and rice in private. By now Maurice himself was looking decidedly tasty. In fact, I was wondering if I could manage to bite a large chunk out of his buttock without his noticing.
Eventually, after six hours, I was almost swooning with fatigue and never wanted to see another bloody bird as long as I lived. We waved Maurice goodbye and drove off at speed through miles of deserted wilderness. Why oh why was this island so damned unspoiled? Where were the burger joints? Faint with hunger, I would happily have eaten my own feet, but just I was unlacing my boots a small town appeared, equipped with a tawdry take-away. ‘Saturated fat!’ I screamed. ‘Please! Now!!’ Normally I wouldn’t be seen dead in a burger joint. But as I was nearly dead anyway, I dived in and ordered a cheeseburger and fries.
The cheese was plastic, the bun was cotton wool, and the burger was probably made out of an endangered parrot, but was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my life.
So yes, feed the birds, but please get your priorities right. Feed the blinking birdwatchers, first.
This article by Sue Limb is from the May 2014 issue of Cotswold Life
For more from Sue Limb, follow her on Twitter: @sue_limb