The “Situation” at Pico Bonito Lodge, Honduras

To borrow a phrase from James Adams, head naturalist of the Lodge at Pico Bonito in northern Honduras, here was my current “situation” in January 2016:

I’m trying to get some work done in Sala Cotinga, which is sort of the back room at the Pico Bonito restaurant. It’s quiet and well ventilated in there, with plenty of ceiling fans and lots of open windows. I am actually getting some work done, when a Chestnut-colored Woodpecker starts drumming on the outside of the building, on the post between two of the wooden windows. I have a bit of an affinity for woodpeckers, and this is the first Chestnut-colored I have found on this trip, so my interest is piqued.

Chestnut-colored Woodpecker Pico Bonito Lodge Honduras by Steve Shunk

Chestnut-colored Woodpecker poised at its drumming post outside Pico Bonito Lodge, northern Honduras; by Steve Shunk.

At first, I just smile, like I do every time I hear a woodpecker drumming. After his second drumming bout, I realize I might actually be able to get a photo of the bird from inside the building. Cool shot, right? And that’s a perfectly acceptable distraction from my work. I spend the next few minutes taking a couple of phone pix and a short video of this handsome drumming bird before he flies off. I sit back down to work, but Sala Cotinga has a very slow Internet connection, and I need some bandwidth to finish my work effectively. The best spot for the Internet is on the restaurant porch, right beneath the router, so I head for the outdoor couch. My connectivity soars, so I can finally get some work done.

Then, the Scaly-breasted Hummingbird comes in. I only got cursory looks at this hummer on my last trip to Pico Bonito, and I was really hoping for a photo. The bird is vying for space at one of the feeders that hangs 3 feet above the railing of the porch, which is also about 5 feet from the nearest table, and about 20 feet from where I’m really trying to get some work done. It then starts perching at the tip of a heliconia flower just 6 feet off the deck. That’s too much to resist, so I grab the camera and move in for the shot. As I approach, the bird decides to start perching in the shrub nearby, so to get my photo, I will need to go out into the grass. I walk down the deck and around the big poinsettia shrub to sneak up on this bird, and then he decides to go elsewhere.

So, I’m standing there with my camera and there are plenty of Violet-crowned Woodnymphs and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds zooming through, so I may as well try to get some photos. Then, I start hearing a warbler-like ‘chip’ note from low in the shrubs below the deck. Skulking along just above the ground is a bright male Kentucky Warbler. He continues to skulk along the hedgerow but never really comes into clear view (for a photo, anyway), so I decide give up. I missed my hummer and the warbler, so I head back toward the porch—to get some work done.

Violet-crowned Woodnymph Pico Bonito Honduras; by Steve Shunk.

Violet-crowned Woodnymph, just another distraction at Pico Bonito Lodge, northern Honduras; by Steve Shunk.

As I’m walking back down the gravel path, I spot a strange looking insect in a vine. I realize right away that this is a true bug, but there is something strange about this bug. I look closer, and closer still, and I see these bizarre flat projections on its hind legs that look exactly like tiny orange leaves! I run up to the porch to grab my cell phone (for its 16 Mp camera), I completely ignore the computer sitting on the table by the couch, which is sitting directly below the router with the excellent wi-fi connection, and I return to the cool leafy-legged bug for some photos. I take a couple shots, and then upon reviewing them, I realize that this crazy orangey, leafy-legged bug is nectar robbing in a beautiful white flower hanging from the vine. His mouth parts are stuck right in there, and he’s just sucking that sweet shit right out of that flower.

I try to get a better angle on him, and then I notice a second leafy-legged orange bug approaching on the same vine. I’m frantically looking around trying to find someone else with whom I can share this amazingly cool scene, when two gals walk nearby.

“Um, hey, how’s it going?”

“Pretty good, we just … ,” and I excitedly interrupt:

“You have to see these cool bugs.”

They gladly come over and share my amazement, and we all get plenty of photos of the cool leafy-legged orangey bugs. Then, one of the bugs starts climbing around the other, and they connect at the ends of their abdomens. Right in front of us and the whole world, these strange orangey bugs start mating on this vine—while the larger female continues to “steal” nectar from the flower! More photos must be taken, but there is some point when we realize we have all the photos we can possibly manage of this amazing spectacle. We go our separate ways down the path.

Leaf-footed bugs Pico Bonito Honduras by Steve Shunk

Mating Leaf-footed bugs (Family Coridae, Anisoscelis affinis) at Pico Bonito Lodge, Honduras. By Steve Shunk.

I finally reach the porch and make my way back toward the “work” couch, and from out of nowhere the Scaly-breasted Hummingbird returns! I’ll be damned if I don’t try to get those photos. I approach, and unfazed by my presence, the bird makes several trips back and forth between the heliconia and the feeder. About 150 shots later (damn that burst mode!), I finally make it back to my computer to get some work done, when a Black-cheeked Woodpecker starts calling from behind the pool. Shit. Woodpeckers again.

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird Pico Bonito Honduras by Steve Shunk.

Scaly-breasted Hummingbird at Pico Bonito Lodge; La Ceiba, Honduras, by Steve Shunk.

So, this is my situation. I really am trying to get some work done, but nature is really getting in the way. It’s a good thing my work involves me telling you about nature, or I would be in big trouble with my boss.

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