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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A (mostly) pink world

In my long-ago Florida childhood, flamingos were a cliché, and in more recent years, they have become something of a joke in the North, with flocks of the plastic variety descending on yards and driveways to signal birthday parties. Truth to tell, there is something vaguely ridiculous-looking about a flamingo line-up

particularly when close-ups allow views of their particularly knobby knees.

The Celestun Biosphere Reserve on the northwest coast of the Yucatan Peninsula is home to the world's largest colony of the American flamingo, with as many as 50,000 descending on the park at one time. The day and area I visited, the flock was much smaller, estimated by our boat operator to be about 1500--possibly a good thing, as he noted that the flock of 6000 near his home was so loud that the family often could not sleep! Given the volume of our small group, I can believe that gaggles of flamingos are not conducive to serious rest.

Still, the sight of large numbers of large pink birds is a cheerful and cheering one.

Fortunately for them (and for us), flamingos are not currently endangered, but their very specific habitat requirements place them at risk. They need shallow salty water, algae, and tiny crustaceans, a beta-carotene-rich diet that creates their color. Young or malnourished flamingos are grey or white, not the pink or coral of a well-fed adult bird.

The reserve is perfect habitat not only for flamingos but a host of other birds as well. "Bird Island" in the same lagoon is a rookery for frigate birds and brown pelicans, rendering it another noisy (and smelly) place. But who could resist that face?

Given the limited time that day, I knew that we would only be sampling the riches of the biosphere reserve. But despite that, we saw white as well as brown pelicans, great and snowy egrets, and a new bird for me--the small, secretive tiger heron, lurking among the mangroves.

Celestun is home to over a hundred species of birds, so my hope is to visit this pink world again someday.

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